Kaya Sol, Playa Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

We are constantly asked by travellers “Where is your favourite place that you’ve stayed?”

We’ve had all sorts of answers prior to this, and they tended to vary from day to day. But, after our experience in Nosara, we can safely say, “Kaya Sol!”

P1030317Kaya Sol has been on our radar since the start of the trip. It seemed that any time we mentioned Nosara to people they would recommend Kaya Sol. The further along in our trip we got, the more excited we got about our stay. So much so that we kept extending our booking and deciding to stay longer. By the time we arrived, we had decided we would be staying for 3 weeks.

This turned out to be a fabulous decision.

No matter what kind of traveller you are, Kaya Sol has an accommodation option that will work for you. They offer everything from hostels, and private rooms to apartments and houses. Oh did I mention a “real good time” is also included in your stay?

The hotel is located in the northern part of Playa Guiones. It’s about 200m from the beach and 40m from the local grocery store. There are several restaurants and coffee shops that are super close, and then its about a 10-15min to the heart of Guiones. That being said, once you are at Kaya Sol, you’ll find that there isn’t much need to leave.

I would describe Kaya Sol as an oasis. The property is deceivingly large, but built around P1030280the existing trees and greenery. You’re more likely to feel like you are in the a tranquil jungle then on the property of a hotel. The hub of Kaya Sol is their restaurant and pool area. Their pool is shaded, and includes a waterfall. The shade makes it nice and cool all day. It’s the perfect way to get away from the heat, which was regularly creeping over 40 degrees during our stay.

Although their amenities are great, it’s the people that truly make Kaya Sol amazing. We have, of course, already heard about Neal, the bartender, but the rest of the staff is just as wonderful and helpful. From Judy in reception to J.C and Emerson at the restaurant, everyone is there to make sure you are taken care of.

The bar

The bar

I can’t mention the restaurant without talking about their food. Seriously now, we had some epic meals while we were there. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and if I were you, I would partake in all three. Jorge knows his way around the kitchen and whips up some amazing food. My favourite was the chipotle platter. A veggie and rice dish in a miso cashew sauce with your choice of meat. Get it with brown rice and the fish of the day and you won’t be disappointed. Then there were the pancakes. Not just pancakes, but Eytl’s famous coconut, oatmeal, ginger pancakes! Don’t worry, there is a whole post on those coming later!

The restaurant offers live music two nights a week, as well as Trivia Night on Mondays. But regardless of what day of the week it is, there are always great people at the bar. We met so many wonderful people during our stay, including three girls from our hometown of Victoria, and one guy who helped us become Trivia Night champions on our last night (thanks Chris!). Despite the activity at the bar, everything winds down by 10, so you don’t need to worry about the noise. Nosara is all about getting up early for surf. Perfect for early birds like us.

Rocking the self-timer in one of our apartments

Rocking the self-timer in one of our apartments

The one tip I would give about Kaya Sol would be to book early! We stayed there for three weeks, but ended up switching rooms four times. It was actually really nice because we got to get a feel for the entire property. We stayed in a couple private rooms that had a bathroom and fridge, as well as full on apartments. Let me tell you, having our own kitchen AND kitchen table was a huge novelty!

So if you are looking a place to stay, or a place to eat, check out Kaya Sol in Nosara. Make sure you say hi to them from the “Zealanders!”

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

 

Villa Isabella, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Aside from being able to hang out with some of my favourite people, visiting with Colleen and her family in Nicaragua had one awesome additional bonus…staying in some very fancy digs.

P1030001After months of hard mattresses, flat pillows, and no a/c, we found ourselves in the lap of luxury, at least for out standards!

During our four days in San Juan, we stayed in a little apartment at Villa Isabella, a lovely B&B right in the heart of town. The apartment we stayed in had its own kitchen and two bedrooms. I probably had some of the best sleeps of the trip on those comfy beds, and the a/c was an amazing perk as it was HOT while we were there.
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When the heat got the best of us, we could just head downstairs into their pool. Alternatively, you could lounge in the shade, indulging in the free coffee that is always on in the lobby. I spent many mornings lounging after breakfast drinking way to much coffee and enjoying every moment.

