Blue Spirit review | Yoga retreat centre, Costa Rica
Stunning yoga eco-centre in Costa Rica
The Quick Read: Blue Spirit is a retreat centre set in lush tropical forest high above Guiones beach in Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica. The location is simply magnificent: you practise yoga and eat looking down on to the white waves of a surfing beach far below. This spectacular eco-retreat centre was created by holistic physician Stephan Rechtshaffen (co-founder of the world famous Omega Institute in New York) as a gorgeous environment where the ethos is ‘taking care of yourself prevents illness.’ The centre offers yoga retreats, meditation retreats and yoga teacher trainings by visiting teachers as well as winter learning holidays with the Omega Institute and other transformational programmes. Various international teachers hire the centre, so there is a wide choice of courses on offer. It’s totally stress-free – absolutely everything is taken care of, so you can surrender totally into the experience.
Who it’s best for: For those who want to focus intensely on their yoga and spiritual/personal growth without distractions. Blue Spirit is perfect for urbanites who work too hard and want to remember what it feels like to nourish themselves. It’s the jungle, so if you’re nervous about up close and personal with the wildlife, it won’t be for you.
What you can do: The centre is open throughout the year (apart from September and October) and there’s a broad variety of yoga styles on offer, everything from Vinyasa to Jivamukti. Choose your teacher with care to ensure they’re right for you. A typical day on a yoga retreat starts at 7 am with meditation followed by breakfast. The morning yoga class runs from 9 – 11am, then you’re free to swim, sunbathe and relax before a light lunch from 12.30pm. Afternoon yoga sessions usually run from 2 -4pm. Dinner is from 6.30 – 7.30pm and afterwards people tend to hang around to chat. Blue Spirit encourages early nights but it’s not po-faced – when we visited there was lots of laughter.
Wine and beer are available from the cafe/bar, though on some retreats these might not be offered. There are extra activities some evenings – maybe a salsa class or a beach fire ceremony. There are eight treatment rooms where local therapists offer a broad variety of therapies, from Thai massage ($105/£67) and deep nourishing massage ($85/£54) to Reiki and shamanic healing.
Blue Spirit also has a wide variety of excursions and experiences available: you can explore the surrounding forest, river and sea on foot, horseback, kayak or boat. Guided trips can introduce you to the wildlife or simply hunt out waterfalls and pristine jungle pools for bathing.
The five minute walk down to the beach passes through dense subtropical forest and you can often spot colourful local birds like the elegant trogan on the way down. The beach itself? Stunning white sands that are home to a Turtle Refuge so no building is permitted. The north and mid sections of the beach offer great surfing for both beginners and more advanced surfers (Blue Spirit can arrange surfing or SUP lessons). Prefer a swim? The southern end of the beach is perfect, thanks to the gentle current.
Where you stay: Blue Spirit is set in 60 acres of jungle garden atop a hillside overlooking a three-mile long white sand beach. It gives the impression of superb isolation but the village of Nosara is only 10 minutes away by car. Accommodation is very varied: from tents on platforms to simple eco-cottages and ocean-view suites in the main building. We stayed in one of the nature suites and felt deeply immersed in nature. These have a very clever design playing with notions of inside/outside. There are three huge windows with evergreen palms almost coming into the room and the only neighbours we were aware of were the growling howler monkeys.
All the furniture is made of local teak and there are subtle design details – a Tibetan tanka and a framed Peruvian child’s dress on the walls, while a Buddha from Java stands just outside one window. The message is that this is a sacred place without denomination. The icing on the eco-cake is a bathroom open to the elements. Sheets and towels are only changed on request – we approve.
The three huge group rooms are fantastic, particularly the Sky Mind Hall. It’s where other hoteliers would put the penthouse suite but Rechtschaffen wanted it to be available for everyone. It’s heavenly – not only do you feel as though you are literally in the sky but you also look down on breaking waves, white sands and a multitude of tropical trees. The Nature Studio is also a beautiful place to hold workshops as it is open on two sides, so you are surrounded by palms, fiery flamboyant trees and visiting iguanas. The dining hall looks right down on the forest and sea and, once again, there are those design details that make all the difference – a wall made of driftwood, and a red dragon painting from Bali. Comfortable sofas are inviting after yoga or food – simply look down on to the trees and humming birds.
