Affordable Costa Rica at the Lost Iguana Resort

A wedding at Lost Iguana ARENAL, COSTA RICA – Getting away to the lush, green jungle of Costa Rica just got more affordable at Lost Iguana Resort,  a boutique hotel at the foot of Arenal Volcano.

From May 14-20 the resort will offer a six-night "Volcanic Yoga & Spa Retreat" that will include accommodations, transportation between the hotel and San Jose airport, daily breakfast and dinner (not including alcohol), $300 spa credit, daily yoga classes, water fitness classes and a guided nature hike.

Cost is $800 per person double occupancy in a standard room, saving almost 40% off regular rates. Single rates are $950, and room upgrades are available for $20 per night.

Set on 120 acres of primal rain forest at the base of Costa Rica’s most awe-inspiring Volcano, Lost Iguana Resort & Spa offers the perfect landscape for a revitalizing retreat. Beautiful tropical gardens teeming with flowering plants, ferns and palms set a tranquil tone, and the 42-well appointed rooms offer impressive and unobstructed views of the volcano. The fresh cold and hot water pools with swim-up bar, open-air Blue Hibiscus restaurant and Golden Gecko Spa await after enjoying activities such as zip-lining, rafting, kayaking and mountain biking.

The six-night "Volcanic Yoga & Spa Retreat" includes daily yoga sessions for all skill levels under the guidance of Florida-based instructor, Liz Fullman. Guests will enjoy endorphin-pumping water fitness classes, led by 20-year fitness guru Gini Eastwood, using water as resistance to strengthen muscles, improve posture and restore energy. On a guided nature hike, a professional wildlife expert will weave guests through three miles of private trails rich with colorful wildlife, rustic bridges, flowing streams and 300 year old-trees.

Mirrored after the beauty of Costa Rica and accented with Balinese touches, the resort spa offers an expansive menu of treatments available in private open-air thatched bungalows with fireplaces. In addition to volcanic clay and hot stone facials as well as a selection of massages, guests can pamper themselves with exotic body polishes, which help detoxify the body and stimulate circulation, or opt for the unique "cocoon steam therapy" treatment, which purifies and softens the skin.

The spa offers a gym and saunas, which are complimentary for all guests.

Dine on savory continental favorites and authentic Costa Rican cuisine at the resort’s Blue Hibiscus restaurant, where guests enjoy elegantly relaxed dining as part of the package. Learn the secrets of the local fare with interactive and complimentary cooking lessons every Monday and Thursday.

For more information or to book, visit Lost Iguana Resort & Spa’s website at, or call the hotel directly at 011(506) 2267-6148, or email [email protected].

The Lost Iguana Resort & Spa is a boutique hotel with 42 uniquely appointed rooms on 120 acres in a primal rainforest. All rooms have perfect views of the lava-facing side of Arenal Volcano. 

Skin care expert gives anti-aging tips

Today's post introduces skin care expert Vladimir Byhovsky, who will be appearing as a guest Vladimir_Byhovsky columnist with tips on how to better preserve and care for your beautiful skin.

Even if  you don't see it happening, your skin sheds 30,000 to 40,000 dead skin cells roughly every minute. 

Daily the skin loses a layer of these dead cells and renews itself about every 28 days.

While it is the body's largest organ, our skin is often taken for granted.  We forget beautiful skin is not merely an accident of genetics, but can be cultivated through proper nutrition and nurturing.

Skin care expert Vladimir Byhovsky says any anti-aging regimen starts with sun protection. "If you want to prevent premature wrinkling or skin discolorations, you need to first stop exposing yourself to the sun," says the medical professional and spa owner.

Byhovsky, whose Studio Esthetique is a premier NY medical spa and skin rejuvenation center, recommends limiting your time in the sun and using the highest SPF sunscreens in addition to a routine skin maintenance regimen.

"If you do not protect from sun, you are jeopardizing your skin’s health," says Byhovsky.

Skin cancer, wrinkles, freckles, age spots, dilated blood vessels, changes in the texture of the skin, blotchiness, and the prune-like skin texture you see in elderly sun worshippers are all results of an overexposure to the sun, he says.

The sun produces ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays that are responsible for such common skin problems as sunburns, premature aging, pigmentation and skin cancer.

UVB and UVA rays are part of the sun’s spectrum wavelengths that are shorter than visible light. UVB rays are more active in the summer months. UVA ray are more constant throughout the year.

