All posts by Deb Schaffer

Costa Rica photo essay – Doka Estate Coffee Plantation

I love Costa Rica – the sun, the beach, the jungle all speak to me. This last trip, we spent time at the Doka Estates Coffee Plantation. Here are some of the pictures from that tour.


The Doka Estate is in Alajuela, Costa Rica. It’s about a 40-minute drive up the mountain from downtown San Jose.

There is plenty to do at the Estate once you’ve gotten your coffee fix.

The tour begins with a quick growing lesson. All the plants at the Estate are started and nurtured by hand on-site.


Eventually, the plants are big enough to go into the fields and produce coffee cherries.


All the work is done by hand. Each coffee picker fills this basket with coffee cherries to earn around $8 U.S. per basket.


After separating and drying the beans, they are bagged and shipped to various brokers throughout the world.


Here’s what coffee looks like when it’s drying.

Costa Rica

After the tour, relax on the balcony and enjoy the view!


Travel Deal: Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort in Ambergris Caye

Ambergris Caye
San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Photo: Dennis Redfiled

Looking outside and seeing the snow, I’m in the mood for a beachy, tropical resort.

The Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort is partnering with Groupon Getaways to offer a great deal on stays in Ambergris Caye. Two guests stay 3 nights for $495, five nights for $825, and seven nights for $1,155.

The Costa Blu Dive & Beach Resort

This resort has 36 one-bedroom suites, all with private balconies overlooking the beautiful Carribean Sea. Each room is outfitted with a flat-screen TV, king-sized bed, and wireless internet. The resort also offers diving equipment and equipment for other water sports, including kayaks. Sun at the seafront pool or walk the beaches. Enjoy your meals at the Blu Restaurant.

Belize and Ambergris Caye

Belize and Ambergris Caye is known for its proximity to the world’s second longest barrier reef. If you’re a diver, you’ve either already been here or it’s on your bucket list. There are many different excursion companies available to take you to the best diving and snorkeling locations.

If you don’t dive, explore the island’s Mayan heritage and jungles. There is shopping in San Pedro, along with many restaurants, and galleries. The island is small, about 36 miles long and only about 5 miles wide at it’s widest point. You’ll see that most people get around with golf carts, bikes, or just walking.

Getting There

If you’re flying out of Dallas, Houston, Miami, or Los Angeles there are direct flights. If you’re flying out of Denver, the best fares I saw were from Tuesday to Tuesday, flying through Dallas. The rates were about $420 per person, roundtrip in March 2016.

Fly into Belize City and  take the ferry to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. Or you can take an intra-country airline to the island. Airfare is not included in the stay packages.

Visit by February 16, 2016 for more information and to book your trip. There will be a 6% resort fee and 9% tax collected upon arrival. Travel by June 30, 2016.

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The 2016 North American International Auto Show

Despite the bone-chilling cold here in the Detroit area, I braved the elements to visit the North American International Auto Show downtown at Cobo Center. I hadn’t been the show in a few years and it’s fun to go back.

We parked on the roof of Cobo Center. Get there early if you want to park here – it does fill up by mid-day. There are other parking garages around the Center, but there may be a walk involved.

For some, the auto show might be a great big room with lots of new, expensive cars. In my observation, here are the coolest things I saw at the show.

Feel like the floor is moving? It might be!

There are many cars sitting on turntables moving slowly. I stepped up to the Alfa Romeo exhibit and for a moment, I felt like I was moving! It was the car that was moving, not me.

It’s important to watch the floors in the hall. There are lots of steps and ramps and you’ll need to pay attention to where you’re putting your feet.

Auto ShowYou can get into the cars

It was a surprise to me that folks didn’t know you can get into the cars and play around with the knobs and buttons. Yes, visitors to the show can get into most of the cars. Open the trunk and let the kids climb in. Just don’t shut them in!

How else will you get a picture in the latest Mercedes sedan or the newest Corvette?

Only the most expensive cars are off-limits.

The huge video screens

Maybe it’s just me – I don’t go to a lot of large conferences or shows. The multi-story video screens were quite a shock. Watching a video that’s two stories tall is quite the experience.

