As you prepare for your upcoming holiday in Costa Rica, there are some important details to discover. For example, a commonly heard expression and greeting is “pura vida”, which translates to pure life. Some say it is the unofficial motto of the country of Costa Rica and is a reflection of this Central American nation’s dedication to its pristine wilderness and natural beauty.

This is one of the primary reasons that so many travelers head to the area; to experience the natural beauty for themselves. It is why ecotourism and sustainable travel have flourished here. One of the most biodiverse areas of the entire planet, it has allocated around one-third of the land to national parks or nature preserves. This promises to be good for the natural world but also to travelers eager to experience pura vida themselves.

Your Travel Plans

Visitors to the area will be able to enjoy a wealth of guided or non-guided natural adventures. While bird and whale watching are perennial favorites, you might also want to book visits to one of the “cloud forests” or take a guided river tour. You can also participate in programs or activities designed to protect sea turtles or visit one of the canopy walkways that take you above the tree tops in authentic rainforest settings. This is where a visitor might hear or see the howler monkeys native to the region or simply witness truly untouched and pristine nature.

So, whether you are staying in one of the green hotels, the luxury villas, resorts or any other kind of luxury rentals, be sure that you book time to experience some of the ecotourism opportunities. To help you make the best choices, we’ll review a few of the top destinations. There are twenty parks and eight reserves at this time, and each is unique. The following suggestions, though, can give you a broad array of experiences.

Arenal Volcano National Park

If you want dramatic views and scenery, this is the place. It has an active volcano and you can often see the lava inside sending up its red glow into the canopy of clouds and mist so often shrouding the peak. Of course, there is more to see than the active volcano and the hiking trails here allow visitors to enjoy some of the most appealing native species. These can include tapir, wild pigs, monkeys and delicate little deer. The best time to visit is the dry season from February to April, but if you do book during the rainy season, be sure to bring a poncho to allow the best experience.

Tortuguero National Park

This is one of the most famous parks and home to the endangered sea turtle program. There are four varieties that nest here (hawksbill, giant leatherback, loggerhead and Pacific green) and they all have hatchings and nests on the site. Volunteers may be lucky enough to help transport eggs to the beaches or help gather data on the turtles themselves. This is a massive place and most of it is only viewable by boat, but it is well worth the effort and a must-see destination.

Monteverde Cloud Forest

This amazing reserve is high above sea level, home to more than 300 kinds of orchids, 400 kinds of birds and is perpetually enshrouded in mist. There are only 120 guests allowed in the park at any time, ensuring it remains pristine, and you can use the trails to experience the cloud forest at your own pace or book a guide to ensure you make the most of a visit.

Ecotourism is alive, well and thriving in Costa Rica. Be sure you save space in your schedule to experience some of these amazing sights during your stay.

Visiting Provence means giving yourself that wonderful chance to taste the “cuisine du soleil” (cuisine of the sun). This amazing region provides visitors with a somewhat overwhelming array of flavors and taste sensations – all inspired by the sunny landscape and proximity to fresh seafood, farm produce, fine dairy foods and amazing wines. In fact, there are thousands of dishes originating from the region, and they range from pastries and cheeses, fish dishes and wines, charcuterie and soups, and much more.

To be sure you experience the flavors of Provencal as comprehensively as possible, there are some iconic dishes that were born here and which are a summary of the different flavors and traditions that add up to cuisine du soleil. If you are traveling to the region, be sure to sample these classics, and try to make a point of scouting out the restaurants noted for offering some of the best examples.


With the mountain terrain, lamb is the ideal meat of choice. You can find it prepared in many ways, but you will certainly want to enjoy a meal prepared with lamb officially labeled as being from Sisteron. This is a “red label” meat that is considered the finest quality. One restaurant noted for its amazing hand with lamb dishes – not overdoing it with lots of distractions but always serving it with an ideal companion – is La Table du Vigneron near Narbonne.