Speaking of breakfast, the free breakfasts were SUCH a perk. The menu varied but often

consisted of Gallo Pinto, Omelettes, Eggs and Toast, waffles and most famously pancakes. Guests can choose from plain, banana or chocolate chip pancakes.

The infamous porch

The infamous porch

Shaun ate them pretty much every morning. I tried to convince him on multiple occasions that he should ask for a combination of banana and chocolate chip, but he never went for it!

I wasn’t just the a/c, comfy beds and free coffee that made this place awesome, it was the people that made it such a hoot. The first thing you’ll notice when you walk into Villa Isabella is the porch. Wicker Chairs, hammocks and couches are set up in this nicely shaded area. Combine that with strong WiFi, and this becomes THE hang out area for most guests and regulars. Walking in and out of the hotel became a social occasion, as there was always someone there you could stop and chat with.

This certainly isn’t the normal type of place we right about here on Hostels and Hot Rollers, but it was just too lovely not to review. Aside from the apartment they also offer smaller and cheaper accommodation options. Plus, the nice thing about Nicaragua is it is far less expensive then Costa Rica, so if you are travelling around, you can probably afford to drop a few extra Balboa’s on your accommodation.

Want more accommodation reviews? Check out all of our reviews here.

Pura Vida!

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

Cabinas Eddy, Monteverde, Costa Rica

I love it when we find a place to stay that makes our time in a town extra special. I can’t recommend Cabinas Eddy enough, so bare with me as I gush.

tucked up on the hill, Cabinas Eddy

tucked up on the hill, Cabinas Eddy

Cabinas Eddy is located a short 5 minute walk from the “centre” of town. I use the word centre loosely, as it really is only a small strip of shops and restaurants. The hotel/hostel has a variety of room options including both shared and private. We opted for a private room with ensuite bathroom, but in retrospect we could have easily taken one with a shared bathroom. The bathrooms were so clean and nice, that it would have been totally fine. Along with their cleanliness, Cabinas Eddy also offers their guests WiFi, a shared kitchen, free coffee, tour information, and even a barbershop! I can’t even tell you how many travellers I saw in there getting a much needed haircut!

The lobby that would transform into a restaurant in the mornings

The lobby that would transform into a restaurant in the mornings

One of the most amazing aspects of Cabinas Eddy is their breakfasts. Often when places advertise that breakfast is included you either get a very limited buffet, or are actually faced with an extra charge for breakfast upon arrival.

Cabinas Eddy is VERY different.

Every morning we would go downstairs and the lobby would be set up like a full fledged restaurant. Eddy and his family ran a tight ship, quickly and efficiently taking everyones orders, and getting breakfast out fast so everyone could take on their day. Every person got a plate of freshly cut fruit to start, and then their choice of hot breakfasts. They offer the same menu everyday, Banana Pancakes with coconut syrup, Ham and Cheese Omlettes, Breakfast Sandwich, Eggs Ham and Toast, and a breakfast wrap. It certainly made for some big decisions every morning!

Breakfasts aside, Cabinas Eddy is really an amazing. It’s truly a family run establishment which makes the atmosphere warm and loving. The whole family pitches in and you can tell they really care about every guests well being.

We had a stow away the day we were leaving!

We had a stow away the day we were leaving!

Guests of Cabinas Eddy can book all their tours right at the front desk. This makes it a wonderful hub for anyone’s stay in Monteverde.

I nearly forgot to mention one of our favourite parts…LUNA! This little furball belongs to Eddy’s daughter. Although they have a couple cats as pets, Luna stole our hearts. She was all black, like our bearcat at home, but a big fluff ball. I’m sure it was against the rules, but we invited her to our room on more then one occasion. Her presence made us feel right at home and we had so much fun playing with her.

Sleepy sloth friend

Sleepy sloth friend

I have a last little insider tip on Cabinas Eddy. As you leave the property and start walking up the hill to town, make sure you look in the trees on the left hand side. There is a mama sloth and her baby that hang out in the trees.We passed by then every single day! It was a very memorable part of our stay!

