Wellness expert Dervla Louli shows you how to live your best life, without leaving Hong Kong
Everyone knows Lan Kwai Fong is the place to go for parties, late-night-bites, buzzy brunches and more. But the area is also a wellness hot-spot where fitness studios, spas and meditation spots abound. We spoke with wellness expert and founder of Compare Retreats, Dervla Louli to find out more.
Does her name sound familiar? It should. Louli is a digital legend in Hong Kong. She’s worked with the biggest names in the city, everyone from Hong Kong Tatler to Sassy Media Group. An intellectual power-house, this elegant entrepreneur holds a bachelor’s degree in business and law, and a master’s in finance from Trinity College. She’s moderated events at The British Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong University and Swire Hotels, and has spoken about luxury publishing at Goldman Sach’s International Luxury Conference. She’s also a certified yoga teacher, fashion darling and dog-mom to the adorable Clive.
Read more: #MyLKF with Instagram Star @IndulgentEats
Louli decided to unite her passions (travel, wellness, editorial and luxury) within one project, and so Compare Retreats was born. Compare Retreats is the booking portal and online publication for the world’s leading luxury wellness retreats. It’s the place to go when you’re looking to book your next escape. She and her team of experts can introduce you to the holiday of a lifetime, whether that’s a women’s retreat, yoga retreat, surfing retreat or even an athletic training retreat.
There’s no one in the city we trust more when it comes to wellness, so we had to grill her for her favourite spots in Hong Kong. Read on to find out her favourite studios, restaurants and more, and be sure to keep up with her on Instagram @dervlalouli.
How has Hong Kong helped to shape your wellness journey?
Hong Kong has been the training ground where I experimented with ultra-marathons, hiking, CrossFit, Pilates, yoga, hiking, plant-based diets and so much more. Living here has taught me how important it is to get outdoors and surround myself with nature as much as possible, and a hike up the peak always does the trick. You can find a list of some of my favourite hikes here too.
What does it mean to live a healthy life, and what have the benefits been for you?
Everyone’s version of healthy is different, but for me it means making sure I get seven-to-eight hours of sleep, eating natural and unprocessed food, staying active in ways I enjoy, spending time with positive people and working hard. Life is always better when I tick all these boxes.
Where do you go for a healthy “clean” meal, and what do you order?
Dandy’s Organic Cafe in Sheung Wan for clean and delicious proteins and vegetable dishes—the fish bone broth, green curry and chicken and avocado salad are my staples; Grassroots Pantry for plant-based food like popcorn hedgehog mushrooms and kale salad, Genie Juicery in IFC for grab’n’go vegan salads and treats like Asian Invasion and their coconut chocolate bars. I eat a lot of meals at home and my husband is Irish, so it tends to involve a lot of meat and potatoes!
Where do you go to break a sweat in the city?
I’m very fussy when it comes to fitness so I only go to places with great teachers, facilities and schedules. I go to Flex for Pilates and barre, PURE for yoga, Coastal Fitness for CrossFit and XYZ for spinning. You can find all of the boutique fitness studios I love on Compare Retreats magazine here and here.
Are there any “retreats” in Hong Kong that people can book for a long weekend of yoga or meditation?
A lot of our clients and readers in Hong Kong don’t have time to leave Hong Kong to retreat so we have a collection of luxury wellness retreats in Hong Kong that they can book and retreat in the city. When I need a quick relaxation fix, I head to The Oriental Spa at Landmark Mandarin to chill out in the heat and water facilities. The founders of Fivelements are opening up habitats in Causeway Bay and Central this year too which I’ve had a sneak peek of and they are going to be incredible escapes in the city.
Where do you like to meditate in Central?
I live in Central and my favourite place to meditate is in the steam room at The Oriental Spa at Landmark Mandarin. There’s also a cute studio off of Lan Kwai Fong called Enhale which has a nice selection of meditation and mindfulness classes. PURE also now offers meditation and mindfulness classes too, so there are quite a few.
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After work drinks are a huge part of life in Hong Kong, what do you order when you indulge?
I still haven’t found the perfect gin and tonic in Hong Kong – if you know of somewhere that serves Hendricks gin in a fishbowl glass with sugar-free tonic water let me know! I don’t drink very often and I’m not into cocktails but two that blew me away are the Earl Grey Martini at Quinary and the Hong Kong Highball at Café Gray.
There are so many gorgeous hotels in the area with amazing wellness facilities, what are some of your favourites?
Four Seasons Hong Kong – Shoshana the Spa Director is responsible for introducing many new wellness treatments, practitioners and services to Hong Kong; The Landmark Mandarin – The Oriental Spa has excellent facilities that’s full of healing crystals; The Mandarin Oriental – TCM treatments at the spa, Shanghai Pedicures by Samuel So and Fatima are brilliant; The Peninsula – perfect for a spa staycation with old school glamour; The W Hotel – Bliss Spa’s results-driven treatments are hard to beat (as is the view from the pool); Grand Hyatt – David at Brun Blonde does the best balayage in Hong Kong.
When people consider wellness, it tends to be about fitness, meditation and diet. Are there other elements to a healthy lifestyle that you like to incorporate?
I like to think of the three tiers as physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga is a great way to access all three because if you do enough yoga you can get out of your body and into your mind and spirit, so the physical asana is a gateway to access the other two tiers. I find the same is true for cardio and it’s why I fell in love with running for a long time. There are so many elements to a healthy lifestyle and integrated medical centres like IMI that have naturopaths and doctors are a great starting point. There are also some wonderful shamans, energy healers, Feng Shui masters, numerologists, Qigong masters, gong experts and tea meditation pros in Hong Kong that are very popular too.
If you could influence people to make just one positive change in their life, what would it be?
Sleep and move more.
Dandy’s Organic Café
32 Upper Lascar Row, Sheung Wan; +852 2838 6166
108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan; +852 2873 3353
2096B, ifc, 8 Finance Street, Central Hong Kong; +852 2644 5875
Flex Studio Central
3&4/F, Man Cheung Building, Wyndham Street, Central; +852 3468 3132
18/F, California Tower, 32 D’Aguilar Street, Central; +852 8200 0032
Coastal Fitness Performance Training
Victoria Centre, 15 Watson Rd, North Point: +852 2989 2900
2/F, New World Tower, 18 Queen’s Road Central, Central; +852 2865 09999
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central; +852 2132 0188
56-58 Hollywood Road, Central
Café Gray Deluxe
Level 49, The Upper House, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty; +852 3968 1106
Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong
8 Finance Street, Central; +852 3196 8888
Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
5 Connaught Road Central, Central; +852 2522 0111
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui; +852 2920 2888
The W Hong Kong
Elements, Kowloon Station, 1 Austin Road, West Kowloon; +852 3717 2222
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, Harbour Road, Wan Chai; +852 2588 1234
All photos are the rights of their respective owners. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.