Great World Getaways: Central / South America, Travel News

News and information from Travel Professionals

Costa Rica is protecting itself!

April 19, 2014

Photo credit: Raphaël Fauveau

Costa Rica’s Blue Flag Ecological Program ensures ecological sensitivities

When visiting Costa Rica, you will be heartened to know that coastal environs are monitored monthly to ensure that areas adhere to The Blue Flag Ecology Program, which is a joint venture of several Costa Rican agencies, including the Costa Rican Tourism Institute, the Ministry of Environment and the National Tourism Chamber. Administered by the National Blue Flag Commission, the continued efforts of these organizations have resulted in a long list of beaches being awarded the Ecological Blue Flag.

Under the Blue Flag Ecology Program, Costa Rican beaches are evaluated according to strict criterion. The beaches are assessed on water quality of the ocean and the drinking water, waste disposal, sanitary facilities, signage, tourist safety, environmental education and involvement of the community in beach maintenance. Only beaches with a 90 percent score succeed in acquiring the Blue Flag. Beaches awarded the Blue Flag are then monitored on monthly basis for sustained maintenance.

The Blue Flag Ecology Program was founded for the purpose of improving education and information regarding the environment. Since then it has been helping to promote the protection of the natural surroundings and increasing public knowledge. The proof of this is that every year more and more beach communities of Costa Rica are competing for the Blue Flag and working for the purpose of the Blue Flag Ecology Program. The success of this program has inspired authorities to expand it to the non-coastal communities.

The livelihood of most Costa Rican coastal communities depends on its beaches. It is mainly due to the Blue Flag Ecology Program that visitors and local communities alike can enjoy the stunning beaches of Costa Rica without fear of contamination. This has led the resident community, tourism entrepreneurs and the entire coastal municipality of Costa Rica to participate actively in taking care of the beaches and contributing effectively to the various educational programs offered under the Blue Flag Ecology Program.

The Blue Flag Ecology Program has prompted many coastal communities into putting their resources to use for improving the environmental quality of life. Today Ecological Blue Flags fly proudly over many Costa Rican beaches in the Central Valley, Northern Plains, North Pacific, South Pacific, Caribbean Coast and the Central Pacific. Environmentally conscious tourists can now make a conscious choice and spend their vacations at the Ecological Blue Flag awarded beaches.

So when you are visiting Costa Rica, not only watch for the blue flag, but support this worthwhile program.

Royal Newlyweds to visit Ottawa

February 28, 2014

If you haven’t heard yet, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are coming to Ottawa

It’s official. William and Kate, the new stars of the Royal family, will be visiting Canada this summer and will be front and centre as hundreds of thousands gather in Ottawa to celebrate Canada Day this July 1.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will be welcomed to the Capital by The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada.

Already one of the most popular times to visit Ottawa, Canada Day this year promises to be filled with more pageantry and a heightened sense of excitement and celebration as the Royal Couple kicks of their first foreign visit as a married couple. It marks the second year in a row that Ottawa has welcomed a Royal Couple for Canada Day – Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip presided over the 2010 festivities.

For 2011, organizers are planning a celebration fit for a future king, with a full day of activities and entertainment showcasing the best of Canadian traditions and culture. Downtown streets surrounding Parliament Hill will be closed to traffic, allowing revellers to roam from venue to venue – and to catch a glimpse of the Royals.

Ottawa hotels are already booking up fast. Canada Day this year falls on a Friday, which will allow visitors to extend their stay over the weekend.

Cruising Caribbean breaks records

February 18, 2014

The Caribbean maintains its position as the most popular cruise destination in the world, capturing more than 40 percent of all the passengers, despite the build up in the Mediterranean, South America and Australia.

Caribbean port authorities and tourism officials have taken up the challenge by upgrading their facilities and building new ports to accommodate the largest of the new ships.

Across the Caribbean, destinations are responding to industry growth with improved and expanded infrastructure, although as one port official told Cruise Industry News, “cruise lines must remember that they (the island) are not Dubai.”

And that may be happening. Barbados is in the final stages of a bid for the expansion and redevelopment of its cruise pier. There are also plans to build new piers in St. Kitts and Nevis, Curacao and Aruba. Other upgrades are underway in Guadeloupe, Martinique, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

2010 broke both cruise passenger records and overall tourist arrivals in the Caribbean. With more ships, the trend continues up as Cruise Industry News estimates a record-breaking 7.5 million passengers in the region for the calendar year 2011, up 1.4 percent from last year. The bulk of the cruise business in the Caribbean occurs during just four months, which also raises the level of competition (and congestion) among the islands.

Canada’s Biggest Hotel Gets a Brand New Name

May 2, 2013

Eaton Chelsea Toronto Hotel Exterior

Langham Hospitality Group has recently announced that the former Delta Chelsea – Canada’s largest hotel, located in downtown Toronto – will be officially re-branded Eaton Chelsea, Toronto beginning July 1st.  The hotel will be the first of its kind in Canada and joins other Eaton Hotels located in Hong Kong, Shanghai and New Delhi.

