Reconnect with Nature in Guatemala with Fresh Juice, Raw Food, Mayan Ruins & Volcanoes

Guatemala is a country full of culture, colorful handicrafts, Mayan ruins and lots of nature and it’s a great place to visit for a health holiday! I recently spend 1 month in Guatemala and I’m going to share my top-picks, favorite restaurants and must-see things to do.

Central Courtyard in Antigua, Guatemala

Most people fly into Guatemala City when they arrive to Guatemala. Since the quaint, picturesque town of Antigua is only 45 minutes from Guatemala City, it’s a good idea to take a taxi or arrange hotel pickup directly from the airport to Antigua and start your adventures there (it’s about $30 for a private taxi). Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala and is full of Spanish architecture, cobblestone streets and many courtyard gardens behind the ancient walled streets. This is a good place to spend 4-5 days so you have time to take a tour, explore the local market, visit a nearby volcano or Mayan village, soak in natural hot springs, enjoy some of the restaurants and maybe even schedule a massage. Now that sounds like a holiday!

Old and beautiful downtown Antigua

Guatemalan decoration, handicraft, style, love!

Inside Pitaya Juice Bar in Antigua

My favorite morning stop in Antigua was at Pitaya Juice Bar, across from the Antigua Gym. It’s a small but very cute place and they serve fresh juice or superfood smoothies with moringa, ginseng, flax or wheatgrass, for a healthy start to the day (Pitaya Juice Bar: 6ta Calle Poniente, #26). For lunch, I frequented Sabo Rico, an outdoor garden restaurant serving salads, juices and smoothies in a gorgeously romantic courtyard (Sabo Rico: 6a avenida sur #7).

Dinners were typically made at the hostel using fresh raw foods bought at the local market and raw apple cider vinegar or coconut oil from the main health food store in town, Organica (5 calle poniente No. 6, just 1 block from the main square). Organica also has a small range of gluten-free foods for sale. Everything in Antigua is walkable which makes it very nice as a tourist.

My top picks for things to do in Antigua

Walking Tour with Elizabeth Bell

Definitely take Elizabeth Bell’s walking tour which runs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 9:30am to 12:30pm and meets at the central fountain in the main square. Elizabeth’s knowledge and enthusiasm over all things Antigua and Guatemala is absolutely amazing, impressive and inspiring. This was absolutely a highlight of Antigua form me; the $20 was well spent for the tour.

Santo Domingo Hotel’s restaurant on the hill: Santo Domingo del Cerro

If you plan your day correctly, you can continue on your own at the end of Elizabeth’s tour at the Santo Domingo Hotel in downtown Antigua and from there, take the hotel’s free shuttle up the hill to their restaurant, the Santo Domingo del Cerro. Most likely you’ll be hungry after the tour and in daylight hours, you can enjoy all their unusual outdoor art sculptures and take in the views of surrounding volcanoes while enjoying a nice healthy salad. I had a delicious apple and watercress salad and was very happy to see that on the menu as a reasonable raw food choice. For anyone looking for a nice place to do work online (to write blog posts or update twitter feeds a-hem), the Santo Domingo del Cerro has a very nice terrace with free wifi, so you can spend the rest of your afternoon there and catch up on some work!

Wednesday at the Kawilal Hot Springs

Every Wednesday, the Kawilal Hot Springs and Spa offers a free shuttle that leaves at 9am from the Cathedral (it returns back to Antigua at 3pm). It’s a 1-hour ride to the hot springs so the free Wednesday shuttle is really the best option for tourists. The spa offers different packages with or without massage and it’s a bit expensive ($85 for hot springs and massage) for what it is and for Central American prices. For that reason, I would recommend a cheaper package using only the hot springs. The pools are still great and I fully believe in the healing powers of natural hot springs, so I personally seek them out wherever I go! This is a nice break from Antigua and a good option for a quiet afternoon soaking in the natural healing energy of thermal waters.

Outside Antigua: Tikal, Semuc Champey & Lake Atitlan

Tikal National Park

If you have the time, take an overnight bus to the northern part of Guatemala where you will find the ancient Mayan city and UNESCO World Heritage Site at Tikal National Park. We managed to find an honest tour company to book our bus tickets directly across from Pitaya Juice Bar. I don’t remember the name, but the staff wore Lonely Plant t-shirts and we received the correct price for the bus (not always an easy thing to achieve in Guatemala!). Speaking of which, be sure to book your accommodation before arriving to Flores; otherwise you will be absolutely mobbed by booking agents trying to lure you into other hotels and various park tours. We booked online in advance directly with Los Amigos Hostel, and we arranged our Tikal sunrise tour and onward bus tickets inside the hostel, at the very back, during office hours only. Flores is known for thieves operating as tour guides preying on the weary traveler arriving at 5am; we heard more than a few stories of this during our brief 2 days there. So be careful!

A great option for your first day in Flores is to rent kayaks at the hostel and paddle around the lake. It’s a wonderful feeling to get out on the water and to just glide with every stroke closer to the other side, then power-paddle back. Get to sleep well and truly early, because the the sunrise tours leaves at 4am! The tour takes you into the park to sit atop one of the Mayan temples and experience ‘the jungle waking up’ with sounds of howler monkeys, toucans and other birds. It’s great! A few more hours to explore the park gets you back to the hostel in early afternoon.

