Shermanstravel Blog

Costa Rica

Karen Gardiner DionMany of us passionate travelers value our independence so fiercely that we can be loathe to hand over our travel plans to an guide, or an organized tour. There are, however, some situations where a guide can enrich the experience or even save you some money. Here are five situations where you should consider booking a tour, rather than going it on your own.. Read more

Five Great Places for CoffeeCoffee, one of the world’s most universally beloved drinks, offers a taste of local culture with every sip, in whatever form it’s served (small but strong, organic and Fair Trade Certified, topped with whipped cream, or spiked with whiskey). Inspired by cool fall temperatures and a recent #TTOT (that’s Travel Talk on Twitter, a hashtag travelers should definitely check out if they’re not familiar with it), here we spill the beans on five destinations where caffeine-craving travelers can get their fix.

Vienna: The coffeehouse, or Kaffeehaus, is as much a staple of Viennese culture as the waltz and opera. In recent years, the number of traditional coffeehouses has dwindled as owners face competition from modern chains (yes, Starbucks has several locations here) and increasing real estate costs, but enjoying a cup is still a must-do during a visit. From decades-old institutions with soaring ceilings and immaculately dressed waiters to boho-hip joints that draw a young crowd, you can find the perfect spot for any sipping style.

Can’t-miss spots include Café Sperl, a gorgeous architectural gem that has been around since 1880; Café Sacher, known for its decadent Sacher-Torte; and Café Landtmann, with live music, a celebrity clientele, and live music.

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thailand
Travelers were up in arms last week when Thailand announced plans to introduce a $16 entry tax for passengers arriving by air and staying more than three days – and a charge of 30 baht (97 cents) for travelers coming into the country from a neighboring state and staying for two days or less.

The Thailand Tourism Authority (TTA) claimed the proposed tax is needed to cover the cost of unpaid medical bills left behind by foreign travelers – although other reports mentioned the tax has been levied in the hope of attracting a ‘better’ standard of visitor, compared, presumably, to the young backpackers drawn to the country’s affordable beach destinations and buzzing nightlife.

In a statement to the press, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) President & CEO, David Scowsill called the proposed tax “one of the more egregious tourism taxes that we have seen”.

Of course, Thailand is not the only country to charge visitors a fee for arriving or departing the country. While many countries include their entry or exit taxes in the price of an airline ticket (Thailand, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic, to name just three examples), a stubborn few still do not allow this. In the interest of you not getting caught off-guard at the airport without the means to cover an unexpected tax, here are a few entry and exit fees worth knowing about:

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Adventure Travel ToursSince 2009, the adventure travel industry has grown at a staggering rate – 65 percent year-over-year – and today it’s a $263 billion industry. While the words “adventure travel” might make you think of extreme heli hiking or mountain biking through the Alps, there’s a huge range of options, many of which are entirely doable for the average traveler. From slow-paced culture and adventure trips, to hiking, kayaking, and biking tours, there’s something for almost everyone, from kids to baby boomers and beyond. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite tours and ranked them by effort and strenuousness – 1 being the least challenging (light activity like walking), 2 a little bit challenging (like snorkeling), 3 mid-level challenging (longer, slow-paced hikes), 4 intermediate-level challenging (like stand-up paddle-boarding and hiking through rainforest), and 5 at an advanced level (strenuous hikes or mountain climbs throughout the trip). You might be surprised at how affordable – and approachable – they can be:

1. South Africa

If Africa has always been on your travel bucket list, consider this vacation. It’s guaranteed to cross off some major destinations like Table Mountain, Cape Town, and Victoria Falls. Explore the country’s capital, stop in South Africa’s wine country, and continue on to Kruger National Park, a game sanctuary, for a few days of safari. You’ll have the opportunity to see zebra, giraffe, hippo, and more wild animals. End on a high note (literally) at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, where 550,000 cubic meters of water go over the towering falls every minute. 11 nights; from $3,593 with airfare

Adventure level: 1

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JetBlue Flight Deal Sale

Update: January 7, 2015: This flight deal has now expired, but it’s worth noting that you can still fly nonstop on JetBlue to Portland, Maine from New York’s JFK airport, and can connect through to Portland via JFK from many JetBlue cities throughout the U.S.. Airport tip: While you’re in Portland, make yourself comfortable in one of the many rocking chairs that are scattered throughout the waiting areas — a classic Maine touch.

Maybe you haven’t had a chance to plan your summer getaway yet, or perhaps you’re just holding out for the best deals. Either way, you’re in luck. JetBlue’s two-day summer and early fall sale has amazing one-way flight deals from New York to Bermuda and beyond. Check out some of the amazing rates (starting at just $46) on these popular routes below! Read more

Llanos de Cortez WaterfallConfession: I’m kind of obsessed with waterfalls. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a landlocked area of the Ozarks with no access to anything remotely resembling such exoticness, or maybe it’s just because they’re incredible to look at! Whatever the reason, on a recent trip to Costa Rica, I went hunting for these free-flowing forms of Mother Nature – and dove in headfirst. Here are a few of my favorites:

Llanos del Cortez
If you’re flying to or from Libera airport, or visiting the Guanacaste Province, this almost-hidden, semi-secret waterfall is a must-see. Parking is easily accessible and it’s a short hike to get to this amazing swimming hole with a 66-foot-high waterfall for a quick dip. This is where the locals hang, so it feels very authentic and off-the-beaten-path. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of howler monkeys in the trees above and can chalk it up to one of those “best days ever” on a vacation. No entrance fee, but parking fee varies. Read more

iStock

In honor of the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day (April 22, 2013), we’ve rounded up 10 ecotourism destinations to get you thinking green. Two on our list may seem like obvious choices (the Amazon and Galapagos), but you’ll also find some up-and-comers, like the Caribbean island of Dominica, which is turning into the region’s primo environmental destination; Australia’s Blue Mountains, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site over a decade ago; and Botswana, a model of sustainable tourism in Africa. If staying at eco-friendly lodges in the midst of a rainforest sounds appealing, consider Borneo or Costa Rica. If getting up close to wildlife and glaciers is more your speed, Alaska and Antarctica offer intrepid travelers the chance to experience both from the deck of a ship or an inflatable zodiac. And if you’d rather sleep in the great outdoors and trek to some of the world’s highest plateaus, plan a camping trek in the Himalayas (and be sure to take your trash back to base camp with you). For a list of environmentally friendly tour operators, hotels, and more, visit the International Ecotourism Society website.

