New Life Hiking Spa

Top 10 places to get in shape MSNBC.com

Good news: Now you can take that trip and tone up, all at once

Sherman’s Travel – updated 9:56 a.m. ET, Wed., Jan. 24, 2007

Sure, you want to get in shape, but who wants to use those precious vacation days working out? Luckily, you can combine your desire for fitness with your love of travel on your next vacation, because there are places all over the world where getting svelte and seeing the sites go hand-in-hand. Whatever your idea of a great vacation — desserted Caribbean beaches, viewing wildlife in Africa, or even a cruise chances are we’ve covered it on our list. Make your next trip a Get in Shape Vacation, and you’ll come home with the best souvenir of all: a hot new bod.

1. Alsace
Looking for your inner Lance but not quite ready for the Tour de France? No sweat (just yet): Pack up your bicyclette (or rent one there) and head to France’s Alsace region, near the Swiss and German borders. With designated bike routes throughout the area, it’s a pure delight to pedal beside the beautiful Vosges mountains, through charming villages, and past the fantastic vineyards that lie along the 170km-long Route des Vins (wine route) where crisp Rieslings and Gewurztraminers are born – after all, you can’t go all the way to France and not indulge at least a little.

2. At Sea
Though most people plan to pack on a few pounds on their cruise vacation – after all, it’s easy to overindulge at those all-you-can-eat-buffets! – Crystal Cruises aims to buck the trend with its wellness-themed cruises. In addition to the usual on-board entertainment, the line’s 2007 Mind, Body, and Spirit sailings to the Caribbean and Mexican Riviera encourage you to get buff onboard, whether in the state-of-the-art gym, a yoga or Pilates class, or on the quarter-mile track along the open-air Promenade Deck, where you can enjoy stunning ocean views while running your laps. With a full menu of healthy meals to keep you refueled, you’ll have no problem saying “no thank you” to the midnight buffet.

3. Dominica
When you tire of the mega-resorts, all-you-can-eat buffets, and sugary drinks that dominate so many Caribbean islands, head to Dominica, where healthy pursuits constitute the majority of things to do. Indeed, the main attractions on this unspoiled, lush island involve rainforest hikes, swimming in natural thermal pools, and overall personal wellness. To jump-start your new healthy lifestyle, book the Jungle Spa Adventure Package at the Jungle Bay Resort & Spa and get your room, organic gourmet meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), a daily half-hour spa treatment, morning yoga class, and several active excursions like hiking, bicycle tours, and kayaking included.

4. Hawaii
Paddling against the surf is one way to tone and tighten, and if you can actually learn to stand up on the surfboard – well that’s a huge bonus. Hawaii is synonymous with surfing, and now you can learn this exhilarating sport and get in shape on your next vacation. SwellWomen, a surf and yoga outfitter on Maui’s Kaanapali Beach, provides healthy, action-packed vacations for both men and women, complete with surf lessons, yoga classes, nutritious meals, and accommodations. Only want surfing lessons? We recommend Hawaii Surf School on Oahu’s North Shore, home to the epic waves of Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline.

5. Hua Hin
There’s a lot more to feeling good than just looking good, and Thailand’s Chiva Som retreat in Hua Hin treats your whole person: mind, body, and spirit. Options range from a weeklong weight management program to an intense four-week detoxification complete with a juice fast and colonics, but all programs feature one-on-one fitness and nutritional counseling, a diet of Asian spa cuisine, and daily activities like Thai boxing, weight training, aqua aerobics, biking, and yoga. This East-meets-West approach to wellness also boasts a beautiful beach setting on the Gulf of Thailand and a location near several cultural attractions (temples, caves, and a royal palace), so guests can get out and explore as well.

6. Kerala
Where better to get in touch with your inner yogi than in the birthplace of the practice? Though India is often chaotic, Kerala is a peaceful place in the progressive and pristine southwestern part of the country, where you can close your eyes and say oooommmm amid an exotic landscape of sandy beaches, vibrant jungles, coconut groves, and tropical rivers. Book yourself into a two-week retreat at the Somatheeram Ayurvedic Resort and treat your body to yoga, meditation, and massages. Extend your relaxation endeavors beyond the resort by tacking on a guided kettuvallam (houseboat) cruise tour through Kerala’s bucolic backwaters. Then treat your mind to Indian music, dance performances, and guided excursions to cultural and spiritual sites.

7. Killington
Instead of sweating off those pounds on the treadmill, head to the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont, where hikers of all levels can storm the picturesque terrain of the Appalachian Mountains and Long Trails. Challenging hikes, yoga, Pilates, weight training, and swimming are all part of the program, as are healthy cuisine, wellness workshops, and cooking classes designed to keep you on track once you get home. And since your hard work deserves a reward, don’t forget to take advantage of the exceptionally priced spa services on offer here as well.

8. Scottsdale
After a day of wellness – think golfing, hiking, biking, and rock climbing – who wouldn’t want to return to a little (or a lot) of luxury at their hotel? Posh Scottsdale, Arizona offers the best of everything, both outdoors and in, and is truly an oasis in the desert. Book the Hike and Bike package at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale to combine rugged outdoor adventures with luxury digs – after half-day hike and bike excursions, enjoy a 50-minute spa treatment before retiring to your luxury casita-style guestroom. You may be worn out from all that exertion, but don’t sleep in, since daily breakfast for two is also included.

9. Tulum
The name Bikini Boot Camp says it all, and you should definitely expect to be swimsuit-ready after taking this intense weeklong, workout vacation at the Amansala Resort in Tulum, Mexico. The health-and-wellness program shapes and sheds your pounds through a combo of body-sculpting classes, power ab sessions, bike and kayak excursions, Pilates, and yoga. Sure you’ll have to forgo the margaritas and nachos for low-fat meals like freshly grilled fish and jicama salads, but the healthy food will keep you energized while beachside massages and specialized spa treatments help you relax. And when you’ve trimmed down and toned up, you can take a break from the burning workouts to enjoy the white-sand beaches, crystal-blue Caribbean Sea, and nearby Mayan ruins.

10. Watamu
If you’ve ever longed for the grace, agility, and speed of a jungle panther, there’s probably no better place on earth for you to acquire it than in Watamu, Kenya, the base of the Wildfitness program. This intense nine-day to five-week course incorporates the profound beauty of its natural surroundings into its body-changing workouts: Expect to run on the beach and engage in two or three daily training sessions, challenging swims, yoga, massages, nutritional evaluations, and more. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend all of your time in Africa working out: Wildfitness will arrange for you and your new bod to take a safari. 

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