Consult the Cosmos or a Soul Whisperer on These Dreamy Wellness Vacations

Plus chakra tune ups and psychic readings.

Welcome to Thrillist 50, your guide to fun and adventure in 2023. Think of it as your comprehensive roadmap for checking out exciting events and new attractions coming over the next 12 months, going on bucket-list trips, reconnecting with yourself and your community, expanding your mind, and of course, experiencing the flavors we're most excited about this year. There are so many reasons to live like there's no tomorrow. Start here.

Considering the whirlwind of events the past couple years have thrown us all, it may be tough to set expectations for the new year—almost three whole years after the dreaded 2020—but it sure would be nice to start with even a smidge of positivity. Since many of us feel like we’re still in the process of butterflying our way out of cocoons, the start of 2023 might just be the right time to mentally reset.

And as it’s winter, a tad frosty for stretching those freshly unfurled wings, the best way to find that wholesome outlook is likely by heading inside—both indoors and in our minds. We’re talking wellness retreats. After all, health is about more than just physical fitness. After surveying more than 17,000 Americans, MindBody has predicted that we’ll see a more holistic approach to wellness in 2023. This includes a focus on mental health, a connection with nature, restorative yoga and stretching, and a rising interest in ice baths and “biohacking.”

While there’s something to be said for simply taking a break by the pool at a resort for a week, it’s become increasingly appealing to book a more meaningful getaway. It turns out vacation + wellness might just be for all of us. Read on to hear why the trend of traveling for mental or spiritual wellness might be your cup of herbal tea after all. Plus see tips for a first-time trip and recommended places around the world to tap into yourself, whether that’s Bali or New York City.

wellness retreat
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

So why are more people turning to woo-woo?

Not all that long ago, things like astrological readings and intuitive healings were aimed only at a fringe market. But advancements in science and the global pandemic have made many reconsider what we thought we knew.

“Advancements in science have proven how interconnected everything is, which edges us more toward self-reflection and insight,” Dana Childs, an intuitive and energy healer, says. She notes how things like quantum physics, entanglement theory, and even the discovery that trees communicate with each other address the power of belief, the mind, and consciousness. Childs says this awareness of our interconnectedness combined with modern communication and global travel leads us to consider how we are connecting—to ourselves, others, the environment, and our own true essence or higher self.

“‘Woo-woo’ or alternative healing… was actually helping them with things like overwhelming stress, anxiety, and fear.”

“Couple that with the COVID pandemic and isolation, trauma, and hardship, and it’s a recipe for spiritual seeking,” she says. “We’re waking up and asking the question, ‘How can I be and feel better?’”

And the travel industry is responding. In Hawaii, at the Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina, Childs leads a Transformational Wellness Retreat in partnership with Native Hawaiian healer Pi`iali`i Lawson.

Lawson says the pandemic lockdown pushed people to explore a broader range of healing options. “What was seen [previously] as perhaps ‘woo-woo’ or alternative—healing through nature, meditation, crystals, or energy, for example—was actually helping them with things like overwhelming stress, anxiety, and fear. These alternatives were providing tools, higher levels of consciousness, and awareness to navigate and heal.”

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

The trend is not limited to tropical locales like Thailand and Hawaii, which naturally attract travelers seeking an escape. Nicole Hernandez, founder of The Traveling Hypnotist and resident healer at Four Seasons New York Downtown, says she’s seen a noticeable uptick in bookings in the urban metropolis since January 2021. “In the past, spiritual and alternative healers weren’t as popular among professionals. However, many of my clients today come from the finance, tech, sales, and marketing industries.” She attributes this largely to the shift in priorities that has come from living through the pandemic.

Going back to work and other normalcies was a relief for some. But for others, “they couldn't bear going back to a lifestyle that didn't feel purposeful or authentic,” says Hernandez. “This is where spiritual and alternative healers can help.”

“Remember, the worst possible thing that can happen is you have a few days of vacation in a dynamite setting with beautiful souls.”

That said, booking a session with a psychic or joining a transformational retreat can be intimidating for first-timers. It can seem like retreat regulars have their own lingo and linen- or yoga pant-heavy uniform. But none of these things are required to participate in a retreat. Be yourself and allow things to unfold as they’re meant to. Before you dive into the best vacation spots, here are a few additional words of advice from the experts.

alternative medicine
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

Tips for a first-timer

Consult your doctor. “It's essential to first consult a doctor about any health issues, before seeking out spiritual and alternative healing,” Hernandez says. “Then use alternative healing to complement your treatment.”

