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Cocktails, daily massages and fun fitness classes: why BodyHoliday St Lucia isn't your average wellness retreat

The luxury resort isn't about arduous exercise and portion-controlled diets

'Give us your body for a week and we'll give you back your mind.' This is the, somewhat intimidating, mantra that sits front and centre of BodyHoliday St Lucia's website. When I first clicked to find out more about this luxury, all-inclusive resort, my first thought was, "Am I about to step into a scene from Nine Perfect Strangers?"

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I imagined a health retreat with arduous fitness schedules, portion-controlled raw food menus, and teetotal guests zipping from one exercise class to the next. But instead, what I found in this Caribbean slice of paradise were free-flowing cocktails (as well as green juices), relaxing yoga and breathing classes (as well as Olympian-led beach bootcamps), and absolutely zero judgement if you're more partial to massages, facials and flopping on the beach, than working out on your vacation. Did I mention they serve afternoon tea every day?

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The warm Caribbean water and sandy beach are all too tempting

The BodyHoliday experience

BodyHoliday has been around since the late eighties and is the OG when it comes to wellness retreats. It started off by catering to stressed-out professionals and baby boomers who wanted to improve their health and lifestyle. But ramming wellness down a guest's throat has never been part of its ethos. You are very much left to do as much or as little as you want in terms of healthy eating and exercise, but the wealth of sports available coupled with the fantastic spa will ensure you feel totally relaxed and rejuvenated after a week there. It really does do wonders for the body and mind.

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A stay at BodyHoliday does wonders for the mind and body

Which is why BodyHoliday really is the perfect resort for every type of traveller. Fitness fanatics can go nuts taking as many classes as they want per day, while spa lovers can indulge in their 50-minute daily treatment at the wellness centre, which is, unlike other all-inclusives, included in your room rate. That alone was enough to convince me that a stay at BodyHoliday would be right up my street and a definitive deal-breaker when weighing up hotel options.

BodyHoliday's popularity is clear to see from the sheer amount of repeat guests. During one beach bootcamp session, we were asked how many times we'd visited. One gentleman was on his 41st trip – a number that must have broken records. The resort also only accepts guests above the age of 16, although this is reduced to 12 during the summer months.

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The resort is nestled amongst lush green mountains

The BodyHoliday activities

The hotel is nestled in a beautiful cove and sits on the north-western coast of the island, a short drive away from the capital Castries and Rodney Bay town. The surroundings are typically St Lucian. Turquoise waters, sugar-fine sand, and sprawling lush green mountains are what guests wake up to every morning.

While getting up pre-7am might not be the norm for me on a beach holiday, I woke up buzzing with excitement each day, ready for my morning hike, beach fit class or outdoor yoga session on the deck. Plus, a little smug at having ticked off a class before my (buffet) breakfast.

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Morning yoga on the hibiscus deck is the perfect way to start your day

There is an unbelievable amount of activities on offer and a blackboard that's updated daily with all of the classes of the week. The timetable generally runs from 7am to 7pm, with multiple classes every hour, from spinning, aquafit, circuits and HIIT, to volleyball, T'ai Chi, aerial yoga and cycling. Up at Coubaril Valley, there's tennis, golf, archery, and meditation, while the beach offers a ton of water sports such as sailing, water skiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, tubing, scuba diving, and windsurfing. It would take roughly three to four weeks to get through all of BodyHoliday's activities. The real dilemma is fitting it all into your paper weekly planner which you're given at the start of your stay.

The instructors, better known as BodyGuards, are all friendly, energetic and welcoming, particularly in the beginners' classes. Yoga with resident practitioner Chamu is very popular and her classes fill up quickly, while Neil is a fun and encouraging tennis coach. You may overlook some of nutritionist and sports massage therapist Hiley's classes – hip opening stretching, improving your posture, and breathing foundations – but they are well worth a try. He'll show you you've been stretching incorrectly your whole life.

