A coffee lover’s dream – fair trade coffee tours to South America

Love your morning cup of fairtrade coffee? Now you can visit the actual producers on these brand new tours to Latin America with responsible travel specialists Sumak Travel. Founder Felipe Zalamea explains what to expect on their new Fair Trade Adventures…

View over the stunning Teyuna, or Lost City in Colombia
View over the stunning Teyuna, or Lost City in Colombia

It is pretty simple to find fair trade coffee or bananas in a supermarket, or fair trade handicrafts online. But it’s still quite difficult for a conscious traveller to find genuine fair trade holidays. From the very beginning, fair trade principles have been at the core of our social business model. When we met with Cafedirect Producers’ Foundation last year, we thought it was the time to go for it: a series of fair trade small group tours to Latin America. So we joined forces to create new and exciting travel experiences, Fair Trade Adventures.

These innovative tours give travellers the rare opportunity to meet many of the outstanding people behind popular fair trade products, such as the artisans behind beautiful handicrafts and the farmers behind the organic coffee you drink every morning.

Harvested coffee beans near Cuzco, Peru (Pic by Harry Dowdney)
Harvested coffee beans near Cuzco, Peru (Pic by Harry Dowdney)

12 days in Peru, Costa Rica and Columbia

Travellers will also visit iconic destinations such as Machu Picchu, and off-the-beaten path locations that are truly stunning. We are starting with 12-day trips to Peru (departing 22 April), Costa Rica (departing 14 May), Colombia (departing 20 August) and Northern Peru (departing 16 Sept) this year. Download the brochure for the full itineraries.

What to expect on a Fair Trade Adventure

We believe these tours are the perfect mix of adventure, culture, wildlife, iconic destinations and a little rest and relaxation! And if you’re looking forward to staring the day with something other a commute by train, tube or car, we’ve included boat trips, hiking, horse-riding, 4x4s, bicycles, canoeing and a 40m high suspension bridge!

You could…kick-start the day with a cup of freshly-ground Machu Picchu coffee before visiting the Inca citadel itself; take part in artisanal fishing on Lake Titicaca; visit organic farms along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coastline; venture down the Yorkin River deep into the jungle to meet members of the indigenous Bribri tribe and hear their ancient stories; hop on an immaculate old Willy´s jeep through super-scenic Valle del Cocora, in Colombia’s coffee region; venture completely off the beaten path in Northern Peru to taste the pulp of some of the world’s best cocoas and try your hand at making ceviche and mixing pisco sours; and last but not least, simply chill on pristine white sand beaches.

These tours are not about passively visiting people and places, but actively engaging with them, and returning home feeling enriched and alive again!

View of the Lake Titicaca, Peru - Pic by Harry Dowdney
View of the Lake Titicaca, Peru – Pic by Harry Dowdney

Where you’ll be staying, what you’ll be eating

Homestays are an important feature on many of Sumak Travel’s existing tours, and our Fair Trade Adventures are no exception. To find out more about the concept, you can read about homely homestays in Lake Titicaca, on our blog.

You could be staying with Ticos in San Jose, Costa Rica, or the Ashaninka Native Community San Miguel, in the Perené Valley, Peru. You’ll also be able to stay on farms and coffee plantations – and try your hand at milking cows, cutting sugar cane, making artisanal cheese and catching your own fish for dinner! But don’t worry, you can also sit back and enjoy the delights of a traditional Caribbean food, Andean recipes with a modern twist, Puma coffee, banana creams, tropical fruits, and some of the world’s best cocoa.

Uros Island, Lake Titicaca (pic by Marvin de Kievit)
Uros Island, Lake Titicaca (pic by Marvin de Kievit)

Supporting and promoting fair tourism

A fair trade approach to tourism is very much needed in the developing world, and in particular in destinations where tourism is the main industry. If you are tired of mass tourism and tourist traps, if you are looking for an unusual holiday where you can meet fantastic people, and if you would like to learn from some of the amazing people behind our fair trade staples, these tours are for you.

We are strong advocates of fair trade and sustainability, and would love to be able to show you that responsible tourism is not only the most rewarding option, but can be the most exciting one too.

The type of activity and variety of experiences included have been chosen to be as inclusive as possible, making the tours great for solo travellers, couples, groups of friends, and families alike. They are 12 to 14 days long, but for those who can stay longer and have more specific interests (bird-watching, hiking, wildlife, adventure sports, beaches etc), we have created special add-ons, that can be easily included too.

