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

 

Adventures on St. Croix

 

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The courtyard of my Airbnb

I recently spent a week in St. Croix for a wedding. I will always look back on this trip and smile, but not because everything went as planned. It was, in fact, a combination of minor frustrations, comical mishaps, interesting characters and truly heartwarming moments. It was the first time that I have traveled out of the country with a big group of friends. I’ve done a fair amount of solo travel and have enjoyed it, but there is something very special about being abroad with a bigger group. There may be more time spent organizing the group, but I loved being able to share adventures with some of my closest friends and meet new people as well. It was also very special to me the way that our group came together to handle inconveniences and potential problems with grace and kindness. Here are some of my favorite moments from the trip:

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Rainbow beach view
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Hello Mr. Crab!

Rainbow beach and this crab

Our first beach day was at Rainbow Beach. I rented a beach chair and an umbrella for $20 and proceeded to lounge and swim. There is a cute, beachy restaurant/bar where I got a piña colada and some fried shrimp. Everything was tasty! Overall it was a successful day and I would recommend this beach 🙂

 

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Fort Christianvearn
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Limpricht Park

Exploring Christiansted

I’m a sucker for historic architecture, especially of the colonial, island variety. My Airbnb was in Christiansted and I really enjoyed walking around and looking at the beautiful old buildings. Fort Christianvearn was just down the street and was a great place to wander. There was also a cute park down the street that had a lot of character.

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Beach at Hotel on the Cay

The beach at Hotel on the Cay

We went to this beach two days in a row. I went the first day on my own and liked it so much that I convinced other people to come. It’s a short (it felt like 30 seconds!) ferry ride to a cute island with a small beach. There is a hotel on the island but non-guests are asked not to explore the island beyond the beach and bar. The water was calm and clear and there was a bar/restaurant (great pineapple daiquiri) and a watersports stand where I rented a snorkel on the first day.

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There were so many gorgeous chickens!
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An iguana grabbing a maraschino cherry!

Good weather

Rain was predicted for our entire trip. There were a few storms, including one torrential downpour, but we also had plently of sun and beach-worthy weather. The weather even cooperated on the day of the wedding which was a blessing.

The wedding

The wedding itself was beautiful and intimate. It was on the beach at one of the island’s resorts. I was asked to perform the wedding ceremony and I enjoyed the process of getting ordained, writing a ceremony and performing the actual marriage. I am not a confident public speaker, but when the time came to do the ceremony I was reassured by the happiness of the moment and everything fell into place naturally. The wedding was followed by a dinner/reception. There were only about twenty people there in total and I really liked the intimacy and relaxed nature of a smaller wedding.

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Relaxing before the wedding

 

A few frustrations…

Lack of transportation options

I would recommend that anyone traveling to St. Croix rent a car. A great deal of our group’s frustrations came from figuring out how to get people staying in a variety of locations to and from different places. The island is fairly big and places were farther away than they seemed they would be on the map. It was off-season and finding a cab after 6 pm (and sometimes even during the day) was difficult and expensive. I didn’t end up renting a car, but some of my friends did and I would say it saved the vacation. I will note that driving is on the left-hand side of the road and some roads have sharp turns, and steep inclines or declines. But I think these discomforts would be outweighed by the convenience of more control over your transportation.

Comically (?) strange lodging experiences

To the person, all of us had some sort of funny, annoying or awkward story about the places we stayed including strange Airbnb hosts, poor service, remote or hard-to-reach locations, flooding, and beaches overrun with seaweed. I’m purposely not including the names of the places as this is not meant to be a review of specific establishments and more of a commentary on the travel in general. When you think of spending a week on a tropical island, or really on any vacation, you have certain expectations built up in your mind about stress-free, perfect travel. But that’s not always how things play out. Previously, these imperfections would have weighed on me and affected the joy I took in the vacation, but this time I was able to focus on the good things and really enjoyed the time I spent with the other people on the trip. I think it was the difference between dwelling on what you imagined your trip would be rather than being present and thankful for the opportunity to share experiences and find beauty in unlikely places.

I would definitely return to St. Croix. I feel like I just got a small taste of what the island has to offer.

How about you? Have you ever taken a group vacation? And how do you handle unexpected trip snafus?

xoxo Anna