Tag Archives: resorts

Costa Rica photo essay – Doka Estate

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.

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

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

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

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

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

Costa Rica

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

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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 Groupon.com 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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Enjoy Rome and Florence, visit Palm Springs, getaway in Steamboat Springs

IMG_9427This week’s deals include a deal on a great hotel in Palm Springs, a getaway in Steamboat Springs, and an adventure in Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Palm Springs

A great getaway from the Front Range in the fall is Palm Springs, California. Travelzoo.com has partnered with The Renaissance Palm Springs hotel and resort to offer weekday stays for $99 per night and weekends for $139. The Renaissance Palm Springs is located right downtown, near the popular restaurants and clubs. It has the largest pool in Palm Springs, if hanging at the pool is the most active you want to be. Get out and play by hiking, riding bikes, or playing golf at one of the many golf courses in the area. Dates are available through December and there are some blackout dates around holidays. A two-night minimum stay may be required on some Saturdays, so a phone call to the resort would be advised. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and to buy your voucher.

Steamboat Springs

A bit closer to home, the Hotel Bristol in Steamboat Springs is also discounting rooms from now through October 2015 starting at $89 per night for two. The Hotel Bristol is in downtown Steamboat Springs, and amenities include rainfall showerheads, LCD TVs, pillow-top beds and Pendleton wool blankets. Mazzola’s Italian Diner is in the hotel or walk to one of the other great restaurants downtown. The ski resort is about a 10 minute drive down the road. There’s lots to do in and around Steamboat Springs including hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and a trip to the hot springs. Visit Groupon.com by August 17 for more information and to book your weekend getaway.

Rome, Florence, and Venice

If you can get away in the next few months, Tour Crafters has a great package to Rome, Florence, and Venice, land-only, starting at $479.00 per person, double-occupancy, for nine nights. The package includes nine breakfasts, three nights each in Rome, Florence, and Venice, high speed train tickets – tourist class with an extra-large seat – between Rome and Florence and Florence and Venice, pizza at La Strenga, gelato at Gelateria Santa Maria Maggiore, and a Murano tour. You’ll cover your airfare to Rome, hotel city tax, excursions, tips, weekend supplements, and travel insurance. The dates are off-season, November 1 to December 20, 2015. This is a great price – if you’ve wanted to visit Italy, this may be the time! Visit Tourcrafters.it for more information and to buy your package.

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, go to www.debtalkstravel.com and 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.

 

Small ship cruising deals, the Northern Lights of Iceland, visit La Jolla

Northern Lights, Iceland by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons
Northern Lights, Iceland by Moyan Brenn, Creative Commons

Today’s travel deals include specials on small ship Windstar cruises, a winter escape to Iceland, and discounts on bungalows in La Jolla, California.

Small ship cruise deals

The Fourth of July is bringing out the travel sales and Windstar Cruises is offering it’s best deals this weekend. With only 148 to 310 passengers on any ship, Windstar offers the best in small ship cruising. One of their best deals is seven days on the Wind Surf, setting sail fro

Ride Rio Grande rails, cruise the Inside Passage, enjoy Lake Las Vegas

This week’s deals include a train ride and concert, an Alaskan cruise, and a great deal at a resort in Las Vegas.

It’s summer in the Rockies, and the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is offering half-price tickets for their Mountain Rails Live Summer Concert Series. The package includes two economy class adult tickets for $19, the train ride and concert tickets with the train departing Alamosa at 10:30 a.m. and Fort Garland at 11:15 a.m. Standard class tickets are available for $39 for two. Standard class features more comfortable seating with chairs that can be reversed to make a four-person seating area. Children’s tickets are also available. There are eight shows during the summer included in this promotion. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for the dates and to buy your voucher.

For those who can travel at the last minute, Cruise.com has partnered with Celebrity Cruises to offer sailings to Alaska in mid-July 2015. Sail July 15 on the Celebrity Millennium starting at $749 per person for an inside cabin. The package includes prepaid gratuities, and up to $300 extra onboard c

Las Vegas Sign
Las Vegas Welcome Sign

redit, discounts on Vancouver hotel and shore excursions, and a value booklet with up to $350 in savings. The itinerary is Vancouver, thorough the Inside Passage to Seward, with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, and the Hubbard Glacier. Visit Cruise.com for more information and other dates and to book your Alaskan cruise.

