You’re probably familiar with woodsy yoga retreats, surf camps in southern climes and cooking workshops halfway around the world. Now, sexual wellness is being served as the newest vacation phenomenon.

Escaping into nature to get frisky with your special someone is a go-to recipe. Rekindling the flame under the sun rather than in Mississauga probably sounds like a trade up too. From the excitement of taking off together, to being in a stunning new scenery and a bedroom that’s not yours, holidays are our way to leave daily routines and hang ups behind. This change of pace makes us more open to intimacy, and some brands know it, like Temptation Resorts & Cruises and Hedonism II Resort in Jamaica.

The times are a-changing in a post-pandemic society, as the Global Wellness Institute predicts 20.9% annual growth in the wellness tourism industry by 2025. Within the sector, sexual wellness tourism—not to be confused with sexual tourism—is a major driver of that growth, according to The New York Times. Though the idea of rekindling the flame is nothing new, it’s looking like 2023 will be a turning point for retreats that offer a little extra help between the sheets.

It’s not hard to see why people so keen to work on their sexy bonds: “Vacation is sacred for everyone, but merely taking a trip won’t fix your relationship issues,” reminds American sex therapist Marissa Nelson, founder of IntimacyMoons, the sexual wellness retreat division of her private practice in Washington, D.C.

The industry offers plenty of options to couples looking for more intimacy. You can opt for general wellness packages focused on the couple’s mutual satisfaction, designed by specialists on behalf of hotels. This is the format at Costa Rica’s Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, which enlisted psychologist Natalie Christine Dattilo to craft their Escape mental and physical wellness program. Dattilo designed a five-day retreat around sensory, emotional and physical experiences designed to induce relaxation, ameliorate psychological distress, along with beefing up couples’ connection through play and gratitude. Experiences include a two-person soak in natural outdoor hot springs, massages, a cooking class, and even tree planting.

That said, it’s clear that taking a dip à deux—even in the most beautiful natural settings—won’t bridge long-standing emotional and physical distances. That’s exactly why wellness retreats tailored to improving the sexual and relational bonds between couples have been popping all over the world too.

Created to respond to the needs of Nelson’s clients, IntimacyMoons retreats are attracting people from all walks of life, from entrepreneurs to stay-at-home moms and same-sex couples. Everyone was coming to her couch with the same issue: their libido was at half-mast. “People tell me: ‘I haven’t been intimate with my partner for three years, five years, ten years. As a couple, we don’t even know what intimacy is exactly, and I don’t really know what I want out of sex myself’,” says Nelson.

Reaching out for help is often a last resort, right around the time couples are considering separation or divorce. “I never promise to save a relationship,” she explains. “What I can promise, however, is connection, if you want it, as well as an understanding of what’s blocking you, if you’re ready to dig in, and communication, if you’re committed to it. But you gotta do the work!”

The approach of this sexual healer—who is also a licensed marriage and family therapist—is holistic. “I want to know if both partners are emotionally connected,” she says. “If they feel safe with one another, if they can trust each other, if there are any old wounds festering or resentments that are keeping them apart. If they don’t feel connected, it’ll be hard for them to get intimate and find pathways to pleasure.”

At her retreats, the clinician gives couples the space and structure they need to engage in exercises that unveil what’s been blocking them. “I provide couples with questions and create meaningful experiences that take their relationship to the next level,” explains Nelson. Her workshops are held offsite, with the option of taking them seaside, while added excursions ensure clients have fun together.

Post-retreat, a virtual follow up is part of the process. “We review our takeaways and I offer up book and podcast suggestions,” Nelson states. She also recommends that couples keep up the good work with a nearby sex therapist. Her goal is ultimately to send couples home transformed: “We’re aiming for beyond wellness—it’s wholeness we’re after.”

A retreat to turn up the heat

Certified Sex Therapist Marissa Nelson, who practises out of Washington, D.C., is organizing a July 3-7 retreat for a maximum of eight couples on the island of Saint Lucia. Next up, she’s working on retreats for singles who want to get rid of blockages preventing them from enjoying healthy, loving relationships.

In Los Angeles, Pamela Madsen has turned herself into a fearless advocate for female sexuality and works exclusively with women. “Behind every powerful woman is…herself!” You can join one of her many retreats in Maui, Mexico, and even a French castle.

In Trancoso, Brazil, Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa offers the services of Dr. Jullian Hamamoto, a nutrologist (a recognized Brazilian profession that studies the nutrients in foods and their effects on the body), as well as a mind-and-body-illuminating menu. “Hotels come to me for general health questions all the time, and the conversation started turning towards sexuality,” says Hamamoto. His remedy for lacklustre performance in the sack is nitric oxide-rich plant juice to combat erectile dysfunction (think celery and arugula). Place plays its role too: “Given that our cabana in the trees made the cover of a book called The World’s Sexiest Bedrooms [Thames & Hudson, 2018], I must confirm that making love in this place is kind of a knee-jerk reaction when you get here, with its tropical, sensual ambiance.”

Vacation sex

A U.S. Travel Association survey conducted after Valentine’s Day shows numbers that speak for themselves: ditch the box of chocolates in favour of an escape for two.

83% of participants who travel with their partner believe there’s romance in their relationship.

28% of couples report that their sex life improved after travelling together, 40% of whom say that improvement has lasted.

77% of participants who travel with their partner report having a good sex life, compared to 63% of people who don’t travel as a couple.