Leatherback Turtle Nesting Ground Protected In Puerto Rico

leatherback turtle
Puerto Rico has just declared 5.4 square miles of coastline as protected land in order to preserve a leatherback turtle nesting ground, BBC reports.

The Northeast Ecological Corridor has been a battleground between conservation groups and big business for 15 years. The choice was basically between two ideas: “Hey, look at this beautiful natural wonder; let’s preserve it for low-impact ecotourism!” and “Hey, look at this beautiful natural wonder; let’s put up a bunch of luxury homes, hotels and golf courses. We’ll wreck the place but make a ton of cash!”

Luckily, the government of Puerto Rico chose correctly.

Leatherback turtles are a critically endangered species and this stretch of coastline is one of their largest remaining nesting grounds. In addition to the turtles, the Northeast Ecological Corridor is home to 866 species of plants and animals, including 54 rare, threatened, endangered and endemic species.

The area was declared a nature reserve in 2008, but that protection was taken away the next year under pressure from “developers.” In 2012 two-thirds of the area were once again named as a reserve. Now all of the area will be protected, although considering how the government has flip-flopped on this issue before, this may not be the last time we report on this issue.

[Photo courtesy Coalición Pro CEN]

Budget Locations For Spring Break Travel

spring breakSpring break is just around the corner, and if you haven’t already planned a trip, our friends at Expedia have mined their price stats to come up with some of the most budget-friendly locations around. From family-friendly to party-hearty, these trips won’t break the bank.

Tampa, Florida
Home of the New York Yankees’ spring training camp, this sunny destination has much to offer both families and singles. A four-day, round-trip flight from New York into Tampa starts at $180.

San Juan, Puerto Rico
If you’re looking to brush up on your Spanish, check out Puerto Rico’s capital city, San Juan. A five-day, round-trip flight starts at $279 and with average lows hovering around 73° in April, San Juan is sure to please. This popular destination has made one of the most coveted travel spots this year, and new hotels make this an exciting spot for luxury and budget seekers alike.

San Diego, California
This sunny city is an increasingly popular Spring Break destination. For stays between March 8-16, there are a number of package deals available (flight + hotel) for less than $800/person on Expedia. For $772/person, you can stay at the beautiful Dana on Mission Bay between March 9-16 with travel from New York.

Orlando, Florida
Whether you’re headed to Disney World or just seeking fun in the sun, it’s possible to find flights AND hotels for under $300 total when traveling from New York City.

[Image Credit: Flickr via yazmapaz & ace heart]

Photo Of The Day: Puerto Rico Vista

puerto rico vista

This beautiful Puerto Rico vista, snapped by Flickr user trishhartmann, was taken in Guzmán Arriba, Río Grande, toward the eastern end of the Commonwealth territory.

With temperatures dipping and daylight at a premium in the north temperate zone, this image is a reminder of the near-magical appeal of the Caribbean, and the tropics in general over the winter. If you don’t sort of want to jump into this canopy of green now, you surely will by February.

Upload photos of your favorite vistas and vantage points to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. We choose our favorites from the group pool to be Photos of the Day.

[Image: Flickr | trishhartmann]

Traditional holiday beverages from around the world

holiday beveragesAmericans aren’t very creative when it comes to traditional holiday beverages (do, however, look for my upcoming story on Boulder’s banging mixology scene, which includes some killer contemporary winter cocktails). Historically, though, we’re more of an eggnog/mulled cider/hot chocolate kind of society.

I’m not knocking our Christmas beverages of choice. Properly made, they’re delicious, and certainly festive. But some countries really know how to roll when it comes to holiday imbibing (especially Latin America. One word: rum.).

Below, a compilation of some of the more interesting boozy holiday beverages from around the world that can be easily recreated in your own kitchen. Online recipes abound, and all of these are (almost) as tasty sans alcohol.

Coquito: Puerto Ricans are great because they’re not afraid to embrace their love of saturated fats (lard, coconut milk, etc.) or rum. In case you’ve been living under a rock, coconut is the new fat du jour (read more about its health attributes here). Everything in moderation, including moderation, as I always say.

Coquito recipes vary, but in general, this rich, blended Christmas concoction is a froth of spiced rum, condensed milk, coconut milk or cream of coconut, vanilla, and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Some versions may include ginger or ground nuts, but it’s always served chilled, in a small glass. Heavy, yes, but both sexy and satisfying. Add some eggs, and you’ll have ponche, the Venezuelan or Dominican version of eggnog.

Mulled wine: Variations on this warm, spiced, sugared, and otherwise enhanced wine (usually red) are served throughout Europe. There’s Nordic gløgg redolent of cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and bitter orange (and perhaps a helping of aquavit). It’s very similar to German glühwein made with lemon, cinnamon sticks, cardamom or ginger, and cloves; in Alsace (the French region bordering Germany), they also add vanilla bean.

In Bulgaria, greyano vino contains honey, peppercorns, and often, apple or citrus. Polish grzane wino is more of a traditional mulled wine, but they also make grzane piwo, in which mulled beer (try a Hefeweizen or Belgian ale which are lighter and sweeter) is substituted for the wine. Na zdrowie (“To your health”)!

