When I was planning my recent trip to Mexico I was excited. It was my first trip to the country, and rather than head to a luxury resort I wanted this trip to be about the culture. Don’t get me wrong, I love a luxury resort as much as the next person (as you can see here and here), but the Mexico I wanted this time didn’t involve palapas or infinity pools. A few days at an immersive cooking school in the small mountain town of Tepoztlan, with mornings spent walking through town to the market to gather the ingredients for dinner that night all within view of dramatic limestone cliffs capped with the ruins of an Aztec pyramid; followed by the frenetic mix of modern and historic in Mexico City would be my introduction to Mexico. When I announced my travel plans to friends and family I was a bit taken aback, more than any other place I have visited I was deluged with warnings and questions about my safety.
A heady mix of traditional cultures and cosmopolitan buzz, there is no doubt that Mexico City is having a moment. A rich indigenous and Spanish colonial history, a vibrant arts scene and one of the most exciting culinary scenes on the planet, the allure of Mexico City is endless. As one of the world’s largest cities, it’s nearly impossible to ever fully know Mexico City but you can certainly get a taste of the Mexican capital in two days time. Here are my recommendations for what to do in Mexico City. Read More
It’s no secret that I travel to eat, I find that food is one of the best ways to experience a destination. For my first trip to Mexico I wanted to immerse myself in it’s cuisine, from vibrant salsas to smokey moles and everything in between, I wanted to experience Mexico’s diverse food culture on a deeper level. This is what led me to La Villa Bonita, a hands-on cooking school and boutique hacienda in Central Mexico’s highlands.
Imagine waking up surrounded by lush tropical foliage, awakened by the sounds of the ocean. Trees heavy with exotic fruit provide you breakfast as the forest around you begins to wake up. Rainbow hued birds respond to the day’s first sunlight with their songs shortly followed by the unmistakable roar of a howler monkey. Creatures of the four-legged variety begin to stir and slowly the jungle around you comes to life. Is this Eden? No my friends, this is Bosque del Cabo.
The Lodge at Chaa Creek offers up a bit of luxury for those wishing to explore the Belizean jungle. Located near the town of San Ignacio Chaa Creek was a pioneer in green tourism welcoming guests to experience jungle adventures since 1981.The Lodge has a reputation as one of the best eco-lodges in Central America and counts Prince Harry and Bill Gates among its guests. Being green comes naturally here with their commitment to sustainable tourism practices earning them a Green Globe certification. The Lodge is proud of their pristine jungle location and seeks to protect this environment while sharing its natural beauty with visitors with a variety of educational eco-tours and community outreach programs.
I was attracted to Costa Rica to explore its lush jungles, mighty volcanoes and the dramatic coastline. Little did I know that I would return home with a new hobby. I was well aware of Costa Rica’s reputation as the most biodiverse country on Earth and I was eager for the opportunity to spot monkeys, sloths, coatis, wild cats, frogs and whatever else I was lucky enough to observe. I also knew that Costa Rica was a birding paradise but I really didn’t give much thought to that. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy birds but honestly I really didn’t pay that much attention to them. Costa Rica changed that.
The ancient Mayan city of Tikal conjures up otherworldly images of mystical pyramids rising above the dense, steamy jungles of Guatemala. I was drawn to the area in order to explore the ruins of of one of the most powerful Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas and I left with some of my most surreal travel experiences to date. Our journey started in the border town of San Ignacio, Belize; popular for its proximity to a multitude of Mayan sites. Joining our guide Max we crossed the border on foot, a first for me and I do admit to being slightly nervous walking by the guards with AK-47s.Once we safely passed Max ushered us to the dusty jeep he had arranged for the 2 hour journey. After a brief stop at a roadside stand for homemade tamales (the best in Guatemala we were assured and yes, they were indeed tasty), we arrived at the gates of Tikal National Park. It was here that Max informed us that he would not be able to personally guide us as he picked up one of the many locals standing at the gates offering guide services. Raul introduced himself, flashing a partially toothless grin and began telling us about his 10 children from his 3 ex-wives. Raul accompanied us on the “sunset” tour which lasted from about 3:00 – 5:30 pm as all visitors needed to be out of the park by dusk. He was a jovial fellow but being a tour guide just wasn’t his calling. In between telling us stories of his childhood antics he would make a reference to King Chocolate, look at us quizzically asking “Riiigght???”, expecting an answer. Steve and I would glance at each other not quite knowing what to say before assuring Raul that he was indeed right. (Note: King Chocolate did indeed exist, his name was Au Cacao and he ruled Tikal around 700 A.D.He also favored a drink featuring his namesake pod, honey and vanilla presumably sparking the our worldwide obsession with chocolate). Raul did show us around the major sites at Tikal which were impressive. Our first stop the Great Plaza which is home to Temple I, Temple II and both the Northern and Central Acropolises; this plaza was the center of public life and was home to ritualistic ceremonies, theatrical performances and sporting events. Raul let us explore on our own and being that most of the day trippers had left we largely had the plaza to ourselves. While Temples I and II are not considered safe to climb you are allowed to scale the Northern Acropolis which affords some fantastic photo opportunities.