Category Archives: ecotourism

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.

Costa Rica indigenous community

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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Pura Vida Luxury Wellness Retreat

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Costa Rica

Have you been longing to escape daily stress and treat yourself to a special trip that will enrich your mind, body, and soul? We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our new wellness retreat program, designed with our partners at The Shorter Approach.

The inaugural retreat will take place in Costa Rica Oct 8-15, 2016 – a week-long adventure hosted by wellness expert Michele Shorter. Michele is a wellness advocate and has 18 years of experience training clients from all fitness levels and backgrounds.A brown throated three toed sloth spotted by Valerie on the _ManuelAntonio national park tour. _arenasdelma

We worked with Michele to craft a special itinerary focused on health and wellness, for men and women of all fitness levels. Throughout the retreat, you’ll have the chance to stay in two enchanting eco-lodges, eat local, healthy cuisine and participate in a fun, action-packed agenda that will help you get flexible, strong and energized.

And what better destination to host the retreat than Costa Rica? Renowned for being one of the world’s five Blue Zones, Costa Rica is not only a longevity hotspot because of the clean air and lush setting which encourages outdoor activity, but for the laid-back ‘pura vida’ lifestyle that rubs off on all who visit.

We invite you to have a look at the itinerary below and contact us if you are interested in signing up or have any questions. Pre and post-extensions are also available for those who would like to explore more of the country.

Day 1 – Arrival at Finca Rosa Blanca Resort

Arrive from home or from your pre-extension and transfer to Finca Rosa Blanca. This coffee farm plantation and luxurious inn lies in the central valley highlands of Costa Rica, a short distance from the San Jose International Airport.

We’ll kick off our wellness retreat with introductions and goal-setting conversation. Throughout the evening we’ll enjoy tapas and beverages and get to know each other and build a foundation of support for a rejuvenating week in gorgeous Costa Rica!

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Day 2 – Yoga, Fitness & Exploration

Wake up to a morning of yoga, as well as the opportunity to explore Finca Rosa Blanca’s beautiful grounds. We’ll also spend time thinking about the food and beverage that we nourish our bodies with. Today we’ll work up a sweat by exploring the beautiful resort and we’ll work on strength and spend time enjoying the amazing environment.

Wellness retreat Costa RicaWe’ll also dive into our fitness & wellness goal-setting session and take part in a coffee tasting tour at Finca Rosa Blanca. There will also be a cooking demo, where we’ll talk nutrition while harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs from the resort’s organic greenhouse. Prepare a fresh salad with the chef in a personalized cooking class. Plus, this evening’s dinner will feature an innovative coffee-themed experience, utilizing coffee from the hotel’s plantation in creative ways throughout each course, including wine pairings. Overnight at Finca Rosa Blanca [BLD]

Day 3 – Hiking, Salsa Dancing & Planning for Nourishment

Today we’ll focus on a various components of our holistic approach to wellness – staying active, nourishing ourselves with healthy food in our lives, while we enjoy nature. We’ll get our bodies moving with a hike to one of Costa Rica’s magnificent volcanoes where we’ll get a chance to observe some fantastic wildlife, including the red spider monkey and the Fabulous Quetzal. Later, we’ll take time to dive deeper into our goal-setting efforts and begin thinking about (and trying a few of) the activities that help us to maximize our best selves. In the evening we’ll continue moving with early evening salsa lessons. Overnight at Finca Rosa Blanca [BLD]

Day 4 – Bootcamp & Yoga at Manuel Antonio National Park

We’ll wake up this morning and say farewell to our hosts at Finca Rosa Blanca, before heading to Manuel Antonio National Park, with its expansive white sand beaches backed by evergreen forest. Here we’ll stay at the five-star luxury resort, Arenas del Mar, where we’ll workout in a picturesque setting and dig into creating your personalized wellness action plan. Enjoy a nourishing dinner and sunset yoga session. Overnight at Arenas del Mar Resort [BLD]

