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Friday, February 24, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Horseback Riding in Puerto Vallarta

This day trip started with a fast zodiac boat ride with the family across glorious Banderas Bay. Led by the outfitter Vallarta Adventures, we landed on the docks of the seaside village of Quimixto. We walked on cobblestone streets past the sleeping chihuahas and soon made our way to a pack of horses that were waiting to take us up the mountainous hillside. We got out of the saddle, only to find a hidden waterfall where we swam in the cool waters. After horseback riding, we snorkeled with a slew of angelfish and then had a delicious lunch on a quiet beach farther south in Pizotita. Our guide, Poncho, made a helluva margarita for the adults, while the kids were served coconut juice. Life was bliss and we laughed when Poncho said “Where are all the bandits in their big sombreros and guns blazing?” It was so peaceful here that my daughter wandered over to hammock and took a nap. 

 
I’ll be in Miami all next week, back the week of March 6 with fresh content. Stay active, my friend. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/24/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands

On the boat ride over to Floreana, dolphins were jumping in the wake. Our lodging for the next two nights was the Floreana Lava Lodge, simple wooden cabins on the beach with the sound of pounding waves to lull you to sleep. The owners, a brother and sister team of Claudio and Aura, were two of 12 siblings that were brought up on the island. Their father and mother moved to Floreana in 1939 and today there are only 150 full-time residents. 

 
The following day was my favorite of the entire Ecuador trip. Claudio and our guide Carlos drove us high into the hills to first see giant tortoises, many over 100 years old. We walked through caves that housed early German settlers, picked juicy oranges from a tree, took a short hike to an overlook with exquisite views of the island, and then had a glorious lunch of grilled beef and chicken with a delicious chimichurri sauce, salads, and fresh fruit juice at the former estate of Claudio and Aura’s parents. We felt privileged to see where their father was buried on the grounds under the 12 fruit trees he planted for the birth of each of his children.
 
In the afternoon, we snorkeled by ourselves with huge sea turtles. Afterwards, a sea lion swam up to our beach, rolled in the sand in front of us and went to sleep. When the night sky grew dark, we could see all the glittering stars of the southern hemisphere, including the Southern Cross. That’s what I call a special day. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/23/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Checking Out The Caves and Monkeys of Barbados

The allure of Barbados has always been the stretch of soft white sand on the west coast that serves as a welcome mat for the warm aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea. Yet, it’s the ecological wonders in the northern and eastern section of the island that make Barbados an intriguing island destination. At Harrison’s Cave, you hop on a tram that slowly ambles into the dark corridor of limestone coral. The 100-foot high Great Hall is teeming with stalagmites and stalactites, the color of a creamsicle. Even more impressive is the crystal-like formations found in the Rotunda above pools of rushing water. Next stop is the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, home to green monkeys that were first brought to the island as pets of slave traders in the mid-17th century. The monkeys tend to be shy, so you have to be still. There are also flamingos and pelicans drinking from the shallow ponds, toucans that blurt “hello” from inside an aviary, and peacocks who squawk at the slow moving red-footed tortoise. You finish with a swim on one of those blissful beaches. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Spotting Scarlet Macaws in Jaco, Costa Rica

My kids weren’t too pleased to wake up at 6:30 am on spring break, but I wanted to be at Carara National Park at 7 am when it opened. I knew from prior trips to the country that Carara was one of the few places to see that majestic bird, the scarlet macaw. Last time here, I heard the loud squawking and peered up at a family of four vibrantly colored macaws. That is an image I was hoping to recreate as we started our hike in. An hour later, we were covered in sweat from the sweltering rainforest humidity and had only spotted one very large Jesus Christ lizard. No macaws. We drove back to the hotel and I was bumming big time. Later that afternoon, we were driving south on the coastal road outside of Jaco to our next stop, Manuel Antonio National Park. Out of nowhere, I heard that unmistakable loud squawking and suddenly seven to eight large macaws flew overhead, only to land in an almond tree to our right. I stepped on the brake and pulled over, upsetting the truck behind us who was honking. As he drove by, he swore at me in Spanish, which fortunately I can barely understand. I could care less. My wife and kids were in their glory taking snapshots of the multicolored macaws. It made my trip. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/21/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 20, 2017

Five Favorite Spring Break Adventures for Families, Tubing the White River, Jamaica

A family favorite, great for all ages, is the chance to tube or raft down one of Jamaica’s rivers. High in the hills above Ocho Rios, the water of the mountainous White River is cool and as clear as gin. Guides sing Bob Marley songs as you flow with the slow-moving current. Or listen to the high-pitched call of the yellow banana quit bird and peer out at the green mosaic of ferns, banana trees, and thickets of bamboo that climb the banks of this sinuous waterway like ivy climbs a wall. For a break, you dine on jerk chicken at picnic tables next to the riverbank. A perfect outing and the ideal breakaway from an all-inclusive resort or cruise. As you can see from the big smile plastered on my face. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/20/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, February 17, 2017

