The BodyHoliday review | fitness holiday, the Caribbean
A holiday for whatever your body needs on St Lucia
The Quick Read: This is a sunny, unpretentious healthy holiday resort set on a wide sweeping bay where you’ll have access to an enormous range of fitness classes and wellness activities and a 50 minute treatment every day included in your stay. Activities on offer range from stand up paddle boarding, mountain biking and volleyball to zumba, dance and spinning in a treehouse studio. Options like Tai chi, yoga and life coaching calm everything down. Tatler got it right when it described the place as ‘the dirty dancing of the healthy holiday world’ – handsome ‘body guards’ look after your every fitness need, and there’s live music and dancing most nights which you can choose to attend. Treatments and some classes take place at a Moorish-inspired spa atop a hill and away from the throng, where it’s worth paying extra for the longer, more holistic offerings. It’s a good place to come to relax, get fit and meet others – or to have fun and chill out with your lover or a group of friends. It’s adults-only, except for August when they have a family month.
More on the activities: The BodyHoliday says: ‘Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind’. The only problem is deciding what to pick out of the breath-taking array of activities on offer. If you want to try something new, this is the place to do it. It’s been running for over 25 years, so they know a thing or two about what’s good for the body. Themed months and visiting experts who focus on a particular wellness activity run throughout the year too, and August usually hosts a family month. Read a word from the queen on her stay.
Gym bunnies and exercise junkies are especially spoilt for choice. Good old standards such as step, aqua fitness, circuits, spinning and fitball sit alongside funky options such as combat fitness, zumba and body dance. Classes and personal training are run by male and female ‘body guards’ who all bring their own personality to their work and are generally lovely with a distinctly Caribbean warmth.
Yoga, meditation and tai chi are also on offer – there are two full time yoga instructors here now all year round, and if you want to focus on any of them, you can join the regular group classes and also arrange private classes too. If you’re serious about change, some life coaching sessions with Toby Maguire will help you on your way – but it’s worth booking up for at least three sessions as each session is only 50 minutes.
The warm pristine water is wonderful for watersports – everything from snorkelling to scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing and wakeboarding. Hobiecats are a great way to start sailing, you can paddle a kayak if you fancy something serene or get your adrenalin pumping with tubing. Not a water baby? Go for golf, abseiling, tennis, volleyball, fencing, mountain biking or archery. If you’re superfit, you could challenge yourself with a scrambling and abseiling session in the River Doree gorge (or avoid the rappel and take a tough two hour hike to get there instead).
More on the spa: The Oasis Spa is inspired by the Moorish arches of the Alambra in Spain – it sits up on a hill above the main site and the buildings are pinkish terracotta set around two courtyards.
Treatments run tightly on the hour: All sessions last for 50 minutes, with 10 minutes breathing space for changeover, which does make for a slightly hurried experience. One moment you’re being blessed out on the couch; the next you’re out in the throng. Most of the treatment rooms are air-conditioned and don’t have windows.
If you’re stressed, the ayurvedic massages are the most nourishing, and we found the ayurveda centre the most relaxing space, with natural light and air rather than air-conditioning. Rooms are open to the elements but carved stone windows offer privacy and, if you feel hot, there are fans. This space is far more replenishing and you feel less hurried after a treatment.
More on the treatments: One treatment a day is included in your package. Choices include the Lucian Lime & Ginger Scrub (deep exfoliation); Aloe Vera Body Wrap (gentle massage followed by an aloe vera gel wrap); Full Body Massage (predominantly Swedish in ethos – choose relaxing or revitalising techniques); Aromapure Facial (tailored to your skin type); Deluxe Coconut & Spice Combo (invigorating back, neck, shoulders and scalp massage delivered seated); Hydrotherapy (actually more thalassotherapy – seawater jets massage you followed by fun exercises – a treat); Hand and Foot Zone Therapy (massage combined with pressure point work); Nurturing Mother-to-be Massage (a safe, soothing massage for pregnant women).
All other treatments come at an extra cost but they offer such an interesting choice, you’d be hard-pushed not to try something. As far as therapies go, the usual acupuncture, aromatherapy, reflexology, Reiki and lomi lomi are joined by more unusual treatments such as Su Jok (Korean hand and foot acupuncture), Chi Nei Tsang (deep massage to the abdomen and internal organs) and cupping (using glass cups and heat to create localised pressure to relieve tension in the back and shoulders). There’s a bewildering menu of pampering face and body treatments plus the usual beauty salon services (mani-pedis, waxing and so forth). The Specialist Skin Care Clinic offers wonderfully effective facials and high-tech skincare with microdermabrasion, CACI and transdermal therapy for skin revitalisation and wrinkles.
The Ayurveda Centre offers a fair range of ayurvedic treatments. Ask for the synchronised abhyanga if you want the delicious four-handed version of the traditional signature massage. Soothing shirodhara (oil to the forehead) and marma massage (akin to acupressure) are joined by Chavutti (a delicious deep massage in which you lie on the floor and the therapist massages you with his or her feet). They also do dosha-specific facials.