For more information – including prices, dates and booking visit the Fair Trade Adventures page on our website, download the brochure, or contact us at fairtrade@sumak-travel.org or T: 020 3642 4246.

Colourful La Candelaria, in Bogota centre, Colombia
Colourful La Candelaria, in Bogota centre, Colombia


Lonely Planet reveals 10 best eco hotels

To celebrate the launch of its first ever collection of the world’s best hotels, travel experts Lonely Planet have revealed its 10 best eco-friendly places to stay.

The list features a diverse selection of eco accommodation, as chosen by a panel of travel experts, from Lapa Rios in Costa Rica and Maison Anglaise in Morocco, to Bunlungula Backpackers in South Africa and Earthship Rentals in New Mexico, USA. All 10 of the outstanding eco-friendly places to stay have made impressive strides to minimise their impact on the environment and have made positive contributions to their local communities.

Lonely Planet’s collection of the world’s best hotels, also includes a top 10 ‘Extraordinary’ places to stay, and a top 10 ‘Best Value’ places to stay list.

[gdl_gallery title=”LP eco” width=”120″ height=”110″ ]

LonelyPlanet.com editor Tom Hall was part of the expert panel who selected the finalists. He said, “We’re delighted with our first ever list of top hotels. This collection is one of a kind we believe, as it is put together by the most well-travelled people on earth. At Lonely Planet we’ve been giving recommendations to travellers about where to stay for 40 years. Our guidebook authors provide their honest opinion and never take freebies in exchange for positive coverage, so you can trust our reviews.”

The Lonely Planet ‘Eco’ list in full:

1. Lapa Rios, Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica – This lodge lies in a private nature reserve that serves as a buffer for Costa Rica’s remote Parque Nacional Corcovado. It consists of 16 gorgeous bungalows with four poster beds, garden showers and private decks. Simply put, this is the promised land for nature lovers. (Read our Lapa Rios review here).

2. Bulungula Backpackers, South Africa – Feel like one of the family at this community-driven lodge. Bulungula Lodge is nothing more than a group of traditionally designed rondavels owned in partnerhsip with the adjoining community, but a stay here is an immersive experience. This is a place to unwind and disconnect, completely solar and wind-powered, and where a menagerie of animals wander the unfenced property.

3. Chole Mjini, Chole Island, Mafia Archipelago, Tanzania – Get back to nature with a treetop stay at Chole Mjini. This lodge is like nowhere else along the Tanzanian coast. Accommodation is in imaginatively designed tree houses – simple, chic and nestled amid the vegetation for maximum privacy. A short walk away are vine-covered 19th-century ruins, and beyond that, a lively village.

4. Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, Aguas Calientes, Peru – In the heart of a patch of restored Andean cloud forest, is this hotel in the form of whitewashed cottages, scattered through a 12-acre site. The rooms are full of Peruvian fabrics, ceramics and art, but the real enchantment is the forest itself, a stupefying ecosystem of butterflies and birds, not to mention the world’s largest collection of native orchids.

5. EcoLodge Chepu Adventures, Chiloe, Chile – Perched on an overlook peering oEcoLodge Chepu Adventures, Chiloe, Chileut onto three rivers and 140 sq km of sunken forest, is EcoLodge Chepu Adventures. The owners have designed everything at this eco-fierce property with the end goal of complete self-sufficiency, from infrared solar showers, to wind-generated electricity. Green-conscious travellers cannot get enough of the mystical kayak trips at dawn, the views and the barbeques.

6. Maison Anglaise, Taroudant, Morocco – Watch the sunset from the roof terrace of this tall medina house in the walled market town of Taroudant. Maison Anglaise is an excellent place to learn about Berber culture – the English-speaking staff organise visits to rural villages and schemes the guesthouse supports, including soap-making and beekeeping. It has been awarded the Green Key eco-label for its sustainable practices, such as using solar panels to heat water and serving locally grown produce.

7. Earthship Rentals, Taos, New Mexico, USA – If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live completely off the grid, then this is your chance. In the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains near Taos, lies a small collection of buildings that seems equal parts Gaudi masterpiece and Dr Seuss whimsy. These are the so-called Earthships, radically designed buildings made from recycled materials (think old tyres and glass bottles) and boasting impeccable green credentials.

