Around Cahuita, Costa Rica

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Exploring Cahuita National Park

Happy Thursday! Today I am going to share the second half of my trip to Costa Rica. You can read about how I spent my time in San Jose here. After leaving San Jose, I took the bus through the mountains to the town of Cahuita on the Caribbean coast. The pacific coast of Costa Rica is more popular with tourists, but the Caribbean coast has a lot of great natural and cultural experiences as well. The bus ride itself was much longer than expected because of construction, but it was still enjoyable to see the countryside along the way. Cahuita is a small, quiet town with a wonderful national park. I stayed at the Hakuna Matata Hostel where I rented a private room with a shared bath. I was very pleased with the service and amenities (including a pool) and overall vibe.

Day 1-Cahuita National Park

My first day in Cahuita, I explored Cahuita National Park. It is situated on a spit of land just south of the town. If you are staying in Cahuita, it is a quick walk to the park entrance. There is an easy trail that runs around the edge of the park and offers a mix of gorgeous beach scenery, quiet jungle paths and a variety of wildlife. There are two beaches along the way, Playa Blanca and Playa Vargas and you can stop and swim at just about any point. The palm trees form little coves and it is like having your own private beach! Just be careful with your belongings while swimming.

This was one of my favorite experiences of the whole trip, and I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the area.

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An ornery whiteface capuchin monkey along the trail
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Rainforest pathway

Day 2-Waterfall Dos Aguas

On the second day, I took a tour organized by my hostel to Waterfall Dos Aguas, which has this name because of there are two waterfalls, one big one flowing into one smaller one. There is a small entry fee to get into the waterfalls and then a quick hike down a steep slope. Along the slope, my guide, David (who also manages the hostel) pointed out a tree where tiny poisonous red frogs hang out. Swimming in a waterfall was on my Costa Rica bucket list and these did not disappoint. If you are very adventurous you can climb up the rocks on the side of the waterfall and jump in, but I stuck with swimming in the waterfall pools. After swimming, we hiked back up to the entry area where we bought fresh coconut milk and talked to the woman who was collecting the entry fees. There was even a kitten who ate coconut meat!

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Waterfall Dos Aguas
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Building a fire to roast hot dogs
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Fresh coconut milk and plantain chips with chili
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Cerveza, casado and colones back in Cahuita

Day 3-Jaguar Rescue Center and Puerto Viejo

On day three, on the recommendation of the hostel, I visited the Jaguar Rescue Center in Puerto Viejo. The center rehabilitates wild animals for eventual release back into the wild when possible. It is a great opportunity to see monkeys (and baby monkeys!), sloths (and baby sloths!), crocodiles and some small cats up close. The staff is funny and informative and all entry fees go to fund the center which runs on donations.

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Up close and personal with a two-toed sloth
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A margay at the Jaguar Rescue Center

After visiting the center, I ate lunch in Puerto Viejo. It was very busy and I was relieved to return to comparatively quiet Cahuita. There was a street fair going on each night I was in Cahuita and it was fun to get drinks and people watch.

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The beach at Puerto Viejo
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Spotted along Cahuita’s main road
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Carnival rides were part of the street festival

The next day I caught the bus back to San Jose and flew home. It was a long journey, but went relatively smoothly. I loved my time in Costa Rica. I can’t wait to go back and explore more. There were so many things to do and places to see it was hard to know what to choose. I will say that I did get a little lonely, especially in Cahuita. It can be part of traveling alone, but I’m thinking my next trip will be with friends just to mix things up a bit 🙂

How about you? Have you traveled to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica? What was your experience?

xoxo Anna

 

5 ways to inspire healthy consumption

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Throw back Thursday to my fall/winter capsule wardrobe shirt selection

I am in the process of thinking about a spring/summer capsule wardrobe, which got me thinking about consumption in general. The more I think on this subject the more I realize that I want to own less and consume less. I think in my fondest dreams, I would live with the bare minimum of belongings, each one precious or useful in some specific way. In reality, I am surrounded by a heap of stuff that just won’t seem to budge. I think I am in a better place than I was before but still have a long way to go. I know there are certain things I will never give up like my chef’s jacket from pastry school, or all my travel souvenirs. Still, as much as I purge, I always seem to be acquiring new things to fill the space left by what I have gotten rid of. I am starting to realize that downsizing is a two-part process involving purging and then learning not to consume in the same way as before. The second part fits in nicely with another goal I have of saving as much money as possible in the coming year. And when I do buy new things, I want it to be in a responsible fashion. Here are some strategies I will be trying to get me to my goals.

