Overview: If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging.
Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
When I learned that a retreat I was interested in took place at the edge of the jungle in Yelapa, Mexico, I was hesitant to go. Cabins without walls? Mosquitos? Possibly snakes? No thank you. But looking at photos of Los Naranjos Jungle Retreat gave me some peace of mind. The rooms were wall-less, but they were surrounded by beautiful flora. After gaining reassurance that the chances of seeing snakes were low, I decided to go.
I flew to the Puerto Vallarta airport, caught a cab to Los Muertos beach, then rode a water taxi to Yelapa. I was reassured to see tourists on the boat with shirts reading “Yelapa.” So this wasn’t the middle of nowhere. On the shore, there were restaurants and people sitting on the beach, where Los Naranjos’s owner and his dog met me to bring me to the “eco hotel.” As we left the beach, a dog bared its teeth, people passed by on horses, and we waded through a pond. We also passed a little store where I bought conditioner for my hair. We were still within civilization.
When we got there, I entered an (also wall-less) common room with a kitchen, a hammock, and cushioned benches. The dining tables were just outside. Then, the owner showed me to my room, which was up a ladder and had a thatched roof. Inside was a table and three beds covered by mosquito nets. Not exactly luxurious, but I wouldn’t be roughing it either. I got the only full-sized bed in the room (the others were twin-sized), and while the mattress was firm, I could sink into it a bit. The blanket was thin but warm, and the pillows were comfy. There were two lights hanging from the ceiling, a fan, and an electrical outlet by my bed.
The closest bathroom was up another ladder, with two toilet stalls, two showers, and two sinks. There weren’t any problems with the bathroom, though one quirk was that you had to throw the toilet paper in the trash. The staff explained that anything that gets flushed down the toilet has to be dug up from underground, since Los Naranjos tries to minimize its impact on the environment.
There was a WiFi connection, but it wasn’t quick enough to get anything done. It took several minutes just to load my emails. There were a few cafes nearby with slightly faster WiFi, but none were adequate for fast-paced work. If I had to send an email, my best bet was to use my phone. The data connection was decent decent enough to do this but not to use my personal hotspot. Lesson learned: Don’t try to get work done in Yelapa.
My first night in Los Naranjos was rough. Even with my earplugs in, I heard roosters (which, it turns out, make noise all night), howling dogs, and music from a nearby house. Every time one of my roommates walked, the ground slightly shook. I woke up many times throughout the night and got up in the morning with a sore back. But my second night was better: My ears were getting used to the jungle already. The only remaining annoyance was having to navigate through the dark (and I do mean dark — I needed a flashlight) to the bathroom in the middle of the night. The mosquito net protected my bed, but I got my share of bites during the day. Thankfully, I didn’t see any snakes.
The surrounding village was adorable, with little Mexican shops and restaurants owned by local families, the beach a 15 minute walk away, and a hiking trail leading to a waterfall. I had all my meals at Los Naranjos, though. They were a delicious mix of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs from chickens on the resort grounds, and fish caught from a nearby river.
If you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll likely find Los Naranjos a paradise. But if you’re used to hotels with mini bars and memory foam mattresses, you might find it challenging. Personally, I enjoyed jogging past wild dogs in the morning and seeing the stars at night, but I was counting down the days until I got a quiet room and private bathroom again.
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Suzannah Weiss is a freelance writer and editor currently serving as a contributing editor for Teen Vogue and a regular contributor to Glamour, Bustle, Vice, Refinery29, Elle, The Washington Post, and more. She authored a chapter of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World and frequently discusses gender, sex, body image, and social justice on radio shows and podcasts. Whoopi Goldberg cited one of her articles on The View in a debate over whether expressing your desires in bed is a feminist act. (She thinks it is.)
Our guest post today comes from Bernard Sury of GuruWalk, who writes about his family trip to Greece.
A Family Trip to Greece
Planning to have a family trip to Greece soon? What a brilliant idea! I honestly had one of my best family trips in Greece.
Expecting the Belgian summer to be as rainy as it is in winter, my parents, my sister and I were looking for a sunny destination combining culture and leisure. After considering Croatia, my mother’s love of Greek food tipped the balance in favor of Greece.
