At this point, I’ve pretty much planned your entire visit to Tulum, Mexico. From sharing 6 Tips for renting a car HERE, to sharing all of the need-to-know logistics HERE, recapping my super lux experience at the Coqui Coqui Spa HERE and literally laying out my day to day itinerary HERE, you should be covered. And if that wasn’t enough, on my IG you can follow along on my journey and get even more tips and guidance via my saved highlights and guides tabs (HERE-All You Need to Know to Explore Tulum, Mexico), and now, I want to share my recommended must-eats for the area, below!
Rosa Negra From their IG: A tribute to Latin American cuisine. Our eclectic menu includes gastronomic traditions from Peru, Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico.
This was my favorite place we ate at while in Mexico, from the food to the atmosphere, I will go back again and again! I got the salmon and though it’s hard to mess up salmon, it was one of the best I’ve ever had! This is the perfect place to go if you are celebrating something!
Price Range: $$$
2. Taboo Tulum From their IG: Taboo is a beach club, rated as one of the best restaurants in Tulum which adopts Mediterranean food as a lifestyle.
Come for the food, stay for the hookah and vibes. I love the menu here at Taboo and I’ve been on two separate occasions with large groups who have tried just about everything on the menu and there were no complaints! I also love the live music and everyone dancing around, truly a party scene!
Price Range: $$$
3. Ziggy’s Beach Club From their IG: Culinary experience in Tulum beach 🍴; Best vibes occur in Ziggy’s
The food here is simply tantalizing, come here if you value good eats!
If you follow me on social media (which you absolutely should HERE for all of the Weight Loss Travel Gains behind the scenes), you most likely know my stance on all-inclusive resorts. But if you missed it, or you’re new here, know that it’s not my top choice in terms of lodging.
For me, travel is an immersive experience and a huge part of that immersion is exploring a culture through food. I don’t feel I can do this in an all inclusive. These resorts are typically geared towards the bland taste buds of American and English tourists, completely watering down the culture. I mean, what good is all you can eat food if it’s not the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth? This is not to say that every all-inclusive has bad food, because there are plenty of 5 star resorts with top-notch culinary offerings, and I wanted to curate a list for those who either love all-inclusives or are on the fence and need some convincing.
I do feel there is a time and place for these properties. For example, on my June 2021 visit to Tulum, we had a party of 30, so it absolutely made sense for planning purposes to choose an all inclusive location. More examples of best time/place are:
Solo Trips- For safety and planning reasons, staying in an all-inclusive resort can be a great option for solo travellers
Destination Weddings-Resorts work really well when it comes to planning special events like weddings, engagements or like events! They help take the stress of planning off of the wedding party and help to organize for family/guests!
Group Trips-Typically, I rent a big Airbnb for a group trip, but depending on size, age range and other factors, an all-inclusive resorts can be a great option for ease of planning across budgets, needs and activities.
First trips-Travelling can be scary, it can be intimidating, overwhelming, etc. but an all inclusive resort can be a great way to “dip your toes in” to have a bit more structure to your first voyage (similar to a cruise)
So, let’s get into this list, curated from resorts across the globe, taking into account amenities, decor, food choices, and activities
3. Sanctuary Cap Cana | Dominican Republic From their IG, ” Set on the pristine beaches of Cap Cana, #SanctuaryCapCana is the Dominican Republic’s most exclusive adults-only all-inclusive resort.” Website: https://sanctuarycapcana.com/
Check back for an extended list with more of the best all inclusive resorts around the world!
I’ve been to Mexico a few times now and absolutely plan to keep going back again and again! I’ve only just scratched the surface of this massive country, visiting Cancun, Tulum and Cozumel, and have done something different each trip- from lodging, to itinerary and even transportation. For example, on my most recent visit to Tulum, I rented a car to make the trek vs taking a shuttle or taxi. In this post HERE, I recapped my October 2020 trip and the various transportation options to get from Cancun to Tulum. Of the options, renting a car was my favorite for the ease and flexibility! Below are 6 tips for renting a car in Mexico to bring ease and flexibility to your own trip:
While you do need a driver’s license to drive while in Mexico, you don’t have to apply to any special license outside of your valid U.S. or Canadian license. Be sure that your license is not expired and is in English. For those who are not U.S. or Canadian citizens, or if you’re license is not in English, you can still drive in Mexico, you will just need to get an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Check HERE for more information on what an IDP is and how to obtain one, if needed. Again, licenses issued in English are recognized by Mexican law as valid to use to drive- but always double check with your rental agency when confirming your reservation or google ahead of your visit.
