In Arizona, we all love the breathtaking Grand Canyon, the stunning red rocks in Sedona and the spectacular cacti and sunshine, but how about it being a hotbed for watersport adventures? Not what comes to mind? Arizona’s desert landscape is hardly what conjures up images of splashing about in a raft or standup paddleboarding swiftly down a river, and yet the Mesa and Phoenix area is the ideal destination for those looking for some adrenaline-pumping sporty fun, both on land and in the water. —Karen Kwan
stay. MLB fans, get your early fix of a ball game or two by attending spring training and booking your stay at the Sheraton Mesa Hotel at Wrigleyville West, which you’ll find beside Sloan Park (the Chicago Cubs' spring training stadium). For chic pool-party vibes, add to your trip a stay at The Phoenician in Scottsdale—an expansive luxury hotel located at the base of Camelback Mountain, where you can check in and never leave. From gorgeous golf greens to decadent spa treatments (we’ll have another harmonic bowl healing, please) to the gorgeous cactus garden and fantastic restaurants, we were on a mission to disconnect and kick back and found it easy to satisfy our every vacation wish right on on the property.
splash. That water in the desert is not mirage. Indulge in both SUP in the Salt River or Saguaro Lake and whitewater rafting in the Upper Salt River. Better yet, make your sweat session one that tends to Mother Nature by booking a plogging adventure with Desert Paddleboards. This relatively new fitness trend, which involves collecting trash as you jog, has been given a twist here in Mesa as you start on land but then get onto a SUP and into the river, paddling along as you help collect a shocking amount of trash in the water and along the shore. For something higher intensity, get your heart racing with some exhilarating whitewater rafting via Mild 2 Wild Rafting Adventure, where you’ll work your way through class 2-3 rapids in a stunning 2,000-foot-deep canyon—and get soaked in the process.
savour. Despite being ravenous from a day of whitewater rafting, our appetite was no match for the hefty servings at Jalapeno Bucks—a charming local favourite located alongside a citrus grove. The signature dish to try? Brisket PB&J, which layers tender beef with the sweet and nutty flavours of our childhood. (Pro tip: pick up some bottles of peach salsa as souvenirs.) For a sumptuous brunch, visit Mowry & Cotton for the buffet if you’re craving a little bit of everything, although the à la carte is worth a look if it’s delectable avocado toast, refreshing smoothie bowls and a comforting plate of chilaquiles you’re after.
stroll. Head to the charming town of Gilbert for an early dinner at one of the popular restaurants (if you haven’t sworn off carbs, consider rustic and cosy Postino East Wine Cafe for its menu of more than 10 types of bruschetta). After some grub, walk along the bustling little strip of North Gilbert Road, which is dotted with with the cutest neon signs. Plus, if you’re In Mesa for the second Friday of the month, head downtown to check out live music, cute street art and vendors selling crafts and snacks.