But where to go in Greece? Getting lost on small island, in busy Athens, or in the countryside? Well, there were as many options as there are sunny days in Greece.
Passionate about Greek mythology and history since I studied it in high school, going to Greece without seeing the Acropolis would have been unimaginable. Flights were also cheap to Athens, so we decided to spend some time in the city. However, as any capital city in the world can prejudice your view of what the rest of the country actually is, we were looking for adding another destination on our travel in Greece. My sister had heard friends’ amazing stories about Crete, like hiking in the Samaria Gorge which is Europe’s longest, and swimming in some of the most crystalline water of the Mediterranean Sea. The choice was made.
We left Brussels late on a July afternoon. After leaving the luggage at the hotel, our first goal was to have the best dinner the Greek capital could offer us. After doing some internet research we found Lithos not so far from the hotel, and had a delicious moussaka.
The next day, our first trip was to see the Acropolis early in the morning to avoid the heat and the crowd. This visit was wonderful. We remembered all the stories we had learned at school, seeing the most beautiful ancient Greek ruins, including the Parthenon and the famous Caryatids. We learned that the Parthenon survived for a long time in a good shape until Greek people decided to store gunpowder there, which caused an explosion in 1687. The view of Athens from the top is stunning.
After a quick lunch, the weather was becoming very heavy and warm. We decided to spend the afternoon at the Acropolis Museum, one of the most important archeological museums in Greece. The museum was modern, contrasting with the ancient pieces within. It is a great complement to a visit of the Acropolis itself.
On our third day, we decided to spend some hours doing a Free Walking Tour of Athens to get to know more about the history of Greece, but also to learn about its current situation. It was very interesting and entertaining and we had the opportunity to ask many questions to the local guide. We also had the chance to see the changing of the guards at the Greek parliament (only on Sunday at 11am!).
In the afternoon, we had to pack again and take off for Heraklion, Crete. We took a plane and in less than one hour we landed on the Greek island. Upon arriving at the airport, we found our rental car and drove to our rental apartment in Panormos. To get there, you will take the local highway, which is basically one main road crossing all Crete. Arriving at Panormos, the contrast with Athens was striking. Panormos is small village – touristy but still authentic, and even if tourists filled the streets, it was not as crowded as Athens. There is not much to see but it is a good spot to see the surroundings of the city.
The next day, we headed to Rethymnon and visited the ruins of the Venetian Fortezza. This was the fortress or citadel of the city and was built by the Venetians in the 16th century. Well restored few decades ago, the site is worth a visit for its beautiful vistas of the sea and some ancient buildings such as the Mosque of Sultan Ibrahim (the site was indeed also occupied by the Ottomans).The site is huge and you can easily spend hours strolling through it. My sister and I loved playing in these well-preserved ruins.
We went back to Rethymnon city and had an amazing lunch with a view of the marina and some traditional live music. Both in Athens and Crete, it is very easy to find a good restaurant mainly because there are so many! In Crete, you usually pay 10 euros for lunch or dinner, so we tried a lot of local restaurants. Most of the time, you will even receive some fresh fruit for dessert, perfect with the hot weather. As a sign of Cretan hospitality, you will always receive a typical and strong digestive alcoholic shot after eating dinner. However my mom always politely refused it as she was driving.
The next two days were for “chilling” at two of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my life. If I did not know I was in Crete, I’d have thought I was in the Caribbean, as the water was of an unreal perfect turquoise.
The first beach stop was Elafonissi. There are no words to describe how heavenly this place is. However, it was very, very, very crowded. It would be awesome to enjoy it in September or October when there are fewer tourists.
The second beach was Balos. It takes hours to go by car and once you arrive, you are in the mountains, so you still need to walk about 40 minutes down to the beach. You can also go on a day trip by ferry and if I were to return, that is exactly what I would do. Nevertheless, the view from the mountain is beautiful.
Overall, it was an amazing trip. Everything was perfect: the weather, the natural and cultural activities, the delicious food, the local people… It was a trip to paradise and I would love to go back.
What was your most memorable experience?
