Catamaran Life: Exploring Mexico’s Marieta Islands

Catamaran Life: Exploring Mexico’s Marieta Islands

When most people vacation in Mexico, they don’t stray far from their all-inclusive resort. While there’s nothing wrong with sipping margs at a swim-up bar, nomads seeking a more authentic Mexican experience will love the hippy-chic town of Sayulita.

Just 30 minutes away from well-trodden Puerto Vallarta, Sayulita was once a secret destination for surf bums, offering palm-fringed beaches and barrelling waves. While the once sleepy town is no longer off the beaten path – it’s even the filming location of the cheeky Bachelor spinoff, Bachelor in Paradise – Sayulita has still managed to maintain its low-key, small-town charm, brought to life with colorful papel picado banners and vibrant street art.

Deemed “the Bali of Mexico,” Sayulita is a place where worlds collide – taco shops and cantinas sit beside health cafes and yoga studios, while high-end bohemian boutiques coexist with surf rental shacks and souvenir shops. When you’re not beach-bumming, there are plenty of upmarket art galleries to explore, not to mention the best street tacos and churros you’ll ever have.

Hidden Treasures of the Pacific

While we couldn’t get enough of Sayulife, the best day of our trip was spent at sea, sailing the nearby Marieta Islands with Ally Cat Sailing Adventures. Known as “Mexico’s Galapagos,” the Marietas are uninhabited volcanic islands made famous by the “hidden beach,” which was created as the result of bomb tests from the Mexican military. In fact, most of the Marietas’ rock formations and caves were formed by test bombs. In the 1960s, Jacques Cousteau took it upon himself to save the islands, which eventually led to the area being declared a UNESCO reserve.

Today, humans are not allowed to step foot on the islands, so the best place to soak in their beauty is aboard a luxury catamaran. Our 60-footer had it all: daybeds, bean bags, a fully-stocked Tiki bar, and slides straight into the ocean. We boarded in the morning but the sun was shining and the crew was already in party mode, serving up breakfast beers and blasting music through the boat’s surround sound. It seemed to set the tone for the entire day.

As soon as we lost sight of the shore, a crew member yelled ¡ballena! – and we spotted the majestic fluke of a humpback whale. It was just the first of more than 20 whales we saw from the catamaran that day, in addition to pods of dolphins that trailed in our wake.

It took us about an hour to reach the Marietas, which were surrounded by crystalline water, colorful reefs, and thriving marine life. The crew distributed snorkel gear and everyone on the boat jumped in with the hopes of spotting a whale shark, which have been known to grace the Marietas. Although we were not lucky enough to see one that day, we did swim with sea turtles and manta rays while exploring underwater caves.

Back on the catamaran, the crew spoiled us with a gourmet Mexican lunch and open bar. Blame it on the pina coladas, but it wasn’t long before the entire boat was livin’ la vida loca – costumes, conga lines, and dance parties took over the deck.

As the Marietas became smaller and smaller on the horizon, we knew it was a place we would never forget. Mexico, te amo mucho.

What is a Yoga Retreat Really Like?

What is a Yoga Retreat Really Like?

Watch: Bali Yoga Retreat

With new year’s resolutions at the top of mind, a yoga retreat may seem like the perfect way to work towards a healthier, happier you.

But what is a yoga retreat really like?

That’s the question I got asked repeatedly when I returned from my first retreat in Bali a few months ago. Do you do yoga all day? Are you restricted to a vegan diet? Are you shamed if you can’t do a headstand? This made me realize that while yoga retreats are growing in popularity, they remain as mystical as the practice of yoga itself.

After a week-long getaway led by Susan White, I discovered that yoga retreats are much more laid-back than you would think, while still enhancing your health and happiness in ways you could have never imagined. Instead of coming home from vacation with souvenirs and a sunburn, you come home with a fresh outlook on life and motivation to live in a way that honors your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Read on to learn why you and your Lorna Jane twinset should hop on the yoga retreat trend!

Downward dog all over the world.

