Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

I see it all the time. A weekend cruise and someone shows up at the port with 4 bags. The cabins (rooms) on a ship are not big, unless you're lucky enough to stay in a suite. Generally, space on a ship is utilized as efficiently as possible and spaces tend to be smaller than what you may be used to at a hotel on land. You're usually working with somewhere around 140 - 220 sq. ft.; so you'll want to pack only what you need.  



Here are a few tips to help you out...


A Carry-On Bag is Important


When you arrive to the cruise terminal, if you're checking in luggage, that's the very first thing to do. The porters are there curbside to take your bags. The next time you will see your bags is outside your cabin door, hours later.  Because there is no set time for this to happen, it's important to pack any items you may need right away in a carry on bag. Here are some examples:

  • Swimwear & Sunblock - The activities start the moment you board the ship. So why wait? If your port of origin is experiencing warm climate, the pool area will be alive. So change your clothes, grab a drink and a lounge chair, and start soaking up some sun.
  • Medication - The last thing you want is to be without medication you need; so this is very important. Keep any prescription medication in it's original bottle. 
  • Camera - I use the camera on my cell phone; but if you prefer to use an actual camera, be sure it's in your carry-on bag. You'll want to get shots of the surrounding port from the top of the ship. 
  • Documents - I know this may seem obvious; but you'd be surprised. Time and time again, people are denied boarding because they either forgot their documents or brought the wrong ones. Different cruises may require different documents. Make sure to to review the required documents for your cruise way in advance. The last check before you leave home should be that your cruise documents are in your carry-on bag.
  • Wine or Champagne - Most cruise lines will allow you to bring on-board a bottle of wine or champagne, to be consumed in your cabin or the dining room. They will normally require you to carry it in your carry-on bag. A corkage fee is usually assessed if you decide to have it served at dinner. Here's a helpful article by Cruise Critic to find out what your cruise line rules are for bringing alcohol on-board, "Cruise Line Alcohol Policies." Still make one extra check directly with your cruise line, as policies are changed and updated once in a while.  


How Formal is Formal Night?


You've probably heard of the "Captain's Night" on a ship. Also known as the Formal Night, Elegant Night, Chic Night, and many other names depending on the cruise line. Most cruise lines offer 3 types of dining for dinner; a main dining room option, a buffet option, and specialty restaurant options. Some have chosen to go in a completely different direction, such as Norwegian Cruise Line with their Freestyle Dining; but for the most part, most follow somewhere along the traditional way. 



If you choose the main dining room option for dinner, you'll usually have 1-2 formal nights along with casual nights, depending on the length of the sailing. Formal nights usually mean suits for men and cocktail dresses for women; but you'll even see tuxedos and ball gowns sometimes. 

Casual nights usually mean slacks or jeans with polo or short-sleeve button down shirts for men and pants, jeans, summer dresses, skirts and blouses for women. It does get kind of confusing because there are variations among all the lines. Cruise Critic published a helpful article with dress codes broken down by cruise lines - "Cruise Line Dress Codes". If you use this, I still suggest checking directly with your cruise line, as things are changed and updated every once in a while.

If you choose to skip the main dining room for dinner in the buffet, you can expect a very casual atmosphere; jeans, shorts, t-shirts, etc.

If you choose to spend a little to visit a specialty restaurant, you can usually expect the same dress code as if visiting the main dining room; but some cruise lines will require a jacket and tie for men even on casual nights.  


Port Days vs. Sea Days


On most cruise itineraries, you'll have a mix of days in port and days at sea; but you will find a few that visit a port every day. So what should you pack to wear in port? Remember, I'm focusing on Caribbean cruises, so please do not follow this if you're cruising to Alaska.


The Caribbean has warm weather year-round; so leave those snow boots at home. It's time for swimsuits and shorts. One very important item to pack for your cruise is a beach bag. Depending on what you've decided to do in port, you may need to pack the following for your day off the ship:
  • Change of clothes
  • Sunblock and maybe a hat
  • Cash - some places do not accept credit cards, so always have some cash - US Dollars are accepted in all ports.
  • Camera
  • Towel - most cruise lines supply beach towels that you can even take off the ship for excursions.
  • Hairbrush 
  • Watch - remember to set your time to the "ship's time" before leaving. If you're late, the ship will leave you.
  • Your room key, which is usually how the ship will identify you and a photo ID for identification in port. 
If you've decided to go with one of the cruise ship's guided excursions, make sure to read the description carefully, as they will let you know of any required clothing for your tour. More adventurous tours like zip lining and horse back riding may require socks and sneakers. Water tours may require water shoes, so you can bring your own or rent some on-site.



