Caribbean

A Costa Rican Itinerary

What feels like too long ago, I spent nine glorious days with my sister in Costa Rica. When deciding on where to go within the country we couldn't decide between the Caribbean or Pacific coasts, and missing the rainforest wasn't an option so we decided to get a see of all three! If you are looking for a weeklong Costa Rican itinerary, here it is!

10391-seesoomuch_costaricaseesoomuch_costarica.jpg
04dfd-seesoomuch_costarica_hikeseesoomuch_costarica_hike.jpg
9b35d-seesoomuch_costarica_beachseesoomuch_costarica_beach.jpg
a0996-seesoomuch_costaricaseesoomuch_costarica.jpg

When & Where to Go

If you are looking to visit many parts of the country as I did, January to April are a pretty safe bet weather-wise. This period is high season but unlike most major beach destinations in the region Costa Rica doesn't feel super touristy. Maybe it's because of the country's strong commitment to eco-tourism, regardless it was quite a treat!

We flew into the capital, San Jose, and spent an evening and half of the next day exploring the city before heading for the Pacific Coast (3 nights) by bas (check out bus schedules here). We decided to go the bohemian town of Montezuma on the Nicoya peninsula. One hour and a half bus trip, a sunset ferry ride, and a second 2 hour bus later and we were there! Next was off to the Rainforest (2 nights). We rode past banana plantations and into the mountains toward Santa Elena, Monteverde. After a day or so of hiking and ziplining across the rainforest canopy, we chose to leave the mountains early to head to laid back Puerto Viejo de Talamanca and spend our last days on the Caribbean Coast (3 nights).

 

Where to Stay

321f7-seesoomuch_costarica_hostelseesoomuch_costarica_hostel.jpg
067ae-seesoomuch_costarica_hostelseesoomuch_costarica_hostel.jpg
34aa1-seesoomuch_costarica_hostelseesoomuch_costarica_hostel.jpg

We stayed in hostels throughout our trip, and we didn't book ahead for any of them except for Hostel Bueko in San Jose. Bueko is an awesome place a little way out of the city center. The key to finding a good hostel are reviews, reviews, reviews. But honestly in Costa Rica you just need a safe place you can lock up during the day while you are out exploring! When I return with more people in town I will probably opt for an airbnb

b849c-img_8256.jpg
1bbd1-seesoomuch_costaricaseesoomuch_costarica.jpg

What to Do

80c04-img.jpg
a0d64-seesoomuch_costarica_tortugaseesoomuch_costarica_tortuga.jpg
c1454-seesoomuch_costarica_snorkelseesoomuch_costarica_snorkel.jpg
1a1fe-seesoomuch_costarica_surfseesoomuch_costarica_surf.jpg
eb3ba-img.jpg
6828f-img.jpg

Monteverde

Arenal Volcano & La Fortuna

Ziplining over the rainforest canopy

Hiking & butterfly watching

Puerto Viejo

Playa Negra

Punta Uva & Punta Cocoles

Surfing

Montezuma

Montezuma Beach

Montezuma Waterfalls

Tortuga Island & Snorkeling

8f2cf-img.jpg

Where to Eat

537ac-seesoomuch_costarica_restaurantseesoomuch_costarica_restaurant.jpg
b82e9-seesoomuch_costarica_foodseesoomuch_costarica_food.jpg
e8e6b-seesoomuch_costarica_eatseesoomuch_costarica_eat.jpg

In Montezuma we managed to eat at Bar Restaurante Moctezuma not once, but twice! Sitting right on the Montezuma Beach the views are undeniably beautiful and they offer all 3 meals a day.

Tree House Restaurant & Cafe is literally a restaurant in a tree! It's a little touristy but has awesome ambiance. And if you are in the area you must go to Taco Taco, we ate there at least three times in the couple of days we were there.

