Introduction of Destination Spas
Every item on this page was chosen by a Town & Country editor. We may earn a commission on some of the items you choose to buy. If you’re hoping to shed a few inches—or simply kickstart a healthier lifestyle—here’s where to go looking to hit the reset button now that the calendar has ticked up another digit? Each of these 20 picture-perfect destination spas offers everything you need to relax, reprogram, or reshape yourself. Whether you want to jump-start serious weight loss, master a rock labyrinth, or indulge in daily rubdowns, book some time at one of these wanderlust-worthy health and wellness sanctuaries.
1. Lake Austin Spa Resort
If you had a rich uncle with great taste, who just happened to own a sun-drenched lake house in the Texas Hill Country—the Lake Austin Spa Resort would be that home. After a walk in the flower, herb, and vegetable garden (preferably with the insanely knowledgeable flora and fauna director Molly Pikarsky) and some time spent gazing out at the Balcones Canyonlands Nature Preserve from the spa’s light-filled Blue Room lounge, you’ll never want to leave. Lake Austin also has something that no other Destination Spas in North America can truly claim: a water view. Nothing relaxes like some time on a lake (or looking at a lake, for that matter) and whether you want to paddleboard, pedal-board, or just do yoga on the dock, it’s all there for the taking. The food is plentiful and garden-fresh (literally, often picked minutes before preparing) but French Chef Stéphane Beauchamp doesn’t believe in deprivation so there’s no need to sneak in a secret saltshaker at this spa.
2. We Care Detox best
To detox like the red-carpet-ready stars of Hollywood, head to the desert about 125 miles north of Los Angeles—but leave your fork and knife at the entrance. (And your squeamishness.) That’s because the entire program is based on juice fasting—oh, and colonics. While that might sound painfully abstemious or downright torturous, We Care has a few key things going for it. For one thing, it works: guests looking to reset their bodies and minds emerge after long-weekend “tune-up” or weeklong “retreat” leave with enviably flatter bellies—thanks to a 1-3 pound per day weight loss—as well as clearer heads and brighter eyes and skin. Credit goes to both the clean liquid diet and to the raft of classes offered, including breath work, Reiki, sound-healing, the yoga of every flavor, “creative visioning” and even sessions about transitioning back to solid food. Also, it’s straight-up gorgeous, surrounded by palm trees, cacti, flowering vines, and dramatic mountain vistas in the distance. About the colonics: they’re not mandatory, but most packages include at least two. Wander the labyrinth walk, amble over to the far-infrared sauna, or just rest between classes and let the motion rock you to sleep. One unique spa treatment to try: Raindrop therapy, in which 9 essential oils are dropped in sequence along the spinal column and then massaged in specific directions, to help with inflammation, immune system, and breathing. floating bed
3. The Lodge at Woodloch
It used to be that New Yorkers searching for a luxurious destination spa experience had to board a plane until the Lodge at Woodloch (just two hours from NYC) arrived in 2006 with 57 nature-inspired rooms (each with a private veranda) and a 40,000-square-foot spa. The 150 wooded acres feature a private 15-acre lake, and there’s no stone unturned in terms of what you can do to get healthy: from golf to kayaking to fly fishing; from snowshoeing and hot tubbing amidst snowflakes; from bathing in the hydro massage pools to working up a sweat at TRX, spin or yoga sessions. Want more? There’s an archery range, a Healing Garden, a Pollinator Garden, a Hammock Grove, an orchard, and a farm-to-table garden with buzzing honeybee hives. Once you’re tired out, check if the Power Napping class is on the schedule and grab some shuteye. There are no calorie counts on the menus at the three-meal-a-day Tree restaurant, but the waistline-friendly cuisine comes from the hands of a French Culinary Institute-trained chef, so it doesn’t disappoint discerning gourmands.
4. The Ranch Malibu
As you lace up your hiking boots and set off for a strenuous but scenic hike in the Santa Monica Mountains, don’t expect a hearty trailside snack. This is one of those handful-of-almonds programs—a luxury but no-messing-around boot camp for Type As and A-listers that only takes 18 guests a week, during which time you’ll forgo things like cellphones, coffee, soda, and email. The simple (think lots of crisp whites and sunlight) but beautiful private cottages come with a daily aphorism placed on pillows, and you’ll need all the shut-eye you can get. There’s hiking in the morning, followed by strength conditioning, yoga, or circuit training in the afternoon—a total of 8 hours of activity. Thankfully, there’s a scheduled hour of naptime as well as daily restorative massages. Guests report that the vegan and plant-based food—however scarce—is imaginative and delicious, and there are never any leftovers.
5. Mii Amo Destination Spas
Those in search of balance, mental clarity, and a hefty dose of pampering will find all three at this red rock country resort, located amongst the towering rock formations and mystical “vortexes” of Boynton Canyon. These storied spots have such swirling, powerful energy that they’re said to help people take huge leaps with spiritual development. But even if you don’t buy into the spirituality, you’ll love the 16 meticulously appointed rooms, and can take part in over 100 weekly activities—from hiking and biking to indulging in the prickly pear butter wrap at the spa. You’ll have access to the aptly named Enchantment Resort, and guests say you don’t want to miss the morning ritual at the Crystal Grotto, where therapists guide you to set a daily intention through meditation and smudging with fragrant eucalyptus.
