A well-deserved Hawaiian vacation is on many dreamers bucket lists. A respite from the everyday, with toes in the sand and a gentle breeze blowing through shady palms, Hawaii promises rest and relaxation like few other places can.

But the islands offer far more to revive your soul than waves and sun. From unmatched yoga locales and idyllic wellness retreats to secret hilltop spas, healing horses and even a few comforting cuddles, the island of O’ahu is the perfect paradise to seek balance and find your inner zen zone.

Tourists stand watch over the setting sun at Haleiwa Beach Park on O'ahu's North Shore
Start your journey inward by watching a sunset at Haleiwa Beach on O'ahu's North Shore © Mark Boster/Getty Images

Yoga on land and dancing on air

Aiming to connect your mind, body, and spirit with a little Aloha, one of O’ahu’s most popular annual festivals, Wanderlust, harkens the seeker in all of us to come hither. Filled with world-class yoga sessions (held outdoors, seaside and under the sun), delicious local-inspired food and incredible live music, attendance at this wellness retreat is sure to totally bliss you out.

Also promising to inspirit your Om Shanti is Yogarden, a conscious and community-focused farm tucked away on the backroads of Waimānalo that offers numerous find-your-zen events, like live music, open space yoga and farm-to-table dinners under the stars.

Interested in defying gravity while lifting your spirits? Samadhi Hawaii  is a Honolulu-based business selling aerial artistry instruction – and everyone is buying into this elevated bliss. The areal studio is open to the public with a wide range of class and workshop offerings catering to all levels. Taking part in a Samadhi Hawaii class is so fun and empowering, it will literally have you dancing on air.

Orchard Oasis Yoga, a unique yga venue on Oahu's North Shore in Waialua, Hawaii
Ground yourself with "The Land" at Orchard Oasis Yoga ©Andy Beth Miller/Lonely Planet

The perfect follow-up to Samadhi’s sky-high rejuvenation is getting grounded at Orchard Oasis Yoga. A truly awe-inspiring venue nestled amid the verdant Waialua mountains and fields, attendees join instructors at what they call “The Land” (a nod to the sacredness with which they hold the ‘aina) for sunrise and sunset yoga classes. After mastering your downward dog beside members of this small and diverse group, your chakras will feel decidedly up.

Healing and happiness

The healing qualities of equines might be lesser known than those of yoga but are every bit as beneficial. Heart Horses, located at Sunset Ranch on the fabled North Shore, introduces guests to Horse Assisted Therapy. Youth, adults, families, and groups can participate in unforgettable interactive experiences ranging from individualized therapeutic riding sessions to workshops and team building retreats. All sessions are tailored to meet individual needs and are taught by a PATH International Registered Instructor.

A wild horse in Haleakala National Park in Maui, Hawaii
Virtually untapped for healing benefits, discover the power of equine therapy at Sunset Ranch © Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Touch has been proven to have incredible healing powers and Aloha Cuddle Company offers to crank up the curative properties by offering not just contact, but cuddles. This locally-owned business will send a professional cuddler to you to hug, sit, sing, read or watch a movie all while trying different positions from the Cuddle Sutra book by Rob Grader to promote the body’s release of oxytocin, boost the immune system and provide pain and stress relief.

If healing via humans and horses doesn’t suit you, try the mending powers of the mind. Alice Inoue, self-professed “Chief Happiness Officer” of Honolulu-based Happiness U, relies on the universal principles of life – embracing a mind-body-spirit focus – to inspire, guide and empower all students with insights and tools for living a more conscious, joyous and empowered life. Open to all, guests (students as Happiness U calls them) are welcome to sign up for classes, workshops and events, like Mindfulness Mediation, A New You or Self-hypnosis.

Seaside body scrubs, a hilltop hideaway and the ancient art of Hula

After exercising your body and mind, you’re due for some pampering and recoup time. Turtle Bay resort’s award-winning Nalu Spa, with its walls of glass and Oceanside locale, offers refreshing therapies to woo your heart and soul (think: 50 or 80 minutes of massage in a seaside bungalow while waves ebb and flow mere feet away).

For a more remote and elevated spa experience, check out the hidden away Sullivan Estate Retreat and Spa nestled on a Hawaiian hilltop known as Pūpūkea. This ultra-elite retreat defines itself as a “holistic anti-stress center.” Guests at the appointment-only enclave can look forward to an exclusive and upscale experience focused on treatments specifically designed to stimulate all 7 senses, including the five known senses as well as the sense of gravity and the conductor sense.

A group chants and dances the hula on a hula pa'a in on Mauna Loa on the island of Moloka'i at Ka'ana Hawaii
Symbolic of Hawaiian culture, the ancient Hula tradition combines blessing with dance © Alvis Upitis/Getty Images

If there is one image synonymous with the Hawaiian Islands, it is that of Hula. An art form as beautiful as it is meaningful, this time-honored hip-notic dance brings one a sense of well-being and peace simply by listening to the dulcet tones of the ‘ukulele strum while watching the graceful hips of local wahine sway. Yet Hawaii Hula Company takes this blessing one more delicate dance step further, providing private, tailor-made Hula lessons to guests all across O’ahu. Professional Hula instructors – all of whom are born and raised in the Islands -- bring everything to you, including authentic costumes, music and lei and fresh flowers for your hair. All that’s left for you to do is smile and sway.

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