One of the simplest dishes but also one protected by the Charter of Bouillabaisse (created in 1980), it will always contain rockfish, red mullet, conger eel and St. Pierre monkfish, and it should be presented rather than simply served. This means the restaurant explains the fish and filets it at the table – serving with some boiled potatoes and soup. It should also arrive with saffron-scented, garlic croutons.

Arguably, some of the best Bouillabaise in Provence is that served at Chez Gilbert in the seaside town of Cassis. The more laid back will want to visit La Poissonerie (also in Cassis) to enjoy this dish as well as a wider variety of fresh seafood.


Often misnamed Provencal beef stew, it is a wonderfully rich dish that features beef braised for a long period in red wine, garlic, herbs and seasonal vegetables. It is often served over or alongside potato pasta (gnocchi) or polenta. If traveling in Nice, look for an amazing variant on this dish that features ravioli stuffed with the fork-tender beef. There are too many establishments offering it, but it will always be the smaller, lesser-known and local favorites offering the most authentic and hearty versions. A prime example is La Merenda in Nice, famous for its daube as well as its amazing dessert – the tarte au citron.


If you have a chance to join a truffle foraging excursion, do so. It allows you to take in the landscape and savor the scents that are only available to those involved in the hunt. A great way to enjoy truffle hunting and dining on them in the finest ways is to join the Les Pastras tour in Cadenet. This is an organic farm and truffle plantation that allows visitors to help in the search for the famous mushrooms, learn how they are handled and prepared and then savor their unique tastes. You can also head to Richerenches or Carpentras during their truffle market days (Saturday and Friday respectively) to purchase them yourself.

The hillside restaurant L’Oustalet in the village of Gigondas is also known for making some of the best truffle dishes in the region. Chez Bruno in Lorgues is the ultimate spot for truffles and serves more than five tons per year!

In addition to these foods and dishes, be sure to sample at least one pastis cocktail (best in Marseille), tapenade in its many forms, nougat confectionaries throughout the entire region, ratatouille, aioli (it is always served on Fridays), and that signature cake of St. Tropez known as tarte tropezienne. Of course, you must try as much cheese as you can manage – particularly the fromage de chevre (goat’s cheese). Enjoy your culinary experience in Provence, it will be unforgettable.

There are places where water sports, like kitesurfing, are popular. Naturally, such locations have to have good waters and conditions where those sports are possible. However, there are also destination water sports, meaning that the locations are so amazing and superior that they become key locations for optimal experiences. Such is the case with kitesurfing in Barbados.

As one of the Isle Blue premium destinations, travelers choose from a wide range of carefully curated villas. Each offers a long list of onsite amenities, but also provide direct access to the best towns, beaches and destinations. If you have booked a holiday in a Barbados villa and want to enjoy one of the finest experiences possible, you will want to consider booking time with a kitesurfing instructor or arranging to rent some equipment. We are happy to help in any way possible, and you need only contact your concierge to get help.

Barbados Kitesurfing

“As the furthest east Caribbean kitesurfing island, its known as one of the windiest and consistent areas of the Caribbean.” Not only that, but it has winds that run from December through June, and is also a good surfing location from November to March!

Naturally, you will need to know the best locations for kitesurfing, and we recommend the following:

South coast

The south coast of Barbados is the best for those who want it all. There is Silver Rock beach, the primary location for optimal kite surfing. In the waters offshore you can see an old ship wreck poking from above the waves, and the skies will usually be filled with kites. South Point is another place to try the conditions, as well as Freights Bay, Accra and Brandon’s Point.

Long Beach

This is upwind of Silver Rock Beach, and is a much less crowded area. It is ideal for beginners and you can find shacks offering lessons and gear. Rescue Beach is downwind from here and is a great beginner’s experience.

Silver Sands Beach

One local expert says that this is one of the finest kitesurfing beaches in the world. Just minutes from Inchcape, it is a mile long with onshore winds and rarely ever crowded. It is one of the safest settings imaginable with flat water in the reef and it is upwind from the three major surfing areas on the island as well as Oistins Bay and Maxwell Coast – meaning you could actually enjoy a trip downwind to these destinations!

