Category Archives: Tips

GreenSpot’s Costa Rica Top Tips

Share Button

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.

IMG_3633

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.

3059502817_5d83c99a01_o

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!

Iceland: A Year-Round Destination

Share Button

Year_round_horz

It may be no  surprise that Iceland has a condensed high season which runs from mid-June through August. After all, the country sits on the brink of the Arctic Circle, and even its name implies that it might be a cold place to visit.

What most people don’t realize is that Iceland experiences a cool, temperate climate that doesn’t reach extreme highs or lows. In spite of this, high season is high season for good reason. Many people venture to Iceland to experience its incredible natural beauty and take part in outdoor activities, so it’s no wonder that the summer months are a popular time to visit. Still, Icelanders believe it’s a mistake to rule out visiting during off-peak season.

IMG_4690

No matter when you go, Iceland’s weather can be unpredictable and you often experience multiple seasons in one day. Locals love to say: “if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes”. This is especially true during spring and autumn, when strong winds blow weather in and out at a ferocious pace. In the spring, you’re rewarded with longer days and slightly warmer temperatures. If you’ve ever wanted to see the phenomenal midnight sun, May through June is an ideal time to be in Iceland. The experience of nearly 24 hours of daylight is a great way  to extend your vacation hours!

IMG_4328

If you’re hoping to check the Northern Lights off your bucket list, a winter visit is your best bet. But don’t rule out March, April, September and October, when there is plenty of dark hours for vivid sightings. Overall, in spring and autumn, you might get variable weather, but you will also experience golden light, fewer crowds and lower prices than you would during the summer.

IMG_5617_hiquality

Yes, winters in Iceland are long (November through March) and dark (with only 3-4 hours of daylight at its peak). However, Icelanders know how to make the winter cozy and festive, especially during the Christmas season, when lights twinkle and the aroma of mulled wine fills the air. This is the perfect time to catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, and it’s also the perfect time to purchase (and wear) that wooly Icelandic sweater you’ve always wanted.

IMG_5174

During an off-peak trip, it isn’t possible to venture all over the country. Many interior roads are closed and it’s unlikely you can do a lot of hiking or trekking. Still, with charming Reykjavik as your base, it’s possible to soak in the geothermal spas during the day, go looking for Northern Lights in the evening, and take plenty of day trips to see magnificent waterfalls. You could also include an activity such as horseback riding or snowmobiling, for an unforgettable day.

IMG_5135

Iceland has been working hard to keep up with its growing tourism demand, however the compressed high season can make it difficult to find  suitable accommodations. So if you do plan to travel to Iceland during your next summer holiday, consider planning well in advance. Contact us to get started on designing your perfect visit – any time of the year.

Ten Incredible Things to do in Iceland

Share Button

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.

IMG_5129

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.

IMG_4343

IMAG5641

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.

IMG_4658

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.

normal_ps-Northern-lights-in-Iceland-~1

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.

horse and man

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.

IMG_0594

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.

IMG_4713

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.

IMG_4407

IMG_4527

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.

glacial lagoon1

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.

IMG_20130908_213012

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.

IMG_0569

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

Ecuador: Why 2016 is the Year to Go

Share Button

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.

authentic Ecuador town

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!

Travel Tips to make the Most out of Your Trip

Share Button

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.

Dart Frog costa ricaButterfly Costa Rica

Categories

Tweets

Facebook

If it’s getting colder where you live, it’s probably time to start planning some quality beach time. ... See MoreSee Less

1 week ago  ·  

Somewhere in Italy. Up these stairs lie a medieval castle... and some delightful local cheese, wine, and handmade pasta. Want us to help you find it? ... See MoreSee Less

2 weeks ago  ·