The Lists

The Best Sports-Oriented Luxury Spas for Losing Weight

That jet-engine sound you hear every year right about now is the roar of the luxury class heading off to a weight-loss spa. It’s commonly understood that when you’re living a life that involves designer clothes, paparazzi, close scrutiny and lots of long alcohol-fueled meals, at some point you’ll need to disappear for a week or two to get rid of the accumulated weight and prepare for your close-up.

When you need to pull it together, and fast, our elite friends (both male and female) tell us that a destination spa is by far the best way to get the job done. Many of them swear that going to these places once a year means that you’ll never have to diet in-between visits. Every time you creep over your goal weight, just head in for a tune-up.

But which spa is the best one? It all depends on one’s idea of what constitutes luxury. Some of the elite 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 sport options to up their fitness level before their moment in the spotlight.

Our team of far-flung correspondents has weighed in (no pun intended), and this is part three of a three-part series on what they recommend (I’ve taken the liberty of adding a few thoughts of my own, too).

If you love sports and the outdoors, but view the extreme detox approach of legendary boot camps like The Ashram and The Ranch as more intense than the situation requires, here are five options that are in stunning natural settings where you’ll get plenty of fresh air and exercise in the great outdoors. These are all multi-sport: if it’s tennis you’re after, check out our post about the best tennis resorts at which to polish up your game.

Wildfitness Crete, set in the village of Milia, is rustic and focused on building your fitness by spending lots of time exercising outdoors. While the program includes boxing, yoga and kettle bell sessions, the distinctive elements are the mini-beach-triathlon and the sea swim to an off-shore island. You can also take cooking lessons and attend workshops on metabolism, effective training and more. Depending on your tolerance for colder weather, you might find that its sister property, Wildfitness in Ardgay, Scotland, suits you even better. Home base is a Victorian stone lodge on a 23,000-acre property in the Highlands surrounded by mountains and lakes; workouts include climbing steep banks and walking blind-folded on narrow wooden planks. The highlight of the program is the spa’s version of “the Highland games:” welly-throwing, shot-putting, rope-jumping and a tug of war competition.  The 7 night Classic Retreat starts at $2,420; the 10 night Food + Fit Retreat at $3,520.

SHA Wellness Clinic in El Albir, Spain, located on the edge of the Sierra Helada Natural Park overlooking the Mediterranean, focuses on the fusion of eastern and western techniques for weight loss, and attracts the true global power elite (think supermodels and heads of state). Daily activities include T’ai Chi, outdoor yoga sessions, Pilates, meditation, macrobiotic cooking classes, hikes, and lectures. Guests receive a personalized diet with specific herbal drinks to facilitate the elimination of excess fat. $6,500 per person for 7 nights. (The Presidential Suite is $2,000 per night, and the Royal Suite is $6,000 per night).

The EPIC SANA Algarve Hotel in Portugal is situated amidst a pine forest and gardens overlooking the Praia de Falésia beach on the Algarve coastline. The resort’s Ultimate Reshape retreat (7 nights; starting at $3,200) is a combination of fitness classes, wellness coaching, personalized meals and non-surgical cosmetic solutions. With only three hours per day of structured workouts, this program is gentler than some other destination spas, with a holistic approach that includes physical workouts, guidance from nutritionists and wellness workshops. If you want something more strenuous, opt for the spa’s Boot Camp: that program involves repeatedly running up and down the steps that lead to the beach; circuits that make use of the lawn, the tennis courts, and the pool; and mountain bike rides through pine forests and along red-soil cliffs. The Insane Fitness program starts at $3,100.

The BodyHoliday WellFit Retreat in St. Lucia allows you to train alongside Olympic athletes, with extreme mountain biking, hiking, snorkeling, and archery. A special element is the fragrant spa treatments inspired by the local produce, like the Lucian Lime & Ginger Scrub. Holistic Ayurvedic treatments are also available. The 7 night Wellfit Retreat starts at $3575 for double occupancy.

Of course, the uber-rich can go to DEF-CON 4 in their pursuit of fitness, as they do in the pursuit of so many other things. One truly over-the-top option offered a year ago by a luxury travel company involved taking off a full year and going on The World Wellness Trip: guests stayed at top luxury wellness destinations in 20 different countries. The cost? A mere $237,000 per person (interestingly, that’s the precise amount of the mortgage on our first house). But hey, it’s your health we’re talking about here – and you’re totally worth it.

Having delved into the world of destination spas, our next fitness installment will address an alternative way to lose weight in a reasonably short period of time: hiring a trained nutritionist, and doing everything that person says you should do. It’s not as glamorous, and you will not be able to Instagram much of anything, but in our experience, it’s actually just as effective in the long-term (maybe even more).

In the meantime, for those who want a good-looking venue as the backdrop while they buff up, grab your Asics and head for the starting point for that beach or mountain trail run. Summer’s almost here.