Travelwise

The workout artists

 

How adventurous travelers can find health-and-fitness trips

Fitness vacations

Bikini Bootcamp: http://bikinibootcamp.com/; fitness and yoga; Tulum, Mexico.

Pura Vida Adventures: www.puravidaadventures.com; yoga, surfing and stand-up paddleboarding; Malpais, Costa Rica.

Paddleboard and yoga retreat: http://jessicabellofattoyoga.com/retreats/yoga-sup-surf-rincon.php or www.paddlediva.com/yogasup-retreats; yoga and paddleboarding; Rincon, Puerto Rico.


Associated Press

Several years ago, I found myself needing a certain type of vacation — one that would help me reset life and that combined my passions: fitness and sports, the outdoors and travel, healthy food and new people.

I wanted much of the planning done for me. I also wanted the ability to break from any itinerary. And I wanted to go alone without feeling lonely. A reasonable cost, a variety of activities and a warm location also were important.

So I started searching online for “active vacations” and “fitness trips” and “wellness retreats.” It was frustrating. The pricey and posh Canyon Ranch popped up. Several intensive yoga-only weekend workshops surfaced. So did a number of sites advertising weight-loss cruises.

None fit.

Finally, I stumbled on something called Bikini Bootcamp at an eco-friendly resort in Tulum, Mexico. I cringed at the name — and still do — but I looked past it and found the type of trip I sought.

It promised rustic beach cottages, certified trainers leading fitness sessions, healthy food, excursions like biking through Mayan ruins, spa services, and enough down time to make my vacation my own.

For the most part, that’s what I got.

I was immediately hooked on the model, and, in the years since, I have gone to several others, including Pura Vida Adventures, a surf and yoga camp in Malpais, Costa Rica, that was founded by Tierza Eichner, and, most recently, a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and yoga retreat in Rincon, Puerto Rico, created by Jessica Bellofatto of KamaDeva Yoga and Gina Bradley of Paddle Diva, two companies based in New York’s tony Hamptons beach area.

Don’t misunderstand: these aren’t fat camps. These are vacations tailored to people who value healthy lifestyles, active travel and trying new things, seeing new places and meeting new people.

The formula is generally the same.

All are run by strong, independent, entrepreneurial, outgoing women with interesting life stories, and a true zest for living fully.

The trips either are geared toward or attract mostly women, though the men who do go seem to easily fit in. The demographic tends to skew toward female professionals in their 30s and 40s from all over the country and, sometimes, the world, though everyone from stay-at-home moms to almost-retired grandmas attend. Many people come alone; some come with friends and relatives. The programs attract both extroverts and introverts.

All are bound by an up-for-anything, adventurous attitude and a shared desire to have an active life with nutritious food and vigorous exercise.

So it’s easy to see why bonding usually occurs shortly after arrival, and why it quickly seems as though everyone is looking out for — and rooting for — one another. Many seek to push the bounds both mentally and physically, and they do things they typically wouldn’t, like trail-running through the steep and slippery jungle or jumping off rock ledges into crystal blue water below.

“Expand your comfort zone,” was the daily positive mantra of paddle instructor Shari Hymes during the January retreat in Puerto Rico.

Many leave these trips with great memories and lasting relationships, and the vacations have their own touches reflective of their founders.

Bikini Bootcamp, run by Melissa Perlman, offers an African dance session, a tribal drumming lesson and a traditional Mayan clay treatment on the beach with an eyebrow-raising component: swimsuit tops optional.

The Pura Vida instructors become informal tour guides, taking clients to favorite surf spots in a Scooby Doo-like van that’s been known to stop for cold ones at shacks run by Ticos — or Costa Rican locals — after a long day on the water.

Bradley’s organizational expertise, culinary skills and local connections shape the entire Rincon trip. Bellofatto goes well beyond traditional yoga, teaching the willing one of her specialty skills: downward dog, headstands and other poses while on paddleboards floating atop the water.

All serve meals with local ingredients, focusing on nutritious fuel for active bodies. In Tulum, low-fat soups were a staple. In Malpais, traditional lizano salsa was on the table. And in Rincon, no meal was complete without avocados, tropical fruits and greens from roadside stands.

