The Sacred Space meditation circle at Fivelements also functions as a gathering site. // © 2014 Fivelements, Puri Ahimsa
Feature image (above): Chiva-Som’s beachside location offers guests views of the Gulf of Thailand from their own outdoor pool. // © 2014 Chiva-Som International Health Resort
Wellness tourism revolves around tending to your body and mind, with the hopes of implementing a newly cultivated sense of mindfulness to daily life. So what makes for a good wellness destination?
According to a recent survey by online magazine Travel to Wellness and New York-based marketing organization Well-Being Travel, the answer is nature. Conducted earlier this year, the survey asked 1,776 participants — primarily educated, upper-middle class women between the ages of 30 and 65 and living in the U.S. and Canada — to determine the top wellness destinations around the world.
When asked why they selected their wellness destination, the majority of participants (51 percent) listed nature — or a specific form of nature, such as weather — as the determining factor. Other reasons given in support of destination selections included peace and quiet (11 percent), spas (7 percent), culture (6 percent), yoga (3 percent), options for outdoor fitness activities (2 percent) and food and wine (1 percent).
“In the past, wellness vacations have been considered somewhat synonymous with spas,” said Anne Dimon, founder and editor-in-chief of Travel to Wellness. “But today, that’s not necessarily so. This survey and others show us that spas are still important but so are a number of other things.”
Below is the ensuing list of top 10 wellness destinations (in order of ranking), along with our own suggestions of destination spas specializing in promoting well-being.
A prime wellness destination, Hawaii, invites visitors to interact with its gorgeous tropical landscape through activities such as snorkeling, hiking and beach yoga. While each island offers distinct sights and adventures, Hawaii’s overall warmth — in terms of both the climate and the community — makes the islands the ultimate oasis for wellness travelers.
Wellness Suggestion: If Maui is your island of choice, book a stay at Grand Wailea. The luxurious resort has swanky accommodations and the award-winning Spa Grande on its premises. Voted one of the “Top 10 Spas in the U.S.” by Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure, Spa Grande is the largest health resort in Hawaii, with 50,000 square feet dedicated to relevant activities. The resort is just steps away from Wailea Beach and provides equipment for several beach activities, including kayaking, paddleboarding and snorkeling.
Outside of metropolitan tourist locations such as Rome and Milan, Italy is home to a number of great destinations for wellness vacations. The mild Mediterranean weather of Tuscany invites visitors to relax amid its stunning terrain.
Wellness Suggestion: Adler Thermae Spa Resort puts a Tuscan spin on a wellness vacation, offering unique spa treatments such as vinotherapy, which is a beauty therapy practice that incorporates the natural antiaging properties of red-wine grapes to facials and massages. The resort includes hiking and cycling trails that cover just short of 125 miles of Tuscan landscape and offers guided hikes to wine tastings, truffle tastings, olive oil producers and more.
In addition to the Grand Canyon, Sedona is one of Arizona’s treasured spots, offering plentiful activities and breathtaking scenery suitable for a wellness vacation. The sublime beauty of Sedona’s Boynton Canyon is certainly part of the region’s appeal.
Wellness Suggestion: Visitors of Sedona can dive into wellness at Enchantment Resort, which covers 70 acres and rests at the entrance to Boynton Canyon. The resort’s world-class destination spa resort, Mii amo Spa, offers various fitness activities in addition to spa services — many of which can be experienced as a red rock treatment in a private, outdoor Native American-inspired structure that provides views of Red Rock Canyon.
Bali’s serene environment and lush tropical setting offers wellness travelers ample opportunity to rejuvenate, both physically and spiritually. Small in size, Bali owes its allure to its rich cultural texture that ranges from Hindu temples and world-class restaurants to volcanoes and beaches.
Wellness Suggestion: For those looking for a tranquil, traditional Balinese experience, Fivelements Puri Ahimsa is a healing center that cultivates an eco-conscious approach to wellness. The resort, which also integrates ancient Balinese healing practices, offers a variety of retreats from which guests can choose. For example, the yoga and clay retreat allows guests to get in touch with their body, mind and the earth through interaction with clay on a potter’s wheel. Guests can also partake in individual or group activities, such as meditation, aikido (i.e., a type of Japanese martial arts) and healing dance aquatic bodywork, to name a few.
