The Best International Destination Spas in 2016
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.”
No. 5: Maya Tulum Resort, Tulum, Mexico
No. 4: The BodyHoliday LeSport, Castries, St. Lucia
No. 3: Tabacón Grand Spa Thermal Resort, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
No. 2: Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico
No. 1: Mountain Trek, British Columbia
“Amazing food and you really lose weight.” It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t: Mountain Trek Health & Fitness Retreat offers a boot-camp-like approach to fitness and meals that promote real weight loss. Guests are divided into groups based on their ability, and given a group leader. Over the course of their stay, guests participate in four-hour hikes, eat portion-controlled spa cuisine (think crab cakes with tricolor coleslaw and lemon-ricotta pancakes), and attend lectures on sleep, stress management, and nutrition—all while surrounded by mountains, meadows, and forests.