We had been bouncing along a dirt road for miles before finally emerging from the Mexican jungle and heading towards the Pacific Ocean. That’s when I saw La Copa (The Cup) for the first time, perched on a cliff near Careyes, roughly 100 miles south of Puerto Vallarata. From a distance, it reminded me of a giant radio telescope pointed into space.
But, La Copa doesn’t scan the sky for gamma-ray bursts, supernova remnants, or communications from other worlds. Instead, it’s a monument to a late night dream Careyes founder Gian Franco Brignone had of a man and woman “united by the cosmos while bathed in the light of the setting sun.”
La Copa represents the woman; the Piramidion, a mini pyramid in a cave a mile away, is the man. The two are designed so that, on the equinoxes of March and September, they appear to unite through an opening in the cave as they did in Brignone’s dream. On most days, at the right angle, the sun appears to set into La Copa.
I was on my way to experience Sound Bathing at La Copa in Careyes, Mexico.
The Origins of La Copa
This was only my second day at Careyes, but already, I had learned plenty about Brignone, the Italian banker who flew over the area in 1968 in a Cessna. At the time, the area was nearly inaccessible. Recognizing its potential, he purchased 20,000 acres without ever having set foot on it. He built an ocean castle, Casa Mi Ojo, and invited his friends to purchase land from him for their own residences.
Brignone’s exclusive community grew despite—or perhaps because of—his quirks. He introduced 27 conditions for owning a home in Careyes, including being a polyglot and having committed all seven of the deadly sins. And, he instituted both the annual Chinese New Year festivities and sun ceremony celebrated at Careyes. So, it didn’t come as much of a surprise when he gifted himself with La Copa for his 80th birthday.
What is Sound Bathing?
We parked a short distance from La Copa and walked the rest of the way, pausing to take photographs of the waves crashing on the rocks below and, again, to gape at the cement structure itself. La Copa rises 35 feet from its base and is 88 feet in diameter. A three-level wooden staircase leads to its rim.
Luckily, it takes only a few steps to enter at base level from the other side. I followed the other writers to the yoga mats arranged near the center, found one to sit on and, as instructed, took off my shoes and socks. Although the concept of sound bathing has been around for more than 2,000 years, I had never heard of it before this trip, and I didn’t know what to expect.
It’s not a bath. Sound bathing gets its name because participants often describe feeling like they’ve been immersed in the sound waves created by the Tibetan meditation bowls and other instruments used. Proponents believe it can reduce anxiety, alleviate stress, provide mental clarity, improve energy, and even minimize physical pain.
A Meditative Beginning
Standing, we all turned east and raised our hands above our heads. Our sound therapist acknowledged the sun and other natural elements before turning south, west and north. With every turn, he mentioned more elements—the ocean, the sky, the Earth—but I couldn’t keep track of it.
Next, we laid down, and after we relaxed, our sound therapist told us to imagine a circle at the base of the spine. “Imagine it is turning clockwise,” he said, and I did. Okay, I thought, I’m getting this.
Then, we moved to our pelvis. We imagined another circle, imagined it spinning and imagined it connected to the first. This continued through all seven chakras to the top of our head. By the third, I felt overwhelmed trying to visualize all the spinning circles and just focused on my breathing instead.
Bathing in Sound Waves
At this point, our sound therapist began playing the six Tibetan meditation bowls he brought. Each made a pure, melodious sound when struck that he could elongate by running the mallet around the rim. I kept my eyes closed and tried to stay focused.
Eventually, he picked up a bowl and walked from person to person, playing a long, deep note over each of us. One of the other writers said she felt the sound waves moving through her and didn’t want it to end. I didn’t experience that.
However, I’ve since learned it helps to be fully hydrated because the sound waves can better move through you. I don’t know if that’s true, but I probably wasn’t properly hydrated. And, I have a hard time quieting my mind, which may have been a factor.
The session ended after he walked over us with an instrument that simulated the sound of rain, sang the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” and had us take a few deep breaths. Some people who have sound bathed claim it is a lifechanging experience for them. I’m not one of them, but I did feel relaxed.
Experiencing La Copa and Careyes
A growing number of spas and yoga studios now offer sound bathing in the United States, but none can replicate the setting of La Copa. To sound bathe in La Copa, you’ll have to book a room at El Careyes Club & Residences. Built in the 1970s, this hotel-like property rents one- to four-bedroom accommodations with full kitchens.
Shortly after booking, a wellness concierge from El Careyes will contact you, asking what activities you might like to enjoy during your stay. In addition to sound bathing at La Copa, you can request spa treatments, rent kayaks, release baby turtles, have a private yoga session, go horseback riding, and take a guided hike, to mention a few.
Rates start at $350 per night for a one-bedroom during the low season, May 1 through October 31. There are additional fees for wellness activities. For more information on wellness destinations see the articles by Wander writers.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.