Tag Archives: travel

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.


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.


Hidden Gems of Costa Rica

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Costa Rica

Do you ever wish you could travel with your own local guide, and have them take you to their favorite places? Perhaps it would also be helpful to talk to a local before you go, and gather advice and recommendations from people who really know the country – not just from other tourists who have been there for a short vacation.

Well, that’s exactly what booking with GreenSpot allows you to do, and in celebration of our 10 year anniversary this month, we are sharing a few of these Costa Rica hidden gems with our GreenSpot friends.

We are extremely proud to be listed as a Conde Nast Top Travel Specialist for Costa Rica, and to be on Wendy Perrin’s WOW list of trusted travel experts. This means that over the past 10 years our expertise and GreenSpot style has won the hearts of our clients time and again.

Without further adieux…here are few places and experiences that you probably won’t find on the average Costa Rica travSlothel guide.

Luckily, you know some locals…

Playa Biesanz – Manuel Antonio National Park is one of Costa Rica’s most popular tourist destinations. During high season, the beaches can become very crowded. Biesanz beach is a nearby, mostly secluded beach that is a favorite with locals and offers excellent snorkeling or kayaking (bring your own gear). Your best bet for getting there is to ask a local where to find the trail along the side of the road, which winds through wildlife inhabited jungle. It’s highly likely you’ll spot a squirrel monkey, and two and three-toed sloth are also often visible along the trail.


Lunch at Villa Caletas – Ideally located halfway between San Jose and Manuel Antonio, this is the perfect place to pause for a good meal and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. We hear time and again from our clients that the food and exceptional view were a bright highlight of the day.

Villa Caletas Costa Rica

Photo: Villa Caletas

Cerro de la Muerte – This is one of Costa Rica’s highest peaks, and on a clear day you can see both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. This beautiful place gets its disturbing name (translated to mean Hill of Death) from pre-highway days, when travel by horseback or on foot was extremely treacherous. These days, it is still a rather adventurous route, but you can drive to the summit and hike down through several different ecosystems, finishing in the charming village of San Gerardo de Dota. Your chances of spotting the resplendent quetzal are high in this area and compared to touristy Monteverde, this cloud forest remains raw and authentically beautiful.

resplendent quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

Park Café and Antique Shop – Housed inside an old-world hacienda, this remarkable place combines antiques, interior design and a fabulous restaurant. Becoming increasingly popular with locals, this place is receiving rave reviews for its exquisite food, prepared by an acclaimed master chef. Combining great food with an abundance of charming antiques, this is a unique place you won’t soon forget.

Park Cafe

Photo: Park Café

Marina Ballena National Park – Named after the humpback whales that migrate to this region, this off-the-beaten-path spot along the Central Pacific coast, includes 9 miles of protected coastline and ocean. Not only an excellent spot for whale watching, there is peaceful rainforest, quiet beaches, wildlife viewing opportunities and prehistoric sites in the area. Ask us about some fabulous hotels from where to base yourself within this incredible biologically diverse setting.

Ballena Infocenter (2)

Photo: Ronald Monge Arias

Doña Mara– We believe that the local people are the true hidden gems of any country. So in true GreenSpot style, Doña Mara easily concludes this list. This is where having local friends comes in handy. If you want a truly genuine experience and perhaps the opportunity to practice your Spanish (or a guide will translate), you are welcomed into Doña Mara’s home with a smile and a hug. Here you can enjoy a delicious authentic lunch and also try your hand at making tortillas, tamales or even a full cooking or dancing lesson. It won’t take long to feel at home.

Doña Mara cooking lesson

Photo: Warren Holder

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.


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.


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!

10 Year Anniversary Photo Contest!

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We are very excited to announce, that in honor of GreenSpot’s 10th Anniversary, we’re running a photo contest! The winner will be rewarded with 500 Green Bucks, toward their next GreenSpot trip ($500 off). Choose from any one of our destinations! From the entries, we will also select a top 10 and feature them on our blog.

To enter, please send us your favorite travel photo that celebrates culture or nature, and be sure to tell us what the photo means to you. Post your photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag us @greenspottravel. Also use the hashtag #GreenSpotContest.

Don’t forget to share with friends! Submission deadline has been extended to: March 24th.

Please see our terms & conditions below:

1. The promoter is: GreenSpot Travel

2. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.

3. Closing date for entry will be March 24th, 2016. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.

4. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.

5. The rules of the competition and the prize for each winner are as follows: Top 10 photos to be used on our blog. One winner will receive $500 off their next GreenSpot trip to any one of our destinations chosen by the entrant.

6. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in any event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.

7. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.

8. No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable and are subject to availability.

9. Winners will be chosen based on entry rules:

  • “A travel photo which celebrates culture or nature and gives a description of what it means to you”
  • The promoter will appoint an independent judge of photos submitted.
  • Photo must be an original – the entrant must own the rights to the image.

10. The winner will be notified by email and/or letter within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.

11. The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.

12. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.

13. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by United States law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts.

14. The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material related to the competition (without payment) by GreenSpot Travel. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current U.S. data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.

15. This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook, Twitter or any other Social Network. You are providing your information to GreenSpot Travel and not to any other party.



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:


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.


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.





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