Research your options. “Determine if the person is relatable, wise, and professional,” Hernandez says. “Read their blogs and testimonials and watch their videos. Ensure that the healer has worked with clients who have overcome similar problems. Schedule a phone or video consultation if possible, so that you can discuss your issue and understand [the practitioner’s] process.”

Expect the unexpected. And the uncomfortable. “Be open-minded and curious. A sincere desire for change and growth is a bonus. Throw caution to the wind and take advantage of all the offerings,” Childs says. “Trust that the goal of a healing retreat is to stimulate your mind and encourage you to examine beliefs, thoughts, and events that may be holding you back. Be open for healing and for the occasional discomfort that may happen on your way to a healed mindset. And remember, the worst possible thing that can happen is you have a few days of vacation in a dynamite setting with beautiful souls.”

Participate. “Alternative healing isn't magic,” Hernandez says. “You must fully collaborate with your practitioner to make the most out of your session. Some clients have significant breakthroughs after one session, and others require multiple sessions and ongoing work.”

Don’t compare your journey with others. “Trust your intuition or your inner knowing and let that be your guide,” Lawson says. “Healing is a lifelong journey and everyone's journey is unique to them. All will occur when we are ready.”

Here are a few of the many places around the world where you can hit reset with astrological readings, energy cleansing, intuitive healing, and more.

Where to have a wellness vacation around the world

wellness spa
Australian Coastal Safaris

Tap into ancient knowledge in South Australia

For the true beginner wondering how to dip a toe into transformational retreats without diving into the deep end, the Australia Coastal Safaris Health & Wellness Weekender in South Australia is the answer. As Sarah Hayes, an ecologist, yoga instructor, and Wellness Weekender facilitator says, “It’s accessible for the everyday adventurer looking for a wellness experience without all of the ‘fluff.’”

The two-day itinerary provides a holistic retreat that invites participants to better understand interconnectedness through the activities—without too many deeper academic discussions. But that doesn’t mean the retreat isn’t deep or meaningful. “Deeper spiritual and energy explorations weave their way in when we spend time with a Nangkari (a First Nations healer),” Hayes explains. “A Nangkari is someone who cares for peoples' physical and emotional health—kind of like a doctor/psychologist. They are often called medicine women or medicine men. The Nangkari that we work with speaks on her experiences and work with the spiritual and energetic realms, but keeps it simple enough to understand.”

The Australia Coastal Safaris Health & Wellness Weekender costs AUD $730 (about $500 USD) per person and includes all activities listed on the itinerary as well as daily lunches and selected beverages (accommodations are the responsibility of the participant). With its pristine natural landscapes, an abundance of endemic wildlife, fresh seafood and local produce, and rich culture, the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia is an ideal setting for this first-timer-friendly experience.


yoga retreat
Aman Resorts

Learn about Buddhist Culture in Cambodia

If you’re curious to learn more about Buddhist beliefs and Khmer culture, as well as to connect with your own spirituality, let your path take you to Amansara for the Spiritual Angkor Journey in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

During the four-night stay, participants will experience walking meditations and water blessings with Buddhist monks and attend a talk about the religion to help with their understanding. They can also undergo traditional Khmer spa treatments, including Sras (a bath therapy) and Sor om Massa (a hot massage with herbal compresses), in addition to forest bathing and a holistic healing session. Various excursions, from Angkor temple tours to a traditional Khmer breakfast in Angkor Archaeological Park, provide an immersive experience with some important historical and cultural context.

All things considered, the retreat is a luxurious way to experience Cambodia, but with an emphasis on holistic wellness and spirituality. Expect to relax, but also to learn.

soul whisperer
Grand Wailea Maui, A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Let your soul whisper in Maui

Check out the UnWind the Soul Experience at the Grand Wailea in Maui and find an island escape with a side of psychic guidance. This experience is for the seeker who prefers to skip the full-on retreat schedule and dive straight into a one-on-one with a psychic… in between a morning swim and an afternoon surf sesh, of course.

