Vacation with Purpose 

In Activities, Destinations by LA Travel Magazine

By Ellen Cleveland

The usual stigma around a vacation is to let loose, get rid of your stress, and put all of your responsibilities on hold. Most of the time this means disregarding all exercise regimens and indulging a little more than you should, because hey, you’re on vacation. So you sit back in your lounge chair with a Mai Tai without a care in the world. Although the harsh reality of the 200+ e-mails waiting unanswered in your inbox upon return never seems to completely leave your mind. While you will most likely arrive back to reality with a beautiful bronzy glow and sun infused highlights in your hair, you may feel like you need a vacation again from your vacation. But what if you didn’t have to feel this way? What if there was a way to use those vacation days to get your health back on track?

Well, there is. Luxurious resort destinations in our backyard and around the world have come up with carefully thought out programs for you to use your vacation time to relax, rejuvenate and recollect. Whether you need a post-Coachella detox, or a moment to restore your mental and physical health, a health and wellness retreat might be exactly what you never knew you needed.

Top California Health & Wellness Destinations

The Springs, Downtown LA

If you’re looking to test out the elements of a health and wellness retreat, but want to save the travel time, or maybe you are not fully ready to commit to an intensive four to seven day involvement, The Springs in Los Angeles may be the perfect compromise. The Springs offers a variety of spa treatments including acupuncture, deep tissue massage, jade stone therapy and fire cupping to name a few. The spa treatments are designed to appeal to your mind, body and spirit, and complement The Springs’ food and yoga program. With a wholesome experience in mind, The Springs’ mantra is focused on bringing balance back into your life.

While The Springs has been a popular destination for their wellness programs in the greater Los Angeles area since 2014, their brand new kitchen and juice bar is now open to all. This addition has created a positive space for the like-minded to detox and refresh on a rooftop in the trendy Art District of the city.

Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur

Part of taking a wellness retreat means disconnecting with the outside world and directing your attention to yourself. The Ventana Inn and Spa in Big Sur, is a lodge that sits on 243 acres of land only half a mile from the Pacific Coast Highway. You’ll feel as if you’re isolated in your own log cabin suite complete with a personal hot tub and fireplace. Each room has its own balcony with views overlooking the redwood forest, mountains & gorgeous coast, making for a heavenly stay among the clouds.

Start your mornings with guided hikes throughout the redwood trees or with one of the yoga classes offered. In addition, you’ll find a gym filled with state of the art exercise equipment to fit your every need. The Ventana Spa features Japanese hot baths, a clothing-optional pool, and a well thought out menu of treatments. The award winning culinary team serves fresh, locally sourced and sustainable ingredients for breakfast lunch and dinner. If you ever feel you need to leave your forest oasis, you can arrange a private winery tour, go fishing, try your hand at a game of golf, or visit downtown Big Sur.

Tenaya Lodge Yosemite, Fish Camp

Lovers of adventure can find their version of wellness at the Tenaya Lodge in Yosemite, located just three miles from Yosemite National Park and 15 miles from Bass lake. Hike, bike, ski, swim, climb, raft or skate in this upscale resort settled in the Sierra Mountain range. No matter what season, Tenaya lodge serves as your “basecamp” for the endless activities available to you within the park. With packages for couples, families and groups you can design your stay to accommodate your longing for adventure. If you’re keen on a package for mountain biking, stargazing or fishing, the property can make it happen. However, every day packed with activity deserves to end with pampering at the first-class Ascent Spa. However you decide to create your retreat, you’ll leave feeling refreshed.

Four Seasons, Westlake

At the Four Seasons at Westlake Village you can grasp the benefits of a wellness retreat with the comfort and familiarity from a renowned resort chain. Only 40 minutes outside of Los Angeles, the property is recognized by the California Health and Longevity Institute, where guests can check in for a weekend or longer to reboot their lifestyle. As this particular retreat location is not as strict as others, it is the perfect opportunity to test out what wellness-retreat programs are all about.

However, if you are looking for a more intense workout program, the Four Seasons recently partnered with Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (a hardcore, fitness-focused week of fasting that is popular amongst celebrities) to create The Ranch 4.0 for a similar, yet less-intensive four day boot camp on hotel property.

