California has long been known as an innovator in wellness, whether that means surfing in Huntington Beach, experiencing a sound bath in the Mojave Desert’s resonant tabernacle known as the Integratron, or enjoying a gourmet plant-based meal at the iconic Greens restaurant in San Francisco, which earned a spot in the Michelin Guide this year and has been serving vegetarian cuisine since 1979.
More than ever before, wellness is a key part of corporate meetings. Where once these gatherings might have led to a hangover or five extra pounds gained, thanks to buffet tables piled high with fried foods and sweets and endless hours spent sitting in conference rooms, today’s attendees are likely to leave with new healthy habits, perhaps a cooking tip or two, greater self knowledge and a new appreciation for mindful meditation.
Here are some of the ways California properties are delivering wellness to groups.
Immersive Transformation Amid The Redwoods
Named for the number of minutes in a day, 1440 Multiversity is a 75-acre immersive learning center and retreat nestled in a redwood forest between Santa Cruz and Silicon Valley. Since 1440 opened its doors in May 2017, scores of thought leaders have led workshops here, including writer Elizabeth Gilbert, singer Alanis Morissette, integrative health doctors Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil, and eminent teachers of yoga, meditation, nutrition, self transformation and professional development.
The campus is well designed to host groups, with a capacity of 375 overnight guests, and accommodations that range from modern Asian-style sleeping ‘pods’ to spacious fireplace suites with patios. For panels or conferences, up to 750 attendees can be hosted in a variety of indoor and outdoor venues, including the Sanctuary, with vaulted wood ceilings and views of the redwoods through floor-to-ceiling windows (capacity 203), the Outlook room, which has a state-of-the-art sound booth, screens and wired or wireless microphones (capacity 305), the outdoor Cathedral amphitheater (capacity 460) and the adjacent Redwood Auditorium (capacity 750), the interactive teaching kitchen (capacity 71), and several additional meeting rooms, some with outdoor patios and fire pits, for gathering between sessions.
An all-inclusive property, 1440 offers three nutritious gourmet meals a day at The Kitchen, where guests can dine alfresco or indoors next to the roaring fire of a stone hearth. Activities abound, for relaxation, reflection and engagement, with daily classes in yoga, tai chi, qi gong and meditation, guided nature walks and hikes, workshops in community drumming and sound journeys as well as free time to spend in the infinity-edge hot tub, cafes and shops, or swaying with a book or journal in a hammock suspended between the trees.
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa
Cal-a-Vie Health Spa:
Out-of-this-World Luxury in Northern San Diego
“Relax. Renew. Revitalize.” That’s the mantra at Cal-a-Vie Health Spa, the idyllic spa resort in Northern San Diego, and it’s one that’s easily fulfilled. Everything about this luxury property embraces an expansive sense of self. Five hundred acres, which include lavender fields, vineyards and rolling hills, are home to just 32 Mediterranean-style villas. (That number will be expanding to 46 in the summer of 2020.) The staff to guest ratio is 5-to-1 There are 120 different fitness classes to chose among, including aqua sculpt, 20 different types of yoga, pilates, kickboxing, TRX, gyrotonics, and group-friendly activities like hikes (25 different trails span 10 miles), water or sand volleyball, golf, tennis clinics, and a wide variety of dance classes (Zumba, Broadway, hula hoop, belly dance and dance party).
Mind-body activities are plentiful, some taking place in the stunning 400-year-old candle-lit chapel. Guests can enjoy guided meditation and tai chi, create a lavender wreath or a chakra energy bracelet; they can participate in a Japanese tea ceremony or rock painting and origami workshops, explore the benefits of essential oils or set intentions while walking a labyrinth.
In 2018, Cal-a-Vie introduced the Celestial Experience, an hour-long star-gazing session that takes place at the Observatory, a two-story structure that’s positioned on top of a hill overlooking Cal-a-Vie’s grounds and includes eight flat screen TVs, a state-of-the-art Takahashi telescope and imaging technology, as well as 26 seats from the original Houston Astrodome. Stargazing, the resort says, “has been linked to multiple health and wellness benefits including a sense of personal growth, transcendent thoughts and positive emotions.”
What will without question lead to a feeling of enhanced well-being are the spa treatments in the Bath House. A typical day at Cal-a-Vie will include two, selected from a menu of massages, wraps, facials, and body therapies that include chakra balancing, water reflexology and Ayurvedic mud sessions.
