For years, Hilton Head Health (Hilton Head Island, SC) has been on my radar. When an opportunity to visit the popular weight-loss and wellness resort finally presented itself, I jumped at the chance. After a year of social distancing and literally working from my couch, I was excited to get back to group fitness classes and dining on healthy food I hadn’t prepared myself. I must admit the idea of shedding a pound or two also sounded rather appealing. Unlike some who took advantage of the pandemic to take their fitness to the next level, I had to force myself to get in a daily walk at the park and a weekly online yoga class. A friend of mine had visited the resort a month earlier and raved about the morning beach walks, the fitness classes, and the people she had met. Fully vaccinated, I was all in!
The all-inclusive health-focused resort is located in Shipyard, an 800-acre gated community located on the southeastern side of the island. Arriving in Savannah, I was met at the airport by a staff member who gave me the lay of the land on the one-hour drive to the resort. Because my flight was a bit delayed, I wasn’t going to make it in time for lunch, so my driver called in my lunch order, and it was waiting when I arrived.
Despite the somewhat sedentary lifestyle I’d adopted during the pandemic, I’m not usually one to lay around the pool. Instead, I had requested an ambitious schedule, one I planned to pack with even more activities and classes. After check-in, I was promptly taken to my room in the new Sweetgrass Inn, which opened in March. After settling in and refueling with lunch, I changed into workout clothes, grabbed the program schedule every guest is given, and headed out to break a sweat.
What We Love:
- Biking around the island
- Friendly staff
- Variety of fitness classes
- Unlimited healthy snacks
- Idyllic location
What Not to Miss:
- Chef’s Dinner (approximately $150)
- Beach Walk
- Kayaking ($60)
- Arnica & Warm Towel Massage ($145, 50 minutes; $195, 80 minutes)
- Cooking Demonstration
It’s not often you get to stay in a newly built property, which is why I relished the time spent in my room at The Sweetgrass Inn. Everything felt new and clean, which was especially welcome in our post-COVID world. The 38-room inn features three room types: the Sweetgrass Suite, Signature King, and Comfort King. Each has a king-sized bed, a walk-in shower, a mini fridge, and a microwave. The accommodations did have room for improvement though, as I’d replace the fake plant with a live one and would have preferred a tiled shower rather than the cheaper plastic version that was installed. However, the room was spacious and comfortable and fit my needs perfectly.
Because many guests book extended stays in order to achieve their wellness goals, it’s important to provide an inviting environment that accommodates a longer-term stay. Although I didn’t get a chance to take advantage of it, there is an on-site laundry room on each floor for guests to do laundry. And the Sweetgrass Suites and Signature King rooms come with a washer and dryer, which is especially convenient for those who don’t want to pack a lot of workout clothes.
I especially liked that the two-story inn also has plenty of common areas, such as the Kumbayah Lounge, to relax or work. A southern-inspired Rocking Chair Porch and second floor balcony also served as a welcoming place to kick back with a good book. The resort also features villas for those who prefer more space or are traveling with a group.
Because weight-loss is such a popular goal at Hilton Head Health, calorie counts play a key role in the cuisine. A fan of a hearty breakfast, I was surprised to see 200 calories listed on the menu as the recommended number for breakfast. Not a calorie counter myself, I didn’t even try to stick to that number, nor did I pay much attention to calories during my stay. However, it did seem to be a consideration for many.
When I asked one woman what had brought her to the resort, she promptly replied, “I Googled fat farm, and this is what came up.” She then shared that she had already booked two return trips, one with her daughter and another with her husband for later in the year. Despite the outdated description, the resort does cater to guests looking to make healthy changes in their diets. I met guests wanting to lose weight, minimize their salt intake, and better manage their diabetes, as well as those wanting a healthy getaway.
Serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Hilton Head Health offers a menu for each with a variety of offerings. The menus change every three days and offers daily specials. I found the cuisine to be tasty and filling. While it may have initially seemed a bit restrictive with no butter, I soon learned to navigate the menu and make substitutions, such as avocado, when I was craving a bit more fat. It’s also possible to order as much as you need or want to feel satiated.
The resort also offers a special Chef’s Dinner each week, which is served in the Healthy Kitchen. At an additional charge of $150, guests can enjoy a special meal prepared by executive chef tk and paired with perfectly matched wines for each course. I was fortunate to get to experience the Lobster Decadence, which featured lobster bisque, Sicilian lobster carpaccio, surf and turf, and a delicious peach dessert.
I also enjoyed a Cooking Demonstration with chef Thomas Carrig, who takes suggestions from the intimate group ahead of time on what to demo. I asked to learn how to make paella and can now create a delicious and healthy shrimp paella, in addition to cauliflower fried rice, chicken tikka masala, and summer rolls, all suggested by other participants. It provides the perfect opportunity to ask chef about healthy substitutions, cooking tips, and favorite ingredients.
Here, chef Carrig shares a healthy no-bake energy bite recipe from Hilton Head Health.
Spa and Fitness Facilities
After various workouts, I was ready for a bit of R&R. I found that and more at Indigo Spa, an intimate space with a serene vibe. With a cup of tea in hand, I made myself comfortable in the relaxation lounge, which featured a serene view of Hilton Head Island’s tropical flora.
On my first full day, I experienced the spa’s Arnica & Warm Towel Massage ($145, 50 minutes; $195, 80 minutes), a muscle-melting treatment that relies on hot towels and heat packs to reduce joint stiffness and soothe muscle tension. Arnica oil is then massaged into the skin to relieve any aches and pains. The following day, I was scheduled for the Farmers Market Facial ($135, 50 minutes), which relied on products from Eminence Organic Skin Care. It’s a customized facial that focused on my individual skincare concerns.
With plenty of group classes offered each day, Some, like TRX Strength Circuit and Beach Fit, required signing up ahead of time. Unfortunately, I was too late to grab a spot in the TRX class, but I found plenty of other options to tone, stretch, and sculpt my body. I especially enjoyed a Butts and Guts class that left me feeling it the following day. Other options include Tabata Fitness, Happy Hips, and Cardio Boxing.
Yoga was the one offering I found in short supply. Although one yoga class was on the schedule each day, I found it usually conflicted with something else I wanted to try, such as Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) or kayaking. Another guest commiserated with me over the lack of yoga, pointing out how odd it was that website seemed to market to yoga enthusiasts with numerous yoga images. Of course, it makes sense that yoga wouldn’t be a priority, considering more cardio-intensive classes were more likely to jumpstart weight loss. In fact, I met one especially fit woman who said she had reluctantly skipped Yoga on the Beach in exchange for a Treading class scheduled at the same time because she wanted to get in one last cardio class before heading home.
Although I’m not much for water-related workouts, I was impressed by the popularity of the pool sessions, such as Nautical Noodle, Aqua Resistance Training, and Aqua Cardio Conditioning. According to another guest, the water workouts are the ultimate calorie burners.
The off-campus activities, such as the Beach Walk, Kayaking, and SUP, also provide a great way to see the island, get to know fellow guests, and enjoy a fun workout. Whenever I found myself with a free hour or so, I would jump on the beach cruiser I had reserved for the duration of my stay and pedal around the island or to the beach. It was pure bliss riding around the scenic community, with its tall pines, live oaks, and palmetto trees, looking for wildlife, such as alligators and egrets.
In addition to the fitness classes and activities, Hilton Head Health also offers a number of informative wellness lectures each day. From Meal Planning to Carbohydrates: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly to Mastering Motivation, guests learn healthier habits and tips for creating real and lasting change in their lives.