Ancient Mayan Civilization at Tikal National Park

Tikal National Park, in the jungles of northern Guatemala

Imagine the sounds of tropical birds and howler monkeys all around you…amazing!

Semuc Champey

The next day, you can head to Semuc Champey, about 6-8 hours by minibus from Flores. It’s not as comfortable to travel by minibus but there is no big bus that goes to Semuc Champey. Once you get there, you will see that it is well worth the effort! Semuc Champey is a gorgeous set of natural limestone bridges that’s located deep in a mountain gorge and covered with crystal blue-green water. You have to see it to really appreciate how magnificent Mother Nature can be. You only need one day to see the park, but many people stay at either one of the hostels for a few days just to relax and well, mainly to party. The backpacker party thing wasn’t my scene so I only stayed 2 days to see the park and do the cave tour, and I continued on my way to Lake Atilan.

Semuc Champey…simply amazing natural wonder!

Reconnecting with nature…is healthy bliss! At Semuc Champey

In awe of Mother Nature’s beauty at Semuc Champey

Save the Best for Last: Lake Atitlan

My best advice is exactly that: Save Lake Atitlan for the end of your Guatemala travels and take some time to rest, relax eat good food, or even rent a house along the lake and plan to do your own juice or water fast while there. Lake Atitlan is a popular destination for yoga, healing, raw food, meditation and spiritual retreats due to its magical energy field. It’s claimed to be one of the worlds’ energy vortexes, alongside the great pyramids and Macchu Picchu. The lake itself is surrounded by volcanoes, and when we were there, San Pedro volcano was visibly active, which was just amazing to see!

Beauty and nature at Lake Atitlan

Local fruit and vegetable market

Many of the health-enthusiast tourists stay in the village of San Marcos on the lake. In my opinion, it was a bit too hippie and we searched for something a bit more scenic and peaceful, with good views of the lake, good internet and decent sense of security. We found exactly that at Sakcari Hotel in San Pedro. While not cheap by Guatemala standards at $40 per night, Sakcari was everything we were looking for – it was quiet and on the lake with incredible views from the room and a real feeling of nature. Nearby in the village, we could get fresh fruit, fresh juice and smoothies every day. There is also a great health food store in San Pedro; it’s small but well-stocked with herbs, supplements, natural body products and some dried organic nuts and seeds. What more in life does one need?

A nice place to contemplate life, on the shores of Lake Atitlan

Fresh air, views of nature…this in and of itself is a cleanse!

Isla Verde Eco-Resort with its famed ‘slow-cooking’

We checked out some other spots and also looked at a few houses and apartments to rent on Lake Atitlan because we considered staying longer, up to 1-2 months. After a good amount of searching, there is only one place I would recommend and that’s the PasaCap property, owned by Pierre, a Frenchman living on the lake for more than 15 years. Pasacap has very modern and clean furnished apartments with perfect lake views on a secure property with a private dock to access the lake. We seriously considered renting an apartment here for 1-2 months so I could do a long water fast, but unfortunately the units were fully booked at the time and I didn’t want to wait a month for availability. I would definitely consider returning at a future date, and securing the booking in advance online. To have the chance to do a water fast on a major world energy vortex….well that’s just ‘Wow!’

There were a few other highlights on the lake for healthy eating and raw food, both in the village of Santa Cruz. The first, Isla Verde Resort, is a beautiful place with a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the lake. They are known for their ‘slow cooking,’ but we found that they may have taken this term a bit too far…by adding ‘slow ordering,’ ‘slow service,’ ‘slow preparation,’ and ‘slow to settle your bill.’ In short, the entire experience was SLOW. But, they did have some nice juices, salads and a great homemade kombucha drink that is worth waiting to order, receive and pay for!

View of Lake Atitlan from Isla Verde Resort

Mayan Cacao Energy Balls at Villa Sumaya

The other place is also in Santa Cruz, but in the opposite direction from the dock. When you exit the boat taxi, walk to the right and follow the maze of planks and boardwalks (which is really fun by the way!); after about 30 minutes you will arrive to Villa Sumaya.

Villa Sumaya is a yoga and meditation retreat center and it’s a great place to consider staying for a few nights if your budget allows. Otherwise, do what we did and visit during the day, enjoy a delicious fruit smoothie, sample their raw cacao superfood snacks and take a few raw energy balls home to nibble on later.

Whatever extra time you have in Guatemala, definitely spend it at Lake Atitlan. The views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes change with each day’s cloud formations and sun, a real-life painting waiting for you to slow down and simply enjoy its natural canvas. It’s a place that really grows on you after awhile.

Quiet time in nature is good for the soul

Safety in Guatemala

This is something worthy of noting and needs to be addressed for your personal travel safety. While absolutely nothing happened to use during our 4 weeks in Guatemala, we did meet a few tourists who had been robbed, mugged or ripped off. Some important things to remember: Do not show your iPhone or smartphone in public areas; Do not wear expensive jewelry; Carry a purse that hangs across the body from shoulder-to-hip and not on one shoulder only; Do not carry valuables at night; Do not carry a lot of cash at any time; Ask around at several travel agents to compare prices before booking anything. Again, we had nothing happen to us, but we heard quite a few stories. Personally, I always lock all valuables in my suitcase in the hotel room at all times. The temptation for a cleaning lady or other hotel staff to look around is just too great, so why take the risk? Once you get into the habit of doing that, it becomes very easy and it’s much ‘safer’ than a front desk safe where other staff may also have a key. You can definitely enjoy Guatemala without any problems if you follow these simple safety tips. With so much to see and enjoy; it’s a country worthy of a visit!

