One-Stop Options

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside Magazine, 1999 Annual Travel Guide

One-Stop Options

The guides, the reefs, the mountains, the masseurs — at these multisport resorts and spas, you just step out of your room and it's all there

Costa Azul Adventure Resort, Mexico
Heading north on Mexico 200 from Puerto Vallarta, deftly passing slow-moving trucks and always slowing for those mysterious speed bumps, you notice your taxi is driving into the smoke of a small brushfire. The American response: "Call 9-1-1! Now!" The Mexican one: "It'll go out eventually." That pretty much sums up the tenor of your eventual destination, Costa Azul Adventure Resort, 30 miles north of Puerto Vallarta in the seaside village of San Francisco. Welcome to laid-back active vacationing.

A typical day begins with a snorkeling trip to the Marietas Islands, each island a designated bird sanctuary, where you'll see giant manta rays and blue-footed boobies. Costa Azul handles everything: You just show up, hang on, and jump in. The day ends with a sunset horseback ride along the beach.

When you're not snorkeling, sea kayaking, sailing, mountain biking, surfing, or horseback riding, you can hang in your room — an airy oasis with tile floors, colorful blankets, and a great wave-pounding soundtrack. There are 18 air-conditioned suites (with two double beds and two singles) in a recently refurbished three-story building, six non-air-conditioned suites in a smaller cluster up the hill, and four villas with kitchenettes. All meals (Mexican and American food), tours, and activities originate at the restaurant, an open-air, thatch-roofed lodge perched right next to the ocean.

After several days, everyone, including bartenders and waiters, becomes friends. It all feels like one large, occasionally bawdy family as you cheer on the surfers tackling the big waves out front. "íViva surfing! íViva cerveza!"

The Adventure Package, including all meals, drinks, and activities except scuba diving and fishing, is $98-$118 per person per night for a suite and $108-$128 per person for a villa. Call 800-365-7613 in the United States or 011-52-327-50099; E-mail the resort at [email protected]
— Susan Scandrett

Green Valley Spa, Utah
I was "embracing the tiger" on top of a red-rock boulder 100 feet above the sage and creosote brush of St. George, Utah, trying to mimic the fetching tai chi instructor in her lycra sports-bra ensemble. My day had begun well before sunrise, and by 10:00 I was more than halfway through the daily eight- to 10-mile hike that led me up mountains, over precipices, through shoulder-wide canyons, and down vertiginous cliffs that made the circling vultures take notice.

You get more than a rubdown and a terry-cloth robe at Green Valley Spa. Try Outward Bound meets Don Juan at the sweat lodge. I scaled a 5.8 pitch, then had a shamanic reading, a cranio-sacral massage, and a cinnamon-sugar "uplift" facial. I purified my body with a caffeine-free, high-fiber, gourmet diet; stretched and toned it in Edgu; and waxed and buffed it with a series of natural beauty products that "smell so good, the guests think they're edible."

The spa sits on a mesa surrounded by desert; guests are housed in 35 new (as of November 1998) Southwestern-style casitas with private patios, fireplaces, and kitchenettes. Facilities include a 25,000-square-foot fitness and treatment center, 15 outdoor and four indoor tennis courts, and a brand-new indoor golf school. Just don't expect any pi±a coladas — remember, this is Utah.

The seven-day package is $2,400- $2,750 per person, which includes airport transfers from St. George, lodging, meals, hikes, classes, tennis lessons, one golf lesson or 18-hole golf game at a nearby course, and five spa treatments. Call 800-237-1068.
— Hilary Stunda

Rum Point Inn, Belize
Don't go looking for Belize's best beach out in the cays. It's right on the mainland, along a skinny southern peninsula called Placencia, where the sand is white, the offshore reefs harbor barracuda and turtles, and a lodge called Rum Point Inn has ten dome-shaped bungalows strung along the surf. The domes have indoor gardens and high, round ceilings; sailboats and kayaks wait just outside the louvered mahogany doors.

Former Americans George and Corol Bevier built the unusual domes of ferro-cement, along with 12 air-conditioned garden suites around a fish-shaped swimming pool (scuba lessons take place in the "tail" end). The main lodge is filled with volumes and videos on local natural history.

