Places to Visit

8 Group-Friendly Hotels That Are Ideal for a Wellness Getaway With a Few Friends

Photo: Courtesy of Red Mountain Resort; W+G Creative
Taking a wellness trip with a few friends might sound like an oxymoron, at least to travel aficionados. Group travel is notoriously stressful to plan and execute, and stress is antithetical to wellness. But at the same time, the idea of relaxing in a spa whirlpool or doing sun salutations on a beach in the company of close friends is certainly appealing—particularly in the wake of a pandemic that took both travel and IRL face time with friends off the table. As both friend-cations and wellness travel rebound in popularity, the question remains: Is it possible to combine them for a best-of-both-worlds trip... without needing another vacation to decompress?

If my recent wellness trip to the Dominican Republic with a group of fellow writers is any indication, the answer may lie in the place you choose to visit. We visited the adults-only wellness-inclusive Melia Punta Cana Beach, a free-flowing complex of palm-lined gathering spaces, breezy beach palapas, pools, and spacious restaurants that have “group-friendly” written all over them. At the time, the resort’s themed wellness program, which offers workshops that rotate monthly, was centered around International Yoga Day, and as a group of five, we seamlessly joined the sessions on breathwork and meditation. Come lunch or dinner, it was surprisingly easy to make a same-day, five-person reservation at any of the 13 onsite restaurants, where ordering for the table was also blissfully stress-free (it’s all included).

Even the on-site YHI Spa was well-suited for a serene group hang. We stayed in the Level Wellness Suites (the property’s wellness-focused upgrade), which granted us access to the spa’s water ritual, including a sauna, steam room, cold vitality pool, and hot jacuzzi, each large enough to accommodate a few people. And the Level wellness upgrade also included one 30-minute spa treatment per day—a massage, body wrap, or facial—which can streamline planning. Everyone in a group can book their daily spa appointment for the same time, and meet up before to experience the water ritual, located just outside the treatment rooms.

Melia Punta Cana Beach (Dominican Republic)

Amenities, spaces, and programs like these ones at Melia Punta Cana Beach renewed my faith in the idea of a legitimately relaxing group wellness trip. And upon my return home, I was keen on finding other wellness-forward hotels that are similarly well set-up for groups. (After all, having a little help can go a long way toward getting any friends’ trip in the books.)

Whether they have specific wellness programming that’s customizable for a private group or they’re just spacious enough to make group booking easy, these wellness-centric hotels and resorts are the first places you should look the next time you’re craving a restorative escape with your crew.

7 more wellness-centric hotels for groups to check out on your next friend vacation

1. BodyHoliday (St. Lucia)

The beauty of BodyHoliday is in its massive range. Ever since it opened in 1988 as the first wellness resort in the Caribbean, the property has been iterating on its offerings to the point where there's now truly something for every wellness traveler. Your group can try yoga, Beachfit (the property's beachside HIIT class), Pilates, kayaking, scuba diving, and spinning, and you still would have barely scratched the surface. There's also a daily one-hour spa treatment (such as a full-body massage or an aloe body wrap) included in the room rate.

As a group, you'll also have the option of staying together in the resort's new Hibiscus Villa, which can accommodate up to six people in three bedrooms and boasts its own deck and tropical garden. A couple minutes' walk away from the main resort, the villa is its own private oasis within an oasis.

2. Carmel Valley Ranch (Carmel Valley, CA)

Carmel Valley Ranch is all about spaciousness—both outdoors and in. The property spans 500 acres, including a vineyard, golf course, bike trails, and even an active farm (yes, you can mingle with goats, horses, and alpacas). Every room is actually a suite, all with a fireplace and private deck, and many with multiple bedrooms (up to four). Even the onsite Spa Aiyana has treatment rooms fit for small groups, where you can get side-by-side massages incorporating lavender from the on-site garden. When you're ready to just kick back by the pool and do nothing, you'll find ample space for that as well: The property has a total of three swimming pools, as well as an infinity hot tub.

