Is sexual wellness the new travel trend?

The growing trend for exploring our intimate needs and desires is long overdue. This is why adding sex to your next travel itinerary shouldn’t be taboo

When it comes to our body’s health, there are a few things we take as given facts. We know, for example, that broccoli is good for our gut microbiome and working out can help our heart. But we often overlook the benefits of sex on our overall health. Did you know that sex can support your immune system, improve sleep, build trust and reduce stress? Or that yoga and meditation can enhance arousal and desire?

For a time, wellness seemed as simple as a smoothie and spin class, but we now know our health hinges on an interconnected system between mind and body. However, frank conversations about sex are long overdue, with sexual wellness one of the final frontiers of health left for mainstream exploration. Now, big players in the travel industry are finally getting on board. Below, we take a deeper look into what exactly sexual wellness is, and round up the hotels, spas and retreats offering ways to explore it.

St Regis Punta Mita
St Regis Punta Mita

What is sexual wellness?

“I see sexual wellness as a journey towards sexual authenticity, freedom and pleasure,” says Dr Karen Gurney, a clinical psychologist and psychosexologist, who wrote Mind The Gap: The Truth About Desire And How To Futureproof Your Sex Life. “Sexual satisfaction is highly correlated with both relationship satisfaction and psychological well-being. Sex helps us connect with our bodies, our identity and the present moment.”

While many of the health benefits of sex and intimacy come from its release of the “love” hormone oxytocin, it would be reductive to see sexual wellness as simply an accrual of hormonal hits. Sexual wellness is as much about connection, self-esteem and comfort with one’s own sexuality as it is about sex toys, condom supplies and how many orgasms you have.

“We are sold an idea that sex – solo or partnered – is just a frivolous pursuit using our bodies only,” says Dr Gurney. “Seeing it as separate to our identity, politics or relationships makes it easy to dismiss as unimportant. Because of this, many people don’t reflect on, set goals for, or put effort into their sex life in the way they might with other aspects of their life, such as work, diet or exercise. And because sex and shame are often linked in our minds, this can make it hard to talk about or feel entitled to improve.”

Six Senses Ibiza
Six Senses Ibiza

Why is sexual wellness relevant now?

While sex is older than language, the pandemic certainly pushed the modern conversation. During the first lockdown, the beauty website Cult Beauty revealed that the search term “sexual wellness” soared on its site by 850 per cent. Meanwhile, a study by The Kinsey Institute found that although sex declined during the pandemic, one in five people expanded their sexual repertoire – and these additions (such as sexting, massages, new positions and sharing fantasies) made them three times more likely to report improvements in their sex life.

It won’t surprise you that Gwyneth Paltrow, the queen of wellness site Goop, has been banging the drum for sexual wellness for some time, but this year saw her launch Goop Sex on Instagram – aka, “A space for the pursuit of pleasure”. If Paltrow is making moves, you know something’s about to shift. Indeed, the global sexual wellness market is expected to reach a value of $55 billion by 2028. So, it’s no wonder the travel industry is exploring ways to tap into this growing area of interest, too.

In 2022, Six Senses Ibiza and St Regis Punta Mita held sexual wellness retreats, the W Brisbane ran a pop-up sexologist concierge service and, this year, SHA Wellness launched its sexual health unit. Meanwhile, hotels around the globe now stock “love kits” as casually as they do salted nuts in the minibar.

W Brisbane Ralf Tooten
W Brisbane | Ralf Tooten

What is a sexual wellness retreat?

“It’s well known that getting away from the grind of daily life helps us tap into our sexuality,” says Dr Gurney. “This is due to a combination of the novelty of surroundings, less mental load in terms of cleaning and cooking and spending more quality time on activities or with people who bring us joy.”

Retreats can vary from the do-it-yourself kind – think of it like a next-gen take on the dirty weekend – to expert-run, structured formats that incorporate practices such as coaching and erotic massage (this is sometimes called sexological bodywork) with discussions about boundaries, desire, body image and more.

However, any retreat that prioritises rest, allows your stress levels to dissipate somewhat and gives you an opportunity to connect with your body – through activities such as yoga or breath work – as well as with a partner (if you have one), will support your sexual wellness, even if sex isn’t the trip’s MO.

“One of the key benefits of a retreat is simply getting out of your own space,” says Dr Gurney. “And for many, it might be the perfect circumstances to kick-start newness in their sexual wellbeing. The question then might be around sustainability: ‘How will we/I keep this going when back at home and life kicks in again?’” Below, we round up eight places to visit for sexual wellness.

Best sexual wellness retreat for: sensuality and sisterhood

Back To The Body, various locations

Back To The Body’s retreats, in locations such as Italy, France, New York and Mexico, help women express themselves in a non-judgemental way. Its slogan is “It’s not sex school – it’s self school”, and founder Pamela Madsen is something of an OG in the world of sexual wellness, with a method honed over a decade that includes bodywork sessions with intimacy coaching to identify desire and overcome shame. A recent study in the Journal of Sexual and Relationship Therapy found its participants reported significant improvements in body image, arousal and satisfaction, as well as an increased sense of sisterhood. It is no wonder 95% of participants return.


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