Travel Thailand by checking out these 10 renowned wellness retreats
PHUKET: The island of Phuket is a great place to relax and unwind, but health-holidays have become a booming business here as of late. The internationally acclaimed Thanyapura Health & Sports Resort is perhaps one of the island’s most unique properties, with a primary focus on fitness and sports training—for some at an Olympic level. In fact, athletes of all sorts use the state-of-the-art facilities here to train and prepare for global sporting events. So join the international swim teams doing laps in the 50-metre and 25-metre Olympic pools, improve your backhand at the indoor and outdoor tennis courts, work out indoors using the 900 sq.m of gym facilities, or get your “kicks” in the Muay Thai training ring or the FIFA standard football pitch. And all the while you’ll have the hotel’s team of expertly qualified instructors and attendants at your disposal for instructions and coaching. For overnight guests the resort offers clean, comfortable, and spacious rooms, and the property itself is divided into a 77-room Pool Wing, and a newly renovated and exceedingly tranquil 37-room Garden Wing. The complex also features an award-winning healthy food restaurant, a holistic wellness center, and a clinic run by expert medical staff.
A much different magnet for health conscious travelers is the Atmanjai Detox & Wellness Centre. Billed as Phuket’s only beachfront wellness spa with private cleansing rooms, this detox, yoga, fitness, and wellness retreat offers guests a healthy stay at a spectacular oceanfront location—right on Chalong Bay. The center is a friendly, relaxing environment where guests can participate in safe, proven, effective programs that improve health, vitality, and happiness. Clients have the choice to stay either at The Friendship Beach Resort onsite, or at Atmanjai’s luxury sister hotel the Serenity Resort & Residences (just a 5-minute walk along the beach). Choose a Deluxe Room or the Luxury Serenity Suite, or opt for a shared dormitory-style room which features two single beds—ideal for those looking to meet new people while at the same time reducing the cost of their trip. Guests also have access to the swimming pool, fitness centre, and watersports equipment for kitesurfing and paddle boarding. For diners, the aptly named Supernataural Restaurant is an open-air seaside eatery offering fresh juices alongside vegan, vegetarian, and raw food dishes.
Another premiere Phuket property is the Amatara Wellness Resort, which offers guests a 5-star luxury, bespoke experience against the gorgeous natural backdrop of Cape Panwa. The spacious and stunningly designed 22 pavilions and 48 suites each feature private balcony sea views, while each of the 35 pool villas offers guests a private swim area. Conceptually the overall “experience” is one of total wellness, and offers an all-inclusive program combining organic and nutritional food at The Retreat, the dedicated restaurant, along with personalized wellness exercise and leisure activities—from yoga, Pilates, and fitness, to a steam room with an infrared sauna. In addition, all Amatara programs include an unforgettable Thai Hammam Experience, which brings together traditional Turkish and Moroccan bathing practices with the wisdom and gentleness of Thai spa therapies.
Thailand’s north is always a relaxing place to visit, but at the RarinJinda Wellness Spa & Onsen Resort that peace of mind is taken to the next level. Housed in a 140-year-old antique Thai teakwood home, this boutique resort offers 35 luxurious deluxe and suite rooms, in four categories, all embellished and decorated with both modern touches and stylish antiques. All rooms are also outfitted with private verandas with Doi Suthep mountain and Ping River views. The facilities include a well-equipped wellness spa, and fitness and yoga studio, as well as an outdoor swimming pool, hydrotherapy tub, whirlpool with chromotherapy, rainforest steam and sauna, and Japanese-style Onsen bath. In addition, an alternative medicine specialist and nurses are also available on the premises to provide consultation and guidance.
There are many venues and properties on Koh Samui offering health-minded holidays, and the best known is undoubtedly the Kamalaya, an award-winning wellness sanctuary and holistic spa resort. Travelers looking for a life-enriching healthy holiday can take advantage of detox programs and yoga classes or, for a more personalized experience, the resort’s team of naturopaths can create custom programs utilizing holistic medicine, spa, and healing therapies. There are 54 accommodation options, ranging from hillside rooms with breathtaking views, to private pool villas near the beach.
