Did your New Year’s resolutions include lose weight and get fit? The easiest way to do this is to go on a health holiday where the whole stay is devoted to improving your health, nutrition, and wellness in a relaxing, supportive environment.
As a spa book author, wellness journalist and a judge for the regional AsiaSpa Awards, I’ve been to many of Asia’s fabulous wellness retreats. People always ask me which ones are the best, so here’s my Top List of destinations for health holidays in Asia to lose weight, detox, get fit, and rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit.
Conceived as a sanctuary for holistic healing by founders John and Karina Stewart, who spent many years living in Kathmandu, Kamalaya offers wellness retreats, detox, cleansing, yoga, emotional healing, and spiritual offerings whose quality and excellence has led to numerous awards.
Set on a lush hillside on a secluded beach, its creative and delicious organic health cuisine, open-air wellness center, and open-air restaurants provide a connection to the lush natural surroundings that are part of the mind-body renewal process. There’s a meditation cave once used by monks on retreat, and two beautiful swimming pools – a tranquil beachside pool and a huge lap pool next to the gym on a hilltop overlooking a panoramic sea view.
With a wide range of holistic and spiritual offerings, the wellness center offers spa and pampering treatments, detox, colonics, Thai and Ayurveda treatments, resident Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors, yoga, meditation, fitness training, and an active calendar of visiting healers from around the world who offer energy healing, sound therapy, emotional healing, chakra balancing, life coaching, osteopathy, and cranial sacral therapy, just to name a few. This is a place to heal the spirit as well as the body and mind.
Throw away your cigarettes and leave the children at home, because both are no-no’s at this serious health resort in the royal beach town of Hua Hin. Twenty years ago Chiva-Som was region’s first luxury destination health resort and paved the way to Thailand’s popularity as the spa capital of Asia. All activities revolve around the gleaming health center, where spa and wellness treatments take place in sleek facilities modeled after a European luxury spa.
Arriving guests get health consultations and a custom-tailored program featuring daily massages. The restaurant focuses on fat-free, weight-control food, and raw green leaves dominate at the buffet. The expensive, somewhat corporate environment makes it popular with stressed-out CEO types who mostly come for weight loss, stress management, anti-ageing, and pampering, as well as visiting royalty and jet set celebrities like Kate Moss, David and Victoria Beckham.
The spa offerings include a vast range of holistic and alternative therapies such as acupuncture, energy healing, iridology, Emotional Freedom Technique, aqua aerobics, hypnosis, physiotherapy, yoga, Pilates, and personal fitness training from a rotating list of visiting healers and wellness consultants.
Read my review here.
Originally started as Yoga Thailand resort by a yoga teaching couple, this beachside Ashtanga yoga retreat and teacher training center evolved into Samahita Wellness Retreat, encompassing a wellness center offering massages, detox, colonic, and holistic wellness programs. Samahita offers a variety of yoga, detox, de-stress, weight loss and fitness retreats with a good range of retreats and packages, daily, short and long-term.
Located on an amazingly pristine beach in a tranquil bay, it has three yoga studios including a beachfront yoga pavilion. Samahita’s active calendar offers regular yoga teacher training programs drawing students from around the world for international teacher certification, plus visiting yoga teachers.
The laid-back, open-air beach dining room offers organic, low-fat, high energy, mostly vegetarian food and the small size and casual atmosphere creates a cozy, friendly community spirit in which guests bond easily in the community dining room and poolside.
Absolute Sanctuary, Koh Samui
Absolute Sanctuary calls itself the fitness wellness resort for health, lifestyle, weight management and more. The Absolute You group is known in Bangkok for its string of popular Absolute yoga studios, health food services, and spinning studios in the city’s trendiest locations.
Absolute Sanctuary Koh Samui offers a wide range of wellness programs such as spa, detox, anti-stress, Pilates, fitness, weight loss, lifestyle change, supported by wellness facilities including the spa and detox center, steam and far infra-red sauna, gym, Pilates Reformer studio and swimming pool. The Love Kitchen restaurant specializes in low calorie natural and organic health cuisine using high nutrient superfoods and wholefoods with a Thai and international menu.
Set inland on a hill, you won’t be next to the beach but you can still get a glimpse of sea from the higher rooms. There’s a pool to cool off in and you can still get to the beach and go on a boat trip around the island.
If you’ve ever dreamed of going to a fitness boot camp to kick start your weight loss or train for a marathon, this is the place to go. It might even sound a bit frightening to couch potatoes whose idea of sports is watching football on TV with a beer in hand. With the tagline “Get More Out of Life”, Thanyapura was created specifically to promote health, wellness and a better life through sports and a more active lifestyle. Top coaches and cutting-edge programs offer triathlon training, mind training and education to preventive medicine.
The vast complex includes four centers – a Sports and Leisure Club, the Mind Centre, Thanyapura Health and Phuket International Academy, plus a Sports Hotel. Facilities include a day spa, kids and teen clubs, arts studio and performance center plus restaurants featuring organic cuisine, wine, and cooking school. An amazing range of sports academies offer teams, training and competitions at all levels and ages, including football, aquatics, tennis, rugby and triathlon academies.
Expect to see an Olympic size pool, rugby pitch, soccer pitch, athletic track, extreme boot camp and assault courses, and state of the art fitness center and martial arts studios. While top professional athletes from around the world come here for training, it’s open to anyone at any level and welcomes individuals and groups, from amateur sports lovers to corporate groups and local residents.