A regular winner of top awards from Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure and SpaFinder magazines, Cal-a-Vie has welcomed groups in biotech and medical fields, among others. The maximum number of guests that can be accommodated, with a full buyout, is 64; the property has 17,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.
Harbor Court, San Francisco:
A hotel doesn’t have to be large or loaded with amenities to offer wellness-minded guests an opportunity to keep up their healthy regimes. Planners who want to energize their groups before, during or after an event have options at this newly renovated, 131- room hotel in the Embarcadero/Financial district.
While the Harbor Court doesn’t have a fitness center of its own, it’s connected via a door in the lobby to the next-door, fullservice YMCA (which includes an Olympic-size pool), where planners can book fitness classes for $20 per person. When class is done, participants can have custom smoothies waiting for them at the hotel. (A bit of trivia: the building served as the YMCA chapel before being converted into a hotel.)
As for meeting space, the hotel offers two glass cubes in the lobby that serve as co-working spaces or can be rented for private use (the hotel can provide basic A/V equipment). A communal table outside the cubes is equipped with charging stations and USB ports.
The hotel hosts a complimentary wine and beer hour every evening, which some will consider a critical element of well-being, while the in-house Café and Pantry provides barista service around the clock.
Wellness on Nob Hill
The wellness trend has taken off in a big way in San Francisco, and Stanford Court, a recently renovated, 400-room hotel on Nob Hill, wanted to give guests a unique experience. To do so, it partnered with San Francisco startup Well + Away, which publishes on-thego “VitalGuides” pointing travelers to off-the-tourist-track places to eat, sweat and indulge in healthy pursuits. The collaboration led to the launch last March of Urban Sanctuary rooms for wellnessminded travelers.
“When people think ‘wellness,’ they think ‘oh, I have to work out,’” says Luz Chatman, area director of sales and marketing. “Our concept wasn’t about working out in isolation; it was about all the elements of wellness. Modern travelers, especially business travelers, want to get a good night’s sleep and feel great while on the road and not be totally disrupted from their daily routines.”
Focused on sleep, nutrition and fitness, the “Urban Sanctuary” package can be purchased as an add-on to any room in the hotel. It comes with yoga mat, meditation cushion, Buddha teas and “VitalKits” offering an array of healthy snacks and other products. This being San Francisco, technology and style also are involved, starting with a gear-lending program that lets guests try out justreleased activewear by Gaiam. Guests also get 30-day complimentary access to the Aaptiv Fitness app, which is loaded with thousands of audio-based workouts and programs; plus 30-day access to Calm Meditation, a leading app for meditation and sleep, and a copy of the book “The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide to Ancient Self-Care.” In addition, a “Nod Hill” sleep menu offers a selection of pillows, earplugs and other amenities to facilitate dozing off.
The package is a great perk for meeting planners, Chatman notes. “After all, anyone planning a conference needs some recovery time.” For meeting groups, the hotel offers 2,100 square feet of event venues, including communal workspaces.
Casa Madrona Hotel & Spa, Sausalito
This century-old Victorian landmark overlooking yacht-filled Richardson Bay has long evolved with the times. In January, the forward-looking property debuted a “Casa Wellness” experience that goes beyond traditional nutrition and fitness offerings. The theme incorporates a Wellness Courtyard with a 62-inch monitor screening Fitness on Demand workout sessions that also can be adapted for groups booking the 1,700-square-foot, oceanview Junto meeting space.
To personalize the experience while at the same time offering a sample of the latest high-tech offerings in the fitness field, planners can book their attendees into any of nine dedicated Wellness Rooms outfitted with Eight Sleep smart beds, which integrate with Amazon’s virtual assistant, Alexa, to provide insight on sleep trends through the use of biometric tracking, sleep coaching and temperature regulation.
For the tech-minded, there’s more: Muse 2 meditation headbands that provide real-time feedback on brain activity, heart rate and breathing to improve meditation focus and ViSense’s artificial intelligence personal trainer, which uses bio-sensing earphones to create personally tailored workouts.
“I’ve always had a passion for holistic health that stems from my own lifestyle, daily practice and understanding of our world and our humanness,” says Carmen Cruz, general manager of the property and the driving force behind the renovation. “With that in mind and a brand DNA of constant innovation, my vision was to create a full emersion wellness experience at Casa Madrona.
