Five Affordable Fitness Finds

Wellness retreats don’t have to break the bank. Start the year off by getting your sweat on while saving those valuable dirhams
Yoga by the seaside - what better way to start your day?
Yoga by the seaside - what better way to start your day?
January 08, 2019


Where? Global but all beach-based, such as in Bali - Indonesia, Maldives and Greece
Workout level: Intermediate

Part-intense workout retreat, part-adult summer camp, Active Escapes has made a name for bringing the fun (and the festive) back into fitness. Young professionals tend to train hard during the day then go equally as hard at night.

Retreats last typically six nights and are all-inclusive, meaning hotel transfers, massages, activities (like surfing), accommodation in a high-end shared villa, and food are all covered. With meals, emphasis is placed on local ingredients. Guests also have the chance to head into town and visit regional restaurants. 

For minimal flight time from the UAE, check out the group’s upcoming Bali retreat, or head to the Maldives. Their Bali trip starts at Dhs7,713 per person in a twin share.
For more, visit

Sunset yoga class

2. UNIT 27

Where? Phuket, but also Koh Samui, Thailand
Workout level: Intense

Unit 27’s
Dayle Hallam says this workout retreat and gym suits folks from all walks of life – and he’s right, if you’re already on that intense-exercise, maybe-a-personal-trainer path.

Unit 27 has built its reputation on brutal CrossFit classes and intense HIIT workouts. Some guests are drop ins; more tend to stay a week, training during the day then taking full advantage of the retreat’s own meal-planning and restaurant.

The fanbase here is loyal. “Many plan an annual fitness visit to the Unit,” says Hallam. For those in search of a programme, Unit 27s fall into six categories: strength and conditioning; weight loss; CrossFit-focused training (Unit 27 is the only legally certified gym to deliver CrossFit in Phuket); flexibility and core; advanced training (which he cautions is ‘not for the faint of heart’); and personal training.

Surrounding Unit 27 is Phuket’s fittest street. Restaurants offering protein-enhanced everything (ice cream, burgers, shakes, desserts) are interspersed with sports masseuses. In this neighbourhood you’ll also find Unit 27’s various accommodation offerings, which range from simple hostels to more spacious rooms with private balconies.

Workout programmes start from Dhs480 per week, room cost varies.
For more, visit

A spinning class underway at Unit 27


Where? Bali, Indonesia; Zanzibar, Tanzania; and Ko Pha-Ngan, Thailand (coming soon)
Workout level: Intermediate

With a similar approach to that of Active Escapes, Mocean Tribe's all-inclusive retreat focuses on getting folks sweaty in the sun, while still providing enough downtime to enjoy the surrounding area.

A trip to Bali might include morning yoga followed by a climb up a waterfall, while in Zanzibar a day could start with HIIT then some serene island snorkelling. Every day is a combo of adventure, mindfulness and fitness. Booking fees include airport transfers, accommodation in a high-end shared villa, all training sessions, cultural visits, activities (such as surfing, snorkelling, white-water rafting) and food. Dishes feature local twists but are generally of a healthy nature.

As an added bonus, Mocean Tribe brings along a professional photographer for every trip, meaning you receive some epic holiday snaps free of charge at the end.

Prices start from Dhs4,591, all-inclusive. For more, visit

Yoga at Mocean Tribe


Where? Phuket, Thailand
Workout level: As hard as you want it to be

Variety is the name of the game at Phuket Cleanse - an energetic wellness retreat. Every day heaves with myriad optional activities, including mountain hikes, Muay Thai, HIIT workouts, Bikram yoga, massages, raw cooking classes, meditation sessions, bike rides, anti-ageing talks, water aerobics, seminars on nutrition, and so much more.

Guests are invited to do as much or as little as they choose. Some wake at 5am to hike up to the top of Big Buddha before munching on a few proteinpancakes and dashing out for a beach workout, while others nap until lunch at 11am then unwind by the pool until their evening massage.

Food is mostly raw, mostly vegan, high-fat and low carb, with themes (like ‘pizza night!’ or ‘Thai day!’) at every meal, which sees guests gather around a long table. Most stay for upwards of seven days.

Prices start from Dhs1,175 per night, plus 50 per cent shared-room discount for a second guest.
For more, visit

Muy Thai at Phuket Cleanse


Where? Sri Lanka
Workout level: Zen

Focused on yoga and minimalism, Santanti's serene wellness retreat asks guests to leave their electronic devices at home and unplug from day-to-day life. Free yoga sessions are hosted twice a day, while massage therapies are available upon request. Food is healthy and made with a focus on wholesome ingredients.

The feeling of peace radiates from Santani’s very architecture. Simple rooms made with floor-to-ceiling windows are partially open to the elements, and the two pools (one salt water, one fresh water and on top of a hill) are designed to provide the best views of the surrounding mist-enshrouded tea plantations. 

​Prices vary, depending on time of year and package requested. For more, visit

One of two of Santani's fabulous swimming pools