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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spend a Night at the New Yorker Hotel for $129

If you take a look at our December newsletter, you’ll quickly realize that we love Manhattan this time of year. Well, now we have an even better reason. Through Thursday on Groupon, the art deco New Yorker Hotel is offering a chance to spend the night in Manhattan at $129 a night. Travel dates are good through March. Across from Madison Square Garden, this is a good place to spend the night if you want to head to town to see the red hot New York Knicks. It’s also within easy walking distance to the Broadway theaters. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/11/12 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Cheer in Toronto—A Return to Luxury

On the heels of Toronto’s architectural achievements came a slew of high-end hoteliers. In February 2011, the Ritz-Carlton opened its first property in Canada, a 53-story high-rise overlooking the CN Tower in the entertainment district. This past January, the $500 million Trump Tower was unveiled. In September, Shangri-La, the Asian-based luxury hotel group, opened its second hotel in North America. And last, but certainly not least, the Four Seasons just debuted their new flagship property in one of the liveliest sections of town, Yorkville. 
The demand is obviously here, with Tourism Toronto reporting a banner year in 2011, with more than 9 million hotel rooms sold. But what I love about each one of these properties is their utter lack of pretension (c’mon, this is Canada), excellent service, and unique features. The Ritz-Carlton offers diners at the restaurant, Toca, a chance to visit the cheese cave and sample more than 200 cheeses. Also those hand-painted plates, which pay homage to the Toronto International Film Festival and the Canadian landscape, were created by one of the servers. At Trump’s expansion of the Quartz Crystal Spa, you’ll find a heated saltwater lap pool. The most welcoming lobby is at the Shangri-La, where you can recline on a cushiony couch in front of the fireplace. Then there’s the Four Seasons, whose properties I’ve always cherished simply because their fitness rooms and men’s spa were light years ahead of the competition. At Four Seasons Toronto, they have equipped their treadmills, elliptical machines, and bikes with a Virtual Active by Matrix. It’s basically a virtual reality system where you can choose to take a run through the streets of Chicago, the lush interior of Hawaii, or in the Swiss Alps. It’s already been filmed! Forget the Duck Egg dish at the new Café Boulud (which was delicious, by the way), I’d return to Four Seasons Toronto solely for the chance to sweat all over the world. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/28/12 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, November 19, 2012

Top 5 Eco-Resorts in Central America, Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, Nicaragua

Nicaragua has the largest area of primary-growth rainforest north of the Amazon, hundreds of beaches, six active volcanoes, and plenty of sleepy surf towns. Since 2002, the government has created 76 national parks to protect the country's wildlife. Think of it as Costa Rica, 20 years, ago before the Pacific coast was built up. One of the best places to spend your money, especially if you want to support the people of San Juan de Oriente and the education efforts of the neighboring rural towns, is to book your cabin at Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge. Located about two hours southwest of Managua, near the surf town, San Juan del Sur, Morgan’s Rock features 15 hardwood cottages overlooking a private beach. Their 4400-acre property includes an organic farm, which supplies the necessary produce to the restaurant and its unique blend of Nicaraguan, French, and Asian cuisine. If you can tear yourself away from the soft white sand, the resort offers excursions to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ometepe, an island formed by two volcanoes that rise dramatically out of Lake Nicaragua. There’s also the chance to hike along the coast, go horseback riding, sea kayak through estuaries, zipline, and get lost in a jungle of sloths and monkeys. Also be on the lookout for yoga retreats, often led by one of LA’s best-known yoga instructors, Sara Ivanhoe.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/19/12 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, November 16, 2012

Top 5 Eco-Resorts in Central America, Laguna Lodge, Guatemala

t’s not just the stunning setting of Laguna Lodge, nestled in a 100-acre nature preserve on the shores of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three volcanoes. Or the ultra-sybaritic services, like soaking your body in the hot river rock pool or opting for a deep tissue massage at Hummingbird Spa after a day of hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing or horseback riding. No, it’s that the owners Mayah and Jeffro Brandon (she’s a Kiwi, he’s an Aussie) have their hearts in the right place

