How to Choose a Fitness or Weight Loss Resort

Tips and Top Picks to Help You Find a Retreat to Lose Weight

Are you considering a visit to a weight loss retreat? Looking for a fitness getaway to jump start your new exercise program? Or do you want a destination vacation that allows you to maintain your workout schedule while relaxing and recharging?

Many smart dieters begin their slimming journey away from home to get a clean break from the habits and lifestyle practices that led to weight gain in the first place. It's a smart approach if you can afford the luxury. But a visit to a health spa, a fitness retreat, or weight loss resort is not cheap, so it's smart to do your homework before you decide where to go.

Questions to Ask

You'll save yourself both time, money, and the potential for disappointment if you do some homework before investing in a health resort. There is a wide range of options and the one you see first may not offer what you need.

There are many different types of fitness resorts and weight loss retreats, a variety of locations, and various services offered at each resort. Not every program is the right fit for every exerciser and dieter. Ask these questions before you reserve your spot to slim down.

  • What is covered in the program cost? Many programs are all-inclusive, but some locations add fees for testing, special classes, or coaching after the program is complete. 
  • What kind of services are offered? Not every program provides services like a specific meal plan to take home or fitness program to follow on your own. Don't assume that your desired location will provide the services that you feel are most important. Ask in advance to avoid disappointment.
  • Will the resort medical staff accommodate my medical needs and/or connect with my home health care team? If you have medical conditions that affect your diet or participation in exercise, see if there is an RN, RDN or M.D. on staff to make sure you stay healthy. Some programs have physicians on staff that can assist clients with medical concerns. 
  • What kind of exercise is provided and can I comfortably participate? If you have a larger body or if you have injuries that restrict your movement, make sure that the resort offers equipment, services, and trained staff to help you participate in classes and activities. 
  • What will happen when I go home? Ask about post-retreat services and costs. Some programs build in the cost of coaching after you go home, but others charge an additional fee.
  • How many participants will be there with me? If you prefer a small-group setting, ask about the number of participants that will be in your program.
  • Will the camp support my dietary needs? Don't assume that the kitchen can accommodate your gluten-free, low sodium, or vegan diet. Ask in advance if you follow a specific eating plan.

The "Best" Weight Loss Retreat

There is no best weight loss resort. The most effective program for you is the one that meets your individual needs and fits into your lifestyle so you can maintain your new skills when you go home.

Explore each category below to see which programs stand out to you. Many weight loss retreats fall into more than one category, so scan the entire list before you narrow down your top picks. Then contact your top choices and ask questions before making a final decision.

Your visit to a weight loss resort will be a big investment, but it can lay the groundwork for lifelong healthy habits. Take as much time as you need to explore all of your options and find the best fit.

Medical Weight Loss Retreats

Group of women running together on grass rear view
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If your doctor has recommended weight loss to improve a medical condition, if you have significant weight to lose, or if you want the help of physicians or other medical experts during your weight loss journey, then you'll want to choose a medical weight loss retreat. Most have physicians on staff to provide an evaluation when you check in and to monitor your health as you lose weight.

At a medical weight loss retreat, you're not likely to follow a fad diet or fitness trend. Rather, your program will be developed based on an evidence-based scientific approach to weight loss and maintenance.

Medical weight loss resorts to consider include Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa (Miami, Florida) California Health and Longevity Institute (Westlake Village, California), Structure House (Durham, North Caroline) or the Cooper Clinic (Dallas, Texas).

Top pick: Duke Diet & Fitness Center

Location: Durham, North Carolina

Length of program: Most clients at Duke choose the 4-week weight loss program although shorter stays (such as a 2-week program) are available. The facility also offers a "graduate program," a residential retreat designed for those who have already completed the 4-week program and would like to come back for a refresher. 

Cost: A one-week program starts at $3,125. A four-week stay costs $8,385. Two and three-week programs are also available. The graduate program costs $1,275. Accommodations are made separately at an additional cost.

Why a top-pick? Duke Diet & Fitness is affiliated with Duke University Medical Center, so clients are able to take advantage of cutting-edge academic and medical resources and the latest in weight loss research. There is a wide range of dietary and fitness options available to accommodate different sizes and medical needs. Patients who have recently undergone bariatric surgery can also be accommodated. Aftercare is provided so clients have access to support services after returning home. Duke Diet & Fitness was founded in 1969, so it has a long history of providing quality care.

Spa and Luxury Weight Loss Resorts

Since weight loss can be an exhausting and rigorous pursuit, many travelers choose to begin their journey at a relaxing spa. Typical spa offerings, like fitness classes, massage, chef-driven menus make the weight loss process feel less stressful. Some of these fitness and weight loss resorts are located within luxury hotels, while others have stand-alone campuses.

Spas with weight loss services include The Golden Door (Escondido, California), VeraVia (Carlsbad, California), Premier Fitness Camp (Carlsbad, California), Miraval (Arizona), Canyon Ranch (multiple locations).

