There’s nothing wrong with finding joy in a worry-free vacation where you can indulge in bottomless sugary cocktails and forget about routine, balance and dietary restrictions.
But what if you could travel to a place where you can relax, let go, and come back feeling healthy, refreshed and better than before you left, without needing to detox and reset upon your return?
From oceanside yoga on the Caribbean shores of Mexico to detoxing in a luxurious spa or hiking in the Canadian mountains, here are three wellness inspired retreats that will have you feeling healthier than before you left.
1. For those seeking a mind-body connection
Vacation: If you like sunshine, yoga and freshly-pressed juice (or handcrafted cocktails)
The Retreat: Papaya Playa Project, Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
When you think of the Mayan Rivera, you likely envision spring breakers, watered-down drinks, and all-you-can-eat buffet seeking tourists. This is the opposite of that.
Reconnect with nature and feel the stress begin to melt away the moment you pull through the thatched palm gates of Papaya Playa Project—a member of the Design Hotels Group that sits on a stretch of jungle-fringed coastline in Quintana Roo—just a three-hour drive from the Cancun airport.
PPP aims to connect the body, mind, and soul with a focus on sustainability. Your rainforest shower has filtered jungle water. All the materials used to build your casita are locally sourced. The property is on its way to becoming entirely solar-powered and is on a mission to become a zero contamination and emission community by June 2018.
Check into an oceanfront casita with a private terrace and a rooftop pool, complete with sprawling views of the jungle to the left and white sand beach to the right—a perfect perch to watch the pelicans and quetzals fly overhead.
For an equally charming (and slightly more affordable) option with a rustic feel, stay in one of the thatched-roof cabañas and watch the kite surfers sail the turquoise sea from morning 'til night from your private hammock. There’s no TV or Wi-Fi in any of the rooms, so take it as an opportunity to truly disconnect.
A Day in the Life at PPP
Wake up at sunrise, then hit the daily 8 am yoga class with kundalini teacher Jiwanmukta Singh. Then head to Prana (the on-site juice bar) for a fresh, cold-pressed juice (try the 'Exotic-K', packed with mango, strawberry, kiwi and mint).
Walk through the plant-filled, lantern-lined walkways to grab breakfast at the beach club. The eggs, served on freshly baked bread from the clay oven and topped with an avocado smash, served with fruits from the local farmer’s market, are a must.
Continue decompressing with a day at the beach—Mezcal-infused cocktail in hand (try the ever-so-slightly spicy yet sweet Mezcalpeño)—and enjoy fresh shrimp ceviche on one of the cozy day beds under a palapa or inside a teepee (the laid-back hippie vibe here is real).
Got too much sun? Head to the holistic spa for a treatment by a real local shaman in a breezy open-air treatment room that overlooks the ocean. The Yucatan healing clay massage will have you covered head-to-toe with a local, nourishing mud that will repair your skin in no time.
If you’re looking for something a little more active, take a stroll to the on-site adventure center, Quelonian Divers and organize a day-trip to snorkel or dive in the nearby cenotes (Dos Ojos cenote just might have the most pristine, clear water you’ll ever encounter).
Visit the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve (the second largest barrier reef in the world) or book a three-day kite-surfing course.
For dinner, venture off the property and you’ll find an abundance of vegan and farm-to-table restaurants serving traditional Mexican food. This little slice of paradise is the perfect blend of nature, relaxation, spirituality, and—if you’re looking for it—adventure.
2. FOR THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURER
Vacation: If you like forests, mountains, and meditation
The Retreat: The Westin Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
There’s nothing like breathing in fresh mountain air and the aroma of evergreen trees to bring your stress-levels down a notch. The Pacific Northwest—Whistler, British Columbia in particular—is home to a wealth of cozy, luxurious-yet-rustic cabins, resorts, and vacation rentals.
The host of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Whistler village is located two-and-a-half-hours north of Vancouver by car. The Westin Resort and Spa truly has it all.
With an indoor/outdoor pool, hot tub, eucalyptus steam room, sauna and fully-equipped fitness center (complete with Peloton bikes, yoga mats, blocks, and straps) that is open to all guests, it’s the perfect home base for adventure year-round.
Westin also partnered with New Balance to provide guests with gear and trainers so you can just pack a carry-on bag and not worry about dragging along your active wear to hit the local trails.
