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Wellness retreats offer mind-body getaway

April 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
How many trips have you gone on where you've said, "I need a vacation to rest from my vacation?" If you came home with a sunburn and a hangover, you might consider a mind and body getaway. The goal is to get the benefits to stick with you, long after the vacation has ended.

Forget fruity drinks and suntan lotion. Marcella Blake spent her last vacation breaking a sweat and learning to cook.

"It's not just fun in the sun. It's something you can learn from," said Blake.

In a tight economy, people want their vacation to last long after they get back home.

Wellness retreats, like one at the California Health and Longevity Institute in Westlake Village, offer everything from fitness and nutrition to both traditional and alternative medicines.

"So that when they do go back to the grind of their everyday work, that they feel like their vacation was worth something," Terry Schaack, California Health and Longevity.

Jennifer Flowers, assistant editor at Travel and Leisure Magazine, says these types of wellness vacations are fast gaining popularity.

"Health and wellness becomes the focus of your trip. You really want to come home feeling restored. So it could be a boot camp in the middle of the forest, it can be a spa escape, it can be simply a place that simply asks you to turn your BlackBerry off," said Flowers.

Like at the Ranch at Life Oak, a weeklong boot camp nestled in the mountains of Malibu.

"It's a really, really grueling experience but it promises to leave you physically and spiritually restored," said Flowers.

Or at the Chiva-Som retreat in Thailand, where vacationers seek and find inner peace.

"If you're looking for weight loss, they have somebody who's an expert in nutrition there. If you're looking for massage therapy, they also have that for injuries and everything," said Flowers. "They're very, very well-rounded."

So what makes so many people gravitate toward wellness travel?

"They don't want to just recreate the beer blast from going to Fort Lauderdale during spring break of college. It's not what they want out of life anymore. They are looking for something where they can actually go and grow themselves," said Terry Schaak, California Wellness and Longevity.

Marcella Blake says she left her retreat feeling rejuvenated and ready to face real life again.

"In a couple days you just cover so much. It was quite enjoyable," said Blake.

Wellness retreats can be pretty pricey. A half-day package at the California Health and Longevity Institute runs $375. The weeklong boot camp at the Malibu ranch costs a whopping $5,600.

But you can make it more affordable by purchasing single treatments or classes.