6. Canyon Ranch Destination Spas
The term destination spas is virtually synonymous with a trip to Canyon Ranch in Arizona, the industry’s unrivaled Grande Dame. Here, you’ll find some of the most knowledgeable and cutting-edge experts in the country, from leading fitness instructors to top doctors in charge of medical assessments. Expect early morning hikes in the high desert, QT in the 80,000-square-foot spa, and the chance to test your limits on the High Ropes Adventure Course. (Yes, there’s a zip line.) If losing weight is a goal, you’ll no doubt shed some, thanks to the delicious but portion-controlled cuisine. Coming with your mom, who hates every sport but loves tee-time? Send her over to the 3,400-square-foot Gold Performance Center to practice her swing.
7. Miraval Resort & Spa
Ever used a horse’s flank as your canvas? Sign up for one of the Equine Experiences at Miraval, and you can grab a brush and start painting the side of a horse. That’s just one of the entirely unique (and surprisingly centering) experiences you can have at this luxury Destination Spasin the Sonoran desert. With the Santa Catalina mountains in the distance, this 118-room resort is not only known for being a favorite of celebrities like Oprah, but for actually allowing you to have a drink or two while you’re there. (Many other spas restrict booze altogether, or insist you only drink in your room.) Whether you want to learn to cook, rock climb, meditate, bee-keep (seriously), or just work out so much that you sweat out all the bad stuff you did last year, you can do it here.
8. Rancho La Puerta Destination Spas
There’s something about crossing over that border from San Diego—the flowers are just that much brighter, the sunshine more sparkly, and those who call Rancho La Puerta their “happy place” come back again and again. This 3,000-acre property (owned by the same family for nearly 80 years) is just 45 miles Southeast of San Diego and encompasses a tapestry of mountains, meadows, and gardens. The property’s motto, “Siempre Mejor”—always better, but always changing—is reflected in the guests’ desire to spend their days challenged, yet pampered. Other changes of late: three gorgeous new “Heavenly Villas,” a new organic juice bar, male-specific fitness programming, and a salsa y salsa food/fitness mash-up class that you can’t help but want to try. Don’t miss: the spa’s Xocolatl Skin Replenishment treatment, where you actually get to whip up the chocolate mask the therapist will use in the treatment.
9. Cal-a-Vie Destination Spas
You may be in a quiet suburb just north of San Diego, but the aesthetic of Cal-a-Vie (at least in terms of décor) is all French country chic. That’s no accident since the entire 30-year-old resort is designed to look and feel like a quaint Provençal village. And as befitting the French, the Cal-a-Vie way is gracious and relaxed, with an occasional hit of intensity. Start your day at 6 am by hiking through the canyon right in the resort’s 440-acre backyard, then indulge in a vinothérapie-based spa treatment—massages, wraps, and scrubs with body products made from resort-grown grapes. This is an intimate but casual setting—there are only 32 guest rooms—and with a 5:1 staff-to-guest ratio, there’s plenty of attention and guidance.
10. Sundara Inn & Spa
This Midwest gem has made a big impact in the world of destination spas. For one thing, Sundara’s presence means that just because you live in the heartland, you don’t have to hop on a plane for a full-blown spa experience. (It’s about a 4-hour drive from Chicago, a 2-hour drive from Milwaukee, and a 3.5-hour drive from Minneapolis.) Located amongst 26-acres of fragrant pine forests in the Wisconsin Dells, the spa goes for an East-meets-midwest vibe, taking inspiration from Ayurveda principles (Sundara means beautiful in Sanskrit), plus an abundance of Feng shui. Think curved walls, open space, and light—anything to help you relax and unplug. (Speaking of unplugging: no devices are allowed in any public areas of the property.) The entire experience is one of plush and hushed beauty: quiet hikes, swimming in the infinity-edge pool, wandering along the meditation trail or the tranquility garden, and sinking into the down featherbeds come turndown time. Look for freshly brewed nighttime tea and caramels on your pillow.
What is Shou Sugi?
Known for its delicious culinary program, this 13-room Japanese-inspired retreat opened in the Hamptons in May 2019 and has been on readers’ radars ever since.
What are the activities at The Destination Spas?
Along with dozens of bodywork treatments, activities include yoga classes; sound therapy and energy healing with crystals and tuning forks; hypnotherapy; and intuitive painting.
What was the survey deadline?
This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting from January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
What are the Best Domestic Spas?
Many of our readers’ favorite domestic spas are located in the West and Southwest, with three in Arizona, and two in California, New Mexico, and Texas each.
What are the best spa experiences?
One reader remarked that the Carillon team still “knocked it out of the park,” even with COVID-19 safety protocols in place: “Best spa experience with new experiences that are contactless, too, which is great for these challenging times.” In the Northeast, the Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsy
What’s the best thing about Lake Austin?
Lake Austin also has something that no other spa in North America can truly claim: a water view.
Where is the program?
BOOK NOW Desert Hot Springs, CA To detox like the red-carpet-ready stars of Hollywood, head to the desert about 125 miles north of Los Angeles—but leave your fork and knife at the entrance.
What Makes We Care So Good?
For one thing, it works: guests looking to reset their bodies and minds emerge after a long-weekend “tune-up” or weeklong “retreat” leave
A destination spa is a resort centered on a spa, such as a mineral spa. Historically, many such spas were developed at the location of natural hot springs or mineral springs; in the era before modern biochemical knowledge and pharmacotherapy, “taking the waters” was often believed to have great medicinal powers. Even without such mystic powers, however, the stress relief and health education of spas also often have some degree of positive effect on health. Typically, over a seven-day stay, such facilities provide a comprehensive program that includes spa services, physical fitness activities, wellness education, healthy cuisine, and special interest programming.