Category Archives: sustainability

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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Frequently Asked Questions: Ecuador

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These are a few questions we get most frequently from travelers interested in Ecuador. We wanted to allow our team of Ecuador experts to provide some answers.

For a preview of our sample Ecuador itineraries, please visit our website.

Q: What do you love most about Ecuador?

Amazon EcuadorA: The thing we love most about Ecuador is the element of surprise. Despite its small size, Ecuador is considered one of the most diverse countries on the planet, and it’s amazing that not many people know this. It is a country with something for everyone, including beaches, rural highlands, jungle escapes, and colonial cities.

Ecuador can satisfy every whim and desire, arguably all in one day, and recent improvements to infrastructure allow for easy access to navigate the country and explore the majority of attractions offered.

With the Pacific coast on the western side of the country, the Andes Mountains as the backbone of the country, and rivers flowing down to the Amazon, which is considered a part of Ecuador’s territory, the possibilities for adventure are endless.

Q: What special experiences can people expect when they visit Ecuador with GreenSpot?

A: Numerous special experiences await GreenSpot travelers. The obvious being of course, Galapagos Islands, where one can have close encounters with some of the most diverse and unique animals and flora on the planet.Amazon, Ecuador

But our trips go far beyond the Galapagos. The capital city of Quito is considered one of the most active cities and the home of the most picturesque and breathtaking churches. Otavalo is home to one of the largest indigenous groups in Ecuador and the location of the Otavalo Market, a must-see destination for tourists from around the globe.

As usual, our itineraries include a number of special interactions with the local people, and greater immersion in the culture. We aim to provide a deeper and more complete experience by including options such as a visit to a local school, cooking and ceramic classes, or dinner with a local fisherman, all excellent ways to connect with the community and acquire a deeper sense of Ecuador’s people.

Q: How will Ecuador surprise people?

A: Ecuador’s contemporary nature and cultural diversity will be the most surprising things to a visitor. The country is surprisingly developed, with a huge and ever-growing expat community. Additionally, the high percentage of ethnic groups further reflects the diversity of the country, which is common to see as you traveart, Ecuadorl the country.

Q: If a traveler wants to see the true Ecuador, how would they go about it?

A: They’ll come without expectations and be open and ready to soak in the local culture. Our connections with local suppliers and communities make it much easier to experience the true Ecuador.

GreenSpot clients will have an opportunity to participate in activities where they can socialize with locals. For example, our school visit includes discussions about Ecuador’s educational system and perhaps a friendly soccer competition with the children and teachers. We are also planning to add cooking classes with ingredients purchased in a local market, and dinners with local fishermen and their families, during which guests can learn more about life in Ecuador.waterfall, Ecuador

Q: Why should fans of iconic destinations like Costa Rica consider Ecuador?

A: Each country has special and unique traits. Costa Rica is an amazing country with its own culture and unbelievable tourist attractions, and it’s also a great place to live as evidenced by its huge international population. In Ecuador, visitors can experience the Andes Mountains, Spanish-influenced Colonial architecture, stunning glaciers, easily accessible ethnic groups, amazing jungle life, great density of volcanoes and prominent mountains, incredible lakes, vast wildlife, and delicious cuisine. Many visitors remark that they have experienced something a bit different in each town, and this is what Ecuador offers — diversity at its very best.

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!

Where the Wild Things Are: Why you Should Expose Kids to Wildlife

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Like most children, I grew up with a love for all things small, innocent and fluffy. For years, I begged my parents for a puppy, but since we traveled a lot, I ended up with fish, gerbils and rabbits, as they were easier to pawn-off on people when we went away.039_36

Yes, I would consider myself an animal lover from a young age. However, it wasn’t until young-adulthood, while traveling abroad, that I had the chance to see exotic animals in their natural habitat. Although I was in my mid-twenties and did not yet have children of my own, I remember thinking what an amazing opportunity it would be for a child to experiences true wildlife encounters.

Recently, as my daughter and I watched in awe, as two wild stags fought antler to antler, she expressed it perfectly when she said, “Wow! This is way better than Animal Planet!”  Wildlife documentaries are wonderful, but here are some reasons to expose kids to the real thing.

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As many parents will tell you, connecting children with wildlife helps to develop kind, thoughtful, considerate and caring qualities. As children begin to realize that not all animals are respected and cared for, they can learn about the people who are working fervently to preserve wildlife. You can discuss what your family can do to help and even visit a wildlife sanctuary to see caring in action. (Contact us and ask about such experiences!)

Promote Environmental Values

Respect for wildlife and the environment go hand-in-hand. Develop this knowledge in your kids and produce great role models and advocates of future preservation.

Do it for Health

Studies show that getting outdoors is healthy for our body and our mind. Whether you are going on a nature hike in your area, or hopping on a plane for a wildlife expedition abroad, getting children (and ourselves) to abandon computer screens will keep us moving and reduce stress.

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Education

The world is a living classroom (we can’t say it enough). Even your backyard can support a love for wildlife and educate kids about local flora and fauna. Take them on a family wildlife expedition abroad and they will return with a treasure chest of knowledge that they will never forget.

An Opportunity to Bond

A love for nature and wildlife is something that is stimulating to people of all ages. Through learning and discovering the natural world, you will find boundless wild activities to do together.

How do I find out more?

Contact us and ask about the best family itineraries for optimal wildlife viewing. Experiences can range from staying deep in the rainforest, surrounded by nature and animals, to visiting wildlife sanctuaries or locations where endangered sea turtles are nesting.

Travel Tips to make the Most out of Your Trip

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You are perhaps thinking about visiting Costa Rica. Or maybe you’re headed to the country with the happiest people on earth soon! Your smile will fit right in.

While on your trip, your focus is on relaxing, having fun and soaking in your surroundings – a vacation. But we’ve found out that using some of our most important green travel practices below sets the stage for the kind of experience that changes you a little bit – the kind you remember and talk about for a long time afterward:

Children boating Costa Rica

  • Converse with the locals! Use  HOLA, POR FAVOR and GRACIAS with at least one non English speaking Tico (Costa Rican). 
  • Capture the moment! Take a picture of your most adventurous moment in CR and consider sharing it with us (por favor??), so you can inspire other travelers!
  • Sample the exotic! Try a cajeta, pejivaye, or – one of Irene’s favorite tropical fruits – mamones, especially if you have never had one before. 
  • Think green! Be ready to spread the word with family and friends about the “greenest” experience of your trip, and help to make the world a better place.
  • Fill up! Don’t forget to take your GreenSpot water bottles with you so you can refill instead of landfill.
  • Perhaps most important of all – Respect traditional culture. Everybody is working very hard to make your trip an unforgettable experience. You are in a different country with different priorities and ideas about values, time, and even daily life. So patience, an open mind and flexibility all let you learn something new about yourself and others.

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