Returning to Tamarindo, Costa Rica

After our couple days in Samara, we headed back to Tamarindo for a week. If you’ve been following the blog, you may think to yourself…Tamarindo? Haven’t these guys been there a zillion times?

Well technically three times now, but yes, we do keep coming back.

During the crazyness of travel, life can seem pretty chaotic. We often find ourselves longing for a place that feels like home. We’ve come to realize, that for us, Tamarindo is that place.

For those of you who know us, know Tamarindo or know both, this may come as a surprise. Tamarindo is a very busy little town, full of people, and full of party. Not necessarily a place that fits our relaxed “in bed by 8pm” approach to travel. In fact, if someone were to ask me where I would recommend they go during their trip to Costa Rica, Tamarindo would be much further down the list then some of the other places we’ve visited.

But we have a soft spot for Tamarindo, and the longer we are in the country, the larger it grows.In previous trips to Costa Rica, we’ve always stayed in Tamarindo, and have been able to see the town develop over the past 6 years (since our first visit). Tamarindo is the first place we stayed when we landed back back in November, and it is going to be the last place we stay before getting on the plane in April.

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We are comfortable with the town, we know where the deals are, we know which restaurants we like, heck we even have a cat that we pretend is our own! We have come to know several people in the town, and any time we visit we take a moment to pop in to say hello.

Familiarity, comfort, friends, these are all things that you miss when travelling. When you find a place that gives you a little taste of those feelings, it is always going to keep you coming back.

So, at this point in our adventure, we found ourselves back at Villas Macondo for a week. Laying by the pool, visiting with Bearly Bear, and enjoying our time to regroup before our big trek up to Nicaragua.

How do you find ways to feel “at home” while travelling?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

The Natural Centre in Playa Samara, Costa Rica

After our five days of rest and relaxation in Nosara we made a quick pit stop in Playa Samara.The main reason we were stopping by was so I could get some material for writing an article  for MyCostaRica about learning to surf with Samara Adventure Company.

Yes my friends, that meant that yours truly had to take a surfing lesson. You’ll have to stay tuned to a future post to see how it went, although if you follow the Facebook page, you may already know!

P1020728When I wasn’t learning to hang ten like a pro, I did manage to do a little exploring. In amongst the touristy souvenir shops, and tour companies I stumbled across the Samara Natural Centre. Intrigued? So was I!

Located in the heart of Playa Samara, the Natural Centre is a hub for all your healthy lifestyle needs. Here you will find a juice bar, falafel stand, gym and most importantly, a giant health food store (more on that in a second)

The Farmers Market

The Farmers Market

I was extra lucky to have the opportunity to stop by on a Friday afternoon, when the local Farmer’s market was going. There vendors were selling baked goods, vegetables, jams, jelly’s, cheeses and other delectable treats. Many of the items being sold were advertised as organic, gluten free or vegan. A bonus for anyone who is trying to track down these hard to find products.

The vibe at the market was great. It was apparent that this was a gathering place for families and friends to come and pick up all sorts of goodies for the weekend. I had brought my sketch pad and planned to do some drawing while I visited, but found myself more interested in watching the wonderful atmosphere unfolding around me.

So much selection!

So much selection!

Now for the health food store. Samara Organics is by far the epicentre of the Natural Centre. It has the biggest and most diverse selection of health food that I’ve seen throughout my travels in Costa Rica. Along with their wide variety of natural products and produce, they are also set up as a cafe. Visitors can enjoy a full coffee menu, juices, smoothies plus a small menu of salads and snacks. During my visit I had a Cappuccino (no surprise), and was delighted when they offered me the option of almond or soy milk. It was just like being back home! Because the farmers market was going on, the cafe was very busy. Despite being run off his feet, the Barista kept a smile on his face, and made the experience extra special.

