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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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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Free Transportation Within 200 Miles of The Balsams in New Hampshire

Eyes widen and mouths gape as soon as you spot Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, and catch your first glimpse of The Balsams Hotel. The excitement builds on the long driveway up to this immense white edifice, created in an era when grand hotels were as common as one-room schoolhouses in the White Mountains. It’s a multi-tiered wedding cake topped with scarlet frosting and ringed by granite peaks. Turning 145 in 2011, the Balsams prides itself as one of the last beacons of civility in a world that spins far too fast on its axis. Come winter, the resort offers 95 km of cross-country trails and 15 downhill trails with a vertical of 1,000 feet. Expect a small ski area that’s ideal for young families or those who clamor for ego-boosting intermediate terrain.

To get new visitors to experience the Balsams, the hotel is offering to pick you up at your house if you’re within 200 miles of the resort. The offer is only available for first-time guests who stay at least five nights. For $149 per person, per night, guests receive free transportation, skiing each day, a ski lesson, equipment rental, lodging, breakfast and dinner.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/21/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, November 22, 2010

London’s Savoy is Finally Open Again

On the way back from Nairobi, I had a 12-hour overnight in London, just enough time to check out The Savoy. The grande dame reopened on 10/10/10 after a 3-year renovation, with Prince Charles on hand to do the ribbon cutting. Now under the helm of the Fairmont, they enhanced the Edwardian and Art Deco design so all that polished silver and lacquered onyx shines again. We had a casual dinner of tuna sandwiches in the Thames Foyer next to a large winter garden gazebo under a glass cupola. Across the room, a woman was belting out “All That Jazz” from the stage of the Beaufort Bar, the same spot where Gershwin first played “Rhapsody in Blue.” That night in the American Bar, the classic cocktail lounge that came to fame in the 30s, Jerry Hall was supposedly in the house near a photograph of a younger Jerry Hall shot by photographer Terry O’Neil. Conveniently located on the Strand in the heart of the Theater District, the Savoy is hopping once again, so stop by for dinner, drinks, or afternoon tea and you’ll probably be staying the night like Richard Harris often did. In fact, there’s now a suite named after him.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/22/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, November 04, 2010

Let it Rain at Olympic National Park

Thanks to La Niña, weather in the Pacific Northwest this winter is supposed to be more extreme than usual. Big whoop. They’re used to winter storms and lots of rain in these parts. So much so that two lodges in Olympic National Park are offering a Storm Watcher Package. Stay at Kalaloch Lodge, featuring breathtaking vistas of the raw Pacific Ocean shoreline from October 21, 2010 to March 13, 2011, and for $149 a night, you’ll receive one night’s accommodation, breakfast for two, two rain ponchos, and a souvenir fleece blanket designed with an Olympic National Park logo. Additional nights may be added at $99 a night. Lake Quinault Lodge, in the heart of the Olympic National Forest, is offering a Storm Watcher Package at $119 a night that includes one night’s lodging, a rainforest tour for two, and the option to add extra nights for a measly $50 rate. Visit Olympic National Parks and use the promotional code: STORM10 for Kalaloch and LQSTORM10 for Lake Quinault Lodge or call 866-297-7367.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/04/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gorman Chairback Lodge Opens January 27th

Mention the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail to a hiker and they’re certain to get a bit misty-eyed, dreaming about this last 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. Slicing through the legendary North Woods, this is a land of seemingly endless forest filled with mile-high mountains, immense lakes and too many ponds to count. The large swath of wilderness feels like a chunk of Alaska remarkably placed in our congested Northeast. Lured by the opportunity to hunt, fish, and take large gulps of pine-scented air, “sports” have been making the long trek north from Boston and New York for close to 150 years, following in the footsteps of that highly opinionated naturalist Henry David Thoreau.

