Even before the coronavirus turned our lives upside down, experts were waving their arms trying to warn us about the rising crisis surrounding mental health. We’re all under enormous pressures and stress, which has only been made worse by the pandemic. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) says 84 percent of adults report feeling at least one emotional associated with prolonged stress and notes that, collectively, we’re even more stressed now than we were back in Spring 2020.
The good news is that there is more acceptance and discussion around therapy (online or otherwise), mental health stigmas are being dismantled, and people are being more proactive about taking a beat to calm their minds. One trend that’s emerged as people aim to strike better balance is wellness-related travel. That is, wellness vacations that specifically cater to mental health. Think robust programs that focus on self-care, healthier menus, and less of a “see more, do more, go-go-go” approach to travel.
“For so many, taking a vacation provides an opportunity to connect with values outside of work and daily life,” says Amanda Stretcher, MA, LPC, with Taylor Counseling Group. “Individuals may be able to experience connection to values such as adventure and newness along with rest and relaxation that can be needed in preventing challenges such as burnout.” This is especially true after a year of quarantining, during which the average workday lengthened by nearly an hour, workers took less breaks, and planned time off was canceled or postponed.
However, Stretcher says we tend to carry our rigid ideas of productivity and all-or-nothing mentality into our getaways and often feel compelled to “make the most” of our time by packing our itineraries from dawn to dusk. “This can lead to a lack of needed rest and the feeling of ‘needing a vacation from a vacation,’” she says. “While some activity is important, it’s also helpful to remind ourselves of the value of being present—and even still—not just in our daily lives but also on vacation.”
So, instead of the whirlwind tour that leaves you exhausted, consider a more low-key, health-focused getaway. Not only does this sort of reset ensure you prioritize yourself, but it cultivates healthier practices you can bring back with you to daily life. And while it’s certainly a luxury to get to go on a wellness vacation, for those who choose to spend their time and money, it’s proven a boon to their mental health.
Ahead, we’ve rounded up five wellness vacations that offer just that. Consider this your reminder to use those PTO days without guilt.
5 Places to Go for a Wellness Vacation
Hotel XCaret Arte: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico
If you’re not yet acquainted, Xcaret is one of the premiere hospitality and adventure companies in Mexico. For reference, we’d put it on par with Disney in terms of attention to detail, presence, and quality. In July 2021, Xcaret debuted a new, inclusive, adult-only hotel centered on all-things art.
“We love and live the culture and natural wonders of our country, which is the reason why we decided to introduce the six distinct ‘casas’ [to Hotel Xcaret Arte],” says Sakari Malinen, director of sales. “Each feature different artistic expressions and workshops that allows each guest to live an authentic Mexican experience.”
The houses have their own theme, ranging from music to design to pottery, and guests can partake in the on-site workshops and classes, all of which promote mindfulness. The hotel also offers incredible culinary experiences, run by some of the top chefs in Mexico, rich with fresh and local ingredients. In addition to many opportunities for resetting and exploring, the exceptional Muluk spa features traditional therapies, hydrotherapies, flotation spas, mudrooms, and vapor treatments.
CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa: Carefree, Arizona
Located just outside Phoenix—and tucked into the aptly named desert town of Carefree—you’ll find CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa. Even since the resort’s inception, the name of the game has always been wellness. CIVANA is set on a sprawling, cacti-speckled campus complete with a stunning pool, labyrinth, yoga lawns, eateries, fitness studios, and spa.
Inclusive of your stay is a built-in wellness package with access to a full, daily schedule of different classes. These classes include yoga, sound healing, meditation hikes, sound healing, gratitude circles, TRX, HIIT, and more. Some of the more in-depth classes, such as kayaking, aerial yoga, and paddleboarding, do require an additional small fee.
Carillon Miami Wellness Resort: Miami, Florida
Set on pristine beachfront, Carillon is the only fully dedicated wellness resort in South Florida. Think of it as wellness retreat-meets-luxury resort. Carillon’s mission is to help guests align physical, mental, and spiritual health through a truly comprehensive program that includes spa services, adventure experiences (such as kiteboarding, rock climbing, and kayaking), and fitness activities.
In addition, Carillon boasts a medical wellness division in partnership with The Biostation that caters to functional medicine, sexual health, HRT, diagnostics, weight loss, and nutritional counseling. The resort also just launched a touchless wellness program—think red light therapy, vibration therapy, and sound therapy—in light of COVID-19.
“People are seeking ways to enrich their lives, but also care about how they feel,” says Tammy Pahel, VP of Spa & Wellness Operations. “Health is more important now than ever. Travelers are looking for a place to slip away to where they feel safe and know that they are being looked after to have some peace and mind about making the trip.
Banyan Tree Wellbeing Sanctuaries: Worldwide
Just in time for the wellness vacation movement, luxury resort chain Banyan Tree debuted what they’ve dubbed, “Wellbeing Sanctuaries.” These health-focused destinations exist at a handful of their existing properties across the world—including Yangshuo, Lijiang, and Anji—and are set to open soon in other locales, too, including Krabi, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok.
The goal off these sanctuaries is to combine leisure vacation with well-being elements—without any of the rigidity. In doing so, guests can focus on improving through health through sleep and rest, physical vitality, learning, bonding, mindful activities, and dietary awareness. What makes the experience unique is that each guest receives a customized program that’s tailored specifically to their personal goals and needs.
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YO1 Health Resort: Monticello, New York
Only a short, pleasant drive from New York City, YO1 Health Resort boasts an all-inclusive, highly customized health program inspired by the Indian therapies of Naturopathy, Ayurveda, and yoga. Your stay is completely tailored to your needs to help you find a more peaceful balance between mind, body, and soul.
The goal isn’t just to “get away,” but to learn new practices and walk away feeling inspired and transformed. The wellness program is quite impressive, offering everything from medical-related programs—which address pain, weight, cholesterol, fertility, or depression, among others—to spiritual opportunities to fitness-related activities. You’ll also enjoy organic meals and relaxing treatments like acupuncture.