The state known for vast beaches and massive theme parks is increasingly offering more alternatives for people who would rather have a downward dog than a beachside umbrella drink.
From St. Augustine to Key West, several luxury resorts and small business operators are offering packages that include daily exercise, yoga and meditation. Activities range from hardcore boot camps to aromatherapy workshops – all in a quest to tap into a global market of health-conscious people who are put off by all-you-can-eat buffets.
Prices range from $1,500 to $6,000 a week, accommodations and (health) food included.
A 2010 Stanford Research Institute study estimated that wellness tourism is a growing $106 billion industry. While many countries are gaining reputations as destinations for medical tourism, the study said the global market for wellness tourism was twice as big.
The International Spa Professionals Association says the number of spas worldwide grew from 5,700 to 19,900 in the past decade, an indicator that fitness has become an important choice for vacationers.
"People don't want to go home from vacation feeling worse than when they arrived, or feeling that they need a vacation from their vacation," said Margot Rutigliano, founder of the Bella Boot Camp, a fitness retreat at the Marriott Delray Beach Resort & Spa in Delray Beach. "The active fitness vacation is really gaining speed. It's great for women and groups of women. We have a lot of couples do it together."
Every Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the Bella Boot Camp includes daily beach boot camp classes, core balance exercises, mixed in with kickboxing, belly dancing and yoga. A good five hours a day of workouts, it also offers personal trainers and a spa treatment.
"It's all about working at your own level," Rutigliano said. "We just encourage people to challenge themselves."
Although fitness retreats are open to anyone, experts acknowledge that most people who attend usually already live active lives. Many people who are looking to shed a few pounds choose fitness retreats, but those who need to drop large amounts of weight are often steered to weight loss camps, which offer more counseling, said Getaway Fitness' Maria Walker.
Most of her clients are women in their 30s to 50s. The retreats, she said, often appeal to single travelers who enjoy the camaraderie of a group-style vacation but couldn't convince anyone to come along.
The retreats are usually limited to under a dozen participants.
"Some people say fitness and vacation are an oxymoron," Walker said. "I like to call it a 'fitness adventure.' It's a great experience to discover fun things in Florida and get a great workout."
Getaway Fitness, which takes place year-round at the Tradewinds Island Grand in St. Pete Beach, offers a structured routine from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., whereas fitness destinations such as Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach allow guests to pick among more than 40 fitness classes each day and set their own schedule.
Guests can pay approximately $4,700 for a five-night stay through April 30, 2013, which includes full access to Canyon Ranch’s fitness classes and Aquavana thermal suites, a lavish array of healing waters, thermal cabins and soaking tubs.
Guests who are looking to live a healthier lifestyle can take part in Canyon Ranch’s “Healthy Weight for Life” package, a five-day program that includes a state-of-the-art evaluation and personalized, multidisciplinary planning for sustainable weight-loss. The $3,500 program includes a pre-arrival interview with an on-staff nurse, a series of consultations with its in-house physician, exercise physiologist, nutritionist and life management therapist and a series of body composition and lab tests.
"A lot of people are looking for ways to kick off a new workout routine or are feeling bored with their workouts," Walker said.
The most popular season: right after Jan. 1, when the northeast cold sets in and extra holiday pounds clash with New Years resolutions.
But not every wellness retreat features such rigorous exercise.
Many destinations offer beachfront yoga classes, including Yoga on the Beach by Nancy Curran in Key West. Check with the concierge for local offerings in your destination.
If You Go
Marriott Delray Beach Resort & Spa
Starting for single occupancy: $1,590 to $3,090
Toll Free: 800-768-5708
Local and International: 561.859.0775
Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa
One-bedroom suites from $450/night
Ayurveda Health Retreat
Regency Health Resort
2000 S Ocean Drive, Hallandale Beach
One week: Specials from $1,895; Four nights: $1,175
Pritikin Longevity Center
Doral Golf Resort and Spa
Winter season: single occupancy $5,900 one week
Tradewinds Island Grand Resort
St. Pete Beach
Packages range from $1,095 for nights to $3,395 for one week