Detox retreats are a dime a dozen these days, and though they seem, more or less, categorically expensive, they are far from created equally. While you wouldn’t think that Spain, a country better known for cerveza and oily tapas could be home to one of the world’s ultimate detox destinations, it happens to be just that. Located about 90 minutes from Valencia in El Albir, SHA Wellness Clinic boasts a long list of boldface fans including Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna, Demi Moore, and even Vladimir Putin. It’s housed on an expansively lush landscape overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and holds the title of being the world’s only macrobiotic spa. Focused on natural therapies and healthy eating, SHA’s retreats include programs tailored for weight loss, anti-tobacco, detoxing, and sleep.
Tan line bonus: All rooms have their own private balcony and guests are encouraged to sunbathe naked as part of the therapy!
While traveling across the country to reset for a few days when there are so many State-side retreats may seem extreme, it’s hard to imagine anyone not seeing the value and unique offerings of a place like SHA within minutes of stepping into the zen space. Here’s a look at some of the reasons to add SHA to your wellness bucket list.
Personalized diet and treatments
The main reason SHA is as effective as it is is that everything is personalized to your exact needs. When you arrive you meet with a health professional, a medical professional, and a nutritionist and together they come up with an appropriate program for your stay — and the plan is extremely detailed. For example, I mentioned I frequently have cold feet and hands; the nutritionist thought that it might have to do with the high amount of raw fruits and vegetables (versus cooked) I consume and “prescribed” a vegetable tea for me to have daily at “tea time,” which is their version of snack time and happens daily between 4 and 6 p.m. I also mentioned that I start my day with coffee (coffee and wine are permitted, depending on your consultation, but never encouraged at SHA) and as a result was told to try miso soup and brown rice to assuage my craving and boost my energy.
While I didn’t opt for it, if you suffer from any serious ailments or care for a “deeper detox” you can have a blood sample taken and have your treatment plan established according to the analysis.
Meticulously paced meals
When it comes to eating nearly all of us can stand to slow it down and while some retreats, like Canyon Ranch, offer buffet options you won’t find any of that at SHA. Depending on your diet, you’ll be served a series of specific dishes all of which are diminutive, but designed to be filling and flavorful. That’s the thing when you’re eating great ingredients — you don’t require the excessive frills of fatty, calorie-filled dressings and sauces. These dishes are paced in such a way that you actually learn to savor your food and eat more consciously. You might wait a good 20 minutes between courses, and, as it turns out, that’s about how long it takes for your brain to process that “you’re full.” Timing is also key between meals; you can’t wander in any time you want for your meals, there are specific times for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and they are all relative i.e. if you have lunch at 1 p.m. you’ll have dinner at 7 p.m.; if you have lunch at 2:15 p.m. you’ll have dinner at 8:30 p.m.).
Because I don’t need to lose weight, my program allowed for as many dishes as I wanted (in other words if I wanted 10 portions of the appetizer that would be fine), and because the food was so wonderful I could have easily overdone it had the food been served at a fast pace. Eating consciously and slowly is truly a dietary life-changer (albeit one that is easier said than done at home!).
The “richest” meal and the one in which you’ll find the most food in front of you at any given single moment is breakfast (pictured above), which SHA stresses is the most important of the day.
Your personalized program strictly enforced
Whatever the reason that brought you to SHA, their staff will not let you fail — literally. After you are given your program, the entire hotel staff has access to it and does everything in their power to not allow you to cheat. For example, as mentioned I was prescribed a vegetable tea. I wanted a green tea instead for my “snack time” and was told that I had no choice but the vegetable one. The only way you can really “cheat” is by heading to their lobby level gift job where you’ll find things like small bags of seaweed and dehydrated mushrooms…
There are an equal number of people traveling alone, traveling with their significant other, and traveling with friends, and that’s in great part due to how welcoming the staff makes everyone feel.
Though the retreat is popular all-year round if you want to maximize the space, it’s best to go in the spring/summer given their beautiful outdoor areas. The minimalist, clean-lined hotel boasts large rooms with oversized bathrooms and walk-in closets and “spa music” plays throughout. With the exception of dinner guests are also encouraged to walk the premise in their robe and slippers.
Endless wellness amenities
SHA has a ton of therapies included, aside from spa treatments, like its Aqua Lab (think Russian bath), as well as indoor/outdoor heated pools, a beautiful gym, and a long list of fitness and cooking classes, and lectures.