Get away to Canyon Ranch

Miami Beach’s health spa isn’t all kickboxing and kale

Photograph courtesy of Canyon Ranch

“I’d highly recommend the shrimp pita,” the waiter says. “It’s under 500 calories.”

I see it on the sepia-toned menu, along with the minuscule mahi mahi wrap and the five-ounce portions of beef tenderloin and tuna. Next to each item is a series of numbers that, according to a handy decoder, lists not just the price but also the amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, sodium, and gluten in the dish.

I order the pita then gaze out the window, my view of the blue water and cloudless Miami sky interrupted only by an impossibly toned and tan woman gliding along the resort’s patio in a silk sarong.

At the next table sit two older ladies with frothy puffs of white hair, shoulder-padded jackets, and gumdrop gemstone earrings, sipping Champagne. One of the ladies flags down the waiter.

“More mayonnaise, please.”

This sort of juxtaposition is common at Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach. The 70,000-square-foot wellness residences and hotel, where the spacious, modern rooms run from $680 to $2,145 per night, opened in November 2008 and is the third in the thirty-three-year-old chain (other locations are in Tucson, Arizona, and Lenox, Massachusetts). There are the exercise-crazed visitors who want to rest, eat cleanly, and lose weight. And then there are the guests who smoke in no-smoking areas, talk on cell phones where they shouldn’t, and eschew the forty daily fitness classes in favor of hovering near the bar, waiting for it to open.

Even though I’m a part-time fitness instructor and therefore fall into the former category, I can appreciate that the soft can mingle with the sinewy at this six-acre oceanfront spot. Both are well represented at amenities like Aquavana, a suite of scented steam rooms, customizable showers, a dry-heat sauna, a whirlpool, and the Igloo, a frigid stall with mists of menthol, mint, or eucalyptus.

Aquavana is located behind the gym, which features top-of-the-line fitness equipment as well as studios for cycling, yoga, belly dance, and fluid-stretch classes like Gyrokinesis. Then there’s Rock Wall Boot Camp—which alternates between ropes-assisted rock climbing and floor-bound squats, jumping jacks, and lunges—and Beach Conditioning on the sand. Another favorite: DJ Dance Party, a medium-intensity hip-hop class in a poolside studio. Most days there are several classes every hour from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with no additional fees, and those listed as “intermediate/advanced” aren’t terribly intimidating.

On the same floor as Aquavana and the gym is the spa, as well as the Health & Wellness Center, which offers nutritional counseling, life management coaching, medical services, and healing energy treatments. At my appointment for Acutonics (a sort of acupuncture with sound instead of needles that costs $175 for fifty minutes), the practitioner asked about my digestion and peered at my tongue before applying tuning forks to my body’s pressure points to vibrate various chakras. Then he ran a mallet around the inside of “singing bowls” to produce ringing sounds that were loud but somewhat mind-clearing.

For most of my three-day stay, I saw very few guests at the wellness center or gym. But by noon every day, the beach—just steps from the hotel and across the paved path that runs through South Beach—was packed. (Tilt your chair and you might end up in someone’s lap. Canyon Ranch’s staffers park the chairs very close together.)

If you tire of tending to your Tao, it’s a quick cab ride to South Beach. After my own extracurricular pasta binge, I redeemed myself by taking three fitness classes. And when it was time to head home, I had an unfamiliar feeling. For once, I didn’t need a vacation after my vacation. I went home feeling healthier than I did when I left. 6801 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach, 800-742-9000,

This article originally appeared in our April 2013 issue.