In 1997, Jeffro and his local crew constructed the lodge entirely of indigenous volcanic stone, adobe, wood and palm. The art and furnishings found in the nine rooms were also made from locals. The meat-free restaurant serves innovative cuisine that utilizes produce from their organic garden, eggs and cheeses from nearby farmers, fruits from the coast, and, of course, rich Guatemalan coffee. Solar panels line the roof and rainwater is painstakingly filtered for drinking. Their main focus, however, is community involvement, employing all locals. They also go out of their way to ensure that everyone in the local community gets proper eye and dental care. This is one place where your money not only purchases a fantastic vacation, but also helps to keep this small lakeshore village afloat. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/16/12 at 12:59 PM
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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Top 5 Eco-Resorts in Central America, La Loma Jungle Lodge, Isla Bastimentos, Panama

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 northeastern part of the country, a short boat ride from the town of Bocas del Toro, is a four-cabana lodge socked in the middle of the verdant jungle and surrounded by a working cocoa plantation. All of the cabins at La Loma 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 start at $100 per person a night, including three meals, the boat ride over from Bocas town, and some of the excursions. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/15/12 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Top 5 Eco-Resorts in Central America, Chaa Creek, Belize

Nestled within the lush Belize interior, Chaa Creek is a 365-acre nature preserve that sits atop a hillside of tall mahogany and cedar trees overlooking the Macal River. Open for 31 years, 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 employ local artists to create the furniture in each bungalow and buy produce from local farms to ensure fresh food on the table. Yet, Chaa Creek’s real forte is guiding their guests deep into the jungle. Plan ahead with the resort 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. Then return to the property and its two dozen bungalows, spa, and an open-air restaurant that serves such dishes as pollo asado and grilled tilapia.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/14/12 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Top 5 Eco-Resorts in Central America, Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

I’ve been receiving a slew of requests from clients lately about sustainable lodging choices in Central America. Here are the ones I consistently send folks to, time and time again, because they love the experience and the environmentally friendly practices. 

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. Lie on a hammock on your own private deck or take a shower outdoors in a secluded garden. You might be woken in the morning by the loud cry of the howler monkey. Then 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 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 those horses. At sunset, head outdoors to see a family of neon green scarlet macaws sitting on a tree in front of you. 
Sure, 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 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.  

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/13/12 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Montreal Knows How to Party, Even in the Heart of Winter

Last winter, Montreal unveiled the continent’s first Snow Village at Parc Jean-Drapeau. This was no miniature dollhouse or a series of ice sculptures. No. The Snow Village included a 30-room ice hotel, an outdoor spa, ice bar, ice restaurant, ice chapel for marriages, a maze, slides, and much more. The show’s promoters first encountered the Snow Village concept in Finland and wanted to recreate the idea in North America. Entering its second season, Snow Village Canada will feature a New York theme in 2013, so expect to see the Empire State Building carved out of ice. If you visit in January, you’ll have the additional bonus of checking out Igloofest, a winter outdoor electronic dance celebration drawing up to 10,000 people a night over 3 weekends. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/06/12 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, September 14, 2012

Weekapaug Inn Set to Open in October After a $20 Million Transformation

Even with its Relais & Chateaux designation and a ranking as the fourth finest resort in America in the latest Travel & Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, the Ocean House still doesn’t take itself too seriously. After all, how many places have their own Croquet Pro? This is a place to reconnect with the family on the beach of Watch Hill, Rhode Island. Now the Ocean House plans to apply its laid-back charm to the Weekapaug Inn, five miles down the road. Originally built in 1899, the Weekapaug has been reconfigured to 27 guest rooms and four two-bedroom suites. What I love about the location, especially for families, is that you have the choice of swimming, sailing, and sea kayaking in a shallow saltwater pond or simply walking two minutes to a glorious white sand beach on the Atlantic shoreline. Other additions include a lap pool and three dining establishments that will offer a contemporary take on New England cuisine. In the summer, they’ll also be offering boat rides over to Block Island for the day. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/14/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

West Street Hotel Opens in Bar Harbor, Maine

Still need a quick getaway to finish off the summer in style. A new boutique hotel has just opened on the waterfront in Bar Harbor, the gateway to Acadia National Park. Called the West Street Hotel, the property features balconies with ocean view, a rooftop pool, iPod docking station to crank out the tunes, large flat screen television, and wireless internet. Best part is that you’re within easy walking distance to many of the restaurants in town. The hotel is offering an introductory rate of $199 a night through August. Just use the promo code SUMMER when reserving a room. 
I’m off on a camping trip to the Boston Harbor Islands. I’ll be back on Monday. Keep active!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/23/12 at 12:00 PM
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about us
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. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association