There are many great restaurants in Puerto Viejo's town center, but if you are looking for a fun and more upscale meal try KOKi Beach Restaurant & Bar. The cocktail menu was great and the ambiance colorful and totally beach chic.

Other Things to Know

You will have to pay an exit tax of about $30 USD at the airport, have some cash ready so you aren't caught of guard. Public buses take longer than private shuttles but they are significantly cheaper and you get to see more of the country than you would with private transport. 

¡Pura Vida!

Amazing Beaches You'll Want To Add To Your Bucket List

If you Google 'world's most beautiful beaches' you are sure to find listicles naming pristine places in Greece, the Carribean Islands, the Phillipines and definitely Hawaii. But in addition to those dreamy destinations I want to share 5 beaches I absolutely adore. And once you see these photos I am sure you'll be adding them to your bucket list too!

In no particular order here they are...

Coastal Catalonia 

c8e71-img_8882.jpg
6c6b8-img_8842.jpg
e9638-img_8843.jpg
f006d-img_8841.jpg

Coastal Catalonia is the southeastern most area of Spain on the Mediterranean Sea. Well known for being home to the beautiful city of Barcelona, this area is all home to many stunning beach towns with even more impressive beaches than those of Barceloneta Beach (pictured above).

Costa Rica

276a9-img_8867.jpg
96da3-img_8853.jpg
599a5-img_8854.jpg
d0b6a-img_8855.jpg
ab6c6-img_8852.jpg

Costa Rica has some of the most diverse beaches, especially considering it is a small country. It is located on the Central American isthmus that connects North and South America. This geography gives it warm Caribbean waters (and vibes) to the east and cooler Pacific waters to the west.

Cote d'Azur 

2e691-img_8848.jpg
c8441-img_8869.jpg
f38e3-img_8849.jpg
6ecb8-img_8850.jpg
93fc9-img_8851.jpg

The French Rivera, or Cote d'Azur, is known for is pebbly beaches and oh so relaxed French-ness. The Riviera spans the southern coast of France so there are many beach towns from Marseille to Nice (pictures above) from which to choose.

Italian Riviera

cfa90-img_8861.jpg
951d1-img_8862.jpg
3435d-img_8864.jpg
49d2b-img_8866.jpg
bdd83-img_8856.jpg
d52c6-img_8865.jpg

A bit further south of the French Riviera you will find the Italian Riviera. Rocky like it's French counterpart, it is home to Cinque Terre and many cliffside villages. At the base of the mountains are exquisite waters perfect for sunning beside and dipping in after an incredible Italian seafood pasta.

Riviera Maya

5eb39-img_8873.jpg
9ec78-img_8871.jpg
425ce-img_8879.jpg
18c3c-img_8880.jpg
b42b1-img_8874.jpg

And the so called Mexican Riviera (aka Riviera Maya)... *swoon*. Last year I fell in love with the beaches (and everything else) in Tulum and nearby Coba. These beaches are unspoiled, and if you are traveling from the US like myself, easy to get to. I mean just look at these waters! Who doesn't want to be there right this moment!?!

So there you have it, 5 bucket list worthy beach destinations! Which beaches would you add to this list? Share them in the comments below!

Overcoming My Fears in Paradise

I have a fear of heights and this acrophobia comes up pretty often while I am travelling and this trip was no exception. While in Mexico my partner and I visited some of the beautiful Mayan ruins and Yucatan cenotes which challenged my fear and proved to me once again that I am more courageous and capable than I realize.

f730b-img_6270.jpg
84525-img_6275.jpg
89bf1-img_6274.jpg
7f25d-img_6276.jpg
35897-img_6271.jpg
788f0-img_6620.jpg
37aa0-img.jpg
c7c76-img.jpg

I had my first minor scare when visiting the ruins in Tulum. This beautiful place is the only coastal ruins site in the Yucatan and sit atop cliffs overlooking the sparkling Caribbean Ocean. Hiking the ruins were not a big deal until we came to climbing down the steep wooden steps to reach the beach below. I held the rail and scaled the steps slowly, fortunately escaping the scalding sun outweighed my slight hesitation and before I knew it I was in the water.

