Destination Guides Travel & Leisure

Travel Insider: An Exclusive Glimpse into SHA Wellness Clinic

This center of well-being is the choice of stars such as Kylie Minogue—here, Steven Short, editor of Christie’s International Real Estate magazine, shares highlights from his recent stay

In late 2020, after months of lockdown, working from home, not exercising as much as usual and drinking alcohol more often, I was feeling, let’s say, somewhat short of a million dollars. Time for a reset. Or a “Rebalance,” as the SHA Wellness Clinic calls it.

A few days before I fly to the hotel, a short drive from Alicante, Spain, I receive an email from Ildikó Polgár, my personal agenda planner at SHA telling me that the wellness clinic has prepared the agenda for my four-day visit, designed to help me, “Recover general well-being through an experience of learning and disconnecting in the ideal environment.”

I download the SHA Wellness App, where I find details of my program. Reading it is like a wish list of treats to deal with the stresses and strains of these “unprecedented” times.

The exterior view of SHA Wellness Clinic
The hotel’s futuristic design matches the range of cutting-edge treatments on offer—everything from reiki and reflexology to derma aesthetics, and genomic and preventive medicine.

Arriving at the sleek, white hotel early on a Thursday evening, I’m tested for COVID-19 on check-in (I also provided proof of a negative test prior to my flight) and given a tour of the facilities. Among them are a rooftop infinity-edge pool, fitness suite, dining terrace, cookery school, and lots of treatment rooms.

My first day is busy, with a blood test to have a look at my immune system and a general medical assessment with Dr. Sonia Vasco, who cheerfully promises that I’ll leave feeling “cleaner, relaxed, and with more vitality.” The doctor also talks me through some of the more intensive treatments available, including intravenous detoxes and stem cell therapy (arranged and paid for separately).

As well as my four-day program, the SHA clinic offers seven- and 10-day wellness, weight-control and detox, and rejuvenation programs, as well as a 28-day “Life Reset.”

A chef surrounded by ingredients at a kitchen workbench
SHA places an emphasis on macrobiotics, with daily cookery classes that demonstrate how to easily recreate its range of energizing and well-balanced meals.

Later, I have a one-to-one with the hotel nutritionist to discuss my diet. Food and nutrition are at the heart of SHA’s wellness and detox programs—everything is plant-based, with locally produced fruit and vegetables, lots of whole grains, nuts, seeds, seaweed, miso, tofu, and seitan with the addition of white fish for some guests.

Depending on your goals, you are assigned SHA menu, which is the most “gastronomic”; Biolight, which as the name suggests is a more calorie-restricted version, and Kushi, the most restrictive at around 700 calories a day. I was assigned the gastronomic option but was free to dip into other menus. I vaguely worried that, visiting this kind of spa hotel, I might feel hungry, but everything I ate was delicious and portions were surprisingly generous.

Dishes were also a foodie instagrammer’s dream—salads were topped with flowers, desserts finished with dustings of cocoa and more blooms. Highlights included a vegetable pad thai, a huge summer salad with daikon and radish in a cashew dressing, and a very moreish sweet-potato omelet. Desserts felt anything but detoxy, among them mango on a sesame seed base with coconut foam and cacao lava cake with saffron ice cream.

A risotto topped with delicate flowers
Combining nutritious with delicious: Meals at the hotel are exclusively plant based, and are rooted in a fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean approaches to diet.

On day two I had the predicted coffee withdrawal headache—there is no caffeine here and alcohol, while available, is not on the menu—which didn’t interfere too much with a guided walk up into the beautiful hills to the nearby lighthouse, a fitness assessment (I am, I’m pleased to learn, still in good shape for my age) and a hydroenergetic detox cure.

This started off with a very enthusiastic Jacuzzi-style tub with detoxifying potions and color-changing lights, followed by a seaweed wrap and a pressured wash down first in warm water and then cold. After this I underwent some acupuncture, which shifted my headache and left me feeling pleasantly relaxed. I was traveling solo, and although I missed my partner and the dog, I enjoyed some time alone, only saying hello to fellow guests (an international mix) on passing.

My final full day began with a one-on-one yoga class. Anyone who thinks yoga is just doing some gentle stretches needs to spend an hour with teacher Joanne, who put me through my asana paces and helped me with my down dog. I felt a good few inches taller at the end. Next came an enzyme facial (and a telling off for not cleansing my face enough) before lunch. I then had some downtime before a detox massage with cupping. Imagine being pummeled by a large vacuum cleaner.

A woman doing squats in an outdoor area of the gym
The state-of-the-art gym forms only one aspect of what SHA calls its Healthy Living Academy. Classes include total body conditioning, as well as morning hikes to the nearby lighthouse and personalized yoga sessions.

On my last morning, after a run in the gym, I had an excellent deep tissue massage, to undo the remaining knots in my shoulders and back. This was followed by a debrief with Polgár about what I liked (the food, the acupuncture, the deep tissue massage) and what I didn’t (the vacuum cleaner) before some lunch and then I was off to the airport.

After four days at SHA I definitely felt less tired, less toxic, and taller. I’d say I’m ready for whatever 2021 throws my way, but I don’t want to tempt fate.

Banner image: The hotel’s rooftop infinity-edge pool offers views across the bay of Altea and the natural park of Sierra Helada