Another Samui situated wellness centre is the Samahita Retreat, which has been a pioneer in healthy programming for body, breath, and mind for almost 15 years, and is known as one of the most authentic yoga teaching locations worldwide. This lifestyle retreat center features a variety of guest room options, four dedicated yoga salas, an indoor cycle studio at the beach, an open air fitness and sea-view loft, a detox and wellness center, a juice and coffee bar, and Sattva Dining, their celebrated buffet–style health-food restaurant. The resort is also smoke and alcohol free, which for some might be a definite added bonus.
Although Koh Phangan is known by many for its infamous full-moon beach parties, it’s known in other circles a ground zero for yoga retreats in Thailand—and the Ananda Wellness Resort Yoga & Detox Center leads the pack. The resort offers yoga retreat and yoga teacher training packages, as well as detox programs that assist in getting rid of harmful acids and toxins, clearing out blockages, and generally improving circulation (which benefits emotional, mental, and spiritual states). The accommodations are not über-luxury, but the bungalows, private rooms, and dorm rooms all include air conditioning. Water therapy amenities consists of a salt water swimming pool—free of all chlorinated products—and a relaxing herbal steaming sauna. In addition, the resort’s Love Kitchen has a full selection of fresh vegetarian and vegan items on offer.
Finally, for the last word in over-the-top health retreats, it would be hard to top The Sanctuary. The resort lives up to its name, as it’s located on a private beach and is almost inaccessible by anything other than a boat. Most guests sign up for package treatments, such as the popular 3.5 Day Detox which includes everything from Psyllium husk and bentonite clay purification “shakes” to daily organic coffee colonic flushes. The resort also offers yoga, meditation, and other healing therapies, and the accommodations range from simple dormitory beds to exotic and romantic houses inspired by traditional Thai architecture. There’s also something called Detox Accommodation, which is only available for those undertaking a detox or wellness package, as the bathrooms have been modified for colonic treatments.
When it first opened in 1995, the Chiva-Som luxury health resort was the epitome of first-class wellness treatment in Thailand. Now, over 20 years on, it retains that title and goes even further, offering guests a staggering array of holistic treatments, lifestyle programs, medical services, healing massages, and fitness regimes.
The atmosphere at this prestigious property is a mix of friendly Thai aesthetics and high-end, clinical-grade facilities. The outdoor Yoga Pavillion, for instance, is a lovely wooden deck with peaked Thai-style roof surrounded on all sides by greenery, while the indoor Water Therapy Suites (separate for men and women) are full of gleaming tiles, chrome faucets, and ultra-modern steam, sauna, and Jacuzzi areas. This contrast exists elsewhere as well—the indoor Bathing Pavilion is more of a workout pool, while the expansive outdoor common area swimming pool is for pure relaxation—but these divergent elements simply contribute to an overall whole that literally takes care of ALL your wellness needs. In addition, the on-site Niranlada Medi-Spa complements the traditional approach with the latest developments in modern aesthetic treatments and micro-invasive cosmetic surgery (the facility is under the supervision of world-renowned cosmetic dermatologist and surgeon Dr. Niwat Polnikorn and his experienced medical team).
The Chiva-Som property occupies seven acres of picturesque beachfront land, and offers 54 accommodations suites of various sizes. Most have been recently remodeled, and guests can choose between various-sized sea view suites—the 48 sq.m Ocean Deluxe Rooms are supremely comfortable—or opt for the 36 sq.m Thai Pavilion units that look out onto the garden. Either way you’ll get a sleek, elegantly designed room with all the modern facilities, including air-conditioning, flatscreen TV, Wi-Fi, mini-fridge, bedside light switch controls, and more.