Chevrolet had wraparound video screens. The audience felt like they were in the car and driving down the road. How fun!

Auto Show
Viper virtual reality

The virtual reality booths

Most of the biggest manufacturers had some type of virtual reality game or booth that visitors to the show could play. There were lines of folks to get a chance to drive a Viper through virtual reality.

Toyota had a Teen Driver booth where they put virtual reality goggles on the driver and the participant drove down the street trying not to hit the taxi cabs while the phone rings and the radio blares. And everyone can watch them drive on the monitor.

The models

It’s 2016 and the car companies are still hiring beautiful women to stand by the cars  in eveningwear and look, well, beautiful. In four inch heels.

Sometimes the models speak. Often they do not – they just stand there.

This year I did notice that there were some good looking guys talking about the cars as well. I didn’t see any men just standing next to a car as it twirls on the turntable. Nor did the men have on formal wear, sport tank tops, or uncomfortable shoes.

I never understood the need for a model to stand by a car. Is the car not beautiful enough to be alone? I guess if the women, or man, is explaining the features of the car, that makes a bit more sense.

It’s a tradition.

This little car in the Toyota booth

Auto Show
Toyota IRoad car

There are lots of cool concept cars in the show. I thought this one was very neat. It’s a two-seater, has three wheels, and leans into the turns like a motorcycle.

That’s the top coolest things I saw at the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit.

Did you go to the show? What was your favorite?



Gilt Group adds travel to their deals

Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Welcome Sign

It’s the end of the year, and I’m working on some stories to submit and thinking about my travel plans for the next year. Like most folks, I’m definitely susceptible to a great deal.

As I trolled through my email, I came across and new travel deal site from Gilt Group. To get there, you need, go to, or go to your account on and click Travel on the menu.

Today’s deals include a great rate on a mid-town Manhattan hotel,  the Executive Hotel Le Soleil New York.  The room rates start at $99 per night per room and looks like there are dates open through March 2016. If you need your New York fix, they may be a great way to get it. Here’s the link.

M and I just returned from Las Vegas on our way back from a quick trip to Southern California for some visiting and golf. Gilt Travel also has a couple of great deals on Vegas hotels, including The Signature. The Signature is a condo-hotel located about a block off the strip. Rent a junior-suite starting at $74 per night for two people. The catch is that there is a $35.84 resort fee per night. But a luxury room for just over $100 per night is not a bad deal in Las Vegas. Visit for more information and to book your getaway.

Like this article? Click the subscribe link at the top of the page to get the latest information by email when it’s published. For more fun deals and information, follow Deb on Twitter at debtalkstravel.

These deals are subject to change or cancellation at any time, and restrictions may apply. Book early for the best deals.

Relax at the Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace
Brown Palace

The Brown Palace Hotel is an institution here in the Denver area. Since 1892, the Brown Palace has hosted royalty, presidents, and visitors to the Mile High City.

If you’re looking for that perfect holiday gift for your loved one, this might fit the bill. For $89 your best friend can get a massage or facial complete with a glass of champagne. The price also includes complimentary valet parking and $20 credit for retail products.

A visit to the Brown is an experience. Visit soon for more details and to buy your voucher.

Puerto Vallarta hotel deal – CasaMagna Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa

Sunset over Banderas Bay
Sunset over Banderas Bay by Deb Schaffer

Puerto Vallarta is a great winter getaway from Denver. has partnered with the CasaMagna Marriott to offer room rates starting at $109 per night for a garden view room. Guests can upgrade to a ocean-view room for an additional $30 per room.

This five-star resort includes five restaurants, three pools, and a spa. There’s plenty to do in Puerto Vallarta, from golf at the Marina Vallarta Golf Club, to a day trip to the Marietas Islands and see the blue-footed booby!

Visit soon for more information and black-out dates and to book your Mexican holiday!

Virgin America Airlines announces Denver to San Francisco route

Virgin America Airlines has announced they will be starting service between Denver and San Francisco on March 16, 2015.

Three flights per day are scheduled. The first flight is at 7:00 a.m., then 12:30 p.m., then a flight at 6:00 p.m. Flights are on sale starting at $52.80 per segment.