The venues are breathtaking.

Bikini Bootcamp’s home, Amansala, is a shabby-chic Tulum resort with open-air bungalows, a large fitness pavilion, and a swath of white beach with orange lounge chairs strewn about. Pura Vida is nestled in the jungle that abuts the beach of Malpais, with gorgeous beachfront cottages, a yoga platform, a soaking pool and hammocks strung between palm trees. And the Puerto Rican retreat is based at Casa Azul, Bradley’s private, four-floor house in the Rincon hills, with balconies that offer stunning views of the ocean, beaches and town below.

The prices depend on the trip’s duration and number of people per room. They cost anywhere from $1,400 for four nights in a shared room with a shared bath in Rincon to $3,200 for six nights in Tulum or Malpais for a private room with a private bath. At a minimum, the price typically includes: accommodations, at least two meals a day and daily lessons or sessions. Some also include massages. Transportation never is included, nor is gratuity for the staff. So make sure to bring cash.

One restaurant dinner is typical, and you’re responsible for covering your part of the check. And if you want booze during the trip, you’ve got to pay for it. There’s also no shortage of optional — with fee — activities, such as snorkeling into underground freshwater swimming holes called cenotes in Mexico, zip lining in Costa Rica and climbing waterfalls in Puerto Rico.

When you sign up for any of these three trips, expect a detailed email that usually includes a what-to-pack list, a roster of possible add-on activities, details on the best way to travel, and a typical daily, subject-to-change schedule.

No matter which place you choose, your days usually start with a group walk or run just after sunrise, followed by a breakfast of yogurt, fruit, granola and eggs. Next generally comes a morning session of some kind depending on the trip: a cardio-and-weights class in Mexico, a surfing lesson in Costa Rica, a paddleboard session in Puerto Rico.

At lunchtime, expect to eat your way through heaping mounds of locally grown produce and protein. Beyond that, afternoons typically are kept free for any number of activities, from more surf, paddle or workout sessions, to touring local attractions, to taking a siesta under the sun. Nothing is mandatory; this is, after all, YOUR vacation.

Yoga sessions always are a staple, but they never dominate the trips. Usually, there are one or two sessions a day, in the morning or late afternoon. Like the other lessons, they’re always taught by instructors mindful of the need to tailor their practices toward beginners and veterans alike.

Like the other meals, dinner is communal, with mounds of nutritious grub and even healthy dessert, and it often stretches for hours, with people talking about our lives back home and adventures of the day.

It’s certainly not all perfect; all three trips have room for improvement.

For example, each relies heavily on relationships with local vendors — and subcontractors — to operate, and that can make for inconsistencies and hiccups. Yet, all seek — and get — feedback and tweak their programs to ensure an even better experience for the next batch of campers looking for the perfect mix of adventure, fitness and fun.

Read more Latin American & Caribbean Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
An inverse cheese tart inspired by a Panamanian town nestled ini the crater of an inactive volcano, served at Madrigal, a restaurant in Panama City.

    Panama

    Panama City brings the world’s flavors to its tables

    One hundred years after the opening of the Panama Canal — which continues to bring in immigrants of different ethnicities whose foods dominate Panama City’s culinary scene — a new Panamanian cuisine is emerging, one that looks inward while embracing its diversity.

  •  
Three-toed sloth in the Upper Amazon.

    Cruising the Upper Amazon Basin: anaconda, piranha and king toads, oh my!

    One day, on a cushy fall river cruise in the Upper Amazon Basin, our 10-passenger, motorized skiff was exploring tributaries, and tributaries of tributaries. Each sliver of water was smaller than the former, until we plunged into a jungle path clogged with vines, rotting logs, trees with twisting roots, weeds and tall grasses.

  • Shark lovers try to save Jaws from Trinidad’s bite

    Conservationists say they have launched a shark-saving campaign in the Caribbean country of Trinidad & Tobago, trying to stop locals and tourists from eating a popular delicacy: deep-fried shark sandwiches.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK



  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category