DESTINATION REPORT: Belize

DESTINATION REPORT: Belize

Belize is an incredible destination with a diverse eco-system. There is so much to Xplore in Belize including the 2nd largest barrier reef in the world, Jaguar Trekking in the lush jungles and river tubing through the vast river system that runs through the country along with many other adventures.  No wonder why Belize is listed as Conde Nast Traveler's Top 19 places to travel to in 2019.  Belize is truly the destination for the adventure traveler. Top on my bucket list is swimming with Whale Sharks, which can be done off the coast of Placencia typically during the months of April or May. These incredible animals can be up to 40 ft in length and more than 40,000 lbs. Imagine looking into the eye of one of these massive gentle creatures! If this isn’t your thing there are many other adventures to Xplore, both land & sea.

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Lagoon Spa Experience in Belize

Lagoon Spa Experience in Belize

I am thrilled to share with you an incredible spa experience in Belize at Naia Resort in Placencia. This unique spa is spread over six acres of serene forest and lagoon incorporating five over-the-water individual treatment suites plus a private island suite. You will also find a fully equipped Fitness Center and a spacious Yoga and Movement Studio.

As you cross over the wooden bridge to the lagoon spa compound you will immediately feel transported to peaceful place. Spend the whole day before and after your treatment allowing time to relax in the salt water pool and dine at the Spa Reflections waterside Cafe offering healthy light bites and freshly made juices and smoothies.

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Big Cats of Belize & Jaguar Trekking

Big Cats of Belize & Jaguar Trekking

Belize is home to the World’s only Jaguar Preserve, a 150 acre wildlife sanctuary. Visitors can tour Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve and its lush hiking trails, and even a relaxing tube ride down the South Stann Creek River. Spotting a Jaguar however is rare as they are nocturnal and very elusive. They are also solitary animals and only come together for a short time to breed. There are a number of other rainforest animals and birds to look out for. You may also be surprised to know there are four other species of large cats living in Belize --Margay, Mountain Lion, Ocelot, Jagarundi.

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Snorkeling & Diving in Belize

Snorkeling & Diving in Belize

Explore the underwater wonders of Belize and the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere. Swimming with large nurse sharks up close was an exhilarating experience. Next time I hope to have an opportunity to swim among Whale Sharks, which can be found in the waters off Placencia typically around the Full Moon in April or May.

Belize is also home to The Great Blue Hole, which is the world's largest sinkhole, measuring an incredible 300 meters (984 feet) across and roughly 125 meters (410 feet) deep. In fact, a team of scientists -- including Virgin billionaire Richard Branson -- has recently returned from a groundbreaking mission to the bottom of Belize's Great Blue Hole with exciting findings. There’s a whole documentary on it!

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Maya Sky Canopy Tour

Maya Sky Canopy Tour

The Maya Sky Canopy Tour is one of the most popular excursions in the South of Belize. Experience  the thrill of ziplining the longest, safest, and most exciting ziplines in the tropical forests of Belize.   Your journey begins on an adventurous drive through the former banana plantation into the rich lush Belizean jungle.  Then fly through the air for a birds-eye view as the zipline crisscrosses the river canyon.  The Panoramic vistas are Simply Spectacular!

Following the ziplining adventure you will enjoy a relaxing float on the South Stan Creek and a plunge into the pristine Mayan King waterfall, a hidden gem and an amazing spot to have fun and take an invigorating swim. Here you could catch a glimpse of the exotic tropical birds, including endangered Scarlet Macaws, iguana, and other jungle wildlife that call the riverbanks their home.

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Xploring Dominican Republic

Often when people hear of Dominican Republic they think of Mega All-Inclusive Resorts. This certainly exists in DR, but all of our favorite hotels are small, high end resorts with amazing food, service and character. This is a destination that truly offers something for everyone. Located on the 2nd largest island in the Caribbean, visitors have lots to Xplore including different terrains, beaches and types of properties. Read on to discover some of our favorite destinations in Dominican Republic.

