My 12-step program for Canyon Ranch Hotel and Spa Miami Beach. 

On a recent trip to Suriname, I had to fly from San Francisco to Miami to catch my international flight. I was just going to book a no-brainer airport overnight (which usually ranks somewhere between unmemorable to downright unpleasant) when I remembered that there was a Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa in Miami Beach. I had so thoroughly enjoyed my stay at “ The Ranch” in Tucson that I thought this could offer a healthy sleepover between flights. It turned out to be a brilliant move.

Follow my 12-step plan below for a perfect layover, or if you’re lucky and have more time, a week sounds about right to me.

1. Grab a cab from the airport for a quick (under ½ hour) drive to Canyon Ranch, which is situated on the six-acre beachfront site once occupied by the historic Carillon Hotel. Upon entering you’ll be warmly welcomed at the front desk with a relaxing cup of herbal tea. Not only will the staff strive to fulfill your every need (such as pointing out the complimentary computers for printing out my boarding pass the next day) but they also handout prezzies- an over-sized, black Canyon Ranch tote bags, perfect for carrying all my soon to be purchased souvenirs (and free bragging rights) and a BPA-free water bottle with built in straw.

Humongous homey rooms

Humongous homey rooms

2.  Go see your room, which actually is a 720 – 1,200 sq. ft. luxury suite. The 150 suites are so spacious, bright, clean and comfy that you’ll be tempted to nestle in and never leave…which I suppose is one option but there is way too much to do. My ONLY complaint with my room was that I wish they would upgrade to a better coffee maker. Other than that, it was sheer perfection-which in my book translates to: great style -courtesy of the pre-eminent designer/architect David Rockwell, a fully-equipped kitchen in case you want to practice some of your healthy cooking moves (the granite counters are lined with Kitchen Aid® and Miele appliances), two 40″ Sony, internet-ready, HDTVs, Bose Wave radio, a daily newspaper, complimentary Wi-Fi and endless closet space. Most importantly, particularly since this was a layover, the room is soundproof and the King-size bed, with a pillow-top mattress, 400-thread-count Mascioni sheets, and fluffy, down-blend pillows had me sleeping with the angels.

Next put on the plush Mascioni robes and slippers and follow me to the lovely mosaic-tiled bathroom, where you’ll find plenty of Lather toiletries, a Whirlpool tub, Grohe shower-heads, and a seated make-up area with a lighted magnifying mirror. Step on the scale at your own risk.

Perfect position on Miami Beach

Perfect position on Miami Beach

3. The sun was still out so I scurried through the palm-lined gardens to the beach. You can choose to walk the sandy seashore or follow the paved bike path. But for my money, nothing shakes jetlag better than a head-clearing, jog on the sand while breathing in fresh ocean air.

4. Time to make your game plan for tomorrow.  Grab the weekly activity schedule and head down to the terrace to watch the sunset over a glass of wine…say what? Wine at a spa? Yes indeed, and they also make a mean cocktail using healthy homemade mixers and organic spirits. I highly recommend the pretty-in-pink, Raspberry Hibiscus-tea Martini.

Ok, back to the schedule. This can be a bit of a dilemma since there are over 50 classes and learning workshops offered daily, and the majority are complimentary. Eclectic offerings include everything from Buff Ballet Booty to a Battle Rope Challenge. I loved the sounds of the soothing Candlelight Stretch, Qigong on the beach and I was dying to climb the 40-foot Rock Wall, but since time was short, I opted for a quick weight room circuit.

Note: The Program Advisors are more than happy to help you with your navigate the schedule.

Bike to this view at Canyon Ranch Miami

Bike to this view at Canyon Ranch Miami

5. And now a word about the gym. I bet even couch ‘taters might be tempted to work out at such an immaculate fitness center complete with panoramic ocean views.  Expert trainers are at the ready to answer any questions. One sweet & hunky trainer patiently showed me (twice) how to use the Wellness Key System –  a revolutionary smart technology that monitors your performance on an individual microchip key, or you can just grab a spot on one of the many Expresso bikes, treadmills, stair machines or Technogym® weight machines and start burning calories.