On sea days, the atmosphere is resort casual on-board; shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, slacks, sundresses, etc. You may decide to lounge by the pool, visit the spa or gym, partake in activities like dance classes or learn how to make towel animals; so pack accordingly. 




What Else Will I Need?


  • Toiletries - The usual; toothbrush, toothpaste & floss, deodorant, shaving cream & razor, lotion & moisturizer, contact solution, face products, hair products, etc. The cruise lines will sometimes provide amenity baskets, but I wouldn't count on that. Usually shampoo and body wash is standard, but you can bring your own if you have a preference; there's no size requirement on bottles. Some cruise lines will provide a hair dryer. If they do, it's not very powerful, so you may want to pack one.

  • Empty water bottle - If you drink a lot of water, you can either purchase bottled water on-board or save by packing an empty water bottle that you can re-fill with filtered water at the self-service stations.


  • Light sweater or shawl - The inside of the ship gets cold sometimes. If you're like me who gets cold very easily, a light jacket or shawl will come in handy; especially at night when going to the shows.


I hope this helped you to pack for your Caribbean cruise vacation. Bon Voyage!
  


    

    


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

My Las Vegas Picks

There are so many destinations I want to travel to, so most of them I know I'll only see once. Some destinations, however, make it to my repeat list. Las Vegas is one of those. I love Vegas!



One of the best things about Vegas is that it caters to everyone. Families, couples, singles, friends, children, adults and seniors...Vegas has something for you. I've talked to people who have visited Vegas and loved it, while experiencing it a whole different way from myself.

I'll be talking specifically about places on Las Vegas Blvd., otherwise known as "the Strip." This is where you'll find most of the casinos, hotels, attractions and restaurants. You don't have to go anywhere else; it's so easy.


    
These are a few of my personal picks.


Casinos

This is of course what Las Vegas is most popular for. Casinos are everywhere! It's a gamblers paradise. 



You cannot avoid walking by a slot machine, so it's worth a mention. Yet, it's the thing I partake in the least while visiting Vegas. It's hard to not feel the urge to slip a coin into a machine, especially with the sounds of the jackpots and the spinning wheels. So every now and again, I will do that while passing by one. Who knows, you may get lucky.  


Grand Canal Shoppes

One thing that I love about the Las Vegas Blvd. or "the Strip" is that each hotel is an attraction. You could quite easily spend days just walking through each resort and seeing the attractions within. One of my favorites is The Grand Canal Shoppes, located in The Venetian Hotel & Casino and The Palazzo. These 2 properties are five-diamond luxury hotels that operate as one. 


The mall features upscale stores and world-class restaurants. It was designed to resemble Venice, with cobblestone walkways and a sky ceiling that makes you feel like you're outside. It's most authentic feature is the Grand Canal, found within a replica of the famous St. Mark's Square, complete with gondola rides and singing gondoliers. See pricing and hours here

Bellagio Hotel & Casino

Also on the Strip, you'll find another five-diamond luxury hotel and casino, The Bellagio. I'd like to mention three places to visit throughout it's complex.


  • Fountains of Bellagio
One of the top free attractions in Vegas is found at the Bellagio's lake, which spans 8 acres. 



Everyday, the Bellagio puts on a fountain show which is synchronized to music. The show can be seen from multiple places on the Strip, at multiple times throughout the day and night. See dates and times here. Want a more exclusive view? The Bellagio offers rooms and suites with a view of the fountain and multiple restaurants with an awesome vantage point.


  • Bellagio Conservatory & Botanical Garden
Next to the lobby of the Bellagio, you'll find the Conservatory & Botanical Garden


The Garden spans 14,000 square feet and has multiple seasonal themes. My most recent visit was in November, so the picture above features the Harvest Show. It's really beautiful and definitely worth walking through; especially because it leads to my next pick.

