By now, it’s no secret that Banderas Bay is a great place for a vacation. The area’s beaches, food, and activities have attracted visitors and kept them coming back for decades. But a growing number of people are starting to look for a different kind of experience – they want to make a positive difference in the places they travel and learn more about a new culture.
Enter Destination:PEACE, offering “voluntourism” opportunities in Banderas Bay. The idea for the company was conceived by sisters Molly and Katherine Fisher while riding a train in Italy in 2009. Molly Fisher founded PEACE, an amazing non-profit organization dedicated to Protection, Education, Animals, Culture, and Environment back in 2005. Destination:PEACE is a natural extension of these ideas, and a way to bring more people together. As Molly says, “It’s the uniqueness of combining a true volunteer opportunity with getting to know the community at the ground level. In just a few days, we can show [volunteers] what they would never be able to experience on their own – things that have taken us years to figure out.”
When you take a vacation with Destination:PEACE, you’ll be volunteering three hours per day to help local communities in need. And since the company works closely with PEACE, no two vacations will be the same. Helping at animal clinics, helping with community composting projects, helping local women make handicrafts, and helping children learn yoga are just a few opportunities.
When you’re not volunteering, you’ll be learning more about Mexico and having amazing experiences. Destination:PEACE offers two themes of vacation. The first theme is the active/adventure vacation, in which you’ll be experiencing the natural wonders of Banderas Bay through hiking, surfing lessons, whale watching, and turtle releases. The other theme is the culture vacation, in which you’ll participate in Mexican cooking classes, salsa dancing lessons, and art classes. In addition, both the active and culture vacations feature daily yoga classes.
Your lodging will be an experience in itself. Participants in Destination:PEACE’s vacations stay at Ayia, a resort in beautiful Punta de Mita. The rooms are 2,600 square feet, and include fully-equipped gourmet kitchens. You’ll also have access to all of Ayia’s amenities: a beach club, kayaks, tennis courts, and the longest pool (200 yards) in Mexico are just a few.
You won’t be disappointed when it comes to food, either. You’ll eat two or three meals at local beach restaurants in Punta de Mita, but the rest of your meals will be catered and brought directly to your condo by NAEF Cuisine, a gourmet catering company based in Punta de Mita.
Currently, all Destination:PEACE vacations start on a Saturday and end the following Thursday. Total group sizes for each vacation are between four and twelve people, in order to keep things more intimate. The cost is $999 if you’re sharing a room with family or friends, and $1399 if you want your own room. This price includes everything – your lodging, meals, and activities. People of all ages are welcome - as Katherine says, "We invite everyone. Our mission and our vision include everyone."
We asked Katherine what participants can expect to take away from a Destination:PEACE experience. She said, “What we really want people to walk away with is the memory of giving back in a special way, so that when they leave they feel really good about the volunteer events they participated in. Remembering the kids’ smiles, remembering when a dog wakes up from surgery… at the end of the day, we want our guests to be able to go back and tell their friends, ‘I hung out with five kids from this community, and taught them the alphabet.’”
If you've been thinking about visiting Banderas Bay, and you're interested in combining a luxurious vacation with life-changing experiences that you'll never forget, visit Destination:PEACE's website, or contact Molly or Katherine below.
"We enjoyed the ultimate family vacation through Destination:PEACE. From painting a mural at the school with the kindergartners, to helping at the mobile spay and neuter clinic, to whale watching, there was something for everyone in the family to enjoy. We are so impressed with the loving, respectful relationship between the staff and the village. Our only regret is that we couldn't stay longer and help more."
-Lucy Brehm, Portland, OR