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Win a Free Adventure Trip With REI

Written on September 18, 2014 at 6:33 pm , by

Written by Kristine Thomason, editorial intern

Summer is just about over, but that doesn’t mean vacations have to be. From now until October 3rd, you can win a free vacation with REI Adventures by visiting the website and entering for one of four amazing excursions: Costa Rica Ultimate Adventure, Machu Picchu 10-Day Lodge Trek, Thailand Multi-Sport and Southern Beach Extension, or Tour Du Mont Blanc.

Started just last year, each trip balances active adventuring with peaceful downtime in comfy hotels and lodges—the perfect combo for all of us who need some relaxation after sweaty time (which is all of us). You can read all about each trip’s impressive jam-packed itinerary on REI’s website (hello, whitewater rafting and zip-lining), but you’ve only got until the 3rd to win, so start entering!

Photos courtesy of REI

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Costa Rica’s Central Valley: The Fit Girl Essentials

Written on September 8, 2014 at 9:55 am , by

Written by Karina Dearwood, associate photo editor

Lush forests, colorful vegetation and a totally relaxed vibe are just some of the fantastic features you can expect from a visit to Costa Rica’s Central Valley. I spent a week in the region with stops in Bajos Del Toro, Arenal, and La Fortuna de San Carlos, and I’m already planning my next trip. Here’s what I suggest for yours:

Bajos Del Toro is in the cloud forest region of Costa Rica, which is exactly as it sounds.  Staying at the El Silencio Lodge & Spa, you’ll be treated to stunning views of lush green mountains with occasional wisps of white puffy clouds. Hearing the sounds of birds and water first thing in the morning was a refreshing wake-up call for this city girl! Hiking throughout the property is a must-do activity, where you’ll discover various colorful plants and come across three waterfalls, each more stunning than the one before, and all a must-see. Of course, the longer the trek, the more rewarding the food! Book a reservation for Las Ventanas Restuarant, where a farm-to-table feast full of nutritious, satisfying food awaits.

Next, stop by the Arenal area and don’t miss out on Rancho Margot. It’s a sustainable farm, restaurant and bungalow-style hotel all in one. Yoga classes are available twice daily and are taught in a large, open treehouse surrounded by a babbling brook and green forest. It’s not your typical Namaste, and we’re totally on board with that.

Wrap things up  with a trip to the Tabacon Grand Spa and Thermal Resort at La Fortuna de San Carlos. Natural hot springs? Check. Spa? Check. Incredible beauty? Check, check, check. At this point, you’ve earned some pampering. The hot springs are all broken down into several pools on multiple levels, with each pool at a different temperature. After romping through a few, relax with a Swedish massage at the spa. The setting is really what makes it one-of-a-kind: The body and facial treatments are all performed in small, secluded bungalows surrounded by natural vegetation. It’s completely private and you listen to the sounds of nature all around you. It’s only after this experience that you’ll be ready (albeit reluctantly) to take the flight back to reality.

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 Fun, Fit Getaway: The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club

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Wish You Could Go Back to Summer Camp? Now’s Your Chance!

Written on August 21, 2014 at 3:33 pm , by

Oh, summer camp. The words alone instantly bring to mind nostalgic memories of swimming in lakes, late-night campfires filled with s’mores and wonderful friendships that last a lifetime. In a world that constantly has us glued to our devices and planning every second of our time, wouldn’t it be nice to retreat to the simple days of camp? Just unplug and relax for a weekend free of technology, responsibilities and the nonstop bustling of life? Soul Camp is the answer we’ve been looking for!

Taking place from September 4-7th, Soul Camp is a 3-night adult sleepaway camp that allows you to hit your reset button and reconnect with nature. The team behind the camp promises that you’ll leave feeling rejuvenated, renewed and inspired to make your everyday life the one you’ve always dreamed of.

Each ticket includes 3 meals per day from an organic menu (with vegan and gluten-free options), as well as all daily activities with approximately 300 other campers, like yoga, boating, nature walks, aerobic classes, organic farming, arts & crafts and more.


