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Salute the Sun

Spectacular retreat centers in beachy hot spots give new meaning to saluting the sun.

By Sarah Saffian, Lavinia Spalding, and Valerie Reiss


On your next vacation, immerse yourself in your yoga practice while experiencing local color, culture, and food—the exotic extras that make travel so rewarding.

Learn to surf, snorkel, or sea kayak in warm tropical waters. Ride a zipline through the rainforest canopy. Refresh after afternoon yoga practice with a papaya you picked yourself or the sweet water of a just-cracked coconut. Take a local cooking class or nap in a hammock.

Part yoga immersion, part vacation, these spectacular retreats are spots where you can rest and refresh, focus deeply on your yoga practice, and broaden your horizons—all at the same time.


A visit to Bali achieves for the soul what an exhalation does for the body. Everywhere you go, palm trees sway in the breeze, and offerings of flowers decorate the road. Monkeys chatter, gamelan music drifts from doorways, and incense smoke wafts through the air. The weather is warm and welcoming, and so are the smiles of locals as they offer you a lift to your next destination: an ancient, monkey-filled temple; the healing hot springs; or your yoga class.

Located in the western part of Indonesia, Bali is one of Asia's most spiritual and sublime travel destinations. Serenity seekers have always been drawn to the island and, in particular, to the town of Ubud for its culture of hospitality, colorful Hindu ceremonies, and holistic and spiritual healing. (Ubud is derived from the Balinese word for "medicine.") Now there's another reason to go: the cornucopia of top-notch yoga and wellness centers, where rest and rejuvenation are virtually guaranteed, and transformation is inescapable.

Soulshine Bali
Ubud, Bali

Situated in the terraced rice fields just five minutes from central Ubud, this elegant but unpretentious retreat center is co-owned by Michael Franti of Spearhead, so it's no surprise that music is in the air. Live rhythms or kirtan often accompany yoga class. You can see three volcanoes and a temple dedicated to the goddess Durga from the open-air yoga shala, which has awesome views of the surrounding jungle.

Sustainability is present in every detail, from the organic food grown in the center's own garden to the organic bed linens, and owners Franti and Carla Swanson give an annual benefit concert to support community health organizations such as the Bumi Sehat Natural Birthing Clinic, which gives thousands of consultations each year to reduce maternal and child mortality.

Yoga: Practice daily with a resident teacher or enroll in weeklong vinyasa, Anusara, Jivamukti, and Yin Yoga retreats with visiting instructors like Pete Guinosso and Janet Stone.

Don't Miss: After practice, enjoy a therapeutic massage or facial and then snack on mangoes or papayas that you pick yourself.

For more information, visit

COMO Shambhala Estate
Near Ubud, Bali

The grand jewel of the high-end COMO hotel chain, the grounds of this dedicated health and wellness retreat center are a paradise of groomed jungle and airily chic open space. Spectacular luxury is this magical spot's specialty, and accommodations range from rooms and suites to private villas. With healthful Indonesian-inspired cuisine, water gardens fed by a local spring revered for its healing properties, an on-site Ayurvedic doctor for consultation and treatments, and a Western-style spa, it's a place you might never want to leave.

Yoga: A daily vinyasa flow class is held in an open-air studio, and private classes are available. Or book a retreat with visiting teachers like Cyndi Lee and Shiva Rea.

Don't Miss: Check the schedule for meditation and pPranayama sessions; or choose your own adventure with treks, mountain biking, or white-water rafting.

For more information, visit

The Yoga Barn
Ubud, Bali

What started as a tiny donation-only yoga studio above an organic café in 2002 has grown into a vibrant yoga community center with 3.5 acres of largely undeveloped land, four yoga studios, a living-foods restaurant, and a dedicated detox center that offers both Ayurvedic and Western-style treatments—all with an eye to preserving Ubud's natural resources. The buildings are made from recycled timber, with mud walls and grass-thatched roofs. The center's 10 guest rooms are reserved for detox clients, but the owners will help you plan a retreat in cooperation with area hotels.

Yoga: Drop in to more than 50 regularly scheduled classes a week, plus classes and workshops with visiting teachers like Les Leventhal and Desirée Rumbaugh.

Don't Miss: Every other Monday, find a bolster on the floor of the yoga studio for movie night, featuring popcorn and an eclectic schedule of films with spiritual and environmental themes.

For more information, visit

Costa Rica

The moment you touch down here, you're entering a land of ahimsa (nonviolence). Costa Rica is the only Latin American country with no need for a standing army, and it has a higher literacy rate and greater reliance on sustainable resources than its neighbors. It's also one of the most vividly gorgeous places on Earth. Think lush, green jungle teeming with wildlife; pink sunsets; white-sand beaches; and scarlet lava flowing from active volcanoes.