“With pioneering technology at the core and a concept that goes beyond physical fitness and nutrition, our wellness experience touches all aspects of well-being,” she continues. “It departs from the idea that wellness is some special programming that demands specific vacation time or travel. At Casa, we believe wellness is a lifestyle that you can continue, or newly adopt while traveling for business or leisure.”
Casa Madrona offers 64 guest accommodations in several configurations, as well as a 5,000-square-foot mansion suite. Besides a spa and fitness center, the property encompasses 5,500 square feet of recently renovated, flexible event space.
Carmel Valley Ranch:
All the Wellness Bells & Whistles
This sprawling, 500-acre resort has it all: golf course, tennis facilities, saltwater pool, bocce courts, kids’ splash zone, a farmstead and more, all in a valley setting not far from the Monterey coast. The carefully curated layout and vibe are intended to provide summer camp-inspired getaways that easily adapt to corporate retreats and large gatherings.
“We have mostly corporate clients, with group size ranging from 10 to 125,” says Hilary Ebright, associate director of sales. “More groups are requesting time to use the fitness areas before or after events, and even cutting agendas shorter to allow guests to participate in the abundance of activities we have to offer. We have been getting requests for mediation or yoga during breaks, typically in the afternoon, to recharge everyone. A high majority of our groups will incorporate a guided hike during their event.”
Other wellness-oriented activities adapted for team-building can include foraging walks, night golf competitions, even falconry, all intended to provide “play outside the box” experiences. The ranch’s group activity menu, which can be customized according to need, encompasses even more, from cooking demos and classes to candle crafting, archery, photography, scavenger hunts and geocaching.
And there’s plenty of space to gather. Recently refreshed indoor spaces combine with elegant outdoor venues, including an organic garden and vineyard lawn, to encompass some 10,000 square feet of event space.
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa
Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa:
Luxury That Goes Deeper Than a Spa Menu
Naturally, the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa experience includes the inherent wellness elements actually listed in its name, with a famous 18-hole golf course designed by Arnold Palmer and a 15,000-squarefoot spa that boasts 20 treatment rooms. But Aviara also goes far and beyond those familiar resort offerings, into a whole other level of wellness possibilities for individuals and groups.
With the VeraVia Luxury Fitness Resort located within the hotel, guests find a personalized team of experts ready to assist with boosting health, fitness, nutrition and behavior to help create new habits for a lifetime of healthy living. Their corporate group programs encompass a variety of retreat options that are designed to help reduce stress and improve emotional wellness, encourage creative collaboration or reboot the overall health of your team.
Group yoga and fitness classes are part of VeraVia's program, as are over 50 workshops with nutritionists, behavioral psychologists, doctors and other health specialists, all geared to getting your group into a new mindset when it comes to wellness at work and at home.
Aviara is also a top-ranked tennis resort, featuring nine courts that allow for tournaments or group lessons taught by terrific pro tennis instructors under the inspiring leadership of Tennis Director Steve Halverson. The instructors are not only helpful to those who already play the game, but also provide beginners with easily understood techniques to master the basics. They even make tennis accessible to people with mobility issues, meaning no one is left out of the experience.
Aviara also offers an outdoor recreation center, complete with sand volleyball court, bocce court, croquet field, horseshoes and a badminton court, for more opportunities to create a relaxing wellness experience while hosting a group meeting at the resort. The resort has 327 rooms and 78,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, with the largest of eight different venues being 11,730 square feet.
Rejuvemeet at San Jose Marriott
There’s no dot on the map of California that says “Silicon Valley,” but it’s fair to say that San Jose is its nucleus when it comes to meetings and events, especially those catering to employees of Google, Facebook, Apple, Intel, Adobe, Twitter, Cisco, Yahoo, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Netflix and other tech firms with global headquarters just down the road.
It makes sense, then, that management at the 520-room Marriott San Jose, one of two hotels directly connected to the recently renovated McEnery Convention Center, would go out of the way to provide attendees with all the amenities they’re accustomed to enjoying in their personal and work lives, from healthy meals to stateof-the-art exercise equipment and meeting environments that diverge from traditional classroom/theater setups.
“The major companies of Silicon Valley come and do product launches here, flying in people from all over the world,” says Linda Carta-Samuels, the hotel’s director of marketing. “They gravitate toward healthy options, and in Silicon Valley, they expect them.”
