Category Archives: ecolodge

Inn by the Sea, Maine

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As you know, loves discovering great green initiatives around the world. The Inn by the Sea on the coast of Maine has made some remarkable efforts in sustainability. From heating with biofuel,  solar panels to  heat the salinated pool, dual flush toilets to save water, air to air heat exchangers to save energy, the redesigned gardens continue to create food and habitat for local wildlife walls built with recycled sheet rock and studs, recycled rubber floor in the gym, the list goes on!  Read on to find out more.

Inn by the Sea boardwalk at  Inn by the Sea

If you love unspoiled beaches, delectable local food prepared with an international flair, and panoramic Atlantic views you’ll love the inn by the Sea on the coast of Maine. Eight years ago this Four Diamond property recognized the importance of preserving and protecting the beauty and clean environment surrounding their natural coastal setting . Their first step on a green path was to pull out the exotic plantings on their five acre property, and replace them with indigenous plants that created both a beautiful indigenous landscape for guests, but also provided food sources and habitat for wildlife.

couples treatment roomGuests were enchanted by the grounds and head gardener Derrick Daly started giving garden tours and seminars on how to plant for wildlife, and “bug’s life” classes to kids on local eco systems. The grounds are adjacent to a bird sanctuary, and the inn’s five acres were also certified as a Backyard wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. The  inns sheet and towel program gives back to programs that work to save the endangered monarch butterfly, a frequent visitor to the inn as the grounds are planted with milkweed, necessary to the monarch’s survival.  The Inn by the Sea then adopted “Preserve, Protect and Inspire” as  part of their business plan, and formed a green committee to look at what else they could do that was eco friendly, good for the planet and added to the guest experience.

Since that original initiative Inn by the Sea  has continually added  eco friendly programs that  have made the inn Maine’s premier eco friendly beach destination. Fun summer classes for kids on how bugs fit into local eco systems, packages at the nearby nature preserve offer Audubon Guided canoe tours, and the new full service spa built with a Leeds consultant, offers a rejuvenating and soothing spa environment all adding to a great guest stay.

View from balcony  Inn - outside table w food umbrealla

The Inn went through a massive renovation in 2008 and added many new upscale and green design features- already heating with biofuel, the inn added solar panels to  heat the salinated pool and save energy, dual flush toilets  to save water, air to air heat exchangers to save energy, and the redesigned gardens continue to create food and habitat for local wildlife. Walls were built with recycled sheet rock and studs, the floor in the cardio room is recycled rubber, the floors in the spa treatment rooms are recycled cork and the inn is cleaned with non toxic green seal product. Guests are wrapped in bamboo towels, and welcomed with green recycled paper key cards. Natural products are presented on recycled glass trays, and the “sense of place” is preserved with spa treatments that give a nod to Casco Bay with marine products, sea salt, sand and mud.  The signature spa treatment is “Sea Waves Massage”, given on an undulating bed, with marine  products and surf surround sound for a complete coastal experience.

Beach w chairs

When  Sea Glass Restaurant opened in June the spotlight was on Executive Chef Mitch Kaldrovich and his dynamic  menu celebrating local agriculture and fresh seafood. Panoramic views of the Atlantic with bobbing lobster boats on the horizon serve as backdrop for the chef’s creative dishes loyal to local produce and Maine flavors. The signature dishes of Maine Seafood Paella with Lobster Tails , giant Maine Scallops or organic beef and pork from Maine’s  Wolfe Neck Farm celebrate local fare.

A  true Maine experience, couples and families will love the spacious luxurious suites, rooms and roomy cottages located on sandy Crescent Beach. A beautiful boardwalk , arched by trees in season, leads through the bird sanctuary to a mile of unspoiled beach perfect for a quick relaxing getaway or an extended stay in a condo cottage with full kitchen.

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La Cusinga Rainforest Lodge

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We arrived at La Cusinga Rainforest Lodge after dark, and all that could be heard were the waves crashing below and the sounds of night. Here there is not only the wildlife you hope to see, but a variety of insects unimaginable. There are huge praying mantises, bright green grasshoppers, and lots of other unidentifiable creatures.