8. Dana Guest House, King’s Highway, Jordan – Jordan’s top bolthole is also home to one of the Middle East’s most amazing views. Dana Guesthouse blends into the sandstone cliff face sitting on the 1,200m-high tip of Dana Nature Reserve. The guesthouse is run by Jordan’s Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature, and the staff are highly knowledgeable about the reserve’s natural wonders. The simple stone-clad rooms are designed to invite you to watch the sunrise light up the gorge below.

9. Nuli Sapi, Papua New Guinea – Nuli Sapi is located in a pristine area of mountainous Nuli Sapi, Papua New Guinearainforest-covered islands, tiny traditional villages and teeming aquatic life. The bungalows themselves are simple but comfortable and made entirely of bush materials, with a veranda perched over the water. Aside from admiring the tropical beauty, there’s much to do here. Nuli Sapi is deeply committed to the surrounding communities – locals can take you out bushwalking, snorkelling with manta rays, fishing, canoeing or simply for a village visit where you can learn about traditional cooking techniques.

10. Baikaler Eco-Hostel, Listvyanka, Russia – Siberian log cabin-style dorms, yoga and chill-out decks await you at this hostel. Russia isn’t exactly celebrated for its eco-friendliness, but the country’s only purpose-built hostel on the shores of Eastern Siberia’s Lake Baikal bucks the trend, big time. The enlightened owner has crafted a green sanctuary complete with solar-heated water, triple insulation, an electricity supply generated partially from solar panels, and energy-saving lighting and electrical devices throughout.

For more on the Lonely Planet’s top eco stays for 2014 click here

Have you stayed at any of the Lonely Planet’s favourite eco-friendly hotels and hostels? Tell us what you think…





A luxury stay at Costa Rica’s Lapa Rios Eco Lodge

Guest blogger Bev Sninchak reviews a luxurious eco resort nestled in the rainforest of Costa Rica…Macaws at Lapa Rios, Costa Rica

Tucked away in the Costa Rican rainforest, eco lodge Lapa Rios, which means ‘River of Scarlet Macaws’, is a green resort which oozes luxury. According to a Stanford University study published in the Journal of Ecotourism, Lapa Rios offers significant eco-tourism benefits to the region, in addition to offering economic boosts to the area.


Nestled in a private rainforest wonderland of beaches and wildlife, Lapa Rios touts its destination as the place to be for tourists who insist on the ultimate green travel, combining ethereal luxury with environmentally friendly practices that put the goal of sustainability as the top priority. What’s more, the land can never be developed to ensure the forest remains untouched, based on a conservation easement signed by owners John and Karen Lewis.


At 930 acres, Lapa Rios’s Eco Lodge features 16 luxurious rainforest bungalows set right in the middle of the rainforest. Awaken to the sound of macaws and enjoy being surrounded by delightful jungle animals such as toucans, sloths and howler monkeys. You can take in a Pacific Ocean view directly from your bed, and when you’re ready for a meal, saunter down to Lapa Rios’s award-winning Brisa Azul restaurant.


Focusing on eco-friendly fare, Brisa Azul serves dishes featuring grass-fed beef, organic chicken, locally caught seafood, and fresh vegetables and fruits produced from the local region alongside organic wine.

Horse riding at Lapa Rios, Costa Rica


This stunning location in a private rainforest set on the Osa Peninsula reserve that stretches a thousand acres provides visitors with active participation in sustainable eco-tourism. Guided tours with trained local guides teach about the biodiversity of the area. Access to waterfalls as well as three beaches provides a wealth of experiences for lovers of sand and surf, including boating trips, horseback riding along the beach, kayaking, and surfing.

Recommended for…Those who want to completely ‘unplug’ there is no internet, air conditioning, telephone, or television at Lapa Rios.

Be aware that…Lapa Rios is a private rainforest reserve located 45 minutes from the closest airstrip in Puerto Jiménez, and driving takes seven hours from San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • Lapa Rios was the first Costa Rican hotel to receive the highest status for sustainability from the Costa Rica Tourism Board.
  • Provides both organic and biodegradable shampoo, soap, and lotion.
  • Eco-friendly grooming products are produced locally.
  • Serves to educate about biodiversity through the use of informative materials located in a guide hut.


For additional information and to book your trip, visit www.laparios.com

About the author: Bev Sninchak is a veteran freelance writer with 16 years of experience producing content for various publications. She writes about many subjects, from managing your social media platform to Reputation.com testimonials.

