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

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10 Things We’ve Learned in our Four Months of Backpacking

Hard to believe, but I now have 4 months of backpacking under my belt. Although I feel like I’ve graduated from my newbie backpacker status, I still learn new things every day.

I thought I would take a moment today and share with you 10 of my most recent observations about the crazy world of a backpacking.

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  1. Lack of laundry facilities means spilling something on myself is 100 times more devastating.
  2. After four months it has just becomes easier to refer to ourselves as Keit and Jawn.
  3. When leaving a hostel that has hot water, we shower like we will never see hot water again.
  4. Buffet breakfast? Watch out, we will make three meals out of it
  5. Free Coffee? Watch out, Kate will make three meals out of it
  6. If I am not wearing underwear by noon, I won’t wear any all day. That’s a waste.
  7. If I have to pee when I’m in a bed with mosquito netting, I will opt to do the potty polka until morning.
  8. Somewhere in Costa Rica, someone is giving out free Jack Johnson CD’s to every citizen. We just aren’t sure where.
  9. Some people need the sound of waves, crickets or whales to fall asleep, I’m pretty sure when I get home I’ll need a sound machine that plays bad karaoke, howler monkeys and people humping.
  10. Date night’s consist of a box of cooking wine, a bag of plantain chips and being in bed by 9

So there you have it. A little insight into the glamorous world of backpacking.

What other tips about backpacking do you want to hear?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

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.

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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!

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 Baile de la Iguana, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Ding Ding Ding, we have a winner! Baile De La Iguana in Manuel Antonio is officially our favourite place we’ve stayed so far!

We actually had a really hard time decided where to stay in Manuel Antonio. We knew we wanted to be close to the National Park, but it seemed like everywhere we looked had either really bad reviews, or was way above our price range.

The view from our room. Epic!

The view from our room. Epic!

We ended up opting for Baile De La Iguana (yes, that means dancing with the Iguana!), which is located 3km away from the park entrance. From the entrance, this “aparthotel” is pretty unassuming. It isn’t until you enter the property, and walk up the steep steps that you realize the hotel is located on the side of a hill, and has a view that will take your breath away. The property has a pool that looks out onto the bay, and there are tropical fruit trees all around. We have a starfruit tree right outside our room!

The pool, right outside our door.

The pool, right outside our door.

The hostel offers both private rooms, and hostel rooms. They have a communal living space at the bottom of the property (where the hostel rooms are) that has free WiFi, and kitchen.

We booked a private room with ensuite, but got WAY more than we expected. We had a

Our apartment!

Our apartment!

full on apartment, near the top of the property, right next to pool, with huge windows that look right out over the bay. We had full cable, a fridge, kitchen, stove, oven….wait sorry, my little backpackers head was about to explode for a second! It was a quality of life we hadn’t seen for quite a while.

Baille de la Iguana is run by David, whose goal is to truly make your experience to Manuel Antonio the best ever. He has a vast knowledge of the area, and can recommend all sorts of things to make your stay truly memorable.

The stairs, and this is the just the first level!

The stairs, and this is the just the first level!

 

Be prepared for stairs when you visit. Since the hostel is located on the edge of a hill, daily hikes up the stairs have become a ritual for us. Come to El Baile de la Iguana for the view, and stay for the tight buns!

If you are on a budget, and are looking for a place to stay that has all the amneties, a little character, and a great view, I highly recommend Baille de la Iguana!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Bonus Picture: Our Starfruit tree! I had never seen one, and my mom requests a snapshot. Here ya go Mom!

Our starfruit tree

Our starfruit tree

Hotel Kangaroo, Jaco, Costa Rica

Although we were only in Jaco for one full day, and two nights, our hostel was just too cool not to write about.

The entrance way. That hammock is the best spot for WiFi!

The entrance way. That hammock is the best spot for WiFi!

Hotel Kangaroo is located at the far end of Jaco beach, about a 15-20 minute walk from the main drag. This was one of the primary reasons we chose this hostel. Not only was it out of the crazyness of the centre of Jaco, but it was also very close to the spot on the beach where we got engaged.

Hotel Kangaroo offers hostel style dorms, and private rooms with ensuite bathrooms. There is a communal kitchen with basic amenities, and amazingly enough, a pool. There are many communal living spaces scattered around the property with hammocks, tables, and other relaxing places to lounge or socialize. They provide free WiFi in the main communal space, a bar that serves beverages in the evening, games, a book exchange, and all the

The main communal area with the bar, pool is just off to your left.

The main communal area with the bar, pool is just off to your left.

information you need to know about having a great time in Jaco. Did I mention the beach is only about a 1 minute walk from the front door?

Since we were fresh off the early boat from Montezuma, we arrived well before check in time. We were greeted warmly by Francesca, and her many dogs. She was busy getting all the rooms ready, but made us feel right at home showing us around, and explaining her three passions.

The upstairs, our room is the first room with Shaun's leg making a guest appearance.

The upstairs, our room is the first room with Shaun’s leg making a guest appearance.

Her first passion, her dogs. She is very clear right off the bat, if you don’t like dogs, she can find you somewhere else very nice to stay. With almost half a dozen dogs milling around, there is always someone who wants a pat or a cuddle. Most of her dogs are strays that she has adopted off the streets, which means each one has that look in their eyes that says “love me!”

Her second passion is her pool. It’s a rarity to find a hostel at such a low price point that has a really nice pool, and Francesca prides herself in keeping it clean. The sand at Jaco beach is dark, and sticky, so, there is a shower all set up at the entrance to the hostel for everyone to rinse off their feet before diving in!

One of the upstairs living spaces

One of the upstairs living spaces

Her third and final passion, noise. Hotel Kangaroo has a little bar that opens in the evening, but after midnight, the party should move to downtown Jaco. Francesca is very aware that avid surfers want to get up early to catch the good waves.

Defining Francesca’s passions help paint the picture of what Hotel Kanagroo is all about, care. Francesca goes way above the call of duty to take care of her guests, property, and animals. She is constantly calling people cabs, organizing surf lessons, cleaning up, and making sure everyone is taken care of. She even walks people to the bus stop, and waits with them to make sure they get on.

Introducing Oscar. This is a seriously awesome cat!

Introducing Oscar. This is a seriously awesome cat!

Her passion for her people, property, and pets helps to create an atmosphere that is both warm, and inclusive.

If you are looking for a reasonably priced place to stay in Jaco that has a nice mix of party, and relaxation, I would highly suggest Hotel Kangaroo. If you go, you must say hi to Oscar, and epic Hostel cat that really knows how to pose for a picture.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress