Enjoying a World of Cultures at This Wellness Retreat in St. Lucia
BodyHoliday mixes West Indian, European, and Ayurvedic traditions for an all-inclusive experience unlike any other. For one New York creative, it was just the dreamy, personalized experience she needed.
My goal was simple: Take five days at BodyHoliday resort in St. Lucia to unplug, unwind, and not worry about everything that’s happening in the world. For my first international trip since March 2020, that seemed like enough, as I explained during my pre-departure consultation. BodyHoliday was more than up to the task. Drawing on rich cultural influences, everything from the farm-to-table food to sublime spa treatments and an abundance of activities makes for an absolute paradise—it’s no wonder that 40-50 percent of their guests come back year after year after year. My husband Dom and I counted ourselves extremely lucky when BodyHoliday invited us for what we hope will only be the first of many visits this past January.
What we found is that the resort’s programming is very different from typical wellness retreats—it’s not preachy or rigid, and instead focuses on transforming your life as you see fit. Ultimately, their goal is to help you make better decisions for yourself when you get back to the “real world.” That includes offering a host of choices from various traditions around the globe.
You can see a medical doctor or an Ayurvedic practitioner. Go scuba diving or practice nadi shuddhi. For lunch, dig into I-TAL pigeon peas or Tao sushi. At BodyHoliday, the seamless, thoughtful blending of multiple cultures is everywhere—from the architecture to the activities to the food—and embracing these diverse traditions, techniques, and practices creates a totally distinct, deeply rewarding approach to well-being.
BodyHoliday’s remarkable Wellness Center—designed with a Moorish influence, reminiscent of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain—highlights an East-meets-West philosophy, including Reiki masters, doctors, and “Pavitra,” the only genuine Ayurvedic temple in the West Indies. Each practitioner who I met with was highly specialized and had an authentic connection to their practice.
For my first treatment, I dove right into one of my biggest insecurities: my skin. During a relaxing facial, my therapist taught me how to use grapeseed oil (which doesn’t clog your pores) to self-manage my dry skin. A big part of BodyHoliday’s philosophy is empowering you to make better decisions every day—and this wouldn’t be the only lesson I’d bring home.
We also officially confirmed that I am tense! Good thing I met many more practitioners to help me with that. One, French osteopath Maite Raynal, gently moved and assessed my joints and muscles, performing light adjustments and compression on my lower back to relieve the tension when she located any misalignment.
Perhaps my most memorable treatment was with Tendel Zangpo, a Bhutanese Reiki master. While I’ve done Reiki before, this was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. At one point, I felt like I was floating in the sky. Tendel guides you through meditation and breathing exercises while also working on your muscles. Afterwards, I felt very light and elated—and slept very deeply that night.
BodyHoliday offers no shortage of activities, from Zoomba and golf to tubing and scuba diving. From 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., there’s always something going on to suit every possible interest, or you can just lay on the beach all day drinking cocktails. That’s their approach to wellness—you should do what your body needs. Like at the Wellness Center, BodyHoliday brought in decorated experts from all over the world to run specialized sessions.
One morning, I woke up super early for a deep stretching lesson with Hiley TK who taught me how to elongate my muscles and work on different tension points with hard foam rollers. I was shocked to find how much tension I was carrying in my calves. He explained that after years of wearing heels and not walking with proper alignment, it’s common to develop knots in your body you never really work out. Now I always stretch in the morning.
Dom and I did a breathwork session with one of the resort’s experienced yogi masters. We sat in their outdoor yoga deck that’s built in the middle of the trees so you can hear the rustling of the leaves. It’s very beautiful and private. She taught us how to remove the shallowness and time the cadence of our breaths. We also tried nadi shuddhi, which is when you breathe in one nostril and out the other.
Unlike many other all-inclusive resorts, which can feel isolated, BodyHoliday provides guests with opportunities to explore the island. We took a guided walk to Pigeon Island, a stunning National Park with hiking trails, the ruins of old forts, and beaches, and even spotted a wild horse along the way. Next time, I’d love to hike the Pitons—the iconic volcanic mountains at the south of St. Lucia where you can take a dip in a sulfur spring mud bath, which is said to make you look 10 years younger!
Around the world in food
Global influences also emerge in BodyHoliday’s robust culinary offerings. You can certainly get a taste of local, West Indian flavors at places like I-TAL and the Wellness Cafe—where I enjoyed fresh juices and wraps—and look forward to daily afternoon tea, international cuisine at Cariblue, and an Asian fusion menu at Tao featuring savory dishes like dumplings and coconut curry lamb. I was blown away by the quality of Tao’s sushi bar. (We took a long walk on the beach to work that one off!)
We indulged in our most special meal at I-TAL, which serves the diet of the Rastafari movement of Jamaica. Essentially, it’s a vegan diet, thought to improve health and energy, and based on the principles of respecting the land and doing no harm. Before your reservation, you get to tour of the property’s organic farm, which supplies many of the ingredients for BodyHoliday’s other restaurants, too, as well as for some of the oils for the spa.
Lunch itself was incredible and so beautifully presented. You sit among the trees with panoramic views of the bay and savor multiple courses. We had a refreshing salad with cucumber, beets, watermelon and a homemade citrus dressing and pigeon peas cooked in a traditional West Indian style clay pot over an open flame. The dessert, homemade coconut ice cream made from nut milk and topped with chocolate, pineapple, basil, and coconut shavings, was a deliciously great way to end the experience.