The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort in Henderson, Nevada is offering a great deal on room rates through September starting at $69 per night for two people. Breakfast is included with an upgraded, Premium King Lake-View room for $89 per night for two. Up to two kids 17 or younger stay free in double rooms. This resort has a private beach on the lake and watersports such as stand-up paddle boarding. Play some golf at the Reflection Bay Golf Club and the Southshore Golf Club or just hang by the giant pool. In Henderson, visitors escape the congestion and 24-hour hassle of the traffic on the Strip. Visit the Hoover Dam or nearby Lake Mead for hiking, biking, or fishing. Visit Groupon.com soon for more information and to book your Las Vegas 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, go to www.debtalkstravel.com and 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.

 

Airfare deals from Southwest, Half Moon Bay getaway, road trip in Tuscany

travel, Half Moon Bay
Half Moon Bay, by Aaron Logan, LightMatters, Creative Commons

This week’s travel deals include great airfare discounts from Southwest Airlines, an adventure in Tuscany, and 40% off rooms at Half Moon Bay, California.

Southwest Airlines is having a three-day sale on flights out of Denver. One-way airfare from Denver to Salt Lake City, Omaha, and Oklahoma City starts at $49. For $99 one-way from Denver fly to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and many others. Visit Southwest.com by June 4 for more details and to book your flights. Southwest is also offering discounts on hotel and vacation packages.

Grab those cheap flights to San Francisco, rent a car and visit the Oceano Hotel and Spa at Half Moon Bay, about 26 miles from the San Francisco (SFO) airport. Groupon.com has partnered with this hotel to offer a King Suite for two for $175 per night – a $313 per night value. The stay includes a bottle of wine. Bring the kids and stay in a Princeton Double Suite for the same price, with dates available into August. The suites include private balconies, fireplaces, and 42-inch flatscreen TVs. Browse the shops, boutiques, and galleries in historic Half Moon Bay. Many restaurants source locally, inviting you to sample the wine and produce from the area. Visit Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, watching the life in the tidal pools. For the sun worshipper, spend the day on Half Moon Beach. Visit Groupon.com soon for more information and to book your getaway.

For those who like road trips, check out Gate 1 Travel’s excursion to Tuscany and Milan, Italy. Discounted to $799 per person, this six day road trip through Tuscan countryside starts with roundtrip airfare from New York to Milan, five nights at a 4-star hotel in Tuscany, and one night in Milan, daily breakfast, seven day car rental (manual transmission), unlimited mileage, insurance, theft protection, taxes and airport fees. Departures from other U.S. gateways are available. Talk with the Gate 1 Travel representative. Personally, I’d ask about an extension! Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and to arrange your Tuscan treat. Book your vacation by June 17.

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, go to www.debtalkstravel.com and 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.

Escape to Athens, Greece, party in the Dominican Republic, spa day at the Four Seasons

Denver, Colorado
Denver, Colorado

Today’s travel deals include a wonderful escape to Athens, an all-inclusive in the Dominican Republic and a spa day at the Four Seasons in downtown Denver.

Gate 1 Travel is partnering with Groupon Getaways to offer a great deal to Athens, Greece with travel dates in late 2015 and early 2016. Packages for a seven night stay start at $899 per person, double occupancy including airfare from New York, five nights hotel accommodations in Athens, daily breakfast in Athens, and all airline fuel taxes and fees. Stroll through the Acropolis and visit the Parthenon, ride the funicular to the top of Mount Lycabettus for great views of the city or take a tour of Delphi for an additional fee. Visit Groupon.com by June 8 for more information, including available dates and prices. Book by June 16 and travel by March 2016.

If the beach is more your style, Livingsocial.com has partnered with Cofresi Palm Beach & Spa Resort in Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic to offer a six day stay starting at $560 for two. That package includes all meals, domestic alcohol and non-alcoholic drinks, non-motorized sports, daytime activities, nightly entertainment, and taxes and fees. Relax by one of the 12 pools or on the beach. There is an on-site spa and a movie theatre. Golf is nearby, as well as kiteboarding and waterfall climbing. Visit Livingsocial.com by June 9 for more information and to book your Caribbean getaway.

The Four Seasons Hotel Denver is offering a luxury spa day, including a facial or a massage and your choice of a massage add-on (collagen eye treatment, scalp treatment, or hand or foot scrub) or facial add-on (lip enhancement, scalp treatment or hand or foot scrub) for $119. You’ll also get a glass of sparkling wine or a mimosa and access to the pool and all other spa amenities.  This package is available Monday through Thursday starting on June 1. An automatic 18% gratuity will be added on to the total cost of the services. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and to buy your voucher.

