Arenal Hostel Resort, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Well, after a run of fabulous hostels, we were bound to have a dud eventually. It’s not that this place was that terrible but, it just wasn’t our cup of tea..Let me explain

sloth friend at the entrance

sloth friend at the entrance

During our time in La Fortuna we stayed at the Arenal Hostel Resort. This hostel is tucked in behind the main strip of La Fortuna.

From the front, it certainly doesn’t look like much of a hostel, in fact it looks more like a zoo! A cement sloth hanging from fake trees acts as an archway to welcome guests. As you enter the hallway thing continue to be a little bit different. Concrete statues of frogs and lizards sit suspended on the walls, while real flowers dangle over you from the roof on which they are growing. I was pretty stoked when I saw all this. Totally funky, cool, and right up my alley

More like entering a zoo then a hostel!

More like entering a zoo then a hostel!

The whimsy continues as you enter the property. Large concrete trees have been erected throughout the resorts small green space. Multiple hammocks are suspended from each one. Palm trees dot the lawn with multi coloured rope lights wrapped around them.

The pool is small but perfectly located right next to the bar. They offer a full drink list, and a small food menu. There is a buffet breakfast each morning at an additional cost.


Shaun and I had our own room, with two double beds, ensuite bathroom, and TV. Shaun  was happy, as this was the TV he ended up watching the Superbowl on.

Now at this point, I guess it’s pretty clear that I wanted to like this place.. It had all the makings for a really good time. I’ll get into the reasons why I didn’t like it in a second, but I should preface this by explaining where Shaun and I were at.

At this point in our trip, Shaun and I were in desperate need of a battery recharge. We had been travelling pretty intensely over the past couple weeks, so we were pretty antisocial during our stay here. Not meeting anyone new, and keeping to ourselves might have had an impact on our perspective of the place.

Outside of our room

Outside of our room

Also, because there isn’t a whole lot you can do or see in the heart of La Fortuna, we found we were often sitting around the hostel waiting for our next activity. This also might have contributed to our opinon.

Either way, there were a couple things that irked me about Arenal Hostel Resort, mainly having to do with the tours they offered.

At least there was towel art

At least there was towel art

The reception if the hostel is more like a tour agency then a hotel.There is obviously a commission to be had here. We were assured that all the prices in town were the same, so there was no point going to look around. In our previous experiences in Costa Rica, this tended to be the case. So we booked our first few tours at the front desk.

This was an error. I found a place that offered my first tour for 35 dollars cheaper, and most places were offering it for at least 15 dollars cheaper. I was choked at first, because you want to feel like you can trust the people at the place that you were staying. I decided just to let it go and chalk it up to being lazy and not going to look for myself.

Obviously my lack of enthusiasm towards this place is showing since I have no more pictures to show!

Obviously my lack of enthusiasm towards this place is showing since I have no more pictures to show!

Then we explained to them that we wanted to see the volcano, and relax in some hot springs. They booked the volcano tour, and then told us they’d heard of problems with some of the other hot springs, and recommended we relax at Baldi Hot Springs.

Things didn’t quite go as planned…

Our Volcano tour ended up being a nature hike. We actually never even went into the park itesef. Then our trip to Baldi was definitely not the relaxing experience we were looking for. Althought Baldi was fun, it was more like Disneyland then a spa.Lots of kids, thumping music, that sort of thing. I found out later that Baldi is the only hot springs that offers commission for booking for them. That made a little more sense…and how we ended up on  a nature hike instead of a volcano tour, I have no idea.

Anyways, these experiences with the tours, combined with our introverted attitude, and the fact that we were bumming around the place for so long, really tainted out view on Arenal Hostel Resort.

La Fortuna is so touristy that there are TONS of options out there for accommodation. Take a look around and I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your fancy.

Have you ever found that your mindset has changed your perspective on a place? Or do you have any bad accommodation stories?

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

If waterfalls had personalities, La Fortuna would be an attention seeking drama queen.

It is easily accessible, and insanely dramatic.

For most visitors to La Fortuna, a trip to see the waterfall is a no brainer. It’s much closer to town then many of the other attractions, and with only a $10 entrance fee, it is one of the more affordable activities you can do in the town.

Heading to the falls

Heading to the falls

Shaun and I decided to venture out to the waterfall early in the morning. The waterfall can attract over 400 people a day, so we wanted to beat the rush.

