Disclosure: Elena, Third Wave content writer was invited to attend a retreat at Reunion Retreat Center in Sugar Beach, Costa Rica. Here she shares her honest review of the center, facilitators, and her medicine experience.
I arrived at Reunion’s Inner Alchemy psilocybin retreat seeking inspiration, self-discovery, and a serious break from the grind.
A week later, I unexpectedly left behind significant parts of my identity, releasing a lifetime of unhealthy stories, anxieties, and insecurities.
I give myself credit for this unburdening process.
But Reunion’s serene plant medicine center, devoted facilitators, and wisdom-led ceremonies created the necessary conditions for me to let down my guard and surrender to inner knowing.
An Air of Implicit Trust
Reunion was my first plant medicine retreat experience for a couple of reasons:
First, stories of unethical practitioners and fears of fist-sized arachnids kept me from journeying in the jungle. Also, while psilocybin is my preferred medicine, nearly every Costa Rican psychedelic retreat focuses on ayahuasca, a brew I currently respect from a distance.
I wanted to attend a retreat I could trust, in a place I love, offering medicine that feels right for me. Then Reunion came along.
Reunion is a trusted Third Wave partner offering both ayahuasca and psilocybin experiences. I felt comfortable putting my mental and physical safety in their hands.
But I wondered why everyone else was so confident flying across the country (and world) to surrender their consciousness and lay their vulnerabilities bare to complete strangers. After all, Reunion had only just opened in 2019 and seriously needed more Google reviews.
So, during our inaugural group dinner, I asked around.
Other participants, Jack and Lacey (all names are aliases), typed “wellness retreat” into their browser, seeking a massage-filled couple’s getaway near their hometown of Cape Cod. Reunion popped up in their search results instead, and Jack and Lacey saw it as a sign to do “that thing” they’d been thinking about since the 1970s.
Another participant, Peter, originally booked an ayahuasca retreat in Peru, but the country’s political turmoil shifted his plans. Searching for an alternate option, Peter came across Reunion, barely giving his choice a second thought.
Samantha, a self-proclaimed over-planner (to which I relate), usually lives by consumer reviews. But Sam is on a freshly forged spiritual path, and the story of Reunion’s Founder Brad Wells’s ayahuasca journey to self-acceptance inspired her to leap into the unknown.
At first, I was amazed at the implicit trust these people placed in Reunion after just a few clicks. Then, I heard Brad’s transformative story (more on that below) and spoke with Reunion’s program directors, Karina Turtzo and Julian DeVoe. And it all made sense.
Reunion’s Founder & Medicine-Led Team
Before Reunion, founder Brad Wells was a prominent Canadian business owner and husband of 25 years.
He never planned to do plant medicine. He just wanted a holiday, a break from his demanding life. Brad’s trainer told him about a restorative Costa Rican retreat, and without asking questions, Brad booked his ticket and accidentally stumbled into the world of ayahuasca.
Brad attended the retreat several more times as a guest, then as a volunteer, diving deeper into his subconscious desire for self-worth through material success. Several ayahuasca journeys later, Brad sold his business and committed to living a more fulfilled life.
But after around 100 ceremonies, Brad faced a sobering and unexpected message from the “vine of the soul.” He realized he despised himself to the core of his being and had no clue what to do with that information.
Brad was baffled by ayahuasca’s harsh lesson and disillusioned with plant medicine in general. For a moment, he changed his mind about his path and decided to return to life in Canada. Then he heard the medicine say.
It’s because you’ve done 100 ceremonies that you can finally look at who you are.
For Brad, that was being gay.
The medicine didn’t out me. It gave me a choice to live a life more in integrity. So the power of plant medicine, as I see it, is that it opens up possibilities and lets us make aligned choices. So I made the tough choice. I wasn’t going to pack myself up and go home.
Instead, Brad worked with his wife to dissolve their marriage and set out to help others utilize plant medicine to live more authentically and in integrity.
He knew Karina and Julian as dedicated retreat leaders upholding the values of ancient traditions with respect and reverence. He told them his idea to launch a not-for-profit psychedelic retreat offering ayahuasca and psilocybin.
We could be a cookie-cutter center offering the same medicine and programming every week. That would certainly be more profitable. But that’s not what this plant medicine center is about. The goal is to serve others.
