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.)
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.
Thanks to our guest author Karen Schwarz of Essaymom.net for sending us this story about her family’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park.
We’re just back from a great spring break trip to Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California with our daughter, and wanted to spread the word about this fun and fascinating family destination that will not suck your wallet dry.
This is truly nature’s playground, where kids and parents can spend a relaxing couple of days clambering over enormous but do-able piles of boulders that dot the park’s beautiful 60 by 30 mile desert landscape. Each boulder formation has a unique and otherworldly look, depending on the volcanic action that created it millions of years ago. Our faves were Skull Rock and Hidden Valley, where nineteenth century cattle thieves grazed their stolen herds.
Joshua trees grow nowhere else in the world and they dominate vast stretches of the park, equidistant from each other, as if a landscaper planted them on a miles-wide grid. It’s a bizarre sight. Take the 20-minute drive up to Keys View for a quick lesson on earthquakes. From this perch you’ll see a portion of the infamous 700-mile San Andreas Fault. Also visible is Signal Mountain, which is 95 miles away in Mexico!
Joshua Tree National Park is 45 minutes from the airport in Palms Springs, and 2 ½ easy hours or less from airports in Ontario and Burbank, California. As you traverse the desert, you’ll pass 4,000 windmills that churn out enough energy to power the entire Coachella Valley. Find out how that works on a tour with Palm Springs Windmill Tours or Best of the Best Tours.
Planning a trip to Joshua Tree National Park
For value and local feel, rent an AirBnB in the town of Joshua Tree. Locally owned restaurants are good, friendly and inexpensive. They get crowded, though, so try to be early for breakfast and dinner. For lunch, pack a picnic to enjoy in the park, as there’s no food available inside.
Inexpensive chain hotels and fast food joints are plentiful in Twentynine Palms. For the shortest wait entering the park, buy your car pass (just $20 for a week) at the Visitor Center the day before you plan to tour the park. Enter the park through the North Entrance in Twentynine Palms, which tends to be less crowded. Access to the popular sites is just as easy as from the more heavily travelled West Entrance in Joshua Tree.