The world beyond poolside Margaritas
Thomas Edison’s lightbulb heralded modern times in 1879, but it took another century for the first modern wellness resort to appear in the Caribbean. That was BodyHoliday, Saint Lucia, which distinguished itself from the mainland’s indoors-oriented destination spas by setting up shop on gorgeous Saint Lucia and, while offering spa treatments, yoga, and healthy meals, added sports, adventure, fun, wine, and the option to eat rich, damn-the-torpedos meals—and all this at an all-inclusive beach resort.
Perfect timing, because resorts in North America were sprouting spas. Soon Caribbean all-inclusives did, too, although you wouldn’t have named “wellness” as their primary focus. But the world keeps changing, so these days more all-inclusives have embraced wellness tourism. Again, perfect timing, because according to the latest Global Wellness Tourism Market report, wellness travel will grow at a CAGR of 10.69 percent between now and 2020.
Here are four of the best Caribbean all-inclusives for wellness vacations, and to complete your clients’ sense of well-being, these resorts can accommodate them in exceptional rooms.
Zoëtry Montego Bay, Jamaica
The full name, Zoëtry Wellness & Spa Resorts, defines what makes this AMResorts adults-only brand unique, and its focus has been so successful that in December a new Zoëtry will open in Montego Bay. Like the other five Zoëtry resorts, this will be a boutique hotel, an all-suite property with just 49 units.
A wellness resort must have a great spa, so this one will boast indoor and outdoor massages, a beauty salon, garden, pools and fountains and waterfalls, a water circuit, a fresh fruit bar, a steam room and sauna, plus a fitness center fit for a far larger resort. There’ll be yoga and meditation classes (de rigueur!), too, and “Entertainment and Enrichment,” not to be confused with plain old “entertainment,” because it will include lessons in crafts and cooking.
Speaking of cooking, no reservations will be required at the three restaurants. Expect organic and heart-healthy options, local sourcing, and items to accommodate guests’ special diets. Sip, Savor & See, AMResorts’ dine-around program, offers yet more options, while multiple bars/lounges, especially the pool bar, will remind guests that wellness no longer equals self-denial.
The best room, a third-story Presidential Suite, promises an above-it-all view and an extra bedroom, although at $3,688 a night in high season (“best available rate” at press time)—$25,816 a week—it might be a tad steep for most clients. A spacious Master Suite Ocean View, at $2,806, will feature a contemporary four-poster, fine views, and a Jacuzzi on the balcony, so it’s much like the Presidential Suite minus the spare bedroom, and, at $2,806 (seven nights at $19,642), some $6,000 less per week.
Waves Hotel & Spa, Barbados
Unlike Zoëtry resorts, each of the Elegant Hotels has a different vibe and market. Waves Hotel & Spa, Elegant’s new “eco-chic wellness” hotel, is a boutique all-inclusive that focuses on “mindfulness and peace and quiet.” Families are welcome, but despite there being just 70 rooms, the resort has an adults-only section
with spa accommodations. Furthermore, even the families-and-couples section, which is right on the beach, attracts a lot of low-key couples.
Waves distributes coloring books designed for adults, and guests are encouraged to color at least one page a day to help them slow down and escape today’s digital onslaught. It has a Zen garden where people can do their coloring or practice other relaxation techniques.
The spa’s signature treatment, The Waves Bespoke Ritual spa package, uses grapefruit (did you know that it’s native to Barbados?) to revitalize skin. Waves treatments employ other local ingredients, too, including frangipani, salt, lime, camellia, and ginger. Stand-up paddleboarding, yoga in the Yoga Pavilion, and Pilates in the Zen garden are geared toward releasing tension via mindful movement. The two main restaurants offer Mediterranean dishes and Asian fusion. Guests may also enjoy wines, drinks, entertainment, and dining privileges at other Elegant Hotels along with complimentary water taxi transportation to them.
Some couples will like the Pool View One-Bedroom Spa Suite in the adults-only spa building, which lies across the street; it boasts a separate living room, balcony, and white walls and driftwood, and it includes two spa treatments per adult per stay for a minimum-length stay (which may change with the seasons). A high-season stay would cost $621 per night, or $4,879 per week.
