Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
For many, taking a trip focused on spa and wellness is a powerful way to rejuvenate and (re)connect, thanks to uninterrupted downtime together. And in these troubled economic times, another type of spa retreat is fast gaining a following: the kind with activities and treatments customized to help you find new inspiration, energy and balance. For this Indagare Bests, we have selected our favorite spas and wellness-focused retreats, whether you’re looking for a relaxing break with a group of friends, planning a bonding trip for Mother’s Day next month, or spending quality time with your significant other.
Everyone is familiar with such fabled, large-scale retreats as the Golden Door, Canyon Ranch and the Greenbrier. Here are twenty lesser-known getaways that focus on escaping inward. Some are located on the beach, in the country or in far-flung settings; others are surrounded by grand landscapes, be they natural or urban. All are dedicated to helping you release stress and unlearn bad habits by focusing on quiet downtime. You may even decide to leave the Blackberry at home.
Opened in 2002 by two New Yorkers who fell for the Riviera Maya’s beach-chic vibe, Amansala offers Bikini Boot Camp, a wellness program that’s part active work-out and yoga, part pampering massages and beach time (there are special mother-daughter-sister retreats offered in May). Yoga is also on the menu at Kamalame Cay, a breezy getaway located on a 96-acre private island in the Bahamas, where Spa-Wellness weekends are run by Jo Hook, the founder of Avatar Yoga Retreats. At Parrot Cay, in the Turks and Caicos, you can focus on exercise (the yoga and Pilates classes are renowned) or on pure pampering, as the large Como Shambhala is one of the world’s most beautiful laid-back spas. If the idea of being in a remote location doesn’t appeal, Bacara is in easy driving distance to the boutiques and restaurants of Santa Barbara, but the spa is also top-notch, with a dedicated concierge who will create personalized nutrition, fitness and beauty programs.
One of the most acclaimed spas in the Northeast, the Mayflower is a great place for female bonding (it’s open to men only during certain times throughout the year), with a menu focused on treatments for body, mind and spirit, including sound therapy and meditation. At the Lodge at Woodloch, opened by two longtime spa consultants, bonding takes place in the gorgeous multi-level spa, over hikes in the countryside and during all-organic meals that perfectly balance nutrition and flavor. Thanks to its location in the middle of Napa wine country, near the pretty town of St. Helena, the Calistoga Ranch offers a great mix of activities (culinary, shopping, wine tours) and relaxation at the Bathhouse spa. Cavallo Point, located near Sausalito and opened in 2008, is a nice place for wellness seekers who want to learn about healthy living beyond the regular relaxation experience; its large Healing Arts Center & Spa offers herbal consultations, treatments focused on stress reduction and smoking cessation, and sessions in hypnotherapy and nutrition.
Fans of Mii Amo say that they cannot imagine a place that offers a kinder, more gentle push towards a healthier lifestyle; the spa helps guests pull together personalized schedules according to their goals and the setting, in the red-rock canyons near Sedona, could not be more stunning. Another good option for those who bond over the pursuit of a healthier lifestyle is Miraval, a retreat near Tucson that offers lessons in everything from proper breathing techniques to weight management. Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas’ Hill Country is surrounded by glorious countryside and draws spa-goers who are also great outdoors enthusiasts; plus, the resort doesn’t overly-regiment your stay: you can be as busy or lazy as you wish. Besides a world-famous spa, Mexico’s Rancho La Puerto has a renowned cooking school, where foodies can hone healthy eating and cooking habits.
Considered by many to be the best spa in Istanbul, the 22,000 square-foot spa at the Four Seasons Bosphorus is a fantasy version of the traditional Turkish hammam and has a gorgeous skylit indoor pool. British company In:Spa was one of the pioneers in combining wellness journeys with exotic destinations; their original week-long program in Marrakech, where guests are based either in the chic Palmeraie district or at a private kasbah in the Atlas mountains, remains one of the most popular trips for good reason. Far-flung and remote, Ananda is the place to learn more about traditional Indian remedies and treatments, especially Ayureveda and yoga; the setting, in the Himalayas, is spectacular. Those craving to learn about chakras in a beach setting should consider the stylish Six Senses Destination Spa on the Thai island of Phuket, where guests can choose treatments, classes and philosophies from four schools of thought: Indian, Chinese, Thai and Indonesian.
Besides having lots of competitors nearby, city spas have the added challenge of creating an ambience of peace and seclusion, while surrounded by urban buzz. The new spa at the Viceroy is perfect for a fun girlfriend getaway; designed by Philippe Starck, it has a fitness and spa area, whose surreal two-story lobby has double-height windows overlooking the bay. More minimalist is the Bathhouse at the TheHotel with its dark slate stones, water features and glass accents that calm and soothe (there’s enough flash just beyond its doors, after all). It’s easy to spend a whole day at the feng-shui-designed I-Spa at the Intercontinental Hong Kong, which has five private spa suites (private saunas, steam showers and whirlpools) and gorgeous views. In Paris, the most stylish addition to the spa scene is the Dior Institute at the Plaza Athénée it’s sleek, all-white and focused on unabashed pampering and beauty with a menu featuring massage therapy, micro-abrasion and anti-aging treatments.
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