Health Spas for Fitness and Fun

Discover vacation resorts that provide health spas for fitness and fun, including Desert Hot Springs Spa, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Anaconda-Pintlar Wilderness area and Kripalu Holistic Health Center.

Kripalu health spa retreat

Kripalu yoga retreat. Keeping fit has become an American pastime, and has given birth to a multimillion-dollar industry, with facilities that range from corner YMCA's to posh five-star luxury resorts.


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More folks are spending vacations at health spas for fitness and fun, caring for their most important friends . . . themselves! 

Regular readers know that MOTHER tries to present many different life choices within these pages. That's why it's possible to see an article on butchering pork in the same issue as a selection of meatless sandwich recipes! And, in keeping with this philosophy, we've rounded up some information on what's been called "The Vacation of the 80's" . . . and plan to explore with you the excitement, the hard work, and the fun associated with spending some time at a fitness resort.

Keeping fit has become an American pastime, and has given birth to a multimillion-dollar industry, with facilities that range from corner YMCA's to posh five-star luxury resorts. Now we realize that a lot of folks don't have the time, the money, or even the inclination

to visit such places (and after all, a few hours spent chopping wood can benefit the body while it fills the woodbin!). However, if you're in the market for a vacation spot that offers pleasant accommodations, good food, and sports and recreational facilities . . . a health resort is hard to beat. To top it all off, you may just lose a few pounds, shrink a few inches, gain a better understanding of how best to care for your body, and — perhaps most important of all — develop a new, improved set of fitness habits.

But, you may well want to know, what can one expect when visiting a spa for a weeklong program? In most cases, you'll get an initial physical examination by a staff doctor and a consultation with a nutritionist. You can also anticipate following a dietary regimen consisting of 500 to 1,000 calories per day, or a fasting program of fruit juice or mineral water. All such resorts feature group exercise classes, and allow time for individual workouts on machines, weights, and stationary bicycles. Swimming pools are practically mandatory, as are saunas and whirlpools. Most spas start each day with a brisk walk, hike, or jog . . . and further exercise is encouraged (often tennis, golf, or horseback riding). Various beauty services are usually offered, too . . . such as facials, massages, herbal wraps, and makeup and hair consultations.

Originally the word "spa" meant a mineral spring, or a resort having a mineral spring on its premises. Today the term encompasses any commercial establishment with exercise rooms, saunas, and whirlpools. The list that follows is separated into three categories: true "spas" built around hot mineral springs . . . health "farms" that emphasize fasting, vegetarianism, and a wholistic lifestyle . . . and the luxurious reports that specialize in pampering souls while reshaping bodies. Most of these places have seasonal rates, and — if the spa experience fits your lifestyle and budget — this may be the best time of year to go. (All rates quoted are based on 1982 brochures.)


Desert Hot Springs Spa. About 1000 B.C. (give or take a few decades), a huge tremor shook the earth . . . created the San Andreas Fault in California . . . and released the hot mineral water that gushes from below the Desert Hot Springs Spa near Palm Springs, California. Located 1,200 feet above the surrounding arid expanse of sand, with views of Mt. San Jacinto, this spa boasts of being the only resort in the world to offer the combination of hot mineral waters and a dry, desert climate. The therapeutic liquid bubbles from the earth at temperatures of up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and is odorless, crystal clear, and delicious.

A chiropractor and nutritionist are on staff for consultation . . . and special package deals are available, one of which offers six days and five nights for $173 per person, double occupancy. (For more information, write to Desert Hot Springs Spa, Dept. TMEN, Desert Hot Springs, California.)

Fairmont Hot Springs Resort. There are actually two Fairmont spas, one located between Anaconda and Butte, Montana . . . the other nestled in the Canadian Rockies between Golden and Cranbrook, British Columbia. Both feature golf, swimming, angling, hot mineral pools . . . and wintertime diversions such as skiing, ice-fishing, and snowmobiling.

The Anaconda- Pintlar Wilderness area — with its campgrounds, hiking trails, and wildlife — is near the U.S. Fairmont. Although the resort emphasizes family fun and entertainment more than fitness and weight loss, the naturally heated hot springs (ranging from 98 degrees Fahrenheit to 112 degrees Fahrenheit) do attract folks seeking the water's reputed benefits. The double-occupancy daily rate for a motel-like room is $48. (Details are available from Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, Dept. TMEN, Anaconda, Montana.)

Hot Springs Lodge, Pool, and Athletic Club. Situated near the more famous resorts of Aspen and Vail, Hot Springs credits itself with the largest naturally warmed, open-air mineral water pool in the world. The two-block-long facility is heated by the flowing Yampah Hot Springs and then cooled to a comfortable swimming temperature by mountain spring water. (However, a nearby thermal pool is maintained at a muscle-pleasing 104 degrees Fahrenheit.) The atmosphere is informal, and the emphasis is on exercise rather than diet (this is not a club for folks whose express purpose is to lose weight). Double-occupancy room rates average $40 per day, while an additional $9.50 is charged for use of the athletic club. (Contact Hot Springs Lodge and Pool, Dept. TMEN, Glenwood Springs, Colorado.)