More on Traveling Raw:

14-21 Day Travel Itinerary for Organic Vegan Raw Food, Hot Springs, Beach & Detox in Costa Rica

If you’re looking for a new destination for your next detox holiday, you may want to consider Costa Rica in Central America. A year-round tropical climate offers plenty of fresh fruits such as papaya, pineapple, banana, coconut and passionfruit. Add mountains, volcanoes, beaches, hot springs, zip-line adventures and rain forest and you’ve got nature + raw food + sun…the perfect combination for a fantastic health holiday!

My suggestion for Costa Rica is to plan for at least 14-21 days; if you want to do a raw food retreat or fruit feast then plan for 28 days or even more. I recommend to hire a car for the first 2 weeks of your journey to give you a chance to get around more quickly and easily. After that, you may want to return the rental car and settle in to a retreat center for another week or two of organic raw food bliss. Scroll down to the end of this article for important tips on renting a car in Costa Rica.

14-21 Day Itinerary for Costa Rica

Day 1-3 at Playa Montezuma for Natural Beaches & Coastline

Fly into San Jose, pick up your rental car and head straight for Montezuma Beach. It should be about a 2-4 hour drive to the car ferry depending on traffic; the ferry takes you to Puntarenas, and from there, it’s about a 45-minute drive over partially dirt and pot-hole filled roads to Montezuma, but well worth it! This is a great place to relax, work on your tan, walk the beach, eat raw foods and have a nice introduction to Costa Rica. We stayed at Mariposario Bed and Breakfast which I really liked for a few reasons: 1. clean and quiet, 2. nice gardens, 3. nice owner, 4. wifi and breakfast included, 5. a small kitchen to make salads and chop fresh fruit every day and 6. a good price at $50 per night. Our days in Montezuma consisted of an early morning beach walk from Ylang Ylang Resort, in my opinion one of the most beautiful and easily accessible beach walks in the world, followed by a fresh juice or spirulina smoothie at Ylang Ylang’s gorgeous restaurant. Another option is to take the daily yoga class at 8:00am, as an outside guest it costs $12 pp.

The beach at Montezuma, Costa Rica

Ylang Ylang Resort in Montezuma, Costa Rica

Yoga Sala at Ylang Ylang Resort

Afternoon activities can include taking a surf lesson, sitting in the sun, wandering the shops in town or driving along the coast to nearby Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, both beautiful beaches worthy of exploration. My favorite daily treat was to walk 10 minutes up the road from Mariposario to Anamaya Resort and Retreat Center and use their far infrared sauna – a bargain at $10 pp for 60 minutes! Without a doubt, Anamaya has the best view ever from a far infrared sauna! Imagine watching monkeys play in the papaya trees and 180 degree views of beach and sea while sitting inside the sauna, contemplating health, love and longevity!

Infinity Pool at Anamaya Resort

Anamaya Resort, a Yoga Teacher Training Center

Slice of Paradise at Anamaya Resort

Organic Market in Montezuma every Saturday

If you’re in Montezuma on a Saturday, be sure to check out the organic fruit and vegetable market in the center of town starting at 11am. Raw food fans of Victoras Kulvinskas may want to look up his schedule of workshops and retreats offered from his home in the Montezuma area.

Day 4-6 at Nicoya Peninsula for Jungle Forest

Raw Cacao treats at the Cacao Bar

After a few days in Montezuma, you may be ready for some adventure.

On Day 4 head towards Nicoya Peninsula and stay at Pachamama for a few days to experience living in a hippie commune in the jungle forest with simply divine gluten-free food made by Alon, their Israeli master chef and yummy raw cacao treats at their Cacao Bar.

Choices of accommodation include camping, casita or cabin, depending on your budget. Daily yoga classes and meditation are included in the cost of your stay.

Plan on driving to Pachamama during the day since there is about 20-30km of dirt road and not the best road signs in that area in general. If unsure, stop and ask the locals.

Pachamama’s Tara Garden for yoga classes & evening talks

Daily Silent Meditation at Osho Hall in Pachamama

I stopped by Hacienda Del Sol Retreat Center which is also in the Nicoya Peninsula and actually very close to Pachamama, but found it to be pretty run down and energetically uninviting. The local staff member at the restaurant didn’t speak any English and told us the restaurant was closed; we were unable to find any other reception or staff; the grounds appeared overgrown and bungalows seemed shabby and no one ever answered my email enquiry sent several weeks before my arrival. I’m not sure if they were closed temporarily or what but based on my experience, I would not recommend this place for detox.

Day 7-8 to Zip-Line and Hike in the Cloud Forest at Monteverde

On Day 7, drive from Nicoya inland towards Monteverde via Liberia. It’s about a 7-8 hour drive but gorgeous views as the scenery changes from rain forest and beach to pasture to cloud forest. Plan to spend 2 nights at Monteverde, and if you can, book a bunk bed room at the Arco Iris Lodge for only $35 USD per night. We felt very lucky to find this resort with nice staff, beautiful gardens, banana trees and lots of flowers…a real gem compared to other places in town! Spend one day checking out the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, and the next morning book a zip-line tour before heading off for the 4-hour drive around the lake to Arenal Volcano. From Nicoya to Monteverde to Arenal, plan to stock up on fruits at roadside stalls as there isn’t much in the way of raw food restaurants in these areas.