George runs the dive shop and arranges fishing trips to nearby flats prime for chasing permit. Landward, you can grab a bike (free to guests) and head a couple miles south into Placencia Village, a jumble of sun-beaten stilt shacks in the sand with a sidewalk for a main street. Or take a 1.5-hour ride in the inn's van to Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, where you'll hike along trails thick with orchids, keel-billed toucans, and red-eyed tree frogs — scenes you won't find on any Belize cay. Doubles cost $219-$280 per night, including all meals; call 800-747-1381.
— Stacy Ritz

The Lodge at Skylonda, California
If you happen to encounter a downpour while on the daily five- to 10-mile hikes at The Lodge at Skylonda, don't expect any pity from the guides. This is northern California redwood country, where rain slickers are the local fashion statement.

Rain or shine, mornings at Skylonda mean guided hikes on some of the nearly 200 miles of trails surrounding the lodge — through old-growth redwood forests and wildflower-covered meadows. In the afternoon, there's time for circuit training, tai chi, aquatics, and yoga classes, or spa treatments like shiatsu, reflexology, and the lodge's signature Deep Forest Exfoliation.

Just 35 miles south of San Francisco, Skylonda is a three-story log and stone lodge set beneath madronas, redwoods, oak, and Douglas firs. Here you'll find 16 guest rooms, all with simple wooden furniture, decks, and giant soaking tubs (no TVs or radios); a great room with a fireplace, oversized sofas, and vaulted ceiling; and an indoor pool, outdoor hot tub, and Cybex gym. The dining room serves up dishes like gourmet turkey burgers and seared ahi tuna.

Doubles are $238-$290 per person per night, including all meals, guided hikes, classes, and a one-hour massage. Call 800-851-2222.
— Kara Ryan

Fitzroy Island Resort, Australia
Forty-five minutes from the saltwater-croc-infested waters of Cairns, your ferry bumps up to the dock in the tiny bay at Fitzroy, a four-square-kilometer island of white-coral beaches, thick rainforest, and waterfalls on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

The island's seclusion hasn't changed much since the 1800s, when it served as a quarantine station for Chinese gold miners en route to the mainland. There's still no town, no restaurants, no private homes — just the Fitzroy Island Resort and its two unobtrusive neighbors, a lighthouse and a giant clam farm. The resort's accommodations include eight four-person beachfront cabins with verandas and kitchenettes and 32 two- and four-person bunkhouses with shower blocks and communal kitchens.

Guests can dive or snorkel for a glimpse of damselfish, sweetlips, and starfish, or explore the coast by windsurfer, canoe, sea kayak, or catamaran. Take an introductory scuba class ($39-$52) or a boat trip to underwater sites not accessible by foot. Lunch is served poolside; dinner is at the Rainforest Restaurant, where you can plan tomorrow's activities over garlic-grilled "bugs" — Aussie for crayfish.

Rates for cabins are $110 per person per night, including all meals and nonmotorized water sports equipment. Bunkhouses are $18 per person per night, or $61 for the entire bunkhouse (meals not included; the three-meal option is an extra $18 per person per day). Call Fitzroy Island Resort at 011-61-7-4051-9588; fax at 4052-1335; or check out the web site at www.fitzroy
— Lorien Warner

Vista Clara Ranch and Spa, New Mexico
Vista Clara doesn't consider itself a New Age kind of place despite a menu of treatments and activities that includes sweat lodges, aromatherapy, and cranio-sacral therapy. In keeping with its high-desert, mountain-ringed setting in the starkly lovely Galisteo Basin, 20 miles southeast of Santa Fe, it's a truly Southwestern retreat, where the ancient ways of the Anasazi provide the foundation for the spa's approach to health, nutrition, and general well-being.

Amid the almost preternatural serenity of pi±on-covered mesas and the vast New Mexican sky, guests can go horseback riding, hike along a rocky ridge etched with ancient petroglyphs, or choose among a wide variety of classes and spa treatments. The classes range from aerobics and dance to painting, Native American lore, and organic gourmet cooking — this last taught by award-winning resident chefs Steve and Kristin Jarrett, who prepare what they call "Southwest spa cuisine" using indigenous ingredients from the spa's own organic gardens. Spa and beauty treatments include various types of massage, body wraps, facials, and even organic hair coloring. There's an indoor ozone swimming pool and an outdoor ozone spa as well as a fitness center.

In contrast with the vastness of the landscape, the resort's scale is quite intimate: There are only 10 guest rooms, each with a king bed or two double beds, a private bath, and either a balcony or private patio. The style is tasteful Southwestern, with log-beam ceilings and carved wooden furnishings.

Nightly rates are $165 per person based on double occupancy, including breakfast; the seven-night package ($1,950 per person) includes all meals; classes; use of the gym, fitness center, and spa therapy center; and transportation from Santa Fe. Call 505-466-4772 or fax 505-466-1942.
— N.Z.

Copyright 1998, Outside magazine

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