Frequently Asked Questions

About ayahuasca

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 very rare that the situation you describe happens, as 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 (and as Dennis himself has seen and can attest to), everything is normal on ayahuasca, and whatever happens during ceremony is perfectly fine and nothing to be ashamed of or worried about!

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.

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.

Integration

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 20 minute consultation 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). You can feel free to book your initial session through this link – simply select the option “Meet Sean or Check In” to view available appointments.

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:

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 our Integration Specialist Kendra at kendra@soltara.co.

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.

Personal Health

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. This won’t prevent you from participating in ceremony.

preparation

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.

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. Feel free to visit this link to view availability, pricing, and book a session with Sean Chiddy, a therapist from our team. There is a free initial “Meet Sean or Check In” option which books a 20-minute exploratory call. Beyond that, Sean offers this as a separate service ($99 for a 50-60 minute session). 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:

About ayahuasca

Preparing for your ayahuasca experience

Documentary: The Plant Teacher

Integration of the ayahuasca experience

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.

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 one week. We have found that four 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:

About ayahuasca

Preparing for your ayahuasca experience

Documentary: The Plant Teacher

Integration of the ayahuasca experience

Reservations/Logistics

There are a number of attractions on the Nicoya Peninsula that may be of interest, depending on your desires. Not far from us are beautiful beach towns including Playa Samara, Playa Santa Teresa and Playa Mal País. These all offer great snorkeling, surfing, and other water/beach activities. We are not far from Montezuma Waterfall. Cabo Blanco Natural Reserve is also nearby, or you can spend time exploring Curu National Reserve. A little farther from the Peninsula, but another beautiful and relaxed beach town just outside the Peninsula is known as Dominical.

Further outside the Peninsula, there are lots of different options for excursions, including Lake Arenal/Arenal Volcano, Chato Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, La Fortuna Waterfall, La Paz Waterfall, and Corcovado National Park, to name a few. Most of these are relatively close to each other so you can likely make the most out of a few days if you wish. Of course, it’s worth noting that you may want to prioritize rest and relaxation after your ayahuasca experience, to help begin your integration and allow yourself some space before heading back home.

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. Soltara has plans to develop a scholarship fund for financial aid in 2020, and in the meantime, we have recently opened up our economical private tambo lodging option for guests who may be working within a budget and don’t mind sharing bathrooms and forgoing 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.

In terms of nature excursions, guests are free to head to the beach during their free time throughout the day. We do not offer nature excursions offsite, as we found that it was better for people to stay in their process while working with the medicine and not leave site throughout the retreat. Being relatively immersed in nature on-site, with easy access to walking trails and the beach, this ends up being quite sufficient without guest feeling pressure to go on any off-site hikes or excursions.

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 letgo@soltara.co and we would be happy to follow up with you should a space become available.

We offer all-inclusive packages based on lodging type, ranging from $279/night for our eco-tambo lodging to $599/night for a single private suite. This 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)

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.

We recommend booking the Wyndham Herradura San Jose Hotel which is the location of our shuttle pickup and drop off. Please see our travel logistics page for more information.

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.

Our minimum retreat stay is one-week, as our programming is laid out to help you fully immerse yourself in the process and get the most out of your experience. As you may know, working with ayahuasca can be a process, and it’s important to allow yourself the space and time to undergo what can often be a deep and intense level of healing. Therefore, if possible, it’s best if you can make space for the full retreat so as not to disrupt or cut short this process. We want to support every guest in a truly empowered and life-affirming way, and we find that committing to oneself and one’s own process for a full week can allow for the space to truly benefit the most from this type of healing work.

Please see our travel logistics page for more information.

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 booking 1, 2, and 3 weeks 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 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 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 20 guests and for that amount we work with a female and male Shipibo healer and 2-3 facilitators during ceremony. During each ceremony, each guest receives their own personal healing icaro, tailored to their intention for healing and their consultation with our healers beforehand.

Please view our complete policies here. In sum, if for any reason it is deemed medically unsafe for you to work with ayahuasca, you would be entitled to a full refund of any deposit made.  Otherwise, if for reasons other than medical, you need to reschedule or cancel, your deposit is good for life and can be transferred to another available retreat or another person at no additional cost, as long as there is at least 1 month notice (if less than 1 month, then a percentage of your deposit can be transferred, per the policies via that link).

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. 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 soltaraintakes@gmail.com, 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, as they will have a more complete picture of your medical history.

Volunteer/Work Trade

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.

Requirements:

  • 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.

Preferences

  • 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

What’s Included

  • 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 letgo@soltara.co 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.