Category Archives: Food

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

GreenSpot’s Costa Rica Top Tips

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Costa Rica

Continuing our 10th anniversary celebration this month, we’re sharing some hand-picked Costa Rica travel tips with you from our award-winning Costa Rica expert, Irene Edwards. So feel free to take notes, or better yet, give us a call so we can help you connect all these dots together. We’d love to assist you in designing an itinerary that is personalized just for you.

Where to Stay

At GreenSpot we’ve pre-selected a collection of properties that we can personally recommend based on their ability to deliver an unforgettable experience while demonstrating a commitment to environment and local communities. Just a few examples include:

If it’s eco-luxury you’re after, look no further than El Silencio Lodge & Spa. Nestled within lush cloud forest, and 90 minutes from the San Jose airport, El Silencio is perfect for those who wish to splurge on a pristine jungle setting. The 16 breathtaking bungalows feature panoramic views of the Pacific, and the two-bedroom villas offer private balconies and outdoor hot tubs.El Silencio masterfully demonstrates how beautiful design, luxury and comfort do not need to come at the expense of local resources. The restaurant at the lodge is one of the best in the country, with many ingredients coming from their own on-site organic garden.

For exceptional value, the Sunset Ranchos at La Paloma Lodge on the Osa Peninsula are one of our top picks! Imagine falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and waking up to the lively chatter of the jungle. Catch the sunset from the comfort of your own private balcony or do a little wildlife viewing from your windows. The detached bungalows sleep 5-6 people, with beds and baths on each level, so the two-story layout is perfect for families, or for sharing with friends. This allows the value of this spectacular lodge to stretch even farther!

Costa Rica ecolodge

Where to Eat

Not far from San Jose, in the hills of Santa Bárbara de Heredia, you can find El Tigre Vestido restaurant, which is not only beloved by locals, but a real perk for those staying at the Finca Rosa Blanca hotel. Most of the produce is grown on-site and the hotel now offers a culinary program called Sabor!, which includes private cooking classes, various insider tasting opportunities (such as cheese, meat, and chocolate), guided nature hikes, and an innovative coffee-themed dinner, utilizing coffee from the hotel’s plantation.

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If you’re looking to indulge, try Kapi Kapi (a Maleku word meaning “welcome”).  This classy establishment is located near Manuel Antonio National Park and specializes in fresh seafood. Using fresh-caught seafood from Quepos, just down the hill, Kapi Kapi’s takes traditional Costa Rican flavors and gives them a French and Asian influence. Be sure to ask about the catch of the day!

Another fresh and healthy option is Nectar at Flor Blanca, located on the beautiful Nicoya peninsula. This oasis of wellness is surrounded by pristine beaches, so you can watch the ocean waves crash along the beach as you dine.

What to Eat

For those with a bit of an adventurous palate, who would like to try the best of Costa Rica’s traditional dishes, don’t miss San Jose’s Mercado Central (Central Market). Traditional dishes to try include olla de carne and a beef stew prepared with sweet potatoes, squash, chayote, and corn.

For a typical Tico lunch with the locals, ask us about a visit to Dona Mara’s house for the best carne en salsa! Learn how to make traditional tortillas and experience lunch prepared over a wood burning stove.

If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to seek out the chocolate cake at the Hotel Grano de Oro, located in the outskirts of San Jose.  You’ll be dreaming about it for weeks afterwards.

What to Do

Osa Peninsula, home to Corcovado National Park is still one of our favorite spots in Costa Rica. The peninsula’s remoteness leads many travelers to easier-to-reach rain forest. We believe the abundance of wildlife is superb in this area due to majestic old-growth trees, making it worth the extra bit of effort to get here.

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The Turrialba region is often overlooked, however there are many good reasons to prioritize it in your itinerary. The region is relatively close to San Jose (2.5 hours) yet you will feel a million miles away, with rural traditions alive and well, where Pre-Columbian ruins can be found at Guayabo and the Turrialba Volcano is located (currently Costa Rica’s most active).  This is also home to the Pacuare River, which is excellent for Class II, IV, and V rapids. You could also visit plantations and farms that produce sugar cane, coffee and macadamia.

Other simple pleasures, such as taking a walk in the park are worth a mention. We love to remind our travelers that this is a great way to immerse yourself in local life. Costa Rican towns are built around a central square and this is where everyone goes to stroll and socialize – especially on Sundays after church. Grab a bench in the central square and watch traditional life pass by. The friendly Costa Ricans will likely stop and engage in conversation.

If you are looking to decompress and truly unwind, consider making your trip a wellness retreat! Named one of the world’s healthy blue zones, wellness packages are increasingly popular in Costa Rica. You might consider starting your day with yoga on the beach, then go for a hike in the pristine natural environment, followed by a relaxing massage in the evening.

