Flying solo on a wellbeing break at BodyHoliday in St Lucia
I don’t know about you, but there’s something quite satisfying about making your own travel plans that don’t rely on anyone else. No compromising on where to go, what to do, where to eat. Just (relative, in these times at least) freedom.
Figuratively speaking, I’m not alone – according to UK Google trends, searches for solo travel have increased by 761.15 per cent over the past year – perhaps boosted by lockdown-weary Britons seeking even more time alone or a break from being surrounded 24/7 by their partners, children or housemates.
Many destinations are increasingly accommodating the solo traveller. Digital nomad visas have been made available in Antigua, Barbados, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, while Madeira opened Europe’s first digital nomad village in Ponta do Sol in February last year. Such measures are intended to entice solo travellers, who can work remotely, to their shores.
On St Lucia, BodyHoliday, a five-star health resort near capital Castries has been wooing guests with its intoxicating mix of wellbeing programmes, sumptuous suites and tropical location for more than 30 years. More recently it has also started to cater for solo visitors.
Each September, guests will find themselves in the company of others in similar shoes – or flip-flops. It’s a popular opportunity for like-minded individuals to meet, relax, work out and enjoy the island. Some guests return year after year.
I was intrigued to join the last “September Solos”, which joins several new supplementary programmes Bodyholiday has created to help alleviate the mental and physical toll of the pandemic. These include Wellness Rehabilitation, Covid Convalescence, Boost Your Immunity and Corporate Wellness; all of which are said to “complement the BodyHoliday experience”. By this, it means a personalised itinerary of 50-minute daily spa treatments, land and water activities, fitness classes and a nourishing menu for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner – all part of the package.
A direct response to the pandemic has been the Covid Convalescence programme. Recommended as a five-day, non-medical recovery scheme, it involves a pre-arrival consultation and treatments that help to strengthen the respiratory system, plus osteopathy, manual lymphatic drainage and reiki. Similarly, Wellness Rehabilitation is aimed at those in need of restoration from the stresses of the pandemic and includes health check-ins throughout the programme, as well as Ayurvedic treatments and activities such as tai chi and meditation.
Wellness is the name of the game here and BodyHoliday has built its reputation on its East-meets-West philosophy. The Ayurveda-inspired spa offers more than 170 treatments across 33 rooms. My personalised schedule included a Balinese massage, thalassotherapy and an aloe vera wrap that left me blissed out for the rest of the day.
BodyHoliday may sound upmarket but the ambience is decidedly relaxed. Being a small resort, you’ll soon recognise the friendly faces of your fellow guests and staff and, during breakfast, you may find yourself chit-chatting about the day ahead and comparing schedules over your coffee and freshly squeezed juice.
I met a 30-something teacher from London in the thalassotherapy pool who told me it was her first time as a solo traveller and that she had particularly enjoyed a dolphin-spotting cruise. A man I chatted to over sundowners by the beach – an entrepreneur in his late 40s, also from London – revealed it was his second visit and he was already planning to return for a third time in 2022.
If you’re more of a social butterfly than I am, there is ample opportunity to get to know other guests during the weekly hosted dinners and cocktail evenings. There are also group fitness classes and sports tournaments. You can get involved as much or as little as you please and similarly, be as active as you wish to be.
Fitness fanatics will relish the chance to train with BodyHoliday’s senior personal trainer Julian Felix, who also happens to be a Commonwealth gold medalist in bodybuilding. I play social netball and scheduled a 30-minute PT session with him (part of the package) and Felix drew on his knowledge of coaching elite netballers and basketballers to devise a circuits session to improve my stamina. I thought I was up to the challenge – little did I know. But it felt rewarding to train with the best.
Guests who prefer lower intensity exercise will have no shortage of options, with more than 50 water and land-based pursuits including aqua fit, yoga, tai chi and pilates – for all levels, from beginners to advanced.
There’s also time to experience the wider island. You can learn a new skill and take a complimentary Padi discover scuba diving lesson, visit a rum distillery or embark on whale- and dolphin-spotting cruises. During a lunchtime boat trip I went snorkeling off Sugar Beach between the famous, forested twin cones of the Pitons. We saw schools of needlefish and sergeant majors among the marine life, which had multiplied during the time the island was in lockdown, our guide Melisa told us with delight. Then we took in the scenery of the west coast on the return ride back to Rodney Bay Marina, spotting Soufriere and Castries along the way.
