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Monday, February 14, 2011

Giants Fans Should Head to the Hotel Valley Ho this Spring Training

Similar to the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc in Miami Beach, Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona was a favorite hideaway to Hollywood stars like Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood when it opened in the 50s. Then, like those Miami Beach icons, it fell on rough times until reopening in 2005 after an $80 million refurbishment. Now the seven-story stylish hotel, home to the legendary Trader Vic’s, is back to its former self and is ready to host baseball lovers for spring training. Hotel Valley Ho is less than a mile from Scottsdale Stadium, the venue for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. The property is also close to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the spring training home to the Oakland A’s. For a great overview of spring training facilities, see my story in FamilyVacationCritic.com.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/14/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 11, 2011

A World of Adventure at the Boston Globe Travel Show Tomorrow

For those of you in the region, I’ll be leading a panel at the Boston Globe Travel Show tomorrow on “The World of Adventure.” A very generic name for what many travelers are really yearning for, an authentic travel experience. A truly authentic vacation refuses to be prepackaged and is hard to emulate. Indeed, it’s the opportunity to live like a local for one hour, one day, or one week. The panel includes Rob Burbank from The Appalachian Mountain Club, Judy Allpress from The Wayfarers Walking Vacations, and Joe Luchison from Ciclismo Classico, as we discuss off-the-beaten-track locales to hike, bike, and paddle across the globe. The talk takes place from 10:15-11 am, Saturday, at the Seaport World Trade Center. Hope to see you there! If not, do something active this weekend.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/11/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

At the southernmost tip of Costa Rica, Lapa Rios is a 1000-acre private rain forest perched above the Pacific Ocean. 16 spacious bungalows feature hardwood floors, bamboo walls, and vaulted thatched roof ceilings created from local palm trees. Yes, those outdoor showers are solar-powered and more than 70 percent of the materials used are renewable, but take a look at the big picture. Nearly 1000 acres of valuable rainforest have been saved from deforestation and the wildlife within those borders are free from poaching, pollution, and real estate development. More than 45 local families are employed on the property and the resort has been instrumental in providing primary education for children in the area. Rise and shine on a three-hour morning hike with a naturalist through the rainforest to a waterfall and swimming hole, stopping to view spider and howler monkeys, scarlet macaws, toucans, parrots, and many other native birds. In the afternoon, sea kayak in the ocean around Matapalo Point, surf the Golfo Dulce, or saddle up on a horse. Rates start at $245 per person, including all meals and guides into the rainforest.  
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/10/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Chaa Creek, Belize

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2011, Chaa Creek led the eco-friendly movement in Central America, promoting conservation and low-impact sustainable development long before green was the magic word. They also employ local artists to create the furniture in each bungalow and buy produce from local farms to ensure fresh food on the table. The 365-acre nature preserve sits on a hillside of tall mahogany and cedar trees overlooking the Macal River. The property offers two dozen deluxe bungalows, including a treetop suite with whirlpool, new spa, and a restaurant that thrives on local fare. Yet, Chaa Creek’s real forte is guiding folks deep into the jungle. Set up trips to go horseback riding through the Mountain Pine Ridge, paddle the Macal River to see the resident colony of toucans, swim under waterfalls, and visit the Mayan ruins at Caracol.  Bungalows start at $270 a night, including breakfast. 

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/09/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Centro Ecologico Sian Ka’an (CESiaK), Mexico

Close to the Mayan ruins of Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula is the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest protected area on the Mexican Caribbean. Grab one of the raised cottages on site and you’ll be immersed in the 1.3 million-acre mix of beach and wetlands. CESiaK runs completely on sun and wind energy, using rainwater for water needs, and utilizing a wetland waste treatment system. Grab a sea kayak to go bird watching, fish, go with a naturalist on a hike, or simply relax with a thick book in the hammock. All proceeds fund education and conservation programs at Sian Ka’an, including dune restoration and native plant propogation. Cabins start at an affordable $70 a night. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/11 at 03:00 PM
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Monday, February 07, 2011

La Loma Jungle Lodge, Isla Bastimentos, Panama

I’ve had my fill of snow this winter in Boston. So now I’m dreaming about the warm weather and an upcoming trip to Jamaica. This week, I’ll delve into my favorite eco-resorts in the Caribbean and Costa Rica. The sustainable tourism movement has grown leaps and bounds in the past decade. No longer can you simply throw compost in the back of a Marriott and call it an eco-resort. To be green, destinations have to offer indigenous culture and food, encourage outdoor recreation that highlight the region, curb greenhouse gases that impact the environment, and involve the entire community in the tourism effort. Many resorts even go a step further by helping to support local school systems and food banks. These five lodgings are green in every sense of the word. 