Arenas del Mar - Photo Cayuga Collection

Photo Cayuga Collection

Day 5 – Ocean Fun & Nutrition

It’s time to play at the ocean! You may choose a kayak tour through protected inland waterways, which allow you to combine adventure with education, as you learn about the Mangrove Forest and its inhabitants, including the white-face capuchin monkey and a vast array of birds. Alternatively, you might decide to try stand-up paddle boarding (SUP). There is free time to savor the beach or have an optional spa appointment to nourish your body. We’ll also continue our discussions around planning nourishment for wellness. Overnight at Arenas del Mar Resort [BLD]

Day 6 – Wellness Action Planning 

Today we’ll explore the national park with a morning hike on a coastal and tropical forest trail. You’ll solidify your action plan to guide you towards achieving your fitness and wellness goals once our Costa Rica retreat wraps up. We’ll take part in an informative “Easy Being Green” tour where we’ll learn about Costa Rica history, nature and sustainable practices. You will learn strategies for reducing waste, saving energy, and having a positive impact on the environment, which you can apply in your own home as a component of a healthy lifestyle. We will reserve some free time to spend at the beach or an optional spa treatment. Overnight at Arenas del Mar Resort [BLD]

Day 7 – Departure or Begin Post-extension

Today, return to San Jose on a local flight or continue your adventure in Costa Rica with a post-extension.  [B]IMG_0850

Details:

Price of the trip: $3,295 USD per person based on double occupancy, not including airfare. Package price will be higher for guests requesting a single room and slightly lower for groups of three sharing a room.

Pre and post extensions are available — please contact GreenSpot for help designing your perfect trip. Extension ideas include:

  • Silencio Lodge Cloud Forest
  • Copa de Arbol / Osa Peninsula
  • Harmony / Nosara area
  • Dominical area / Kura

Note: for guests traveling on pre or post extensions, transfers may require additional cost.

Contact us today to secure your space!

kayak costa Rica

Ten Incredible Things to do in Iceland

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Ten Incredible things in Iceland

Situated on the fringe of the Arctic Circle, Iceland’s abundant and diverse natural wonders are enough to make your jaw drop. The destination is sometimes called the Land of Fire and Ice because of its rumbling volcanoes, bubbling earth and shifting glaciers, which are still shaping the unique and stunning landscape. Combine this striking natural beauty with crisp, clean air, and you have an outdoor enthusiast’s dream come true.

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However, Iceland is not only for adventure-seekers. The people who inhabit this Nordic country have a fascinating culture that embraces literature, music, fashion, cuisine, ancient sagas, and even a few mythical creatures. Read on to see the incredible things visitors can see and do in this country of vivid beauty and intriguing culture. And keep in mind, this list only scratches the surface!

Visit Natural Hot Springs

There is no denying that the Blue Lagoon deserves to be among Iceland’s top attractions. The steamy, aquamarine water, set against the contrasting black, volcanic landscape is too alluring to pass up. However, if you desire hot springs but are averse to crowds, there are numerous spots where you can soak in a mineral-rich bath while taking in a  stunning view.

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Walk on a Glacier

Secure a guide (that’s important!), strap on some crampons, and grab an ice pick, for a thrilling and gorgeous stroll over a massive ice formation. It’s not something you get to do every day. Although glaciers are impressive from far away, they are truly extraordinary when you’re right on top.

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See the Northern Lights

This bucket-list-worthy phenomenon is never a guarantee, but your chance of seeing the Northern Lights in Iceland is quite high. This is especially true in the shorter, darker, winter months, though don’t rule out April or September.

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Ride an Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse is sometimes referred to as a pony, yet that doesn’t aptly define the combination of grace and power that this unique animal possesses. Beautiful and a real treat to ride, this hardy breed has mastered a special gait that helps it navigate over the rough Icelandic terrain.

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Watch Great Geysir Explode

If you’ve witnessed the blast of a geyser in the past, perhaps you didn’t know that its namesake originated in Iceland. Great Geysir is the oldest known geyser in Europe and the word geyser comes from the Icelandic verb geysa, meaning “to gush”. It’s a timely and extraordinary sight, for young and old alike.

