Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The best wellness retreats in Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit

Long gone are the days when travelers would flock to Mexico for endless tequila shots and open swim-up bars. Okay, well, maybe not long gone — but those days are few and far between. Wellness is one of the driving forces behind travel these days, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Wellness tourism is expected to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

Health tourism these days is so much more than a yoga class and a green juice. People are paying much more attention to what they put into their bodies than ever before. According to surveys conducted by NCSolutions, a joint venture data analysis project between Nielsen and Catalina, 61 percent of Gen Zers say they plan to cut back on their alcohol consumption in 2024. Gen Z isn’t the only generation that is sober-curious. In the same survey, Millennials also said they would drink less in 2024. Forty-nine percent of Millennials are sober-curious for the new year, an increase of 26 percent from those surveyed a year before. Overall, 41 percent of all Americans plan to drink less in 2024.

Fitness fanatics from across the world flock to Mexico for their dose of wellness. (Bikini Bootcamp)

Mexico’s central Pacific Coast, particularly along the coasts of Jalisco and Nayarit, has long established itself as a health and wellness destination. The jungle-wrapped peaks of the Sierra Madre mountains, the crashing Pacific coastline, and an abundance of wildlife create quite the idyllic backdrop for a wellness journey. An entire range of accommodation styles also helps travelers across most budgets.

So where are the best destinations in and around Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit for a wellness retreat? Here are the ones that have our attention.

La Joya, Sayulita

Combine an alternative location with luxury wellness facilities at La Joya, Sayulita. (La Joya)

While Sayulita may be perceived as the coastal capital for yogis, travelers need to be discerning when choosing the right spot in this boho beach town. These days, the tiny village once sought out for a low-key lifestyle has become so overrun with tourists that it can be a logistical nightmare to travel there. That said, the boutique hotel and retreat, La Joya, is far enough outside of the heart of Sayulita that it can tap into the natural beauty of the destination while managing to evade the throngs of visitors.

This new concept wellness hotel and retreat space is all about holistic wellbeing made up of bungalows, casitas, villas, and a main casa. Decked out in natural materials, like parota woods, woven textiles, clay, stone, ceramics, and even a thatched palapa or two, the spaces were designed to evoke that luxury aesthetic that has become synonymous with Mexico’s beach towns. The space hosts a series of retreats throughout the year, from yoga and healing circles to community and connection. Guests have a direct view of the Pacific Ocean from the resort, without having to deal with the crowds or overwhelming energy of Sayulita proper. An onsite restaurant, Tekuamana, incorporates organic, local, and wild ingredients into all of its menu items — paired with creative mocktails for those who are staying dry.

Mar de Jade

Hidden between amongst the jungle, Mar de Jade offers rest and relaxation in paradise. (Mar de Jade)

Further up the coast in the small, lesser-known beach town of Chacala, Mar de Jade is a yoga, wellness, and retreat center that is cushioned between the thick jungle of northern Nayarit and the Pacific Ocean. The boutique resort sits directly on the shores of Playa Chacala and offers guests a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, shaded by thick groves of banana trees and bushy bunches of explosive bougainvillea flowers.

Mar de Jade has been offering yoga, meditation, and movement retreats for more than three decades, but is most famous for its Buddhist retreats that it holds periodically throughout the year. They offer a weeklong summer Chan Retreat, as well as a Zen Rohatsu Retreat in the winter. The Silent Zen Meditation Retreat, held once a year, is one of its most sought-after experiences. Whether you’re part of a retreat itinerary or not, the experience at Mar de Jade is relaxed and therapeutic, serving ingredients from its 17-acre organic farm and with plenty of opportunity to get involved with its volunteer and community projects.

Susurros del Corazon

Susurros del Corazon combines the very best of five-star treatment and alternative treatments. (Susurros del Corazon)

For well-heeled travelers who want to swap a rustic vibe for five-star elegance (and a much higher price tag) the new Susurros del Corazon in Punta Mita is a veritable realm of relaxation, taking the luxury spa concept to entirely new vibrational levels. The ONDA, an Auberge spa has everything you’d expect from a five-star wellness center, including hydrotherapy and a sprawling fitness center. However, ONDA is so much more than that, offering guided sunset meditations, intuitive expression painting classes, in-water sound vibrations, and many other holistic and spiritually guided experiences. The spa also has a dedicated Good Vibrations Cafe, serving farro bowls, salads, juices, and more. 

Equilibrium Healing Resort and Spa

Boca de Tomatlan’s Equilibrium Healing Resort and Spa offers tranquility in the forests of Jalisco. (Equilibrium)

As Highway 200 snakes its way south of Puerto Vallarta and up into the mountains past the small village of Boca de Tomatlan, you find yourself surrounded by lush, tropical forest. A spine of mountains ripples out as far as the eye can see. The buzz and energy from the resorts and restaurants on the Malecon fade into the distance and it’s nothing but you, the trees, and the wind. Here is where you’ll find Equilibrium, a wellness resort nestled among the mountains. Here travelers can partake in one of the many wellness programs that Equilibrium offers. Choose from programs like Detox, Rejuvenate, Relax, and Full Reset — each one tailored and personalized to your specific needs and goals. Equilibrium hosts many private retreats, as well, from yoga and Ayurveda to lessons on self-love and self-care. 

Careyes

A riot of color, Careyes has been a cult favorite for some time. (C/areyes)

Carved into the coves and secret bays of the Costalegre, south of Puerto Vallarta, Careyes is a colorful, creative community that sits far out of the spotlight. Those who know Careyes have been “in the know” for years, and want to protect their beloved community from over-tourism and over-hype. The discretion of the Careyes community is why it has quietly drawn celebrities, government officials, and other VIPs looking to keep a low profile since the late 1960s.

Part of the magic of Careyes comes from its energy, where its casitas and villas have all been designed with the natural flow of the environment in mind. Living spaces are open-air to allow for immersion into the elements. The sound of the ocean, explosive sunsets, and blankets of stars are all part of the daily routine. Careyes is not a traditional resort. It’s a living community, and its residents and guests have a pension for holistic lifestyles and wellness. It’s easy to see why when you see the raw, natural beauty of this part of Mexico. Careyes hosts retreats regularly, and will frequently schedule sound baths, cacao ceremonies, yoga, and healing meditations. 

Coming Soon: Six Senses Xala

Still under development, Xala promises to revolutionize the wellness retreat game in Mexico. (Xala)

Costalegre is in the process of developing a massive $1 billion project, which is slowly opening in phases over the next few years. Known as Xala, the impressive design will feature luxurious rancho-style residences, an abundance of five-star facilities, a deeply entrenched environmental and community development program for local villages, and a Six Senses resort.

Six Senses Xala is slated to open in 2026, flanked by five miles of curving white-sand beach. Fifty-one bungalow-style accommodations will feature private pools and a village-like architectural design that will be both playful and luxurious. Six Senses as a brand is rooted in wellness, and Six Senses Xala will be no different. The Spa will be a retreat in itself for treatments and multi-day wellness programs.

Meagan Drillinger is a New York native who has spent the past 15 years traveling around and writing about Mexico. While she’s on the road for assignments most of the time, Puerto Vallarta is her home base. Follow her travels on Instagram at @drillinjourneys or through her blog at drillinjourneys.com.

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