Sustainable Travel · · 6 min read

Sustainable Travel in Costa Rica with Bodhi Surf + Yoga

“At Bodhi, one of our main objectives is to awaken something inside of you…” It was day one of the surf lessons on the beautiful Playa Chamán located in Uvita, Costa Rica. Already, what Travis Bays, Co-Founder of Bodhi Surf + Yoga, said to us was sticking with me… I first connected with another one…

Sustainable Travel in Costa Rica with Bodhi Surf + Yoga

“At Bodhi, one of our main objectives is to awaken something inside of you…”

It was day one of the surf lessons on the beautiful Playa Chamán located in Uvita, Costa Rica. Already, what Travis Bays, Co-Founder of Bodhi Surf + Yoga, said to us was sticking with me…

I first connected with another one of Bodhi’s co-founders, Adrianne Chandra-Huff, at the 2018 Certified B Corporation Champions Retreat.  I was new to the “B Corp scene,” and Adrianne generously accepted my pre-event invite to meet over a cup of coffee.

Sustainable Travel in Costa Rica with Bodhi Surf + Yoga
Surf Instruction from Travis Bays | Photo Credit BodhiSurfYoga.com

I researched the attendee list and sent emails saying “Hello” to folks whose businesses excited me. A Surf + Yoga camp in Costa Rica? Duh… 😅

Since then, we’ve tried to coordinate a time for my partner and me to come see the Bodhi experience. Almost three years later, a trip to Bodhi became part of a deferred honeymoon plan (thanks to COVID).

Bodhi Surf + Yoga is a Certified B Corporation. They were the FIRST surf and yoga camp in the world to earn that certification. As a B Corporation, they’ve recently earned “Best for the World” honors. This puts them in the top 5% most impactful Certified B Corps around the world!

They’re also 1% for the Planet members. This means that they commit 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes.

With all this in mind, I came into our week at Bodhi with one overarching curiosity.

How would a travel experience curated by a business (and business people) who’ve made such commitments differ from the norm?

After a wonderful week and flight home to reflect, I concluded that those differences made for a genuinely sustainable travel experience. They are highlighted here in three distinct ways.

1) A commitment to conservation

2) Integration to the community

3) A connection to what’s meaningful

I’d like to explain each in part and how these pillars emerged through the Bodhi Sessions, a week-long surf and yoga experience.

A Commitment to Conservation

One thing I liked most about Bodhi is that they don’t explicitly position themselves as a “sustainable travel experience.” They aren’t a travel destination for those who “already drank the Kool-Aid.”

They are building their own community of “sustainable travel” converts through their programming.

Subtle cues to conserve are present everywhere. Travis nudges you to rinse the sand off your surf equipment in the ocean to preserve potable water at the lodge. And there’s extra “non-toxic reef-safe sunscreen” readily available. There are stainless steel compost bins stationed on the countertop in your bungalow (which Adrianne explains how to use).

A Bungalow Kitchen at Bodhi Surf + Yoga
A Bungalow Kitchen at Bodhi Surf + Yoga | Photo Credit: BodhiSurfYoga.com

None of these details or fragments of communication are in-your-face, either. Conservation and respect for the natural environment are Bodhi’s passions.

It’s layered in conversation throughout the week. But, never at any point was there a feeling of “sustainability shaming.”

The Bodhi team leads by example with a contagious enthusiasm for the topic and lifestyle. As the week progresses, you can’t help but join in.

Bodhi also purchases carbon offsets on your behalf for your air travel. Travis happily shares his trivia-like knowledge of Costa Rica’s abundant biodiversity. And Bodhi’s Ocean Guardians initiative challenges you to consider your own personal impact.

All week long, there are opportunities to inspire or re-inspire your own commitment to everyday conservation.

Integration to the Community

Then, there’s Bodhi’s integration into the local community. It’s easy to travel to new destinations and miss learning anything about the day-to-day experience of the community.

