Archive for October, 2013

Vietnam This Christmas: An Eco-Adventure & A Bike

Vietnam Travel

200+ miles of epic road cycling, priceless bragging rights, and a lifetime of memories…

Eco-travelers looking for a warm sunny holiday this winter months should look no further than Ciclismo Classico’s “Vietnam Splendor”, a cycling tour of Vietnam happening this Christmas from 12/22/13 – 1/1/2014.

A land of striking beauty, Vietnam is peppered with pagodas, French colonial mansions, vast white sand beaches, thatched bamboo huts, and Technicolor sunsets. Guests will experience this beautiful country from the seat of a bicycle, the main form of travel for most Vietnamese, peddling through bustling villages, along seashores, and into mountainous terrain on a southward route from Hanoi to Saigon. A cultural encounter laden with boat rides, decadent cuisine, visits with local historians, cooking classes, and, of course,  lots of cycling, can you really go wrong? I think not.


Enjoy fabulous 4 & 5 star hotels, delicious meals, and bilingual local tour leaders offer first-rate inside access and local connections that make this arguably one of the best Vietnam bike tour available.

  • Highlights of the Vietnam Splendor tour include:
  • Scenic cycling from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)
  • A boat cruise up the Perfume River
  • Delicious and locally-sourced meals
  • A culinary lesson with famous local chef Duc Tram
  • Jaunts to UNESCO World Heritage Sites Hue, Hoi An and My Son
  • Visit to at traditional water puppet theater
  • A Buddhist shrine
  • Encounters with thousands of cultural and historical artifacts from the Dinh, Ly, Tran and Le dynasties

Starting at $4,995/pp, this tour offers all breakfasts, 8 lunches, 8 dinners and snacks en route, full private bus support, and internal flights.


Ecotourism: Environmentally Friendly or Greenwashing?

A Pipe Breaks Killing 300 Turtles (c) WSPA

A Pipe Breaks Killing 300 Turtles (c) WSPA

In recent years, we all know that eco-tourism has become a hot buzzword for environmentally minded travelers, but these days, groups like the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) advises tourists to research visitor attractions to ensure they are operating responsibly, keeping in mind the welfare of animals and the environment, and avoid those that are simply greenwashing.

So, using the Cayman Turtle Farm as an example, Elizabeth Hogan, oceans and wildlife campaigns manager at WSPA, put together a list of five tips that can help tourists identify when an eco-tourist attraction is not as animal- or environmentally friendly as it claims. We’ll admit, this news comes at a great time as we can’t always tell at first look what programs are legitimately helping versus those that are simply greenwashing.  What’s the problem with the Cayman Turtle Farm? It’s a popular tourist destination that alleges to focus on the conservation and the protection of endangered sea turtles, but it also sells them for food and has a poor track record on animal protection issues.

1)      Avoid direct interaction with the animals.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t be touching animals at an eco-tourist attraction. Whether it’s swimming with dolphins or holding sea turtles, this kind of contact with hundreds or thousands of tourists can traumatize the very animals being protected and compromise their health, sometimes in serious ways. Be wary of any eco-tourist attraction that encourages or allows this kind of contact and know it may also pose a health risk for you personally. For example, at the Cayman Turtle Farm, tourists are encouraged to handle the sea turtles, putting themselves at risk of contracting E.coli and salmonella.

2)      If there is a high entertainment to science ratio, stay away.

Eco-tourist attractions must balance science and entertainment. Unfortunately, some lean too heavily on the latter. If the eco-tourist attraction you’re considering has too much entertainment, such as snorkelling with sea turtles in small artificial ponds as the case at the Cayman Turtle Farm, it may not be paying enough attention to welfare of the animals it’s supposedly protecting and the science of conservation.

3)      Don’t eat any of the animals supposedly being protected.

Done properly, there’s nothing wrong with farming. But it’s a very different thing than conservation. Any eco-tourist attraction that tries to balance conservation of a species with selling it for meat is caught in a conflict of interest. At the Cayman Turtle Farm, it claims to be helping endangered sea turtles while simultaneously selling sea turtle meat to local restaurants.

4)      Look for what trusted third parties have to say.

Before you visit an attraction, spend a few minutes on the Internet to see what trusted third-party groups have to say.  In the case of the Cayman Turtle Farm, WSPA as well as other animal and conservation groups have expressed concerns about its policies and practices which are online and come up in any search on the farm.

5)      Ask you travel agent, cruise line and hotel concierge lots of questions.