La Cusinga rooms Solar water heater at La Cusinga

La Cusinga’s range of initiatives in sustainability include construction that fits well into the natural landscape, built with natural materials including the wooden lampshades, solar panels for electricity and water heating, extensive contribution to conservation and support to local schools, organic food grown onsite, and efficient water and energy conservation.

Howler monkey at La Cusinga Howler monkey at La Cusinga
Our first walk in the morning greeted us with an abundance of wildlife. Only a few minutes onto the trail that leaves right from the outdoor dining area and main viewing deck, a family of howler monkeys were hanging lazily in the trees. They didn’t move an inch and let us watch them for quite a while and take pictures. The call of these small black monkeys can be heard, especially in the morning, in the distance and it sounds like a bunch of angry gorillas. When you see how small they are it is surprising that they can make such a loud, growling noise.

Next on the way we saw the rare and endangered green and black poison dart frogs. They are tiny but beautiful creatures. They even stuck around for us to take more pictures on the way back.
Poison Dart frog at  La Cusinga Poison Dart frog at  La Cusinga facing front
Down the trail towards the waves crashing on the rocks, our young guide told us he sees turtles every time he comes to this spot. We waited a few minutes, and sure enough, we saw the round brown shells just under the surface, and then a couple of heads pop out just enough to make it easier for us to see them. You can’t get close up to them here as they are down below swimming around the great big rocks but knowing that they are there and getting a small glimpse is exciting enough.

The beach at La Cusinga Usha at the beach at La Cusinga

We ventured down another trail that led us to the beach which is part of the 800 acre nature preserve that makes up La Cusinga’s property.  The beach is wild, no amenities or development of any kind. Just you, the dense forest as a backdrop and the big, warm, waves.  We crossed through a cavernous tunnel under the rocks to a smaller cove to take a dip in the almost hot ocean waters.

On our way back the monkeys were still hanging about, not wanting to move in the heat we figured.

Then we were off for lunch, and we ate at a nearby cooperatively-owned ecolodge called Canto de Ballenas (Call of the Whales).  I have a friend who works there so he got the kitchen to whip us up a filling and tasty lunch of flavorful vegetables, rice & beans, and my favorite, garlic fish fillets.  Of course we had frescos of banana, pineapple and orange juice and fresh, strong coffee.

View of Punta Uvita from La Cusinga  Uvita national marine park Iguana
After lunch we continued down the road to the entrance to the National Marine Park, and “whale’s tail” where the long stretch of beach goes into a point shaped exactly as a whale’s tail. Pretty coincidental considering this is the part of the country the hump-backed whales visit each January and February as they migrate up the Pacific Ocean.  We walked along the beach to the end point where we sat down to take in the beautiful sunset.

Sunset at Punta Uvita 1st stage Sunset at Punta Uvita 2nd stage

We capped off our last night at the best restaurant in the region, called Citrus. It is absolutely beautiful, with luxurious details, outdoor candle-lit tables, mozaic tiles, pre-Colombian inspired art, not to mention delicious food and surprisingly good prices. Oscar, our great driver and I both had fish ceviche in coconut milk and cilantro, Jim and Usha shared a hot goat cheese salad and an eggplant lasagne and we toasted with a glass of wine to a wonderful week in Costa Rica.

– Kelly Galaski

Santa Marta & Tayrona National Park

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The last couple of days we had the pleasure of seeing another small Caribbean coastal town of Colombia. As you drive from Cartagena, the vegetation gets drier and drier to the point where cactus trees line the streets and it appears desert-like.  The rolling hills while not lush, are interestingly covered in cacti, a mountainous desert in a way.

We drove through the town of Barranquilla where preparations for the annual Carnival parties were going on. Since our trip was focused on diving, we did not stop here for the festivities but the carnival here is apparently one of the biggest in the world, just not as well know yet as those in places like Rio de Janeiro and Trinidad.

This part of the country is surprisingly quite undeveloped, with most houses being small wood-framed huts along the road.  The winding road took us up into the mountains and down over the other side to the small town of Taganga, near the one of the oldest ports, Santa Marta. Taganga is a tiny beach town with lots of dive shops and backpackers.