Cabin at Arco Iris next to Banana Trees

Bunk rooms at Arco Iris, a great bargain!

Nicer cabins also available at Arco Iris Eco Lodge

Day 9 for Natural Hot Springs at Arenal Volcano

Depending on your schedule, stay 1 or 2 nights in Arenal, Costa Rica. With only one night to spend there on our schedule, we headed straight for the hot springs. A great choice is Tabacon Hot Springs, the only 100% natural hot spring resort in Arenal. If you arrive after 6pm, you get a discounted rate of $45 pp (as opposed to the daytime rate of $60 pp). We decided to splurge on the all-natural experience at Tabacon and it was well worth it! A second day in Arenal would give you the opportunity to check out the National Park and have another evening at the hot springs. We tried to stay at the Arenal Backpacker Resort but it was full, so we checked-in next door at Sierra Arenal and actually enjoyed it very much, with a nice grassy garden area and a great view of the volcano for $35 USD per night.

Scenic drive from Monteverde to Arenal, Costa Rica

Arenal Volcano…Gorgeous!

View from Sierra Arenal Hotel near Arenal Volcano

Day 10-14 for Raw Food, Detox and Nature at Finca de Vida or Farm of Life

On Day 10, plan to head south for more organic raw food and the chance to do a detox at Finca de Vida, or Farm of life, my #1 pick for a raw food retreat or juice fast in Costa Rica. If you are on a 14-day trip, you may want to keep the rental car and make the 8-hour drive from Arenal to the Dominical area to be able to experience Finca de Vida for the last 4 days of your stay. Or, better yet, plan for 21 days or more and spend your last week or two at the farm to rest, juice fast or fruit feast, take raw food cooking classes, enjoy daily yoga and meditation or join an organized retreat for a detox with colon cleansing. If staying longer, you may not want to waste money on a rental car; in that case drive the car from Arenal back to the San Jose airport to return the rental and from there book a 4-hour shuttle from the airport to Finca de Vida (they can arrange this for you).

Either way, on the drive from Arenal back towards San Jose for sure plan to stop at Lands in Love. This is a must-see for animal lovers. Anyone who wants to support the rescue cats and dogs can even stay longer, either in their hotel or as a volunteer. Lands in Love is an Israeli-owned rescue center for cats and dogs with over 200 animals on site. Their restaurant is a welcomed oasis on the road from Arenal with a good menu of salads, Israeli food, and several vegan and gluten-free options as well. For any veterinary students, surgeons or physicians looking for a international volunteer job, Lands in Love is perfect and in need of your expertise! What an opportunity to work in Costa Rica, experience the culture and sights but also put your skills to work with these gorgeous rescue dogs and cats that need your help!

A project of love, and this place is full of Love!

Israeli Salad at Lands in Love Restaurant, Costa Rica

Lands in Love Restaurant, Boutique Hotel & Animal Rescue Center

Natural mineral spring at Finca de Vida

From Lands in Love, continue south towards Domincal and then turn inland to find Finca de Vida.

This place is truly an oasis and is best saved for last, after all the driving and travel around Costa Rica you will be happy to reach the quiet, beauty and organic raw food at Farm of Life.

The owners, Brian and Jodi, set a top-notch standard in caring for their guests and with smaller groups and a limited number of bungalows, you’re sure to get more personal attention and a true sense of community between staff, volunteers and guests.

If you have the time, book a room for 1 month and to eat 100% organic raw foods, be in nature and enjoy having the time to heal. Be sure not to miss the on-site natural mineral spring pools and the nearby weekly local organic market.

Paradise found…view from the guest bungalow at Farm of Life

Staff and guests joining together for a Breath Workshop

Early morning view from the restaurant at Fica de Vida, Costa Rica

If you have more time, check out Osa Peninsula in the south of Costa Rica. We didn’t have a chance to get there in our 14-day trip, but we heard it’s amazing and worth a visit. To drive onto the peninsula, you will need a 4wd vehicle.

Budget for Costa Rica

Anyone who has traveled in Thailand or SE Asia will find the prices in Costa Rica to be very high! In researching online before our trip, it seemed that every hotel was a minimum of $80-100 USD per night. By looking around and not booking in advance, we managed to find places more in the $35-50 USD per night range. That said, with the rental car and cost of food (an average salad to be $10-15 USD), 14 days in Costa Rica was expensive. If you live in North America, you’ll save money and time on the flight so that is definitely something to consider. There are many other countries in Central America which are cheaper than Costa Rica, so research and plan according to your budget. If you have the time, consider volunteering for 1 month or more on an organic farm or at one of the retreat centers – it’s a reasonable way to experience Costa Rica for just a fraction of the cost.

Practical notes on renting a car in Costa Rica

Car rental rates in Costa Rica are not cheap since the car rental companies seem to require mandatory insurance which is not listed in any online booking form. Our 2-week car rental cost over $700 USD, but there was no way we could have seen as much as we did without a car. (One word of advice: do NOT use Thrifty Car Rental). The roads in Costa Rica are not marked and it’s easy to get lost…also the GPS is not very accurate due to many dirt roads that aren’t listed in the computer. The only real way to get around is to stop in every small town and ask which way to the next town. Well, it’s the old-fashioned way but it works! We were happy we didn’t bother with a GPS, and actually we rented a Toyota Yaris 2-wheel drive which we drove everywhere ‘Costa-Rica style’ and didn’t have any problems getting stuck on river crossings or 4-wheel drive dirt roads. January being dry season makes it possible to have a 2-wheel drive car (January to March is the high-season and best time of year weather-wise to go). If you rent a 4-wheel drive car, be careful to not rent the Jimmy or if you do do not leave any valuables inside; apparently it is very easy to break into and gets robbed more often than any other rental vehicle.

