The number one New Year’s resolution for most people, year after year, is weight loss. This naturally puts spa and fitness destinations on the top of the January “go-to” list. But, this is not necessarily the case for everyone. There are a handful of folks that don’t want a destination packed with exercise machines, weight conscious meals, or spa treatments. In her latest Window Seat or Aisle Seat blog, Kerri Zane has found 8 awesome anti spa family getaway packages that offer unexpected indulgence, decadence, and fun.
1. Luxe in the Desert
You and your family have reached a very special oasis in the desert when you approach The Willow Historic Inn, in Palm Springs, California. Literally tucked into the base of Mount San Jacinto, this 1920’s fortress can only be accessed by ringing a private bell. There is no lobby or great atrium but, upon arrival, the super-friendly inn’s manager and assistant will greet you. They unlock the entrance gate and personally assist you with your bags while providing a tour of the home. We stayed in the Loft Room. It’s the Inn’s best-kept secret, accessed by a winding staircase. I was told Dr. Albert Einstein slept there! The home also played host to luminaries like Marian Davies, Former President Ford, and Shirley Temple, to name a few. Every morning a three-course breakfast is served on the patio dining room. The Inn is associated with the iconic French restaurant, La Vallauris, which is located directly across the street. If you desire, they’ll provide room service, but it’s a real treat to visit the restaurant. The best spot to sit is the patio, amongst the trees that Paul the owner himself planted almost 40 years ago.
There are plenty of family activities to enjoy in Palm Springs. The Willow’s is conveniently located next door to the Palm Springs Art Museum (take a picture with the gigantic Marilyn Monroe out front). It’s also walking distance to the main Palm Springs downtown shopping district. Your hosts will arrange a golf or tennis game for you, or assist with a Palm Springs Aerial Tramway excursion. In keeping with the indulgent theme, I suggest you visit the 1960’s mid-century modern home of Walter and Leonore Annenberg, called Sunnylands. The Annenbergs entertained many of America’s Royalty, including 8 American presidents. It has been called the Camp David of the West, and continues to play a role in world politics, as a high-level retreat venue. Then, travel a short distance down Bob Hope Drive and take a stroll around The River in Rancho Mirage outdoor shopping center. Stop in at Michael’s Pizzeria for a wood burning pizza, then hit up a movie at the 6-plex. To complete your desert visit, go to Great Shakes on Palm Canyon Drive. They have gourmet shakes and malts topped off with mini donuts. If that isn’t family-friendly decadent luxury, I don’t know what is!
2. Exotic Island Paradise
Fiji is normally considered a couple’s destination, but the Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort offers an exclusive escape for families. It is an all-inclusive, five-star eco-luxury ressort that includes a variety of activities, including a visit to the world-class deep-sea scuba diving at the Namea reefs, which is only 10 minutes away. There are excursions to a tropical rain forest or you and your kids can visit a local village. The resort’s boat will ferry you to Naviavia Island for snorkeling and kayaking. There is also a wide range of children’s activities and services, namely the Bula Club, which offers rock pool exploration, hiking, marine biologist guided tours and glass-bottom boat excursions.
3. Aussie Outback Fun
Into the Red Center is the newest Swain Destinations trip that is anything but a spa retreat. You and your family can explore the red plains of Alice Springs, the Aboriginal community of Wallace Rockhole, and the iconic Ayers Rock in Uluru. You can also enjoy various adventures through the bustling, metropolitan city of Sydney. The trip provides a full-day, 4WD tour through the wildlife-rich bush of Blue Mountains National Park, along with a visit to the sacred Gosse Bluff crater in the heart of the Aboriginal territory. It is an ideal way to immerse yourself in the region’s unique culture.
For a truly outdoor activity-centric family vacation, GoVoluntouring.com offers a family excursion from the remote highlands of Northern Thailand. Not a spa in sight, but you and your kids will stay fit with a foot trek into steamy rainforests to visit colorful hill tribes, you’ll cruise down the River Kwai on kayaks, and discover the lesser-known side of Chiang Mai from a bicycle. You can explore Kanchanaburi and visit the Hellfire Pass Memorial, plus spend a night aboard a jungle raft. Accommodations vary from hotels, lodges, overnight trains, guesthouses, camping, or a home stay. It is a 12-day trip with a maximum group of 12 people, so invite a few other families or bring your extended family.
5. Lions & Tigers and Golf…Oh My
This is a trip that is sure to please every member of your family. Great Safaris has teamed up with pro player and instructor Jerry Martin to design two unique African golf vacations. In addition to a wildlife safari, you can tee off at several of South Africa’s most prestigious golf clubs: Royal Cape, Leopard Creek and Steenberg Golf Clubs near Cape Town, Kruger Park, and Elephant Hills at Victoria Falls. All of the courses are right in the heart of Africa’s “Big 5.” The accommodations are in luxurious boutique hotels and bush lodges in the wilderness. Great Safari’s customizes every trip to suit your family’s wishes. For example, while you’re golfing or wine tasting, your kids can do an all-day walking safari or shark cage dive. It’s all up to you!
Andean Discovery offers a Peru Culture, Culinary, & Family Adventure Tour. The 7-night 8-day excursion includes day hikes through the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. You’ll participate in a traditional Pacha Manca Ceremony, where the food is harvested and cooked while buried in hot stones as a sacrifice to Mother Earth. You and your kids will visit an elementary school in Aguas Calientes (near Machu Picchu). Plus, attend a cooking class with a local Peruvian family. The package includes all your meals, activities, transfers, trains, and some airfare.
7. Central American Luxury
Located on Nicaragua’s Emerald coast, Mukul is the perfect combination of nature, activities, and luxury suited for your entire family. The resort is located near a world-class surf break, featuring some of the world’s best waves. You can take a surf lesson; learn about their sea turtle conservation program, or bike one of their 12km nature trails. Mukul also offers the Kul Kids program, which includes making Nicaraguan-style art, collecting shells, nature hiking, sightseeing for monkeys, movie nights, and more. Hot tip: Opt for the helicopter transfer from the airport and you’ll be blown away by the views as you arrive at the resort.
Accessible by a 45-minute scenic sea plane ride from Vancouver, British Columbia, sits the exclusive eco-safari destination called Clayoquot Wilderness Resort. With only 20 luxury guest tents, this is glamping at its finest. Daily wilderness activities are highly personalized and customized based on your experience level, willingness, and desires. You and your family may choose to go in search of black bears, whales, or a variety of other wildlife native to the region. Or, take on a mountain-fed rushing river in a kayak, or experience a gentler ocean kayak cruise to private inlets and hidden coves. Hot tip: The best times to bear watch are the early mornings of late summer/early autumn, when they feast on the spawning salmon.
For some more traditional spa travel ideas, check out:
- The Coolest Outdoor Showers from Around the World
- 3 New Fit Travel Ideas
- There’s What in my Facial? World’s Weirdest Spa Treatments
By Kerri Zane for PeterGreenberg.com. Kerri Zane is a family travel expert and author of It Takes All 5: A Single Mom’s Guide to Finding the REAL One, on sale now. For more advice on health, parenting or Kerri’s exclusive MomEscapes, visit her at KerriZane.com.