For many of us, long days at the office, stress, and errands can get in the way of a healthy lifestyle. So we often look at our vacations not as a chance for a calorie binge (well, not always), but as a chance to hit the reset button and get back to our exercise and fitness regimens. And those who do manage to stay fit year-round may not want to part with their healthy lifestyle choices when they go away for a week or two. After all, there's a lot to be said for the mind-body connection -- and considering the fact that it's crunch time (literally) for getting in shape for the summer, there's no better time for a calming, healthy getaway than now. From a rustic yoga retreat to a luxe private island escape, these are the 14 best spots for a health and wellness vacation.
Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, Bahamas
Those looking for a relaxed vacation with some yoga thrown in should look elsewhere. This is a serious ashram by an established group (there are nine Sivananda Yoga Ashrams throughout the world) and the 5:30 a.m. wake-up bell proves it. Guests focus on postures, breathing, positive thinking, and meditation, and have some free time to take advantage of the beautiful beach setting. Seemingly a world away from neighboring mega-resort Atlantis, this five-and-a-half acre oasis has a range of accommodations from tents to Beachfront Suites (most rooms have shared bathrooms, though). Two vegetarian meals are prepared daily right after each two-hour yoga class , while morning and evening satsangs (a mix of meditation, chanting, lectures, singing and dancing) help create a sense of community. Extra workshops and lectures are built into the daily schedule, and there's a wellbeing center for massage treatments and Ayurvedic body treatments.
Aqua Wellness Resort, Nicaragua
Aqua Wellness Resort is a rustic-luxe, wellness-focused retreat set into a hillside overlooking Redondo Bay on Nicaragua's Pacific coast. The resort has eco-friendly design, lush vegetation (expect to spot wildlife such as howler monkeys and iguanas), healthy cuisine (almost every dish comes with a hearty side of vegetables), and an excellent ocean-view yoga platform where group classes are held. Plus, the spa uses local materials, treatments, and techniques. Rooms are adorned with lots of natural wood; some units include plunge pools and stunning ocean views. The white-sand beach is secluded and beautiful, and guests can get in an extra workout climbing up the hill from the beach to reception.
Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur
Big Sur is considered one of the most healing places in the world, and no resort takes more advantage of this stunning natural setting than the Post Ranch Inn. The organic architecture is breathtaking, seeming to grow out of the ground beside the hotel's surrounding redwoods, and the spacious, eco-sensitive rooms have ocean or mountain views, as well as wood-burning fireplaces and private decks. Free activities include yoga and stargazing, and the acclaimed spa has shamanistic services including illumination, soul retrieval, divination, and fire and drum ceremonies.
Asclepios Wellness and Healing Retreat, Costa Rica
Asclepios, named for the ancient Greek god of healing, is a wellness center located in the hills near the Central Valley town of Alajuela, conveniently close to the airport but worlds away from the hustle of downtown San Jose. A full spa, fitness center, outdoor pool, and organic restaurant all lie on spacious grounds amidst a lush landscape. Every one of its 12 comfortable and stylish rooms has a different theme, and all overlook hillsides planted with coffee and sugarcane.
Haramara Retreat, Sayulita, Mexico
Haramara is arguably one of the most special hotels in Mexico. It is a luxurious yoga retreat located on 12 seaside acres of wild vegetation just outside Sayulita. The structures have been built using traditional construction techniques to minimize the environmental impact, and there is no electricity anywhere besides the restaurant and the yoga studio -- not even in the rooms. Each room is housed in a private standalone thatched hut with no window panes or screens separating it from the jungle, and only gauze curtains and mosquito nets to avoid bugs and critters. It is geared towards those in need of some detoxification and relaxation, with yoga and meditation classes, an open-air spa, a vegetarian and seafood restaurant, unpaved walking trails, and limited cell phone service.
Canyon Ranch Tucson
Canyon Ranch is a health spa and all-inclusive resort in north Tucson near the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here the focus is on wellness, nutrition, and fitness. Daily fitness classes along with informational lectures and a menu packed with healthy, low-calorie food help guests to jumpstart (or maintain) a healthy lifestyle. The color palette of the southwest inspired the decor of the rooms, which come complete with flat-screen TVs, free Wi-Fi, and iPod docks. Immaculate, peaceful grounds and focused spa treatments all provide an incredibly relaxing environment. While many guests report feeling renewed after a visit -- especially after spending time in the 80,000-square-foot spa complex -- there is a hefty nightly resort fee and a four-night minimum stay (all the better to get completely rejuvenated!).