Safety in Costa Rica and Where to Stay Near the San Jose Airport

With all the warning about robberies and safety in Costa Rica, it’s always important to keep your street smarts; that said, we did not have any problems at all and found the Costa Ricans to be very helpful with directions and quite friendly and nice overall. If you need to spend one night near the San Jose airport either at the beginning or end of your journey, I highly recommend Hotel Pacande in Alajuela as a clean, safe affordable option with friendly staff. I hope you enjoy your trip. Eat lots of papayas and….see you on the road!

More Articles on Costa Rica

Read my article on Pachamama: Gluten-Free, Raw Food and Detox at Pachamama, Costa Rica.
My awesome experience at Finca de Vida: Fasting Retreat, Organic Raw Food & Total Relaxation at Farm of Life in Costa Rica.

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Fasting Retreat, Organic Raw Food & Total Relaxation at Farm of Life in Costa Rica

Fruit feasting at Farm of Life!

If there is such a place as the Garden of Eden, this could be it! Finca de Vida (or Farm of Life) is a raw food, juice fasting, yoga and detox retreat center in the hills of Costa Rica and just gives you that “this is a place to heal” feeling as soon as you arrive. The owners, Brian and Jodi, are a young American couple whose commitment to health and healing is truly inspiring, especially because their own journeys from sickness to health brought them to create Farm of Life. They really care about their guests, and it shows.

I actually found Finca de Vida thanks to their excellent rating on Trip Advisor, and wow, I felt so grateful to have the chance to check it out. The farm is large compared to a typical detox resort in Thailand, but doesn’t have so many rooms, which is a good thing in my opinion, because smaller groups means more space to relax in nature, and a chance to get one-on-one attention and personal care.

The center hosts several juice fasts, raw vegetarian food and 80/10/10 retreats throughout the year; additionally guests can come and stay on their own simply to eat raw organic fruits, relax, do daily yoga, learn sun gazing meditation from Brian (the master!), get massage, do colonics, dig into their library of healing books, learn from the raw food chefs, soak in the natural mineral springs, and most of all, take time to reflect, rest, rebuild and heal. I did say Garden of Eden, didn’t I?! I just didn’t expect to find it in Central America!!

Fresh organic herbs from the garden at Finca de Vida

Cabins for guests…a real raw food nature retreat!

Staff and guests joining together for a Breath Workshop

Paradise found…view from the guest bungalow at Farm of Life

Natural mineral spring: a place to soak and heal!

There are a few key highlights that really made Farm of Life stand out for me. First, the food is all raw, vegan, gluten-free and organic (a lot of the food is grown right on the farm). Second, it really is in nature, with views of mountains, trees and the distant sea. Imagine waking up to the sounds of the birds, walking up to the yoga sala to do an early meditation, or joining Brian at sunrise for his sun gazing lesson.

It’s very, very peaceful.

And third, the type of guests and volunteer staff that Finca attracts is absolutely top-notch. I never met a nicer group of people gathering to do detox and eat fruit, really! There was no feeling of competition or ego, which can often plague larger detox resorts. This place is pure, from the heart and created for people to have a place to heal, as it should be!

Finally, a major factor to consider is how affordable Finca de Vida is compared to other fasting/cleansing resorts both in Costa Rica and worldwide. A couple can stay in a bungalow with private shower/toilet for $1500 USD per month, that includes access to eat whatever food is grown on the farm. Wifi is also included. Organized juice fasts or raw food retreats are priced differently, depending on who is running the program and how many days it lasts.

If you choose to do water fasting during your stay, there is no additional charge, and that includes cleansing support from Brian. Other places in Costa Rica charge $10,000+ per person to do a 21-day water fast, so you can quickly see what an incredible value that is. Brian (the owner) was clear to point out “I want to make this place affordable so cops and teachers have a place to come and heal. It shouldn’t just be available for rich people.”

Brian giving me a personal tour…and a taste of the hibiscus leaf!

Both Jodi and Brian shared their personal stories of healing with me, all explained in detail in my youtube interview with them. Brian was a professional athlete whose life took a detour into drugs and eventually led him to chronic fatigue and other illness which required him to be on several different pharmaceutical drugs daily. Miraculously, one day he saw a book on raw food in a bookstore, decided to buy it, and essentially went 100% raw food overnight. He is absolutely living proof that you can heal yourself as long as you are willing to change your diet and lifestyle.

Jodi suffered with rheumatoid arthritis for nearly her entire life and probably knows the meaning of pain better than anyone! But, she didn’t give up. And when she met Brian, the idea of doing a raw food diet seemed like a good thing to try. Since doing detox and raw food, she is almost 100% cured and is even a certified yoga instructor now! Amazing!

Early morning view from the restaurant at Fica de Vida, Costa Rica

Finca de Vida is about a 4-hour drive from San Jose. They can organize your pickup and transport directly from the airport to the center. The beach is about a 30-minute drive from the center (or a $25 taxi ride). There are weekly trips to a local waterfall and organic farmer’s market (for a nominal fee). The property is remote and there is no chance of temptation from bars or convenience stores, which is great for most people but challenging for some, especially anyone suffering from addictions. Be prepared to go deep into your healing when you’re there. If you are ready, Finca de Vida can really change your life.

