How To Tell The Difference Between a Hotel With Yoga and a Real Yoga Retreat.

You’ve decided you want to find a yoga retreat that will be everything you’re looking for in a vacation but you have no idea how to find it. And the search results on google are lengthy and misleading.

I live in a small beach town in Costa Rica that sustains itself on tourism from surfing and yoga retreats. I’ve led many retreats. I’ve attended many retreats. And I know how hard it is to find just the right place to spend your well-deserved time off.

Let me walk you through some insider tips that the other guys won’t tell you for finding an unforgettable yoga retreat well worth your money.

START HERE. Most people search for a retreat based on one of four main preferences: location, teacher, time or budget. That means you either have a particular region of the world in mind, a teacher in mind, a specific week you have available or a budget you need to stick to. Maybe you have a combination of those things. Depending on what’s important to you, the strategy for choosing the best yoga retreat will be different.

HERE IS HOW TO FIND A LIFE-CHANGING YOGA RETREAT IF YOU WANT TO…

GO TO A CERTAIN GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION.

So, you’ve been dying to go to Bali and just don’t want to go anywhere else. GREAT. It’s time to do a little research on your location.

It’s likely there are a handful of well-known yoga retreat centers in the place you want to visit. So when choosing a yoga retreat, find those first and check their schedule. Since they are in the business of hosting teachers who lead retreats, they’ll have a lot to choose from annually and you can be confident they know how to care for their guests.

Begin by Googling “best yoga retreat centers in Bali” then poke around on the websites that come up and read reviews. You want to make sure any of their retreats listed have a separate website for the teacher who is hosting the retreat – it’s an indication the teacher is serious about what they’re doing.

It’s also helpful to find out if there is a “season” or a best time of year to visit where you want to go. This may determine when you’ll travel and you can begin to plan ahead. For example, in Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica where I live, many businesses close down in September and October because rains can be heavy. Read local guides to the town or just contact one of the centers and ask if there is a low season or time of year when they close.

Also, ask around. Your home yoga teacher or your yoga community probably already knows what centers are worth visiting unless it’s a very unusual or remote vacation spot. These places may not come up on search engines because they are small outfits working hard to run their business and turning up at the top of Google may not be top priority.

The retreats I lead at My Yoga Retreat Costa Rica don’t rank high in Google and people learn about me by word-of-mouth. I do run a fantastic retreat, like many other individual teachers do, but you’ll have to ask around to find these hidden gems.

GO WITH A SPECIFIC TEACHER.

This is the easiest way to choose a yoga retreat. Begin following the teacher on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and start taking their classes so you can get to know them (if you don’t already). You want to go on vacation with someone who is not just a great teacher, but someone you want to spend time with; someone who is organized and whom you can trust to care for you if something happens like your flight is canceled for snow or you sustain an injury while jumping into a waterfall.

Reach out to them and inquire about retreats and start planning ahead – it could be a while until the next one and teachers typically need to plan 6-9 months ahead of time, if not more. Usually a specific theme is offered, which will make the experience more cohesive and impactful. They also typically design the entire week with activities so you don’t have to research, organize or plan anything. Make sure to book directly through the teacher because they operate on a thin margin and you want to make sure they’re not losing a cut to a third-party booking agent.

GO DURING A SPECIFIC WEEK.

This one is a little tricky. But if you’re like most people, you may only have one week this year for a yoga vacation. This is when using a booking site like BookYogaRetreats.com becomes beneficial because you can enter in the exact dates you need. You can also try entering the exact dates into Google or doing a hashtag search on Instagram like #yogaretreatjune2021 or #yogaretreat2021 or #yogaretreatwinter2021.

You can also check the popular Facebook group Yoga Retreats Worldwide and ask if anyone is offering a yoga retreat the week you want to travel. It’s a great way to find out about some lesser-known yoga retreats around the world.

A third technique is to start with a popular retreat center (see above – “Go to a certain geographical location”). Many teachers choose to host their yoga retreats at these centers because they have expertise in hospitality. That means the teacher can focus on her craft and her students and leave the details to the hotel management. It’s likely they will have something to offer the week you’re looking for but when choosing the right retreat, you need to then investigate the teacher (see above – “To go with a specific teacher”).

For example, I host my retreats at Hotel Horizon because the owners are the best hosts town and the ocean view from the rooms and the yoga deck are unparalleled. Many teachers host retreats there so you can search the hotel’s website to see what ‘s available the week you want to travel.

Keep in mind, the week you travel may be a great time of year in one location and a terrible time of year in another. If you want to travel somewhere warm, make sure you’re avoiding rainy season or hurricane season when most businesses may be closed.

STICK TO YOUR BUDGET.

How much does a yoga retreat cost anyway? Just like any type of vacation package, the cost can vary greatly. But in general, a comfortable, well-planned and executed yoga retreat will cost at least $2000 for one person for one week with one teacher. That includes your housing, your meals and your yoga classes. The price can go up a lot depending on how expensive the hotel is and what else is included. Anything lower than $2000 that means you need to do some investigating.

Is it just a hotel or hostel that offers yoga classes while you’re staying at the hotel? Are the accommodations for camping or is it a shared room? Are meals not included? While I give this price as a general guideline, you need to consider what you will pay for the entire trip including airfare, other activities, other transportation and any uncovered meals. The host should be able to help you price that out.

Where I live in Santa Teresa, many hotels advertise themselves as “yoga retreats” but they are a small hotel typically with a restaurant and a yoga studio where classes are taught daily by teachers in town. While you can have a great vacation staying at one of these places, setting your own schedule, and planning your own activities, this is not a yoga retreat, it’s a vacation package with yoga.

It’s possible to use a search website like BookYogaRetreats.com to find a yoga retreat within your budget. But you will have to do a lot of investigating within those search results. So, it’s usually better to choose one of the other preferences referenced above and then try to find a yoga retreat within those results that fit your budget.

GENERAL TIPS ON HOW TO FIND A YOGA RETREAT

  1. Ask a friend for a referral. If you already love yoga, you know others who do also and someone will have gone on one.
  2. Ask someone who already knows the answer. Your home yoga teacher is a good place to start. Many popular publications like Yoga Journal and Travel & Leisure will have recent listings of recommended yoga retreat centers.
  3. If you use a booking site, do more research on the retreat outside of that site. If you find something that looks appealing, make sure you visit the hotel’s website and the teacher or studio’s website to find out more. Begin following them on social media and get to know them before booking directly through the hotel, the teacher or the studio.
  4. Understand the difference between a hotel that offers yoga and a real yoga retreat. There are many hotels where I live in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica and most of them have an outdoor deck built for yoga classes. These hotels advertise themselves as a yoga retreat on different booking sites to bring in business. The classes may be included in the price of your package, but it’s not a real yoga retreat. It’s a vacation package that includes yoga classes. If you’re looking for a real yoga retreat, you need to find one that is hosted by a teacher with a theme, an itinerary, group activities and meals. Retreats are a richer experience; they will offer you an unforgettable trip. A vacation package at a hotel that offers yoga will also be rejuvenating, but you’re own for your schedule and activities and there will be no cohesive theme to the yoga classes.

If all of these strategies fail, you can always propose a private retreat to your favorite teacher. Ask them to come with you on vacation and offer a themed yoga program of your choice. You never know what’s possible until you ask. I know I would say YES!

Still have questions about retreats? Just ask. I’m listening.

About Rebecca Bly

Hi there, I'm Rebecca. I teach yoga to active women over 40 who want to maintain strength and stability safely to they can keep doing the things they love. Join me for a class online or on-demand and come gather with me for a retreat in Costa Rica.

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