Over the past two decades, many of these historic sporting camps, with their communal dining lodge and rustic cabins, have fallen into private hands. When the opportunity arose in 2003 to purchase the Little Lyford Pond Camps, nestled in a grove near the 100-Mile Wilderness Trail, the Appalachian Mountain Club decided to buy the lodging. Then they made the bold move to acquire 37,000 acres of surrounding land and two additional sporting camps, Chairback and Medawisla. Last November, the AMC purchased an additional 29,500 acres from the Plum Creek Timber Company for $11.5 million and are now partnering with a fourth sporting camp, West Branch Pond Camps.

The sporting camp-to-sporting camp network in the North Woods is a new variation of the AMC’s hut-to-hut system in the Whites. With each sporting camp spaced some seven to ten miles apart, folks can cross-country ski, snowshoe, and dog sled from lodging to lodging, creating the perfect four-night stay. This is especially true now that Chairback, renamed Gorman Chairback, will reopen on January 27th.  First opened as a private camp in 1867, it’s hard to top the setting of Gorman Chairback, located on the shores of Long Pond, in the shadows of the Barren-Chairback Range.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/28/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Hotel Rooms in Manhattan for $79 a Night!

The Jane Hotel, not far from Chelsea Market and the high in the sky High Line Park, is offering $79 rates in January and February for their 50 square-foot rooms. Bring a friend and grab the bunk bed room for $99, further reducing the price for two. The rooms are built like luxury train cabins, featuring a single bed with built-in drawers, flat screen TV, free Wi-Fi, DVD player, iPod dock, and luggage rack. The only problem is the shared bathrooms. If it’s anything like the Pod Hotel on the East Side, the bathroom doors open and close all night, so bring ear plugs. If you really need a private bathroom, opt for Captain’s Cabins at $225 a night. But c’mon, it’s hard to top 79 bucks a night in Manhattan!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Vermont Spas Help Skiers Rest Those Weary Legs

The rap on Vermont skiing was that the ski resorts were based in historic New England towns that lacked the modern amenities of the resorts out West. Not any longer. The Woodstock Inn, close to the skiing at Killington and Suicide Six, just unveiled their $10 million spa in September and it’s a beauty. Two well known Vermont artisans, glassmaker Simon Pearce and furniture maker Charles Shackleton create the hanging lamps and chaise lounge chairs in the Great Room waiting area, where floors are made of soft Vermont white oak. Just outside in the courtyard is a large outdoor hot tub and sauna, with heated stone floors to keep those tootsies warm in the winter months. That’s in addition to the eucalyptus steam rooms found in both the men and women’s changing area. Woodstock Inn’s state-of-the-facility comes on the heels of Stowe Mountain Lodge’s spa, the first offshoot of the highly regarded Cooper Wellness spa in Dallas. The new space features every treatment imaginable, including music, water, and aromatherapy, nutritional and fitness counseling, and seminars on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Not So Memorable All-Inclusive Resorts for Families

If you ask my kids, ages 14 and 12, what their favorite vacations were, they’d no doubt say Alaska, British Colombia, Israel, Paris, Bryce,  Zion, and Acadia National Parks, and, of course, New York. Even though we’ve been to over a dozen all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico over the years, all except our last one at the Riu Ocho Rios in Jamaica are quickly forgettable. They all featured wonderful beaches and decent food until the 3rd day, when you become tired of seeing the same entrees. But the reason they quickly forget this type of vacation is that it never really gets to the depth necessary to touch them. There were no adventures, no immersion into the local culture, be it food, music or history, no mishaps to look back and laugh about. It was all very pleasant, a warm retreat from the cold winter temps in Boston. How can staying at one hotel all week possibly compare to being surrounded by whales, otters, bald eagles, and sea lions on a zodiac off Sitka? Or listening to music late at night at one of the jazz joints in Paris? Or grabbing plates of hummus and foul with locals in Jaffa? Or seeing where King Henry VIII married his sixth wife at Hampton Court Palace?  Or hiking with those odd-shaped hoodoos or an exhilarating cliff walk in Bryce and Zion? Or grabbing a hot pastrami on rye at Katz’s Deli and then going outside to see Shepard Fairey paint his most recent mural on Houston Street? These things my kids remember. All those all-inclusive beaches blur into one big warm embrace, nothing more. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/14/10 at 01:00 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