Get in shape vacations

/ Source: Independent Traveler

Whether you're gearing up for a winter cruise to the Caribbean or preparing for a summer on the beach, you'll want your body to be bathing-suit ready no matter what time of year it is. But what should you do if you're looking less than bootylicious? Combine your passion for travel with your quest for a healthier, fitter and more beautiful you! One of the hottest trends in travel is getting healthy while getting away, and, with that in mind, we've selected five programs that are guaranteed to help you do just that.

Bikini Boot Camp for the Mind, Body and Spirit, Amansala — Mexico
Created by two Manhattan-based women who realized that travel can be synonymous with a healthy lifestyle, Bikini Boot Camp for the Mind, Body and Spirit seeks to revitalize and rejuvenate the weary and overworked. The six-night program is limited to 25 men and women and is held at the eco-chic resort Amansala, located on the remote beach setting of Tulum, Mexico.

Days start with a beach or jungle power walk followed by a combination of body sculpting, power abdominal sessions or Pilates, and end with yoga and meditation. There are excursions to the nearby jungle for swimming and snorkeling, visits to Mayan ruins, and beachside massages.

Culinary creations for your low-fat diet consist of completely chemical-free local food. You'll dine on fresh caught grilled fish, mangos, jicima salads and other delectable low-calorie selections that will be a perfect complement to your new exercise regime.

The six-night programs are held year round, and three- and four-night programs are available upon request. Prices for six nights are from $1,842 not including airfare.

— British Columbia
The Hills Health Ranch is an ultimate destination spa vacation resort for people aiming for a complete body makeover. Specializing in weight loss, fitness, hiking and gourmet spa cuisine, this healthy hideaway is located in the middle of 20,000 acres of ranch lands in British Columbia.

The spa offers extensive daily fitness programs, such as yoga, Pilates, aerobics and aqua fit, and boasts 18 wellness, massage and spa treatment rooms, three spa lounges, two exclusive dining rooms, and a wealth of professional hiking, canoeing, biking services.

What sets the Hills Health Spa apart is the three uniquely tailored packages for you to choose from. Whether you love the outdoors or prefer the personal instruction of a class, there is a fitness program designed specifically to your tastes and abilities. The packages range from six to ten nights, as well as an optional 30-night stay, and include:

Fitness 'n' Spa: A combination of outdoor and indoor activities, the Fitness 'n' Spa package provides you with various fitness programs and opportunities to help you achieve your goals. Your choices for classes include yoga, Pilates, step aerobics, resist-a-ball, aqua fit weights, treadmills, steppers, recumbent or mountain bikes, walking, hiking, and canoeing -- all provided with the help from personal trainers, certified class instructors, kinesiologists, nutritionists and outdoor fitness coaches.

Hike 'n' Spa: Perfect for the outdoor enthusiast, the Hike 'n' Spa package utilizes the thousands of acres surrounding the resort so you can get fit while enjoying nature. You will have your choice of regular early morning guided walks, afternoon daily group hikes, private guided hikes personalized to your liking, mountain biking and canoeing.

Weight Loss: All about shedding the pounds, the Weight Loss package uses a wilderness setting to educate guests on an effective and healthy method of dealing with weight issues. You'll be given help with planning the right menu for your lifestyle and weight goals, as well as establishing the perfect fitness regime for your level. Private consultations and group workshops are also available, and a wellness director, nutritionists, kinesiologists, personal trainers, guides, class instructors, behavioral counselors, chefs and spa treatment therapists are there to provide maximum guidance and support.

Prices vary but start at $1,527 for six nights.

— Various Locations Across the United States
A new twist on an old pastime, Fatpacking is backpacking geared specifically for weight loss. Guests embark on one and two-week wilderness hiking vacations with the dual objective of altering your body composition and enjoying the great outdoors at the same time.

Fatpacking is strictly a fitness regime, with no alterations to your diet habits planned. You are actually encouraged to eat what you want while backpacking because of the intensity of the exercise. By carrying all of your food and gear on your back during your long distance walk, you lose weight, get in shape and relieve stress -- all while experiencing breathtaking destinations untouched by industrial development.

You can choose from a variety of trails located across the country. Upcoming trips are planned for the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee, Redwood National Park in California, and several more. Prices depend largely on location and length of the trip. One-week trips start around $825.

, Responsive Travel — Kenya
If you're looking to get in shape and visit an exotic destination, Responsive Travels Fitness Holiday in Kenya is a must-try vacation alternative. The concept of the program is to give participants maintainable "animal like" fitness ability. Courses run for nine days, two weeks, three and a half weeks or five weeks with six to 14 people per course. Your fitness center will be Watamu, one of the top beaches in the world on the Kenyan coast, as well as the Sokoke forest and Marine Park.

You can choose from courses such as swimming, running, weights, circuits, yoga, Tai Chi, canoeing, deep sea fishing, diving, windsurfing and surfing. The extensive workouts are balanced with relaxing activities such as massages, stretching, meditation and sunbathing on the beaches to ensure that your body does not become overworked or strained. Whether your goal is to build muscle or lose weight, nutritional guidance is also provided to help you develop a balanced and healthy diet.

The vacation is based in Baraka House, a private hotel that boasts panoramic rooftops and balconies overlooking the Indian Ocean, as well as three spacious bedrooms. Prices start at $4,275 for nine days.

Orange County — California
If you're someone who easily tires of the same old workout routine, the Orange County Adventure Boot Camp will whip you into shape! There's never a dull moment on this four-week outdoor program that offers fitness instruction, nutritional counseling and motivational training.

The philosophy of the Orange County Boot Camp is that in order to achieve your fitness goals and stay healthy, you must constantly be challenged while having fun in the process. Guests of all ages, sizes and fitness levels work together on a variety of programs that consist of running, yoga, Pilates and cycling.

According to past participants, results from the boot camp include a 3-5% reduction in body fat, five to 12 pounds of weight loss, a one to three inch decrease in your midsection, a 25% increase of your endurance and strength, improved posture and a decrease in stress level.

Because of the recent successes with the program, founders John Spencer Ellis and Christina Lucy have authorized instructors to conduct boot camps at destinations across the globe. New locations can be found across the United States, Canada, England, the Netherlands and Africa. Prices start at $299 for the local, 20-day program.

The Independent Traveler is an interactive traveler's exchange and comprehensive online travel guide for a community of travelers who enjoy the fun of planning their own trips and the adventure of independent travel. You can access our wealth of travel resources and great bargains here at , or at .