Twelve Hotels for Blowing Off Steam

Mama Thresl
Mama Thresl — Leogang, Austria

When the real world gets too heavy, you could escape to a comfy chair on a quiet beach. Or, you could release all that stress via more aggressive means. These hotels are for the latter.

Years back, we hosted a hotel design contest. One of the best submissions imagined an interactive “sports and games” hotel that contained dozens of recreational playing fields. From volleyball, squash, and badminton to fencing, indoor climbing, and even judo, there was an activity for everyone, and a property full of willing competitors.

We’re still on board if anyone wants to bring that idea to fruition. Until then, why not use it as inspiration next time you’re stressed out and just need to get away. Lounging around has its benefits, but beware the slippery slope to sloth. Before you know it you’ll feel worse than when you started, day drunk from sugary margaritas and slouching towards Bethlehem with a belly full of spit-roasted pork. Wobbling around, squinting into the sun, you’ll think to yourself, “Mark from Tablet was right. I should’ve chosen a hotel that kept me physically active and engaged. Like these.”

Blanket Bay

Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand

Blanket Bay - boutique hotel in Lake Wakatipu

Adventure tourism doesn’t get much more adventurous than in New Zealand, especially in Queenstown, the adrenaline-sports capital of the country. About an hour outside the city is Blanket Bay, and we can assure you that it measures up. It’s all here: heli-skiing, heli-fishing, rafting, jet boating, bungee jumping, or just a leisurely 4-day hike in The Mount Aspiring or Fiordland national parks.

Mauna Lani

Kohala Coast, HI, USA

Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows

Boutique-hotel junkies, it’s time to come to terms with the benefits of large-scale hospitality, especially if you’re seeking to stay active. At Mauna Lani Bay you’ll have access to no fewer than three golf courses, as well as a spa, a fitness center, a 25-meter lap pool, a tennis club, and no end of water sports, from stand-up paddleboards to sailing, diving and snorkeling.

Martinhal Family Resort

Sagres, Portugal

Martinhal Family Resort

And now, something for the kids. All four pools at Martinhal welcome pint-sized swimmers, with beanbags by the poolside when it’s time to get out of the water. The resort has a huge list of leisure activities on offer, both on land and sea, and nearly everything that’s available for adults to try, is available for children as well. Finally, play areas beckon after meal-times, conveniently located near all three restaurants.

Mama Thresl

Leogang, Austria

Mama Thresl - boutique hotel in Leogang

The motto of Mama Thresl is “urban soul meets the Alps,” but it might as well just be “go outside and play.” Facilities in and around the hotel go beyond wellness into extreme-sports territory. There’s the ski area and bike park as well as rafting, archery, the extravagantly named Flying Fox XXL Mega Zipline, and something the kids call geocaching. Plus, you can rent a GoPro to record it all for later.

Pacuare Lodge

Turrialba, Costa Rica

Pacuare Lodge - boutique hotel in Turrialba

Due to its remote location, the check-in process at Pacuare is a little different. You’ll arrive via an inflatable raft, dripping wet and triumphant after a rollicking whitewater journey through the jungle. It’s a spectacular introduction to the lush tropical landscape of central Costa Rica, and an appropriate hint of the drama that awaits during your stay at this lo-fi paradise.

Il Borro

Arezzo, Italy

Il Borro - boutique hotel in Arezzo

Il Borro is one of the most dynamic hotels in the world. This farm estate covers 2,000 acres, and along with the animals, olive groves, vineyards and wine cellars, there are horse trails, tennis courts, a football pitch, a golf course, and opportunities to work beside local artisans, creating your own hand-made objects. Did we mention there’s also an entire restored medieval village?

Machrie Hotel & Golf Links

Port Ellen, Scotland, UK

Machrie Hotel & Golf Links

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that golf isn’t a physically taxing activity. In Scotland, where nary a golf cart can be found, it most certainly is. Your typical over-manicured golf resort gives the sport a bad name — but at the Machrie, on the isle of Islay, you can get back to the roots of the game and play it the way it was meant to be played: man versus nature and the elements, over rough and tumble ground, all on foot.

Campo Bahia

Santo Andre, Brazil

Campo Bahia - boutique hotel in Santo Andre

Campo Bahia is famous for hosting the German men’s national team that won the 2014 World Cup. They trained and restored themselves here during that year’s matches, so, unsurprisingly, there’s an emphasis on sports and fitness, from yoga and a beachside gym to stand-up paddling, kite surfing, cycling, and professional-quality tennis courts. If it’s good enough for the Mannschaft, it’s good enough for you.


Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Amangani - boutique hotel in Jackson Hole

You’re in Jackson Hole, so you’re going to take advantage of some of North America’s best ski terrain. You’re also near the spectacular landscapes of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, so you’ve got that going for you. And you’re at an Aman hotel, so the excursions on offer are guaranteed to go above and beyond the norm, from heli-skiing and dog sledding to whitewater rafting and photography tours.

Nay Palad Hideaway

General Luna, Philippines

Nay Palad Hideaway

Nay Palad Hideaway might have taken some inspiration from the concept hotel we mentioned in the intro. Sports are strongly encouraged throughout the resort, with a variety of equipment available for use. There’s also a games pavilion where you’ll find less athletic pastimes like foosball, billiards, and board games. The requisite water sports are always an option, too, as are cooking classes in the huge open-plan kitchen.

Riverside Boutique Resort

Vang Vieng, Laos

Riverside Boutique Resort - boutique hotel in Vang Vieng

Riverside offers many of the recreations mentioned elsewhere on this list, like tubing, caving, off-road trike riding and even ballooning. But what really stands out is its dedication to activities that teach guests about Laotian culture. When you’re done rock climbing, take a village tour in Vang Vieng and learn the cultural differences between the many ethnic groups that call Laos home.

Six Senses Zighy Bay

Musandam Peninsula, Oman

Six Senses Zighy Bay - boutique hotel in Oman

Zighy Bay, on the northern end of Oman, just across the peninsula from Dubai, is the sort of desert-meets-the-sea idyll that the Middle East really ought to be known for. And Six Senses provides a variety of ways for you to explore it, whether that’s paragliding, rock climbing, speedboating, snorkeling, or 4×4 off-roading. The traditional bedouin dining is a pretty good adventure as well.


Mark Fedeli is the hotel marketing and editorial director for Tablet and Michelin Guide. He’s been with Tablet since 2006, and he thinks you should subscribe to our newsletter.