This uber-luxe wellness resort is secluded in the lush forested hills near Ubud. Devoted to mind-body-spirit programs that are “not everything to everybody but the best to an exacting few”, this is a favored health destination for tropical luxury lovers and is famed for its elegant tropical villa interiors as much as its health offerings. With a luxurious spa in the midst of extensive grounds, you can expect plenty of feel-good massages and facials alongside high quality organic health cuisine, and a variety of wellness retreats, workshops, seminars and other holistic health-related events led by renowned visiting masters.
Retreat programs here focus on intensive yoga, Pilates and other wellness practices with a results-driven agenda that generally involve five hours of practice each day over a five-day period that also includes workshops, organic and raw cuisine and wellness therapies. Fitness and martial arts activities take place in the state-of-the-art gym as well as local adventure activities like nature hikes, biking and rafting amidst Bali’s stunning rice paddies and river gorges.
With a rustic, down-to-earth spiritual vibe, the unpretentious Yoga Barn was created to foster community spirit and give back to the island. Located in the heart of Ubud, Bali’s cultural hub, The Yoga Barn is a full service yoga studio, holistic healing retreat center and small hotel for retreat guests. Dedicated to healing and renewal, it is offers 15 classes and workshops a day, plus diverse programs taught by resident teachers and visiting faculty.
Daily classes and workshops range from traditional yoga styles of Classical Hatha, Vinyasa Flow, Power, Pranayama, Restorative, Iyengar, Yin, and Anusara yoga. Other modalities include Meditation, Sound Medicine, and more esoteric Kirtan and Ecstatic Dance. Ongoing activities feature yoga teacher trainings, group retreats, special workshops, musical events, and private one-on-one classes on site. Classes are open to all levels from beginner to advanced.
The Yoga Barn’s well-established Holistic Healing center includes Ayurvedic rejuvenation, cleansing and detox retreats, sound medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, Infra-Red sauna, and many more. The café offers an organic health menu and The Yoga Shop is stocked with all yoga and holistic needs. Nestled beside Ubud’s charming rice paddies, the Yoga Barn is walking distance to the Monkey Forest as well as the town’s hip shops and restaurants.
Set in a fantastic hilltop maharajah’s palace in the Himalayan foothills, this luxury Ayurvedic spa is as remote and as spiritual as you can get. The sacred Ganges wends its way through the valley, with the neighboring town of Rishikesh, famed birthplace of yoga, bursting with yoga ashrams and temples on the riverside below.
Ananda specializes in Ayurvedic healing, India’s ancient holistic system using medicated oil treatments and foods to bring the body back to its natural balance and health. A consultation with the Ayurvedic doctor determines each guest’s body type and current imbalances, and prescribes a personalized Ayurvedic program consisting of daily massage treatments using medicated Ayurvedic herbs and oils following ancient traditional therapies.
Daily yoga and meditation classes are held in regal outdoor pavilions or in the palace ballroom, and visiting healing masters offer retreats such as Quit Smoking, Diabetes and Cholesterol Management, Living With Arthritis, to alternative modalities like shiatsu, reiki, psycho energy healing, crystal healing, chakra healing and color therapy. Fitness sessions are available in the gym, along with hiking in the hills and white water rafting on the Ganges.
Read my review here.
Founded in 1984 with a pioneering vision to create a healing resort where people receive traditional Ayurvedic healing on a beautiful beach, Barberyn was long an insider’s health destination known only by word of mouth through mostly European wellness seekers In pursuit of improved health.
There are two properties, the original Barberyn Reef Resort, Beruwala on a quiet beach on the west coast and the newer Barberyn Beach Resort, Welligama in the south, on a spectacular hillside sweeping down to the sea.
Barberyn is dedicated to healing through traditional Ayurvedic treatments consisting of custom-tailored, doctor-prescribed programs of daily Ayurvedic medicated oil massages, treatments, herbal medicines and tonics, and pure Ayurvedic cuisine supervised by a doctor in the dining room who ensures that guests on prescribed food programs stick to the foods designed to bring the body back into balance.
Many people come here for treatment for serious medical conditions, such as recovery from strokes or surgery, healing from cancer, weight loss or relief from illnesses through alternative holistic healing rather than pills and drugs. Others simply come for a healthy holiday in a homey, friendly atmosphere while enjoying the fabulous beaches and sightseeing outings exploring the exotic culture of Sri Lanka.
Read my review here.
The only wellness sanctuary of its kind in the Philippines, The Farm offers holistic rejuvenation on the grounds of an eco-friendly, lush coconut plantation a few hours outside Manila. Popular for detox retreats, its Prevention and Recovery Retreats focus on medically guided detox to cleanse the body, with psycho-emotional detoxification as an integral part of the program to cleanse the system of repressed and negative emotions that lead to illness.
Recognized for its spa cuisine, it features one of Asia’s first vegan restaurants as well as a raw food restaurant, using produce fresh from its own organic garden. Wellness packages include customized detox treatment programs, yoga retreats, and healing retreats tailored to individual needs.
All programs are personalized, using a Guest Health Questionnaire to customize a program based on specific needs, goals, and state of health. Also recognized for its 100% pure extra virgin coconut oil products, which are used in spa treatments and cooking, The Farm donates part of its coconut oil earnings to support the local community and environment.
Have you been to a wellness retreat in Asia? What did you like best about your experience?