EL LIMON WATERFALL, SAMANA

EL LIMON WATERFALL, SAMANA

TORTUGA BAY, PUNTA CANA

TORTUGA BAY, PUNTA CANA

Punta Cana

Enjoy the ease of access into Punta Cana International Airport and then choose from a selection of different properties. Eden Roc Cap Cana, Tortuga Bay, Zoetry Agua Resort and Le Sivory Punta Cana are a few of our favorites. Eden Roc Cap Cana is a very exclusive 5 Star, Relais & Châteaux hotel with a beautiful private beach club, stellar rooms and a yoga studio with Aerial Hammocks. We are hosting the 2nd annual Yoga & Handstands Retreat to Eden Roc Cap Cana with Melini Jesudason & Virgile Peyramaure this April 2019. A few minutes away is Tortuga Bay, the only AAA 5 Diamond Resort in Dominican Republic. This intimate, super luxurious villa-resort was designed by the late Oscar De La Renta. Imagine a resort with only 30 suites where you still use a golf cart to tool around the oceanfront acreage; eight restaurants; three golf courses; and a quiet beach that feels a world apart from the busy strands of Punta Cana, just minutes away.

Many of the large all inclusive hotels that many people associate with Punta Cana are located just North of the airport, one after another on the beach. If you travel to the very far northern end past these hotels you will come across a quiet location called Uvero Alto, or High Countryside. You’ll know you’ve passed the busy strip once you hear the birds singing in the trees and see horses walking along the street. Just as the road narrows, nearly to a stop you’ll come across Zoetry Agua Resort, a Wellness Resort ideal for couples and honeymooners. Le Sivory Punta Cana is our favorite Resort in Uvero Alto, located just passed Zoetry where you can’t go any further along the road. LeSivory is a boutique, all-inclusive, Adult’s only sanctuary featuring a beautiful spa and beachfront accommodations. You’ll love the secluded beach for long sunrise walks along the ocean. We have two Retreats scheduled at LeSivory - Mid-Winter Dream with Sue Elkind & Naime Jezzeny February 13-20, 2019 AND The Goddess, Wellness & Yoga Retreat with Phyllicia April 24-28,2019.

LeSivory Punta Cana -  We have 2 Stellar retreats planned here for 2019. The first is February hosted by Sue Elkind & Naime Jezzeny. The 2nd retreat will be in April, hosted by Yogi Goddess and designed to be a true inspiration for women.

LeSivory Punta Cana - We have 2 Stellar retreats planned here for 2019. The first is February hosted by Sue Elkind & Naime Jezzeny. The 2nd retreat will be in April, hosted by Yogi Goddess and designed to be a true inspiration for women.

Eden Roc Cap Cana -  XPLORE the exclusive private development and beach club of Eden Roc Cap Cana on our Yoga & Handstands Retreat with Melini Jesudason & Virgile Peyramaure. This stellar retreat duo will turn your world up-slide down!

Eden Roc Cap Cana - XPLORE the exclusive private development and beach club of Eden Roc Cap Cana on our Yoga & Handstands Retreat with Melini Jesudason & Virgile Peyramaure. This stellar retreat duo will turn your world up-slide down!

Tortuga Bay  Famously designed by late local-born fashion Oscar De La Renta, this AAA Five Diamond villa resort offers guests an intimate, super luxurious getaway. Imagine a resort with only 30 suites where you still use a golf cart to tool around the oceanfront acreage; eight restaurants; three golf courses; and a quiet beach that feels a world apart from the busy strands of Punta Cana, just minutes away. READ MORE

Tortuga Bay Famously designed by late local-born fashion Oscar De La Renta, this AAA Five Diamond villa resort offers guests an intimate, super luxurious getaway. Imagine a resort with only 30 suites where you still use a golf cart to tool around the oceanfront acreage; eight restaurants; three golf courses; and a quiet beach that feels a world apart from the busy strands of Punta Cana, just minutes away. READ MORE

La Romana

Heading West towards Santo Domingo from Punta Cana you will first come across La Romana, home to Casa de Campo. There is so much to Xplore on the Resort’s 7000 acres of lush beachfront property. Casa de Campo is a must visit for those looking for lots of activities including Tennis, Horseback riding, Shooting, Watersports, Deep Sea Fishing and of course golf. There are actually three legendary golf courses to keep golfers busy! My personal favorite was Altos de Chavón, a replica 16th century Mediterranean village in the heart of the Dominican countryside. Meticulously designed by Dominican architect, Jose Antonio Caro, and Italian master designer and cinematographer, Roberto Coppa, every detail of Altos de Chavón was handcrafted by local artisans. You will feel as if you were taken back in time. Check the schedule of events for the 5,000-seat amphitheater with sweeping views of the Chavón River and the Caribbean Sea.

