It should come as no surprise that the top wellness spots in Latin America have ancient roots. Renowned civilizations such as the Maya and Inca have long treated sweat lodges, hot stone massages and coca leaves as sacred parts of their culture. Drawing on these time-honored traditions, countries in Latin America have ushered in a new type of travel dedicated to finding inner calm.

The temazcal was used by the ancient Maya to cleanse their minds and bodies by sweating out the impurities. Yaan Wellenss
Yäan Wellness is located in Tulum, Mexico and features a traditional Mesoamerican sauna called a temazcal © Yäan Wellness

Yäan Wellness, Tulum, Mexico

After a heavy night out in the Quintana Roo megaresort of Cancún, some downtime in the province’s nearby countryside can come in handy.

To the ancient Mayans, illness was not necessarily a physical ailment, but a spiritual one. They believed cleansing ceremonies could be used to combat the supernatural, and places like Yäan Wellness, a retreat sitting where the jungle meets the ocean just south of Tulum, have fostered these rituals for those interested in exploring these traditions. 

Fed with crystalline waters from nearby cenotes (sinkholes with exceptionally clear groundwater), Yäan has Mayan healers as therapists, and embraces Mayan healing techniques. The centerpiece of the complex is a traditional temazcal, an indigenous Mesoamerica’s equivalent of a sauna. This sort of sweat lodge was ritually used by the Maya to purify the body and spirit, and is conducted at Yäan only in accordance with moon cycles.

Further traditional purifying can be enjoyed by having a hot obsidian stone massage (obsidian was sacred to the Maya), some Aztec chakra balancing, or by simply relaxing in one of the pools with tea made with herbs grown in the spa garden.   

Nearby wellness spot: Tulum has long been a spiritual spot for the Maya, and the Mayan temple ruins in town are dramatically situated on a bluff above the ocean. Inland, try a refreshing dip in a cenote. Try Cenote Dos Ojos, 19 miles (30km) north of Yäan.

Men practice Acroyoga during the Envision Festival in Puntarenas, Uvita, 149 miles (240 km) south of San Jose, Costa Rica. The festival brings thousands together for yoga, music and other wellness classes. Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images
The Envision Festival held in Costa Rica brings thousands together for four days of yoga, music and other wellness classes ©Ezequiel Becerra /Getty Images

Envision, Playa Hermosa, Costa Rica

Playa Hermosa means ‘beautiful beach’ in Spanish, and it's the location of Central America’s coolest wellness festival. Located within the Rancho la Merced wildlife refuge and at the meeting point of the rainforest and the Pacific Ocean, Envision is certainly special.

As if seeing sunset from a divine tract of sandy beach, or watching the antics of wild monkeys in the treetops wasn’t enough, the people behind Envision have made celebrating serenity even easier with a four-day festival in late February. Live music is mixed up with spirituality, movement and sustainability, and there’s even a festival apothecary. There’s a yoga camp as well as pre- and post-festival eco-adventure tours across Costa Rica. The focus is very much on sustainability, and all the structures raised for the festival are constructed to minimize environmental impact.

Nearby wellness spot: It’s just a 4.5-hour drive from the San Jose Airport to find the Samasati Rainforest Sanctuary. The spectacular eco-getaway and yoga retreat is perched in a rainforest 1400 feet above the Caribbean Sea. 

From dancing rituals to prayer and fire ceremonies, the Willka T'ika promotes a complete reconnection with nature.
The Willka T'ika promotes holistic wellness by fully immersing its guests in ancient Andean practices. © Willka T'ika

Willka T’ika, Urubamba, Peru

The spirit of Pachamama, aka Mother Nature, burns bright at Willka T’ika. The intimate eco-retreat reconnects guests with nature by immersing them in the serene Sacred Valley of the Inca.   

Among the seven chakra gardens, designed around the seven chakras of yoga, are spacious modern rooms with feng shui layouts, yoga studios and spaces for a variety of rituals carried out by Andean healers. Ancient Andean wellness practices here include prayer, fire ceremonies, dances to energize chakras and also discovering the arts of local handicrafts production.

An alfresco floral solar bath provides a chance to bask under the clear, starry nights for which the Andes are so famous for. Only vegetarian food is served.

Nearby wellness spot: Head 98 miles (158km) northwest of Willka T’ika to the Sacred Valley town of Santa Teresa and the nearby Baños Termales de Cocalmayo to soak in some of the most beautiful natural thermal baths in Peru.

A vineyard at foot of the snow-topped Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina © Edsel Querini / Getty Images
A vineyard at foot of the snow-topped Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina © Edsel Querini / Getty Images

Cavas Wine Lodge, Mendoza, Argentina

Taking advantage of Argentina’s well known Mendoza viticulture, the Cavas Wine Lodge indulges guests with fine local wines through tastings and pairings. And when it’s time to really relax, there’s a crushed Malbec scrub using grape seeds and essential oils, a bonarda (red wine bath) or a Torrontes scrub with wine yeast.

Nearby wellness spot: Enjoy Argentina’s wine country from horseback, gaucho-style, with Trout and Wine Tours.

Hiker savouring a panoramic view of Ilha Grande, Brazil © vitormarigo / Shutterstock
Savouring a panoramic view of Ilha Grande is sure to give you a sense of calm © vitormarigo / Shutterstock

The Island Experience, Ilha Grande, Brazil

Ilha Grande, a traffic-free island of virgin rainforest and stunning sandy beaches, is just three hours away from the big city by car and boat, but it's a world apart in vibe. The island harbors a number of eco-retreats and initiatives, but The Island Experience offers something truly unique. The adventure spa, which also doubles as yoga retreat, prides itself on holistic fitness. Guests enroll in a week-long program of activities encompassing yoga and healthy eating, as well as adventures like sea kayaking, snorkeling and hikes in the surrounding jungle. Daily massages, as well as cultural activities, like capoeira, are also included.

Nearby wellness spot: About 80 miles (130km) southeast from the port of Angra does Reis, via one of the loveliest drives in southern Brazil, is Posada Picinguaba, a sea-facing luxury boutique hotel set within the national park of Serra do Mar. There are no phones, Internet or televisions in order to encourage a reconnection with nature.

Get more travel inspiration, tips and exclusive offers sent straight to your inbox with our weekly newsletter.

Explore related stories

Hiker stands in awe of waterfall and limestone bedrock at a hidden cave in Johnston Canyon at Banff National Park, with sun bursting through the lush forest in the Canadian Rockies.


Where Lonely Planet staffers are traveling this summer

Apr 19, 2024 • 10 min read