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!

Fortuna Waterfall, 2021


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 (weightlosstravelgains@gmail.com) 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.

Tabacon Resort & Spa

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!

Trip Expenses:

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.

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Getting There

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 tabacon@arenaltours.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!

The Spa


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.

Other Notes

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!

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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.

Covid-19 Info

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!

Your first Costa Rican lesson will be “Pura Vida!” which aside from it’s literal English translation, “pure/simple life”, it’s a familiar phrase amongst locals, being exchanged for hello’s, goodbye’s and everything in between! So, Pura Vida and welcome to my Costa Rica recap!

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Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in Central America, known for its rugged rainforests, diverse terrain, beaches and volcanoes. It’s located in between Panama and Nicaragua, with coasts on both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. It’s a perfect destination whether you’re a solo traveler, venturing with friends or exploring with a loved one!

The country is massive, so you’ll have to plan ahead and decide 1) how much total time you’ll have and 2) what exact adventures are you looking for? Do you want to go hiking, relax at the hot springs, surf, lounge at the beach? Each area offer of the country will offer something different!

Knowing that we had 5 days total in Costa Rica and wanting rainforest, hot springs, volcano and outdoor exploration, we decided to head to the Arenal/ Fortuna. Wanting to stay at the Tabacon Resort and Spa also helped to make our decision a little easier. If I had to do it all again, I would have planned to spend at least 2 weeks in Costa Rica, but instead, I’m planning a few return visits!

Note: For future visits to Costa Rica, I plan to visit the Caribbean and Pacific Coast areas. See below for quick tips on this area:

📍 The Caribbean coast located nearest to Panama to Puerto Viejo. Go here for the beaches, great surfing and to find the party!!

📍 The Pacific coast, for more beaches-specifically the Manuel Antonio beach where the white Sandy beaches and warm, blue water is always welcoming. There’s also a national park nearby if you want to do a bit of hiking or see some wildlife.

I absolutely recommend that you rent a car, no matter what area of Costa Rica you decide to explore. San Jose is the main city and capital of Costa Rica, so you will likely fly into the Juan Santamaría International Airport located in San Jose. Aside from a few lovely museums and other cultural sites, most tourists tend to leave the San Jose area to head to the coast or the rainforest, which are all approximately 2-4 hours from San Jose. While there are a few public shuttles and you can likely organize a ride with your hotel resort, renting a car provides flexibility and is often cheaper! Tabacon offered a shuttle from San Jose to Fortuna for $197USD PP, we instead rented a car with Payless Car Rental via Expedia for $260 USD for 5 days, which included mandatory insurance through Costa Rica (my Chase insurance did not satisfy their needs). I requested an automatic car and did not need anything outside of my US driver’s license and a credit card for a temporary hold. Driving and navigating through Costa Rica was quite seamless as they drive on the same side of the road that I am used to in the US and I was able to use Google Maps for navigation!

Costa Rica 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. We went in January 2021, and despite being dry season, it rained on and off all day, but alas, we were in the rainforest, so pack accordingly! Bring a raincoat and appropriate footwear!

The local currency is the Costa Rican colon (1 Colon=.0016 USD), I did exchange $20 USD for tip money, but every place we visited accepted Visa or US cash. While I found Costa Rica to be relatively affordable, it’s noted that its becoming increasingly more expensive as it becomes a more popular destination, but there are ways to cut down costs on your trip from lodging, choosing to dine locally, and patronizing local businesses for excursions as examples. it’s estimated that on average a week of vacation in Costa Rica is $1,000 USD.

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!

COVID‑19 Specific Information as of February 2021.


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, there are a few steps you’ll have to complete, the first being filling 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.

US Citizens: As of 1/26 the CDC added new restrictions for Air Travel stating that anyone flying to the U.S. will need to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test, read HERE for more info. This new order applies to both U.S. Citizens and to foreign travelers who wish to enter the United States. Within 3 days (72 hours) of your flight, you must provide written proof (electronic or paper) of a negative Covid-19 test OR you can provide documentation that you’ve had and recovered from Covid-19 in the past 3 months! Proof of vaccination currently does not count!

I leveraged the Visa Concierge service via my Chase Sapphire Reserve card to help locate and coordinate my Covid-19 test while in Costa Rica for entry back into the US. The concierge service collaborated with the resort that I was staying in and helped to set up an appointment with Unimed clinic to coordinate testing in my hotel room. The test cost $160 USD and was conducted in our hotel room, we we notified of our negative results within 24 hours!

Pura Vida! And see you for Part II of my Costa Rica recap, reviewing my stay at the Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa HERE.

Getting to know the Poconos
The Poconos is a combination of counties, Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne, in the northeast of Pennsylvania. You’ll be met with breathtaking views, waterfalls, mountains, woods and rivers, perfect for any outdoor adventure, depending on the season! And if you’re wondering, any time of the year of is a good time to visit, just determine what your main activities will be, we opted for a winter escape to be able to hit the slopes!

