While you could simply read the tour description Coyote Aventuras provides to catch a glimpse of what to expect on their four-day retreat in the mushroom forest of San Jose del Pacifico, I’d like to share my firsthand experience with you. In other words, I’d like to bring the itinerary to life for you.
Sure, a menu of forest bathing, daily yoga, a temazcal ceremony, plant-based cuisine, and the opportunity for a magic mushroom trip in the stunning set and setting of Oaxaca’s Sierra Sur sounds enticing, but the reality and its repercussions are far better than you could imagine. Trust me.
My name is Amber Dunlap. I’m a travel writer from the United States who moved to Oaxaca in early 2021. Mumblings of San Jose del Pacifico’s magical setting and offerings had of course made their way to my ears almost as soon as I arrived, but the timing was always off for me to fully enjoy them, especially as a solo female traveler. That is, until Coyote Aventura’s retreat crossed my radar this past June.
The idea of going there in the container of such a conscious and supportive group was all I needed to add my name to the trip roster. As I write this, I’ve been back from the retreat for over a week and its impact on me and my life continues to reverberate. Here’s how it all unfolded for me…
Day 1: Battling nerves, meeting the group, and settling into mountain life
Admittedly, while boarding the white sprinter van for San Jose del Pacifico at 9am, the only topic on my mind was the mushrooms I planned to take for the first time in my life while there. I didn’t know when my “trip” would occur over these next four days, but I did know I would be doing it. That I had decided.
The three-hour journey to San Jose del Pacifico gave me plenty of time to process the emotions I was feeling about such a rewarding, but anxiety-inducing, experience ahead. The scenic drive also gave me a chance to begin grounding myself in the present moment with the people who were there with me – a scientist from Brooklyn, an old friend from the states, an American expat from Florida, another wanderer like myself from Mexico City, and a massage therapist that Fernando (our guide) had been recommending to me since I arrived in Oaxaca months ago. We were a motley crew, but a crew that complemented one another nicely for an experience as riveting and transformational as this one.
The arrival at Terraza de la Tierra was picture perfect. Wandering down into the property, it feels as though you’re standing above the clouds, looking down on a vast and deep mountainscape below. Our simple and spacious cabins awaited, each with a stack of wood piled next to the fireplace for the cold night ahead. We paired off and moved into our cozy home away from home, claiming our beds, and digging out a few more layers from our packs to better match the cooler mountain climate we now found ourselves in.
Once settled, we gathered for lunch at the on-site restaurant. The plates that appeared before us were a delicious mix of vegetables and fruit from the garden, everything plant-based and creatively combined. I knew right away that I’d be eating well these next four days and our multi-course dinner of yet more delicious, healthy food later confirmed that.
Day 2: Awaking with yoga, hiking through a rain-soaked forest, and experiencing my first magic mushroom trip
To the scent of the smoky embers of the barely crackling fire in the hearth and a rush of cool mountain air as soon as I removed the wool blankets from my body, I awoke. I had remembered that there was a yoga class at 9am. I had five minutes to rub the sleep out of my eyes, throw on some leggings, and make my way through the garden to Terraza de la Tierra’s yoga pyramid. Breakfast could wait. The instructor, a trainee from Mazunte’s Hidraya Yoga School, greeted me as I ducked inside and found a mat. The one-hour Hatha Yoga flow was exactly what my mind, body, and spirit needed this day.
Emerging from the pyramid in what felt like a meditative state, I made my way to breakfast where some of the rest of the group still lingered with cups of hot chocolate or coffee in hand.
The plan for the day was to set off on a hike to a nearby waterfall, then head into the town of San Jose del Pacifico in the afternoon to pick up the mushrooms, and sip on our psychedelic mushroom teas just before sunset. Not everyone in the group wanted to take mushrooms, some had already supplied themselves with their dose the day before, and others, including me, wished to take them privately after dark. The flexibility of the retreat and the loose and malleable schedule we followed was perfect, leaving room for everyone to make the experience what they needed it to be for them personally.
The hike to the waterfall started right at the cabins. Our group of six walked single file down narrow forested trails dripping with Spanish moss and resounding with birdsong. The entire two-hour hiking route to the waterfall was a winding downhill path, periodically broken up by panoramic views of the surrounding mountain valley.
Eventually, the trail ended at a stunning waterfall surrounded by green and towering boulders. Just one braved a dip under the icy waterfall, while the rest of us went with simply removing our shoes and wading through the shallow pool below it.
Not too long after arriving, the skies began to open up, increasing in intensity by the minute. We huddled under a rock until the rain subsided, then began our trek back uphill to the cabins. The rain didn’t hold off for long. Eventually, we were all soaked, the thick tree cover above barely blocking the unrelenting downpour. I wouldn’t have traded the experience for a drier one though. In fact, the falling rain only seemed to enhance the beauty of this magical forest environment we were in.