  • Jean Philippe Patisserie
After you tour the Conservatory & Botanical Garden, you'll find walkways that lead to many things, including the Jean Philippe Patisserie


This is home to the world's largest chocolate fountain. There's a whole other upper section to it that I didn't capture in the photo.  Next to the fountain is the pastry shop, where you can purchase chocolates, candies, pastries and more. A second shop can be found in the Aria Resort & Casino

Las Vegas Shows

No matter what kind of entertainment you're into, you'll find it in Las Vegas. Vegas is known for it's broad variety of daily and nightly shows that take places throughout the strip. So far I've attended:
  • Penn & Teller at the Rio Hotel & Casino - a famous comedic magician duo that have been performing in Vegas since 1993. They're known as some of the most famous magicians of all time. Something cool about their show is they reveal some secrets of their tricks to the audience.  

  • MJ Live at the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower - I'm a big Michael Jackson fan and I really enjoyed this show. His biggest hits are featured and the main star looks, sings and dances just like MJ. I was expecting it to be a bit cheesy, but it was very authentic and well worth it. 


  • Boyz II Men at the Mirage Hotel & Casino - I'm a mid 80's baby, so I grew up listening to Boyz II Men. I'd never seen them live, so since they were performing at the time I was in Vegas, I took the opportunity to see them. It was like a time warp back to the 90's. They sang their famous hits and they sounded just like they did back then. 

  • Terry Fator at the Mirage Hotel & Casino - Terry is another contestant who I watched win America's Got Talent. His show is very entertaining and he's been very successful in Vegas. Terry uses his amazing ventriloquist skills to put on a show with comedy, singing and celebrity impressions. 

  • Celine Dion at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace - I saved my favorite show, to date, for last. I LOVE CELINE DION! Seriously, It's been a dream of mine to see Celine live from as long as I can remember. I think she's an amazing singer and I love all her songs. Her show was the only one I booked prior to arriving in Vegas, because not attending was not an option. I'll tell you how I booked the other ones shortly.





Celine's show was everything I hoped for and more. It was obvious why it get's such good ratings, even by people who weren't originally fans of her music. I watched in awe, thinking how is it possible that she sounds even better in person than on the CDs? Yes I still use CDs and I have all of hers. Celine put on such an entertaining show that I would definitely see it again.  


  • ***TIP*** How to save on show tickets - I use Tix 4 Tonight to purchase my Vegas show tickets. They offer discounted tickets on shows, sometimes up to half off. They do this by selling the unsold inventory for that day. They also sell discounts to attractions and restaurants, including the popular Las Vegas buffets. Try to get there early, before they open. There are multiple locations on the Strip and the booths open at 10:00 AM. People start lining up early to guarantee access to the best tickets and seats. A half an hour before opening time has worked for me.    

The High Roller

Take a walk down the Linq Promenade and at the end you'll find the High Roller. You can't miss it; it's the tallest observation wheel in the world. However, there are two wheels currently in construction that are projected to surpass it; the New York Wheel and the Ain Dubai.  


At 550 ft. high, it takes about a half an hour to complete the ride. There are 28 glass pods with a capacity of 40 people in each.  


I went during the daytime and luckily it wasn't busy, so they gave me my own pod. The High Roller opens at 11:30 a.m to 2 a.m everyday. I was able to purchase discounted tickets from Tix 4 Tonight that morning. 


Such a nice view! You can see the Strip and the surrounding mountains. 


Food Picks

There are so many restaurants on the strip, that it's hard to choose. Here are a few of my recommendations:


  • The Buffet at Bellagio - Vegas is popular for it's grand buffets. You'll find one in almost every hotel. The Bellagio hosts one of the best. The food was so good and there was a very wide selection. I enjoyed everything I tried. 


  • Yard House - I recommend visiting Yard House before or after The High Roller because it's located on the Linq Promenade. They're known for the wide variety of beer they serve, but the food is also very good. I recommend the truffle fries as a side order; they were so good!

  • Hash House A Go Go - I recommend Hash House to everyone that asks me for a restaurant recommendation in Vegas.

You'll find it in the Linq Hotel & Casino. The plates are huge, the food is very good, and the drinks are fun.


My recommendation: The friend chicken and waffles - so good!


My drink recommendation: Spiked kiwi watermelon lemonade - yummy!


So are you ready to go to Vegas?? I'm definitely ready to go back again! 

These were just a few of my personal picks. There's so much to do and see, that this just scratches the surface. 

Viva Las Vegas!!







What a Nice Surprise - A Liebster Award!