Note: You will also need to show your passport when picking up your car from the rental agency.
Be prepared to pay for renter’s insurance or have a significant hold on your card! I have the Chase Sapphire Reserved credit card, which comes with built-in renter’s insurance, which covers up to $75,000 USD in damages, at no additional charge. But, I quickly found that Mexican rental companies don’t recognize out of country coverage, not without a huge fee at least. I rented with Economy and in order for them to recognize my coverage, they would have had to place a $15K USD hold on my credit card, basically a deposit equal the size of the cost of the car, in the event of any lost, theft or damages. Insane, I know. The alternative, was to get the insurance the rental company offered, for an additional $150 USD, which is the option I ended up going with. The original total for my rental car was $150 USD but after including the additional insurance fees, our new total was $300 USD.
Budget additional time to receive your rental. While the Cancun International Airport (CUN) is fairly small, you will have to budget time to find your rental company desk and then time to get to the shuttle to actually grab your rental. We rented with Economy, which doesn’t have a desk inside of the airport, instead we found the representative for the company outside of the airport. The representative confirmed our reservation and directed us to the shuttle to Economy’s rental office, approximately a 10 -15 minute ride. Once there, i took us roughly 1 hour to fill out all of the paperwork, confirm our reservation and receive our car. The total ordeal took almost 2 hours, though we didn’t budget this into our itinerary, we left our first day extremely flexible to accomodate any travel snafus. Our friends, who arrived a few hours behind us, waited almost 3 hours to get their rental car, so while that was extreme, it’s important to be flexible on your travel days. Returning the rental car was a breeze, we filled the gas tank to the same level we received it, checked for any damages/marks and were then escorted back to the airport via the shuttle, all within 20-30 minutes.
When at the gas station you will pay in pesos! I did not have cash on me when we went to fill up the gas tank, so while I was able to use my credit card (Chase Sapphire Reserved), I had to figure out how much I wanted in U.S. dollars and then convert this number to pesos to tell the gas attendant. Similar to New Jersey (for my USA folks), you do not pump your own gas in Mexico, an attendant will do so for you. I used the Global Convert app to help me with the conversion!
Book ahead where and when possible. There are some things I wait to reserve when I am at my destination and other things I like to lock down in advance, my rental car being one of those “book ahead” things. With the current rise in travel, rental cars are not only a bit hard to come by, but they’re also expensive-especially when trying to book last minute. Additionally, the type of vehicle that you need may not be available, say a larger car when travelling with a big group! Book on sites like expedia.com or directly with a rental car company (on their website), to secure your rental.
Have your own GPS system as most of the rental vehicles are older models, so many will not have GPS or other more advanced systems. One of my travel mates has a travel plan with AT&T which extended her service to Mexico for free, so we were able to access Google Maps on her phone for directions. If you are heading to Tulum for Cancun, it is literally a straight shot on highway 307!
*Other notes: In Mexico, they drive on the same side of the road as the U.S.- on the right side of the road. Also, we didn’t have to mention that we wanted an automatic car (this seemed pretty standard), but be sure to take note of this if you’re not familiar with driving a stick shift/automatic car.
And be sure to check HERE for my post on general tips on renting a car in another country!
When visiting Sedona, Arizona, there are a few things that should absolutely be on your list, hiking the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead is one of them! The Devil’s Bridge Trail is a breathtaking view and amazing experience, with it’s 54ft high/45ft long natural bridge, surrounded by red rock. It is Sedona’s largest sandstone arch, located in the Coconino National Forest, off of Highway 89a. Check below for tips on planning your own visit to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead and check HERE for tips on planning the rest of your Arizona visit.
How to Get There:
There are a few ways to get to the Devil’s Bridge trailhead:
Mescal to Chuckwagon to Devil’s Bridge trails (4 miles round-trip) from Long Canyon Road(the one we did)
Chuckwagon Trail to the Devil’s Bridge Trail from Dry Creek Road (5.8 miles round trip).
If you rent a 4×4, you can actually drive straight to the Devil’s Bridge Trailhead and park your vehicle there (2 miles-round trip). Only do this with a vehicle that has the ability to off-road.