If you are staying in Monteverde and are looking for a place that is central, affordable, has a great atmosphere, and delicious breakfasts, I would highly suggest Cabinas Eddy.

Don’t forget to say hi to Luna for us!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Panama’s Paradise, Bocas del Toro, Panama

FUNKY

This is the word I would use to describe Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito, our accommodation in Bocas del Toro.

The entrance to Panama's Paradise

The entrance to Panama’s Paradise

Way way back, during our very first week in Tamarindo, we were given a business card for Panama’s Paradise by a guy who had just stayed there. At that point we weren’t even sure whether or not we would be going to Panama, so we just tucked it inside our tour book, and forgot about it.

Month’s later, as we were planning our trip to Panama, we unearthed this little card, and we are certainly glad we did.

Panama’s Paradise is located in Saigon, a small little community just a 5 minute bike ride from the heart of Bocas Town.

This worked perfectly for Shaun, and I, as we usually prefer to stay somewhere that is a little bit outside of the hustle and bustle of town centres.

The map to help the confused lost guests

The map to help the confused lost guests

When we first walked in to Panama’s Paradise, we instantly got lost. The property itself is fairly small, but there are pathways that wind around the various cabins, and buildings that can certainly cause some initial confusion. It’s no wonder their website provides very detailed instructions on where to go when you check in (which of course we didn’t have with us). Luckily the path to the reception area is very clearly marked, and once we had checked in, we had it all figured out.

Our cute little cabina

Our cute little cabina

We stayed in Cabina number 6, which has a full kitchen, double bed, single bed, TV, WiFi, and ensuite bathroom. We shared a porch that had hammocks, chairs and couches with three other units.

The set up in our room was fantastic. Our kitchen had a little bar set up, so we could visit with each other while cooking dinner. The single bed was set up near the TV, so we could use it as a couch area during the day.

Our couch/TV area

Our couch/TV area

The room had all sorts of hatches, and big windows that we could open wide to get the air flowing through. The light fixtures in our cabin, and outside, looked like they were straight from an IKEA catalogue, or my mom’s house.

The outdoor communal space was wonderful. Each unit has their own hammock, table and chairs. Strung around the porch were several hummingbird feeders. I have never seen hummingbirds so close in my life. I could actually see their little tongues poking in, and out of their beaks! I can’t even tell you how many humming bird photo’s I amassed during our stay.

Jenny's house/Reception

Jenny’s house/Reception

Panama’s Paradise is lovingly run by Jenny Rolink. She lives in the centre of the property with her kids, and will literally help you with anything that you need. She takes pride in her property, and it shows. During our stay both Jenny, and her staff worked tirelessly to maintain, and improve the property.

Aside from the great living spaces, and customer service, Panama’s Paradise has a couple additional perks that really make it worthwhile.

Our bike's Dolly, and Ralph. They're in love.

Our bike’s Dolly, and Ralph. They’re in love.

Anyone who stays on the property is given a free bike rental from Bocas Bicas in town. I can’t tell you how amazing this was. Shaun, and I often want to rent bikes when we visit towns that are a little bit more spread out, but it’s often over our budget. Having bikes the entire time gave us so much freedom, and we ended up seeing so much more of Isla Colon then we would have without them.

A second perk is that Panama’s Paradise also offers a discount for extended stays. If you stay for 6 nights, your 7th night is free. You can use this deal at Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito, or at their sister location Rafael’s house on Isla Bastimentos.

One of my MANY hummingbird photos

One of my MANY hummingbird photos

If you are looking for a self contained rental in Bocas del Toro, with a funky atmosphere, great service, and some fabulous perks, we would highly suggest you check out Panama’s Paradise Saigoncito.

Pura Vida!

Kate

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

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress.

El Coquito, Matapalo, Costa Rica

Sometimes life lands you in magical places, and you just have to take a moment to be thankful.

This is the state of mind we have been living in during our time in Matapalo.