Although the falls were only 5km away from our hostel, we decided to take the $7 cab ride. We were sure glad we did, as the entire ride to the falls was uphill. Not exactly a leisurely stroll for first thing in the morning.

Shaun the climber

Shaun the climber

We got to the park, paid our entrance fee, and started down the steep slope to the falls. You may have read, that I kind of really love waterfalls, so my excitement level was growing by the minute. We stopped for a couple of quick photo ops along the way, including one for my Brother, the rock climber. See Sean, Shaun rock climbs too!

Yes they have the same name… I like to keep things simple.

So powerful

So powerful

We finally made it to the falls, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.  I sometimes find that when I’m faced with these powerful wonders of nature I get a little wobbly. My knees felt weak as I was faced with the intensity of the water falling right in front of me. It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before visiting this country.

We poked around for a bit, climbing rocks, and watching a few very brave souls jump in the water for a swim. No one that I saw got even close to the waterfall as the current would just push them away. Regardless, I was not remotely tempted to take a dip.

I told Shaun about a picture I’d seen of Beyonce at these falls. We decided that my own photoshoot was in order. So I climbed onto a rock, and Shaun started snapping away. Here are a couple of my fave shots.

P1020393 P1020404 P1020406 P1020409 P1020410

I feel so vain, but hey, it is not often you have your own personal paparazzi present.

After about an hour we started the climb up the stairs. Although we tend to think that we are pretty fit, we had to take a break at the half way point.I didn’t mind, it gave me one last chance to see the falls before leaving.

Once we got to the top, we decided to save our $7 dollars worth of cab money, and walk the 5km back to the hostel. Much easier going downhill then up!P1020384

If you are heading to the La Fortuna Waterfall here are a couple tips:

  • Go early, this place can get really busy!
  • Wear good shoes, there are lots of rocks to climb over near the bottom
  • Bring your suit if you feel brave, unlike many of the waterfalls we’ve visited, swimming is allowed here.
  • Embrace your inner tourist, and get those corny waterfall photos… we did!



Another tour down, many more to go!

Have you ever seen something in nature that has had a big impact on you? Lets hear about it?

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

5 Items I’m So Glad I Packed

As many of you know, I spent A LOT of time planning my packing lists. I even gave a full run down of everything I brought here and here.

I think I did a pretty good job too. I would probably have packed more underwear, and less dresses, but other then that, everything else has worked out well.

All my stuff has been pretty essential, but there are a couple items that stand out from the rest. Things that I often think to myself “Oh man, I’m so glad I packed my…”

So without further ado, here is my list of 5 things that I am SO happy I packed:

P1020680Electric Toothbrush– I have my friend Shauna to thank for this one. She recommended this cute little toothbrush to me, and I’m so glad I listened. It’s battery operated, and keeps my pearly whites, pearly white. The fact that they come in all sorts of funky colours is an added bonus.

Yes, mine is zebra print…jealous? I also feel I should point out that the brush head is not as yellow as it looks, its just the lighting. Stop judging.


Hat- I was on the fence as to whether I was even going to bring this hat. It’s hard, and doesn’t pack well, which means I have to carry it whenever we are travelling. I decided at the very last minute to take it, and that I would ditch it if it proved to be a problem.

Well, I am SO glad I did. I literally wear this hat everywhere (as I’m sure you can tell from my photos). It keeps the sun off my whole face, and breathes well so my head doesn’t get all sweaty. It’s getting pretty beat up these days. It’s full of sand, and some odd stains, but I love it, and just hope it lasts me the whole trip

P1020682Old Navy Bag- This little shoulder bag looks like It’s gone through a war. It has a huge rip on each handle, there is gum stuck in the pocket, and marker leaked on the inside so there is a giant green stain covering the entire bottom. Yet it just keeps on trucking.

I originally bought this thinking I would use it just as a beach bag. You know, throw in a towel , and a book and head out the door. Well, it has become so much more. We literally use it for everything. It’s my grocery bag when going to the store, it’s my purse for going out, and most importantly, it is the bag we use to lug all our food around in. It’s been through so much, and is in such rough shape. If it actually makes it to the end of the trip, I feel like I should frame it.