Diving here was different, it always amazes me each time I go under water and a different world appears. Here the visibility wasn’t as great as San Andrés, but the coral was interesting. Huge rocks covered in different coloured hard corals and lots of different fish. The sea was pretty rough though and even though our instructor Max and his wife of Poseidon Dive Center took us out in a great fully equipped boat, the rocking back and forth on our way to the beach for lunch made me seasick!

We arrived at Tayrona National Park for an afternoon on a secluded beach where the Ecohabs are located. “Eco Habs” stand for Eco – habitaciones (or Eco Rooms in English). They are huts built in the traditional indigenous style of the region, furnished with comfortable beds in white linens, hammocks looking out to the forest or the sea, stone and ceramic bathrooms and even a flatscreen and iPod docking station, all under a thatched roof and 360 degree wood-shuttered windows.

We had a delicious 3-course meal on the beach. At this ecolodge several trails through the rainforest can be explored with a naturalist to see monkeys and various endemic species of birds and other wildlife.  The lodge is run by solar power and has several other initiatives to make it the greenest accommodation in Colombia.

With that our two weeks in the Caribbean drew to a close. We were then off to Bogotá for the real work to begin – the travel trade show – and another chance to explore the capital city at its high and cool altitude of 2640m (7900 feet!).

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EcoCamp: Adventure in Patagonia

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Suite Domes

Have you ever dreamt of sleeping in an igloo or a traditional native hut?  Imagine a clear dome where you can see out to the stars, feel like you are sleeping in the wilderness but have the comfort and luxury of a hotel room.  This is EcoCamp. Probably the most intriguing feature is that the hotel is portable. Each winter the domes are removed. Now that is a small environmental footprint!

Daniel Sanhueza shares the vision of EcoCamp Patagonia and how it came to be the most ecologically sustainable and unique experience south of the Amazon:

“At the tip of the South American continent, in the heart of Patagonia in Torres del Paine National Park (Chile), we created the EcoCamp, the 1st sustainable lodging south of the Amazon, and the only one of its kind in Patagonia.

The Ecocamp, founded in 1998 and completed by January 2000, was conceived and engineered as an example of sustainable practices in wilderness areas. It hopes to inspire and motivate not only travelers but also the tourism industry towards the possibilities of lodging in wilderness areas with minimal human impact. In 2005 the entire establishment was moved to a new location. By 2008 we had gained enough experience in dealing with comfort in a sustainable manner, that we were able to create new Suite Domes at the Ecocamp.

Our commitment to sustainability through technology arose as our response to the destruction of the amazing Bio Bio river valley and the displacement of its aboriginal community in the years 1993 to 1996. The EcoCamp is still a prototype, but it is a modest contribution to creating new ideas and values during a period obsessed with “progress” that often brings massive destruction to our natural realms.

EcoCamp is a tribute to Kaweskar dwellings and way of life.

The basic premise in designing the EcoCamp was to maintain the nomadic spirit of Patagonia’s ancient inhabitants. These early peoples lived in harmony with “Mother Nature” and built their geodesic shaped huts from wood, fur, skins, and other organic materials which they hunted and gathered from their surroundings.

The Kaweskar, together with many other nomadic cultures, developed an environmentally responsible shelter. They made no demand on natural resources, stayed only a few nights in each place and placed very little importance on keeping material goods. The semicircular huts they built were simple and easy to install and dismantle and the fires built inside where enough to heat all occupants.

Communities had no hierarchy whatsoever and were formed by self- sufficient and independent families. They married for love, practiced monogamy, and had a very well established moral and ethical code involving a deep spiritual world with one god.
Their happiness relied not on possessing goods, but rather in moving about with complete freedom, counting on the individual as a source of self esteem, and nature was the source of well being.

Sadly, in a story repeated across much of Latin America, by 1880 the European settlers that had arrived in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego in search of gold, furs, and wool displaced, slaughtered, and brought diseases to these people and by the 1920’s they were almost completely extinct.”


EcoCamp Patagonia is truly an inspiration to sustainable lodging and green travel. is saying keep up the good work!




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