Having worked in health and wellness for over 18 years, I am no stranger to retreats and spas, so naturally a stay at Gaia has always been on my bucket list.
Prior to staying
In the leadup to my stay, I found the staff responsive and helpful in planning spa treatments, arranging airport transfers, and accommodating dietary requirements.
I also requested to receive a copy of the activity schedule for my stay in advance, as I personally prefer to know what to plan for (as well as get excited for what is to come!) which they were happy to accommodate.
The closest airport is Ballina Byron, however you can also fly into the Gold Coast (Coolangatta)
Airport transfers are included. When I arrived, Grant from Byron Bay Luxury Transfers was waiting for me, and provided an excellent transfer service to Gaia.
Upon arrival, the serene and beautiful surroundings immediately caught my attention. Grant brought my suitcase to Kukura House, where I waited on the plush lounge to be checked in.
The lovely Rodrigo assisted me with my luggage to my accommodation- Komala 2.
Located at a high point on the property, the view is stunning.
Komala comes complete with its own deck, daybed, sun lounges and plunge pool. The lounge area is spacious with plenty of room to spread out and relax.
The tap water is filtered rainwater, however if that is not to your taste, there is ‘Just Water’ available in the in room bar fridge.
This self confessed tea lover was delighted by the extensive range of Tea Tonic herbal tea bags. For the coffee lover, there was also a Nespresso machine with compostable pods.
I made use of the bath one night, which came with rose petal bath salts that were replenished as needed.
The bed was very comfortable. A pillow menu was available, however I didn’t make use of this as I found the pillows to be perfect.
There is plenty of room in the double shower if you are travelling with a loved one. Gaia Shampoo and Conditioner in refillable bottles is included- it was wonderful to see the commitment to minimising waste by not having smaller bottles on offer.
Dining is available daily in Kukura House, however meals can be brought to your room if preferred.
All dietary requirements are catered to. Gaia has an extensive garden on site that produces a lot of the ingredients featured in the dishes.
For me, the food was a highlight- I enjoyed the opportunity to try lots of different dishes that I would never normally choose.
Take for example, braised jackfruit with creamy polenta, crispy kale and sriracha mayo- I would probably look past it on a restaurant menu, however it certainly did not disappoint!
Breakfast daily was ‘chef’s choice’ hot breakfast, crumpets, granola/bircher with different flavours daily, or toast.
Each morning I started out with the shot of the day- usually ginger and turmeric. There was a choice of either a fresh vegetable or fruit juice; tap or sparkling water, herbal teas, and plunger coffee.
Set lunch daily was a delight, and includes iced tea. On my first day I enjoyed a fish kofta salad. My second day was a lovely curry with pappadum that was brought up to my room; and then my third lunch was the aforementioned braised jackfruit.
Dinners are a 3 course affair. The desserts are absolutely to die for.
As I was travelling solo, I opted to bring a book to the table. The staff thoughtfully brought over a lamp to make it easier to read in the evenings.
Wine is available, which I love- nothing is demonised here. Coffee, dairy, meat- whatever takes your fancy, it is available here. You can even ask for a cheese board in the afternoons!
I made use of the spa throughout my stay. The saltwater pool is comfortably heated, and I took advantage of this and did a few laps each day. The hot tub was framed by beautiful greenery, making it a visually stunning place to have a soak. In the same area there is also a dry sauna, which I made use of for 10 minutes each day.
On to treatments- I had a 60 minute facial, the ‘Sole to Soul’ 60 minute treatment, and a 90 minute deep tissue massage- all unique experiences delivered by skilled and highly trained therapists.
On entering the spa, water or herbal tea is offered before you are taken by your therapist to the treatment room.
The rooms are beautifully appointed and well ventilated. With the window shutters open, I was often soothed during my sessions by the sound of rain falling, or birds chirping outside- it really feels like you are immersed in nature.
At the conclusion of each treatment, water, herbal tea and a fruit plate are able to be enjoyed in the relaxation lounge, either inside or outside.
There are 3 sessions to choose from daily- a mix of yoga, fitness and other experiences like meditation, cooking classes, and sound healing.
