Offshore Puerto Rican island hotel turns to Ayurvedic retreat

In the mountains on Vieques island off the east coast of Puerto Rico lies Finca Victoria, a farmhouse-turned-hotel with 11 cabanas surrounding the main building. In response to the pandemic, its owner, Sylvia De Marco, has turned the eco-sustainable property into an Ayurvedic retreat.

“Ayurvedic medicine dates back 5,000 years ago,” said De Marco. “It works with natural remedies to bring the body back into balance. We believe that if the body is in balance and harmony, there is no place for illness to manifest. Ayurveda focuses on preventive medicine and healing from the root source, not by treating symptoms. At Finca Victoria, we focus on the system of panchakarma, which is a detox process to reset the body and bring intelligence back to our system to heal itself.”

DeMarco has been studying Ayurveda for many years, after studying other forms of holistic medicine like Chinese medicine and macrobiotics, among others.

“Ayurveda is a very complete system of healing that integrates lifestyle, herbal medicine, vedic astrology and yoga, providing a very comprehensive and healthy living approach,” she said. “In addition, the Caribbean has a lot of similarities with the south of India, where Ayurveda originated—the plants, spices, herbs, climate and overall energy of the land—making Puerto Rico ideal for this work.”

She noted that the hotel’s complimentary breakfast is created under the Ayurvedic structure “with a Caribbean flair.” adding, “We also host complimentary yoga classes, and as an add-on to guest’s stay, there are Ayurvedic packages that include a three-day detox, five to 21-day panchakarmas and weight-loss programs. We also have a wellness house that operates as a full spa with regular massages, as well as incorporating an array of Ayurvedic therapies, herbal baths and facials.”

All of the food served in the Ayurvedic kitchen is vegan, De Marco noted, and local products from nearby farms are used. “Some of our most popular dishes are kitcharis using Caribbean ingredients, taino bowls and savory stews with sides of chutneys,” she added. “We also have fresh baked goods available daily.”

Treatments take place in the Casa Botanica Ayurvedic Wellness Center, which is comprised of two treatment beds and a balcony with an antique bathtub for therapeutic herbal soaks. Among the offerings is Abhyanga Massage. “The foundation of Ayurvedic bodywork and treatments, Abhyanga is a warm medicated oil massage,” offered De Marco. “Medicated oil is poured generously over the body, in rhythmic, choreographed strokes that activate the lymphatic system and reroute toxins to the digestive system for the body to properly eliminate them.”

Herbal + Triphala Scrub is another treatment offered at Casa Botanica. “Triphala is a powerful detoxifying Ayurvedic formula and, due to its gritty texture, it functions simultaneously as a scrub,” she said. “It improves skin texture and firmness leaving your skin feeling soft and polished.”

Ayurvedic packages, including a Panchakarma Detox, of varying lengths can be added-on to existing bookings.

“The Panchakarma program—a minimum five-day package is recommended—will help release stored toxins, restore digestive energies, boost metabolism, and awaken the body’s capacity for healing, renewal and self-regulation,” said De Marco. “All packages include a private consultation with a certified Ayurvedic practitioner including a physical examination, Dosha test and recommendations; personalized medicinal and herbal rituals to address an array of conditions including customized elixirs for morning and night; daily yoga, including pranayama, asana sequence and sound healing meditation; three Ayurvedic meals daily; and more.”

Guests can choose from the three-day Ayurvedic package that starts at $775 or 5-, 7-, 10-, 14- and 21-day packages. The Panchakarma Detox or weight-loss package is also available.