Safety Harbor Spa. Initially founded to provide access to the famed Espiritu Santo Springs and their reputed restorative powers, this luxury resort hotel and tennis club complex has since expanded to offer much more. Located on Old Tampa Bay between Tampa and Clearwater, Florida, Safety Harbor features an indoor therapy pool (with swirling waters maintained at 98 degrees Fahrenheit), mineral baths, a whirlpool, "his and her" solariums, yoga instruction, and the services of a variety of medical experts . . . as well as the usual tennis, golf, and water sports. The resort is open only from December to May, and double-occupancy rates average $108 per person per day. (You can find out more from Safety Harbor Spa, Dept. TMEN, Safety Harbor, Florida.)

San Carlos Inn. When Ponce de Léon traveled from Spain to the New World in search of the Fountain of Youth, he may well have been responding to tales about the warm mineral springs located behind the San Carlos Inn in Fort Myers, Florida. It's said that the waters come from deep within the earth — a full quarter-mile down — and about a million gallons of the warm (90.26 degrees Fahrenheit), bubbly, mineral-rich liquid spew forth each day. The springs have been judged to be some of the finest in the world, rivaling those of the more famous mineral spas in Baden-Baden in Germany and Aixles-Bains in France.

Additional features include freshwater swimming, fishing, canoeing, golf, bicycling, and exercise facilities. The inn itself is fairly modest, and the off season double-occupancy room rate (from May 1 to December 15) is a reasonable $32 per night. (Write or call San Carlos Inn, Dept. TMEN, Fort Myers, Florida.)


The Ashram. This austere, no-frills resort, located 45 minutes north of Los Angeles, reputedly packs a powerful punch . . . from all reports, it takes real stamina to last out one's stay! Eight guests are selected each week (through extensive telephone interviews), and those who are permitted to come are subjected to grueling physical workouts, especially hiking in the mountains surrounding the retreat. The diet is primarily raw, always vegetarian fare . . . consisting of fruits, vegetables, seeds, sprouts, nuts, and berries. Guests lose weight . . . but — more notably — they lose inches, and they work muscles that they often never knew existed! The weekly rate is $1,100 per person. (The Ashram's address is Dept. TMEN, Calabasas, California.)

Hippocrates World Health Organization. Folks come to the Hippocrates Institute in Boston, Massachusetts in order to learn a new lifestyle . . . a process which involves attending daily classes and participating in a two-week "learn by doing" program. Ann Wigmore is the founder and president of the institute, whose exercise program emphasizes flexibility, proper posture, and deep breathing . . . and whose diet regimen relies heavily on chlorophyll-rich greens and wheatgrass.

The Hippocrates philosophy maintains that the body is always capable of healing itself . . . given proper (raw food) nourishment, a positive mental attitude, and adequate exercise. The institute also offers a ten-week comprehensive wholistic training program. The two-week rate is $1,300, while children aged 3 to 16 and the second person in a couple can stay for half price. The rates are 20% lower from November through March, too. (Contact Hippocrates World Health Organization, Dept. TMEN, Boston, Massachusetts.)

Kripalu Holistic Health Center. See information on the center at the end of this article.

Little Switzerland Wholistic Health Center and Mountain Health Retreat. Situated in the beautiful and rugged mountains of western Colorado, Little Switzerland's philosophy rests in rediscovering the ancient laws of Mother Nature that govern body, mind, and consciousness. Founded by Drs. Paul and Marie Farber, the center offers wholistic health-care seminars ... and provides polarity balancing, acupuncture, hot mineral baths, massage, hydrotherapy, biofeedback, and more.

A week-long analysis and treatment program may cost $200 to $500 (depending upon individual needs), and accommodations are arranged for clients at nearby motels — with mineral spa facilities — for about $35 a day per person. (To find out more about this organization, write to the Wholistic World Healing Foundation, Dept. TMEN, Ouray, Colorado.)

New Age Health Farm of Neversink. This rural retreat in upstate New York has combined the characteristics of a "classic" European health spa with a New Age awareness of the interconnection of mind, body, and spirit. The farm specializes in fasting (water or fruit juice) and weight loss, using the wholistic approach, and activities are planned to nourish the spirit and the mind as well as the body. Staff members also offer beauty consultations and treatments, using natural products. Weekly Double-occupancy rates begin at $234 per person. (Contact New Age Health Farm, Dept. TMEN, Neversink, New York.)

