This year’s World’s Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three year period. We hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.
The best spas in the world have always been a way to reset the mind, body, and spirit. Yet, with the recent boom in wellness travel, it’s also apparent that travelers are now seeking active pursuits (fitness classes, hiking or outdoor sports, cutting-edge nutrition guidance) in addition to the standard amenities designed to foster R&R (thermal pools, massages). Many of the most-loved international retreats combine both, offering travelers the chance to hit the reset button in a transportive destination.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. In the destination spas category, readers rated properties on their accommodations and facilities, treatments, service, food, and overall value.
When it comes to international spas, readers know what they like and stick to it: four out of five winners from last year’s survey return again this year. No. 3 Sha Wellness Clinic, situated on the striking eastern coast of Spain, is known for its rigorous, science-backed approach. Guests can sign up for four-, seven-, 14-m or 21-day programs with personalized treatments to address issues like poor sleep or burnout and stress; cooking classes to learn how to integrate a macrobiotic diet at home; and even something called photobiomodulation, a high-tech brain treatment developed to treat anxiety and improve overall mental health. Whichever program guests choose, it seems to work: one reader called Sha “an island of tranquility, relaxation, and health,” while another described it as “a combination of real medicine and spa experience.”
Another long-standing honoree is BodyHoliday, in St. Lucia. “It is my go-to vacation. I have gone as a single woman at least four times,” wrote one loyal patron. “I’ve traveled with my daughter, a friend, and also my husband,” said another. “All had a perfect experience.” But first-time visitors felt the magic instantly, too. As one voter recalled, “During my vacation at BodyHoliday, I unwound within the first five minutes. I tried things I never would try before, such as yoga and water volleyball. Every staff member I met seemed to genuinely like their job and helping us rest and relax.”
But it’s WBA Hall of Famer Rancho La Puerta that took the top spot. Read on to find out what’s given it staying power — and which other resorts readers voted onto this year’s list of the best international destination spas.
1. Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico
Founded in 1940 by Deborah Szekely, Rancho La Puerta continues to be a hit with T+L readers. Many return to this lush, 4,000-acre property in Baja California annually, drawn to its 40 miles of hiking trails, organic farm and cooking school, and three spas — not to mention the array of fitness classes and sports offered in the 11 gyms, tennis, basketball, and volleyball courts. “I have been to the Ranch year over year for five years in a row,” shared one voter. “It is addictive and it soothes me inside in all ways.” Another voter described the property as “a cross between adult summer camp and group therapy.” And there’s plenty to come on the horizon. Last year, Szekley and her daughter announced the addition of 108 two- to four-bedroom residential villas, which will come with passes to access all the resort amenities, plus a few owners-only perks like a dedicated pool and restaurant.
WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 95.17
More information: rancholapuerta.com
2. Sha Wellness Clinic, El Abir, Spain
More information: shawellnessclinic.com
3. BodyHoliday, Cap Estate, St. Lucia
More information: thebodyholiday.com
4. Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
More information: tabacon.com
5. Chablé Maroma, Punta Maroma, Mexico
More information: chablehotels.com
See all of our readers’ favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World’s Best Awards for 2021.