Six of the best: health retreats
THE ASHRAM, CALIFORNIA
Tempted to sneak a midnight snack? Forget it. The kitchen at this health retreat is locked at night. That's just the start of serious tough love. The spartan (shared bathrooms), rather draconian (sorry, exercise is not optional) Ashram is where Renee Zellweger embraced her pre-Bridget Jones self with 600-calorie "non meals". A day may include a dawn wake-up, five-hour mountain hike, followed by weight training, a massage, yoga and meditation before a bowl of lentil soup. This will hurt, as will your wallet. Such pain does not come cheap. A week from $US4800 ($5350).
ESCAPE HAVEN, BYRON BAY, NSW
Sorry lads, this one really is just for the ladies. Run by Jen Hall and opened just under a year ago, this is the polar opposite of The Ashram; it is barefoot bliss on the beaches of Byron Bay, a boot camp for people who do not like boot camps. There are two packages: the Revive (surf, yoga and spa), with five days of surf instruction, yoga and Thai massage, or Refresh (yoga, food and fitness) with yoga, meditation, visits to farmers' markets, shopping in Bangalow and cooking classes. Or head out alone on a stand-up paddleboard. From $2895 a week.
BIKINI BOOT CAMP, TULUM, MEXICO
This weight-loss, yoga, fitness holiday in one will have you bronzed and buffed while doing the salsa and saying "hola" to the locals. With a motto of "moderation not deprivation", this is one of few fitness and relaxation camps that allow margaritas (in fact, they serve the best in town). Work up a sweat during twice-daily workouts and yoga in spectacular surrounds. Bike through rainforests to water holes, sun salute on pristine beaches, hike on Mayan ruins. Then retire to your beach bungalow, close enough to drop and commando-roll to the Caribbean bathwater-warm turquoise shallows. From $1675 for six nights.
ESCAPE TO SHAPE, MARRAKESH, MOROCCO
American Erica Gragg moves her health retreat all around the world and fans of her simple and energetic vinyasa flow yoga follow. Last year, Erica chose the Galapagos Islands, Texas and Colombia for her weeks of nutritional eating classes, massage, yoga and active exploring. Coming up are Kyoto in Japan, Bali and Istanbul in Turkey. But what could be more exotic than Marrakesh in Morocco. Yoga, belly dance and massages, between hunting through the medieval Medina and chaotic markets for treasures and taking cooking lessons. May 17 to 24, from $3700.
TALALLA HEALTH RETREAT AND SURF CAMP, TALALLA BEACH, SRI LANKA
At this dual health retreat and surf camp on the gorgeous two-kilometre-long Talalla Beach, there is a gentle program of daily yoga, meditation and mindfulness and sleeping beneath mosquito nets wafting with zephyrs, all washed down with some of the best wholefoods and smoothies anywhere. Oh, and toss in consultations with a physiotherapist and nutritionist. From December to April, surf's up with in-house yoga and surf instructors. From $1600 weekly.
GWINGANNA LIFESTYLE RETREAT, QUEENSLAND
Gwinganna helped turn Hugh Jackman into a rabid Wolfman of ripped abs and popping pecs. However, this retreat (of which the actor is now a part-owner) is about flexing the mind as much as muscle. Here you're encouraged to listen to your body, direct yourself to yin (such as yoga) or yang activities (including the 16 hiking trails on this 200-hectare Gold Coast hinterland property), or experience horizontal time in the 33-room rainforest-situated spa. There's the chance to return home equipped with practical cooking or lifestyle seminar tips for a healthier life. Wellness weekends from $980.