Chabil Mar, luxury in Placencia, Belize

Chabil Mar Villas – Placencia, Belize
2284 Placencia Peninsula Road, Placencia, Belize

Offering a more DIY alternative to service-oriented Robert’s Grove (outside of town) and Turtle Inn (a short walk away), Chabil Mar offers large, fully-equipped villas that can be rented by the night and has the most picturesque beachfront in the area.
Chabil Mar

With 20 spacious suites of one or two bedrooms, Chabil Mar offers Placencia visitors a way to stretch out and have a big kitchen without having to commit to a week–long rental. Each unit has a large living room area, a full kitchen with high–end appliances, a washer/dryer setup, and at least one private terrace or balcony. The property functions more like a hotel, however, with maid service, two large community pools, kayaks, and the Kaleidoscope Bar and Lounge, a well–stocked, recently expanded bar area.

Chabil Mar bar

Situated bike riding distance from Placencia village on the way to the airport, the resort sits behind a gated entrance (no non-guests allowed) and has the feel of a small community. Families are frequently found enjoying one of the two infinity pools and the beach with lounge chairs and cabanas or taking out the complimentary bicycles or kayaks for exploring. The six buildings with blue roofs and dark wood balconies are intersected by paths and lush tropical landscaping. The owners continue to tweak and improve the facilities, making the most of their waterfront location by installing oversized lounge chairs on the pier and beach.

Chabil Mar pierSince our last review, Chabil Mar’s owners have enlarged the pier to accommodate more lounging and sunning chairs under lit the pier and added more lighting to the landscape for a stunning evening effect. They installed Cafe Mar, featuring beach–side dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner; plus they built a new lounge area complete with chaise lounges and other seating attached to the cafe. The beach now cushioned lounges with umbrellas and mini cabanas.

Dining options at the resort are myriad. You can dine at Café Mar beach side, on your villa’s veranda, poolside, on the pier, or at Kaleidoscope Bar & Lounge. They will also cook and serve your day’s fishing catch for you. There are also outdoor grills with tables and seating in the beautiful nearby palapas for DIY cooking, making this a good bet for families who don’t want to be a in a restaurant for every meal. Each villa has a fully–equipped kitchen for another cooking option.

Chabil Mar Hotel

The resort also offers the option of a private chef and custom menu. During our stay, the staff was always able to find us at the appropriate time and ask what dining option we desired. A nighttime recommendation is on the pier or Café Mar under the stars. Very romantic.

The 400 feet of beachfront is a pretty spot for swimming and sunning. If you don’t feel all that comfortable on the water you can take outChabil Mar beachfront a paddle boat or kayak, or just play volleyball on the beach. The staff is accustomed to setting up excursions to inland Maya ruins and jungles or working out snorkeling and diving trips offshore. Some of the off–site options are an afternoon or overnight private island party, flats and deep water fishing, and hiking in Belize’s Jaguar Preserve.

The air–conditioned villas here are all furnished in different styles, ranging from Caribbean colorful to Mexican to pseudo-European, with eclectic local art work adorning the walls. Each unit has plenty of sitting room inside and out and most bedrooms are big enough for a queen or king. The honeymoon suite has a huge 4–poster bed and a granite and stainless steel kitchen, plus an additional half bath. The two–bedroom Oceanfront Villas have terrific vistas as well as contemporary baths, stunning kitchens, and several TVs with DVD players.

Chabil Mar lounging

All have at least a partial sea view. All units have complimentary wireless internet access, more than enough utensils, dining tables, electronic safes, robes, and fine linens. Kitchen appliances go well beyond the basics to include things like blenders, juicers, and coffee grinders. Much of the furniture and cabinetry is made in Belize from local hardwoods.

Transfers from the airport are complimentary for guests and golf carts are available for a jaunt into town. Children 12 and under stay for free but additional guests incur a $50 charge.

