Sometimes you just need to get away from it all to break bad habits and get back in shape. But why not do it in style and enjoy a few indulgences between bone-crushing workouts?
In the L.A. area, it used to be that the height of gulag-getaway chic was Calabasas' THE ASHRAM (2025 McKain St.), a hard-core and notably spartan eight-room retreat and boot camp favored by A-listers from Shirley MacLaine to Ashley Judd. But a more posh, if just as serious, retreat has opened its doors in Malibu. Tucked in the wilderness beyond and above Zuma Beach on the former estate of Hopalong Cassidy star William Boyd, the 16-month-old RANCH AT LIVE OAK (12220 Cotharin Road) lures guests with rustic cottages offering French limestone bathrooms and handmade Italian linen bedding, meals sourced from the Santa Monica Farmers Market and onsite gardens. It then pummels them during weeklong minimum stays with a strict "no options" policy of 5:30 a.m. wakeup calls, five-hour morning hikes, grueling afternoon fitness sessions and yoga galore -- punctuated by massages. Women average six to eight pounds of weight loss; men, nine to 12. (Cost: $5,600 per person.)
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Three well-known retreats north of San Diego have received recent facelifts. At the 377-acre GOLDEN DOOR SPA RESORT near Escondido (777 Deer Springs Road) -- offering a selection of 40 classes, gourmet meals and daily in-room massages -- all 40 of the Japanese-style guestrooms were renovated in 2011. For a change of pace, Dancing With the Stars' Karina Smirnoff will lead a dance-focused week ($7,750) from Feb. 5 to 12.
A few miles away in Vista, CAL-A-VIE (29402 Spa Havens Way), popular with the likes of Tom Ford, Shailene Woodley and Tyra Banks, added a block of eight Mediterranean-style suites in 2011, bringing the intimate property's total number of accommodations to 32. Upon arrival, guests meet with a wellness consultant upon arrival who designs a customized fitness program for them.
Carlsbad's four-star Spanish Mission-style LA COSTA RESORT AND SPA (2100 Costa Del Mar Road), which houses the CHOPRA CENTER FOR WELLBEING, recently underwent a $50 million stem-to-stern makeover that included all 474 rooms and suites and the addition of an adults-only pool. The six-day Perfect Health program at the center ($3,775) features daily Ayurvedic massage, detox therapies, meditation instruction, a medical consultation, yoga and more. (Hotel stay, $169 a night for Chopra clients, not included.)
Just south of the border in Tecate (about a three-hour drive from Los Angeles without traffic jams), the tony RANCHO LA PUERTA resort (476 Tecate Road) recently partnered with The Bar Method on a comprehensive seven-day mind-body program. The workout sculpts bodies with a combination of isometric exercises, dance conditioning, physical therapy and interval training. Actress Annabeth Gish (Texas Killing Fields) is a recent participant. "I will go back as often as I can because not one minute felt indulgent," she says. "There were physical fitness options at every hour, but also fitness of the mind and heart, too." (About $3,500 per person, double occupancy.)
Not new, but an under-the-radar discovery, is SOMA GET FIT, a customizable single- or multiday excursion in Santa Barbara for one to six people. One recent jampacked program included -- in a single day! -- 5:30 a.m. yoga, followed by an organic breakfast, farmers market visit, canyon hike, meditation at Montecito's Vedanta Temple, core work on the beach, lobster-taco lunch, biking, paddle surfing, more yoga, more biking, a healthy cooking class and dinner. The day ended with a body treatment and facial at a local spa. (From $799 per person, $599 for two or more; accommodations not included.)