Oasis: Noun. def "a pleasant or peaceful area or period in the midst of a difficult, troubled, or hectic place or situation."
We've all heard over and over again how important vacation time is for mental and physical health and overall happiness. But still, we don't go. Probably because adding "Organize healthy, restful, yet fun and not-boring vacation" to the to-do list just seems like an impossible task. You want to relax and recharge, not create more work for yourself.
Your solution is not to skip your well-earned downtown and not to plan another staycation where you clean out your closets, drink too many cocktails out of the blender and stay up late watching bad TV.
The solution is a retreat. Like The Retreat at Costa Rica, which meets the definition of oasis and includes everything you could need for a wonderful, restful, healthy time away. You book your flight and your time at the Retreat, pack a few essentials (bathing suits, comfy clothes and a good pair of sandals for walking around in) and the Retreat will take care of the rest.
I recently spent five days at The Retreat, a brand-new getaway situated in the mountains 1,000 feet up from the ocean near Atenas, Costa Rica — judged by National Geographic as having one of the best climates on the planet.
It's a place filled with soul, imbued with homey energy by the site's founder and general manager, raw-food pioneer/expert Diana Stobo, and her incredible staff. I felt both hosted and cared for by everyone at The Retreat in a way that was different than my hotel stays at even high-end luxury accommodations.
Several times during my visit, I just stopped on my way from one part of the The Retreat to another and watched the butterflies feeding on the native blooms, a meditation in itself. (Photo: Starre Vartan)
I was especially impressed by the site's attention and care for the local environment. There were all-natural, locally made bath and beauty products in the guest rooms and native flora landscaping, including the most gorgeous butterfly gardens that absolutely swarmed with the winged beauties. I found reusable cloth hand towels in the lobby bathroom, nontoxic cleaning products, local food and regular appreciation for both the rain and the sunshine, I really felt that this was a space cultivated with nonhuman life in mind.
Since you'll be in one of the most beautiful and wonderfully temperate places in the world, you'll want to spend as much time as possible outside. The pool area and dining patio boasted amazing views, but still felt cozily tucked into the mountainside.
Here's what some of the interiors of The Retreat look like. As you can see, it's refined, yet homey!
As it should be, The Retreat is what you make of it. Need to catch up on your sleep amid bird-filled tropical rain forest? Do it. Want to read by the pool for hours at an end? Sure. Want to wake early to hike, meditate and do yoga before breakfast? That's an option.
If you want to go into town, check out the local beach, go ziplining, visit a local chocolate maker-grower, or go horseback riding, The Retreat can arrange that for you. But you may find, as I did, that once you are ensconced at The Retreat, you don't really want to leave.
The attention to detail was remarkable, which included a beautifully curated spa, where I got the signature massage, a two-hour extravaganza of relaxation that included a banana-mint hair mask with scalp massage; almond-mandarin body scrub; papaya facial mask, coconut oil and hot stone massage; and a chocolate foot treatment with foot massage. To say I was blissful for the rest of the day is almost an understatement; I kind of floated through dinner. The Retreat's spa treatment was among the top few I've had anywhere in the world.
And the food! The dedication of the staff to locally grown and made foods was thorough and informed. The Retreat leans heavily towards raw, vegan dishes (which the chef and nutrition director are expert in preparing) but includes small amounts of dairy, cooked eggs available at breakfast, and locally caught fish. If you don't want to eat those foods, there is plenty of everything else. I loved starting my day with a fresh coconut milk and turmeric smoothie and local fruit. So you can detox if that's what you wish.
And food isn't just what you eat between relaxing or working out; it's also a big part of the learning experience at The Retreat, where classes in raw food preparation and healthy cooking are part of your visit. I have been making several raw dishes since my time in Costa Rica, and also now make my own nut milk, which I was shown how to do during my visit. Stobo has a raw food master's degree and is author of the bestselling book, "Get Naked Fast" (my copy is already dogeared). She's an absolute wealth of knowledge, as is her right-hand woman, Heather Hands.
Heather Hands, who is in charge of meal planning at The Retreat, shows off a cranberry hibiscus, which grows wild in Costa Rica. It's great for your kidneys and has a tart, delicious flavor; we ate it in a salad with a turmeric dressing and chickpeas. (Photo: Starre Vartan)
Whether or not you take a food-prep or nutrition class, the food at The Retreat is just incredible, and will inspire you towards a healthier eating style upon your return home. And for those of you wondering, yes, wine and local coffee are available at The Retreat. Or you can take a week off from caffeine and alcohol during your stay. It's really up to you.
I felt light, energized, and never hungry during my stay, and even though I consider myself a very healthy eater, I still learned quite a bit during my visit, and even better, was able to ask the experts on Stobo's team all the questions I have always had about food prep and nutrition. They weren't fazed a bit by my constant inquiries!
So if you really need a break from it all — the Retreat does have Internet, though you might want to limit its use as part of a true detox! — go where you don't have to do a darn thing, except rejuvenate and absorb health from loving experts who have your well-being in mind.