In its most basic definition, yoga means achieving oneness with the universe, which is much easier to do when you’re soaking up the natural beauty of the Himalayas in the holy city of Rishikesh. India and Ubud are classic choices because they’re intimately linked to the ancient practice of yoga, but you can find a retreat pretty much anywhere. Like I needed another excuse to travel!

Breathe in, chill out.

We’ve all heard the phrase “I need a vacation from my vacation,” a depressing testament to the fact that most people don’t actually slow down when they’re on vacay. But yoga retreats are designed for deep, sustained relaxation, so that you actually go back to the real world feeling refreshed and recharged.

You don’t have to be a yoga expert.

Don’t know your baby grasshopper from your baby cobra? That’s okay! While yoga retreats are great for seasoned yogis who want to deepen their understanding of yoga, they also offer a focused, supportive environment for beginners to jump-start their practice. Retreats are welcoming by nature so there’s no need to be intimidated by headstands or side planks.

They’re not always as strict as you’d expect.

It’s not all health food and digital detoxes. Yoga retreats have varying levels of intensity, and some feel more like a vacation than a bootcamp. I even found myself pregaming for a restorative yoga session with a few glasses of rosé. But of course, you are welcome to take a more wholesome approach to kick your health into high gear.

You don’t spend all day doing yoga.

While they’re all structured differently, the average yoga retreat offers two to three yoga sessions a day, giving you plenty of down time to relax, explore, or hit up the spa for a reiki massage. Many retreats will also weave in things like meditation, crafts, full moon ceremonies, or organized group excursions.

Early to bed, early to rise.

No matter the intensity of your yoga retreat, you can expect one thing: early mornings. Even if you’re the kind of person who likes to hit their snooze button a few times, you’ll learn to love the peace you can only find at dawn. Plus, nothing beats starting your day with a sunrise flow!

You’ll form lifelong friends.

Travel is the ultimate bonding experience, but a yoga retreat takes connection to the next level as it brings together like-minded people on a transformational journey. That said, we recommend joining a retreat through a local studio so that you can maintain this community back home.

Mastering the mind-body connection.

Yoga retreats are not all physical. Yes, you will gain flexibility and master new poses, but the biggest transformation will happen in your mind. Without the distractions of daily life, a yoga retreat promotes mindfulness and introspection that can help you see the world with an enhanced sense of positivity and balance.

You get out what you put in.

Yoga is a deeply personal practice, which is honored in every retreat. Just like you set an intention at the beginning of a yoga class, you’ll want to go into a retreat with a purpose. This could be reducing stress, letting go of something that weighs heavy on you, meeting like-minded friends, or simply taking some time for yourself. Whatever it is, you have the power to make a yoga retreat your own. Just remember: where attention goes, energy flows.

A few things to consider before booking your retreat:

Budget. Retreats vary greatly from basic accommodation to all-inclusive service at a 5-star resort. No matter how much you spend, the key is to be comfortable so that you can focus on yourself and your practice – even if that means a little splurging.

Time. Can you jet off to the other side of the world for a 10-day pilgrimage, or is a weekend escape more realistic? If it’s your first retreat, you may want to test the waters at a shorter, more local retreat.

Intensity. Do you shudder at the idea of “no electronics” or do you want a lot of structure to keep you on track? Do your research to find the ideal level of scheduling and restrictions that works best for you.

Teacher. A retreat leader can make or break the experience. If possible, we recommend joining a retreat with a teacher you already know, so that you know are familiar with their style and vibe. At the very least, meet them in person and take a few classes prior to signing up for a retreat.

Yoga types. Vinyasa, bikram, hatha… every retreat offers a different mix of styles, so make sure the one you pick aligns with your preference. However, a retreat is also a great opportunity to revitalize your practice by trying new styles!

Company. Should you go alone, or bring a friend? While sharing the experience with a loved one is wonderful, a solo trip can open you up to opportunities and revelations that would not be possible if you’re balancing your needs with those of someone else.

Destination. The most important question of all – where in the world do you want to go? The possibilities are endless.

Follow @movement_lab_sue to hear about her upcoming retreats!

Cloud 9: Fiji’s Floating Paradise

Cloud 9: Fiji’s Floating Paradise

I found heaven on Earth, and it’s floating in the Pacific Ocean.