For more info, contact Brian and Jodi at

Video Interview: Raw Food Success Stories

At Finca de Vida Detox & Juice Fast Retreat Center in Costa Rica

Jody and Brian Calvi have 2 of the best Raw Food Success Stories I ever heard! Jody suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis for 35 years before finding relief from daily pain (and many medications) after doing detox and raw foods. She tells the story of how her chronic asthma disappeared after getting her amalgam fillings removed. Brian suffered from chronic fatigue and then depression as a result of being chronically fatigued! He cured himself on a 100% raw food diet and become inspired with Jody to open the Farm of Life Retreat Center in Costa Rica. This is a place I highly recommend for detox, juice fasting, or having a health holiday in nature to de-stress and heal.

Check out my entire 14-21 day Itinerary for Costa Rica here!

More on Traveling Raw:

Gluten-Free, Raw Food and Detox at Pachamama, Costa Rica

Raw Cacao treats at the Cacao Bar

Pachamama is a place I recently discovered on my travels in Costa Rica: it’s a eco-community of about 80 residents from all over the world (mostly from Israel) with an organic farm, daily meditation, yoga classes and a simply divine raw cacao dessert bar! They offer various retreats on meditation, juice fasting and yoga and also offer accommodation for guests wanting to stay and simply enjoy the ‘Pachamama experience.’

It’s a place that has gained some interest in the raw food world in recent years thanks to supporters like David Wolfe and the film crew of Food Matters (it’s listed in the Food Matters’ International List of Detox Centers). I felt lucky to find this place and get a feel for it myself!

Raw Carrot, Pumpkin & Avocado Soup

The best thing by far about Pachamama is the food: they have an amazing Israeli chef (Alon) who adds the best kept ingredient of all to his food: love and joy! You can definitely taste it! I was very impressed to see a 100% gluten-free and mostly vegan menu for all 3 daily meals offered at Pachamama and decent raw food options as well – there were always ample chopped and shredded raw veggies to make a yummy veggie salad with homemade tahini salad dressing that left me feeling happy and satisfied!

For 80/10/10 folks, there is a store on the property that sells fresh fruit daily, so you can easily add more fruits to your daily intake. We bought fresh papaya, bananas and passion fruit to make an amazing fruit salad every morning. In addition, they have another small store selling superfoods, fermented coconut water (kefir) and goat’s milk and goat’s cheese for anyone who wants to add a bit more to their diet.

Tara Garden for yoga classes & evening talks

Yummy Raw Cacao Frozen Dessert Bliss!

The property itself is huge, and one thing I really like about Pachamama was the feeling of being in nature, with plenty of green jungle views and waking up to the sound of monkeys in the trees every day. It’s about a 1-hour walk to the beach (one-way); there is also a daily shuttle service to take you there ($3 pp) or the option of a private taxi ($40). While not an easy place to get to, a 7-8 hour drive from San Jose over some rough terrain, it’s a place to get away from the world, feel close to nature, de-stress and have access to healthy food. (Keep in mind, you can also fly there from San Jose, but there is a 12kg weight limit on the commuter planes). And the best part about the food at Pachamama: The raw cacao chocolate bar! Wow, what a creation! Every afternoon this seemed to be the place to congregate…people meeting over a frozen almond milk-cacao-date-tahini bar dipped in raw cacao and honey, all for $2.50 (by far, the best bargain there!).

The ‘Detox Counter’ or Prana Clinic

They also offer a juice fasting retreat: they call it the Body Cleanse, a 5-day organic juice detox held monthly at the center and run by resident detox experts at Pachamama. I was there during their January cleanse and had a chance to join some of the talks and speak directly with the detoxers. It’s a good program for a short, gentle cleanse. They offer all organic juices, daily enemas as well as daily nutrition and detox talks. The juice fast also includes a liver gallstone flush mid-way through the cleanse. My recommendation in doing their cleanse is this: Arrive 2-3 days before to relax, unwind and get a feel of the place. Do the 5-day cleanse, then stay an additional 5 days to eat the food and continue with your daily yoga and silent meditation practice. After all, if you are going to spend the time and money to get there, why not stay and enjoy?

Noni, turmeric & orange juice shots with beet and green juice

I highly recommend Pachamama as a health holiday destination for families with young children. With 26 children living on site and their own school, it’s a very kid-friendly place which is rare to find in the raw food and gluten-free world. Any parent of a gluten-free or celiac child would be grateful to find a place where their child can eat anything and also have other kids to play with too!

Cabin for guests, one of the accommodation options

Overall, I think Pachamama is a great experience, but it is important to remember that it is ‘an experience.’ Some people may feel overwhelmed but its remoteness or even intimidated by the ‘hippie-ness’ of the place, and for that reason I can say that it might not be everyone’s cup of herbal tea. I can assure that there were no naked people running around and the community is actually very organized and business-like, perhaps even too business-like for some! The prices are on the high side when compared to Thailand or with the rest of Costa Rica ($80-100 per couple per night, tax included, for a private room with bathroom), $40 to go to the beach (a taxi is the only option that fits into the detox schedule), extra costs for internet (the only place in Costa Rica where we encountered this, all other places we went it was free), and all food, raw food, etc is additional as well. (Note: They do offer camping at a reduced rate.) The cost of the detox does not include accommodation, and they have a rule of a 10-night minimum stay with all expenses to be paid 100% in advance and absolutely no refunds.