I love to travel back in time and learn more about the ancient Greek lifestyle. I was studying ancient Greek language at school for 5 years and experiencing all these places and imagining the history there was very strong. But also, the Caribbean-style beaches of Crete were breathtaking.
What do you wish you had known before you left?
I knew that water was not drinkable and that we always had to drink bottled water. Once in Crete, we were at the restaurant and received an open bottle of water. We thought that the waiter just opened it before serving it to us, but it was in reality tap water. The day after, I was quite sick. But thankfully it did not last long. But now, I would never accept a bottle of water I did not open myself at the restaurant. Even better, drink wine!
Details and budget:
For the budget, the most expensive purchases are the plane tickets (300 euros from Belgium), the rental car with gasoline (250 euros) and hotels (350 – 500 euros), But activities (6 – 15 euros) and restaurants (10 – 15 euros) are quite cheap.
About the author:
An avid traveler, Bernard is always organizing his next trip, with friends, family or alone. Addicted to sunny weather, he has mostly traveled in the warm destination such as Southern Europe, South America or South-East Asia. Fluent in Spanish, English and French he has lived in 4 different places in the 4 last years. Back from South America, he learned more about his own city, Brussels, and even became a Greeter and a Free Tour Guide for some months. His passion for traveling brought him to be expat in Spain working for the international community platform for Free Tours Guruwalk.
I love those sleek rays with their impossibly cheery grins. I dream of gliding across the sea floor with such grace.
And staying in one of those dreamy overwater bungalows on a Pacific island is one of my #travelgoals.
Now there’s an eco-friendly resort, Baros Maldives, that really could not have chosen a more attractive combination of features for the manta ray and bungalow lover. The five-star resort has taken a proactive approach in luring guests beyond the beach with its Manta Ray and Coral Reef Rehabilitation programs. Working alongside the resort’s Marine and Diving Center, Baros Maldives encourages its guests to not only embrace and enjoy the lush tropical paradise but to also give back to the underwater creatures that make it such a natural beauty.
Manta Ray Surveying & Adoption System: Baros Maldives has a Manta Ray program that invites guests to photograph the underwater gentle giants at the resort and then follow along on their migration even when they return home. A diver who photographs a Manta Ray not seen before is offered the opportunity to give it a name and “adopt” it, which means the diver will receive regular reports on the Manta’s whereabouts and habits. Guests who re-visit the resort have a good chance to have a reunion with a Manta Ray they have seen on their dives in previous years. The best times to visit are from May to November and from January to April, when sightings are frequent.
Coral Reef Rehabilitation Program: Guests are also able to aid in a coral conservation initiative by sponsoring a coral frame through Baros Maldives’ Reef Rehabilitation Program. In addition to sponsoring a frame, guests learn about the coral propagation process and are escorted in a swim to the house reef, where they collect broken coral fragments and reattach them to specially designed structures. These provide a stable substrate elevated from the sandy seafloor. The coral frames not only give artificial reef-structure corals a chance to grow, but also creates new homes for various marine animals. Additionally, the Baros Maldives marine biologists keep participants up-to-date by e-mail every six months about the growth of the corals as they develop on the table.
If you are interested in learning more about Baros Resort, comment below or send me an email.
A few weeks before we were scheduled to go to the Outer Banks for vacation, my sister sent me a news story about a mile-long island made of shells that appeared this year at the tip of Cape Hatteras, in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. We grew up shelling on Florida beaches and we have a special sisterly bond over searching for our favorite shells, whether perfect scallops or shapely corals or holey whelks. We could spend hours searching the sands. So of course we were going.
I was searching on Instagram for posts about the island, and came across some stunning drone footage on the Twitter account @loflandcody. The two brothers of Cygy Media normally film cars in Richmond, Virginia, but while in the Outer Banks they put their drone to work. They were kind enough to let me borrow their footage for use here.
How to get to Shelly Island
Shelly Island is at the southern tip of Hatteras Island, near the lighthouse. To get there drive from Buxton down the road toward the lighthouse, and follow it until the end. Look for Ramp 44, which leads to the point. If you plan to drive out to the point, you will need a beach driving permit (available ) and four wheel drive vehicle. If you don’t have a 4×4, you can park by Ramp 44 and walk to the point, but it’s not a very pleasant walk, what with all the trucks driving along the same mile-long beach.
