Get your heart rate up and your om on with these Valentines Getaways for Body Buddies, Golf Lovers and Snorkeling Sweethearts.
As we head into February, odds are you have already broken your New Year’s resolution to get fit and lose weight. Statistics show 80% of us fail to stick to these promises for more than a month. Then things start to unravel with what seem like logical excuses at the time, like, well, it’s the Super Bowl, so no gym today, nope.
Travel is one of those things that can be considered an excuse to skip working out or eating and drinking healthy. That’s a bunch of malarkey, of course, and you just need to set your mind to it when planning a trip and opt for moving and exploring instead of vegetating at the swim-up bar all day. Don’t get me wrong. I love to while away a couple of hours perched on the underwater barstool, sipping margaritas, but that indulgence feels more right after walking 18 holes of golf (and swinging a golf club 100 times), or kayaking and snorkeling with turtles for three hours. Morning workouts lead to guilt-free lazy afternoons. Here’s some inspiration.
Fitness Programs at The Royalton Riviera Cancun
Fitness programs at most resorts are considered an afterthought, and they often come with an extra charge. Not the case at Royalton Riviera Cancun, a luxury all-inclusive resort on the Yucatan Peninsula where fitness experts Belinda and George Kiriakou have put in place full-body workout programs incorporating the latest fitness trends, some mild, others that reach levels of high intensity: Aqua Fit, Cross Fit, TRX, cycling, yoga, Zumba and more.
The physically imposing George has more than 25 years of experience as a bodybuilder, pro wrestler, pro fighter, and fitness expert. Effervescent Belinda Kiriakou, a bikini athlete champion, is also an experienced weight-loss and lifestyle coach. Together George and Belinda are the architects of the Royalton Fit programs, and they have developed each one with all ages and all fitness levels in mind. I know this because I survived their boot-camp experience—a sort of mad par course with many stations, including battle ropes, agility ladders and sledgehammer-pounding on a tire, all at a frenetic pace—that had my heart pounding and my lungs near busting. Encouragement from the instructors got me through it. The reward was a pleasant euphoric exhaustion that stayed with me the rest of the day. Who needs tequila when you feel like this?
While the boot camp workout felt best when I stopped, the Kiriakous’ Boga Fit Mat classes, held in one of the many pools at Royalton Riviera Cancun seemed to end too soon. It’s a blend of all the pleasant things available at the resort: floating in the pool, the sound of the waves in the distance, the sun on your back and the encouragement of Belinda’s voice. This class rocks, literally. And if you rock too much you tip over into the pool. I got that out of the way immediately as I first tried to stand. I wobbled and crashed into the water, taking out my neighbor to the left of me. Sheepishly, I climbed back determined to stay upright through the remainder of our yoga poses and stretching exercises, which is to say I did the rest of the class from a sitting position. One of the great things about fitness classes while traveling is that no matter how ridiculous you may look, you know you will never see these people again.
The Royalton Riviera Cancun, a luxe and expansive resort with a friendly staff, is a good choice for a Valentine’s Day getaway with the kids in tow. With families in mind, the resort has created a kids-and-teens club and splash park and pool with waterslides and colorful creature sculptures throughout.
There are more bars and restaurants here than in most small towns: 9 specialty restaurants, 12 bars and a café. Interiors of each restaurant have been beautifully themed to match its cuisine—too many choices to list all of them here, but the reservation-free dining choices include a Japanese Teppanyaki and Sushi Bar, an authentic Italian trattoria, Mexican and steak restaurants among others.
The rooms are modern in style, large and casually luxurious, with soaking tubs, rain showers, balconies with amazing views of resort grounds and its Puerto Morelos location on the Riviera Maya.
Golf at Quail Lodge & Refuge Spa, Carmel
Like Cancun, water is everywhere at this resort with 10 man-made lakes, but this time you want to stay out of it, at least if you care about a low golf score on the card. I know what you’re thinking: how is a golf getaway a fitness getaway? The answer: it is if you walk. With a bag on your back, walking between 6 and 6.5 miles over a mildly hilly course and swinging the club 90 to 100 times, you are burning at least 1,000 calories over the 18 holes. A recent report from the University of Edinburgh, which looked at more than 5,000 studies, shared that playing golf regularly could add over five years to your life. The good news for lousy golfers is that the worse you shoot, the more of a workout you get! Zig-zagging your way to the green can double your distance and add 25-30% more swings. Cursing after each shot adds even more to the calorie burn.
