Each hotel is being equally honored in no particular order.
Wellness versus healthcare. Years ago, early in my writing career, I made a conscientious decision to stop writing about healthcare and move into the wellness spectrum. My byline as a ‘health writer’ had always seemed a contradiction to me as the heavily researched stories I was producing at that time — massive 3,000-word pieces on cancer and AIDS, gang and domestic violence — never (in my mind) equated to health and wellbeing, but rather to sickness. My foray into a more wellness-minded world found me first in spas, immersing into steam-and-water circuits, having massages and facials, which in turn led me to more transformative experiences: yoga retreats, cleansing, and one spa stay in particular that completely altered my life. After days walking a labyrinth shaded by twisty live oak trees, and being wrapped in hot linens steeped in fresh herbs gathered from the spa gardens at one of my still all-time favorite spas — Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico — I came home and divorced my now-ex husband. A spa-writer friend had knowingly tried to prep me: “Don’t go to Rancho if you don’t want to change your life.” While most wellness experiences don’t lead to such drastic upheaval, they do inevitably lead to introspection and transformation. If ready to change your life (or aspects of it), these are the very best wellness experiences to try.
We Care Spa, California
For detox, this is the place. Set in Desert Hot Springs, about two hours from Los Angeles and surrounded by scrubby cacti, flowering vines, and dramatic mountain vistas, We Care Spa is where Hollywood A-listers (Gwen Stefani, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bundchen to name a few) come to flatten bellies before walking the red carpet and where in-the-know wellness veterans return time and time again to reset their minds, bodies, and spirits. There is no caffeine, alcohol, or solid food — just oodles of hot broth and clear liquids to sip throughout the day. Surprisingly, miraculously even, you never feel hungry — at least I never did. Colonics are part of the daily regimen, along with breath work, Reiki, sound healing, yoga, and lots of massage and time in the infrared sauna. Expect weight loss (1-3 pounds per day), clearer skin and eyes (my eye color changed from blue to turquoise), but mostly to leave the desert with a clearer mind and enhanced skill set for living and eating a more balanced and holistic lifestyle once home.
Royal Mansour Marrakech, Morocco
Spread across 12 acres, inside the walls of Marrakech’s medina, this unexpected wellness destination is the ambitious passion project of King Mohammed VI and a veritable work of art. The spa’s striking design — latticed, multi-level atrium — is reminiscent of a delicate white birdcage. But it is the spa’s wellness programming that truly stands out. Three-, five-, seven-, and two-week (yes, 14-day) programs are offered, with guests choosing between four core programs — rebalance, weight control, rejuvenation, and immunity boost. All include daily treatments, a curated nutrition plan, cooking classes, Pilates, and stunning accommodations. Another standout: the property’s signature (and authentic Moroccan) hammam, a traditional purification ritual that begins in a humid room on a slab of heated marble with a black soap scrub. Bespoke hammam treatments are personalized to the specific skincare needs of each guest using natural Moroccan ingredients such as purifying clay from the Atlas Mountains and roses from the Kalaat M’gouna Valley.
Mountain Trek, British Columbia, Canada
From the backcountry of British Columbia — known for its fresh air and stunning wilderness — comes Mountain Trek, a luxe wellness retreat focusing on alpine trekking. Open to a max of 16 guests, and with a staff of 40+ to expertly guide, the experience is one-third hardcore boot camp, one-third holistic health retreat, and one-third spa oasis. For one week, guests move their bodies like Olympians (hiking up to four hours daily), then recover with therapeutic massages and deep sleep (eight-plus hours per night) induced by restorative yoga, calming crystal singing bowls, and sound-therapy sessions. There is no caffeine, alcohol, or sugar, but there is a carefully curated nutrition plan designed to reset metabolism and rebalance hormones. The rigorous hikes are complemented by barefoot walking meditation and ‘forest bathing,’ inspired by the Japanese art of Shinrin-Yoku, where guests are slowly led through the wilderness, taking in the healing sights, smells, sounds, and feels of the lush British Columbia forest where the lodge sits. Health benefits of forest bathing include boosted immune function, improved respiratory and cardiovascular health, reduced stress, and enhanced concentration.
Golden Door Spa, California
Pack light as a trove of pre-sized workout clothes (T-shirts, shorts) along with a full line of Golden Door Spa’s signature skincare products and an elegant blue-and-white Yukata (Japanese robe) are provided. Most guests wear their Yukata (sans make-up) to dinner. Mornings start with before-sunrise hikes followed by a nutritious breakfast in room before launching into a completely customized itinerary which includes a plethora of one-on-one sessions, group fitness classes, mind-body offerings, and daily spa treatments. New this season: a multi-million dollar bathhouse renovation showcasing a new Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, wet room with a seven-hose Vichy shower, and a deep-soaking tub. Choose a warm cherry blossom bath (high in antioxidants and with skin-soothing benefits), or opt for a cold mood-boosting plunge soak with Epsom salts (to benefit faster muscle recovery, enhance sleep and the immune system). Take time just to pause and experience a first-of-its-kind visual healing space featuring time-lapse captures of nature directed by artist and renowned filmmaker, Louie Schwartzberg.
Miramar La Cigale Hotel Thalasso & Spa, Brittany France
Lovers of the sea know its secret: Seawater heals. Because it contains the same minerals we have in our bodies, seawater is said to absorb easily into the skin (especially when warm), working to rejuvenate and balance the body. One of our favorite seawater spa experiences: Miramar la Cigale Hotel Thalasso & Spa, overlooking Brittany’s wild coast on Rhuys peninsula, and uniquely situated between the ocean and a salt lagoon. Surrounded by water, and featuring Art Deco-inspired architecture — with large glass surfaces, bridges, and decks — you’ll feel like you’re aboard a luxury ocean liner. Most who come (particularly the French) stay an average of six to nine days, opting for a customized program (healing, toning, slimming). We love the six-night, Intense Thalasso and Spa Treatment, comprising 18 treatments including ‘lagoon water’ bath, seaweed body wraps, massages (Abhyanga, Balinese, Shirotchampi), steam sessions, scrubs, and facial massages. And there’s no fasting here. Meals are deliciously French (locally harvested oyster, fresh grilled sole and leg of lamb), accompanied by a crisp glass of bubbly.
Euphoria Retreat, Greece
It was after an intensive week-long stay at Golden Door (also on this list) that Marina Efraimaglou returned home to Greece and, in time, opened her own holistic spa, Euphoria Retreat. Her decision has literally put southern Greece on the modern global wellness map. Located on the exquisite Peloponnese peninsula, Euphoria (who else loves the name?) — surrounded by pine forests and olive groves — offers inspiration for those seeking to change, transform, and connect with their spiritual self in a way that is closer to their heart and roots. Wellness options are expansive, marrying east with west; ancient Hellenic medicine with traditional Chinese medicine, and science with naturalism. Personalized wellness programs are led by an onsite team of doctors, nutritionists, therapists, and fitness instructors, while Euphoria’s patented ‘3GLs’ test provides invaluable insight into how each guest metabolizes food. But the core reset here begins in the water. Dip into the indoor sphere pool, surrounded by cocooning Byzantine domes with in-water benches and hydrotherapy jets to release muscle pain and stress. Then dive into the 13-foot water well — reveling in the enveloping womb-like sensation, and soothing marine sounds playing softly under the water, transporting you into a more sensory world.
Featured image courtesy of We Care Spa; words by Shari Mycek