Increasingly, the small eco-retreat design that made such an imprint in Costa Rica has slipped farther south into Panama. On an archipelago in the northwestern part of the country, a short boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro, is a three-cabana lodge socked in the middle of the verdant jungle and surrounded by a working cocoa plantation.  All of the cabins at the Jungle Lodge were created from fallen trees and inspired by the architecture of the local Ngobe Indians. The employees are also local, including your guide through the rainforest and beach to see sloths, armadillos, small crocs called caimans, and the graceful blue morph butterfly. At dinner, lobster and conch will not be served, as the owners try to use only sustainably harvested fish like yellow jack. Rates are $110 per person a night, including three meals, the boat ride over from Bocas town, and some of the excursions.


 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/07/11 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, February 04, 2011

Cross-Country Ski at Notchview Reservation in the Berkshires, Massachusetts

Last Friday, my wife and I headed to the Berkshires in the western part of Massachusetts to check out the incredibly detailed 500 year-old prints of Albrecht Durer at the Clark Art Museum and the wildly inventive bird and flower sculptures of Petah Coyne at Mass MoCA. The highlight of our trip, however, was cross-country skiing on the grounds of the exquisite Notchview in Windsor. Run by the Trustees of Reservations, Notchview’s trails were groomed with a fresh layer of powder when we arrived. We went counter-clockwise on the Circuit Trail, passing meadows and skiing under a tunnel of snowed-under pines. The web of white branches kept us snug within the forest, protecting us from any wind. After passing a small shelter, we turned onto the Whitestone Trail and entered a winter wonderland of uprooted trees and branches arching over the serpentine path. A downhill run brought us back to the main lodge, invigorated by the fresh smell of pine and the exercise. To top it off, we went to the Old Creamery in Cummington, a favorite local haunt that features homemade soups, grilled panini sandwiches, salads, and pies. The perfect ending to a perfect outing.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/04/11 at 01:59 PM
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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Spotting Bald Eagles in Red Wing, Minnesota

An hour’s drive south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River, Red Wing, Minnesota is best known for its restored century-old Sheldon Theatre and the 1875 St. James Hotel.  National Geographic Traveler magazine recently named it the 23rd most historic destination in the world. Come winter, folks come to Red Wing to spot a bald eagle. Hundreds of eagles gather along the riverfront to search for fish and other small prey. Each weekend from February 19th through March 13th, naturalists will be on hand at Red Wing’s Covill Park to provide scopes and binoculars and answer questions about eagle behavior and the recovery of America’s most famous bird.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Bird Watching in Costa Rica

Just as divers think of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef as that ultimate diving locale, bird watchers flock to Costa Rica. In a small country the size of West Virginia, you can find more than 850 species of birdlife. Take the entire United States and combine it with Canada and you won’t come up with that many birds. And we’re not talking ordinary birds in Costa Rica like the backyard sparrow, but spectacular toucans, scarlet macaws, quetzals, 50 types of hummingbirds, and tall storks. The great multitude of birdlife in Costa Rica stems from its diverse terrain sandwiched into a sliver of Central American terrain. Within a relatively short driving distance, you can be atop 12,000 foot peaks or down at sea level on the Pacific coast, immersed in the dense rainforest or slicing through the hazy cloud forest. Sendero Tranquillo in the Cloud Forest, La Selva Biological Station, and Carara National Park are great places to start.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Snowboard Among Champs

If you just saw Shaun White nail his signature Double McTwist to snag gold once again at the Winter X Games and want to see the Flying Tomato do it live, head to Vermont for the 27th U.S. Open Snowboarding Championships. Held March 7-13, the competition takes place at Stratton Mountain Resort, the spot that put snowboarding on the map. This is where Jake Burton first tried the sport and where a young Lindsey Jacobellis took up boarding after her family’s vacation house caught fire, burning all of the ski equipment. Cheer them on, but don’t just be a spectator. There’s a reason why Ski Magazine has voted Stratton the best terrain parks in the east for the past decade. Little rippers can test their freestyle skills on Burton’s Parkway, a kid-friendly area built with the novice in mind. One step larger than Parkway is Tyrolienne, featuring neophyte table-tops to catch air, and wider, lower rails to start grinding. Once you’ve mastered Tyrolienne, it’s on to Old Smoothie for challenging table tops and rails, much higher off the ground. Check out the jumps first or you’ll be doing some serious face plants.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/01/11 at 02:00 PM
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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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