6. If you’re after more of a mind-body experience, rest easy. There is plenty available for zen-ny types, too. Complimentary yoga, stretching, and meditation & breathing classes are scattered throughout the day, or you can pay for a variety of private classes featuring calming self-care practices from around the world.

7. Do absolutely nothing except lounge by one of the two guest swimming pools and work on getting beige.

8. Learn something new about health & wellness. I was bummed that I had missed “Tea with the Energy Healer.” Fortunately, I was able to book a Healing Energy treatment for the following morning, with the amazing Michelle Alva, who positively radiates healthy well-being.  In 50 minutes she couldn’t cure all my woes (mostly from being scrunched in an airplane for way too many hours) but I did leave feeling simultaneously calmer yet more energized. I even felt like I had grown an inch since I was standing straighter. She also gave me some practical flying tips such as rolling my jacket or a blanket and putting it behind the curve of my back for added support during a long flight. She also recommended that I head to the bathroom every hour and spend a minute wildly shaking everything from my head to toes to get the blood flowing.

Can't I live here?

Can’t I live here?

9.  The piece de resistance has to be the sparkling 70,000-square-foot Wellness Spa. They offer a wide range of innovative treatments integrating ancient, traditional and modern therapies, making it almost impossible to pick just one. The Ashiatsu – Deep Barefoot Massage, De-Stress Chakra Ritual or Muscle Melt for “Road Warriors” were all calling my name.  Sure they are a little spendy, but so worth it. However, with typical Canyon Ranch generosity, they also offer complimentary use of the Aquavana thermal suites a.k.a Heaven on Earth. What are the Aquavana suites? Simply the best multi-sensory group of healing waters, thermal rooms and soaking pools I’ve seen in this country.  You could easily spend all day here immersed in sybaritic splendor. I happily bounced between the Experiential Rain Showers (choices include a soothing Polar Mist all the way to a pulsating Caribbean Monsoon), the fragrant Finnish Sauna, the starlit Herbal Laconium, the HydroSpa, the Crystal Steam Room enhanced with essential oils and healing colored lights, a Footie Bath and the bracing Arctic Mist Igloo infused with menthol, mint and eucalyptus.

After round one I took a baby nap on the Thermal Heated Loungers and then did it all over again in reverse order!

10-12. The last three steps are to enjoy a so-delish-you’d-never-know-it’s-good-for-you breakfast, lunch and dinner. After indulging (taste bud wise not calorie wise) in three meals which were not only filling and nutritious but also innovative and artistically presented, I wasn’t overly surprised to learn that their Executive Chef, Giovanni Arias, recently received Cooking Light’s annual Healthy Chef Award.

Crab Eggs Bennie

Crab Eggs Bennie

The menu features local, organic, sustainable ingredients that will satisfy both dieters and gourmands.  Some of my faves include (really almost everything I tried but I’ll try to narrow it down) crispy yucca with Habanero cilantro sauce that  could kick boring french fries to the curb,  feta-zucchini hash browns, crab laden eggs Bennie that switched out the fattening muffin and hollandaise for fresh spinach and Creole sauce, and an astoundingly rich Black Forest molten cake with brandied cherries, that magically weighed in at only 210 calories… so you CAN have your cake and eat it too.

Black Forest molten cake for only 210 cals!

Black Forest molten cake for only 210 cals!

Each item has nutritional information, from calories to fat grams- even a suggested wine pairing. Entrées tend to fall in the 350- to 500-calorie range, with the exception of a few items such as the grass-fed beef offerings.

So whether you’re looking for a week long spa retreat or just between flights, the healthy environment at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach offers an idyllic break from the mundane.

For more information about Canyon Ranch Hotel & Spa Miami Beach, visit

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