Pawling Health Manor. The folks at Pawling have been promoting the wholistic approach to health for over 20 years, and not only can they help their guests lose weight and tone up, but they also have an effective "stop smoking" program. (Warning: Smoking is never permitted.) Daily workshops in nutrition, vegetarianism, fasting, and food preparation are offered . . . as are "relaxacise" classes, the use of a fully equipped gymnasium, and nutritious meals. The atmosphere is informal, and weekly rates start at $330 per person. (Details are available from Pawling Health Manor, Dept. TMEN, Hyde Park, New York.)

Shangri-La Natural Health Resort. This Shangri-La views good health as the essential pathway to happiness. The program is totally natural, focusing on yoga and fasting (or, if eating at all, the use of wholesome organic foods). No canned or frozen products are ever served, and "the vegetarian cuisine reigns supreme". Double-occupancy rates for May through December, 1982 average $38 per person per day . . . and the resort offers a 10% discount to guests who stay three months or longer. (Contact Shangri-La Natural Health Resort, Dept. TMEN, Bonita Springs, Florida.)


Canyon Ranch Spa. Situated on 28 acres in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona's majestic Santa Catalina Mountains, the Canyon Ranch Spa boasts 360 sunny days each year, and offers a 28,000-square-foot, climate-controlled building for non-sun worshipers. Three gyms host 15 exercise classes a day, and racquetball, weight training, hiking, swimming, jogging, golf, and horseback riding are offered, as well. Mealtime portions are determined by one's need to lose, maintain, or gain weight . . . and all recipes are available for the residents to take home. Double-occupancy rates — which include three meals plus full use of all facilities — average $120 per person per day. (You can learn more by getting in touch with the Canyon Ranch Spa, Dept. TMEN, Tucson, Arizona.)

The Greenbrier. A spa is just one of numerous facilities available to guests at this gracious resort in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia. The Greenbrier is not specifically geared toward fitness and weight loss, and there's no diet regimen. But since it's truly a sports(wo)man's paradise, anyone with a dash of self-discipline should have no problem shedding a few pounds while enjoying a luxurious vacation. In addition to the renowned mineral baths, whirlpools, sauna, steam rooms, and massage services, the Greenbrier offers three 18-hole golf courses, 20 tennis courts (including five air-conditioned indoor ones), trap and skeet ranges, and an eight-lane bowling center ... plus shuffleboard, horseshoes, bicycling, fishing, hiking, jogging, and horseback riding. Guesthouse rates average $110 per person per day, and a limited number of golf and tennis cottages are available for $78 per person . . . all the prices include breakfasts and dinners. (Write or call the Greenbrier, Dept. TMEN, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.)

Lido Spa. If you're interested in getting suntanned as well as slim, you might want to consider the Lido Spa, nestled in the heart of Miami Beach, Florida. This facility actually guarantees weight loss: A staff dietician consults with each guest and plans an individually tailored program. Included in the cost of accommodations are a physical exam and daily massage . . . the use of golf, tennis, and spa facilities . . . and all meals. Double-occupancy daily rates in the fall season start at $38 per person. (Contact the Lido Spa, Dept. TMEN, Miami Beach, Florida.)

The World of Palm-Aire. One of Florida's — and the nation's — most luxurious health resorts, Palm-Aire offers a seven-day "executive fitness" program for men and a seven-day "renaissance spa" program for women. Other options include a four-day plan designed for maximum weight loss and cardiovascular fitness . . . and a four-day spa and sports plan that combines exercise with the use of Palm-Aires numerous recreational facilities: five 18-hole golf courses, 37 tennis courts, four racquetball courts, salt- and freshwater swimming pools, and a jogging course with exercise stations positioned along it. The double-occupancy daily rate for a seven-day package is $311. (Write or call Palm-Aire, Dept. TMEN, Pompano Beach, Florida.)

The Phoenix. The problem with most health spa vacations—according to the directors of the Phoenix—is that the benefits accrued tend to disappear, since the participants all too often resume their previous habits after they leave. To prevent that, the Phoenix offers a program (for women only) that emphasizes behavioral re-education and provides practical guidelines that can be applied at home.

The training takes place in an elegant setting amid the 26 wooded acres of a former estate in Houston, Texas. Mornings are devoted to exercise, afternoons to beauty "indulgences", and evenings to lectures and discussions. The all-inclusive cost per week is $2,175. (You can get more information from the Phoenix, Dept. TMEN, Houston, Texas.)

Sea Pines Behavioral Institute. Sea Pines bills itself as "a health education center specializing in health maintenance, habit change, and weight control". The thrust of this spa's program is, again, behavior modification. Self-control, relaxation, and stress management techniques are basic. All participants are entitled to follow-up consultations for a full year after their stay, and graduate "booster" sessions are held periodically to reinforce the lifestyle changes encouraged by the resort's staff. The institute, located within the Sea Pines Plantation on beautiful Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, provides ample recreational opportunities as well. An all-inclusive 26-day residential program costs $3,500. (Contact Sea Pines Behavioral Institute, Sea Pines Resort, Dept. TMEN, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.)