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Sorting/purging my jewelry will definitely be a goal

Do a large purge

This is pretty self-explanatory. I plan to do a spring purge in all categories with the goal of eliminating redundant items (read 6000 pens) and things I never use. This will get me ready for my spring/summer capsule wardrobe and I think will make my belongings seem less heavy.

Set a small monthly budget for certain items

I order to motivate myself not to shop impulsively, I am setting very low monthly budgets for things like clothing and homegoods. So far I have budgeted $40 a month for clothing and $0 for home goods. That doesn’t include things like toilet paper, but does include things like cute knick knacks at Target and random pillows. I have been using Mint to manage my money for a while, but lately I have been leaning in to this online budget software even more with my current goal of saving money. One thing that I am notorious (mostly with myself) for doing is buying a new outfit if I don’t feel like my day outfit is good enough for my night plans. Most of the stuff I buy during these sprees ends up in the donation pile, minus a few surprise gems. I think the key to avoiding this is a) not getting lazy with my outfits in the morning and b) storing a cute outfit or at least some jewelry and heels at work.

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Knick knacks and souvenirs displayed in glass cabinets

Take care of what you already have

While I sporadically do things like get my shoes reheeled and sew buttons onto coats, I want to make it more of a habit. I also want to spend time figuring out how to wear the clothing I already have in new ways so that I value each item more. One thing that I have already done is purchase two large glass cabinets to hold some of my favorite travel souvenirs and mementos. I still have overflow but it is nice have things displayed this way and makes even the silly things (ie plastic dinosaurs) seem important.

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A hand-me-down chair which definitely counts as second-hand

Shop second-hand as much as possible

I already shop second-hand for clothing and furniture quite a bit. The challenge will be doing so consistently and including things like gifts and appliances. It can be frustrating to shop second-hand when you are looking for a very particular thing, but I’m hoping that it can be a fun challenge. There are so many options for shopping second-hand these days, from traditional thrift stores to websites like eBay and Poshmark. It just takes a little change in mindset.

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Surrounded by stuff and cats 🙂

Make a list of everything that you own

This one is a doozy! After I purge, I plan to make a comprehensive list of everything I own. It sounds daunting just thinking about it but I am curious to see what benefits an exercise like this could yield. Will I feel richer and more satisfied with what I have? Will I want to purge more? Will I discover that I have things I thought I needed to buy? Will I be inspired to make new things with my huge tubs of craft supplies? These are all possibilities and I am excited to find out what happens that I can’t predict as well. I am not putting a timeline on this as I have no idea how long something like this will take. I may combine this with the purge process. They seem to go hand in hand. I will definitely keep you updated on my progress.

How about you? Would you try any of these strategies? Let me know in the comments.

xoxo Anna

3 days in San Jose

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Trip to the Sarapaqui River

Hello! I’m back and happy to share the highlights of my recent trip to Costa Rica. I’m going to break the trip up into two posts. Today, I’m sharing what I did during my three days in and around San Jose.

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, is a busy, noisy, interesting city. It’s a little overwhelming at first, but I found a lot of beauty and hidden gems during my explorations.

Day 1-Arrival, concert at El Cuartel

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A busy street scene in Central San Jose

After arriving in San Jose and settling into my Airbnb, I walked around the center of the city for a while. I stopped at a couple of shops and bought some brightly-colored fabric and lace. I ended up at the Mercado Central, which is an enclosed market with all sorts of different food and craft stalls. It was fun to wander around and see everything being sold. I bought a variety of food to go including empanadas, fruit and chicken.

At night, I decided to go to The Public House, which was described as an Irish Pub. Uber now works in San Jose, so I gave it a try and was able to get a car right away. Unfortunately, since there are no real addresses in San Jose, we couldn’t find the pub. I ended up going to El Cuartel de la Boca del Monte, which is a bar, restaurant and music venue in Barrio la California. I stumbled into a band rehearsal for Easy Rider, a classic-rock cover band. I was welcomed warmly and even got a shout out from the band during their concert, which was extra special. I also tried a traditional Costa Rican dish called Chifrijo. It is a mixture of rice, tomatoes, beans and fried pork pieces and it is insanely delicious. I loved this bar so much that I returned on Monday evening for their famous music night.