Reunion Retreat: A Not-for-Profit Mission
Brad’s Reunion retreat concept was the first that also aligned with Karina and Julian’s shared mission and vision.
Both have decades of shamanic medicine experience and wanted to follow the plant teachings they’ve received by working with regenerative organizations.
As Karina and Julian put it:
Reunion exists as an alternative to the rise of plant medicine tourism. We feel we can only truly help others if we give back. So we put the profits into the medicine, the wisdom keepers, and the scholarship fund.
We believe in the ancient future because the modern world critically needs shamans’ centuries-old knowledge to live in harmony with themselves, the global community, and nature.
Reunion’s team believes Western society mistakenly compartmentalizes wellness care, splitting the mind from the body while generally dismissing spirit and soul.
As Karina says:
We want to create a new culture of holistic care for everyone who feels the call. Whether depressed, anxious, disconnected, or seeking creativity, spirituality, and self-realization. We hope people take this integrative approach back home with them.
If you feel called to a Reunion plant medicine retreat, enter code TWReunion at checkout, and $100 of the funds will be donated to Third Wave’s scholarship fund at Reunion.
Reunion Grounds and Accommodations
Reunion’s plant-led, healing-first credence permeates the center’s breathtaking grounds.
From the dragonflies fluttering around the glistening Buddha sculptures to the deeply caring facilitators, guest relations contributors, and miracle bodyworkers, every being and element seemed touched somehow by divine mushroom intelligence.
I felt endlessly at ease walking the grounds throughout the week.
Simultaneously, I was grateful for the convenient amenities allowing me to escape the heat.
Reunion inhabits the former Sugar Beach Resort, featuring eco-luxe accommodations that balance comfort with sustainability.
A/C comes standard in every room (eureka). TV does not. And Wifi works well on the grounds for those who need it.
No coffee, red meat, cheese, or sweets appear onsite per the dietary preparation guidelines. But Reunion’s talented chefs prepared fresh, nourishing dairy-free, gluten-free, and soy-free meals that almost made me forget my dairy-full and caffeinated existence.
I missed my favorite vices, like red wine, cheese, and The Last of Us. But Reunion’s nutritional offerings, daily movement and meditations, and TV detox were critical practices for the intense ceremonies ahead.
With my mind and body mostly free of toxic content, I was ready to dive into a week of intensives.
Reunion’s Inner Alchemy retreat consisted of five ceremonies.
- One breathwork ceremony
- Three psilocybin ceremonies
- One cacao ceremony
The Breathwork Ceremony
I didn’t know my breath could be a psychedelic substance until I lay down in Reunion’s temple (called a maloca) and let Karina guide me to an oxygen-fueled altered state of consciousness.
For about 30 minutes during the ceremony, Reunion’s maloca was quite literally breathing as every individual embarked on their own internal journey.
I personally experienced the phenomenon known as tetany for the entire session. My extremities curled and cramped into what felt like a muscular malfunction.
Scientifically speaking, rapid breathing can cause drops in blood CO2 levels that constrict the veins and cause tetany’s signature “lobster claws.”
Psychosomatically, tetany could also indicate built-up tension that needs to be expressed.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the latter was certainly true.
The First Inner Alchemy Psilocybin Mushroom Ceremony
After utilizing breathwork to ease the group into psychedelic experiences, Reunion’s facilitators organized an introductory psilocybin ceremony.
Each participant received one gram of psilocybin tea consisting of dried shrooms, herbal antioxidants, and warm water, with the option to consume up to an additional 0.5 grams later in the ceremony.
The facilitators called it a “handshake dose,” as approximately 1.5 grams is enough for people to connect with the medicine beyond ordinary waking consciousness. But it’s typically not enough to transcend time and space.
Most participants had never journeyed with psilocybin before this moment, so starting with an approachable dose was essential from an objective standpoint. However, from a subjective perspective, I struggled with the neither-here-nor-there dose.
My managerial mind wouldn’t shut off, despite my desire to relax into the viscerally soothing sensations. And I was keenly aware of the blistering heat despite the industrial-sized fans circulating overhead. I felt uncomfortable for most of the journey, but in the end, I experienced a profound nugget of insight that helped release a lifelong insecurity.
The Second Psilocybin Mushroom Ceremony
After the first journey, each participant met with the facilitators to discuss the experience and determine the right dose for the next intensive the following day. This approach was not one-size-fits-all. It was highly personalized to meet our needs.