Golden Door, San Marcos

This California health resort, founded in 1958, has been a place where guests come to transform. Developed on 600 acres and beautiful Japanese gardens, the Golden Door was originally designed in Japanese “ryokan” or inn style, emphasizing the beauty of simplicity. Newly renovated, the resort has over 40 private rooms providing comfort in today’s modern luxury. While you’re there, take part in a variety of exercise classes from archery to dance and swimming. Each day clean warm-ups, robes, t-shirts and shorts are supplied, as well as sandals and a kimono. Golden Door’s spa treatment menu includes chakra cleansing, a variety of deep tissue massages, mani-pedis and blowout services. Meals are sourced from ingredients grown onsite, from the farms created by Steve Jobs’ previous garden designer. The staff of trainers, nutritionists and counselors are top-notch aiming to guide you and other Hollywood starlets through a journey of transformation. The Golden Door is a non profit organization, where 100% of their proceeds go toward foundations that help children in need. You can enjoy your stay knowing you’re helping to transform the world, as well as yourself.

Top Nationwide Destinations

Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin TX

Rated among the top health and wellness destinations, Lake Austin Spa Resort is undoubtedly a little piece of heaven. Placed right next to Lake Austin on 19 breathtaking acres, the landscape is reason enough to visit in itself. What used to be a rodeo training facility is now filled with hammocks with views of the tranquil lake and garden areas. It is impossible to run out of things to do during your stay with weekly scheduled activities including cooking classes, horseback riding, meditation and lakeside sports. At Lake Austin’s 25,000 square-foot spa, you’ll feel as though you have stepped foot into yet another oasis. With over 100 spa treatments, three indoor and outdoor pools, and full hair and nail salon amenities to choose from, you are sure to have an incomparable experience.

Canyon Ranch, Tucson AZ

Known for its appeal to top business executives and celebrity guests, the life enhancement and weight-loss programs at Canyon Ranch are world-renowned, and well worth the hype. Providing other programs focused on medical education, health and mindfulness, you are able to personalize your stay at Canyon Ranch to your specific needs. Work with a personal fitness trainer, astrologer, sleep specialist, nutritionist, or all of the above. The onsite wellness coaches will help you achieve whatever goals you set out to accomplish. You can even test or strengthen your survival skills with outdoor courses that teach you how to start fires and survive in the wilderness. Between the extensive spa treatment list, the underwater treadmills and high ropes courses, you’re sure to have plenty of activities to occupy your time with.

Omega Institute, Rhinebeck NY

Unique from the other wellness resorts, the Omega Institute encourages you to remove yourself from the outside world and turn your attention back to your mind and body. Their mission is to “provide hope and healing to individuals and society through innovative educational experiences that awaken the best in the human spirit.” Omega institute frowns upon the use of cellphones, but with the plethora of wellness workshops and personal time to reflect and rest, you likely won’t even notice that you’re disconnected. Omega teaches educational seminars to over 25,000 guests a year, with retreats focusing on relationships, yoga, weight loss and more.

Travaasa Hana, Maui

A relaxing week at Travaasa Hana Hotel in Maui will have you feeling refreshed in no time. As the #1 resort spa in Hawaii, you’ll find a blissful oasis of peace and tranquility where you can relax and rejuvenate your mind, body and spirit. Morning yoga classes, outdoor bootcamp, bosu workouts and stand up paddle boarding are activities to fuel your fitness needs, and later you can cook a traditional Hawaiian meal and learn to hula dance. Enjoy a long day at the spa and unwind in the lava-rock hot tub and whirlpool between treatments. The resort cottages are luxurious and spacious with plenty of room for the entire family if necessary. Travaasa Hana is the only hotel that offers an all-inclusive structure in Hawaii, which includes meals and shuttle services. Bonus Tip: Virgin America now flies direct from Los Angeles so getting to Maui is now hassle free.

Red Mountain Resort, Utah

The Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah is one of the best wellness destinations for the avid adventurer. The outdoor activities are endless with the resort in such close proximity to Snow Canyon State Park which provides incredible sightseeing and exploration opportunities of cliffs, volcanic cones and lava caves. The red rock canyons are something you must experience for yourself. Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, Pilates and nutritional seminars are all possible during your stay in Utah with Bryce Canyon and Zion just a short drive away.

International

Haramara Retreat, Sayulita

Get your travel fix and explore the tranquil beaches of Salyulita Mexico at the Hamarama Retreat. Sixteen cabanas are nestled into Hamarama jungle resort on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Go off the grid and live simply with no electricity, while enjoying the luxurious suite design where the indoors and outdoors merge together. Your stay at Hamarama will be focused around practicing yoga and connecting your body and mind. Gourmet vegetarian meals are served on the open air dining terrace from locally sourced ingredients. Hamarama is committed to helping you improve your overall well being in a magical and natural environment.

Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa, British Columbia

The Mountain Trek Retreat is designed to revamp your health and fitness habits. Each day of your vacation will be action packed with adventure. Begin your mornings with yoga, or a hike in the mountains, attend a nutrition seminar in the afternoon, have an evening workout after dinner and end your day with a spa treatment. Men and women lose an average of 6-10 pounds a week here, and you’re sure to feel the affects of your fitness vacation even after you leave. Mountain Trek aims to help change your attitudes and re-boost your vitality. Once you visit, you will soon realize why Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat and Health Spa was named the #1 International Destination Spa.

Kalon Surf School, Costa Rica

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to surf then the Kalon Surf resort in Costa Rica may be a perfect getaway for you. In the jungle-lined beach town you’ll find the ideal balance between tranquility and exhilaration. This luxury surf resort offers an all inclusive seven-night surf package with a mid-week massage. A private chef cooks healthy, Costa Rican dishes for you daily which you will certainly enjoy after a full day of surfing with your very own surf coach. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, your lessons will be personalized and designed to fit your fitness level. Indulge in gourmet meals, world class beaches and pure relaxation in the luxury of your very own seaside suite.

Ananda in the Himalayas, India

Nestled in the Himalayan foothills is the luxurious Ananda destination spa. Located on a palace estate, the Ananda has a full size jogging track, private villas and spa, amphitheater and outdoor swimming pool. Practice a unique combination of yoga and vedanta while learning Indian wellness and healing regimes. Personalize your retreat program to cater to your vacation intentions. Whether you need to cleanse, detox, lose weight or discover a state of deep relaxation, Ananda hopes to help you achieve union in your mind, body and soul.

COMO Shambhala Estate, Bali

Tap into the culture of Indonesia and take your wellness vacation to Bali for a much needed body holiday. COMO Shambhala takes a holistic approach to their wellness programs and is designed with your experience in mind from the private villa infinity pools to the meals prepared with ingredients to increase your concentration and energy levels. Experience the magnificent nature of Bali by passing through the rice paddies or bike through the jungle to visit neighboring villages. Improve your yoga and meditation methods with an on-site trainer, and treat yourself with the abundance of spa and beauty treatments available. Book your luxury island stay with a group, family members, loved one, or pamper yourself after a stint of traveling solo. The Shambhala Estate is all about being part of a positive and nurturing environment that will help you to make lasting improvements to your lifestyle.

Health & Wellness Trends

Health

Let’s face it. We know it’s all too easy to overindulge in chips and guacamole when you’re vacationing in Mexico. You don’t exactly want to turn down another margarita and you’re positive the chicken quesadilla will taste one thousand times better than a simple salad. Health and wellness vacations are specifically constructed with your overall health in mind. You will be surrounded by healthy eating options, and the food is so freshly prepared that chips and other munchies will be far from your mind.

Fitness

Going on vacation doesn’t have to mean putting your entire workout routine on hold. Most wellness vacations are centered on providing you with endless activities to keep you and your body busy. Stay active by doing a yoga retreat or spend your week hiking in the mountains or river rafting in Yosemite. Some retreats are specifically structured to help you detox and lose weight. Sign up for a strict program limiting your diet to gourmet vegetarian meals with no sugar, dairy or alcohol. You probably never envisioned your vacation with six a.m. wake up calls for a morning boot camp but your body will thank you in the end.

Tranquility

Many vacation spots are swarming with tourists and you never get the feeling that you are alone, which makes the whole element of relaxation quite difficult. During your health and spa getaway you’re sure to find peace and tranquility. The guests staying at wellness destinations have traveled with the intentions of a similar experience as you — tranquility.

Educational / Inspiring

Not only are health wellness retreats for appealing to your food and fitness needs, but they teach you something along the way as well. Use your week to learn something new by taking a cooking class or sitting in on a presentation from a guest speaker. You’ll leave your vacation feeling inspired and with new ideas about how to steer your life in the right direction.

Spa Treatment

The element of pampering is a focal point of every wellness retreat. Spa destinations are dreaming up inventive ways to make your spa journey, unique and one to remember. Soak in a lava-rock hot tub or have an ocean side massage with hot rocks and crystals to cleanse your chakra. Beauty and spa treatments are the cherry on top to your health and fitness inspired vacation. Who doesn’t love a little pampering.

Your vacation time is sacred, and you cannot afford to return feeling equally as stressed as when you left, and not well rested. Instead, it should be used to completely let yourself decompress and help you get in touch with the lifestyle habits that you want as a part of your daily life. Wellness destinations in the United States and getaway locations all over the world are committed to giving you a personalized experience tailored to help you achieve your desired state of mental and physical well-being.