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Living Well in the Lowcountry

Three healthy itineraries all locals should try.

Story by Becca Edwards + Photography by Mark Staff

Becca Edwards is a wellness professional, freelance writer, and owner of b.e.WELL+b.e.CREATIVE (

Destination wellness is one of the fastest growing tourism markets across the globe. It generates over a half trillion dollars a year. From yoga retreats in India, surf trips in Costa Rica, spa getaways in Hawaii, weight-loss facilities in California, and marathons in major cities, people are ready to travel. Even mainstream hotel chains like the Westin and famous, old hotel-estates like The Biltmore are adding more fitness facilities and programming. As destination wellness increasingly becomes more available, people increasingly have the luxury of picking where they want to go. Factors like convenience, cost and amenities influence their decision making.

“I was talking to an out-of-town friend the other day,” said Jean Rioux, owner of Jiva Yoga Center in Hilton Head and Bluffton. “We were talking about the Chopra Center in San Diego and she said, ‘Why would I go there? It’s such a hassle to go through a busy airport and then drive against traffic to get there. Hilton Head is just so easy.’ ”

Hilton Head is also easy on the eyes — and morale. “Hilton Head’s natural beauty switches your brain from a place of busy energy to a place of calm,” Rioux added. And she’s right. Research shows people truly thrive better in “blue spaces” or areas surrounded by the ocean, rivers, creeks, marshes, lagoons and even urban water features. And that’s nothing new. In Victorian times, physicians prescribed the sea air to cure an assortment of ailments and the lure of the Lowcountry brought prominent northern families like the Carnegies, Rockefellers and Morgans here to bask and brine.

Even today, our area’s siren song continues to attract visitors – especially in the Lowcountry. Just look at the numbers:

Southern Beaufort County encompasses 42 square miles of semi-tropical, Lowcountry geography.

There are 12 miles of beaches to get your feet sandy.

The average temperature is 70 degrees.

Like to bike? There are 117 miles of shared-use pathways.

What about golf? There are 24 championship golf courses with 18 open to the public.

Tennis, anyone? There are 300 tennis courts.

Accommodation options include more than 6,000 villas, 3,000 hotel/motel rooms, 1,000 timeshare units, 22 properties offering meetings and convention facilities, two RV resorts and one campground.

We also have two airports that service the Hilton Head Island area: The Hilton Head Airport, which is approximately five miles from all island resorts and the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, which is approximately 45 miles south of the island.

Looking at three of the most popular reasons why people choose destination wellness — relaxation, weight loss/jump starting healthier living, and competitive racing — here are three tailor made trips even locals would want to book a “stay-cation” and try.

The Get Zen Seeker

Rioux opened Jiva Yoga Center 18 years ago because of her love of yoga. “I had a passion and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible by providing a welcoming space,”  Rioux said. She believes yoga delivers people to a place of self healing because it allows us to become in tune with ourselves. “In yoga, we turn inward. We become mindful of our breath and how we feel at any given moment. And, surprisingly, a lot of times we don’t even take notice of our breath or how we feel,” explained Rioux. Incorporating the power of yoga and mediation with the equally powerful effect of being immersed in nature, she helped develop the itinerary below.

Your Itinerary

Early morning: Start the day with a gentle yoga class followed by a mediation. This can be a private or group class at a beach like Coligny Beach or at a yoga studio like Jiva Yoga Center. Then pick up a clean, nutritious smoothie from either Smooth, Pure Natural Market or Delisheeyo.

Mid morning: Either rent a stand-up paddle board or take a private SUP class on the water. You can meander along the creeks and marshes among a thriving population of plants and animals, challenge your core with SUP yoga, or hit the beach for ocean SUP.

Afternoon: Sit down to a healthy lunch preferably somewhere outside.

Late afternoon: Treat yourself to a massage or other spa service. There are so many different types of bodywork available on the Island. Jiva Yoga Center has several experienced therapists trained in several different modalities including therapeutic, deep tissue, Thai yoga, prenatal, cranial sacral and acupuncture.

