We could all use some physical relaxation and rejuvenation on a future vacation. Whether that means a yoga retreat on an island in Thailand, an escape to a cloud forest in Costa Rica, or a pampering stay at a health resort in the Maldives, that’s up to you. But if all the time spent sitting at desks and on couches these past few months are any indication, our bodies are going to be craving a wellness escape.
To help you plan a future vacation, we’ve shared a list of the 8 best destinations for wellness and personal growth vacations. Each person has their own definition of wellness, but with a wealth of resources available at resorts and landscapes befitting healthy physical activities, these destinations are ideal spots to head to for a future wellness and personal growth vacation.
It’s hard to beat Thailand when it comes to wellness. There are premium hotels in the large cities of Bangkok and Chiang Mai and dozens of resorts spread across the southern islands such as Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, and Ko Samui that offer packages designed to recharge your body while giving you easy access to beautiful landscapes. Greet each day with a yoga session to get your body limber, enjoy nutritious meals from expert chefs at the resort, and spend the bulk of your days exploring the waters of the Andaman Sea on a snorkelling tour or visiting Buddhist temples and stunning natural landscapes. There’s no better wellness destination in Asia, or perhaps all the world.
With year-round warm temperatures and a stunning 25,760km of coastline, Australia has a landscape built for wellness escapes. There are several different ecosystems to choose from depending on your interests. Most travellers gravitate towards Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef, where they can enjoy a tasteful resort stay in the Whitsundays and visit the reef on daily excursions. You can even opt for a liveaboard experience where you enjoy daily wellness workshops as you cruise the reef and dive underwater hotspots. You can also spend a few days at a spa hotel a few hours north of Sydney, recharge at an Outback camp in the Red Centre near Uluru/Ayers Rock, or hole up in a boutique hotel in Melbourne and jump between hotspots while relaxing each day with massages and spa treatments.
The island of Bali in Indonesia is famous for its surf and party hotspots on the south coast, but it’s also a great place to escape for relaxation. In Ubud, one of the island’s cultural centres, you can stay in hotels that blend into the landscape of jungle and cascading rice paddies, while getting in touch with the local culture that prioritizes spiritual practice and connection to the land. (It happens to be one of the settings of Eat, Pray, Love.) The resorts supply all the wellness practices you could hope for, while the island itself gives you a beautiful environment of temples, markets, and magical nature to explore.
If your definition of wellness or a personal growth vacation is limited to yoga, you may grow a little restless in Costa Rica. But if you're like me and many others, wellness means a renewed physical energy and enthusiasm for the natural world, then a country with ample opportunity to get outside and experience nature in comfortable conditions counts as a wellness hotspot. In that case, Costa Rica is a great place to explore, since you can get your yoga fix at resorts, but you can get so much more outside, whether that means hiking through cloud forests on the banks of a simmering volcano or bonding with sloths in a rehabilitation centre. Wellness can be what you make it and in Costa Rica, you have a chance to recharge in ways that are impossible back home.
Imagine your own fantasy getaway where you get to lie back on warm, white sands with palms swaying above you in the cool ocean breeze, no one else in sight, and nothing but the endless expanses of turquoise waters shimmering in the sun to keep you company. Think it’s a fantasy? Think again. It’s possible in the Maldives, a small island nation featuring hundreds of coral atolls in the Indian Ocean. Pick one of the country’s main private island resorts and enjoy a week in paradise where you and a few select fellow travellers are the only people on the island (aside from the accommodating resort staff). If the vision of paradise isn’t enough for relaxation, take yoga lessons at the resort, unwind daily with massages, and get in touch with yourself far away from the bustling city.
New Zealand may not fit exactly the spa retreat vision of a wellness escape (although it does have plenty of spa retreats), but it’s a place of such bountiful nature that it’s almost impossible not to discover a new part of yourself when exploring it. If the purpose of a wellness vacation is to grow as an individual, New Zealand has plenty of places where you’ll find a new appreciation for life and the natural world, from the peaceful, lapping waters of the Bay of Islands on the North Island to the stunning rocky heights of Mitre Peak on famous Milford Sound on the South Island. You’ll find both boutique bed and breakfasts and detox retreats across both islands, so there’s opportunity for a conventional getaway as well, but it’s the nature that is most invigorating in this beautiful nation.
Islands of Tahiti
You can figure out your own hydrotherapy exercises on a trip to the Islands of Tahiti, where you’ll basically live in the warm waters of the South Pacific 24/7. On Bora Bora, you can stay in the famous overwater bungalows and indulge your fantasies of a romantic getaway. You can also opt to stay on Moorea to experience the lush greenery or stay put on Tahiti itself and learn about Polynesian culture while taking full advantage of wellness activities at the resort in between visits to the beach and snorkelling adventures along the coral reefs.
You may think Iceland sounds like the furthest thing from a wellness getaway, but hear me out. Iceland is not a place to visit to learn how to do yoga or to spend a week detoxing with complicated, nutritionally balanced meals (although the famous hot spring of the Blue Lagoon is possibly the best place for a conventional wellness retreat in the entire world). But it does have an abundance of three things that are absolutely necessary for a personal growth vacation: beautiful nature, wide open spaces short on crowds, and hot springs. From the iceberg lagoon of Jokulsarlon on the southeastern coast of the island to the windy hills of the Snaefellsnes Peninsula to the rushing waterfalls of Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, and Godafoss, the nation’s natural highlights are breathtaking and give you the necessary break from the city that is key to rediscovering yourself. Furthermore, Icelanders are obsessed with hot springs and seeing as the island abounds with natural hot water from the volcanic activity beneath the surface, you’ll find hot springs or tubs at nearly every accommodation in the country. Hiking alongside glaciers and waterfalls during the day and unwinding with a soak in a 40°C tub at night—sounds rejuvenating to me.