Nicaragua's Little Corn Island (population 800) isn't easy to get to but is a secret gem ensconced in the Caribbean Sea. There are no motor vehicles or an airport on this speck of land and to get here, you'll have to fly to Managua, followed by a small plane flight to Big Corn Island, and then a potentially bumpy $10 boat ride to reach the shores of Little Corn Island. The effort is worth it, especially for truly remote yoga, healing, and nature.
Yemaya Island Hideaway Hotel is part of the Colibri Boutique Hotels collection and is surrounded by white sand beaches, lush jungle, mangroves, and dirt paths on a 1.5-mile island. There are 16 seafront rooms (five with plunge pools) around 50-feet from the water, with access to local cuisine, a fully-equipped yoga pavilion, and rain showers. I visited recently and was enamored by the beach, authentic Nicaraguan dining perched atop a bluff, as well as spa services like in-room massages.
Water sports are also available, and I enjoyed walking through the lush, unmanicured jungle (not an easy walk but worth it) into town for fresh-pressed coconut oil.
Pros: Fully remote, unplugged atmosphere, authentic to the culture and location. This undiscovered gem feels special and still very authentic.
Cons: A major downside was total dependence upon the weather for coming to and leaving Little Corn Island, which also resulted in bumpy travel. There was also a lack of daily spa activities besides in-room massage.
This quaint, eco-friendly guest house is a spiritual wellness haven located on the beautiful coast of Jamaica near Negril, run by an American ex-pat. Each morning, free yoga and meditation are offered on the open-air veranda overlooking the coral reef, followed by a healthy, organic breakfast, all of which are part of the daily rate. All fruits and vegetables are from the hotel's own organic garden or from local farmers, and the hotel even harvests its own rainwater.
It's not directly on the beach, but it's a short 1.9 miles away, and the outdoor pool is a nice place to relax. The house is akin to a natural stone 'temple,' made from old coral-turned-limestone divided into four rooms. Each has two handmade wooden beds, hand-painted tile floors, and an outdoor shower and bathroom with natural lighting.
There is also one private, dome-shaped cottage, which was designed based on nature and sacred geometry. Traditional spa services are offered here such as massage, facials, aromatherapy, and body scrubs, as well as an ion cleanse detoxification and live cell analysis with nutritional counseling.
Pros: This retreat is authentic, natural, spiritual, green, and health-conscious. Those who are most interested in the purification of mind, body, and spirit over ritzy resorts will love it. The owner and staff are very friendly and their mission remains true to the local culture.
Cons: This is a very small hotel and not a good fit for those who are looking for a private, luxurious experience. It's certainly rustic, with outdoor showers and bathrooms, and there are very few options for accommodation type. The hotel is also adults only (over the age of 21), so this isn't a good pick for families, or those seeking beachfront access.
Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, Grand Cayman Islands
The Cayman Islands don't have a single all-inclusive resort, but the picturesque, family-friendly Seven Mile Beach has the first "lifestyle resort" on the island in Kimpton Seafire Resort.
The hotel is named for the impressive view of the sunset that is best seen from the freshwater pool deck and brings a sense of white-glove care and comfort with the Caribbean sea as the backdrop. Each room has a pillow menu and yoga mat, and cruiser bikes are available to tour the 22-mile island, which I enjoyed trying out. There are three dining options, including an award-winning chef-driven Spanish tapas restaurant with a chef's table, as well as a broader Mediterranean seafood and steaks restaurant with airy open windows, and also a casual beachside Mexican restaurant with ocean views and great natural cocktails.
I highly recommend the full service, award-winning spa's signature treatment: the two-hour Purification Hammam Journey with private Turkish steam room. I was scrubbed, soaked in bubbles, rubbed, and moisturized (and repeat) just like one might in Istanbul. It was totally unique and worth every penny.