P1020681Lots of Sunscreen- I think in total we brought 6 containers of sunscreen with us. All of which were various strengths, and types. Although this may seem excessive, I’m so glad we did. Sunscreen is uber expensive down here. If it’s between lugging around an couple extra containers, or spending 18 dollars on a new bottle, the decision pretty much makes itself.

The real test will be whether or not we can make what’s left last the next two mos!


Towel- Some of us packed a towel (me), some of us didn’t (Shaun). This was actually a seriously stupid point of stress for us at the start of the trip. One our first hostels didn’t supply towels, and we were both sharing mine. Every day I would say that we should go find Shaun one of his own, but it took over a week before it happened. By that time my towel was rank. I would find myself glaring at him every time he came back from a surf session, and wiped himself off.

It was around this point in the trip that I realized I have a serious emotional reaction to dirty laundry. After that, I made sure my laundry was done regularly, and Shaun went and bought his own towel.

Also…I should point out that these are not our towels. I forgot to take a photo, and am too lazy to go back to our room to do so. It would be sweet if these were our towels though!

What are your travel must haves?

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 2

Now where were we…

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

There are five different things to see during the Rio Celeste hike: the waterfall, the lookout, the hot springs, the blue lagoon, and the river mouth.

When we left off, we had just arrived at the staircase down to the waterfall. The stairs are well maintained, but there are A LOT of them. Many guidebooks I’ve read suggest skipping the waterfall at first, and visiting it on your way back. The idea is that the will tire you out for the rest of your hike. I disagree. I was so tired by the end of the hike that I don’t think I would have fully appreciated the sight of these majestic falls at the end.

Killer boots man

Killer boots man

As I made my way down the steep slope, and caught my first glimpse of the water, I knew going on this tour had been the right choice. Never in my life had I seen water that blue. It didn’t even seem real. Jessica was kind enough to take a picture of me, and my wicked boots.

The famous tapir photo

The Blue Lagoon

After spending some time enjoying the falls, we made our way up the zillions of stairs, and back onto the trail. We had about 750m to go until the lookout. Jessica was right in encouraging me to rent the gumboots. I watched so many people trying to dodge the puddles and thick mud. It was so nice to be able to just trudge right through the muck, and not have to worry about getting dirty.

The next stop was the lookout. On some days you can see the volcano mountain range in the distance, but today it was too cloudy. It was however, a good vantage point to catch my first look at the wispy rain of the cloud forest dancing through the trees, a sight I would become all too familiar with in the days to come!


The famous Tapir photo…to be clear, this is not my photo!

Another 250m down the trail, and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Jessica asked me if I’d ever seen the Blue Lagoon movie, because it was filmed here. I totally believed her until she started laughing. Silly tourist. I could hardly imagine Brooke Shields trudging through the mud every day to get to set.

While we were there Jessica told us a story about the infamous Blue Lagoon Tapir photo. A Tapir is an animal that sort of looks like a cross between a gray pig, and an ant eater. They live around Rio Celeste, but are fairly elusive. Seeing one on this tour would be like striking gold. I had noticed in the advertising for the tour that the photos of the blue lagoon have a Tapir front and centre. I assumed it was photoshopped, and was used to lure tourists into thinking they would see one.

Well apparently the photo IS real (see above) and was actually taken by one of the women who works at the soda we had lunch at. She was hiking the trail one day, got to the blue lagoon, and there was a Tapir, taking a dip.

Egg Salad anyone?

Egg Salad anyone?

Luckily she had her camera with her, because now this photograph is famous, and used all over Costa Rica!

Not far from the Blue Lagoon was the hot springs, a bubbling corner of the river that wafted the smell of sulpher into the air. I knew I was getting hungry as it made me want an egg salad sandwich really bad!

Although everything we’d seen was really neat, I thought the final stop was the coolest.

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

We crossed over a couple rickety bridges, and came to the river mouth. This is where two rivers converge, and the chemical reaction that creates the colour occurs.

Okay, so here is my attempt at a chemistry lesson, bare with me:

People used to believe that the colour is caused by a chemical reaction between Sulphur, which is emitted by the volcanic activity, and Calcium Carbonate. This is the information you will find all over the internet, but it is wrong. A study completed in September of last year found that the colour is actually an optical illusion.


