Frequently Asked Questions
Ayahuasca plant medicine can serve as a powerful tool for healing, as well as spiritual and emotional growth. It can be described in simple terms as a very big, very shiny mirror, and with the right set and setting, this can allow us to understand the true roots of the fear, trauma, and other emotional sources that manifest in various ways in our life. From a place of compassion and love, this can offer us deep insight into our own psyche and provide us with the tools and understanding to let go of the patterns that are no longer supporting us. However, it’s important to have the right time, space, and highly skilled healers and facilitators to help you make sense of what comes up and surrender to the process fully.
With the proper screening, preparation, container, and integration support, it is very rare that negative psychological effects result from partaking in ayahuasca ceremony. However, there are certain medical conditions that are contraindicated with plant medicine, including (but not limited to) schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychosis. Additionally, certain medications are contraindicated and should be discussed with your doctor to determine if an ayahuasca retreat is right for you and if it is possible to change or taper any medications. Beyond medical contraindications, an ayahuasca experience can be considered unsafe due to inexperienced healers who are unable to hold the energetic space during ceremony; admixtures to the ayahuasca brew that can negatively react with the guest; lack of support or an unsafe container throughout the process; or ‘medicine stacking’, wherein numerous different plant medicines are taken within a short period of time which can overload the system and potentially cause someone to become ungrounded.
At Soltara, safety, well-being, and healing is of utmost importance to us, and our main goal is to ensure each person gets the most out of an experience with us. Our aim is to create a safe and supportive environment encompassing all aspects of the healing process.
We only work with highly experienced indigenous Shipibo healers from the Amazon region of Peru. We are connected with several powerful family lineages who have generations and decades of experience working and training with this medicine, such that they are able to safely and effectively hold space for our guests during ceremony. Our facilitation team also has combined decades of experience working with ayahuasca and facilitating ceremony for thousands of guests. Our ayahuasca brew is made with only the two main ingredients, ayahuasca vine and chacruna leaf, and is cooked in the village of one of our healers in Peru. We also create a strong container to work specifically with ayahuasca only, as we believe it is important to create the space for this medicine and tradition to do its best work.
Beyond our on-site team of highly skilled healers and facilitators, we consult with qualified professionals during the screening and preparation for your journey, and our stringent medical protocol and intake process (including a detailed medical questionnaire during registration) ensures each guest a safe and fulfilling experience, mitigating any risk of potential contraindications with our medicines. In addition, we have a facilitator trained in Wilderness First Response (WFR) and a fully stocked medical kit on-site. During your stay, our safety protocols allow you to rest easy and comfortably, while our staff provides a sanctuary for your emotional and spiritual well-being.
In line with this, our focus on integration takes the same approach of a strong and supportive container. We understand that while a powerful experience and initial cleansing are crucial catalysts towards healing, really that’s just the first step in the much longer (truly lifelong) process. In order to create lasting healing, we feel it’s necessary to empower the person with the tools needed to enact the benefits of such a catalyst into their day-to-day life. And beyond that, provide a supportive container over the long-term to help inspire lasting change. Much of our team has come from working at previous plant medicine retreat centers, and within our communities we saw the need people had for a longer-term relationship with their process, whatever form that may take. You can read more about our integration program here and our safety protocols here.
We only work with highly experienced indigenous Shipibo healers from the Amazon region of Peru. We are connected with several powerful family lineages who have generations and decades of experience working and training with this medicine, such that they are able to safely and effectively hold space for our guests during ceremony. We work with healers on a rotational basis, so that they are able to balance time with their families and communities in Peru, with holding ceremony at our beautiful location in Costa Rica. We always work with a female and a male healer for every ceremony, and we work with the same healers throughout your entire retreat. You can read more about the healers that we work with and their individual stories and experiences on our team page.
We hold ceremonies in a large circular hut called a maloca, which is the traditional ceremonial space used by the Shipibo people for ceremony.
