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Wellness Escape: Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

yemaya meditation and yoga dock
The Yemaya Hideaway yoga dock. (Photo: Yemaya)

Yoga retreat regulars love places like The Standard in Miami, Tulum in Mexico, and the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. But these destinations, while amazing to newcomers, might have lost their luster for those who’ve been there, down-dogged, and done that. Not to sound jaded or spoiled rotten.

That’s where Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa comes in. “It’s like Tulum ten years ago,” says Julia Bitton, who with her equally young and glowing-healthy husband manages this newly opened 16-cabana resort on one of the last untouched islands of the Caribbean, about 43 miles off the Nicaraguan coast.

She should know; the couple used to manage a hotel in Tulum, and Yemaya’s owner has three hotels there. And my first impression—as I slipped off my Havianas to step into the breezy dining room and a server brought me a fresh coconut with a straw inserted—was that I’d landed in that Mexican hippie-yoga-bohemian-hipster town. But minus the crowds, occasional preciousness, and anything annoying.

Yemaya, whose name comes from an Afro-American water/motherhood orisha (diety), is on Little Corn Island, a blissfully remote and undeveloped slip of land. Getting there is work: a 6 a.m. flight from Nicaragua’s capital of Managua to Corn Island; followed by a 20-minute seven-mile ferry ride from there to Little Corn Island; and from the main dock another boat ride to the other side of the island, where Yemaya sits. (There are no cars anywhere on the island.) The boatman anchors, you wade to shore, and Bitton meets you with a cold towel and the wellness coddling begins.

The grounds are just steps from the water. (Photo: Yemaya)

Given the haul to get here, we wouldn’t be telling you about this place if the rewards weren’t also terrific: morning yoga (soon twice-daily), healthy meals and fresh juices, and languid afternoons snorkeling around pristine reefs, reclining on a beach with no furniture or other guests, or dozing in a hammock. Here’s why this chill-out retreat is totally worth the travel…. —Ann Abel

Top three healthy highlights of our visit to Yemaya:

1. Yoga. The yoga platform is divine, surrounded by jungle and well-shaded, and stocked with top-line mats, blocks, and bolsters. It’s a great place to do your own Ashtanga thing anytime, but the 7:30 a.m. vinyasa classes are terrific, adapted to all levels and a great way to start the day.

Your private—yet affordable—cabana. (Photo: Yemaya)

2. Serious juice. Along with the daily-changing lunch and dinners, which are written on a chalkboard and based on what the local fishermen have hauled in, there’s a juice and smoothie menu with about 20 choices (mostly fruity) and the Vitamix hums all day. A “smoothie consultant” is on hand in case you can’t decide what you want.

3. Splendid isolation. Each of the 16 cabanas is its own freestanding building, and the whole place is reachable only by boat or a 30-minute walk across the island through the jungle. (Bonus: Walking to the village to scuba dive, rent a paddle board, or even just hit happy hour counts as a workout.)

Yemaya Island Hideaway & Spa, $300 per night (includes breakfast, yoga, snorkel equipment and kayaks). Far from anywhere.