When I entered my room at the HGU New York hotel, it seemed like your run of the mill, upscale space in many ways, punctuated by a few extras like alkaline water, and the offer of a personalized pillow concierge service. These were only minor hints, at first, that HGU New York was the most "wellness-obsessed hotel in America," as they claimed in their initial invitation to me. As a wellness writer and a lifetime lover of hotels, I did have to wonder — just as you, dear reader, might be wondering — what is a wellness hotel exactly?
First of all, yes, a wellness hotel is totally a thing, and mind you, it's not the same as a health retreat. According to Health and Fitness Travel, a wellness retreat is more of a personalized experience guided by health experts that will probably ask you to focus on something specific, like deepening a yoga practice or finding ways to relieve stress. A wellness hotel, on the other hand, is a place that caters to a larger group of guests by connecting them to wellness and healing services, and offers a multifaceted experience focused on overall well-being.
In an exclusive interview for Elite Daily, I spoke with ML Perlman, the executive director of wellness and lifestyle at HGU New York, who tells me the hotel's mission is just that: to create an environment focused on health from head to toe, and ultimately, provide busy travelers with a place to enjoy a really, really refreshing rest. To do this, the hotel creators went "outside their own walls" to partner with wellness practitioners in the city who could offer services for their guests that are in line with the hotel's self-care service mission.
Perlman considers a lot of the wellness services the hotel offers to be remedies for a few of the sometimes unfortunate side effects of travel, like dehydration, jet lag, body aches, stress, or a weakened immune system. She tells me that a lot of these services — like that pillow concierge service I mentioned, as well as fitness classes offered at the Solace health club next door — are all included in a typical stay at HGU New York. But other amenities — like guided meditations with Center of the Cyclone creator Biet Simkin, REVIV nutrient therapy IV infusions, reiki with healer Louisa Mastromorino, cryotherapy, gravity colonics, and nutritional counseling by Vitality NYC — will cost you a pretty penny.
As for my stay, I was offered a fitness class at Solace, a REVIV IV infusion, and a cryotherapy or gravity colonic session. While I hard-passed on the cryotherapy and colonic, I was excited for the workout and very curious about the nutrient-packed IV infusion, which would be my first stop before officially checking into my room at HGU New York.
When I arrived at REVIV, I felt a little intimidated at first by the no-frills vibe of the establishment and the painfully bright, overhead lighting that greeted me. Still, I was eager to learn about what would be offered in this experience.
As it turns out, you can actually choose from different IV bags depending on what you're looking for — glowing skin, an immune system boost, or even a hangover cure. Side note: Where the hell were these things when I was in college?
The people working the desk at REVIV were ER nurses, as was this guy, Michael, who inserted my IV.
Their credentials gave me confidence, as I don't like needles very much to begin with, and before my arrival, I was definitely afraid that I might be placing my life in the hands of an amateur who, for all I knew, might put an oxygen bubble in my bloodstream, and, you know, cause my imminent death.
Thankfully, not only were these nurses legit medical professionals, they also often got these treatments done themselves, so that put my stress at ease a little. Michael actually told me he did them about once a week himself (sometimes more, he said), and according to him, the difference in his energy was definitely notable. I also happened to notice he had great skin, which was one of the purported side effects of my chosen Vita-Glow bag, jam-packed with glutathione (an antioxidant that prevents damage to cells) and vitamin C.
After he inserted my IV, I sat in a luxurious massage chair, and they connected me to the drip, which took about 15 minutes or so to fully enter my bloodstream. For roughly five of those minutes, I attempted to take a selfie to capture this strange experience:
While this was, at the time, relatively uneventful, and I didn't feel anything different in the moment, I definitely noticed a palpable boost in my energy levels about a half hour later. TBH, I kind of think this is the sort of thing people should be able to receive as standard procedure at a check-up at the doctor's office, it's that good.
With a healthy dose of nutrients flowing through my veins, I practically floated over to check in at HGU New York a few blocks away. Inside, I found a darling, low-lit boutique hotel in a 100-year old building that was recently renovated on the inside, a project endeavored with sustainability and environmental impact in mind, I later learned from Perlman, with the help of unique details like non-toxic paints, natural fiber rugs, and a filtered air system. Of course, you wouldn't necessarily notice these thigns on your own while staying there, but these details did provide another level of credibility to the overall wellness theme they're aiming for.
My room was tastefully decorated, offered Dean & Deluca treats for purchase, a selection of very hip art magazines, and the use of an in-room iPad — so fancy, guys.
As for the bed? That bad boy was exceptionally cozy. The mattress was firm, the sheets felt like cream against my skin, and it was generous beyond measure in the pillow department. Just so you know, I am a serious stickler for good pillows when it comes to staying in hotels, and I am a firm believer in the fact that you can never have enough fluff on your bed.
In fact, I soon called the uber fancy pillow concierge service for two more "firm down" pillows to be sent up from the list of six different pillow types, which happened to include everything from memory foam, to a pillow specifically designed for pregnant women.
After my pillows arrived, it didn't take me long to find this robe and treat myself to a nice, warm bath.
While there really are only so many ways a wellness hotel room can be different from basically any other nice hotel room in the world, I did feel this one was particularly charming, partially because of the effort in offering such a unique variety of services and amenities:
And as for how I slept in that heavenly bed that night?
I hate to break it to you, but I didn't sleep all that well. But that's 100 percent on me and my old friend insomnia, not any fault of the hotel or its plush bedding. You can lead a horse to water, friends, and you can fill them with vitamins and alkaline water, but you can't make them fall sleep.
The next morning, I enjoyed a delicious spread for breakfast, including eggs, salad, sausage, spinach, and coffee.
After breakfast, it was time for my workout over at Solace New York: a "team-oriented" circuit training and conditioning class that actually turned out to be my favorite part of the whole experience. It was quite challenging, sure, but I had a lovely partner to help me power through some serious moves like dumbbell squats, sprints on stationary bikes, and ab work with medicine balls.
All in all, I definitely enjoyed my stay at HGU New York, and I think it would be cool if all hotels had a similar focus on your overall health, wellness, and comfort.
Now, would I be able to stay at HGU New York with all these fancy amenities on my own dime? While booking a room there can be pretty reasonable (anywhere between $125 and $800 depending on the size of your room, the dates, etc.), I'm more in the Motel 6 realm right now, budget-wise. Still, these guys are definitely onto something.
Oh yeah, and one last thing: When I left, I definitely noticed my skin looked fresher than it had when I first arrived. Could it have been the IV?!
I'm going to go with yes.