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The Coubaril Valley offers tennis, golf and archery

Given that most activities, bar scuba diving in the sea, are included in your room rate, you may as well try your hand at a sport you wouldn't otherwise dare to. And don't feel shy about turning up to a class solo. BodyHoliday has a genuinely friendly vibe to it and is well-suited to solo travellers. Many of the guests I came across had met each other on previous BodyHoliday trips and were returning as groups of friends. There's no feeling of embarrassment dining alone, but solo travellers can also join the raucous communal table at dinner if they'd like company. September Solo month is also focused on single travellers.

The BodyHoliday spa and wellness centre

The other cornerstone of BodyHoliday is, of course, relaxation. Each guest is entitled to a 50-minute treatment per day, included in your room rate, for every full day of your stay. The spa and wellness centre that sits at one of the highest points of the resort is a beacon of beauty and walking up the steps to reach it every day felt like a pilgrimage to heaven. Away from the hustle and bustle of the activity below, the spa area is modelled on Spanish Moorish architecture and immediately reminded me of Granada's La Alhambra. It oozes serenity with its picturesque courtyards, ayurvedic temple, open-air massage area, tranquillity pool, and indoor thalassotherapy pool.

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BodyHoliday's spa has a Spanish Moorish feel to it

The 39 treatment rooms are where you'll have your massages, body wraps, and facials, but it's worth paying the premium for some of the additional, supplementary treatments. Osteopathic practitioner Maite will work her magic realigning your bones and leave you feeling repaired and restored, while the more intimate ayurvedic spa houses four, non-air conditioned holistic treatment rooms. I can highly recommend the shirodhara head massage for those who want to instantly unwind. Oil specific to your 'dosha' or energy is dripped onto your third eye and massaged into your scalp and hair, leaving you in a state of drunken zen.

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Guests are entitled to a daily 50-minute treatment included in their room rate

Guests are also entitled to an initial free BodyScience consultation and physical examination, where onsite doctors will assess your breathing, heart health, stress levels and more. State-of-the-art technology in the clinic includes an infrared sauna that relieves pain, boosts circulation, and burns calories. But feeling good on the inside goes hand in hand with looking good on the outside, and the beauty area of the spa has you covered with its list of services including blow-dries, waxing, and manicures and pedicures.

The BodyHoliday beach

BodyHoliday's sandy beach is an absolute paradise for sunseekers and the warm hospitality you'll find throughout the hotel extends to the service on the sand. One end of the beach caters for guests who want to relax with a good book and enjoy the sound of the crashing waves, or swim in the warm Caribbean water. Staff are on hand to take cocktail orders, offer fruit skewers and slice open fresh coconuts. The other end of the beach by the Wellness Café and infinity pool, where aqua classes take place to pumping tunes, is more lively and abuzz with water sport activities.

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Aquafit in the infinity pool is another popular class

The BodyHoliday restaurants

The beach-facing Wellness Café is a lovely spot for lunch and for grazing throughout the day. I became a little too addicted to the Asian Bento Box made up of sushi, noodle salad and Vietnamese fresh spring rolls. Colourful salads, sandwiches, wraps, and healthy juices are also on the light bites menu but so are the more decadent sweet treats like brownies and peanut butter cookies. The food offering here is BodyHoliday in a nutshell – a wellness retreat without the enforced, restrictive diets.

For more hearty lunches, the Clubhouse serves pizzas and pastas aplenty (as well as a daily afternoon tea), while Cariblue, the hotel's main restaurant where guests can enjoy their five-star buffet breakfast each morning, puts on a Caribbean spread for lunch and dinner.

Eating all your meals at the hotel doesn't get boring at BodyHoliday – you just have to make sure to pre-book a table at some of the restaurants. Cariblue Windows, an offshoot of the main restaurant, serves an exclusive tasting menu with a wine pairing five times a week. TAO Restaurant is an excellent fusion of Eastern and Western delights, with highlights including signature sushi platters, Peking duck, chicken satay, and Thai curry.