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Santo Domingo

Continuing West you will run right into Santo Domingo, the Capital of Dominican Republic and the most dynamic metropolis in the Caribbean. I don’t recommend driving around this city as I did, but it’s definitely worth it to add a couple extra nights onto your trip to DR to experience this great cultural city. I had the opportunity to visit Casas del XVI, a collection of 16th century restored private homes, which is now a super exclusive getaway for visitors around the world. I was completely blown away. Each of the Casas has its own unique decor and style creating a true one of a kind experience. The home’s private pools, and gardens combined with the service of your own Butler and Chef are certain to make you feel like Royalty. My personal favorite was Casa Antillana where management had arranged for a private lunch for me to experience the exceptional butler service. Casa del XVI is a must visit for unique experiences on our list.

casas del xvi - casa antillana

casas del xvi - casa antillana

casas del xvi

casas del xvi

Dominican Republic’s North Coast

If your looking for off the beaten path, you’ll visit the North Coast of Dominican Republic, which is completely different from the rest of the country. It’s quiet, slow and undiscovered. The Northern Coastline of Dominican Republic is one of the most beautiful drives. You’ll pass through several quaint little towns along with spectacular views over epic cliffs.

The north eastern peninsula is home to Samana, a destination with pure beauty and lush nature all around. You will feel a world away from the busy city of Santo Domingo and other destinations in DR. During the Winter, 2500 Humpback whales travel through Samana, so whale watching is a must. This area is also known for its ecotourism adventures including trekking, birding, and caving in Los Haitises National Park; canyoning or horseback riding to reach El Limón waterfall; and boat-hopping to magnificent white sand beaches at the base of 300-foot cliffs, or to offshore Cayo Levantado island. Kitesurfing is also popular in Las Terrenas on the Samana Peninsula. Our favorite place to stay in Samana is Sublime Samana, featuring large condo-style suites in a boutique hotel setting. Don’t miss the epic sunsets on the beach.

Sunset over Samana

Sunset over Samana

Sublime Samana

Sublime Samana

Another favorite on the North Coast is Playa Grande, home to Playa Grande Beach Club and Amanera. I was so thrilled to discover this little tucked away gem. Playa Grande Beach Club is an intimate resort with only a handful of cottages and bungalow so a Retreat buyout is easy. Think Hamptons meets DR. The cottages are designed like traditional Dominican homes and the grounds feel like a private estate in the Hamptons. I absolutely love this property and can’t wait to plan a retreat here. Playa Grande Beach Club is next door to Amanera, equally as luxurious, but a completely different style as a chic, Asian inspired hotel.

Playa grande beach club bar & lounge area

Playa grande beach club bar & lounge area

Playa grande beach club private dinner on the beach

Playa grande beach club private dinner on the beach

Playa Grande Beach Club  is unique boutique hotel on the north coast of Dominican Republic surrounded by nature and quaint small towns. The stylish design and meticulously manicured grounds sets this property apart from all others. The common structures and bungalows at the Playa Grande Beach Club have been created to reflect the distinctive Dominican architecture. Each bungalow features vintage furniture, distinctive floor tiles, details on shutters, fretwork, pops of vibrant colors and other decorative features designed by local artisans. This is a WOW property for Interior Design!

Playa Grande Beach Club is unique boutique hotel on the north coast of Dominican Republic surrounded by nature and quaint small towns. The stylish design and meticulously manicured grounds sets this property apart from all others. The common structures and bungalows at the Playa Grande Beach Club have been created to reflect the distinctive Dominican architecture. Each bungalow features vintage furniture, distinctive floor tiles, details on shutters, fretwork, pops of vibrant colors and other decorative features designed by local artisans. This is a WOW property for Interior Design!

