Best wellness resorts in the south of France

By Siobhan Reid 9 October, 2023

A whirlwind of amenities has come to the historically relaxed Cote d’Azur

Ever since Brigitte Bardot and the cast of And God Created Woman descended on the shores of Saint-Tropez in the 1950s, the French Riviera has been for the bronzed and the beautiful. But somewhat ironically, the Cote d’Azur has never been seen as a spot to get buffed and beautified. Here, effortless beauty competed with the fattening forces of lounging chairs and bouillabaisse.

Suddenly, that’s all changed. The Cote d’Azur has emerged as a new centre of gravity in the wellness world, with its own fabulous spin on detoxing.

Instead of derivative meal plans and body-punishing workouts, the wellness resorts of the French Riviera espouse a quintessentially French and more lifestyle-friendly approach to wellbeing, with vegetarian haute cuisine, movie-star-worthy spa treatments and stamina-boosting workouts amid vineyards, formal gardens, and the sparkling waters of the Med. Hard-core wellness types will find plenty to love, too, from biohacking treatments to Tour de France-approved cycling centres.

Massages at La Réserve Ramatuelle. Photo by La Réserve Ramatuelle

Among the region’s more luxurious wellness hideaways is La Réserve Ramatuelle, the sleek, Jacques Garcia–designed haven set in the hills just outside of Saint-Tropez. Spread over 14 forested acres with sweeping views of the Med, the glass-walled modernist retreat resembles a Bond lair. But the eye-popping design is only part of the allure. The three-to-six day wellness retreats combine Nordic walking (a full-body workout that burns up to 67 per cent more calories than regular walking), one-on-one pilates and yoga sessions, treatments from the Nescens anti-ageing cosmeceuticals brand, and multi-course vegetarian tasting menus at the glamorous Michelin-starred La Voile restaurant, which has a terrace offering panoramic views of the sea. The seasonal dishes are so inventive (picture: a “fennel” cake made of the bulbous vegetable or a carrot injected with vegetable cream), and the setting is so refined, you’ll forget you’re technically detoxing.

And you don’t have to sign up for the bootcamp programmes to reap the benefits. All guests have access to à la carte wellness services like cellulite-zapping LPG Endermologie treatments, cryotherapy, and water workouts including AquaGym and hydro cycling. Many of the spa treatments are carried out in glass-walled treatment rooms overlooking the Med, so you never have to part with the views.

Healthy dishes are popular menu items. Photo byLa Réserve Ramatuelle.

Guests also have priority access to the property’s exclusive beach club on Pampelonne Beach, where you can get in your daily steps by strolling the powdery 4.5-kilometre stretch, followed by a refreshing dip in the sea and a sports massage on a plush sun lounger. Top it off with a virgin spritz and you’ll never want to do wellness anywhere else.

The nearby Lily of the Valley resort is geared toward weight loss, with multi-day programs developed by renowned Parisian nutritionist Jacques Fricker. Guests undergo a dietary consultation and a bioimpedance analysis at the outset of the program to measure body composition and establish weight loss goals. Daily spa treatments and one hour of fitness coaching per day ensure a balance between relaxation and exertion, and the roster of daily activities is seemingly endless: kayaking, paddleboard excursions, hiking, electric mountain biking, longe-côte (sea wading), and the list goes on. Chef Vincent Maillard trained under Alain Ducasse, so the meals are delicious and satisfying while being customisable to guests’ metabolic needs.

In Antibes, the iconic Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc just launched a Dior spa with six “Wellness Cures,” created exclusively for the property. Ranging from three- to 14 day-courses, the experience can be tailored to guests’ needs—from relaxation and immunity to detoxification, anti-ageing, hormone balancing, and a “Dior Homme Bouquet” created exclusively for men. Each programme offers consultations with nutrition and wellbeing experts along with beautifying treatments such as the Dior Skin Light LED Mask and the body-sculpting Endospheres Therapy. Also on offer: alternative medicine practices like iridology and naturopathy. You can indulge in a Dior Powered by HydraFacial treatment in a former gazebo facing a century-old rose garden dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, or opt for a body-slimming infrared treatment in the Japanese-inspired Iyashi Dôme, where one session produces 1,200 millilitres of sweat (about the equivalent of running 20 kilometres).

Swimming pools at La Réserve Ramatuelle aren’t just for looking beautiful. Now, it’s about working off lunch. Photo by La Réserve Ramatuelle

To get fit the old-fashioned way, head inland to Coquillade Provence, founded by the late Swiss billionaire Andy Rihs, owner of the BMC bike brand and racing team. Spread among 104 acres of grape vines, cypress trees, and 300-year-old olive groves, the property is home to a professional-level cycling facility popular among Tour de France athletes. Guests go on guided bike tours through the vineyards of the Luberon, tempering steep ascents with pit stops in charming towns like Roussillon, or they can set off on the hiking trail that leads directly from the hotel’s doorstep to the 1,908-metre Mont Ventoux, a.k.a the Beast of Provence. There are also four- or six-day triathlon programmes for getting into fighting form, with one-on-one instruction and tips for improving your time.

Coquillade takes aesthetics just as seriously, with a Detox & Shape programme that integrates silhouette-sculpting massages, naturopathy consultations, hydromassage baths for boosting circulation and aiding digestion, and personalized coaching sessions to ensure you’re hitting your targets. And just in case you forgot you’re in the South of France, there’s also a pétanque court fringed by miles of vines. Do like the locals and order a bucket of ice and a bottle of pastis while you play. The anise-flavoured spirit—the national drink of France—has a whole host of health benefits (from aiding in digestion to reducing chronic inflammation), allowing for guilt-free imbibing.

This story was first published on Robb Report USA