5 days, 17 hours, 27 partners
We all have stories of cancelled trips and events over the last few months. Professionally, I was most sad to miss the Emotions boutique travel conference I’d been planning to attend in Buenos Aires. Emotions is a niche conference focused on connecting smaller, often family owned, companies from throughout South and Central American with travel advisors whose clients crave authentic, immersive cultural experiences. It is a perfect fit for my client base.
The in-person conference has been rescheduled and I’m grateful that they quickly pivoted to having a virtual conference last week so that we could at least connect with partners and learn more about their experiences and destinations.
I spent each day on video conferences from my backyard deck meeting partners from Costa Rica, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina and Brazil, including from the Galapagos, Machu Picchu, Patagonia and the Amazon. They are from some places I’ve been and other places I was excited to learn more about.
It would take me hours to recount all of the incredible people, places and experiences I learned about, so I’ll list just a few here…
Cusco & Machu Picchu
When most people think of Peru, they naturally think of the #1 visited destination, Machu Picchu. I agree it’s worth the visit! Knowing how to do it in a way that’s authentic and purposeful, rather than as a tourist in a mob is important.
A few questions to ask yourself:
- Are you going with your kids or just adults?
- How active do you want to be? Do you want to take transportation most of the way there or do a 3, 6 or 9 day trek?
- Where do you want to fall on the spectrum of roughing-it to luxury?
- What time of year can you go?
Depending on the above, there are different options that would be a great fit. The Inka Trail is most well known, and also crowded and with limited access. If you are an active family with kids, I’d suggest the 6 day Salkantay Trek, which is great for kids over 12 years old. Another option is a 5 or 7 day multi-adventure trip through the Sacred Valley and Lares staying in beautiful lodges. There are opportunities to mountain bike, kayak, SUP, go white water rafting and visit local indigenous communities and markets. The stargazing is spectacular!
Two of my favorite hotels are the Sumaq and Inkaterra. If you are staying in Cusco, I love the colorful art and sense of place at El Retablo. While in Cusco enjoy the street food, street art and artisans during your explorations.
Do you want to see how well you know Peru? Try out this quiz.
Costa Rica is a popular Central American vacation spot. It’s easy to get to, safe and the people are warm and welcoming. We had a family trip planned for Costa Rica in April that sadly was cancelled. I am looking forward to rescheduling it for April 2021.
I always suggest people spend time on the coast and internally during a stay. It’s not the place I would pick for just a beach vacation because there is so much to see and do inland in the Monteverde cloud forest and nearby the Arenal volcano. For those of you who, like me, have teenagers or young adults, I suggest a stay at the W Guanacaste for two reasons – there is a zipline to get you from the pool to the beach. And there is a beer tap in every room. In addition they have a great pool, beach club and access to mountain biking and other activities. We’ll be staying here and I look forward to sharing the pictures.
If you are looking for a villa, our partners in Costa Rica have many gorgeous beachfront villas – with or without a chef who can simply cook or give you lessons. If you want to be near a great surf spot, I’d suggest a villa in Tamarindo or Nosara.
Inland, Nayara Tented Camps are brand new and an ideal destination for families. They also have Nayara Gardens and Nayara Springs, which is Relais & Chateaux and adults only. My clients get special perks including a room upgrade and early check-in/late check-out if available, daily breakfast for 2 and a $100 spa services credit. Staying at Nayara gives you access to canyoning (rappelling or jumping off of waterfalls), hikes over hanging bridges, floating down rivers to spot sloths and toucans. We’ll also be rescheduling our stay at the Tented Camps for next year.
Tabacon Thermal Resort is a place I learned more about and have now added to my list of places to go. The father of one of my partners designed the original hotel near 40 natural hot springs pools. With 103 rooms, it’s a perfect size and a beautiful place to stay. My clients also get special amenities here including a room upgrade and early check-in/late check-out if available, daily breakfast for 2 and a $100 spa services credit. Their location is in the same general area as Nayara, which gives you access to similar activities – ziplining, kayaking, biking and river drifting are a few.
Take this quiz to see how well you know Central America.
The Galapagos Islands are on the bucket list of many of my clients, and that’s understandable because it checks the box for adventurous family travel. There are unlimited wildlife experiences – swim with penguins, whale sharks and sea lions. There are options to travel by small catamarans, luxury expedition ships or stay at beautiful hotels. You are moving, learning and going new places every day. You will have dedicated naturalists with you to help you understand the history, ecology and culture of the islands. You can be as active as you’d like – swimming, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking. The time of year has a big impact on many aspects – most notably the weather and the nesting, mating, birthing and migration of animals. So carefully consider your options based on what is most important to your experience.
If you are exploring the idea of a boat – note there are usually set departures to different sections of the Galapagos. If you want to see the Flightless Cormorant, make sure your itinerary includes Isabela Island. If you have 3 kids, not all ships have triple rooms, so screen for those first.
I love this picture of a triple room on one of my partner’s ships, where the bunk bed actually comes down from the ceiling.
If you want to stay on land, Finch Bay and 14 room Pikaia are both amazing. At Pikaia my clients have extra perks including complimentary breakfasts, 50 minute massages for 2 and room upgrades if available.
You also have the option of adding on a trip to Hacienda Zuleta or 23 room Mashpi Lodge, two beautiful, and very different destinations that I love within Ecuador. Hacienda Zuleta is like stepping back in time to a (lovely) Ecuadorian home and Mashpi Lodge is like living in the trees. Both offer incredible opportunities to have authentic connections with people who know and love the culture of Ecuador.
Mashpi Lodge is a NatGeo Unique Lodge of the World and my clients amenities at Mashpi include a room upgrade and early check-in/late check-out if available, daily breakfasts and a $100 USD spa services credit. The picture at the top of this page is from one of their adventures through the treetops.
As you plan your Galapagos adventure – if you have thoughts of going over school vacation in December or spring break, make sure to plan 1+ years ahead, or be prepared to be flexible on getting exactly what you want. Galapagos is an ideal destination to begin planning now for a future date because it will likely stay almost exactly the same and you will be a step ahead of everyone else.
Here’s a fun quiz to see what you know about the Galapagos and learn more about it.
I hope you enjoyed these insights into some of my favorite places. We may not be traveling to them this year, but I’m eager for the day to come when we do!