5 Healthy fitness vacations and holistic holidays

If you’re seeking preventive exercise, workshops, and treatments, holistic holidays will set you on a journey to vibrant well being.

No need to have prior Pilates experience, perfect eating habits or to prepare your own meals. Less ashram, more Club Med, here are Fiterati’s 5 picks for outstanding educational, gastronomic, cultural, deluxe and ecological good-for-you getaways in Canada, Italy, Japan, the Caribbean and Mexico.

1. Canada

Hollyhock Retreat, Cortes Island, B.C.,

Hollyhock RetreatHollyhock on British Columbia’s Cortes Island is an educational wellness retreat. Its renown organic gardens replete with flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables are as abundant as its unique programs: well being, wisdom teaching, arts & culture and social change. Choose from a week long or 3-day mini break package with daily restorative yoga accompanied by live music, a DVD, plus a one-hour massage. If you prefer to sit the class out, attend any one of Hollyhock’s many conferences, leadership, personal, professional and relationship development workshops or the integrative medicine seminars. After inner reflection, turn your attention outside kayaking, hiking, biking or sailing. Then enjoy organic meals of wild seafood or a beach side oyster barbecue. Of special interest is the women’s restoration bodywork.  It promises to teach how to cope with everyday stress through hatha postures, meditation and yoga nidra: a deep relaxation method for strengthening the immune system. Forget the t-shirt, these are techniques you can bring home or to the workplace as a practical souvenir.

2. Italy

Holistic Holidays in Italy,

Tai chi and tiramisu? If you prefer to mangia after practice, pasta and Pilates feature prominently on cooking and wellness vacations all over Michaelangelo’s homeland – many include guided cycling city tours, picnics at organic farms, wine tasting, pasta making, basic Italian language lessons, hiking tours and a plunge in a thermal hot spa. But lighthearted about spirituality and heavy on the good life, The Hills That Breathes links you to a 100-acre wooden farmhouse in the breathtaking rolling hills near Urbino, a site celebrated for its contribution to the Renaissance. Adoringly prepared and savoured, lemon and fennel risotto, grilled aubergine garlic pizza and wild mushroom lasagna are this retreat’s spa food. In addition to an all-vegetarian colourful Italian menu (one of the most healthful in the world), this picturesque vacation spot uniquely combines oriental and Indian holistic practices for a yin, yoga and yummy effect. Here you’ll find ‘la dolce vacation’ that includes Qigong lessons along with a wide variety of yoga styles, plus aqua therapy in a panoramic salt water pool for a holiday that, as the website says, “satisfies every bit of you: from your deepest spiritual side to your need for pizza side.”


Todaiji Temple Yoga and Walking Tours,

Asakusa Kannon TempleAfter the yoga craze hit China, holistic vacations in Japan became adventures for curious travelers who had a yen for zen. Hot Springs Yoga Tours offers a 14-day cultural and wellness excursion that’s light on workshops and treatments. Instead each day starts with an early morning yoga session before heading off on a treasure hunt by subway followed by coach or walking tours to Toshogu Shrine, Asakusa Kannon Temple or along Irohazaka Road to the mountains with a stop for a hot spring soak gazing at snow-capped Mt. Fuiji. Along the way sake or oolong tea sampling and sushi lunches rejuvenate. Other days it’s on to visit the Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, 3000 Lanterns of Kasuga Shrine, Todaiji Temple to pay respect to Buddha or a tour of the Nagamachi Samurai district. Most evenings are filled with karaoke or geisha shows and dinner featuring traditional staples of Japanese cuisine: rice, miso and seafood, all low-calorie healthy meals notable for extending the longevity of this country’s vibrant people. This cultural trip has a transformative effect physically, mentally and emotionally creating positive attitudes and energy as guests are sure to see the best of Japan’s historical sites and experience the art of well being all before they say, ‘Sayonara’.

4. Caribbean

Como Shambhala Retreat at Parrot Cay,

For the pampered and the pooped, a deluxe and sun-drenched retreat might be the perfect remedy to restore balance. Condé Nast Traveller magazine’s readers elected Como Shambhala Retreat at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos as the Best Hotel Spa 2007. It’s also famous for week-long retreats that include five hours of instruction daily featuring world-renowned yoga teachers Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman, and alternative health specialists. Although Shambhala is sanskrit for ‘a sacred place of bliss’, the resort’s website reveals their philosophy: tranquility is not to be found in a specific location, but within oneself by exploring body, mind and spirit. Facilities are comprehensive and include a 540 sq-ft infinity-edge pool, yoga pavilion facing the private island’s wetlands, Pilates studio, steam, sauna and outdoor Jacuzzi and garden. Guests are encouraged to pair their yoga practice with therapies and Shambhala cuisine (organic, low fat and energizing) offered in-room or pool-side. Other healing activities intended to create inner harmony include eco-kayaking, nature walks, beach exploration, trail running, sailing, dolphin watching and walking meditation.

5. Mexico

Sian Ka’an Ecology Center,

Sian Ka'an EcologySouth of Cancun, nestled on the Mexican Caribbean coast near the ruins of Tulum, the Sian Ka’an Ecology Center is a 1.2 million acre protected eco-tourism and education centre on the stunning Mayan Riviera. Guests here rejuvenate and detoxify each day with a challenging yet restorative yoga practice, meditation and local whole food cuisine. Keeping true to their credo, guests experience restored well being healing the planet as they heal themselves. Revenue generated from on-site activities including lush hiking trails, kayaking tours, bird watching, and snorkeling turquoise waters is used to fund ecological conservation and education programs within the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Looking to book a holistic holiday? Check out the Trip Builder where you can request a quote from over 104,000 travel agents who are ready to offer you the best prices on your trip.

Monique Savin
Monique Savin is a fitness journalist and Web editor. She is a contributor to The Globe and Mail. Sign-up for her weekly e-mail with fitness news, inspiration and deals. It’s free at

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