Monthly Archives: September 2016

Information About The World’s Best Luxury Boot Camps

At these wellness retreats, the staff will kick your butt – and then spoil you silly.

Pure Kauai, Hawaii, USA

Use the island’s stunning nature as a gym – surf lessons, kayak excursions, rainforest hikes and beach runs – at Pure Kauai bespoke fitness vacations. Guests are set up in private cottages or villas, then catered to by personal trainers, health-minded private chefs, personal assistants and wellness practitioners from massage therapists to intuitive healers and astrologists. Although vacations can be as active or as mellow as guests wish, the sports instructors and personal trainers are prepared to kick it into high gear. Quite a few celebs have stayed with Pure Kauai to get in shape for a role.
The ranch at Live Oak, Malibu, California, USA

Don’t call it a spa – it’s a week of tough love. Nothing is optional: not the pre-dawn wake-up calls for morning yoga, not the 16km to 21km hikes every day, not the four hours of fitness classes, and not the super-strict diet (no meat, wheat, sugar, dairy, caffeine, alcohol or processed foods). Participants, no more than 16 at a time, may suffer migraines or vomit on the trail and still the instructors push them to keep going. The results: nearly everyone loses noticeable weight and feels better leaving than they did when they arrived – partly from the detox diet and partly from having survived.
The Island Experience, Ilha Grande, Brazil

There’s more to this island than hammocks and caipirinhas: it’s also home to a seven-day program designed to detox and de-stress through rainforest hiking, kayaking, yoga and meditation, and a vegetarian diet. In a casual atmosphere, up to 12 guests get personal attention and gentle encouragement, rather than drill-sergeant discipline. The founders created the island experience after a seven-day hike around Ilha Grande that left them wanting to share the experience with others: not just physical challenges but also learning to face one’s limits, beat challenges, manage fears and open up to other cultures.
The Ashram, Mallorca, Spain

The seasonal program is the same as at the original ashram in California, where celebrities have long flocked to lose weight and clear their heads. It’s rigorous, to be sure: 5.30am wake-up calls for yoga; four to six hours of hiking, sometimes with nearly 1000m of elevation gain; afternoon kayaking, strength training, TRX or Pilates; more yoga; minimal, vegetarian meals; and utterly exhausted sleep. With up to 14 guests, everyone gets pushed – hard. You’ll stay in a restored 17th-century olive farm surrounded by orchards and terraces with stunning views, where the guest rooms have beamed ceilings, local art and private bathrooms.
Escape to Shape, International

The premier ‘travelling fitness spa’ combines luxury, culture and fitness in glamorous locations around the world. Each program is tailored to make the most of its location, with a focus on history, culture, people, cuisine and natural wonders – and butt-kicking. While destinations have ranged from Cape Town (where the program included African dance) to Sicily (where guests climbed Mt Etna), the setup is consistent: each day includes a total body workout that might involve yoga, Pilates, circuit training, hiking, kayaking or biking; healthy meals that reflect the region; and a bit of downtime to explore and enjoy the surroundings.
Cal-a-Vie, Vista, California, USA

Don’t let the la-di-da name and French Provençal decor fool you: the seasoned trainers here seriously kick butt. The morning mountain hike can turn into a mountain run. Guests are allowed to do as much or as little as they want, and there are a lot of beginner-friendly options among the 125 classes, but there’s also CrossFit and an amped-up TRX class. The gym is as state-of-the-art as it gets and the high staff-to-guest ratio (21 trainers for up to 32 guests) ensure that anyone who asks to be challenged will be. It’s not unheard of to have one student and two instructors.
Bikini bootcamp, Tulum, Mexico

Founded about a decade ago, this was one of the first adventure-fitness-and-yoga programs around. The boot camps combine cool shabby-chic settings (originally the Amansala eco-resort in this yoga mecca on the Mayan Riviera and now also on Ibiza) with activities and vacation fun. Most of the fitness classes, from power walks to cardio workouts to yoga classes, take place right on the sand and they’re complemented with salsa or belly-dancing classes. Guests range from fitness newbies to hardcore gym rats and the program is tailored accordingly.
Chiva-Som, Hua Hin, Thailand

The name means ‘Haven of Life’, but for guests who sign on for this destination spa’s fitness retreats, life is anything but restful. There are classes nearly 12 hours a day, from Muay Thai boxing to Ashtanga yoga to a cardio session called Mountain Trek, plus private fitness assessments and an array of personal training sessions, both indoors and out. A team of highly trained international specialists oversee the fitness and the Eastern and Western wellness services (reflexology, Thai massage, deep-tissue bodywork) that soothe sore muscles after classes are done. The healthy Thai food is delicious.