Plus, as a special treat, the women behind the weekend are offering all Fitness readers $100 dollars off ticket price if you enter the code SOULFULSUMMER at checkout! Go to www.soulcamp2014.com for more info and to reserve your spot. Ticket sales end on August 25th, so get them quick! But really, what are you waiting for?

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Fun, Fit Getaway: The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club

Active Vacations Fit For Summer

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Fun, Fit Getaway: The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club

Written on August 5, 2014 at 11:12 am , by

Looking for your next active vacation? Check out The Westin Puntacana Resort & Club in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, which opened in December 2013. FITNESS recently visited the gorgeous oceanfront retreat for a long weekend. Here are the highlights from our fit trip:

In-Room Workout Gear Delivery*

Go on, pack all those extra bikini and sandal options—you can leave your workout gear at home. We’re not telling you to ditch your regular exercise routine—instead, reserve a pair of New Balance running shoes, socks, shorts and a shirt (all in your size) to be delivered to your room to use during your stay. Not going to lie, we thought wearing borrowed shoes would be weird. But our pair of Barringer 890s, a neutral cushioning shoe, arrived nearly brand new, yet broken-in enough that we didn’t get blisters when we laced up for several 3-mile runs. Plus, the new socks eliminated the ick factor. (WestinWORKOUT Gear Lending Program with New Balance, $5.)

A Personal Running Coach

We were lucky to run with Chris Heuisler, the RunWESTIN Concierge (best job ever?). Unfortunately, he’s not based at the resort. But you can go for a warm-up run with him and get his pre-race advice if you book the Westin VIP Marathon Package to stay at the hotel when you run any Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon. Other perks include: speedy bib pickup, race day grab-and-go breakfast for two and in-room ice delivery post-race. (Deets and booking at runwestin.com. Follow Chris @RunWestin)

Ready-to-Go Running Routes*

Westin provides a pocket-sized map with 3- and 5-mile loops (created by employee runners) from the hotel, making it easy to get out and go without worrying about getting lost. The course took us through the surrounding tony resort community—where we did some serious real estate window shopping—and it was easy to veer off for a run on the beach.

Ocean Paddleboarding and Lagoon Swimming

SUP, people! The Paddle Surf Eco Tour, which begins on the beach right next to the Westin, is the perfect fit-vacation excursion. You hop on a stand-up paddleboard and cruise in the ocean along the coast of the resort, stop at a private white sand beach for fresh coconut water (super fresh: your guide cracks open a coconut with a machete), then hike through a rainforest to take a dip in an amazing lagoon.

Spa Time

Speaking of fresh coconut: They use made-daily coconut oil in the Punta Cana Signature full-body massage at the nearby Six Senses Spa. Book it for a relaxing end to a sporty day.

Healthy, Delicious Eats*

It’s refreshing to have plenty of healthy options when traveling and Westin includes SuperFoodsRx options—nutrient-packed, low-calorie dishes designed by doctors and nutritionists—on their menus at restaurants Anani and the beachside Brassa Grill & Bar. Try the crab cakes, cilantro lime shrimp salad and the Puntacana salad, made with arugula and other organic veggies grown at the resort’s ecological foundation. We also loved the berry yogurt parfait for a quick in-room pre-workout breakfast. Check out other great nearby restaurants, all waterfront: The Grill (our favorite for lunch), La Yola and Playa Blanca.

Other Activities

Not that into paddleboarding? There are plenty of other ways to play: kite boarding, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, horseback riding, tennis, golf and Segway tours. Of course, there’s ample opportunity for beach/pool lounging and umbrella drinks.

(*Available at all Westin hotels.)

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Active Vacations Fit For Summer

Written on July 4, 2014 at 10:49 am , by

In our July/August issue (get your copy now!), we highlight TWENTY totally awesome destinations that push you out of your comfort zone (where all the magic happens, obviously) while you explore beautiful locales. But in the end, we decided 20 options just wasn’t enough…25 sounds way better. So we present you with five more amazing trips to try. Go on, girl, start packing!

