Costa Rica: Tamarindo

After over a week of adventures, we were ready for the warm city of Tamarindo on the West coast of Costa Rica! We spent Christmas Day driving to the beach town. It took us about 4 hours to get there…fortunately we were in a private bus transfer with WiFi. Once we checked into our Airbnb we spent the afternoon walking around and exploring the city. We walked along the beach and enjoyed some street-side acai bowls.

We then ran into someone who suggested we go to Dragonfly Bar & Grill for our Christmas dinner. So after happy hour at our house we were off to dinner. The flavor of the food was amazing with a great vibe. We had the best time that evening!

We immediately knew that the food in Tamardino was going to be the best compared to the rest of our trip! We decided that we were going to try as many places as we could. The city is extremely tourist driven, and there are a lot of cuisines owned by people who migrated to Costa Rica after leaving their respective countries. The next morning we went to a place called Breaking Bread. We had an amazing breakfast with fresh bread, the owner comes in at 4 am and bakes every morning.

We spent the rest of the day at a pool club day drinking at Langosta Beach Club. We enjoyed the whole day in the pool with drinks and a beach view!

We were having such a wonderful time while at the Beach Club, we decided to stick around longer and order food poolside. We actually had decent sushi and seafood for lunch that afternoon.

Most of our late afternoon and evening was spent resting and relaxing at our house. There were still so many different places we wanted to eat, but ultimately we ended up at La Baula for some brick-oven pizza.

After pizza, we went to a bar under our airbnb called Sharky’s to watch the Bulls game. That next day was our last in Costa Rica so we wanted to make the most of it. First, we grabbed breakfast across the street at Cafe Tico. Then we decided to relax at the house pool, just to get a little bit more water fun before our trip was over.

After our time in the pool, we went to Falafel Bar for lunch. The food was amazing, and the homemade sauce was so good we brought some back to Chicago! After lunch we went to Sol for frozen yogurt.

Then we were off to the beach after ice cream for our final sunset in Costa Rica! This was bitter sweet because it was our last night and we missed our home and our puppy!

The boys wanted to do their own thing that night, so my cousin and I went to Bamboo Sushi Club for dinner.

The next morning we got acai bowls from the same spot as the first day, and then we were off to the airport. We had Priority Pass, so we just hung out in the lounge until it time for our flight. Costa Rica was a wonderful time with wonderful company. Truly a trip to remember, but I don’t know if we would ever go to Costa Rica again since it’s so far. I’m glad we did a 12 day trip, so we could see everything we wanted in this beautiful country.

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Costa Rica: Monteverde

Our transfer from La Fortuna to Monteverde was “jeep-boat-jeep”. OH BOY were we in for a treat. Little did we know this was going to be the biggest, most unforgettable adventure of our lives. We got on a bus which was going to bring us to our boat, which kept driving along the coast with no dock in site. News for us…there was no dock, the boat was just pulled up on shore and they threw our luggage on for us and we were on our way across Lake Arenal. The view of the volcano as we drifted away was absolutely breathtaking. We thought we were in a Jurassic Park movie in that moment.

As time passed the water was getting a little choppy as a storm was rolling in. The sky got darker, the wind was picking up, and we were getting anxious because we wanted to get off the boat before the rain started. We slowly approached an inlet where there was a wooden stool AKA our dock! There was no one there to help us with our bag, so we had to lug our luggage up a gravel path to charter buses waiting for us. This is where the adventure actually began. The rain began, and we quickly realized that the gravel road the bus was parked on was going to be the road for the rest of the journey. This was probably the most terrifying ride of my life. We scaled the mountain edges in a charter bus, and often the tire was inches away from the edge…hundreds of feet above the ground below. I think my heart rate was 180+ BPM the whole time. Finally we were about an hour away from our drop off point when we got Costa Rican coffee at sunset.

We got to our drop off point pretty late and our airbnb host drove us up the the highest peak of the area where our rental was located, in Rainbow Valley. It was so dark and windy up there we had no idea where we were until we woke up the next morning and saw the breathtaking views.

The first thing we had planned that morning was a coffee tour at Don Juan. Who knew that coffee beans came from what looks like a red berry that grows on a bush! We learned so much on the tour, not only about coffee, but also chocolate and sugar cane.

After the tour we decided to go to lunch in town. We picked a local spot called Sabor Tico, with more authentic Costa Rican food. The food was very good.