Naturally, you will want to interact with any locals to get advice about the best spots that are not so well known, and one of the nicest places to enjoy the company of fellow kitesurfers is Surfer’s Point Beach Bar. Here you can enjoy daily happy hour drinks and fraternize with those who really understand the kitesurfing on Barbados.

Already a popular surfing destination, Barbados has quickly emerged as an ideal kitesurfing spot too. Described as the “farthest most southern, most windward of the windward islands”, it is an ideal place for a holiday. With its scenery, casual atmosphere, and upscale villas and resorts, it is that perfect balance of experiences.

If you are eager to test out the kitesurfing of Barbados during your stay, it is easy to arrange. Work with your Isle Blue concierge to decide whether you want a driver and a car, lessons and gear, or anything else to ensure you experience the water sports of Barbados. Head to nearest beach where kitesurfing is taking place, and you will definitely want to get in touch to arrange a bit for yourself!

Beach bar is a phrase that conjures up an array of individual and personalized images. For some, it might be a tiny little shack sitting right along the sands and shaded by a few local palms. For others, the perfect beach bar is one that features plenty of seating and a promise of amazing sea and/or sunset views. It is also a spot with a signature drink or two, maybe some good food and staff that knows just how to offer the right blend of service and warmth.

However, even though it could be easily argued that a perfect beach bar is going to vary from person to person, there are five fabulous bars in the Caribbean that each rates as a “must visit” destination.

Nikki Beach on St. Barts

Opened only in 2002, this amazing destination has, nonetheless become a major attraction for the world’s jetsetters. With a massive, open-air dining pavilion right on the beach, and its distinctive “teepee” structures at the back, it is the place to see and be seen. Yet, the real attraction is all of the waterfront dining and drinking. They don’t have a signature drink, but most visitors agree that a visit when the place is busy means lots and lots of champagne on hand.

Soggy Dollar on Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands

Because it is a bit out of the way for those arriving on one of the many cruise ships that visit the BVIs throughout the year, it is a perfect spot for a leisurely day at the beach. Known for its “Painkiller”, which is a blend of fruit juice, coconut, dark rum, and a dash of nutmeg, it is also famous for its hammocks and its stunning scenery right along the beach. Many visitors arrive by boat and swim in for a drink!

Kontiki Beach Bar on St. Martin

Kontiki Beach Bar is noted as the southernmost spot on the “five star” Orient Beach. Popular with the jet-set, it is another spot where travelers can see and be seen, but it also features a great bar and restaurant. Casual is the keyword at all times, but meals are still crafted to the highest standards. The menu features a nice array of fresh seafood dishes and even some classic hamburgers, but everything pairs well with the house wine list and signature cocktails.

Conch Shack & RumBar on Turks and Caicos

No visit to the island can be considered complete without time here. Serving the truly freshest seafood, including conch, it is a place where vegetarians can find a lot to love as well. Sitting directly on the sugary white sands, this “open air landmark” is perfect for a casual lunch or dinner, and the best beach parties on the island are held here every Wednesday and Sunday. Grab one of their famous t-shirts as the perfect souvenir and be absolutely certain to sample at least one of their signature rums from the RumBar menu.

Basil’s Bar on Mustique

If you are fortunate enough to be visiting the private island of Mustique, you must make your way down to the legendary waterfront Basil’s Bar. Known as a landmark on the island and in the region, it is a popular spot for a freshly grilled lobster or a classic burger to enjoy with your drink. It also has a fantastic Wednesday Night Jump UP party and Sunday Sunset Jazz events. There is even a Blues Festival hosted here with world-renown musicians on hand.

Going to the Caribbean means paying at least one visit to a popular beach bar, and these are but five of the many unforgettable spots to sip a drink, eat a meal and savor the non-stop scenery.

