BodyHoliday is a deceptively simple term for what you’re getting into at this resort spa and wellness getaway on St. Lucia. That really hit home when I was flying back. A woman, seated a few seats behind me, came up to chat. She was glowing. We had noticed each other at the property’s Ayurvedic Pavilion, and were happy to compare notes.
Her BodyHoliday, I found out, was about healing from cancer—and she had chosen to travel to St. Lucia from New York, with her husband, specifically for consultations with Dr. Mahalingam Lakshmanan at the BodyScience Clinic. Meanwhile, one of my fondest memories was with archery coach Kennyson—and realizing I could hit a bulls-eye at a ridiculously long distance.
Others during our stay were working out with British Olympic swimming coaches, David Carry and Keri-Anne Payne, or opting for a number of adrenaline-packed adventures, or practicing Katti yoga, or chilling out with a spa treatment, or getting beautified at the Skin Clinic, or meditating amongst water lilies, or sampling one of the fine food venues—there were even a number of jovial wide-bodied types who were happily working out at the bar.
BodyHoliday, as it turns out, is a place where every body can take its own kind of holiday. That is a particular kind of magic.
“It’s an honest mix of an all-inclusive West Indian beach vacation with world-class programs of wellness designed to change your life for the better.”
When I asked Andrew Barnard, Executive Director, how he defines the place, he replied, “It’s an honest mix of an all-inclusive West Indian beach vacation with world-class programs of wellness designed to change your life for the better.”
And there you have it.
My big takeaway from my experience at BodyHoliday is that this place is real. What you see is what you get. And what you get is the opportunity to indulge in a smorgasbord of experiences, which ultimately leads not only to discovery and joy and fun—but to a better, more improved version of you.
Here’s something else Andrew said, “BodyHoliday is not defined by age, but by motivation. If you’re interested in BodyHoliday, then you’re interested in health and wellbeing.”
Back to the Beginning for a Minute
BodyHoliday, which recently celebrated its 30thanniversary (along with an extensive multi-million-dollar renovation), officially opened in December of 1988. The property was founded by Craig Barnard, Andrew’s father, who along with a few close friends, had identified a growing trend in the market.
BodyHoliday was designed for the times in which it was born—baby boomers with disposable incomes who had a deep desire to stay fit (and young) forever who were bouncing around to the thump, thump, thump of Jane Fonda fitness videos.
Andrew was 13 years old when BodyHoliday opened. “We used ‘Holiday of Rejuvenation’–the word ‘wellness’ didn’t exist,” he recalls. “Rejuvenation is what we [to this day] hang our hats on. The word encompasses everything. We want people to feel renewed.”
In its 30 years, the property has amassed a number of accolades and a loyal following—guests who return year after year for a welcome and unpretentious respite. “The idea that we came up with in the mid-eighties is more current today than it was at the time,” reflects Andrew.
“The premise and the mix of what we do haven’t changed,” he says. “The ingredients have . . . wellness has moved into the last thirty years, and we’ve been trying as hard as we can to be leaders in that without getting caught up in fads. I prefer the tried and tested.”
A Wellness Centre that’s Worth the Climb
I prefer the tried and tested, too. And, after years of trekking around the globe, all in the name of spa, I was curious to finally experience this place. The spa, or Wellness Centre, as it’s called, is a grand structure located atop a somewhat steep 90-step climb. I loved the daily climb, as it proved to be a meditation of sorts. Up, up, up, past the inviting Tree House and Zen Deck where a variety of fitness classes are offered, up past huge lush leafy greens and vibrant island flowers, up past colorful caterpillars and creatures I couldn’t see, and finally up to the Wellness Centre.
This is not your typical hush-hush, have a seat, and please-be-quiet-please facility. This place was abuzz with activity. It was alive and bustling with guests gathered around a central reception area. Some were awaiting appointments, some booking appointments, some changing appointments. But I didn’t spy one grumpy face—on neither guest nor staff.
This is not your typical hush-hush, have a seat, and please-be-quiet-please facility.
Perhaps that has to do with the fact that there are a number of inclusive treatments with one’s stay. On the inclusive spa menu: a Lucian Lime & Ginger Scrub; Full-Body Massage; The Saint Lucian Sizzler (a revitalizing massage); Nurturing Mother-to-be Massage; Thalassotherapy; Aloe-Vera Body Wrap; a Skin Specific Facial; Deluxe Coconut & Spice Combo (an invigorating massage); Thalgo Hydrating Facial Care; and Heaven & Earth, a hand, foot, and scalp massage followed by an herbal detox wrap of the feet. That’s a lot of lotion.