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Hike Behind a Waterfall

It’s true that Iceland is covered in magnificent waterfalls of all shapes and sizes, and you’ll never tire of their splendor and beauty. At Seljalandsfoss, it’s possible to get up close and personal with one of the best, as you walk behind the powerful force of cascading water.

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Indulge in Authentic Food

Icelandic cuisine has a long history and is an important part of the country’s culture. Like many other Nordic countries, the necessity of preservation during long, harsh winters made pickling and fermentation a popular ritual. Dried and fermented shark are specialties in Iceland (pictured below), though I much prefer the small, delicious lobster (also pictured below). You can read more about Icelandic food here.

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Take a Boat on a Glacial Lagoon

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon is a result of the rapidly retreating Breiðamerkurjökull glacier. Gleaming blue ice drifts through this spectacular spot, creating astonishing ice sculptures, which can be seen from shore. Better yet, hop on a boat  for a tremendous ride across the other-worldly lagoon.

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Hike Around Landmannalaugar

Adding to the list of must-see places that are difficult to pronounce, Landmannalaugar is a wondrous nature reserve, consisting of mountains and valleys of swirling earth tones unlike anywhere else in the world. Whether a day-trip from Reykjavik or part of a multi-day hiking itinerary, it’s a favorite with locals and visitors alike.

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Visit Thingvellir National Park

Located in a rift valley along the Mid-Atlantic ridge, it would be amiss not to mention Thingvellir National Park. This location is home to the Icelandic parliament, which is the oldest in the world, established by Vikings is AD 930. It is a place of immense natural beauty, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical, cultural and geological importance.

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To start planning your dream trip to Iceland, have a look at our sample itineraries or contact us.

GreenSpot.travel kicks off tenth anniversary celebration, welcoming new president and managing director

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Tamarindo Beach, Costa Rica

Press Release:

GreenSpot.travel, a leading experiential travel designer for custom eco-luxe vacations, has kicked off its tenth anniversary celebration with the announcement that the company has expanded its team, welcoming Jeremy Sampson and Selena Solis to senior leadership positions.

Other announcements for this year include the recent expansion of trips to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, the planned unveiling of a reimagined website featuring GreenSpot’s growing list of destinations, and a special-access custom anniversary trip to be announced in coming weeks.

Galapagos Islands travel

In his new role with GreenSpot, Sampson oversees operations, destination development, and implementation of the company’s marketing strategy. A travel industry veteran who has worked in more than a dozen countries, Sampson balances a diverse set of cross-functional management skills with experience in sustainable tourism, social enterprise development, and community engagement. Sampson joined GreenSpot after a five-year stint at international NGO Sustainable Travel International, where he was most recently vice president of partnership development.

Solis, a native Costa Rican born and raised in San Jose, has worked in the travel industry for more than 25 years, focusing on trip operations and travel planning for upscale travelers and special interest guests, making her an essential asset to the team. Before joining GreenSpot, Solis managed an inbound tour operator and spent time exploring Nicaragua while working at Morgan’s Rock Ecolodge. In her new role, Solis oversees in-country operations for GreenSpot Costa Rica.

Ecuador HummingbirdSampson and Solis join a staff that includes company founders Irene and Richard Edwards, both of whom are Conde Nast Top Traveler Specialists for Costa Rica and continue to play integral roles at the company. GreenSpot is also a 2016 Trusted Travel Expert for Costa Rica on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List.

“We are thrilled to have Jeremy and Selena join the team,” says Irene Edwards. “Their expertise in the tourism industry, strong leadership skills, and deep commitment to meaningful personal and professional relationship building make them both valued assets to our team as we evolve.”

While Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua have been GreenSpot’s geographic focus to date, the company is thoughtfully expanding based on customer demand and enthusiasm for exploring new places. New destinations recently launched include Iceland, the Yucatan Peninsula (Mexico), and Ecuador and the Galapagos. All destinations were selected based on extensive research and relationship building that align with GreenSpot’s values, including high standards of quality and social responsibility.

