Vacationing at a Holistic Health Resort A new variety of spa, not for weight reduction, not for stress reduction, but for "wellness" Budget Travel Tuesday, May 10, 2005, 12:00 AM Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Vacationing at a Holistic Health Resort

A new variety of spa, not for weight reduction, not for stress reduction, but for "wellness"

"Machines receive preventive maintenance; why not people? Why should we wait until illness strikes us down before we attend to our health?"

With those words, a wise old doctor once explained to me why he had turned at the end of his career to the practice of "holistic" medicine. An eminently sensible approach to life, with which almost no one can disagree, holistic methods of strengthening the body to fend off future illness have attracted the attention of millions of Americans, and created a thriving vacation industry of "holistic health farms" and "holistic health resorts."

None of these institutions, to my knowledge, disavows traditional approaches to medicine. "Holistic physicians" will readily prescribe an antibiotic for infection, or even perform surgery if it is needed.

But the same physicians believe in supplementing the standard therapies with alternative ones: better nutrition, exercise, stress reduction, and relaxation. People, they claim, should actively pursue "wellness" before they become sick, a process -- essentially -- of self-education and modifying lifestyles. The decision to vacation at a "wellness spa" -- holistic centers where guests receive "preventive health workups" and seek to adapt to a healthier mode -- is an obvious first step.

Heartwood Institute

On 200 acres in the mountains of northern California, five hours by car north of San Francisco, this is the classic "holistic retreat," and astonishingly cheap: it charges $100 a day in single rooms, $85 a day per person in doubles, $75 on a campsite, including three organic vegetarian meals a day and use of sauna, hot tub, and pool.

Accommodations are mainly bunkhouses with small, simple rooms, not far from a "community center" and restaurant in a picturesque log lodge with outside dining deck.

When guests arrive to pursue a one-week or two-week "wellness retreat," trained counselors aid them to choose from a variety of therapies in massage and bodywork, nutrition and exercise, at nominal extra costs. The institute's credo? That illness results from imbalances in the body's normal state; that balance can be restored, as it often is in Asian medicine, by alternative therapies such as acupressure or Ayurveda, lifestyle changes, modified nutrition, herbal preparations, Polarity therapy, and still other treatments. Throughout the year, more intensive workshops are then scheduled at Heartwood in the full range of therapies under study by holistic practitioners: massage and yoga, "bodywork" and neuro-muscular therapy, "energy balancing" and hydrotherapy -- all, of course, for tuition charges (though fairly reasonable ones) not imposed upon people participating in a simple retreat. For information, contact Heartwood Institute, 220 Harmony Lane, Garberville, CA 95542 (phone 707/923-5000, fax 707/923-5010, e-mail, also see their Web site at

Harbin Hot Springs

On 1,700 wooded acres in a valley of northern California, 2 1/2 hours by car from San Francisco, Harbin Hot Springs is a basic (rooms without private bath but comfortable) retreat and workshop center. Guests enjoy daily dips in natural, warm mineral-water pools (one of 112 degrees Fahrenheit, open all night and all year), staying in dormitories, unpretentious private lodgings, or even on campsites. In addition to soaking (without speaking, a requirement) in the celebrated hot springs, hiking, sunbathing, and enjoying -- according to one staff member -- a "meditative atmosphere," guests sign up for one of numerous courses in exotic massage -- Swedish, shiatsu, acupressure, watsu (water shiatsu) -- at rates as low as $25 per bout of instruction. Room rates per person are $170 a week on campsites, $245 a week in dorms, $385 a week in rooms ($385 a week for two persons), to which you add $20 a day for two vegetarian meals. For information, contact Harbin Hot Springs, P.O. Box 782, Middletown, CA 95461 (phone 707/987-2477 or 800/622-2477, fax 707/987-0616, e-mail and see their Web site at

The Hippocrates Health Institute

Rarely do vacations offer the opportunity for total body renewal. But spending a week at the Hippocrates Health Institute located in West Palm Beach, Florida that is what you'll leave with: a new sense of your self and your well-being.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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