Destination Wellness

These stateside resorts, centered on mind, body and soul, offer a variety of transformative experiences to unplug and recharge.

BY July 1, 2021
Courtesy of Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort/Robb Aaron Gordon

Lush Island Vibes in Hawaii

Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, Lanai, Hawaii

With its pre-pandemic opening in the fall of 2019, this Four Seasons, which was completely reimagined as a wellness resort, remains undiscovered to many. The adults-only oasis—situated among the rolling uplands of Lanai—comes as a partnership between Four Seasons and Sensei, a company founded by the resort’s tech billionaire owner, Larry Ellison, and world-leading oncologist Dr. David Agus.

While you can opt for nightly accommodations that come with a slate of complimentary next-gen wellness classes (think: aerial yoga, multiplanar core strength and self-compassion practice), the heart of the resort lies in its science-meets-wellness integrated programs, like the signature Sensei Guided Experience.

Before arrival, which occurs via an included charter from Honolulu on a single-engine turboprop, you’ll complete a questionnaire and talk with a guide to develop a tailored itinerary, with activities, such as daily hikes; spa services, like massages aided by thermal body mapping to identify irregularities and tension; and one-on-one consults with pedigreed health practitioners who lead nutrition, fitness and mind-exploration sessions. Spa treatments take place in one of the private, feature-rich, 1,000-square-foot hale (a traditional Hawaiian-style thatched house), which themselves are worth the visit. Indulge in one of three Sensei Featured Experiences, which mirror the resort’s ‘Move, Nourish and Rest’ mantra—three pillars the team believes facilitate mind and body wellness—with services like the mobility-enhancing Aquatherapy, where you experience guided stretching and shiatsu massage while floating in a warm pool.

In addition to an onsite Nobu restaurant, Sensei draws attention for its science-backed holistic programs and verdant 24-acre setting. Courtesy Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort/Robb Aaron Gordon (2)

The recently debuted Optimal Wellness Program builds on this by adding a fitness tracker, which you wear before and during your stay. Those real-time health metrics related to activity, sleep patterns, and heart and respiratory rates, are used to further customize your stay.

No matter the program, meals are a special experience, with menus created by renowned chef Nobu Matsuhisa in collaboration with Agus. The mix of Nobu fan-favorites and other health-centric dishes are mostly sourced from Sensei’s nearby hydroponic farm, via local growers and fishermen, and flown in from Japan.

That same conscientious approach is reflected in the aesthetics of the resort, designed with organic materials that recall the natural setting and an extraordinary art collection, including pieces commissioned for the resort. Outdoors, large sculptures, including pieces from Fernando Botero, dot the lush area, where you can exercise the three core tenets of the resort’s refreshingly simple mantra for optimal health: “Move,” with a walk through the resort’s 24 acres; “Nourish” body and mind by marveling at the towering banyans in the gardens; and “Rest” during a starlit soak in one of the hot tubs in the Japanese-style Onsen Garden. From $650 per night, room-only rates; fourseasons.com/sensei

French Countryside Style in Southern California Cal-a-Vie Health Spa

Vista, California

A SoCal gem since it opened in the ’80s, this 32-villa French Provençal-style retreat is situated in a secluded valley among 500-plus acres, just 40 miles north of the San Diego airport.

Though the award-winning destination spa has had its fair share of notable visitors over the years, the five-to-one staff-guest ratio makes everyone feel like a VIP. Cal-a-Vie’s group-minded programs make traveling solo quite comfortable, too. A true camaraderie develops among guests, who tend to be as impressive as the program itself. (It’s not uncommon in a casual conversation to learn that your new friend is a high-profile movie director.)

For frequent visitors, one of the many alluring qualities is the ability to leave decision-making at home. Though you can opt to take or leave any of the suggested offerings—and can add high-tech testing done in conjunction with leading labs for functional medicine, and other specialty services for a more a transformative experience—here, wellness pros customize daily itineraries based on visitors’ preferences and goals, with focuses ranging from fitness to anti-aging to mindfulness. 

Cal-a-Vie inspires with its countryside-chic setting (including centuries-old buildings flown in from France) and a stunning selection of wellness classes and spa services that are included with the stay. Courtesy Cal-a-Vie Health Spa (2)

Unlike resorts that work mostly on an a la carte model, a stay here comes complete with meals (which are heavenly); a full slate of targeted group fitness/wellness classes (there are more than 160 possible offerings); 10 miles of private trails for hiking; health and nutrition sessions; and a generous number of beauty and spa treatments (the seven-day European plan, for example, comes with 16 services).

Travelers looking for more don’t need to leave the property, either: There is an onsite vineyard and a Ted Robinson Sr.-designed championship private golf course. And, with its buyout option, 400-year-old Parisian chapel and 17th century L’Orangerie building with large demonstration kitchen, Cal-a-Vie is also an idyllic setting for weddings and other celebrations. From $4,550 for an all-inclusive three-night stay; buyout available; cal-a-vie.com

Zen Inspiration in the Hamptons

Shou Sugi Ban House, Water Mill, New York

The Japanese mantra of wabi-sabi reigns at Shou Sugi Ban House, tucked off Montauk Highway in Southampton. The three-acre sanctuary reflects CEO and co-founder Amy Cherry-Abitbol’s longstanding affinity for the Japanese ideals that honor natural, even imperfect, beauty. Everything from the minimalist aesthetic to the plant-rich cuisine is designed to encourage guests to slow down.

Drawing from nature’s healing properties, resident experts help create tailored holistic journeys with treatments based on time-honored and global practices, such as shamanic healing, hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy and functional massage. It’s not all rest and relaxation, though—you can sweat it out via the included daily movement classes or through a la carte, one-on-one sweat sessions.

At this sustainably minded retreat, treatments are based on global practices and the culinary program is developed by Mads Refslund, co-founder of the two-Michelin-starred Noma. Courtesy Shou Sugi Ban House/Fredrika Stjärne

The setting inspires healing here, too. New York architect Debbie Kropf worked with local artisans and an all-female design team on the sustainably minded retreat. Reclaimed materials, solar energy and geothermal heating/cooling are utilized throughout the property, which includes 13 studio guest suites flanking an outdoor saltwater pool, a standalone spa, a main barn with a demonstration kitchen, and other spaces—all connected via pebbled gardens.

Within the 400-square-foot suites, floor-to-ceiling glass turns the attention to the tree-filled setting, while the interiors are optimized for relaxation. A locally crafted, kobe-style bed is dressed with an organic mattress and bedding; lighting is informed by circadian rhythms; and deep tubs are made for soaking.

For nearby off-site diversions, the retreat has three Teslas that can shuttle you to the beach. Then again, considering that the plant-rich culinary program is headed by Mads Refslund, co-founder of two-Michelin-starred Copenhagen restaurant, Noma, the best seat in town may just be at Shou Sugi Ban House’s main barn, which features a large communal table with views of the open kitchen. For meals, many of the ingredients are sourced from the property’s biodynamic organic gardens, and guest’s dietary needs and preferences are taken into account. Look into the themed packages, such as the Couples Retreat, with optional, add-on intimacy building experiences, like private dinners, massages and shaman-led sessions for two. From $1,100 per night for single occupancy; buyout available; shousugibanhouse.com

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