by Erin Davis
The first week after Labour Day has always symbolized more of a new beginning for me than New Year’s Day ever did.
In Canada, the start of a new school year always fell on the first Tuesday after that bittersweet last long weekend of summer. As an adult, I still see it as a new year; a fresh start to get myself back into a healthier routine after slightly indulgent summers. So, when I was offered the chance to take a wellness-focused press trip to Puerto Vallarta right after the unofficial last day of summer, I eagerly agreed – and even brought my mom along with me.
Slightly embarrassing to admit, my 63-year-old mother is more active than I am on many days, living out her retirement years with yoga, daily treadmill sessions, walks, sports, and dance classes. She maintains a healthy, gluten-free diet and does her research when it comes to everything she puts into her body. In other words, she was the perfect “plus one” on this type of trip. The third annual Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Wellnessing Getaway took place September 5 to 9.
Upon arrival at the pristine Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit hotel (just a 15-minute drive from the airport), we were treated to mini massages, making the seamless check-in experience all the more welcoming. Recognizing the surge in wellness-related travel in recent years, the hotel now features 12 1750 square-foot, two-storey Wellness Suites. Upstairs, you’ll find a breezy personal terrace that features loungers, a hot tub, a massage table, and a powder room. In the spacious hotel suite below, wellness perks include a stationary bike, weights, a yoga mat, magnetic pillows, aromatherapy scents, a vitamin C shower, and a variety of healthy snacks like nuts and dried fruits that are constantly replenished by your personal Spa Concierge. Completing the wellness cause are soul soothing ocean views – a perfect backdrop to sip your freshly-delivered green juice in the morning.
The star of the show at Grand Velas is the massive, never-ending, three-tiered infinity pool that sits in its centre and from many viewpoints seems to flow right into the ocean. Redefining the typical all-inclusive experience, this luxury hotel does not cut any corners when it comes to luxury and the kind of service you write home about. Its peaceful grounds offered the perfect place to unwind after an invigorating yoga session, a tennis match, or a rigorous HIIT classes – an appreciated reward for all the hard work during fitness-focused activities.
The sessions on the Wellnessing Getaway agenda were lead by industry leaders, all of whom would leave a lasting impact long after the flight home touched down. These included Nikki Sharp – a Bali, Los Angeles, and Europe-based health coach, yoga instructor, vegan chef, and best-selling author of Meal Prep Your Way to Weight Loss and The 5-Day Real Food Detox. The former model – who has overcome two eating disorders – lead the group in a vinyasa yoga session to kick off the first day of all things wellness. While my mom and I always appreciate a good yoga class, we appreciate it even more when it takes place seaside with a backdrop of crashing waves (it really helps your cause when it comes to grounding yourself).
Sharp later lead the group in a cooking session, where vegan sushi was on the menu. As it turns out, the dish isn’t as daunting to make as it may sound. Offering a healthier spin on sushi, Sharp showed us how to make the dish with quinoa and cauliflower rice and a colourful assortment of vegetables that included cucumber, carrot, red and yellow pepper, cabbage, and avocado. “In general, the more colours on your plate, the better,” said Sharp.
Another inspiring force on the trip was Joanne Encarnacion, a San Francisco-based health and wellness coach and blogger at GOFITJO, who lead an energetic high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class that kicked off Friday morning on a positive note and left the abs and legs burning the next day in the best way possible. The nice thing about HIIT classes is that the movements can be modified to accommodate different fitness levels (not that my mom couldn’t hold her own in the group) and they require very little or no equipment. Encarnacion admitted that she struggled with anxiety and depression in the past, but that faith in her strong, able body was what always kept her going – an honest piece of information that I won’t soon forget.
Inviting guests to dive a little deeper than they may typically on a beach escape was Deborah Hanekamp, a well-known New York City-based medicine reader who is also known as ‘Mama Medicine,’ whose calm and positive vibes are undeniably infectious. Hanekamp lead the group in a medicine reading – a first-time experience for many participants. She began by revealing she has been able to see auras above people since childhood and read the collective aura of the class. The ceremony invited guests to clear their minds and involved a multi-sensory experience that mixed sound and crystal healing, energy balancing, intuitive reading, and spiritual guidance.
Guests were also invited to dive deep within themselves and reconnect with their inner child at a cacao ceremony held by Azul Anaité y Juan Pablo Ruiz of Cacao Ancestral. Sitting in a circle, we were asked to sip cups of thick, rich cocoa as we became familiar with the sacred plant as a superfood, a process facilitator, and expander of the heart and consciousness.
Just as soothing as the ceremonies were was the hotel’s award-winning SE Spa, and the entire spa experience at Grand Velas was one of the most memorable we have had for a few reasons. For starters, we actually had a spa employee personally take us through the pre-treatment ritual hydrotherapies and steam rooms to ensure we were getting the most out of them. The energetic Grand Cora Massage not only soothed sore muscles, but relaxed the mind with its incorporated sound ritual and was made even more memorable with a healing ritual designed to symbolize transformation.
Speaking of sound rituals, another highlight of the trip was a culinary wellness experience with Chefs Guillaume Morancé and Isaac Esparza. During this memorable meal, we enjoyed a fusion of Asian flavours that was accompanied by the spiritual, healing sounds of Roberto Gopar and his many instruments.
On the plane ride home, my mom and I both agreed that the trip helped to reconnect, refocus, and set new fitness goals. It may have even expanded our sense of awareness. “I think I can see them – the auras of the birds,” said my mom poolside earlier that day, gazing into the sky. Whether she really could or couldn’t isn’t the point. At least she was looking.
As for me, I can happily report that I am back on the fitness bandwagon, and I have this “Wellnessing Getaway” to thank.
The next Grand Velas Wellnessing Getaway takes place May 9-11, 2019. Check the website for updates.
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Erin Davis is a regular contributor to Travel to Wellness