Evening: If you haven’t done so yet, visit the beach and bring a picnic. The beach takes on a whole new dimension at night.

The Get Clean In One Weeker

“There’s a healthy mindset here,” said Anuschka Schurr, owner of Anuschka’s Kitchen. Schurr is referring to the people living on Hilton Head. When it comes to food, Schurr, an experienced chef, has seen, done and cooked it all. She offers pre-made meals that not only cater to your needs meal-wise, but also ingredients-wise. “Aside from food allergies, some people have very specific food needs. For example, some people want all organic. Some people want to save their money and only buy certain organic items and some others don’t care anything about organic food.” Schurr can accommodate large and small parties and for her, clean food is whole food. “People don’t eat real food anymore,” she said laughing. “I grew up eating whole foods like fresh vegetables and to this day cook using whole foods.”

Schurr also teaches cooking classes. “What I try to teach first and foremost is cooking doesn’t have to be hard, and cooking healthy certainly doesn’t need to be hard either.” Other classes she teaches include knife skills, which is “especially important when cooking healthy,” all about herbs, because “they make a huge difference in flavor and how much salt you use,” how to cook staples like soups, and how to source the ingredients you need. Schurr, with the help of a holistic health coach (a.k.a. me), devised the below itinerary.

Your Itinerary

Early morning: Begin the day with a detox juice, turmeric brew or kombucha from Smooth (the brew and kombucha come pre-made in a glass container that you can buy the day before), followed by a brisk morning walk either along a bike path or on a beach like the Sea Pines Beach Club.

Mid morning: Get a clean brunch like the bloom smoothie and vegan sampler plate from Pure Natural Market or the Buddha bowl from Delisheeyo.

Afternoon: Schedule an appointment at Oasis Life Spa, which offers several detox services. Or take a detox yoga class, like hot yoga at Jiva Yoga Center or Bikram Yoga Hilton Head.

Late afternoon: Take a cooking class from Schurr.

Evening: Eat all the yummy things you made during your cooking class.

The Competitive Athlete

Hilton Head’s year-long, moderate temperatures make it an easy place to train or compete in events like triathlons, half-marathons and 5K races. “When people get here, they just want to be outside,” said Al Olivetti, owner of Go Tri Sports. Olivetti believes Hilton Head is an ideal place for people training for a race for this very reason. As for those looking for a competitive event, “We race year-round here,” Olivetti said. “There’s a 5K almost every other weekend, especially if you include Savannah and other nearby areas. We have the infrastructure and amenities to pull off these races.

When I’m overseeing a race, I know I make sure to cross my t’s and dot my i’s.” In February, Olivetti is hosting a triathlon training camp with Robert Taylor, an elite triathlon athlete and coach. In March, the triathlon season kicks off with a sprint triathlon on Parris Island. In April, Go Tri Sports coordinates swim/runs. And the Beach Bum and kids’ triathlon series start in May and run until July. Having raced all over the country, Olivetti helped work out the itinerary below.

Your Itinerary (if you’re training)

Early morning: Have a slice of the locally made Sprout Mama bread (available at Delishee Yo and Whole Foods) with any sort of protein. Then, option one – Bike to the beach or nearby pool (Note: Olivetti can recommend several bike/swim routes and he has many listed on his website, and take a swim. Option two – Visit Jarvis Park where you can cross train at the fitness park or run laps on the path.

Mid morning: Shower, relax and rest up at your vacation home, which preferably is a waterfront property.

Afternoon: Nourish your body with a well-balanced lunch like one from Java Burrito. All the food is locally sourced when possible and free of artificial preservatives, growth hormones and antibiotics.

Late afternoon: Do your own practice or take a restorative or gentle yoga class.

Evening: Eat at a local seafood restaurant like Hudson’s Seafood on Hilton Head, which has a waterfront view and serves local oysters, shrimp and fish, and watch the sunset.