We stayed at the Arabella Hotel located in downtown Sedona, so this was our starting point for our journey. My recommendation is to rent a car, I did not see a ton (or any) public transportation during my visit and the trailhead is roughly 7.3miles from the city. The drive is scenic and pretty straight forward, we simply entered “Devil’s Trailhead” into our GPS (google maps) and followed directions to the Mescal trailhead lot (Long Canyon Road) for parking.
Don’t be like us! Despite having directions and parking at the right location, we entered the wrong side of the trail, and walked a mile in the wrong direction before we realized we were headed the wrong way. The lack of signage or other hikers didn’t tip us off, but the end of the non-existent trail is what finally gave us pause. Once we turned around and began to retrace our steps, heading toward the entrance, we ran into a couple who confirmed that we were on the wrong trail, telling us to head back another .5 miles to get on the right trail. This extended our total hike time.
How will you know you’re going the right way? Devil’s trailhead had several signs both at the start of the hike and all throughout the trail to signal you’re headed in the right direction- so, if you don’t see these, you’re going the wrong way! Below are pictures from the start of the Mescal trail.
Parking: Parking outside of the trail will cost you $5 and you’ll need to pick up a Red Rock Pass. It gets extremely busy, so plan to arrive early to secure a good spot! We arrived at 6:50am and there was already a crowd, though we did secure a spot! Alternatively, you can park along Dry Creek Road, you’ll see several cars parking along the side of the road.
Note: It tends to be busiest between 10am-3pm, year-round, so arrive before or after if you wish to beat the crowds.
Entry: It is free to enter and walk the trailhead!
There’s also an “at-your-own-risk” photo opp at the end of the trail, which is also free, but be prepared for a long wait (on average 2 hours). We arrived early for our hike (6:50am) , and despite running a bit behind due to getting lost, still made the trail by 8:00am and there was already a roughly 2 hour wait for a photo opp.
Once at the spot pictured below, the actual bridge, you can walk toward the middle and pose for a picture, someone from your party or a kind stranger will have to snap your picture as there aren’t any official workers on the bridge to take photos or regulate how long people are taking to get their perfect shot. I did not walk across the bridge, a mix of my fear of heights and not wanting to wait the full 2 hours, I stood in front and on a nearby ledge capture my photos.
Intensity: Most blogs that I read stated that this hike was moderate. While I would agree with that statement for the first 3/4 of the hike, the last 1/4 is literally an uphill scaling of a rock and was relatively difficult for me, though there were several children, dogs and older people also making the trek! Please consider this as you plan your journey-if it becomes too much at any point, you can simply decide to turn around!
The hike is roughly 2 miles 1 way (1.8 miles to be exact) , so roughly a 4 mile round trip (depending on your starting point), expect to spend 2-3 hours completing the trek (not including any time spent for the photo opp).
Dress appropriately, as though you’re going to have a moderate workout, including wearing comfy, closed-toe shoes!
I felt the hike was 100% worth it, the views were amazing, something I am certainly glad I was able to take in, in my life time. The bridge is scary for those with a fear of heights (such as myself) so you can enjoy it without actually walking across or with a bit of common sense, carefully navigate to the middle for a photo opp!
What to Pack: 1. Pack light! You don’t want to be lugging too much, especially as you get to the more strenuous part of the hike.
2. Wear layers to protect against the morning cool air, enabling you to strip down as it starts to heat up. You’ll also want to wear comfortable clothes and shoes!
3. Pack sunscreen for easy reapplication, don’t get caught slipping unprotected. You may want to also bring a hat or sunglasses!
4. Pack water and snacks! There is nowhere to buy water or snacks on the trail so plan ahead and come prepared. (I’d also recommend eating a good breakfast/meal ahead of your hike).
Best Times to Visit:
The best times to visit Sedona would be April and May for optimal weather before the sweltering heat of the summers.
In addition to the above tips, please also use common sense and put safety first, the hike can be an amazing and scenic experience, but it can also be dangerous. There have only been 2 reported deaths for falls from the bridge, in addition to several reports of lost or dehydrated travelers, so be careful, stay aware, keep hydrated and have fun!
For more tips on planning a trip to Arizona, check my recap and guide to spending a long weekend HERE.
Every year on April 22 since 1970, the world celebrates Earth Day, with each year hosting a different theme. 2021’s theme is RESTORE OUR EARTH.
The earth is our home, and this day is just a special reminder to protect and love that home! As travelers and travel lovers, we all should take special pride and care of our earth as we marvel in its beauty at each new country/state/city we visit! Protecting the earth and being mindful of things like deforestation, air, and water pollution, amongst other issues negatively impacting our planet.