If you are in Samara, checking out the Natural Centre is a must.You will find products that you can’t get anywhere else, and be sure to stop in for a treat at Samara Organics.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Backpacker turned Hairstylist- Cutting my own hair while travelling

After 3.5 months, I came to the point where I could no longer stand the greasy strands, sandy scalp and all around unruly mop I have been sporting on top of my head.

A couple of weeks ago it all came to a head (get it..a head…no pun intended…actually no that is a lie…I thought of that pun way before I even started writing this post)

Anyways, we were back staying in Villas Macondo in Tamarindo, and I knew they had a hair dryer. This meant, for the first time, in a long time, I could check out the status of my bangs and give them a trim.

Now why on earth would I need to trim my bangs when they haven’t seen the light of day for months AND will likely not be seen again for the remainder of the trip?

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See what I’m sayin!

Sanity, pure sanity. As much as I have adopted the free-spirited, makeup-less, “when did I last shave my legs” backpacker lifestyle, every once and a while I still need to feel fancy.

Now, the thought of a selfie bang trim strikes fear into my heart. I have flashbacks of sitting on the side of the sink as a child as my mom cut my bangs mid-forhead, using a piece of scotch tape as a guide. Seriously, I’m cringing just thinking about it

Luckily for me, I had come prepared for this day. Prior to leaving, I had a little one on one time with Chris Lawry at Lavish Salon in Victoria Between creating a magical sun kissed hue and cutting my hair in a way that would make it grow out nicely, he taught me how to trim my bangs.

(side note: If you are in Victoria and need a stylist, stop reading, and call them. Your hair will thank you).

So here is a little step by step approach of how things went down for my selfie bang trim.

P1020868Step 1- Be Afraid: First, take your hair out of its messy bun for the first time in a week. Look in the mirror and marvel at how sunscreen, sweat, sand, and saltwater makes for some pretty intense natural volume.

Step 2- Conditioner is your Friend: Next, try and brush your hair, realize its impossible, and opt to jump into the shower. Use the ole “mitt-ful of conditioner approach” to get rid of the knots. Keep in mind, this approach only works when you know your bestfriend is coming for a visit the following week who has promised to bring you a conditioner refill.

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Step 3- Brush that Shizz: Shower complete, now brush your hair. Be disgusted with yourself for the amount of hair that is coming off your head. As you clean out your brush, and end up with enough hair to make coat for a small rabbit, vow to yourself to remember to brush your hair more frequently. Immediately forget about the vow until you are writing a blog post about it several weeks later.

P1020875Step 4- Access the damage: Try and remember which way you parted your hair, back when you cared about things like hair parts. Comb your bangs forward to see just how impressive your hair growth as been.

Now spend several minuted trying to take the perfect long bang selfie. Opt for a side mouth smile.

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Step 5- Moment of Truth: Ask your husband to take a picture of you trimming your bangs. Try not to cut yourself as he directs you where to put your arm so he can see your face. Ultimatly decide to pose for a photo and then actually do the deed without distraction.

Pull your bangs into middle of your forehead and trim slowly with the scissors pointed upward. Start with small cuts, and let go of your bangs every once and a while to access your progress.

P1020884Step 6-Be Shocked: Stare at yourself in the mirror and think “wow, I think I actually nailed this”. Decide that your new found fancyness warrants leaving the unflattering orange glow of the bathroom and heading out into better lighting. Take your last selfie.

Then be so exhausted with the whole process, opt not to blow dry the rest of your hair, and then just put it up in a bun for the night.

It was good while it lasted!

Honestly, I was totally prepared to butcher my fringe and rock a French braid for the rest of the trip, but Chris’ instructions made the whole process go super smoothly.Check him out if you are in the Victoria area!

If you are heading out for some big travelling adventures, but want the option to keep up some style, I would highly suggest a pre-trip visit to your stylist to pick up some tips.

Have you ever cut your own hair? How did it go?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Casa Rebecca, Nosara, Costa Rica

After our busy travel time inland, our accommodation in Nosara provided us the perfect backdrop for a little rest and relaxation.

