Wish You Were Here
Whether you're drained, suffering from the winter doldrums, or just need to prioritize some "you time," sometimes the best investment you can make is in yourself—and in your yoga practice. A week at a sunny, tropical yoga retreat could be just what you need to recharge and replenish, both inside and out. A great winter yoga retreat experience has many components—world-class yoga teachers; fresh food that nourishes both body and spirit; a lush tropical setting (local wildlife is an added bonus); and opportunities for therapeutic and indulgent spa treatments. These dreamy getaways offer all that, and more. If an exotic vacation isn't in the budget this year, put these on your "maybe someday" list. Dreaming can shift your perspective, too.
A Huichol word, haramara means "mother sea," the place where everything comes from, says owner Sajeela de la Borbolla. And with its warm, familylike atmosphere and fresh gourmet cuisine, this gracious retreat center does feel like the source of something sacred. "You're taken care of from the moment you arrive," says Ashtanga Yoga teacher Peggy Orr, who has led nine retreats here. Located just 40 minutes from Puerto Vallarta on the Riviera Nayarit—a sleepy stretch of coast dotted with resorts, the property includes a private beach and 12 acres of tropical jungle.
The yoga space is an open-air, thatched palapa with a 360-degree view of the ocean and rainforest. Guests stay in simple but beautiful palm-thatched casitas, with open-air walls on three sides that invite in the ocean breeze and the sounds of the pounding surf. Charming bathrooms, oil lamps, and canopy beds with handmade quilts complete the look—a blend of rustic and elegant that Orr describes as "Robinson Crusoe meets Architectural Digest."
Yoga: Visiting teachers have included Rodney Yee, Jason Crandell, Desiree Rumbaugh, Darren Rhodes, and Sianna Sherman.
Don't Miss: The homemade granola at breakfast, the spectacular moles at lunch, and the just-caught seafood at dinner—plus VIP treatment by the chef, who will prepare a meal based on your dietary needs.
More Information: haramararetreat.com
Blue Spirit Retreat
A saltwater infinity swimming pool is the first thing you see as you approach Blue Spirit, a retreat center bordering a nature reserve on the northwest coast of Costa Rica. The sight sets the tone for an experience of the infinite outdoors. Blue Spirit's large yoga studio is on the top floor of the center—a breathtaking 3,000-square-foot air-conditioned pavilion with floor-to-ceiling windows. A smaller, cabana-like yoga space in the jungle is wall-less on three sides to let in the soft breezes and howler monkeys' calls. A short stroll down a tree-canopied path brings you to the beach for sunset yoga practice.
Blue Spirit's mostly vegetarian menu features fruit smoothies, greens, grains, and legumes as well as fresh-caught fish. The rooms (singles or doubles with private baths in the main building) and eco-cottages (which share a bathhouse down the hill) are clean and cool, and all buildings are solar powered and made with local concrete and sustainably harvested wood.
Yoga: Beryl Bender Birch, Peter Sterios, Cyndi Lee, Sharon Gannon, and David Life have all taught here.
Don't Miss: Enjoying a tangy lime-ginger ice pop at the open-air Cafe Library, located on a spacious balcony that has a view of the mountains.
More Information: bluespiritcostarica.com
Rancho la Puerta
You want to immerse yourself in yoga, but your best travel partner has other ideas about what makes a dream vacation. You'll both be happy at Rancho La Puerta, a renowned health-and-wellness destination located on 3,000 acres in the mountains of Baja California, Mexico. Yoga and meditation teachers come from all over the world for special weeklong yoga programs, but the ranch also has a broad spectrum of other offerings. There are more than 50 daily fitness classes, plus swimming and volleyball, miles of hiking trails, cooking classes at the ranch's culinary center, and tours of the ranch's six-acre organic farm.
You'll both want to check out the full menu of spa services and therapeutic treatments, some of which make use of organic medicinal herbs grown on the property. Accommodations range from luxurious private villas to single-room "rancheras" with garden patios, all with a Mexican folk-art motif, handmade furniture, and hand-painted tiles.
Yoga: In addition to regularly scheduled daily yoga classes, specially programmed weeks are dedicated to different kinds of yoga, including Iyengar, Ashtanga, and Anusara.
Don't Miss: Taking a 6 am guided hike up the sacred Mount Kuchumaa, past rock formations and glorious desert scenery—and coming back to breakfast by the pool.
