Oftentimes, planning a vacation — and the anticipation of it — is as much a part of the fun as actually taking the trip (well, almost). It's looking forward to downtime, unstructured days filled with opportunities to pamper yourself, and the ultimate hope of feeling rejuvenated at the end of a vacation that leads to daydreaming before even setting off.
But these days, a vacation can be so much more than just a trip to an exotic locale. That's why we've selected a handful of truly outstanding places to travel — that not only offer a space to “chill” but also support mental, physical, and spiritual well-being in other ways. Some offer local, organic dining, others yoga or meditation classes, or a chance to hike in a spectacular setting. And all of these destinations have made efforts not only to promote your health but also the health of the planet by reducing their carbon footprint.
Next Page: Destination #1 - Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge
Playa Nicuesa Rainforest Lodge
OSA PENINSULA, COSTA RICA
Located on a private, 165-acre road-free rainforest reserve in Piedras Blancas National Park, Costa Rica, the Playa Nicuesa eco-lodge is accessible only by boat and is the ideal base camp for adventure — and relaxation. Make your own itinerary, or sign up for one of the lodge's special packages such as Foraging in the Tropical Wilds, during which you'll learn to cook edibles from the tropical jungle. Chill out with a yoga class, or just soak in the sounds of exotic birds in your open-air room. Powered by solar energy, Playa Nicuesa accommodates only up to 24 people at a time and is designed to have the least impact possible on the lush, biodiverse rainforest.
DO: Hike rainforest trails to view wildlife. Take a guided kayak excursion. Swim in the 80-degree ocean waters. Go fishing or snorkeling.
EAT: Meals feature fresh fruits and vegetables — such as mango, guava, star fruit, plantains, and spinach — grown in the lodge's garden or purchased at farmers' markets in the nearby town of Golfito, along with fresh-caught fish, such as mahi-mahi or yellowfin tuna, prepared with herbs and spices from the lodge's garden.
INFO: 866.504.8116; nicuesalodge.com
Caribbean Solutions Sol Kid Kare SPF 25 (eco-safe and marine friendly)
World of Good Raffia n' Roll tote bag
Simple Toe Foo vegan sandals
Preserve Razor made from recycled plastic
Rainbow Light Advanced Enzyme Optima with Prebiotics & Probiotics
Dr. Hauschka After-Sun Lotion
Buzz Away Extreme Natural Insect Repellent
Next Page: Destination #2 -Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
VENTANA WILDERNESS, NEAR CARMEL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
The first Soto Zen monastery established outside of Asia, Tassajara is open to day and overnight visitors between May and mid-September. Located in a remote part of California's Ventana Wilderness, the monastery offers a limited number of guest rooms and cabins. Sign up for one of the many retreats — including The Zen of Baking, July 20-25, 2008 — or come to simply enjoy the hot springs and gourmet vegetarian fare. The center is nestled 1½ hours down a rustic dirt road from Carmel Valley (or a three-day hike through the Santa Lucia mountains from Big Sur). You don't have to be a student of Zen to appreciate the retreat's profound, natural peace.
DO: Soak in Japanese-style baths and hot-spring pools; walk down river to the “narrows” for a dip in natural swimming holes. Enjoy many miles of hiking trails. Participate in morning and evening meditation (zazen) sessions, all levels welcome.
EAT: Tassajara is renowned for its elegant vegetarian cuisine; gourmet brown-bag lunches are also available. Don't miss the famous fresh-baked breads.
INFO: 415.865.1899; sfzc.org/tassajara/
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Zia Sea Tonic Aloe Toner with Cypress + Zia Daily Moisture Screen SPF 15 with Cucumber
Under the Canopy Organic Kimono Robe
World of Good Flying Colors Journal
Channeling Grace audio CDs by Caroline Myss (Sounds True, 2008)
Tom's of Maine Natural Clean & Gentle Care SLS-Free Fluoride Toothpaste
Next Page: Destination #3 - Devil's Thumb Ranch
Devil's Thumb Ranch
You might not think “ranch” and “eco-conscious” go together — but then you may not have been to Devil's Thumb. Located on 5,000 acres of private wilderness along Colorado's Continental Divide, Devil's Thumb Ranch offers all of the comforts of a resort (think fine dining and a full-service spa), but with sustainability in mind. The luxurious guest cabins and the main lodge were built in part with local beetle-kill pine, and they incorporate low-impact geothermal heating. The resort even has a custom-built water-sand filtration system, so there are no nasty chemicals in the water. And the Ranch House Restaurant and Saloon features locally farmed, sustainable meats, fish, and produce on its menu. But beyond the resort's eco-features, the stunning mountain locale offers a true, raw Colorado escape from the quotidian.
DO: Enjoy health-boosting hikes, mountain biking, excellent fly-fishing, and horseback riding at the ranch or in nearby Arapaho National Forest. Schedule a treatment (or two!) at the Ranch Creek Spa. Soak in the view from the relaxing indoor-outdoor pool.
EAT: Grab a locally roasted coffee at Hallowed Grounds in the main lodge; and don't miss the eco-dining at the Ranch House Restaurant. Tastings at John L's Wine Cellar feature locally produced organic wines.
INFO: 800.933.4339; devilsthumbranch.com
[1,2] Dude Girl Flame Tunic, Spur Tank, and Spur Pant made from organic cotton and bamboo
 Jason Sunbrellas SPF 30+ Mineral Based Physical Sunblock
Zicam Nasal Comfort Moisture Therapy
Nelsons Arnileve arnica cream for sore muscles and bruises
Attune Yogurt & Granola Wellness Bar with probiotics
Eco Lips Mint SPF 15 lip balm (87 percent organic)
Senior Editor Radha Marcum rejuvenates in hot springs whenever she has the chance.