If you look at the photo, you’ll see two river intersecting, one straight, and the other off to the right. Take a look at the whitish hue that covers the rocks on the bottom of the river. This is a combination of Aluminun, Oxygen, and Silicon, and its suspended in the water. When the sun hits it, it creates the illusion of the celestial blue waters we see with our eyes. That’s why if you take the water out of the river, it looks clear.

Clear as the mud on my boot eh? You can read more about it here.

I much prefer the legend which believes that when God painted the sky, he used Rio Celeste to dip his paint brush into. A much lovelier sentiment if I do say so myself.

After taking it all in, we started the big hike back to the van. Although the trail is only 2.5km both ways, the terrain is challenging, and with the rain it made for a long haul. By the time we got back, washed the mud off us, and got in the van I was exhausted, and SO ready for lunch.

I did bring my camera to the restaurant, but was so hungry by the time it arrived I snorfed it up before remember to take a photo. It was salad with fish, and vegetables.  After lunch we got back into the van for the 2 hour drive back to La Fortuna. I’m pretty sure all the guests, including myself, napped the whole way.

If this is a hike you are interested in doing, here are a couple tips:

  • Wear long pants, and bring rain gear, regardless of the season there will be mud
  • Rent the boots, not having to deal with muddy shoes when you get back to your hotel makes it well worth it
  • Bring a snack, an apple of something small will help keep you stamina up during the long hike
  • Although bugs weren’t a huge problem, it’s probably good to have some bugspray handy just in case.
  • Get a good guide. Jessica was amazing, and I would highly suggest requesting her from Canoa Aventura.
  • Ask your tour company about the conditions of the river before booking your tour. You want to make sure it’s in its brilliant blue form.


So there you have it, my first big epic tour adventure. I’m so glad I went, as it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 1

With our adventures in Panama fading into the distance, our journey continued inland to La Fortuna, which, in my opinion, is the busiest tourist hub in all of Costa Rica.

After an early morning shuttle from Puerto Vijeo, we landed safe, sound at our hostel. I wasted no time in booking my first tour.

It has become clear to me that the following day Shaun would be glued to the boob tube watching the Superbowl. As appealing as eating greasy pizza in a hostel while watching Spanish dubbed football on a grainy TV sounded, I figured I would embark on a solo adventure. So, I booked a tour to see Rio Celeste, a waterfall that had landed on my bucket list ever since I read about it in our guidebook.

Rio Celeste is in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, about 1.5 to 2 hours away from La Fortuna depending on traffic. What makes this attraction so unique is the colour of the water. Looking at pictures of it, the light blue colour of the river makes it seem like something you would see in Oz, or Neverland. It was a sight that I just had to see to believe.

Despite its majestic nature, experiencing the wonder of Rio Celeste can be tricky. There is actually only a small window of time that the water emits its brilliant blue hue. During the rainy season, the water can be a muddy brown colour. The best time to visit is in dry season (December-March). That being said, with enough rain, the colour of the river can change at any point throughout the year.

I would suggest asking the tour company about the condition of the river before booking as the tour will still happen regardless of the colour. If it the wrong season, or if it’s been really rainy, you might run the risk of hiking all the way just to see a muddy brown river. Believe me, I’ve heard from people who it happened to, not fun.

I was told that the river was in good shape, so I booked a full day tour that would pick me up in the morning, drive me to the park, have a guide tour me through hike, and drive me home. Oh, did I mention a typical Costa Rican lunch was included? That was a pretty big selling feature!

My tour started bright, and early the next morning. I left Shaun snoring away, and went outside our hostel to meet up with my guide Jessica from Canoa Aventura. Together with three other guests, and our driver Ronadl, we set out on the drive to the Tenorio National Park.

There is a toucan WAY up top of that tree...don't worry, better toucan pics to come in later posts!

There is a toucan WAY up top of that tree…don’t worry, better toucan pics to come in later posts!

Throughout the drive, Jessica pointed out key features about the area, including fruit plantains, history, and other interesting facts. We even stopped on the side of the road when she spotted a toucan in a tree. All of the information we were getting made the ride fly by.

We arrived at our lunch destination first to pre-order our meals, and to rent gumboots if we wanted to. I had worn runners, and I asked Jessica whether she thought it was worth it. She said it was up to me, but the mud could get pretty deep in some areas.