But get this: An airy Ocean Front Junior Suite in the couples-families area is also quiet, and you get gentle surf sounds and views; $774 per night, or $5,418 a week. Best room in this category? #209. Now, what if your clients want to combine wellness with a family trip? For a kids camp, I’d book them at one of Elegant Hotels Group’s sister resorts, such as Crystal Cove, Tamarijn, or Turtle Beach. If the kids are self-sufficient, book two parents and two elementary school-age children into one of Waves’ Oceanfront Duplex Suites, which comes with some complimentary spa treatments. At $850 per night, or $5,590 per week, that’s value.
Royal Suites Turquesa, Bavaro, Dominican Republic
Palladium resorts have been on a tear, renovating rooms, restaurants and other facilities for guests. Wellness has been a key component of the upgrades. One of the best places to experience the upgraded Palladium style is The Royal Suites Turquesa, an adults-only enclave connected to Grand Palladium Palace Resort, Spa & Casino. Guests can zone out—and zen out—at Turquesa’s adults-only pools, restricted beach area, lounges, two restaurants, and in their suites, all of which have been totally overhauled over the past year or so. Guests may also use the entire Grand Palladium resort, a 173-acre complex offering water sports, land sports (tennis, soccer, beach volleyball), eco-trails (popular with power walkers), a Zentropia Palladium Spa and Wellness center, and a wide variety
Zentropia, at the adjacent Grand Palladium Palace Resort Spa & Casino, deserves attention because this just-redesigned spa offers so many body and beauty treatments, water facilities (sauna, Jacuzzi, and vapor baths), fitness classes, and new fitness machines. Even more unique, though, is Palladium’s dietary card system, which debuted this summer. To better serve guests with gluten and lactose intolerance, nut and shellfish allergies, plus diabetes, vegetarian, and vegan diets, people with special diets may notify the resort in advance or simply tell the staff when they’re there. They then receive a card to take to meals, and waiters are trained to understand the cards and review menu options with their guests. Even buffet items are coded to match dietary cards.
The new 600-sq.-ft. Royal Master Suites serve as restorative havens, with 24-hour room service, butler service, a fully stocked mini-bar, an updated open bathroom, and a terrace with a Balinese bed. They cost about $550 per night, or $3,850 a week in high season. The Royal Honeymoon Suites are similar, but with a hydro-massage bath, two Balinese beds, and ocean views from the real bed; they run $564 a night, or $3,949 per week. Turquesa’s 936-sq.-ft. Royal Presidential Suite is a beachfront duplex with a jacuzzi, Balinese beds, and more. It’s often sold out, but at $578, or $4,047 a week, it’s worth
Barcelo Bavaro Beach Zumba Week, Bavaro
Barcelo Bavaro Grand Resort, the new name for Barcelo Bavaro Beach Resort after Oct. 15, doesn’t bank on wellness diehards for the bulk of its business. However, on June 11-18, 2017, its adults-only component, Barcelo Bavaro Beach, will host Zumba Week, a must for fans of this Brazilian dancercise. Led by zumba master Yira Yanguela, the week’s activities will include zumba step, zumba sentao, zumba circuit, beach zumba, and even aqua zumba.
Adults-only Barcelo Bavaro Beach has its own restaurants, bars, beachfront, and swimming pools, but because its guests may access the entire Grand Resort, they’re also privy to water sports, beach volleyball, water polo, a swimming pool that’s actually long enough for doing laps, a gym with spinning and aerobics sections, tennis and paddle tennis courts, full-size baseball and soccer fields, beach volleyball, water polo, and, for an extra charge, even bowling. Barcelo Bavaro Beach guests may also eat, drink, and dance (what, zumba wasn’t enough dancing?) on both sides of the aisle, with restaurants specializing in seafood, Mediterranean, and other healthy, as well as rich cuisines. The U-Spa wellness center, an adults-only oasis on the family side of the resort, offers water therapies, beauty treatments, and therapeutic, sports and leisure massages.
The best place in the adults-only section to rest up for the next day’s activities is an Ocean Front Club Premium Suite (its name will soon be shortened to Ocean Front Beach Suite). This 1,102-sq.-ft. unit has two large bathrooms, a living room, terrace, private hot tub, and access to Club Premium services. A stay for two from June 10-19 (Zumba Week lasts eight days) cost $444 per night at press time, or $3,996 in total.