P1020703Nestled in the south end of Playa Guiones, Casa Rebecca is a boutique hotel/hostel. They offer shared rooms in the main house, but also a few private rooms near the pool. They are about an 8-10 minute walk from the main surf break, and a few minutes away from the famous Nosara Yoga Institute.

Our room was large, had an ensuite bathroom and was about three steps to the pool. Not to shabby if you ask me.

The main house of Casa Rebecca iP1020704s both unique and gorgeous. The furniture has almost a Mediterranean vibe to it, white walls, wicker and gorgeous artwork.There are several couches and sitting areas that offer the perfect space to read, practice yoga, or just relax.

P1020706The best part of the main house though was the kitchen. The house was obviously run as a B&B at some point, as it is fully stocked with everything you could possibly need to make delicious meals. After dealing with some very poorly equipped, cramped, unfortunate kitchens in our past, we were delighted with what we had available. In fact, Shaun and I ate in every night during our five days here.

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The kitchen is attached to a communal dinning area, and living room, as well as a few of the dorm rooms. After being fairly secluded in our last couple hostels, it was nice to have a common space to meet and chat with people. Plus, one of the guests shared a pineapple upside down cake she had just baked, so seriously, what’s not to love.

Our room tucked in the back!

Our room tucked in the back!

I made our reservation through their website, and the owners were awesome in helping us find a room that fit both our budget and needs. At the time of our visit the owners weren’t on site, and the property was being cared for by two young Costa Rican girls. They were very sweet, and Shaun and I managed to wrestle our way through the language barrier during the check in and check out process. Other then that, we were pretty much on our own, which we didn’t mind at all.

As I was Googling Casa Rebecca, it looks like it is actually for sale. So if anyone is interested in a fabulous place with some serious B&B potential, you should buy it…and let me stay for free for making the referral of course!

If you want to read about any of the other places we’ve stayed in Costa Rica, check out our Hostel Review Page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Travel Workouts Week 12/13- Around the World Running Blog Relay

Sometimes you just need a good kick in the pants to get you through the home stretch.

With 7 weeks to go on this adventure, I find my motivation to work out dwindling a little. There are things to see, pool time to be had, and frankly, most mornings I would rather sleep in then get up and rock a workout.

That is, until I happened upon the Around the world Running Blog Relay 2014 over at Kyla’s Motivation blog

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Kyla, aka Drill Sargent Beattie, lives in my hometown of Victoria, B.C. I actually discovered her blog before I left Canada after reading a post of hers about a local obstacle race. It turned out that not only had we completed the same event, but we were in the same heat, and likely raced right next to each other. We didn’t even realize it until finding each other online. I love blogging for that kind of stuff!

Anyways, as of March 2nd, Kyla launched the Around the World Running Blog Relay. As it stands, 38 bloggers from all over the world have signed up to run as much as they can from March 2nd until April 30th. The goal is to see how far across the world we can make it!

My friend Shannon over at The Birthday Dinner, convinced me to sign up for a Half Marathon, 3 weeks after I get back. Unless I want her to have to drag me across the finish line, I know I’m going to have to stay the course.

Kyla’s blogging relay is exactly the motivation I need to keep up my mileage up for the remainder of the trip. So thanks Kyla, this is such a great thing to do, and I’m so excited to be a part of it.

For those of you who are wondering, I have pledged 100km and as of this morning I have 94km to go.

Better get running!

What motivates you to workout? Competition, goal setting, friends?

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Favourite Places in Nosara, Costa Rica Part 1

Writing our favourite places post for Nosara is super hard for two reasons. First, we are staying in this small little town for almost a month. Second, it is full of so many awesome little places I want to write about.

So, as with many of my posts that I feel the need to blab on about, I’ll break this up into two posts, or maybe even more!

Regardless, you have to start somewhere, so here are our first couple favourite places in Nosara!