In January, the hotel introduced a “RejuveMeet” option intended to satisfy those demands through a holistic approach to group wellness. “In our particular bubble, our clients are always talking about work/ life balance and being able to stay healthy and pay attention to mindfulness,” CartaSamuels explains. “Meetings shouldn’t take them off that track. We’re focused on letting travel not be disruptive, but an extension of what our clients aspire to do in private life.”
Elements of the program include farmers market-style snack selections, smoothie bars, healthy buffet selections, even a portable raw bar, stocked with seasonal fruits and vegetables, that can be moved from a meeting room to the park across the street or other locations. Keto and gluten-free options, as well as mocktails, are on every restaurant and catering menu.
On the active front, the Marriott offers cardiovascular and relaxation team-building and break sessions, group jogging and bike tours of the city, yoga in-house or in the park across the street, Peloton bikes in the fitness center, “stretch-away-stress” sessions and mini-massage. There are spa water stations in the lobby and meeting rooms. The hotel can also recommend speakers for wellness education seminars and arrange “give back” volunteer activities that promote wellness in the community.
The Ridge Tahoe Resort
The Ridge Tahoe Resort:
Making "Alone Time" Part of Wellness
The Ridge, a 302-unit hotel/vacation ownership resort on an 11-acre hilltop overlooking Lake Tahoe, offers many out-the-door health and wellness activities in addition to yoga classes, an on-site spa and a dedicated chairlift serving Heavenly Mountain Resort. Guided meditation hikes, moonlight hikes, stargazing hikes and rock climbing are offered in summer, while snowshoe outings are popular with groups meeting in winter. All are available right out the door.
Activities are sometimes combined in innovative ways. “A group last summer planned a guided full-moon hike,” recounts Katie Baumruck, corporate sales manager for Ridge Resorts. “As part of that, the guide sent each individual down the path at five-minute increments, so the attendee could have ‘alone time’ and reflect on the concepts discussed during the day’s meetings.”
The Ridge’s recently renovated Castle Rock Event Space totals 3,700 square feet and can accommodate classroom-style meetings for up to 120 attendees.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa:
An Ethos of Wellness & Balance
Some hotels and resorts go in and out of mind as quickly as a conference or convention, while others linger for years in the memory, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, with its 1927 mission revival architecture, geothermal hot springs and an extensive menu of wellness options, is unequivocally one of the latter. With 226 guest rooms, more than 13,000 square feet of meeting space, a well-known spa and a location smack in the middle of Sonoma Wine Country, it’s a luxury property that offers some contemporary twists for meeting planners.
“This hotel was built almost 100 years ago because of the geothermal springs and their healing qualities. San Franciscans have been coming for generations, and an ethos of wellness and balance has been part of it from the very beginning,” says Michelle Heston, regional director of public relations for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.
The property has not just rested on its laurels, she adds. In the past few years, as the wellness trend has crescendoed, the inn has developed state-of-the-art programming opportunities for groups, including wellness coaching sessions, nutritional counseling, sound healing, “spirit of Aloha workshops” and group hike-and-bike tours.
Group meditation and “give back” programs also are garnering attention. “We’ve had two groups in the last four months work with Habitat for Humanity to build playhouses for needy families, some affected by the recent fires,” says Angela Ramogida, senior catering and conference services manager. “One was a Bay Area tech company group of 40 leadership executives and one was a financial software company, also from the Bay Area. Numerous groups have also incorporated mindfulness mediation breaks or booked private yoga in the mornings prior to sessions, and we’ve also seen an increase in private hikes.”
On the nutrition front, wellness elements can be weaved into menu planning and cooking classes, while healthier food items have been incorporated into restaurant and group catering menus. “We have added more protein items like housemade hummus, hard boiled eggs, cheese and charcuterie into breaks,” Ramogida notes. “We’re seeing more groups favor these items over previously requested cookies and sweets. One of the most popular new stations we have right now is the ‘create your own poke bowl’ for receptions and dinners, created by chef Jared Reeves. This is again geared towards the lean protein, no carbs trend.”
On the activities front, James Raden, assistant director of spa, adds that wellness workshops, walking tours of Sonoma and bike tours also are frequently requested—along, of course, with spa treatments and geothermal relaxation time.