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White House

This month’s Off the Beaten Path home is a rarity for sure.  Nicknamed “The White House,” this architectural gem perfectly captures the open spirit of Costa Rica.  I spoke with one of the owners, Ken, a Los Angeles native who has a passion for exquisite architecture and the sunny shores of Santa Teresa…

Who designed the house?

“Michael Poirier, his work has been featured in magazines and journals internationally, including Architectural Record, GA Houses, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times.”

Where did you get the inspiration to build such an exotic home?

“I have always loved modern architecture.  In L.A., I live in a mid-century modern home I called The Strawberry House, which is also a design-centered home.  My partner has always loved my L.A. home as well and so it was obvious that it would be the only way we would build.

Although it is exotic and unique for the area, it was also designed specifically to work for that particular environment in regards to air flow, rain management etc.”

What are some highlights of the property?

It’s steps away from the beach –that’s the biggest highlight. J Other highlights include the overall modern design, the floor to ceiling glass, the infinity pool, the wood ceiling in the master bedroom, the volleyball court, the kitchen that faces the ocean so you can watch the waves as you cook, and the fantastic local art.  In general, we are also trying to make it as sustainable as possible.  My girlfriend owns a small non-profit called Green Wave, through which we have implemented some environmental policies and she is working with our on-site manager on the development of many more.  Also through Green Wave, we are supporting other Costa Rican non-profit groups and schools.

What is your favorite aspect of the home?

I like how the whole house opens to the ocean; it makes me feel I within an arm’s reach away from the waves at all times (and we practically are).

What attracted you to Costa Rica? And why Santa Teresa?

I was attracted to Costa Rica because of the long standing stable government and country with no army as well as the emphasis on education. We fell in love with Santa Teresa for the beaches, the surfing and especially our niche in Playa Hermosa- the overall undeveloped aspect of the area which makes it quiet and private.

What are your favorite things to do in the area?

Surfing! I also love cooking so I like to go to Honey’s organic market on Saturday’s, Product C for fish and the new Natura Mia for healthy food. There are amazing restaurants in the area one of the closest, Tres, has the most amazing coffee and they serve great raw food.  I also like visiting the art gallery, ‘Inspiracion’ and as well as the RainSong Animal Sanctuary.

What is the best season to visit?

There are only two seasons in Costa Rica: wet and dry.  Dry season is the most popular running from about November to the beginning of May. I actually like going down in the rainy season though.  There are less people, its greener and I think the rain storms that only sweep through are fantastic.

With winter knocking on our doors travelers are starting to plan their escapes from hibernation, whether it be to the sun-soaked shores of Hawaii or the snowy slopes of Aspen.  We compiled a list of the top ten vacation rental destinations of September so you can start planning your great escape…

1. Gulf Coast of Florida: It’s no wonder why Florida’s Gulf Coast is a consistently popular place to vacation.  Famed for its iridescent beaches and a whole host of activities ranging from surfing and sun bathing to hiking and shopping, this is a fabulous spot for any group.

2. Outer Banks, North Carolina: These charming barrier islands draw a strong interest, and for good reason too.  With hoards of light houses, sleepy towns and feral ponies running wild, the Outer Banks make for an ideal family vacation.  Cape Hatteras is ideal for the adventurer, with its Diamond Shoals- the site of many demised ships. The snorkeling and scuba diving here are limitless.

3. Florida Keys: This chain of islands, which at the southern most tip reaches a mere 90 miles from Cuba, has an enticing laid back culture.  Key West is one of the most attractive islands here, with Duval Street maintaining the heartbeat in this eclectic island.  With Ernest Hemingway’s seven-toed cats running around the island, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the allure of the island.