P1020717Baglemans: This little coffee shop first caught my eye during my morning run. Well, I guess it didn’t really catch my eye so much as it caught my nose! The deadly delicious smell of baked goods wafted across my path and left me salivating mid-run. As much as I wanted to pop in for an immediate carb load, I managed to restrain myself until later that afternoon.

Score!!

Score!!

Shaun and I stopped in for a coffee and a treat. My Cappuccino was fabulous, warm and rich. Plus they had an awesome deal on where Shaun could get a warm cinnamon bun pretty much for free with my purchase. Budget friendly sweet treats? We are in!

We sat outside enjoying our purchases, vowing we would be back. We came back a couple days later, and although that specific deal wasn’t on at that time, we still managed to enjoy our indulgences.

Bagleman’s has tons of great lunch combos, as well as a full coffee menu. It’s got a relaxed vibe, free wifi, and an aroma that is to die for. It wasn’t until later that I actually discovered that this place is considered a “fast-food” chain in Costa Rica. I haven’t seen one anywhere else on our travels, which is probably a good thing, since I would likely have to stop in every time!

P1020720Robins Ice Cream: I had read great things about robin’s on Trip Advisor, so I knew I would be checking it out. All I needed to hear was that there was gelato, and I was sold. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but their menu is huge and extremely unique for Costa Rica. They offer tons of organic and gluten free breakfast, lunch and early dinner options. The day I was there their special was a vegan sushi roll which looked amazing.

Shaun is making some big  decisions there in the background!

Shaun is making some big decisions there in the background!

Shaun and I popped in here twice during our stay. Both times for ice cream/sorbet. He had oatmeal chocolate chip, and coconut while I opted for a of vegan pineapple-ginger and tropical lime. We can officially vouch for all of those flavours. Don’t worry though, we are willing to continue our taste test when we get back. The things we do for the blog!

Oh, they also sell Pipa’s in their cooler! So if you are too lazy to nip down to the beach to track down a vendor, you can always stop here!

Health Food Store Bliss!

Health Food Store Bliss!

Organico: Health Food Store ALERT! Obviously from my Favourite Places posts from Mal Pais and Santa Teresa, I’m a big fan of health foods stores. Organico is awesome because its a full on grocery store and health food store in one. Often times, the health food stores I encounter have a really limited selection, as merchandise tends to be difficult to get here.

I felt like Organico had it all. Organic veggies, meats, quinoa, even ice cream. A huge perk of Organico is their bulk section. I haven’t seen bulk food anywhere in Costa Rica and hadn’t realized how much I’d missed it! I’m thinking I’ll be picking up for supplies for granola next time I’m there!

Organico also has a little cafe in the front of the store that sells healthy sandwiches, salads and juices. With so many amazing things to offer, there is no doubt in my mind that I will be frequenting this awesome business a lot during our travels back in Nosara.

So there you have it, another round up of our favourite places. If you enjoy the series, check out our other Favourite Places Posts.

As always, if you have any questions about these, or other areas, leave us a comment below, or message us on Twitter or our Facebook Page.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Today I Choose to be Thankful-An Exercise in Gratitude

If you’ve been following my posts, you may have read about my new focus.

Instead of looking outward towards all the things I want to do with my life, I’m starting by looking inward, and becoming who I want to be.

I’m starting the process by focusing on gratitude. I thought I would share a little bit about what I’ve learned so far, and some of the steps I’m taking to move forward. 

There will be no exciting Costa Rica adventures in this post, but I promise tomorrow we will be back to our regularly scheduled programs. So, if you are still game, lets dive in.

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Weird thought…but have you ever thought about what it would be like to have no hands?

Think about it, right now, you have no hands. Can you imagine what your life would be like?

Or what about feet? What would your life be like if you had no feet?

Hands, and feet. Things we take for granted every day, yet they make our lives so much easier.

Often life can seem overwhelming. Everything is so big. There are decisions to make and schedules to keep, and we lose sight of the little things.

Like the fact that we have hands, and feet.