If you’re looking for fine dining, a large service staff, and high design, Turtle Inn is probably a better choice. But if you want your own kitchen, a quick hop to the beach, and a spacious apartment feel, Chabil Mar offers a great environment for chilling out in Placencia.

Web Address: www.chabilmarvillas.com
Total Number of Units: 20
Published rates: $250-$550 1BR, $325-$650 2BR without meals or taxes.

Review and photos by John Lamkin
Read the source at Luxury Latin America.

Nova Scotia Odyssey

Nova Scotia Odyssey an upcoming story….

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake, Nova Scotia

Moo pulling wagon across frozen Little Lake, Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Odyssey is a tale that will appear here soon (more or less). It’s hinted at in this story in Your Life is a Trip dot com where you will meet one of the main characters. Until then.

Cheers,    John

 

 

 

Nizuc Resort and Spa, Luxury in Cancun, Mexico

 Nizuc

story and photos by John Lamkin

The first thing you notice entering Nizuc is the lush tropical landscaping and the modern architectural details. Next is the courteous staff, from valet, to concierge, to butler and on to the rest of the staff — everyone is extra friendly. The lobby is beautiful, with a touch of the rustic, but luxurious. There are water vistas, ponds, and fountains everywhere. Looking out one end of the lobby you see the small bay that fronts the resort then, beyond that, the many colors of the Mexican Caribbean. The resort’s name is Mayan for dog’s nose — due to the shape of the bay and peninsula.Nizuc hotel lobby In an area known for the amazing white sand beaches and the stunning colors of the Caribbean, Nizuc has got to be one of the most fabulous locations along the entire coast from Cancun to the Riviera Maya. Located only ten minutes from the Cancun airport it takes no time before you are transported to a tropical paradise. READ MORE IN LUXURY LATIN AMERICA

Book launch and photography exhibit at Starr Interiors, Taos NM

Zapotec woman

Zapotec woman  ©John Lamkin

Book signing and photography show at Starr Interiors
June 21, 2014, 5 – 7 PM
Starr Interiors, 117 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos NM
(2 doors south of the Taos Inn)

Starr Interiors is joyfully celebrating its 40th year anniversary with a book launch of a new book written by Susanna Starr with photographs by John Lamkin. A book signing will be held in the historic building that houses Starr Interiors. The book, Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers: An Odyssey of the Heart, chronicles three generations of deep connection and parallels the lives of Starr and specific weaving families of the small Zapotec village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico through text and stunning photos. It has already received acclaim for its cultural importance in various countries as well as the U.S.

 

Front Cover - Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

Front Cover – Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

The photography exhibit will show giclée photos from the book by John Lamkin.

Two women in village market, shopping for their #DayOfDead altars from upcoming book, INTERWOVEN LIVES..., by Susanna Starr, photos by John Lamkin.

Two women in village market ©John Lamkin

 

A luxurious stay at the Duchess’ beach house, Esencia Estates, Riviera Maya, Mexico

Morning Coffee Esencia

Morning Coffee Esencia Estate

story and photos by John Lamkin

It was rainy and and a blanket of mist covered everything as we turned into the unpretentious entrance to Esencia Estate. Driving through natural jungle vegetation we arrived at a guard station and were escorted to what appeared to be a Mayan hut complete with an authentic-looking altar adding even more intrigue to the place. A valet took our car and luggage and we were taken by golf cart to register in the comfortable living room of the main house, a Spanish hacienda style structure, the former beach estate of Italian Duchess Rosa d’Ferrari,.This exclusive estate is located along a stretch of Mexico‘s best white-sand beach, in the Riviera Maya just 20 minutes north of Tulum and, although somewhat isolated feeling, it is close to all the area’s attraction’s including many Mayan archeological sites and all the Caribbean Ocean has to offer.

Our garden suite was simple luxury, you might say Zen, with all the conveniences you would expect of a posh accommodation. In the front there was a covered terrace with table and chairs—where we would end up taking out morning coffee and sweet rolls. A back door led out to our private plunge pool tucked into the lush tropical vegetation.

