Breathe in. Travel in Latin America doesn’t have to be stressful; overstuffed backpacks, crowded buses and uncomfortable bunk beds are not everyone’s idea of fun. Breathe out.
How about a week-long vacation at one of the world’s top yoga retreats instead? Now you’re listening.
Each year, hundreds of yogis and yoginis attend yoga retreats throughout the world, incorporating the meditative practice into their vacations, just as they have integrated it into their everyday lives. These retreats have spurred up throughout the world, yet some of the best ones lie in Latin America.
Latin America’s diverse landscapes and extreme natural beauty provide the ultimate escape. From the jungles of Brazil to the islands of Mexico, Latin American yoga retreat attendees get all the exoticism of a foreign country without all the stresses that come along with language and cultural differences, and all the affordability of a Central or South American destination without all the hassles of bargaining.
“A benefit of taking a yoga retreat in Latin America is that the experience is enhanced by observing and interacting with people who live a much simpler yet no less rewarding lifestyle,” says John Hembrow, owner of Villa del Olas in El Salvador.
Besides typical offerings, many of these retreats offer combination packages to visit nearby ruins, volcanoes or local communities. Some also mix yoga time with surfing lessons, snorkeling, hiking or horseback riding. Most tend to promote full mind and body wellness, coupling yoga and other forms of meditation with spa treatments, body detoxes and organic cuisine.
Here are some of the best yoga retreats in Latin America, all of which provide unique experiences to guests.
Enchanted Mountain Brazil – Garopaba, Santa Catarina, Brazil
Enchanted Mountain is located on over 100 acres of rainforest on the Atlantic coast, about 50 miles south of Florianópolis in Southern Brazil. It is close to the small fishing town of Garopaba and within walking distance to several beaches, and has a capacity for 100 guests in single, double or triple rooms. All have private baths and afford ocean or mountain views. It has both indoor and outdoor meditation spaces, a natural water pool and the largest Ayurvedic treatment center in South America. All meals are vegetarian, and most are prepared with organic vegetables and Brazilian fruits.
The retreat offers both yoga vacations and intensive yoga instructor training courses, along with two distinct wellness programs. Its seven-day, all-inclusive vacation package (which starts at $845 for a triple) blends daily yoga, meditation and mantra chanting sessions with rafting, hiking and surfing excursions. In addition to trips to the nearby Garopaba fishing village, Rosa Beach and Red Beach nature reserve, guests get a taste of local culture through Brazilian dance and martial arts classes. For a simpler experience, it is possible to book a more basic, cheaper package (starting at $395 for a triple) that only includes accommodation, three meals a day and use of a yoga studio, with further add-ons possible. Group packages are also available for a minimum of 10 people.
The retreat also offers specialized programs. You can focus on Ayurveda therapy, a traditional alternative medicine technique with origins in India, which is said to promote longevity and vitality by concentrating on stress elimination and positive energy. Or try Panchakarma, a purifying treatment that incorporates Ayurvedic techniques with a detoxifying diet to allow the body to deeply relax in order to heal. Yoga, nature walks, stress management workshops and herbal remedies are all part of the Panchakarma therapy.
Need to Know: U.S. citizens require a visa to Brazil and must obtain one prior to travel.
Pura Vida — Pavas de Carrizal, Alajuela, Costa Rica
Many different options await yogis at Pura Vida, a meditation retreat center surrounded by coffee plantations in the Alajuela province of Costa Rica, about 45 minutes from downtown San José. You can opt to participate in the three-, five-, or seven-night Mind Body Spirit Package, take on the Pure Life Cleanse, attend one of the many scheduled wellness workshops, or simply spend a few nights at the resort and enjoy its extensive spa treatments. The Mind Body Spirit packages ($595-2,790 per person) include nightly accommodations, buffet-style meals, yoga and meditation sessions, a one hour-long massage, and transportation to and from San José airport. The five- and seven-night packages offer eco-adventure tours (to Poas Volcano, for example) and guided hikes as well.