Before heading into town for the mushrooms, we all had some drying off and warming up to do, nothing a change of clothes and a warm cup of hot chocolate couldn’t solve. Once dry and warm, several of us hopped in Fernando’s car and drove into town, about a 10-minute drive from Terraza de la Tierra, to visit Ofelia and her mushroom shop.
We ordered our teas and she showed us the batch of psilocybin mushrooms she’d be infusing them with. I felt both a rush of nerves and excitement as I looked at the mushrooms laid out on the table. She took them away and within ten minutes returned with our cups of piping hot mushroom tea. I cradled it with care, being extra aware not to absentmindedly take a sip just yet.
On the way back to the cabins, we made a quick stop at a roadside stall to purchase some mushrooms, the non-psychedelic variety, for our lunch the next day. Mushroom season in San Jose del Pacifico means dozens of varieties of freshly-picked mushrooms are available by the bucket-full for unheard of prices. We purchased two different mushroom varieties, one that would serve as a filling for a delicious cheese and mushroom quesadilla and the other for a soup. My grumbling and empty stomach, meant to be in preparation for my mushroom trip later, almost couldn’t handle how good that sounded at the time.
Just around sunset, I found a spot on the front porch of my cabin with the mountains unfolding before me and the stars beginning to pop in the darkening sky and took my first sip of the mushroom tea. It was far tastier than I expected it would be, as if some honey and spices had somehow made it in there too. The rest went down easy and within twenty minutes I was somewhere else entirely. There but not there at the same time.
The world around me took on new dimension and the sounds became more amplified, from the drumbeats of a far-off temazcal ceremony and the laughter of a group sitting around the dinner table at the restaurant to the chirping of the crickets and the swoosh of the bat wings as they zipped through the night air. The next five hours took me on a journey of self-discovery, showing me in a very direct and unmistakable way the root of my way of being and how to shift what wasn’t working.
Day 3: Being born anew with temazcal, reflecting on my sleepless and transformational night, and finding comfort and camaraderie over Italian food
Anyone who has taken mushrooms before probably knows that rest doesn’t come easy post-trip. Instead of sleep, my mind spun in circles over all that had been revealed while the reality of skipping lunch and dinner set in too. Eventually, however I did get a few hours of shut-eye and awoke just in time for the morning yoga class.
After another gentle and grounding Hatha flow, I beelined it for the breakfast table and scarfed down a long-overdue meal while I caught up with the group just as they were exchanging stories of their own experiences from the night before. We didn’t have long, however, as the temazcal ceremony was slated for 11am. We said our goodbyes and ran to our cabins to change into a swimsuit and towel.
I had done a temazcal ceremony once before so I roughly knew what to expect, but the ceremony put on by Terraza de la Tierra was on another level. The temazcal was facilitated by a lovely brother-sister duo from Spain who treated this ancient tradition with such reverence and respect.
Inside the temazcal mound, we chanted songs for Mother Earth, welcomed the ancestors, sent prayers to the planet, and sweat out of us what no longer served. Before exiting the womb of the temazcal, the temazcalera had each of us scream our name aloud for all to hear. We were being reborn and, I can honestly say, it felt like it too.
I spent the rest of the day mostly catching up on sleep in the hammock, journaling about my experiences thus far, and soaking up the mountain views and the warmth of the midday sun. Our lunch of mushroom quesadillas and mushroom soup was an experience in and of itself, the flavors of the two different types of mushrooms so fresh and so satisfying. But it was dinner that brought true comfort. After such an emotional and physically demanding three days in the mountains, it was so nice to cozy up around a table together in town, dining on authentic Italian pasta and swapping tales from our lives between sips of artesanal beer.
Day 4: A leisurely final morning in the mountains, strangers turned close friends, and a sense of having shifted something deep within
Waking up on our last morning in San Jose del Pacifico was bittersweet. I had grown accustomed to the pace of life at Terraza de la Tierra, the nightly fire in the fireplace, the fresh and healthy meals, the mountain views from the front porch, the camaraderie of our group.
It was sad to say goodbye, but I also sensed that I wasn’t leaving as exactly the same person I was when I arrived. I remember noticing it as I sat around the breakfast table that morning. My heart felt more open and connected to not just the people around me and the beautiful scenery through the window, but to myself, in a way I haven’t felt possibly ever.
We lingered at the table long past our breakfast plates were cleared, soaking up every last second of this amazing trip and our time together. Eventually, it was time to climb the hill to our waiting van and head back to Oaxaca. Before taking my seat, I stole one last glance at the Terraza de la Tierra grounds that held me through it all, making a private promise to myself that I’d be back one day. Then, I hopped in the van and fell into the buzz of conversation with a group I felt so much closer to, a group that felt like family.
Would you like to experience Coyote Aventuras’ Retreat in the Mushroom Forest of San Jose del Pacifico? We offer the trip thrice yearly in June and July with room to add other dates if the interest is there. Reach out to find out what’s possible.