Situated on over 2000 areas on the north coast of Dominican Republic where you will find secluded beaches and lush natural jungles. Similar to other Aman Hotels, Amanera is meticulously designed to frame it’s natural setting. Guests come to Amanera for space, privacy combined with a bit of adventure. READ MORE

Situated on over 2000 areas on the north coast of Dominican Republic where you will find secluded beaches and lush natural jungles. Similar to other Aman Hotels, Amanera is meticulously designed to frame it’s natural setting. Guests come to Amanera for space, privacy combined with a bit of adventure. READ MORE

Traveling to Dominican Republic

There are actually 7 airports in Dominican Republic. Most people will fly into Punta Cana International Airport or Las Americas International Airport in Santo Domingo. If you are traveling to the North Coast you may want to consider Gregorio Luperon International Airport in Puerto Plata or if you can find a flight into Samaná El Catey International Airport. Consider hiring a driver around DR. If you are like me and prefer to drive yourself then be sure to have extra cash for tolls (more than you think you need. I likely spent over $100 on tolls alone and had to stop 3 times at random ATMs to get more). Driving around Santo Domingo is no joke. Stay alert!

Whatever brings you to Dominican Republic I am happy to help with suggestions and travel itineraries. If you are interested in hosting your own retreat there are lots of possibilities in DR and beyond. Let’s Connect. E-mail me here: dawn@wellxplored.com or Call or Text 631.835.4259.

HOTEL REVIEWS: Inn at English Harbour

HOTEL REVIEWS: Inn at English Harbour

The Inn at English Harbour has the most incredible arrival experience, passing colorful flowers as you enter upon the terrace restaurant and reception area with stunning views over English Harbour and Caribbean Sea. This boutique hotel has only 28 rooms and suites located on 19 acres of pristine rolling hills and gardens with it’s own secluded beach. Rooms are colonial inspired and open to lush gardens.

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MEET Hanan Palz

MEET Hanan Palz

How did you begin your Journey of Teaching & Living a Conscious Lifestyle?

I walked into an Ashtanga Class and was amazed that I could be super challenged and yet leave feeling relaxed....I was hooked on yoga! The more I practiced, the more layers were peeled off which allowed my true authentic, self to radiate through. Having experienced this transformation, I was compelled to share my yoga with others so that they too could reap the benefits.....and another "yoga pusher" was born. READ MORE ABOUT HANAN

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MEET Heather Wiest

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I had the pleasure recently of spending time with Heather in Belize. She is an inspiring, passionate person who is committed to living by her motto LOVE, SERVE, INSPIRE. I am thrilled to be working with her on the Well Xplored Spring Retreat to Belize. Read on to learn more about Heather and her upcoming retreat.   - DAWN OLIVER

How did you begin your Journey of Teaching & Living a Conscious Lifestyle?

In 2001, I stepped into my first yoga class at a local gym. I was faithful at working out to stay in shape, and to relieve stress from my social work career, but something about the dim lit yoga room drew me. I was feeling a shift at 30 years old. Priorities were changing as we thought about starting a family. I longed to try something new. The yoga class was powerful, sweaty, and challenging. I totally felt at home! I was in tune with my breath, focused inward, and all the unnecessary layers of the outside world vanished. During the final resting pose I felt so alive, calm, clear, and balanced—the true me—unmasked and unbound. It was love at first savasana! Yoga continues to be my moving meditation as I connect daily on the mat—body, mind, and spirit. I have been training, teaching, and sharing the yoga love since 2012. I am beyond blessed to LOVE, SERVE and INSPIRE the community as a Yoga Teacher RYT® 500, Holy Fire II Karuna Reiki® Master, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and contributing author.

What are your Personal Wellness Rituals or Routines?

I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night to replenish and recharge. My yoga nidra practice helps to supplement when deep rest is needed. Fresh, nourishing foods, and eating/drinking intuitively and mindfully, keeps my energy smooth and steady. Daily meditation and quiet time encourages me to find the pause — embracing every moment of connection, presence, and peace. Getting outside in nature with loved ones, and my dog, fills my soul with joy and inspiration!

Is there a particular place in the World that inspires you most?

