Category Archives: community projects

President’s Corner: Getting to Know the Real Costa Rica

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By Jeremy Sampson, President, GreenSpot Travel

At GreenSpot we love to experience destinations the way they were meant to be. We have a particular passion for indigenous communities, working with them to provide unique opportunities for our clients while protecting and celebrating traditions and cultural heritage.

Our US-based team visited our Costa Rica office in May, and spent several days traveling in and around communities which currently offer indigenous and rural tourism experiences. Our visits included the Bribri community in Talamanca and Brörán in the southern region on Terraba, which includes a quiet, rustic lodge called El Descanso – as the name implies, a perfect place to rest.

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Our time was spent exchanging stories and ideas with community leaders, while observing and reviewing what they have to offer visitors. We came away with several new ideas that we plan to incorporate into Costa Rica itineraries for travelers interested in meeting and learning from these amazing people.

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My personal experience in Brörán was an unforgettable one. Life moves at a different pace in their small village, and we made fast friends with our hosts. Spending time in a place like this, it’s impossible not to reflect on your own roots, on the importance of holding onto identity, family, and tradition in the face of deep-seeded modern challenges.

We ate simple (but perfect!) homemade meals cooked by the local abuelas (grandmothers). We walked to and swam in magical waterfalls. We prepared (and enjoyed) sacred cacao. We exchanged stories. We talked about the past and the present. We were shown hospitality one can only classify as “priceless”, even if it’s not the 4- and 5-star lodges we typically sell.

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I believe this is an experience all travelers should have. The newfound perspective is well worth it, and I can’t wait to go back and see them again.

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An Earth Day Gift for You – 5 Tips for Responsible Travel

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It’s been many years since the terms ecotourism and sustainable travel first developed. Since then, the complex relationship between travel and responsibility to our planet, has grown in importance. Some even declare it an oxymoron to put the two together – opposites, like oil and water. Well, pardon us if we disagree.

Not only are there ways that tourism can benefit everyone, but the concept of  responsible travel is becoming more mainstream.

waterfallThe economic and social benefits of tourism are more obvious, particularly in developing countries, because (if done correctly) tourism can create jobs and increase the country’s revenue. It can also improve infrastructure and cultural understanding between guest and host. The environmental benefits are sometimes less obvious. However, tourism has helped promote awareness and conservation of natural resources and wildlife.

We thought that Earth Day would be a good opportunity to provide you with a list of a few things that you can do on your next trip, to be a more responsible traveler. This is not a comprehensive list. Travelers can do various little things to tread lightly and create a positive impact on the destinations they visit.

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  • Support local economies by buying local handicrafts and food that has not been imported.
  • Travel by public transportation within the destination, or better yet, walk or bike.
  • Respect the culture and engage with the local people.
  • Use natural resources sparingly.
  • Don’t buy bottled water – bring your own canteen instead.

*Bonus tip! Contact us to help you select sustainable hotels and local guides for a memorable (and responsible) holiday!

We would love to hear what responsible efforts (big or small) have you made while traveling.

Green Spot of The Day – South Korea

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Did you know that Korea is positioned to be on the front line of the movement promoting fermented foods throughout the world? Popular Korean dishes such as Kimchi, soybean paste, soy sauce, Korean chili paste, salted seafood and traditional rice liquors are some of the forerunners of fermented foods.

Back in July, 2011 when we had the pleasure to visit, we had the opportunity to visit historic temples, green tea plantations, interact with the locals, even to play hula hula in an organic farm, and to visit the  beautifulJeju Island, but kimchi seemed to be the most popular topic while on the trip! You know how in most countries, w

hen you have your group picture taken you say “cheese”?  In Korea, we were saying “kimchi”. We learned that its preparation process requires a lot of work from the women, who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, cutting cabbages in quarters, preparing the sauce (which is the main ingredient), soaking it in salt for hours, rinsing, filling and giving it the final touches. It sounds like a lot of work to me, but the result is delish.

This week, owner and founder at GreenSpot.travel, Richard Edwards, is back in Seoul where he will be speaking at the 2nd Annual Conference of Partners of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism. Topics like “Linking Tourism and Conservation” and “Tourism & Poverty Alleviation” will be presented and discussed.

 

Hopefully, Richard is savoring some kimchi and SK flavors.

Top Ten Enviromental Travel Blogs

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GreenSpot.travel’s blog is where you have the opportunity to share your travel endeavors in your voice, where we talk about your local experiences in the places we travel, like being part of a local soccer match, or learning how to make authentic tortillas at a local’s home. All of the fun conversations we have were just recognized with an award for one of the best environmental travel blogs out there.

Highlights of our Family Adventure in Costa Rica

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I’ll begin with our first night at the Finca Rosa Blanca, near San Jose. We loved it and were sorry that we
could only spend the night. It’s a real gem, and got our trip off to a good start.

Another marvelous memory was our stay at the Bosque de Paz, in the cloud forest. It is a special
place, close to nature, secluded and peaceful. The owners were there, and treated us like family.
We never would have known about it on our own. I’m so glad we got to stay there. There was
a young man, native to the place, who is a naturalist and gave us a wonderful nature hike, and let
us see a microscopic orchid he collected that is extremely rare.

From there, we headed toward Arenal, stopping on the way for what turned out to be an
absolutely delightful afternoon with Dona Mara and her family (daughters, grandchildren), with a
home-made delicious lunch in her covered, open-air patio (with kitchen!). Dona Mara is a
gracious and kind lady who made us feel like part of her family. She helped us make our own
tortillas (a first for me, I buy them in packages at home!) and gave us a bountiful lunch of local
cuisine. Then she gave my daughter and I earrings she had made in the colors of the Cost Rican
flag as souvenirs. This experience was certainly unique and not one we would have had on an
ordinary tour, or on one we had planned ourselves. It was unforgettable and it still makes me
smile to remember it.
A few words abut our guide, Julio Madriz. A more knowledgeable and congenial travel
companion cannot be found. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of the flora and fauna,
geography and history of Costa Rica and shared it in a casual and interesting way, helping us
sample a forest-found fruit and see tiny creatures hidden to the untrained eye. He had boundless
energy and patience and made us feel like new-found friends. I hope you are lucky enough to
have Julio as your guide. He added so much to our trip.

The grand finale was a few nights at Punta Islita resort, where we had arranged to stay in an
individual villa, complete with a plunge pool with a gorgeous view of the forest and beach, and
hand-hewn beds of native woods, in air-conditioned comfort. It was low-key and charming, with
a resident troop of monkeys in a mango grove on the property.. The lovely beach ( very warm
and calm water) and amenities of the resort made it the perfect place to unwind and relax before
heading home.

All in all, it was perfect, just what we hoped for, and more. A wonderful time and now,
wonderful memories.

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Nope, that's not a painting on the wall. It's the view from your bed while visiting one of our favorite hotels in Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano region.

The precise location is secret though! Contact us and we'll be happy to take you there.
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