The shorter UVB rays quickly burn the mid layers of the skin. Depending on the skin type it takes anywhere between 10 – 30 minutes. The damaged cells send signals to the bottom layer of the epidermis, which responds by forming melanin. Melanin is what makes the skin look "tan".

To be effective, Byhovsky says, sunscreen - minimally 30 SPF - should be reapplied at least every two hours. 

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeking shade when possible, avoiding sunbathing, and wearing wide-brimmed hats as well as sunglasses and protective clothing.

Make me beautiful: Studio Esthetique

Byhovsky gives a client consultation Everyone wants to look and feel their best. Who doesn't love looking fabulous, sillies?

The talented medical professionals and estheticians at Studio Esthetique (2600 Netherland Ave., Suite 104, 718.543.5050) in Riverdale, NY, bring out a woman's natural beauty (and they can do some pretty good stuff for the guys too).

I've had facials and I've had massage and accupuncture, but I'd never had the kind of transforming treatments that Studio Esthetique Laser Center and Medical Spa offers. 

Since I'm sure none of my gentle readers will be fooled if I lied and said I was 25, I won't.  The fact is aging skin happens and we can fight it, but we can't prevent it completely.

What I loved about my recent visit (and I'll be writing in more detail in the posts and weeks to come) was the Studio Esthetique wholistic approach to skin care and beauty.

There aren't any wild promises of instant transformation - although I did see some pretty remarkable results. There are no lifetime guarantees.  No one promised pounds would melt away without diet changes and exercise. Caring for your skin is a commitment, not a one-shot deal.

Studio Esthetique is intimate, comfortable, and super clean, and their informed care puts you at complete ease.

Owner Vladimir

Among the head-to-toe treatments Studio Esthetique offers are a full range of cosmetic laser, medical spa and day spa services ranging from Laser Hair Removal, Laser Vein Therapy, Laser Skin Rejuvenation, Laser Facial, IPL Photofacial, Botox, Restylane, Juvederm, Microdermabrasion, Facial Treatments, Chemical Peels, Acne Treatments, Mesotherapy, Cellulite Treatments, Sclerotherapy, Body Massage, Brazilian Wax, Day Spa Packages, and Spa Gift Certificates for any and all of the above.

Make you beautiful. You deserve it.

Om Extrait de Caviar for beautiful eyes

Om extrait de caviar

 Women of a certain age

Until I joined the club, I always wondered about that phrase.

What I've discovered since is that it means more than simply the technical definition: no longer young.

Horrors? Me, no longer young? What do I tell my inner nymph?

Nothing.  Being a woman of a certain age frees me to not give a damn.  I am no longer shackled (not that I was much any way) by the conventions of others.

How marvelous to be a woman of certain age.

However, even those with an inner twelve-year-old to appease face the reality that skin gets tired and eyes get puffy and recovery time doubles as you grow older.

Enter Om Extrait de Caviar, a little discovery I made while pampering my older bones and body at Reflections Spa at Grand Cascades Lodge.

Made from all natural, organic essential oils, fruit, flower, herb and vegetable extracts - and yes, caviar extracts, this little jar of eye cream is soothing and regenerative, repairing and refining the delicate tissue around the eyes.  You can also firm those pouty, sexy lips of yours too.

A .5 ounce jar retails for $72, and it's worth every penny.

Reflections revives the spirit with luxe spa experience

Stone massage

Reflections Spa is not a tree-hugging, granola-crunching spa experience. It's purely decadent.

Deep red panes of glass, pieced together in the pattern of prisms glow warmly. Water gurgles peacefully from the stacked glass waterfalls embedded in the walls of this restful warren of massage and treatment rooms, saunas and lounges. 

From the ceiling hundreds of small crystal quartz gem stones - noted for their regenerative and healing therapeutic properties - dangle. The fiery red décor and the more than 8,000 quartz gems create an atmosphere both soothing and energizing.

Beautiful young women glide from the lounge to the foot salt scrub and soaking room carrying trays of chocolate truffle-garnished glasses of Moet Chandon rosé champagne or herb-infused ice water.  

Cotton terry-robed guests sip their champagne or ice water while relaxing with their feet in a warm water soak amidst floating rose petals. 

In the steam room, where each woman has her own tiled seat, equipped with a cooling water spigot for individual temperature adjustments, women are given slivers of cucumber to reduce eye puffiness while they purify and detoxify their skin.

