by Kathleen LeSage

For those of you who don’t know, this is the last weekend to vote in the USA Today Best Wellness Retreat/Resort contest.  The voting ends on Monday, July 29th and the winner is announced on August 9th.  We have come in at #5 for the past two years.  This year, I put a few extra sponsored posts up on social media and included it in a few extra newsletters, but at the last check, we were still at #5 again this year!  This is a round-up of the best 20 retreats in the USA, so we are thrilled to even be in the top ten.  I was going to send out one more “quickie email” about voting for us this weekend, but then I decided to do some organizing first and I found an old magazine.  It got me thinking, “Does the award even matter”?  After thumbing through the pages of a 2005 Destination Spa Group Magazine, I realized, “Sure, the awards are fun.  It’s nice to put on a website.  However, what really matters is what we offer our guests AND we are still around after all these years.”

A Little Bit of History on the Destination Spa Group:

Back in the 2000’s an association was formed called the “Destination Spa Group”.  Members had to be accepted and adhere to a certain set of regulations.  The requirements were to offer a fully-immersive wellness vacation that included healthy food, exercise, massages, and programming for the guest to learn healthy habits to take home.  A destination spa could not serve alcohol.  New Life Hiking Spa was one of the first members along with Canyon Ranch, The Golden Door and Red Mountain. I found this old magazine from 14 years ago and thumbed through it reminiscing of the “old days” when we would all meet in Vegas for round-table discussions, have dinners together and share funny stories.  Two things struck me as I turned the pages:

  1. How many of these destination dpas (now more commonly referred to as wellness retreats) are not around any longer. Birdwing Spa in Minnesota, Green Mountain at Fox Run in Ludlow, Vermont, Green Valley Spa in Utah, The Kerr House in Ohio, New Age Health Spa in Neversink, New York, and Regency House in Florida are just a few former members who have closed their doors.  I am thankful that New Life Hiking Spa is still going strong!
  2. Our pricing is basically the same as 2005. As you will see from our pages in the magazine, our 2005 prices were $225 – $265 per night.  Our 2019 pricing is $229 – $269 per night.  Both price variations depend on length of stay and if the room is booked at single or double occupancy.   Jimmy started New Life in 1978 with a mission to provide affordable wellness to everyone, he has stayed very true to his roots.  I’ve been running New Life with him now for 17 summers and I know where his heart is.  He’s one of the good guys.  I’m thankful for that, too!

The Destination Spa Group is no longer around, but there is a new Wellness Tourism Association.  New Life Hiking Spa was one of the first members.  I find it interesting to see how this industry is evolving.

A Word About New Life Hiking Spa’s Prices:

Right now at New Life Hiking Spa, a solid 50% of our guests are repeats.  As I have mentioned, I have been doing New Life with Jimmy since 2003 and I keep very good records.  We have 48 guests that have come to New Life Hiking Spa over 25 times!  Some of these guests come for two and three visits a season.  We are so incredibly thankful for those guests who have been our back bone for all these years!  Being a seasonal wellness retreat, we have never implemented a guest rewards program, but as you can see, we have kept our prices low for everyone and often have return guest specials.

We always say, “We are the most affordable, all-inclusive wellness retreat in America”, and looking though the pricing of the other retreats in 2005 clearly shows that we were back then.  I became curious to see how affordable we are in the year 2019.  There really is no “go-to guide” with easy-to-read pricing any longer, so I had to do some digging.

Here is where the USA Today Best Wellness Retreat comes back into play.  I copied and pasted all of the retreats in the running below.  I then did some research on pricing on their websites.

Comparing Apples to Oranges:

It’s the most overused idiom in the English language, but really, comparing all of the top wellness retreats is really the same as comparing apples to oranges.  One might like apples, the other might like oranges.  That doesn’t mean that one is bad and the other is not, it is just preference.  And, in many instances, price.  But still, how do you compare?

Seasonality of New Life:

New Life Hiking Spa has always been one of the only top retreats that is open seasonally.  We are only open for 20 weeks a year when hiking is at the most beautiful time in the Green Mountains of Vermont.  Ninety-nine percent of the other wellness resorts and retreats are open year round.  However, hiking in Utah or Arizona is going to be a much different experience May – September than hiking in the Green Mountains.  Many people ask Jimmy and I if we would ever be open year-round to offer snow-shoeing, etc. and the answer is, “No”!   The cost of running a year round retreat would certainly make our prices go up.  Most importantly, we live in Florida when New Life Hiking Spa is not open and we do not want to give up Florida winters.  Our living situation gives us the impetus to continue to bring New Life Hiking Spa into the next coming decades!

All the Wellness Retreats in the Running:

The following pool of nominees were chosen by a panel of luxury travel experts. In addition to the expert panel’s input, 10Best editors considered industry awards and guest reviews to determine the nominees.