Costa Rica: Volunteering in the ‘Happiest place on Earth’

Jenny Collins, of NGO Frontier, gives us the lowdown on volunteering in Costa Rica – once voted the ‘happiest place in the world’!

Costa Rica’s stunning landscapes of cloud forests and volcanoes, plus the friendly Costa Ricans themselves, offers a big clue as to why this country was once voted the happiest country in the world on the Happy Planet Index. But if you’d rather give something back to the country as you explore it then there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer. Costa Rica sits just above the equator in Central America and benefits from a tropical climate which plays a part in encouraging the high levels of biodiversity in the country, and this is where helpful travellers come in…

[gdl_gallery title=”Costa” width=”125″ height=”110″ ]

The Costa Rica Big Cats, Primates & Turtles Conservation project allows volunteers to monitor these important species in their own environment. Volunteers live in the middle of the rainforest in the Corcovado National Park (one of the most remote parts of the country) so really get the opportunity to be at one with the wildlife.

The work: Volunteers carry out extensive biodiversity surveys. Work includes walking primate transects to spot the white-faced capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, Jeffries spider monkey and mantled howler monkey which thrive in these biologically rich forests.  Volunteers also survey populations of exotic birds, insects and amphibians, patrolling turtle nesting beaches (except between December and April when there are no turtles in this region), or track big cats.

Accommodation: This varies from tents to hammocks on a handmade deck, made from locally sourced materials. The camp is a 20-minute walk from Playa Piro, where the beach stretches for over 15 miles.

Part of camp life will involve cooking on a rotational basis. Costa Rican food is simple but delicious, with a focus on rice, beans and good quality fruit and vegetables. You could learn to make Gallo Pinto, the staple food of the nation, which is fried rice and black beans. Other favourites include light and crispy tortillas, most often stuffed with delicious cheeses and vegetables.

Much good work has already been carried out by volunteers on the project and new research projects are often set up on location. Recently the volunteers identified deforested locations that have been abandoned in recent decades and which were once used as land for plantations. These areas are missing many of the important species native to the area so Frontier are collaborating with the local Osa Conservation group to initiate a re-vegetation programme. Native species are being used and seeds taken from local areas to establish seedlings within the nursery. In the long-term, it is hoped that the re-establishment of native plant species will encourage more wildlife to return to the area.

Recommended for… Wildlife lovers and anyone who fancies getting back to nature and helping to conserve important areas of biodiversity.

Be aware that… Living in a forest can be tough as well as a great experience and it’s always good to be prepared for all eventualities so that there are no nasty surprises during your time on camp.

‘Good’ credentials:

  • The project supports the local economy by sourcing much of the supplies, including all of the food, from the local community
  • Helping to conserve the local areas will ensure the Costa Rican people can continue to create a sustainable income from tourism


About the author: Jenny Collins works for Frontier, an NGO dedicated to safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and building sustainable livelihoods for marginalised communities in the world’s poorest countries. Find out more about Frontier’s volunteer projects, ethical adventure trails and gap year planning.

[google-map-v3 width=”750″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”roadmap” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”Corcovado, Costa Rica{}animal-shelter-export.png{}Big Cats, Primates & Turtle Conservation” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]

Conservation with Youth Challenge International, Costa Rica

Unfulfilled with her time at a Danish university Jade Johnston, of travel blog Our Oyster, decided to join a volunteering project abroad. Here she shares her experience of volunteering on a conservation project with Youth Challenge International in Costa Rica.cooling-off in Costa Rica (c) Sarah Jackson 

Not keen on facing a winter semester in Denmark with no friends to speak of, I turned on my computer, and started researching volunteering opportunities abroad. I didn’t really know where to start. Most volunteer programs I found charged exorbitant prices for volunteering terms that were much shorter than I was looking for. After living in Denmark for seven months, one of the world’s most expensive countries, I only had a limited budget. Eventually, after following what seemed like a never ending trail of links (there was no Goodtrippers back then to help me in my search! – “Thanks Jade!” – Ed.), I came across a program called Youth Challenge International (YCI).

The program which is based in Canada accepts volunteers from Canada, America, and the European Union. There is also a partner organization in Australia called Youth Challenge Australia (YCA) which partners with some of the same organizations.

Where Does YCI and YCA Operate?

