By Lori Capullo
This vacation, instead of getting horizontal on a lounge chair, get up and get your blood pumping. Some suggestions:
ALL-AROUND FITNESS: Vita Vie Retreat
If your idea of a vacation is not lying around sipping sugary rum punch, but instead getting your heart pumping and leaving for home in even better shape than you were in when you arrived, Vita Vie Retreat is for you. The boutique fitness retreat is a hop and skip away in Delray Beach, and the retreats are held at the Marriott Delray Beach outdoors on the beach, the patio and at local parks, incorporating fresh air and nature into the exercise regimens. Not for the faint of heart, their Bella Boot Camp package comprises a five-hour daily workout consisting of various routines, among them beach walks, Zumba, yoga, cardio kickboxing, balance training and even belly dancing; a king or double room; meals and tips each day; a 50-minute spa treatment or private nutrition session and more, for groups of 12 people or less. If you’re not into the group thing, private programs can be custom-designed for your own specific goal, whether it’s weight loss or conditioning. Need to alleviate some stress? Check out the Mind Body Bliss Week package, which includes four daily classes such as meditation, yoga and balance training to help you reach Nirvana. For information, call 800-768-5708 or 561-859-0775 or visit bvretreat.com.
BOATING & DIVING: Key Largo
When you think of the Keys, you probably think of Key West, but boaters know there are choices galore, depending how far down you want to go. From Key Largo to Islamorada, Marathon to Big Pine and the Lower Keys and of course, the southernmost point, Key West, you can take your pick of where to head for fishing, diving, paddleboarding, chilling on a sandbar with friends of just floating your boat. But it’s the diving that’s particularly exciting here. Key Largo is home to the country’s first underwater preserve, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, as well as the Key Largo National Marine Sanctuary, so it’s protected from spearfishing and coral collection and has been for 40 years. That means divers can explore in peace, taking pictures not only of the magical undersea life but also the famous bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss, the top of which is so close to the surface of the water that even snorkelers can view it. Other reasons to get down in Key Largo: Benwood Wreck, a ship that sank during World War II; The Elbow, a reef where you’ll find a number of shipwrecks; and Bibb and Duane, twin 327-foot Coast Guard cutters that were sunk 25 years ago as dive attractions and are now covered in coral. For more detailed information about diving and boating in and around Key Largo, visit fla-keys.com/keylargo.
SKIING: Miami Ski Club
You may have experienced sussing the slopes of Aspen or Beaver Creek, but true ski aficionados who want to experience adventures in Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and other fab spots around the globe must check out the Miami Ski Club. The name actually belies the scope of this club, which is a social organization as well, where members get together to enjoy weekly happy hours, local outings, food events and even off-slope activities like bike rides, theater nights, concerts and restaurant nights out. The club, which has been around now for 45 years, is all about fun, and welcomes both skiers and non-skiers. Recent local events included a New River boat tour through Fort Lauderdale and Happy Hour at the Taco Beach Shack on Hollywood Beach, among others. Coming up March 15-26: A 10-night ski trip to Prague in the Czech Republic, with over 173 miles of runs for beginners, intermediate-level and expert skiers and a stay at the 4-star Hotel Arlberg. That’s just an example of what the Miami Ski Club holds for members. And speaking of membership, there are three types: Full, which includes free admission to yearly events, weekly happy hours, discounts on theater and concert tickets, and of course, ski trips and other “adventure” trips; Associate, which provides admission to one membership event per year at member price; and Affiliate, which is for trips only. For more details call 305-949-4114, or to fill out a membership application, visit miamiskiclub.com.
SURFING: Costa Rica
Wanna hang ten? You won’t learn how to do it here in sunny South Florida — and if you already know how, you won’t be able to practice here. But Costa Rica is the perfect place to ride the wave, for nine months of the year (rainy season interferes September-November). “You can still make it there for high season, which is December-April,” when the surfing is at its optimum along the Northern Pacific Coast. Various packages that combine hotels, car rentals, breakfast, and even surf lessons or tours for beginners, experts, individuals and families are available at surf-costarica.com. But here’s a favorite of ours: the Alma Del Pacifico Beach Hotel & Spa offers an Endless Summer Surf Package that includes surfing lessons for two, a personal photographer to capture the adventure, sunset horseback ride along Playa Esterillos, a $50 restaurant credit, two welcome cocktails and two continental breakfasts; airport transfers and a one-day car rental starting at $300/night (you must stay at least three nights). The package is available through December 2013. For more details and information, call 888-960-ALMA or visit almadelpacifico.com.
Go west, my friend — especially if you want to hit the greens. Naples, a 90-minute (give or take a few) drive west across I-75, is a golfers’ paradise, with more than 70 courses to choose from. In fact, according to worldofgolf.com, it boasts the second-highest number of golf holes per capita of any other city in the United States. As for which ones are at the top of the must-play list, that varies according to who’s judging, but there are some definite sure bets:
Eagles Lakes Golf Club: 239-732-0034; eagleslakesgolfclub.net. This fairly new 7,150-yard, par 71 championship course surrounds golfers with beautiful landscaping and wildlife, including two resident bald eagles.
Ritz-Carlton Resort 239-254-3340; ritzcarlton.com. The Greg Norman-designed Tiburón course sits on the northernmost tip of the Everglades close by the Gulf and is a certified Audubon sanctuary.
LaPlaya Beach & Golf Resort: 239-597-3123. Condé Nast named it the #1 Golf Resort in Florida two years running (2010 and 2011), no doubt in part because its numerous bunkers, rolling fairways and 14 holes by the water make it challenging and fun to play.
The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club: 239-435-2475; naplesbeachhotel.com. A tradition for golfers in Naples, this course was established in the late ’20s and has been redesigned five times since, most recently in 2011. It’s been voted “Southwest Florida’s Best Public Course” and one of the “Top 50 Women-Friendly Golf Courses.”
The Rookery at Marco, Rookery Course: 239-389-6600; marriottgolf.com. Users call this course “smooth,” “fast,” “beautifully maintained” and “well managed,” all of which warrant it a look by those looking for a memorable day out on the green.
AND TO GET IN THE SWING, NOT FAR FROM HOME
Check out these three golf courses that are practically in your own back yard
Inverrary Golf Course
3840 Inverrary Blvd., 954-733-7550, inverrarygolf.com
Numerous golfers of the 36 holes that comprise the East and West courses designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. cite their penchant for the challenging sand traps, tree-lined layouts and canals lining the fairways. The East Course has hosted more than a dozen PGA and LPGA Championships and maintains tournament-level conditions consistently, another
plus for guests.
Seven Bridges at Springtree Golf Club
8150 Springtree Drive, Sunrise, 954-205-7405, sevenbridgesgc.com
Designed by 10-time PGA tour winner Mark McCumber, Seven Bridges underwent a major renovation two years ago that resulted in new greens, a state-of-the-art irrigation system, and a brand new 7,000-square-foot clubhouse where special events take place throughout each month. You can call to book a tee time or just reserve one on the website, where you’ll find more details about the course, monthly events and even a Ladies League.
Jacaranda Golf Club
9200 W. Broward Blvd., Plantation, 954-472-5836, golfjacaranda.com
This beautifully kept course has hosted PGA, USGA and FSGA championships for a good reason: it’s immaculately kept, and the East and West courses here have undergone a major renovation — to the tune of $10 million — and are 4-star rated by Golf Digest. Golf rates, tee time specials, tournament and course information and other details are available on the website.