The Pure Life Cleanse ($2,370-3,665) is a physical and emotional cleanse combining a detoxifying diet of fresh juices with yoga and journaling sessions, lifestyle seminars and eco-adventure tours. Available spa treatments include Shamanic healing sessions, deep tissue massages, facials, exfoliations, aroma treatments and a variety of water therapies. Pura Vida hosts a number of interesting retreats throughout the year, with topics such as personal growth, women’s health, communication and nutrition; check its website for the current schedule.
Pura Vida has 53 different rooms, which can sleep over 100 people. Accommodations range from deluxe tents with carpeted floors and shared bathrooms to fancy suites with a living room, Jacuzzi and private Bali-style shower. The center has four yoga halls, which can hold between 16 and 80 people, and some are equipped with heaters to accommodate hot yoga sessions. Pura Vida’s certified conservation property has a pool, hot tub, botanical gardens, hammocks and fitness equipment, along with a variety of African drums and percussion instruments for impromptu drum circles.
Wendy Green Yoga — Río Cangrejal, Honduras
Wendy Green Yoga’s Casa Verde, located on Honduras’ Northern Caribbean Coast near the Pico Bonito National Forest, is small but sweet. The center only hosts four to five guests at a time, ensuring that each individual receives specialized attention and instruction. All retreats are ongoing, meaning people can come and go as they please. Personalized Ashtanga yoga, taught by Wendy herself, takes place on an outdoor platform facing green landscapes and a waterfall. These daily sessions are enhanced by challenging rainforest hikes and visits to local communities. Each day ends with intimate evening conversations on green living and related topics. Weekly Thai massages are the icing on the cake.
Guests have two accommodation choices: either stay in Casa Verde’s only bedroom, which has a private bathroom and mountain views, or opt for booking the Casa Mango guesthouse, an adobe cabin containing a kitchen, porch, private bedroom and separate single bed. They both cost $1,125 per person for seven nights and are all-inclusive; prices rise to $1,250 per person in high season (December-April). Casa Verde only serves raw, plant-based meals, allowing for full-body cleansing and even weight loss.
Casa Verde is best reached from La Ceiba or San Pedro Sula, and Wendy Yoga can arrange transportation from the airport in either town for an added cost.
Villa del Olas — La Libertad, El Salvador
Built into a cliff on the Pacific coast of El Salvador near La Libertad, Villa del Olas is made up of an oceanfront Moroccan-style villa and a smaller “casita.” The villa has five bedrooms (including a master suite) and five bathrooms, a full kitchen and dining area, a private pool, and numerous balconies and gardens, and can be rented out for yoga or meditation retreats ($375 per night for up to 15 people). Private or group yoga classes take place on the villa’s rooftop sky terrace, a 1,000-square-foot tiled area with a thatched palm roof and exceptional ocean views. The casita ($125 per person per night) is the smaller, cozier option, with only one bedroom and one bathroom and a small kitchen—perfect for couples. Villa del Olas offers seven-day yoga retreat packages ($999 per person), which include accommodation, three meals a day, daily yoga classes, and tours to Mayan ruins, volcanoes and waterfalls.
Villa del Olas is unique in that it is located within a gated beach club, so you also get access to the community’s entire private property, which has exclusive beaches, saltwater pools, jungle walking trails and a restaurant. The area is especially known for first-class surfing, and there is a private break point on the grounds. Many guests choose to combine yoga and beach time with private surfing lessons, and Villa del Olas can arrange day or overnight surfing excursions to nearby surfing spots as well.
>> Search airfare to El Salvador
AQUA Nicaragua — Playa Gigante, Nicaragua
AQUA’s location on a secluded beach in tropical dry forest along Nicaragua’s Pacific coast allows you to truly immerse yourself in nature. The center’s deluxe tree houses harmoniously mingle with the area’s howler monkeys and brightly covered birds, which swoop through the treetops, making daily wildlife viewing inevitable.