Parrot Cay and COMO Shambhala Retreat, Turks and Caicos
Accessed via a 30-minute boat ride from Providenciales, this 1,000-acre all-inclusive resort on a private island is the definition of tranquility. With an incredible infinity-edge pool, world-renowned COMO Shambhala Spa, waterfront Balinese-style villas, doting service, and more than three miles of pristine beaches, it's easily one of the most luxurious and romantic options in the Caribbean. The spa offers holistic treatments to helps guests achieve both physical well-being and spiritual balance, and facilities include a yoga room and Pilates studio. Retreats, which usually involve five hours a day of yoga for five days, are offered regularly.
The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, Scottsdale
Considered one of the top resorts in the Southwest, the serene Sanctuary continues to impress its high-profile guests with its cuisine, spa, and gorgeous suites. The spa and fitness offerings include a meditation garden, yoga, Pilates, nutrition consultants, and New Age therapies (hypnotherapy, astrology, and various forms of meditation among them). It undeniably has the most desirable location in Scottsdale, overlooking Praying Monk Rock and the desert -- not suburban sprawl.
Hidden Pond, Maine
Spread over 60 acres, the Hidden Pond resort features 36 suite-like bungalows and two-bedroom cottages. The spa is set up to resemble a tree house, free yoga classes are held at the organic farm (where guests may also pick fresh flowers and veggies), regular nature walks are offered, and the restaurant serves organic local cuisine from an acclaimed chef. Another outstanding feature is the outdoor bar and grill that sits on a "sand bar," with chairs circled around fire pits. This upscale boutique hotel attracts couples with its tranquil environment and top-notch restaurants; families also love the resort, for its cottages that include full kitchens and washer/dryers. The hotel also provides a free shuttle to the beach, which is just a five-minute drive away.
Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel & Spa, Dominican Republic
Offering eco-friendly bungalows in a lush, friendly setting, Natura Cabanas is a taste of serene, northern coast luxury for a remarkably fair price. Guests enjoy delicious, fresh food, a clean, crowd-less private beach, yoga classes, and a fabulous spa. Yoga classes are free for guests and last for 90 minutes. The stone-walled, thatched-roof bungalows are a bit rustic, without TV or AC, but that's the point.
Ventana Inn & Spa, Big Sur
This rustic-luxe resort situated on more than 200 acres of picturesque oceanfront land is a zen, holistic retreat, with such offerings as yoga classes; discovery walks; afternoon wine and cheese; Japanese baths; and two pools (one of which is clothing optional). The 62 luxurious, streamlined rooms have wooden accents, and some have fireplaces; glass doors and large windows keep the rooms feeling bright and airy.
Anse Chastanet, St. Lucia
Opened in 2000, the 49-room Anse Chastanet Resort was one of the first properties in the area to focus on eco-luxury design, and to deliberately shun technology such as TV, telephones, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi. The resort offers four open-air restaurants, two beaches, extensive water sports, a beachfront spa, and an outdoor fitness pavilion. Technology-free rooms have wrap-around terraces, many with views of the Pitons. Yoga classes are offered twice a day and the property includes a plantation where the resort grows its own organic produce.
Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach
With some of the most beautifully decorated rooms in Miami (that are super-spacious to boot!), a beachfront location, a great spa, and a huge fitness center with a rock-climbing wall and dozens of daily classes, Canyon Ranch is a great choice for a healthy vacation. It's more relaxed than the other two Canyon Ranch resorts -- one in Tucson, and the other in the Berkshires -- because it serves alcohol, allows children, and doesn't have minimum stay requirements, but it's still very much a spa. The restaurant serves health food with detailed nutritional information next to every item on the menu, and there are lectures by physicians, nutritionists, and spiritual advisers.
Zoetry Casa Del Mar Los Cabos, Mexico
The luxurious Zoetry Casa Del Mar Los Cabos is not your typical beach resort. Here, guests won't find children scurrying around or wild spring breakers; rather, Zoetry's guests are treated to the tranquility of the Pacific Ocean in a resort that focuses on relaxation and overall wellness. The 42-room, hacienda-style property features yoga, tennis courts, dance classes, a walking path, wine tastings, and an on-site nutrition expert; and the restaurant menus are geared toward organic and gourmet cuisine intent on promoting health. It's located on a protected sea turtle hatching ground, and the open layout adds to the relaxing atmosphere.