Costa RicaCosta Rica

Wellness at Ama Tierra Hotel & Retreat

Destination: Puriscal

A massage. There are few things I love more. I rank them up there with a fine bottle of wine, Belgian dark chocolate and long, indulgent soaks in the tub. Combine a good massage with fresh organic food, daily yoga and peaceful mountain views, and you have a recipe for the perfect getaway.

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So, when asked to accompany my co-worker Rayna to a wellness retreat not far from my Central Valley home, I jumped at the chance. We were headed to Ama Tierra Hotel and Retreat, located near the small pueblo of Turrubares, an hour west of San Jose.

Owned and operated by clinical herbalist/ yoga instructor Jill and her husband Bob, Ama Tierra is an intimate mountain sanctuary complete with private bungalows, an infinity pool and several hiking trails. More than just a hotel, Ama Tierra is also a wellness center where travelers can rejuvenate their bodies with massages and healthy meals or kick-start the New Year with a customized week-long detox.

The center takes a holistic approach to health and offers individualized programs including nutrition counseling, body work and sound therapy.

Rayna and I drove from my home in Atenas, along the winding mountain road through San Mateo and Orotina, following signs to Turrubares.

Ama Tierra is 8.5 miles beyond Turu Ba Ri Tropical Park, and is perched some 2000 feet above sea level on a mountainside. We were greeted warmly upon arrival and ushered in for a natural juice before tucking in to a homemade Costa Rican-style lunch.

We dined on an open-air veranda with spectacular views of the Central Valley. The air was fresh and crisp, and I lamented the fact that I'd forgotten my bathing suit when I saw a group of women practicing yoga by the pool. After lunch we were escorted to our "casitas" or bungalows which were cleverly designed to afford maximum privacy and seclusion.

Each bungalow has a living area with TV and DVD player, as well as a coffee maker and fridge. I appreciated the nice touches like fresh milk in the fridge (for those who can't stand powdered creamer), and hand-made coconut soaps wrapped in banana leaves.

I was eyeing my Jacuzzi tub when I remembered that it was nearly time for our afternoon massages. Long hours hunched in front of the computer had left Rayna and me with knotted backs and shoulders, so a deep-tissue massage was exactly what we needed.

It was nearly dusk when I met massage therapist Alejandra in Ama Tierra's candle-lit treatment room. I cocooned my body in warm cotton sheets, anticipating an invigorating massage. She misted my skin with a light cinnamon spray before kneading my tired muscles with a lavender-infused cream. The relaxing aroma combined with her expert technique lulled me into a twilight sleep, as she released all of the stress I had been storing in my body.

I left Alejandra feeling revitalized and amazingly limber. It was time for a leisurely soak in my Jacuzzi tub. A bit later, I met Rayna and other guests for a warming glass of Chilean cabernet sauvignon in the lounge area. The night was cool and clear, and we could see the sparkling city lights across the valley.

Bob and Jill joined us for a healthy and delicious dinner of coconut-encrusted mahi mahi topped with a savory pineapple salsa.

Over a fresh-baked fruit and granola crisp, I spoke with Jill about the newly formed Ama Tierra Foundation, which aims to promote sustainable tourism by giving back to the local community.

I was particularly inspired by the foundation's first project, a local recycling program that aims to curtail the practice of burning trash so prevalent in rural Costa Rica. The foundation aspires to empower the local residents of Turrubares, and to provide them with information and education while supporting cultural tourism.

I bid goodnight to our engaging hosts, as it was getting late and we had an exciting day ahead of us. My casita was silent except for the chirps of night frogs and crickets outside my window. I crawled into bed and was fast asleep in minutes.

Wellness at Ama Tierra Hotel & Retreat in Pictures

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