Journey Mexico writer Sam Murray went to Puerto Vallarta’s luxury yoga retreat Xinalani for a private waterfall swim, jungle yoga, and a humpback whale encounter…
Eco-chic yoga retreat Xinalani lies on the southern curve of Jalisco’s Bay of Banderas. Its thatched-roof cabins poke out from verdant mountain-side jungle while a pristine beach lies at the foot of the resort.
My one-night stay would have been magical just relaxing on the sands with a good book in-hand. But Xinalani is packed with experiences, both put on by the hotel and a result of its unique location.
Here are five life-affirming experiences I had during my 24 hours at Xinalani (plus three more I didn’t have time to squeeze in)…
Five life-affirming experiences I had at Puerto Vallarta’s Xinalani
Seeing humpback whales
With many hotel stays, the journey there can be a chore. But that’s not so with Xinalani. Like all guests, I was transported by private boat from Puerto Vallarta’s marina to the hotel (it’s the only way to get there). But my 40 minute journey was interrupted by some curious beasts from the deep. Four humpback whales, including a baby, lazily broke the surface with absolutely no consideration for check-in times or yoga schedules. Seeing these magnificent leviathans was an unbeatable start to my vacation.
Practicing yoga over the jungle canopies
Xinalani has three yoga studios and two free lessons a day led by highly-qualified instructors. Despite my lack of experience, I went to one of the studios for a blissful hour of long stretches and animal-themed poses. Someone must have seen me coming because the lesson consisted of one-hour of yin yoga, a gentle style that holds relatively comfortable positions for a few minutes rather than rapidly flowing from one to another. The open-air studio in which my fellow yogis and I practiced (yes, I’m a yogi now) was a highlight. Placed above the jungle canopies, it boasted gorgeous views plus the soft rumbling of the waves far below provided a gentle soundtrack to our session.
Eating beautiful food
Meal time is a big event at Xinalani. Guests get a breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet served at a set time every day. To remind everyone that it’s time to eat, a conch is blown, and its low trumpet-like horn reverberates around the complex. Dishes are typically very healthy (think lots of salads) and always excellent. However, it’s not just the quality of the meals that stand out, it’s the great lengths the hotel goes to bring everyone together. My dinner, for example, began with a shot of tequila and a toast from the head chef to all the new guests and all the departing ones. It’s an incredible way to start a meal and (even as a lone traveler) I felt very welcome and included.
Watching the sun rise over the mountains
I’m an early riser, and with an adventure planned for later that morning (more on that next), I decided to make the most of my bedroom’s gorgeous view over the bay and the mountains behind it. Knowing the sun would come up over peaks, I woke up early, ran to grab a coffee, and got back into bed to watch the sun rise. Most holidays I would try to avoid an early start, but at Xinalani, it’s worth it. Watching Puerto Vallarta wake up is a magical experience and one that I recommend every guest at Xinalani tries.
Hiking to a waterfall
Before check-out and my reluctant return to the real world, I was determined to see the famed waterfall in the local town of Quimixto. From the hotel, the journey takes you through a traditional Mexican town, jungle forests, and across rivers. Having woken up early, I was the only one taking the hike and, when I arrived, the only one at the waterfall. The gorgeous cascada runs into a fresh-water pool, ideal for swimming in. With the sun still hidden from view, the water was chilly but, after ten seconds or so, I got used to it. Swimming alone for those ten minutes, just listening to the crash of water against water was a magical experience — one I won’t forget for a long time — and the perfect way to end a life-affirming hotel stay.
Three life-affirming experiences I couldn’t fit in
Fitting in five life-affirming experiences into 24 hours isn’t bad going. But there were plenty more to be had at the yoga retreat Xinalani.
Relaxing in the infinity pool while searching for whales is on my to-do list, but here are three more I will make sure I do the next time I stay at Xinalani.
Xinalani has its own temazcal ceremony, a Mesoamerican ritual in which participants cleanse their body and soul in a dome-shaped sweat lodge.
Surfing in Quimixto
Quimixto is a great place to grab a surf board and ride the waves. Boards including stand-up paddle boards are available from Xinalani.
A therapeutic session in the jungle spa
Xinalani has an excellent spa with several different therapies available such as massages, scrubs, and mani-pedis.
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