376bc-img_6277.jpg
e8220-img_6280.jpg
cd11f-img_6278.jpg
6dc71-img_6619.jpg
cd1c3-img_6304.jpg
4dfef-img.jpg
5989a-img.jpg

A couple of days after our visit to the ruins we boarded a bus to Coba, a small town south of Tulum with ruins we heard we could climb. The Coba ruins were very different from Tulum's; they were shaded by forest canopy with structures intact enough to easily identify (like recreational ball courts!). It was here that we climbed the Ixmoja pyramid. I didn't expect these ruins to be as high or steep as they were but I really wanted to see the view from the top. The climb up and down were far more difficult than the steps in Tulum (that I had since forgotten), and as soon as I made it to the top I found a safe place to tuck myself away. But I have to say, standing above the all the trees was an incredible sight.

Looking back now I see each adventure in Tulum was a ramp up our to our afternoon at the Coba cenotes. My honey and I decided hire a cab driver to take us to two: Choo-Ha and Tamcach-Ha. Choo-Ha is a relatively shallow underground swimming pool-like cenote while Tamcach-Ha is 30 feet below grade with an additional 40 foot water depth.

82c69-img_6319.jpg
5f7c3-img_6315.jpg
80f61-img_6317.jpg
df8c6-img_6316.jpg
1c9b9-img.jpg
36d22-img.jpg

After a quiet swim in Choo-Ha we headed over to the far more "exciting" Tamcach-Ha. I began down the long, wooden spiral staircase but halfway down I panicked. The drop seemed far too high and a very shaky and frantic version of myself rushed back topside with my partner not far behind. After many minutes, the two of us in our bathing suits negotiated my way back down the stairs in an embarrassingly slow fashion.

A tour group was already diving from the 10 and 20 foot high diving boards. While I composed myself on the large platform at the water's surface my boyfriend went for a swim. I watched the old, the young and everyone in between jump from the 10 foot board, I even watched many (including my brave man) jump from the 20 footer. After nearly a half hour of just watching I began feeling some serious FOMO. Maybe it was the scared 10-year old that took the plunge or watching my boyfriend go up and down several times, but I realized that I wanted to be the type of person who could make that jump. I didn't want to go homing knowing I didn't do something I had the chance to try. And I didn't want to be ruled by an irrational fear. I wanted to make that jump, or at least try to. So I climbed up those scary stairs, stood 10 feet above the water (it seemed higher by the way!) and after a few minutes looking down at the water, deliberating my sanity, I jumped!

I JUMPED!

And it was terrifying, and a little painful, but I did it and it was INCREDIBLE. 

This little experience was big for me. I learned more about the woman and partner I want to be. I want to make memories a push myself outside of my comfort zone. It's that little step that did just that for me.

Tulum's Best Beach Clubs

Tulum has some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and while the beaches alone are enough for a dream vacation the abundance beach clubs only make Tulum better! My sweetie and I bounced around a few clubs on our vacay and these are a few of our favorite places to lounge around cocktail in hand.

Zazil Kin

Zazil Kin beach club was our favorite spot in all of Tulum. Not only were the beaches the most pristine (I'm talking about you Playa Pescadores) but the club was the least pretentious and the people watching the most interesting! After accidentally stumbled on it our first morning in Mexico we came back 2 more times and chose to spend our last day there as well! 

70d19-img_6302.jpg
e7a8b-img_6303.jpg
4c97f-img_6421.jpg
c259b-img_6422.jpg
938ea-img_6301.jpg
f2400-img_6300.jpg

The club, like most beach clubs in Tulum, is an extension of the hotel. But unlike a lot of places most of the club business comes as "walk-ins" and they maintain a large section of beach beds specifically for those not staying at the hotel. Beds are rented for the day (around $5 USD) which includes one cocktail and lots of lovely palm tree shade. And I highly recommend making sure you are around for their 2 for 1 happy hour! I particularly loved the beach bar including the very Tulum-esque bar swings. The bar serves snacks and daily specials depending on what the local fisherman bring off their boats.