The Poconos Mountains are approximately 105 miles from Philadelphia (to the north) and New York City (to the West) or roughly a 2hr drive from either of the aforementioned locations. I’d recommended flying into the Philadelphia airport and renting a car to drive, if you not driving the entire way (which is what I did- about a 4 1/2 hour drive from New England).

When searching for lodging, I wanted to center our BNB around the main tourist attraction we’d be visiting, the ski lodge. We were choosing between Camelback resort or Shawnee Mountain and this is how we determined what town we’d stay in. Some of the quaint towns that we considered, Stroudsburg, Delaware Water Gap, Cresco, Jim Thorpe, Honesdale, Hawley, Lake Wallenpaupack, Milford and Tannersville. I’d recommend deciding what mountains/lodge you’re planning to ski at and selecting an area to stay based on that! (See below for a list of ski lodges/resorts in the Poconos). Some of my favorite sites to search for lodging are Airbnb and Expedia!

Ultimately, we chose an AIRBNB, listed HERE, located in Cresco, approx. 15 minutes from Mt. Pocono, the Kalahari Water Park, and Camelback. It was the perfect location for us, we were close to several restaurants, the Poconos Casino, the ski resort we visited and the grocery store!

And speaking of restaurants, I always love to leave you guys reccos for yummy places to visit when traveling, check below for a list of Restaurant recommendations, from places we personally visited (notated with a ***) or places that were recommended to me!

I mentioned that there’s tons to do in this area depending on what season you’re visiting and what your vibe is, so building your Poconos itinerary should be relatively simple. I’d definitely recommend this area for those who like the outdoors/adventure-unless you just want to stay in your cozy cabin with friends or loved ones. I’d also recommend a long weekend, 3-4 days, as it’s a small town feel, any more time than that may seem long! For some great open water locations, check out any of the rivers or state parks below:

Promised Land State Park
Lake Wallenpaupack
Delaware River
Tobyhanna State Park

Other Activities


Ski & Snow Activities:

Camelback Resort, Shawnee Mountain, Big Boulder Ski Area, Blue Mountain Resort, Jack Frost Mountain or Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain
Hiking:
Appalachian Trail, McDade Recreational Trail, Big Pocono State Park, Tannersville Cranberry Bog Preserve, Paradise Township, Promised Land State Park, Columcille Megalith Park, Sunfish Pond, Lake Harmony
Water Park:
Kalahari
Cultural Activities:
Pocono Cinema & Cultural Center
Casino Theatre & Village Malt Shoppe
Deer Head Inn- Live Jazz Music

The idea was that this trip would be relatively low-key and low-budget. Please see below for a breakdown of my trip expenses. Trip Expenses:

You can really make this an affordable getaway by making choices on your lodging and even what ski resort you opt to visit. We choose Shawnee Mountain vs some of the other resorts because it was cheaper, we found a discount code for 10% off and were given an option for a night ski session which was cheaper than the day ski option. Additionally, I made room in the budget for a stone massage and did not make any cuts on food options. I wanted to make “healthier” decisions when eating out so opted for meals like salmon that tend to cost more, my trip mates each spent around $75 or less on their total meals! Another option is to also get lodging that has a kitchen and buy groceries to make meals vs eating out!

Please also factor in things like ski lessons, one of my trip mates had never been skiing so she opted in for a lesson that cost $114 USD including lift ticket, rentals and the lesson, vs. myself who did not take lessons so the ski trip totaled $82 USD for me. We also purchased snow suits for this trip, I got mine HERE at Amazon.

*Other Notes:
If you are traveling from outside of Pennsylvania, be sure to check HERE for any covid-19 related travel information. As of my trip date, January 15, 2021, this was the requirement: By Order issued November 17, 2020, the Wolf administration is requiring that travelers entering Pennsylvania from other countries and states, as well as Pennsylvanians who are returning home from other countries or states, have a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering the Commonwealth or quarantine for 10 days upon entry into Pennsylvania. If a traveler chooses to get tested upon entering the Commonwealth, or is waiting for test results, the traveler must quarantine for 10 days, or until receipt of a negative test result, whichever comes first. 

The final installment of my Tulum series will cover all things itinerary, must-do’s, “off the beaten path” Tulum experiences and more.

Itinerary:
Day 1

Day 1 included our travel from the US to Mexico. Check my post on all things Tulum logistics HERE for more information on getting to Tulum from the closest airport, Cancun International Airport (CUN). After a morning of flights and a little less than 2 hour ride from the airport, we arrived at our airbnb, located near the downtown area of Tulum. For a tour of our airbnb check HERE. After freshening up and getting settled at our temporary home away from home, we decided to explore a bit of the downtown area.