More Information: rancholapuerta.com
Secluded on 150 acres of virgin rainforest, Luna Lodge is a great place to renew your love of nature and your awareness of the interrelatedness of all living things. Yoga classes take place on a loftlike platform perched high in the Corcovado National Park, with spectacular views of both the ocean and the rainforest, home to scarlet macaws, toucans, shy tapirs, slow-moving sloths, and other wildlife.
Guests can stay in simple bungalows with private decks, in hacienda-style rooms, or in tents built on platforms in the jungle. The lodge is self-sustaining, running completely on hydro- and solar power. Its amenities—a swimming pool; an open-air restaurant that serves tropical fruits and spices grown on the property; and a spa that offers coconut body scrubs, massage, Reiki, and aromatherapy, among other treatments—are designed to be light on the landscape and integrated into the surrounding jungle.
Yoga: Features a 1600 square foot space surrounded by rainforest to which instructors can bring groups. Sianna Sherman, Amy Ippoliti, Gloria Drayer, and Tias Little have brought groups here.
Don't Miss: Lana's Special spa treatment: a combination of deep-tissue massage, hot stone rub, and a soothing organic facial.
More Information: lunalodge.com
Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay
Located on a 1,000-acre private island in the northern Caribbean, Parrot Cay is the setting for the ultimate fantasy vacation: a super luxurious resort that has chic, airy rooms furnished with Balinese furniture; a holistic spa that offers both Western-style and Ayurvedic treatments; and two restaurants serving just about every kind of food you can imagine—Asian-inspired dishes, raw and vegan cuisine, American-style breakfasts, local seafood, and more.
World-class visiting yoga teachers lead classes in an open-air studio with views of the island's powdery white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Como Shambhala also operates luxury retreat centers with great yoga programming in Bali and Bhutan.
Yoga: Features a complimentary sunset class from 4pm to 5pm in a open-air yoga pavilion daily. Erich Schiffmann, Rodney Yee, Colleen Saidman Yee, and Elena Brower have all taught here.
Don't Miss: the Abhyanga Package, a 90-minute spa treatment designed to enhance circulation and release impurities that begins with an Ayurvedic oil massage and is followed by an herbal steam and a body mud mask.
More Information: http://www.comohotels.com/parrotcay
7 More Spectacular Spots to Reconnect With Your Practice
Ashiyana Retreat Centre
A serene site located between the Mandrem River and the coast of the Indian Ocean in northern Goa, India, Ashiyana has daily yoga and meditation classes with resident teachers, plus yoga retreats with visiting international teachers scheduled throughout the season. Guests stay in bungalows overlooking the beach and dine on Indian and Western vegetarian cuisine.
More Information: ashiyana-yoga-goa.com
This restorative spot on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico has white-sand beaches, simple thatched cabanas, and offers a large variety of yoga practices, including Hatha, Kundalini, and Ashtanga based classes.
More Information: mayatulum.com
Prana del Mar
Located on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula, this tranquil, eco-friendly beach resort offers yoga retreats (including some that combine yoga with surfing) with renowned visiting teachers.
More Information: pranadelmar.com
Somatheeram Ayurveda Resort
This tropical retreat center in Kerala, India, the birthplace of Ayurveda, is not about practicing with Western yoga teachers (though some do bring groups here) or getting Western spa treatments, but about immersing yourself in the healing lifestyle of Ayurveda. The resort offers individualized treatment plans from the Ayurvedic physicians on staff, classical Sivananda-style yoga, and traditional Ayurvedic therapies, plus a range of comfortable accommodations.
More Information: somatheeram.in
Stay Human Yoga and Retreat Center
Michael Franti and Carla Swanson's intimate retreat center in Ubud, Bali, with an open-air yoga studio, lush tropical gardens, and a swimming pool.
More Information: stayhumannow.com
Owner Carol Cumes has created a retreat center in a verdant paradise that is an hour from the Andean town of Cusco, Peru, and that supports the local community. Retreats include yoga and meditation, visits to Machu Picchu, and the opportunity to learn about the region's rich spiritual and cultural heritage.
More Information: willkatika.com
Where the jungle meets the beach on Banderas Bay near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, you'll find this sparkling new eco-chic retreat center with open, thatched palapas, spa services, and resident yoga instructors as well as visiting teachers like Amy Ippoliti and Darren Rhodes.
More Information: xinalaniretreat.com
Subscribe to YJ
Join Yoga Journal's Benefits Plus
Liability insurance and benefits to support
teachers and studios.