Reunion’s second psilocybin ceremony was about diving deeper into the subconscious mind, body, and soul to the extent that everyone felt comfortable.
It took place at night. And the temple was black, except for the candles that illuminated the sacred altar.
I felt a heaviness entering the maloca that evening, a sense of gravity, and most of all, a deep reverence for mushroom wisdom. Looking around the room at my fellow journeyers, I lay down on my mattress, drew a face mask over my eyes, clutched my blanket, and awaited the medicine.
That night was incredibly challenging as my fiercely independent will struggled to ask for help, feel my feelings, or look weak in front of others. But when I finally surrendered, requesting support from the mushroom, my higher Self, and the facilitators, my consciousness finally opened up to the experience.
I spent the rest of that night shattering nearly every story I’ve ever believed about myself. It was both horrifying and indescribably freeing because it allowed me to start rebuilding from a blank, authentic slate.
The adventure reminded me of something Julian said earlier in the week:
Metaphorically, mushrooms break us down to create a fertile soil for growth.
The Third Mushroom Ceremony
I won’t say too much about the last mushroom ceremony.
But I will say the facilitators crafted an incredible five hours of prayer, music, and levity that brought the week full circle for me.
I felt intensely present, even ego-less in moments. I also felt the deepest gratitude and love for my life, family, friends, and planet.
Professional insights arose later in the day. But I’ll keep those to myself for now as the integration process unfolds.
Reunion’s Post-Ceremony Integration Process
Reunion’s facilitators make it clear from day one that 80% of psychedelic transformation happens during integration in the days, weeks, and months afterward.
So on the last day of the retreat, Reunion’s facilitators host an integration workshop, highlighting critical aspects of holistic healing, like nutrition, movement, bodywork, service, and connection to nature.
Following the retreat, Reunion’s outreach team sends regular emails with integration tools, including videos, short readings, book suggestions, and journal prompts. Guests are also invited to join a one-month follow-up call with the group and facilitators.
For those who need continued mental health support, Reunion refers guests to trusted trauma-informed psychotherapists. As the team expands, it plans to launch a longer format integration program in the future.
My Integration Process
Reunion is a magical place insulated from sirens, traffic, alarm clocks, and social commitments. So, I assumed leaving the cocoon to begin integration work in the “real world” would feel like a major downer. Surprisingly, it didn’t feel scary at all.
Sure, the airport madness sucked, but when does it not?
Travel stress aside, I wanted nothing more than to spend time with my family and squeeze my dog’s unnaturally beautiful face. I felt excited to start this next chapter of my life from a fresh perspective, free from the stories about the stories that allowed deeply rooted anxieties to thrive.
30 Days Later…
Since returning home, I’ve devoted more energy to the people and activities that bring me joy. I’ve continued my journaling practice, now supplementing with daily gratitude lists per Reunion’s recommendations. I’m also spending more time in nature, drinking more water, and creating more work-life boundaries.
Critically I’m meeting with a psychedelic-informed coach and counselor bi-weekly who’s helping me stay accountable to my goals.
Still, silence is the single most important integration tool I’ve implemented since the retreat. I can’t quite articulate how transformative stillness has been for me. Sitting silently rather than in guided meditations, taking walks without earpods, and watching a little less TV have allowed me to listen more and ruminate less.
Listening more has deepened my connection to Self, strengthening trust in my inner wisdom and serenity. Silence has also heightened my relationship with nature as I’ve started noticing the subtle sounds of squirrels, birds, and lizards I previously ignored.
Unexpectedly this nature connection has also ignited curiosity about being part of something greater than myself. I have no idea what this means yet, but I’m spiritually curious for the first time in my life.
My post-Reunion integration journey is just beginning, and I’m admittedly still in the honeymoon phase. But I plan to continue cultivating these essential integration practices that make me feel like me.
Final Thoughts about Reunion Retreat Center
Reunion offers a valuable alternative as plant medicine retreats become more commercialized, extractive, and expensive. Its weeklong psychedelic experiences are appropriately priced, and the team contributes $150 from each registration to the Scholarship Fund.
Reunion is not built to scale to enormity. It’s built to scale human healing through genuine support and carefully curated ceremonies. From my experience and observation, every guest left knowing themselves better, loving and accepting themselves more, and excited to embody the ancient future.