Our Favourite Meals in Costa Rica: A Photo Album

When you have to cook hostel meals for yourself in a shared kitchen, going out for dinner is a real treat.

It’s no secret the Costa Rican cuisine is delicious. We made it a point to snap a couple shots of some of our more spectacular meals.

So without further ado, our favourite meals in Costa Rica!

Classic Ceviche, Nogui's, Tamarindo

Classic Ceviche, Nogui’s, Tamarindo

Passion Fruit Ceviche, Gallo Finto, Tamarindo

Passion Fruit Ceviche, Gallo Finto, Tamarindo

Chicken Taco's, Green Papaya, Tamarindo

Chicken Taco’s, Green Papaya, Tamarindo

Classic Burger, Bugers & Beers, Nosara

Classic Burger, Bugers & Beers, Nosara

Etyl's Famous Pancakes, Kaya Sol, Nosara

Etyl’s Famous Pancakes, Kaya Sol, Nosara

Fish Taco, Kaya Sol, Nosara

Fish Taco, Kaya Sol, Nosara

Marinated Veggies in a Raw Plantain Wrap, Robins, Nosara

Marinated Veggies in a Raw Plantain Wrap, Robins, Nosara

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The best Casado I ate in all of Costa Rica. Mahi Mahi Casado from Seven in Playa Grande

Tamale at Sabor Tico, Monteverde

Tamale at Sabor Tico, Monteverde

Black Bean Soup, Gallo Finto, Tamarindo

Black Bean Soup, Gallo Finto, Tamarindo

Casado from the trunk of a car (SO good!), Tamarindo

Chicken Casado from the trunk of a car (SO good!), Tamarindo

I’m so hungry now!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

Botella de Leche, Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Woops! Somehow this post got lost in the mix. It should have been safely nestled between returning from Nicaragua, and getting to Nosara. Enjoy!

After our near tragic return from Nicargua, we returned to our home base of Tamarindo.

Our shuttle didn’t arrive back into Tamarindo until 10pm, so we were pretty thankful that we had decided to stay for two nights. The thought of getting up early the following morning to take another shuttle seemed like a terrible idea.

P1030050Although our day in Tamarindo consisted of little more then doing laundry and regrouping, the place we stayed at was definitely worth writing about.

This wasn’t the first time we had stayed at Botella de Leche. We had actually stayed there for one night back in December, but because it was such a short stay, I never wrote about it.

Botella de Leche is one of the original surf hostels in Tamarindo. They offer a variety of room types at a really reasonable rate. The price point for this hostel is a huge selling feature, as everything in Tamarindo tends to be really expensive. The fact that this place is inexpensive AND has a pool, makes it a really rare find.

the pool

the pool

Outside each room is a hammock, which we are finding is becoming more and more an integral part of our Costa Rican lifestyle. Their shared kitchen is huge, and they offer free coffee in the mornings.

Although the property is small, they have managed to create a wonderful little oasis with papaya trees and other tropical plants growing inside the gates. It feels like you are leaving the dusty busy roads of Tamarindo behind and entering another world.

the kitchen and living space

the kitchen and living space

Botella de Leche is definitely geared towards surfers. You can book a variety of lessons and surf trip options with them. Although they aren’t the closest hostel to the beach, they make up for it with their accommodation and perks. If you are looking for a hostel in Tamarindo that is both affordable and relaxing, I would highly recommend Botella de Leche.

 

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Marsella Valley Nature Center, Nicaragua

After four fantastic days visiting with Colleen, it was time to move on to our next location.

P1030023Our friends at Girl Gone Galaventing had recommended the Marsella Valley Nature Center to us. Located just 5 miles from San Juan del Sur, the reserve is in the perfect location for those wanting to explore both Playa Marsella and Playa Maderas. Each beach is 1km away from the Center. Walking to Marsella was a breeze, but there are some pretty intense hills getting to Maderas. Luckily, anyone who sees you walking up them will likely stop and offer you a ride.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

The centre has several cabins for both short and long term-rentals. The majority of the rooms we’ve rented have consisted of a bed, bathroom, and shared kitchen, so the novelty of having a fully stocked cabin all to our selves was irresistible.