The price and duration depends on the room size and retreat package you choose—over a dozen are listed on the website, from detox, to yoga, to weight management—and although each package includes meals, the treatments guests receive differ, as they are customized according to your initial health consultation which guests go through upon arrival. A minimum 3-night stay is required for almost all guests, but some programs can extend to a full 14 days. As a result, you soon start to see some familiar faces during your visit.
Another interesting aspect of the Chiva-Som experience is that guests are required to refrain from using cell phones and cameras in all common areas. Part of this is to assure guest privacy, but it also acts as a kind of “digital detox” where guests take a few meditative moments to step away from their smartphone screens. It was particularly interesting to see this during mealtimes. There were no foodie pics being posted on Instagram and no Facebook statuses being updated… instead people were actually talking to one another across the table!
Speaking of meals, the food at the resort is all carefully prepared with healthy eating in mind. Portions are smaller, the use of sugar, salt, butter, and oil is limited, and no pork appears on any of the menus (for health reasons as well as Halal dietary restrictions). Guests have the option of dining at either the stately Emerald Room or the beachfront Taste of Siam restaurants, the latter of which offers fully vegetarian breakfasts and lunches.
NOTE: From June 1st to October 31st, 2017, Thai residents and expats with proof of residency can take advantage of Chiva-Som’s Thai Resident Retreat. With a minimum stay of 2 nights, guests will receive special room rates, all meals, physical analysis and skin consultation, unlimited use of the Water Therapy Suites, one daily massage or body treatment, and more.
A relative newcomer to the wellness holiday scene, Tree Roots Retreat (which began operations in October of 2016) has nevertheless proven itself to be both a popular spot for health and fitness buffs looking for a laid back, beach access getaway that’s not too far from Bangkok. They offer a range of fitness, conditioning, strength, and relaxation courses.
The accommodations consist of nine bungalow units which look out onto a private pool and garden. The units are all nicely furnished—great linen and supremely comfortable king-size beds—with high-ceilings and a staircase leading up to a 2nd storey loft area. The rooms also have air-conditioning (or overhead fan if you prefer), en-suite bathroom, mini-fridge and coffee making facilities, Wi-Fi, and a small poolside terrace. However, the rooms do not have TVs, which may be problematic for some but if you’re serious about the “retreat” aspect, it’s a definite plus. Another bonus for true solace seekers is that children are not allowed, although pets are definitely welcome.
Alongside these cozy bungalows, Tree Roots also offers a wide spectrum of fitness facilities. At the far end of the property there’s a well-stocked gym—open 24 hours a day—with plenty of free weights, stationary cycles, and other muscle making machinery. Directly above the gym is an indoor room for hot yoga, and an outdoor terrace for regular yoga.
The other main exercise area is a large open-air covered platform with a complex network of colourful Yoga Fly hammocks hanging from elevated supports. Yoga Fly is big part of the fitness program here, and a qualified aerial yoga instructor teaches every weekend. It’s a total body workout and an excellent way to strengthen your core, improve your balance, and relieve stress.
Another unique training option offered here is the Crazy Monkey Defense Program, which makes use of the two boxing rings which are adjacent to the Yoga Fly area. This particular training program—described as the “yoga of martial arts”—is more about self-preservation than self-defence, where you tap into your own “warrior spirit” and better enable yourself to deal with everything from unwanted attacks to workplace conflicts. There’s also other physical regimens on offer, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, surfing, and stand-up paddling (the calm ocean waters of nearby Mae Ram Phueng Beach are perfect for the latter).
Tree Roots is the vision of founder Aaron Le Boutillier, who believes mindfulness, movement, and meditation can best be experienced through a combination of martial arts, cardiovascular-intense exercises, and the beauty of architecture, landscaping, and design. Together with his helpful staff—including the delightful mustachioed GM Crispin J. G. Paton-Smith, who makes sure every detail is taken care of—they’ve created a very cool, attitude-free spot for healthy holidays.
Oh, and don’t bother bringing a book to read as Aaron, a former bookshop owner and book collector (and celebrated author), has over 40,000 on the premises. They’re literally everywhere—from the rooms, to the restaurant, to the on-site library.