Around Cahuita, Costa Rica

IMG_6401
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.

IMG_6369
An ornery whiteface capuchin monkey along the trail
IMG_6359
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!

IMG_6451
Waterfall Dos Aguas
IMG_6504
Building a fire to roast hot dogs
IMG_6509
Fresh coconut milk and plantain chips with chili
IMG_6524
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.

IMG_6586
Up close and personal with a two-toed sloth
IMG_6559
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.

IMG_6562
The beach at Puerto Viejo
IMG_6624
Spotted along Cahuita’s main road
IMG_6607
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

 

Costa Rica travel picks

Happy Thursday 🙂 I’m getting excited for my trip to Costa Rica! I am planning to bring mostly things that I already own but I thought it would be okay to splurge on a few pieces that would make the trip feel extra special. All of the items are investments, especially the luggage, and I hope to use them beyond this trip in the coming months and years. I think they will neatly fit into my slowly developing capsule wardrobe.

  1. First, I splurged on this cute rolling suitcase in my favorite color, rose gold. The company, Calpak, has so many amazing options. I almost got this one but in the end I felt like the rose gold was more my style. Plus I didn’t care for the lining on the second one, which apparently makes a difference to me 🙂
  2. When I pack for any trip I like to be super organized, like Marie Kondo-level tidy. I am learning that giving in to my desire to have everything match and be packed precisely makes me happy, so why not just embrace it. With that in mind, I also purchased these packing cubes. I can’t tell you how my heart leaps with joy to think of how well coordinated and packed my luggage is going to be. Now I just have to plan the perfect travel outfit!
  3. In addition to the rolling suitcase and packing cubes, I purchased this backpack/laptop bag from Calpak. It fits on top of my rolling luggage which is very satisfying. I’m hoping it will make a great structured day pack for my trip, but I also plan to use it when I get home to carry my work laptop which I have been throwing in random tote bags that always slip off my shoulder 😦
  4. I immediately bookmarked this bathing suit after seeing it on the blog A Beautiful Mess. I am just in love with the retro 70s aesthetic and how softly feminine it is. I can’t wait till it comes in the mail. Unfortunately, I had it sent to my old work address! A good friend who still works there generously offered to intercept it, so fingers crossed.
  5. I will be hiking in the jungle on this trip, which requires long pants. I love being outdoors, but hate most outdoor gear/clothing. I just never feel put together. These leggings, though, are sleek and beautifully made. I am thinking of pairing them with a loosish crop top and all black sneakers for a put together look. The company, Outdoor Voices, is also sustainable and eco-conscious which makes me feel better about this purchase. I found the company via this great article on ethical workout gear.

How about you? How do you like to pack for a trip? Are you super-organized or do you throw everything in a bag and go?

xoxo Anna

 

Costa Rica in March

I have been itching to travel again since last summer when I went to Phoenix for a month and then to St. Croix. I usually book my travel plans well in advance but I was recently inspired when a friend of mine jumped on an airplane to Puerto Rico last minute. I decided I wanted to go somewhere too! But where? I knew I wanted to go somewhere that I had never been, somewhere warm, and somewhere relatively close (ie, not Tahiti). I checked out places like Portugal, Dominica, Turks and Caicos and even Iceland (not warm), but eventually settled on Costa Rica because of the diversity of adventures it offers. So, I booked a trip for the end of March, not exactly last-minute but definitely spontaneous. March, through no planning on my part, happens to be a great time to visit the country weather-wise.

shutterstock_257399221

What are my plans, you ask? I will be flying into San Jose and staying downtown at an Airbnb for a few days. I plan to check out the surrounding offerings like the Poas Volcano and Braulio Carillo National Park. After that I am making my way to Cahuita on the Caribbean coast where I will explore for a few days. I plan on visiting Cahuita National Park, doing some snorkeling and drinking cocktails on the beach. I have reservations at a hostel in Cahuita for a private room. I was thinking of renting a little house, but I think it will be nice to connect with other travelers.

I still have a lot of decisions to make. For example, I am not sure if I am going to rent a car or rely on public transportation. I am leaning toward public transport because I think it will be more relaxing. I also haven’t decided if I will take any smaller day tours on this trip or explore on my own. I do know I am looking forward to hiking, eating chocolate, hanging out on the beach and seeing all sorts of cool wildlife. Oh, and I am hoping to swim in a tropical waterfall at some point. It’s on my bucket list. I also can’t wait for all the fabulous photo opportunities 🙂

shutterstock_647625811

I picked up a Lonely Planet guide book and I am going to do some planning leading up to the trip so I know what all my options are, then I will decide while I am there what I want to do day by day. I don’t know about you but I get overwhelmed by all the options available when you travel. So many decisions to make!

I think I will also brush up on my Spanish for this trip by using DuoLingo. I have used it before to practice my French and it is a great app.

How about you? Have you been to Costa Rica? What was your experience like? Any recommendations?

xoxo Anna

Ireland, you’re awesome

In August of 2016 I took a solo journey to Ireland. What follows is by no means a comprehensive travel guide or even a “best of” but more of a reflection on what sites and experiences really stood out from a vacation packed with memorable moments.

IMG_0073
Dublin street scene

Traveling alone has its ups and downs. I am, by nature, a person who is comfortable alone and able to entertain myself for long periods of time. I thoroughly enjoyed being able to set my own schedule and rely on my own resourcefulness to get around. That said, there were many moments when I felt in need of familiar companionship and at a loss as to how to find it. There is nothing like being thousands of miles from home, on your own, to bring out feelings of vulnerability. On a positive note, I think this lead me to be chattier with random strangers and I ended up meeting many interesting people. My advice to others traveling alone would be to not let feelings of loneliness or vulnerability get you down or make you feel like you have failed as a solo adventurer. I think it is part of the process for many. Despite these feelings (or because of them?) I look back on this trip as a grand adventure. Ireland is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and I look forward to returning, as I feel I only got a small taste of what this country has to offer.

