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Five Fresh Jamaican Wellness Getaways

Dr. Empress Thandi Wise leads yoga at Driftwood Spa at Jakes Treasure Beach.

Looking for a new twist on your health and fitness goals combined with a sure-to-have-fun getaway? Jamaica is an easy-to-reach paradise, and these resorts offer spas, fitness and wellness that are a fresh idea for vacation planning.

1. Royalton Negril Resort

A welcoming spa and boot camp classes await at the Royalton Negril Resort that opened in 2017. Accommodations options include: The namesake Royalton, home to The Royal Spa and the Royalton Fit program; Hideaway; plus the adults-only, au naturel, all-suites Grand Lido Negril. The latter, sans clothing, ensures privacy.

Among spa treatments is the signature Royal Samunprai deep tissue massage using hot herbal compresses. The revitalizing technique was used long ago on Thai warriors returning from battle. The long list of fitness possibilities could provide multiple workouts daily for a week. For instance, choose boot camp on the beach or in the gym, pool yoga, kickboxing, TRX training, Aqua Fit and more.

The spa’s hydrotherapy pool is a great spot pre- or post-workout. It features twinkling overhead lights and a modern, long fireplace against an elegant tile-wall backdrop.

Pamper yourself with the special Diamond Club within Royalton. It includes butler service, an exclusive beach and refreshments lounge with complimentary chilled beverages and appetizers. At the end of the day, choose from a pillow menu and snuggle into the trademarked DreamBed.

2. Rockhouse Hotel and Spa

Cliffside on the sea, Rockhouse Hotel & Spa offers an organic, indigenous, natural, Caribbean spa experience with history. International Spa and Wellness Consultant Linda Hall and her nine-member team have over 15 years of experience working together here.

Their “trilogy” — Release, Rapture, Restore — are the categories of spa rituals and exclusive signature blends Hall created. “Holistic approaches and wellness are nothing new,” says Hall, who has spent 40 years in the industry. “It will still take a while to filter into all hotels to get that message authentically and credibly out there, that you can come here and find a lovely spiritual, wellness connection across the board and, of course, because the land is so beautiful it lends itself to wellness. Beauty and abundance are all around.” Standout treatments are the bath rituals in side-by-side. It features his-and- hers tubs overlooking a large window that perfectly frames a swath of multiple blue hues of Caribbean Sea. One option, the restorative ginger bath features water filled with orange peels from locally grown oranges and hibiscus and marigolds grown on property. Fresh, seasonal fruits; a ginger shot; organic juice and a therapeutic tea ceremony at treatment’s end complete the ritual.

Rockhouse is a two-time winner of the World Travel Award for Best Spa in Jamaica. It’s also Green Globe certified, a standard for sustainable tourism. The boutique hotel dates to 1972. Staff encourages guests to connect with the land through an informative property tour. You’ll learn about various flora

and fauna and their healing properties. It includes a look at the organic garden, where some items can be incorporated into the spa experience, and are sourced for the restaurant.

3. Jakes

Far away from the all-inclusives sits a family treasure. It’s located on Treasure Beach, in southern Jamaica’s St. Elizabeth Parish, a home to “community tourism.”

Jakes is an intimate, seaside property. It’s a love letter to the island courtesy of the Henzell family. The name comes from a beloved pet parrot. Casual-chic, Jakes sports dazzling colors and sweeping architectural curves resonating with patterns and shapes of Barcelona artist Antoni Gaudi.

From reception to pool, two-level spa to rooms, oceanfront bungalows to flower-embraced cottages, it all fuses with nature. The setting is peaceful though vibrant, creatively functional, organic and joyful.

At Jakes’ Driftwood Spa, Dr. Empress Thandi Wise from the Rasta Wellness Centre leads daily yoga on the spa’s shaded upper deck overlooking the sea. The spacious interior welcomes guests with colorful patterns in unique, over-door, Gaudi-esque, stained glass windows. In a couples’ massage room, a door beyond the side-by-side massage tables opens to the expanse of water beyond.

You can arrange a sunrise bike tour or tour the community athletic facilities. Four beaches offer a choice of personal workout spaces — or simple relaxation.

Jakes oversees popular tourist spot Lovers Leap. It’s a 20-minute drive away and home to the highest lighthouse in the Western Hemisphere at 1,700 feet. In addition, the property can arrange a guide for guests wanting to hike or bike top to bottom enjoying amazing views.

On property, simple meals of local, fresh ingredients are shared with international visitors who hope to keep the spot secret.

4. Couples Tower Isle

Couples Tower Isle in Ocho Rios offers the island-exclusive concept of an all-inclusive spa experience with its eight Oasis Spa Villas. Guests receive unlimited spa treatments. Choose from bamboo fusion, hot stone massages, reflexology, hand rejuvenation and others.

The setting is historic having attracted Hollywood elite of the 1950s. Couples Resorts’ founder Abe Issa opened Jamaica’s first year-round resort here as the Tower Isle Hotel in 1949, then in the 1970s pioneered the all-inclusive concept earning him the title, “father of Jamaican tourism.”

5. Zimbali Retreats

Leave the beaches far behind for a local and organic getaway. Zimbali Retreats on Canaan Mountain outside Negril is the ideal spot. Here you’ll find six cottages in a lush, mountain setting that includes a peaceful river. In addition, guests can choose among mediation, yoga, hiking and a cooking school that incorporates fresh ingredients. The on-site farm amid the property’s 14 acres grows 70 percent of diners’ cuisine.

All across the island are activities to get the adrenaline pumping and help burn some calories and for just plain fun. Check out bicycle tours, horseback riding or climbing Dunn’s River Falls. You can also hike the Blue Mountain Peak, surf or zip line. The bobsled gravity-driven thrill ride is a nod to the famed 1988 Jamaican bobsled team at the Winter Olympics. Oh, and there’s the ocean.

Jamaica’s Director of Tourism Donovan White summed up the possibilities of a wellness vacation this way: “Whether it’s using plants and herbs indigenous to the island for detoxing and purifying the body, farm-to-table dining experiences for healthier eating habits, or taking cues from the ancestors to destress, Jamaica delivers.”

This story appeared as a websclusive in AAA Go Magazine Nov./Dec. 2019. All Rights Reserved.

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