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Matador 2022 Travel Awards: Wellness Destinations

by Matador Creators Dec 20, 2021

The ocean has a certain calming effect. In fact, studies even point to the idea that being near a body of water leads to both better health and wellbeing. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the top wellness destinations our expert travel panel chose for 2022 all center around islands and coastlines.

“Saltwater is the cure for everything,” says Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon of JetSetSarah, “and I think people will gravitate to oceans and beaches to rest and recharge” in 2022.

Coastal destinations have, and likely always will, hold a special place for travelers. Today, hotels, resorts, and beachside towns are dialing in on programs and spaces that bring guests closer to the healing power of the sea — whether that means relaxing in spas or immersing yourself in nature.

JOALI BEING nature retreat in the Maldives

JOALI BEING is the first immersive wellbeing nature retreat island in the Maldives. With the water never far away, JOALI BEING offers wellbeing facilities, including hydrotherapy, movement, and sound healing experiences so guests can to be guided through various elemental therapies and healing experiences. Open living spaces put guests right in nature, while an herbology center heals through a blend of traditional Anatolian remedies. The open-plan dining space has three kitchens with menus curated with the help of the retreat’s nutritionists. One is focused on vegetarian and vegan options, another has an ocean-to-table pescatarian menu, and a third has a wellness-focused full menu (all of which use locally harvested and sustainably sourced ingredients). For the more casual side of relaxation, the tropical beach sanctuary Mojo has a three-layered deck for sundowners by the pool.

Island hopping through southwest Japan

Kagoshima - Amami Oshima

Photo: Amami Oshima/InsideJapan Tours

Four islands in southwest Japan — Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Iriomote Island, and the northern part of Okinawa Island — were listed as UNESCO world heritage sites in 2021. The chain of subtropical islands rim the boundary of the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea. Humans don’t live here, but plenty of endemic species do, making the islands an important ecological treasure with five mammal species, three birds, and three amphibians that are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species. They aren’t the only islands in the area to see. Okinawa Islands filled with Ryukyuan culture, historic castles, and world-class diving opportunities can also be found.

InsideJapan has a 12 night Island-Hopping self-guided trip that stays for two nights in Iriomote and includes a day of trekking and kayaking.

Channel Islands National Park, California

Photo: Visit California/Stephen Lam

Few places in the United States are as associated with ocean-side living than California. And as to be expected, wellness retreats, yoga schools, and various ways to connect to the Pacific abound. Take, for example, Alila Marea Beach Resort in Encinitas, which is the home of Spa Alila and all of its wellness experiences deeply rooted in both land and sea, such as minerals and botanicals used by the native Kumeyaay people.

For a different type of wellness that’s more about soaking in nature, Wild Earth Travel runs a wilderness and wellness five-day adventure called Base Camp Channel Islands.The boat, the National Geographic Venture, leaves from Los Angeles and makes stops at three of the five islands in Channel Islands National Park and Catalina Island. Award-winning wellbeing programs center the rejuvenating impact of nature using the ship as a safari-like base camp with paddleboards, kayaks, a wellness specialist, fitness instructors, naturalists, and a National Geographic photo instructor.

Andronis Hotels, Santorini, Greece

Andronis Hotels recently revamped the brand’s wellness program with the launch of a three-day wellbeing retreat for 2022 that aims to harmonize the mind, body, and spirit. The itinerary includes a wellness analysis and the art of bathing class on the first day, digestive support and mindful eating on the second, and nutrition essentials with a private chef cooking class on the third day. Spas at the Andronis Hotel locations in Santorini are destinations in and of themselves with water cycle treatments and yoga sessions overlooking the volcanic cliffs and ocean. Andronis’s wellness focus is unlike any other thanks to one special start, though: a hair profiling test that uses the hair and root from four strands off your head to make a report based on 800 wellness indicators that are used to create your wellness program.

Rosewood Little Dix Bay, British Virgin Islands

“In the British Virgin Islands at Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s the spa will wash away any stresses with its cliffside spa overlooking Sir Francis Drake Channel, its yoga and meditation platform, and its multitude of adventurous outdoor activities, including sailing and visits to the famed Baths National Park,” Collette Stohler, Roamaroo’s director of marketing, says.

The spa is guided by traditional healers, also known as medicine men and women, who use generations-old traditions and natural remedies. Lotions, teas, balms, and oils are derived from African ancestral healing traditions to cleanse the body. Body wraps using jumbie tree leaves, which were brought to the Caribbean from Africa, relieve fatigue, while tamarind, also originally from Africa, reduces pain and lemongrass reduces inflammation. Fill the rest of your time with more relaxation at the two pools, which offer poolside drinks and views of the sea through the volcanic rocks and arching palms.

Asbury Ocean Club, Asbury Park, New Jersey

Photo: Asbury Park Ocean Club/Nikolas Koenig

You don’t need to be far from the hustle and bustle of the city to find wellness and relaxation. The Asbury Ocean Club, which opened in 2019 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, is just an hour from New York City. The pool is on the Terrace with views overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and a cocktail bar can whip up ingredients-first cocktails made with fresh juices. A roving granita cart dishes frozen treats that are a burst of cold on a hot day. You’ll find Mediterranean cuisine delivered to you in the pergola, which is covered in wisteria that compliments the many other trees and plants. And then there’s the spa. The wellness classes are exclusive to guests and residents, and include open-air meditation, guided beach runs, and traditional massages and facials.

Nusfjord Arctic Resort, Lofoten, Norway


Photo: Lofoten, Norway/Hurtigruten Expeditions

For northern coastal adventures, awards panel member Charles Post recommends Nusfjord Arctic Resort in Lofoten, Norway.

“If your idea of rest and relaxation is an escape to a small, traditional fisherman’s cabin just steps away from a wood-fired hot tub and sauna beside the sea, hidden away in a small fjord far into the arctic, then this is the place for you.”

The small and secluded fishing village on the Lofoten Islands is just past the mountains and faces the sea. The resort has 20 cabins that are refurbished with the modern comforts we’ve come to expect at a high-end getaway, but none lose their historic charm as fishermen’s rorbu (a house that’s based on land with one half on stilts in the water). There are Nordic fishing excursions to be had, kayaks to take out, and awe-inspiring mountain hikes to undertake, but relaxation is just as easy to find thanks to that wood-fired hot tub and open-air spa. If you’re lucky, you may spot the northern lights from the sauna.

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