La Réserve Ramatuelle, France

Just a few miles from Saint-Tropez, this resort is primarily a place for summer relaxation. But it offers a surprisingly rigorous boot camp fitness retreat, centered on the very civilised European sport of Nordic walking (with poles, which makes it a lot harder). Each guest (no more than eight) starts with a medical assessment before embarking on a program of daily 15km to 20km treks through the mountains and along the coast, tailored to guests’ fitness levels. This being France, a balanced Mediterranean diet and slimming treatments like balneotherapy (bathing in mineral-rich waters) speed up the results.
The Bodyholiday, St Lucia

It may take willpower to make this a boot camp, as the ‘holiday’ part of the name is taken seriously and there are all the temptations of an all-inclusive Caribbean resort. But for guests with enough drive, there are lots of offerings that would challenge the founders – one of them a former ultra-marathoner. A day may include a 7am beach boot camp class, a four-mile run, morning aerobics, afternoon windsurfing and evening Ashtanga yoga. It all gets kicked up a notch during the WellFit retreats in March and November, when ex-Olympians and pro athletes lead the training.

Should You Know About Unusual Places To Stay In USA

We all know that lodging can make a break or vacation, but staying somewhere unique – a tipi, say, or a giant bird’s nest, or even spending the night underwater – can turn a humdrum holiday into an unforgettable trip.
America’s entrepreneurial spirit knows no bounds, and that includes one-of-a-kind lodging you won’t find anywhere else. For those wishing to forgo hotel chains, consider taking a break at these places, which range from cozy, country bed and breakfasts to something more akin to an aquarium.

Get cozy in the Great Outdoors

Take “nesting” to new heights in Big Sur, California. Image courtesy of Treesbones Resort.

America’s only “Human Nest” for rent is at Treebones Resort (treebonesresort.com), a glamping hot spot in Big Sur, California. Built for two by eco-artist Jason Flynn, the Nest overlooks the Pacific and gets booked up several months in advance. Call the design “twigecture”, and if you don’t mind sacrificing some privacy, the nest offers a one-of-a-kind view as you sleep in a tree under the stars (it doesn’t rain much in Big Sur). “Although the nest is completely open to the elements, with no amenities besides an outdoor mattress, and a spectacular ocean view, it is our most popular accommodation,” says manager Megan Handy, the daughter of owners John and Corinne Handy. “It is a very unique experience. We have ‘nesters’ who come back year after year.”

Treebones also provides swish yurts, but if you prefer a more rustic experience, visit Falls Brook Yurts (fallsbrookyurts.com) in Minerva, New York, hidden in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains, which are part of the Appalachian Trail stretching all the way to Georgia. Yurting is great for lovers of the outdoors on a budget who don’t want to invest in or haul all that camping gear. Inside the fully furnished yurt you’ll find a working kitchenette, tables, chairs, a sofa and bunk beds for six. The outhouse latrine is just 15 steps from the front door. There’s no running water at the yurt; you can either carry bottled water on the 20-minute hike from the road where you parked, or use the buckets provided at the yurt to bring water up from the nearby brook, though be sure to boil the water first before bathing or drinking it. (I showered outside in full view – there’s no one for miles around – by dousing myself in liters of Poland Spring.)

Have your pizza delivered underwater

Watch the fish watch you at one of the world’s few operating underwater hotels in Key Largo, Florida. Image courtesy of Jules Undersea Lodge.

What started out as an underwater research station eventually inspired Jules Undersea Lodge (jul.com) in Key Largo, Florida, one of the world’s few operating underwater hotels. Dive down 21 feet below the surface and stay in one of three 20-foot underwater chambers where you can sleep, eat, and watch whatever swims by your window. Diving experience is a plus, although beginners can take a brief introductory course provided by the lodge before enjoying their accommodations. Forget bellhops! Your luggage is brought to you in a watertight container. If you’re feeling peckish in your capsule, order a pizza – also protected by a container from meeting a watery end. Founder and owner Ian Koblick, who is president of the Marine Resources Development Foundation, says the neighbours are often as curious about the guests as the other way around. “What can the fish see, that’s what I say?” Koblick jokes. “There are manatees in the lagoon, and fish coming and going. It’s a unique experience and the closest you’ll ever come to living in another world other than going into outer space.”

Step back in time
Route 66 stretches over more than 2,400 miles of scenic highway between Chicago and Los Angeles, and one of the quirkiest stops en route has to be a place where you can sleep in a Native American-inspired tipi. Wigwam Village Motel (galerie-kokopelli.com/wigwam) in Holbrook, Arizona, is a time capsule. Home to 15 one- and two-bedroom wigwams or tipis, the motel is on the USA National Registrar of Historic Places. Opened in the 1950s, it has a mid-century appeal with vintage cars parked on the property, including an old Studebaker that once belonged to the owner. Each wigwam is 21 feet wide at the base, 28 feet high, and contains handmade hickory furniture, beds, a sink, a toilet, and a shower. There is also a small collection of Native American artefacts and Route 66 memorabilia.

