Welcoming black coastline is only one of the wonders to be had not the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. “Pura Vida” is not just a saying, but a way of life here; one which I experienced this past week on my first Yoga and Surfing Retreat with Sanga Retreats. Being my first retreat of this kind, I was pretty curious about how the week would go, but with very little time to plan, I ended up basically “winging it” and stepping out of my planning-based comfort zone. I wasn’t going in blind however, and what I did know was:
- I found the retreat on an awesome website called bookyogaretreats.com.
- The Sanga Retreats founder, Jamie, was super helpful in answering many questions.
- I was going to do yoga every day!
- The retreat included lodging and all the meals at an eco-lodge called Vida Asana near Jaco Beach.
- I was finally going to visit Costa Rica, a country which I have longed to see for some time.
Embarking on this journey was not all that difficult given the above, and so with a little work, the itinerary worked out as follows (some pre-planned, and some planned when we arrived in Costa Rica).
- Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and explore
- Day 2: More local exploring and travel to the Yoga Lodge
- Day 3 – 6: Daily 2X Yoga + other local activities
- Day 7: Morning Yoga and depart to the airport
Here is the full breakdown of my experience. Sorry for the lack of brevity in this post, it was just a super packed week! Day 1: Arrive in San Jose and explore After arriving and checking into a hotel near the airport (our retreat shuttle was set for the next day), we headed out in an attempt to explore San Jose downtown (even though my friend and a local told us there was not much to see). Let’s just say, she was right, and instead guided us to Avenida Escazu, a modern town-center with every type of international cuisine you can imagine.
We decided to grab a maca smoothie while we scoped out the restaurants, and landed at my friend’s other recommendation – La Comedia Divino (yes we should have listened to her in the first place). After some delicious pisco and passionfruit sours, we dined on unique ceviche , prawns and delicious spinach pasta with peanuts.
Day 2: More local exploring and heading to Vida Asan We were up the next day bright and early so we decided to take in some of the sites, and called up to see about hitting the Cafe Britt coffee tour (Note: call a little ahead to secure transportation to this tour, not the day of). This was one of the most touristic things I have done in a while, but it was totally cool and educational. The guides were amazing and funny, and we learned all about the growing process for coffee, what makes good coffee, and how not to microwave your coffee (it releases yucky waxes if you do).
After a good dose of caffiene, we headed to the airport to meet our shuttle. While we waited we grabed a delicious and authentic meal at Malinchi’s at the airport. Oddly enough, this quick bite was one of my favorite Costa Rican meals- chicken in tomato sauce and arroz con pollo (chiken with rice). It was also my first taste of Salsa Lizano – a staple at any Costa Rican table – which is a tart condiment reminding me of Tamarind. It’s a delicous addition to the latin flavors of the country!
After about an hour drive towards our destination, we stopped for a coconut and to catch a sight of several crocodiles which live under the bridge at the Tarcoles River. This is a dangerous and delicious intersection, as we had a chance to try several great fruits some of which were totally new to me! After some time and an epically bumpy road, which seems so fitting for this pat of the world, we arrived at Vida Asana – the lodge our yoga retreat was based out of. Our accommodations were basic, but we had a warm welcome and started to feel right at home with Sean, Jessie, Jenny and Todd who run the retreat. Sean and Jessie, who own Vida Asana, took over this jungle lodge plus yoga shala and are working to freshen it up and bring more retreats and guests to the facility. The lodge includes guest rooms, apartments, a pool, gathering area, and the most serene yoga shala (more on that later).
After freshening up ourselves, we decided to check out Playa Hermosa before our evening dinner and yoga. Playa Hermosa was lovely, and a wonderful vision of Pacific Costa Rica, with its black sand and massive waves, we were totally enthralled by the immense beauty of the place.
After our excursion, we headed back and grabbed a relaxing dinner before our evening restorative yoga class. A pretty solid day to kick off the retreat week. A quick note about the food at vida asana- cooked by the lovely Jenny- was food of fresh, healthy and delicious and perfect for a yoga belly.
Waking up the next morning and heading straight to yoga (or coffee and yoga) was my favorite part of the retreat. Doing yoga to waken up the mind and body is a beautiful thing, and one which I don’t often get the chance to do. Entering the yoga shala at Vida Asana, tucked down a tree lined path, was an energizing and pleasing eexperience, as much for my eyes as it was for my practice. I was so happy each day to see how far my rickety morning bones would go, and found Sandra Sharp‘s morning vinyasa class to be just what I had hoped it would be.
After yoga we embarked on various daily activities;; from hikes to the top of a steep hill, to exploring Jaco Beach by day.
In the afternoons, we had scheduled surf lessons…which for the more adventurous may seem exciting, but I am honest when I say, I was very nervous. My last surf experience was in Bali, and one debacle of an attempt. Then, when we arrived in Costa Ruca, and I saw the massive waves, they made me cringe a bit inside. The only saving grace for me was knowing Costa Rica was a beach break v. reef break, which is easier for beginners, some say.
In this nervousness, I was pretty lonely though, as my retreat-mates took it on full force. Taking a stride from them, I ventured out for a full lesson, culminating in a twisted ankle after the only time I got up on the board. So it goes sometimes. Surfing was my personal challenge for the week, and I felt proud to at least say I have tried it twice. It is interesting when you find an activity which makes you feel less confident in life. Is there strength in wanting to be confident, or strength in defeating the activity. Food for thought…regardless, I was super proud of my retreat-mates! And thanks to Earlie and his team for being awesome teachers every step of the way!
Aside from these activities, we had a few other awesome experiences on this trip – namely 1. Manual Antonio Park and 2. Getting to know Anabel Miranda, and amazing yogi, teacher and naturopath.
Manuel Antonio Park is home to extensive forests which are home to many a critter, and some of the most stunning beaches in Costa Rica. We had a guided tour of the park and settled into some beach time on the white sandy shoreline. You have to enter the park to visit the beaches, and getting a guide is recommended so they can point out the lovely animals and fauna of the area.
On our last full day, we opted for a 3rd daily yoga class, with Anabel Miranda – a lovely yogi and yoga teacher, living the yoga lifestyle. Anabel put us through a challenging class, and later in the day helped us align our bodies through an acupressure session. This was my first acupressure experience, and it was surprising and Anabel hit my major ailments on the head, and hopefully helped my body get back on track. What a great way to close out the week in Costa Rica!
We ended out stay with a final morning yoga class, before heading back to the city and our lives. Since this week, more than ever, I have felt the impact of going somewhere off the grid (a bit) and where you take time for yourself (the locals do this every day). It is really worth it…because life keeps going full speed ahead and only you have the power to stop and breathe in the view when you need to.