Health and Happiness

They’re easily achieved with the help of Oahu-based Hawaii Wellness Retreats

By: By Marty Wentzel

More Information

Hawaii Wellness Retreats

Retreats are scheduled from Feb. 1-7, with additional dates in April, July and October. Customized retreats are available year-round. Each retreat is limited to 16 participants, so early registration is highly recommended.

Rates are $2,850 per person, double occupancy, and $3,450 for single accommodations. It includes six nights, roundtrip airport transfers, a lei greeting, welcome reception and all meals and activities.

Commission: 10 percent


Health-and-wellness vacations on Oahu are a growing trend. // (c) Hawaii Tourism Authority/Sri Maiava Rusden
Health-and-wellness vacations on Oahu
are a growing trend. // (c) Hawaii
Tourism Authority/Sri Maiava Rusden

Susanne Sims has long advocated healthy holidays. The author of the “Healing Vacations in Hawaii” guidebook, she has also served as president of the Hawaii Island Wellness Travel Association. These days, however, Sims has been directing her passion toward Oahu, where she runs Hawaii Wellness Retreats, a new series of commissionable packages targeting health-conscious travelers.

“One of my current objectives is to design programs that are more earth-friendly and carbon-neutral,” said Sims. “I moved to the Gold Coast [the south shore of Oahu from east Waikiki through Kahala] several years ago, because I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and reduce my own carbon footprint. I cut down my automobile usage by 60 percent. The Gold Coast is a very special region and almost everything is within walking distance, like the beach, Waikiki, yoga and tai-chi classes, the farmer’s market and health clubs and spas. I even have a plot at the community gardens where I am growing some of my own food.”

That’s the kind of lifestyle that Sims likes to teach and share with visitors. To do so, she is basing her retreats at the Diamond Head Beach Hotel, a condo-hotel where many of the units have kitchens.

“A key aspect of a wellness vacation is making healthful food choices and learning how to prepare foods that are nutritious and how to shop for foods that can heal,” Sims said.

While spa-hotels are prospering in Hawaii, Sims emphasized that going to the spa is just one aspect of a total health-and-wellness visitor experience, best achieved through a holistic approach.

Sims outlined the elements she believes are essential to a wellness vacation, starting with accommodations that provide a healing environment: She advocates visits to power spots and interaction with local residents and cultural guides. She encourages clients to engage in health, wellness and spa treatments ranging from traditional Hawaiian to East-West practices, and she suggests that travelers learn about made-in-Hawaii products like medicinal herbs, music and art. Healthful eating is another key to wellness travel, as are ecotourism adventures that combine exercise with an immersion in nature. And, last but not least, Sims urges clients to factor in some down time for rest, integration and learning.

Following her own directives, Sims made sure her six-night Hawaii Wellness Retreat packages incorporate each of those elements. Participants in her programs will attend educational programs at the local farmer’s market, natural foods markets and community gardens. They also take classes in nutrition, and they eat meals with a focus on vegetarian raw foods that are at once healthful and gourmet. Wellness treatments comprise part of the itinerary, with time designated for massage, acupuncture and nutritional assessment. Several days start with yoga, qi gong or meditation, while other days may include a hike up Diamond Head, a Waikiki sunset sail and a ghost tour of Honolulu. Participants also have free time to relax, unwind and enjoy local area attractions such as Waikiki Beach, Kapiolani Park, the Honolulu Zoo and the Waikiki Aquarium.

An impressive staff of health-and-wellness experts is joining Sims in running the retreats. Lori Chaffin, publisher of the “Hawaii Wellness Directory” and “Nevada Wellness Directory,” boasts eight years of experience in networking and promoting wellness events. Chef Sharynne Gambrell-Frazer, a specialist in raw and living food with more than 30 years in the medical field, has helped more than 1,000 people make small changes in their lifestyles, resulting in big improvements in overall health and wellness. Certified nutrition therapist Richard Diehl has lectured at universities and centers in nine different countries on five continents. And, rounding out the team is Felix Wolf, founder of Celebrity Cruises’ Acupuncture at Sea program and a former operator of the Longevity Cafe, Emporium & Gallery’s wellness center and herbal tearoom in Santa Fe, N.M.

Sims has established herself as an international speaker and has consulted on wellness tourism projects around the world, from Panama and the Philippines to China and New Zealand. Still, she has maintained an unwavering devotion to Hawaii as a setting for health-and-wellness vacations.

“Hawaii’s unparalleled natural beauty and pristine environment will always make it an obvious choice for wellness, but what makes it unique among the world’s destinations is the Hawaiian culture and its healing traditions,” Sims said. “Practices such as lomilomi massage, seawater cleanses, herbal medicine and the Hawaiian principles of aloha will always set us apart from other destinations.”