Last Updated: January 05, 2021

If you closed your eyes and were whisked away by a dream-like fantasy of what your perfect day would look like as a Primal Health Coach, you might find your imagination conjuring up Ramiro Gallardo’s reality. From treasuring simple pleasures like the ocean sunrise, to running a paradise wellness retreat, cherishing intimate family moments, and doing mission-based work, you would have a hard time convincing others that this is, indeed, work.   

Hacienda del Sol is Ramiro’s passion project, an all-inclusive wellness retreat located in one of 5 Blue Zones in the world, on the Guanacaste Peninsula of Costa Rica. “This area of Costa Rica is one of the last remaining areas that’s only accessible via dirt roads—which is one of the many things that makes it so charming.”

With a 5-star average from 140 reviews on Trip Advisor, I’d say they’re doing nearly everything right at Hacienda Del Sol.

Wearing Many Hats

Ramiro plays two important roles at his wellness retreat, Hacienda Del Sol (HDS). First and foremost, he’s a business owner, which requires him to oversee all departments at the retreat center. Yet, each day, he switches his hat to be primarily a health coach.

As a health coach, he meets with guests daily to learn about their experiences and see how they’re progressing through the program.

“From things like how their mood is, or their mental clarity, to their energy levels and appetite changes. I try to make them feel safe if they are going through a challenging part of their experience, and when possible help them alleviate some symptoms by tweaking part of their program (like the type of physical activities or their food).”

“Once they feel like they are ready to move on,” he continued, “we focus on what they’re learning about themselves and how to extend this experience to their everyday life.”

I had the chance to get to know Ramiro during our Level 2 Primal Health Coach certification course. He was very engaged with the class, as was I, so I knew he was a coach I wanted to learn more about. I asked how his experience with Level 2 has impacted the way he coaches, and he said:

Since the level 2 course, my coaching has changed a lot. Much more free-flowing sessions and less structure….creating space in which the client feels safe and encouraged to go through the messy process of digging in and discovering the answers to their own questions.

Ramiro’s niche clientele is between 30-50 years old, and they’re chronic dieters who are living highly stressful lives. “They come here fatigued and close to being burnt out. They want to try a lifestyle change but find it difficult to do when they are dealing with their everyday stress load. They want an environment where they feel safe to crash and be pampered while going through transitions like sugar or junk food withdrawal, reducing overstimulation, terrible sleep hygiene, etc.…”

As a business owner at the retreat center, Ramiro meets daily with managers and staff from each department, including the Kitchen, Reception, the retreat’s General Manager, and Marketing Department (run by Ramiro’s wife), where he says his main contribution is “to make sure we’re not promising something we can’t deliver.”

I noticed a common thread as I began to understand Ramiro’s intention and responsibility throughout each department meeting, and that is his mission to ensure the guests have an exceptional experience from the moment they first land on the HSD website to the moment they leave the retreat in a renewed state of being.

He oversees guests’ feedback on the all-inclusive food menu, tweaking and making substitutions to the meal plans as needed. He helps resolve any overall guest issues with their stay, and checks in to see how ongoing projects are progressing, “like getting a certain permit or growing certain foods in our greenhouse, maintenance projects, etc.…”

A Typical Day

Remember when I told you his life is like a dream? Check out a day in the life of Ramiro Gallardo:

4:00 am: With a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old at home, Ramiro finds it difficult to have alone time unless he starts his day before dawn. He wakes up to an ice-cold glass of water with an electrolyte shot he makes with Himalayan salt and cream of tartar (that’s one I haven’t heard of!).

“I live in front of the ocean, and one of my favorite ways to start the day is to go into the water when it’s pitch black, then see the sun come up while I’m still inside. The black water always scares me, and the first rays of sun always calm me down. I love starting my day this way.”

(insert daydream eyes…)

“Once I’m out of the water, I’ll drink the darkest, strongest cup of coffee I can make and do mobility work—which is what I’ve been focused on for the last couple years. I have a lot of injuries, and the mobility work has allowed me to continue being very physical, including contact sports like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some days I’ll throw in a 20-min medium-high intensity training, with bodyweight or occasional clubbells or kettlebells.”

9:00 am: It’s time to drop the kids off at school and head to work at Hacienda Del Sol.

10:00 am-1:00 pm: Ramiro sees 1-on-1 clients for health coaching sessions. If he’s not coaching a client, he’s meeting with different departments at the retreat to check in with managers and improve upon guest experiences.

1:00 pm-3:00 pm: At 1pm, it’s time for his first meal of the day. He breaks his fast with something heavy in protein. He says that means, “Usually just the biggest steak I can get.” Then it’s back to work as a retreat owner, doing what he does best—optimizing the overall HDS experience for all involved.

3:30 pm: It’s family time with his kids and his wife. They’re usually swimming or taking a long walk on the beach with their dogs.

6:30 pm: Dinner time! More fatty animal protein is typically on the menu.

Dinner is usually followed by some cartoon time with the kids. “Then, when we are in bed, I ask them to explain the cartoon to me. I find it hilarious and adorable to hear their version of what they just saw. Makes me smile even just writing about it.”

8:00-9:00 pm: It’s nighty-night for the entire fam.

Go ahead and pinch yourself…you are indeed dreaming.

Adapting During the Pandemic

With Hacienda Del Sol providing 90% of his family’s income, I couldn’t help but wonder how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his retreat business.

He said business used to be very stable. Once the pandemic started, they had lots of cancelations due to the travel requirements between countries, and he worried about the need to work more online (up until then he had only worked with clients in person).

“As a coach, all I had to do before was follow the schedule given to me,” whereas, lately, he’s been struggling to shift online, and hopes he won’t have to juggle both online and in-person clients with his existing business model. Luckily, starting in late September, he began getting new clients at the retreat center.

“It’s been crazy getting the retreat center ready to receive clients since closing for the pandemic…but my business came back to life in one go at the end of October, and I’ve been swamped (thank God) with work ever since.”

What’s Next for Ramiro and Hacienda Del Sol?

As if his organization’s mission wasn’t magical enough, Ramiro and his wife are currently making plans to transfer the primal experience at the retreat to a residential setting. “We want to create a community—attached to Hacienda del Sol—that offers the same benefits of primal living for anyone who wants to live full-time or part-time in Costa Rica. It’s a very exciting project.”

Oh, and they also have a Paleo/Keto meal delivery service, called Sol Kitchen, using all local, whole foods from the island.

We can all take a page out of Ramiro’s inspiring work. He left us with some important reminders that drive him in everything he does.

“I pursue doing things that make me feel like I am of value to this world. I’m not religious, but I treat the world and the people in it as if they were a gift from God.

What ultimately matters is that I enjoy what I’m doing…in all the work I do with guests, I’m mostly focused on finding fun and enjoyable versions of whatever healthy change they are trying to make (not the ideal ones).”

Ramiro added, “I run my business the same way, and I’ve managed to have very low staff turnover. I want everyone that’s here with me, in the middle of nowhere, to really love being here—in the middle of nowhere. This has been invaluable during COVID as we’ve formed a very tight community, and we didn’t lose a single staff member…in fact, we just got closer.”

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