Whether you are planning a holiday to the Caribbean, a tropical location or simply taking a journey during the hotter time of the year, if you are traveling with a baby or infant, you face some obvious, and not so obvious, challenges. After all, tropical areas or summertime travel can mean unpredictable spikes in temperature coupled with the fact that many buildings are air conditioned to very cold conditions. How can you keep a child comfortable in such varying settings?

There are also the issues of getting to and from the destination, feeding a child the typical formulas or foods they enjoy and are used to, and ensuring that you can safely and easily take them with you on excursions or day trips once you arrive. That is a lot to consider, and there is still the issue of things like insect repellent, sun block and acclimating the child to one or more different areas for sleeping.

Fortunately, we have an array of tips to help you plan your holiday to the Caribbean or other tropical or warmer weather destination with a great deal of ease.

Consider a Family-Friendly Accommodation

While you might be considering a resort or hotel, these are not as family-friendly as one might expect – particularly for those traveling with a baby. After all, your child may have one or two nights of disrupted or difficult sleep because of the journey. If he or she cries throughout the night or for several hours, you may find that a resort or hotel suite is not soundproof and your neighbors less excited to see you the following morning.

With a private villa or similar setting, it is like being at home and an infant can fuss as much as they need without upsetting anyone in the area. Additionally, the sleeping arrangements in luxury villas can be more amenable to the child’s adjusting to a new location. They will have an authentic crib, a separate room that is dark and quiet and which can enable a family or group to continue enjoying their holiday while the child sleeps in a safe, secure and comfortable environment.

Consider the Food

While your baby’s diet may still be quite minimal and controlled, it is incredibly beneficial if you, as a parent, have access to a refrigerator and even a kitchen space in which you can prepare things they like, keep formula and milk in the best conditions and store baby food in a safe manner. While you will want to bring your child’s favorite brands and flavors of baby food to ensure he or she eats properly, you are probably going to have to put those items in your checked luggage. So, have a few contingency plans in mind and even get in touch with your accommodations provider to ensure your child’s dietary needs can be met should your luggage go astray.

Consider the Clothing

Warmer weather travel and tropical destinations are great for babies as they can often be quite comfortable in light tops and short pants, or sundresses for girls. Remember that swim “nappies” keep the water in the pool safe while baby takes a swim, but don’t forget to provide the baby with a sun hat, sun screen and adequate protection.

Of course, there is also a matter of air conditioning, and most parents familiar with Caribbean or tropical holiday travel know that a light cover or jacket is going to keep the baby happier. If the accommodation features windows that can remain open throughout the night – to enjoy those sea breezes – ask for mosquito netting over the child’s bed, but also find a healthy and safe method for insect repelling.

If you keep the clothing, food and accommodation in mind, you can enjoy traveling with your child during even the hotter seasons in the Caribbean and other tropical areas.

Any visit to Provence is going to have a distinct air of romance. With the gorgeous scenery, the French cuisine, the charming villages and the seemingly endless glasses of wine, it is the ultimate romantic’s destination. However, you can make that even more romantic when you ensure your itinerary features some out of the way spots noted for their charm, privacy and idyllic settings perfect for the honeymooning couple or pair on a romantic retreat.

Below is a day trip idea that can get you out of your perfect and private villa and into the countryside where the views, food and people will make it an unforgettable holiday.

Let’s start in iconic Aix-en-Provence.

Your day should start with a meal in what is typically described as the finest hotel in the city – Villa Gallici. The immense and opulent breakfasts are unforgettable, featuring pain au chocolat, fresh croissants, local jam, fresh yogurt, and unforgettable mocha coffee all served up on the hotel’s charming china.

After dining, make your way to Cours Mirabeau and decide which of the fountains or squares is your favorite. If you are wise enough to visit on a Saturday, you also get to savor what is easily one of the finest market days in Europe, and if it also happens to be October, the harvest festival will have you wishing you could pack up and relocate to the town!