At dinner each night, a handwritten card is provided with your scheduled activities or treatments for the following day.
7am yoga runs daily for 90 minutes. I enjoyed my session with Claire. She took the time to check in with each attendee for any modifications needed. I have had a yoga practice for the last 10 years, but have always struggled with ‘collapsing’ in chaturanga. Claire noticed this and suggested a simple adjustment which meant I was able to complete the sequence with ease.
Another yoga class with Yasmin was a different yet nourishing experience. With a range of ages and abilities to cater for, we were gently guided from our sleepy states to a vinyasa flow, and then back to yin.
Group fitness was available- I completed a 60 minute circuit session. The gym is well equipped with everything you could want or need.
Qi Gong with Tim was a wonderful way to mindfully move and turn inward.
A 60 minute sound healing session ran on the Saturday night of my stay, facilitated by the divine Alex. With a combination of crystal singing bowls, Tibetan bowls, a gong, chimes and more, we journeyed together, cocooned on our yoga mats with bolsters, snuggled under blankets.
These are available on request. I chose to do a 60 minute session with Claire which was wonderfully insightful. We worked on a yoga sequence that I could complete at home, as well as different exercises I can complete during the day to work on different areas that were identified as needing support.
The highlight of my stay was a 1:1 90 minute ‘Breath of Bliss’ breathwork session facilitated by Renee. We spent the first half hour discussing what I wanted to get from the session. Renee is a skilled space holder who did a beautiful job of creating a safe space for me to drop in to. She then guided me into 30 minutes of holotropic breathing, with the final 30 minutes of the session to debrief whatever had come up.
The experience itself was very intense, but never too intense- I felt very safe and held with Renee there. I have been working through a heavy personal situation recently, and found this somatic experience to be the ‘thing’ that worked to shift that for me- it was truly transformative. I hope to return to Gaia, and when I do, I will absolutely be doing another session with Renee.
It seems silly to mention this, but it stands out as something that makes Gaia unique- the staff are truly happy and content in their work, which makes the space feel joyful to be in. At times I would hear a staff member quietly singing as they went about their work in Kukura. Everyone I interacted with was kind and caring.
Something I found challenging during my stay, was wanting to do ‘all the things’, but also ‘resting’.
I definitely did too much on the second day of my stay- in hindsight a 90 minute yoga class, 60 minute group fitness class, 90 minute deep tissue massage, and 60 minute 1:1 yoga class was really overscheduling myself- but it’s hard not to when you have such amazing facilities and teachers on offer.
There is no pressure to participate in anything- you can choose to do as little or as much as you like.
For the seasoned retreat attendee, something else to note is that there is no retreat ‘start day’- guests are checking in and out daily. This is good because it doesn’t restrict you to a start day, but it also means that you aren’t ‘journeying’ as a group with the same people for a set period of time- this could be a pro or a con depending on your personal preference.
There are day beds situated at stunning lookout points. A walk around the property is a must- be sure to check out the gardens, chooks, aquaculture pond, and labyrinth.
It rained a lot during my stay. There are umbrellas located throughout the property, though you might want to pack a jacket.
Runners are good if you are planning to attend a fitness class, or go for a walk around the property.
Take comfortable ‘lounge wear’- I really didn’t think this through and packed my usual skinny jeans- you really just want to be getting around in track pants or leggings, as you will often be going from class to Kukura for a meal.
Pop in some bathers for the sauna/hot tub/pool.
The dress code itself is relaxed- you will often see other guests wearing robes or track pants and sweaters.
Being a Melbourne girl, the heat in Northern NSW is something else- even though the temperature was around 23 degrees for most of my stay, I still felt like I was roasting!
Torches are available in each room, but you can also use your phone torch light to get around at night.
Gaia is a standout on every level- from the accommodation, to the meticulously maintained grounds, to the food, and the staff. Every little thing has been thought of. If you’re looking for an immersive and rejuvenating experience in a relaxing and peaceful setting- this is it. All you have to do is bring yourself and an open mind.