For many, vacation is an indulgent time of busting the budgets and leaving the calorie counter at home. But there are those select travelers who scoff at the rich gourmet fare offered at most luxury hotels. You can see the determination on these guests’ faces: “I will not eat you; I will not I say!” But living up to that declaration is harder than it seems. Sure luxury hotels have more than a few salads on their menus, but you may not want to live on greens alone. Thankfully chefs are taking up the health challenge with gusto – offering separate menus for vegetarian and vegan diners and shifting their focus from heavy, lavish fare to sustainable, organic and local ingredients – making it possible to stay healthy, but also indulge in a little bit of richness if the desire calls. You are on vacation, after all. Get our top six hotel picks after the jump.
This Spanish villa-inspired property in one of Scottsdale’s most luxurious desert retreats, featuring gorgeous views of Camelback Mountain, sophisticated rooms with Spanish decor and balconies, the 31,000 square foot Joya Spa and the award-winning Prado restaurant. The spa and secluded locale set the stage for a wellness vacation – and dishes at Prado pick up the theme with flair. The menu is forged on simplicity, highlighting Arizona’s fresh ingredients and Old World Europe cooking techniques. Veggies are key here, providing the main flavor in each dish and balancing out potentially richer fare with ease.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Branzino stuffed with oven roasted tomatoes, orange, fennel, and roasted vegetables.
This luxury pick (especially for the price) comes with a vast health club featuring a squash court, spinning studio, 50-foot pool, hot tub and full-service spa. The large rooms and classic design don’t hurt either. Juniper restaurant, helmed by chef Ian Bens, offers Modern American regional cuisine utilizing fresh, locally grown and sustainable ingredients. Market brunches on Sundays are composed completely of Bens’ daily finds, including freshly caught seafood, seasonal entrees and market-inspired salads. Some of his ingredients even come from his own courtyard garden and rooftop apiary where Italian honey bees call home. Juniper also conveniently marks its dishes that feature fresh, nutritionally balanced ingredients and will cater to dietary restrictions.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Virginia Farmers Cross Pork Loin, with smashed beets, blackberries, anise, and sage.
In 2010, hotelier Steve Wynn made a startling announcement for foodies: every restaurant at his Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts would be required to offer diners a vegan menu. Fine dining is practically synonymous with butter and cream, but chefs –led by Tal Ronnen, one of the most celebrated vegan chefs in America – were able to turn out an extensive list of tasty options, including grilled royal trumpet mushrooms with polenta, tofu napoleons and fava bean puree.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Stratta’s gazpacho with cucumber and diced bell pepper.
This holistic haven exudes a lush, laid-back vibe in an intimate corner of Negril. The Rockhouse offers morning yoga lessons, cliffside loungers, a premium spa, eco-appropriate design, and gourmet, healthy dining. Visited by both guests and locals, the Rockhouse restaurant is celebrated as one of Negril’s best dining spots because of its commitment to “New Jamaican cuisine.” This lighter, modern approach to Jamaican fare is as satisfying as its rich predecessors. The restaurant does not sacrifice local flavors so much as celebrate them – just without some of the calories.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Lobster Blaze served with mango chutney.
5) Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita Riviera Maya (pictured above)
Located on a private beachfront in the Riviera Maya, this boutique hotel offers a romantic, wellness-centric experience for guests. All rooms come with luxe amenities. A “welcome” bottle of tequila, daily bottle of champagne, one-hour catamaran sunset sail, thrice-daily maid service and private chauffeured airport transfers are just the tip of the ice berg at this surprising all-inclusive. And unlike other all-inclusives, you won’t find any questionable buffets on-site. All meals are cooked to order, with a heart-healthy and vegetarian focus. No junk food is allowed at Zoetry. The hotel makes its own juices, ice-creams, sherbets, bread, and pastries daily. Cactus, pumpkin, chayote, and Bougainvillea flowers are common ingredients.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Chilpachole, a traditional light Mexican seafood stew served in a clay pot.
Just ten eco-friendly bungalows comprise Natura Cabanas, a lush haven on the Dominican’s northern coast, far from the hustle and bustle of the island’s all-inclusives. Guests enjoy a clean, crowd-less private beach, beachside yoga and Pilates daily, a fabulous spa and delicious, fresh food. A far cry from the D.R.’s normal buffet-ridden fare. The hotel’s two restaurants are housed in similar thatched-roof bungalows and serve healthy, fusion dishes featuring a bounty of the area’s freshest seafood and produce.
Oyster’s Menu Pick: Filet of grouper with gnocchi, shrimp, and anise.
You can’t return a bad vacation. That’s why Oyster.com, “The Hotel Tell-All,” and partner of The Travel Channel, comprehensively visits, photographs, reviews and rates each hotel we feature. Basically, we uncover the truth, before it’s “uh-oh” time.