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Dona Mara’s Organic Garden

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Have you ever thought about having your own organic garden in your backyard, Dona Mara? That was my question to her while we were sitting in her open-air Costa Rican kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, after she was done with her Sunday routine (church and bingo). Didn’t really get an answer to my question. She just stood up and said, “Let’s do it!” This senora can go forever, and off we started putting together a plan. Don Matias arrived Monday morning with shovel in hand, ready to stir the dirt and make a series of five long lanes. Even at 75, he takes as many dirt-moving clients as possible to keep the income flowing … It is very typical of Dona Mara to get as many people from the community involved as possible in whatever project she is up to. That, I certainly admire.

When Don Matias was done, we went to the pulperia (local store) and got some radish, cilantro, mustard, cucumber, and tomatoes seeds and planted them. So next time you visit her for lunch and some tortilla making lessons, you’ll likely be served some of the produce from our work that week in the garden.

Our Favorite Hotel of the Week

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“Serenity and peace combined with stunning natural beauty” are the words that have been used to describe the setting of this eco resort.

Spot: Jicaro Island Ecolodge

Location: Granada Isletas, Nicaragua

The Good Stuff: Set on a private tropical island with only 9 two-story casitas, Jicaro Ecolodge is an upscale nature resort. An ideal setting for a variety of travelers who want to experience adventures, romance, and rejuvenation.

What We Love: A secluded island getaway, Jicaro is the perfect upscale alternative to hotels and resorts in downtown Granada.

 Green Cred: Water is heated with solar panels; focus on reduce, recycle, reuse; all staff are from the local area and food and other products such as food and furnishings are sourced locally as well. Use of organic and biodegradable soaps, cleaning detergents and spa products; Chlorine free systems to clean water in the pool, Energy efficient lighting and illumination throughout the island.

Monkey Poo in the Shower?

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Shady trees make the best beach umbrellas. Nestled among trees and lush vegetation on the secluded Santa Teresa Beach on the western coast of the Nicoya Peninsula, we found ourselves at Latitude 10. Sustainability is just given equal weight here as comfort and relaxation. We drove from the Arenal Area, through the long thin town of Puntarenas. A lazy ride on the ferry across the Gulf of Nicoya, and finally an adventurously bumpy road towards Montezuma and past Mal Pais got us here to Santa Teresa Beach. The total length of the trip was around 6 and a half hours (we didn’t time our arrival at the ferry just right, being in no hurry, and we stopped and ate at a favorite restaurant at Hotel Tambor Tropical in Tambor).

 It was dark by the time we got to the road that runs up the coast through the little surf towns here. Surfers returning from their wavy day gave us a tropical welcome as we were looking for a sign for our hotel… Guess what? Latitude 10 is a Costa Rica beach hotel, very much a boutique property, striving to be as sustainable as possible. Low-key hominess in a beach-luxury atmosphere is also a goal. So there are no signs at all along the road. It’s a move that warms our hearts, as the overabundance of signs in some areas of Costa Rica and other tourism destinations detracts markedly from the experience. It did take us a little longer to get here, since basically the only way to find the hotel with the naked eye at night is to know where it is. Or get here during the day so you can see the small sign in the entrance. Our solution for arriving at night – stop at a friendly looking clapboard house and ask the locals how to get there. Two minutes later and we were here.

The beach right in front of the hotel has a soft strip of sand and then is rocky as you move out toward the ocean, creating some inviting pools with all kinds of marine life. An ideal beach scenario for the young kids with us.  Just two hundred yards down the beach is the wide expanse of sand known as Mal Pais, with a sprinkling of surfers and surf wannabe’s. Or just as inviting for those of us who love to run on the beach. Low tide lets you run for miles.

The area gets a little more crowded when Costa Rica surfing really kicks in after the middle of November. But on a glorious August day, there was just the ride balance of sun, surf, scenery and local beach scene flavor. After working up a lather running in the sun, there was an interesting surprise in the open-air shower of our huge bathroom.

Latitude 10 has done a wonderful job designing gigantic bathrooms for each of the detached units here. Instead of looking up at a white ceiling while showering, you look up at the canopy of the tropical forest. This does, however, create some unexpected housekeeping challenges. My post-run shower had to wait a few minutes while the attentive staff got the astonishingly large amount of Howler monkey scat cleaned out of the shower floor. Pretty sure it was the large male leader of the troupe, and as he swung by he decided to leave us that little gift to remind us that we’re in his domain.

Back inside our suite sitting on our private balcony facing the ocean, just a few yards from the beach, the friendly lizards, iguanas and some other rainforest insects stared at us curiously. With the high tide’s waves crashing on the rocky beach outside, feeling very much a part of the surrounding environment, I picked up the little hotel manual (printed on recycled paper).

Is Latitude 10 for you!? Read the four following hotel highlights below and decide for yourselves.

– Latitude 10 casitas are tucked amongst the native vegetation, the wooden structures have shades but no windows.

-There are no locks on the doors

– There’s no a/c

– The bathrooms are completely open-air with large hot water showers and gardens (and regular wildlife visits)

Overall my take is that it has an upscale feeling, but is not overdone.

Amazing Thailand Always Amazes You

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A slogan that I had the opportunity to experience on my own, as I headed to the TTM + 2011 (Thailand Tourism Mart) in Bangkok.  Before I got there, I kept painting pictures in my mind of what I’ve read and seen in books about this exotic country. Southeast Asia…?! Never thought I would be on this soil, but I guess it happened!

The only country in the region, that hasn’t been touched by the French and British colonization, featuring dense jungles, secluded beaches, tasty dishes, a culture that inspires me, and some type of spiritual connection that softens my soul.

 The North part with a mix of people from China and Myanmar and architecture from the pinnacle of the Golden Lanna Age, a region full of history dating back to the 7th century.

The Northeast part or Isan, rich with assets from the Khmer empire, and home to Thailand’s first National park, Khao Yai.

The East, with its stunning beaches, that invite you to melt in the sand and warm waters, as you merge yourself with the sounds of the local language that you might or not understand, but still sounds beautiful to your ears.

 The South, the prime location for yachting, scuba diving, and spas. Also the location chosen by the giant sea turtles, to lay their eggs from February to November.

 And Central Bangkok, where the adventure begins. A city inhabited by 10 million people, with busy and vibrant streets at night that would give you a good taste of the local atmosphere in the city.

International Tourism Fair in Nicaragua

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GreenSpot.travel is getting ready again to participate in the Second International Tourism Fair (FENITUR) in Nicaragua, organized by the Nicaraguan National Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) and AC Eventos, with support from the Nicaraguan Tourism Board (INTUR). The idea is to promote Nicaragua’s beauty through us, international tour companies from Canada, United States, Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Honduras, including some media partners. Nicaragua has long been overlooked as a world-class destination, and still remains unvisited by many. But in the last few years, everybody has been asking themselves the same question, is Nicaragua the next Costa Rica?

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