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An Inside Guide to Sober Travel

The best destinations for recovery on the road—from the vistas of Vermont to the blissful beaches of Baja. 

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By Kristen McGuiness

09/01/11

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For many of us, vacations used to consist of booze-addled tours of local or foreign destinations that were solely remembered in embarrassing photographs. So it stands to reason that people in sobriety may  may opt to mix in some recovery along with relaxation. Here's a list of agencies and retreats that cater explicitly to the sober set.

Travel Agencies:

In This Life Custom Getaways: The staff of In This Life handle all types of travel arrangements—including cruises, safaris, and custom getaways. Their primary focus is to create and organize trips for people in 12-step recovery programs but they also help plan international tours and local sailing expeditions for singles, couples, and bigger groups. Clients have been enjoying their annual Sober Safaris— where a group of travelers in recovery heads to Kenya for breathtaking views of Mt. Kilimanjaro and eye-opening trips into the Amboseli and Aberdare National Parks— for years. Other trips, planned specifically for sober people but with other folks on board, include getaways to Greece, Spain, and more. 

California Sober Travel: California Sober Travel isn’t just for Californians but for anyone interested in living the sober lifestyle and traveling with like-minded people. Two of their most popular trips are sober cruises along the Mexican Riviera and vacation rentals at locations around the world (Maui, Florida, or the Mayan Riviera). A great way to make new friends, Sober Travel offers group travel in all sizes. They also arrange meetings and guest speakers on all of their trips (group leaders are all AA members). 

Sober Vacations International: Sober Vacations work to expand travelers’ comfort zones while incorporating recovery into every trip. Sober Club Med—where travelers head to the famous Club Med in Turks & Caicos for an all-sober week filled with meetings, meditation groups, and nightly entertainment—was their first vacation and remains their most popular trip. They also have rafting excursions to the Grand Canyon, golfing weekends in Utah, and Alaskan cruises.

Retreats:

Casa Hamaca: This getaway in Valladolid, Yucatan, Mexico provides a safe and secure atmosphere for those recovering from just about anything: addiction, surgery, illness, divorce, trauma, separation, grief or abuse. There are regularly scheduled 12-step meetings within a few blocks from the hotel and structured programs directly related to recovery for groups and individuals looking to incorporate a sober retreat experience into their vacations.

Serenity Retreats: Located in the picturesque southwest of Ireland on the Maharees peninsula, Serenity Retreats is a family-run support service with over 20 years of personal and professional experience with addiction issues. All retreats offer workshops, daily recovery meetings and guided meditations on the beach. Perfect for individuals, couples, and small groups, the hotel accommodates up to 16 people at a time.

Sober Haven Bali: A boutique hotel on the Indonesian island of Bali created especially for travelers participating in 12-step programs and dedicated to sober living, Sober Haven provides an enchanting space for sober folks to surf, scuba dive, tour, and golf. The resort also offers yoga, delicious meals, and decadent spa treatments. Short stays and longer retreats are both possible. 

Resorts and Hotels:

The Aerie Inn of Vermont: This charming inn that was a frequent vacation spot for Bill W. and Lois when they were alive offers activities on the water at Emerald Lake as well as hiking in the nearby Green Mountains. Guests can also explore the history of East Dorset—home of the Vermont Summer Festival. Even better for AA history nuts: travelers can visit the birthplace of Bill W. and even attend AA or Al-anon meetings at the Wilson House. Accommodating both sober and non-sober guests, The Aerie has space for up to 36 people (camping options are also available).

Cortijo El Saltador: An Andaluz farmhouse situated in a silent valley between the desert of Tabernas and the beaches of Cabo de Gata in Spain, this hotel offers healthy Mediterranean foods, special diets, homeopathic detox programs and a lot of individual space in a friendly, safe environment. They also have massage and osteopath treatments (an alternative form of manual medicine where the body is taught how to heal itself), yoga classes, and guided hikes and climbing. The house fits up to 20 people, and though there is nothing specifically offered on the 12-steps, it’s often rented by sober groups looking for a beautiful and meditative retreat in one of the world’s most stunning locations.

Fourth Dimension Resort: This eight-person resort in Tamarindo, Costa Rica has a mission: to provide a safe and comfortable place for adults seeking a vacation in a tropical climate that includes adventures, activities and fellowship in a sober and serene environment. Located on the northwest coast of Costa Rica in Central America, the Fourth Dimension Resort requests that its guests remain drug and alcohol free for their stay in the lodge. It’s privately secluded on 28 acres of serene forest, but is only 15 minutes from town—which is filled with beaches, restaurants, shops and beautiful sunsets.

Cruises:

Sober Cruises: The Sober Cruises committee is an organizer of Round Ups, organized 12-step convention-like events, for people in recovery programs, AA, Al-Anon, and their friends and family members. Each Round Up has been structured and crafted "for, by, and about" 12-step programs and its members. Though the cruises do include non-sober folks not affiliated with any 12-step or sober programs, these Round Ups on the water maintain a commitment to sober living and principles while traveling the globe. Trips include cruises to the Caribbean, Canada, Alaska, and Catalina Island.

Sober Celebrations: Looking for less meetings, more shuffleboard? Sober Celebrations is all about the fun. Groups can range from more intimate gatherings of friends to larger expeditions that provide new opportunities for fellowship amongst strangers. All cruises are on conventional cruise lines, which do include non-sober passengers. But with cruises to the Mediterranean, up the Viking River, and through the Alaskan glaciers, who needs a drink? 

Adventure Tourism:

Easy Does It Adventures: Easy Does It Adventures, LLC creates unique group travel vacations for 10-20 folks at a time, providing an ideal opportunity to meet new sober friends who also want to indulge their wild side. Possibilities include an annual SCUBA trip to the Cayman Islands and an annual surf trip to Panama (motorcycle and scooter tours are going to be added soon). Though the trips are drug and alcohol free, Easy Does It welcomes friends and partners who may not be in recovery.

Sobriety Sports Tours: Sobriety Sports Tours offers unique packages for those looking to combine travel, major sporting events, recovery-based meetings and fellowship into the experience of a lifetime. Scheduling trips around major sports events—such as the Super Bowl, NASCAR races, and their recent East Coast Baseball Tour—Sobriety Sports creates tailored packages for groups of 10-20. They take care of the travel arrangements, hotel accommodations, tickets, local 12-step meetings, and tee times. 

Sober Surf Retreats: OceanaSurf offers sober surf trips for those who are interested in keeping clean while riding waves. The trips run periodically throughout the year, all heading to beautiful Baja California Sur in Mexico, and can accommodate small groups of 10 or less. Sober Surf will soon be adding Surf-Yoga Retreats as well as All-Girl Surf Trips to their roster—combining gorgeous accommodations, daily surf instruction, 12-step meetings, and meditation for a surf experience like no other. 

Kristen McGuiness is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Fix who wrote previously about the 13th step and dreaming about drinking, among many other topics. She is the author of 51/50: The Magical Adventures of a Single Life

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