I know you are jealous of my style!

I know you are jealous of my style!

The thought of getting back to the hostel, and having to deal with washing and drying muddy runners seemed like no fun at all, so I forked out the 3 dollars, and got to sport these stylish boots.

Now, I must point out, I don’t know what compelled me to wear my jean shorts to hike through the rainforest, especially when I had a perfectly good pair of dry wick zip off pants at the hostel. I blame to much sun giving my beach brain. I would highly suggest long pants for this trek, especially if you are going to be sporting the stylish gumboot number. At least I had a waterproof rain jacket! (thanks Mom)

The park ranger office. Don't forget to pay before you go in!

The park ranger office. Don’t forget to pay before you go in!

So, once we were all geared up, we were off. A short 2km drive brought us to the park entrance. Jessica paid our park entrance fee of 10 dollars, which was included in our tour package. Just as we started up to the trail, the rain started to pour, luckily we were headed into the forest where we would be covered by the trees.

I really tried to remember the name of this bird, but It's gone.

I really tried to remember the name of this bird, but It’s gone.

The forest of Tenorio National Park is considered a transitional forest. This means it is half rain forest, and half cloud forest. Although you get the heavy rains of the rainforest, the distinctive wispy mist of the cloud forest becomes more apparent as you most higher up the trail.

As we carried along the trail, Jessica talked to us about various plants, and birds. Never in my life did I think I would become such an expert on ferns, but l could tell you a thing or two! (I won’t, but if you are interested just ask 😉 )

We hiked for about an hour before we made it to our first stop, the waterfall…and  I’m going to park it there for now, otherwise you’ll be reading this post for days!

I won’t leave you empty handed though, here is a little teaser of what’s in store tomorrow!



I know right!

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

5 Tips for Booking Tours in Costa Rica

Over the past week or so Shaun and I have been travelling in La Fortuna, and Monteverde, some of the busiest tourist towns in all of Costa Rica.

These areas have lots of sights to see, but all of the attractions are pretty spread out. When you add up transportation costs, park entrance fees, and guides, the cheapest way to see everything you want to see is by booking a tour.

We put on our tourist hats and dove into the world of tours, and tour companies. Throughout our week we went on some amazing tours, and went on some real stinkers.

Here are a couple tips we’ve picked up along the way to help make your tour experiences a level 10.


5 Tips for Booking Tours in Costa Rica.

1- Shop Around: The amount of tour companies in tourist towns such as Monteverde, and La Fortuna can be very overwhelming. There are people calling out to you on every street corner trying to sell you a tour. Your own hotel will likely be trying to do the same thing.

In some towns we visit, we find that everyone offers the same tours, at the same prices, yet here in La Fortuna, we noticed big differences in many of the tours costs.  So before you commit, just take a look around. If you are on a budget, shop around to the various tour company’s, talk to them, and don’t be afraid to barter. Some companies are jacking up their prices, hoping that tourists will just commit without doing their research.

2-Don’t Sacrifice Safety For Price: Although finding a good deal is important, safety should always come first. It may be tempting to save some money by booking the cheap white-water rafting tour with the guy on the side of the road whose “buddy” has a boat, but don’t sacrifice your safety for a bargain. Adventures are called adventures for a reason, they often involve some risk. Make sure that your guides have the proper training, and insurance to keep you safe, and protected.

3-Do Your Homework: As much as we’d like to do all the tours, the costs can really add up. So, take the time to figure out what your priorities are. Read the guidebooks, check Trip Advisor, and ask around to find out what things you really want to see, and what you can pass on. I recently graciously passed on the opportunity to take a tour to some snake and bat exhibits. Such a sacrifice I know.

4-Make Sure The Tour is Right For You: Have you had both knees replaced? An intense four hour hike might not be for you. Have a crippling fear of water? White-water rafting might not be your bag. We all have limitations, and as much as we want to experience everything, sometimes we can’t. A reputable tour company will be honest about what a tour entails, and it is in your best interest to listen. I’m speaking from experience on this one, I recently took La Fortuna’s second most difficult hike with a four year old in the group. *sigh*

5- Invest in a Quality Experience: Imagine waiting your entire life to tour the Arenal Volcano, just to have your guide pick you up in an old dented van, and have him only speak a couple words of English. Or finally getting to see the Cloud Forst of Monteverde, only to have your guide read from a guidebook the whole time.