Typically, I don’t like to pack much into my travel days to be able to have flexibility for any potential travel delays or jet lag!

Note: We flew into a tropical depression, adding a level of complexity to our travels from the airport to the Airbnb, while also knocking out the power in most of Tulum. Our Airbnb was out of power upon arrival, but our host left us with candles, flashlights, batteries and bottled water, to hold us over until power restored, which happened within a few hours of our arrival.

While exploring downtown our main goals were food and drinks, and with a power outage across most of Tulum, we didn’t have many options. We stopped at a local spot along the strip, not recommended, the food was subpar, there are many, better options in Tulum. (I admittedly, do not remember the name of this place, I should have wrote it down to share back here). Depending on whether or not you stay near the Playa (beach) or near downtown, this will determine what area of Tulum you’ll most likely explore first! Playa is the more popular and touristic area of Tulum, lined with ocean views, beach clubs, shops, restaurants and more. (Famous towering wooden sculpture, Raw Love Tulum, pictured below)

A Towering Wooden Sculpture by Daniel Popper Welcomes Beachgoers in Tulum |  Colossal

Or downtown, which has more lowkey (and cheaper) shopping options & restaurants. Our Airbnb was located in this area, which is the only reason we were over here, other than that, cheaper shopping options and a few bars are the only reason to need to venture to this area, imo. (Downtown strip pictured below).

Downtown Tulum [Telum] Photos: Riviera Maya Mexico | Tulum, Riviera maya  mexico, Tulum mexico
Downtown Tulum- Photo by kimbriggs

We had originally planned to visit either El Pesacador or Mekech Tulum for dinner this night, but the storm brought other plans…

Day 2
Beach day. I think of of the biggest draws to visiting the Caribbean, besides the amazing culture and cuisine, is the beach! On our second day, after a hectic travel experience (tropical depression), we wanted to spend a day doing nothing but being bums, beach bums. We
Beach day. You’ve spent the last few weeks/months working now it’s time to wind down at the beach, You’ll have several beach clubs to choose from or the “open” area of the beach.

We decided to hit up Azul Beach Club, and I have absolutely no complaints, but if you want even more options, see below:

Photo by Ben Mack on Pexels.com

Nomade Tulum
Papaya Playa
Taboo
Casa Malca (Pablo Escobar’s Mansion)

We spent the entire day at the beach, before heading to walk the infamous strip and then heading back home for dinner.

Dinner was at Rosa Negra on day 2, this restaurant is becoming more and more popular thanks to bloggers and travel influencers (like me) but this popularity is well deserved from the atmosphere they were able to curate, the delicious cuisine, the libations and more, this is a must visit restaurant! Everything was so delicious, relatively pricey $$$, but absolutely worth it.

ROSA NEGRA, Tulum - Menu, Prices & Restaurant Reviews - Tripadvisor
Rosa Negra- Picture from Trip Advisor

Day 3
A full day of pampering at the Coqui Coqui Papolchac Residence & Spa. I wrote in depth about my experience at Coqui Coqui in my blog post HERE. If you are looking for luxury & relaxation and at an attractive price, look no further, Coqui Coqui provided the exact ambiance I needed after dealing with the stresses of life, compounded by Covid-19– some would say, “just what the doctor ordered.”

The spa is located about 45 minutes outside of Tulum, in Coba, Mexico. We used a taxi service to pick us up from our Airbnb and drive us to Coba, spending the entire day with us and even taking us to a local cenote in between our spa treatments, and back home at the end of the day. We paid roughly $118 USD or 2500 pesos for this taxi service, not including the tip we gave for excellent service. Another option for getting to the spa would be to rent a car and drive, Mexico offers several rental car services, so this wouldn’t be too difficult, but the road is not always a smooth one.

The spa has a wide array of services, and again, at a relatively good price, especially for what’s provided. I opted for the 90 minute hot stone massage and with no exaggeration, it was the best massage I’ve had in my life (click here for a video recap) My friends each got something different, trying the other massage treatments and even the various “rituals”, 3 hours long services inclusive of deep tissue massages, exfoliation and botanical baths. The prices ranged depending on the type and length of your service. Check HERE for a full spa menu.

If there are a lot of people in your party, like there were in mine, you might end up spending the entire day here, but fret not. There are gorgeous pools that you can either take a dip in or lounge beside, in addition to the on-site restaurant and nearby cenotes. The spa also doubles as a hotel/resort, though we did not decide to stay over, I would consider this on a future trip.