Run Wild’s Run Your Way to Optimal Health Retreat

Improve your trail running technique with this long weekend training workshop in the Colorado Rockies. From presentations on form, efficiency and stretching to cooking demos, this trip is the full package for boosting your overall performance. (July 17-20 or any time June to October, $697; shorter stays for $397 in Carbondale-Aspen, Colorado; runwildretreats.com)

The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu’s 4.0

Rev your metabolism with a four-day healthy lifestyle immersion program. You’ll jumpstart your routine with mountain hikes in the morning, afternoon exercise classes and vegetarian cooking demos come dinnertime—abs are made in the kitchen! (available year-round, $3,800; theranchmalibu.com)

Carmel Valley Ranch

Find something for everyone here—including glow-in-the-dark night golf!—like sunset hikes, private outdoor bootcamp, yoga, Pilates, indoor cycling or TRX suspension training to get your rear in gear. Enjoy cooking and wine classes in the evening. (activities offered year-round, prices vary; carmelvalleyranch.com)

The California Coast Classic Bike Tour

Coast for a cause: take an eight-day, 525-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to benefit the Arthritis Foundation (the number one fundraising event for the cause!). The full-service ride is a great way for beginners and experienced cyclists alike to enjoy the coastline’s famous wineries, lighthouses and beaches—while raising funds to find a cure. Bonus: overnight you’ll camp out between stops and guides will drive your gear from one location to the next. (September 13-20, $125 registration fee, plus $3,100 fundraising minimum; californiacoastclassic.org)

Big Cedar Lake Lodge’s “Catch A Cowboy”

Saddle up! Horseback ride, fish and embrace your inner Katniss with archery lessons in Dogwood Canyon Nature Park in Missouri. Big Cedar’s endless land and aquatic activities will have you loving every second you’re outdoors. (Available year-round, $1,358/2-night stay or $1663/3-night stay; bigcedar.com)

Photo by Tim Soter

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Tara Stiles Wants To Bring Your Yoga Game to Bali

Written on June 23, 2014 at 10:44 am , by

I know it’s a busy day, but you’re already checking this out, so do me a favor: close your eyes.

Did you do it?

OK, do it again, but this time take a deep breath and imagine you’re standing on a quiet beach at sunrise, feeling the cool sand between your toes and hearing the gentle lapping of the waves nearby. You’re wearing the cutest workout gear (obviously) and ready to take your yoga practice to the next level. Oh, and here comes Tara Stiles, world-renowned yoga instructor (and super cute to boot), ready to help you conquer that one pose you’ve been struggling with all year.

Sounds pretty marvelous, right? Now, I’m not the type to give you all these good ideas without also providing a chance for you to make all of it a reality. Enter Stiles’ partnership with W Hotels, and their #PoseWhenever contest.

With little to no time to ourselves these days, it feels like a miracle if we squeeze in a workout at all, especially when traveling and feeling all sorts of jet-lagged—and “rebel” yogi Stiles gets that. She even has a pose for that, actually. So she teamed up with W Hotels—where she often stays when globe-trotting herself—to create FIT with Tara Stiles, an in-room program with a video and tip cards that you can practice whenever, wherever. And when I say wherever, I mean it—girl has ideas for getting bendy in the bathtub! Basically, making your health a priority, even if only for a few minutes, is easier than ever.

Now, back to this yoga on the beach scenario. You want in, don’t you? All you have to do is log onto Instagram and start showing off. Simply upload your best poses and use the #posewhenever hashtag and you’re automatically entered to win a trip for two to Bali, where you’ll stay at the W Retreat and Spa for 3 nights, and flow through a session with Stiles. But hurry, you only have until July 2nd to impress Stiles and those W Hotels judges. As a yogi-in-the-making, I’ll be checking out the hashtag for some serious fitspo, and I may even enter a few ‘grams myself.

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A Golfer’s Paradise: Vacationing on Amelia Island

Written on June 3, 2014 at 11:24 am , by

Written by Nichole D’Auria, art director

Nothing gives me greater hope than stepping onto a golf course and driving a ball 200 yards off the tee. Could this be the year I actually break 100? After suffering through what seemed to be the coldest winter on record, I was beginning to think I would never have the opportunity. Then, as luck would have it, the universe intervened and I was invited to spend three magnificent, sun-filled days at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort on the north coast of Florida.