First blog of 2017 - My First Liebster Nomination!


Nominated by Aisha

When I received the message from Aisha asking if I would be interested in accepting the Liebster nomination, I was surprised and elated. My blog had just entered into it's third month and I didn't expect this. I had been following Aisha's blog Island Girl In-Transit and being a fellow island girl, she stood out to me from the beginning. She's currently exploring her neighboring islands of the Caribbean, and posting interesting articles and tantalizing photos along the way. Check them out on her blog, as well as her Facebook and Instagram pages.

Aisha, I'm looking forward to seeing where 2017 will take you and wish you all the best. Cheers to the Caribbean and cheers to traveling!


Have you heard of the Liebster Award?

I didn't know about it prior to me starting my blog. I first heard the name in a travel group I joined. So I looked it up and thought it was a pretty cool idea. It's an internet-based award passed on between bloggers as a way to recognize and expose people that are new to the blogging world.  

Here are the rules:


  • Display the award on your blog and write a post about the award.
  • Thank the person who nominated you and post a link to their blog.  Tell the reader a little about your nominator.
  • Answer the questions given to you by the blogger who nominated you.
  • Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award.
  • Give the nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog.
  • List these rules in your post.
  • Notify the nominees of the Liebster Award and ask if they would be happy to accept? If so, send them a link to your post.

Aisha's Questions


  • What inspired you to start your travel blog?

The topic of travel has always intrigued me. Get me talking about travel and good luck getting me to shut up! It's the reason, after earning by Business Degree, I chose a career within the tourism industry. If I'm not currently traveling to a destination, I'm probably in the process of researching where to go next or planning my itinerary. I decided to create "Global Jamaican" to share the knowledge I've gained and will gain from traveling and researching, and also to expose myself even further into the travel world. I've learned so much in the first three months and am excited to learn much more!

  • How would you describe your travel style?
I would describe my travel style as detailed and flexible. After I book a vacation, I try to plan my itinerary with as much detail as possible. I usually have just a few days or at the most a week, so I like to get as much out of my destination as possible within the time. I use TripAdvisor a lot to find my hotel and see things to do, by reading reviews from fellow travelers. I then create an itinerary with what I plan to do day by day. Food is a very important part of my travels. I love experiencing different cuisines, so I even include my must do restaurants in my itinerary. 

One thing I've learned from traveling is that your trip will never go 100% the way you planned it. That's what I mean by being "flexible." I've learned to accept that my well thought out and planned itinerary will alter in some way due to unforeseen circumstances, and I will need to adapt and improvise without letting it bother me. 


  • What is one thing you absolutely can’t travel without (this can be a travel accessory, item of clothing, gadget, anything)?

I can't travel without my phone, but only because I use it as a camera. I try to document my travels with as many pictures as possible. Every year I create a travel photo book on Shutterfly, so the memories will be preserved forever. I do have to remind myself, however, to enjoy my travels in the moment and to not just concentrate on taking photos. Sometimes, I get so caught up with taking the best shot to preserve the memory, that I forget to put more emphasis on enjoying in the present.





  • What is the most rewarding experience you’ve had while traveling?


What has been most rewarding to me is being able to observe the difference in cultures of the world, which makes me realize how limited my own perspective of life is.



  • What is the most challenging experience you’ve encountered while abroad?


If you plan on traveling all over the world, you have to remember that not everyone speaks your language. One challenging experience I encountered was traveling to Brazil. The language barrier was extreme. I've gotten by OK in Spanish speaking countries, so I thought I'd be OK with Portuguese; especially with my trusty Google Translate. Well, I was wrong. Only one or two people I came into contact with knew some English. Most people knew none at all. Even when using the Google translate and reading to them what I saw, it seemed that nobody understood me. I quickly learned the word for chicken (franga) and just stuck to ordering that at most restaurants. I'm not sure if it's different in other areas of the country, as I only visited Sao Paulo, but next time I visit, I'll try to learn some more Portuguese before I go.



  • What was your favorite destination for 2016?

I'm currently in the process of writing a blog on my last destination of 2016, which was definitely my favorite. I don't want to release any information on that just yet, so I'll tell you about my second favorite - Costa Rica! I really enjoyed my time in there. I only had 3 days, but it was packed with adventure and I definitely recommend it. See my post on Costa Rica here: 3 Days in Costa Rica.




