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Choosing responsible tourism in the Covid era with Bodhi Surf + Yoga

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With vaccine roll-outs underway and many travelers thinking about their first trip in over a year, we are in a unique position to consider a slower, more thoughtful approach to travel for when the world opens up again.

It’s impossible to deny the problems brought by global tourism: overcrowded cities, high CO2 pollution, destruction of nature, and animal exploitation. When the pandemic caused an economic slowdown, carbon emissions fell sharply. While a global health crisis is not a solution to these problems, it gave us an opportunity to reflect on the impact of human activity on the planet – including how we travel.

At the same time, the global tourism industry accounts for every one in ten jobs – putting millions out of work when the industry came to a standstill.

There are destinations worldwide that rely on travel and tourism for survival, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization has called for a responsible recovery of the tourism sector founded on sustainability. So, how can we, as travelers, help rebuild the industry to support this shift?

lora walking with surfboard
I was kindly hosted at Bodhi Surf + Yoga. As always, all opinions are my own.

Responsible tourism in the Covid-era

As individual travelers, we can help support this shift by traveling move sustainably, being respectful of the culture, and giving back to the local economy by partnering with a sustainable local tour operator.

The benefits aren’t one-sided either. When we take the time to understand a destination’s people, culture, and natural beauty in a meaningful way, it can greatly enrich our travel experience.

Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a perfect example of this.

bodhi surf and yoga lodge uvita costa rica

What is Bodhi Surf + Yoga?

Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a family-run surf and camp in Uvita, Costa Rica. They are a Certified B Corporation and 1% for the planet member, providing travelers with meaningful and responsible travel experiences long before the pandemic. They are a perfect cause study of how to use business for good moving forward and are one of the top yoga retreats in Costa Rica.

The mission of Bodhi Surf + Yoga is “educating, inspiring, and empowering our stakeholders to live more sustainably through surfing, yoga, nature immersion, and community engagement.”

people walking with surf boards

While they are a surf and yoga camp, these two physical activities simply function synergistically in the cultivation of awareness (which by the way, is the meaning of the Sanskrit word Bodhi). A retreat at Bodhi Surf + Yoga will teach you so much more than just how to stand up on a board and get into a yoga pose – you’ll leave with a new found appreciation for the world around you, and in turn, a desire to protect it.

From the moment you book your trip, Bodi Surf + Yoga will be providing you with advice on how to be a more responsible traveler. They’ll send you helpful e-mails before your arrival, including a downloadable packing list of items from companies they love that are all sustainably made.

The morning after you arrive, you’ll be immersed in the community with a walking tour run by a local tour guide, where you’ll learn about the various projects Surf + Yoga is doing in the community.

One of these projects is The Bahia Ballena Plastic Free Coalition, a group of local businesses working to eliminate single-use plastics from the community. The result? A reduction of plastic bottles from 65,000 to 300-400 every three months. The community got together to build the whale pictured below, which is made of single-use plastic bottles found around town.

whale made out of plastic bottles

Community engagement and investment are at the core of what Surf + Yoga does. In the past, they’ve offered yoga for the community classes and surf lessons in exchange for beach clean-ups. When you book a retreat, they’ll donate on your behalf to SOMOS, a local non-profit working on sustainable development, community security, and social enterprise in the community through various projects.

Cultivating awareness through surf and yoga

people sitting under tree on beach

What makes Surf + Yoga unique from all the other surf and yoga camps in the world is the way they teach. It’s done in a way that connects you with yourself and the environment around you, cultivating an awareness that inspires positive environmental behavior changes in their guests. I’d read about this before coming to the retreat but was still surprised at how quickly I felt the awareness in myself.

Surfing is not something that comes naturally to me, and I never thought I would be able to stand up on a board, let alone paddle onto my own waves. This all changed at Bodhi Surf and Yoga

lora surfing on wave

I’ve done my fair share of surfing lessons around the world, and there are so many instructors out there that are going to just push you onto waves and tell you when to stand up. This doesn’t set you up for success because you won’t be comfortable surfing on your own. Travis won’t push you onto waves, but he will make you understand how every aspect of surfing works, from how a wave is formed in the water to how you can maximize its power to get the best ride.

two people standing on beach

But more than that, Travis teaches surfing in a way that will make you fall in love with the ocean and want to protect it. His passion for environmental conservation shines through during the surf lessons, and he’ll inspire you to be a steward for the ocean as you fall in love with surfing.

sunset in uvita costa rica

This is helped by the fact that the surfing lessons take play in Marino Ballena National Park — Costa Rica’s first marine National Park. Not only is this an ideal place for beginner surfers to learn and progress, but it’s one of the most beautiful places in the country.

beach uvita costa rica

You’ll be surrounded by nature and wildlife – from the howler monkeys in the nearby trees to humpback whales in the ocean. The park is home to an abundance of marine life, which I discovered while diving there the year with Mad About Diving.

howler monkeys in tree
Howler Monkey

The yoga classes perfectly complement the surf lesson.