Tourism contributes a significant portion to the country’s gross national product. But what is it about Costa Rica that attracts so many tourists? Maybe it’s the warmwater beaches with year-round waves, or it might be the unique hot springs and volcanoes. Perhaps it’s the ample opportunity to zip line or be suspended in a jungle canopy. Regardless of the specific reason, all of the above contribute to health and wellness.
Wellness Suggestion: Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort has received many accolades from various magazines and was ranked one of the world’s top wellness destinations by National Geographic — and it’s easy to see why. The waters of the Tabacon Hot Springs hold a variety of mineral content, and when coupled with the volcano’s radiant heat, they provide a unique wellness experience. Unlike other hot springs resorts in the Arenal Volcano Region, Tabacon is known for its completely natural, eco-friendly and carbon-neutral philosophy.
British Columbia offers the perfect setting for a complete immersion into nature, with its sundry wildlife and dense forestry. The third largest of Canada’s 10 provinces, the region is a vast space filled with equal parts rugged nature and vibrant culture.
Wellness Suggestion: For those seeking a more challenging, physically rigorous route to wellness, Mountain Trek offers intensive programs, such as weight loss-focused retreats featuring nature-driven fitness activities, meals made from locally sourced ingredients and soothing spa treatments. Mountain Trek’s British Columbia-based lodge provides a woodsy atmosphere and plenty of access to nature, also housing a yoga studio that lends panoramic views of the surrounding lake and Rocky Mountain ranges.
The sixth-largest country in the world, Australia offers its wellness tourists much to choose from — whether it’s a metropolitan adventure in one of Australia’s multicultural cities or exploring the country’s many natural environments.
Wellness Suggestion: Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Queensland rests upon a plateau that overlooks the Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast, allowing guests to be entirely surrounded by nature. Gwinganna offers a wide range of programs and facilities within its 500-acre space, including an expansive outdoor pavilion that lets in clean mountain air. Guests are welcome to engage in fitness activities, such as sunrise qi gong (i.e., an ancient art and restorative moving meditation), as well as spa treatments at the resort’s Spa Sanctuary constructed with eco-friendly architectural designs.
For fans of “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings,” a trip to New Zealand would likely include treks to Middle-earth and other filming locations. While the massive popularity of Peter Jackson’s films has certainly boosted New Zealand tourism, the country’s diverse landscapes have plenty of other appeal, such as remarkable beaches, forests and fjords.
Wellness Suggestion: The five-star Millbrook Resort in Queenstown provides a 500-acre rural setting for a peaceful wellness vacation, with accommodation options that range from cottages to villa suites. Recognized worldwide for its 27-hole golf course, Millbrook also receives consistent praise for its luxurious day spa with an extensive menu of wellness programs and treatments, including Southern Alps body treatments that incorporate fresh mountain air and aromatherapy.
With its ornate temples, golden beaches and delicious fresh cuisine, Thailand has plenty to offer its visitors. Outdoor activities in Thailand range from kayaking and river rafting to spotting wild animals on a tropical trek. But a true wellness vacation would not be complete without indulging in some of Thailand’s unique spa treatments, such as the ever-popular Thai massage.
Wellness Suggestion: Chiva-Som International Health Resort rests in the city of Hua Hin and was one of the first destination spas in Asia. With extensive physiotherapy, fitness, spa and holistic health facilities, Chiva-Som offers more than 150 treatments and fitness classes, such as tai chi and Pilates. The resort embraces its stunning beachside location and provides guests with accommodation options that offer picturesque views of the Gulf of Thailand or its surrounding tropical gardens.
Stretched out along the Pacific Coast, California is full of possibilities for a wellness vacation. One of California’s gems is Ojai — a city close enough to access Los Angeles by car, but far enough from its traffic and smog. Known for its hiking trails, farmers market and local organic agriculture, Ojai is a model of Californian charm.
Wellness Suggestion: Visitors can enjoy sunset views reflected over Southern California’s Topatopa Mountain range during their stay at Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. Guests of the inn can wind down and nourish their bodies at Spa Ojai, which offers seasonal treatments, their signature Kuyam treatment, a cleansing and rejuvenating sauna treatment, along with various massage, facial and scrub options. The inn also hosts seasonal activities, such as full moon yoga and tomato picking with their chefs.