Those considered to be the best in the business are listed below.  I have copied and pasted each as it appears exactly on the USA Today website.  The only addition has been the average price per night.  It is important to note that some are all-inclusive and others are for the price of the room.  Massages and/or meals would be additional if it is not all-inclusive.  These prices were taken directly from the retreat’s website and are for summer rates.  Some of these prices might reflect specials being offered.  I would certainly check each retreat’s website on your own if you would like to make a reservation with them to confirm the pricing.

Cal-a-Vie Health Spa

Cal-a-Vie resembles a peaceful French village, nestled on 200 acres in Vista, California. Guests can come for a week or petite stay of just a few days to kick start a path to wellness. Over 100 fitness and wellness classes are on offer throughout the week, and the food may be healthy but it’s nothing short of exquisite. (average price $1,500 per night)

Canyon Ranch Lenox Resort

Canyon Ranch Lenox, an all-inclusive resort in the Berkshires, invites visitors to energize, renew and reclaim their own wellness through a series of spa vacation packages. A stay might include botanical spa treatments, fitness activities, outdoor sports and wellness sessions on topics of nutrition, spirituality, life management and health. (average price $1,200 per night)

Canyon Ranch Tucson Resort

This stunning hotel resort is a popular retreat for visitors seeking to luxuriate in the warmth and peace of the desert. Rooms are designed to reflect the earth tones of the surrounding landscape while providing guests with range of in-room amenities for a comfortable and luxurious stay. Programs focus on mindfulness, weight loss and overall health, with wellness activities like yoga, golf, desert cycling, cooking demos and creative arts sessions. (average price $1,300 per night)


This 250-acre wellness sanctuary in Virgina’s Shenandoah Valley seeks to help guests reconnect with themselves through the philosophy of Ayurveda. Guests enjoy vegetarian farm-to-table meals, health screenings and a range of therapies tailored to each individual. (average price $400 per night)

Golden Door

Tucked away in the hills of Escondido, Golden Door Spa Resort welcomes only 40 guests per week who stay in luxurious ryokan-style accommodations. Weekly activities are tailored to guests-in-residence and range from fitness classes of all levels to nutritional and spiritual counseling. Ingredients are sourced locally or from the onsite biodynamic gardens and prepared into delicious, nutritious and filling meals. Morning hiking on the resort’s private trails is also extraordinary. (average price $1,500 per night)

Hilton Head Health

Hilton Head Health is nationally recognized as the leading health and weight loss resort. Located on beautiful Hilton Head Island South Carolina, H3’s comprehensive program provides a holistic weight loss approach that incorporates healthy eating, fitness, mindfulness and wellness education. Guests enjoy Mediterranean inspired dining at True and unwind between activities at The Indigo Spa. H3 guests leave with the strategies and knowledge to continue their weight loss journey at home. (average price $520 per night)

Mii Amo

With a location nestled in Boynton Canyon in Sedona’s fabled Red Rock Vortex land, it’s no surprise there is a special energy at Mii Amo, a resort and destination spa offering individual treatments and 3, 4 and 7-day themed journeys. The Native American offerings are what make this spa special, earning it a host of spa industry awards. (average price $1,300 per night)

Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa

Oprah was the first to make most people aware of Miraval, a luxury resort that allows guests to immerse themselves in well-being, 24/7. The comprehensive wellness program incorporates exercise, healthy food, meditation and sleep. Aside from its emphasis on mind, body and spirit healing, the hotel offers a luxurious stay in a one of Tucson’s most scenic open desert areas. (average price $585 per night)

New Life Hiking Spa

New Life Hiking Spa is one of the oldest and best destination spa programs in the country, welcoming some 800 guests each season. Eleven-night weight loss retreats cater to 40 people at a time and include hiking programs for beginner through advanced fitness levels. Yoga, outdoor workouts and a healthy eating program round out the resort’s holistic approach to health and wellness. (average price $250 per night)

Vote for Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa

More than 100,000 guests worldwide have visited the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Miami, both to prevent and reverse problems such as excess weight, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and cancer risk factors. Certified physicians provide each guest with the expert medical attention required for achieving major life changes, while faculty – leaders in the fields of medicine, nutrition, psychology and exercise – lead eye-opening classes focused on subjects including dining out, reading labels and calorie density. (average price $600 per night)

The Ranch Malibu

The Ranch Malibu, an intensive one-week luxury boot camp, eliminates “decision fatigue” with a no-option daily fitness routine featuring group hiking, yoga, weight training and ab work, all amid spectacular hills above the Pacific Ocean. Healthy meals prepared with fresh, organic ingredients exclude processed sugars, alcohol and caffeine. (average price $1,100 per night)

Red Mountain Resort

Fitting for its Utah location, Red Mountain Resort specializes in what it calls “Adventure Vacations.” Surrounded by red rock cliffs and canyons, guests enjoy three healthy meals per day, as well as guided activities, like hiking, yoga and fitness classes. Part- and full-day excursions equip guests to actively explore the nearby national parks. (average price $420 per night)

