The Lists

Where are the Best Spas for Losing Weight in Luxury?

Winter weight hanging around like snow that just refuses to melt? It might be time to kick-start your fitness routine with a trip to a destination spa. But which one? Where do the members of the C-Suite, high-net-worth class go when the beach, the red carpet, or the boardroom are calling and they have to lose a few pounds, pronto?

It all depends on their idea of what constitutes luxury. Some are looking for an extreme mad-crazy detox; others want a more old-school luxury experience with some weight loss thrown into the mix, and a third group loves the outdoors and is looking for sporty options to up their fitness level before their moment in the spotlight.

Our team of far-flung correspondents here at Dandelion Chandelier has weighed in (no pun intended), and this is part two of a three-part series on where the sophisticated insiders go. We’re focusing in this post on those who want to slim down and buff up but who don’t want (or can’t handle) the intensity of a boot camp or a strict detoxifying regimen.

For the record, I count myself among those who are less interested in deprivation and who are seeking a gentler more traditionally luxurious spa approach. Call me a hot-house flower if you like, but the “six almonds as a snack in the middle of a 4-hour hike” thing is just not happening for me. If you’re in my tribe, here are six places that I’ve been to, and/or that friends swear by (those in the know recommend a visit at least once a year, so that you never get too far off track):

Cal-a-Vie in Vista. Set on more than 200 private acres in a secluded valley 40 miles north of San Diego, this Provençal-inspired spa hosts only 30 guests at a time, ensuring optimal privacy and personalized attention. The property has a 400-year-old French chapel and plush guest cottages with antique-filled rooms that feature oversized beds and fine linens. The curriculum is tough, but varied: you’ll be working out a minimum of five hours per day, but there are more than 100 fitness classes offered, in addition to hikes in the nearby hills. Up to $4,675 for three nights, $9,425 for seven nights.

The Golden Door, just north of San Diego. The resort creates bespoke 5- or 7-day stays to increase your fitness level via group hikes, boxing, archery, dance, tennis, T’ai Chi and fencing. Situated on more than 350 acres, and limited to only 40 guests at a time (sometimes women-only, sometimes co-ed), its décor is designed to replicate a Japanese village, and features koi ponds, sand gardens, and bamboo forests. The staff to guest ratio is 4:1, each guest gets her own serene (television-free) room. The organic spa cuisine is delicious (the chef is quite charming), and the communal dinners offer ample opportunity to socialize with your fellow guests. Sometimes lifelong friendships develop on the hiking trails or around the dinner table. I’ve been twice, and I really love it.  Starting at $8,250 for a week.

The top-rated spa in Mexico actually doesn’t impose anything on its guests. Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Baja California was founded in 1940, and claims to be the very first destination spa. Located on 3,000 acres, including landscaped gardens, an organic farm, and a cooking school, its program offers both silent meditation walks and intense seven-mile treks in the surrounding mountains. Their menu is a self-described “Mexo-Mediterrenean Diet,” largely based on plants and whole foods, and calories are reduced moderately, not radically. Fitness classes include Bar Method, Pilates, yoga, dance, tennis, and volleyball. Program package rates start at $3,750 per person, double occupancy.

If you opt for Europe, Clinique La Prairie in Montreux, Switzerland is a combination spa, hospital and hotel. Their Weight Management Program offers a multidisciplinary approach involving a nutritionist, dietician, personal fitness trainer, psychologist, massage therapist and aesthetician.  The thirteen-night all-inclusive program is the ultimate kick-starter at just under $32,000, but there’s also a six-night option.

Activities at the In:spa on Mallorca, Spain are centered around Cal Reiet, a 15-bedroom manor house. The set curriculum is a mix of group sessions including indoor cardio, a 10K coastal hike, and yoga; individual nutritional advice; and the obligatory daily massage. Devotees swear that exercising is just easier when the surroundings are this gorgeous. And the food is reportedly first-rate; the menu is mainly vegetarian. Prices start at around $3,000 for 7 nights; bespoke packages are also an option.

In Asia, the award-winning Chiva-Som (“Haven of Life”) Health Resort in Hua Hin, Thailand takes a holistic approach to weight management, stress relief, detox and fitness, and seems to be a celebrity favorite. The resort prides itself on offering a variety of customizable programs, and perhaps as a result is generally booked solid year-round. Peak season rates start at $4,850 for 7-nights, double occupancy.

I’ve tried a few other places, and for me, this is the destination spa genre that works best. You’ll lose some weight, but if you’re playing the long game, the real benefit of this kind of spa experience is that you’ll hit the re-set button, remind yourself of how good it feels to be more fit and happier with your weight, and you’ll also sample some exercise techniques that you may not have had time to try (my first spinning class was many years ago at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever). Plus you’ll get to meditate, read a great book or two, and meet some friendly like-minded people.

The other nice element is that this is a trip you can do with a group of friends who are at varying levels of fitness. If one is a triathlete and another a couch-potato, any of these destinations will have relevant activities for both. I’ve done them alone, and with my girlfriends, and been happy with both experiences (although when you’re with your friends, you may find yourself sneaking a nice glass of wine at the end of the day whether or not the program permits it; it’s much easier to be mischievous when you’re with your posse).

Part three of our series will focus on outdoorsy, sporty spas. But for those of us who like to kick it Zsa Zsa Gabor style, it’s time to lace up our Chanel sneakers and get moving. Beach season is only weeks away, and time’s a-wastin’.

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