My question to a detox guest would always be this: how do you feel now vs. how you felt when you arrived? 100% of the time the answer is always: I feel better, lighter, and more healthy. It’s important to remember that! (I did a few video interviews with Pachamama guests for my youtube channel, and even with just a 5-day cleanse, I was motivated to hear their stories of transformation!).

Osho Hall for 7pm Daily Silent Meditation..all welcome to join

Daily Silent Meditation at Osho Hall in Pachamama

Enjoying a Green Smoothie at the Cacao Bar

Well, I still think back so fondly to the food and to waking up to the sounds of the monkeys…and I can appreciate so much what the community of Pachamama has created…after all, 13 years ago they arrived to the jungle with nothing and now have a beautiful thriving community with a gorgeous meditation hall complete with marble floors! It’s certainly been a lot of work to get to where they are today. If you have the money, I do recommend Pacahamama as a quiet place to be in nature, eat good healthy food and get to know some very interesting like-minded guests and volunteers on their work-exchange program.

Outside the meditation hall

Costa Rica is such a short plane ride from the USA and Canada and so much cheaper than flying to Thailand. If you are looking for something different and want to try a new destination for your raw food or detox holiday, then consider giving Pachamama a try!

One logistical note: There are actually 3 places in Costa Rica called Pachamama, so be sure you are going to the right one, and most important, be sure you have directions to the right one! Their website is:

Video Interviews: 3 detox guests at Pachamama

Doing a Juice Fast Detox on your honeymoon?!

Meet Lior, yes..on her honeymoon for a 5-day juice fast at Pachamama in Costa Rica! Hear her experience with the liver flush on Day 4, dealing with food cravings during her fast (pasta), her emotional release during the cleanse and how she is preparing for fertility by doing a juice fast with her newlywed husband on their honeymoon! Thanks Lior for sharing your story!

What to Expect as a Volunteer in Costa Rica at the Pachamama Body Cleanse

Thinking about volunteering at an organic farm in Costa Rica? Meet Jenna from Canada; she came to Costa Rica to volunteer at Pachamama and decided to stay permanently! Listen to her talk about her first detox ever, how she dealt with hunger and how she managed to not cheat during the fast, her reaction from the liver cleanse, what her family thinks of enemas, what it’s like to volunteer at Pachamama and why she has decided to stay in Costa Rica. What a great woman, thank you Jenna!

From feeling toxic to fabulous: Juice Fasting on Day 5!

What’s it like for a regular guy to do a juice fast detox? No, this isn’t Joe Cross…but it could be! Meet Tim from Australia. He went to Costa Rica to do the 5-day Body Cleanse Detox at Pachamama after several months of toxic food eating in the USA. Tim talks about why he decided to do a detox, how stressful his life was prior to traveling, how he prepared for the juice fast, the mental discipline required to succeed, how he felt after the liver flush, his favorite part (daily yoga) and how now, on Day 5, he feels 20 years younger and went from feeling toxic to fabulous with just 5 days of a juice cleanse! Wow!

Check out my entire 14-21 day Itinerary for Costa Rica here!

More on Traveling Raw:

International Directory of Detox, Juice Fast, Healing Centers and Retreats

From Food Matters

Detox, Juice Fasting Retreat and Healing Center Directory

World Destinations for Detox, Juice Fasting, Healing Clinics

USA and Canada

Gerson Institute – San Diego, California
Gerson Therapy is tailored to treat cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and arthritis using natural treatment methods such as organic foods, juicing and detoxification.

Hippocrates Health Institute – Florida
The Hippocrates Health Institute provides a tranquil haven for peace and health restoration. Guests are treated with enzyme-rich vegan food, educational classes and exercise facilities.

An Oasis of Healing – Arizona
An Oasis of Healing offers natural options for treating cancer, whilst promoting immune strengthening and health restoration.

The Kushi Institute – Massachusetts
The Kushi Institute is an international expert authority on the macrobiotic lifestyle for health and well-being, offering residential educational programs.

Creative Health Institute – Michigan
The Creative Health Institute is a learning facility designed to help people reclaim health through raw food nutrition and detoxification.

Holistic Medical Clinic of the Carolinas – North Carolina
This holistic medical facility uses combined conventional and natural therapies to provide integrated mind-body-spirit healing for a wide variety of diseases.

Optimum Health Institute – San Diego; Austin
The Optimum Health Institute aims to rejuvenate physical, emotional and spiritual health through vegetarian raw food, juicing, lymphatic exercise, colon hydrotherapy and prayer.

The Issels Foundation – Arizona
The Issels Foundation offers alternative therapies for cancer and chronic illnesses, with the dual aim of treating disease and preventing its recurrence.

Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center – Arizona
Under the guidance of world-renowned health and spiritual practitioners, The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center is a healing haven for a wide range of diseases. Expert teaching on raw food nutrition, spiritual growth and natural living is also available.

Rudolf Steiner Health Center
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
This program is designed for ambulatory individuals with chronic illnesses, or anyone seeking a restorative regimen. The Health Center follows the Anthroposophic medical guidelines of Austrian scientist-philosopher Rudolf Steiner.

Weimar Institute – Weimar, California
The Weimer Institute offers nutrition and lifestyle guidance, imbued with a strong spiritual focus, to remedy disease.

