Even after a poorly planned and consequently long, harrowing journey, it is impossible to entertain any type of stress once you’ve arrived at HorizonOceanViewVillage & YogaCenter in Santa Teresa, the surfers’ mecca on the southern tip of the NicoyaPeninsula.
Failure to check transportation schedules resulted in an all-day odyssey from San José to the hotel, involving a lot of waiting for buses and ferry, walking and finally a hitched motorcycle ride. (Don’t try this at home, kids.)
But after climbing the last 50 meters to the hotel – a maze of cottages and gardens all hanging over each other – and walking out on the deck to take in the beach below, the tension that had accumulated over my long, bumpy journey fell out of my system and stayed that way.
The hotel’s owners, Yoav and Gali Geller, from Israel, had originally planned to move to Sri Lanka – but those plans changed after they passed through Costa Rica en route from a yoga teacher training course in Quebec, Canada. After first going to the Caribbean side of the country, the couple “found Santa Teresa by mistake,” Yoav says.
The Gellers, both 34 and the parents of two children, including one newborn, started teaching free yoga classes on the beach when they first arrived in Santa Teresa seven years ago. They opened the hotel three years later. And though they never made it to Asia, they incorporated an Asian building style into their hotel, particularly in their use of woods.
“In Thailand, they build on posts, so the decks and blue roofs were the guiding lines” when they built the hotel, Yoav says. The cabinas are constructed out of treated pine, and the ceramic flooring keeps the rooms cool. Bamboo touches accent the property, and each kitchen has its own potted bamboo shoot.
“I see bamboo and it reminds me of kung fu,” Yoav says. “It’s a good vibe.” The yoga deck is clearly the property’s focal point. Situated above the teahouse at the highest point of the property, overlooking Playa Carmen, it has to be a serious competitor for the most stunning place in the world to practice yoga. Some classes take place right at dusk, making it difficult to hold a given position while your neck is craned to see the sunset.
For the Gellers, the view is the point. “Everything is led by the ocean,” says Yoav, who has surfed since he was 10 years old. “Yoga wasn’t the main thing, but it’s more of a specific approach to other things I do,” he explains, while describing what is for him and his wife the entwined, spiritual relationship among yoga, surfing and the ocean.
Incidentally, Gali’s name means “my wave” in Hebrew, though she does not surf.
The Gellers are adherents of Sivananda yoga, a form of hatha yoga that focuses on preserving the health and wellness of the practitioner. Yoav teaches Sivananda classes to guests and community members, while another instructor teaches vinyasa yoga classes. Gali teaches Pilates, prenatal and children’s yoga classes.
The teahouse and restaurant are another highlight, featuring Yoav and Gali’s own organic, vegetarian dishes and drinks, and a common area overlooking the ocean. They’ll serve you mixed teas ($2 to $3.50), including one made of herbs grown in the hotel’s garden, espresso drinks ($1.50 to $4) or fresh juices ($4). The inventive fruit shakes ($4) include a blend of carrot, orange, beet, celery and ginger, and a mix of tahini, banana, coconut flakes, milk and honey.
Among other dishes, they serve muesli ($8), antipasti ($9) and an avocado salad sandwich ($5). Also on the menu are a grilled cheese bagel with optional pineapple ($6) and shakshuka ($8), a Moroccan dish made with homegrown chili peppers, tomatoes and herbs baked in an iron pan with eggs and topped with sauce. The bread and the butter are homemade. And don’t miss Yoav’s tahini cookies ($2).
Many ingredients, including mangoes, lemons, papayas, cashews, squashes, lemongrass, peppermint, star anise, rosemary, oregano, chili peppers, basil and aloe, come from the hotel’s organic garden on the slope adjacent to the teahouse.
The hotel is made up of five cabinas and three villas, all with fully equipped kitchens, wireless Internet, air-conditioning and hot showers. The villas also have TVs and DVD players. A reflective pool, perched just under the main building and overlooking the ocean, serves the cabinas, while two more secluded pools are situated between the villas.
The cabinas have decks with year-round ocean views, while the villas have upper and lower decks with partial ocean views, depending on the time of year and tree foliage. Options for reclining abound: Some decks have hammocks or swinging chairs, and you might even find a beanbag or two on the deck as you take in the sunset over the ocean.
“This is a place of quiet,” Yoav says of the hotel. “The yoga is a nice tool.”
Getting There, Rates, Contact Information
Driving from San José, take theInter-American Highway west
to Puntarenas. From there, take a ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya to Paquera. Naviera Tambor (2661-2084, ¢810/$1.50 for an adult passenger, ¢6,100/$11 for a car) makes the trip at 5, 8 and 11 a.m. and 1, 4 and 8 p.m., returning to Puntarenas from Paquera at the same times. From Paquera, travel to the town of Cóbano, and from there head on to Malpaís. From the Malpaís-Santa Teresa crossroads, turn right toward Santa Teresa. The turnoff to the hotel is 100 meters past Supermarket Ronny, on the right; go 50 meters up the hill, and the hotel is on the right.
Direct buses (¢4,800/$8.70, plus ¢810 for the ferry) from San José leave at about 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. (both directions), but the schedule changes seasonally; for current schedules, call 2642-0219 (Cóbano) or 2221-7479 (San José).
By air, both Sansa (2290-4100, www.flysansa.com, $71 one-way) and Nature Air (2220-3054, www.natureair.com, $99 one-way) make the 20-minute flight from San José to Tambor, which is about 40 minutes’ drive from Malpaís/Santa Teresa.
High-season rates until May 1 are $100 for a one bedroom cabina, $180 for a two-bedroom cabina, $120 for a one-bedroom villa and $195 for a two-bedroom villa. Prices go down $20 to $45 during green season, May 1 to Nov. 15, and are about $20 higher, on average, during peak season, Dec. 20 to Jan. 10.
Food and taxes are not included. Yoga classes are $10 each, $30 for four classes or $50 for eight. All instruction is in English. Various types of massages and treatments are also available, including relaxation, deep-tissue, Thai, Reiki, reflexology and Shiatsu.
For information and reservations, call 2640-0524, e-mail [email protected] or visit the hotel’s Website at www.horizon-yogahotel.com.