The paragraph in our guide book on Matapalo is just that, a paragraph. A small excerpt describing a remote village, with few amenities, good surf, and a gigantic beach.

We were intrigued, and although it was challenging, I managed to track down a place to stay, El Coquito. The website didn’t really work, but after a couple of emails back, and forth, we had secured a place to stay. Our expectations were low, but we figured it would be an adventure.

As the days leading up to Matapalo neared, we began wondering what we had got ourselves into. Although Matapalo is located only 32km from Quepos, many cab drivers had no idea where it was. We eventually managed to track down a driver, and with the help of our map, and guidebook were on our way.

El coquito's little restaurant

El coquito’s little restaurant

Our ride was an adventure, with the driver stopping to ask directions whenever he saw someone. Eventually, we pulled into a dirt road, and saw a small grocery store, and a sign for El Coquito. We had arrived. I think the driver was just as relived as we were.

We headed up to the small outdoor restaurant where we were greeted by Enrique, and Mariella, likely two of the most amazing people we have met on this trip. Enrique is from Matapalo, but, after spending time in California, speaks perfect English. Although he worked primarily for a bank here in Costa Rica, he developed a passion for cooking while living in the states.

A view from the beach

A view from the beach

Now retired, he helps run El Coquito, and puts his love of cooking to good use. This would certainly work out in our benefit. Especially when Enrique informed us that the owner had called him earlier that day to tell him to provide us with free breakfast every morning. Bonus!

We were checked into our room which had a double bed, single bed, and a set of bunk beds. We had the pick of the litter for pillows and blankets, and even played a round of “the floor is

Our Cabina

Our Cabina

lava.” Although there are several  cabinas, on the property, we soon realized that we were the only guests.

We dropped our stuff, and decided to check out the beach. The first thing we were struck by was our proximity to the beach, it was literally our front yard. Shaun could lay in bed, look out the window, and check the surf. The second thing we noticed was the size. The beach was HUGE. Playa Matapalo spans 12km, and is virtually empty. We arrived on a Sunday, and there were a few locals camping on the beach, but after that we barely saw

The beach is our front yard!

The beach is our front yard!

anyone. 12km worth of beach to ourselves, sure, why not?!

I spent my morning running on the beach, while Shaun surfed. Then we would reconvene in the restaurant where Enrique would make us an amazing breakfast. The rest of our day would be spent going for long beach walks, and lounging in the sun on the beach or by the pool. By the end of our stay, we were so relaxed, and wished we could stay forever.

I find it surreal that I'm actually writing this post in this photo

I find it surreal that I’m actually writing this post in this photo

Shaun, and I talked alot about whether we were even going to write this post. Playa Matapalo is an untouched gem nestled between the touristy cities of Quespos, and Dominical. That level of seclusion is part of what makes it so magical.
The decision to write about it ultimately stems from our wish to bring business to El Coquito.

Enrique and Mariella put their heart, and soul into this place. Enrique’s passion for the food he cooks is contagious. He says his goal is to make people happy through his food, and with the amazing food that he cooks, it is impossible not to end each meal with a huge smile. Although Mariella spoke no English, she was always smiling, and teaching us new words in Spanish.

Sunset on the beautiful beach of Playa Matapalo

Sunset on the beautiful beach of Playa Matapalo

They provided us with so many little touches that made our stay so special. One day, I asked if they ever drink the coconut water from the trees lining the property, and from then on, I had a pipa every morning with breakfast. Every night they would give us a router to bring back to our room so we could get good WiFi reception. On the final evening they had several people coming to eat at the restaurant, but spent the time to make sure we were served first, and that we could sit at our favourite table.

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Shaun’s typical morning

Matapalo is not for everyone. There is nothing within walking distance, aside from a small grocery store. But, If you are looking to get off the beaten path, have great surf all to yourself, and get away from the tourist scene, then I would highly suggest El Coquito. If you are lucky, Enrique will make you tuna for dinner, and rice pudding for dessert. If that is the case though, you may never leave.

Pura Vida!
Kate
Follow me on Twitter:@caketress