Archive for the Category »Costa Rica «

  Hotel of the Week: Costa Rica Enchantment in the Jungle
Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica from

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica from

Costa Rica is a great family travel destination for many reasons – There are diverse regions that can appeal to a wide variety of travelers – Beach? Check. Rain forest and wild life? Check. Adventure? Check. Volcano? Got that too.

The hardest part is deciding where you want to go in this Central America country… most people visit a few places for a few days each to encounter all Costa Rica has to offer.

Another bright spot here when bringing kids is that the tap water is clean, and the local food can be eaten without serious stomach problems… and the country is generally safe. A potential negative: You have to buy airfare.

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens, Costa Rica

So that being said, I wanted to share with you what seems to be a reasonably priced, yet totally enchanting lodge in the Costa Rica jungle. I’ve heard about it a few times lately with great reviews. It is the Tortuga Lodge and Gardens.

Tortuga Lodge & gardens, Costa Rica

Tortuga Lodge & gardens, Costa Rica

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens is a small hotel situated on 146 acres of private land on Costa Rica’s northeast Caribbean coast…surrounded by rivers, which is part of the charm – no roads. .  Tortuguero National Park is a 20 minute boat ride away. Prepare to spend a lot of time on the water actually – there is a lot of exploring to be done on  its back water creeks and lagoons with a Tortuguero Naturalist Guide.

Tortuguero Natl Park, from

Tortuguero Natl Park, from

Tortuguero National Park is an exciting place – At 51,870 acres, it is one of the most biologically rich and last large areas of tropical rain forests in Central America.

From Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

From Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

Among the wild-life you may encounter and your kids will love are three species of monkeys (spider, howler, and white-faced), three-toed sloths, river otters, caimans, iguanas,river turtles, basilisk lizards, poison dart frogs, as well as more than 320 species of birds.

Turtles at Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

Turtles at Tortuga Lodge and Gardens

Some  of the coolest activities available to you at the Tortuga Lodge (for a price) are turtle expeditions. The eco-lodge is located near a major nesting area of the Atlantic Green sea turtle, so there are opportunities to up close to these reptiles. If you’ve never seen these beautiful (and large!) creatures before, the really are a sight to behold on the sand, with the moonlit sparkling water nearby.   One of the outings you can pay for is an outdoor dinner under the stars, and afterward a walk on a secluded beach to observe the nesting of these interesting creatures.

Beyond normal travel activities,  the lodge offers it’s guests a unique opportunity:  to volunteer in the immediate community. Guests can get to know some local children and speak English with them to help them learn the language. It doesn’t cost anything and transportation is provided in exchange for your time. I will say from my travels that getting to experience authentic life in a destination always makes it richer… and this is a chance to give back – Jackpot.

Tortuga Lodge and Gardens, Costa Rica

Tortuga Lodge and Gardens, Costa Rica

The lodge is NOT a slick, fancy resort… it is basic, but reportedly feels more authentic, while also clean and spacious.

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens Deck

Tortuga Lodge & Gardens Deck

One of the best features in my opinion is the deck off of the main dining room, so you can take a meal there overlooking the river and forest.. or just sit and enjoy. The setting is magical.

Remember – Costa Rica is quite rainy all year long so pack a rain poncho for those unexpected storms.

Good news – it is pretty affordable for the average budget – Room rates at Tortuga start at $178 for a double; $278 for the penthouse… BONUS  Kids ages 0-5 eat free, ages 6-10 receive a 50% discount, ages 11 and older pay full price.

Special packages are also offered on the website, so be sure to check.




  Do You Ever Disagree on Where to Go on Vacation? Here Are Some Solutions…

I am a member of – meaning I am able to receive offers from avid travelers all over the world to exchange houses at some point. It is totally fun fantasizing about visiting some of the places from which I receive offers.

Interior Gardens and Pool: Terrace, master, living room kitchen, and dining room to the left; two bedrooms, library and TV room straight ahead.

So the other day, when I received a too-good-to-be-true request to exchange with the palatial home above  in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I was all over it. San Miguel de Allende may not be up there say with London or Paris as one of the top five places to visit, but  I have read and heard so much about it, I have been itching to go…and this was a free place to stay for a couple weeks.

In the words of Lyle Lovett, I thought this was a “dream made to order, south of the border…” until I proposed it to m y husband for our family vacation. To my surprise, the response was a flat out “No.” Not a “Let’s think about it…or Maybe..” but “NO.”  Hasta la vista Mexico. He had no interest, didn’t think it would be good for the kids, etc.

Really? Even though he relies on and trusts my travel knowledge, and I plan the trips,  he wouldn’t budge.