GreenSpot was founded on the idea that travel should support conservation and the well-being of destination residents. The GreenSpot team has deep experience in sustainable travel including community engagement, enterprise development, and best practices in responsible tourism.

“Our wish is that travelers are able to learn about conservation, biodiversity, and culture while experiencing just the right mix of adventure and relaxation they desire from a getaway,” says Sampson. “GreenSpot makes a point of getting to know the communities, companies, and local business people we work with, and we only recommend accommodations and activities that we have experienced and are aligned with our values.”

About GreenSpot.traveltree frog, Costa Rica

GreenSpot partners with travelers through its patented Trip Design approach to design customized vacations and unrivaled ecotourism experiences in destinations like Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Iceland. GreenSpot trips inspire meaningful exchanges with people and places, and leverage the top-rated boutique hotels, eco-lodges, and activity providers. As a result, GreenSpot clients embark on vacations that align with their values, including high standards of quality and social responsibility. GreenSpot has been a Condé Nast Traveler Top Costa Rica Specialist since 2006 and is included on Wendy Perrin’s 2016 WOW List as a Trusted Travel Expert for Costa Rica. www.greenspot.travel

Ecuador: Why 2016 is the Year to Go

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Why 2016 is the year to go

Have you been postponing those New Year’s resolutions? What about the one where you finally book that trip of a lifetime? Procrastination is not usually your friend, but if you’ve been putting off a dream trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, waiting until now might have been a blessing in disguise.

Ecuador has always had a lot going for it, but the destination has stepped up its game in recent years, and last October it was named South America’s leading tourist destination at the World Travel Awards!

Here are a few reason why we think Ecuador is a 2016 hotspot:

Better Accessibility with New Flights

Starting in February, discount airline Jet Blue will fly nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to Quito. Also, Ecuador’s premier airline, TAME, recently introduced nonstop flights from New York to Guayaquil. Flying to Ecuador only takes a few hours from the southern USA. You can get there easily from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Atlanta and New York. And if you’re headed to the Olympics in Brazil this year, you could seamlessly make Ecuador a stopover!

Quito’s Renovations

Ecuador’s capital city is complimenting its UNESCO heritage charm with some 21st century renovations. A handy new metro system* is opening this year, conveniently carrying people from the bus station to all of the important and historic districts across town. Coupled with a new, conveniently located airport and revamped train station, there is a fresh glow to Quito’s old-world appeal. Many colonial treasures remain in the heart of this city, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and volcanoes that call out to adventure enthusiasts.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Increase in Galapagos Penguins

Unlike their cold-water-relatives, Galapagos penguins are special because they have adapted to the warmer climate of the islands. Expert conservationists created shady nesting sites for this extremely rare and most endangered penguin species, and this has resulted in a doubling of their population. If you’ve ever wanted to see them, or perhaps even swim with them, you now have twice the opportunity!

Galapagos Islands cruise

Galapagos Islands Family Cruise

The Cultural Experience you Crave

There is a growing desire for more authentic and meaningful holiday experiences like the ones we offer at GreenSpot. This means travelers are seeking out destinations with significant cultural draw. Ancient traditions are alive and well across Ecuador. Stumbling upon authentic cultural encounters is as easy as strolling through a bustling market. Strike up a conversation with weavers who are making Panama hats – which are not only a hot fashion trend, but are in fact Ecuadorian.

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Colorful Ecuador

Go Green in 2016!

For Ecuador, ‘going green in 2016’ is not just a catchy rhyme. Their Ministry of Tourism has recently adopted sustainability standards for the country’s tourism sector. This means that the country recognizes the importance of working toward sound tourism policies and will actively protect Ecuador’s heritage so that future generations can benefit from it. Also, responsible-minded travelers have plenty of award-winning, green hotels to choose from in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian hacienda

Ecuadorian hacienda

Contact us to discuss your 2016 dream trip to Ecuador.

*Updated January 25, 2016: Sadly, like many transportation and construction projects, we have received news that the completion of Quito’s new metro has been delayed.  However, it is coming and we will keep you updated!

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