Vacation Well
In Thailand, hospitality is an art form raised to an almost devotional practice. Traditional remedies once reserved for the privileges of aristocracy and royalty have been handed down for thousands of years to healers and therapists who now direct the country’s top resort spas in island paradises and cultural capitals. Come for the hot poultice massages, stay for the balm to the soul.

Kamalaya, Koh Samui

Under the watchful gaze of Buddha, guests step into reception and are guided to one of many hidden trails meandering through the jungle among Kamalaya’s 75 guest rooms. The paths continue up and down the oceanfront hillside to the resort’s multiple pools and its network of treatment rooms, as the focus of a stay here is often to heal.

Founder John Stewart and his wife, Karina, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, opened Kamalaya in 2005 at the site of an ancient meditation cave. The property’s spiritual reputation attracts a certain quality of practitioner. In turn, guests can expect an exceptionally robust menu of services. Among 17 recommended programs is Structural Revival, where a Thai therapeutic massage therapist can identify a years-old muscular knot and fully dispatch it. À la carte, choose from over 70 treatments integrating Ayurveda, Thai herbal remedies, Taoist and Tibetan philosophies, and traditional Chinese medicine.

Unlike many Western spas, the healing begins and ends with the cuisine. While the two restaurants have menus with all the indulgences, detox foods are available as well and it’s possible, even without signing onto the Embracing Change or Ideal Weight programs, to gain an education in nutrition and leave a few pounds lighter. This year, the food-as-medicine philosophy is put to timely use with the addition of an Immunity & Resilience program. And as is the case in any year, you can show up without so much as a toothbrush and say, “I haven’t got a clue what’s wrong with me.” They’ll probably figure it out. From $215;

Chiva-Som, Hua Hin

This 54-room health resort is a three-hour drive from Bangkok in a town on the gulf called Hua Hin, where Thai royalty once summered. It celebrates 26 years as a pioneer among wellness resorts, blending the ways of Western medical evidence with Eastern traditional healing methods.

Upon arrival guests are set up with a health and wellness consultation to choose among a variety of retreats covering six modalities: spa, fitness, physiotherapy, holistic health, nutrition, and aesthetic beauty. Or they can select a sampler of treatments from the extensive menu. The pool sees very light activity: Whether guests have three days or a month, they typically come here with a goal in mind. Some embark on a cranial relief program to mitigate migraines, others select a tension release retreat to lower high blood pressure, or they can take a cell vitality retreat to support their health in cancer remission. Focus on tailor-made menus or dermatologist consultations for peels, lasers, and non-invasive face-lifts, plus more transformational treatments. Practitioners can help balance chakras, test food intolerance, or perform radial shockwave therapy for chronic injuries. This is the place to design a return to physical fitness, as Chiva-Som boasts a comprehensive sports medicine program with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities. Consider it the headquarters for a total reset. From $680, all-inclusive;

Four Seasons Resort Chiang Mai

Northern Thai wisdom prescribes life lived in balance, thus last year Four Seasons opened the Lanna Kingdom–style spa, Wara Cheewa, to focus on the four key pillars of well-being: physical, emotional, social, and nutritive. Programs proffer dietary recommendations like an evening glass of golden milk and comprehensive guidance from wellness experts. Advice to expand one’s horizons might include meeting local craft and textile artisans, taking a cycling tour of the Mae Rim valley, learning Muay Thai boxing, or shopping the outdoor food markets before cooking wholesome dishes with a chef instructor at the resort’s Rim Tai Kitchen.

While passing the resort’s altar to the elephant-headed Hindu god Lord Ganesh, contemplate new perspectives while looking out to where water buffalo roam among acres of rice paddies. Of 99 accommodations, 23 are residential homes. Dining options feature the new grill North by Four Seasons, sourcing 60 percent of ingredients from local farms in Northern Thailand and employing local cooking methods over the restaurant’s gilded open firepit. For an even more decadent experience of wellness, jet down to Four Seasons resort in Koh Samui. There, indulge in a custom massage on the beach, private instruction with a top yoga master, cocktails by your room’s plunge pool, and a candlelight bath followed by an in-room sleep massage. From $600;

Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, Krabi

Try a signature four-hands massage or the Luminescent Caviar and Pearl Facial at Krabi’s premier resort. The 11-room spa features a traditional menu of body and beauty treatments with views over a tranquil inland lagoon. Venture off property to the newly opened Aonang Elephant Sanctuary that allows guests to participate in feeding and mud-bathing. And a short boat ride away, nature preserve Hong Island is a Phi Phi islands–like experience of swimming with fish in a crystal-clear lagoon surrounded by a gateway of limestone cliffs.

Back at the regal 54-room resort, premier accommodations are six lavish Royal Beach villas with outdoor bathrooms, private pools, and dedicated butlers. An Olympic-size pool looks out to otherworldly limestone karst jutting from the Andaman Sea and at night the Sala Srichan arrival pavilion transforms into a magical courtyard temple surrounded by a moat of floating lights. Guests can host a reception or a memorable “2,000 candles” dinner. Dine at one of the three romantic restaurants, and learn how to cook authentic Southern Thai cuisine with award-winning Thai chef Aong. Before dinner, show up at Chomtawan Bar to get lost in the ever-changing watercolor sunsets over the bay. From $450;

Miskawaan Beachfront Villas, Koh Samui

Functional medicine health clinics by Miksawaan Health Group facilitate outpatient care in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Vienna, and Ludwigsburg, Germany. Now in Koh Samui, patients can stay with family in private villas on the coconut tree–lined Maenam Beach while recovering from chronic illness. With all the perks of a hotel, nine staffed pool villas accommodate groups ranging from 4–40 people. The property’s integrative medicine clinic specializes in invigorating infusions, diagnostic analysis, and preventive treatments. Holistic food menus are created in line with health goals and all-natural therapies strengthen and stabilize the immune system in order to eliminate the use of chemical pharmaceuticals. Custom programs can unmask root causes of symptoms, incorporating anti-aging medicine, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, detox therapy, ozone therapy, and cancer recovery treatments. Villas from $1,000; —Serena French