The hotel also offers tours to Rum Point and catamaran rides to "Stingray City" for snorkeling. The legend says that if you kiss one of these safe and domesticated stingrays, you'll have good luck for seven years.
Pros: The resort does a fine job of incorporating local attractions and the Purification Hammam Journey was totally unique and felt like a worthy splurge. The service standards are impeccably high.
Cons: Food and beverage choices are paid for a la carte, which can become expensive and the overall cost of staying here is higher than other options in the Cayman Islands. Additionally, there's a $60 resort fee, which among other things includes bike rentals.
There are many high-end hotels on the small island of Aruba, but why not stay where the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands always stays (along with countless other celebrities, according to the hotel) at the historical Hilton Aruba.
Aruba enjoys crystal blue waters and calm, warm weather year-round given its location outside of the hurricane belt. Daily activities range from standup paddleboard to pool yoga, bird watching, tennis, bicycle tours, and making your own aloe scrub, many of which are included.
Aloe is a local crop and infused into many offerings, including spa treatments, cocktails, and guest rooms. And don't forget to meet the on-site parrot whisperer, Victor, who hosts one of the most popular activities called "bird interaction," where you get to meet and pose with the house parrots. There is also a diving center, 15-acre beach, and incredible unobstructed sunset views. Children 18 and under stay free when sharing the room with an adult.
Pros: The weather is unbeatable and the Hilton has a delightfully friendly, high-class, and multicultural atmosphere where wellness and plentiful complimentary activities feel effortlessly incorporated.
Cons: Flights aren't always cheap to Aruba and the rooms can be expensive in high season. The hotel doesn't offer all-inclusive options, and wellness week is only scheduled once a year if you are looking for a solely health-focused experience.
The adults-only CHIC by Royalton is a young, hip wellness destination with a Spring Break vibe, though you'll still leave feeling refreshed and pampered. The hotel is popular with singles, so expect a lot of social activities like foam parties, reggae-dancing in the pool, and beach volleyball.
I went with my sister for a girls' trip and made friends with other guests. We had fun but still were able to make fitness a priority and joined included non-motorized water-sports such as snorkeling and kayaking, or an introductory surf lesson. I took advantage of the Detox Oxygen bar, which provides healthy green drink options and short oxygen shots to relieve stress or help recover from travel or late-night antics.
There's also an insta-worthy mermaid pool, beauty center, spa with a wide range of treatments, six on-site restaurants, and a casino. Rooms are comfortable and large with high thread count sheets and rain showers.
Body Holiday was founded in the 1980s as one of the first-ever all-inclusive, wellness resort modeled after Club Med. It's since become a five-star hotel and spa and destination in itself, though the atmosphere remains relaxed and unpretentious.
While it's mostly couples and families, I visited solo and made friends during my stay. Every day, four to five different wellness activities are offered per hour including archery, golf, beach volleyball, yoga, and pilates. There are six restaurants, plus a full juice and smoothie bar. My favorite was I-tal, run by a Rastafarian couple and involved walking mountainside to pick your own ingredients, from which the chef-couple prepare your vegetarian dinner.
The hotel's large spa boasts Alhambra design with fountains, pools and a courtyard, and all-inclusive guests choose one daily complimentary 50-minute treatment such as massage, body wrap, thalassotherapy (water therapy), and facials. There are also a la carte treatments, like the Ayurveda four-handed Abhyanga traditional oil massage, a technique common in India.
Ocean activities are available, from water skiing to snorkeling, and introduction to sailing or scuba diving and Wi-Fi is only available in the lobby, clubhouse or guest room. I recommend staying at least ten days; guests often come back year after year.
Pros: Four to five scheduled activities per hour feels unprecedented, and the resort does a lovely job of mixing authentic wellness and relaxation with luxury amenities. The I-tal Rastafarian dining experience is totally unique.
Cons: The room rate package is very expensive and surges close to $1,000 in high season. Exploring the island by car from the hotel involves windy roads that easily induce motion sickness.