Fathom founder Pavia Rosati goes to an all-inclusive spa in the Caribbean and has her expectations exceeded.
SAINT LUCIA — Let me tell you how I spent my third day at BodyHoliday, the award-winning, all-inclusive spa on the northern end of Saint Lucia.
- 7:00 - Wake up (without alarm clock).
- 7:15 - Breakfast buffet: soft-scrambled eggs, smoked salmon, English muffin.
- 8:00 - Rooftop yoga overlooking Atlantic.
- 9:00 - Intermediate archery: having skipped beginner class, miss target more often than I'd like.
- 10:00 - 15 minutes of quiet breathing at Meditation Temple surrounded by water lilies.
- 11:00 - Tour organic garden and harvest lettuces, peppers, quash, and herbs for lunch.
- 12:00 - Help chef prep lunch at open-air hilltop restaurant and devour two bowls of callaloo soup before dashing off to ...
- 1:00 - Private swimming lesson with four-time British Olympian David Carry. In 20 minutes, four decades of swim style have been reprogrammed.
- 2:00 - Ignore rain (I'm wet anyway) and strap on life jacket for high-speed, adrenaline-packed wakeboarding around bay.
- 2:25 - Fresh juice with side shot of ginger tonic.
- 2:30 - Private health consultation with doctor, who suggests that the mysterious cough I can't shake might improve with pranayama breathing.
- 3:00 - Far Infrared therapy: 20 minutes to raise body temperature, increase blood circulation, and boost immune system.
- 3:30 - Personal training session. Learn moves that ten years of trainers in NYC have never revealed.
- 4:00 - Saint Lucian Sizzler full-body massage.
- 5:00 - Power vinyasa yoga.
- 6:00 - Back to beach. Grab sea kayak for sunset cruise around bay.
- 6:30 - Another Far Infrared therapy session. (It's open for drop-ins anytime.)
- 8:00 - Sushi dinner at Tao restaurant with excellent bottle of riesling.
You're probably tired from just reading that, but this was a perfect day for me. Yes, it was busy. But that's how I like it. Yes, I packed it in. But nothing felt rushed.
"Give us your body for a week and we'll give you back your mind" is the motto at BodyHoliday, and my body and mind both felt renewed by the time I fell asleep. By the way, archery is a lot harder than it looks.
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What's in a Name?
Let's get one thing out of the way: Right off the bat, I thought "BodyHoliday" was a pretty silly name for what I was promised was a lovely place. And while I'm confessing my snotty, judgy biases, I was nervous about going to an all-inclusive in the Caribbean because they're usually cheesy and touristy. But whatever journalistic skepticism I brought with me disappeared within a few hours of arriving.
I came to learn that when the Barnard family (who have been in the Caribbean since the 1600s) opened the resort in 1988, destination spas were considered fat farms and "wellness" as we know it today was a trend whose time was decades away. Their idea — that a spa could be restorative and relaxing, and serve wine and chocolate, and not be a body punishment but rather a body holiday — was incredibly innovative at the time. The awards they've collected in the years since have reflected this, coming not only from expected sources like Conde Nast Traveler and Spafinder but also from Wine Spectator. BodyHoliday has stayed at the forefront of wellness, adding Ayurveda a year after opening and inviting experts from around the world — athletes like my Olympian and yogis and doctors — to lead programs that enhance their already extensive offerings.
I really enjoyed the time I spent at I-Tal, the organic farm and restaurant that anchors their new farm-to-table experience, which includes a tour of the garden, a cooking class with a chef, and lunch. (If you're lucky, they'll be making callaloo soup.) The garden is cultivated and run by Damien, an engaging vegan Rastafarian philosopher, and his wife, who I did not get to meet. On a tour of the farm, Damien explained a great deal — about the indigenous Carib people and their culinary traditions, about the legacy of African slaves and European colonizers, about how life took him from Canada to Saint Lucia. The pesticide-free, non-GMO garden is planted according to time-tested intercropping techniques (sweet potatoes and corn make great neighbors), and the superfoods currently flourishing include moringa, Tuscan kale, and Swiss chard. We should all live and eat like this all the time. We'd be a much happier planet.
In a taut little nutshell, BodyHoliday is a fun and engaging spa retreat run by really lovely people who encourage their guests to do as much — or as little — as they want in terms of well-being and fitness, eating and drinking, sight-seeing and lazing on the beach. This was a heavenly way to spend a few days, and I'd gladly return for more.
