Travel

12.31.13

Best Luxury Boot Camps to Get Fit in 2014

New year, new you, right? In 2014, getting back into shape doesn’t have to be so brutal. At these wellness retreats, the staff will kick your butt—and then spoil you silly.

Pure Kauai, Hawaii

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Steve Ogle/Getty

Use the island’s stunning nature as a gym—surf lessons, kayak excursions, rainforest hikes, and beach runs—at Pure Kauai bespoke fitness vacations. Guests are set up in private cottages or villas, then catered to by personal trainers, health-minded private chefs, personal assistants, and wellness practitioners from massage therapists to intuitive healers and astrologists. Although vacations can be as active or as mellow as guests wish, the sports instructors and personal trainers are prepared to kick it into high gear. Quite a few celebs have stayed with Pure Kauai to get in shape for a role.

Getting there: fly to Kauai. There is a five-night minimum stay.

The Ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, California

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The Ranch

Don’t call it a spa—it’s a week of tough love. Nothing is optional: not the pre-dawn wake-up calls for morning yoga, not the 10 to 12-mile hikes every day, not the four hours of fitness classes, and not the super-strict diet (no meat, wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol, or processed foods). Participants, no more than 16 at a time, may suffer migraines or vomit on the trail, and still the instructors push them to keep going. The results: nearly everyone loses noticeable weight and feels better leaving than they did when they arrived—partly from the detox diet and partly from having survived.

Getting there: fly to Los Angeles. The program is Sunday to Saturday; there’s also a four-day version.

The Island Experience, Ilha Grande, Brazil

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Cesar Okada/Getty

There’s more to this island than hammocks and caipirinhas: it’s also home to a seven-day program designed to detox and de-stress through rainforest hiking, kayaking, yoga and meditation, and a vegetarian diet. In a casual atmosphere, up to 12 guests get personal attention and gentle encouragement, rather than drill-sergeant discipline. The founders created the island experience after a seven-day hike around Ilha Grande that left them wanting to share the experience with others: not just physical challenges but also learning to face one’s limits, beat challenges, manage fears, and open up to other cultures.

Getting there: fly to Rio de Janeiro. The program is Sunday to Saturday.

The Ashram, Mallorca, Spain

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Juergen Richter/Getty

The seasonal program is the same as at the original ashram in California, where celebrities have long flocked to lose weight and clear their heads. It’s rigorous, to be sure: 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls for yoga; four to six hours of hiking, sometimes with over half a mile of elevation gain; afternoon kayaking, strength training, TRX or Pilates; more yoga; minimal, vegetarian meals; and utterly exhausted sleep. With up to 14 guests, everyone gets pushed—hard. You’ll stay in a restored 17th-century olive farm surrounded by orchards and terraces with stunning views, where the guest rooms have beamed ceilings, local art, and private bathrooms.

Getting there: fly to Palma. The program runs Sunday to Saturday and is held from April to June.

Escape to Shape, International

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Escape To Shape

The premier ‘traveling fitness spa’ combines luxury, culture, and fitness in glamorous locations around the world. Each program is tailored to make the most of its location, with a focus on history, culture, people, cuisine, and natural wonders—and butt-kicking. While destinations have ranged from Cape Town (where the program included African dance) to Sicily (where guests climbed Mt. Etna), the setup is consistent: each day includes a total body workout that might involve yoga, Pilates, circuit training, hiking, kayaking, or biking; healthy meals that reflect the region; and a bit of downtime to explore and enjoy the surroundings. 

Trip length varies but is generally about a week.

Cal-a-Vie, Vista, California 

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Cal-a-Vie

Don’t let the la-di-da name and French Provençal decor fool you: the seasoned trainers here seriously kick butt. The morning mountain hike can turn into a mountain run. Guests are allowed to do as much or as little as they want, and there are a lot of beginner-friendly options among the 125 classes, but there’s also CrossFit and an amped-up TRX class. The gym is as state-of-the-art as it gets and the high staff-to-guest ratio (21 trainers for up to 32 guests) ensures that anyone who asks to be challenged will be. It’s not unheard of to have one student and two instructors. 

Getting there: fly to San Diego. Programs are three, four or seven days with set dates.

Bikini Bootcamp, Tulum, Mexico

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Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty

Founded about a decade ago, this was one of the first adventure-fitness-and-yoga programs around. The boot camps combine cool shabby-chic settings (originally the Amansala eco-resort in this yoga mecca on the Mayan Riviera and now also on Ibiza) with activities and vacation fun. Most of the fitness classes, from power walks to cardio workouts to yoga classes, take place right on the sand, and they’re complemented with salsa or belly-dancing classes. Guests range from fitness newbies to hardcore gym rats and the program is tailored accordingly. 

Getting there: fly to Cancún. Programs are six nights with set dates and begin on a different day each week.

Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand

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Chiva-Som

The name means ‘Haven of Life,’ but for guests who sign on for this destination spa’s fitness retreats, life is anything but restful. There are classes nearly 12 hours a day, from Muay Thai boxing to Ashtanga yoga to a cardio session called Mountain Trek, plus private fitness assessments and an array of personal training sessions, both indoors and out. A team of highly trained international specialists oversees the fitness and the Eastern and Western wellness services (reflexology, Thai massage, deep-tissue bodywork) that soothe sore muscles after classes are done. The healthy Thai food is delicious.

Getting there: fly to Bangkok. Chiva-Som has a three-night suggested minimum.

La Reserve Ramatuelle, France 

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Camille Moirenc/Hemis/Corbis

Just a few miles from Saint-Tropez, this resort is primarily a place for summer relaxation. But it offers a surprisingly rigorous boot camp fitness retreat, centered on the very civilized European sport of Nordic walking (with poles, which makes it a lot harder). Each guest (no more than eight) starts with a medical assessment before embarking on a program of daily nine to 12-mile treks through the mountains and along the coast, tailored to guests’ fitness levels. This being France, a balanced Mediterranean diet and slimming treatments like balneotherapy (bathing in mineral-rich waters) speed up the results.

Getting there: fly to La Mole. The boot camp program is five nights and available anytime from April to November.

The Bodyholiday, St. Lucia

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Holger Leue/Getty

It may take willpower to make this a boot camp, as the ‘holiday’ part of the name is taken seriously and there are all the temptations of an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. But for guests with enough drive, there are lots of offerings that would challenge the founders—one of them a former ultra-marathoner. A day may include a 7 a.m. beach boot camp class, a four-mile run, morning aerobics, afternoon windsurfing, and evening Ashtanga yoga. It all gets kicked up a notch during the WellFit retreats in March and November, when ex-Olympians and pro athletes lead the training.

Getting there: fly to St. Lucia. WellFit retreats are five nights; other stays can be any length.

Originally published as “The World's Best Luxury Bootcamps" in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014 © 2013 Lonely Planet. All rights reserved.