Many yoga and wellness retreats are scheduled at the facility throughout the year. However, AQUA also has a full staff of yoga instructors who lead classes ($10 per class) of all levels on the center’s large, open-air platform for those who prefer to visit independently. Lots of add-on options, ranging from surfing lessons to volcano hikes to city tours, are possible.
AQUA’s 16 TreeTop villas ($185-480 per person), made with natural hardwoods and stones, are both sophisticated and environmentally friendly. Most of the villas have ocean views and some are even located on the beach. For a step up, book one of its master luxury suites or penthouse suites, which come with kitchens and living areas as well. Each stay includes one free yoga class and daily breakfast. The resort offers two different meal plans. All dishes, which play off of Nicaraguan cuisine, are made with fresh, local ingredients, some of which come from AQUA’s very own garden.
The retreat center is situated two and half hours from Managua, one and a half hours from San Juan del Sur and two hours north of the border with Costa Rica. AQUA can arrange taxi service from the airport in Managua at an additional cost.
Na Balam — Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Na Balam—on the far northeastern tip of Isla Mujeres, just off the Yucután Peninsula by boat—hosts Mexico Yoga Retreats’ yoga, meditation and reiki programs. Its “Body, Mind and Soul” retreats are designed to purify guests physically and spiritually through morning and evening Hatha and Kundalini yoga sessions, daily meditation, spa treatments, and an organic, detoxifying diet.
These five-night retreats ($2,055-2,467 per person) include accommodation, two meals a day, round-trip transportation to and from Cancun Airport, and trips to Chichen Itza and Cinote on the Yucután. Although optional, Mexico Yoga Retreats encourages a full day of silence for self-contemplation and personal growth. One special aspect of the program is an overnight stay at the Ancient Mayan Energy Center, complete with sunrise yoga.
The tiny Caribbean island has lots to offer, including opportunities to swim with dolphins, to go snorkeling or scuba diving, and to visit the nearby Tortuga Marina Turtle Farm. Na Balam’s accommodations vary from private rooms with pool views to two-story master villas on the beach. All have a touch of the island’s local culture and integrate Mayan art in their designs. Its restaurant and bar, Zazil Hal, is on the water and serves up Mexican cuisine and seafood. The retreat center has two equipped yoga studios, a pool, a beach club and a TV/game room, along with a few different tropical gardens.
Atmananda Yoga Retreat — Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Atmananda Yoga Center in New York City leads seven-day yoga retreats ($2,399-3,729) in its colonial mansion in Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. The elite home, Casa Pombo, was once inhabited by the Royal Army’s commanding officer and war hero, and was restored in 2007 by well-known Colombian architect Álvaro Barrera.
The Colombian-born owner of Atmananda Yoga Center, Jhon T, personally teaches all of the yoga classes, incorporating Hatha, Iyengar, Ashtanga and Vinyasa methods into his seven-level Atmananda Yoga Sequence. Mornings start with Asana practice (the art of sitting still) and meditation time. Afternoons are typically reserved for sightseeing or shopping in the city or for trips to local sites, and there is a group spiritual teaching session in the early evening. A historical tour of Cartagena and excursions to Islas del Rosario, the Mud Volcano of Toturno and mangroves are included in the price, as well as daily breakfasts and lunches and dinner the first night. The on-site chef can cook additional dinners for those who don’t want to eat out in Cartagena’s many restaurants.
Rooms are single or double occupancy, with either two twin beds or a king-sized bed and a twin. Guests have full access to the mansion’s pools, Jacuzzis and rooftop terraces with Caribbean Sea views, and there is a spa only a few blocks away. The house is located only 10 minutes from Cartagena’s airport, and transport can be arranged for $10 each way.
Read more about yoga travel and South and Central America:
- Five Unexpected Treasures of South America
- How to Get Around Visa Fees in South America
- 10 Places in South America to Escape the Northern Winter
- How to Take Your Yoga Practice on Your Travels
Photos by: Enchanted Mountain Staff; Amir Magal, Courtesy of Pura Vida; iwantcheese, Courtesy of Wendy Green Yoga; Villa del Olas; AQUA Nicaragua; Na Balam; Atmananda Cartagena