Our room was huge, and consisted of a double bed, kitchen table, small couch, coffee table, and lots of storage space.

Our Porch

Our Porch

Our kitchen was just outside our unit and had all the amenities we needed to make a couple decent cook ups. Outside of our cabin we had a little garden, and a large porch with several places to sit.

Aside from their accommodations, the Nature Center also offers their guests and visitors a wide variety of unique experiences. The property is huge and those visiting can spend time walking through the vast array of hiking trails. You will undoubtedly encounter all sorts of interesting flora and fauna along the way.

The most unique part of the Marsella Valley Nature Centre is their Disc Golf course. Yes, that’s right…Disc Golf! You better believe that Shaun and I rocked a Disc Golf tournament during our stay there. More on THAT later!

The only downside to our stay here was the heat and the bugs: two factors that simply go without saying when you are staying in Central American in March. We had several very hot nights here in Marsella, and mosquito netting was definitely a must. Shaun also kept getting bit by something that his body did NOT like. He woke up one morning with baseball mitt hands, and the next morning with Angelina Jolie lips. No, I did not take photos!

Despite the heat and bugs, this was a really unique and nice place to stay. If you are looking for a cheap place to stay that has all the amenities, including Disc Golf, Marsella Valley Nature Center is a great spot. Just make sure you back the bug spray!

What is the worst thing you’ve ever been bitten by?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

Don Juan Coffee Plantation Tour, Monteverde, Costa Rica PART 1-COFFEE

Another collaboration with My Costa Rica, and Desafio! Can you believe all these adventures. Can’t wait to share my articles with you guys. Until then..on with the show!

I’m not sure if you guys know this, but I write my posts a couple weeks behind. Shaun and I did this tour about two weeks ago, and I’m kicking myself for not coming home and writing this post immediately.

Why you might ask?

Because I learned SOOOO much about coffee and chocolate, and I know I’m bound to forget something during this post. All the beachy sun over the past few weeks has fried my brain. Hopefully I can rustle up the memories for you guys! I’m going to break this up into two posts, one about coffee, and one about chocolate…lets start with coffee shall we.

It’s evident as soon as you enter Monteverde that this is a town that is PROUD of their coffee. Coffee shops line the streets, many of which have the smell of freshly roasted beans wafting through their doors and onto the street.

One of the best ways to experience this passion for coffee first hand is to tour a coffee plantation and learn about the process from start to finish.

I realized afterwards why Shaun was snickering as he took the photo...this mural is totally checking out my butt.

I realized afterwards why Shaun was snickering as he took the photo…this mural is totally checking out my butt.

After our morning at the Cloud Forest, Shaun and I had a quick break for lunch, and then were whisked away to the Don Juan Coffee Plantation for a tour of their facility.

We arrived at the plantation and were quickly whisked into the world of coffee. We started at the very beginning with the life cycle of the coffee cherries. Our tour guide took us around to look at the plants, and explain the life cycle of these little guys.

My coffee cherry and the two seeds inside.

My coffee cherry and the two seeds inside.

He picked a few of these magnificent red berries, and let us try one. He advised us to crack open the red berry, find the coffee bean and then suck on it. No biting though. It didn’t taste like much. There was a slimy coating on the outside of the bean and it sorted tasted like some sort of plant you would absent mindedly put in your mouth as a kid.

Needless to say, I much prefer the taste of the beans once they are in my cup!

Freshly de-pulped coffee beans

Freshly de-pulped coffee beans the skins are in the background

The next stage in the process is the harvest which normally occurs November through February. This is why the berries were red during our visit, they were ripe and prime for the picking. Alot of thought goes into the harvesting of the berries. Our guide explained how farmers often rely on lunar cycles and tide charts to determine when the optimum time for picking is as this can effect the water content of the coffee cherry. Who knew?!

The drying patio

The drying patio

Once the berries are picked, they are put through a de-pulping machine. This cracks open the berry and allows the little beans to escape. Even though the outer shell is gone, they still have a small outer layer, as well as the slimy skin layer we had tasted earlier.

Then comes the drying process, the beans are left out on a “drying patio” to dry out in the sun. We entered a room full of beans all over the floor. We could feel them and see that once they were dried, the next layer of shell can easily be cracked off with your hand.

