The World’s Best Destination Spas 2015
Gone are the days when spa getaways were limited to massages, cucumber water, and perfectly portioned healthy eats. Travelers expect more from their wellness retreats now, and properties around the world are responding with offerings ranging from nutrition and cooking instruction to mindfulness, meditation, and stress management classes. In other places, arts and culture programming is just as beloved as those traditional Swedish rubdowns.
That diversity in amenities is, perhaps, why the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania—which offers art classes, fly fishing, and a traveling speaker series, as well as facials, massages, and body treatments—ranked so highly in this year’s World’s Best Awards.
As part of Travel + Leisure’s annual survey, the World’s Best Awards, readers rated hotels, spas, destinations, and even airports on a variety of categories including service, dining, and design. Within the spa category, we’re focusing on destination spas, the all-encompassing (and sometimes all-inclusive) health escapes.
This year’s survey takers are clearly fond North American properties (nine out of the top 10 are in the U.S., with Rancho La Puerta representing Mexico), and specifically the Southwest with winners in Arizona (Miraval Resort and Spa, Mii Amo Spa, and Canyon Ranch), the canyons of Utah (Red Mountain Resort) and New Mexico (Ten Thousand Waves) and dominating the rankings.
But don’t count out other locales. The idyllic mountain setting of North Carolina’s Westglow Spa was a selling point for some survey takers. As one reader noted, “It is so peaceful and beautiful there in the Blue Ridge Mountains—nothing can replace those surroundings.”
Read on for the World’s Best Destination Spas.
No. 10 Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah
Located down the street from Snow Canyon and not far from Zion and Bryce Canyons, Red Mountain Resort appeals to spa-goers with a sense of adventure. Their suggested packing list says it all: bring sturdy boots, sun screen, and padded bike shorts to take full advantage of this vacation. Outdoor programs include daily hikes for all experience levels through the scenic red rocks and guided bike tours as well as kayaking, and climbing. But if your ideal spa getaway features fewer nature trails and more tranquility, worry not. The property offers a full menu of massages, scrubs, and hair treatments. To summarize, one survey taker said, "This resort ticks all the boxes: amazing hiking, gorgeous rooms, excellent food, a luxury spa, and great service."
No. 9 Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania
Take the two-hour train ride outside New York City, to this 40,000-square-foot Poconos spa for a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life. In fact, one reader went so far as to say, “It is my heaven on earth.” And we have the admit, a day spent in art class (offerings include acrylic painting, mandala drawing, and paper marbling), horseback riding, and getting a chakra-balancing massage does sound rather angelic. Also worth praising? The dining options. With views of the property's private lake, TREE restaurant serves hearty, healthy fare (no typical spa food here) and also hosts regular cooking and baking demonstrations and wine tastings.
No. 8 Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Arizona
For 37 years, Canyon Ranch’s Tucson outpost has invited guests to seek happiness through health and wellness, and more than halfway through its fourth decade in the business, the all-inclusive 150-acre desert oasis (complete with an enormous 80,000-square-foot spa) is still a favorite of T+L readers. Known for its holistic approach to fitness, Canyon Ranch garnered phrases like "peaceful," "serene," and "life changing" in the reader comments portion of the survey with specific call outs for the spirituality sessions, the comfortable rooms, and the chocolate-covered frozen bananas (apparently they left quite the impression). Whether the goal of your stay is to fully relax or to push your limits both physically and mentally, reach out to the resort's program advisors ahead of time to create a custom experience.
No. 7 Westglow Spa in Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Planning a mountain getaway? Head to this Relais & Châteaux resort with incredible 360-degree views of North Carolina’s stunning Blue Ridge parkway. Set in the perfect locale to relax, unwind, and rejuvenate, Westglow’s range of amenities includes an indoor pool, steam room, saunas, and a fitness center. Vichy therapies and acupuncture are both highlights of the spa treatment menu (along with wellness services like stress management and life coaching), and the restaurant’s dual menus will appeal to both the indulgent and the health-conscious.
