Travel

Sweet Rocks the Hard Rock Vallarta

by Heather Cassell
Contributor
Friday Feb 22, 2013
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It’s another Sweet adventure to Mexico. Listening to Shannon Wentworth, CEO and founder of the do-good eco-friendly lesbian travel company Sweet, the company’s forthcoming trip to Hard Rock Vallarta simply sounds like paradise.

"It’s really gorgeous," said Wentworth, counting off all of the wonderful amenities offered by the newly minted Hard Rock Vallarta, formerly Vallarta Palace. "We have our own beach. We have a beachfront swimming pool with a swim up bar and a water slide. We have all you can eat and all you can drink."

"They don’t let the ice in your drink melt," she continued. "You have a new drink before your ice melts. It’s really amazing."

In addition to all of the dreamy pampering, the itinerary also offers a mini women’s music festival featuring headliner Brandi Carlile. The weeklong event (April 7-14) will also showcase musicians Jen Foster, Natalia Zukerman and Edie Carey. Comediennes Shann Carr and Jennie McNulty will round out the music with plenty of laughter.

"We’ve got shows every night," said Wentworth, a 40-year-old lesbian and soon-to-be new mother. "It’s going to be phenomenal."


Well Earned Indulgence

The entertainment and indulgence will be a much-earned prize after a day of doing good. Many of Sweet’s vacationers have earned the title of "Sweeties" for all of the sweet things they do for the communities to which they travel through Sweet’s signature voluntourism excursions.

"During the day, we are doing some amazingly good things," said Wentworth about the partnerships with American Airlines and local community organizations to leave the resort town better than when they arrived.

The Hard Rock Vallarta trip will be Sweet’s second visit to Nuevo Vallarta, a resort town just outside Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Sweeties stopped off at the port town during Sweet’s Mexican Riviera Cruise in 2011, where the women helped to save local feral cats at Purr Project, a local cat rescue shelter that houses an estimated 200 cats.

Since this trip is more than a port stop, Sweet’s volunteers will be able to revisit the Purr Project to drop off supplies and play with the kitties, but dogs won’t be left out in the cold. Sweet plans to team up with an organization to help puppies too.

Sweet is also teaming up with the San Francisco Bay Area’s Andale Mexican Restaurant and Puerto Vallarta’s Rotary Club to help families once living in the dumps who still survive by scavenging through heaps of trash to find resellable items. Sweet’s team of volunteers will bring women and children clothes, shoes and other supplies requested by the local Rotary Club with the help of the Andale Mexican Restaurant, which will also provide food.

Puerto Vallarta’s Rotary Club and Sweet will also work together to refurbish a school and create a library with books donated by Sweet’s vacationers and supporters.

"We are trying to deeply engage with the community," said Wentworth, who seeks to have a "real impact" rather than go into a community based on a one-way feel-good mission never to return again.


Building Community Relationships

Since the company started its eco-social justice gallivanting around the world more than three years ago, Sweet has fostered relationships with local government officials and revisited its island friends in Cozumel and Isla Mujeres in Mexico. In the process, Wentworth has brought Sweeties to Cozumel three times and Isla Mujeres twice and plans to venture back to Cozumel with a group of lesbians later this year as well as in 2014, when she will also journey back to Isla Mujeres.

"It’s good to be mindful of your footprint and other creatures on the earth and how you can make less of an impact," said Wentworth about Sweet’s founding principles to protect the environment and improve peoples’ and animals’ lives.

"We are trying to create a way to have a guilt-free vacation," Wentworth continued. "What we want to do is to help people not to feel powerless on their vacations, but to give them the power to make a change that they want to see while they are there and make it easy and fun."

It has caught on. Sweet’s guests not only contribute to local communities during their vacations, but also bring the spirit home by creating their own volunteer projects. Wentworth estimates that she hears about at least two projects a month.

"I’m a better person, friend and spouse because of Sweet. I wake up everyday with a renewed excitement to live life," said Darcie Takeuchi, who has traveled with Sweet three times and has spearheaded local volunteer projects in partnership with Sweet in San Francisco.

"I’m extraordinarily proud of the generosity of our guests," said Wentworth.


An Entertaining and Inspiring Getaway

Sweet’s penchant for responsible vacationing has also proven to be a thriving business model.

"Sweet is going really well. We are growing in size and we are doing more awesome projects than ever," said Wentworth.

Since the company’s carbon-free maiden voyage in the Caribbean with 1,200 lesbians (many of whom painted hospitals and schools, donated school supplies, helped clean up the local beaches, planted trees and more), Sweet has completed more than 100 community service projects on 20 vacations since November 2009.

During the past two years, the luxury travel company has sold out some of its vacations and doubled in size. Vacationers are eager to give back to their local communities as well as enjoy their beachside cocktails.

Sweet’s week at Hard Rock Vallarta, April 7 - 14, is set to entertain as well as inspire with a line-up of great entertainment, plenty of rest and relaxation and just enough do-good activities to satisfy a responsible traveler’s sweet spot.

To rock out with Sweet at the Hard Rock Vallarta, visit:
www.discoversweet.com/sweet-hard-rock-vallarta.


Heather Cassell is a freelance journalist and travel writer with more than 20 years experience covering LGBT and women’s issues. When Heather isn’t wandering off learning and writing about women’s and LGBT issues, she covers business, health and other news for a number of publications as well as the syndicated "Out in the World" international LGBT news column.

This article is part of our "Winter 2013" series. Want to read more? Here's the full list»

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