How a Wellness Retreat in Careyes, Mexico Helped Me Find Peace After a Difficult Year
Sound bath therapy, meditation, yoga, and time in the Pacific Ocean help a writer heal.
"Peace above you, peace below you, peace all around." This is the mantra Niki Trosky, our ethereal breathwork leader, asked us to internalize and take with us at the end of her Divine Feminine Embodiment meditation session. It's a simple phrase in diction, yet not nearly as simple to achieve in practice, especially for an anxiety-riddled control freak like me.
I have a feeling I'm not alone when I say 2020 took its toll on me. For 15 months I oscillated between heightened feelings of fear and despondency, and after an especially bleak winter, I was desperate to find a way to pull myself out of a pandemic-induced funk. So when I was offered the chance to visit El Careyes Club and Residences to experience their revamped wellness program, I jumped at the opportunity. "Peace all around" perfectly describes what I had been searching for, and it's exactly what I found during my week of wellness in Careyes, Mexico.
Costa Careyes, a luxury private estate resort located on the coast of Jalisco, Mexico, is a wellness oasis shrouded in both mystery and wonder. The exclusive and elusive town was founded by Italian banker Gian Franco Brignone in 1968, and has since transformed from an uninhabited jungle into a Italian-inspired community full of vibrant villas, colorful casitas and bungalows, and grandiose ocean castles.
After a quick flight into Puerto Vallarta and armed with my required negative COVID test results, I embark on the three-hour drive south to Costalegre, arriving at El Careyes Club and Residences just before sunset. I am greeted first by the friendly receptionist, and second by the breathtaking views of a crystal-blue infinity pool stretching out to the Pacific Ocean. After dropping off my bags in my impeccable ocean-view suite, I change clothes and head to dinner at La Duna, the resort's beachfront restaurant and bar where I am welcomed with one of the most spectacular sunsets I have ever seen. Dreamy shades of pink, purple, and orange bounce off the resort's five infinity pools, enveloping the entire property in a warm glow that I will never forget.
The next morning (and every morning after), I take advantage of my jet lag and saunter to the beach just outside my villa for a quiet moment of reflection as the sun rises. I dig my heels into the sand and close my eyes to help awaken my other senses. I listen to the calming ocean waves, and feel the breeze on my cheeks as I breathe in salty air through my nose. It's just me and The Great Pacific, a pairing I could certainly get used to.
My morning routine continues with an order of healthy green tea and not-so-healthy chocolate chip pancakes (hey, I'm on vacation). During breakfast I can't help but people-watch as the other resort guests begin to filter into the restaurant and around the property. While I am traveling alone, I notice all types of travelers: I see couples holding hands as they walk along the beach, families with young children playing in the pools, and a group of incredibly fit women on a wellness trip, all enjoying their time in Careyes in their own ways.
My afternoons in Careyes are filled with an array of activities that showcase the breadth of what this close-knit community has to offer. One day, I'm horseback riding through a lush green jungle to Playa Teopa and learning about the work The Careyes Foundation has done to save over 1.75 million sea turtles from its beaches; another day I'm touring the incredible palapa-topped bungalows, all equipped with infinity pools that feature stunning views of the ocean; and yet another day I'm indulging on ceviche and margaritas at Playa Rosa Beach Club after a relaxing boat ride to a secret beach where I come to the astute realization that jumping from a boat into the water is just as fun in my 20s as it was when I was learning to swim.
While it's clear that adventures are endless in Careyes, the resort's expansive wellness program is what brought me here, and is also what is making El Careyes Club and Residences a top retreat for like-minded travelers looking for the perfect place to recover from pandemic fatigue. In addition to personalized spa treatments, meditation sessions, and private pilates lessons, Careyes offers daily vinyasa yoga classes that are hosted by either resident yogi Niki Trosky or one of the rotating visiting practitioners from around the world. I am lucky enough to get to take classes from both Trosky and visiting practitioner Andrew Sealy during my visit, a true highlight for me.
With Trosky's magnetic energy and Sealy's soothing presence, I feel less intimidated to try advanced yoga positions, and even when I lose my balance or perform a move incorrectly, I laugh it off, take a breath, and try again. As if traditional yoga isn't enough excitement for me, I also attempt acro yoga for the first time in my life. Sealy, ever so confident in my abilities, helps me overcome my somewhat irrational fear of acrobatics, and after many tries and a spirit-lifting pep talk, I fall into his hands and I am flying — figuratively and literally.
The most magical experience of my week occurs during a group sound healing session at Copa Del Sol ("Cup of the Sun"), Careyes' majestic architectural wonder. Perched on a cliff overlooking Playa Teopa, the iconic monument rises 35 feet from its base and stretches over 88 feet in diameter, creating the perfect acoustic setting for a sound bath.
Using a combination of meditation instruments and his voice, local healer Daniel leads us through a restorative journey to help our group connect and reconnect with the deepest parts of ourselves. The vibrations from the sounds of the healing rise up and over La Copa to blend with the beat of the waves crashing on the coast, colliding into a harmony that brings tears to my eyes. During the sound healing I am able to successfully block out all of the extra noise in my head, and for the first time in a long time, feel completely at peace within myself.
On my final morning in Careyes, I wander out to the beach one last time to watch the sunrise and reflect on the past five days spent in this amazing and protected community. I think about how much more connected I feel to both nature and myself, and I also think about how good it felt to get out of my comfort zone and try new things. Lastly, I think about that feeling of complete serenity that I was able to unlock in this special sanctuary, and I repeat to myself the mantra I will take back home with me: Peace above me, peace below me, peace all around.