12 Awesome Hotels to Add to Your Wellness Travel Bucket List
Last week, the Global Wellness Institute released a new report that stated that wellness tourism—spending by travelers “who seek to improve or maintain their well-being during or as a result of their trip”—is now a $639 billion market, up 6.7 percent since 2015, which is more than double the growth rate for tourism overall. And get this: The new report also found that that figure is expected to rise to $919 billion by 2022.
I believe it, man. Of course I believe it—I’m part of those statistics! As a wellness and travel journalist, I’ve spent the past few years hopping around the world in search of better well-being, and I’ve become quite obsessed with the rise of healthy vacations as a result. To me, wellness trips are so much more than the massages and the fresh salt or mountain air and the perfectly foraged farm-to-table food (although yeah, those things are pretty sweet, too). They are about a greater shift in our cultural narrative: the fact that we are finally recognizing the hugely positive impact that a healthy trip can have on our bodies, minds, and souls.
When I was first starting out as a journalist more than 10 years ago, I wrote a fair amount of stories with headlines like “How to Stay Healthy When You Go on Vacation,” and “How to Get Back on Track After a Splurge-y Trip.” The idea was that travel, by nature, would take you away from your health goals, away from your healthy eating and exercising routine. But these days, as evidenced by the increased popularity of wellness tourism, travel is actually seen as a tool that can help get you closer to your goals—and I love that paradigm shift. It means that I’m much more likely to write travel stories like this one, stories about trips where wellness itself is the destination.
On that note, I rounded up 12 of my absolute favorite health-oriented hotels, where I was able to get away while at the same time leaning into wellness in a meaningful way. (Most of the trips were sponsored by the hotels, though not all.) To be clear, the hotels I chose aren’t necessarily wellness retreats (though some do offer retreats), but rather, places that helped me improve my overall well-being, physically, mentally, or spiritually. And I hope they can do the same for you at some point, too.
1. Vista Celestial, Uvita, Costa Rica
I am a firm believer that any place that requires a four-wheel-drive journey to get there has gotta be good, and Vista Celestial is no exception. Located high up in the jungle mountains of Uvita, a small, remote town in southern Costa Rica that’s far less touristy than many other spots around the country, the boutique hotel has epic views and sunsets for days. When you stay there, you’re surrounded by chirping birds and howler monkeys, but you can also see the beautiful Pacific Ocean beaches below (it takes about 20 minutes or so to drive down there).
Vista Celestial only has five haciendas (villas), so it has a really intimate feel. Most visitors—myself included—get to know the staff really well, which contributes to the warmth of the experience. I still keep in touch with them on WhatsApp, and I love knowing that wherever I am in the world, I am part of a bigger global community—that connection does wonders for my psyche.
The food is absolutely delicious, too. As it’s a coastal town, they serve lots of fish and ceviche, which usually comes with tostones (plantains fried in coconut oil—legit my favorite thing ever) and guac. There are tons of fresh-squeezed tropical fruit juices, too, like guava, mango, and passion fruit. And oh, the yoga! Because Vista Celestial is so small, they have private yoga teachers on hand rather than offering a daily group class. The hotel has a gorgeous platformed yoga deck in the middle of the jungle, where they also hold their many yoga retreats, or you can even practice on the deck of your villa.
My top wellness takeaway: A big part of wellness is feeling a deep sense of community, and I left Vista Celestial knowing that I basically have a second family in Costa Rica to come back to whenever I can. It’s a wonderful place to go to simply connect—connect with the staff, with nature, with your yoga practice, with the pure food you put in your body, and with yourself.