You can easily find activities and events happening around the globe for Earth Day by visiting EarthDay.org. And while I encourage everyone to get active on each earth day, I want to share ways to become a more sustainable citizen of this planet and traveler everyday. Below are a few, simple changes that I’ve been trying to incorporate into my life:
Using a reusable bottle This is probably the easiest firs step to living a more sustainable travel life! Reusable bottles can be purchased at almost any major retailer or online and prices can range from $1USD to more premium bottles in upwards of $30USD. I’ve purchased $1 Bottles at Walmart that have held up for years and also have a few Camelback bottles from Amazon that I love! At home, I use a Brita filter to keep fresh water on hand which I use to refill my bottle. While traveling, I find a water bottle filling station or pre-covid, would ask restaurants to fill my water bottle (which most would with no problem). During Covid, admittedly, I’ve been having a tougher time as a lot of water bottle refill stations have been closed off and a lot of fast-casual restaurants are closed, however, I have had some luck at a few sit-down restaurants by asking politely. The more we begin to normalize using reusable bottles, the easier it will be to find ways to keep our water bottles full! Check HERE to purchase your own reusable water bottle or HERE for a list of the 14 best water bottles of 2021.
Refusing straws/Reusable straws It is estimated that 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches, that’s BILLION. 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year. So by starting with my first change, purchasing a reusable bottle, you’ll be helping to eliminate plastic water bottles from the ocean and by leaning in for change 2, you can help with decrease in disposable straw usage. The first way to go is probably the most obvious, just refuse the straw! But I understand the hesitation to put your lips directly on a glass in a restaurant or bar, but fret not, you can purchase and carry a reusable straw! There are so many to choose from, and you’ll have options for travel sized/friendly straws that also include a carrying case to be easily used on the go! You can choose from metal straws, silicon straws and even Bamboo! Check HERE for a list of the 14 best Reusable Straws or HERE to purchase from Amazon (Can also be found at retailers like TJMaxx/TKMaxx).
Using reusable masks over disposable when possible Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve all been using and wearing masks, and I don’t foresee this going away in the near future, but just like the humans we are, we’ve turned this solution of protecting us from a deadly disease to our planet’s next plastic problem. Disposable mask production is now estimated to be in line with that of disposable/plastic water bottles, however there is no current guidance for recycled masks (not that everyone is recycling their water bottles either), so that means every minute of every day, we are throwing away 3 million face masks around the world, which often end up on in our oceans! Buy and wear a reusable mask, it will actually be easier on both the environment and your pockets! Masks are now being sold at almost every major retailer and ecomm site and prices can range from $3USD to more premium prices, just pick your poison! Personally, I’ve purchased a few masks from Etsy, Amazon, Anthropologie and even Athleta. Check HERE for a list of the best fabric masks to buy in 2021. The alternative is to make your own mask with a piece of cloth or fabric, HERE is a YouTube video on easy DIY masks! !
Shopping sustainably Becoming a more sustainable clothing shopper is something that I am trying to work toward, getting out of the fast-fashion world, but I get it, it’s not easy. I do not have unending, disposable income to spend on all of my fashions, and while I enjoy looking good and creating content for my blog, I don’t have a huge budget to dedicate to this. However, I have been making strides. I’ve been following more fashion bloggers like @tenickab for not only store/brand suggestions, but also for ideas on how to slowly transform my closet to more sustainable/quality pieces and how to style them! HERE is a list of 14 sustainable stores to shop at online. And HERE is a list of 35 ethical & sustainable clothing brands. Note, buying sustainable does not have to be synonymous with expensive. Some of our favorite brands are becoming more conscious, like H&M, who’ve created a new line with our planet in mind with at least 50% of each item being made from sustainable materials, check that out HERE. And you can always try thrifting! And for my content creators/travel bloggers- you can and you should re-wear that outfit our swimsuit!
A few other, small acts and changes you can start with. Switching to cotton towels vs. paper towels, HERE is my favorite brand that I’ve been loving. AltLinen has cotton linens that you can purchase once, reuse over and over and have replaced forever, for free, once they’ve been too worn. Use reusable bags when shopping and ditch the plastic, I get mine from Trader Joes for my groceries or TjMaxx/Marshalls for general shopping and for only $.99 USD, you can find reusable bags just about anywhere, including HERE on Amazon. And as always, recycle when and where possible!!
