Karma Surf Retreat

»Curling waves and curling bodies in Portugal «

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Yoga and surfing are complementary activities – each requiring the same focus and physical discipline. Karma Surf Retreat is riding the wave of this pairing, welcoming their guests to the sun-bleached Portuguese sands in an intimate villa about half an hour from Lisbon. The weeklong stay is packed with equal doses of yoga, surf instruction, fun, and sightseeing. Although not an ashram by any stretch of the imagination, this blissful spot run by friendly and dedicated souls is almost guaranteed to strip away the grime of a city life, replacing it with a fresh, clean, yogic outlook.

  • What we love
  • Luxury villa with all mod cons, including a pool
  • Small groups of guests make an intimate atmosphere
  • Wide range of surf beaches and excellent instruction from the qualified teachers
  • Yoga sessions tailored to complement surfing
  • What to know
  • Family packages including either surfing-for-kids or childcare
  • Apart from a welcome BBQ, dinners are not included unless ordered in the optional package
  • Large dining space and kitchen for self-catering
  • Maximum of 12 adult guests at a time, making early booking strongly recommended
  • Why go
  • Stunning coastal setting
  • Handy to the capital city and nearby towns
  • Easy-going and very friendly hosts

The team at Karma Surf Retreats have made a business out of bliss. From a deluxe villa perched on a clifftop, overlooking the rolling waves of a Portuguese coastline, this small crew conduct their lives' work of taking ordinary people and turning them into yogis and surfers. Not a bad achievement in just one or two weeks.

There are five retreats to choose from: Surf & Yoga, Surf & Yoga for two, Surf & Yoga family, Surf Deluxe, and Yoga Deluxe. All retreats are variations on the primary Surf & Yoga package, which is a six-night, seven-day retreat. Included in the week are five surf lessons, five yoga classes, two meals a day (breakfast and lunch), transfers to and from the surf beaches, a welcome barbecue and a random mystery-meal called the Culinary Surprise.

Surf & Yoga for two is a twist on the basic package, designed for either couples or pairs of friends. It includes accommodation in either a double or twin bedroom, depending on how friendly you are with each other. The Surf Deluxe leaves out yoga, or at least minimizes it in favor of more surf time, while the Yoga Deluxe leaves out the surfing classes and beefs up the yoga-factor. The Surf & Yoga family retreat is one of Karma Surf's unique features. While other retreats accommodate children, Karma Surf goes out of their way to make a yoga getaway with children really 'do-able.' Although single parents aren't specifically catered for (when are they ever!), there is a choice of package for either two parents with one child or two parents with two children. While Mom and Dad are taking surf classes with one of the three resident teachers, kids can either be taking their own specially designed surf classes or be well taken care of as childcare is offered as an option to surf lessons. The price of surf lessons or childcare is built into the package. Childcare is an especially useful (and fun) option for little ones who are too nervous to try their hand at surfing, or who are yet unable to swim.

The yoga classes are held in the morning and evening for five days of the retreat. Like many yoga/surf retreats, these are dynamic in the morning and calming – almost meditative – in the latter part of the day. Two mainstay yoga teachers are part of Karma Surf. Silvia has a background in athletics and surfing, while Annett is a certified Iyengar instructor. Both emphasize the poses and breathing that are most beneficial for surfing. In Karma Surf's own words, “for the Soul Surfers among us surfing is like yoga on water... a sensation of getting into complete harmony with the surrounding elements of mother earth.”

For family guests who need it, more childcare by the hour is on the list of add-on extra services, as are horse-back riding, physiotherapy, massage, Pilates, extra yoga sessions, quad tours of the surrounding area, bike hire, and extra surf gear like stand-up paddle boards. Apart from evening meals, pretty much everything else is included in the retreat fee. For surf lessons, a wide range of board-types are freshly waxed and wetsuits are ready to pull on. Land lessons use video for feedback and to see where improvements can be made. Water lessons are extensive, and transfers are pre-arranged to one or more of the five surf spots. One of these spots is the magnificent Praia do Guincho, which the villa overlooks.

Rooms are predominantly twin-share. Each has two single beds and either a private bathroom or one that is shared with one other room. The double room has a private bathroom and a small terrace, perfect for romantic evenings. Families are accommodated in either the twin-share or double rooms, with extra beds being brought in as necessary.

Evening meals are either self-catering, arranged by Karma Surf at the nearby Quinta Magnolia Club Restaurant as an optional extra, or taken in nearby Cascais or Estoril, both of which are around 15 minutes drive away. Lisbon is close too, around 30 – 40 minutes drive. Portuguese car hire is fairly inexpensive, and hiring a car to travel around the abundance of sightseeing opportunities in the area is common for guests at Karma Surf. Taxis are also easy to arrange, which means the option of staying isolated from the world is tempting but not mandatory.

Karma Surf is owned and operated by two happy guys from Berlin. Their cheerful outlook on life is infectious and this still little-known retreat has the feel of a getaway with friends in luxury surroundings. Year-round there is something for everyone here, from the magnificent Portuguese swells to the myriad of sights to be seen. A high-value yoga retreat with high-quality surf instruction – a solid vacation that earns its spot in our pick of the world's best.

About the area: Malveira da Serra

Part of the lovely Sintra, itself part of the Greater Lisbon region of Portugal, Malveira da Serra is lush and beautifully preserved. There are ancient towns here, with all the requisite cobbled walks that make a day-trip from Lisbon so worthwhile, and a random collection of palaces and castles that are in varying states of repair. This is also the region of the sprawling Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, one of Portugal's 13 preserved areas. Covering a coastline that bristles with good surf and long abandoned stretches of sun-bleached sand, this area has a micro-climate that guarantees riotous natural growth and a vast array of wild- and marine-life. The dog-days of summer hit Sintra in August, topping out at around 30 degrees C (86F) while winters are mild but known for rain, dropping to 14 degrees C (57F)

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