Tips for making the most of your health and fitness spa vacation

Recently, I had the incredible good fortune to have been invited by a friend to spend a week with her at Rancho la Puerto, a destination health and fitness spa.

health and fitness spa

Coming back from an early morning meadow hike

Surprisingly, it was my first time taking a vacation whose sole focus was on exercise, healthy eating and self-care.

Given that the demographic of guests was primarily women in the 45-65 age range (the very same demographic as readers of Fitknitchick…), I’m guessing that more than a few of you have experienced a health and fitness spa vacation.

Perhaps you’ve even been to the Ranch yourself.

While many guests visit the Ranch to kick-start healthy habits and indulge in spa treatments, it’s also the perfect place for the already-fit to visit and be reminded of why they’ve chosen the lifestyle they lead. (Hint: the first day’s hike won’t leave you sore and too tired to participate the following morning).

With a range of fitness class styles, lengths and intensities (Bosu Fit, Circuit Training, Dance:Striptease, Pilates Mat, Tennis Clinic, TRX Basics and Yoga Fundamentals were all on offer during Tuesday’s 10 am time slot), there’s truly something for everybody.

And when you’re tired of formal exercise, there’s always the option of taking a swim, wandering through the miles of meandering trails on the property or retiring to your casita for a nap.

I found it easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options and activities. Not only were there hundreds of fitness classes to choose from, there were hikes and lectures and art classes too.

After a day of trying to do too much, I realized that the key to a successful (and restful) week was to pick and choose from the many experiences the Ranch had to offer, savour them fully and let go of the feeling that I needed to ‘do it all’ (a classic mindset-myth of the midlife woman).

Below are my best tips for making the most of a health and fitness spa vacation. I’ll definitely be implementing them the next time I go; fingers crossed it’s as either a guest instructor or presenter!

Making the most of a health and fitness spa vacation:

  • Try new things, but not too many; I quickly learned that the key to truly enjoying the Ranch is to spend a few minutes each evening looking over the following day’s agenda and highlighting three or four activities to participate in. I tried to include both classes that were new to me (Meditation, Ranch Ropes) and those I was already familiar with (Bosu Fit, TRX Combo), in the hopes that I might learn a few new moves to take back to my classes and clients. I made sure not to load my schedule up with all high intensity classes, leaving room for Restorative Yoga and Balance & Coordination (taught by the lovely and entertaining Kymberly) later in the day.
  • Schedule time for relaxation and rest; progress towards your health and fitness goals doesn’t happen without adequate rest and recovery. I made a point of scheduling in time for sun-bathing (SPF 30 of course), lounging in one of the many hammocks scattered around the property, relaxing in the hot tub and walking the meditative labyrinth. I was in bed before 10 pm each night in order to be able to get up early and participate fully in the daily sunrise hikes.
  • Get out in nature; hotels and resorts and spas all look rather similar on the inside. Spending time out of doors lets you experience the locale more fully. Not only does walking from place to place get you moving more (my FitBit tells me I walked, on average, 20K steps per day at the Ranch), it lowers your blood pressure and slows your racing thoughts. One of my favourite parts of Ranch life was the morning hikes; a great way to work up an appetite for a nourishing breakfast!
  • Make new friends; At the Ranch, classes and hikes and meals are all opportunities to meet new people. People just like you. People very different from you. Sharing your story with others is a powerful way to get to know yourself better. To learn by listening to others. To feel validated and part of something bigger. To know that your struggles are shared by many. To challenge your self-confidence and truly grow as a person. Stopping to rub bellies is optional 😉
  • Explore your creative side; think of creative pursuits as the ‘yin’ to your exercise ‘yang’. Using your brain rather than your body. One of the things I loved the most about the Ranch was the abundance of public art; yarn paintings in every building (created by one of the Ranch’s ‘artists in residence’), sculptures scattered around the grounds, traditional folk art carvings in the lounge and the dining hall. And the opportunity to take classes in water colour painting and jewellery design.
  • Fuel your body well; It’s easy to eat well when somebody else shops for, plans and prepares your meals. Just as it excels with its diverse menu of fitness choices, the Ranch never fails to delight at mealtime. Meals were primarily plant-based, created from a wide assortment of fruits, vegetables and greens grown at its own organic garden (if you go, don’t miss the Organic Garden hike; a lovely 2.2 mile hike up to the gardens with an exquisite breakfast as the reward). Desserts were only offered at dinner time, and even then, were perfectly portioned and none-too-sweet. (And because I know somebody will ask, wine was only served with dinner on the last night 🙂 ).
  • Bring a little bit of the spa home; For most of us, seven days isn’t quite enough to cultivate new habits. Indeed, many of the guests remain for a second week or plan on returning later in the year for another ‘kick start’. Rather than treating your fitness and health spa vacation as a simple week’s holiday, why not plan on bringing a little bit of the spa home with you.

