On The Road
The World’s Best Restorative Retreats For Men
From Californian sound baths to Spartan spas, five wellness vacations to really find yourself
The Outdoor Pool at Euphoria Retreat, Mystras, Greece. Photograph courtesy of Euphoria
A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me, in all seriousness, that he wished there were a spa he could go to – “Like, one for men.” I stopped myself from explaining that he could very well go to the same spas where his wife might go because I understood that, if he felt like he needed a place specifically catering to him, then other men might, too. So, with that in mind, here’s an answer for everyone who wants a men’s wellness retreat, for men, that men can go to.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness economy is growing at twice the rate if the larger global economy, with wellness tourism also growing at twice the scale of the sector as a whole. And the fact that men are switching on is helping to power this trend. But it is not actually all that new: Golden Door, a glamorous Californian wellness retreat centre just north of San Diego, has been hosting men’s weeks since the 1960s…
01. The original
Golden Door, California, US. Photograph by Rihannon Taylor, courtesy of Golden Door
Golden Door, San Marcos, California, US
…and it’s still the gold standard. Five times a year, Golden Door – which was founded as a place for Hollywood types to dry out or lose a few pounds before shooting a film – hosts a male-only week during which up to 40 men put themselves at the mercies and indulgences of the resort. There is a schedule at the Door (a massage and facial every day, sessions with fitness trainers, yoga classes, boxing classes, every kind of class you can imagine; my favourites on a recent visit were the shamanic healing and the sound bath), which visitors are free to customise. During the men’s weeks, you’ll often find guys who have attended well over 100 times, and a kind of fraternal camaraderie (bordering on competition) emerges. Imagine a few dozen C-suite, type-A captains (and generals) of their industries in a pool playing water volleyball together and you get the idea. A time is certainly had, and many of the visitors become like a family unit, several generations deep, reuniting every year for some good, very clean, fun.
02. The spa getaway
Partial view of the grounds at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, California, US. Photograph courtesy of Cal-a-Vie Health Spa
Cal-a-Vie, Vista, US
Not as spartan as it sounds, there is a retreat in Sparta itself that may balance the wellness and spa vibes a bit more to your liking – it is called Euphoria, after all. There, you can alternate between qigong classes and sessions in the steam room, weights with pool time. At Euphoria, and at The Ranch, Malibu, and at the golfer-friendly Cal-a-Vie, just outside of San Diego, the emphasis is really on good, clean escape from the real world (whether that means hitting the links, going for walks, resetting, rebooting, and maybe slimming down a touch).
03. The fitness magazine tie-ins
Kasbah Bab Ourika Exterior, Morocco. Photograph courtesy of Kasbah Bab Ourika
Men’s Health retreats, various locations
Such is the demand for proper fitness holidays for men that our friends at Men’s Health are putting together a series of made-to-measure (if not full bespoke) getaways, beginning this spring. These, like the Explore program from Equinox, will be curated experiences whereby you get a little bit of a holiday and a whole lot of ab-blasting fitness fun. Having beta tested the Equinox option, and chatted with Mr Richard Dorment, the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, about their still slightly under-wraps offerings, I’d say these are probably the best options for civilians who don’t have the funds or the wherewithal of, say, Mr Joe Manganiello to turn all of Iceland into our personal gym and playground as the actor did with clothing company Eddie Bauer a few years back.
04. The medical-grade drop-in
Pool at Lanserhof Tegernsee, Germany. Photograph courtesy of Lanserhof Tegernsee
Lanserhof, Tegernsee, Germany
I still tend to find the Magic Mountain-sort of retreat (taking the airs in a Swiss hill town) incredibly glamorous – or maybe I have watched Youth too many times, and imagined myself going off the rails, then getting properly sorted out by licensed medical professionals as Sir Michael Caine does in the movie (filmed at the Waldhaus Flims Resort & Spa and the Berghotel Schatzalp near Davos). If hardcore analysis and a prescriptive regimen is what you are after, there is no better place in the world to go than Lanser Hof, which, like the similarly lauded Park IGLS, offers treatments based on the Mayr method of deacidification – full health through gut health, basically – and a wonderful setting in which to achieve it.
05. The rugged adventure
Mountain Trek Lodge Exterior, Ainsworth, Canada. Photograph courtesy of Mountain Trek Fitness Retreat & Health Spa
Mountain Trek, Ainsworth Hot Springs, Canada
If you are looking for a bit more rigour and adventure than the Golden Door’s five-mile morning hikes and matrix of classes, Mountain Trek in British Columbia (the company also has an Appalachian location) might be your best bet. The Mountain Trek plan, like the one I tried out at The Ashram, will keep you occupied with rugged hiking for a good portion of the day and then soothe you with a clean meals and mind and body recovery. These sorts of trips do have the side benefit, for the social isolates among us, of providing enough scaffolding for solitude and adventure with a very nice spa and massage awaiting you at the end of the day.