3. Civana Wellness Resort & Spa (Carefree, AZ)

Group wellness experiences are built into Civana's DNA. The resort offers 70+ different free classes per week (every guest can choose two per day) ranging from floating guided meditation to aerial yoga to numerology, and every day starts with a group intention ceremony and ends with a group gratitude circle. The room rate also includes access to bikes and use of athletic courts, and groups can schedule private instructor-led fitness classes and guided hikes for an additional fee.

Spa services can also be customized for groups, but even if you choose individual treatments, you can still convene for the aqua therapy circuit, which is included with all services. Rooted in the benefits of contrast therapy, the circuit features hot and cold wading pools, a cold deluge shower, and a warm sanarium (a combo sauna and steam room).

4. Inns of Aurora (Aurora, NY)

Traveling with a larger crew? Rent one of the inns at Inns of Aurora—which range from 7 to 11 bedrooms—for your group in order to eliminate the stress of making huge meal reservations or coordinating a block of hotel rooms in the same vicinity. The rental includes a kitchen (where you can prepare your own group meals or coordinate catered ones from a private chef for an additional fee), as well as concierge services for organizing reservations, grocery delivery, and more. On-site, you'll also find a whole variety of recreational activities to bring your wellness trip to life—from telescopes with stargazing guides to kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to coolers and picnic blankets.

As private-residence guests, you'll also have access to the Spa at the Inns of Aurora (which has a variety of group-friendly hydrotherapy pools, a steam room, and a sauna) as well as the full slate of activities offered to Inns of Aurora guests, including guided hikes and yoga classes. Come twilight, you can even schedule a group tarot reading with the hotel's director of serenity at a private fire pit.

5. Lakeway Resort & Spa (Austin, TX)

If you'd classify yourself as more of a lake person than an ocean person, take your group to Lakeway. There, plenty of group outings make use of the resort's namesake, Lake Travis, allowing you to reap the mind-soothing benefits of spending time near water. You'll find easy access to kayaking, paddle-boarding, waterskiing, and fishing, as well as private sailboat and pontoon rentals for a relaxing group outing. Back at the resort, the relaxation rooms of the spa are designed to channel the calm of the lake, overlooking it with floor-to-ceiling windows. And groups of six or more receive a 10-percent discount on bookings of body treatments, including full-body scrubs and wraps.

6. Red Mountain Resort (Ivins, UT)

The all-inclusive retreat packages at Red Mountain make it easy to book a group trip, split a single charge equally, and wipe your hands of the group-trip Venmo madness. In particular, the "Girlfriends' Getaway" package, which includes accommodations in a villa for either three or four people, is ideal for a group wellness trip (gendered name notwithstanding). In addition to all your meals, it includes a daily guided hike (plus a water bottle and backpack to bring with you on said hikes), $50 spa credit per person per day, and access to the resort's fitness and wellness classes, swimming pools, bikes, walking trails, and meditation labyrinth.

At the spa, you'll find treatments that call upon the surroundings: Body wraps and massages utilize local red clay, prickly pear, and agave nectar oil for a uniquely desert-inspired experience. And with multiple treatment rooms, the spa can book up to seven individual services at once, making it easy to schedule a full group's worth of treatments together.

7. Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection (Calistoga, CA)

There's no reason wine and wellness can't mix. (It's called balance.) And Solage presents the epitome of a best-of-both-worlds wine-country wellness trip. This Napa Valley resort offers not only local wine but also an array of spa treatments utilizing local mud (one of the region's lesser-known treasures). At the heart of the spa are five different pools inspired by the area's natural hot springs—a cold plunge, an ambient magnesium-rich pool, a warm relaxation pool, a hot jetted saline pool, and a hot jetted mineral pool—all of which are ideal for soaking with a group.

Beyond the spa, the resort also offers a full slate of free daily wellness classes, like yoga, Pilates, and meditation, and if you book one of the suites (which go up to two bedrooms and include an outdoor patio and fire pit), you can also reserve an in-room Peloton for an additional fee.

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