We got back to our airbnb just in time to enjoy our first sunset at the house and it was beautiful. Pictures don’t even justify how amazing the sunsets and sunrises were.

After the sunset we went to Ristorante D’ Thomas to have a nice Italian dinner. Monteverde, as well as the rest of Costa Rica was very tourist driven. Their whole economy basically runs on tourists, so they had a lot of different restaurants. Everything from Italian to sushi places.

The next morning we were off to Selvatura Adventure Park to hike some hanging bridges. It was beautiful, another instance where pictures didn’t do justice.

After a long morning of hiking we were off to a cute brunch stop called Orchid Coffee Shop. Turns out, there was one in La Fortuna and we didn’t even know.

Later that night we went on a night hike to see the creatures that come out at night. We saw a sloth and a poisonous viper among other creatures that are nocturnal. We definitely went out of our comfort zones that night.

After our night walk we decided to try a taco place that we had passed earlier that night. It was called Taco Taco Taqueria. We spent the evening enjoying some Mexican food, which was pretty good. They even had beer flights with a surprisingly extensive beer list.

The next morning we were just going to go explore, with no real plans in mind. We first stopped for breakfast at the lodge down the road from out rental. The lodge owner told us to check out Sky Adventures Monteverde Park, where we could see more hanging bridges and take a gondola ride up into the mountains above the clouds. It was an excellent recommendation!

Afterwards we had definitely worked up an appetite and we were off to a restaurant called World Street Food. Sounds better then it was. Their fryer was unfortunately broken and they couldn’t make a number of things on the menu. Their service was also slow. Later that night we enjoyed our LAST sunset in Monteverde over a bottle of wine and had dinner at Sabor Tico again since it was one of our favorite food spots in Monteverde. It was a perfect Christmas Eve!

Our final morning we were able to see a breathtaking rainbow with the moon as we walked down to the lodge to wait for our transportation to our next stop: Tamarindo!

🖤

Costa Rica: La Fortuna

We went to Costa Rica with my cousin and brother-in-law this December and it was definitely a trip to remember! I am going to split my post into 3 entries since we went to 3 different areas of Costa Rica. We landed in Liberia, Costa Rica after a long day of travel that started at 4am in Chicago, along with a layover in Texas. After a long customs line, we were greeted by our driver and some Imperial Beer (the local beer we drank the entire time we were in Costa Rica). We then began our 3+ hour journey to La Fortuna and our resort, Tabacon Thermal Resorts & Spa.

Our first stop on the drive about an hour away from our resort was a COFFEE STOP! We stopped at Cafe & Macadamia. Our first of many Costa Rican coffees – pura vida! (a common local saying that means “pure life”).

The sun set, and we were still about an hour away from the hotel. We were so thankful we decided to hire a driver at this point. All the roads in Costa Rica pretty much look the same and there were no street signs anywhere, but the drivers just knew where to go.

Our hotel was beautiful, absolutely breathtaking. On a clear day, we were able to see the Arenal Volcano from the hot springs. The naturally created thermal baths were very relaxing and warm! We would venture out in our hotel robes to enjoy the natural hot springs everyday.

We spent every morning drinking Costa Rican coffee and eating fresh fruit with a beautiful view. For lunch that day, we ventured out to a local place called Red Frog Coffee Roaster. It was one of our favorite places on the whole trip.

We were able to explore the town that afternoon and check out a bar and local pizza spot for dinner. Costa Rica was very big on pizza, but I think they were just catering to tourists.

The next morning, we were off to repel off waterfalls. We took a bus ride to the pick up point where a jeep picked us up and took us to the start point of the excursion. Little did we know, we were doing more than repelling. We were cannonballing into water, walking through rivers waist deep and zip-lining! It was too late to turn around, we were all in! The experience was unforgettable.

We also got an authentic home cooked Costa Rican meal after the excursion, which was well deserved. We were hungry after all that repelling! That evening, we went to a nice dinner at Don Rufino.

The next day, we decided to go on a sloth tour. We were able to see 4 sloths during our tour!

Later that afternoon we had spa dates at the hotel. Probably one of the most relaxing experiences I have ever had!

Our last evening was spent going to a chicken place called Pollo Fortuneno, a rotisserie chicken restaurant popular with locals. Then we ended the night eating gelato.

