Miami the Healthy Way

Lynn Burshtein

Vacationing in Miami Beach can be a decadent affair, filled with sun-bathing and clubbing until all hours of the night. Finding healthy food at South Beach’s trendy restaurants is a challenge and shopping the numerous boutiques – to paraphrase Carrie Bradshaw – might be one’s only form of cardio there.

But with the launch of two new spa resort hotels, Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach and The Standard Hotel and Spa Miami, there are now fabulous alternatives for vacationers who want to enjoy the Florida sunshine but not necessarily live la vida loca.

View from Canyon Ranch Miami

Located in the restored Carillon Hotel on the North Beach, Canyon Ranch Miami is set on a city street, but inside there is a feeling of seclusion, with the rear of the hotel set on a private beach and boasting a spectacular view of the ocean. The art deco-styled guest suites are roomy and well-appointed, filled with modern amenities, comfortable beds, a sunken bathtub, and state-of-the-art flat screen TVs.

The real draw of Canyon Ranch Miami isn’t its fancy hotel rooms, however. The reason people come here is to take stock of their health, diet and exercise regimes, albeit in a very luxurious setting. True, this is no budget vacation. But consider how much money people spend on their cars, it begs the question: Is your car’s health more important than your own? If not, consider this trip your personal tune-up.

Days at the Ranch may begin with either a stroll on the beach boardwalk, or a more rigorous beach boot camp class. Aquasize classes in the “Sunrise” pool might follow, or guests can head indoors to the fitness facility for a cardio workout or personal training session. (The facility also offers consultations with a variety of health practitioners and diagnosticians in a range of areas). The Kinesis training system is a popular choice as the equipment, constructed with unique cables, grips and weight stacks, allows one to build strength, endurance, balance and posture all at once. Guests should also take advantage of some of the more interesting group classes available, such as indoor rock climbing lessons (introductory classes are available for the novice climber) or perhaps an up-tempo ballet class, where the routines are set to a roving jukebox that might include a remix of Bizet’s Carmen and some classical music segueing into a rendition of “Single Ladies” that would do Beyonce proud. And if some downtime by the pool later in the afternoon is desired, not a problem – you can still squeeze in a twenty-minute “abs blast” class before dinner.

Meals at Canyon Ranch are exquisite (hardly a given where health spa cuisine is concerned). While the menu thoughtfully provides a calorie, carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber content count beside each dish, none of this is at the expense of taste. Breakfast choices might include hearth-fried omelets or frittatas, or perhaps fresh berry pancakes. The lunch menu includes a delicious seared salmon salad or a grilled ahi tuna sandwich. Highlights of the dinner menu include roasted pumpkin papparadelle and aioli-glazed lobster tail, all prepared with flare. Even low-calorie appetizers such as artichoke “fries” are served up smartly. Interestingly, this is the only Canyon Ranch location that serves alcoholic beverages, although even these are made with organic spirits and ingredients.

The Spa at Canyon Ranch provides its guests with an array of services. After a long day of exercise, a Canyon Ranch Massage will stimulate circulation and soothe tight muscles. The Miami Rejuvenating Spice treatment provides an exfoliating body scrub infused with spices and extracts valued by local Latin cultures, while the Spa’s Your Transformation Facial uses its signature products to repair skin damage and rebuild healthy skin cells.

When visiting the spa, be sure to leave plenty of time to partake in the Aquavana experience, a series of aqua stations each offering unique benefits: the Crystal Steam Room is a scented steam room enhanced with infusions of aromatic essential oils and refracted light; the Experiential Rains provide cool relief by way of simulated “storm” shower experiences (choose from Atlantic Storm, Caribbean Monsoon or Polar Mist); a traditional Finnish sauna provides dry heat that purifies the body; this is then contrasted with the Igloo – cool air and three Arctic Mist experiences that provide drainage of toxins from the body. Like the service elsewhere in the resort, the staff at the spa is very warm and attentive to its guests.

There are vacationers who are looking for a wellness experience, but still want proximity to the South Beach lifestyle. To that end, the Standard Miami provides a happy medium Located in Biscayne Bay (about a five-minute cab ride or twenty-minute walk to Collins Mall) the hotel provides easy access to the art deco boutiques and popular hot spots near Ocean Drive, but otherwise is quite self-contained as its own spa and fitness resort with a strong emphasis on yoga.

More rustic than Canyon Ranch, but very stylish nonetheless, the interior design at the Standard Miami has the unmistakable flair and cheekiness one has come to expect from an Andre Balazs hotel. Built in what used to be known as the Lido Spa Hotel in the 1960s (where ladies used to play mah-jongg by the pool) the hotel has been remade into a decidedly more risqué playground. The entire spa is co-ed and, depending where one is situated, populated with guests at various degrees of undress. The Hamam is the Spa’s central meeting room, if you will, either pre-treatment or post-workout and is based on the ancient Roman and Turkish philosophies which view baths as a gathering place for social activity and healthy pursuits. The Standard also makes the body treatment rituals more democratic, moving from the traditional private, one-on-one experience, to a communal, shared ritual with a number of “do-it-yourself” indoor and outdoor bathing stations. (Guests can purchase individual servings of French muds to slather on, sit on a chaise lounge in the sun while the product hardens, and then rinse off the mud in the outdoor claw-foot bath tubs or under the Scotch Hose). Attendants are available to help navigate the process, but for those more inclined to relinquishing control during treatments, not to worry, the Spa offers a variety of treatment therapists either in-house or in the guest’s room.

Hammam Spa at the Standard Miami

The Standard Miami also features a number of health-inspired workshops and wellness retreats, many of which employ yoga as the central form of activity. Yogis will delight in the wide range of classes available, including H2Om, a yoga & spa bathing immersion, Yoga on the Dance Floor, and Sunset Yoga.

The Standard’s award-winning swimming pool, fabulous even by South Beach standards, lies adjacent to a hot tub and cold plunge pool, and is surrounded by palm trees and bamboo lounge chairs. The luscious grounds also feature the outdoor Lido Restaurant and Bayside Grill which has a panoramic view of Biscayne Bay and a Mediterranean-inspired menu. With an emphasis on organic meats, fish, olive oil and fresh, whole ingredients, dishes are not calorie-controlled, but the menu offers several nutritious options. Breakfast may include Greek yogurt and berries, lunch might be one of the generous-sized salads and dinner could be Grilled Tofu with delicious faux “béarnaise” sauce (made simply with yogurt and yellow peppers), and a healthier version of the “Ding Dong” (vegan chocolate cake with a modest amount of white cream filling inside) for desert.

Whether Miami-bound vacationers choose Canyon Ranch or the Standard – or perhaps venture off to both – ultimately they will leave rejuvenated and equipped with better habits toward a healthy lifestyle.