Of course, the resorts mentioned here constitute only a sampling of the fitness spas available in the U.S. Most such enterprises will be happy to send you a brochure describing their facilities.

One of MOTHER's staffers recently attended a stress-reduction/learn-to-relax weekend at the Kripalu Center for Holistic Health in the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. Here are some of her impressions.  


"How many ways do you depend on your body for everything you want in life?" This question — posed by the Kripalu Center for Holistic Health in virtually all of its literature — is really the cornerstone of the staffs philosophy. And, of course, it does help one realize how truly important good health, vitality, and a sense of well-being are to the enjoyment of day-to-day living.

As you might imagine, Kripalu — named after the late Swami Shri Kripalvanandji, who was guru to the founder — is more than a health resort. It's a complete New Age community situated on approximately 240 acres in the central section of eastern Pennsylvania, northwest of Reading. The Center for Holistic Health is only one portion of the complex, and was created four years ago in response to repeated requests for information — on diet, exercise, and such — from guests attending programs at the "parent" yoga retreat. The center's initial staff of three quickly blossomed into a contingent of 45 full-time workers, including health-care professionals in the areas of physical therapy, kinesiology, homeopathic medicine, and clinical psychology. Monthlong, week-long, and weekend programs are now conducted throughout the year . . . dealing with subjects as diverse as skin care, crisis counseling, raw juice fasting, and breaking the smoking habit.

There are few steadfast "rules" at Kripalu. The health center's staffers feel that the best regimen for one individual might not be as beneficial for another ... therefore, every guest is free to pick and choose from a variety of activities and health services. Personal growth is heavily emphasized, however, as is attunement to one's physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Guests are encouraged not only to eat healthful foods and to take plenty of exercise, but also to be reflective and to relax. The focus is on preventive care — through diet, stress reduction, yoga, and so forth — more than it is on healing. And, although there are two physicians and two physical therapists on staff, Kripalu doesn't advertise itself as a treatment center and makes no promises of quick cures.

The center is typically booked several sessions in advance, and facilities limit the number of workshop participants to about 25. Furthermore, although a broad spectrum of people participate in the programs, the guests tend to be in their 30's or 40's, middle class, more often female than male, and — naturally — keenly interested in achieving a more holistic lifestyle.

The peaceful rural setting provided by the surrounding Blue Mountains offers great opportunities for strolling, jogging, biking, and hiking. (Indeed, the Appalachian Trail is well within walking distance of the compound.) A three-acre lake on the property tempts guests with the opportunity to canoe . . . and an Olympic-sized pool is open for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter! Guests may also make appointments to receive health services from the professional staff. Among those offered are hair analysis for trace minerals, polarity therapy, reflexology (foot massage), yoga therapy, colonic irrigation, facials, deep tissue massage, and psychological counseling.

A typical day's schedule begins at 5:00 a.m., when the guests are gently awakened by the sound of a melodious African instrument. Then, at 5:20, the body-work specialist greets everyone out in the yard for stretching and warmup exercises. Next comes a walk or a jog — depending on each person's preference — followed by an hour of yoga. Breakfast, usually consisting of cooked whole grains and homemade yogurt, is served at 7:30. (Unfortunately, the health center raises little of its own food, but does obtain organically grown produce from a local farmers' market, make its own yogurt and soy food products, and grow its own sprouts.)

After breakfast there are workshops until mid-morning . . . then guests are free to keep their various health-care appointments, relax in the sauna or hot tub, enjoy a nap, or walk about the complex. Lunch — the main meal of the day — usually consists of a large green salad, whole grain bread, and a vegetarian casserole. Fresh fruit and herbal teas are always available to the guests, as well. More workshops and/or therapy sessions follow in the afternoon, and a light supper of soup and salad is served at 5:30 p.m. Between the evening meal and bedtime (at 9:00 p.m.), it's often possible to meet with the retreat's founder, Yogi Desai, and listen as he talks, reads from a favorite work, or fields questions.

There is — according to our staffer — a feeling of peace surrounding the center, and it's difficult not to relax in the atmosphere of caring that envelops the place. The Kripalu personnel are supportive of each other and of their guests, who are treated like close family friends.

Rates vary with the program being offered. Many weekend workshops, for example, are priced as low as $70 . . . while week-long programs cost from $300 to $400. The fees cover modest accommodations, three meals a day, and use of the sauna and hot tub. Health services such as massage can be had for an extra fee. (You can learn more by writing or calling the Kripalu Center for Holistic Health, Dept. TMEN, Summit Station, Pennsylvania.)