As you make your way along the cours, be sure to pop into Confiserie du Roy Rene in order to grab what is unarguably one of the best souvenirs – the calisson candies made of almonds and remarkably delicious. Once you reach the Hotel de Ville, you will encounter charming shaded streets planted in the time of Napoleon and if you are here on market day (and you MUST try to make this happen), it is also the place to purchase bunches of lavender.

Make your way back up the cours and pay a visit to one of the man cafes to enjoy an espresso before making your way to the rue Quatre Septembre and paying a visit to the Musee Granet to take in its amazing collection.

Another trip might be to charming Cassis, what many say is the most underrated and charming of the region’s seaside towns. This is an actual working harbor and the perfect destination for an unforgettable stroll along the promenade before an equally unforgettable lunch. If you have time, book a motorboat tour of the nearby coves, but make sure to return for your lunch. A local favorite is Nino at Quai Jean Jacques Barthelemy, and here you should order only one thing – their famous bouillabaisse.

As you head out of town, be sure to take the winding and jaw-dropping Route des Cretes that leads to the amazing terraced fields and panoramic views above town.

Of course, you may want to see more than just a quaint village or town during your day of Provence exploration. If that is the case, an ideal route would begin Aix-en-Provence and head to Forcalquier and into the Luberon Mountain area. This path takes you through gorgeous forests and rolling landscapes. If it is market day (Monday), you will want to enjoy some time savoring the local fare before driving to Mane where you will most certainly want to stop into the world-famous L’Occitane spa and book a visit or simply sample their wares in the factory shop on the premises.

If you wish to continue on, take N100 to Avignon and enjoy the views of the Papal Palace. You may want to even make this town and location a full day trip on its own. You can explore the neighboring villages and savor amazing cuisine at some of the many smaller restaurants dotting the area. Of course, the famous La Mirande is here, and could make the perfect finishing destination as it is a 700 year old building that also houses a world class restaurant.

This is but one list of stops that could offer you and your partner an unforgettable day in Provence. The winding roads beckon, so be sure you explore even the closest towns outside of your charming villa.

If any Caribbean island can claim its own gastronomy, cuisine and continental flair, it has to be St. Barts. This slice of France floating like a gem in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea provides travelers with an amazing fusion of cultures and a Bohemian quality that makes it both casual and ideal for the true gourmand. A long-time favorite of the world’s most knowing foodies, it is a place where dishes prepared to four star standards can be found in great abundance, but also where beachside hotspots serve classic Creole dishes to hungry crowds.

Because the island’s cuisine is a blend of African, French, Creole, Italian, Indian, Asian, Caribbean and others, because fresh seafood is brought ashore with the daily catch, because daily flights from France bring the finest meats, wines and dairy foods, and because the fresh produce almost spills from the markets…well, because of all of this, the food is amazing. More than 70 restaurants dot the island, including spots where “les petits creux” (snacks) are readily available.

Even so, there are a few iconic dishes everyone will want to try while staying on St. Barts, and though almost all destinations are sure to please, there are a few restaurants or beach shacks where some unforgettable classics can be savored.


This is a dish you will find all over the island and it is simply salt cod fritters served in a spicy sauce. It is a Creole dish, and on St. Barts, the Creole cuisine is spicier than anywhere else. One place famous for its accras is La Gloriette in Grand Cul de Sac. Also called one of the finest beachside dining spots, it is super casual with coccoloba trees shading a good array of tables, the freshest catch of the day is grilled to perfection, and rather than a standard menu, this is a place with a daily blackboard packed with delicious specials.

Lunch here is sure to be a treat, and they also do artisanal pizzas at night. Don’t forget to sample some of their homemade and island made rums, which are also available to purchase in the charming shop.

If you are a big fan of Creole, the charming cottage restaurant Pipiri Palace (in Gustavia) is noted for its traditional and delicious offerings.


