Dominican Republic, Featured, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Peru, The Caribbean

Turn Over a New Leaf, Pt II: Relax Around the World in the New Year

By Ramona Flume

Continued from Turn Over a New Leaf Pt I: Get Active Around the World in the New Year

Wellness can take some getting used to. And if your yoga mat and running shoes didn’t see the light of day in 2012, it can take some time to get back on the horse. So, maybe the best way to kick start a new year of healthy living isn’t to run a marathon or go vegan, but to purge out a year’s worth of toxins in peace and quiet at some of the world’s best destination spas and retreats.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa, one of Japan’s most exclusive ryokan-inspired resorts, provides an otherworldly immersion into relaxation, with a mix of ancient and modern techniques, including a modern spa and custom wellness packages, along with a natural hot springs, or onsen. The small mountain village of Karuizawa (just a short shinkansen train ride from Tokyo) seems sleepy and untouched for the most part, but since the area’s Hoshino hot springs were discovered in 1914, thousands of locals and visitors have flocked to the mineral-rich water, said to have wondrous healing properties, easing everything from dermatosis, rheumatism and anxiety. The rejuvenating water plays a major role in all of Hoshinoya’s spa treatments, not to mention open-aired onsen, nestled in the side of the surrounding snowy mountains, and private meditation baths, including a Hikari bath, a brilliant, light-filled room, and Yami, a separate bath in complete darkness, which are essentially sensory deprivation chambers that can melt away any tension, no matter how extreme.

For a more specialized form of aquatic treatment, indulge in a hydrotherapy session at Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana’s Rock Spa, an expansive complex featuring more than 60,000 square feet, 50 treatment suites and one of the most complete hydrotherapy experiences in the Caribbean. It’s an incredible process of almost ten stages that will cleanse every pore in your body—even if it’s only to recover from a late night in the discotheques. Friendly staff guide you throughout an almost 90-minute circuit of specialized hydrotherapy stations, including Vichy showers, swirling whirlpools, color therapy steam rooms, clay steam baths, saunas, hydro-reflexology, sensory expertise pool, and an ice room. After that, your body will be rid of all of 2012’s dirty little hangers-on.

Being one with nature is easy in Norway. Especially in unique places like the Juvet Landscape Hotel, where minimalist, modern design is inextricably linked with the wilderness just outside each of the eight room’s floor-to-ceiling windows. The stand-alone accommodations, each with their own unique view of the surrounding vegetation, waterfall or river rushing below, are individualized works of art that were designed to disconnect guests from their daily lives. There is no wifi in the rooms, no decorations on the stark wood walls—just panoramic views of the exterior’s natural beauty. A small on-site spa, which includes a spacious sun deck and jacuzzi, is located down the hill from the rooms and overlooks the ice-blue mountain river, St. Olav’s Spring, roaring just below. According to Nordic legend, those who drink or bathe in the fresh mountain water will remain healthy and young forever. The revitalizing waters inspire most of the custom spa treatments, but sitting in your own room overlooking the river can be just as restorative.

The jaw-dropping beauty of Peru’s Sacred Valley of the Incas just seems to ooze well-being—especially at some of the revered area’s most luxurious resorts. The Aranwa Sacred Valley Hotel & Wellness, located on the banks of the Vilcanota River, was built on the grounds of a 17th century colonial hacienda, but the onsite Unno Spa is anything but antiquated. The ultra-modern facility has everything from hyperbaric chambers to hydrotherapy pools and aromatherapy oxygen rooms. There are also custom spa treatments specializing in Peruvian specialties, like Andean mud wraps, anti-age treatments employing ancient Ayurvedic medicine and ancient Inca ritual cleansings guided by local shaman in an authentic sweat lodge, referred to as “the house of healing.” The Tambo del Inka Resort, the only hotel in Urubamba with a private train station to Machu Picchu, is another incredible option, offering Yucamani stone massage, Andean facials with cocoa and quinoa at the onsite Spa at Valle Sagrado. Don’t miss the Gold from the Gods facial, featuring 24K gold—the chosen ingredient of Incan princesses, which improves skin tone and hydration.

Just an hour’s drive from San Diego in the tiny town of Tecate, Mexico, Rancho La Puerta, is a health and wellness Utopia that aims to instill a lifetime of healthy habits. In fact, the mission statement of the sprawling 3,000-acre property positioned at the foot of Mount Kuchumaa is to be “a nature preserve that preserves people.” Every angle of health is covered here, from an organic farm to miles of challenging mountainous and tranquil meadow hiking trails, an internationally renowned cooking school to various classes, including yoga and Tai Chi, and, of course, a full-service spa, featuring specialities, like craniosacral therapy sessions and Tibetan Bowl Sound Healing workshops.

Jake’s Resort + Pelican Bar is an unexpected oasis in the quiet Jamaican fishing village of Treasure Beach. The rugged natural beauty of the south coast, with low-slung palms, pine cactus and ancient buttonwood trees, is punctuated by a smattering of colorful, Moroccan-inspired adobe rooms and villas, featuring stunning ocean views and sun decks that jut out over the water. The onsite Driftwood Spa, also overlooking the ocean, features all-natural, Jamaican-made products, for their signature treatments, like the Aroma Massage and Driftwood Dreams, and Coco-Mango Body Buff. But the rooftop might be the best place to soak up Jake’s offbeat atmosphere of wellness. Yoga classes and fitness retreats congregate on the open-aired upper deck for classes under the stars.

After a stay at any of these wellness nirvanas, taking on a year of healthy living will be a cakewalk…Just without the cake.

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