"I've got a great idea!" my buddy said. "Let's go on an all-inclusive vacation! Meals, drinks and entertainment are covered in the cost and I just found a sweet deal." At first I was thrilled. The idea immediately had me thinking of lush palm trees, margaritas on the beach, and waves caressing the shore with gentle tropical breezes and the sweet salty smell of the ocean. Just the thought of it was making me tan. "Sure, I'm in," I said. "Where to?" His answer nearly knocked me to the floor. "Ontario."

I declined his offer. His idea of paradise and mine did not match. As a U.S. resident, when I think of all-inclusive I don't think of going north - no, never north. But my buddy's idea of a vacation was an all-inclusive lodge in Ontario with meals, drinks and all the fishing you can handle included into one price. This got me thinking about all-inclusive vacations. So while he was gone, I started to research them. And I was amazed at what I found. 

Massage on the grounds of Pura Vida Spa, Costa RicaOne of the most unique all-inclusive vacation ideas I came across represents the fastest-growing industries in the United States today. The wellness industry, especially in the leisure travel market, is growing at breakneck speed. To me this was reinforced when I recently heard someone say that "spa is the new luxury." At the forefront of this new luxury, or the wellness travel industry, is Pura Vida Spa & Wellness Resort.

I recently spoke with Rakesh Goswami, COO of the Pura Vida Spa & Wellness Centers located in Georgia, USA and in Costa Rica, as well as Maya Tulum in Mexico. According to Rakesh, the "wellness resort" concept is a combination of spas, resorts, yoga, meditation and other natural lifestyle activities. When it comes to that niche, the name Pura Vida explains it all. The phrase simply means, Pure Life. 

Rakesh told me that at Pura Vida, everything is tailored to helping you achieve a healthier lifestyle. Their all-inclusive packages have been named to reflect this; the package is collectively referred to as the Mind, Body and Spirit Program. The programs run for five or seven nights and, as the name implies, focuses on your mind, your body, and your spirit. 

The "wellness concept" is a combination of spas, resorts, yoga, meditation and other natural lifestyle activities.

Pura Vida believes that the way to promote wellness in people is by assisting them in experiencing the elements of nature -- “Wellness through Nature” being the mission of R&R Resorts, the reservations and marketing company for both Pura Vida properties & Maya Tulum. This is accomplished by promoting the wellness inside of us - mind, body or spirit - and carefully choosing the elements of the package that affect this. One of the first things you'll notice upon arriving at Pura Vida is NO television or telephone in your room; a vacation at Pura Vida is designed to get you out of your room and active. They do have WiFi Internet, so if you're desperate you can check your email. However, the goal is to get you to disconnect from external stimuli and reconnect with your internal vibrations. This is what Rakesh refers to as "Disconnect to Reconnect". The Mind, Body and Spirit Program's price includes the standard three nutritious meals, accommodations, daily yoga classes, 1 full day tour , plus 2 half day tours, one 50 minutes massage, airport transfers to and from the property and drinks ( all healthy and non-alcoholic).

Pura Vida maintains a professional staff certified to teach daily yoga classes, as well as meditation two or three times a week. Visitors to Pura Vida are also offered a unique choice of tours, depending on the location of the property. In Costa Rica, you're encouraged to experience an exhilarating whitewater rafting trip down the Pacuare River which runs through some of the most pristine wilderness left anywhere on earth. This 18-mile adventure has been ranked as one of the Top Five most scenic and wild rivers in the world. Another example of the breathtaking scenery is the Waterfall Gardens. Here, you'll be intoxicated with cascading waterfalls, the world's largest butterfly enclosure and dozens of species of hummingbirds (in my opinion, one of nature's most precious creations), so close you could reach out and touch them. One of the most amazing tours is the Poas Volcano Tour, which allows you to peer inside a semi-active volcano crater, which for most people is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. 

Pura Vida USA, in Georgia's Blue Ridge MountainsPura Vida USA is surrounded by Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest. Pura Vida offers numerous tours along miles of scenic hiking trails, and kayaking down the beautiful, clean rivers of this natural paradise. 

After speaking with Rakesh and listening to my buddy tell me why he felt an all-inclusive fishing vacation to Ontario was just what we needed, I realized that there is more to an all-inclusive vacation than sipping margaritas on a beach. There is something to be said for the calm feeling I get every time I manage to get away from my busy life here in the city and get out to the country. The smell of the fresh air mixed with the smell of the lake is something that always puts my mind at ease. It's something I guess I have always known, as did my friend. What Rakesh has been able to do is maximize this experience for people of all ages, all ethnicities and all backgrounds. 

Rakesh best describes the transformative experience people encounter while staying at Pura Vida. "People are full of joy; they burst into tears spontaneously and comment on how it has been the most extraordinary week of their lives. And that is the ultimate experience we are aiming for. We want that for everyone."

Pura Vida Retreat and Spa

Conyers, Georgia

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