Several years ago, I found myself needing a certain type of vacation — one that would help me reset life and that combined my passions: fitness and sports, the outdoors and travel, healthy food and new people.
I wanted much of the planning done for me. I also wanted the ability to break from any itinerary. And I wanted to go alone without feeling lonely. A reasonable cost, a variety of activities and a warm location also were important.
I stumbled on something called Bikini Bootcamp at an eco-friendly resort in Tulum, Mexico. I cringed at the name, but I looked past it and found the type of trip I sought.
It promised rustic beach cottages, certified trainers leading fitness sessions, healthy food, excursions like biking through Mayan ruins, spa services, and enough down time to make my vacation my own.
For the most part, that’s what I got.
I was immediately hooked on the model and in the years since, I have gone to several others, including Pura Vida Adventures, a surf and yoga camp in Malpais, Costa Rica, which was founded by Tierza Eichner and most recently, a SUP (stand-up paddleboard) and yoga retreat in Rincon, Puerto Rico, created by Jessica Bellofatto of KamaDeva Yoga and Gina Bradley of Paddle Diva, two companies based in New York’s tony Hamptons’ beach area.
Don’t misunderstand: these aren’t fat camps. These are vacations tailored to people who value healthy lifestyles, active travel and trying new things, seeing new places and meeting new people.
The formula is generally the same. All are run by entrepreneurial, outgoing women with interesting life stories and a zest for living fully.
The trips are geared toward or attract mostly women, though the men who go seem to fit in easily. Female professionals in their 30s and 40s are the majority, though everyone from stay-at-home moms to almost-retired grandmas attend. Many people come alone; some come with friends and relatives.
All are bound by an up-for-anything, adventurous attitude and a shared desire to have an active life with nutritious food and vigorous exercise.
Many seek to push the bounds both mentally and physically, and they do things they typically wouldn’t, like trail-running through the steep and slippery jungle or jumping off rock ledges into crystal blue water below.
“Expand your comfort zone” was the daily positive mantra of paddle instructor Shari Hymes during the January retreat in Puerto Rico.
Many leave these trips with great memories and lasting relationships, and the vacations have their own touches, reflective of their founders.
Bikini Bootcamp, run by Melissa Perlman, offers an African dance session, a tribal drumming lesson and a traditional Mayan clay treatment on the beach with an eyebrow-raising component: swimsuit tops optional.
The Pura Vida instructors become informal tour guides, taking clients to favorite surf spots in a Scooby Doo-like van that’s been known to stop for cold ones at shacks run by Ticos — or Costa Rican locals — after a long day on the water.
Read more: Liz Sidoti, DetroitFreePress