From the get-go, Bodhi ensures that it won’t be the experience of their guests. On day one, you’re treated to a “Community Walking Tour.” A local guide walks you around Uvita and shares the history, development, and challenges experienced in the area.

You have honest conversations about the pros and cons of development. You learn about how Bodhi works alongside community leaders and organizations for local sustainability projects (like the Bahia Ballena Plastic Free Initiative). And, you consider what it means to be a mindful, responsible traveler.

But, while you’re encouraged to consider your role as a visitor in this community, you can’t help but feel a part of it.

From the outside perspective, the Bodhi team themselves feel like a family. And luckily for their visitors, they welcome you in. No matter who you look at, drivers, cleaners, cooks, surf/yoga instructors, it’s clear that no one at Bodhi is just doing a job.

Each role is clearly taken seriously and acknowledged with great respect—all building into that greater purpose of creating that experience for guests that awakens something within…

The Bodhi Surf + Yoga Founding Family
The Bodhi Surf + Yoga Founding Family | Photo Credit BodhiSurfYoga.com

A Connection to What’s Meaningful

And last, there’s what this week at Bodhi creates (at least it did for me), which is a sense of connection.

At the end of your time with Bodhi, you participate in a group gratitude session before they shuttle you back to San José for your departure. Every guest that week and every Bodhi team member participates.

For me, it was a beautiful cap on the week-long experience…I was able to hear what each person felt most connected to after this time together.

While similarities and shared sentiment were plenty, I found myself coming back to a few points in particular:

Beginner’s Mind

I felt surprised at how resistant I was to learning something new, like how to surf. We all passively take on new skills as life happens to us, but actively taking on a unique learning experience rarely happens in our adult lives.

This challenge reminded me of how important and invigorating it is to learn something new and be completely open.

After just a week of instruction, I’d compare the feeling I had to how it feels to paddle out and catch four to six feet waves.  😜

Balance

Your routine at Bodhi is too perfect.

Fresh, healthy breakfasts are prepared for you each morning. Yoga sessions led by Bodhi’s skilled instructors, Anki Cramer or Pilar Salazar (another Bodhi co-founder), take place on a beautiful, lifted platform. Then you head out for daily surf sessions on a beach that’s part of protected national parkland. Even with this agenda, I felt I had all the downtime I wanted.

This challenged my typical work-week notion that there isn’t always time to get out in nature, do something good for my body, or even share a meal and conversation with my partner.

The Lifted Yoga Platform
The Lifted Yoga Platform | Photo Credit BodhiSurfYoga.com

Presence

Whether stretching on the yoga mat, relaxing in a hammock, or surfing the ocean waves, you are present to each moment.

I reflected on how often in my typical routine I’m not paying attention.

Thankfully, because of Bodhi’s carefully curated experience, I could reconnect with that all-important feeling of which I happily took home with me.

The Bodhi Surf + Yoga Lodge from Above
The Bodhi Surf + Yoga Lodge from Above | Photo Credit BodhiSurfYoga.com

A Sustainable Travel Experience: Not Exactly How You’d Expect

My expectations for our week with Bodhi didn’t exactly meet reality. I felt they exceeded them. I haven’t had the pleasure of taking such a vacation before, one curated and structured for me by a group committed to “responsible tourism.”

And so, I thought that the elements of both social and environmental sustainability would be more…well…explicit. But I found how Bodhi put their values on display was so much better than how I imagined it would go.

They didn’t tell you who they were as a business; they showed you.

They didn’t ask you to commit to being a mindful traveler or marine conservationist. The experience had you asking that of yourself.

Best of all, they don’t even ask you to tell your friends, family, or the internet about them, but here I am feeling that experience was so worth writing about.

And my partner and I are already scheming when we can return.

Be sure to put Bodhi Surf + Yoga in Uvita, Costa Rica, on your travel shortlist.

Listen to our Causeartist podcast here.


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