Cloud 9 Fiji combines everything I love — cocktails, crystal clear water, breathtaking views, and most importantly, pizza. That’s right, Cloud 9 is essentially a floating pizzeria with a fully stocked bar. Sprawled over two stories, the party pontoon offers a nightclub meets island bar feel, a literal dreamboat for both the rowdy and the restful.

Views on views on views. Set in the gorgeous Ro Ro Reef, Cloud 9 is surrounded by the bluest water I’ve ever seen, the essence of Fiji’s uncontaminated beauty. That’s probably why Cloud 9 is a magnet for Instagram influencers (or wannabe influencers), who you’ll surely see coordinating impromptu photoshoots on the sun deck.

While your pizza bakes in the Italian wood-burning oven, you can snorkel, dive off the 3-meter-high ledge, or laze and luxuriate on a daybed, soaking in those 360-degree views. Additional activities such as jet skiing, parasailing, and paddle boarding can also be arranged for an extra cost.

If sipping cocktails by the pool is your idea of a good time, Cloud 9 deserves a spot on your bucket list. Wash down your pizza with a craft cocktail, wine, or local beer, all served with a Fijian smile. Drinks are a bit pricey, but what else would you expect in the middle of the ocean?

Tips to make the most of your visit:

• Charter your own boat. Cloud 9 is a 45-minute boat ride from Port Denarau on Fiji’s mainland, but I recommend staying on a nearby island and booking private transportation through your hotel — it’s just a 10-minute boat ride from Six Senses Fiji!

• Get there early. Whether you opt for the morning or afternoon session, your only chance at scoring a highly coveted daybed is to beat the crowd. If you do manage to snag a bed, earn yourself some karma points by offering it to someone else to enjoy for the last hour.

• Order your pizza ASAP. Think about it: 100 guests and one pizza oven. Slack on getting your order in, and you might have to wait over an hour to get your grub on. Order yourself a pie as soon as you get settled.

• Take Dramamine. Cloud 9 is essentially a boat, and it does indeed bob up and down. If you’re prone to motion sickness, take medication such as Dramamine, which you can get from the nurse at Six Senses or Plantation Island. The upper deck has a bit more motion, so stay below to ensure a more settled stomach.

• Bring a towel. We mistakenly assumed that towels would be provided at Cloud 9, but that was not the case. Be sure to bring a towel if you plan on getting wet.

• Book activities in advance. Note that activities such as jet skiing and parasailing must be booked 48 hours in advance, but no need to pre-book snorkeling.

Best day ever? I think so. There’s a reason it’s called Cloud 9.

Luxe Stay: Six Senses Fiji

Luxe Stay: Six Senses Fiji

The Six Senses brand is one that has come to epitomize luxury, personalization, wellness, and sustainability. So when I learned that they were expanding their portfolio to include Fiji —  my upcoming honeymoon destination —  I immediately booked a beachfront villa (or bure, as they’re called in Fiji).

Getting there

While Fiji seems far-flung, Fiji is actually closer than you think. Thanks to Fiji Airways’ direct route from Los Angeles, we’re just ten hours away from the paradisal South Pacific islands.

Our experience started the moment we cleared customs at the Nadi airport when a representative from Six Senses whisked us into a private room and treated us with refreshing welcome drinks, cool towels, and a necklace crafted by local artisans. After freshening up, we took off for Malolo, one of Fiji’s 333 islands, by way of private car and speedboat, but do note that guests also have the option of flying in by helicopter as the resort boasts its own helipad.

The resort

As we stepped off the boat and onto the island, a Fijian band greeted us in true “bula” spirit — warm smiles and lively Polynesia beats. “Welcome home!” exclaimed Sireli, our dedicated Guest Experience Maker. It wasn’t long before the entire staff knew us by name, which truly did make us feel at home.