Women enter the spa a little too briskly, with faces week-weary from life's pressures - perhaps a little tense, maybe irritable or over-tired; they leave reluctantly with skin glowing, attitudes re-adjusted and balance restored.

Spa products are themed to reflect the many facets of Crystal Springs Resorts from a Champagne, Caviar & Truffles facial (organic anti-aging) to the Pinot Noir Signature Body Glow (vinotherapy body exfoliation and hydration) to the Warm Gemstone Massage (Chakra balancing and mineral-infusing massage).

The three-month-old spa is more Dolce Gabbana than Laura Ashley. Sleek and modern with nothing that even hints of a spartan experience, Reflections redefines the luxury spa experience with up-to-the minute treatments, minute attention to detail, and hand-holding, constant pampering.   

For more information:

Grand Cascades Lodge

3 Wild Turkey Way

Hardyston, NJ


NJ Food & Wine Festival excuse for self-indulgence

In the details, no stone unturned at Grand Cascades Lodge

Escaping the city for a quick weekend getaway is a bit like playing Mystery Date. Will you score dreamy or dud?

If the notion of a country getaway conjures happy images of roughing it, then the Grand Cascades Lodge at Crystal Springs in Hardyston, NJ, should not be on on your must-visit list. 

However, if an indulgent weekend retreat from the hustle and flow of city living sounds perfect, then this 250-room Adirondack-style lodge delivers a decidedly dreamy experience.

Road weary and ready to relax, I could have spent the entire weekend in my room, making my way from a jacuzzi tub full of lavender-scented bubbles to the king-size bed that molded to my body and back again.  Never have I slept on a more comfortable bed. I was reluctant to leave it.

But a higher purpose beckoned, the NJ Food & Wine Festival.

To prepare  for some fabulous foods and spectacular wines - among them Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame 1998 and Chateau La Nerthe Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée des Cadettes 2003 - we fortified ourselves with a dip in the warm pool waters at the Lodge's Biosphere.Tropical fish swim in the Biosphere's aquarium

The Biosphere, a 10,000-square-foot glass-enclosed complex, features free form, heated pools and a water slide, hot tubs, dry and steam saunas and a therapy-jet spa cove. At our request, the resort arranged an experienced babysitter, Brittany Carr, who took the boys swimming while we reluctantly left the warm waters and lush tropical heat to dress for the Grand Tasting.  

Nothing is more seductive than good food and wine shared with good company.  After our swim, we were hungry and thirsty (yes, we know we are supposed to sniff, swish and spit, but really)

The Grand Tasting presented a delightful excuse to tipple some superb vintages and nibble delicacies prepared and presented by the resort's four-star Wine Spectator Grand Award-winning dining room.  Restaurant Latour rendered bite-sized small plates of seared tuna over beds of soba noodles to introduce guests to the creations of Executive Chef Michael Weisshaupt  Also on hand were gourmet food purveyors such as D'Artagnan (the mousse of foie gras was exquisite) and Must Chocolates (extra dark chocolate makes a perfect pairing with wine).

I particularly enjoyed tasting a flight of Italian red wines.  We started with a bright, ruby red Conti Contini Sangiovese, a varietal common to the entire country. This Sangiovese has a rich violet and cherry nose, underlying layers of slightly spicy berry and finishes fresh and clean.

Next we tried the 2000 Villa di Capezzana Carmignano, an 80% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon blend, fermented in stainless steel followed by 16 months in French oak and a year in the bottle. The Carmignano region has been producing wines in Tuscany since Etruscan times, more than 3000 years ago. Darkly, rich and plummy, I was happy the Italian reds were thoughtfully located next to the carving station.  The chalky,thick reds needed tempering by the richly marbled beef.   

Grand Vin Chateau Latour From Capezzana also, we sampled Ghiaie Della Furba, a Super Tuscan blended from 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah. Designated IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), this wine was complex, well structured and intensely spicy.  Aged in oak for 14 months and two months in the bottle, this garnet-colored wine is subtly tannic.

While the 17-piece David Aaron band played big band classics, we ended our evening with a decadent flourless chocolate cake, mixed berry tarts and champagne. Veuve Clicuot's  La Grande Dame 1998 did not disappoint. Sixty-four percent Pinot Noir and 36% Chardonnay, the wine is made exclusively from the eight Grands Crus vineyards purchased by Madame Clicquot in the 19th century.  Pale gold in color, with delicate bubbles, La Grande Dame is spirited with a floral and mineral nose which gives way to more subtle flavors like candied fruit.

For more information or reservations: