At the end of November, one of my best friends (Nessa) and I traveled to Noord, Aruba to take part in a yoga retreat led by Rachel Brathen; at her studio, Island Yoga! We were in beautiful Aruba for about 6 days and did so many incredible things. Since completing my 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training program mid 2017, I was so ready to do this. Ness and I had followed Rachel on social media for a couple of years and had actually gone to one of her classes when she came to Philadelphia some time ago. We watched all of the updates as Island Yoga was being built; I had a gut feeling that one day I would visit there. Our flight from Philadelphia to Aruba was a breeze; just about 4.5 hours.

We arrived in Aruba and waited for our shuttle bus at the airport. We were taken to Costa Esmeralda where we stayed the entire trip. Costa was a little slice of heaven, centrally located to many destinations. I would highly recommend staying here.

Once we settled in, we headed to Island Yoga for a welcome margarita, meditation circle, intention setting and dinner. I had no idea how intense the next few days were going to be in the Luna Shala…in a super positive way.

After an amazing meal at Nourish Cafe, we headed back to our room, only to stop at Papiamento for another delicious margarita. We didn’t end up eating there, but the food looked really good and the view was gorgeous. I would suggest making a reservation if you plan on enjoying a meal there.

We began each day with a smoothie and an energetic yoga class taught by Rachel. Followed by a perfectly made breakfast at Nourish. The space that is Island Yoga is pure bliss from the moment you walk through the doors. You literally feel at home.

That afternoon we headed to The Ritz-Carlton for some fun in the sun on the beach. The sand was pristine and the water was strikingly blue. We enjoyed a poolside lunch at Madero. I had the Mahi tacos and a watermelon cocktail.

Each day came to a close with another powerful yoga class, led by Rachel. Our evening practice challenged us to allow for growth and movement both physically and mentally. As I came to my mat and spent a few precious moments journaling, I could feel change happening on a very deep level. This experience is something I can’t quite put into words. It was remarkable.

The next morning we arrived at Nourish for breakfast and a visit from Sgt Pepper’s Friends, Rachel’s non-profit animal rescue. I wanted to take one of these sweet little babies home, but had to resist the urge!

Did I mention how fabulous Nourish Cafe is? We enjoyed almost every meal here and were never disappointed. Everything was always fresh and impeccably prepared.

That evening after our practice, a group of the girls from the retreat headed to Yemanja for dinner. The grouper fillet and the signature margarita are must haves.

The next morning after our practice and breakfast, we went to the beach to get on a boat for a sail through the Caribbean. It’s a much different view from the water so this is something I would highly suggest.

After the sail we walked over to MooMba Beach for lunch and a tropical cocktail. You could sit in the shade right on the beach. It was perfect! For dinner that night, a group of us went to Hadicurari for dinner which was close to where we were earlier in the day. The seafood was pretty good. After we ate, we went back to MooMba Beach for some dancing right by the DJ. We had a good laugh as we looked up to enjoy the iguana that was hanging out in the tree right above the dance floor…we were definitely in a tropical paradise.

The next morning we went to Island Yoga to be picked up and taken to the beach for SUP Yoga. SUP is short for Stand Up Paddleboard, so I’m sure you can imagine where this is going. It was really challenging as the wind was really blowing that morning. I will say it was tough, but a lot easier than I imagined. Plus a wonderful way to challenge your balance!

We were really fortunate as two of the women at the retreat gave us their earlier SUP class spot. This allowed us to book a day trip to go to Renaissance Private Island. Doing this is a TOTAL bucket list adventure! You have to build this into your trip if you are traveling to Aruba. Looking back, we should have booked this way in advance. We had some trouble getting a hold of the Renaissance as our phones were not working. Finally with help from a group of girls on the retreat with us, we were able to book a couple’s massage at the last minute. I would suggest booking a night at the Renaissance which grants you access to the private island! It’s more cost effective and it just makes sense. It’s a gorgeous hotel!

We stopped at Okeanos Spa to pick up our day pass, drink voucher and free float pass. All of which was included with our water front massage. We hopped in a water taxi which took us to the island. We were speechless when we arrived. It was everything we had imagined. We used our drink vouchers at Papagoyo and later enjoyed lunch there. The drinks were super unique, totally Instagram worthy.

Now for the best part! The flamingos! As soon as we walked over to Flamingo Beach we saw them. Oh my gosh, it was so cool. A group of flamingos wandering the gorgeous sand.

Typically you have to worry about some random person photo bombing you, am I right? Not that day, I was bombed by a flamingo!

We made so many connections on this trip through the retreat. I was surrounded by beautiful souls that were there living life to the fullest, enjoying every step a long the way.

Our afternoon open air massage was icing on the cake…it really made it feel like this day was all a dream. The sound of the waves, the breeze, the warm Aruba air; all beautiful touches to my Swedish massage.

It was truly hard to say goodbye to this beautiful escape. This day was the highlight of my trip.

We made it back in time for our final evening practice, closing circle and farewell dinner.

The next morning we awoke to head to our morning yoga class and bid our farewells. Rachel and her team at Island Yoga have put together my perfect vision of a yoga retreat. I was overwhelmed by how thankful I was for the experience and how lucky I felt to be there. I left Aruba feeling renewed in every sense of the word. Our time there was enchanting. Sending the most heartfelt of thank you’s to Rachel Brathen and the staff of Island Yoga.

I had quite a few people ask me why I picked that specific yoga retreat. The best answer that I have is that it was the only one that I knew of without doing any research. I had a feeling that it would be great, so trust your gut when choosing one. Also, I’d never visited Aruba and I appreciated what the retreat had to offer. Almost everything that I blogged about was planned by Island Yoga, so it was wonderful to just relax and go with the flow. The few days that I spent on one happy island changed me for the better. I was given so many moments where time stopped and everything just made sense. I’m so happy that I picked Island Yoga for my first one! If you have any questions at all, I’d be happy to answer them…just give me a shout!