  • If you could choose only one travel buddy for the next five years, who would it be and why?
Well that's easy, it would be my boyfriend. He loves to travel just as much as me. To have someone who is as passionate about the thing you're most passionate about is something I'll never take for granted.

  • Where is the furthest destination you’ve ever traveled to and why?
Answering this question would also give away the destination I'm currently writing about too early. So I'll give my second furthest, which is Sao Paulo, Brazil. I went to attend an international conference. The flight from Miami was non-stop for 8 hours. I was nervous at first, because prior to this my longest flight was 5 hours. However, I handled it well and went on to go even further. Most important thing I'll advise is to get up to walk every 3-4 hours. I didn't know this was necessary and when I got to Sao Paulo, I couldn't see my ankles due to my feet swelling. I'll never make that mistake again!

  •   How do you finance your travels?
I currently work full time within the travel industry. I save wherever I can in order to put as much as possible into traveling. 

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences." - Dr. Thomas Gilovich

  • What destination are you most looking forward to experiencing in 2017?
I haven't finalized all plans for 2017 yet, so I'm not sure which destination I'll be looking forward to the most. I try to do at least 4 trips a year. So far I have a cruise to the Bahamas and a few days in Atlanta, Georgia planned. I need to add at least 2 more destinations to my list before I can answer this question. 


  • Ultimately, what do you hope to accomplish with your blog?

Honestly, I'm not 100% sure yet. I'm so new to this world right now that I'm just having fun with my posts, meeting other bloggers/travelers, and learning even more about travel. I figure that as I go along, I'll figure out which path to take and I'm open to whatever opportunities that may arise. I'm excited to see what will happen in my first full year of 2017.



I'm happy to nominate...



Shawn and Penny from GlobeTrove: Shawn describes himself as the planner and Penny describes herself as the dreamer. They're both obsessed with travel and have created their travel blog in hopes of inspiring people to get out and experience travel for themselves. 


Jithin from The Roads and Beyond: Jithin is an Automotive Safety Engineer living in Chennai, India. Outside of his professional career, he has a passion for traveling. His favorite style is backpacking and he decided to create his travel blog to share his experiences along the way. 


Jyo from Find My MoJyo: Jyo grew up in 5 different countries and has traveled to over 20. She created her blog as a way to inspire people to find their "mojo" or as she describes it, your inner shine. She does this by sharing stories about food, travel, inspiration, and adventure. 


Jing from Finding Jing: Jing is an environmentalist who found her passion for travel while working in the Philippines as an Environmental Specialist. While she does enjoy the company of her travel buddies, she has also found joy in the freedom of traveling alone. Jing created her blog to share the many pictures she takes throughout her travels. She also shares her travel stories with an emphasis on environmental protection and responsible tourism.


Victoria from The Nowherian Daughter: Victoria is a fellow island girl from Trinidad & Tobago, with a love and passion for travel. She currently works as a college secretary in Trinidad, but has a dream to eventually travel for a living. Victoria created her blog as a way to share her travel experiences and develop her own skills along the way. She explains nowherian as "someone who enjoys wandering and knocking about."


Questions for my Nominees

  • What's the number one thing you enjoy most about traveling?

  • Have you had a challenging experience while traveling that you learned from?

  • Have you ever traveled somewhere and thought you would prefer to live there than where you currently lived?

  • Which destinations are currently on your list for 2017?

  • What was your favorite destination of 2016?

  • How did you come up with the name for your blog?

  • What is the number one thing you enjoy about blogging?

  • Do you have a favorite airline? If so, why would you recommend them?

  • Would you recommend your home town/city/state/country as a travel destination to someone? Why or why not?

  • What is something you ate for the first time while traveling and loved? 

  • Are you a detailed planner for your travels or are you more spontaneous?


I must say the Liebster award process was a lot of fun. Thanks again for nominating me Aisha. I look forward to reading my nominees posts.

Wishing you all fun and safe travels for 2017! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 Days in Costa Rica

Hmmm...where to go next. I needed a quick weekend getaway for March. Costa Rica was on my list, so I thought I'd try that. I started my research, but it was kind of overwhelming. I needed to complete my trip in 3 days and there were so many places to choose from. The top destinations included Monteverde, Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna, Manuel Antonio, Santa Teresa, Tamarindo, Jaco, Puerto Viejo, Drake Bay, Tortuguero and Ricon de la Vieja. How was I supposed to choose??