During ceremony, guests have their own mattresses in a circle around the outer rim of the maloca space, with their own pillows, blanket, and buckets in case the need to purge arises during ceremony. There are bathrooms just outside of the maloca, and our facilitators are on call to help guests should they need any assistance. The healers and facilitators are in the center of the maloca, and during ceremony the healers will come to sit in front of each guest’s mat and sing a personal icaro (healing song) based on their intention and what the healers feel is needed. The Shipibo do not employ instruments or any other tools besides song, mapacho (sacred tobacco), and flower water. We work with one female and one male indigenous Peruvian Shipibo healer during ceremony, as well as three facilitators, for a group size of 18 – 21 guests.
As one can probably guess, the medicine works in different ways in different people. Visual imagery, while it can be part of some people’s experience, is often less common than one might think from reading or hearing experiential accounts of others. Oftentimes ayahuasca works on a much more energetic level than we may consciously be able to perceive. The experience itself can take many forms, such as physical/energetic work – bodily sensations, physical purging through yawning, laughing, crying, sweating, vomiting, or shaking, to name a few – or deep thought, emotions coming to the surface, mental imagery, reliving past experiences, or a feeling of oneness and connectedness. It can be different not just for every person but for every individual experience. We are careful to mitigate expectations of visions in the guests that we welcome to Soltara, as while this can happen for some people, it is often not necessarily the bulk of the work being done, which happens in much deeper layers and oftentimes in the body. In some cases, the visions can simply be a distraction. In others, they can be a helpful way for the mind to understand the narrative of the healing being done. We encourage guests to surrender to the healing work, let go of expectations, and trust that they will get what they need, even if it isn’t in the way they expected.
The Shipibo cosmology comes from a deeply-rooted and animistic relationship to plants, animals, and the natural world. They believe in a harmonious energy field that pervades all things. This concept of an all-encompassing reality of oneness can challenge the average Western mind, but it is what informs and shapes the efficacy of their healing practices. There are typical patterns that the Shipibo are known for in their art and textiles, which represent the oneness of creation, and connect our world to the spirit world and the powers of Nature. In the same way, the icaros, or healing songs, sung during ayahuasca ceremonies are the audial representation of these patterns. Thus, during ceremony, the healer is accessing the geometric patterns of energy from the plants, which transform through the vessel of the Maestro/a to a chant or icaro. The icaro is therefore a conduit for the patterns of creation, which permeate the body of the patient, bringing energetic harmony in a way that penetrates the deeper layers of the patient’s system, releasing negative energetic blockages and their emotional counterparts. The healer knows when the healing is complete, as the design is clearly recognizable in the patient’s body. Oftentimes it takes multiple ceremonies to complete this, and when the completed healing designs are embedded in the patient’s body, this is called an arcana. This internal patterning is deemed to be permanent and to protect a person’s spirit going forward.
As a result of this type of work, in some cases, the healing appears intangible to the typical Westerner during the ceremony itself. We let people know that even if they do not receive any direct insight during their ceremony experience, part of the integration of this work is to be open to the idea that insights may unfold in the days, weeks and months following their retreat, after the energetic work has laid the appropriate foundation upon which the body, mind, and spirit can build.
It is true that ayahuasca can involve purging including vomiting and diarrhea. If you need help getting to the bathroom, our facilitators are on call to do so, and they will let you know how to easily signal them should you need assistance. It is important to note that the concept of purging can take many different forms for different people, including crying, yawning, sweating, shaking, and laughing, among other things. Nevertheless, our facilitators are trained to respond should any scenario arise, and you will be well taken care of quickly and lovingly should a challenging physical situation occur. As we like to say, everything is normal on ayahuasca, and whatever happens during ceremony is perfectly fine and nothing to be ashamed of or worried about!
At Soltara, we have had many guests come through who have had little to no experience with psychoactive medicines, who have found deep and profound healing working with ayahuasca. In fact, less experience can sometimes be more beneficial, as it can make it easier to enter into the experience without prior expectations, a key component that can play a major part in how much you get out of ceremony.
Working with ayahuasca can be a process, which is to say, if you are planning on working with the medicine – especially for the first time – we recommend allowing yourself the space and time to undergo multiple ceremonies in a safe and supportive container. This is because it can take some time to build up enough trust and a relationship with the medicine that will allow for the deeper work to unfold. Often times, just one ceremony can open up the work but be insufficient to get significant benefit from it and then have a chance to energetically close what has been opened. It is for this reason that our minimum retreat stay is five nights. We have found that at least three ceremonies, along with integration support during and after to help guests process what has come up, can allow for a deep level of healing to occur.