The best tours we’ve had have been from reputable, long tenured companies. You may not get the screaming deal you’ll find from the guy on the side of the road, but you are going to end up with a higher degree of safety, and quality and ultimately end up with a more memorable experience.

So there you have it, a couple tips on booking tours while in Costa Rica. I have so many great recaps coming your way about all the adventures we’ve had over the last week or so. Stay Tuned!

Do you have any tips for booking tours?

Pura Vida!


Exploring Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

I certainly can’t write extensively about Puerto Viejo, as we only stayed there on two separate nights, before, and after our trip to Panama.

That being said…During our stay I pretty much had the coolest looking coffee I’ve had in all of Costa Rica, and to not write about that would be a crime!

Kids playing on a rope swing, off a tree on an abandoned boat.

Kids playing on a rope swing, off a tree on an abandoned boat.

Every thing we read about the Caribbean Coast said that we would be in for a culture shock. The laid back surfer beaches of the Pacific, would be replaced by a Jamaican inspired rasta vibe. Although we did hear our fair share of Bob Marley during our two days there, I think we were expecting something more drastic. It certainly still felt like Costa Rica, but maybe with a few more dreadlocks.

The surf competition.

The surf competition.

Pretty much all of Puerto Viejo is laid out on an 13km road. Although once one of Costa Rica’s secret destinations, it’s now a pretty busy little surfer town.

The first day that we were there, there was actually a surf competition going on. It was pretty neat to be able to see some pretty high calibre surfers catching some waves.

Shaun checking out the waves (as usual!)

Shaun checking out the waves (as usual!)

While we were there, the weather was gorgeous, but we had heard from many people that Puerto Viejo, as well as much of the Caribbean Coast is prone to tons of rain. We felt pretty lucky that we saw none of that during our visit.

The one thing that did put us on edge a little was all the talk about Puerto Viejo’s reputation for crime.

Some gorgeous beach views

Some gorgeous beach views

Every guidebook we read had tips about how to stay safe. There is a forest trail that runs along the beach, and it was recommended that tourists don’t walk on it at night. Our hotel had multiple signs that asked their guests not to bring their valuables with them at night, and to always take a cab back to the hotel instead of walking.

We were there for such a short period of time, and never actually went out in the evening, so we certainly didn’t feel any sort of danger. Nevertheless, it was a good reminder to keep your wits about you when travelling in general.

Behold! A thing of beauty!

Behold! A thing of beauty!

So now that you’ve read my ramblings, I know you want me to get to this coffee! The afternoon that we came back from Panama, we popped into a coffee shop called Sel et Sucre. There was such a lack of good coffee shops in Panama, that I was dying for a delicious Cappuccino. Let me tell you, I got what I was looking for, and more.

Just check that out! Isn’t it gorgeous! I wanted to just stare at this masterpiece forever, but eventually, after a lengthy photo op, I gave it a stir, and dove in. It was delicious. If you are in Puerto Viejo, check out Sel et Sucre, if only to behold such a masterpiece yourself!

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Border Run to Panama Part 2

So, when we left off, we were on the bridge crossing over into Panama.

I am happy to report, that we made is safely across, and neither Shaun nor I fell into the water. Success!

The next check point was Panamanian Customs. Essentially a small room, with a man at a desk who was collecting money,and giving you a sticker for your passport. Today the fee was 3 dollars are person, but apparently these fees change frequently.

There wasn’t really a line up, everyone was just cramming their way into the room, and jostling to be next. You can imagine how fun that was with backpacks and our surfboard. We heard the guy at the desk mention something about immigration around the corner.

I had also read about this on-line. Once you’ve gone through Panamanian Customs, you have to turn a corner, and go into a separate building to go into Immigration. It would be SO easy for someone to just keep on walking, and enter the country. I’m just taking a wild guess that this would be very bad.

Once leaving customs you need to take an immediate left, and go down some stairs, and straight down the first side street. There you will find the line for Immigration. We made it there without incident, and there was even some guy there who had our names on a list. That was fairly comforting, as by this point we felt like we were flying solo.

