For people who crave an escape from their daily routine—work, check phone, work, check phone, maybe squeeze in a quick gym visit—traveling abroad to a destination spa sounds ever more appealing. But judging from the results of our latest World’s Best Awards survey, it’s no longer enough to get a mani-pedi and a couple of massages.
Travel + Leisure readers value more than just pampering—they want stellar destination spas that focus on fitness, nutrition, and the outdoors, and are willing to check in for a week or more.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. In the international destination spas category, readers rated properties on their accommodations and facilities, treatments, service, food, and overall value.
The No. 1 destination spa outside of the U.S., Mountain Trek, in British Columbia, Canada, is a retreat that specializes in weight loss. It “offers guests a phenomenal, dynamic boot-camp vacation while also providing an upscale resort experience,” said one T+L reader. “The holistic approach to weight loss focuses on activities including hiking, yoga, and massage therapy, and a variety of fitness and nutrition classes.”
Other winners were in very different settings. Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, in Costa Rica, which placed third in our rankings, was described as “paradise on earth” by one respondent. “Hot thermal pools, volcano and rainforest, everything in one place.”
Though the accommodations at these resorts are polished, they aren’t stuffy. One fan of Rancho La Puerta, which was founded in Tecate, Mexico, in 1940, noted it was a “humble yet upscale place where great spirits get together.” Whether it’s visiting the organic farm and cooking school, taking a Pilates class, or painting watercolors in the art studio, there’s also plenty to keep guests busy. Another reader, who had been to Rancho La Puerto more than 30 times, added: “It is one place you can totally relax and unwind, do as much or as little as you want.”
Another trend that surfaced among this year’s list: many travelers are celebrating milestone vacations—birthdays, honeymoons, and anniversaries—at destination spas. One reader who celebrated a 20th wedding anniversary at the BodyHoliday LeSport in St. Lucia said they “couldn't imagine a more perfect place to have a romantic AND active vacation getaway.”