By Peter Fitzgerald - Own work based on the map of Costa Rica and map of cantons, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22744775

After hours and hours of research, I decided on the Arenal Volcano and La Fortuna region. I wanted a destination with outdoor adventure activities and that region seemed to be the best fit. 

Thursday

I took a late night flight from Fort Lauderdale and landed at the Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose. Flight time was 2 hours and 45 minutes; not bad. For the first night, I booked Hotel Aeropuerto. I chose them because I needed somewhere close to the airport after a late night arrival. They also had good reviews on TripAdvisor, many from people just like me who needed somewhere comfortable to sleep for a night. They also offered free airport pick up which was very convenient and easy. They instructed me to take an orange taxi right outside the airport and they would pay the driver upon arrival. It sounded kind of odd to me and I thought there was a chance I would end up having to pay that bill, but it went exactly as they said. There was no wait time and we didn't have to wait for other passengers. Best part was that the drive was only 7 minutes, which I was glad for after landing at midnight. Upon arrival, I was checked in within minutes and shown to my room, which was a good size, clean and comfortable. I settled in and got a good night's rest. 

Friday

I woke up early and went to the dining room to enjoy a complimentary buffet breakfast. I must say I really enjoyed the food in Costa Rica throughout my entire trip. Rice and Beans with scrambled eggs for breakfast? I decided to try it and I liked it!

I made a reservation for a car rental through Service Car Rental for 9:00 AM. So there I was, waiting in the lobby, excited to start my road trip to La Fortuna. 9:30 AM came and no sign of my car. I called them and they said they were running late, but on their way. After multiple calls and waiting two hours, I couldn't wait any longer and used the WiFi to book another car rental with Alamo through Expedia. The hotel dropped me back to the airport, where Alamo picked me up and took me to get my vehicle. I rented a Suzuki Jimny and was on my way to La Fortuna! After this experience, I suggest sticking to the known international brands for car rentals. **Tip** It's recommended to rent a 4WD vehicle because some of the roads are quite bumpy.

The drive time was just over two hours, mainly with views of hills, valleys and rivers. I was able to connect to the GPS on my phone because T-Mobile gives me free international data. See my previous post on how to stay connected while traveling




 



I arrived in La Fortuna that afternoon, just in time for lunch, and stopped at Lava Lounge Bar 'n' Grill. I started with a soursop margarita - WOW! - and then had a delicious lunch with chicken fajitas and burritos.





It was time to check in to my bed and breakfast, Tifakara Lodge, which I booked on Airbnb. I was very happy with my reservation. The grounds were clean, well-kept and beautiful. My room was modern and spacious. The staff was helpful and attentive. I definitely recommend them. I would describe Tifakara as modern comfort in the middle of the rain forest. It's exactly what you need after a full day of adventure.


Photo (c) http://www.tifakara.com/en/gallery.html#&gid=1&pid=2

I saw this little guy outside my room one morning.



After I settled in, I only had time for one activity that day, so I chose to check out the hot springs. Because of the Arenal Volcano, there are many natural hot springs in the area. After researching, prior to my trip, I chose Baldi Hot Springs Resort & Spa.


  
The entrance fee was $34 per person and I paid an extra $7 to rent a locker. The property was huge! It was like a theme park of thermal pools. They have 25 pools on property, which are all filled by crystalline waterfalls and heated by the Arenal volcano. There's even an onsite water park with water slides for the kids. The temperature of the different pools vary, with the coolest pools at the bottom and the hottest pools at the top; up to 152 degrees Fahrenheit!


Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jmenard48/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

After leaving Baldi, I stopped at a local Soda, called Soda La Cuchara Tica, for dinner and a local beer. Sodas are small restaurants in Costa Rica that serve "typico" - typical Costa Rican cuisine. This usually consists of rice, beans, salad and a meat.



Goodnight!


Saturday

This is where the real adventure began! I booked a combo tour with Sky Adventures, who was highly rated on TripAdvisor.  The only thing I would change is that I should've selected the option for them to pick me up at the hotel, instead of driving there myself. The road was very bad...no, extremely bad! I've never seen so many potholes in my life. I'm surprised my Suzuki Jimny made it there and back. It's better to pay the extra for the transportation.

After finally arriving at the park, I redeemed my tickets and got ready for my first activity. First up was the Sky Tram. 


