Yoga, Surfing, and Satisfaction in Costa Rica

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A horse and rider enjoy a seaside ride on Playa El Carmen in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

Like a lot of athletes, yogis and surfers talk about “getting into the zone,” that magical mental space where everything seems to flow along in perfect rhythm. Sometimes, getting to that place is a challenge; it requires overcoming the chaos of our surroundings — say, navigating traffic, or tromping through snow — or just generally cordoning off the mind from the busy-ness of everyday life.

Other times, however, our surroundings do the work for us. Such was the case when my husband and I visited the surfing and yoga mecca of Santa Teresa, in the Mal Pais region of Costa Rica. We installed ourselves at the Horizon hotel and yoga center, owned by Israeli ex-pats and made up of villas built into the hillside with expansive views of the Pacific. Here, we had no need to force our minds to be still — the gorgeous vistas and tropical air took care of that for us. We were energized and yet relaxed at the same time.

My husband, Erik, spent his days on the water, catching waves at the beach down the hill, Playa El Carmen, which is known for its consistent, long breaks. Meanwhile, I indulged in “basic” yoga classes that were tougher than any advanced ones I’d taken back home. Perched at the highest point of the hotel’s property, the yoga deck supplies warm breezes, open air, and clear minds.

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Relaxing at the Horizon hotel.

To eat, we’d simply step down a few stairs to the hotel’s organic, vegetarian restaurant or take a short stroll to one of Saint Teresa’s many restaurants. Everywhere the food was fresh, simple, and delicious, and augmented by a cold beer or fruity cocktail. This is the luxury of Santa Teresa: It is easy and casual and gratifying. Frilly sheets and fancy ballrooms are in short supply; those would be distractions here. Instead, satisfaction is derived from life’s simple pleasures. And for visitors to this seaside town, these are in abundance.

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Hibiscus flowers greet locals and visitors alike.

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The yoga deck at the Horizon hotel has a mind-expanding view.

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The long break at Santa Teresa’s beach means surf’s almost always up.

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Heliconia lend to the tropical vibe.

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Photos by Maaike Bernstrom Photography

Maaike Bernstrom grew up in Stonington, CT, where she learned to sail, a lifelong love that took her to the College of Charleston, where she raced with the varsity sailing team. After school, Maaike worked on boats, settled in Newport, RI, and became gallery manager for acclaimed travel and lifestyle photographer Alexander "Sandy" Nesbitt. She also studied with and worked for yacht photographer Onne Van Der Wal. For several years, Maaike lived in Valencia, Spain, where her husband worked in the yachting industry. Today they live with their daughter and two dogs in Middletown, RI, where Maaike works at photography, gardening, and floral design.

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