Our last morning in Arenal was spent exclusively at the beautiful resort. We woke up, and had our usual breakfast and walked around the resort. We then spent a few hours at the pool before we had to check out of the rooms and wait for our transport.

Next stop: Monteverde! We really enjoyed our time in La Fortuna, but we were ready for the next part of our trip!

🖤

The Happiest Place on Earth: Where Dreams Come True

After coming back from Mexico, I was  itching to plan another trip to a warm destination to escape the Chicago winter. What better place then the sunshine state: Florida! We got into Orlando pretty late the first night, so unfortunately we didn’t do much except pick up our Chrysler Sebring convertible and check into our hotel: Meliá Orlando Suite Hotel at Celebration. Our first day in Orlando, we decided to go to Epcot, and do an around the world food and drink tour. We had an amazing day, to say the least. The weather was great, we got to try food from all around the world, and we had our fair share of drinks! That weekend also happened to be the International Flower & Garden Festival so we were able to see beautiful floral sculptures all throughout the park.

After our food/drink crawl around the world, we decided to jump on the monorail and go to Magic Kingdom. Unbeknownst to us, our tickets didn’t allow us access to that park, but we found out it is only $5 per person to upgrade our tickets. At the end, we didn’t even end up paying, because their card reader wasn’t working. We got to spend the evening at Magic Kingdom for the sunset. Unfortunately, we left right before the parade because there was a storm coming in that evening.

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After walking over 7 miles, our day finally came to an end. We spent the evening at our hotel and had dinner at 360 Bistro Bar. Their menu is inspired by American family meals, and they have an amazing brick oven pizza!!

The next morning we were off to Universal Studios. One piece of advice: BUY THE UNIVERSAL EXPRESS PASS! We bought the pass from the beginning, and it was well worth it. Without the pass we would have probably done 30% of what we did. The highlight of the morning was going to Springfield USA (aka Simpsons World), drinking Duff Beer at Moe’s and eating a Krusty Burger.

Our next stop was: THE WIZARDING WORLD OF HARRY POTTER! We had to take the train to get to another part of the park. Waiting in line to get on the train was well worth it…unfortunately, the express pass doesn’t work here. After we went on a few rides, we went to Jurassic Park, which was a water ride, and got soaked! Our last ride of the night was the HULK roller coaster, while we were in line for the ride, the ride broke down, and exactly when we decided to leave, it opened back up again. We essentially stood in line twice for the ride but it was worth it: especially to take the ride in the dark!

After another day of walking over 7 miles, we were ready for bed! The next day we spent visiting some family friends and grabbing lunch at Chuy’s. The rest of the afternoon was joy riding in the convertible, and exploring downtown Orlando. We even had time to relax and squeeze in a movie: I Feel Pretty. When we got back to our hotel, we relaxed at our hotel pool.

Our flight was not until later that evening, so we woke up that morning and had brunch at Holler & Dash, a Southern biscuit house.

After brunch, we went to the Orlando Outlet Mall for a few hours to kill some time. Our last and final stop after shopping was J-Petal, for a late afternoon snack and bubble tea. We ordered a savory Japanese Crepe, and the marinated beef on it was absolutely amazing! The bubble tea also came in a light bulb bottle that you can keep.

By this point, we were exhausted. We decided to return the car early and spend the evening at an airport lounge before our flight home. We got back to Chicago late and ended the night with some late night food at Devil Dawgs!

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Cancun for Some Vitamin Sea

A week trip to Mexico in the dead of winter was the perfect getaway. The highlight of our trip was probably the amazing food at our resort. I have gone to all inclusive resorts in the past, and the food never ever came close to the quality and presentation we saw.

Our last night in Mexico we decided to go out in downtown and visit Coco Bongo and Señor Frog. That night was quite the adventure! Transportation was not provided in the package, and we were told to avoid Ubers while in Mexico. We decided to take the city bus to and from the clubs since we were assured by the hotel that it was absolutely safe. Fortunately we had data on our cell phones so we knew when to get off the bus. Sure enough it was a great night. I made the most of it even though I wasn’t feeling well.

The weather can be hit or miss in January, so we had some beautiful days while others weren’t as warm as we wanted. Nothing beats a long walk on the beach on a sunny day with a fruity cold cocktail.

I look forward to our next tropical getaway!

🖤