I often hear people say, ” I am just one person, how can I make a difference” and I get frustrated because if every 1 person has this same take, we will never achieve change. Just by us making small changes, every day, and then encouraging others to do the same, either through action or encouragement, we can begin to make a true difference!
Let me know how you plan to make a difference this Earth Day!
My first international trip of 2021, I thoroughly enjoyed Costa Rica! I was looking for a scenic getaway, with great food and tons of outdoor adventure, Costa Rica was all of this! Here’s Part III of my Pura Vida, Costa Rica recap! Click HERE for Part I and HERE for Part II!
First, covid-19 entry requirements!
As of 10/26/2020 tourists visiting Costa Rica do not need to show proof of a negative covid‑19 test and will not need to quarantine. However, I personally encourage everyone to get tested before and after traveling. Despite not needing a negative Covid-19 test to enter, you’ll need to fill out the Costa Rica digital Health Pass form found HERE. You must show proof of this via a QR code when boarding your flight and once again upon arrival at immigration. You’ll also need to purchase health insurance that meets any covid‑19 requirements such as any medical expenses or quarantine related expenses due to Covid‑19. I have travel insurance with my travel credit card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it does not cover Covid-19 incidentals, so I was still required to supplement my insurance. This was the best/cheapest option that I found via the Costa Rican Tourism Board website HERE.
There is currently a curfew in place for all vehicles on the road, Mon‑Fri 10pm‑5am, Sat & Sun to 9pm‑5am. Please be sure to check HERE for updated requirements or covid-19 related information.
Day 1: Arrival, Travel to Arenal & Relaxation/Pool/Drinks We arrived at the Juan Santamaría International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica around 1pm local time, we grabbed our rental car and made the 2 1/2 drive to Fortuna to our hotel, the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa. In the first post of my Costa Rica series I outlined all of the details and need-to-knows of visiting Costa Rica, check there HERE. And in my second post, I reviewed my stay at the Tabacon resort, know that I LOVED it and plan to stay again, check that out, including our video tour HERE.
We rented our car with Payless via expedia.com and I highly recommend everyone visiting Costa Rica to do the same, it makes it easier to maneuver throughout the country!
After checking into the hotel, we were pretty exhausted (and hungry) after the full day of travel , so we decided to head to the swim up bar at the hotel for drinks and food! The property has multiple pools, hot tubs and of course, the hot springs, we went to the only one that actually has a swim-up bar and it’s heated! We grabbed a few (overpriced, but good) drinks and had a pretty chill night!
Day 2:Breakfast, Arenal Volcano, Covid-19 Test, Spa,Tabacon Hot Springs, Dinner & Drinks Feeling refreshed after a great night’s sleep, we went to Los Tucanes, hotel restaurant, for complimentary breakfast before heading out for a hike at the Arenal volcano. We drove to Arenal 1968 trail entrance from our hotel (be sure to type this exactly into your GPS or you may get lost, like we did) which was about a 15 minute drive- pretty straightforward drive as well! When you arrive, there will be a welcome desk where you’ll pay the $15 USD entry fee and be given more information on the volcano, it’s history and information on the actual hike. We didn’t take a map with us, but I wish we would have, despite there being a lot of signs, we still managed to get a bit lost, but eventually made our way. We opted not to do a guided tour as we wanted to be able to move at our own pace, and in my opinion, a guide was not necessary.
Note: It’s the rainforest, so it will rain, bring proper attire. It started pouring down for about 7 minutes and we just waited it out until it was light enough to walk in. We had rain jackets and wore tennis shoes- which helped for some of the more slick areas.
After completing the hike, less than 2 miles, we grabbed food right on site, at the Arenal 1968 cafe! This surprise café ended up being one of the highlights of my trip, Raul and staff were great and so was the food/drinks! Definitely stop here at the end of your hike and get the shrimp/chicken fried rice!
Once the hike was over, we had to head back to the hotel to take our Covid-19 test. Check HERE for more information on organizing my covid-19 test and feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any additional questions. Needing a negative covid-19 test to enter back into the U.S. we prioritized this appointment! The appointment was quick and we wrapped up in enough time to head over to our spa appointments with the Tabacon spa!