A multi-million dollar investment program for the hotel has already begun and includes beautifying the exterior, refurbishing the lobby and Market Garden Restaurant, and extensively upgrading the interiors of the banquet and meeting facilities.

As Canada’s largest hotel with 1,590 guest rooms, Eaton Chelsea, Toronto is centrally located and steps from the city’s best shopping districts, world-class theatres, vibrant nightlife and exciting attractions. A full-service urban resort, Eaton Chelsea has room types to suit everyone and the hotel offers five restaurants and lounges, separate adult and family recreation areas and pools – including the “Corkscrew” – downtown Toronto’s only indoor waterslide.

As a premier family destination, the hotel offers a full range of services including the Family Fun Zone with Camp Chelsea, Kid Centre and Club 33 Teen Lounge. For more information or to make reservations, please call 1-800-CHELSEA (243-5732) or visit

Echoes of Earth – Finding Ourselves in the Origins of the Planet

February 25, 2013

For as long as can be remembered, human kind has been fascinated with where we came from. Echoes of Earth: Finding Ourselves in the Origins of the Planet explores this fascination and follows two intrepid travellers as they journey to some of the most remote regions of the world and discover the beauty of ancient rock formations that hold the secrets of our origins.

“We expected to bring back only images for a photo-essay book,” says author Sue Baugh. “We did not expect to be transformed as artists or to discover that our human origins lie hidden in the story of the oldest stones. Our bodies carry ancient minerals deep without our bones and ancient life within our human cells.”

Baugh and her colleague Lynn Martinelli travelled by airplane, camper car, fishing boat, float plane, and river raft to photograph some of the oldest rock and mineral sites on the planet.  The final product is an incredible compilation of images and narrative that capture the beauty and magic of a world untouched by time.

“The power and beauty of these ancient sites radically changed our perception of the world and humanity’s place in it. We invite you to explore the mystery of what we encountered, that we carry the long history of the planet within us. We are all echoes of Earth.” – Sue Baugh

Echoes of Earth: Finding Ourselves in the Origins of the Planet is available on and

Casco Viejo: The future of Panama City is found in its past

February 12, 2013

Casco Viejo - Old Panama City
Photo credit: Tamara Aguilar

Panama City, or simply ‘Panama’ to the locals, is a city to keep your eye on in the next five years. New Panama City’s high-rise skyline and swanky nightlife contrasts the pastel colonial Casco Viejo district. In whimsical Casco Viejo, fauna grows freely in the dirt that once was tiled floor. Markets are held in the crumbling ruins of plaster buildings and narrow cobblestone streets are framed by caving sidewalks, only wide enough for one person to trod.

Kuna Women, collections of beaded bracelets adorning their calves, sell molas in open-air markets. Brightly colored birds and geometric designs composed of fabric and carefully stitched thread hang from carts and tables. Motifs can be seen throughout the hand-crafted molas but each one remains an original. Prices range from USD$10.00 to hundreds for the larger or more ornate pieces. It’s best to purchase these iconic artworks directly from the Kuna people. Purchasing molas at a gift shop means risking authenticity. The Kuna are recognized as one of the most well-preserved indigenous cultures. Purchasing molas directly from a Kuna person ensures funding this culture preservation.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, Casco Viejo’s facelift is well underway. The restoration of popular attractions such as Teatro Nacional means doors are closed to the public while construction is underway. The current state of Casco Viejo is a necessary annoyance to preserve the historic district. Scaffolding and barricades can be found on nearly every street. Early-morning jackhammers ring through the alleyways and, inevitably, into the windows of the neighborhood hostels, hotels and B&Bs.

As in any city, take caution when walking at night. With all the construction, it’s easy to find yourself in the slums that boarder Casco Viejo to the east. Remnants of what used to be the entire district, residents of the barrio sleep on pieces of cardboard in homes hardly as large as one-car garages but of similar stature. English can be hard to come by even with the tourist police force.

As a whole, Panama City is a hot spot that should be on everyone’s “To Do” list. Casco Viejo is a special slice of the city. Still free of chain restaurants and hotels, a traveler can enjoy boutique-style cafes and quaint accommodations. Though at the moment, its a bit of a beautiful mess, paying a visit to Casco Viejo has a way of making one thankful for the noisy, dusty, inconvenient construction. The Panamanian government is polishing the diamond that is Casco Viejo so this pastel facet of Panama City can get the recognition it deserves.

Travel writer Kaitlin Sullivan

Writer by trade, explorer by nature. Kaitlin Sullivan currently writes and also attends the University of Minnesota. Born and raised in Minnesota, Sullivan developed a taste for adventure at an early age. “Cultures, climates and environments will forever occupy my attention. Putting experiences, thoughts and emotions into words is what I plan to do for the rest of my life.”

The History of Chinese New Year

February 8, 2013

Although it has undergone many changes since first celebrated in 2000 B.C., the Spring Festival, or Chinese New Year, remains the most important social and economic holiday in China.

Originally tied to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar, the 15-day celebration is a time to honor household and heavenly duties, as well as ancestors. It is also a time for the family to gather and feast.


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All content © 2014 Sarah Eaglesfield unless otherwise noted