We have much more information about ayahuasca on our website – here are some good starting points that may help you get a better idea of this medicine and how it works:
Upon registration, you will receive an information packet which will include our dietary and preparation guidelines to prepare you for your experience. Beyond the specific foods we list to avoid, in general it’s best to approach the diet focusing less on deprivation, and more about creating an environment within your body which gives the medicine the best chance of permeating and illuminating areas that need healing. In general, a clean diet which focuses more on whole foods and less on excess salt, sugar, spiciness, and processed foods, is going to allow the medicine to work with you in the best way possible.
As part of our preparation and integration support system, we offer 1-on-1 preparation sessions with a psychotherapist from our team, for those who would like emotional/mental support as you consider and prepare for working with ayahuasca. These sessions can help clarify intentions, address anxieties, and set the foundation for the work you will do prior to your arrival. These sessions are offered at a discounted price of $50 for 50 minutes. Please visit this link to view availability and book a session with Sean Chiddy, a therapist from our team. Sean has several years of experience supporting people through their processes before, during, and after they work with ayahuasca medicine.
Below are a few other resources we recommend as you prepare to work with ayahuasca plant medicine:
Please use Google to find out what vaccinations your government recommends for travelers going to Costa Rica, and be sure you’re up to date on all of them. Traveling to Costa Rica primarily requires routine vaccinations, though it is also a good idea to be vaccinated against typhoid. If you happen to be arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever, the Costa Rican government requires proof of yellow fever vaccination; check this page to see if you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine. Soltara has less mosquitoes than most jungle locations due to the breeze coming off of the Gulf of Nicoya, but nevertheless, please bring natural bug spray to avoid bites from mosquitoes that may in very rare cases be carrying malaria. If you anticipate participating in the ayahuasca ceremonies, please avoid taking antimalarial medication for the retreat. Here you can read the US government’s recommended vaccination information for travelers going to Costa Rica.
If possible, we recommend discontinuing all supplements 7 days before your retreat. The basic idea behind working with master plant teachers like ayahuasca is to bring a clean slate of a body. To learn the most one can from the experience of connecting with ayahuasca medicine, one is always recommended in the Shipibo tradition to temporarily stop the use of any other supplements, plant treatments (unless prescribed by the healers), and synthetic drug treatments. If you can put these things on hold (unless it’s necessary to continue treatments), then you will get a more direct connection with ayahuasca. =]
As CBD oil comes from the marijuana plant, we do recommend refraining from using this for at least two weeks before and after your retreat. This is not medically contraindicated, however in order to prepare your body for working with ayahuasca, it is recommended to stop using all other plant medicine for the specified time before and after.
If there are any that you are needing to continue throughout the retreat, please indicate this on your registration form and we will follow up with you.
Our overall approach to healing is based on the wisdom and guidance of our Shipibo healers, as well as our combined decades of experience from our previous work at several top-rated ayahuasca centers in the Peruvian Amazon, the feedback we have gotten from our communities, and what we have collectively seen is needed in this space. As such, we emphasize a strong focus on integration, how to support people to carry their work home with them and enact the healing into their lives. We work closely with clinical psychologists who also have years of experience working with the medicine as well as certifications in psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy. Our integration program involves various components both on and off-site. You can read more about it here, and below is a brief overview:
- “The Hero’s Journal” – this creative and personalize-able integration journal is given to everyone on arrival, and takes you through the process of reflection, intention-setting, ceremony, and building your own integration plan. This framework is vetted by our clinical psychologist advisors and empowers you to set yourself up for success based on your goals and process during your stay.
- We will have integration discussions during your stay which incorporate different aspects of the journal and are designed to help you flesh out an actionable plan from the time you begin your process at Soltara to help carry you back into the default world and enact the lessons and insights you gain from your experience
- Our retreat programming is centered around helping you immerse yourself in different healing modalities, many of which you can take back with you (bodywork, meditation, nature, etc.), to help you cultivate habits that feel right for you and can help you maintain the healing work done during your retreat.