It’s impossible to get mad at yourself for too long, however, on this serene and easy-on-the eyes par 71, with mature oaks and willows, deer, amazing course conditions, and sounds of Carmel river. You may also spot quail, hawks, turkeys, turtles, and frogs can be found in the most interesting places, but that’s another story.
The 6500 yards is perfect for a good walk. It meanders, rises and falls just enough to make it interesting, but it’s friendly enough for golfers of all ages and skill levels. Quail Golf Club was awarded numerous times for “Best Playing Conditions” for all of Central California by GreensKeeper. Known for its playability, pristine conditions and beautifully manicured greens, it was originally designed by Robert Muir Graves in 1964 and refined in 2015 by Principle Designer Todd Eckenrode.
The lodge is relaxed and dog-friendly with 93 spacious California-ranch designed guestrooms and suites, farm-to-table dining, sand bocce ball pits, a miniature golf course, tennis and pickleball courts, and a year-round outdoor heated swimming pool. And it is centrally located to the Carmel Valley wineries, Point Lobos, and Cannery Row, where you’ll find the world-class Monterey Bay Aquarium.
A long tee shot away from the resort is Refuge Spa, a unique outdoor spa, with cedar sauna, hot and warm pools and four Nordic cool and cold pools. There are a couple rules/suggestions here, which greatly enhance your mellowing: stay silent and experience the treatments in this order—heat up in the cedar sauna or eucalyptus steam room, chill in either a Nordic cool or cold pool, then relax by the fire in a Adirondack chair or on a zero-gravity recliner. Repeat this cycle 3 to 5 times and you won’t have a care in the world.
Snorkeling on Maui
Meanwhile, back in the water, consider snorkeling as a workout. It’s fitness with the fishes. My favorite snorkeling destination is in the clear waters of the Hawaiian island of Maui. Peaceful green sea turtles are easy to spot in the snorkeling bays of Maui, as well as dozens of species of colorful reef fish. With fins, mask and a snorkel, it’s an amazing experience to simply scan below from the surface of the water and enter their world, observe and get swept away. It’s easy to forget everything else, which is why snorkeling never seems like a workout, but in fact may be one of the best exercise for all ages and fitness levels, even if you have knee or hip issues. Kicking your fins and breathing through a tube in this environment is not only easy on the eyes but easy on the joints as well. My favorite way to snorkel is from a kayak. Getting in and out is tricky, and knowing how to secure your gear is important, but once you get the hang of it, the combination of paddling and snorkeling makes for a great morning adventure.
Snorkeling works out quads, hamstrings, calves, ankles, hip flexors, core and shoulders, reduces stress and burns about 300 calories an hour. The controlled mouth breathing required is akin to meditative breathing techniques. And with the added restriction of sucking air through a tube, lungs get a workout too and get stronger over time. Snorkel guides on the island are like sherpas on Everest: learning to process air in environments not meant for humans gives them superhuman abilities. Our guide on a recent Maui snorkel liked free-diving and swimming through lava tubes, under the water three of four minutes at a time. Do not swim through lava tubes, he told me. He had lost a friend that way.
Other rules for snorkeling: Don’t snorkel if you are not already a good swimmer. You can get into trouble quickly even though it might not seem like it. Don’t splash around. Keep your arms at your side or hands crossed over your chest when you are close to the reef or fishes. Do not touch the coral or the sea turtles, and do not wear sunscreen unless it’s the kind approved by the islanders, the kind that does not harm the coral. Stay calm in the water and respectful of their world.
We stayed at the Plantation Inn during our last snorkel adventure, a charming and intimate bed and breakfast located in Lahaina Town. This is a Valentine’s getaway sans kids, as it is an adults-only inn. The style is historic plantation but with modern amenities and a small but deep pool with a hot tub next to it. It’s quiet and with a friendly staff, and you wouldn’t know you are only a couple of blocks from the busiest part of the town. Gerard’s Restaurant located downstairs offers fine dining. For a romantic dinner, reserve a table on the front porch.
By Randall Tierney