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The World's Most Stylish (And Serious) Spa: SHA Wellness Clinic In Spain

It’s as chic and sexy as any resort on the Mediterranean—white-curtained cabanas and elegant chaises around the pool, purple lights in the courtyard outside the restaurant at night, the sparkling sea and red-tiled roofs of Alicante spread out below. The guest suites are sleek and modern, with killer views, and the staff is nattily attired.

Don’t let that fool you. Along with being drop-dead gorgeous, SHA Wellness Clinic is dead-on serious about the “wellness” in its name. The medical staff includes dozens of MDs, naturopaths, nutritionists, acupuncturists, reflexology masters, and other experts in the healing arts, and every guest sees quite a few of them. Many guests come for programs of a week or longer to lose weight, detox, stop smoking, or sleep better, but even those who come for the four-day introductory “SHA Discovery” program find their schedule filled with consultations and spa treatments (€950, not including accommodation, which starts at €230 a night).

What sets SHA apart from its competitors—European medical spas like Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland and Asian wellness retreats like Ananda in the Himalayas and the COMO Shambhala Estate in Bali—is its blend of Eastern and Western approaches. Cutting-edge genetic testing and traditional Chinese medicine are given equal emphasis. Top international experts in both disciplines work together, and guests get the best of both worlds.

The core of the program is a macrobiotic diet, which SHA’s owner credits for restoring his own health after he was diagnosed with cancer. For anyone who’s been paying attention to nutrition trends like low-carb, gluten-free, and Paleo, it seems strange: a lot of whole grains (spelt, barley, and the like), some cooked vegetables, seaweed, beans, minimal fruit, and only occasional animal protein in the form of fish. Coffee is outlawed, and in its place are many nutritional and detoxifying teas. This being Europe, wine is permitted, but not served as a matter of course.

Based on a consultation, guests are placed on one of three diets, a hard-core weight-loss/detox diet, a milder version of the same, or the gastronomic menu—which is so good that people who aren’t staying at SHA come for lunch or dinner simply to enjoy a meal. The head chef spent time at El Bulli, and it shows in artful presentations and flavorful food, despite the limited palette. I suffered food envy when waiters carried those dishes past my table, but was pleased that I dropped a couple pounds after five days on the milder detox diet, without being hungry for a minute. (I stayed as a guest of the owner.)

I also left looking five years younger, and minus the dark circles that I’d thought were permanently under my eyes. Whether it was the diet, the morning walks by the sea, the good nights’ sleep, or the expert massages and facials, what SHA did for me worked wonders.

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