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AfricaIf you’re looking to take an exotic vacation this season, we’ve got deals for you from all over the world; from Africa to Europe to the Caribbean islands. Stray outside of your comfort zone and take the journey you’ve always dreamed of; with these fantastic deals, you’ve got few excuses not to. Read more

A carnival is a carnival, but there’s always going to be some local charm that you can’t find elsewhere. At the Festival de las Mulas, Spanish replaced English, while churros filled in for funnel cakes, and bottles of rum (yes, rum) supplanted stuffed animals as prizes. A familiar smell of cooking oil filled the air, mixed with a slight twinge of manure. We were walking towards the stadium to watch the bull riding competition. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but as both an avid traveler and animal lover, I was simultaneously excited for the new experience and nervous about what I might see. Read more

The word “graceful” is not the first I’d use to describe myself. Though I strive to keep in shape, I stick to activities like cycling and running that allow minimal falling and bruising. Still, ever the adventurer, I jumped at a chance to surf in Costa Rica, a country I’ve wanted to visit for as long as I can remember. It didn’t cross my mind until I got on the plane, bikini and flip-flops in tow, that I may end up making a total fool of myself. Read more

Photos.comWinter offers bargains in stunning coastal Maine

In life, being in the right place at the right time can come down to serendipity. But in travel, it is almost always the result of good planning. To avoid crowds and inflated prices, we recommend the period between high and low seasons when the weather is fine, places are still open and happy to welcome travelers, and you can explore a destination at your own pace. We call this magical time and space continuum the Sweet Spot and make it a point to round up the best of them for you each season. We’ve covered the 20 best places to travel for value this winter and grouped them by region – follow the links to right to discover this season’s Sweet Spots.

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You’ve heard Black Friday horror stories: the fist-fights, the pepper-spraying, the lines outside of Best Buy at two in the morning. If a sleepless night or black eye isn’t the way you like to get your shopping done, consider Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving devoted to thousands of online shopping deals. Over the past few years, hotels have caught on to the Cyber Monday trend and started promoting their own flash sales. The steep discounts below are only offered when booked on Monday, November 26, so pick your favorite destination, bookmark this post, and mark your calendars.

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By: Kate Sekules

iStock

For a brief few months each year, warm weather, long days, and generous vacation time opens up a world of travel possibilities. Whether you enjoy climbing the top of remote mountains, exploring breathtaking river gorges, or biking quiet backcountry roads, we’ve selected 10 spectacular outdoor adventures that are sure to get your adrenaline pumping – and earn you bragging rights, to boot. And to make sure there’s a trip to suit every taste, we’ve included a splurge option (for those who must have the most exotic and/or pampered voyage) as well as a great value (for those who don’t mind roughing it).

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Satisfy your appetite for adventure and head on over to Intrepid Travel, where their three-day sale through June 23 offers up to a 50 percent savings on some incredible tours.  With trips to over 100 countries worldwide, Intrepid Travel takes tourists off the beaten path where they can meet locals and travel in an unconventional way. Explore the Middle East on a 15-day tour from Marrakech to Barcelona, with stops including Fes and Tangier. Travel from Beijing to Moscow by rail and experience the serenity of Siberia. Or, discover the Southern Cone on an 8-day tour from Santiago to Buenos Aires, stopping in Patagonia and Argentine wine country.

Take advantage of the lowest-priced package to Costa Rica, from $690 per person. Experience the country’s incredible diversity, from the wildlife in the Monteverde cloud forest, to the La Fortuna hot springs, to wild monkeys and the warm Pacific waters of Manuel Antonio National Park.

This three-day sale is good for travel completed by December 31, 2012. For a full list of trips with the promotional savings, visit Intrepid Travel or call 800-970-7299.  Prices quoted do not include airfare.

See our Costa Rica destination guide for more trip-planning information, then use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on flights.

Rancho PescaderoRancho Pescadero, in Baja California Sur, Mexico, fronts a gorgeous stretch of beach with surf-ready waves

There’s no need to splurge on a luxury beach hotel for this year’s summer vacation, thanks to a wave of relatively new – and affordable – beach hotels. Our favorites span the shores of six countries, boast smart design, prime waterfront real estate, all the conveniences you’d expect from a high-end resort, and, best of all, nightly rates that typically go for less than $300 (and, a few for less than $200!). The cherry on top: Our 10 luxury beach hotels for less are practically brand-new; all but one have opening dates within the past two years! Sprawl out in your own oceanfront suite in Mexico, test out the surf at an all-inclusive Costa Rican gem, or people-watch from your boardwalk-view balcony in Venice Beach, California. Waking up to the sound of crashing waves? Yes, please. Salty sea air and soft sand? Must have. Having extra cash for endless piña coladas served beachside in your private cabana? Well, that’s just smart planning. See our Luxury Beach Hotels for Less Slideshow for a preview of the winning resorts.

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