Oxygen Life Spa – Texas
The Oxygen Life Spa offers a spiritual space for healing through the use of Ozone saunas, Chi Tables and Tesla Coil Photon Generators.

Rest Of Your Life Health Retreat – Texas
Under doctor guidance, guests may fast and detoxify in a remote country environment. Education about natural hygiene and raw-food healthy living is also provided.

Yoga Oasis – Hawaii
The Yoga Oasis offers intensive yoga and detoxification programs, with food preparation classes and nature excursions also available.

Ann Wigmore Foundation – San Fidel, New Mexico
An educational and healing retreat, the Ann Wigmore foundation prescribes live, organic vegan foods and natural detoxification methods for health and recovery.

Dr Gonzalez – New York
This clinic is headed by medical doctors who offer treatments for cancer, autoimmune diseases, allergies and chronic fatigue.

The Center for the Improvement of Human Functioning – Kansas
This clinic founded by Dr Hugh Riordan uses the approach of finding the cause of illness and to correct it rather than just treating the symptoms.


New Life Retreat – Ontario, Canada
Situated on a lush organic farm, New Life Retreat has an interactive, practical approach to teaching eco-friendly and healthy living. In addition to a fresh, organic vegetarian diet, guests will benefit from meditation, relaxation, juicing, fasting and exercise in nature.

Nonpareil Natural Health Retreat – Stirling, Ontario
This natural haven provides a range of services for detoxification and health rejuvenation. Raw-juice cleansing, nutrition counselling, colon therapy, mud baths, yoga, relaxation in nature, reflexology, reiki and meditation are available in their programs.

Europe and the UK

Paracelsus Klinik – Switzerland
Paracelsus Klinik is an integrative conventional/complementary medicine clinic, treating a wide array of diseases.

Vortex Vital – Spain
Vortox Vital is a resort-style health retreat providing fasting and numerous other detoxification programs.

Detox International – Spain, Portugal
Detox International provides 7 day holistic detox retreats supported by a team of nutritionists and therapists.

Australia and New Zealand

The Vita Centre – Edgecliff, New South Wales
The Vita Centre offers a holistic, integrative blend of conventional and complementary therapies for a wide range of diseases.

Yarra Vallley Living Centre (home of The Gawler Cancer Foundation), Victoria
This clinic has a combined orthodox and mind/body medicine approach to treating disease, utilising treatment advice from medical doctors and natural health practitioners. Set in 40 acres of natural bushland at the foot of rolling hills, they host Wellbeing retreats in a nurturing and peaceful environment.

Fountainhead Organic Health Retreat – Maleny, Queensland
100% organic health retreat focusing on stress, detox and fitness programs.


The Farm – Phillipines
The Farm is a lush eco-friendly resort, with medical doctors that tailor individual detoxification and healing programs. Guests are luxuriously pampered during their program.

The Spa Resorts – Thailand
This Spa Resorts provide detoxification programs, fasting, massage and reflexology in the lush comfort of resort accommodation.

Kamalaya – Thailand
Kamalaya is a luxury resort that offers detox and yoga retreats in Thailand. Their Wellness Sanctuary offers colonic irrigation and speciality detoxes including weight loss, sleep enhancement, optimal fitness and stress & burnout.

Atsumi Detox – Thailand
Atsumi Retreat Healing Center is a natural detox & therapy education facility in Phuket, Thailand where people come to fast and cleanse their systems of toxins.

Julia Jus’ Innergetic Health Rejuvenation Retreat – Bali, Indonesia
This 7-day retreat provides a comprehensive detoxification program involving raw-food cuisine, pilates, meditation, colonic irrigation, detox baths, massage, ozone therapy, nutrition/lifestyle counselling and infra-red saunas.

Central and South America

Gerson Plus Therapy – Tijuana, Mexico
Dr Dan Rogers is a trained Medical Doctor and Naturopath. He has been treating patients using integrative medicine since the late 1970’s. Dr Rogers believes in the use of the Gerson Plus therapy which is a nutrition based form of detoxification and healing from within.

An Oasis of Hope – Playas de Tijuana, Mexico
This is an integrative medical facility specializing in conventional and complementary cancer treatments.

Sanoviv Medical Institute – Baja California, Mexico
This is a holistic medical facility offering integrative treatments for numerous chronic or general diseases.

Health For Humanity – Ecuador
Provides information and services for QHM technology and cancer treatment.

Farm of Life (Finca de Vida) – Costa Rica
This remote eco-lodge is a natural sanctuary for the exploration of health-fulfilling activities such as yoga, raw food/vegetarian eating, eco-adventures and self-improvement. Farm of Life is a smoke-meat-alcohol-free environment. Read my article on Finca de Vida!

Pacha Mama – Costa Rica
This retreat offers numerous healing services such as yoga, detoxification, colonic irrigation, reflexology, acupuncture, nutritional consultation, meditation, spiritual teachings, juice fasting, massage and reiki. Read my article on Pachamama!

Ann Wigmore Institute – Puerto Rico
This is an educational health retreat that practices Ann Wigmore’s methods of detoxification and raw-food health restoration.


Detox International – South Africa
Detox International provides 7 day holistic detox retreats supported by a team of nutritionists and therapists.
A valuable resource for investigating natural therapy clinics worldwide and considering treatment options.

If you know of other reputable spas, fasting retreats or healing centers around the world, please let me know!

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