Costa Rica Retreat Part 1: Planning
In March I had the pleasure of traveling to Uvita for a Costa Rica retreat with the fabulous Taylor Simpson! I met Taylor by joining her Higher Self Mastermind at the beginning of the year. Once she realized I was a retreat planner she immediately scheduled a call to chat with me about planning and executing her Costa Rica retreats that were less than 2 months away.
Learning about Taylor’s vision for the retreats and what experience she wanted the women to have in Costa Rica I knew these retreat were not only going to be fun, but life changing. Taylor decided to host back-to-back retreats with two different groups of women, which is a great way to maximize your time when hosting an international retreat.
As I mentioned I had a fairly short timeline for planning these retreats so Taylor and I immediately hopped on a kick off call as soon as she locked my full service retreat planning services in. We chatted about what her vision was, how she wanted to women to feel, some fun ideas and then I hit the ground running with all the planning.
Taylor originally was planning to host these retreats in Bali, Indonesia. When pandemic restrictions became stricter and stricter in Bali, Taylor decided it was time to move the retreat elsewhere. She landed on Uvita, Costa Rica because she was at the beginning stages of building a secondary home there and Costa Rica had a special place in her heart. With a last minute location change and a short 2 month planning timeline, Taylor decided to bring me on to help her bring this retreat to life and make it even better than it was going to be in Bali.
When Taylor came to me she had her new location locked in and a rental home (as she made sure prior to switching the location that there were accommodations available within her budget). Beyond that we planned everything else completely from scratch.
I started with building out a basic timeline/schedule of what each day would look like and what Taylor was going to be teaching. The theme of the retreat was chakras (what Taylor is an expert in) and everyday Taylor focused on coaching the ladies through one of the chakras. So I got to plan fun activities/excursions that complemented each chakra of the day, which I will share more about in Part 2.
Taylor has an extremely unique teaching style that she intuitively picks up what the women need everyday. Some days the workshop sessions were longer and some days the workshop sessions were shorter, meaning I had to be ready to adapt to something different each day, which kept me on my toes.
Uvita is a fairly small town in Costa Rica (with 1,000 residents) that is not known as a tourist destination, so finding unique, off-the-beaten-path experiences was a bit challenging and a simple Google search didn’t always give me the results I needed. The other thing that was a bit challenging was Costa Ricans tend to march to the beat of their own drum (this makes the country so special/magical), which means they are not always the most prompt with responding to emails and messages. So I got the opportunity to practice my patience and surrender control a bit, which was a beautiful lesson for me to learn.
After weeks of emails, instagram DMs, WhatsApp messages and a few tips/tricks from my travel agent friend, Travel with Nikki, we were able to lock in a week full of super unique experiences!
Hosting an International Retreat During a Pandemic:
In the middle of planning the retreat, the U.S. came out with the new restriction that anyone traveling back into the United States needed a negative COVID test within 72 hours of their flight. Wanting to keep the retreat high vibe, Taylor asked that I found a testing company that was able to come onsite to our rental home vs. going to a testing facility.
Seems simple right? This ended being the most difficult part of the whole planning process as this was also a new restriction to Costa Ricans and they hadn’t yet established services doing this. On the 11th hour I was able to find an amazing Dr. to come onsite and preform the tests, which was so amazing and really kept the experience high vibe!
The other kicker with planning/hosting an international retreat during a pandemic was Costa Rica required an additional level of medical insurance prior to entering the country. So on top of making sure the attendees had their flights and transportation, I also had to make sure they had their Costa Rican health insurance prior to entering the country, which Travel with Nikki was able to assist us with.
Travel Planning & Logistics:
As I alluded to above, as a retreat planner I also inevitably double as a travel planner. Uvita was about 3-4 hours from the San Jose airport (SJO) and since flights/transportation to and from the retreat wasn’t provided I had to communicate all the travel options/details to the attendees so they felt safe and supported.
We encouraged everyone to fly into SJO and to either rent a car (Adobe Rental Car is the best) and drive to Uvita or book a shuttle service to drive them to Uvita. We also put everyone in a WhatsApp group so they could make arrangements to travel together. Some of the women were able to get on the same flights, others were able to split rental cars or shuttle services, while others went completely solo.
I personally flew into SJO, rented a car and drove to Uvita solo, which was my first time driving in a foreign country completely on my own. One tip I highly recommend is to add the on wifi hot spot for your rental car so you can use your GPS and take WhatsApp calls/texts in your car. I had upgraded my cell service to have coverage in Costa Rica, which hardly worked and was more expensive than the car wifi. I actually had to upgrade to the rental car GPS the first week there (not knowing about the wifi) because my phone didn’t have enough service for my phone GPS to work. The wifi will allow you to use your phones GPS and all the other perks of wifi, so I recommend that route!
One question I have been asked by many wanting to host a Costa Rica retreat is, “did you feel safe?” and the answer is yes! To be honest I was a bit nervous to travel to and drive in a foreign country completely on my own and not speak the language. And once I landed, got in my rental car and took off, I felt totally safe. The Costa Ricans are generally nice people and many speak english. Another nice perk, is they generally accept US Dollar so you don’t have to exchange your money into Colones, the Costa Rican currency. I do recommend arriving to Costa Rica with some cash in your wallet and mainly low bills like $1, $5, $10 and $20 for tipping. If you drive you will most likely hit a few tolls and thats where those low bills come in handy.
Tips for Planning a Costa Rica Retreat:
- WhatsApp is going to be your best friend for communicating with the locals during the planning process and retreat. Also know that roughly 30% of the population of Costa Rica are not native Costa Ricans so you will be working with people from all over the world.
- Be patient with slow response times and don’t panic if details aren’t perfectly set in stone. As I mentioned above Costa Ricans have a “pura vida” way about life and often things come together in the 11th hour.
- Utilize a travel agent for medical insurance (if still required) – I recommend Travel with Nikki.
- If you need more support on how to find off the beaten path experiences, pick your location, how to build your schedule, communicate all the details to your attendees, cover yourself legally, execute the retreat and so much more my online course Retreat With Ease, is the perfect tool for you! Plus you will get monthly calls with me, to ask me whatever you want and get the additional support you need. You can learn more about and join Retreat With Ease, here.
Get ready for Part 2 (coming soon!) talking all about the retreat itself, what we did and all the fun surprises that came up. If you want to join in on the next Costa Rica retreat (coming September 2021) then shoot Taylor a message on instagram and let her know Brooke Dumas Retreats sent you, we would love to see you there!