7 top destinations for your digital detox

Here's your ultimate summer guide to a tech-free vacation.


Chase Hoffberger


Published Feb 9, 2017   Updated May 25, 2021, 12:59 am CDT

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Feel that heat on your back? That’s sunlight. That’s beautiful. That’s something that you should take note of more often. 

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More and more, however, it’s something that you’ve been eschewing for the Internet. Admit it, the brightest illumination you get every day is from your computer screen—or maybe your iPhone. You’re stuck at your desk, tuning in to Twitter. You’re hooked online by the idea of “online” itself. At least you’re not alone.

A recent study conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau and GfK confirmed that Americans are spending way more time online than they used to, up to more than three hours on the Internet each and every day. That statistic’s up from 2:34 in in 2010 and doesn’t included time spent checking iPhones while you wait in line or use the bathroom. 

What’s more is that those three hours each day run in tandem with five hours spent watching television and another 48 minutes on video games. All told, that’s nine hours spent each day with the average American’s eyes transfixed on a screen. That’s a problem. That’s simply too much. For people who like to read this website, that figure’s probably even a little bit low.

Fortunately there’s a solution for this, or seven, and maybe more, if you look hard enough offline. Attention to the action of disconnection is beginning to earn some credence in the travel world, and destinations all over the world are starting to take notice. Some, like the ones honed by Digital Detox—the brainchild of one-time workaholic Lev Felix, who quit his Los Angeles-based tech startup job three years ago and started sending Internetters off to camp—have even sprouted up in the name of de-Internetization. 

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Felix’s retreats all prove destinations worth crushing over, but options abound in the offline world. Here’s where you should start.

Camp Grounded 

Navarro, California

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Very little separates Main Street from the edge of town in Navarro, Calif., a tiny, unincorporated destination about 180 miles due west of Sacramento, but that may be exactly the point. The hamlet’s home to one of the most cherished and admired tech-free vacations in the country: Digital Detox’s Camp Grounded, a four-day adult camp designed just like your low-tech summers of yesteryear, complete with trading posts, arts and crafts, and a modern-day makeout mountain to sneak off to. Campers are encouraged to sneak out of their bunks and mingle with “the fellow campers,” but alcohol and drugs are discouraged. In fact, they’re prohibited. “This will be just like the camp you remember from your childhood and favorite summertime movie,” the website’s What’s Included? contends. Sounds like a wet, hot American summer for all. 

Those looking to get Grounded this summer can sign up for the camp’s newsletter for updates on Summer Session II.

Via Yoga

Various locations

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This Seattle-based yoga retreat company also works in tandem with Digital Detox to provide guests at their three locations—Sayulita, Mexico; Todos Santos, Mexico; and Nosara, Costa Rica—with a stress-free, iPhone-free vacation with a whole load of yoga and surfing in mind. Via Yoga‘s retreats aren’t strictly technologically free, but three destinations offer little in the way of electronics aside from a random movie night, and you can get a discount if you’re willing to temporarily forsake your iPhone. 

Hotel Monaco

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Chicago, Illinois

Those hoping to catch up on some city sights on their vacation without taking any Instagram pictures may want to look into Chicago’s Hotel Monaco, a posh, award-winning hotel right there on the Loop with access to Chicago’s many museums, parks, and Polish sausage establishments. 

The hotel offers a Tranquility Suite “designed to inspire relaxation” for roughly $300 a night and something called the “blackout option” that requires users to submit all high-tech gadgets to reception upon checkin. 

A chic African retreat

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Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania

OK, now we’re talking pricey, but we’re also talking amazing. For $12,000, or a healthy dose of a full-time writer’s salary, relaxation-seekers may fly to Tanzania to take part in a 12-day retreat that begins at this riverside game resort and ends in Oyster Bay, with a stopover at the divine Vamizi Island Lodge in between. 

“This trip will allow you to switch off and enjoy the calm and tranquillity of some of Africa’s more untouched and beautiful natural surroundings,” Selous promises. That’s good news, since you’ll be biting your nails about the fact that you’ve just spent $12,000 all week.

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Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Woodacre, California

The tiny town of Woodacre, Calif., may sit only 25 miles away from San Francisco, but it seems a world apart. Forty-five minutes up the 101, the valley-nestled town lays claim to the Spirit Rock Meditation Center, considered by many to be the most unplugged and at-one-with-nature meditation destinations this country has ever seen. Retreats run between $460 and $1,665 and last about a week, with some, like this Concentration Retreat, designed around the Buddhist teachings of samadhi, stretching a full nine days. 

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“We need settings where we can renew our connection to ourselves, to nature, and to life itself,” the Center’s organizers believe. “We help individuals find peace, compassion, and wisdom, and support everyone in taking those qualities into the world.”

Lake Placid Lodge

Lake Placid, New York

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Lake Placid’s most revered lodge offers a “Check-In to Check-Out” package that includes two nights in a guest room, complimentary hiking, boating, yoga, fishing, and a wide array of New York Times best-selling books to check out free throughout your stay. All you have to do is leave your electronic devices at the door—and shill out at least $1,340.

The Copper Canyon Sierra Lodge

Copper Canyon, Mexico

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Deep within the Chihuahua region of Mexico’s many tall pine trees rests the Copper Canyon Sierra Lodge, an 18-room vista with a long front porch, a flood of rose and agave bushes, and no Internet for the next 15 miles. Self-proclaimed to be “the land that time forgot,” the CCSL sits inside of seven major interlocking canyons, all of which run deeper than the deepest part of the Grand Canyon. Backpacker Magazine‘s M.J. Fayhee went so far as to call it the “one of the most extensive, isolated, and unexplored canyon systems in the world.”

The region’s Sierra Lodge is the finest destination in the area, a completely off-the-grid hotel complete with red-tiled floors, Indian rugs, homespun bedspreads, and gas lamp lighting. Rates range nightly from $77 for a single and $154 for a double.

Photo via Jacada Travel

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*First Published: Feb 9, 2017, 3:30 pm CST