The Envision Festival took to the jungle of Uvita on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast to transform the smallish beach town into a thousands-strong expression of intentional and mindful community for a weekend (Feb. 22-25) of international art, health workshops and practices — and music. Now if this description sounds familiar to Northern Nevadans and Tahoe-area festivalgoers, it may be because Envision’s goals and form are not too different from Wanderlust, and others have called it the Burning Man of Costa Rica.
While the similarities may be apparent, Envision’s location on the jungle-lined west coast of Costa Rica allow it to have a paradisiacal flair where the nearby beach beckons just through a dense patch of palm trees — in place of the playa’s dust storms — and piles of coconut shells are set beside the zero-waste recycling and compost stations. In short, its name gets thrown around among the world’s most unique and spectacular festival gatherings because organizers have created a unique and spectacular event scaled to epic proportions.
Created by a collective of people who had found their way to Costa Rica from the United States in an attempt to secure affordable land that would give them the opportunity to live more sustainably, Envision is in its eighth year. It strives to bring together like-minded souls in an atmosphere where they can help, guide and push each other to do the same. The result is a festival that mixes yoga, speakers and workshops, eco-minded food and medicine, and the opportunity to carry a surfboard from your tent to the beach throughout the festival. Locals have created a cottage industry of their own, selling beer, coconuts, prepared food, clothing and crystals in their jockeyed-for positions right outside the festival’s gates.
During the day, yoga workshops and speakers are spread in shaded areas throughout the camps and quieter corners of the festival grounds. A central “Village” serves as an eating area with food and merch vendors consistent with the fest’s vision lining its fringes, sharing space with communal painting walls and hammocks strung among the trees and shaded loft teepees available for those who want to nap.
In the afternoon, workshops share the air with the first sounds from the Lapa Stage, the more club dance-oriented of the three main music stages. As evening comes, the Sol Stage for the larger bands and headliners, and the Luna Stage for the producers and DJs, light up, going progressively later throughout the weekend until Saturday night’s 6 a.m. call time ending with the last of the insomniac partiers heading back to their tents or hotels after the sun has come up.
For me, highlights included Erin Kelly’s yoga instruction, where she led the group in inverted poses, instructing those of us with medium abilities to successfully pull off an upside down pose supporting ourselves entirely with our arms. Saturday night’s sunset on the beach, which had dancers moving throughout the low tide reflecting the brilliant explosions of color in the sky, along with a collective howl from hundreds of other fest goers on the beach as the sun sank below the horizon was another unforgettable moment.
Then there was Bob Moses’ Friday night set on the Sol Stage draped in colorful smoky silhouette. And French producer CloZee’s Saturday night set on the Luna Stage, where aerial acrobats, awe-inspiring fire spinners, and bursts of fire from several towers surrounding the stage and dance floor accompanied her tribal melodies and bass, in an almost two-hour climactic set where everyone surrounding us danced or embraced to the incredible feeling of Envision hitting its peak.
The Envision Festival may get dropped in conversation with other festivals, though it is wholly unique and belongs in comparison only as far as the epic scale and accomplishment of pulling off such an event in a way that meets the awe-inspiring and reaffirming experience of other festivals that may be a little more familiar to us in the Reno and Lake Tahoe areas. For those who find enjoyment in finding their senses in ecstatic upheaval, and desire something that aims to be far more substantial than simply music in a festival experience, you may find the Envision Fest absolutely may be worth the effort to get there.
– Shaun Astor