With a tranquilo coastal vibe that has attracted a plethora of retreat centers for yogis and surfers, you can spend your days riding waves internal and external and then soak in hot springs—and even hot rivers—to melt away the last frissons of stress. Costa Rica's relative affordability makes it perfect for a low-key, rustic tropical escape. And the country is leading the continent in eco-tourism and sustainability, making it a great choice for yogis looking to consciously take care of themselves and the environment.

Boca Sombrero
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

This beautifully rustic center is located on the remote Osa Peninsula, where the ocean meets the jungle. With a new yoga deck and waves curling right out front, asana and surfing make a divine marriage here. When you need a change of scenery, the river and jungle beckon with the calls of howler monkeys and scarlet macaws. Housing is more family-style than resort, with three large houses and eight thatched tent platforms accommodating up to 28 guests. Surfing lessons are available as well as a variety of holistic bodywork options.

Yoga: Morning vinyasa-style classes are taught by resident instructors on a roomy deck with a thatched roof; afternoon and private classes are available on request. Check the schedule for upcoming retreats with visiting instructors.

Don't Miss: Take a sunset sea kayaking trip. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of frolicking dolphins just as the sun dips below the horizon.

For more information, visit

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

This newly built oceanfront property on Playa Santa Teresa is rich with ocean views and a spirit of tranquility and beauty. A placid saltwater pool anchors the space and is surrounded by eco-villas with private decks. Breathe the ocean breeze as you practice yoga in a teak-floored open-air studio, or relax with a massage to the sounds of crashing waves. Hammocks slung under palm trees complete the tropical idyll. The open-air restaurant serves upscale organic food and juices and is open to the public.

Yoga: Choose among daily classes in a variety of styles or book a retreat with visiting instructors like Sianna Sherman, MC Yogi, and Amanda Giacomini.

Don't Miss: Save some time between yoga classes for tidepooling, snorkeling, and horseback riding.

For more information, visit

Blue Spirit Retreat
Nosara, Costa Rica

Bordering a sea turtle refuge along a Pacific Coast beach in northwest Costa Rica, Blue Spirit offers an experience of the infinite outdoors. The center's largest yoga studio has 180-degree views of the white-sand beach and Pacific Ocean beyond, while a smaller pavilion overlooks the lush forest.

The mostly vegetarian menu features fresh fruit smoothies, greens, grains, and legumes along with fresh-caught fish. Single and double rooms with private baths are in the main building, and solar-powered eco-cottages share a bathhouse.

Yoga: Recent retreats have been led by Beryl Bender Birch and Krishna Das. See the schedule for upcoming retreats.

Don't Miss: After class, take a dip in the saltwater infinity pool.

For more information, visit


Aloha! Meaning "love," the word serves as a noun, a greeting, and a way of life for both locals and travelers in Hawaii. The spirit of love infuses everything from the island chain's calming Pacific views to the gentle perfume of night-blooming jasmine. This is a place where you can hear whales sing and drape yourself in necklaces of flowers.

Hawaii is considered one of the world's most spiritually potent spots, due in part to its mind-bending natural beauty. Sunny beaches, lush forests, and arid mountains often coexist on the same island. Locals might tell you that the deeper secret of Hawaii's magic lies in its abundance of mana—the divine essence in everything. Yoga studios are abundant, and all you need to get a post-yoga glow is a deep, healing breath of the rich island prana (life force)—or mana, if you prefer—that's as omnipresent here as the scent of flowers.

Lumeria Maui

This new luxury wellness center sits on six verdant acres just outside the surfer town of Paia. The freshly restored historic plantation house has 24 guest rooms with views of either the garden, the ocean, or the long-dormant Haleakala volcano. An on-site organic farm supplies the family-style dining room, which has an ambiance perhaps best described as barefoot elegance. Sunrise and sunset meditation sessions take place every day, along with daily garden tours and gardening classes.

Yoga: Choose from seven daily classes in Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, restorative, and vinyasa yoga, or check the schedule for retreats with visiting instructors.

Don't Miss: Tours of the island's spiritual sights have a personal-transformation angle. Check out the Seven Sacred Pools-Seven Chakras trip, a gentle adventure in healing and hiking in the 'Iao Valley.

For more information, visit

The Big Island

Picture yourself practicing yoga in a spacious studio with 360-degree views of the jungle and its unearthly flowers while breathing the cleanest air in the world. Next, imagine eating a wholesome meal made with island-grown produce, taking a hike to see lava flowing from a volcano, and then soaking in a hot tub under a canopy of stars. This is life at Kalani, the largest yoga retreat center in Hawaii. In addition to more than 50 classes a week in 12 styles of yoga, the 37-year-old center has rich offerings in Hawaiian culture, plus a wellness center specializing in many styles of massage.