This place is summer camp for adults. The property is big and varied, a valley ringed by tree-filled hills on one side and a protected bay and a long shoreline on the other. (Everything is so, so green and lush.) The 155 rooms are concentrated in different wings of the main hotel building. As part of an extensive, property-wide renovation for their upcoming 30th anniversary, most of the rooms have been redone: They're bright and comfortable, not overdone or opulent, and the best have patios that open onto the beach. If you're traveling alone, they offer solo rooms. If you're traveling with a posse, Firefly, a private hilltop villa with a handful of bedrooms, would be a great place for a healthy getaway. Two new villas, Lara and Calypso, are smaller and offer maximum privacy.
The sports complex, which includes fencing, tennis, and a golf academy, is next what I came to call the Zen Zone for the meditation temple, the t'ai chi field, and the gentle waterfalls. There are two or three or four pools, depending how you count them. (I kept changing my mind.) The expansive Wellness Center, home to fitness and spa facilities, was modeled after the Alhambra, one of the most magical buildings anywhere. The program booklet I received when I checked in listed 29 exercise classes: Pilates, barre, krav maga, circuit training, and HIIT among them. Dining options include Cariblue (international buffet breakfast and lunch; a la carte dinner), Windows (a small chef's table dinner), Tao (East-meets-West fine dining, with excellent sushi), Pavilion Grill (for clay-oven pizza), and the Deli (health poolside salads, wraps, and a terrific juice bar). Herein a joy of being at an all-inclusive: I ordered three different juices at once.
Activities on the beach range from snorkeling and scuba — both with nighttime options — to whale- and dolphin-watching, group swims, waterskiing, sea kayaking, sunset cruising, and wakeboarding. Or you can just, you know, sit on the beach and fall asleep on page ten of your trashy novel.
Wait, I'm not finished! Also on site are a piano bar, a boutique, a yoga treehouse platform, a clubhouse bar (home of the nightly dance party), a library, a beauty salon, and a smoking lounge. Yes, smoking at a spa. They get a lot of English clients. The Brits like to smoke, and the BodyHoliday gang doesn't like to judge.
It took me the better part of three days to see everything I've just told you about. Which is why once you get here, there's little reason to leave. That said, if you do want to explore Saint Lucia, the resort organizes excursions to hike the Pitons mountains (the UNESCO World Heritage Site you've seen in so many photos), to nearby waterfalls where you can abseil your way down, to fishing villages and mineral baths. (They provide all necessary gear.)
I stayed on the compound, getting my fill of workouts and Ayurveda consultations and twice-daily yoga classes and facials and massages and restoring breaks in the Far Infrared chairs, which are open to anyone during spa hours. Here's another thing about an all-inclusive: They include a LOT of options. The only thing I didn't do much of was sit on the beach and read a trashy novel. But this was my choice: I didn't want to miss anything.
The highlight of my stay was the impromptu swimming lesson with David Carry, and not only because he had me laughing pretty much the whole time I was with him. In no more than twenty minutes, he changed how I breathe, stroke, flow, and kick-turn in the water. Where was he when I was four years old taking swimming lessons at the Y? Along with his Olympian swimmer wife Keri-Anne Payne, Carry leads annual SwimFit programs at BodyHoliday. They told me about their repeat clients, and in particular the 80-year-old who had never so much as done a lap in a pool: She's now doing one-mile swims in the open sea annually.
Give us a week, they say.
Who knows what you'll end up doing?
Book Your Trip
The all-inclusive rate (which is not easy to find listed on the website) begins at $451 per person per night. This covers the room, all meals and drinks, a customized program of treatments (including one massage per day — per day!), fitness classes, sports (including golf and scuba) and any professional sports instruction, personal fitness trainer, and dietitian. Not included are telephones calls and laundry. Tips are collected centrally and distributed annually and evenly among the team, excluding senior management. You'll get to know the staff while you're here, and that's really nice. Your spin teacher will be leading the dance party after dinner. You can book directly with them or contact the Fathom Travel Concierge and we can arrange the trip for you.
Plan Your Trip
How to Get There: Saint Lucia is a lovely island on the southern end of the Caribbean. There's only one flight per day from New York City. BodyHoliday is located on the northwest in Castries, about a 90-minute drive from Hewanorra International Airport (UVF) on the southern tip of the island. The hotel can arrange transportation for an additional fee of $99 each way. (Or $175 per person by helicopter if there are at least four people traveling.) If you want to see a little bit of the island on your way to the resort, arrange for the driver to go along the western coast, past the Piton Mountains and the Sulphur Springs.
Good to Know: This is a very casual place, and the dress code reflects that. (My high-heel sandals stayed in my suitcase.) Everything is very nice, but the vibe is more relaxing than luxurious, and that's how they want it. The resort is for visitors over the age of 16, except for Easter, Christmas, and the summer, when the age drops to 12. There are no televisions in the rooms, and WiFi is limited to the bedrooms, the library, and the lobby. But, come on: Get your nose out of your phone.