Though it can be nearly impossible to site the restaurants serving the best fish, since most actually partake of the day’s catch, there are some stand out establishments offering both atmosphere and unbeatable seafood. One such restaurant is O’Corail. Sitting just next door to the popular Ouanalao Dive Center, it gazes out at the appealing lagoon at Grand Cul de Sac and allows patrons to kick their toes in the sand as the chef makes the “dish of the day” from the finest seafood hand-picked at the market. The rum punch by the bartender named Odette is also legendary!

Almost all who visit St. Barts will hear about Do Brazil, and here you can enjoy one of the signature dishes of the island – mahi mahi. This fresh fish is prepared en brochette at Do Brazil and is one of the most sought after dishes. The red snapper in a signature Creole sauce is also famous at Le Mango.

Of course, those renting villas can always pick up their own fresh fish at the market in Gustavia – just get there before 8AM to enjoy the best choices. The fisherman will clean and filet it for you to take home!

Other spots to find some of the best Caribbean classics includes Bonito in Gustavia with its ceviche and Latin inspired dishes, the beach shack favorites (including the burger that inspired Jimmy Buffett’s famous tune) at Le Select, amazing drinks and Carib beer at Sayolita and signature cocktails at Pink Parrot on Tom Beach are all local favorites with classic dishes to experience.

While those who love beaches and the Caribbean will often pay a visit to Antigua to get their fill of astonishingly beautiful golden sands and flawless surf, there is more to Antigua than its 365 beaches. This is precisely why it can be quite busy during the “peak” season that runs from December to the middle of April each year. However, those consistent trade winds make it completely agreeable to book during the island’s “shoulder seasons” as well.

From April through May and again from November through mid-December, travelers enjoy the same idyllic weather with only a slightly increased risk for precipitation. Interestingly enough, although there is not really a tremendous amount of rain during the shoulder seasons, and weather is fairly predictable, many people fear that famous “hurricane season” and avoid island travel. This makes it a perfect time to find amazing airfare prices and accommodation options.

The Benefits of Shoulder Season Travel

Some travelers understand that shoulder season is not low season. It is, as so many describe it, a “Mama Bear” type of season tucked between the high and the low times. It is when the weather is still quite good or just getting good and when tourists have dispersed or have yet to arrive. When talking about such a popular destination as Antigua, this actually means a lot.

For example, imagine that you can experience even the most popular beaches as quiet and uncrowded. Imagine too that you get your pick of the finest villas and private accommodations at great prices. Your airfare is likely to be available at a more reasonable rate than during peak times, and the opportunities for everything from guided tours and private drivers to tables at the hottest restaurants are limitless.

You can also get more interaction with the locals and even more attentive service almost everywhere you go. Whether it is before the peak season or afterward, the locals and anyone in the service industry is going to be happier to give you their undivided attention and engage with you to a greater degree.

Wildlife, Tours and the Rest

In addition to allowing you a greater degree of privacy and access to places frequently crowded during peak seasons, traveling to Antigua during the shoulder season will also allow you to enjoy experiences like the distillery rum tours or hours spent bird watching without the crowds too. Want to enjoy some time at the Saturday market without lots of crowds? The shoulder season is a likely time to enjoy such an experience. Wish to visit one of the national parks and take amazing photos without a lot of strangers in the background? This is the season. Getting a great table at one of the hotter restaurants is also a possibility thanks to shoulder season travel to Antigua.

Naturally, you might worry that there is a downside, and the reality is that the possibility for rain, the higher humidity and the fact that some businesses may be closed are the only risks. For those who have opted to rent a luxury villa in Antigua, such issues are not issues at all. After all, most decide to “nest” in their premium accommodation, enjoying everything from waterfront settings, private pools, gardens and household staff to private chefs and an array of other activities.

There is much to see and do in Antigua and many reasons to visit, and if you want to avoid the high season, save a bit on airfare and still get the best experiences of the island, you will want to book your visit during the different shoulder seasons.