Insider's Guide to Spas

11 Best Getaways for the Spiritual Seeker

Natural quiet comes in many forms: the quiet of the solitary mountain walk, the meditation cushion, the yoga platform, the... Read the full article »

Mary Bemis


Natural quiet comes in many forms: the quiet of the solitary mountain walk, the meditation cushion, the yoga platform, the beach, the candle-lit dinner, the massage table, or perhaps the massage table on the beach. Each kind of quiet creates its own kind of rest—and becomes a catalyst for its own kind of rejuvenation and re-awakening.

What do you need right now?

This is a question for you to savor deeply. Take a minute or two to allow yourself to really go where you feel drawn. These places are very different, but each is tried and true. So let this round-up locate and awaken your own deep yearning. Then set your intention to actually take the retreat—and create the reality—you truly want.

The Art of Living Retreat Center, Boone, North Carolina

Spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is considered by many a living saint, and his followers recently opened a retreat center atop Heavenly Mountain in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. This not-for-profit retreat center is spread out over 380 gorgeous acres that include a holistic wellness retreat, 300 retreat rooms, a boutique hotel with three spa suites and 27 rooms, and the new Shankara Ayurveda Spa, specializing in authentic healing ayurvedic treatments. There are also meditation halls and a labyrinth. The cuisine is vegetarian and alcohol is not permitted. This is a place designed for simple living without distraction: a welcoming retreat for the spiritual seeker. Artoflivingretreatcenter.org; 800-368-5168

 Lumeria Maui, Makawao, Hawaii

This casual-chic wellness destination and yoga retreat is set on the lush lower slopes of Haleakala volcano. The epitome of barefoot elegance, the hotel has 24 upscale Spartan rooms housed in an historic building that was originally built in 1909 as a retirement home for plantation workers. The “yoga lawn” is the outdoor centerpiece, and there are fire pits and beautifully landscaped grounds spread out over eight acres. Take a dip in the saltwater swimming pool, wander among the gardens, or try one of the esoteric spa treatments in a crystal-laden spa cottage. Most of all, revel in the silence at this self-described “sanctuary for authentic transformational travel.” Lumeriamaui.com; 808-579-8877

Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Rhinebeck, New York

Located on a peaceful 260-acre campus in the Hudson Valley, this workshop/retreat center has been gathering great speakers since 1977, and boasts a loyal following. Guests love it here for many reasons, mostly its camaraderie and open vibe. You won’t find telephones, tvs, or wi-fi here, but you will find great conversations and a ton of tranquility. Spend quiet reading time at the Ram Dass Library, devoted to spiritual studies, or step inside the Sanctuary—the heart of the campus—to meditate or take time to reflect. In addition to ongoing workshops, there is a Wellness Center with everything from polarity therapy to chakra balancing to shamanic healing—even trapeze lessons. Eomega.org; 845-266-4444

Mii Amo, Sedona, Arizona

Mii Amo looks and feels luxurious. Start the day by setting your intention in the magical Crystal Grotto, a circular space that connects earth and sky. Leave your beautifully appointed room for one of the many outdoor trails and immediately engulf yourself in the natural grandeur and magical energy of the surrounding Red Rocks of Boynton Canyon. Sedona has long drawn spiritual seekers, and Mii amo offers a holistic spa retreat that draws inspiration from the culture and traditions of Native Americans. Choose from five different personal Journeys, including Spiritual Exploration and Transformational Wisdom, or create a custom one that best suits your needs. The spa treatments (energy work, crystal therapies, Sedona mud) and therapists are some of the very best in the country. Miiamo.com; 866-901-6115

Maui Eco Retreat, Haiku, Hawaii

Small, secluded, and self-sustaining, this off-the-grid oceanfront retreat is a refreshing healing haven lovingly built by Kutira and Raphael, lifelong seekers who have collaborated on workshops for dance, music, tantra, and sustainable living. The retreat prides itself on being a place where “you can just be” and is home to the Bamboo Temple, the first permitted bamboo structure in the US (built in a cool nautilus shape). It’s a steep drop to the ocean, but worth the effort at this nature-lover’s paradise. Mauiretreat.com; 808-572-6006