4. Disney- Orlando, Florida: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto…where else but Disney?  Considered one of “the most magical places on earth”, Disney is a must for any child, regardless of age.  With numerous theme parks in the area as well as some of the best dining in Orlando, a trip to this central Floridian city is sure to please everyone in the family.
5. Paris, France:  Paris, the magnanimous capitol of France, serves as a cultural and financial leader in Europe while remaining one of the most visited cities in the world.  With a vast array of activities to tempt unsuspecting visitors, like strolling the Seine River, taking in the awe inspiring stained glass of Notre-Dame, or feasting on the delicacies that each quaint café has to offer, Paris certainly lives up to its reputation.

6. Oregon Coast: The Oregon Coast, stretching for over 350 miles, is a delightful treat for any sun-seeking family.  With the entire coast remaining public domain, there is endless opportunity for hiking, fishing, swimming, even just relaxing on the beach while seals frolic in the Pacific.

7. Gatlinburg, Tennessee: Gatlinburg serves as a doorway to some of Tennessee’s most spectacular natural sights.  With the Smoky Mountains and Pigeon Forge lapping at the outer skirts, Gatlinburg offers plenty of activities for the adventurous family including the tram that floats above the majestic Smoky Mountains.

8. Kauai, Hawaii: With its lush, diverse tropical beauty and its brilliant ability to withstand any major resorts, Kauai remains as one of the most sought after Hawaiian Islands to visit.  With the dense jade green rainforest in the interior and the crystal blue ocean lapping at the sandy white shores, Kauai’s immaculate natural beauty is worth the trip.

9. Maui, Hawaii:  Maui, the sister island to Kauai, has its own unique vibe that attracts its own breed of Hawaiian travelers.  With three volcanoes, some of which are still active, Maui beckons to be explored.  Take an early morning hike up the Kaleakala volcano for an unrivaled glimpse of what has often been called the most beautiful sunrise in the world.  Or spend the day sipping Mai Tais on the black sand beaches of Hana.

10. Aspen, Colorado:  With winter fast approaching and many ski resorts opening their chair lifts already, it’s no surprise that Aspen comes in at our number 10 vacation destination.  This city, which at its heart is a quaint ski town, has experienced a transformation over the past decade.  The contrasting dualities of the town make it one of the most exciting places to visit, plus the excess of fresh powder makes Aspen/Snowmass one of the best places to ski in the world.

While The Fall Season is synonymous with apple picking, changing leaves, and the kids heading back to school, it seems that as the weather changes, so do our taste buds. With the crisp chill of fall comes a need for warmer recipes. Here at FlipKey, we decided to compile a few recipes for our favorite fall feasts, so that whether you’re watching the colors change on the Cape or basking in the heat of Hawaii, you can enjoy a taste of fall.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
2 cloves garlic
1 Cinnamon stick
¼ cup carrots
¼ celery
Bacon (optional)
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup half and half

Dice squash, carrot, celery, garlic, cinnamon stick and bacon. Fry in a large pot with butter for about 8 minutes. Add chicken stock and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Throw away the cinnamon stick.

Let the soup cool down before putting it in a blender. Puree until smooth. Heat soup back up to a simmer, stirring in the half and half.

To serve sprinkle with nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese if preferable.

Beef Stew
2 pounds cubed beef
Olive Oil
1 chopped onion
4 sliced carrots
8 cups beef stock
7 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 cloves minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Saute beef with olive oil until meat is brown on all sides. Add and sauté garlic. Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, onion, carrots, potatoes, thyme and cloves. If using a crock pot cook on low for 10 to 12 hours (5 to 6 on high) or let simmer on stove about 40 minutes to an hour, stirring periodically every 10 minutes or so.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Hot Apple Cider
2 quarts apple cider
½ cup lemon juice
2 whole cloves
½ cup brown sugar
1 orange, sliced
A Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup rum (optional)

Add apple cider to a pot on medium heat. Add remaining ingredients (except for nutmeg). Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

To serve, pour mixture through strainer (to remove herbs). Garnish with nutmeg.

Caramel Apples
6 cold apples
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey
14 ounce package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

Remove stem from apples, and replace with craft stick. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Prepare a bowl of cool water to place pan in later.