At the Spa: I opted for the Corporal Deluxe, which was 75 minutes of heaven, a combination of an exfoliation (I did the Cocoa Exfoliation) and a wrap (I did the Volcanic Mud Wrap). There was a special running, so we received 25% off the usual $170 USD price. The massage was heavenly, from the actual services to receiving said services in a bungalow, nestled in the rainforest, surrounded by the sounds of nature, where my massaged concluded with an outdoor shower with the thermal waters, heated by the volcano. It was AMAZING! Check HERE for the spa menu and plan to book ahead if you want to receive a service-which you should!
Note: Our appointment was at 5pm and it was getting dark and cooler by this time, if I did anything differently, it would be booking our appointment for earlier in the day!
After the spa, we finally were able to check out the hot springs, though it was evening time, it was still a great experience. As guests of Tabacon, we got unlimited access to the hot springs, but if you just want to visit for the day, they have several day-pass options, check HERE to review options and confirm your pass.
After freshening up, we decided to grab dinner at the hotel restaurant, Los Tucanes, where we got the “rock” steak and decided to split it. The steak was great and so were the drinks, the “potatoes” that came with the steak were more cheese than potato so we weren’t huge fans! We had a few drinks, dessert and then bed!
Day 3: Breakfast, Fortuna Waterfall, Canopy Tour, Explore Downtown, Hot Springs, Dinner
Another great breakfast at the hotel was followed by a 20-ish (3.5 mile) minute drive to the La Fortuna Waterfall. We attempted to navigate to the waterfall using screenshotted directions and signs and it was a huge fail. It is not self-explanatory getting to the waterfall so please make use of your navigation system! Once we found it, it was worth the “hassle”. Entry is about $18 USD (all proceeds are reinvested into preserving the area) and there’s a 500 step hike down to get to the views, 100% worth it and about a moderate difficulty level (about 15 minutes and going back up is definitely more tough than going down). The journey down is almost as gorgeous as the scene when you arrive at the base of the waterfall! We arrived around 9am, so it was not crowded, I recommend early arrival to beat the crowds- I believe they open at 7:30am! You can do a guided tour, but in my opinion, if you’re staying in the area and have a car, it is not necessary.
After enjoying the waterfall, and capturing tons of pictures, we drove over to our canopy tour (ziplining), which was about a 15 minute drive! We actually stumbled upon this zipline company by accident, the day before while trying to find the Arenal volcano-then is when we actually booked our excursion! Ecoglide Arenal Park is the company we used and I’d do a tour with them 10 times over! Not only did we have a lot of fun, but our guides were so patient with us and made it a lot of fun. Check here to find out more information and book your own excursion!
We started by gearing up and then did a practice line before heading into the rainforest where we got to zip across 5 lines before heading to the Tarzan swing! Check HERE for a video of us ziplining! The excursion + equipment, in addition to a drink (water or beer) cost $50USD. We were also able to purchase the professional videos and photos that were taken for $20USD, we were emailed a link so that we could download any of the photos that we wanted to keep! If you need hotel pick up, this is something that they can organize with you!
After eating, we actually went into the town to check out a restaurant recommended by our friends at Ecoglide, Casa Fortuna Restaurante Familiar. This cozy, family owned restaurant had an extensive menu full of drink and food options- we asked our server (the owner/chef’s son) for recommendations and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!
After lunch, we hit a few of the local shops in the town for souvenirs before heading back to the resort for quick naps and more time at the hot spring. We decided on dinner in the town and headed to Rancho Perla, another delicious recommendation! Like most restaurants and small businesses around the world, Rancho Perla was experiencing a decline in customers, so our visit was even more worth it. Be sure to check them out if you’re in the area and order the mojito!
This day concluded with a few more drinks and then heading back to the resort for bed!
Day 4:Breakfast, Hot Springs, Chocolate Tour, Lunch, Drive to Alajuela, Sunset/Relax We made sure to take advantage of our last day at Tabacon by hitting the buffet for breakfast and visiting the hot springs and Shangri-La Gardens, adult only area of the hot springs. Being that we got there between 8:30-9am, it was pretty empty, which was perfect!
After packing up/packing the rental car, we jetted off to our Chocolate tour, which was about a 15 minute ride. We booked our chocolate tour with Rainforest Chocolate Tour La Fortuna in advance of our trip, and this was honestly the most thorough chocolate excursion I’ve been on (and I’ve actually been on a few). The tour, marketed as a “hands on program” was just that, it was about 2 hours of history, learning and then all you can eat chocolate for $26 USD (students are $21 USD and children are $18 USD). Our tour included about 5 different groups, about 10 of us total, not including our two guides and it was perfect! I highly recommend this tour for all chocolate lovers! The tour concluded with us each tasting as many different chocolate concoctions we could stomach- I think I stopped at 7 or 8.
