There's an awful lot to like about Soma Get Fit, not the least of which is the phenomenal team that runs the show. The brainchild of retreat director and seasoned fitness specialist Scott Crawford, Soma offers a truly inspired retreat concept by combining getting in shape with sightseeing in gorgeous Santa Barbara. Scott worked closely with me ahead of time to put together a customized fitness and wellness package for my one-night Soma sampler. A long hiatus from the gym meant I was ready to get my rear back in gear, but preferred to ease my way in with activities like biking, yoga and Pilates. Scott was all too happy to oblige, and threw some nifty surprises into the mix as well.
Because Soma is all about customization, retreat guests can choose their level of accommodations, from reasonably priced to pure luxury. I was booked into the Presidio, a formerly nondescript motel that has been reinvented as sleek and stylish boutique-style lodging. My simple yet comfortable room was decorated with a colorful mobile of paper cranes (each room is adorned in its own unique style), and featured nice touches like an iPod sound system and flat-screen TV. I wouldn't be spending much time there, but I was grateful for the charming accommodations nonetheless.
Scott greeted me and a fellow editor at the Presidio and our day of fitness began. We hopped on our beach cruisers (compliments of the Presidio) and set off for the Santa Barbara Mission. We were huffing and puffing after our uphill journey, but were rewarded with incredible views of the ocean and mountains from the mission's sprawling green lawns. After a brief meditation and some breathwork, we explored the Mission Rose Garden before riding to Alice Keck Park, another one of Santa Barbara's OMG-this-is-so-pretty! treasures. We admired the ducks and turtles paddling in the shady park's natural aquifer before embarking on a cardio-core training session with Scott.
Next, we biked down to the Santa Barbara Courthouse and Sunken Gardens. Built in 1929, the Spanish-Moorish-style courthouse is beyond gorgeous, adorned with handpainted ceilings, murals, magnificent wrought iron chandeliers and loads of colorful imported tilework. Scott led us through a brief Pilates session in the gardens. Then we were rewarded with a farm-fresh lunch at Elements across the street, where we were joined by the delightful and supremely well informed Karen Keltner (she teaches yoga and marine biology, knows everything there is to know about Santa Barbara, and also acts as Soma's official photographer - talk about a multi-hyphenate!). After a trip up the courthouse tower to admire 360-degree views of Santa Barbara, we all biked down to Stern's Wharf, where we enjoyed more lovely vistas before finding a nice grassy park for our yoga class, led by Karen. I don't know if it was Karen or the magical Santa Barbara air, but I have never felt more at peace during a yoga class - I was so entranced by the shifting tortoise-shell clouds overhead that I almost drifted into dreamland.
We admired the shops and twinkling lights along State Street on our ride back to the Presidio, where we retired to our separate rooms for an hour or so of chill time before spa treatments and dinner at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club. As devoted and skilled a massage therapist as he is a personal trainer, Scott worked over my kinks and knots but good. Next came a thoroughly relaxing facial with the effervescent Paula Duke, another lovable member of the Soma team. Dinner consisted of a sampling of scrumptious, veggie-loaded dishes catered by a local organic eatery, and great conversation with the lively and interesting Soma Get Fit folks.
Exercised, pampered and well fed, I enjoyed a comfortable night's sleep back at the Presidio before leaving paradise behind the next morning and heading home to Los Angeles. Thoroughly rejuvenated as I was after one night of Soma, I can only imagine what a lengthier retreat can do for their lucky clients.
Special Offer: Soma Get Fit is offering Chill Out LA readers 20 percent off any retreat package. Three-day, two-night getaways start at $2400 for two people (not including accommodations, which range from $200 to $500) and are completely customized to suit each guest's wishes. Possible activities include yoga, Pilates, beach training, horseback riding, paddle surfing, kayaking, wine tasting, farmers market forays, spa treatments and more.