Florida, known for its vast beaches and massive theme parks, also offers wellness retreats for people who would rather have a downward dog than a beachside umbrella drink.
By Frances Robles
Throughout Florida, resorts and small business operators are offering wellness and spa 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.
At these wellness retreats in Florida, prices range from $1,500 to $6,000 a week, accommodations and (health) food included.
A Stanford Research Institute study estimated that wellness tourism is a $106 billion industry, and growing. 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 said 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, of the Vita Vie Retreat 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 Vita Vie 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."
The range of services varies. Getaway Fitness, which takes place year-round in St. Pete Beach, offers a structured routine from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., whereas other fitness destinations allow guests to pick from more than 40 fitness classes each day and set their own schedule.
A five-night stay can include full access to 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 various “Healthy Weight for Life” packages, a five-day program that includes a state-of-the-art evaluation and personalized, multidisciplinary planning for sustainable weight-loss. The 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 in Florida 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.
Wellness & Spa Retreats in Florida
1000 E Atlantic Ave,
Delray Beach, FL 33483
Ayurveda Health Retreat
14616 NW 140th St.,
Alachua, FL 32615
8755 NW 36th Street
Miami, FL 33178
12157 W. Linebaugh Avenue, #321
Tampa, FL 33626
Winslow’s Bungalow 725 Truman Ave, Key West FL
Lighthouse Hotel 902 Whitehead St, Key West, FL
The Marker Hotel: 200 William St, Key West, FL, 33040
Southernmost Beach Resort: 1319 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040