Despite being a fitness-focused resort, BodyHoliday doesn’t frown on beach time, and I enjoyed relaxing on its soft white sands, with views across to the forested cape of Pigeon Island National Park.
The all-inclusive package means you can dine at different venues during your stay, with both healthy and indulgent cuisine including Asian-fusion, fine dining and Caribbean buffets. On the Cariblue Windows Mediterranean tasting menu I sampled included beef carpaccio, grilled tuna loin, braised duck leg and cashew nut baklava – with ingredients sourced locally or from the resort’s own organic garden. The Wellness Café and Pavilion Grill are go-tos for fresh protein smoothies and juices as well as healthy twists on classics including wholewheat pasta dishes and pizza made with lighter dough.
I-TAL is a new farm-to-fork experience that takes inspiration from the Rastafari philosophy of a natural diet that excludes meat and processed foods. Although supplementary, it is worth it for the delicious menu cooked by chef Juliana and her team – who earlier that day will have harvested the ingredients from the organic garden. (Ordinarily, guests will also be able to forage for produce alongside the team, but due to Covid this has been put on pause.) I enjoyed watermelon gazpacho, grilled aubergine with mushroom and freshly caught snapper with avocado sauce. And dessert wasn’t off the menu, with fresh mango and coconut yoghurt an exquisite finale. All of this, paired with incredible views of the sun setting on the ocean from a leafy treehouse hideaway in the Coubaril Valley.
If you’re one of the many who’s Googling travelling alone, you needn’t wait until September rolls around to enjoy BodyHoliday. Themed months throughout the year mean guests, solo or not, are catered for and staff are so welcoming you’ll be in good company whenever you go.
Whether it’s travelling alone, getting fit or just finding some peace after a difficult couple of years, it’s likely that you’ll leave this idyllic corner of the Caribbean feeling miles better than when you arrived.
Where to stay
Rates at BodyHoliday St Lucia start at $385pp (£290) per night, all-inclusive, thebodyholiday.com
All arrivals over five must present a negative PCR test taken no more than five days before travel. Those who have been fully vaccinated are not required to quarantine; accompanying five-17 year olds who have not been vaccinated must test on arrival and self-isolate until they have received a negative result, stlucia.org/en_UK
Find your style of solo travel
More than half of those booked on Intrepid’s small group trips are travelling solo. Itineraries span the world, with Explore Jordan (from £776pp twin share or £906 in a single room, excluding flights) and Beautiful Bali (from £680pp twin share or £865pp in a single room, excluding flights) ranked the most popular among previous solo travellers. intrepidtravel.com
Similarly, G Adventures operates small group trips are “solo traveller friendly” with options from an overland itinerary between Paris and Rome (from £824pp) to the Trans-Mongolian Express (from £2,324pp). gadventures.com
Berlin-based Indico Travels is aimed at travellers aged between 30-45, and its trips promise meaningful local interaction and a responsible outlook. Small group trips operate in Lapland, Vietnam, Colombia and more. indicotravels.com
Escorted tours and cruises
Just You is a solo travel specialist with more than 15 years under its belt, which counts Claire Sweeney as its ambassador. It offers active breaks, small ship cruises, UK tours and last-minute holidays for single travellers. An eight day voyage around Croatia’s coast and islands costs from £2,399pp. justyou.co.uk
River cruises, ocean and yacht voyages are offered by Riviera Travel, with no single supplements on its solo tours. A week-long Rhine and Moselle river cruise starts at £1,779pp. Escorted tours, for example to Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains, are also offered. rivieratravel.co.uk
Backpacking in style
With a mission statement of creating “one million meaningful friendships around the globe”, Flash Pack specialises in group adventures with a touch of high-end comfort for solo travellers in their thirties and forties. Its trips include safaris in Tanzania and Sri Lanka, beach holidays in Colombia and Costa Rica, and wellness in Tuscany, Morocco and Croatia. flashpack.com
Learning and active holidays
Solos Holidays offers trips to suit most styles and interests, for a wide range of ages. It also offers golf holidays for single travellers, in Spain, Portugal and Turkey. solosholidays.co.uk
Almost three quarters of Flavours Holidays’ customers travel independently and holidays carry no single supplement. Activities include cookery, painting, language, photography and pilates in destinations around Spain, Italy and Scotland. flavoursholidays.co.uk
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