From the moment I walked through the expansive lobby doors and past the two infinity pools, my eyes were set on the sand…the sand trap, that is. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. A golf course on the beach? Was this heaven? After I made my way to my oceanfront room (all accommodations provide a view of the Atlantic), I knew I was in for a treat.

If you like adventure like I do, the Omni has a number of excellent options. With more than 1,350 acres, three world-class championship golf courses (which are so good that the Golf Channel’s popular Big Break reality TV series is filmed there), and an impressive tennis facility, guests can enjoy a wide variety of leisure activities, including kayaking, paddle boarding, horseback riding, sailing and swimming. I should know—I tried almost all of them. The resort also offers seven miles of oak-lined canopy trails to tempt joggers, hikers and cyclists alike. I tackled the trails on a Segway, which was both fun and hilarious.

I left Amelia Island happy, relaxed and reenergized, but wishing I could stay longer. There was still another golf game to play, a kayak to paddle, a restaurant to sample. I vowed to go back. Honestly, how many vacation spots can motivate and inspire you to look better, feel better and be better, all while enveloping you in a spa-like atmosphere? And hey, I still need another day—or three or four—on the golf course to finally break 100!

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 Florida’s Best Kept Secret: Port Saint Joe

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Florida’s Best Kept Secret: Port Saint Joe

Written on May 30, 2014 at 3:23 pm , by

Written by Karina Dearwood, associate photo editor 

Out on the Florida Panhandle, about an hour east of Panama City, lies Port Saint Joe. The quaint Gulf County beach town offers a boatload of fun all in one spot—perfect for a fit gal! Earlier this month, I was fortunate enough to visit the hidden gem for a few days and naturally fell in love with the laid-back vibe, active lifestyle and finger-licking good food. Here’s why you should add Port Saint Joe to your “To Travel” list:

To start, Gulf County has the charm and flair of the south—in the best possible way. The food is fantastic (po’ boys, hush puppies, sweet tea, the works!) and the people are beyond friendly (Now I forget this, being a New Yorker and all, but people outside of the concrete jungle actually wave and say hello to strangers). The fact that residents are also deeply rooted to the area, whether they are recent transplants or have been fishing there for generations, makes you feel all the more welcome.

To kick off my trip, I headed out on a pontoon boat through Saint Joseph’s Bay, up to the Intercoastal, where my fellow travelers and I learned about how the area is the world’s foremost supplier of Tupelo honey. We got a tour of a Donnie’s Bees, a small honey producing facility—did you know that even in this day and age, honey can only be cultivated by humans and not machines? Crazy! Donnie put us to work feeding the honeycomb through the machine, but we were rewarded with our own jar. I’ve been swirling mine into my tea ever since!

We then hopped back on our boat for an excursion through the Dead Lakes, which were formed years ago when sandbars blocked the Chipola River. A resulting flood killed thousands of trees, leaving eerie-looking stumps popping out across the lake. Add some fog to that scene because of some rainy weather? A perfect, tranquil spot. We had a fantastic guide, Matt Godwin from Off the Map Expeditions, who navigated the strangely beautiful maze with ease. 

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Have You Joined #GetFitParty? You Could Win a Trip to Aruba!

Written on January 20, 2014 at 9:51 am , by

In the beginning of 2014, there are a lot of hopes and dreams. Not only about goals you want to accomplish (and will!), but about trips you want to take, places you’re eager to explore and adventures you’re excited to experience. If you’ve joined the #GetFitParty, you’re already well on your way to crushing those goals (one reader has already dropped 5 pounds!). If you haven’t joined, well, what are you waiting for?! Between the four-week workout plan that sheds unnecessary pounds off your figure, the “I refuse to starve or eat tasteless food” meals that energize your bod, and the digital support that’s waiting for you around every social media corner (with weekly prizes happening on Insta), there’s no reason to miss the fun. But if that’s still not enough, we have one more thing to entice you.