Spa Costa Rica

 

What Not to Do

Monteverde Cloud Forest has become more developed over the years with hotels, restaurants, tour offices and shops, making it less attractive and no longer worth the effort of getting there. Once a prime spot for cloud forest adventure, Monteverde has more recently been listed as people’s least favorite Costa Rican experience. Furthermore, the road to get there has not been improved, making it a bumpy, long trek to reach it, which can be tiring for families with young kids.

We hope these tips have inspired you to consider making Costa Rica your next holiday destination spot. Helping you plan a trip that is just right for you and your travel companions is what we love to do most, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Hit the Seasonal Fast-Forward Button

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Ah, March. Those of us who reside in the Northern Hemisphere, can already see the soft glow of sunlight at the end of the long winter tunnel. We say to ourselves, “I made it! Spring is on the way!”

But when we look out the window, we notice the wind blow through bare tree branches dripping with rain. Then we step outside to feel the warm sun, only to receive the sting of the still-frosty air on our faces. Reluctantly, we wrap our scarf tighter around our necks. Sigh. It’s still winter.

Meanwhile somewhere else in the world looks like this:

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And people are sipping on drinks that look like this:

Costa Rica travel

Before you say to yourself, “that’s not fair”, take a moment to imagine your feet outside of wooly socks and rain boots, toes sinking in the sand, a ripple of seawater washing over them. The setting sun still feels warm on your skin.

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Despite the remaining cold and dark days, March is the perfect month to hit the fast-forward button and begin dreaming about summer in Costa Rica or Ecuador. During this time of year, planning your dash down south is a clever way to cheat the seasons and kick-start your warm, summertime soul.

What are you waiting for?  Fast-forward to summer and contact our expert Trip Designers today.

 

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.

Mountain Muesli and Other Icelandic Specialties

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I don’t think I’ll go on another camping trip or overnight trek without three essentials: muesli, cocoa powder and hot water. Mixed together, these three ingredients make an easy, on-the-go breakfast of chocolaty, hot cereal, which our trekking guide referred to as “mountain muesli”. Okay, it may not be an Icelandic specialty, but after 2 days of trekking amidst mossy mountainsides and volcanic craters, this simple recipe became the breakfast of champions. We also had the best pan-fried trout I have ever eaten; but everything tastes better after a day of trekking, doesn’t it?

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With the appreciation for healthier, less processed and more sustainable foods on the rise, it is no wonder that Nordic cuisine has received so much praise recently. For example, Copenhagen’s Noma has secured the title of ‘World’s Best Restaurant’ for a few years running. While some may find Noma a little too daring (smoked moss and beef tartare with ants, anyone?) Nordic countries deserve praise for their fresh and innovative fare. Iceland’s cooler climate means there is less need for pesticides, so most farms in Iceland don’t use them. With clean mountain air and unpolluted soil and water, Iceland produces some of the purest food on the planet. Staples in Icelandic cuisine include lamb, seafood and dairy. To truly experience this, don’t forget to ask us about farm-to-table dining opportunities.

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On a food tour in Reykjavik, I had the pleasure of sampling lots of traditional foods. This is a great introduction to the cuisine and the history of the city at the same time. My favorite Icelandic food discovery? Skyr: similar to Greek yogurt in that it is thick and creamy, yet with four times the protein, calcium and vitamins of milk. It is low in sugar and has no fat. It is delicious topped with muesli, seeds, nuts, berries and a little maple syrup. Need I say more?

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If I had to choose one, my least favorite Icelandic food experience would have to be the fermented shark. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as I had been warned. The smell was worse than the taste. A swig of Brennivín (Icelandic schnapps) will wash it right down. The dried shark, on the other hand, I rather liked. It’s a bit like fish-jerky, if you can imagine – dry and salty – and the custom of smearing it with butter, is right up my alley.

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Also, my mouth waters thinking about the lobster at Fjöruborðið. Between visiting a beautiful, secluded black beach at sunset and waiting for darkness to fall, we had a fabulous meal here. Icelandic lobster may be small in size, but it is big on flavor. Ask us about our ‘Lobster and Northern Lights’ tours.

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The freshly made fish soup at Hotel Búðir (arguably one of the best places to eat on the Snæfellsnes peninsula) was also exceptional.

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Although seafood was definitely a theme as I tasted my way through Iceland, the quality and freshness of everything I ate was what impressed me the most. From hotel breakfasts (like the one at Hotel Egilsen) and lunch buffets (like at the Settlement Center in Borganes), to fancy evening meals (lobster and wine), Icelanders are proud of everything they bring to the table.

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