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Vegan Vacay: Costa Rican Yoga Retreat

Practice in Paradise (how cute are the blankets in the shape of an elephant?!)

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? On one hand, I’m mad at myself for not attempting an early January resolution post. But it’s not like I even had a breather at that point to pen a list of annual desires.

My trip to Costa Rica last month was the perfect post-holidays reset that I needed. For Christmas and New Years, I was in New York visiting family. Then I came back to New Orleans for 10 days and then off to San Jose, with a four hour ride to Uvita, Costa Rica for 7 Days in Paradise… a yoga retreat headed up by my longtime friend and yogini extraordinaire, Melody. A vegan yoga retreat has been on my bucket list for years for so many reasons, but the timing never really worked out right for the ones that I really wanted to attend.

The view from my villa

How it all came about: last May I was in the midst of a huge vacation-planning promotion at work. The weeks leading up to it were kind of stressful, but in a good way, because I love my job and I love being instrumental to a person’s good time, especially when it comes to travel and/or food. Melody’s yoga retreat came across my feed while I was taking a break, and I didn’t even have to think twice about it. I decided I was in, despite me never ever in my life having planned a get away so far in advance. My job requires a fair amount of travel, so it’s hard to make commitments, but I was determined… not to mention, I was inspired by everyone around me enjoying a real vacation that didn’t involve me doing almost all the planning.

Sunset view from my villa’s patio

In January 2017, I had gone to a resort in Cozumel, Mexico that I wasn’t all that crazy about, mainly because it was all-inclusive and although I had been assured that vegan meals wouldn’t be a problem, I didn’t realize it meant that I’d be regulated to the salad bar (or servings of overcooked piles of vegetables drowning in oil and plain tortillas). If you know me, you know I’m really into food. Like, really really into good food. Sure, I can find joy in a big bowl of veggies, rice and beans but that gets boring after two days. And hey, it’s nice to even have dessert. Indulgence is expected on vacation, right?! I left Mexico swearing off resorts forevermore (though I was assured by friends that I needed to look into luxury health-focused resorts).

vegan lasagna, one of my favorite dinners

All deserts were made daily on the premises, including this divine coconut ice cream

When I saw in the description of Vista Celestial that phenomenal vegan food was a feature, I was sold. That, plus daily yoga on a jungle platform, spacious villas with views + amenities, pools, hot tubs… yeah. I had been to Costa Rica before and absolutely loved it – the culture, the food, the climate, beaches and rainforest. It seemed idyllic to have access to yoga and great food daily, not to mention excursions off the resort property (hikes through the rainforest!)

Our view at dinner every night

From the moment I arrived, entering the spacious open dining area on the top of a mountain, until the moment I departed, I felt a level of bliss that is normally only experienced when I’m halfway through a bottle of Montalcino sitting in an outdoor cafe in a Medieval walled city in Tuscany. I’ve had one dream that I’ve been back to Vista Celestial and I think I might have woke up teary-eyed. The daily sights of lush rainforest, the interaction with the awesome staff, the decadent and often healthy (the two are not mutually exclusive!) food, the invigorating-yet peaceful- daily practice, plus getting to know our small group of hilarious, insane New Yorkers (we had the resort all to ourselves)… it was really just a perfect time. And yes, vegan dessert every single night. A particular favorite dessert was a passionfruit chocolate tart. I’ll never go back to a typical all inclusive resort again.

The video shows the scene outside my villa. We were up high on a mountain and every villa had its own little hot tub on a private patio.

View at breakfast

I don’t typically write about my yoga practice, but I’ve been at it for about 20 years (I’ve taken a couple years break here and there, but I always come back). During the week in Costa Rica, I feel like I deepened my practice. There’s something about practicing in the open air and surrounded by the rainforest. We’d practice every afternoon for 75-90 minutes (save for the one early evening when we were invaded by bugs).

I felt especially fortunate to get to practice with Melody for a week. It had been ages since I took one of her classes, what with me having moved out of New York (gasp: it will be ten years next month! What the hell?) I have two dear friends that I know for decades that are masterful teachers, Melody and Gail. Both are in New York. I like several yoga studios in New Orleans and I also have a strong home practice, but you’re incredibly privileged to have teachers that you know and love personally as well.

Our intrepid group… we found a secret waterfall this day

On the topic of friends, I admit that I haven’t been the best at a. keeping in touch with friends and making sure I see them when I’m back home and b. making friends here in New Orleans. I’ve lived here 6 years and I can count my close friends on one hand. It’s just weird. Naturally, now that I live a half hour outside the city (and virtually in the middle of nowhere), I’m pretty much a hermit. I feel ready, though, to make a change this year. More time with friends!

Besides Costa Rica, up until the end of February, I’ve stayed put in New Orleans. After all, it was Carnival Season and where else would I want to be, but in the magical land of costumes, king cakes and parades?

Back to traveling next week, Dallas and San Antonio and then Phoenix in early March. I had plans to do some European travel in the early spring, but with a lot of stuff going on personally, I’m moving that trip to November, after hurricane season is safely put to rest.

I won’t end this post with promises I can’t keep. So much is going on and I have a bunch of cool Carnival photos that I want to share. Perhaps this week…

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New York girl in a Southern (and Eastern Canadian) world these days. Lives in New Orleans. Tries –and fails – to travel light. Vegan. Loves to eat. Loves to drink wine. Loves to write. Always fitting in a workout. Avoids camping at all costs. Loves experiencing new places/different cultures. Always laughing at myself.

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