0b950-image.jpg
0a248-image.jpg

Om Tulum

Om was exactly what I imagined Tulum to be, hippy at heart with a little bit of polish. The restaurant/bar has a fantastic terrace that overlooks the beach and while we were there they had the best caribbean tunes playing that we came back with an entirely new shazamed playlist!

49873-img_6246.jpg
76eb3-img_6321.jpg
75afb-img_6245.jpg
0e591-img_6420.jpg
dfd95-img_6322.jpg
5e352-img_6419.jpg
d52ca-image.jpg
83eab-image.jpg

Coco Tulum

Ahhhh Coco Tulum... what can I say that the pictures don't already!? Coco ranked the chicest of all the places we visited in Tulum. The all white everything somehow popped against the white sand and all the details made me go camera crazy.

058d1-img_6287.jpg
b2430-img_6286.jpg
b6e41-img_6289.jpg
49cc0-img_6292.jpg
6bc8e-img_6288.jpg
76fc0-img_6293.jpg
83ec1-img_6295.jpg
3d5e8-image.jpg
95001-image.jpg

Tulum has so many incredible spots packed with personality, these are just a few clubs I know for a fact I will return to again and again!

Where to Eat in Tulum

Tulum House Tour

My partner and I have had many excellent airbnb experiences and a few so-so ones over the past few years. Our most recent place in Tulum shot right to the top of the excellent list, and since it was so great I just have to share!

fc08c-img.jpg
Front entrance located on a no-outlet drive
Front entrance located on a no-outlet drive
The entire property is perfectly landscaped
The entire property is perfectly landscaped

Without being very familiar with Tulum we booked the Greenhouse, one of six condo style apartments in a residential area of the pueblo. It was the modern aesthetic, great reviews and infinity pool that really won us over. 

7d1a3-image.jpg

We arrived late at night via shuttle from the Cancun airport. After a long immigration line and a one and a half hour drive we arrived to no running water! Uh oh! But actually our host was super responsive and quick to fix the issue and by the time we had unpacked and connected to wifi. 

64c9b-image.jpg
Bike parking and more common space
Bike parking and more common space
Private back terrace & a peak of the shower
Private back terrace & a peak of the shower

The next morning we were able to see the Greenhouse in all its glory. The airbnb included 2 bikes per unit, an awesome "indoor-outdoor" shower, and a private patio area where I wish I could take coffee every morning! But the best part of the whole experience was the pool [insert emoji heart eyes]which I wish I could have spent even more time in!

496da-image.jpg
3070b-img.jpg
35d00-img.jpg
29928-image.jpg

Logistically the Greenhouse was a about a 5 minute (or 40 peso) taxi ride to the town center and 10+ minutes to the beaches (100-120 peso taxi ride). The overall experience the airbnb was overwhelmingly positive. Despite minor bumps such as the water and electricity briefly going out here and there, and more bugs than we are used to (it is the jungle after all!) the hospitality and value were excellent. There was a day time maid service who stayed at the house during the day and we felt safe staying there. All in all such a great stay and so happy we took the chance and booked!

Travel Photography - How I Shoot

I love photography and ever since I started embracing a more minimal lifestyle I depend on my travel photos as souvenirs. Both my partner and I aren't big fans of bringing things back for ourselves or friends and family from trips (for a few reasons that I will get into in another post sometime soon!). Since photos will pretty much be the only tangible memory of my travels I take a lot of them and I put quite a bit of care into editing and storing them. Today I want to focus on my shooting "technique" if you can even call it that 😅! These are a few things I noticed about how I take my travel photos.