During the 90-minute UnWind the Soul Healing, resident astrologer and “soul whisperer” Juliet Doty uses her psychic abilities to identify and help clear emotional, mental, and energetic blockages. She also offers astrology readings, both on-site and virtually, in which she takes the time to walk you through the various symbols on your natal chart and elaborates on what was happening when you were born, how it is impacting you now, and what you can do to adjust or surrender.

Through these two offerings, which you can experience alone or combine, Doty helps participants better understand their soul’s path—where they’ve been and what they’re here to learn in this lifetime. This can help you find clarity, harmony, and purpose, even if you’ve been feeling stuck or discouraged.

psychic reading
Four Seasons Hotel New York Downtown

Trance-form in New York City

If you need a change, like, RIGHT NOW and can’t fathom going at a caterpillar-to-butterfly pace, a Trance-formation Healing might be a better fit for you. Nicole Hernandez, founder of The Traveling Hypnotist and resident healer at Four Seasons New York Downtown, uses hypnotism and the True Trance-formation Healing (TTH) Method to help her clients make breakthroughs in their careers and relationships.

Options include one-on-one sessions, starting at $285 for 60-minutes or $550 for the 120-minute TTH Breakthrough session (the experience includes access to the spa facilities, but accommodations and meals are not included). Hernandez’s $350 Time Traveler option incorporates past life regression, too. Trance-formational experiences are customizable depending on client goals and can be combined with other spa and hotel offerings.

Joali Being

Go far out in the Maldives

For those who need to get farrrrr away from it all or are also chasing amazing vacation views, Joali Being provides a secluded sanctuary on the island of Bodufushi in Raa Atoll, Maldives. The well-being retreat was designed in harmony with the natural environment to create a sense of weightlessness, dissolving the boundaries between you and your surroundings to facilitate a feeling of interconnectedness. So, as the name says, just being on the island may be enough to kickstart your transformation.

Joali Being’s immersion retreats can be customized from five days to three weeks with experiences tailored to your needs. The Mind Immersion program aims to increase mindfulness and productivity while decreasing stress through a combination of meditation, mindful movement, and energy balancing treatments. Optional add-ons include water therapy and conscious cooking.

The five-night immersion program starts at $2,000 per person, and seven- and twelve-night immersion retreats are also available. Accommodations are not included in this price, but if you travel all this way, you’ll likely want to linger a little longer.

spa arizona
Castle Hot Springs

Choose your own wellness adventure in Arizona

If you prefer to DIY your retreat from an à la carte menu of on-site wellness and energy healing activities, consider the all-inclusive retreat known as Castle Hot Springs.

Arizona is known for its vortices, and the healing energy is palpable in this region of the Sonoran Desert, with its storied saguaro cacti and mineral-rich hot springs. Set out on a meditative morning hike in the canyon, wind down with a yoga nidra practice, and experience your interconnectedness with an after-hours hot springs soak, cradled by therapeutic waters beneath an endless star-filled sky. Just pick your own pace, open your heart and mind, and let the desert work its magic.

Photo courtesy of Global Family Travels

Honor your chakras in Bali

Bali, Indonesia has no shortage of wellness retreats, which makes sense given its tropical setting, friendly people, and deep-rooted culture rich with spiritual and wellness practices. But tourism here isn’t all growth and inspiration; visitors may also find themselves straining the island’s limited resources. This is why it’s important to find a retreat like Global Family Travels’ Seven Chakras Regenerative Wellness Retreat, where you can give back to Bali in the process.

Global Family Travels aims to “learn, serve, and immerse” through programs like this 10-day experience, which connects participants with the local community—and themselves. Working within the framework of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Global Family Travels helps participants understand and unblock the seven chakras (energy “wheels” or energy centers in the body) through immersive experiences. For example, a day spent exploring the fifth chakra will focus on communication and integrity, and will include a visit with a local community healer, a tour and coffee with the founder of a world-renowned Balinese art museum, and a Balinese dance performance.

Through these activities, participants will better understand themselves and their surroundings. Because the retreat is longer than most, visitors should have time to experience a gradual evolution with group discussions, private journaling, and reflection. The retreat costs $3,450 for a shared double room or $4,350 for a single room and includes all activities, transfers, and meals listed on the itinerary.

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Sunny Fitzgerald is a contributor for Thrillist.