This is where my journey begins, remembering to be thankful. Not just for the big things, but the little ones as well.

So, right at this very moment. Think to yourself, what are you grateful for? It can be big, or it can be small, but make it your very own.

Got it?

Now how does it make you feel?

Good right?

Now hold onto that feeling, and really let it wash over you. Hold onto that feeling for as long as possible. Feel good?

This is the exercise that I’ve been doing for the past week. Whenever I feel myself feeling unmotivated, negative, down, or just unfocused, I take a moment to think about what I’m thankful for in that very moment. Then I work on harnessing that energy and keeping it with me.

I share it with you because it is working wonders for me. The more I do this exercise, the easier it is, and the longer the feeling lasts.

So, in keeping with the exercise, at this very moment I am grateful for you. That’s right, you, right there, I know you are reading this!

Whether we’ve met in person, or simply through the blog, I am thankful for your presence. Being able to share my adventures, insights and learnings through this blog has been such an amazing part of my journey. The encouragement, light and love I’ve received from my readers is something that fills me with gratitude, and makes me smile.

So thank you all for being my current happy thought!

If you are interested in reading more about gratitude, check out Pathway to Happiness. This is the site I found the gratitude exercise on, as well as many other valuable teachings.

So now the big question…what are you grateful for?

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Exploring Nosara, Costa Rica

Just a heads up…this is a little taster post about Nosara. Looks like we will be spending at least a month exploring the area, so if this is somewhere that interests you…stay tuned!

I know it may seem like we were in Monteverde for weeks, but in fact, we were only there for 3 days. Our time there was so jam packed, and frankly, so cold, that we were ready to get back to the beach for some chill out time. So early one morning we boarded a shuttle to our next beachy destination, Nosara

Playa Guiones

Playa Guiones

Throughout our travels, we’ve met so many people who had recommended Nosara to us. It had been on our radar since before we even left Canada, and for whatever reason we had missed it in our previous travels through the Nicoya Pennisula.

Much like Mal Pais/Santa Teresa, Nosara is known to be a town of surfers and Yogis. There is a focus on healthy food, and healthy living. Totally up my alley. We read a sign in one restaurant that stated “No Shirt, No Shoes, Nosara.” I figure that pretty much sums up the vibe!

No shortage of these guys hanging around Nosara!

No shortage of these guys hanging around Nosara!

The town of Nosara is actually about 5 km inland, but most people refer to the nearby beaches as Nosara. The most popular beach, and the one we stayed at, is Playa Guiones. This is where the surfing is.

Like many beaches in Costa Rica, Nosara is turtle central, meaning the beach front is protected from development. I like the beaches like this because you can walk along the beach without the obstruction of condos, houses or restaurants ruining the view. The town is set back about 200m from the beach,and there is beach access set up pretty much everywhere. You certainly never have a hard time figuring out how to get to the beach!

one of the main strips in Playa Guiones.

one of the main strips in Playa Guiones.

I would describe the layout of Playa Guiones as a web of streets. I think we spent the first three days wandering around trying to get our barrings, and to be honest, I still think we missed several parts of the town. Most local businesses provide maps of the area, and if you are visiting I suggest you pick one up.

We stayed in Nosara for 5 days, but will be heading back there for three weeks at the end of our trip. The longest span of time we’ve ever spent in one place. Rest assured you will be hearing plenty about this funky little beach front community, as it is pretty apparent that we are big fans.

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour, Monteverde, Costa Rica- Part 2-CHOCOLATE

Hola, before you dive into the post for today, make sure you check out Part 1 of our tour of the Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour.

Chocolate TourSo after learning all about coffee, it was time for a little insight into the world of chocolate. It started with slicing open a cocoa pod. First off, lets just take a moment to appreciate how COOL these things look. I sort of assumed that chocolate game from little vanilla bean looking things (I’m not sure why). These are full on massive pods that are hard as rocks. I was impressed, and it wasn’t even opened yet.

not what I expected!

not what I expected!