- Our community of loving and incredible souls, all of whom are also going through their own healing journeys, welcomes you with open hearts to share in the integration process and expand your knowledge base.
- We offer a series of post-retreat follow-up emails with resources, videos, and content designed to help you check in with yourself and continue to support your journey back home.
- We also offer regular virtual group integration circles with members of our integration support team to share in real-time the successes and struggles of your processes, answer questions, and connect with each other in the weeks and months following your retreat.
- Finally, we provide a network of clinical psychologists and psychotherapists who are able to work with you in 1-on-1 sessions to dive deeper into your integration and further explore and maintain your healing process.
We are very excited about the framework we have created with the help of our advisors to help you maximize the benefits of your healing work. We are heavily focused on empowering people to be their own healers and set themselves up to continue that beyond the retreat.
If you came for a retreat with us, we offer 1-on-1 integration sessions with a member of our integration support team, Sean Chiddy. Sean is a psychotherapist and has several years of experience supporting people through their processes before, during, and after they work with ayahuasca medicine. There is a free initial session included as part of your retreat, and if you would like further support beyond that, Sean offers 50-60 minute sessions at an additional cost ($99). Please follow the appropriate link in your post-retreat integration email to schedule your first session, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like us to re-send the link to you.
Otherwise, the following resources have all been vetted by our integration team and can offer different options based on the type of support you are looking for:
- Psychedelic Support Network – https://psychedelic.support
- Inner Space Integration – http://innerspaceintegration.com
- Psychedelic Times Support – https://psychedelictimes.com/psychedelic-consulting-and-coaching/
- Spiritual Emergence Network – http://spiritualemergence.org
- Psychedelics Today – http://www.psychedelicstoday.com/integration-coaching/
- Being True to You (entheogen-positive addiction coaching) – https://beingtruetoyou.com
We also work with clinical psychologists Dr. Clancy Cavnar and Dr. Sharon Rafferty. If you would like a referral to connect with them for integration sessions, please email us at email@example.com.
We believe in offering personalized care for every guest so they can have the space to immerse themselves fully in their process and have the support they need to do so. We also feel strongly that the community aspect is an important part of the healing, which we believe can get lost if there are too many people in a group. Therefore, we keep our groups rather intimate, and have a high facilitator-to-guest ratio. Our maximum capacity is 21 guests and for that amount we work with a female and male Shipibo healer and 3 facilitators during ceremony. During each ceremony, each guest receives their own personal healing icaro (healing song), tailored to their intention for healing, what the healers feel is needed, and their consultation with our healers beforehand.
Depending on your desired length of stay, you can click into each retreat page here to read more about each program and see pricing. If you click into each retreat page, you’ll see a list of available dates as well as lodging options depending on the date. You can select the appropriate start date on the calendar in order to see available lodging options. From there, you can register directly on that page by filling out a brief registration form and making a deposit to reserve your space.
Upon registration, you will receive an email with a link to a detailed intake form which contains a series of questions that will help us to ensure that there are no medical issues that might be contraindicated for your retreat and the use of the medicine. Your booking will not be confirmed until we have received and reviewed a medical intake questionnaire for you. If for any reason it is deemed medically unsafe for you to attend the retreat with us, you would be entitled to a full refund of any deposit made.
One thing that we ask for during this process is if you are taking any prescription medications or have any specific medical diagnoses. If you’d like to inquire prior to registering, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would be happy to review this information with our intake coordination team to determine whether an ayahuasca retreat is right for you, or any necessary tapering schedules for medications. We also recommend that you review this decision with your doctor if you are currently on any specific treatment plan or medications, particularly before changing or tapering any medications, as they will have a more complete picture of your medical history.
This work is all about intuition, so we recommend checking in with yourself about what feels right for you, and trusting you’ll get what you need out of whatever length of time you choose. The only difference between retreat lengths is the number of ceremonies, as well as the space and time you are allowing yourself to process and integrate the work being done. Some people find a lot of healing with 5 nights or one week, while others may benefit from a longer and deeper connection for the healing to take root. Depending on what you are looking to heal or work with, you may find that more time and space to work with the medicine will give you a chance to integrate the work you do more fully. Regardless, whatever length of time you choose, you won’t be wrong!
We do require that all guests be of legal age, at least 18 years old, in order to be on site and participate in a retreat with us.
Due to the deep nature of this work, and the sensitivity that children can have to the things that are being released during this type of healing, we do not allow for participants to bring children. We strive to maintain a strong container for all participants so that everyone feels safe to move deeply into their processes without risking affecting any children who would not necessarily understand what is happening.
In terms of best practices regarding coming as a couple, one thing that we implement is that we do not have couples sit next to each other inside the maloca during ceremony. This is to ensure each can undergo their own process and minimize energetic influence during ceremony. Outside of ceremony, we do require that all guests abstain from sexual and sensual contact with themselves or others during the retreat. Beyond that, we empower guests to decide what works for them as it relates to their accommodations. While some people may feel it would be best for their process to have separate accommodations than their partner, others prefer to be able to process things with each other and share a private accommodation. This part is really up to you and what you feel would work best for you both.
Depending on your desired length of stay, you can click into each retreat page here to read more about each program and see pricing. If you click into each retreat page, you’ll see a list of available dates as well as lodging options depending on the date. You can select the appropriate start date on the calendar (all of our retreats start on Sundays) in order to see available lodging options.
If rooming options appear as unavailable, please select a different start date on the calendar. If there is a specific listed date that shows as unavailable that could work for you, please email us at email@example.com and we would be happy to follow up with you should a space become available.
We offer all-inclusive packages based on lodging type. Our pricing includes all meals, accommodations, medicine, ceremonies, activities, taxes, fees, and transportation to and from the pick-up location in San Jose (you can see a full list of what’s included if you scroll down in the link above).
We understand a retreat with us is an investment in oneself which can take time to prepare for. Part of our mission is to help make this type of healing as accessible as possible for all those who seek it. As such, we have a scholarship program for those committed to their healing journey, and who would otherwise be unable to attend a retreat with us. We ask that you only sign up for this program if this is the case for you, otherwise you will be taking a spot from someone who truly needs this support. Please click the link for more information and to apply.
For those who may be working within a budget, we offer economical private tambo lodging options under the forest canopy. These tambos offer a lower-cost way to attend a retreat with us, utilizing shared bathrooms and showers, and no air-conditioning. To view more information about this lodging option, select an available retreat through our retreats page here and select and appropriate start date on the calendar (all of our retreats start on Sundays) in order to see available lodging options and details about each accommodation.
Additionally, while we normally ask for 50 – 75% deposit in order to secure your spot, we evaluate payment plans on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for more information if your situation warrants additional assistance.
If you are a veteran, Soltara partners with the Heroic Hearts Project, a non-profit organization which offers financial aid to veterans of war wanting to undergo ayahuasca treatment.
Regarding balance due, we are asking guests to bring their remaining balance in cash if at all possible. As our operations are run entirely in cash, this is very helpful for the work we do on the ground. This will be collected immediately on day 1 of your retreat.
If there is any way to bring most or all of the remaining balance in USD, this is preferred and very much appreciated. If this is truly an issue, please do let us know.
During the retreat, guests are free to head to two nearby beaches during their free time throughout the day (~3 minute walk down our beach trails). We do not offer excursions offsite, nor do we allow guests to travel offsite during their retreat beyond the beaches, nor visit with others who are not on retreat. The reason for this is that we create a very strong energetic container for guests to undergo what can sometimes be very deep experiences. It is important, when one is open and working with ayahuasca plant medicine, that the sanctity of the container be maintained in order for people to stay in their process while working with the medicine. Minimizing interactions and energetic exchanges with those who are not on retreat, and removing the need to worry about any travel logistics, allow for guests to be fully immersed in their process and truly get the most out of their experience. Being completely surrounded by nature in our multi-acre grounds, with easy access to walking trails and the beach, and an intimate yet diverse group of no more than 22 guests, this ends up being quite sufficient without people feeling pressure to go on any extra excursions. =]
After the retreat, there are a number of attractions on the Nicoya Peninsula for you to enjoy depending on your personal interests and time available before or after your stay with us. Keep in mind you may want to prioritize rest and relaxation after your ayahuasca experience, to help begin integration and allow yourself time before flying home. Having said this below are some of our recommendations.