Post the tour, we headed to Red Frog, in the town, for lunch! When doing my research, Red Frog came up in many blogs and websites I reviewed, and I understand why. The staff was not only super cool/friendly, but the food was AMAZING, and a great price. We ended up ordering a few things and had enough leftover for dinner.
We hit the road, after lunch, stopping for gas about a 1/2 hour into our 2 1/2 hour drive to the Alajuela area for our stay at Buena Vista Chic Hotel. Buena Vista was such a cozy, Spanish-style hotel, nestled on a hill with gorgeous views, a pool and beautifully upkept garden area. Check HERE for a mini tour of the property.
Day 5: Breakfast, Flight Back Home Our Costa Rican adventure ended this day and we were really sad about it. Buena Vista was a short, 15 minute drive from the car rental place and from there, Payless shuttled us over to the airport. We arrived about 2 hours before our flight to allow enough time for baggage, to show our covid results, security, immigration and anything else!
Showing my covid-19 test was a lot more simplistic than I imagined, I just showed the check-in agent the email confirmation of my negative test from my cellphone. From there, no one else asked to see my results, which was a surprise. This will obviously differ by airport, airline and agent. I was also asked to fill out a form provided by the airline, relating to covid-19 information.
I spent some time in the airport lounge while waiting for my flight, where I was able to get complimentary good & drinks before my flight!
I am actively planning my return to Costa Rica with hopes of visiting the Pacific and Caribbean coasts!
Other tips for visiting Costa Rica: -CR has a tropical climate with 2 primary seasons: Dry Season or Summer from December to April and Rainy Season or Winter from May to November
-It is noted that it is becoming increasingly more expensive to visit Costa Rica, but there are ways to cut costs on your trip, from the places you decide to dine (choose local), the activities you do and where you stay! It is estimated that on average, a week of vacation may cost you in upwards of $1,000 USD.
-The local currency is the Costa Rican colon (1 Colon=.0016 USD) and the official language is Spanish, though you’ll be able to make due with English, I highly encourage you learning a few phrases in Spanish and downloading an app like Google Translate. Other languages spoken are Creole, Jamaican Patois, and some French, Portuguese and German.
-US citizens do not need a VISA to enter Costa Rica, but you’ll need a passport!
We planned our entire Costa Rican itinerary around staying at the majestic Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa. After seeing this resort over and over on social media and in travel groups, I had to see it for myself! In my first post of the “Pura Vida” series, I give all of the details and need-to-knows for planning a trip to Costa Rica, find that post HERE.
Tabacon is located in the Arenal area of Costa Rica, also known as “the adventure capital” and is the #1 recommended area for visitors to explore. Many tourists flock to this area for the Arenal volcano, which the town is centered around, in addition to the rainforest, the Fortuna waterfall, the hot springs and general adventure! But, if you plan to visit Arenal and stay at Tabacon, you’ll have to plan ahead as you’ll more than likely fly into the San Jose International airport which is approximately 2 1/2 hours (130km) away from Arenal. You’ll have a few transportation options (I’ve ranked them by my order of preference):
1. Rent a car! This is what my friend and I did! By renting a car, we actually saved money, our rental for the 5 days was $260USD, split between two people! Renting a car also offered us a ton of flexibility, we had somewhat packed agenda, but didn’t need to worry as much about time, rushing, tours, etc. because we were able to move at our own pace with our rental. Renting a car also allowed us to social distance, it was just us two! Tabacon offered complimentary valet, which sealed the deal for us! I rented the car with Payless via Expedia and it was mandatory to get the local car insurance, despite having my own insurance with my Chase Sapphire Reserve. 2. Tabacon can help to coordinate a private shuttle for $197 USD per person, one way. You can send an message to this email email@example.com, to make arrangements in advance of your visit 3. Being that there isn’t really much to do in San Jose, most tourists tend to leave the main city and head to the coast or to Fortuna, so there’s a network of tour companies that shuttle visitors to the various, popular areas. One company is Tropical Tours Shuttle, who offer daily private and shared ride, ranging from $54-$160 USD per trip, per person.