I believe every region and country has potential to inspire one's soul! I truly have enjoyed all my worldly travels, and intend to explore someplace new every year.

What are your essential items to Pack for a Wellness Retreat?

My retreat essentials: travel purse or backpack, re-useable water bottle, Yoloha Cork Yoga Mat, reading material, writing journal, nourishing snacks, lavender oil, bug repellent, mineral based sunscreen, yoga clothes, swimsuit, pretty dresses, Keen footwear, Columbia windbreaker, and ESPECIALLY an open heart and mind—releasing expectations and going with the natural flow of life!

If there is one thing you hope for people to take away from your Retreat what would it be?

I hope our retreats facilitate CONNECTION. Yoga is a beautiful practice of connecting to our body, breath, mind, and spirit. From this place of presence and awareness, we can connect deeper with God, our purpose, and with others.

How has your Yoga & Spiritual practice changed your life?

Yoga has been healing for me in every way — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It has helped smooth all my rough edges and daily encourages me to connect deeper with God and to the divine purposes for me in this world.

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EAT

MINDFULLY

PLAY

DAILY

MOVE

INTENTIONALLY

XPLORE

LIGHTHEARTEDLY

RELAX

DEEPLY


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ABOUT HEATHER: Heather Wiest — MSW, LCSW, RYT® 500 — is beyond blessed to LOVE, SERVE and INSPIRE the community as a Yoga Teacher, Holy Fire II Karuna Reiki® Master, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and contributing author. Her holistic yoga sessions are engaging and rejuvenating, leaving one feeling balanced and inspired. Heather’s busy life as a wife, mother, and guide, encourages her to find the pause — embracing every moment of connection, presence, and peace. A passionate, yet simple girl at heart, you can find Heather breathing in another radiant Arizona sunrise or sunset. Heather took her first yoga class in 2001 and instantly fell in love! She quickly discovered the healing aspects of a consistent yoga practice to one’s physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

As a mental health professional, Heather was drawn to complete her Yoga Nidra/Guided Relaxation Technique facilitator certification with Jane Gleason, and additional Restorative Yoga training with Mary Bruce in 2012. In 2013, Heather added Pre and Post Natal Yoga training with Desi Bartlett, and Yin Yoga training with Joe Barnett. Her exploration continued in 2014 with the completion of Second Degree Reiki with the International Center for Reiki Training, Mini Yogis® Yoga for Kids Certification with Shana Meyerson, and SmartFLOW® Yoga Teacher Training with Annie Carpenter. Furthermore, Advanced Reiki Training/Reiki Master Certification was awarded in 2015, and Holy Fire II Usui Reiki Master/Holy Fire II Karuna Reiki® Master Registration added in 2016. Heather completed Chair Yoga Certification with Donna Schnoor in 2017, and Yoga Wall Training with Rasoul Sobhani in 2018. As a certified Connection Coalition Instructor and LoveYourBrain Yoga Teacher, Heather combines her social work and yoga training to participate in community outreach programs.

XPLORE MORE ABOUT HEATHER’S UPCOMING SPRING RETREAT TO BELIZE. 


HOTEL REVIEWS: Casa Hemingway, Dominican Republic

HOTEL REVIEWS: Casa Hemingway, Dominican Republic

Casa Hemingway is an exclusive hideaway for wealthy Dominicans and tourists alike. The seaside community of Juan Dolio is the perfect retreat while travel throughout Dominican Republic. Casa Hemingway features oversized one- and two bedroom suites, equipped with full kitchens and comfortable living space making this property ideal for families or friends traveling together. Guests enjoy the facilities of Club Hemingway including 4 swimming pools, tennis, squash, kid club and horseback riding, all within a relaxed beachfront setting.

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GETTING THERE: Placencia, Belize

GETTING THERE: Placencia, Belize

Your arrival experience to Placencia is part of the adventure. Most visitors to the island fly into the Philip Goldson International Airport, just north of Belize City (BZE) and then change to a local commuter flight for a short trip to Placencia in the South of the Country. On a clear day, you get a great introduction to Belize's Caribbean Coast as well as the lush green jungle and expansive river system that runs through Belize. 

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