Insider's Guide to Spas
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, Malaysia


Traveling with Wellness in Mind

Mary Bemis

Wellness travel—travel associated with the goal of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being—is thriving, as shown in the recently released 2015 State of Wellness Travel Report from Spafinder Wellness 365. The Miami-based company, which estimates the wellness travel sector, a global market, at $494 billion, reports wellness travel is encompassing luxury spas and much more in far away places.

We were happy and not that surprised to discover that Asia (for the first time in the survey’s eight years) ranked as the fastest-growing global wellness travel destination with Thailand ranked first within that region, followed by Bali/Indonesia and India.

 ” . . . the survey reveals a savvy new traveler: one who demands an extremely wide range of healthier experiences from check in to check out.”

“It is clear that health-conscious consumers are becoming more sophisticated about their wellness-related needs while traveling,” shares Mia Kyricos, chief brand officer of Spafinder Wellness. “Today, wellness travel reaches far beyond traditional spa experiences, and the survey reveals a savvy new traveler: one who demands an extremely wide range of healthier experiences from check in to check out.”

More Fast Facts from the Wellness Travel Report

Hot Wellness Destinations: In addition to the above-named hotspots, in Europe, Hungary, Croatia, Turkey, Italy, and Greece were standouts. Across the Middle East/Africa, the top popularity gainers were Israel, Dubai, and Morocco. In the US, the West Coast remained the fastest-growing wellness destination, followed by the Southwest and Hawaii.

Factors Driving Growth: According to the survey, these included people’s rising stress levels, more wellness-focused vacation properties offering much more diverse  options and price ranges, and the fact that people are working harder than ever and vacations are more precious than ever.

Top Wellness Brands: Among the dozens of hotels, resorts, spa brands, and individual properties, these five top brands were way ahead of the pack: Canyon Ranch, Starwood (including Westin, St. Regis, and Sheraton), Four Seasons, Hyatt, and Six Senses.

New Breed of Wellness Traveler: No surprise here! The results show that the “very new breed of traveler” is one who “values eco-friendly properties/destinations over traditional sports like golf/tennis.” These are the folks who actively seek voluntourism opportunities when making their travel plans.

Wellness Elements that Matter: Sixteen different property wellness “elements” were rated, and every single component—from healthy cuisine (yay!) to outdoor adventure programming to hot or mineral springs to alternative medical services—rated as “important,” scoring at least 5.9 out of 10.

Yes, We Will Pay a Premium: The survey showed that consumers are willing to pay a premium for wellness travel or access to healthy products and services while traveling.

Five of My Favorite Wellness Getaways

Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, a spectacular property overseen by award-winning hotelier

Abadia Retuerta Le Domaine

Abadia Retuerta Le Domaine

Andres Araya, is located in a magical restored 12th-century abbey and winery in Spain’s Duero wine-growing region. El Santuario, the new and very noteworthy 10,000-square-foot spa, offers a unique personalized wellness experience that draws inspiration from Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Five Element theory—and the wine-tasting ritual. There is a spa sommelier on hand to happily and wisely guide you through a wonderful sensory wellness journey. Superb spa treatments and staff, outstanding cuisine, gorgeous design details (make sure you check out every cozy nook and cranny in the spa), a major art collection, and more make this a winning wellness newcomer.

Four Seasons Resort Langkawi, Malaysia, is where spa and wellness options abound. Malaysia and her mysteries have always called to me, and this stunning property, located in Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO Geopark (think massive ancient rock formations, a thick, lush rainforest, and a mangrove-drenched tapestry) did not disappoint. The Geo Spa is set amidst six serene “floating” spa pavilions and specializes in ancient healing energies and treatments with a focus on Ramuan traditions. Treatments are wisely divided among four categories, based on the four “life requisites of the creatures within the Geopark,” enabling you to address specific wellness needs: Nourishment to calm, nurture, and ground; Water to refresh, release, and reconnect; Light to energize and illuminate; and Air to balance and heal.

Vana Malsi Estate, in the foothills of the Himalayas, lies in the city of Dehradun, about


Vana Malsi Estate

an hour’s flight from New Delhi. Founder Veer Singh’s vision was to create the most iconic wellness retreat in the world. Vana is part ashram, part nature retreat, and part wellness center. Here, you’re able to explore all of the aspects of wellbeing, be that emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual, via a plethora of programs and options. There are many fine details—from an authentic Panchakarma program to organic cuisine to its topnotch facilities and modernist, calming design—that set Vana apart. One very important detail—and not to be missed—is the offering of authentic Tibetan therapies. The Tibetan spa therapists here come from the Men-Tsee-Khang, the Tibetan Medical and Astrology Institute in Dharamshala, set up by his Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Hotel Bellevue on the idyllic island of Losinj,on the stunning

Hotel Bellevue

Hotel Bellevue

Croatian Coast is a gem of a hideaway that’s on the verge of becoming a major spa and wellness destination. It boasts an ideal climate that landed the 20-mile-long island firmly on the health resort map. Back in 1892, because of this curative climate, the Austro-Hungarian government declared Losinj a natural health resort. It quickly became renowned for its healing powers and natural beauty. In July 2014, the rebirth of Losinj began with the 50 million Euro grand reopening of the Bellevue Hotel and its state-of-the-art spa, SPA Clinic. Sleek, airy, and loaded with natural light and textures, the property is a complete revision of its former self, an iconic 1960s hotel. It has the best spot in Cikat Bay, secluded and nestled in a forest park of ancient Aleppo pines—literally steps away from the sea. A healing destination if ever there was one.

Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills continues to surprise me with its ability to keep

Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills

its finger on the wellness pulse—especially when it comes to food, fitness, and eclectic spa treatments. The spa here may be small, but that doesn’t stop it from offering some of the best treatments around (if I were handing out awards for best facials in LA—the Rejuvenating Oxygen Facial comes to mind—this place would be first on my list). One of the more unusual spa services is something called “BioMeditation” performed by super-soft-spoken practitioner Jeannette von Johnsbach. The ultimate purpose of this energy therapy is to basically unblock one’s energy blockages. (The first time I tried this, the piece of paper she placed on my forehead curled up. Not sure what that meant, but the session was relaxing.) I was impressed with the in-room fitness options, thanks to a very smart partnership with local Blue Clay Fitness who created 200+ workout videos and yoga videos for the in-room iPads, and the delectable healthy cuisine available poolside at the Cabana restaurant—thanks to a partnership with the incredible sister duo, Heather Bell and Jenny Engel of Spork Foods, a local gourmet vegan food company. There’s lots more here to whet your wellness whistle.









Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis

Mary Bemis is editorial director of 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.