Once you make it to Tabacon, you’ll fall in love with the area! This 5-star resort is renowned for their incredible views, their thermal experience, complete with the iconic natural hot springs and the Shangri-La Gardens (adult-only oasis) and their spa! There are many room types/suites available, we opted for the Orchid Room with 2 queen beds, but their options range from the Honeymoon Suite to the Rainforest Room. I confirmed our stay directly on the Tabacon website and took advantage of their special offer, book 2 nights, get 1 night free!
On my IGTV (IG: @fitflyflournoy) I actually gave a mini room and property tour from my visit, but videos and pictures truly don’t do it justice, check that out HERE.
As a guest of the resort, you’ll receive a welcome fruit cocktail (which was delicious), complimentary breakfast daily (also delicious), unlimited access to the dozens of hot springs and exclusive access to the adult-only Shangri-La Gardens. The property is split into two sites, with a complimentary shuttle driving guests back and forth! With all of this space, Tabacon also boasts 3 on-site dining options (we ate at 2/3) and this is not counting the pool-side bar where you can grab a quick bite and a variety of drinks, and additional pools and hot tubs, outside of the thermal experience that is the hot springs and gardens. You’ll also be able to stay connected throughout your stay as there’s WIFI access throughout the property!
If it’s one thing about me, I’m going to find the spa! I love the feeling of pampering myself and often find that it’s more affordable to do so when outside of the United States. While this spa treatment wasn’t exactly “cheap” it was definitely an unmatched, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Let me set the scene: The spa is tucked away, toward the back of the property, nestled in the rainforest in between the hot springs, you’re given a robe (or you can take the rob from your hotel room) and are escorted to the private hot tub area while you await your service. This is all after checking in, washing your hands and taking off whatever you don’t want to wear during your massage. Once ready, you’re then escorted to the outdoor bungalow, awaited by the sounds and smells of nature, while you’re indulged in your service. If like me, you go with an exfoliation or wrap, you’ll bathe in warm water from the hot spring, naked, surrounded by the rainforest! Top notch experience. From the ambience to the actual experience, this is something that I want to relive. For anyone wondering, I opted for the Corporal Deluxe, which was 75 minutes of heaven, a combination of an exfoliation (I did the Cocoa Exfoliation) and a wrap (I did the Volcanic Mud Wrap). There was a special running, so we received 25% off the usual $170 USD price.
Find the spa menu HERE to check out what service you’d want to schedule and be sure to book ahead by calling or emailing to reserve your spot.
The staff at Tabacon were some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. Everyone was friendly, everyone was willing to help, and everyone patiently practiced Spanish with me! The staff also helped to coordinate my Covid-19 testing which I needed to get back into the US and they were able to help wherever needed to coordinate whatever activities or excursions that we wanted to do! If you’d like more information on our covid testing done with Unimed Costa Rica, check my other post HERE.
This hotel was all things “lux” and the price-tag certainly matched, even for the food and drinks. Though we thoroughly enjoyed our rock steak from the Restaurante Los Tucanes and our pineapple filled drinks from the pool bar, those drinks averaged $17 USD and the meal was on the pricier end, whereas we enjoyed our meals that we ate off of the property so much more and they were a fraction of the price. Breakfast, however, was delicious every morning! I got a veggie omelet, croissant, fresh fruit and coffee every morning and it was complimentary.
Not only would I stay here again and recommend this resort for those looking to visit Arenal, Costa Rica- I am actively planning my return! There were so many activities to do throughout the days that we didn’t get a chance to just relax and fully experience the hot springs and I really want to be able to do this! I also plan to revisit the spa, it was an unmatched experience!
If you don’t want to stay at the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa (which you should), you can still get their thermal experience with a 1 day pass. While guests receive complimentary access to the hot springs, guests can spend the day here for $85 USD (children $38) with access from 10am-10pm which would also come with lunch or dinner. There’s a slightly cheaper option at $70 USD for half day entry from 10am-2pm with lunch or a night time option with dinner for the same price from 6pm-10pm. For more information on booking this and even more pass options, including a Day Spa package, please check HERE.
The resort, as well as the entire country, was handling the pandemic quite well, when compared to how establishments are managing in my own backyard. Masks were a requirement everywhere, in addition to hand washing or using hand sanitizer when entering a building. Even our cars were sanitized every time they were returned to us from the valet!
Pura Vida! And see you for Part III of my Costa Rica recap with detailed expenses and itinerary breakdown, check HERE for Part I on all things details if you missed it!