Jungle and Beach in Costa Rica

Steve and Julia were looking for a tropical honeymoon full of adventure and unique experiences that would give them stories for years to come. I knew the perfect place: Costa Rica! Splitting their trip between the new and unique Nayara Tented Camp and the beachy all-inclusive Secrets Papagayo allowed them to stay within budget while still having the luxury honeymoon they dreamed of! Here are their thoughts on their Costa Rica adventure:

costa rica

Nayara Tented Camp

So for me, I absolutely LOVED Nayara, I’m a sucker for service and I’ve never had better.  The privacy, little touches like water on the side of the bed, full breakfast in the room, secluded tents, and even when you were in public it somehow still felt a little private. There were more than enough hot springs to find one for just the 2 of us. 

The restaurants were great, imported steak from Japan (Waygu) and only for $40 including a glass of wine.  We were never hounded for tips, we did still tip and you should for the level of commitment but they didn’t expect it.  I will say their local meats are a little different, they’re good but just something a little off about the taste.  

costa rica

The wildlife is amazing! We had a Coatimundi that would hang out near the outdoor shower, didn’t bother us just enjoying the sun, saw Toucans from the bed and we had the same yellow striped bird that would join us for breakfast every morning. We named him Henry and he brought over a friend and we called her Marie lol.  The Coati was Freddie.  

costa rica
costa rica

Secrets Papagayo

Secrets was very nice. But we did miss out on the nice private pool room which we wish we got when we were there. And it did have a little of the “Cancun All-Inclusive” vibe, it was great don’t get me wrong but it wasn’t near the level of Nayara.  We loved the shows at Secrets. They did a really cool Halloween performance, dinner and, of course, not paying for anything when you’re there is nice.  There were huge iguanas just walking around the place which was cool and the spa was amazing, again, excellent service.

costa rica

Thank you so much, it was A+ and full of amazing experiences! We’re already considering an African Safari!



Spa afficionados know that vacations and spa treatments go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Nothing enhances the “get away from it all” effect of a vacation like a massage, body wrap or a facial. Or, better yet, all three!  So it’s no surprise that travel authority Conde Nast Magazine has, for some years now, been publishing their ratings of the best hotel-based, resort-based, and cruise ship spas worldwide.

The 2010 results are in, and the rankings for spas in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean can be found in the April issue (or online)  There are some perennial winners of course, in the usual locales you’d expect (California, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Bermuda, etc.) but it’s interesting to note some of the more unexpected accolades.

For instance, in the cruise ship spa category, the top ranking goes to a very mass-market ship — Royal Caribbean’s Liberty of the Seas — and not to one of the premium lines like Crystal or Regent. In fact, more than half of the ships in the top 20 are from mainstream lines like Royal Caribbean, Princess, Holland America and Disney Cruise Line.

When it comes to hotel spas, it’s nice to see that, in among the Ritz-Carltons and the Four Seasons of the world, there are some local New England inns like the Mayflower Inn in Connecticut and the White Barn Inn in Maine. And when it comes to Caribbean resort spas, it’s not just the boutiquey adults-only properties that are achieving high marks —  there are also two Marriotts in the top 20 (in Aruba and St. Kitts).

What this all means to me is that spas are becoming more and more mainstream and accessible, and that travelers are expecting (and demanding) some pampering and relaxation on ANY vacation. Not just when they’re on a special romantic “escape” with their significant other.

If you want some help planning a vacation that includes a little spa time, let me know. I’m more than happy to test out the treatments wherever I go. It’s all in the name of  research, of course 🙂

The Amenities Race

I read an article the other day about how hotels and resorts are pushing the envelope on the 5-star rating sytem, with some super-plush resorts claiming that there’s a need to add another star, so that they can be among a handful of “6-star” resorts. The whole rating system could be fodder for a separate blog post, and I probably will touch on that in the future, but this article got me thinking about all the luxury amenities that hotels have been introducing over the past few years.


I can remember when pools with swim-up bars were a big thing, but any Caribbean resort worth its salt now offers an infinity pool, private plunge pools, winding lazy river pools, adults-only pools, kids-only pools with water parks, and more. 

Everyone expects to be able to order from a room service menu, but now we’ve got pillow menus and aromatherapy menus.

Where a concierge used to suffice, now we’ve got private butlers with cell phones and beepers so we can let them know when it’s time to bring us another drink on the beach. Not to mention the folks that will come around and spritz you with Evian by the pool — what are they called?


So now I’m wondering what’s next! In this race to “one-up” one another, what will the supposed “six star” resorts be introducing to set themselves apart? And how long will it take for those new services and amenities to trickle down to the masses?

What would you like to see as the next luxury amenity on your vacation?

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)