Be Active This Presidents’ Day Weekend

Looking out my 3rd-floor office window, it’s a winter wonderland from another fresh coating of snow, the 4th snowfall in the past two weeks. We haven’t seen this much snow in two years. So take advantage of this latest deluge to get outdoors and invigorated this weekend. Mass Audubon is hosting numerous events across the state this weekend and next week for February school vacation, including guided snowshoe treks at Broadmoor, Pleasant Valley, North Hill Marsh, and Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuaries. Ski New Hampshire is reporting 2 to 4 feet of snow across ski areas this past week. Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine are experiencing record February snowfall, over 5 feet since the beginning of the month. Trapp Family Lodge, the premier cross-county skiing (and now craft beer drinking) venue in Stowe is offering a 20% off sale through today. Liftopia is offering discounts across the country this week, including 25% off lift tickets at Stowe and 25% off a 2-day ticket at Snowbird in Utah. So get out there and start making snow angels. 

I’ll be back next week with my favorite family adventures over February break. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/17/17 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wizarding Week at Cape Cod’s Ocean Edge Resort During School Break

If the thought of going to the Cape during February break seems absurd, take a look at the weekend weather, where Sunday could top 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s prime beach walk weather in these parts. But even if there’s a blizzard outside, your family will have a blast at Brewster’s Ocean Edge Resort during next week’s school break. Expect pizza pool parties around the two indoor pools, arts & crafts, family movie nights, indoor camping replete with your own teepee, and all the fun associated with Wizarding Week. Meet your fellow witches and wizards, grab your broomstick and wand, and compete in quidditch matches and other games to help win the House Cup. Another added perk is that kids eat free when parents dine for breakfast at Ocean Terrace. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/16/17 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Havana, Soon to Be a Five-Star Destination

If you’re dreaming of visiting old Havana before its transformation back to the lavish Havana of Hemingway’s day, then you better act quickly. I just received word last week that the ultra-sybaritic hotelier, Kempinski, will soon open an opulent 246-room hotel within the historic Manzana de Gómez building in the heart of Old Havana. Set to open the latter part of 2017, Gran Hotel Mazana Kempinski La Habana will be Cuba’s first modern luxury five-star hotel. Expect a rooftop terrace and swimming pool, spa managed by Resense, three restaurants, and, of course, a cigar lounge. This could be the first of many renowned hotel companies making the jump into the Cuban market. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/15/17 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Luang Prabang: City of the Royal Buddha

The host of Tha Heua Me Guesthouse greets me with a smile on the porch and points to the simple meal prepared on the teak table beside her: sticky rice in a woven bamboo basket. I nod to her in ‘thanks’ – neither of us speaking the others’ language – take the rice, slip on my shoes, and begin my walk towards Sakkaline Road. The first rays of sunlight seep through the thick morning fog as I pass stately brick buildings adorned with plaited bamboo panels and balconies, the architectural vestiges of France’s colonial rule over Laos. Upon arriving at Luang Prabang’s main avenue, I am met by a long procession of barefoot monks in plain orange garb making their way through throngs of locals and tourists, all gathered at the crack of dawn to partake in a tradition that stretches back centuries. I kneel at the curbside with rice in hand waiting for an empty-handed monk to accept my offering. A few moments later, I am locking eyes with a young bareheaded man; his expression is at once one of gratitude and of poise. This will be the only meal he eats all day.
 
Later in the day, my college buddy and I, en route to one of Luang Prabang’s French bistros, stop by Wat Xieng Thong, a glittering monument honoring the twin pillars of ancient Lao society: the King and the Buddha. Upon wresting power from the French in 1945, the victorious communist party moved Laos’ political capitol to Vientiane. Nonetheless, Luang Prabang remains the spiritual beating heart of the nation. Though the princes of Laos languish in exile, the royal family may be consoled that the memory of their ancestors endures in the gilded funeral urns of the stupa inside this splendid monument. It is not just Wat Xieng Thong that dazzles. On each cobblestone corner of town, another enigmatic Wat awaits discovery. No sign of the communist regime. It’s as if this Buddhist kingdom never left its royal capital. 
 
Guest Post by Ted Shabecoff 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/14/17 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, February 13, 2017

Florence, The City of Chocolate

One of Florence’s best-kept secrets is taking place right now. The annual Fiera Del Cioccolato will be lining Piazza Santa Maria Novella in the Renaissance city from February 10-19. Vendors offer amazing chocolate masterpieces that are unique to the region and allow you to stock up just in time for Valentine’s Day. Offerings range from handmade crepes, waffles, chocolates, cookies, and much more. Along with vendors, the chocolate festival offers cooking shows and parties that allow visitors to truly engage with their love of all things chocolate. The festival’s close proximity to some of Florence’s well-known sights such as the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio make this a perfect place to relax as you take in the best the city has to offer.  
 
Guest Post by Mack Kingman 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/13/17 at 06:00 AM
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photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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