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.

A Patagonian trek, getaway to Glenwood Springs, sun in the Riviera Maya

Beach
Caribbean beach

This week’s deals include adventure in Patagonia, a hotel deal in Glenwood Springs, and a getaway to the Riviera Maya.

Trek in Patagonia

Trek in Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia for 11 days, starting at $2,744 per person for the land-only package and $3,785 per person with round-trip flights between Los Angeles or Miami and Santiago. Santiago is the Chilean capital city and has a booming restaurant scene and trendy shopping centers, with the looming peaks of the Andes Mountains in the distance. South of Santiago more than 1,500 miles, Torres del Paine National Park is a treasure-trove of mountain peaks, huge glaciers, and icy mountain lakes. Spend six days trekking through this spectacular wilderness. The packages also include round-trip ground transportation per itinerary from the airports to the hotels and sightseeing destinations, double-occupancy accommodations’ for three nights at the Casa Bonita Bed and Breakfast in Santiago and six nights at the Refugios in the National Park, with one night at Hostel Amerinidia in Puerto Natalas.  Also included is 10 breakfasts, seven lunches, and seven dinners, domestic airline flights, taxes, fuel surcharges, hotel fees, entrance fees, trekking permits and medical and evacuation insurance. As a bonus, 10% of the trip cost goes to the OneSeed Microfinance Fund for investment in local entrepreneurs. Visit Livingsocial.com to learn more about OneSeed Expeditions and this Patagonian adventure by May 8.

Swim in Glenwood Springs

For those who prefer to stay in the mountains close to home, Glenwood Suites in Glenwood Springs is offering a great deal on a rooms, with dates into June. Stay in a King Room for as low as $59 per night and a Double-Queen Room starting at $79 per night. Glenwood Springs is a great weekend getaway from the Front Range, offering hiking and biking trails, whitewater rafting, and the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool to sooth away the aches and pains of the day. Visit Groupon.com soon for more information and to book your getaway.

Sun in Cancun

Sun and sand is only a short flight away from Denver, and Apple Vacations is offering a great vacation deal to Cancun, starting at $599, including airfare and taxes. This package includes three nights at an all-inclusive beachfront resort, the Barcelo Maya Beach & Caribe. This luxury resort features a dolphinarium, spa, miniature golf, live shows, and kids club and surf ride wave pool. This is part of a larger sale on three- to seven-night vacation packages and stays at other resorts. Cancun offers beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and nightlife. Visit Travelzoo.com by May 6 to book your summer vacation.

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.

Traveler or tourist? 6 Tips for planning a vacation to Panama

Century Bridge
One of the two bridges that lead out of Panama City and into the countryside.

The gentle thumping against the window drew us out of the night. It’s raining in Panama City, which is not unusual in October. We’ve come to this  Central American country to enjoy the sun, play some golf, and explore. Flying in during the early evening, we’ve stayed in a hotel downtown to avoid driving at night from the airport. As we traveled in this country, we discovered several planning strategies to help make your trip to Panama more enjoyable. With the advent of non-stop flights between Denver and Panama City, more tourists may make the trek.

1. Be prepared with basic Spanish. English is not widely spoken or understood. Tourism is new to Panama. Aside from the Canal and Bocas del Toro, the country hasn’t been much of a vacation destination for English speakers and most folks outside of Panama City only speak basic English. In the city, those in the hospitality industry may be more fluent but our waitress in the hotel restaurant still was puzzled when I asked for unsweetened iced tea. Be prepared with some rudimentary Spanish.

2. Rent a car to explore. Transportation is problematic. Officially, taxis are pretty inexpensive in Panama City. In reality, if you don’t know what it should cost, they charge you as much as they can get away with. From the airport to downtown Panama City, legally it should be about $12.00. In reality, it costs about $30.00 for a tired, non-Spanish speaking gringo.

Traffic in Panama City
Weaving through Panama City traffic

Traffic is awful and this affects both private and public transportation. There is a country-wide bus system as well as flights to the major cities if you need to get to David or Bocas del Toro quickly. If renting a car, be prepared to drive very aggressively and take the comprehensive insurance.  The condition of the roads range from good on the major highways to challenging in the neighborhoods. While my husband drove on the side roads, I kept an eye out for potholes that would swallow the front right quarter panel. Since many roads aren`t marked or named, GPS is not very useful either in the city or in the smaller towns. There aren’t many roads outside Panama City, particularly compared to most American urban areas. A good map is as useful as any GPS.