While away, I began a daily meditation practice. That’s something I intend to build on now that I’m home (when I close my eyes I visualize one of my favourite paths at the Ranch; it helps me to slow my breathing, quiet my mind and think of my daughter with a smile).

health and fitness spa

I’m also committed to continuing including more plant-based meals in my diet. While we did enjoy seafood on three occasions, the focus on beans, vegetables, grains and spices made me feel lighter and more well-nourished than I have in a long time.

Have you ever taken a health and fitness spa vacation?

What new habits did you return home with?



  1. What a great post Tamara – thank you for sharing your experience with us :). I have never taken a health and fitness spa vacation, but after reading this it is on my “to-do” list!

  2. I’m glad you were able to get away, Tamara. Sounds like a wonderful setting. I’d enjoy something like that. But not the striptease class. That would be awkward with a capital A for this introvert!

  3. Oh my, this sounds wonderful! I love the tips- and you are right you have to find balance between some new things and sticking with the activities you already love 🙂 Nice vacation! #jealous

    • The great thing is, you don’t have to go far from home to have a spa-like vacation! Renting a cabin with some girlfriends and making plans for daily activity, creativity and self-care (along with lots of healthy time in the kitchen) is a great alternative.

  4. So glad you got to go enjoy this time. Sounds like an amazing trip.

  5. Thank you for sharing your adventure and all the stories of your life. You are an endless source of inspiration!

  6. Excellent tips! Though I’ve never experienced a wellness vacation (and I really want to now!), your tips work across the board for any relaxing vacation. It’s always so tempting to overdo and not take out the time for the rejuvenation necessary in our lives. I always dream of those days kicked back in a hammock on the beach before a vacation – then find myself never doing it. Maybe next time! -Veronica
    The GypsyNesters recently posted…Charms of the Chagga People of TanzaniaMy Profile

  7. What a wonderful experience & you so needed this! I need it! 🙂 No, never been to a spa but now I want to go more! SO happy you got to go!!!!! HUGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Jody – Fit at 58 recently posted…5 Reasons Not to Hit the Snooze ButtonMy Profile

  8. You had me at nap. Kept me at hammock. And owned me at meditation.

    I’m glad it was and restorative period for you!!!

    Cheaply analogous, when I go to a buffet (which is rare), I key in on savoring just a few of the foods I might not see anywhere else, rather than attempt to have one of everything.

    You rock! I love you! Clara. Every. Single. Day

  9. That looks frickin awesome, T. I’ve always wanted to take a spa vacation. My ideal getaway would have yoga, nature, pampering, and a weight room (not sure if that exists, the weights are usually left out). I’m happy you found your spa nirvana xo.

    • There was definitely a weight room here. I just didn’t step foot in it as it wasn’t what I needed that week. You would love it there Suzanne. The hiking is wonderful!

  10. Kristi Macintyre says:

    Thanks for sharing the details of your experience Tamara. It sounds heavenly and I’m so glad you got to experience it!! PS I’m thrilled to find this newsletter back in my inbox. Such a treat. You are an incredible at what you do. xox

  11. Hey Tamara,
    I have never been to that ranch before but it is somewhere that I would really like to visit some day. It seems that you guys really had fun, enjoying spa with other ladies in a hideaway 🙂
    Thanks for sharing. You’ve inspired me to want to go to one of these.


    • Cindy, it was truly a wonderful experience. So many different things to do, with the under-current of relaxation, rejuvenation and self-care!