A four-night getaway – on us! – to Aruba, where you’ll stay at the swanky Hotel RIU Palace Aruba. Guys, I’ve seen this place up close and personal, and I can tell you one thing: it’s gorgeous. But that’s not all, of course. The winner of this trip gets to bring a date, and both of you will head off on a snorkel-and-sail excursion (I saw ship wrecks on mine!) and be treated to a blissful spa massage. Because every fit girl deserves a little down time to unwind and boost muscle recovery. And if that’s not enough for your adventurous selves, there’s plenty more to do – you can see our top recommendations here, but I love the idea of taking a jeep ride through the rugged Arikok National Park, swimming in Conchi, the Natural Pool or kayaking in the crystal-clear ocean waters.

After all that, we know you’re ready to get in on the action. So sign up for the Better Body plan here, which enters you to win this fabulous trip (or you could score a StairMaster!). And don’t forget to follow – and use – the #getfitparty hashtag online to keep you motivated on the journey of your “fit in ’14″ goals.

Get More #GetFitParty Action

Panama: Where You Can Play Hard, Day and Night

Written on January 17, 2014 at 9:10 am , by

 

That’s me ziplining in the Anton Valley!

Written by Kathy Green, managing editor

It’s January and most of the U.S. is in a deep freeze.  What better time to plan a trip to somewhere warm!  How about Panama?  I was there recently as a guest of the new Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis.  The temperature was perfect (it’s always around 80 degrees) and their eco-tourism is growing.  There are lots of daily flights, which makes it an easy, sunny destination for a break from the cold.

Before this trip, my only association with Panama was the canal, but I discovered there is a lot to do there. My travel buddies and I drove for about 2 hours outside of Panama City to the Anton Valley—a rich rainforest that is a volcano crater.  We hiked into this beautiful park and then zip-lined over a tremendous waterfall called Charro el Macho.  I had never tried ziplining before, and soaring through the lush canopy was truly a special experience.

After ziplining, it unfortunately started to pour, but that didn’t stop us from ATVing around the hillsides of the valley.  Even in the rain, we had a great time.

We also discovered the Soberania National Park, just 20 minutes outside of Panama City. A rainforest this rich with wildlife so close to civilization is a true find.  When we entered the park, the guide told us we’d possibly see monkeys, kinkajous and an abundance of birds and plant-life. Soberania delivered on beauty and rainforest magic­­­­—just as we started off on our three-hour hike, we found a sloth high up in a tree relaxing in the sun.

My friend Jennifer and I ATVing in the rain!

An added perk from Soberania? Driving right by the Panama Canal to get there and back from Panama City.  So even though we didn’t have time to take a tour, we did stop and take pictures of ships going through the locks.

So if you like to party as much as you like to hike, the perfect place to stay in Panama City is the new Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis.  It’s located right near the harbor and attached to a large shopping mall filled with stores such as Diesel and Nike (shopping and partying—what’s not to like?!). I stayed in a beautiful suite with a great view of the skyline and ships lined up to go through the canal. With no time for a pedicure before leaving New York City, hitting up the spa (at a reasonable price) was the perfect prep for the Hard Rock night scene.

The hotel is full of incredible rock n’ roll memorabilia and it has the greatest room service offer—you can get a Fender electric guitar or personal DJ box delivered so you can be a rock legend in your very own room. It is a party-hardy place with great restaurants (we ate in two of them–Soy and Tauro and the food was first-rate), bars (the roof bar has awesome views of the city) and a happening club called BLING—THE place to be seen in Panama City (Justin Bieber was hanging out there a couple of nights with his entourage). The DJ was exceptional, and my friends and I had a blast dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Calorie burning, right?

BLING, the trendiest club in Panama City

 

But if hiking isn’t your thing, and you’re not quite into the party scene, there are plenty of other things to satisfy your thirst for adventure in Panama. Try a visit to the Old City, bike along the Amador causeway or go to one of the great beaches on either the Caribbean or Pacific coasts.  Plus one essential perk: a Panama vacation can be reasonably priced. And we know that’s the real reason to start booking your next vacation.

Photos courtesy of Jim Raycroft