3. Arrange excursions before leaving home. Know who you want to call when you get in country for excursions. Our experience was that businesses that catered to tourists didn’t reach out or do much advertising. For example, we stayed in Coronado, a well-known resort area. My husband was interested in learning to surf, and we knew there were several well-known surf beaches close to where we were staying. We never found any information about any surf schools in the area. The resort didn’t have any brochure racks that we saw, and we never found a tourist office in town. We did plan on a day trip to El Valle before we left, and were able to drive there and enjoy the area. If there is something you want to do during your stay, arrange it or gather the information before you leave.

Pilot boat
A pilot boat comes to pick up the pilot that maneuvered the ship through the locks

4. Be ready to shop. Stocking items that are not necessities is not high priority for Panamanians. There were no vendors on the beach, unlike the beaches in Mexico where vendors constantly approach visitors. For those of you who expect to shop for souvenirs, Coronado has many stores, but they don’t cater to tourists. We did see a couple of stores for the local artisans along the Pan American Highway, but didn’t want to stop at the time. There are also many vendors in Casco Viejo with a large variety of handmade goods.  If you plan to return home with souvenirs, shop for them when you find them. The airport has mostly stores that cater to the high-end luxury goods crowd and very few T-shirts and shot glasses.

5. Ask about wireless service when booking a hotel. We had free Wi-Fi in the Doubletree in Panama City, at our resort in Coronado, and at the Country Inn and Suites on the Canal. My research indicates that not all hotels offer Wi-Fi, some offer it and charge, and some don’t. When booking accommodations, be sure to ask.

6. Talk to your cell provider. Cell coverage is fine in the bigger cities but may be less than stellar outside the most populated areas. We didn’t use our phone for calling or data on the cell network because it was too expensive. However, T-Mobile is offering international calling and data without additional charge. Check with your cell provider to determine what charges may be incurred in country. If you absolutely must have a phone, it is easy to buy a phone and load it up with minutes. Movistar and Cable & Wireless are the major cell providers in Panama and they have outlets in all the major Panamanian cities.

Coronado Beach
Coronado Beach on a Saturday morning.

Spending  time in Panama takes a bit more planning than the traditional resort vacation to, say, Mexico. Panama  is still up-and-coming, and hasn’t focused on tourism like some of it’s neighbors. For those who prefer to explore and travel rather than visit and be served, Panama is a great vacation destination. Go, meet the people, and experience the deserted beaches and beautiful jungles. You’ll plan to go back.

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.

 

Lakeside living in Las Vegas, Cozumel, the Moscow Ballet tickets

Beach
Caribbean beach

Today’s deals include a resort in Las Vegas, fun in Cozumel, and tickets to the ballet in Denver.

The Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa is offering a stay in a King room with a resort view starting at $69 per night. Guests can upgrade to a premium King lake-view room for $99 per night, with a two-night minimum. The resort is located in Henderson, just south of the Strip, and these packages include breakfast for two or a $50 resort credit. The resort has exclusive access to the Southshore Golf Club, a private Jack Nicklaus Signature Course. Relax at the pools, or go into Las Vegas to shop or see a show. Visit Groupon.com by August 27 for more information and to book your getaway. Dates are available through October.

If ocean beaches are more your style, the Park Royal Cozumel in Cozumel, Mexico is offering an all-inclusive stay, starting at $399 for three nights. Packages include all meals, drinks, taxes, and gratuities as well as access to the gym and water areas and a 50% discount on spa services. The resort has Wi-Fi access, and three restaurants to choose from, as well as the Bikini Shack poolside bar. Guests can plan vacations of three, four, five, six, or seven nights. Travel through December 20. Two children under 6 stay and eat free, children 7 – 12 are $40 per person per night. Visit Livingsocial.com by September 4 for more information and to book your Caribbean adventure.

Christmas will be here before we know it, and it’s time to start planning to get tickets for your holiday entertainment. Travelzoo.com has partnered with the Moscow Ballet to offer tickets to the Company’s performances of the “Great Russian Nutcracker” on Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13 at the Paramount Theatre. Rear orchestra tickets are $36.50, rear mezzanine & middle orchestra are $53.50, and front orchestra tickets are $68. This production includes handmade costumes and classical choreography, honoring the original ballet. Visit Travelzoo.com soon for more information and for instructions on buying your tickets. Additional fees of up to $15 per ticket may apply.

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.