The Wellness Centre encompasses the BodyScience & Better Aging Clinic, the Skin Clinic and Beauty Salon, an Ayurvedic Pavilion, a well-equipped gym with topnotch personal trainers, and a Fitness & Yoga Studio. And lots of outdoor spaces to lose yourself in. One of the most popular hangouts by far (no pun intended) was the Far Infrared sauna chair haven.
My favorite spot in the spa? The sizable Thalassotherapy room where I spent as much time as I could, soaking in the seawater and being pleasantly pummeled by the massage jets. Talk about the tried and true—I can’t tell you how happy I was to discover this seawater facility, a true-blue piece of an authentic spa experience. The plus: there was always an attendant on hand (in my case the attentive and able-bodied Vanessa) with water and cold compress if needed. The minus: The facility was worn around the edges and obviously hadn’t been included in the multi-million-dollar renovation. Thalassotherapy is an important and core piece of spa and wellbeing that is becoming harder and harder to find. It is my hope that BodyHoliday continues to recognize its therapeutic value and does not do away with it.
What You Won’t Find at the Spa
A fancy locker room. This one is pretty basic—but guess what? You won’t miss the fancier one because you’ll be having too much fun running back and forth between treatments, taking a fitness class, working out at the gym, or just relaxing . . . and speaking of which . . .
There isn’t a relaxation room. Yes, that is correct. This took me a bit by surprise, so, naturally, I asked Andrew about it. “I think they’re vastly overrated,” he told me. “Why go sit in a relaxation area when you can go sit on the beach?”
My Spa & Wellness Menu
I booked all my appointments effortlessly online, in advance. I opted for a Lifestyle & Nutrition Consultation with Hiley Fulgence—the only person to ever tell me that it is perfectly fine not to be an eater of breakfast (thank you). I also had an Optimal Health Consultation with the aforementioned Dr. Mahalingam Lakshmanan who manages the BodyScience Clinic, followed by a Dosha Consultation at the Ayurvedic Pavilion.
I loved the Ayurvedic treatments I experienced with Jasmine: Abhyanga massage and Nabhi Abhyanga—the latter a wonderful abdominal massage (always massage in a clockwise direction with room-temperature oil, I learned). I so wish that more Americans understood the benefits of a good stomach massage, and wish it was offered on more spa menus in the States. So many American spa-goers won’t let therapists touch their bellies at all.
I enjoyed time in the Skin Clinic & Beauty Salon where I sampled two facials during my stay. One, a custom Skinceuticals’ facial with Samson, who really knew his products; and the other, a Thalgo facial with Crystal who gave me a wonderful facial massage with grapeseed oil.
New, Noteworthy, Not-to-Be Missed
I-Tal Organic Garden and Farm-to-Table Restaurant: Run by Rastafarian husband-and-wife team, Damian Adjodha, Environment & EcoSystems Leader, and Ratoya Adjodha, Organic Garden Supervisor, this is a true slice of West Indian paradise. Set aside time for an informative garden tour, forage for your lunch, and savor the fresh, organic fare that you won’t find elsewhere. Bonus: spectacular panoramic views of the Cariblue bay.
Firefly: Recently purchased by BodyHoliday, this serene villa is where the property’s new Retreats are centered. Complete with yoga lawn and pool, Firefly can comfortably accommodate up to a dozen people. A short walk from the resort and connected via a path through the garden, Firefly is a secluded space and offers a quiet setting with sweeping ocean views. Numerous retreats from yoga to detox to weight loss are offered throughout the year.
Juices & Smoothies at The Deli, the open-air venue that serves up all kinds of healthy options like Boosters (try the Beetroot, Apple, Lemon & Cinnamon); Smoothies (bet you never had a Carrot, Pineapple, Prune Bowl); and Juices (I liked the Liver Detox, concocted from lime juice, greens, carrot, cucumber, beetroot, radish, ginger, and celery). For lunch one day at The Deli, I opted for the West Indian Bento Box, a new taste sensation for me, which included St. Lucian Roti, Stewed Salt Fish, Fig Salad, Fried Bakes, and Coconut Relish.
Afternoon Tea at The Clubhouse:The Clubhouse is really the resort’s living room, and I settled in one rainy afternoon with the Wellness Inspired Tea service, which included “Beetroot, Carrot, Goat’s Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds and Microgreens; Tart, Crushed Green Peas, Beetroot Chutney; Salmon Gravlax, Sour Cream, Multigrain Toast; Lemongrass Chicken, Carrot, Avocado.” In the end, I couldn’t resist, and ate the scones. They went very well with the Organic Chamomile tea.
The Wine Salon: Ask for General Manager Pascal Bertrand’s advice on choosing one of the property’s outstanding wines. You won’t be disappointed.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its 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 is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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