So we cracked that baby open, and again, I was shocked. I thought there would be something that resembled a Hershey kiss inside (without the foil and paper though)

Instead we were met with these little guys. These white triangular seeds were slimy and had the slightest hint of cocoa flavour. Just like the coffee cherries, there were no biting these babies, as the inside would not taste good.

Shaun being such a fabulous hand model

Shaun being such a fabulous hand model

The process for the cocoa bean is similar to the coffee bean. They are dried to remove the liquid, then roasted. Once they are roasted, it’s time to make some chocolate.

Our guide took some roasted beans, popped it in a hand crank grinder, and started turning. It was crazy to see these little dried gross looking beans go in, and full on chocolate looking magic come out. All of a sudden the aroma in the room changed, and everyone stomachs started grumbling. Nothing follows a coffee tasting better then some fresh chocolate.

Chocolate?!?

Chocolate?!?

Despite the fact that this chocolate looked and smelled delicious, it is as pure as it gets.It’s like when you were a kid and went searching through your moms cupboards. Suddenly you come across chocolate and get so excited you pop it right in your mouth…only to discover it is bitter baking chocolate. Such a dirty trick.

or was that just me who did that?

mixing up the concoction!

mixing up the concoction!

Anyways, this wasn’t the chocolate we were going to sample. Our guide took the chocolate and started creating a special concotion. He started with sugar, and a lot of it. It certainly made me think about the supposed “health benefits” of chocolate. Something that needs that much sugar to make it taste good can’t be all that healthy for you.

After the sugar he added cinnamon, vanilla, and the secret ingredient, black pepper. We each had a tablespoon of this gritty sand like chocolate magic, and it was GLORIOUS! He then took the remaining mixture and added hot sauce to it. We tried that version and it was even better. I love the spicy chocolate mixture, it will be something I remember for when I get home!

After our authentic chocolate tasting experience, we had some samples of some more

My batch with hot sauce! Amahzing!

My batch with hot sauce! Amahzing!

western versions. Somehow white chocolate, dark chocolate, and chocolate covered coffee beans ended up in my belly. After all the coffee, chocolate (and a sample of pure sugar cane juice that I forgot to mention) we pretty much buzzed our way back to the reception.

Oh, and I forgot to mention one of the coolest things! At the start of our tour, our guide told us a little bit of history about Don Juan Cruz, of Don Juan’s Coffee Plantation. He was part of one of the first pioneering families to settle in Monteverde, and has an enormous number of children and grand children. I thought he had 9 kids, Shaun thought 11, but either way he has well over 20 grandchildren.

Note to self: start writing things down!

Paparazzi!!

Paparazzi!!

Anways, during the chocolate portion of our tour, we noticed our guides eyes light up. We all turned around to see a very small, very old man come into the room. Yes my friends, it was Don Juan himself. I suddenly felt like I was meeting someone famous, or at least a Disney character. He was certainly an amazing fellow, and walked around the room shaking everyone’s hand, and thanking them for coming on the tour.

In an attempt to not seem like paparazzi, I had Shaun snap this very unsneaky photo. Such tourists.

So that about sums it up! If you are in Monteverde, we highly suggest checking out the Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour. But be prepared, you will be leave with a brain full of knowledge and body full of caffeine buzz!

Are you a coffee person or a chocolate person?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

To Heidi on Her Birthday!

Sometimes people enter into your world and end up changing the course of your life forever.

That’s what happened with this gal!

225818_10141448537_3159_nHere we are…just a couple young whipper snappers. We had no idea all the things we would end up experiencing together.

Exciting adventures, Marriages, Beans and soon to be Lentils and let not forget Lots and LOTS of cake!

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Birthday are important, and it is hard not being around to share them with people.

So dearest Heidi, have the happiest and sparkiest of Happy Birthdays. Thank you for everything that you do for both myself, and those around you.

Give that Bean a squeeze for me!

Pura Vida

xoxo Kate

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