Kick off your new year's resolution-primed vacation by booking a trip to a close-to-home resort where health and fitness get top billing. Several luxury retreats are serious about transformation—from diet and exercise to spirituality and life coaching—with a focus on personal attention, luxury amenities, and myriad activities that embrace fitness, sensible dining, and holistic achievement. Read on for six of our favorite fitness and wellness resorts right here in the U.S.
1. Lake Austin Spa
Nestled alongside a scenic lakefront, Lake Austin Spa is consistently voted amongst the world's top destination spas and with good reason: the 19-acre wellness retreat is surrounded by a breathtaking landscape with facilities that are stylish, cheerful, and cozy. A well-rounded activities program includes fitness classes, "Discovery" sessions (like "Introduction to Ayurveda"), along with staples like yoga and meditation. Its lakeside location also proposes water sports activities like kayaking, boating, and hydro-biking. Another notable highlight is the culinary program with Executive Chef Stephane Beaucamp, who focuses on locally sourced organic cuisine, while the 25,000-square-foot spa, an oasis within an oasis, offers some staggering 100 treatments to choose from.
2. Canyon Ranch
Known for pleasing celebrity/CEO-types, Canyon Ranch has outposts in Miami and Lenox, MA, though the Tucson location is the most highly touted. The award-winning resort offers one of the best "Life Enhancement" and weight-loss programs in the country, thanks to its eclectic cast of in-house professionals and experts. Wellness is the top priority here, with a full range of fitness classes, lectures on well-being, and spiritual enrichment programs. There's even an astrologer and clairvoyant in-house, as well as a sleep expert. Or, outdoor enthusiasts are pushed to the extreme with the "Primitive Outdoor Skills" program that provides hands-on survival techniques like building fires and tracking animals.
3. Four Seasons Westlake
Westlake Village, California
While destination health/spa resorts are typically boutique, Four Seasons Westlake offers up a tempting version from a large resort chain. Just a quick 40-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles (depending on traffic, of course), the 270-room resort is connected to the nationally recognized California Health & Longevity Institute, where guests often check in for week's-long life-rebooting programs. Four Seasons Westlake is not as strict as most wellness resorts (there's a bar active with locals and a cocktail menu at the pool), but it's a terrific option for those who want to dip their toes in the wellness-retreat lifestyle before fully committing. Plus, the hardcore, celebrity-favorite Ranch at Live Oak Malibu (with its mandatory exercise requirements and low-calorie, vegetarian-only meals) recently partnered with Four Seasons Westlake for The Ranch 4.0, a less-intensive, four-day all-inclusive retreat based out of the property.
4. Red Mountain Resort
St. George, Utah
One of the most pet-friendly fitness resorts in America, Red Mountain Resort offers boot camp retreat packages and a well-rounded fitness and wellness program in the sublime natural setting of southwest Utah. The resort is completely surrounded by stunning red cliffs and canyons and, thanks to its location, day trip adventures to nearby Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks can easily be arranged. Most visitors frolic in the nearby 7,000-acre Snow Canyon State Park during their stay for superlative hiking and wilderness sightseeing. There are 82 rooms and 24 villa suites that embrace Southwest decor, and packages are some of the least expensive amongst fitness resorts, starting at $295 for three nights.
5. Travaasa Hana
The first hotel in Maui (formerly known as Hotel Hana Maui), Travaasa Hana Hotel restructured almost all of their amenities when it rebranded in 2011. The completely secluded experiential resort still has well-appointed cottages, a pampering spa (with an outdoor lava-rock whirlpool), high-end dining, and that "retro Hawaii" feel that consistently wooed past visitors, but now there's an incorporated fitness program where guests can opt for complimentary daily classes like yoga, hula lessons, "Bosu Workout," and "Outdoor Bootcamp." Travaasa Hana is the first hotel on the island to offer an all-inclusive structure, which includes meals; plus, complimentary shuttle service is provided to nearby beaches.
6. Rancho La Puerta
Sure, Rancho La Puerta is technically in Mexico, but it's actually only a 15-minute drive from the Tecate/San Diego border (don't forget your passport). The all-inclusive Rancho La Puerta is considered the queen bee of wellness-themed resorts; it was the prototype for similar resorts to follow after it opened in 1940. The average length of stay is a week, and guests love the casitas furnished with lively Mexican textiles, artisanal tapestries, and organic bath products. The main highlight, though, are the 3,000 acres of lush, wellness playground, complete with hiking trails, educational classes (i.e., organic farm cooking), and plenty of daily fitness options, like Pilates and cardio classes.
Jimmy Im is a freelance travel writer based in LA. He's hosted programs on the Travel Channel and LOGO, and makes regular appearances on morning news shows as a "travel expert." Follow him on Twitter: @dieselmad.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Lake Austin Spa; Four Seasons Westlake; Travaasa Hana