HAPPY WANDERER: Hotels that Embrace Animals


CONTRACOSTATIMES.COM: MARCH 5, 2010

We’ve all shared elevators with strangers. In my case, however, they’ve been stranger than most.

In hotels across America, I’ve ridden the lift with some unorthodox travelers.

A pot bellied pig got off on my floor at ski hostel in Colorado.

In Memphis I rode up to my room with a badling of ducks – the famed Peabody ducks, if we’re name-dropping.

I’ve seen cats and dogs and even a goose in elevators – all as mascots or guests of hotels.

This leads me to a conversation I had with a reader the other day. She had just returned from a Costa Rican beach property where the guests were both people and primates. “The trees were black with monkeys,” she recalls, looking up as she swam in the outdoor pool at the Captain Suizo Hotel one morning. She was the only guest in the pool at dawn and the monkeys sat quietly overhead, as if transfixed on the dance between swimmer and water.

The owners of this jungle resort are no dummies. They’ve made these Howler Monkeys part of the vacation experience, in a setting where guests can regularly see armadillos and iguanas in the gardens surrounding the property. Each furry-faced primate has a human name – with little Sophie being the baby of the group. Some guests book a year in advance to commune like this with nature.

Wherever you travel – animals and people are coming together. At an Indigo Hotel in Fischer, Indiana, you can have Bubbles the fish spend the night in your room. She comes complete with fish flakes and bowl and a copy of Dr. Seuss’s “One fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” – presuming you like to read to your fish before bedtime.

Two parakeets welcome guests at the Farmer’s Daughter Hotel in Los Angeles. And the Algonquin Hotel in Mid-town Manhattan has had a residence cat since the 1930’s.

But while ducks and dogs and monkeys (oh my) are fine – my favorite animal has always been – the horse. To this end, there is no better equine experience then at Tanque Verde Ranch Resort outside Tucson, Arizona. Here, you are surrounded by horses – over 180 of the most beautiful and responsive animals you will ever encounter. Pick a pony and let the bonding begin. Tanque Verde even has a horse whisperer who will work with you and your steed to ensure that you get along famously over the course of your stay. Like Roy Rogers and Trigger; Tonto and Scout; Wilbur and Mr. Ed – you’ll come away feeling like you’ve made a new best friend. And the good news is – you won’t have to feed it once you go home.

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