Enjoy a vegan breakfast and 23 acres of farmland where rescued farm animals rule the roost. Image courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

About 115 miles north of the Big Apple is the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary (woodstocksanctuary.org) near legendary Woodstock, where the hippie movement came of age in 1969. Opened in 2012, the sanctuary’s new guesthouse, a renovated 19th-century farmhouse, has four bedrooms, a common kitchen and living area, and 23 acres of rescued goats, chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, sheep and a donkey named Diane. Volunteer on the farm by shovelling poop or cleaning coops and receive a discount on your stay (we are repeat visitors and volunteers!). Says co-founder and director Jenny Brown: “People love being able to see all the activity at the sanctuary from the windows and front porch. It truly creates a feeling of tranquility to be able to watch the rescued animals and at the same time enjoy a healthy, vegan, organic breakfast.” Revenue from the guesthouse goes directly to care for over 300 animals.

Dog Bark Park Inn (dogbarkparkinn.com) on Highway 95 in Cottonwood, Idaho, is the creation of chainsaw artist Dennis Sullivan and his wife Frances Conklin. Together, they built America’s biggest beagle, known fondly as “Sweet Willy”, a two-bedroom bed and breakfast open between April and October. Sleeping in the dog house is a great way to unplug: Sweet Willy has no phone or television. But you get to enjoy a tasty breakfast that includes eggs, bagels, pastries, yogurt, cheese, and the family’s secret granola recipe. For souvenirs, check out the gift shop where you can buy portable versions of Sweet Willy and friends.

Taos, New Mexico – known for its Native American culture, skiing, and thriving arts scene – is where Richard Spera decided to build his hen house. Years later, his cluster of casitas known as Casa Gallina (casagallina.net) offers visitors to the American Southwest a fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the personal comforts of home and a true artisan experience. The casitas – decorated by local artists – have kitchens, living and dining areas. Behind the casitas are Spera’s “girls,” a couple dozen hens who appreciate any restaurant scraps you want to throw their way. As a bonus, Spera, a former restaurant manager from New York City, likes to treat his guests to tapas, cookies, and tortes.

Some Ways To Get To The Middle Earth

the release of the first Lord of the Rings film 15 years ago, New Zealand was suddenly thrust on the travel radar for a whole new generation. Its beautiful landscapes from bubbling brooks to snow-capped peaks and lush forest valleys are the perfect setting for Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth, and now tourism is New Zealand’s second largest industry.

The Hobbiton set is the country’s best-known attraction today with close to half a million visitors a year, but there is of course a wealth of film locations far beyond ‘the Shire’. You can always discover New Zealand’s dramatic film locations (over 150 were used during filming) for yourself, starting with this handy guide, or you can head to this remote country on a tour.
We’ve rounded up a few of the many operators running Tolkien tours of New Zealand in 2017, each for a different type of travellers. One thing they all seem to have in common is the desire to meld real life with fantasy worlds while exploring one of the world’s most beautiful countries.
Be a Middle-earth explorer

You can follow in the footsteps of Frodo and Bilbo with Round the World Experts (roundtheworldexperts.co.uk) on a 17-day tour of all things Lord of the Rings. As well as the obligatory visit to Hobbiton, the tour takes you to Wellington to go behind the scenes at the interactive Weta Cave workshops, learning how Lord of the Rings was bought to life with props, costumes, models and special effects. Next it’s on to filming locations in the South Island, with highlights including exploring Aoraki (Mount Cook), New Zealand’s highest mountain peak, discovering Queenstown, and experiencing the silence of Middle-earth on an overnight Milford Sound cruise
Wander windswept beaches

A 21-day tour with Discover the World (discover-the-world.co.uk) takes diehard fans through Lord of the Rings film locations with the national carrier, Air New Zealand (airnewzealand.com). The itinerary starts with a visit to Hobbiton in the rolling hills of Matamata, then hits all the visual splendour of the films, including the stunning beaches at the top of the South Island as well as the the dramatic mountains and fjords of the Fiordland & Southland. There are several guided location tours included, as well as an overnight cruise on the spectacular Doubtful Sound.

Join the fellowship

Silverfern (silverfernholidays.com) does a 16-day journey travelling through New Zealand’s magnificent landscapes from Auckland down to Queenstown. The tour includes film locations across the country, with a few surprises like dinner at the Green Dragon Inn in Hobbiton; and a hike to Pinnacle Ridge in the heights of Mount Ruapehu, which stands in for Mordor