Dive Deep Into The Jungles And Beaches Of Costa Rica
Unplug and unwind. These two words influence many a plane ticket purchase. My dream journey checklist includes plenty of sunshine, an expansive lush jungle, big waves and gorgeous Yoga retreat centers. Most importantly, there must be such a minimal number of tourists so I can enjoy a walk on the beach without seeing another soul. The answer – Costa Rica – where I visited three amazing places that quenched my desires for peace and quiet, relaxation, fresh organic meals, killer views, amazing surf and of course – Yoga. I recommend visiting each one in order for a fulfilled Costa Rican adventure: Ama Tierra Retreat and Wellness Center, nestled deep within the oxygen-rich jungle-covered mountains; Pranamar Oceanfront Villas and Yoga Retreat on Playa Hermosa beach in Santa Teresa and Anamaya Body, Mind and Spirit Resort, atop the hills overlooking the coast of Montezuma.
For pure tranquility, peace, quiet and some serious alone time, Ama Tierra is the answer. Upon your landing, expect to be pampered with the simplicity of organic surrounds and two hosts who are masters at creating sacred space and transformational time.
After short connecting flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, a driver sent by owners Bob and Jill Ruttenberg picked me up within the hour and whisked me off to their resort. At first glance, Ama Tierra already far exceeded my expectations. I felt at home within the embrace of the center’s natural elements. My lungs expanded, welcoming the abundance of fresh oxygen produced by the surrounding jungle. As I strode into the new open-air Yoga pavilion, the fresh scent of teak wood complimented the beautiful expansive view.
A spacious, private room awaited and immediately satisfied my longing to be alone where I dove into my inner self through consistent journal writing. Moments with Jill helped me understand the feelings of interconnectedness I was experiencing here.
“Our motto is ‘cared for and carefree.’ We attract people who want to go deep inside themselves while they are here,” Jill said. “Usually, a person can only do an hour or two of Yoga or meditation. Here, they can do it as much as they want…some people are working things out and we can help them with that. A lot of people come because they are in a transitional part of their lives, ready to make a change.” Jill, a registered herbalist, offers a variety of therapies on the premises including massage and spa treatments, energy and chakra balancing, Reiki and Vibrational Sound Therapy.
I tried Jill’s abdominal chi massage, wanting to release old energy. My spiritual connection to Costa Rica, combined with Jill’s skillful touch, finally brought me back to the person I felt I had lost in Los Angeles.
Each day I woke to the soothing sounds of birds, stretched out my worries with hours of Hatha Yoga, hiked through the jungle to a stream, strolled through the organic garden and spendt peaceful moments by the pool.
I understood why Ama Tierra was a retreat destination of choice for Yoga teachers worldwide. Not only were full amenities offered onsite, students could also partake in a wide variety of activities nearby. I suggest the infamous Costa Rican zip line and aerial tram ride through the rainforest at Turubari Park, snorkeling at Tortuga Island, visiting La Paz waterfall and/or surfing at Jaco Beach. Jill and Bob coordinate with each teacher on a deeply personal level to create the perfect holistic package.
The sea began calling my surf-addicted self so my next destination involved surf and sand, meeting up with friends (Ken and Janine) from LA and the new Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat in Santa Teresa. My solo trek from jungle heaven to the sea involved a six-hour bus ride from San Jose to Mal Pais, then a ten-minute cab ride to Santa Teresa.
I had surfed Mal Pais once before with family and the hippie town adored by yogis worldwide has been calling me back ever since. Longtime friend Ken Jordan, producer of the electronic music duo The Crystal Method and his fiancée Janine hinted to their beach home in Santa Teresa and I was there before they could fully extend the invitation, especially when they mentioned their neighbors, the new resort Pranamar. Since the neighboring resort opened, Ken and Janine have rented out their ocean view two-story open-air house when there were overflows of Yoga students.
Pranamar was opened and created by a close-knit family: Nancy Goodfellow, her mother Susan Money, her husband Greg and ex-husband Stefano Allegri (Yoga teacher and massage therapist). After running and selling nearby resort Florblanca, they decided to focus this version of paradise on Yoga.
While living in Encinitas, Nancy began her twenty year study of Yoga with Ashtanga and then continued exploring the practice in a variety of studios and traditions, including Anusara. Her teaching is now Anusara-inspired, focused on therapeutic practices for the injured, surfer-strengthening Yoga and daily Pilates. She fell in love with Costa Rica enough to call it home when she drove a VW van through the country seventeen years ago, following her mom who was running a bed and breakfast in Tamarindo.
“Costa Rica is a place that is so vibrating with nature. When you are here, you feel it. This area is intense with this vibration, this idea that we honor nature. Everything is vibrating with Shakti. The idea is not that we need to transcend this world. We can fully live in this world and still live a yogic lifestyle,” Nancy describes.
Merely days after my trip to Costa Rica, memories still lingering, I was dancing outdoors to DJ David Starfire at the event Lightning in a Bottle. As I glanced around at my fellow dancers smiling in unison, a grey-haired couple caught my eye. In magical moments like these, I realize I am right where I need to be in my life. Honey and Heart Akerson were from the small beachside town of Mal Pais, Costa Rica. I had met them just a week prior, when they were delivering food to a farmers’ market! Now at Lightning, they were promoting their project for solar power.
Secluded, Pranamar is nestled beside the Pacific Coast waters of the Nicoya Peninsula. The Yoga studio fits up to seventy people and each private villa opens its doors to the edge of a tranquil pool. It is still close enough to other activities, including snorkeling in a nearby cove, ATV riding on dirt roads, hiking through the jungle, dancing at a beachside club and of course – surf. Rumor had it that I was in town during the biggest swell of the season, which churned my desire to trek the ten minutes down the beach framed by jungle filled with monkeys swinging through the trees.
Even after the Costa Rican sun sets, warmer temperatures linger as the small towns come alive with the sounds of reggae music spilling out from resorts and beaches. Anamaya Body, Mind and Spirit Resort, an elegantly decorated open-air estate boasting a 180-degree view of the coastline, resides about thirty minutes from Pranamar, a five-minute walk from the breathtaking tall Montezuma Falls and a short drive from Costa Rica’s oldest nature reserve, Cabo Blanco.
During my stay, Anamaya was hosting a party. And Anamaya is a great place to bring the joy that emerges in a Yoga practice to a party. The resorts’ owners are professional entertainers who host events including a multicourse meal, delicious drinks and desserts, dance parties and aerial acrobatics instruction. My travel companions for this stint of the trip were quick to participate: Ken jumped on the decks and played music, while Janine joined a group of local firedancers.
As I packed my bags the following day, a feeling of deep satisfaction swept over me. I accepted the many gifts offered by each retreat, carried memories of love and leisure never to be forgotten and noted my second trip to Costa Rica a success. Join me for round three?
Pranamar Villas and Yoga Retreat: pranamaryoga.com
Anamaya Body, Mind, Spirit Resort: AnamayaResort.com
Ken Jordan’s home can be viewed at: TheWhiteHouseofCostaRica.com
When not sitting at her computer writing, jamming in the SoCal music scene, or practicing Yoga, Lori Denman is frequently seen on a surfboard, inhaling the salt air, and riding the waves.