The first time I took part in a yoga class, I was a teenager with a passion for speedy activities like Volleyball or athletics. One day our gym teacher invited an instructor to introduce us to this “new thing” called yoga, and new it surely was back then in my home country of Austria. Unfortunately, 15-year-old me wasn’t impressed by stretching her bottom to the sky in Downward Facing Dog or chanting “Om” for several minutes – instead, me and my classmates had to giggle non-stop. Later on, now a member of a gym offering fitness classes, I chose Pilates over Yoga. I couldn’t forget that ridiculous yoga class in school – it was just too spiritual and lame for me. But wisdom comes with age and by the time I planned my trip to Costa Rica I knew, I had to give this trendy sport a chance. Everyone did it – from Madonna to my boss, so why not me?

Luckily Costa Rica is a paradise for aspiring yogis like me. Hotels and studios specialising in yoga holidays are a dime a dozen, and it didn’t take me long to find the perfect spot for my re-introduction: the Pranamar Villas & Yoga Retreat in Santa Teresa. With the deep drumroll of the ocean in front of me and the cheerful songs of the rainforest’s birds to my right I prepared to fold over my knees and breathe the prejudices away.

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Pranamar lies at the Northern end of Santa Teresa, a typical surfer village that stretches along the Northern Costa Rican Pacific coast. Upon arrival you could easily mistake it for India or Bali as the estate and gardens are decorated with statues of Hindu goddesses, welcome staff is dressed in colorful saris and the beautiful villas are built with bamboo. There are bungalows spread throughout the gardens, but the heart of the hotel is definitely the central (chemical-free) saltwater pool and the surrounding poolside villas. They are arranged on both sides of the water and the decks face each other. Instead of experiencing anonymity and seclusion, guests are encouraged to interact and communicate with their neighbors. With everyone in a constant zen state, a feeling of home sets in in no time.

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Santa Teresa is Costa Rica’s mekka for surfers and yogis alike – not surprisingly, as the muscles you train with yoga poses will later help you to keep your balance on the surf board. The two sports compliment each other perfectly. Many hotels in Santa Teresa offer yoga classes and/or combined yoga and surf retreats. As the region is very popular with travellers from around the globe, they mainly host international yoga instructors and classes in English on all levels. So whether you are a beginner, or seek to intensify your established yoga routine, Santa Teresa will have the perfect yoga studio for you. Pranamar’s resident instructor is Nancy Goodfellow, originally from California. Throughout the year she teaches daily drop-in yoga sessions and organises all-inclusive yoga retreats and workshops, which are usually supported by international teachers.

One class in the hotel’s beautiful open yoga deck, the Shala, was enough to make me fall in love with the sport and the unique atmosphere of practicing in the tropical rainforest. The drop-in class was busy, but still the instructor took her time to correct every student individually. The practice was challenging, but not too hard for a relative beginner like me. Mats, blocks, blankets and straps are provided – as is a Hindu shrine if you wish to increase your spiritual experience.

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In addition to the garden bungalows and poolside villas, Pranamar has two oceanfront villas with spacious decks and unlimited views over the beach and sunsets. After familiarizing ourselves with our new temporary two-story home, the oversized fridge and the comfy hammocks on the deck, we found the highlight of our “room”: a unique garden bathroom with a granite stone tub and a hindu statue to watch over you while you wash off the yoga sweat.

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Another highlight of Pranamar is the restaurant Buddha Eyes, which overlooks the lagoon-like pool. Apart from a selection of delicious breakfast and lunch options, the restaurant specialises in exotic smoothies and shakes, which are the perfect drink to cool down after a hot yoga class. They vary from fruity vitamin kicks to healthy detox shakes and are always fresh prepared. My favourite was the “Prana Bliss” with pineapple, cilantro, ginger and ground flax. The dinner menu changes daily, as the chefs comply with what’s available from the local producers, farmers and fishermen. A special twist is the lack of normal menu cards. Instead the daily options are written on a big blackboard which the waiters carry from table to table – saves paper and provides a good laugh shared with your waiter. Guests are asked to take off their shoes in the restaurant which gives it a casual, homey feeling, while the served food is of high-end quality.

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Pranamar is an idyllic spot for an individual stay, like we enjoyed it, or an all-inclusive yoga retreat. Packages usually include a full week of accommodation, full-board meals, two daily yoga classes and one excursion with activities like snorkelling, horse-back riding or zip-lining. Other offers include combined yoga and surf retreats or a dreamy honeymoon package.

You might have guessed, Pranamar is not exactly a low-budget choice. But if you are looking for the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or simply spoil yourself with plenty of luxury, this is the place to go!

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Thanks to the entire team of Pranamar for hosting us for three fantastic days and spoiling us with a beautiful home, delicious food and smoothies and challenging yoga classes. As for me – I finally overcame my skepticism and included yoga in my daily routine. I don’t know how I could live without it!

All images by Brian Shaw.

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!