We stood in line for another 25 minutes or so, and finally made it up to the counter. This seemed like the “big” counter. That one that ultimately decides whether you are getting in or not. We watched lots of people ahead of us having difficulties understanding what the border officials wanted. All we had were our passports, and a copy of our return flight information. We made it to the counter, and after much scrutinizing, our passports were stamped again, and we were on our way. I’ve heard that sometimes they require you to provide proof that you have at least 500 dollars cash, but today, our documents seemed to do the trick.

We exited this second line up, and a guy stopped us. He said he was a friend of the bus driver, and told us to wait with him. He was pretty aggressive, telling one of the guys in our group to give him a cigarette, and making Shaun give him an extra 5 dollars for the surfboard. As he stood there spitting, and doing pushups, we all kind of looked at each other, wondering whether we should just give up on the shuttle, and take a taxi.

About 30 minutes went by, and another man came over, and said they were ready to go. We walked down the street about 100m, and there was a van, with a couple people from our original group waiting for us. We never did figure out what the confusion was, and why we were left waiting for so long, but either way, we now had a ride.

Leaving the "ferry" terminal

Leaving the “ferry” terminal

We piled in the new van, and headed off to the boat to Isla Colon. We picked up another Panamanian man on the side of the road. He spoke a bit of English, and was obviously in charge of getting us onto the boat. After about an hour, we got to the ferry. We sat in the terminal for about 30 minutes. I enjoyed a Pipa, while Shaun went to pay the additional fee to get his board on the boat.

So happy to be on the home stretch

So happy to be on the home stretch

The boat arrived, and we piled on. It was a beautiful ride, and a welcome breath of fresh air after line ups and shuttles all day. After about 30 minutes we pulled into Isla Colon, and it looked fabulously funky. We grabbed our stuff, and trekked into the middle of town to look for a taxi to our place. It took us a while to track one down, but finally got into the back of a pick up truck.

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

I will laugh at this picture for the rest of my life

A man, and a women sat in front arguing for the entire drive. I couldn’t help but take this picture. Here they are, yelling at each other with a small Yoda figure perched in the middle on the dashboard. After such along day, you have to appreciate the little things.

We arrived at our hostel, Panama’s Paradise. Although no one was home, there was a little note with my name, on the door. It had everything we needed in it to check in.

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

Keys on the door, thank goodness!

Our arrival did truly feel like paradise. We stripped off our sweat drenched clothes, and I settled in for a BIG siesta.  Before falling asleep I glanced at my phone. It was 12:30. The entire process had only taken 4 hours, but it felt like it had been a week.

Keep tuned in this week because I have some great content coming up. This week I will be recapping our entire adventure in Bocas del Toro, Panama. You won’t want to miss it, this place is AMAZING!

What are your border crossing experiences?

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Our Border Run to Panama Part 1

Border hopping…it’s one of those things that every traveller has to go through…and turns out…I’m not a fan.

As we were planning our trip, we knew that we would need to leave Costa Rica at least once to meet the Visa requirements. A Visa in Costa Rica is only 90 days, and since we are here for 5 months, we would have to leave the country in order to get ours renewed.

Although we originally thought our border run would be next month through Nicaragua, so many people told us how wonderful Panama was, we to do it early to see the sights.

I had done a lot of research about border hopping, and it all seemed like quite the ordeal. Since we are fairly laid back travellers, and like to avoid stress as much as possible, we opted to book a tour to take us from our hotel in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, to Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica.

You can certainly take public transit to the border, walk across, then catch it again on the other side, but that seemed far to adventurous for us.

We woke up bright, and early to catch our shuttle, and by the time it made it to our hotel it was VERY full. It was lucky there were no tunnels to go through, because all of the backpacks and bags were piled sky high on top of the roof of the van. We were given wrist bands to wear so we could be identified by the shuttle driver and began our journey. We slowly winded our way through the endless banana fields, until we reached our first hiccup.

woops, road block!

woops, road block!

Yes my friends, that is a tree, right across the road. I am pretty sure that every shuttle we have taken through Costa Rica has involved some sort of strange occurrence, and this one was foliage based.

The shuttle parked, and everyone got out, while a maintenance crew worked away trying to clear the tree.

man down...he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks  tragic

man down…he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks tragic

As you can see, Shaun was thrilled. It seemed like we were going to be stuck for hours, but they worked fast and It ended up only taking about 25 minutes. We all hopped back on the shuttle and carried on. Shortly there after, we arrived at the border.