Virgin America will be new to the Denver International Airport, and those of us here in Denver are excited to have another great airline choice.

Like Frontier Airlines and Spirit – and nearly every other airline – even calling the reservation center costs something at Virgin America. You can buy a higher fare class and get your first bag checked free. Otherwise, you’ll pay to check baggage, but you won’t pay for carry on luggage.

Virgin America offers mood-lit cabins, Wi-Fi, custom leather seats in the Main Cabin, power outlets and touch-screen video offering entertainment.

Read more about Virgin America and it’s planned opening in Denver: Flights to Denver on sale.

Cruise deals in Europe – less than $100 per day

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia and Royal Caribbean Cruises have partnered to offer incredible cruise deals in the Mediterranean. Sail aboard the Rhapsody of the Seas or the Jewel of the Seas for as little as $799 per person for a 10-day itinerary.

$799 roundtrip Rome, Venice, or Barcelona to Venice. Visit Croatia, Turkey, Greece and Malta, depending on which getaway selected. There are select dates, so visit by Friday, October 16 for the dates and itineraries.

Like this article? Click the subscribe link at the top of the page to get the latest information by email when it’s published. For more fun deals and information, follow Deb on Twitter at debtalkstravel.

These deals are subject to change or cancellation at any time, and restrictions may apply. Book early for the best deals.

Denver airfare sales

Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Welcome Sign

Frontier Airlines and Southwest Airlines are having airfare sales for travel from Denver through the winter months.

On Frontier, travel to Las Vegas and Phoenix for as little at $58 one-way, travel to Dallas starting at $78 one-way. Check out the rest of the sale at Frontier Airlines.

Southwest Airlines is offering sale fares to numerous U.S. destinations. For example, fly Denver to Albuquerque for as little as $104 one way and and to Burbank starting at $94 one way. Find out about the other great deals at Southwest Airlines.

Getting around Denver, Colorado

Denver16thStreetMallAre you planning a trip to Denver? I’m going to a conference here in the city later this month. For folks not familiar with how to get around this area, here are some tips.

  • You don’t hail cabs in Denver. You call them and wait for them to come to you. The hotel may have a taxis at the stand – or not. Uber and Lyft are very popular here. You can also use a car sharing service such as ZipCar.

    Bike Rental

  • Denver was also one of the first cities to have bikes to rent – B cycle . You can rent a bike for $9 for 24 hours at any B Cycle station – but you must have a credit card. These stations are all over the city – you can rent at one and return at another.
  • In downtown, use the 16th Street Mall Shuttle to get around. It’s free and goes from 16th and Broadway all the way to the Union Station Transit Center. There’s also the light rail and traditional buses. During the week, there are plenty of trains and buses. However, on the weekends, there are often fewer buses and so time between buses is much longer. Light rail is the same, fewer trains on the weekends.

    Light Rail

  • At this time, light rail does not go to the airport. You can get around downtown, and get to some outlying areas, like the Federal Center. Light Rail is mostly used by locals to get to and from downtown for work and special events. In 2016, there will be light rail from the airport. We’re all looking forward to it! Check out RTD for routes and costs.
Denver, Colorado
Union Station, Denver, Colorado
  • Pedi-cabs are also available downtown. You can flag these down on the street and talk to each operator about the cost. These are particularly nice in the evening on the way to or from a nice dinner and show.


  • Due to the a building boom here, many parking lots and garages have been replaced by new hotels and office buildings, so parking can be scarce during the week, not to mention expensive. Check out the Park Smart Denver lots first for the best rates. There are also garages and lots just outside the main downtown that can be much cheaper if you’re willing to walk a few blocks either to your destination or to the 16th Street Mall Shuttle.
  • Most of the garages and lots take credit and debit cards. You might check at the outlying lots just to make sure.
  • And finally, parking meters. These are all over the downtown area. They take credit and debit cards as well as Smart Cards (visitors probably don’t have these) and change. Each meter has different costs and time limits so you must read the meter! You don’t want your souvenir from Denver to be a parking ticket.

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