I am always up for any kind of trip and ready for an adventure, but I am sure this happens in a lot in families. So I called upon my travel agent slash family travel therapist John Clifford for some advice. ( He suggests:

1) One partner gets to choose the current destination (say, a summer vacation) and the next trip, the other partner chooses (say a holiday trip,or next vacation).

2) The couple agrees to choose a “neutral” third destination that they jointly agree upon.

3)Choose a destination  that “hits all the passion points” and tends to please most all couples. A few are:

Costa Rica: Abundant nature with immense rainforests teeming with wildlife, breathtaking beaches, affordable & romantic resorts, endless beaches, mountains, rivers & valleys, exciting adventures, seems to please even the most picky couple.

Mexico: Vibrant culture, colonial cities full of charm, ancient Mayan ruins, culinary delights, resorts that run from boutique to over the top, beaches that blind the eye, the country has it all. (Uh, John…can you please place a call to my husband on this?? LOL)

Italy: Who doesn’t love Italy, whether you’re a movie star, or a couple taking your first trip together? The cradle of civilization boasts iconic cities from coasts, to mountains, artists such as da Vinci and Michelangelo, islands with spewing volcanoes, to other worldly Venice with her gondolas, the infamous Roman Empire and her ruins, or the Lake District’s belle of swanky, Lake Como. With millennia of history dating back to the 9th century BC, art, culture, and dreamscapes of Italy seduce both men & women.  Italy once ruled the world, and it often overpowers visitors with a heady mix of more than the average mind can comprehend.

My suggestion -go to a region that offers both beach and culture or beach and city. The French Riviera worked for us – our first home exchange.

There are so many fantastic places in the world to travel, if you just take some time to think about it, you and your partner are bound to find something to satisfy all tastes. Now – who wants to join me in San Miguel de Allende?

  Augusta is beautiful…and private…and male only. So what are the top rated golf resorts where we can all play?

Jubilant Phil...A Sports Illustrated Photo

If watching the exciting and emotional Masters tournament in Augusta this weekend inspired you to take a golf trip, here are some links to the top rated golf resorts in the world…and also another list of top rated in the USA.,28242,1713350-1,00.html

The Course at Four Seasons Manele Bay on Lanai

I have actually golfed at one golf course from each top ten list – pretty lucky for a total amateur, right?? (Amateur is being generous by the way..) I am thankful for my job. One of them is also one of my favorite courses at a resort: the one pictured above on the Hawaiian island of Lanai at the Four Seasons at Manele Bay.

The Course at the Four Seasons on the Peninsula Papagayo, Costa Rica

The other course I have played that is on the international list is the course at the Four Seasons on the Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica…great course but not one of my favorites. However, it was pretty cool having iguanas crawling up to me while I was trying to chip my ball out of a ditch…and monkeys in trees overhead.

You be the judge – and have fun.

  Hotel of the Week: An exotic family (or not) getaway

Yesterday I posted some spring break ideas – one of which was Costa Rica. I was in Costa Rica a couple of years ago at this exact time and it was gorgeous – the end of the summer so dry season.

And WOW – Has anyone seen the prices of flights to Costa Rica right now??  Flights from Los Angeles stat at $401 on Spirit Air during June…and $450 for May. From Miami, flights start at $336 on Travelocity!

So I want to talk about a fun place to go in Costa Rica – rich with things for adults and kids.

Hotel Capitan Suizo is located on Playa Tamarindo right near a national park, that is a nesting place for leatherback turtles – kids will love that. Plus, the wildlife lurking around the resort and in the rain forest will be a huge hit – wake up to the sound of monkeys, and live side by side with frogs, tropical birds, etc.

There are plenty of activities. I always love trying new things with my kids, so a hotel that offer so much to do – with a beautiful beach to do nothing if you choose – is always a hit with me. Try kayaking through a lush canal, snorkeling in the turquoise blue waters, surfing on mild waters, or golfing on a  perfectly sunny day.

  Want to take a last minute spring break trip but don’t know where to go?

Despite all the cold weather around the country in recent weeks – spring break is quickly approaching!

For a fresh perspective on where we can still go at this last minute, I spoke with a fabulous travel agent whom I have recommended to some of my BFFs, and now HE is one of THEIR BFFs!

Luxury travel consultant and family vacation planner John Clifford, President of  International Travel shared with us his picks for the best under-the-radar, family Spring Break getaways. ,

He says : “Spring Break 2010, will offer unprecedented bargains as the global economy continues to improve, while new hotels open in popular destinations and the travel industry seeks to entice holiday makers with bargains galore.”

“Families traveling this year stand to gain the most as discounts for adjoining rooms, value added amenities like free meals and upgrades abound.”

