Sure, you want to tone up and slim down, but who wants to use those precious vacation days working out? Luckily, you can combine your desire to get into shape with your love of travel for a fantastic fitness vacation, with these trip ideas where getting svelte and seeing the sights go hand-in-hand. Whatever your idea of a great escape – deserted Caribbean beaches, viewing wildlife in Africa, or even a cruise – chances are we’ve covered it on our list. Let your next trip be to one of these places to get into shape, and you’ll come home with the best souvenir of all: a hot new bod. Preview the top places to tone up with our Fitness Vacations slideshow.
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Looking for your inner Lance but not quite ready for the Tour de France? No sweat (just yet): Pack up your bicyclette (or rent one there) and head to France’s Alsace region, near the Swiss and German borders, for a fitness vacation to remember. With designated bike routes throughout the area, it’s a pure delight to pedal beside the beautiful Vosges Mountains, through charming villages, and past the fantastic vineyards that lie along the 106-mile long Route des Vins (Wine Route; www.alsace-route-des-vins.com) where crisp Rieslings and Gewürztraminers are born – after all, you can’t go all the way to France and not indulge at least a little, even on a fitness vacation.
Though most people plan to pack on a few pounds on their cruise vacation – after all, it’s easy to overindulge in those all-you-can-eat-buffets – Crystal Cruises (www.crystalcruises.com) aims to buck the trend with its wellness-themed cruises. In addition to the usual onboard diversions, the line’s 2011 Mind, Body, and Spirit sailings to the Mexican Riviera (as well as Alaskan itineraries and Panama Canal crossings) encourage you to get buff onboard, whether in the state-of-the-art gym, a yoga or Pilates class, or on the quarter-mile track along the open-air Promenade Deck, where you can enjoy stunning ocean views while running your laps. With a full menu of healthy meals to keep you refueled, you’ll have no problem saying “no thank you” to seconds at the buffet on one of these floating fitness vacations.
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When you tire of the mega-resorts, all-you-can-eat buffets, and sugary drinks that dominate so many Caribbean islands, head to Dominica, where healthy pursuits constitute the majority of things to do. Indeed, the main attractions on this unspoiled, lush island involve rain forest hikes, swimming in natural thermal pools, and overall personal wellness. To jump-start your new healthy lifestyle, book the Jungle Spa Adventure Package at the Jungle Bay Resort & Spa and get your room, organic gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), a daily half-hour spa treatment, morning yoga class, and several active excursions like hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking included in one of our top fitness vacations.
Paddling against the surf is one way to tone and tighten, and if you can actually learn to stand up on the surfboard – well, that’s a huge bonus. Hawaii is synonymous with surfing, and now you can learn this exhilarating sport and get in shape on your next vacation. SwellWomen (www.swellwomen.com), a surf and yoga outfitter on Maui’s Kaanapali Beach, provides healthy, action-packed vacations geared towards women (though they do host coed retreats, too), complete with surf lessons, yoga classes, nutritious meals, and accommodations. Only want surfing lessons on this fitness vacation? We recommend Surf Hawaii Surf School (www.surfhawaii4u.com) on Oahu’s North Shore, home to the epic waves of Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline.
Hua Hin, Thailand
There’s a lot more to feeling good than just looking good, and Thailand’s Chiva Som fitness vacation retreat in Hua Hin treats your whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Options range from a 3-night spa, fitness, and physiotherapy program to an intense 4-week detoxification complete with a juice fast and colonics, but all programs feature one-on-one fitness and nutritional counseling, a diet of Asian spa cuisine, and daily activities like Thai boxing, weight training, aqua aerobics, biking, and yoga. This East-meets-West approach to wellness also boasts a beautiful beach setting on the Gulf of Thailand and a location near several cultural attractions (temples, caves, and a royal palace), so guests on fitness vacations can get out and explore, as well.
Where better to get in touch with your inner yogi than in the birthplace of the practice? Though India is often chaotic, Kerala is a peaceful place in the progressive and pristine southwestern part of the country, where you can close your eyes and say oooommmm amid an exotic landscape of sandy beaches, vibrant jungles, coconut groves, and tropical rivers. Book yourself into a 2-week retreat at the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort (www.somatheeram.org) and treat your body to yoga, meditation, and massage. Extend your relaxation endeavors beyond the resort by tacking on a guided kettuvallam (houseboat) cruise tour through Kerala’s bucolic backwaters. Then, round out your fitness vacation by treating your mind to Indian music, dance performances, and guided excursions to cultural and spiritual sites.
Instead of sweating off those pounds on the treadmill, head to the New Life Hiking Spa (www.newlifehikingspa.com) in Killington, Vermont, where hikers of all levels can storm the picturesque terrain of the Appalachian Mountains. Challenging hikes, yoga, Pilates, weight training, and swimming are all part of the program, as are healthy cuisine, wellness workshops, and cooking classes designed to keep you on track once you get home from one of the resort's fitness vacations. And since your hard work deserves a reward, don’t forget to take advantage of the exceptionally priced spa services on offer here, as well. Note that the resort is only open from May through September.
After a day of hiking through the desert, who wouldn’t want to return to a little (or a lot) of luxury at their hotel? Posh Scottsdale, Arizona, offers the best of everything, both outdoors and in, and is truly an oasis in the desert. Book the 2-night Experience More package at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale (www.fourseasons.com/scottsdale) to combine outdoor adventures with luxury digs – after a complimentary guided nature hike to Pinnacle Peak Park (www.scottsdaleaz.gov/parks/pinnacle), use the resort credit towards a Healing Hiker's massage at the spa, before retiring to your luxury guestroom and recovering in one of our favorite destinations for fitness vacations.
The name Bikini Bootcamp says it all, and you should definitely expect to be swimsuit-ready after taking this intense weeklong, fitness vacation at the Amansala Resort in Tulum, Mexico. The health-and-wellness program shapes and sheds your pounds through a combo of body-sculpting classes, power-ab sessions, bike and kayak excursions, Pilates, and yoga. Sure, you might have to forgo the cervezas and nachos for low-fat meals like freshly grilled fish and jicama salads, but the healthy food will keep you energized while beachside massages and specialized spa treatments help you relax. And when you’ve used one of Amansala's fitness vacations to trim down and tone up, you can take a break from the burning workouts to enjoy the white-sand beaches, crystal-blue Caribbean Sea, and nearby Mayan ruins.
If you’ve ever longed for the grace, agility, and speed of a jungle panther, there’s probably no better place on earth for you to acquire it than in Watamu, Kenya, the base of the Wildfitness (www.wildfitness.com) program. This intense 1- to 3.5-week course incorporates the profound beauty of its natural surroundings into its body-changing workouts: Expect to run on the beach and engage in two or three daily training sessions, challenging swims, yoga, massages, nutritional evaluations, and more. But don't worry, you don't have to spend all of your time on one of our most exotic fitness vacations working out: Wildfitness will arrange for you and your new bod to take a safari, too.