Inside and outside: All the clichés of the Caribbean are here – white sands, clear waters, palm trees rustling in a gentle sea breeze. There are hammocks, loungers by the pool and on the beach and various café areas to sit and chill. There are two pools – one for straightforward swimming and one for activities such as volleyball and Scuba lessons. The beachside hot tub is small but has a restful view and properly powerful jets too – perfect for a pre-supper de-stress session.
Classes take place in some interesting spaces – the Indian sandstone pavilion is used for meditation and small yoga classes and there’s a treehouse studio for yoga, including a roof-top yoga platform known as the ‘Zen deck’. On our visit the changing rooms were a little bit small and needed updating – more showers and lockers would be good – it wasn’t a major big deal though.
More on the bedrooms: Even the most basic garden rooms are a decent size and have comfy beds, though on our visit the furniture felt a little too large for the room size. Bathrooms have granite sink units and REN toiletries. In the penthouse suite you’ll get your own hammam. Don’t expect state of the art design – the style is clean and safe, with calm neutrals and nothing to scare the horses – but, to be honest, all the bedrooms are fine as you simply won’t spend that much time in them: you’ll be on the beach, out on the water, in the spa, in a class or out and about on the island.
Food & Drink: Like with the activities available on The BodyHoliday, the choice is yours when it comes to food and drink. Eat healthily, or truly indulge. Some meal options are extra to the price you pay if you’re all inclusive, so do be warned. If you want a dedicated detox or cleansing programme overseen by a nutritionist, do ask in advance, otherwise you can pick from a range of indulgent or healthy options – note even some wine and champagne are included in the price.
There are three restaurants offering different experiences. The main restaurant, Cariblue, is bustling at breakfast – everyone is either en route to somewhere or just back from exercise, so you see every attire from spa robes to sports kit to summer dresses. In the evening they sometimes offer a la carte, and sometimes a themed buffet – Indian, British (on Sunday, a full roast), Caribbean, New Orleans and so forth – a little gimmicky perhaps but well prepared and interesting food and good fun. There’s also a solo table here if you’re here alone and fancy eating with and meeting others. Breakfast offers all manner of things – many of them healthy, but do be warned that Heinz baked beans is on offer rather than a home made alternative – surprising for a resort of this kind.
The Clubhouse has a very relaxed vibe, with lots of atmosphere in the evenings – especially outside, at dusk, with candles lit on the wooden tables. In fact it was our favourite. TAO is the resort’s star restaurant is up on the second-floor balcony overlooking the beach and serves fusion food – it serves especially good sushi and shashimi, though on our visit, we weren’t blown away by the decor or atmosphere. There also The Deli (a very simple place for coffee, cakes, sandwiches, salads and snacks) and, come nightfall, the Piano Bar stays open until the last guest has thrown in the towel.
Fellow guests: This place is a great leveller, full of all sorts, all shapes and all sizes from all walks of life coming to revive their interest in life and in themselves. About 40% of the guests at The BodyHoliday have been before – which shows you how addictive it can be. What’s really nice about it is that it can fit in with every mood. If you’re feeling sociable, there will always be someone up for a chat or a game of volleyball. If you’re feeling a bit reclusive, you’ll be left to your own devices. You can be a hermit one hour, and a party animal the next. It’s the best of all worlds. During school holidays children age 12 and over are welcome – outside those, it’s just for over 16s.
What’s lowly: As there is so much going on, scheduling can be a headache. It’s popular and busy, so if you’re looking for a truly serene retreat, this one isn’t for you. Extras can add up, so ensure you know what you are booking and what you need to pay for once you are here.
Getting there: You fly to St Lucia, from which it’s roughly a 1-2 hour drive depending on traffic. Transfers can be arranged at a cost of US$99 each way (for 1-2 people).
Costs: From £2410 per person for a week including accommodation, one treatment a day, all meals (including wine and champagne for those who want it) and most activities. Nightly rates range from £390 for one person staying alone in a Standard Garden room to £733 for two people sharing a Luxury Room. The Penthouse Suite ranges from £834 to £1177 per night.
Some activities do cost extra. For example, River Dorree abseiling costs $150 (£95) and extreme mountain biking costs $85 (£54). A basic introduction to scuba diving is included but certified divers can take extra programmes from $335 (£214). Likewise basic golf and tennis instruction is included but extra lessons carry an additional cost – for example, $30 (£19) for extra golf and $55-80 (£35 – £51) for extra tennis. Personal training costs from $55 (£35) for half an hour. While all group classes are included in your package, one to one sessions in yoga and Pilates cost more – $115 (£73) for Pilates and $150 (£95) for yoga (sessions can be shared with a friend). Ayurvedic massage costs from $115 (£73) for an hour and facials start from $125 (£80) for 55 minutes. A life-coaching session lasting 50 minutes costs $135 (£87).
Reviewed by Caroline Sylger Jones
© Queen of Retreats