A Day in the Life at The Westin
Start your day with a 45-minute drive to Pemberton’s Joffre Lakes for a hike. You can make your way to the third lake and back in four to five hours (6.8 miles). The color of the water alone is worth the trek.
If you’re ambitious, pack an inflatable boat and soak up some sun while you float on the glacier lake. If a run is more your style, grab those trainers and take the three-mile trail around Lost Lake. If you’re there in winter, take a few runs down the slopes, then wrap it all up with a massage at the spa.
Finish the day off with dinner at the hotel restaurant, Grill & Vine, has fresh, locally-sourced ingredients with a nutritionally-balanced menu created in partnership with SuperFoodsRx.
*If you have an extra day, head off the property to get a massage and spend the day at the Scandinave Spa—nestled at the edge of Lost Lake Park amongst a cedar and spruce forest with a breathtaking mountain background.
Spend your morning (or the entire day) rotating between hot, cold and relaxation stations (take your pick of a hammock haven, relaxing solariums, lying by the fire, or an impromptu yoga session).
3. FOR THOSE SEEKING TOTAL SECLUSION
Vacation: If you like hiking, diving, and seclusion
The Retreat: Castaway Island, Mamanuca Archipelago, Fiji
It’s hard to imagine anything more rejuvenating than being whisked off by a speedboat to spend a week on a private island in Fiji, surrounded by pristine coral reef, untouched jungle and fresh, locally-sourced cuisine prepared by six-star executive chef Marcus Nufer.
That’s until you meet the incredible staff at Castaway Island (“Qalito” to locals), who welcome you with traditional Fijian song, authentic smiles, remember your name, and how you like your eggs after the first day.
Check into a beachfront Bure (traditionally-thatched Fijian accommodation with a seriously luxurious twist) located, literally, steps from the impeccably clear ocean that’s teeming with life. Don’t panic, but you won’t find Wi-Fi or TV anywhere on the island except at Sundowner bar.
Fortunately, you won’t need it with all the healthy, active options that will keep you busy from sunrise to sunset on this small speck of heaven in the South Pacific Ocean.
A Day in the Life
Become an early riser and join in on the daily barefoot shadow boxing class on the beach, or hike to the highest part of the island on the bush trail where you can look out across the Mamanuca Islands (see if you can spot Monuriki Island, where the movie Castaway was filmed!).
Later, grab a paddleboard or kayak and make your way around the island, or pay a visit to the dive shop. The skilled team of seriously knowledgeable local experts (including a spear fisherman from nearby Tavua island) can take you on anything from a beginner’s snorkel to getting you fully PADI certified. You’re guaranteed to get up close and personal with Mother Nature and swim alongside reef sharks, and maybe even spot playful spinner dolphins or a rare giant clam.
Finish your day with a barefoot dinner at 1808 restaurant, where the healthy, local ingredients are sourced from organic farms throughout Fiji. Try the Lemongrass Tea Chicken made with hormone-free chicken rubbed with lemongrass paired with a papaya salad, or the vegan rice paper rolls filled with crushed nuts, papaya salad dipped in spicy satay sauce. Once you step (bare) foot on the island, it’ll become clear why they have a 40 percent return rate.
Take a Vacation!
Stepping away from the chaos of the every day to relax, find joy and rejuvenate is no longer considered an indulgence—it’s a necessity in our fast-paced world.
Use that PTO wisely and go on a wellness inspired retreat!
I’m Alicia-Rae, a freelance writer, adventurer, and travel-enthusiast. You’ll never catch me without my pen, notepad and camera in tow. You’ll likely to find me searching for stories on all corners of the globe, hanging out with penguins on the Antarctic Peninsula, learning how to tango in Buenos Aires, or hiking to an Icelandic hot spring. I’m also the editorial specialist at lululemon athletica. When I’m not traveling, and writing you’ll find me exploring in the mountains or spending time with my family and friends in Vancouver, British Columbia, enjoying a good glass of Malbec. Follow along my adventures on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and my website.
Alicia Rae Olafsson
Alicia-Rae Olafsson is a freelance writer, adventurer, and travel enthusiast based in Vancouver, British Columbia. You can find her work at lululemon athletica, B.C. Living Magazine, The Georgia Straight, The Snipe News, 24 Hours Vancouver and Fame'd Magazine.