While we’ve never been a fan of all-inclusive resorts, we have made a handful of pre-packaged vacations since Camille was born. The most memorable was The Occidental Grand Xcaret in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Admittedly, it’s beach is meh, however it’s location next door to the Xcaret Park was unbeatable. A turtle sanctuary, butterfly exhibit, cultural shows, underground rivers and so much more kept us busy and away from the usual smorgasborg of poolside games set to throbbing BPMs at the resort.
Things are changing for us though. Camille is 7 and at an age where we don’t have to plan our days around sleep schedules, she can wait to go to the bathroom or have a snack until we reach the next pit stop, and crying fits don’t linger past a few minutes (yippee). We’re considering new adventures and So Fresh Living has our attention. Launched by Lauren Spicer, a Canadian expat who lives in Panama, she specializes in planning bespoke vacations in her adopted home and here she shares all the good reasons to break from well-oiled resorts. (Before you go, read these stress-free travel hacks that’ll make your trip a breeze from the get-go).
Guest Post: By Lauren Spicer from So Fresh Living
You may totally disagree but I think pre-packaged tours and all-inclusive resorts take all the excitement and creativity out of travelling. While, of course, there is something to be said for the convenience of a Kids Club, all-you-can-eat buffet and open bar, I always feel like there’s something left to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, I totally enjoy the occasional luxury hotel or turn-your-brain-off all-inclusive, but I find that the more I travel, the more I crave a different type of vacation. And that’s part of the reason I started my company.
So what’s missing from the conventional vacation? Big resorts usually don’t help you learn much about the culture of the country you’re in, experience much of the natural environment—besides the beach—or offer activities you’re not too embarrassed to take part in. How many salsa or aquarobics classes can you take in one week? And while excursions can provide adventure, I don’t always enjoy rum-soaked bus rides with 25 strangers.
I know that all-inclusives can be easy and convenient when you’ve got kids, but there are family-friendly vacations that remove the need to line up at the buffet or desperately search for a few lounge chairs on the beach with hot, whiny kids in tow. What I do at So Fresh Living is create easy, relaxing vacation experiences to get excited about. You choose who to vacation with, what to eat, which activities you want and where you stay!
Originally from Toronto, I now live and work in Panama. It’s hot every day and all year long; it has a modern, thriving capital city with amazing cuisine; beautiful cobblestone streets and an impressive night life. We have expansive Pacific beaches with world class surfing, tiny clusters of Caribbean islands with turquoise water and plentiful reefs, and rich rainforests filled with wildlife and mountaintop adventures.
Lauren’s Go-To Guide to Panama
Bocas Del Toro
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Well known by travelers all over the world, this is a pristine and magical place with multiple islands of varying size, amazing reefs, white sand beaches, dolphins, rays, adventure and some incredible accommodations. Bocas Del Toro is most easily accessible by flight. It’s a quick 45-minute trip by plane with Air Panama (a small, reliable and super affordable airline in Panama).
We work with hotels in Bocas Del Toro that offer the use of their facilities for full or partial rental, full meal plans, yoga spaces and amazing views. Each hotel has a different set of amenities and facilities so that we can provide exactly what our guests or retreat hosts are looking for. Our affiliates in Bocas Del Toro include: Bambuda Lodge, Palmer Tent Lodge, Dolphin Bay Hideaway and Turtle Beach House.
Isla Grande, Panama
Isla Grande is a tiny Caribbean island, close to the canal. It is an easy two-hour drive from the city and a short (five- to 10-minute) boat ride across crystal blue waters. At our affiliate hotel and vacation rentals, Sister Moon and villa Brother Sun, guests can enjoy yoga services, typical Panamanian Cuisine (or one of our affiliate Thai, Raw or Vegan chefs) and spectacular views on this quiet and secluded island.
Pacific Beaches and Coronado Hills
Near the thriving town of Coronado and next to the many resorts in the area, hotels in this region are just one to two hours from Panama city with easy beach access. Istmo Retreat Centre’s facilities are perfect for a low-key yoga getaway, teacher training or SUP adventure while Dlaaya Luxury Villas are great for small groups who want a private mountain top abode.
The Azuero Peninsula
A surfer’s paradise, the Azuero Peninsula’s most southern coast has plenty of little surf spots and small hotels while still maintaining a unique and chill vibe. For a unique luxury experience, Sansara Resort is a full-service luxury hotel located on a huge, barely touched beach that is great for surfing. La Lajagua is a small hotel tucked away from the beach and set directly in the town of Pedasi. A short drive to surf spots and a quick walk to local restaurants, this is a beautiful location for families and group vacationers.
With the exciting expansion of Bambuda Lodge’s services, So Fresh will be offering retreats at their amazing new castle, located in the mountains of Boquete. Easily accessible by a 40-minute flight from Panama City, Bouquete has an amazing cool climate, spectacular views and the best hikes in the country.
Visit sofreshliving.com for more details.