Wellness and Renewal

Best “Unplugged” Vacations

Filed Under: Africa, Thailand, Utah

Smart phones, tablets and netbooks make it easier to stay connected while you’re on vacation -- but that same technology also makes it tougher to “get away from it all.”

In fact, nearly half of us feel so enslaved by our devices that we can’t help but respond to every text and email -- even those messages that arrive while we’re on vacation, finds a survey by Black Tomato, a US- and UK-based luxury travel company. Because we’re so stressed out by being constantly on call, another 77% of travelers believe that time spent without gadgets would actually liberate them.

Perhaps that’s why, after a decade spent selling us on the “perks” of in-room WiFi, plasma TVs, iPod charging stations (and more recently, complimentary iPads) forward-thinking destinations and resorts are promoting their lack of technology and connectivity. After all, it’s hard to get roped into a remote conference call if you never saw the meeting invite in the first place.

Need help breaking your technology addiction? We’ve put together destination ideas that will allow you to get totally, 100% unplugged. From sailing along deserted Caribbean cays to tracking wildlife during an elephant safari, you’ll be so immersed in the travel moment that you may never want to pick up that “CrackBerry” again.

Holly's Picks:
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Southern Caribbean

This collection of 32 islands and cays in the southern Caribbean, including Tobago, offers new “digital detox” packages to wean people off technology cold turkey; they’re asked to hand over any mobiles and gadgets upon check-in. SVG’s 7-night getaway is $3,799 per person (including flights from NYC), 3 nights at Young Island and 4 nights at Palm Island, plus a private crewed catamaran day transfer. Also included: a guidebook on how to “de-tech.”

Savute Elephant Camp
Botswana, Africa

One of the coolest ways to distract yourself from the temptation to log on? Check into a hotel that puts you right in the path of the bull elephant -- a beautiful, but imposing creature that makes your boss seem, well, kinda insignificant by comparison. At this Orient Express property, you’ll stay in one of 12 ultra-lux thatched huts set amid towering acacia trees in a rugged, semi-desert environment -- which happens to be right next to a Savute elephant watering hole. And while the camp is surrounded by wildlife of all kinds hoping to grab a drink, you won’t find cell phone towers, outside lines or television. You won’t miss the set, though: The only show worth watching is the one right outside your door.

Amanda’s Picks:
Red Mountain Resort
Southern Utah

Practically by definition, spas are designed to help you relax and de-stress -- but if you’re like me (hello, tech addict!), you’re making mental to-do lists during massages and checking your phone the moment yoga class ends. For those who need a little extra push to go dark, Red Mountain Spa -- a resort located in the high-desert, red-rock bluffs near Zion National Park -- has an aptly named program called “Coping Successfully with Relentless Stress.” Those who sign up during their stay will work with certified energy health practitioner Andrea Hanson, who employs a holistic approach with energy medicine, yoga and meditation to reverse and correct the effects of stress overload. Her promise: You’ll strengthen your body, mind and spirit, empower yourself and achieve higher levels of health and peace. Does it work? Well, as long as it keeps me from checking my email compulsively, I’m all for it.

Jade Mountain Resort
Soufriere, St. Lucia

Long before eco-lodges were popular and going green became chic, architect Nick Troubetzkoy built a multi-tiered, open-air resort built right into a mountainside overlooking a volcanic sand beach -- and the 2 stunning Pitons that St. Lucia is known for. To maintain the ultra-natural, Robinson Crusoe vibe, none of the rooms provide televisions, DVD players or other digital distractions. You probably won’t miss them, however, as you’re taking a dip in your stunning private infinity pool, scuba diving right offshore or eating a lunch custom prepared and served in-room by a private butler. And while you can reach him (or her) by a hotel-issued cell 24 hours a day -- you won’t be able to receive other calls or dial out.

Jen’s Picks:
Oasis Surf Camp
Santa Catalina, Panama

As someone who longs to fall completely off the grid almost every time I travel, I’ve often been unpleasantly surprised to find that WiFi, satellite TV and other modern technologies have even infiltrated some of the most remote pockets of the globe. Thankfully, Santa Catalina, Panama -- where Amanda, Holly and I spent a blissful, tech-free week at the Oasis Surf Camp -- is not one of those destinations. Considered one of Central America’s most radical surf hotspots, this secluded and minimally developed town has only one public pay phone and zero ATMs, credit card machines, cell phone shops or high-speed internet (there’s a single “slow speed” cafe on the outskirts of town, but I’d avoid it). Visitors to Oasis can walk right out onto the sand from their beach-side bungalows, grab a board and spend all day on the waves, either independently or with an instructor. The property also boasts a restaurant, sunset bar and countless beach chairs, and offers boat trips to nearby islands (including Isla Coiba, a scuba diver’s paradise).

The Sanctuary
Koh Phanghan, Thailand

The Thai island of Koh Phangan is most commonly known for its legendary full moon parties and wild raves on the beaches of Haad Rin. But journey just 15 minutes north by boat to Haad Tien Bay (or do a 90-minute hike through tropical rainforest like Amanda and I did!) and you’ll discover The Sanctuary, a hidden beach resort, spa and detox center. Nestled within a lush jungle on an isolated sliver of sand, this tranquil retreat specializes in fasting/detox programs, yoga holidays and custom relaxation packages (everything from meditation classes and spa treatments, to health and wellness workshops and spiritual rituals, such as devotional chanting by candlelight). And while the property is wired for TV and internet, you’ll nary find a yogi actually availing herself of it.

The Lost Girl’s Group Pick:
Amankora Resort
Paro, Bhutan

The fact that Bhutan was under self-imposed isolation for much of the 20th century -- combined with its uber-remote location between the Tibetan Plateau and India -- makes the destination ideal for those seeking an escape from the digital world. Amankora is a luxury resort that allows you to get totally away from it all in total comfort. Rather than spending your vacation surfing the web, you can spend it trekking the surrounding Himalayan mountain peaks that rise more than 22,000 feet; meditating in a 7th-century Buddhist monastery; trying your hand at the national sport, archery; navigating deep river valleys lined with pine-blue forests while white-water rafting; or simply alleviating any back- and hand-aches, from too much typing, in the spa’s steam room.

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