If you are short on time there are day trips out of San Jose to the La Paz waterfall, Lake Arenal/Arenal Volcano, Local Coffee Plantations or simple walking tours of the city all which offer scenic views and the flavor of the “puravida” lifestyle that Costa Rica is known for. See the front desk at the Wyndham for more information on 1-day tours.
Two hours south of Soltara you will find the bustling, international surf town of Santa Teresa. This area is rich with surf, yoga, tide pools and breathtaking sunsets. Here you can rent a quad, take surf lessons or simply walk along some of the most incredible beaches in the country. For a more tranquil lodging look to neighboring “pueblos” Mal Pais or Playa Hermosa. From here is easy to take day trips to the Montezuma Waterfall, Isla Tortuga or the Curu National Reserve.
Two other options for sunny beach towns (within 2-3 hours) include Playa Nosara / Playa Samara and Jaco. Nosara and Samara both have a well established expat community, a great beginner surf break (Nosara), beach front dining (Samara) and lots of space to roam, finding peace and slow rhythm is easy to achieve here. Jaco has a large expansive beach and is one of the countries top travel destinations due to it’s proximity to the airport, world class sport fishing and vibrant Costa Rican culture.
Within the 3 hour drive of Soltara is also the Monteverde Cloud Forrest which is certainly recommended for those who seek the quiet, cool embrace of lush mountain terrain. There is plenty of wildlife to enjoy and is an excellent recommendation for those who wish to be immersed in the clouds. From this area you can easily plan to see the Fortuna waterfall. La Fortuna is also a destination in its own right and has several hot springs that we feel are a perfect end to a week at Soltara.
If you have more time to explore Costa Rica going further south to towns such as Domincal/Uvita (5 hours from Soltara) is a great option. For the true explorers make your way down to Corcovado National Park, an isolated area that boasts 2.5% of the worlds bio-diversity. This is not a short journey and we recommend flying from SJO to save valuable time.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas, Costa Rica is rich with lush fauna, wildlife and attractions of all kinds depending on your interests. We would be happy to help you coordinate separate transportation to any destination, noting that this would be at a separate cost if you will not be joining the group shuttle back to San Jose. If you have any additional questions or are interested in booking transportation to your post-retreat destination please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to assist you further. For your own research we can recommend rome2rio.com to get estimated travel times and costs to all destinations.
This won’t prevent you from participating in ceremony. While some traditions do indeed indicate that women on their period should not participate in ceremony, our healer’s recommendation is that you simply tell one of our facilitators if you are on it, to relay to the healer, for them to be aware of that energy release happening during ceremony.
Our healers have decades of experience working with medicine and navigating the energetics of the ceremony space. We have been working with Shipibo healers for several years and have never had any issues as it relates to creating a safe space for those who are on their cycles.
We are honored to work with a dedicated team of passionate, loving, committed individuals who are called to a path of service. Work exchange opportunities at Soltara are available on a case-by-case basis, depending on our current needs and availability. Opportunities can include yoga teaching, kitchen support, maloca assistance, videography, social media, marketing, and content capturing, to name a few.
- Must have been a guest previously at Soltara. We do not accept anyone into our work exchange program who has not gone through a retreat experience with us.
- Experience working with ayahuasca plant medicine
- Experience and/or willingness to live in community and work as part of team which includes taking full responsibility for your own process while being able to complete your duties simultaneously.
- Competency and experience in the skillset you are offering, including references and/or links to work portfolio.
- Fluency in both Spanish and English
- Experience working with ayahuasca plant medicine in the Shipibo tradition
- Experience working with people in a service capacity
- A background in personal work and group work
- Availability of at least one month
- Private room accommodations
- All food
- Opportunity to participate in weekly ceremonies
- Opportunity to participate in group classes including yoga, meditation, and staff sharing circles
If you would like to explore available opportunities, please look over our requirements and send an email to email@example.com explaining your reasons for wanting to join our team, why you feel qualified to be of service in this way, your fluency in Spanish, appropriate links or references for your work, and your availability and desired commitment in months/year.