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HEALTHY TRAVELER

R&R With a Purpose: Recharging Body and Spirit

April 22, 2001|KATHLEEN DOHENY

If you want to go on vacation and indulge--eat chocolate croissants for breakfast, sleep in, ride everywhere instead of walk--you won't have difficulty finding the resources to help you choose a destination.

Browsing at my local bookstore, I found "Eat Your Way Across the USA." Online, I found several similarly helpful books with such titles as "Gourmet Paris: What You Want to Eat, Where, Dish by Dish."

But suppose you have in mind a healthy vacation, a destination where the menu would win the approval of the American Heart Assn. or at least your primary care provider, where workout facilities have a variety of equipment and where you might learn even more healthful behaviors, such as stress management. This is a vacation, so you also want to have fun-maybe get in some horseback riding or sightseeing, with a massage at the end of the day.

With all the interest in healthful living, it ought to be easy to find such resources.

Or so I thought until I traipsed through two chain bookstores and a large independent bookstore, asked whether there was some shelf I'd overlooked and cajoled one employee to do a "Books in Print" search. Nothing much came up.

When I returned to my office, I did my own Web search, using such phrases as "healthy travel," "healthy vacations" and "healthy destinations." Not much more there either.

Looking on the bright side, what I did find constitutes a small but valuable sampling of resources for vacationers who want to return home relaxed and inspired to stay healthy, not fatter or more lethargic.

* Fodor's Healthy Escapes (Fodor's Travel Publications, 2001, $20; edited by Mark Sullivan) has just released this updated edition. Inside, as the subtitle says, are "284 resorts and retreats where you can get fit, feel good, find yourself, and get away from it all." The introduction gives helpful suggestions about matching your goals to your choice of facility. Resorts are listed by location-U.S., Canada, Mexico, Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda. Below the name of each, the types of services are listed, such as medical wellness, mineral springs, holistic health, nutrition and diet, sports conditioning and luxury pampering.

The write-ups give a good sense of what to expect in terms of atmosphere, amenities and food, as well as the staff's background in wellness programs. I flipped at random to Page 27, where I learned that Casa Palmero, a new resort on the first tee of the Pebble Beach Golf Links on the Central Coast, conducts some wellness classes right on the beach.

The listings give addresses, prices, phone numbers and Web sites, but many don't indicate how far the resort is from a major city or airport. That's a drawback for the reader who is making a list of "maybes" and must look up each one to see whether travel time will eat up too much of the vacation week.

* Healing Centers & Retreats (John Muir Publications, 1998, $16.95, by Jenifer Miller) emphasizes, as its subtitle says, "Healthy Getaways for Every Body and Budget." (An updated edition is due later this year.)

Centers and retreats in 37 states as well as Canada and Puerto Rico are included. The facilities are more alternative-oriented than those in Fodor's, with more emphasis on holistic health, herbs and healing.

Each resort gets a full-page write-up, with information on its history, size, programs, meal plans and services as well as nearby attractions and travel directions.

There's something for everyone here. On the modest end, Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California offers day passes, camping rates and discounts for children.

On the posh end, Deepak Chopra's resort in La Jolla, the Chopra Center for Well Being, offers a three-or seven-day stay in which guests can learn natural cooking, among other things.

* Spa Finders, at http://www.spafinders.com, allows you to conduct a spa search in the U.S., Mexico, the Caribbean, South America and Europe by plugging in one or more of 19 categories of interest, such as family-oriented, most challenging workout or supreme pampering.

When I entered "most challenging workout" and "Southwest U.S.," one of the spas that popped up was the Red Mountain Resort and Spa near St. George, Utah. The concise write-up told me that I could partake of three levels of yoga, biking (indoors and out), hiking, golf and cardio training-and, thankfully, manicure, pedicure and massage.

* Spa Genie, at http://www.modlife.com, is a database with links to almost 3,000 destinations in 38 countries. I told the genie I wanted to go to a fitness spa in the Southwest in the spring, one that offered diet, exercise and nature walks. It found 23 possibilities, including La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., and the Hildebrandt Center for Healthy Enhancement in La Jolla--but not Deepak Chopra's place.

* Healthy Travel.net, at http://www.healthytravel.net, bills itself as "the healthy alternative to conventional travel." It's a tour-oriented site, including spas, cruises, retreats, active and educational adventures and spiritual journeys. Recent postings included trips to Turkey, Bali and Kenya, a smoke-free superliner cruise, and golf and yoga trips to Mexico and Hawaii.

* Vegetarian Vacations, at http://www.vegetarian-vacations.com, bills itself as "the veggie tours directory," but it's also a good place to find trips that feature other healthful pursuits, such as hiking, canoeing, yoga and lessons in nutritious cooking. The site links to the Web sites of two dozen tours and retreats.

Healthy Traveler appears on the second and fourth Sundays. Kathleen Doheny can be reached at kdoheny@compuserve.com.

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