With the four points above in mind, come armed with questions for anyone recommending you visit an eco-tourist attraction. Ask members of the travel industry to investigate the attractions they are promoting and provide proof that the property is operating with animal’s and the environment’s interest at its core. If they can’t answer all of your concerns, look for other animal- and eco-friendly options.  WSPA says keeping these five simple tips in mind will help environmentally minded travelers avoid eco-tourist attractions that fail to meet industry standards.

“Ultimately people want to do the right thing and eco-tourism sounds good, it feels good, and people like the idea that they are helping make the world a better place while they are on vacation,” added Hogan. “But it’s not that simple. Luckily if you know what to look for it’s fairly easy to spot problem places even if no one tells you.”

To learn more about WSPA’s campaign to end sea turtle cruelty visit:

Eco-Luxury in Costa Rica

Kura Design Villas

Kura Design Villas

We were blown away by the amazing design for these two hot eco-friendly lodges in Costa Rica and think they’re two of the best we’ve seen as of late. Now, travelers to Costa Rica can build in two very different  eco-luxury experiences that showcase the evolution of the country’s ecotourism experiences – the multiple award winning, authentic and visionary  Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge in the Osa Peninsula and the less than one year old, critically acclaimed, drop dead gorgeous and sexy Kura Design Villas, just a short 2.5 hour or 150 kilometre journey away in Uvita, and the centre of Ballena Marine National Park.  Recognized as one of the top eco- lodges in Central America, Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge has spent the past 20 years leading by example and incorporating best practices in sustainable tourism. Set within a 1,000 acre rainforest reserve, 900 acres of which are protected into perpetuity thanks to its visionary owners, guests experience firsthand how nature and tourism can coexist in a way that proves that a forest left standing is of far more value than if it was cut down. In 2003, Lapa Rios became the first resort in Costa Rica to receive five-leaf status from the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s (ICT) Certification for Sustainable Tourism.

Lapa Rios Amazing Private Deck

Lapa Rios Amazing Private Deck

The sixteen bungalows were designed to reflect the traditional architecture of the area, and set into the Lapa Rios reserve so that guests sleep among the rainforest, with spectacular ocean and wildlife views. Guides who were once hunters are now conservationists, and provide interpretation for dozens of tours and activities provided both on and off property.  The Lapa Rios reserve also offers three beaches and numerous waterfalls.  Meals are served in the open air Brisa Azul restaurant with views of the Golfo Dulce, and the focus is on fresh, local ingredients and traditional Costa Rican flavours and recipes.  This intense interaction with nature can now be combined with a stay at Costa Rica’s newest, painstakingly designed ecolodge experience, Kura Design Villas in Uvita.  While Lapa Rios embraces the traditional architecture and design of the area, Kura celebrates crisp, clean lines, vibrant colours, local modern art, and modern sustainable materials.  Built high on a mountain ridge in order to capture cool ocean breezes while offering spectacular views, Kura has quickly built a reputation for exceptional cuisine and warm hospitality.   An infinity pool and lounge along with its six beautifully appointed villas may make guests suspect of its carbon footprint, but Kura is being mentored by the best sustainable tourism experts in the country and is currently creating its own art, energy and eco-aesthetics tour for guests wanting to peek behind all the seemingly hi-tech exteriors to find the hi-touch commitment to eco-luxe tourism.

A Room at Kura

A Room at Kura

New this fall is Kura’s full service spa, a separately designed building with floor to ceiling windows to take full advantage of the views high above the rainforest and ocean. Private yoga classes are also available upon request. Kura is surrounded by adventure and activities like whale watching, diving and snorkeling, which can all be arranged.  The small village of Uvita de Osa is located between Dominical, a world-class surfing spot, and Ojochal, a town known for its local culinary traditions. For day trips, Kura is close to Manuel Antonio National Park and Corcovado National Park, which National Geographic calls the fourth most diverse national park in the world.

Rates & Reservations:

Rates for Lapa Rios Rainforest Ecolodge range from $260 to $590 USD per person, based on double occupancy and depending on the season. Rates also include meals, lodging, round trip transfer to Puerto Jimenez (the town nearest Lapa Rios) and several on-property tours. A minimum four day stay is recommended.

Guests can round off their Costa Rican eco-luxury tour by spending two to three nights at Kura, where rates range from $440 to $890 USD per villa, and include arrival and departure transportation by private car between the town of Uvita and the hotel. (Note: KURA is closed this October 2013 for upgrading and maintenance).

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