Once the beans are dry, that outer shell needs to come off. The really cool thing about the Don Juan tour is that they show you how each stage of the process used to be done, and then how the process is done with modern day equipment.

Our guide showing us how it is done

Our guide showing us how it is done

Back in the day, a giant mortar and pestle was used to remove the outer shells. They had one all set up and everyone could take a turn trying to lift these huge wooden sticks to try their hand at “de-shelling”. It certainly was quite the workout. The machine that completes this step now certainly seems like the easier route!

The machine also removes the final layer of the berry. Remember that slimy layer from earlier? Well after drying in the sun, this layer is like a skin, sort of like on a peanut. This de-shelling process is the final step in exposing the actual coffee bean before the roasting begins.

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The roaster and roasting chart…I should have taken notes!

 

At this point, I couldn’t even believe how much I had learned about coffee, and the beans weren’t even roasted yet. The roasting process is certainly the most interesting, and complex processes. The length of time beans are roasted determine what kind of blend it is. Light roast has the most caffeine, and the least amount of flavour. Medium and dark roasts burn off the levels of caffeine but in the process deepen the flavour.

As someone who flavours their coffee, learning about the roasting process, and how the flavours are created made me want to sit down and determine what blends I actually prefer, without masking the flavour with additives. Luckily for me, being in the land of coffee, I certainly will have the opportunity to do that.

Lots of information, and we haven’t even gotten to the chocolate portion of the tour yet!! Tomorrow I’ll go over all of that excitingness…as well as a run down of all the tasty treats we got to try!

What kind of coffee do you like?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

A Quick Pit Stop in Domincal, Costa Rica

After our three glorious days in Matapalo, we headed down the coast a little further to check out the surf town of domincal

The town map of Dominical

The town map of Dominical

Hotel Domilocos

Hotel Domilocos

For some reason I was expecting Domincal to be bigger. Most likely because of the challenge we had finding accommodation. Trying to find our normal, mid-range private hostel room was impossible. All the choices were either cheap dorm style hostels, or hotels.

We ended up booking into Hotel Domilocos. It was over our price budget, so that ultimately sealed the deal that we were only going to be staying for the one night. We didn’t mind though, neither one of us were really prepared to leave the coast. We were really looking for an excuse to spend one more day by the seaside before moving inland.

The Lonely Planet book describes Dominical as a town full of pot, and surf. After cruising around a little bit, that seemed fairly accurate. Everyone is pretty chilled out. Even the surfing I watched seems more mellow down here.

The second little road. Shaun is checking out the surf

The second little road. Shaun is checking out the surf

The town is set up in two parts. The main road that runs through the town, then a small second road  that runs between the beach, and the main road. This second road is set up with all sorts of vendors, beachside hostels, smoothie shacks, and a couple bars. This area also sells the biggest Pipa’s I had ever seen!

Shaun, and I cruised around a bit, but ultimately called it an early night. We had air conditioning, and WiFi in our room, and planned on taking full advantage of it. In case you were wondering, we watched the Butler on Netflix.

Lots of people out for a sunset session on our first night.

Lots of people out for a sunset session on our first night.

The following morning, Shaun went our for a surf while I did my workout. He said the surf was mellow, but good. It wasn’t too busy for Costa Rican standards, but compared to the previous days when he had the surf to himself in Matapalo, it was much busier.

Although we were there for the blink of an eye, I’m glad we got to visit Domincal. It’s another place that we can cross off our list of places we’ve seen. If you are travelling down the coast, and looking for a place to stop along the way, I would suggest Domincal. It’s a sleepy little surf town, but worth checking out.

The travel inland, and to the Carribean coast begins today!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

What I’ve learned in my first month as a backpacker

I’ve been roaming Costa Rica with my backpack for 6 weeks now, and although the last two weeks have been full of family and luxury, I have learned a few things from our more “rustic” experiences.

So without further ado, my list of learnings so far:

I actually wore these socks again after this photo....low point

I actually wore these socks again after this photo….low pointClothing:

Clothing:

  1. Underwear becomes optional very quickly
  2. Clean Clothing becomes your prized possession
  3. If you work out every day (as I do), you will stink, always. The bonus, is it makes you run faster, as you want to get away from yourself.
  4. When you are packing and your husband asks whether he should bring a towel, say yes…or he will use yours. Two people…one towel…not pretty.
  5. You can pay beautiful little old Tica’s to wash your clothes for you. When you get them back, they smell like Disneyland, Sparkles, and Magic, all at once.
Missed a spot!