Forget Vegas, Florida and overdeveloped, mass-market destinations overrun with breaking revelers. John says savvy families this year will be enjoying such locales as….

Santa Fe, NM

The city is celebrating its 400 year anniversary this year highlighting the city’s rich tri cultural heritage and designation as the oldest continually inhabited capital city as well as the highest in the U.S.

Aside from being an art mecca, Santa Fe boasts Indian markets & pueblos, historic Spanish colonial sites along with an amazing bounty of outdoor activities from ballooning to canyoneering mountain climbing and more.

Not only did artist Georgia O’Keefe call this place home, but today, the city boasts family favorite museums, one featuring O’Keefe’s works, and others such as the Museum of International Folk Art and the Wheelright Museum of the American Indian which are favorites to kids and families.

But wait, kids actually get their own museum here, the Santa Fe Children’s Museum ( full of interactive exhibits & special events.

Hop aboard the Santa Fe Southern Railway ( and ride a vintage rail car to the abandoned, ghost town of Lamy.

Or take in the Casa Grande Trading Post a combination, kitschy petting zoo and turquoise mining museum.

Don’t miss an excursion 45 minutes from town to Bandelier National Monument ( to experience ruins and cliff dwellings, ceremonial caves & petroglyphs of the Anasazi culture that was thought to have inhabited the area seven or eight centuries ago.

Insider’s Tip: Families love local writer and bibliophile Barbara Harrelson’s 2-hour walking tour of downtown Santa Fe which explores the history, personalities, the legends and the lore of the area through its stories and its literary landmarks.

The Mayan Riviera, Mexico (Tracy’s pick also! Want to go!)

No matter what you think about the Mayan Riviera, it is not Cancun.  It’s the anti-Cancun. So close and yet so far.  Even though this stunning, Caribbean coast starts just south of the 17-mile SoBe like hotel zone, The Riviera Maya is anything but.

With a slew of new resorts welcoming families from all inclusives to boutique gems, powder white beaches and unrivaled history, this locale never fails to impress.

From ancient Mayan sites & pyramids to underground rivers offering tubing exploration like those at Rio Secreto, to colonial Spanish towns such as Valladolid, it’s a treasure trove of discoveries with a MexiCaribbean flair!

Water sports galore delight young and old along with a coastline that is full of natural beauty including the Mayan ruins of Tulum, built atop the ocean’s bluff, still standing today as well as the UNESCO’s Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

Insider’s Tip: Families love the all-in-one adventure run by tour company/conservationists, Alltournative who work with Mayan communities to preserve their heritage. The “Maya Encounter” excursion, includes whizzing through the jungle on a zip line, rappelling into a cenote (deep water filled sink holes), and kayaking on a lagoon.

After the elders offer a ceremonial blessing, village women serve a full lunch rounding out with a trip to the ruins of Cobá.

Costa Rica

Don’t let the exotic name, or flip-flopped seasons fool you. The Northern Hemisphere is starting Spring, while Costa Rica is enjoying the last of their Summer, which is the driest overall, lasting through April.

That being said, the country is a tropical paradise boasting one of the 20 countries with the highest biodiversity in the world.

Though it seems a world away, it is closer to the mainland U.S. than Hawaii and boasts incredible value and endless family friendly activities, sites, resorts and destinations.

Though the Pacific & Caribbean coasts are lush and tropical, the real excitement takes place in its many National Parks and wilderness reserves, which span over one third of the entire country. Young & old will be mesmerized by the stunning variety of flora, fauna and landscapes with diverse microclimates and untouched wildlife viewing. Numerous species of birds, monkeys, sloths, crocodiles, insects & amphibians abound.

A live volcano? Yes, Vulcan Arenal is one of the most spectacular, active volcanoes in the world, and the locale alongside Lake Arenal is sublime and exciting.

Active adventures dot the map from cave exploring to horseback riding, river rafting, zip lining, canopy tours amidst the tree tops, and off road exploration through virgin forests.

Many who visit believe it is a paradise like none other on the planet, making for lifelong, family memories.

Insider’s Tip:

Killington, VT aka “The Big K” at Ramshead (If watching the Olympics got you in the mood to ski..we like this suggestion)

Killington Vermont boasts the largest ski area in the state, as well as Eastern North America. Unknown to many, it also offers the longest ski season in Vermont which can last as long as May, sometimes June.

Families love a winter break here, with 200 trails, 31 lifts, and the new Skye Peak Express. They’ve even got a ski and snowboard school for all ages.

Insider’s Tip: With an entire lodge dedicated to families & kids, Ramshead, you can’t go wrong, especially with record snows this year.

Read more…