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The main restaurant Cariblue has an open-air feeling

But one restaurant you should really book into at a supplementary rate is I-TAL. Limited to one visit per guest to give everyone a chance to experience the wonder that is this magical venue, I-TAL delivers an unforgettable experience. Perched high above Coubaril Valley, the open-air restaurant serves lunch and dinner around one communal table. The farm-to-fork experience starts with a tour of the kitchen garden, followed by a vegetarian set menu; dinner includes an additional pescatarian dish. Those going for lunch are encouraged to work up an appetite and hike up the hill to the restaurant, but if you can book for dinner, you'll be driven up and be able to savour the changing sunset as you sit down for your meal.

Dishes are organic, healthy, locally grown, and based on the Rastafarian diet. We sampled innovative plates like cactus salad and cucumber and lime sorbet soup, and you're invited to pick fresh herbs from the centre of the table to garnish your meal. The nutritious and green menu coupled with views out to the sea and sunset will have you Instagramming every moment.

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Dine at I-TAL for an unforgettable experience

The BodyHoliday rooms

After a day of pampering, eating, fitness and beach time, guests have the comfort of their rooms to relax in. Rates for the 155 rooms range from garden to ocean view rooms, to standard to luxury levels, but I was lucky enough to test-drive one of the hotel's relatively new villas, Villa Aurora. Although Aurora and neighbouring Villa Calypso opened in 2019, they still feel brand spanking new and haven't had as much footfall as expected given BodyHoliday was closed for part of the pandemic. Each villa comprises a penthouse and junior suite which can be booked individually or together as a unit. The villas are separated from the rest of the hotel's accommodation and have private steps from the beach, making them ideal for guests who want to be as socially distanced as possible.

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Inside Villa Aurora's penthouse living room

The villas are beautifully designed and expansive, with views out to the Caribbean Sea and the resort below. The pièce de résistance of each is the private plunge pool on the outdoor veranda, which makes you feel totally spoilt and exclusive, not to mention the fully equipped kitchen that's stocked with tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine and bubbly that's replenished every day. The living room and king-size bedroom are tastefully decorated with cream colour palettes, while the walk-in wardrobe leads to an expansive bathroom with a rain shower, free-standing bath, Ren toiletries, a Japanese toilet and double vanity units. You really will feel absolutely pampered with a villa booking.

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The villa also boasts its own plunge pool

Your room is also one of the few places where you'll have access to Wi-Fi as BodyHoliday encourages you to embark on a semi-digital detox, which means no internet access on the beach, by the pool, in the spa, or in the restaurants. The lobby and the library, which also doubles up as a business centre, are the only other communal areas that have Wi-Fi. Refreshingly, there are also no TVs in the rooms or the villas. The library does have one large screen which is used to occasionally show big sporting games such as the Euros 2020 this past summer.

The BodyHoliday coronavirus measures

While constant restrictions may be enough to put you off booking a long-haul holiday, the resort makes every effort to make their Covid measures as unintrusive as possible. Mask-wearing is encouraged in communal areas of the hotel, particularly when entering and walking around the restaurants, while your temperature is also taken when you arrive for breakfast and before having any of your treatments. To limit the spread of germs, staff also serve you everything at the buffet instead of having the option to serve yourself.

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The buffet breakfast is exceptional 

BodyHoliday's measures really won't impact your holiday enjoyment and completing a PCR test and travel forms ahead of flying to St Lucia also wasn't as much hassle as I thought it would be. You can purchase a PCR test from companies like QURED, to be taken five days or less before you travel. Once you're cleared and you arrive in St Lucia, all tourists are also given a white band to wear, which states you are free to travel around the island as you have complied with the country's coronavirus measures. Check the latest government entry requirements here.

The BodyHoliday takeaway

With minimal Wi-Fi, friendly staff, a beautiful Caribbean beach, fresh and seasonal food, an abundance of classes, and a pampering treatment every day, it would be somewhat of a challenge not to feel instantly relaxed and restored after a few nights at BodyHoliday. It's the perfect balance of wellness and exercise and is a holiday that really does cater to all types of travellers – whether you're into your facials or your fitness. You'll feel inspired to go off and do your own thing, be it sunbathing on the beach or trying windsurfing, and then regroup with your loved ones for meals. It also is an all-inclusive where you won't get itchy feet and want to duck out of the resort, because there is just so much to do.

Prices start from £285 per person per night at BodyHoliday.

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