Costa RicaCosta Rica

A Retreat to Relaxing Wellness

Destination: Puriscal

My whole body felt like liquid mercury, all flimsy and slippery, and I could barely slide into the car when we left Turu Ba Ri after our Superman zip line experience. But I was still laughing and so thrilled that I had done something I never thought I could do. I jabbered away, reliving every moment out loud so it would be emblazoned in my slightly crowded 57-year-old memory bank.

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My daughter nicknamed me "Super Mom" and I think was quite pleased that I had passed my first adventure test with, um, "flying" colors. I say "first" because I had no idea what she had planned to further challenge me later on.

But at the same time, she was smart enough to know that I needed to drain the adrenaline and quit blathering non-stop so we set out for AmaTierra Retreat and Wellness Center in nearby San Pablo.

We arrived late afternoon and turned off the road into what I can only describe as a sanctuary of peace. AmaTierra is tucked into the side of a mountain overlooking an exquisite lush green valley with views that seem to go on forever in all directions. As we got out of the car, my first impression was that of natural silence -- bird calls, trees whispering and, from somewhere, a soft and gentle music was wafting.

We were greeted by Bob, the co-owner with his wife, Jill, and were immediately ushered to our bungalow "casita" so we could settle in and get ready for dinner. The casitas are discreetly spaced for privacy and ours was most fine indeed. We discovered two large beds, soft lighting, a bathroom with Jacuzzi tub, and creature comforts that included a coffee maker, TV and DVD player. There was also a lovely, unidentifiable aroma that made me want to breathe deeply.

We changed out of our adventure clothes and walked to the main building for dinner where we were seated in the outdoor veranda. Other guests were already dining -- a young family with two children, a clutch of women, a single gentleman, and a middle-aged couple. Everyone was smiling, relaxed, and cordial. We could see others still enjoying the subtly lit deep blue pool since the temperature range at AmaTierra is always comfortable. And, again, there was that murmur of music.

Bob and Jill made the rounds, spending time with each guest, as we drank a tasty organic Chilean wine and dined on savory vegetarian lasagna. Jill is an herbalist who studied with Dr. Andrew Weil for four years and is a font of knowledge about natural healing. She and Bob explained their shared vision for the retreat -- to offer a place that is uniquely devoted to the individual. They offer a variety of healing massages, detox therapies, Reiki and sound therapy, and yoga. They have no plans of growing in size since they want to maintain the personal, intimate feel of the retreat, but they do plan on incorporating more aspects of holistic health such as acupuncture and chiropractics from visiting practitioners.

I had to ask about the music. Bob explained that music is an ultimate stress reliever that calms the spirit. He is the maestro of the music and has an innate sense of what is appropriate for the time of day and the well-being of the guests.

After dinner, we browsed the selection of DVD's we could borrow for the evening and chose one that fit our mood. However, after returning to our casita and taking leisurely soaks in the Jacuzzi, we were soon lulled by the night sounds and scents, and drifted to sleep without so much as a punch of the Play button.

We arose at 7 a.m. and headed to the open-air pavilion for a morning Hatha yoga session. The polished teak floors were cool under our bare feet as we took our cushioned mats. Jill led us through gentle stretches and poses that allowed even novices to feel successful. Lilting music, accompanied by the calls of the motmot birds, and a vista of the valley waking through the mist blanketed us with a sense of ahhhh.

After yoga, we had a healthy breakfast and I treated myself to an hour-long deep tissue massage. The room was candlelit, softly scented, and had a large picture window looking directly into the jungle. My masseuse kneaded my body expertly and seemed to have a roadmap to the aches and tension. I drifted along, occasionally trying to think, but soon decided it wasn't worth the effort and just let it be.

Jill then took me to another room and let me experience a bit of sound therapy, which was performed as I lay on an amethyst biomat. She rang the singing bowls along my body, focusing on any out-of-whack chakras. This art of "energy medicine" looks for clues to unbalanced areas and assists in creating a symphonic harmony within.

My two hours of total relaxation left me wobbly with contentment but it was time to leave. We returned to our room to pack, carefully recycling our trash into the baskets provided. Bob and Jill established a local recycling program that aims to reduce the practice of burning trash so common in rural Costa Rica. Their foundation also helps to integrate cooperative enterprises into Costa Rica's budding cultural eco-tourism industry.

Lest anyone think that AmaTierra is too "New Age" or "crunchy" to try, I have to say it was the perfect place to visit if you want to truly unwind and de-stress. It is peaceful, sublimely serene, and I left feeling happy and energized and ready for my next adventure.

A Retreat to Relaxing Wellness in Pictures

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