This is where the my stress levels started increasing a little. Unlike Nicaragua, cars are not allowed over the border into Panama. Our van stopped just before the archway of the border, and we all got out. We were handed our bags, and an immigration paper. Our shuttle driver left, and we assumed we needed to find our next shuttle driver on the other side. Some of the people on the tour just started walking towards the archway, while a few of us stood on the side of the road filling out our paper.

Rookie move.

By the time we had filled out our paper, and started walking towards the archway, our group was split in two, as the rest of the tour group was much farther ahead in the line up. The remaining few of us gathered together on the hot pavement with all of our gear, and waited in line. I had been cold in the morning, so I had put my sweater on. Getting out of the van had happened so fast that I hadn’t had the chance to take it off. Now with Tatonka, Titty Tonka, and our food back lugged over my shoulder, I was a sweaty beast.

After about 25 minutes we made it to the front of the counter. This turned out to be Costa Rican Immigration. They stamped our passport, took our paper, and we left.

This picture doesn't even do it justice!

This picture doesn’t even do it justice!

Now, in doing my research, I had heard a lot of talk about this supposed “bridge”, and let me tell you, it lived up to all my expectations. To enter Panama, you have to walk across this rickety old railway bridge. The slats are loose, and there are gaps that a 7 year old child could easily fall through. Did I mention you have to do this while carrying all your gear? It was impressive to say the least.

Did we make it over the bridge you ask?

You will just have to wait and see, because this my friends, is a two parter.

Tomorrow on Hostels and Hot Rollers, Our Border Run to Panama Part 2

Pura Vida!


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress 

Coco Loco Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

After our long shuttle from San Jose, we were so happy to arrive safe, and sound at Cocoloco Lodge in Puerto Viejo.

The entry to Cocoloco Lodge

The entry to Cocoloco Lodge

The first thing I thought when we pulled up to the lodge was how calm it felt. It was like they built the the lodge but left the jungle intact.The property is built around the enormous existing trees, many bearing incredible fruits, and gorgeous flowers. My favourites were the calabash. Although I had seen these fruits before, the ones at Cocoloco are gigantic. They look like huge watermelons hanging from little small trees. A calabash is similar to a pumpkin, and although most of the time you do not eat them, you often find them carved into lamps and candle holders in local souvenir shops.

The main reception area for Cocoloco is in the front of the property. Here you can book tours,

Banana's hanging outside the reception for the birds to eat. Such a great idea!

Banana’s hanging outside the reception for the birds to eat. Such a great idea!

look through their enormous book exchange, buy water, and borrow games. For an additional 7 dollars, they also serve breakfast there.

Cocoloco offers both rooms, and bungalows. We opted for a bungalow, and were pleasantly surprised with what we got. Each bungalow has it’s own bathroom, porch, hammock, safe, fridge, TV,coffee maker, and even a hair dryer! To bad we were only there for one night otherwise I would have definitely taken advantage of that! There are also several WiFi routers throughout the huge property. It was pretty amazing to have a perfect WiFi signal in the jungle!

The main reception house

The main reception house

The lodge is located on the far end of town, but is within easy walking distance to the beach, to restaurants, and everything else you would need for your stay. If you wanted amenities that allow to stay put at the lodge, they also offer one bungalow that has a full kitchen.

Not only is the location, and amenties great, but the staff at Cocoloco Lodge are amazing.

Our cute little room...first time with mosquito netting!

Our cute little room…first time with mosquito netting!

They helped us SO much with trying to book all of our shuttles. I can’t even tell you how many emails I’ve sent back and forth to them.They were extremely patient as we tried to figure out the logistics of travelling with our now infamous surfboard (but that’s a whole other post). I’m so grateful for their knowledge, because I would not have been able to navigate this portion of our trip without their help.

We feel pretty fortunate to have found Cocoloco Lodge, so much so, that we are staying there for another night on our way back from Panama. If you are looking to spend some time to Puerto Viejo, or just looking for a place to stay before heading to Panama, we would highly recommend Cocoloco Lodge.

Stay tuned for another post, all about the town of Puerto Viejo! I’ll write this one on our way back through

Have you ever seen a Calabash?

Pura Vida


Follow me on Twitter: @caketress.