Costa RicaCosta Rica

Wellness & Health Retreat: 7-Day Juice Fast in the Jungle

Destination: Nosara

hacienda del sol retreatHave you ever had one of those "a-ha" moments -- a singular incident that leads to an epiphany of sorts? Mine came with the ferocity and speed of a rogue wave, one that left me questioning my priorities and perhaps even sanity in my otherwise charmed life. With one horrific boom, lightning coursed through our house, and for the second time in less than a month, our internet was fried. I sat crumpled and crying, feeling the weight of impending deadlines, knowing full-well the hassle of getting it fixed. My fiance tried to comfort me, but I remained inconsolable, wallowing in misery.

How had such a small setback completely overwhelmed me? Since when did I get so irrationally sad and upset? At that moment, I knew I had to make a change and take time for myself. The body-mind connection is powerful, and though I exercised daily and ate a clean diet, my head was cluttered and unfocused.

menlha's flavorful raw dinner

Several years ago, while teaching at a university in Thailand, I discovered the benefits of juice fasting and colon cleanses during a week-long retreat. After just five days of juicing I experienced an amazing sense of clarity. I left the retreat rejuvenated; having rid my body of all the toxins (both physical and mental) I'd been carrying for so many years. In the six years since my first juice fast, I have rarely, if ever, been sick. My immune system boosted, I am walking proof of the benefits of periodic cleansing.

It had been more than two years since my last cleanse; I sought a place of healing, somewhere far removed from my daily life. As much as I adore Thailand, traveling back to Asia was out of my budget, so I searched locally for a viable alternative. While Costa Rica has numerous health spas and resorts, I found only one that offered the holistic approach I needed. I wanted the full experience: juice fasting, yoga, massage, meditation, acupuncture, re-balancing bodywork and daily colemas (a cross between a colonic and an enema). I found it at Hacienda del Sol, a wellness retreat just north of Nosara, on the country's north Pacific Coast.

renee enjoying a mud bath

Joining me on my week-long fast were a successful restaurateur from Tamarindo, a yoga teacher/physical therapist living in Nosara, and a real estate broker from New York. We were all strong, independent women brought together by a mutual quest to cleanse the body, mind and spirit. The four of us were in loving hands with Hacienda del Sol owner, Menlha Bruneau, whose vision of creating a healing retreat brought her to the jungles above San Juanillo some fifteen years ago. To me, Menlha was the quintessential healing mentor; she radiated serenity, good health and a general sense of inner peace.

Her philosophy was not extremist. She simply practiced what she preached which was a clean lifestyle with lots of raw food. It all boiled down to the familiar adage "you are what you eat". Depending on the day, that would make me a fatty but ever so delicious pork chop, a spicy bowl of Phad Thai, or a green salad. I was incredibly consistent in my inconsistent dietary intake.

my thatched-roof cabina

Menlha brought years of experience from both work and travels in her native Canada, as well as India, Australia and Southeast Asia. During my seven-day fast, I learned about the body's acid/alkaline imbalance, the importance of raw foods in disease prevention, and how to differentiate between my own hunger and boredom. Food is an emotional crutch for many, and though I'm not much of a stress-eater, I possess a well-documented addiction to all foods in the cream family.

Could I regain that lust for life I had lost somewhere between work and self-induced stress? Would I recover my sense of clarity and well-being? Experience the highs and lows of my seven-day juice fast in the jungle.

Wellness & Health Retreat: 7-Day Juice Fast in the Jungle in Pictures

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