Heat cream and salt briefly, stir in honey and caramel and bring to a boil. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a spoon for about 15 minutes. Place pan in bowl of cool water to stop caramel from cooking (caution: do not get any water into the mixture!) Dunk apples into caramel mixture and place on parchment paper. Let cool in fridge and enjoy ?

With the qualifiers chugging along, the excitement surrounding 2010’s World Cup to be held throughout South Africa, is steadily escalating.  As fans get exceedingly serious about their teams, South Africa readies itself for the onslaught of madness that is sure to ensue.

Taking place between June 11 and July 11, this 80 year long tradition provides a chance for people to unite and connect on a global level over their love of sport.  That being said, the notoriously passionate soccer (football, if you will) fans are already suiting up in their jerseys and face paint, making arrangements to cheer on their team of choice in person.

Throughout the past four years, hotels have had the opportunity to prepare for the masses of people that will come through the summer.  If rooms aren’t sold out, the prices certainly won’t be cheap.  An affordable lodging alternative to hotels is renting a vacation home with your fellow soccer fanatics. Not only can you have the freedom to cook meals at home, but the living rooms are much more comfortable to watch games from.

The ability to cheer your favorite team on with thousands of other fans, parading in the streets is an experience that is unrivaled (certainly beats your basement!).  But what about after the games have finished?  Visitors to South Africa can experience a beautifully stunning country that caps off the African continent; marked by majestic sunsets, wild animals and a delectable cuisine.  With endless activities like safaris through the vast expanses of wildlife to deep sea fishing to simply experiencing the thrills of a foreign culture, South Africa is an appealing destination for anyone looking for a getaway.

South Africa is sure to be an exquisite backdrop for the World Cup festivities.  With games taking place across the country, from Johannesburg to Cape Town to Durban there will be plenty of opportunity to watch your home team take on the world for the World Cup Champion Title, while enjoying the sublime beauty of South Africa.

Ok lovebirds this post is for you, the following is a list of FlipKey’s most romantic vacation rentals.  If these locations won’t make you swoon then the homes certainly will…Enjoy!

Il Dolce Roma, Rome, Italy

This Roman retreat is a cozy taste of Italian life.  Experience the Coliseum and other Roman treasures or simply open the balcony doors and let in the vibrant city outside.

Chun’s Reef, Oahu, HI

A private deck that overlooks the Hawaiian sunset combined with the views of the ocean from your room make this rental a perfect paradise retreat for the romantics.  Did we mention there’s an outdoor Jacuzzi? You and your honey can enjoy sunset and moonlight while you’re getting all toasty.

Le Grand Hermitage, Languedoc-Rousillon, France

This ‘couples only’ villa oozes romance, from its lavender and rose gardens to fairytale setting. As if the French language wasn’t quixotic enough, one taste of the wine produced from this region and it’s a done deal.  If that’s not enough for you, the bathtub on the balcony will certainly keep you busy clean.

Waldhaus, St. Moritz, Switzerland

For the snuggle bugs, this secluded cabin in the slopes of the Alps is a great getaway.  Skiing, hiking and fishing if you’re adventurous, vin chaud, fireplaces and breathtaking views if you’re not.  The area is renowned for its healing powers, so return home relaxed and refreshed after spending special time with your honey.

Tropic Splendor, Savusavu, Fiji

Nothing says romance like your own private beach on a secluded island in Fiji.  With majestic reefs and lily ponds to explore you will be tucked away from any prying eye.  And yeah, there’s an oversized ‘lovers’ hammock, for the well balanced and daring.

Acacia, Paris, France

Paris is a no brainer for lovebirds.  Widely considered one of the most romantic cities in the world, this apartment lives up to the stereotype.  French doors open up to a balcony overlooking the beautiful giving wall to wall views of the City of Love.

Ca’ Rina, Venice, Italy

With its winding streets and hidden nooks, Venice is one of the most romantic places in the world. This amazing apartment is the cherry on top of this already sweet city. You can watch the gondolas gently sweep below you from the windows or enjoy some vino with your sweet in the private garden.

