Shermanstravel Blog

Costa Rica

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 SaleMaybe 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

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

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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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.

Out Escapes Gay Travel Flash Sales EventsSaving money: a trend that just won’t quit. And although pop culture tells us gays are the trendiest of the lot [buffs fingers on shirt], they’ve only just now got into the crowded flash sale game. Launching today with three week-long sales, Out Escapes carves a members-only gay niche from Jetsetter, Vacationist, Living Social Escapes, and Groupon Getaways, amongst others, with offerings given the LGBT stamp of approval, in addition to offering value-added perks above and beyond the discounts other sites may provide. Cool-with-it allies, you’re in luck, too; nobody’s going to ask whom you sleep with to sign up.

In dollar terms that means the possibility of free round-trip airport transfers, bottle of champers at check-in, comp meals, spa passes, and special guided tours. It also means group trips geared towards gays, like their last-minute Tel Aviv Pride package June 1-10, and an Events platform to securely buy tickets to circuit parties and social/charity outings not necessarily at a discount but again, with potential special perks like expedited club entry. According to the site’s co-founder/travel writing veteran, the ultimate goal is to become a full-service travel portal including a tongue-in-cheek Gay Tripper blog about fabbing it up the world over and social networking “Meet Me Here” component (live July 2012).

But for now, it’s all about the sales. Here’s a peek: Read more

Four Seasons Costa RicaLet’s say you want a warm-weather resort with all the standards: beaches, spa, assorted pools, water sports, tennis, golf. There are a lot to choose from. But now let’s say you also don’t want to travel far, and there have to be monkeys.

Lots of them. And coatis, parrots and deer. And nearby volcanic ranges. And deep-soaking tubs in the rooms and suites, with twice-daily housekeeping so you’ll never want for a towel or L’Occitane soap. Now the choice is the Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica, sprawled across 99 acres of the 2,135-acre Peninsula Papagayo, in Guanacaste, on the Pacific coast.

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Arial view of Fairmont MayakobaBlack Friday bargains may lure intrepid shoppers, but it’s Cyber Monday that travel-savvy couples should be on the lookout for. A range of hotels around the country– as well as in the Caribbean, Mexico, and Central America – are offering 20 to 65 percent discounts on rooms for travel this winter and coming spring. The hitch: You have just 24 hours (from midnight to 11:59pm this coming Monday, November 28, 2011) to book them. Here are 10 great Cyber Monday deals that are primed for romantics: Read more

JetBlueOn November 17, JetBlue threw two parties. The first was at JFK’s Terminal 5, just before 9am, with cupcakes, coffee, smoothies, and a three-man steel band. The second was six hours later in Liberia, Costa Rica, marking the airline’s inaugural flight to the capital of the Guanacaste province, JetBlue’s second Costa Rican destination and 68th overall. That party was co-hosted by the Costa Rican minister of tourism, and started with water cannons over the A320’s fuselage, followed by three men on a marimba, a woman feistily playing a donkey jaw, and six youthful dancers in national dress, featuring lots of flouncy skirts and sashes. To promote the new four-times-weekly flight, the only non-stop to Costa Rica from JFK, one-way fares through February 15 are $119 for tickets bought by November 30, and surfboard surcharges are waived through December 17. (Catching wind of JetBlue’s plans, Continental launched its own daily directs from Newark one week before, but without the donkey-jaw, dancing, or promotions.)

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JetBlue PlanesBudget airline darling JetBlue has noticed those temps dropping, and they’re not leaving us out in the cold. The airline – currently the largest carrier in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic – is rolling out a bevy of new flights this week from New York City-area hubs that will have travelers lifting off to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica all winter long (and beyond). Plus, they’ll launch their inaugural flight between San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Maarten, providing a wallet-friendly new Caribbean island-hopping option in the region. Read on for the latest, and claim a sun, surf, and sand vacation from just $39 one-way, plus enter for a chance to win a JetBlue Getaways vacation, or nab a promotion to have your surfboard tag along on your next vacation fee-free. Read more

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