The rain having subsided, still with the provided umbrellas in hand—just in case, we found our way to the dining palapa (thatched-roof building) and enjoyed a gourmet meal with an upscale take on Mexican cuisine.

In the morning coffee and and pan dulce (sweet bread and rolls) were delivered to our terrace as promised. We were joined by several bold intensely-blue plumaged birds who were apparently part of everyone’s a. m. coffee and bravely jumped in to help themselves.

Later we took our breakfast at one of the two pools near the beach where two chefs prepared the meals outside. I had an excellent huevos rancheros (traditional Mexican egg dish).

Then some beach time (we decided to pass on the early morning yoga class) and later exploring the grounds and checking out the Maya themed Spa that was very complete in its choice of therapies. Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time to enjoy the Spa activities before we left.

Esencia Estate is well worth the visit for its luxurious exclusivity and as just a great place to chill.

Getting there:

Most major airlines fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) and Riviera Maya is easily accessible from CUN by land transport.

For more information:

Mexico Tourism

Riviera Maya

Adventure in Quintana Roo

Mexican Caribbean

Where to stay in luxury:

Esencia Estate

John Lamkin is a born-again travel journalist and photographer based in Taos, New Mexico and in Mexico. He writes (and photographs) about travel, food, wine, luxury, budget, gear, tech. and more. He is Global Membership Chair of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. He travels the world in search of something new in culture, cuisine and drink. Look for John Lamkin’s new BOOK: OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of the Heart by Examiner’s Susanna Starr with Photographs by John Lamkin

Read the article in the Examiner.

The International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) awarded prestigious Certificates of Appreciation to industry partners in Zona Maya, Mexico

Rancho Encantado from Laguna Bacalar © John Lamkin

Rancho Encantado from Laguna Bacalar © John Lamkin

Luis Tellez explaining Mayan art to a tour group. Photo courtesy Luis Tellez

Luis Tellez explaining Mayan art to a tour group.
Photo courtesy Luis Tellez

 

The International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) awarded two prestigious Certificates of Appreciation to industry partners in Mexico for their gracious hospitality, continuing education and contributions to the travel & tourism industries.

The businesses chosen for this award were Rancho Encantado Resort & Spa in Laguna Bacalar and Luis Tellez of Sac Be Travel in Chetumal, Mexico.

The certificate was awarded to Rancho Encantado for outstanding work in the hospitality field and exemplary guest services. This resort provides excellent help to journalists in the form of relevant story ideas, angles, and destination and tour information. They are well-connected with excellent knowledge of the region and proactively stay in touch with journalists.

Luis Tellez of Sac Be Travel has been awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for exemplary work in tour guiding, photography and promoting the diverse aspects of Zona Maya. He provides excellent help to journalists in the form of relevant story ideas, angles, and destination and tour information. He is well-connected, with excellent knowledge of the region and proactively stays in touch with journalists.

The above mentioned travel industry partners were very generous in help with arranging travel, hospitality, tour and story suggestions to help complete journalism assignments in Mexico.

According to the IFWTWA’s press releases:

The International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) is a dynamic nonprofit organization based out of Southern California. What started out as a small group of prominent Frenchmen rating restaurants in 1956 is now a global network of journalists and photographers who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, and the people who promote them.

Members cover a broad spectrum of travel destination attractions such as active and passive adventure activities, ecology, historical features, culture, fairs, festivals, food, wine, and special events. The association’s membership includes professionals in culinary arts and sciences, the wine growing and production industry, and hotel and hospitality management industries.

These businesses are all deemed to be among the best serving Zona Maya and are highly recommended.

For more information:

Mexico Tourism http://www.visitmexico.com/en/

Adventure in Quintana Roo http://visitmexico.com/en_us/VisitMexico30/Adventure_In_Quintana_Roo

Mexican Caribbean http://www.mexicancaribbean.com/

Where to stay in luxury:

Rancho Encantado Resort & Spa  http://www.encantado.com/en-us/

For tour guiding and other Zona Maya information:

Luis Tellez, Sac Be Travel  http://www.sacbetravel.com/

 

Adventure Travel with Tropic Air Belize

Garifuna Drummers, Hopkins Bay Resort

Garifuna Drummers, Hopkins Bay Resort

Watch the video Up up & Away – Tropic Air Belize

story and photos by John Lamkin

Aside for being one of Belize’s best airlines, Tropic Air is known for their adventure tours

As much as I love adventure travel this trip was business, an assignment to review some of Belize’s finest luxury resorts and to investigate the luxury real estate scene in southern Belize. I would have wait until next trip for Tropic Air to show me more of what this wonderful English-speaking country had to offer in adventure.

In the past, I had visited the Mennonite community at Spanish Lookout, boated up the New River from Orange Walk Town to the ruins of the old amazing Mayan city Laminai passing alligators, howler and spider monkeys, lone Mennonite farms, so many types of exotic birds, animals and plants, I had gone on nightime alligator hunts, explored the Maya mountains, walked jungle trails. Broken down on lonely jungle roads, just to have a local chicken bus come to the rescue, canoed up the Macal river, and more, But Belize has even more adventure to offer me, soft and hard.

Here are some of the Tropic Air adventures I will be able to select from on my next trip. According to Tropic Air, “Not only can we take you there, we can guide you on your adventure too.”

Lamanai Mayan Ruins

A boat ride through mangroves. See birds, bat, flowers, turtles, and crocodiles along the way.

Arrive at The New River lagoon where the boat docks up. You have arrived at Lamanai, situated on 950 acres of archeological reserve. Walk through dense jungle and learn about Belizean Bush medicine. Explore impressive monuments built in 100BC.Hike up 33 meters on the huge El Castillo Temple of the Rain and take in the surrounding views. Listen to the loud sounds of the Howler monkeys, and look out for Toucans as you stroll through the rain forest.

Visit the Museum and enjoy a tasty Belizean lunch under the palapa. Visit the gift shops before you get back on board the boat.

ATM Day Tour

Another spectacular tour from Tropic who have teamed up with Pacz tours to bring you the amazing world renowned Actun Tunichil Muknal Cave (as seen in National Geographic magazine).

A 45 minute hike through the Tapir mountain reserve , through jungle crossing creeks along the way. (Watch out for the tapirs). Enjoy a quick snack and orientation from your guide on cave history, preservation and safety, then proceed to the cave entrance and the fascinating Maya underworld. The 3 hour tour is filled with excitement and wonder as you swim and climb to the inner chamber seeing Maya pottery used for sacrifices to the gods, along the way. The culmination of the tour is the Crystal Maiden, a young virgin sacrifice and “The Cathedral” with its stalactite and stalagmite formations. A not to be missed tour while in Belize.

Barton Creek: Maya, Mennonites & Medicine

Fly west to Belmopan and take a short drive by road to the Barton Creek area where you see the traditional and non-mechanized ways of life of the resident Mennonite community. Learn about traditional forest medicine, folk remedies and healing techniques from a local healer as she escorts you through her rainforest home. Sample seasonal fruits fresh from the organically grown trees on the property. After lunch, take a guided canoe adventure into Barton Creek Caves where you can learn about the natural formations carved by water and time, and see the evidence of ancient Maya sacrificial use. On a hot day, cool off by taking a refreshing dip at the cave entrance before your return flight to San Pedro.

Snorkel Day Tour

Your tour starts with a morning flight from Belize City to San Pedro. Arrive in San Pedro and walk to the SunBreeze hotel dock located directly across the street from Tropic Air. Board the boat and head for Hol Chan. Soon you will be enjoying a snorkel tour of the reserve and around noon you will be at Shark Ray Alley enjoying another fun snorkeling experience. Enjoy lunch on board your boat. Later you will return to the Sun Breeze Hotel dock to go to Tropic Air to catch your return flight to Belize City.