The Ocean View, San Francisco, CA

With views of the San Francisco Bay this clifftop rental is one hot ticket in more ways than one. With close proximity to San Francisco’s main attractions, you can easily experience what San Francisco has to offer, or make your own attractions via the floor-to-ceiling glass overlook.

Casa Quintino, Tuscany, Italy

Peaceful seclusion, the best wines and pasta unlike any other make for the perfect aphrodisiac in this Tuscan treasure. Ancient architecture reflected throughout the house and the nearby ruins of a Benedictine chapel provide an artistic backdrop for the romantic vacation of your life.


Ahh, Germany… home of the strudel, Ludwig van Beethovan, the Volkswagen, Claudia Schiffer and, of course, beer. In fact, beer is such a signature of German life that it is the basis for the internationally acclaimed Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of the leaves changing color, delicious German food, brotherly love and (you guessed it) beer. This year’s 176th Oktoberfest will happen from September 19th to October 4th in Munich.

But don’t let the fast approaching date fool you. Last minute vacations can sometimes be a great opportunity to spice things up while, surprisingly, offering some of the best deals to be had. While hotels tend to be fully booked or more expensive as minutes tick away, vacation rentals are a great option for travelers. Besides being economical, vacation rentals are a great way to break free from the oh-so typical hotel routine.

Where else can you celebrate your love of German beverages in this vibrant tradition with thousands of fellow beerthusiasts and live in total comfort? Plus, with a vacation rental, your beer storage isn’t limited to the tiny confines of a mini fridge. You’ll have a real fridge in which to store your favorite brews. So grab your best lederhosen and favorite beer stein and check out Oktoberfest.

With summer time winding down and school starting up it’s hard to imagine the chilling idea of winter that is just around the corner (sorry to be the bearer of bad news, it’s inevitable). But, worry not, we have the perfect pick-me-up vacation idea for your winter blues: the Olympics!

The 2010 winter Olympics are being held in the frosty paradise of the north: Vancouver, Canada.  Although it is a couple of seasons out, now is the perfect time to snag tickets to your favorite events (couples skating anyone?) and get the crème de la crème of vacation rentals (we’re talking hot tubs).

This February event is the perfect excuse to take a vacation. With loads of Olympic events spanning the month you can experience first hand a tradition that started with the ancient Greeks in the 8th century B.C. With classic events like figure skating and cross country skiing to the extreme sports of modernity like snowboarding and bobsledding, it’s a vacation strategically designed to defeat the winter blues.

When you have down time in between events, you’ll be pleased to find thatVancouver has a nice variety of activities for visitors.  Whistler, the largest ski area in North America, is a skier’s haven, with pristine powder, invigorating trails and crisp mountain air.  For the foodie of your group, don’t miss Canada’s own poutine, a delicious snack of french fries, smothered in gravy and topped with cheese.  Trust us, it’s dynamite.

Start your planning now for the Olympics, and you’ll be thankful when you’re watching areal skiers twist through the air and lugers whizz past you on the icy tracks.  Book now and snag a great deal on a vacation rental!

For our monthly “Off the Beaten Path” series, we highlight homes that are extraordinarily unique, and this month’s feature listing certainly fits the bill. The “Redwood Tree House” is a California home, owned by Linda and Rolly, that has a 150 foot tree growing through the center of it!

Imagine spending some well earned vacation time at this 80 year old home which was designed around a living Redwood tree. The front entrance opens up through a tree trunk (no joke) into the living room where the affectionately named ‘Red’ shoots up through the ceiling and 150 feet into the sky. At night you can enjoy the night light created by the spot lights on the tree, a great way to unwind after a day of hiking the California forests.

Red isn’t the only reason that this Healdsburg, Californian home is so unique. It is located on the banks of a river, in the midst of hundreds of other amazing trees that only grow in this part of the world. It is the perfect place to float away on a raft searching for the tallest tree or immerse yourself in the peacefulness of these quiet giants on a hike.