The top picks for the spa category depend on your goal. If you're primarily seeking a luxury spa vacation where you might be able to lose a few pounds (or simply not gain weight) then consider one of the "spa first" top picks. But if your primary goal is weight loss and you also enjoy the luxury of spa services and fine dining then consider the "weight loss first" top pick.

Top pick (weight loss first): Hilton Head Health (Hilton Head, South Carolina)

Services offered: Hilton Head Health offers a full list of body treatments and beauty services in a well-appointed, luxurious spa. But at this island resort, you'll also enjoy a healthy, gourmet menu and a wide selection of fitness offerings including pool classes, spinning, yoga on the beach, treadmill workouts, country line-dancing, and more. In addition, guests take part in lectures and workshops that help them develop the skills needed to start and maintain a comprehensive program of healthy eating and exercise.

Cost: Prices at Hilton Head Health start at just over $3,400 per week for first-time guests or about $600 per night. If you are new to the program and have more weight to lose consider taking at least 7-10 days or up to one month at the retreat to take full advantage of all that Hilton Head Health has to offer.

Why a top pick? Hilton Head Health could easily be included in several of the different weight loss retreat categories. There are no physicians on the premises, but lectures and programs are developed by credentialed healthcare professionals and the weight loss guidelines are based on the most highly respected evidence-based research.

For that reason, potential clients who might consider a medical program like Pritikin or Cooper—but do not need medical supervision— may find that Hilton Head Health serves their needs. Additionally, some clients who visit the weight loss retreat do so to boost their health or lose weight before medical treatments or surgery (such as a knee replacement).

Lastly, because the facility is on an island with access to a stunning beach, those who are looking for a destination resort may also enjoy this program.

But the primary reason that Hilton Head Health is a top pick is the scope of the program and the supportive environment. Guests become friendly with each other as they participate in engaging lectures and workshops that address all aspects of living a healthy life—from goal setting, portion control, and meal planning to wellness apps and smartphone technology that can help to boost success.

Guests enjoy delicious calorie-controlled meals in a fine-dining restaurant and can choose to participate in chef's wine dinners and cooking classes. They also develop an individualized program for their return home and can participate in post-program coaching.

If you consider Hilton Head Health, be aware that accommodations are not traditional hotel-style rooms. Guests are often placed in a shared villa or cottage that may be owned by the retreat or might be located offsite and owned by a private party. If you have specific expectations for accommodations during your stay, ask questions about your lodging arrangements before booking.

Top picks (spa first): The Ranch (Malibu or Westlake Village, California) and Cal-A-Vie (Vista, California)

Services offered: You'll find traditional spa services at both locations, but each offers additional programs to help you get in shape or slim down. Cal-A-Vie offers a new WellnessFX digital diagnostic and habit tracking program and The Ranch offers inspired vegan cuisine and outdoor programs to boost physical endurance.

Cost: Prices at The Ranch range from $4.200 (four-day program) to $30,000 for a four-week total transformation. Prices at Cal-A-Vie start at $4,950 for a 3-night getaway to $9,950 for a seven-night stay.

Why are these top picks? Both of these health spas ranked well because of their extensive list of luxury services paired with tailored programs for weight loss. At Cal-A-Vie, guests enjoy chef-prepared meals and can choose a daily intake of 1500, 1800, or 2000 calories. Each guest meets with the registered dietician who works with you to suggest fitness classes also provides support to change diet and lifestyle habits related to weight gain.

At The Ranch, guests choose from indoor and outdoor activities that help them to feel physically and mentally restored. The Ranch guests who stay in Westlake Village take advantage of services at the California Health and Longevity Institute, including body fat and metabolic testing, cooking classes, and a 1,400 calorie-a-day organic, plant-based diet.

Destination Weight Loss Retreats

If you would like to pair your weight loss experience with a trip to an exotic location, you'll have plenty of options. International weight loss resorts cater to fitness and travel savvy clients all over the globe. You're likely to feel pampered at many of these hot spots which may make the weight loss process feel more indulgent and can make dieting and exercise easier.

Transitioning home, however, may be more of a challenge as your typical daily routine is not likely to be as luxurious or exotic as the curated experience at these destinations.

Destination weight loss resorts to consider include Rancho La Puerto (Baja California Mexico), OneWorld Ayurveda (Bali Indonesia) or Lefay Resort and Spa in Italy which offers a weight loss program. If you love CrossFit, you might also try Samui Fitness and Crossfit Retreat.

Top pick: The BodyHoliday

Location: St. Lucia

Services offered: There is almost no diet, fitness, or weight loss service that is not offered at The BodyHoliday. The resort offers quality nutrition services, Ayurvedic diet and wellness services, expert fitness training, and an extensive line-up of activities including sailing, swimming, bootcamp, hiking, paddle board, spinning, stretching, tennis, combat fitness, water volleyball, archery, and much much more. A full spa is also available.

BodyHoliday also offers week-long weight loss retreats run by their team of nutritionists and exercise physiologists.

Cost: The result is all-inclusive with rates starting at $555 per person, per night (all inclusive). Cost for the Weight Loss Retreat is $756 per person per night (all inclusive).

Why a top-pick? Scientific studies have found that when people view exercise as play, they are more likely to commit to their fitness routine for the long haul. The camaraderie at BodyHoliday and the wide range of activities at the resort make it easy to play while you get in shape and lose weight. Staff at the facility work together to coordinate a comprehensive experience so that you meet your diet, nutrition, and exercise goals while having fun in a luxurious setting.

Yoga and Holistic Weight Loss Retreats

If you currently have a yoga practice or if you would like to start one, consider visiting a yoga retreat that provides a weight loss program. Many yoga retreats nationally and internationally practice Ayurvedic medicine and may offer an Ayurvedic diet to help you slim down.

Many of the resorts and retreats mentioned in other sections of this review offer yoga programs along with weight loss services. YogaKoh is another possible consideration with locations in Montana, Bali, Maldives, and Mexico.

Top pick: The Kripalu Approach to Diet: Integrative Weight Loss Program

Location: Stockbridge, Massachusetts (in the Berkshire Mountains)

Services offered: Five-day immersive weight loss program that focuses on eating behavior and mindful lifestyle practices that support healthy living, weight loss, and weight maintenance. Yoga, cooking classes, nutrition lectures, and outdoor exercise is included.

Cost: $483 (tuition) and accommodations ranging from $375 (for 2 nights) to $836 (for 2 nights).

Why a top-pick? Many weight loss retreats develop their programs around a specific exercise schedule and predetermined nutritional goals. At Kripalu, participants spend more time delving into why they eat and what they can do to make healthier choices. Dieters don't go home with a specific meal plan to follow, but they have the opportunity to connect with others so that they can continue to build on the foundation that they establish at Kripalu.

The setting at Kripalu is breathtaking so participants have​ an incentive to get outside for physical activity. And the food (mostly vegetarian and vegan offerings) makes eating healthy both delicious and enjoyable.

Outdoor and Wilderness Weight Loss Retreats

Hikers, backpackers, and other outdoor enthusiasts will appreciate the weight loss programs at locations that encourage open-air exploration. These resorts encourage self-discovery and physical challenges that burn calories and build endurance.

Choices in this category might include Mountain Trek Health Spa (British Columbia, Canada), Copperhood Retreat and Spa (Shandaken, NY), Green Mountain at Fox Run (Ludlow, Vermont), or Jumpstart located in the Catskill Mountains.

Top pick: Red Mountain Weight Loss and Living Well Retreat

Location:  Ivins, Utah

Services offered: Seven-day program that includes hiking, fitness classes, fitness and nutrition consultations, group workshops, and cooking demos.

Cost: $3,000 per person all inclusive

Why a top-pick? This comprehensive program is personalized for each guest to meet his or her specific needs. Each guest consults with the Wellness Manager before arrival and then connects again with him after the retreat. Guests bring home individualized nutrition and fitness programs as well as tools to guide mindful eating practices and skills to address roadblocks that typically interfere with long-term weight loss and weight maintenance.

Celebrity Resorts and Weight Loss Cruises

If you're looking for an alternative to the typical cruise experience (which tends to be sedentary and indulgent) consider Blue World Cruises, a new concept in cruise ships designed just for active adults. The ship experience includes opportunities for functional training and other top-trending fitness modalities along with active adventures to burn calories onshore and onboard.

If you're looking for targeted exercise programming with the pros, a smart choice is a CrossFit cruise. WOD on the Waves departs from Miami and visits numerous destinations in the Bahamas. The cruise provides workouts designed for fitness enthusiasts of all levels—from hard-core CrossFitters to new exercisers. Prices range from $575 to $5198 depending on accommodations.

Top pick: WW (formerly Weight Watchers) Wellness Cruise on MSC Cruises

Location:  Multiple destinations including Miami, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Thomas, and the Bahamas. 

Services offered: WW workshops, one-on-one sessions, demos, fitness classes, and other experiences. Guests dine throughout the cruise ship with menus that provide plan-focused options through the WW SmartPoints meals and snacks.

Cost: Prices vary depending on length of cruise and destination.

Why a top-pick? Setting sail on a cruise can be a fast-track to fatness if you're not careful. But this cruise offers countless ways for you to eat well, have fun, and stay fit at the same time. You will have opportunities to learn healthy habits in a luxurious setting so that you still feel pampered on vacation. You’ll also have the chance to be meet other like-minded cruisers at WW Meet Ups and other events.

A Word From Verywell

Your time at a health, fitness, or weight loss resort will provide a unique opportunity to build a healthy foundation for long-term weight loss and weight maintenance. You'll learn important skills and perhaps even connect with friends who will support you for the duration of your journey.

Once you've chosen the best weight loss retreat for you, find out if there are things you can do prior to your visit to make the experience more valuable. For example, you might keep a food journal, begin an easy exercise program, or make an appointment with your doctor for a check-up. The more you can do before your visit the more likely you'll be to lose weight and keep the pounds off when you return home.

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