YCI works in a variety of countries, mainly in Latin America and Africa. YCA also has indigenous Australia programs as well. The programs vary in length from four to 12 weeks depending on what location and type of program you choose. There are usually at least two departure dates per location, although this does vary depending on the partner organization. What originally drew me to YCI is that is offered a long term volunteer program, but at a reasonable price. I had to pay my own airfare but my program fee covered all my in country expenses – the only extra money I needed was for pocket spending money.

I chose to go to Costa Rica. The program start date nicely coincided with the start of the next university year (it was my “I need time off from school excuse”) and it also would give me an opportunity to learn Spanish, which is something I had recently become interested in.

Group Living

Another factor which drew me to YCI is the fact that it is a group project. Our group had 14 members from Canada and Australia, including two team leaders. This helped lesson the culture shock as we had a large support network. It also helped ease day to day living as two members would stay back from work each day to do all the group cooking and cleaning. The only disadvantage of living in a large group of English speakers is that we didn’t get a total Spanish immersion experience. Those of us who chose to study Spanish did learn quite a bit, but others who didn’t probably went home with only a few basic words.

The volunteering work

Conservation work in Costa Rica (c) Sarah JacksonIt’s important to note that everyone’s group will be different. Projects change constantly, and the work that I did in Costa Rica may be completely different than the work you will do. Even groups going back to the same project at later stages have different experiences.

Our group lived together in a house that a member of the community donated to us to use. But the group who went the next year lived separately in community homestays as the original house had been sold to a new owner who was now living in it. Their experience will have been completely different from mine, even though they were working on the same project.

It’s also important to research what type of volunteer work you want to do. In Costa Rica at the time that I participated, most of the work was infrastructure based in national parks, or developing ecotourism opportunities in small communities. Our project was in a small community in Juanilama de Poco Sol where we helped save a community-owned patch of rainforest from deforestation for agricultural land, by developing it into an ecotourism destination. Now tourists from around the world can venture to this small village, join farm stays in extensions that villagers have built onto their homes and experience the rainforest and local culture. This is of direct economic benefit to the community members.

It was hard manual labour. We used machetes to clear walking trails, pickaxes and shovels to level out ground, and carried cement bricks deep into the rainforest to stabilize steps built into the hills. We also taught the locals basic English and wilderness first aid, but the majority of our work was hard graft.

Community Ownershipvolunteers in Costa Rica (c) Sarah Jackson

One thing that I really enjoyed about this project was the emphasis put on community ownership. Not just any village can get a group of YCI volunteers in. They need to go through an application process and prove that the group will really benefit them in reaching their goal. This means that the community really, really wants to have the volunteers there. Also it means that the project is something that the community itself has decided it wants, and not just something that a group of outsiders has decided would be good for them.

Since the community really wanted this project to succeed, we always had lots of engagement with the local people. We worked alongside the local young men, got taught how to salsa dance by the school children, and always had people there ready to help us when we needed it. We attended weddings and dinners, and really felt welcomed by the whole village.

Recommended for… Those who are looking for a long-term project and prefer working alongside lots of other volunteers for support.

Be aware that… This programme is probably not suitable for those looking for short-term projects, or for individual travellers passing through the area. The application process was quite long and there was no guarantee I would be placed where I wanted to be. Also, I had to attend an orientation day in Canada and then fly out with all the other participants (which was particularly annoying since I lived in Scotland at the time, and had to fly back to Canada just for the day). This is the sort of program you need to decide on and plan out in advance.

‘Good’ credentials:frog in Costa Rica (c) Sarah Jackson

  • Delivering projects the community itself has chosen and needs
  • Creation of ecotourism facilities to help the community develop a sustainable source of income
  • Protection of community-owned rainforest
  • Immersion in local, community life


For more information visit Youth Challenge International at www.yci.org or Youth Challenge Australia at www.youthchallenge.org.au

About the Author: Jade is a Canadian expat now living in Australia. She writes a blog at OurOyster.com and blogs about budget travel, slow travel, destination and tour reviews, and family travel. Her next project will be a three month road trip across her home country of Canada, and she has just finished a similar epic road trip across Australia. Visit www.ouroyster.com, connect via Facebook or follow on Twitter @Our_Oyster


[google-map-v3 width=”750″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”roadmap” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” addmarkerlist=”San Jose, Costa Rica{}animal-shelter-export.png{}Conservation with Youth Challenge International, Costa Rica” bubbleautopan=”true” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]