Since the location is temperate, each season of the year offers something unique. The springtime sees the hatching of birds from the boughs of Red, and is when the forest comes alive. Summertime is great for heat lovers, made even better by the cool river that runs through the backyard. Fall is for wine aficionados, who come for the ‘crush,’ (when all the grapes are harvested) at the local vineyards. During the winter, cozy up to the fire place, disconnected from the hustle and bustle of the city and take in the peacefulness of the trees that surround you.

As a follow up from our earlier post, FlipKey’s Top 5 Inexpensive Vacation Rentals, we thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the most expensive properties on our site.  The following estates are  the ultimate playgrounds for the wealthy…

1) “Villa Aristrocratica” Lake Como, Italy: Imagine walking 200 year old rose and jasmine gardens scattered with sparkling fountains while the breeze blowing off Lake Como tickles your face. Well for $114,300 big ones it’s all yours, for a week that is. The interior is even more stunning, with hand painted frescoes by Italian masters and a long list of nobility who have walked the same marble staircases that you’ll tread.

2)      “Luxury Fort Lauderdale” Fort Lauderdale, Florida: This Florida gem, situated on the oh-so-hot inter-coastal will run you a pretty penny, about $90,000 a week.  With an in-house game room, movie theater, sauna and even a dock to keep your maritime digs, this place is a wonderland.

3)      “Falcon’s Nest Villa” Peter Island, British Virgin Islands:  No fighting over the room with a view at this vacation rental.  Perched 350 feet off the water, this architectural gem offers views of the effervescent ocean from every angle.  At $80,500 a week you’ll certainly enjoy the indoor/outdoor bathrooms that accompany every bedroom in the villa.

4)      “Chateau de Provence” Carpentras, France: This opulent 18th century French chateau is yours for a mere $77,400 a week.  The 17 acre manor has private parks, formal gardens and a moat…just like you always imagined!

5) “Rio Chico” Ocho Rios, Jamaica: From private chefs who’ll cook to your taste to private sandy coves nestled in the lush green limbs of the Jamaican foliage, for around $61,500 a week(in the off season that is) you can stay in this private 14 acre estate where the waterfalls are sure to hush you to sleep at night.

With the economy starting to make a slow recovery, the smartest travelers are taking advantage of what’s likely to be one of the last waves of recession-inspired travel deals and promotions. With our saving savvy travelers in mind, we’ve compiled a list of FlipKey’s top 5 bargain vacation rentals. We were pretty surprised with what we found, from the shores of North Carolina to Italian castles, a small budget can stretch around the world!

Best FlipKey Bargains:

1) “Akbuk Apartment,” Akbuk, Turkey: Experience an exotic culture without spending a fortune. This 6 person home will run you about $21 per night. Close to the shores of the Aegean Sea, this home will offer you sandy beaches to relax on and exciting adventures to encounter, with none of that buyer’s remorse.

2) “Hillcrest Holiday Apartment,” Jeffreys Bay, South Africa:This African gem is one of the least expensive deals out there, at $210 per week. Overlooking the warm waters of the Southern Ocean, this house offers one of the most unique experiences at a most affordable price.

3) “La Castellana,” Tuscany, Italy: Who says you can’t live like a king on a minimal budget? Not the people at La Castellana, who rent their 2 person apartment situated in the Castle of Orciatico for only $35 a night. Located in the heart of Tuscany, this 7th century apartment is sure to be a royal vacation.

4) “Egyptian Experience,” Sinai, Egypt: For the group looking to change things up a bit, this apartment located on the Red Sea is your answer. For $250 a week you can enjoy views of both the Sinai desert and the sea from your balcony. Walk the ancient sands and experience what is often considered the cradle of civilization to get a taste of adventure.

5) “Conched Out Apt,” Emerald Island, NC: For a mere $50 a night or $200a week, this quaint rental sleeps four comfortably and is located on one of the hottest destinations on the east coast: the Carolinian shore. Perfect for the cost conscious!