No. 6 Mii Amo Spa in Sedona, Arizona
At Sedona’s Mii Amo Spa, double up on daily treatments, as part of the all-inclusive package—pair the signature stone massage, which uses local basalt stones, with a hydrating facial, specifically designed to nourish sun-damaged skin or opt to couple a reiki session in an outdoor wikiup with a calming milk and honey bath—then spend the evening exploring the spa's indoor and outdoor pools, steam room, and sauna. After a night in one of the 16 adobe casitas, awake refreshed, ready to take on the resort’s fitness activities (hiking, biking, barre class, and nature tours to name just a few) and cultural experiences such as Native American flute lessons, stargazing, and tea tastings.
No. 5 Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona
Arizona has long established itself as American spa-country, and this year, Miraval brought home the top ranking for the Grand Canyon State. Known for its partnerships with Clarins and Deborah Lippman, the spa’s treatments include Ayurveda experiences and energy restoration programs like reiki and oriental foot therapy in addition to more traditional massages and facials, and skin and nail care. As a bonus, book your calming hot stone massage or clay renewal outside in a climate-controlled tent styled by Irish-born designer Clodagh. Back in the room, deep soaking tubs, which overlook the desert landscape, make it easy to unwind after a day of exploring. Plus, as one reader said, "The beds are truly heavenly."
No. 4 Lake Austin Spa Resort in Austin, Texas
More than anything, this luxe, rustic resort located just outside the Austin city limits in Hill Country gives its guests options. Take cooking classes with visiting chefs, try your hand at an Aqua Fit workout, or take a kayak out on the lake. Looking to explore the natural surrounds, without ever leaving the spa? Opt for treatments that highlight local ingredients like prickly pear cactus and mesquite honey, or for the ultimate luxury, book the the Texas Starry Night, a lavender chamomile oil massage before bed—in one of the Lake Austin’s 40 ranch-style guest rooms—for some serious sweet dreams.
No. 3 Ten Thousand Waves in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Inspired by the traditional Japanese onsen resorts, this World's Best mainstay has long attracted day visitors to its heated hot tubs, sauna, and cold plunge pools, but there’s great value staying overnight, as well. Guests are just steps away from the spa, and privy to extended hours at the Kojiro Bath in addition to complimentary breakfast and access to last-minute private tub reservations. After dinner at the on-site Izanami, book an 80-minute masters massage to fully relax before drifting off to sleep in the balconied High Moon cottage, one of the spa's thirteen accommodations.
No. 2 Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico
The sole non-U.S. spa on the list, Rancho La Puerta’s 3,000 acres sit in the foothills of Mount Kuchumaa, an area considered sacred by Native Americans. And while a regimen of hikes, and walks, cardio classes, and flexibility trainings do a body good, and wellness programs such as chanting, sound healing, tai chi and guided meditation ease the mind, the real focus here is on the spa’s culinary offerings. Enjoy produce from the property’s on-site organic farm at the in a Spanish Colonial dining room, or adopt a DIY approach at La Cocina Que Canta ("The Kitchen That Sings") Cooking School where chefs teach traditional Mexican and Mediterranean dishes.
No. 1 Golden Door in San Marcos, California
Of this Japanese ryokan-inspired spa one reader wrote simply, "They aim to please." It’s true: this year’s number one ranked destination spa caters to the whims of guests seeking both a healthy mind and spirit with a staff to guest ratio of four to one. Golden Door has been open for half a century, but it wears the age well, with 40 rooms, beautiful zen rock gardens, and serene moon-viewing decks. Visitors aspiring to a well body should indulge in Asian-influenced treatments like yuzu wraps, reflexology, and Watsu water therapy as well as fitness classes (sculpting, ab workouts, and flexibility training). While those looking instead to unwind their minds should try one of the spa’s private mindfulness sessions, or book a round of golf on the nearby Pauma Valley Country Club’s course.