Destination Spas to Jump-Start Your Year
A few years ago, California-based couple Melissa and Wyatt Chapman realized juggling two thriving careers and two kids was taking a physical toll.
“Wyatt was suffering immensely with back, digestive, and sleep issues, while I was turning to food as a crutch and not working out,” Melissa recalls. “We’d go to the best doctors and nutritionists, but at the end of the day, we were just going back to our stressors and not making any progress.”
Then Melissa attended some sleepaway boot camps, and something shifted. “It was staggering how much being away from regular work and home life gave me hope, and made real change possible,” she says. “Suddenly, things were looking up.” Inspired, the Chapmans went on to develop VeraVia, a comprehensive wellness program based in San Diego, where their team has helped clients shed pounds, get off medication, and even reconnect with loved ones.
The dawn of a New Year inspires commitments to deal with such health and wellness issues, be they chronic symptoms, fitness goals, stress relief, or general bad habits. And if you don’t know where to start, a destination spa program can help.
“A destination spa experience gives you a glimpse of how healthy you can be and imparts you with the knowledge that you can do it,” says spa industry legend Deborah Szekely, cofounder of Rancho La Puerta. Because these programs are typically several days long, she adds, and involve the support of experts and fellow guests, “you experience a shift of your focus and concerns, achieve a real jump start on fitness, and find your true self again.”
And just who that self is should play a part in which wellness getaway you choose. Factors to consider include if you are more social or solitary, need medical or behavioral support, must have Wi-Fi (not all places let you connect), and love the outdoors.
To help find the perfect wellness getaway for your needs, we’ve scouted 14 effective programs and zeroed in on who’d best benefit from each one. From Pennsylvania to the Himalayas, islands to the mountains, places with mechanical bull rides to ones with historic healing waters, these destination spas will help you get the New Year—or any new day—off to a healthful start.
The BodyHoliday, St. Lucia
If you don’t mind sand in your sneakers…
This classic Caribbean resort offers a blend of beach time and wellness courses, with outdoor activities that range from snorkeling, tennis, and spinning in a treetop studio to the Quadrathlon, a hard-core combination of running, swimming, rappelling, and mountain biking. The intensive BodyScience program, meanwhile, uses DNA analysis to diagnose and treat health issues.
Hilton Head Health, SC
If you want to learn how to de-stress—and play a little golf…
While the barrier-island resort has traditionally focused on long-term weight loss and stress management, new programs are adding more flexibility. The Play Well package combines daily rounds of golf with wellness seminars—plus more options like sailing lessons, ziplining, and an excursion to historic Savannah.
Travaasa Austin, TX
If your friends insist on tagging along with you…
You can find yoga programs and cooking lessons just about anywhere—but paired with mechanical-bull-riding workouts and Texas two-step classes? Only at this eco-conscious retreat surrounded by Texas’s Balcones Canyonlands preserve. Other social activities, like nightly fireside chats, make it an ideal option for a group getaway.
The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, PA
If you can’t bear to forgo alcohol and sugar…
Moderation, not deprivation, is the philosophy at the Pocono Mountains woodland hideaway. In between mountain biking, kayaking on the private lake, and art classes, guests sit down for multicourse meals made with ingredients grown on site. Sure, it’s all portion-controlled, but unlike at many spas, wine and cocktails are allowed—as is dessert!
Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico
If you want to embrace your inner hippie…
Music as medicine, handwriting analysis, dream decoding: the expert-led sessions at this 3,000-acre ranch an hour from San Diego take a holistic, New Age-y approach. Days begin with a mountain hike or meadow walk and are punctuated by seaweed wraps, restorative facials, and other cleansing spa treatments.
VeraVia, San Diego
If you’d like a team behind you...
Opened in 2013, this retreat held at the Park Hyatt has already seen repeat guests and major success stories, including clients who’ve been able to taper off medications and create major life changes. Ranging from four days to however long proves necessary (guests have extended for five weeks), the all-inclusive programs cover fitness, spa, and cuisine, plus a doctor-overseen analysis (including blood work), daily one-on-one sessions with experts (including cognitive and behavioral therapists), and extensive follow-up support once you’re back home. VeraVia takes only five to 10 clients per week to ensure a very tailored experience—and significant results.
Vana Malsi Estate, Dehradun, India
If you want to practice yoga at its source...
The most buzzed-about destination spa opening of 2014 was this contemporary, eco-conscious retreat in the Himalayan foothills, a short flight from New Delhi. It comes with all the trappings of an upscale resort, but don’t let that fool you. Guests meet with a Wellness Concierge to craft itineraries that might include yoga, tennis, acupuncture, cooking classes, Watsu, herbal medicine, and treatments in the four dedicated spa facilities (one each for ayurvedic, Tibetan, Chinese, and Western modalities). The organic meals, which include wine at dinner, are crafted without any refined flour or sugar, and guests get clothing to wear during the stay along with bath products customized to their ayurvedic dosha.
Red Mountain, St. George, UT
If you fluctuate between badass and barfly...