To get to Shelly Island, from the point, you’ll need to cross a shallow channel. Time your crossing for low tide to avoid the strong currents that come with high tide. If you’re going with children, be sure they wear life vests. The channel and currents change with the weather, tides, and currents.
Please note: Islands like this can change quickly due to weather and currents. This information may be totally irrelevant by the time you read it.
Some of the links in this post have been sponsored by Skyscanner.
Want to know what the best Florida beach for you is? What beaches do you think of when you think of Florida? Miami is the first one for just about everyone, but what you think of next might betray your age.
If you think Fort Lauderdale, you were probably a college kid in the 70s or early 80s, when spring breakers headed there by the thousands, but before the city passed laws trying to cut down on the mayhem spring breakers brought to the city.
If you think Daytona, you might be a child of the 80s or 90s. The restrictions in Fort Lauderdale pushed the crowds north to Daytona, where the invading hordes grew even bigger. Spring break was so big in Daytona that MTV moved their entire broadcast operation there for several years in a row.
If you think Panama City Beach, you are younger still. The current “home” for spring breakers in Florida welcomes even more people than either Daytona or Fort Lauderdale ever did. While those cities have embraced a more family friendly vibe, Panama City now welcomes more than 500,000 college students every year for spring break festivities.
But we are beyond that kind of spring break, aren’t we, readers? And frankly, I don’t care how old you are. I’m going to tell you about some Florida beaches that offer more than just cheap hotel rooms and lax ID-checkers so we can all go have some grown-up fun in Florida!
There’s a beach for just about every type of person in Florida. Even if you’re an “anywhere but a beach” type person, I think I might even have one for you.
If you love searching for treasures on the beach…
The beaches of Fort Meyers and Sanibel offer some of the best shelling you can find anywhere in the world. Bring your water shoes, because those shells are hard on the feet, but bring a bag for collecting some of the loveliest specimens you can find in the US.
The island of Sanibel offers laid back luxury, but you can also find less expensive places to rent if you plan far in advance. You can often find Fort Myers hotel deals if Sanibel is booked.
If you love having a beach to yourself…
Florida’s panhandle is home to white powder beaches and gentle green/blue surf, but Navarre Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore may be the most extreme examples. And because the beaches are protected as a National Seashore, the only thing missing is something you won’t miss: hordes of people.
The barrier island offers miles of unspoiled beaches, a quiet but busy fishing pier, and a marine park and sea turtle conservation center. If you like a natural setting, this is the Florida beach for you.
If you are all about the surfing…
The Atlantic Coast beaches are where you’ll find the surf… most of the time. For the most consistent surf, head to New Smyrna Beach, where rock ledges off the coast create reliable surf breaks at the Ponce Inlet.
Where there’s surf, there are surfers, and New Smyrna Beach is full of them, giving the town a classic surf city vibe. If you’re new to the sport, head to one of the local surf shops – which are frequented more by actual surfers than by tourists looking for t-shirts – for lessons and board rentals.
If you prefer to watch, you might enjoy Gnarly Surf Bar & Grill which is all about surfing. They show surfing videos from around the world on their video screens, and display surfboards on the ceiling.They pay homage to surf locales around the world with their global menu, too.
If you like to mix a little culture with your beach time…
Imagine strolling along the beach in the morning, and taking in world-class collections of art in the afternoon, and going to the symphony in the evening. Yes, you can do that in Miami, but over on the Gulf Coast, there’s a beach with gentler waves calling your name. Just across the bay from Tampa, St. Pete Beach is home to some of the nicest beaches in the country. But for culture vultures, the city of St. Petersburg a short drive inland offers the Dali Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Mahaffey Theater, home of the Florida Orchestra. And for foodies, the 20,000 square foot Locale Market offers regional produce.
The legendary Don CeSar beachfront hotel is a classic of old Florida style that has recently been renovated.
If you just really love Miami…
I mean, Miami is still pretty nice. There are some great places to stay in Miami, too. But if you want to find the best Florida beach for you, dig a little deeper to find the perfect match.