You’re not in Kansas anymore—or anywhere else on the planet, for that matter. The Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa (34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., 480/488-9009, www.theboulders.com , $360–400 d) sits at the foot of its namesake 12-million-year-old rock formation, a stunning testament to the geological scale of the Sonoran Desert. Pathways wind through the 1,300-acre property, where you’re likely to come across quail, jackrabbits, lizards, and even javelina. The luxury resort still offers all the amenities of Scottsdale : shimmering pools, two championship golf courses, tennis courts, and one of the finest spas in the world. Still, the slightly dated rooms are charming (or in need of a remodel depending on your point of view). And if you get the courage, rock-climbing clinics are available for thrill-seekers wanting to conquer those impressive boulders.
The sprawling Fairmont Scottsdale (7575 E. Princess Dr., 480/585-4848, www.fairmont.com/scottsdale , $365–475 d) deftly marries luxury service with a casual atmosphere, making it an excellent choice for many. Kids love the National Geographic Explorers Camp, pet desert tortoise, and five swimming pools—complete with towering slides—while their parents appreciate chef Michael Mina’s fashionable Bourbon Steak  and the two 18-hole championship golf courses, home of the boisterous FBR Open. The resort is also a popular getaway for couples and friends who prefer to spend their days at the must-be-seen-to-be-believed Willow Stream Spa and their nights at Rande Gerber’s posh Stone Rose Lounge.
The Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North (10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., 480/515-5700, www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale , $425–500 d) overlooks the city from its stunning North Scottsdale perch at Pinnacle Peak, a 20-minute drive from Old Town . The adobe-inspired architecture and brilliant desert landscape feel like an elegant desert retreat, complete with two pools, a spa, and the popular Troon North Golf Club . The 25 casita buildings, each with a private balcony, were just redesigned to showcase the “colors of the Sonoran desert,” and the multi-bedroom suites are perfect for families. Take advantage of the unique programs like desert stargazing and weekly tequila tastings. And for one of the single best Scottsdale  experiences, order a prickly pear margarita on the terrace for a dazzling view of the Valley of the Sun.
If you’re hoping for a vacation destination where your golf bag doesn’t leave your side, The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa (902 E. Greenway Pkwy., 480/624-1000, www.kierlandresort.com , $430–470 d) delivers. Kierland Golf Club’s 27 holes will satiate any diehard golfer, and its personalized instruction and Foremax Training System provide a comprehensive approach to improving your score. Of course, there’s more than the putting green at Kierland. The informal resort’s monstrous water slide and lazy river are popular with the kids, and the walls are lined with the mementos from Arizona history. The neighboring Kierland Commons mall is a shopping and dining option without having to get into a car.
When Camelback Inn (5402 E. Lincoln Dr., 480/948-1700, www.camelbackinn.com , $375–425 d) first opened in 1936, wealthy travelers who arrived by train had to make a 12-mile journey across the desert to reach the hacienda-style resort. Fortunately, things are bit easier today, and thanks to a $50 million restoration, the five-star property has a new sheen of luxury. Celebrities from Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis to Oprah Winfrey have decamped to the Paradise Valley institution. Guests can relax at the world-class spa, play golf at Camelback Golf Club’s 36-hole course, or hike Mummy Mountain’s desert terrain. Because of its age, the rooms have some quirks, but who doesn’t want to “rough it” a bit in the Wild West?
The romantic FireSky Resort and Spa (4925 N. Scottsdale Rd., 480/945-7666, www.fireskyresort.com , $250–300 d) is a terrific home base just north of Scottsdale Fashion Square . The recently renovated property is an excellent value, offering friendly service and amenities similar to those at the five-star resorts up the road. Couples appreciate the gorgeous stonework, cathedral ceilings, lush grounds, and complimentary evening wine hour, while kids love the sandy “beach pool” and nighttime s’mores kits. Families and groups of friends can book adjoining rooms.
The Spanish-themed Intercontinental Montelucia Resort and Spa (4949 E. Lincoln Dr., 480/627-3200, www.icmontelucia.com , $430–500) makes a convincing aesthetic tie between the Sonoran Desert and Andalucia’s arid landscape and big skies. No expense was spared in creating this elegant mix of dark woods, Moroccan screens, and Moorish geometric patterns. The real attraction, though, is the resort’s extraordinary views of the red-hued Camelback Mountain , particularly at sunset from the main pool, which makes reserving a room during high season worth the splurge. Inside, rooms feature sunken tubs, walk-in showers, and high-tech hookups to link your laptop and iPod to the room’s flat-screen TV and sound system. Also, kids will love the indoor/outdoor clubhouse with its bikes, air hockey, and video games.
The Phoenician Resort & Spa (6000 E. Camelback Rd., 480/941-8200, www.thephoenician.com , $550–600 d) is the grande dame of Valley resorts, having hosted royalty, heads of state, A-list actors, and rock stars. The 250-acre property sprawls across the base of Camelback Mountain , with a 27-hole championship golf course, its renowned Centre for Well-Being spa, and a 12-court “tennis garden.” The resort’s nine swimming pools include a 165-foot water slide and a “signature” pool inlaid with handcrafted mother of pearl tiles. This is the good life—and secluded behind the landscaped grounds, you wouldn’t know that you are only a five-minute drive to Scottsdale Fashion Square. For some of the best views of the Valley, enjoy a cocktail on the lobby terrace or dinner at chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s new J&G Steakhouse.
When A-list actors and pop stars come to Scottsdale  in search of style and discretion, they often hide away at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa (5700 E. McDonald Dr., 480/948-2100, www.sanctuaryaz.com , $445–550 d). Once a 1960s “tennis ranch,” the chic resort maintains many of its architectural details, though a sleek update has given the property a mod overhaul. Subtle Asian touches carry throughout property, including the innovative restaurant and fashionable spa. The boutique resort’s 105 luxury casitas—many with outdoor balconies, wood-burning fireplaces, and private outdoor soaking tubs—climb the side of Camelback, giving guests a cliffside view of Paradise Valley and Mummy Mountain. And in a tribute to the resort’s history, Sanctuary offers daily clinics and personalized instruction at its five championship tennis courts.
Secluded in the elegant neighborhood of Gainey Ranch, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale (7500 E. Doubletree Ranch Rd., 480/444-1234, www.scottsdale.hyatt.com , $300–400 d) is a blissful retreat that combines a manicured resort setting with an unbeatable location 10 minutes from Old Town  and Scottsdale Fashion Square mall . Most days, the lobby’s glass walls slide open, providing the lounge and bar with a soft breeze and views of the turquoise pools, golf courses, and McDowell Mountains. Spend your day getting pampered at the alfresco spa or lounging by one of the 10 interconnected pools, which feature sandy beaches, a three-story water slide, Jacuzzis, and a swim-through temple. In the evening, enjoy dinner at one of the four on-site restaurants before taking a romantic gondola ride around the lagoon or enjoying the nightly live music shows, which range from jazz to flamenco dancing.