Luxury travel is being re-defined all over the world, Central America included. Today, new ingredients—adventurous activities, authentic experiences, unique destinations, and personal discovery—are all part of the recipe for customer-perfect leisure travel. Always in the mix, of course, are luxury accommodations, perfectly matched to different tastes. Have a look at a sampling of products out there.
Tara Tours’ 8-night New Panama Discovery Cruise offers clients a unique, comprehensive and catered-to way to experience more of Panama: a journey between two seas via the Panama Canal aboard the purpose-built, luxury Discovery catamaran, accommodating 24 passengers in 12 cabins. Highlights include visiting a remote Embera Indian community in the Darien jungle; kayaking and snorkeling along remote beaches; and experiencing the history and operation of the Panama Canal. Including two nights at the Miramar InterContinental in Panama City, the cost is $4,561 pp sharing. And Discovery is a perfect pick for a friends and family charter.
Backroads and the Francis Ford Coppola Resorts have teamed up to offer a Backroads Belize & Guatemala Multisport Adventure tour, featuring outdoor excursions paired with stays at the Coppola Resorts’ eco-lodges, including the 20-guestroom Blancaneaux Lodge in Belize’s Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve, and the 10-room La Lancha retreat in Guatemala’s wildlife-rich El Peten region. The 7-day Jungles, Maya Temples & the Barrier Reef Tour immerses guests in Central America’s diverse cultures and scenery with visits to Mayan Tikal, the Belize Zoo and Garifuna villages on the Caribbean. Active pursuits include canoeing into the Barton Creek Cave, hiking the subtropical forest of the Cerro Cahui reserve, and snorkeling along the Belize Barrier Reef. The private trip rate is $4,295 pp dbl, including internal flights.
Focus on food with a special new offering by Avanti Destinations—the 4-night Costa Rica Cooks, perfect for a group of six friends with a taste for luxury, special experience and ethnic dining. They will make themselves at home in a deluxe 3-bedroom private residence at the all-inclusive Westin Golf Resort & Spa Playa Conchal; swing out on a canopy tour; and savor a private Nuevo Costa Rican cuisine cooking lesson, held on a 74-acre private farm. On the menu is an organic garden tour, and gathering herbs and vegetables that go into the preparation of a 4-course meal. Transfers to/from Liberia airport are included in the $1,095 pp dbl price.
Food is also on the menu with Latin American Escapes’ Nicaragua’s Cuisine and Culture. The itinerary begins in Managua with a cooking workshop that covers the basics of Nicaraguan cuisine, then it’s on to Leon, where clients learn to make the popular local dish, the cheese-based quesillo. There’s also a tour (and tasting, of course) of the Flor de Caña Rum factory, as well as a lesson on preparing the national rum drink, the macua, at El Convento Hotel. Add to that a chocolate cooking class in colonial Granada, plus a lesson in the art of cigar production, as well as plenty of sightseeing along the way. Priced at $2,795 pp for two people, $1,995 pp for a party of four.
Costa Rica takes the prize among Central American countries for its exciting and varied inventory of luxury seaside resorts, and with coastline on both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, vacations are easily packaged for more than one sybaritic seaside experience.
Among its luxury vacations offerings, Costa Rica Experts has designed a Barefoot Vacation, welcoming travelers to spend four nights in a luxury villa in Manuel Antonio National Park on the Central Pacific Coast and four nights off-the-beaten-path on the Nicoya Peninsula.
First stop is at the boutique Makanda by the Sea, with accommodations in a new luxury villa where daily breakfast is served and vistas are of lush gardens and the coastline. Facilities include an infinity pool, the Shanti Spa and a restaurant. In addition to the Manuel Antonio beaches, guests may wish to go for nature walks in the park, go kayaking, snorkeling, horseback riding, ATV touring, or canopy ziplining, and even take surfing lessons. Take a short flight up to Tambor Airport, transferring to the premier luxury boutique hotel in Santa Teresa, Florblanca, for four nights in a deluxe oceanview villa with a large living room, spacious terrace, and an open-air bathroom with outdoor shower and tub. The resort has a gorgeous full-service spa, pool, spacious yoga studio, and the excellent Nectar restaurant. Surfboards to ride the waves are provided by the hotel. Guests fly back to San Jose for a final night at the San Jose Marriott, a Spanish colonial-style hacienda that has everything from a spa to a driving range. All domestic air is included in the $3,695 pp dbl cost.
Avanti Destinations: avantidestinations.com
Backroads: backroads.com or backroads.com/travel_agent/travel_agent_registrations/new
Costa Rica Experts: costaricaexperts.com
Latin American Escapes: latinamericanescapes.com
Tara Tours: taratours.com