Thursday, March 23, 2017

Ride a Horse, Mountain Bike, Enjoy a $1 Beer on Nicaragua's Pacific Coast - Doing Good!

Want to horseback-ride into the sunset for a few dollars?
 Do Good at the Same Time?
Paso Pacifico's magical tours into southern Nicaragua

Don Miguel - a Nicaraguan farmer - has spent decades replanting trees to fight deforestation in the Nicaraguan dry forest along the Pacific Coast just north of Costa Rica - and he leads horseback-riding tours, too!

Just a half hour south of the scenic, seaside town of San Juan del Sur, a cruise port and surfing spot along Nicaragua's Pacific Coast is Don Miguel's inn, Llomas de Bosques. Even if you're staying in San Juan del Sur or at port for the day, this is an easy trip south and you even have time for lunch.

If you're not one to swim with turtles, but prefer an adventure over land, Paso Pacifico offers hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking into the dry forest - replete with conversational monkeys punctuated by the endless chatter of native birds.

We chose to ride horseback with Don Miguel at the Llomas de Bosques, who has spent much of his adult life replanting thousands of trees to replenish the forest surrounding his land. We trotted past small farms of grazing cattle, where busy hens dodged playing children. 

Above us in the swaying trees, howler monkeys jumped from limb to limb, the quiet punctuated by the tweets of exotic, colorful birds. Imagine seeing a bright yellow parrot on a branch, rather than in a cage! 

Some locals, like Don Miguel, can perfectly imitate a monkey howl - triggering a cacophony of thunderous responses from the furry neighbors above. For those who prefer wheels to hoofs, mountain biking tours are also available, hiking, too.

Want to get a taste of rural life and climb aboard an ox-driven cart? Just minutes from the turtle refuge is the Hacienda la Flor, run by the Joseph Adam Calderon cooperative. The hardy can hike up a nearby hill to get a panoramic view of the sea, the refuge and southern Nicaragua. Back at the ranch, the farmers gently tie their oxen to a wooden wagon. Bumping along a packed dirt road, led by the gentle horned beasts, we rolled past scattered cattle, mother hens trailed by fluffy baby chicks, and goats and horses happily crunching in the fields. Suddenly, we turned into a clutch of trees, and step off into a forest floor transformed into a natural carpet of sea shells and broken pottery of past civilizations - a major find for archeologists. Back at the ranch, we were greeted by steaming coffee and a popular Nicaraguan dish, plaintain tostones topped with fresh, local cheese. 

Paso Pacifico is seeking to lure visitors to Ruta del Sur so the friendly rural residents can earn a living through eco-tourism. Treasuring turtles cuts down on theft of precious turtle eggs, considered a delicacy.  Tourism enables parents to pay for uniforms and school supplies for children to go to school and avoid cutting trees to farm for food. They are not forced to destroy nature to eat - but can partner with it, offering  unique adventures for delighted foreign tourists.  

Women and girls are central to their mission in an initiative called “Project Ellas.”  Homestays are available for as little as $12 a night per person with private bath in a village where everyone greets each other with a smile. They are basic, clean accommodations, just a short walk through the forest with flush with chattering monkeys and birds to the pristine Ostional beach - a true getaway.

Blanca of Restaurant Blanca Rosa 

Check out our Good Green Travel Facebook page to meet the women of the sleepy beachfront village of Ostional, plus the Junior Rangers, children specially trained by Paso Pacifico as biodiversity protectors, guarding turtle nesting sites and ensuring no one litters the pristine beaches!

Oh! Food! Enjoy simple dining at women-run eateries in Ostional, featuring fresh fish or chicken, farm-fresh eggs, beans and rice, fruit. For a cold drink, a beachside thatch-roofed bar offers beers for $1, your view: a cascade of pelicans plunging into the waves for food as fishermen unfurl their nets along the shore.

Their excursions are new, and cheap!  So, if you have a sense of adventure, can escape luxury for a bit, and want safe, educational, earth-saving family fun, contact Paso Pacifico at

Snorkel, swim with turtles, and, oh my, the stunning beaches in Nicaragua!

Who says you can't do good just traveling to pristine Nicaragua beaches! Not Paso Pacifico!
Do Good - Travel south - Ruta del Sur

Most visitors may associate Nicaragua’s southern Pacific Coast with the quaint, seaside tourist town of San Juan del Sur, a busy cruise port and popular surfer spot. 

