Reboot your health and fitness routines at this low-country wellness resort.
by Cathy Martin
After a stressful season, the offer sounded appealing: morning beach walks, yoga, kayaking along the marsh, relaxation time at a nationally recognized spa. When I was invited earlier this year to Hilton Head Health for a self-care getaway, I learned the majority of H3’s guests come to get back on track with diet and exercise — for a healthy reset, which sounds a bit like a marketing buzzword. Curious to understand exactly what it meant, I decided to give it a whirl. Plus, maybe I’d find a little motivation to shed the extra few pounds I’d put on during Covid.
Though Hilton Head Health was started in the 1970s strictly as a weight-loss retreat, the resort has expanded over the years to include a range of wellness options, including the top-ranked Indigo Spa, which opened in 2015.
A year later, a stressed-out executive from Greensboro booked a stay after learning about H3 online. “Like many CEOs, I put the company ahead of my own health and well-being,” Kevin Carter told South Carolina Public Radio in December 2021. The former chief executive of an aircraft-services company, a Davidson College graduate, was so taken with the place he decided to buy it. Since Carter became principal owner of the resort in 2017, H3 continues to broaden its programming and facilities.
The small campus blends in among the villas and private homes in Hilton Head’s Shipyard community. After checking in, armed with a welcome packet full of schedules, an island map and more, I settled into my room at the resort’s Sweetgrass Inn. The on-site 30-room hotel, with a soothing palette of blues and grays and tasteful low-country décor, opened in March 2021. Spacious rooms with plush king beds are comfortable enough for stays lasting from a few days to a few weeks, and common areas — a large porch with rockers, a sitting room stocked with books and board games — make you feel like you’re staying at someone’s beach house. Private villas provide an alternative lodging option for guests.
After a quick property tour and dinner at True, the resort’s on-site restaurant, I began plotting my itinerary from the expansive list of fitness classes, cooking demonstrations, wellness seminars and spa treatments.
Fresh, creative dining options at Hilton Head Health are plentiful, and the menu changes three times a week. Guests can sign up for a cooking class to learn how to make healthy dishes at home, or a Chef’s Table experience with wine pairings.
The next morning, after a 7 a.m. beach walk, a quick breakfast — accompanied by a 35-calorie cappuccino — and a 45-minute fitness class, I settled in for a presentation led by Bob Wright, director of lifestyle education. Wright has been a fixture at H3 for more than 40 years and is known for his insightful and inspiring quips, which the staff playfully refer to as “Bob-isms.”
Start the day with something positive — a walk, meditation, a healthy breakfast — and make it a ritual.
Understand the power of tribes – find a group of people to walk or work out with.
Whatever your fitness goals, slips will happen. Just get back on the plan.
After a satisfying lunch of French lentil and butternut-squash salad and a grilled shrimp flatbread (you will not go hungry here), I was off to H3’s demonstration kitchen to learn how to make a few healthy, simple-to-prepare dishes, many of which you can try at the resort’s restaurant. I ended the day with a “gentle yoga” class, a reward for myself after tackling the popular and intense TRX circuit class earlier in the day.
Given the resort’s size, the breadth of programming at H3 is remarkable. The fitness schedule ranges from yoga, mat Pilates and tai chi to Zumba, cardio boxing and aqua interval training. Participants in H3’s all-inclusive wellness programs can attend whichever and as many classes as they’d like. Add-ons include a Chef’s Table dining experience with wine pairings, a guided kayaking excursion, private yoga and Pilates instruction, fitness assessments, and personalized recovery sessions. The island’s network of walking and bike paths provide extra motivation to stay active, and an app with on-demand videos helps you maintain your regimen after you return home.
Chef Thomas Carrig’s menu is fresh, creative and full of flavor. Choices are plentiful, and there is always an option to create your own custom “H3 Plate” — choose a protein, vegetables, starch and sauce. A sample of menu items during my stay included watermelon and avocado salad with lime juice, feta jalapenos and mint; a panko-crusted eggplant Parmesan stack with pesto, marinara, mozzarella and sauteed asparagus; and a sushi bowl with seared ahi tuna, brown sushi rice, edamame and cabbage with ginger-soy dressing, cucumber, avocado and carrots.
A bounty of healthy snacks — fruit, yogurt, hummus, nuts — is available from morning till night, and portions are labeled with calorie counts to help you keep on track.
To de-stress and recover from workouts, The Indigo Spa offers a complete menu of massages, facials and body treatments, many incorporating all-natural and organic luxury products including Red Flower, Eminence and Skin Authority.
Peaceful and relaxing, the resort isn’t really a see-and-be-seen type of place — though a certain Bravolebrity, Sonja Morgan, is a regular guest, frequently posting photos from H3 on Instagram. Nor is it a place to sip cocktails by the pool or flaunt your newest athleisure. The pool here is mainly used for fitness, and the dress is whatever makes you feel comfortable. Instead, it’s a place to focus on yourself and reboot your health and fitness routines, away from day-to-day distractions of home.
Guests range from groups of friends to mother-daughter duos to solo travelers. Spouses are welcome, and guests can take advantage of Hilton Head Island’s numerous golf and tennis facilities. The resort’s small atmosphere — capacity is capped at about 55 — makes it easy for staff and other guests to get to know you for a personalized experience.
After my mini-wellness vacation — four days of workouts, lots of long walks and bike rides, and clean, healthy eating — I left feeling refreshed and motivated, on an upward trajectory, and far more comfortable in my own skin. SP
GETTING THERE: Hilton Head Health is about a four-hour drive from Charlotte. Visit hhhealth.com for more information.
Photographs courtesy Hilton Head Health