Skyterra Wellness

Guests at Skyterra are encouraged to set aside the worries of day to day life and focus on health and wellbeing. Classes are small, giving each participant personalized attention, and all fitness levels are welcome. The resort hosts only 20 guests at a time to promote a sense of intimacy, exclusivity and a more individualized experience. (average price $500 per night)

Ten Thousand Waves

Ten Thousand Waves takes inspiration from the mountain hot springs resorts of Japan. Guests here enjoy indoor and outdoor hot tubs, accommodations in a ryokan-inspired Zen room and access to an upscale Japanese izakaya-style restaurant serving shareable small plates. (average price $275 per night, room only)

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

The Wellness Collective at Rancho Valencia has partnered with the Lifewellness Institute to offer guests at the luxury resort a full calendar of workshops and activities. Wellness retreats cover topics like Movement & Fitness, Nutrition & Toxicity, Attitude & Perspective or Relationships & Connection. Guests enjoy exclusively crafted meals, a daily 90-minute spa treatment, cold-pressed juice delivery an access to a Personal Wellness Advisor. (average price $806 per night, not all-inclusive)

Carillon Miami Wellness Resort

Carillon Miami occupies a 750-foot stretch of private beach, where guests enjoy well-appointed suites and a range of rejuvenating treatments and fitness programs focusing on both physical and emotional health. (average price $300 per night, not all-inclusive)

The Art of Living Retreat Center

Tucked high among the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, the Art of Living Retreat Center offers yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic detox retreat programs for wellness-minded visitors. Fire circles, community singing, hiking and pottery classes are also offered. (average price, $210 per night, not all-inclusive)

CIVANA Resort, Spa & Sanctuary

CIVANA, set in the Sonoran Desert outside Scottsdale, occupies 20 acres of land where guests have access to more than 10 wellness experts, complimentary daily programing, five fitness and movement studios and a carbon-neutral spa with 22 treatment rooms. Activities include everything from hiking to aerial yoga to TRX training. (average price $280 per night, not all-inclusive)

Lake Austin Spa Resort

Lake Austin Spa Resort is an award-winning destination spa tucked away in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, offering more than 100 treatments alongside luxurious accommodations, gourmet meals, a variety of fitness activities and special programs. Many of the thoughtfully-appointed guest rooms have been completely updated, and dogs are allowed in the cottages. Rates include three gourmet meals daily and a variety of fitness activities and daily events, from yoga and paddle boarding to culinary classes and life skills workshops. (average price $660 per night, not all-inclusive)

Longevity, Seasonality, Awards and Pricing

As you can see by the above listing, New Life Hiking Spa is an incredible value!  In addition to your room, you also get three freshly prepared meals a day, guided hikes in the gorgeous Green Mountains at the best time of year, all fitness classes and one massage for each three night stay.  Our hikes are tailored to meet everyone’s needs and we deliver on that.  Whether you are someone who struggles with a 3 mile walk or if you are someone who can bound up Killington Mountain without losing your breath, we have the hike for you!  You will get one massage included with each 3-night stay and if you want additional massages, they are extremely affordable!  All of this is included for a nightly rate average of about $250 per night.

Comparing our all-inclusive rate to the others on the list, you can see what a worthwhile price point we have, but also keep in mind that we are not luxury.

We run our program out of an existing hotel that is utilized by skiers in the winter.   However, it is still a lovely hotel.  We do not have a day spa, but our massage therapists are amazing and the massage area we create each season is charming.  We have our own dining room and chefs that have been trained in wellness cuisine.  Our repeat guests “get it” and they always say we are “beyond the best value out there”.

Yes, we do get a few people who think it’s pricey, but it is all related to what one is used to doing on vacation.  People who go to or have researched the more expensive wellness retreats understand how great the value is at New Life.  On the other hand, people who frequent Econo-type motels and eat at fast food restaurants might find it expensive.  It is all in perception and we are grateful we have the solid following that we do after over four decades in business.

In the history of the Travel + Leisure Magazine Reader’s Choice Awards, we have been the only destination spa that is open seasonally to win the #1 spot.  Additionally, we have been in the #1 spot in the annual Spas of America listing for the past 5 years.  Our longevity helps with these awards.

We have been around since 1978 and have had tens of thousands of wellness seekers come to visit us and leave feeling happier and healthier.

Would we appreciate your vote?  Sure!  However, we have already won a large handful of awards and accolades.  What we would really love is to see you hiking the mountains with us at New Life Hiking Spa!

We are open this year until September 30th.  Give Jimmy a ring at 802-353-2954 or book online.

New Life Hiking Spa & Wellness Retreat is suspending the 2020 season.  We are sorry for any inconvenience.  Please read the full statement on our blog.