Your experience at this low-key, affordable Utah wellness resort can be as intense or relaxed as you’d like—which is why it attracts everyone from adrenaline junkies to moms and daughters to girlfriends celebrating a big birthday. (The popular Sagestone mojitos are a draw, too.) If you’re up for a challenge, hike or bike in Zion or Bryce Canyon national parks, rappel a 150-foot Red Mountain cliff, or try to do yoga on a paddleboard or horseback. Or stick around the property for a desert botanical–rich body wrap, cooking demo, or beer around the fireplace. Both à la carte options and multiday packages (targeting detox, weight loss, and general wellness) are available.
Villa Stephanie, Baden-Baden, Germany
If you’d like state-of-the-art pampering...
With its natural hot springs and pristine setting in the Black Forest foothills, Baden-Baden has attracted wellness seekers since Roman times. Now Villa Stephanie, which debuted in late 2014, is bringing cutting-edge treatments to town. Set on the grounds of the Brenners Park hotel, the five-floor, 15-room Villa and adjacent Haus Julius medical facility integrate beauty, well-being, and health components. Depending on the program, guests might undergo high-tech fitness performance diagnostics, nutrition coaching, massages with medically trained therapists, Kneipp baths, and physiotherapy. It leaves plenty of time for soaking in the private hot spring–fed pools, of course.
Canyon Ranch Miami Beach
If you’re short on time…
Think of this as destination spa–lite: the Miami Beach outpost of the venerable Canyon Ranch brand is an all-suite boutique hotel that offers short, targeted wellness programs, plus flexible à la carte options so you can work wellness into your schedule. Not that it’s any less expert: medical diagnostics and supervision is available, as are nutrition and life management coaching, Eastern and Western spa therapies, and more than 40 indoor and outdoor classes a day (some even on the beach.) The three- and five-night programs focus on goals like weight loss, stress relief, quitting smoking, pain management, and “Executive Health” for the time-crunched C-suite.
Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo
If you want some history with your health...
Reopened in late 2014 after a multimillion-dollar renovation, this 150-year-old sea-view wellness center steps from Monte-Carlo’s Casino Square was created as part of Charles III’s wish to make Monaco “a city of baths.” The complex still offers plenty of thermal water–based fun courtesy of heated seawater pools, hydrotherapy treatments, and both Turkish and Russian baths. Thanks to the redo, you can also expect gorgeous new lounges, high-tech facilities (Huber fitness machines, a state-of-the-art Technogym, and Europe’s only cryotherapy room), and the expertise of sports doctors, relaxation therapists, and other specialists. Choose from à la carte services for slimming, anti-aging, detox, and performance. Programs start at two nights/three days and typically include meals at the on-site L’Hirondelle restaurant, and accommodations and breakfast at the chic Hôtel Hermitage Monte-Carlo—which has direct access to the spa, so you can wander around in your robe.
Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa
If you’re looking to take your fitness to new heights...
This mountain-based program blends six to eight miles of trail time a day with classes, activities, and cuisine designed to boost the metabolism and balance hormones, leading to results beyond dropped pounds (though that happens, too). One-week Reboot and two-week Renewal programs are available—both with fitness, spa, and nutrition components—and groups are limited to about 16 guests a session. The program runs May though October in spectacular British Columbia, Canada, plus twice a year in Mexico, and once in a different overseas location (Italy’s Amalfi Coast in 2015).
The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, CA
If you need your butt kicked...
Based on a self-proclaimed “intense, no-options” philosophy, The Ranch at Live Oak is the ultimate all-in boot camp. Days start at 5:30 a.m. with stretching, breakfast, and a four- to five-hour hike, followed by lunch and an afternoon of workouts, yoga, fitness and cooking classes, and a daily massage. Highly controlled meals are made delicious with organic, local ingredients and creative recipes, and are served communal-style in the main farmhouse. It’s a rigorous experience for both the mind and body, but devotees swear it leaves you transformed. If you can’t commit to The Ranch’s six-night, seven-day minimum, its R4.0 version—held at the Four Seasons Westlake Village—is a four-day jump start with many of the same components, including Bod Pod and V02 fitness testing.
El Santuario Spa, Sardón de Duero, Spain
If you also want to work out your palate...
El Santuario Spa won’t open its doors until June 2015, but we have high hopes as the pedigree behind it bodes well—particularly at mealtime. It will be part of the 22-room Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, two hours from Madrid. The hotel’s 1,730 acres already feature a medieval abbey, a winery, 500 acres of vineyards, and a restaurant from a Michelin-starred chef. The estate’s former stables are being transformed into an intimate wellness facility with a Finnish sauna, a hydrotherapy pool, and a menu of classic and vinotherapy-based treatments. Guests will meet with a dedicated Spa Sommelier for a blind tasting (and sniffing) ritual to help determine the best-suited aromas and services. Three- and seven-day detox, weight loss, and wellness programs will include spa treatments; activities like fitness classes, yoga, Pilates, and biking through the vineyards; and gourmet meals.