The sprawling resort, which took six years to build and is still not quite complete, was designed to embrace the island’s beauty. Occupying 650 meters of private white sand beach, the property exudes a luxury, contemporary feel with a nod to Fijian culture — native hardwoods, grass cloth wallpaper, and high-gabled thatch roofing create a seamless blend with the natural setting. En route to our bure, Sireli pointed out the resort’s well-appointed features: two restaurants under the care of executive chef Ihaka Peri, a treetop yoga pavilion, an outdoor jungle gym, and an alfresco pizzeria with a stone oven and outdoor cinema. I can’t forget the Ice Cream Sala which serves 30 flavors of all-natural ice cream, complimentary to all guests.

The room

Our beachfront bure was the ultimate honeymoon retreat. Secluded, romantic, and with direct access to the white sand beach, the eco-chic abode was appointed with warm mahoganies, traditional carvings, and an outdoor soaking bath made from local stone. 

We lazed the days away next to our private pool, designed with turquoise tiles that mirrored the impossibly blue water of Vunabaka Bay. Upon check-in, we were presented with a complimentary bottle of champagne and a daily activities menu, which included mixology classes, coral planting, and an array of cultural excursions, although anyone would be happy just relaxing at the resort.

The spa

Speaking of relaxation… a highlight of our stay was the decadent spa, which was built as a contemporary interpretation of a traditional Fijian village. Treatments include local healing traditions as well as an alchemy bar where guests can concoct their own body scrub or face mask with home-grown herbs, fruits, and spices. I indulged in a heated lava shell massage, a deeply soothing treatment that uses warmed Tiger-striped clam shells to ease you into a state of pure relaxation. It was heaven.

Our favorite part

Guilt-free travel. Like all resorts in the brand, Six Senses Fiji takes their responsibility to protect and preserve the natural environment seriously, demonstrating how luxury resorts can positively impact the environment and local community while still providing a high-end experience for guests. Not only is the entire property 100% solar powered using Tesla batteries, but they also use metal straws in place of plastic, purify their own drinking water, and produce their own tonic, ginger beer, and kombucha. We loved that the resort was committed to empowering the local village — even the restaurant placemats were handcrafted by local women.

Whether you’re a romance-seeking honeymooner or just want a palm-fringed escape, Six Senses Fiji is #outoftheordinary.

Rosé All Day: Malibu Wine Safaris

Rosé All Day: Malibu Wine Safaris

I might have found the wildest safari yet and it’s not in South Africa.

Malibu Wine Safaris is part vineyard, part wildlife habitat, and possibly the only place in the world where you can go wine tasting while you kick it with exotic animals. It’s part of the family-owned Saddlerock Ranch and Vineyard, which is 1,000 acres of heart-expanding natural beauty, nestled in the Santa Monica mountains above Malibu’s famed coastline.

The vino-fueled adventure begins with you hop on an animal print, open-air safari vehicle and take off through the property’s rolling hills lined with endless rows of vines. You’ll ramble along picturesque canyon views with hundreds of horses grazing in the distance. Every time the vehicle stops, you get to do one of two things: wet your palette with a wine tasting, or feed the resident four-legged friends, which gets exponentially more fun the tastings you consume. The 20 species that are living the good life at Saddlerock include zebras, llamas, yaks, alpacas, horses, and camels. Of course, this is LA, so all the animals are aptly named you’ll meet Justin Zeber, Llama Del Rey, and Yak Efron, to name a few.

But the real star of the show is Stanley a towering giraffe who made his Hollywood debut in The Hangover 3. He’s anything but camera shy, and is keen to take a selfie so long as you reward him with a snack. Other animals with movie credits include a gorgeous white thoroughbred who performed stunts in The Lord of the Rings, as well as two bison, Chipotle and BBQ Sauce, who were both extras in a John Wayne film.

The idea for a wine safari came to fruition after the Semler family, who purchased the land in the 1980s, went on a safari in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The family already had rescue animals living on the property, so they thought an Indiana Jones experience would be a great way to share the ranch as well as wine made with grapes from their own vineyards.

The first tasting on the safari is a palatable set of whites and rosé, which you’ll enjoy after climbing over a canopy bridge where you can soak up the gorgeous vistas. The second tasting is Saddlerock’s best selection of reds, served in a valley called Camp Cabernet that is home to the yellow VW van from Little Miss Sunshine. You’ll have another chance to taste your favourite at the end of the safari, and I couldn’t help but pick up a few bottles to take home.

