Vacations used to mean a choice between fun or fitness—but a wave of new retreats combines both.
High-profile instructors are increasingly taking their shows on the road to far-flung locations, catering to demand from boutique fitness clients who want to have exotic getaways and their classes, too. Some people take the trips, often with price tags in the thousands of dollars, to hobnob with celebrity instructors they’ve admired online and bond with fellow followers.
While the godmother of fitness retreats—yoga—is still readily available, offerings have broadened to include cardio dance, Pilates and
Different from the detox yoga retreats of the past, the events tout perks of a vacation, such as rosé at sunset, private snorkeling tours and dance parties at night.
“It’s not the typical retreat in terms of ‘kill yourself, don’t eat anything and go home a smaller version of yourself,’ ” says
a Connecticut-based interior designer who has gone on trips with the Class by
a New York-based fitness studio. Instead, she says, “It’s an opportunity to give yourself some space from your everyday life.”
Established instructors and studios “don’t have a problem doing these retreats and selling them out,” says
head of client education for Mindbody, the company that supplies the software that nearly 60,000 studios use to book classes. The number of fitness retreats increased by nearly a third between 2015 and 2017, according to Mindbody.
says the events not only help companies boost revenue but also build community: “You’re getting a group of people who are hungry to deep dive on whatever fitness this business is offering.”
who owns her business and has four children and three dogs, says she makes time to attend retreats even though she regularly takes
classes in the studio in New York. She most recently went to Playa Grande Beach Club in the Dominican Republic, where the Class had taken over the resort for a weeklong “retreatment,” with prices starting at $4,800, not including airfare.
Like many of the retreats, The Class guarantees the opportunity for the clients to sit down with Ms. Toomey and other instructors, in a structured group conversation or over meals.
33, from Newport Beach, Calif., started doing a cardio-dance workout called AKT at home a few years ago via videos and streaming, and has since attended several of the company’s retreats, including one in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The first time, “I went by myself and I was freaking out,”
says. But she enjoyed getting to know founder
—and having her form corrected—and has made friends she keeps in touch with in person and via social media, meeting up with them at other AKT retreats.
Following sold-out trips last year in the hills of Austin, Texas, and in Ojai, Calif., AKT’s
plans at least three this year, including one to Nicaragua that will feature an excursion to the
volcano to view bubbling lava. She brings in mirrors, sound equipment and shock-absorbent floors to mimic the vibe in her studio and has learned, she says, that people want to work out harder than at home, but not so much they can’t enjoy themselves.
It’s not always easy finding the right resort, says New York-based instructor
who organized a retreat in Tulum, Mexico, last year. “The dance classes and yoga classes I teach are exuberant, soul-charged, crazy cardio, kind of intense classes,” she says. When she sent videos of her class to potential hotels, one responded it looked fun—but too loud for the rain forest.
She eventually chose a resort called Amansala that included a dance space on the roof overlooking the ocean and a price achievable for her varied client base. “Some people had private rooms on the beach, some were four to a room,”
says. (Prices started at $1,700 a person.)
co-founder of Yoga For Bad People, a company that hosts around a dozen fitness retreats a year, says she’s had plenty of opportunity for trial and error. From the start, clients booked their own flights—the right decision, says
But a retreat in Croatia was a learning experience: a high wind called “the bora” ruined plans to work out in a spectacular venue. “We had to move the class from a yoga platform above a vineyard up on the hill, to an inside location,” she says.
Scenes of yoga amid lush greenery and sunset beach strolls on the company’s website attracted New York art gallery director
when she was looking for a fitness retreat in a place she’d never traveled last August. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is cool. This aesthetic I really get,” says
30 years old. “They’re posing like how I pose with my friends on a beach.”
Being open to attending a retreat can mean memorable moments with a new group of friends, or old ones you bring along, Ms. Lilleston says, citing a retreat in
Uruguay, as one of her favorite experiences. A group dinner and bonfire ended with the ocean taking on a beautiful glow, she says. “We all took off our clothes and swam with the phosphorescence under the moonlight.”