Insider's Guide to Spas
Kayaking at Hilton Head Health is just one of numerous activities.

Health Resort

Improving Wellbeing at Hilton Head Health

Irvina Lew

  • Hilton Head Health
  • Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
  • +1 843-785-3919

In September, 2018, about a month after my stay, Hurricane Florence skirted and spared Hilton Head Island. So, you’ll find that Hilton Head Health, aka H3, is a very special wellness retreat at a desirable vacation destination, near beach, golf, tennis, and with a myriad of available naturalist and water activities.

I found a familiar feel from prior visits more than a decade ago. Streets lined with live oaks draped with moss. Towering pines shaded walking paths. Bike-lined racks waited at the ready. Smiles greeted me at the concierge desk. Obvious physical changes had been made to the main house, which had clearly been updated with a beautifully expanded dining room, now, with a glass pavilion, corridors wide enough to function as a lounge, a grand, dedicated demonstration kitchen, and a stunningly landscaped courtyard. The serene, stand-alone Indigo Spa was new to me, and I scheduled an Arnica and hot towel massage (which was super!).

A Weight-Loss Experience that’s Actually Good for You

From the incredibly welcoming and easy-to-navigate Savannah International Airport, the trip took less than an hour, and the driver installed my luggage in my “room” within a nearby two- bedroom, three-bath duplex with a fully outfitted kitchen, dining area, living room, and two porches. The back deck overlooked a waterway and golf course. H3 has started buying these rental condominiums and updating and decorating them; soon accommodations will go from comfortable to contemporary-lovely.

H3 is unabashedly open about being “A weight loss experience that’s good for mind, body and soul.” One cover page of a hand-out states unequivocally: “Poor diet is now the #1 cause of death and disability in the United States, exceeding smoking by quite a considerable margin. Poor nutrition is now the single leading cause of poor health in the U. S.”

The exceptional nutritional education program that attracted me to H3 originally, remains its core tenet, not an après-lunch or an-evening-a-week add-on. Although not every guest is overweight, most want to lose a few pounds, some guests choose dedicated theme weeks, such as one devoted to Diabetes (or golf), and some are challenged with serious weight issues. The rigorous Lose Well Program—available for an extended stay—offers a small-group, personal, counselor-led structured schedule, including fitness, lectures, and fun activities. The Living Well program includes similar lectures and classes. Folks, like me, who relish healthy havens for a few days at a time, learn new techniques and are reminded of classic tips, as we jump start a wellness or weight-loss campaign.

Expert Wellness Instructors & Healthy How-Tos

The program is staffed with inspiring wellness educators, including Bob Wright whose lectures I still remember from prior visits. Each might be a session in a class I’d call: Eat Well, Live Well 101. Practical topics, such as Breaking Up with Sugar, Portion Control, Mindful Eating and Restaurant Survival Strategies are introduced and explained; there are take-home hand-outs and time for questions. I keep my hand-outs  “handy,” though some basics are ingrained: “Always order sauces and dressings on the side!”

One of the highlights of my stay was a private trip to the supermarket with Registered Dietitian Elizabeth Huggins, MESS.RD.LE.CDE, who pointed out some healthy choices: Horizon organic low-fat milk, Amy’s Black Bean burrito, Coleman natural bacon, fresh packaged veggies for slaw. Best, she introduced me to a valuable shopping application for my phone, FOODUCATE. From a picture, it rates foods and recommends those that are healthier alternatives. I’m a fan of spa cooking classes because, invariably, I learn something and, frankly, they’re fun. During her demonstration class, Executive Chef Kara Williams, who also teaches privately, told us about Tru-Nut powdered peanut butter which reduces the amount—and, subsequently the calories—of creamy peanut butter.

Her portion-sized menu at True meets the guidelines of the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and American Diabetes Association. Meals are delicious, wholesome, and prepared with real-food, though not always organic, ingredients. Sustainable, local products from South Carolina purveyors include Frommers (granola) and Sprout Mamma (bread). Dishes are designed to maximize each guest’s suggested calorie count, between 1200 to 1600 daily, and the menu clearly indicates calories for each item and whether it meets Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegetarian, or Vegan preferences.

I discovered that H3 avocado toast is satisfying without breaking the calorie bank: a poached egg on spinach, with sliced avocado and salsa served on one half piece of whole-wheat toast. Recognizable “plain” American foods are always available—salmon, chicken, filet mignon—along with interesting multi-ethnic dishes. I particularly enjoyed what I don’t make at home, for example, a Thai Peanut Slaw prepared with a Thai Peanut Vinaigrette.

A Menu to Make Your Own

A create-your-own section on the menu offers build-a-meal options that are also a take-away technique to replicate at home or in a restaurant. Choose: protein + sauce + starch + vegetables. For example, I ordered grilled salmon with a balsamic glaze, roasted fingerling potatoes, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, and haricots verts; for about 300 calories!

Along with three proper meals, Fit Bites are recommended twice a day and there’s an entire buffet station adjacent to the dining room stocked with snacks, as an example of what folks could do at home! Along with whole and cut fruit and veggies, there were numerous portion-controlled packages of healthy store-bought snacks: Oikos yogurt, Musselman’s natural applesauce, peanut butter hummus, nuts, raisins, and dried fruit.

Naturally, movement is essential, and there are 50 fitness options, weekly. I participated in morning walks on a pristine beach, a class to learn how to use fitness bands, the recommended 15 to 30-minute Thermal Walk after lunch, and back-to-back aqua-aerobics sessions in the palm-bedecked pool.

Yes, I was very happy to return to Hilton Head Health and highly recommend it.



Irvina Lew

Irvina Lew

Author and freelance travel writer Irvina Lew covers food for She has been writing about pure spa cuisine for decades. This peripatetic Long Island native credits her personal wellness to all she has learned from spa experts.