There’s no doubt that yoga’s physical benefits are incredible, especially when paired with surfing, but the mental and spiritual benefits are even greater. They left me with mental clarity, a deeper appreciation of the world around me, and a renewed sense of purpose.

students holding yoga poses

What I appreciated the most about the yoga lessons was Pilar’s lessons on yoga philosophy. She has spent years studying but will share small bits of wisdom before each class. Yoga highlights the importance of letting go, whether that’s a possession you no longer need or emotions and thoughts that don’t serve you. Her classes paired with the inward reflection that yoga provides were the perfect setting to think about your relationship with the outside world.

yoga class

After a day of yoga and surf, you’ll be left feeling relaxed and connected with nature and yourself, ready to make some changes in your life to lessen your environmental impact.

girl holding surf board uvita costa rica

It’s a pretty unique influence that Surf + Yoga has. A documentary was made about the organization called the Bodhi Wave, which perfectly captures what I experienced during my retreat.

“The Bodhi Wave” Official Trailer from Jazeen on Vimeo.

I noticed the shift in myself soon after arriving. Growing up in Newfoundland, I’ve always felt a deep connection and passion for nature, and environmentalism is far from a new concept for me. Yet, I felt more inspired at Bodhi Surf + Yoga to make more positive environmental changes in my life than I have in a long time.

At the end of the week, you’ll take part in the Surf + Yoga Graduation, a thoughtful session where you’ll reflect on your time at the retreat alongside the staff. You’ll be invited to make a written pledge on something you’d like to do more going forward.

I made two pledges – to be more present (something I’d been struggling with before coming) and to carbon offset my flights as this is by far my most significant footprint as a traveler. And by the way, Surf + Yoga will offset your flights on your behalf when you book a retreat with them.

I’ve been offsetting my flights when the airlines give you the option when you book, but that often isn’t the case. I wanted to find a solution to do it for all my flights. The timing was divine as the week following my retreat, Impact Travel Alliance put on an event for members about demystifying carbon offsets.

It was an informative session, and I learned about some great resources travelers can use to calculate and offset their flights. That’s another topic in itself, so I’m going to be sharing an entire post soon about my experience with it and how you can do it too.

It’s been two weeks since I left Surf + Yoga, and I’m still left feeling flooded with inspiration on how I can become a better version of myself one day at a time and do more to fight for the protection of the earth. I have some exciting updates to share with you guys about this website soon!

girl swimming under waterfall
Falling in love with nature at a waterfall in Uvita

Bodhi Surf + Yoga Logistics

I hope that I’ve convinced you of the magic of Surf + Yoga, but I realize you may be wondering about the other aspects of what a week looks like there. I can assure you that the food and accommodation provided are just as fantastic as the rest of the experience!

bed in room armonia bodhi surf and yoga

Bodhi Surf + Yoga offers four different room options at their retreat for a maximum of 10 guests. I stayed in room Armonia, which means harmony in Spanish. I slept like a dream every night. These rooms are ideal for solo travelers or couples, but if you’re coming as a group of friends or family they also offer private rooms with two single beds and bungalows that can accommodate a family of up to 4. The lodge is environmentally friendly, using efficient lighting, low-flow toilets, and natural ventilation.

outdoor pool surrounded by plants

There’s a common area with a kitchen that you are welcome to use, an outdoor pool, outdoor showers, and a lounging area under the yoga platform with various books that you can borrow from.

inside of common area bodhi surf and yoga

The location is perfect – set in the beautiful town of Uvita on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. It’s in town so you can walk around on your own, yet it feels like you are in the jungle as lush plants surround the lodge. It’s the perfect setting to do yoga!

The food was fantastic. They serve fresh, 85% plant-based meals to fuel your adventures. As a semi-inclusive retreat, you’ll get five breakfasts and three dinners included in your stay. The local chef is fantastic, serving up delicious Costa Rican cuisine. She even taught us how to make homemade tortillas!

You’ll become close quickly with the other guests and staff, sharing group meals and engaging in thoughtful conversations. While Pilar and Travis run the yoga and surf lessons, your main point of contact will be Adrianne – the fun-seeker, socialite, and extrovert of Bodhi Surf + Yoga. She’s a wonderful human and makes a damn good margarita. There are also two adorable cats and a dog there!

brown dog by couch

The retreat is 7 days/6 nights. You’ll be picked up at San Jose airport on Saturday afternoon and dropped off the following Friday evening at an airport hotel which is included as part of your stay. During the week, you’ll take five surf lessons and five yoga classes, as well as visit a waterfall and a community walk.

You’ll also have one free day, where you can check out some of the other things to do in Uvita or take a day trip to nearby attractions like Manual Antonio National Park. I spent my free day visiting Alturas wildlife sanctuary and exploring Dominical. You’ll also get a one-hour massage on your free day, which was one of the best I’ve ever had.

schedule at bodhi
Bodhi schedule for the week

It’s evident that Bodhi Surf + Yoga leaves a lasting impression on its guests. I was joined on my retreat by a former guest, and it became clear that this was not a unique experience. This doesn’t surprise me – I’m already craving to go back.

Staying at Bodhi Surf + Yoga was pure magic. By choosing a local and responsible business like them on your next trip, you’ll not only be supporting the sustainable recovery of the tourism sector but enriching your own travel experience.

Do you know of any tourism businesses out there doing amazing work? Let me know in the comments below!


  • Lora Pope

    Lora is a full-time digital nomad on a quest to visit every country in the world and pet as many dogs as she can along the way. Over the last 15 years, she has traveled to 70+ countries and six continents solo. She currently calls Puerto Vallarta, Mexico home and enjoys ending each day with sunset and tacos on the beach. [email protected] Pope Lora

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