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A booth at Mercado Central
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Spices at Mercado Central
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Chifrijo at El Cuartel

 

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Tropical flowers

Day 2-River cruise and horseback ride, movie

For Day 2, I booked a river cruise and horseback ride in the jungle. It was an easy, relaxing day. We were transported by boat along the Sarapaqui River, where we saw monkeys, iguanas and crocodiles. We ended up at a lovely house in the jungle where we ate lunch and could choose between horseback riding or zip lining. I chose horseback riding, which was pretty comical as my horse, Paloma, clearly did not want to be doing the tour and keep trying to run me into low-hanging branches. It was still enjoyable, though. After that, we took the boat back to our original location and headed back to San Jose.

There are so many tours you can book out of San Jose including zip lining, hikes through the cloud forest, hot springs, volcano tours and so much more. I had originally booked two tours, the river cruise and a combo tour of the Arenal Hanging Bridges, Volcano and Hot Springs. When the second got cancelled, I decided not to book another tour, which I think made for a more relaxing trip, but I was a little sad not to see the bridges and hot springs. And, while I enjoyed bumming around San Jose on Day 3, I feel like I missed some of the more exciting adventures that Costa Rica has to offer. I guess I will just have to go back 🙂

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Paloma going off trail
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Our boat on the Sarapaqui River
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Cine Magaly in Barrio la California

At night, I went back to Barrio La California and saw Lady Bird at Cine Magaly. It was a beautiful theater and a great movie (conveniently in English with Spanish subtitles). I ended up liking the feel of this neighborhood quite a bit and would recommend a visit to anyone spending time to San Jose.

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Museo del Jade

Day 3-Museo del Jade, walking around and craft shopping

On the third day, I went to the Museo del Jade. It had some interesting exhibits featuring pre-columbian life in Costa Rica. I especially liked the top floor which had shelves and shelves of fantastic pottery. I enjoyed the museum but I’m not sure it is worth the entry fee of $20.

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Pottery at Museo del Jade

After the museum I walked to the Museo National de Costa Rica. It was closed, but it has a beautiful park (Plaza de la Democracia y de la Abolición del Ejército) on one side and on the other side is Calle 17, a pedestrian street with fantastic murals (see the featured photo for this post). From there, I made my way to Chieton Moren, which is a fair-trade craft store I had read about. Each piece in the store is labeled with the name of town and craftsperson who created it. They had a great selection of interesting hand crafts in a range of prices. After shopping, I had a late lunch/early dinner at a small restaurant across the street. Casados are offered by most restaurants and are a typical Costa Rican dish. A casado is a large plate with meat, rice, beans, salad and a vegetable stew (not really sure what this was but it was delicious). At around 3500 colones ($6.00), they are a good and filling budget option.

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Chieton Moren: A great fair-trade craft store
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A delicious casado de pollo
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A fountain near the Teatro National
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Afternoon sunlight over San Jose

After eating, I walked past the Teatro National and through Plaza de la Cultura and made my way back to my apartment. In the evening, I went to Stiefel Pub, which was cute and has a large selection of craft beers. On my way to the pub, I walked past groups of political demonstrators who were voicing their opinions on the hotly contested and polarizing Costa Rican presidential election, which was to be held on April 1. It was fun and interesting to get a glimpse into local politics.

In the evening, I went back to El Caurtel de la Boca del Monte and enjoyed the music and had a shot of chiliguaro, which is a local liquor called guaro mixed with tomato juice, hot sauce and lime.

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Political demonstrators

San Jose may not be the most picturesque city, but I enjoyed it immensely. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and very patient with my very basic Spanish language skills. The food was fresh and delicious and the nightlife was interesting. It is not recommended to walk around alone at night, but I had a very positive experience using Uber to get around. It was cheap and reliable and made me feel safe going out at night alone.

How about you? Have you been to Costa Rica or San Jose? What was your experience?

And stay tuned for my next post on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica.

xoxo Anna