Looking for a reason to go on a spa vacation? You can jumpstart a healthy lifestyle, reconnect with people you love, or just get away from it all and lay on the beach. Here are some of the best reasons to go to a spa - and suggestions on where to get the spa experience you're looking for.
Destination spas are the best choice if you're looking to make a major some healthy changes and need some support. This small group of all-inclusive "health spas" offer good nutrition and exercise balanced with relaxing spa treatment. They range from affordable seasonal programs like New Life Hiking Spa
to the legendary Canyon Ranch
, with its unparalleled programming and medical staff. Destination spas are great for solo travelers.
If you just want to get a few spa treatments, hang out by the pool, and eat cheeseburgers for lunch, try a resort spa. There's a huge range in terms of price, facilities and amenities. Ask if they offer exercise classes, how often, and if there's an extra charge. These are often the best choices for families because of kids club. Many also have golfing and lavish dining. California, Florida, and Arizona are the top three resort spa destinations, but you can find one in every state.
The old "fat farm" days of 800 calories and all-day exercise for rapid weight loss are (mostly) over. Now most destination spas teach your how to eat for long-term health. Generally you can eat as much -- or as little -- as you want. A few still have controlled calorie counts, including The Oaks at Ojai. Super-exclusive Cal-A-Vie customizes the calorie counts for each guest. Duke University Diet & Fitness Center is another great choice for weight management, though you stay off-campus.
Our environment has all kinds of harmful toxins -- physical and mental. A few select spas specialize in detox. Some of the options include juice fasting and colonics at We Care or Ayurvedic panchakarma at Elemental Embrace or The Raj. Yoga classes and treatments like lymphatic drainage also help with detox.
Great hiking programs are the backbone of many destination spas, including Red Mountain Spa and Green Valley Spa in Utah. They both roam over gorgeous federal lands, with different groups aimed at different fitness levels. But think about the temperatures and time of year when you book. Long hikes and low-season rates don't necessarily go together.
Miraval is the place to go if you want to push through some old fears and habits. Working with a horse during "The Equine Experience" gives you insight into how you communicate (and regularly brings executives to tears). Or find new freedom and you climb onto a tiny platform and jump -- rope attached!
You can find yoga classes at just about every destination spa (and many resort spas). But some do it better than others. Rancho La Puerta has one of the best yoga programs, with top teachers, a huge yoga studio, and classes aimed at different levels of expertise. Kripalu is also famous for its yoga and reasonable prices due to campus-style and vegetarian food. At the luxury end, Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya in Mexico has a Wellness Yoga Retreat with a yogi from India.
The food is so good at some destination spas that you might pack on pounds if you're not careful. Spas known for their excellent spa cuisine and cooking classes include Rancho La Puerta, Lake Austin Spa Resort, and Red Mountain Spa. Most resort spas also have fine dining with spa cuisine options -- though I've been told no one ever orders them.
Spas are a great place to spend quality time with the people you love. Destination spas are especially fun for girlfriend getaways and quality time with your mom, daughter or sister. But destination spas can be social, so if you want to rekindle a romance, you might choose a small resort spa like Royal Palms in Phoenix. If you only have a weekend, look for on something in your own state.
Feeling uninspired? Many spas have programs that help you get in touch with your creativity. One of the very best is Ojai Valley Inn & Spa in California, where you learn from local artists how to work with oils, pastels, watercolor, make jewelry and paint silk scarves.