Now, Paso Pacifico, a women-run conservation organization has a special tourism strategy to protect the forests, ocean and endangered wildlife. If you’re ready to be adventurous, want to get close to nature, meet and greet locals and help save the planet - just by visiting - go with Paso Pacifico! Forget shopping for trinkets or expensive ship-planned excursions. Head to the Ruta del Sur for safe, family-friendly fun. 

A mother turtle lays eggs at Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor

Think turtles! This zone is an important nesting place for endangered species. Paso Pacifico offers a tour with their guides to visit Refugio de Vida Silvestre La Flor, just a half-hour (20 km) from San Juan del Sur.

 Here, visitors can approach these gigantic reptiles and their new babies. But don't touch! The refuge draws thousands of olive ridleys, hawksbill, leatherback and green sea turtles every year. 

If you get there between July and December, the beaches are flooded with mama “tortugas” and newborns. Paso Pacifico guides - even children - can tell you why their existence is under threat from humans, what they do to save them, and the turtles’ crucial role for millions of years in maintaining central America's earth-saving biodiverse ecosystem. Both leatherbacks and hawksbills are critically endangered. You also receive a special ranger guide and visit to an on-site interpretation center.  See what Paso Pacifico does here with turtles. 

Lulu with our fishermen and boat in the distance.

Paso Pacifico also goes out to sea - to swim with turtles and maybe dolphins! Skilled fishermen conducts snorkeling adventures on a motorboat, and know just where to go to find entertaining marine life. A refreshing dip is followed by lunch served on a pristine, deserted white sand beach. You also can get to the  La Flor turtle refuge this way, by boat.

When Lulu and I motored into the Pacific with Yorlin, our fisherman guide, it was February, off-season for nesting. Nonetheless, our trusty guide scanned the horizon to find the “tortugas.” When the small leather heads of the giant turtles emerged, Lulu and  I delightfully jumped into the water, equipped with snorkel and fins. What a thrill to see the huge flappers of these marine animals through our masks - as they disappeared into the depths of the sea.

Stay tuned for our next blog.... from the turtles to the forests.... Want to go here? Paso Pacifico's excursions are new and cheap! So, if you want an adventure, can escape luxury for a bit for a safe, educational, earth-saving family fun, then:

      Nancie L. Katz is a New York-based investigative journalist, writing about pristine, ecotourism destinations where travelers can experience unique forays into nature with friendly locals - and save the planet at the same time! Join her on Facebook at Good Green Travel or contact her at:

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Paso Pacifico - Turtles, Monkeys, Birds - Protected by Girl Rangers!

Nicaragua - Paso Pacifico - 
Run by Women - Empowering Women and Girls
AND Saving the Earth 
During February, Lulu, 17, and I explored the wondrous work of Paso Pacifico, a not for profit founded and run by two phenomenal women - Sarah Otterstrom and Liza Gonzales - who both cherished the dry forest, the Pacific ocean and coastline, the endangered turtles and monkeys and birds threatened by climate change, deforestation and more. 

When people think about conservation and want to do good - take action to save wildlife, the environment and the planet, they often overlook these effective, moving small grassroots charities. These are the folks - with no funding for colorful PR and marketing campaigns and paid grant writers - doing the hard work of transforming hearts and minds of locals, respecting and training them to overcome poverty and hunger - NOT by cutting down trees or over-fishing - but by eco-tourism. They give them the gift of learning how to earn money by partnering with their fragile natural resources - the magical forest, the endangered turtles vital to biodiversity, the engaging and vulnerable monkeys and birds. 

During Women's History Month and just a few weeks after International Women's Day, we must mention what they do for girls. Listen to Hilary, 14, and Nicole, 13, below.

Even if you don't speak Spanish - here's the message! Two girls growing up in an impoverished village on Nicaraguan's Pacific Coast - one born when the mom - now employed by Paso Pacifico -was only 16. Nicole wants to be doctor, and Hilary a biologist. They are girl rangers, trained by Paso Pacifico, who guard and protect vulnerable baby turtles, keep the beaches clean, identify the multitude of birds and wildlife. In other words, they just rock! 

Here's a few seconds of our walk in the forest with the Junior Rangers of Paso Pacifico. See the monkeys? Those are exotic birds you hear.