Expect a laid-back, open-minded vibe that's more retreat than resort, with a clothing-optional pool and spa, community ecstatic-dance sessions, and accommodations that are comfortable rather than luxurious.

Yoga: In addition to a variety of regularly scheduled classes from Kundalini to vinyasa yoga, recent visiting instructors have included Baron Baptiste and Shakti Sunfire.

Don't Miss: Take a tour of the grounds, including the cutting-edge aquaponics system and permaculture gardens.

For more information, visit

Swell Women

The folks at this yoga and surfing retreat know just what balance-seeking yoginis need: daily yoga, fresh food, and lots of sand and surf. Located in sunny west Maui on Ka'anapali Beach, retreats are scheduled from June to September to coincide with the best weather and surf conditions. Groups are small, and accommodations are at a luxury oceanfront resort that's a bit off the beaten tourist path. Plus, your yoga-surf posse will have a private chef and handpicked bodyworkers to gently pummel you into sweet bliss. Retreats are, as the name suggests, for women only, but groups of eight or more can book a customized co-ed retreat.

Yoga: Taught outside under a huge banyan dubbed the Yoga Tree, the all-level morning flow class focuses on the muscles used in the day's second class—surfing. Think: balance and core strength.

Don't Miss: In addition to surfing, here's your chance to try stand-up paddle boarding, a core workout extraordinaire. After that, opt for lomilomi, a traditional Hawaiian massage, to relieve your sore muscles.

For more information, visit


Yoga travelers in search of a restorative, inspiring vacation have long been attracted to Mexico's ancient spiritual cultures, laid-back pace, and magical landscapes. In the east, bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, the Yucatán Peninsula boasts the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and the Sian Ka'an Biosphere, a million-acre nature preserve in Tulum. On the west coast, Puerto Vallarta is nestled on the Bay of Banderas, surrounded by the Sierra Madre mountain range and the Cuale, Pitillal, and Ameca Rivers that flow down from the mountains. On either coast or in between, the country's tranquility and beauty are an inspiring backdrop for reinvigorating both body and soul.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Xinalani's 10 acres of jungle on the southern shore of Banderas Bay are accessible only by boat. Guest rooms and suites at this eco-resort, some with open-air showers and terraces, were built without concrete or land modification, and everything from the light bulbs to the shampoo has been chosen with the environment in mind. For the budget traveler, a spacious communal palapa accommodates eight people.

The center has two yoga studios, including an open-air studio overlooking the ocean. The meals served in the outdoor restaurant are inspired by macrobiotic and Ayurvedic cuisine, and the chef can prepare raw and vegan food upon request.

Yoga: Twice-daily classes in vinyasa, Anusara, and Power Yoga are taught by resident teachers. Meditation classes are also offered. Recent retreats have been led by Schuyler Grant, Nikki Vilella, and Kia Miller.

Don't Miss: Off-the-mat options abound, including whale watching, snorkeling, horseback riding, and cooking classes.

For more information, visit

Tulum, Mexico

Amansala, a blend of the Sanskrit words for water (ambha) and peace (santi), describes itself as eco-chic. Like many other places in Tulum, the boutique resort has a rustic, low-fi elegance. Its 24 beachfront cabanas have private baths and terraces, and electricity is available only from dusk until 11 p.m. There are two yoga studios, including one on the beach, and the open-air dining room serves mango margaritas and fresh fish. The town of Tulum is a 10-minute taxi ride (or a 30-minute bike ride) away. Also nearby are Mayan ruins on the cliffs of the Caribbean Sea and cenotes, or freshwater sinkholes, for swimming and snorkeling.

Yoga: Recent retreats have been led by Elena Brower and David Romanelli. Amansala is also known for Bikini Bootcamp retreats, which incorporate yoga, led by the resident teacher, into a fitness regimen.

Don't Miss: A weekly purification ritual on the beach involves a Mayan clay body treatment and guided meditation, followed by a group plunge into the ocean.

For more information, visit

Sayulita, Mexico

Located just 45 minutes from Puerto Vallarta on the Riviera Nayarit, the grounds of this welcoming retreat center include a private beach and 12 acres of lush tropical jungle. The larger of two yoga spaces is an open-air thatched palapa built on a hillside, with 360-degree views of the ocean and surrounding rainforest.

Simple but beautiful palm-thatched cabanas have screened, open-air walls on three sides that invite in the ocean breeze and the soothing sounds of the surf. Between yoga classes, enjoy hilly walks around the grounds and bodywork options like an Ayurvedic abhyanga massage with warm oil blended to suit your constitution.

Yoga: Recent visiting teachers have included Patricia Sullivan and Sherri Baptiste. See the schedule for retreats.

Don't Miss: Ask about cooking classes and spend an afternoon learning to put a healthful, tropical twist on dishes like chocolate avocado mousse pie.

For more information, visit

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June 2012

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