Photo (c) http://www.arenal.net/tour/skytram-skytrek/

This was basically a means of transportation to get to the next tour, Sky Trek. The gondolas ascend to the top of the rain forest, allowing for panoramic views of Lake Arenal. I didn't expect to go that high up. The altitude was 2460 ft. above sea level. 

Next up was Sky Trek (zip lining). There were 7 zip lines, the longest being 2493 ft. I'd done zip lining before, but this was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Once I zipped past the trees in the rain forest and out into the open, I was shocked at how high up I was and amazed at view. 


Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/


Photo (c) https://www.flickr.com/photos/trainor/   License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

That was so much fun, but they definitely saved the best for last! Next up was Sky River Drift. This has to be one of the funnest excursions I've ever done. It includes 3 zip lines and a short hike, as a means of getting to the river location. At the end of the third zip line, you end on a tree platform. From here they rappelled us down over 130 ft. to the river bank below. I was nervous at first, but they let you down slowly, so it's not bad.


Photo (c) https://www.arenalvolcanobooking.com/sky-river-drift/

After everyone rappelled down to the bank, the tour guides assigned us each a raft and gave us safety instructions. Then it was time to get into the water! It was so cold! I quickly jumped into my raft and started heading downstream. I remember thinking, "wow this is so nice!" I was in the middle of the rain forest, in a raft, floating down a natural river. It was very picturesque, calm and soothing. That didn't last too long. Before I knew it, the speed started to increase as I went downstream. I started spinning from one direction to another, my raft was bouncing off cliff walls and boulders, and the cold water was splashing in every time I descended some more. But guess what? I was having too much fun to even care about the cold water anymore! I had such a good time and could've gone on for much longer when it ended.


Photo (c) http://travelarenal.com/product/sky-river-drift-tubing/

At the end of the tour, they took us back to a place where we could change into dry clothes. Then before taking us back to the main area, they gave us warm sugar cane juice. I was still cold from the river, so this was exactly what I needed and it was delicious.

All that activity definitely worked up an appetite. Did you read my post "In Pursuit of Pizza"? If you did, you know I look for a highly rated pizzeria in all my destinations and you saw my review of Cafe Mediterraneo.



Pizza in the rain forest? Sure, why not? Nothing like a good wood-fire oven pizza, with a view of the Arenal Volcano, after a long day of zip lining and river tubing. Immediately upon walking in I noticed the warm and relaxing atmosphere, which was exactly what I needed. I asked for a recommendation on a locally brewed beer and was given Pilsen. I really enjoyed it and it went well with the pizza, which was cooked to perfection. The service was very good. The owner even came out to greet each table one by one. I definitely recommend making this one of your stops. 


Sunday

I didn't really plan anything for today. My flight was scheduled for 1:11 am that night out of San Jose, so I decided to play it by air and give enough time to return the car and check in at the airport. I took my time to check out of the hotel that morning and drove into town. I tried to get a good shot of the volcano, but the clouds were covering the top.



I saw a cafe called My Coffee Lounge and stopped to try it out. The drinks were good and they were pretty!



After coffee, I decided to head back towards San Jose. I stopped at a small roadside soda on the way and had lunch. A little over two hours and I was back in San Jose. By this time it was late afternoon, but still too early to go to the airport. I decided to check out a popular shopping mall, Multiplaza Escazu. It resembled an American-style indoor mall. There were multiple levels with a large variety of stores and restaurants. This made it easy to pass the time.



After walking most of the mall, I chose Inka Grill for dinner. This was my first time to a Peruvian restaurant and it did not disappoint. The food was extremely good! I also liked the outdoor setting which resembled a sidewalk cafe. For dessert, I had Gelato at Da Noi Gelateria inside the mall. 

By this time it was around 7 PM, so I left the mall and headed back to Alamo. They dropped me back to the airport, I checked in and headed to the gate. It was time to say goodbye to Costa Rica and my adventure packed weekend. **Tip** Check your airfare breakdown before you leave home. If it does not list a departure tax charge for Costa Rica, you will be required to pay this at the airport when leaving. I had no idea about this until I got there that night and had to pay $29. Luckily I had cash on me, as a credit card was not an option unless ran as a cash advance. Most airlines are now including it in the airfare, but check just in case.

AdiĆ³s costa rica!