Zipline and Waterfall Adventure

Take a flight down the coast of Dangriga in Southern Belize where you will be able to soar above the Mayflower Bocawina National Forest on a 12 platform zipline. It has the longest, fastest and tallest runs in Belize, and allows an up close view of pristine rainforest. After a quick lunch at Mama Noots Restaurant (on-site), take a short jungle hike to cool off at Bocawina Falls. Swim in its refreshing pools or rappel down its face for an even more unbelievable experience. For adrenaline junkies, an optional upgrade of rappelling down Antelope Falls is available on arrival at the tour site. The zipline is the only one currently certified in Belize by the ACCT, and experienced guides will ensure a great experience for every age and skill level.

Blue Hole

Fly from San Pedro following the reef line south to historic St. George’s Caye, then head east to Half Moon Caye and Lighthouse Reef Atoll to the Blue Hole. Make several passes of this wonder of the world, and return via Northern Two Caye and northern Ambergris near Rocky Point. From there, fly down the Barrier Reef back to San Pedro. Also see Turneffe Atoll, the Booby Bird Sanctuary, shipwrecks, Manatees, and other animals and points of interest.

It will be hard to wait another year (maybe, just maybe, I can sneak off before then).

Resource Information

Getting to Belize:

Both United and American Airways have flights from the U.S. to Belize City, Belize

Tropic Air

Tropic Air Tours http://www.tropicair.com/en-us/tours/alltours.aspx

For more information:

Belize Tourism Board

Ambergris Caye, Belize, Central America
Placencia, Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America
Hopkins, Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America
Stann Creek District, Belize, Central America

Where to stay in luxury:
Chabil Mar Villas
Robert’s Grove Beach Resort
Hopkins Bay Resort
Victoria House

John Lamkin is a born-again travel journalist and photographer based in Taos, New Mexico and in Mexico. He writes (and photographs) about travel, food, wine, luxury, budget, gear, tech. and more. He is Global Membership Chair of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association. He travels the world in search of something new in culture, cuisine and drink.
Look for John Lamkin’s upcoming book:
OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS:
An Odyssey of the Heart
by Susanna Starr
with Photographs by John Lamkin

Read the article on the Examiner

The International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) awarded prestigious Certificates of Appreciation to industry partners in Cancun and Riviera Maya, Mexico

IFWTWA certificate presentation to Nizuc Resort & Spa Maria Oliveira, PR Mgr; Louis Daniel, Gen Mgr; IFWTWA's John Lamkin

IFWTWA certificate presentation to Nizuc Resort & Spa
Maria Oliveira, PR Mgr; Louis Daniel, Gen Mgr; IFWTWA’s John Lamkin

The International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) awarded two prestigious Certificates of Appreciation to industry partners in Mexico for their gracious hospitality, continuing education and contributions to the travel & tourism industries.

The businesses chosen for this award were Nizuc Resort and Spa in Cancun and Esencia Estate in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

These certificates were awarded for outstanding work in the hospitality field and exemplary guest services. These resorts provide excellent help to journalists in the form of relevant story ideas, angles, and destination and tour information. They are well-connected with excellent knowledge of the region and proactively stay in touch with journalists.

The above mentioned travel industry partners were very generous in help with arranging travel, hospitality, tour and story suggestions to help complete journalism assignments in Mexico.

According to the IFWTWA’s press releases:

The International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) is a dynamic nonprofit organization based out of Southern California. What started out as a small group of prominent Frenchmen rating restaurants in 1956 is now a global network of journalists and photographers who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, and the people who promote them.

Members cover a broad spectrum of travel destination attractions such as active and passive adventure activities, ecology, historical features, culture, fairs, festivals, food, wine, and special events. The association’s membership includes professionals in culinary arts and sciences, the wine growing and production industry, and hotel and hospitality management industries.

These businesses are all deemed to be among the best serving Cancun and Riviera Maya and are highly recommended.

 

Resources

Getting there:

Most major airlines fly into Cancun International Airport (CUN) and Riviera Maya is easily accessible from CUN by land transport.

For more information:

Mexico Tourism http://www.visitmexico.com/en/

Cancun http://cancun.travel/en/

Riviera Maya http://www.rivieramaya.com/

Adventure in Quintana Roo http://visitmexico.com/en_us/VisitMexico30/Adventure_In_Quintana_Roo

Mexican Caribbean http://www.mexicancaribbean.com/

Where to stay in luxury:

Nizuc Resort & Spa http://www.nizuc.com/

Esencia Estate http://www.hotelesencia.com/

 

The Book is Now Available

Our Book is Now Available

OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of the Heart

by Susanna Starr  with Photographs by John Lamkin
is now available through Starr Interiors Gallery in Taos, New Mexico
Front Cover - Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

Front Cover – Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

 

Back Cover - Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

Back Cover – Our Interwoven Lives with the Zapotec Weavers

I hope this story serves as a reminder that business is not a negative word. Trading is as old as human history, whether for goods or services. It doesn’t have to be exploitative nor impersonal to be successful. Rather, if it is infused with joy and happiness, it can provide a vital, important and enriching aspect of our lives.  –  Susanna Starr, Taos, NM

Advance Praise:

“OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS is a beautiful book, both the writing and photographs.  I own a Zapotec rug and appreciate the work of these artists. This book gives them credit where credit is long overdue.” –Tom Aageson, Executive Director, Global Center for Cultural Entrepreneurship

“A must read for anyone who wants to do well by doing good in the world . This improbable story about an American “hippie” and traditional weavers in the Oaxaca Valley of Mexico will fire your Imagination and touch your heart. Susanna Starr’s life story proves that love, respect, learning and success in business can go hand in hand.–Judith Fein, Author of LIFE IS A TRIP: The Transformative Magic of Travel and THE SPOON FROM MINKOWITZ: A Bittersweet Roots Journey to Ancestral Lands

Pages: 136

Hardback (gloss laminate)                Paperback (gloss perfect bound)
 Price: $29.95                                      Price: $19.95
Publisher: Paloma Blanca Press
Pub. Date:   June 2014 (available now through Starr Interiors)

One of life’s memorable intersections…

OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of Heart celebrates American entrepreneur and gallery owner Susanna Starr’s forty years of working with the Zapotec weavers of the Oaxaca Valley in Mexico. Starr  takes us back to the moment when she first navigated dirt roads into the remote village of Teotitlan in the 70s, and fell in Heart with the vibrant Zapotec hand-loomed weavings and the warmth of the weavers themselves. She leads us on a three-generational trek of mind and spirit, as the Zapotec families and her own grow in parallels of symbiotic prosperity and mutual respect that reminds us that “business” does not have to be a negative word.
Susanna Starr is the owner of Starr Interiors in Taos, New Mexico, which began as La Unica Cosa in 1974, and features hand-dyed 100% wool rugs, wall hangings, and pillows traditionally dyed and loomed by the Zapotec weavers.
OUR INTERWOVEN LIVES WITH THE ZAPOTEC WEAVERS: An Odyssey of Heart reflects Starr’s philosophy that business need not be kept separate, but can be an integral and meaningful part of everyday lives.
“I hope this story serves as a reminder that business is not a negative word,” says Starr. “Trading is as old as human history, whether for goods or services. It need not be exploitative or impersonal to be successful. Rather, if it is infused with joy and happiness, it can provide a vital, important and enriching aspect of our lives.
The weavings have been purchased by numerous celebrities including Paul Simon, Sting and Diana Ross, and featured in style magazines such as “Architectural Digest.”
With Love it began…With Love it flourished…And with Love it continues.