Missed a spot

Hygiene:

  1. Stopping and thinking to yourself, “When DID, I last wash my hair?” Is totally acceptable
  2. Hair legs make it easier to scratch bug bites with.
  3. For the first time since grade 8, I have a uni-brow. No matter how hard I try to remember to deal with it, it is a lost cause.
  4. Always remember to scrub your feet when you are in the shower.
laundry day!

laundry day

Lifestyle:

  1. Nip Slips during surfing are a fact of life…for me anyways.
  2. Beer tastes best after you’ve had mouthfuls of salt water.
  3. If it feels like a bug is biting you, it is.
  4. Your days aren’t always beach walks, and adventures. Sometimes its dirty socks in a sink.
My two staples!

My two staples

Food:

  1. The last nights in hostels before moving on are always the most inventive meals. Raw carrots and tuna anyone?
  2. Lizano Salsa, truly does belong on everything.
  3. Not ALL Costa Rican coffee tastes delicious. Hostel coffee can taste like sludge…yet I’ll still drink it.
  4. Being in the kitchen when everyone is checking out of the hostel is the best place to be. Lots of leftover goodies to be handed out!,
  5. Hanger is deadly, and should be avoided at all costs.

What do you think about what I’ve learned? What advice would you give someone who is new to backpacking?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Black Turtle Tour in Costa Rica

I wanted to do something special with my Mom while she was here over Christmas, and after a little bit of investigating decided that a turtle tour would be perfect. I also thought it would be fabulous to have her tell you all about it! So without further ado…here is my mom!

(PS: She would like it known that she wanted this blog post to be called “Moonlight Magic”)

P1010388

There we were, my daughter & I perched on a curb waiting for a shuttle to take us to see Black Turtles, otherwise known as Pacific Green Turtles, on a remote beach, in the dark…maybe. Well it was going to be an adventure to be sure. Bring it on.

We drove out of the town of Tamarindo where we are staying, into increasingly more sparsely populated  areas down super dusty roads that brought back memories of trips down farm roads on the prairies in the dry heat of the summer. Best not to be following too close behind any dust kickers ahead. Also good not to be watching the condition of the road ahead and the unpredictability of where it might be headed. Looking out the side windows exposed a glimpse of everyday family life as we drove past houses that are completely exposed to the outdoors, families sitting around fires, on porch stoops lit by Christmas trees just outside the front door, neighbours meeting in common spaces and Christmas lights of every colour, some flashing, some steady, some random scattered, but all delightfully festive. A bonus Chrismas light tour.

The beach that we finally arrived at was one of four. Our guide informed us that we were going to go to the next beach over which involved an amazing hike across a mountain trail in the dark. It was a single file hike on a narrow path on the edge of a slope of unknown height…yes it was very, very dark. We were advised to keep the light of our small flashlights on the path and not ‘into the hole’…translation…don’t look over the edge. It was a great trek rising higher and higher, concentrating on not tripping over the number of obstacles in the way and hearing the sound of pounding surf recede into the distance and get replaced by the sometimes deafening sound of the jungle.

We finally got to the next beach and all lights were extinguished to disturb the turtles as little as possible. As our eyes got accustomed to the moonlight, the stars began to flood the skies and the white foam of the crashing waves became more and more dramatic. It was moonlight magic.

We then hiked down the beach, to where a large turtle had dug herself into a huge hole in the sand and then dug a second hole into which she had begun laying her eggs. We watched as she lay some eggs then retreated a distance away to let her finish while our guide gave us more information about what is known and what is unknown about these particular turtles. We then went back to watch her cover her eggs before we left so that she wouldn’t see us when she turned around to head back to the ocean. I can’t even begin to describe how humbling it is to be able to witness such an event. An experience that absolutely makes me know why we refer to the ‘wonders of nature’.

Thanks Kate. You are my wonder of nature…xoxoxooooo to infinity and back.