[Photo credit: Flicker user Akane86]holiday beveragesPonche Navideño: Not to be confused with those other luscious ponches, this Mexican version is made with sugar cane, apples and/or pears or citrus, raisins, prunes, and tejocotes–an indigenous fruit used by the Aztecs, who called them texocotl. Add tequila, brandy, or rum; heat, and instant fiesta. At Christmastime, ponche vendors can be found on the street, ladling out cupfuls of good cheer.

Another popular Mexican holiday beverage is champurrado, a version of atole (warmed cornmeal thinned to a pourable consistency) flavored with chocolate. It tastes much better than it sounds, and is delicious on a chilly day.

Sorrel Punch: This Jamaican Christmas drink is made from the petals of a species of hibiscus (jamaica in Latin America), locally known as sorrel. In Australia it’s known as rosella, and where it makes a lovely, delicate, fruity red jam. This isn’t the same plant Americans know as sorrel or French sorrel. That’s a bitter wild green, which would make for a truly revolting cocktail, unless you’re one of those people who find wheat grass juice “refreshing.”

Dried hibiscus buds can be purchased at Hispanic or Caribbean markets; the recipe varies, but it’s usually some combination of the flowers, sugar, smashed fresh ginger, water, lime juice, and rum (dark is more traditional than light). Mix, stir, turn on your light box (fellow Seattleites know what I’m talking about), and crank your fave reggae CD. It ain’t the islands but it’s a nice change of pace from all that mulled wine.
holiday beverages
Wassail: Did any American not grow up hearing about or actually going “wassailing,” aka carolling? This mulled British cider is synonymous with knocking on stranger’s doors and breaking into song. Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to hit the wassail bowl after mandatory childhood post-carolling; parents should remember that singing in public is the worst possible form of torture for a geeky, tone-deaf pre-teen. Wassail has been a Christmas classic across the pond for centuries, so I’m sure generations of British children suffered the same fate.

Cola de mono: Although Chile is better known for its pisco sours (Peru also claims this libation as its own, but both countries produce it and they’re still duking it out over who actually invented this potent grape brandy) and wine, Christmastime means a glass of “monkey’s tail.” Combine aguardiente (sub pisco or a neutral firewater) with milk, coffee, vanilla bean, and cloves. I have no idea what this has to do with the tail of a monkey, but it’s a cute name. Uh, bottom’s up.

[Photo credit: eggnog, Flicker user elana’s pantry; wassail, Flicker user jeremytarling]

Removing Red Wine Stains

Last minute tropical Labor Day getaways

labor day Ready, set, book. The East Coast was largely spared the wrath of Hurricane Irene and no other pending tropical storms are threatening to ruin your upcoming three-day weekend. Why not jet away for a quick tropical vacation? From the East Coast, many Caribbean islands are a nonstop flight away, and from the west and Texas, Mexico is an easy jaunt.

Consider the following great last-minute Labor Day packages and head out on an impromptu trip:

Puerto Rico & The Virgin Islands
CheapCaribbean.com is offering package deals starting at $359 with departures on September 4th and 5th. The four-star Grand Melia golf resort in Puerto Rico is discounted from its normal price of $799 for a four-night stay, and the three-star Chenay Beach is just $399.

Cruise Crazy
Cruise.com is having a massive Labor Day sale. The Norwegian Spirit sails Sept. 4 from New Orleans to Costa Maya, Roatan, Belize City and Cozumel for $499. Upgrade to an ocean view cabin for just $100 more. Other Labor Day deals include:

  • 6 nights to the Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on the Carnival Freedom for $399
  • 7 nights to the Western Caribbean from Port Canaveral on the Carnival Dream for $479
  • 7 nights to the Bahamas from New York City on the Norwegian Jewel for $649
  • 7 nights to the Western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas for $745

Airfare to the Bahamas, San Juan, San Jose and Cancun
Forget the two-week rule, you can still snag decently-priced round trip tickets. We used Fly.com and found rates as low as $201 for flights departing between August 30th and September 3rd, returning September 4th through September 7th. Fly Boston to Nassau for $336 round trip, Atlanta to Cancun for $306 roundtrip and Orlando to San Juan for $201 round trip, plus many more.

Cabo
West Coasters love the ease of access and upscale luxury to be found in Cabo San Lucas. Time2Cabo.com has a number of packages, including a three-night all-inclusive options at Solmar Beach Resort for $822, a three-night fishing package at Marina Fiesta Resort & Spa for $349 per night and daily breakfast and a fourth night free in the “Suite Romance” package at Esperanza for $5,630.

Riviera Maya
The luxurious Ceiba del Mar in the Riviera Maya is offering special savings for Labor Day weekend, with rates from $129 per night and include European Plans with daily breakfast or Luxury Gourmet Plans with a-la-carte meals at the resort’s restaurants, as well as snacks and premium beverages such as wine by the glass and top-shelf liquors.

Image courtesy of the