 Kripalu Yoga Center, Stockbridge, Massachusetts

A former Franciscan monastery, Kripalu is essentially the American university of yoga. It’s accommodating for every level from beginner to masters who are exploring new practices. There are hundreds of inspirational experiential programs to choose from, like “Science and Spirituality: where cutting-edge science meets yoga, mindfulness, and spiritual well-being,” and “Contemplative Week: Renewal from the Inside Out.” To get the most out of your stay, check out the personalized R&R Retreat options. The best rooms to book if on a personal retreat are the Standard Plus Rooms in the Annex (complete with private bath), a minimalist, environmentally sustainable building with harmonious lake or tree views. Kripalu.org; 888-923-8578

Orr Hot Springs, Ukiah, California

The secluded hot springs are situated on 27 acres at the headwaters of the Big River—a spot where the Pomo Indians passed through on annual trading expeditions. It wasn’t until the late 1880s that Orr’s Hot Sulphur Springs became a resort destination for city folk looking for a little R&R. Today, the spot remains popular with San Francisco residents and experienced hot-springs enthusiasts who come to enjoy the clothing-optional spot. Wifi is verboten and there’s a large and nicely outfitted communal kitchen and dining room in the main Lodge. You bring your own groceries and store them in bins that are labeled. Bring your own biodegradable soap and personal-care items, too, as everything flows into the creek. Nice touches include the five porcelain Victorian tubs in private rooms (first-come, first-serve). Massages are also available. orrhotsprings.org; 707-462-6277

Menla Mountain, Phoenicia, New York

A welcome weekend getaway for time-crunched Manhattanites, Menla (Tibetan for “Medicine Buddha”), is magically situated on a private 325-acre nature preserve in the Catskills. It has a rich and varied retreat history—in the 1970s it was the Center for the Living Force, morphing into the Patchwork Center until the late 1990s, when it was purchased by the Aesclepius Foundation, which donated the property to Tibet House US in 2002. Menla’s mission is to “offer a world-class spa and integrated healing system, combining the best of Western integrative medicine with elements of Tibetan medicine, Ayurveda, and other holistic traditions.” The spiritual directors here are the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, the renowned author and teacher. Thurman, who leads Tibet House-sponsored retreats each year, and his wife Nena are the visionaries behind the property and its noteworthy Mahasuhka Spa. Menlamountain.org; 845-688-6897

Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

An ancient hot spring perched on a spectacular cliff overlooking the Pacific near Big Sur, what more could you want for the birthplace of the Human Potential Movement? Esalen was the first mindful nude frolic of the 1960s—and it remains cutting edge for conscious seekers even today. After a day or two you’ll be tempted to toss your car keys off the cliff and stay. esalen.org; 888-837-2536

Shambhala Mountain Center, Red Feather Lakes, Colorado

Located high in the Rockies on 600 unspoiled acres of wilderness, Shambhala was founded in 1971 by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa. The center offers many forms of Buddhist meditation (from weekend-long “Learn to Meditate” retreats to longer, more intense study), as well as specialized workshops. There are over 100 different programs yearly, like the recent “Mindfulness Meditation Retreat,” a seven-day teacher-led silent retreat. Of special note is the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya, a traditional spired Buddhist shrine that took 14 years to build. shambhalamountain.org; 888-788-7221

Breitenbush Hot Springs, Detroit, Oregon

Go off the grid and book one of the geo-thermal heated cabins at this beloved hippy retreat, and spend your days soaking in the natural earth hot pools, walking the labyrinth, splashing in the river, and exploring ancient forest trails. This intentional community, located in Oregon’s Willamette National Forest, generates it’s own hydropower and is spread out over 154 acres of wildlife sanctuary. Guests come for personal retreats, workshops, or simply for the day. breitenbush.com; 503-854-3320

 

 

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is an award-winning spa journalist, honored with Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and the distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She sits on the board of Wellness Warrior, is a Global Wellness Day Advisor and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.