Outside the salt water infinity pool is a major draw. There are comfortable sun loungers, lots of shade too and entertainment from a regular visitor, a wonderful green iguana. The shop near the eating area sells biodegradable Aromas Para El Alma products as well as yoga T-shirts, spiritual books and locally crafted jewellery.
How was it for us: I was lucky enough to be on holiday in Costa Rica with my partner, Asanga, so it really was a delightful extra to be able to go and spend some time in this extraordinary place. We didn’t take part in the yoga retreat but, instead, were there as guests of the owner. It was a little unusual as normally you would only go for seven days as part of a group.
Costa Rica in general is not hot on aesthetics but Blue Spirit is and it was truly a treat to stay in an environment where so much care had been taken in the subtleties and the aesthetics. It was also inspiring to be in such an eco-friendly environment – for instance the power in the eco-cottages is all provided by solar panels and there is an impressive irrigation system which uses all their waste water in the gardens. I loved the outdoor shower, which was blissfully cool – when we visited in May it’s hot and humid (with the odd thunderstorm). Being able to look up at leaves and sky was delicious. Another plus were the Aromas Para El Alma (“aromas for the soul”) biodegradable shampoo and conditioner provided – they not only protect their water system but also made my hair feel great.
We felt nurtured by all the innovative veggie dishes and were really taken care of by the smiling staff. One particular treat for me was a Thai massage by Kimberley (originally from the US). She used her fingers skilfully on my acupressure points and helped me to feel more grounded in general. It was comforting to know that she found my body was in balance.
In the mornings, we would go down to the beach early at 7am. Asanga would swim and I would run. Or collect shells. There was a hot yoga group going on while we were there and some people organised horse-riding trips on the beach for later in the afternoon or to catch the amazing sunset. But we were content to read by the pool and deeply rest for most of the days. We both needed relaxation at this point as we were preparing for the next stage of our journey. One evening, I had a dip in the pool at 9pm – it was just me and there was something magical about being alone and surrounded by jungle sounds.
What we took home: The memory of that room: the size of the bed, the brilliant décor, the outside shower, the teak, the immersion in nature. I’d love to bring a touch of that to my bedroom at home.
Would we go back: Yes, particularly to do Deva Premal and Miten’s Tantra Mantra course for couples. This is an exploration into conscious loving enhancing the way energy plays between female/male polarities through chant, mantras, meditation and tantric practices.
People watch: The Costa Rican staff emanate ease, grace and efficiency. There is a general feeling that everything can be done with minimum effort and maximum good will. Alfredo on the reception desk sorted out a few little problems – like not enough towels – immediately and with such an easy-going attitude. Obviously yoga teachers vary enormously – check the website for upcoming retreats. We like the policy of adding $60/£38 to the final bill, which is divided between the CR staff.
Food watch: The food ethos is predominantly vegetarian with occasional fish dishes. Everything is locally sourced where possible. All dietary variations can be met, if requested beforehand. Breakfast consists of fresh fruit (think juicy papaya, watermelon and pineapple) and plain yoghurt plus, for example, corn cakes, peso sauce or tortilla; or maybe scrambled eggs with home-baked bread. Iced tea and hot coffee are always available. Lunch involves a range of inventive salads from marinated watermelon to curried carrot salad, alongside a selection of home-made breads. Dinner is salad-heavy again with perhaps dorado in ginger sauce or spicy courgette salad. Sometimes there were home-baked cakes like upside down pineapple cake as a special addition. The centre also has its own café, which sells all manner of fresh smoothies, organic Chilean wine and delicious desserts like raw chocolate truffles and gluten-free chocolate torte.
What’s lowly: Because the retreat centre is so focused on its group activities, the reality of being in Spanish-speaking Costa Rica is forgotten. We didn’t hear anyone there even attempting to speak Spanish.
Insider tip: The wet season starts in May so take a plastic poncho if you’re going then. A flashlight is also handy.
Price with a companion: Prices vary according to the programme and the yoga teacher (you book via the yoga teacher rather than directly with Blue Spirit). As an example, a week’s Ashtanga course staying in an Eco cottage cost $1,800 (£1,162) per person for a week full board, based on two sharing.
Price going solo: An Ashtanga course cost from $1,900 (£1,228) per person staying solo in an Eco cottage.
Value for money: Absolutely. The facilities are super and the location unmissable.
Reviewed by Rose Rouse (photos 4-8 taken by Asanga Judge)
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