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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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Friday, August 17, 2012

Costa Rica Highlights, Ending Each Trip at Finca Rosa Blanca

On my last two trips to Costa Rica, I wisely spent the final night at Finca Rosa Blanca. High above the urban buzz of San Jose, Costa Rica, yet only a 25-minute drive from the international airport, Finca Rosa Blanca is a tranquil retreat nestled in the countryside of Heredia. Watch the colorful turquoise-browed motmots play in the centuries-old fig trees as you sip the inn’s organic-grown coffee. Then talk to the owners about everything they do to make the place sustainable. They are one of the few properties to receive five stars, the highest ranking from the country’s green tourism commission, and are asked to train other innkeepers on their environmentally-friendly practices. Local artisans, including painters, cast iron welders, and a local senior citizen center provide the artwork in the suites. The vegetables found in the restaurant’s innovative fare are grown organically in a greenhouse. Large solar panels create the heat in the pool and, instead of chlorine, they use an ionized system that keeps the water clean and clear. The inn also uses some of their profits to help fund the local high school. I love the mix of art, tasty food, and lush environs. It’s the perfect place to spend your final day in the country. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/17/12 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Costa Rica Highlights, The Exquisite Arenas del Mar

I’m just back from over two weeks in Costa Rica with the family. Even though the summer is the wet season in Costa Rica, the weather was perfect, usually raining at night to enhance our sleep. And the country is incredibly lush this time of year. This week, I want to discuss the highlights of the trip so you can put it on your checklist when planning your own jaunt.

First up is a property just outside the rainforest of Manuel Antonio National Park, Arenas del Mar. Built into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific, five minutes from the entrance to the national park, this boutique resort has everything you dream about in a Costa Rica vacation. It’s where the verdant foliage of the rainforest meets the beach. The spacious suites, all with balconies overlooking the expanse of ocean, are socked into the forest. So you wake up looking at white-faced monkeys and those slow-moving sloths climbing the vines and trees. Golf carts drive you up the hillside to have breakfast of fresh papaya, mango, and pineapple, with baked goods, high overlooking the neighboring islands. Then the carts bring you back to your rooms, where you can walk down to the private beach or swim in the pool. With so much rain, the high tides were incredibly dramatic when we were there. The pounding surf slammed against the rocky outcroppings, with foam spewing into the air. Add guided hikes into Manuel Antonio with the hotel's knowledgeable naturalist, Ercel, and nearby ziplining in the mountainside with the professional staff at MidWorld and you understand why this was my family’s favorite of six stops on the trip. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/13/12 at 12:00 PM
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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Debut of the Nantucket Hotel

If you’re fortunate to have spent a night or two at the Winnetu Resort on Martha’s Vineyard, you quickly realize that owners Mark and Gwenn Snider have a passion for entertaining, especially the little ones. The parents of three go overboard to keep kids happy, whether it’s a drive aboard a 1947 fire truck Mark found on EBay or free lemonade and fresh baked cookies every afternoon at 3 pm. Expect the same genuine welcome at their new property, the Nantucket Hotel on the neighboring island of Nantucket. One of the last grand dames still standing on the island, the Nantucket (previously the Point Breeze) was built in 1894 in a sprawling neo-classical style. Smack dab in the heart of Nantucket town, the resort will undergo a major refurbishment, retaining the classic façade while vastly improving the interior, making its debut on June 29, 2012 with 60 guest rooms and suites. 

With a high-speed ferry that connects Martha’s Vineyard with Nantucket in a little over an hour, the Sniders have the unique opportunity to offer their guests the first ever two-island resort package. Spend the first part of your vacation at the ultra-sybaritic Winnetu, waking up to morning yoga on the resplendent front lawn, walking to that long stretch of fine white sand at South Beach, swimming in the pool, playing tennis on one of the many courts, and savoring an authentic New England clambake. Then simply shuttle over to The Nantucket to stroll on the cobblestone streets, under gas lamps and gaze at more than 800 buildings that were built before the Civil War. The historic setting is so remarkably preserved that you’ll feel like young Herman Melville himself, doing research on the book that made him famous, “Moby Dick.” 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/17/12 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

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