1. Look with the eyes first

Although I am all about getting a great picture and documenting every moment of a trip I try to make sure I am actually experiencing each moment. If the camera has been to my eye for too long or I get sucked into reviewing pictures while still on vacation that means I am not being present and I need to step back for the camera for a while. And if I don't catch myself, my partner has gotten really good at doing it for me. I'm all about creating real memories first, pictures second.

a6ebc-image.jpg

2. Content

Now that I am enjoying my vacation there are a few things I like to have pictures of:

Landscapes

Part of the thrill of visiting new lands is a change of scenery. That's why I end of taking soo many pictures like the one below documenting all of the foreign beauty I see.

afed6-image.jpg

Architecture

I love architecture and design. Part of what gives a destination charm are the buildings it has. Thats why I inevitable come home with a gigabyte of pictures like these...

a3fd7-image.jpg
868ce-image.jpg

Food & Objects

I may be basic but I love taking pictures of my food. Food evokes some of the strongest memories because it takes you back to place using almost all of your senses. I love having pictures of delicious meals like these amazing traditional tacos I had in Coba below. Similarly I take picture of interesting objects I wouldn't find at home.

69692-image.jpg

Candid Portraits

Some of my favorite portraits are those taken when your subject is caught off guard. Candids have the power of recreating a moment and taking you back in time.

39b6d-image.jpg

3. Style

Most photographers have a definitive style that makes their work recognizable. Although I certainly haven't developed a real style (yet at least!) I do have a few specific ways I really enjoy shooting right now. 

Flat, straight on

The flat shot is one of my favorite photos to take. I usually have a specific subject in mind  (below my subjects are those gorgeous cacti) and shoot in such a way so that my camera lens is parallel to a wall (or floor) behind what I am shooting.

d1c71-img_5713.jpg

Up close & minimal detailS

Sometimes you just need to get a little closer. Photos like those below highlight one item in detail with very little context. I take photos like this when shooting food, little objects or when I have taken a few wide photos of a place and want to capture more of its unique details.

4b2b1-image.jpg
58605-image.jpg

Wide & contextUAL

Other times it helps to take a step back. An wide photo has the potential to capture and entire setting including tons of information (and beauty!).

86b89-image.jpg

4. EQUIPMENT

I honestly don't think equipment really matters that much. I have taken pictures with the front facing camera on an iPad before (I implore you not to do this) and although not the best quality I have photos form my trip to Paris I still hold dear! When traveling I alternate between my iPhone and my Sony mirrorless camera - on my last trip I had the 5s with which I took all of my instagram photos. Both of these devices are easy to operate, lightweight and produce very high quality images.

3d2bf-image.jpg

I hope this little how to helps you take more photos you can cherish forever. Look out for part 2 on how I edit my pics coming soon!

See Part 2 on how I edit photos here

Tulum in Pictures

My honey and I just returned from a wonderful week-long trip to Mexico. Neither of us had ever been before so we thought we would make our first trip to the beautiful city of Tulum located on the caribbean side of the Yucatán Peninsula. Here is a first look at and some of my favorite snapshots of this gorgeous locale!

5b44e-img.jpg
89ef4-img.jpg
42c14-img.jpg
dbc2a-img.jpg
fc86f-img.jpg
129fd-img.jpg
21ab6-img.jpg
e0ec9-img.jpg
5e184-img.jpg
7dab5-img.jpg
96631-img.jpg
5b109-img.jpg
e126c-img.jpg
40561-img.jpg
f5a7c-img.jpg
5b36b-img.jpg
35741-img.jpg
5fab3-img.jpg
f80a5-img.jpg
b526a-img.jpg
7fd44-img.jpg
c6048-img.jpg
41ff2-img.jpg
7cd99-img.jpg

Hasta luego from me and my photogenic cat friend!

For more photos from the trip check out my instagram and #seesoomuchMexico