Dublin 
I started my trip with a day in Dublin, which is an intriguing city with tons of history but also a modern, artistic edge. Aesthetically, I loved the bright and graphic signage mixed in with older architecture. Dublin is a very walkable city and I took a relaxed approach to exploration. I made a few touristy stops in Dublin including the Oscar Wilde memorial sculpture (super cool!), St. Stephen’s Green (lovely ramble), the Book of Kells at Trinity College (fascinating) and the Old Jameson factory (meh). I also loved browsing through indie shops in the Grafton Street part of the city and stopping at antique shops and vendor fairs I came across, one of which was at the Generator Hostel pictured below.

IMG_0099
The Generator Hostel in Dublin
IMG_0092
A sign (of sorts) in Dublin
IMG_0078
Cheese toastie at The Stags Head, Dublin
IMG_0110
Blue skies in Killarney, Ireland
IMG_0115
I tasted all the whiskey!

Ballycarberry Castle and the Ring of Kerry
From Dublin I made my way to Killarney to explore the Ring of Kerry. I had read that Killarney was a tourist trap, which is accurate, but it is still fun to visit the many shops and pubs (sampling whiskey all the way :)) and meeting fellow travelers.

I debated renting a car to drive around the ring. As a city resident with a fear of heights, who drives approximately once a year, the idea of driving on the left hand side of winding coastal roads sounded borderline suicidal. I imagined hordes of honking, angry drivers trailing behind me as a crawled along the highway at 5 miles an hour. The idea of taking a tour bus was even less appealing. So for this part of the trip, I splurged on a private taxi tour of the Ring of Kerry. It felt ridiculously decadent, but ended up to be well worth it. The driver took me to places that were not on regular tour bus routes and would stop in any place that I wanted. One of our stops was Ballycarberry Castle, a tumble-down structure surrounded by coastal plains. It may be controversial in terms of historical preservation, but the best part of this experience for me was that you could climb all over and into the ruins. It really made me feel connected to the place and to history. The sweeping green landscape around it wasn’t too bad either. The scenery on the Ring of Kerry was more breathtaking and green than I could have imagined, and wandering briefly in the foggy, mysterious forests of Killarney National Park made had me making plans to come back for an extend hiking trip.

IMG_0208
Hello!
IMG_0267
Views on the Ring of Kerry

Coffee facing the ocean in Waterville
Along the ring of Kerry is the coastal town of Waterville. Spending a relaxing hour here drinking coffee facing the ocean and watching kids on the beach having an ecology lesson was mind altering. It had me wondering how feasible it would be to relocate all of my friends and family to this tranquil spot.

img_0203.jpg
Coffee by the shore in Waterville

Lisdoonvarna
Lisdoonvarna is the site of a famous matchmaking festival which draws hopefuls from all around Ireland and even the world. At other times of the year it is a quiet place. Without a lot of research, I had decided to use Lisdoonvarna as a jumping off place to visit the Aran Islands, rather than Doolin which is more popular among travelers. I arrived a week before the Matchmaking festival and it was fun to watch the town prepare for the coming crowd. There was definitely a sense of anticipation in the air. The Rathbaun Hotel is small and charming and has well-known live music nights, which I enjoyed both nights I stayed there. One thing I will note is that—as of August 2016— there were no ATMs in Doolin or Lisdoonvarna. I mention this because it took me by surprise and caused a little stress. Some establishments offer cash for credit at a fee, which saved me, but I would recommend getting the cash you need before you get to town.

IMG_0325
The Matchmaker Bar in Lisdoonvarna was about to see a lot of action.

Riding bike through stone walls of Inis Oírr
Inis Oírr (pronounced “sheer”) is the smallest and southernmost Aran Island. I took the ferry from Doolin and rented a bike to explore the island. August is the height of tourist season in Ireland and yet I found myself alone riding between the island’s famous, interlacing stone walls. Inis Oírr is small and you can see most of the highlights in a day including a magnificent, rusty ship wreck, cool coastal rock formations dotted with tide pools, an interesting wind-swept grave yard and the ruins of a castle on the uppermost point of the island.

IMG_0348
Open road
IMG_0413
Famous interlacing stone walls
IMG_0438
These Superga sneakers were the best for walking

Fish chowder and brown bread at Café an Chaisleán, Inis Oírr
This was my favorite meal in Ireland. It was delicious, lite and simple. The adorable, chatty waiter made me feel like I was eating in a friend’s house.

IMG_0420
So good!

Dolphins dancing in front of boat by Cliffs of Moher
On the ferry ride back from Inis Oirr the boat made a special trip to view the Cliffs of Moher. At first it was rainy and the cliffs were covered in haze but then the sun broke through and highlighted these spectacular formations. A school of dolphins rode the waves at the bow of the ship heading back into the dock. I have never been so close to a dolphin and it was a memorable experience.

The bus ride from Lisdoonvarna to Galway
For the most part, I traveled by public transport through Ireland. I love doing this when traveling. The act of having to negotiate a foreign transit system has the instant effect of making me feel engaged in the daily rhythm of the place I am visiting. The bus route I took hugs the burren coast from Lisdoonvarna to Galway. It was an unexpected opportunity to see more of the countryside and to get inspired for future travels further up the western coast of Ireland.

From Galway I made my way to Dublin by bus and caught a flight to Nice. Stay tuned for highlights from my Nice adventure.

IMG_0464
Interesting rocks formations and flowers on Inis Oírr