A week-long retreat in a tropical paradise on a G Adventures Wellness Tour

Sunrise yoga on the beach, hiking to epic waterfalls and mud baths in hot springs…who doesn’t love the idea of a wellness trip? Especially to a place like Costa Rica that’s perfect for getting your pura vida on. Translated as the “pure life” or “simple life”, I heard this phrase all week long and can happily say I brought it home with me at the end of the week.

Even better than the relaxing atmosphere was the amazing group of like-minded travelers I met through G Adventures, my favorite small group adventure travel company. As you may recall, I went to Tanzania on safari with them last summer in partnership with National Geographic Journeys. It is one of my favorite trips to date because of our small group, the incredible array of wildlife we saw and the way they work with local communities, resulting in a very authentic travel experience.

This tour was part of their newest Wellness line based around mindfulness, movement and nourishment. Over the week, each activity focused around one of these three ideas, which included relaxing meditation sessions, adventure-focused activities like canyoneering, all types of yoga classes, soaking in hot springs, delicious meals and an initial intention setting ceremony.

I always wanted to go to Costa Rica because of its dedication to ecotourism, but on this trip I realized it is also the perfect place for a wellness tour because of its lush and diverse landscapes. It’s hard to be stressed when you’re surrounded by beautiful palm trees and singing birds.

Did you know the country accounts for only 0.03% of the earth’s surface, but it contains close to 6% of the world’s biodiversity? That means for such a small area, there’s a massive amount of flora, fauna and animals to see. I also learned they rate their hotels not with stars but with “leaves” and the more sustainable the hotel is, the more leaves they receive, which equates to increased governmental support.

For this trip, we visited three main areas in the northern half of the country—La Fortuna with the majestic Arenal Volcano, picturesque Rincón de la Vieja National Park and the beach town of Playa Carrillo.

La Fortuna

Meaning “The Fortune” in Spanish, many believe La Fortuna was named after it was spared from destruction when nearby Mount Arenal, the largest volcano in the Alajuela province, erupted in 1968. However, others believe it was named long before the eruptions for the region’s fertile land. Regardless, driving up to the town with the majestic volcano in the distance was one of the best ways to start off the trip! I spent a lot of time in the hotel pool admiring the volcano and watching the dramatic clouds shift from side to side.

Our first activity upon arrival from San Jose was an evening yoga session overlooking the volcano with guided meditation. I don’t do yoga consistently, but I appreciated having the option to do some type of yoga every day during this tour. It really helped quiet my mind and who doesn’t love a good stretch? Our group included everyone from beginners to serious yogis, and our teachers were all very helpful regardless of level.

After a relaxing night’s sleep, we woke up early for a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga class at nearby Lake Arenal with the volcano as our backdrop. We boarded a speedboat, which brought us out into the middle of the lake, got our boards and off we went. The boat quietly followed us as we paddled around the lake to a calm inlet where we had our lesson. There were people of all levels in our group, and again our instructors were very helpful in showing beginners how to paddle prior to class. A few people even fell in and we all had a good laugh. 

Another highlight was a hike we did through a lush rainforest reserve with numerous hanging bridges. During our casual 2 mile hike, we crossed 14 bridges, including 6 that were suspended and 8 stationary. The rest of the time our informative guide pointed out various flora and fauna, birds and a few snakes I would not have noticed.

Do you see the mini snake in the middle of the tree branch in this photo below? Me either, at first! Our guide pointed this venomous snake out during our hike and then told us not to touch anything. I definitely watched where I stepped after this.

Rincón de la Vieja

After two days in La Fortuna, we got on our private van and drove three hours to Rincón de la Vieja. Most of our activities centered around our ecolodge here in the Guanacaste province, which was nice being close by and taking their hotel shuttle to various activities. The ecolodge offered many experiences including hiking, volcanic mud baths and hot springs, a Canyon Canopy Tour (ziplining/rappelling) and yoga in the courtyard. In front of every room also included a cozy hammock, which I took full advantage of. It was the perfect place to take a nap, journal or read. I always try to maximize my time while in a destination, but during this trip I forced myself to relax and take it easy.

One activity that welcomed ultimate relaxation for me was taking a mud bath and then soaking in the adjacent natural hot springs. As you can see, it’s difficult to think of anything but calm and happy thoughts in this ideal location.

Playa Carrillo

Our last stop was a laid-back beach town called Playa Carrillo and my favorite spot on this Wellness tour. Located on the Nicoya Peninsula, it’s famous for its palm-lined coast, which our hotel overlooked and was only a 5-minute walk across the street. The coast is very flat so during low tide the water formed the prettiest reflections, which was the ideal place to be during sunset. Before our first night’s dinner, we had an aerial yoga session at the hotel, which involved a lot of stretching and inversions. It was only my second time doing aerial yoga and it will be difficult to top the coastal views we had during this class. The next morning we got up for a morning yoga session on the beach, then went for a surfing lesson at a nearby town called Samara. About a 20-minute drive from Playa Carrillo, Samara is known for its flat coastline, perfect for beginners. About half our group went for the class and the other half stayed at the hotel, enjoying the pool and the beach. I had heard of Samara as one of the best spots to catch some waves and it didn’t disappoint. Even better were the fresh coconuts that awaited us after being out all morning.

Most of our group had never surfed before, but were open to trying during this trip. That happened for a lot of the activities, and I really admired everyone’s openness in being “stretched”. Maybe it was the nature of the trip, our group support or wanting to conquer fears, but I believe wellness goes far beyond the physical. I’m sure it looked different for everyone, but this trip encouraged us to step outside our comfort zones in more ways than one. 

G Adventures for Good: Mi Cafecito Coffee Tour

One of my favorite parts of traveling with G Adventures is their commitment to supporting local communities where their tours take place. For this trip, all our guides were local, the restaurants we ate at were mostly family run and we visited a community coffee plantation to learn about a coffee cooperative that supports more than 200 small farmers.

Through our lunch in their cafe and a tour of their grounds, part of our trip fee contributed back to the community. In 2011, this coop/tour was in danger of being shut down because of a lack in visitors, but with the support, training and a consistent customer base from G Adventures, they were able to triple revenues in their first year of operation.

This is one of many G for Good projects, where G Adventures works in partnership with Planeterra, a non-profit organization that helps the development and support of small communities around the globe. 

Summary

Wellness travel traditionally conjures up images of a spa or yoga retreat, but this trip challenged that idea for me. I realized it’s about promoting mind, body and spiritual renewal through various activities that could be adventure-, culture- or spa-focused. Being in a relaxing location full of beautiful nature like Costa Rica definitely helped with calming the body and feeling centered. For this trip, I was very intentional about slowing down, practicing mindfulness and being fully present with those around me. Coming home, I felt more balance, refreshed and reenergized. I already practice a lot of wellness habits, but this trip inspired me to intentionally plan a few Wellness retreats into my year.

To book this trip with G Adventures visit their page on Wellness tours. They also have trips to Bali, Iceland, Nepal and Peru!

Thank you to G Adventures for hosting me on this relaxing retreat. As always, all opinions and photos are my own.

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