Wine, cute animals, and the California sun it really doesn’t get much better than that!

Guide to Fiji, the Jewel of the South Pacific

Guide to Fiji, the Jewel of the South Pacific

Swaying palm trees, opal-blue water, and white sandy beaches… there’s no denying that Fiji paints an idyllic image of paradise. Here’s everything you need to know before you go!

It’s closer than you think.

Direct flights to Fiji depart daily from Los Angeles, landing at the Nadi airport in less than ten hours. From there, all you need to do is a hop on a speedboat bound for the Mamanuca Islands, everyone’s go-to spot for exploring the sun-drenched archipelago.

“Bula!” is the only Fijian word you’ll need.

English is Fiji’s official language, but bula! (pronounced boola) is a word you’ll hear and say everywhere… and I mean everywhere. Much like the Hawaiian “aloha”, the ubiquitous word isn’t just a friendly greeting – it literally means health and happiness, and can be used in almost any context.

The resorts are spectacular.

Live out your Robinson Crusoe fantasy in barefoot luxury because Fiji is home to some of the world’s most celebrated resorts. Want for nothing at the newly-opened Six Senses Fiji, which recently made TIME Magazine’s list of the World’s Greatest Places.

The food is criminally underrated.

While fresh seafood and tropical fruit is to be expected, it may come as a surprise that Fiji is a foodie’s paradise. Traditional dishes are a tantalizing blend of Indian, British, and Chinese influences, all made with locally-sourced ingredients – think coconut milk, taro, and fresh-caught mahi-mahi.

Many resorts are under the care of internationally-renowned chefs, but my favorite culinary splurge is Gaiatree Sanctuary, a farm-to-table, three-course adventure, set in an organic spice plantation. Don’t go home without enjoying at least one meal prepared in the lovo – a Fijian take on the backyard barbecue.

Kava will keep you calm.

You can’t go to Fiji without taking part in many a kava ceremony, in which you are invited to share an earthy, slightly bitter drink made from powdered kava root. It’s no Dom Pérignon, but it does give you a very mild euphoric buzz. Tip: If you visit a local village, score points with the chief by gifting him with a kava root!

You won’t need a watch.

The moment you set foot on the island, you’re on Fiji time, a term that embodies the islands’ slower pace of life. Although you may find it frustrating at first, you’ll learn to love the lack of urgency – as the Fijians say, “no hurry, no worries.”

The ocean is your playground.

With crystal-clear water and world-class reefs, Fiji attracts scuba divers from all over the world. Explore vibrant coral gardens that are home to sea turtles, manta rays, and tropical fish, as well as the occasional harmless reef shark. If you prefer to stay above the surface, there’s also kayaking, paddle boarding, parasailing, and surfing – including the Kelly Slater-approved Cloudbreak.

But it’s not all water activities.

While a bikini should be the first thing on your packing list, there are also endless things to do that don’t require getting wet. Party it up at Waitui Beach Club, go for a scenic jungle hike, or set sail to the wind. Adrenaline junkies can get their fix by skydiving with Free Fall Fiji, which promises the most exhilarating, 4,000-meter views.

You can see where ‘Castaway’ was filmed.

If you want to visit the setting of the movie that made you cry over a volleyball, book a day trip to the uninhabited Monuriki Island, where Tom Hanks said his heartbreaking goodbye to Wilson. Don’t get confused by the nearby ‘Castaway Island’ – Monuriki is the true Hollywood star.

It’s a great place to bring kids.

Fiji might be known as a romantic honeymoon destination, but it’s also surprisingly family-friendly. That’s because Fijians don’t just like kids, they adore them. The resort staff will happily dote over your little ones while you enjoy some well-deserved mommy R&R.

You can go anytime.

That’s right – this palm-fringed paradise is a year-round destination, with beach-bumming weather every season. Crowds are at their peak from July through September, and tropical storms have been known to hit during November through April. That said, I recommend booking your Fijian getaway during the shoulder months of June or October.