After getting back from our overly relaxing day, we got dressed and headed over to the playa area to grab a bite to eat! Dinner on day 3 was at Taboo Tulum. Yes, the same Tulum listed above for this awesome beach club, they’re also self-proclaimed as one of the best restaurants in Tulum, I wouldn’t disagree. The ambience and location were everything, drinks great, the food was good, service however, was subpar. There were a few things on the menu that I had interest in trying, but they were out, it was a bit disappointing, but I’d visit again. I’d just skip the dessert, it was subpar at best (and everyone ordered something different).

Day 4
On what was supposed to be our last full day in Mexico, we decided to have both brunch and dinner catered at the house, while planning to spend the day on a yacht drinking champagne. However, a category 2/3 hurricane decided it would be fun to land in the Yucatan Peninsula, derailing our plans. Our catered meals still went as planned, and were great, but the disturbance in the ocean not only cancelled our yacht day, but we also were stuck in Tulum an additional day.

The company that we had our yacht day scheduled with was the Yacht Boat Rental Playa Del Carmen.

To add insult to energy, in addition to the impending hurricane, I also got food poisoning from accidentally ingesting a bit of the water from the faucet. This left me immobile and pretty much bid ridden the entire day. Thankfully, our Airbnb host allowed us to stay an additional day, for a fee, with the airport closed and all of our flights cancelled. We ended up just hanging around the house, in the pool at moments, as we waited the storm out.


Other Notes: Tulum seemed relatively expensive to me, when comparing to other Caribbean nations or cities within Mexico. A lot of our funds certainly went to transportation, but I would also say that the restaurants along the popular strip were on the pricier end (avg. $50+ for dinners).

Book and plan ahead (sorry to my spontaneous viewers)! With its increased popularity and scaled back operations due to Covid-19, restaurants are often packed to their new reduced capacity and are also running on slightly different hours (curfew).

I will not argue here if traveling during a pandemic is a good idea or not. It may seem irresponsible at best to many, but in these unprecedented times, many are using it as a natural remedy to mental health woes and a way to continue to support economies that are completely hinged on tourism. If you are going to travel during a pandemic, please do the following:
– Get covid tested prior to your trip, whether your destination requires it or not. Don’t unknowingly be a spreader of this virus when traveling, many of the destinations that are currently open don’t have the infrastructure to support another or a worse Covid outbreak- we must still be responsible.
-Wear a mask. Full stop.
-Try to still social distance, limit contact and activities with others when and where possible. Read my post about traveling during a pandemic HERE for more tips.

I’m sure you’ve been seeing photos of the flamingos in Aruba all over social media as this beach has garnered more attention over the past four years, and rightfully so. I would absolutely say visiting Flamingo Beach is a must-do when visiting Aruba. (To read my Aruba blog post, with all things on getting there, where to stay and what to do, check HERE).

Getting to Flamingo Beach? You’ll have 2 options:

Option 1: Flamingo Beach is located on the Renaissance Hotel’s Private Island, if you are a guest of the Renaissance Hotel you will have free, unlimited access to the island!

Option 2: If you’re not a guest of the hotel, you can get a day pass through the Renaissance for $125 USD. Days passes usually sell out within minutes and if the hotel is at 80% capacity or more, they tend to not sell any day passes at all. A lot of blogs and traveler suggest booking a room at the hotel for a night (avg. nightly rate=$150 USD) to better secure a spot. For a tour of the Renaissance Hotel, check my IGTV HERE The hotel was truly lovely, in a great location, I’d definitely recommend it for people visiting the island.

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The only way to get to the Renaissance Island Flamingo beach is by boat. Speedboats leave every 15 minutes from across the street from the [Renaissance] hotel and it’s about a 10 minute ride.  

The island is open from 7am-6pm. I’d suggest you get there early if you want pictures with the flamingos and then just stay all day! There is more than enough to fill an an entire day at Flamingo Beach, from simple lounging, the various beach activities such as snorkeling, paddle-boarding, kayaking and more, and the two restaurants serving delicious meals and cocktails. There are also restaurants, towels, beach chairs and even cabanas available. The cabanas or private bungalows come with an overwater hammock and prices range from $2-$400 USD daily. Though it does not come with food or drinks, it’s still a good time, being it was me and my gf’s birthday, they convinced me to splurge for the bungalow and I’m so glad I did!



Note, there are two sides to the island, similar to the hotel, the family friendly and the adult only sides. Be mindful of this if you decide to book a cabana. And if bringing kids, the side that the Flamingos are typically on (keep in mind, they roam over the entire island), is the adult only side, but kids are allowed on this side for certain hours a day to see the pink flamingos. There are a set of “white” flamingos and a set of flamingos with a more pink hue.


WATCHOUT: I got bit TWICE when trying to flick it up with the flamingos, once on the butt and once on my shoulder. They were either annoyed, hungry or both and thus aggressive lol. The bites weren’t hard enough to break skin but it did hurt.

Aruba

Aruba

Aruba

Aruba

Aruba

Aruba is an island located in the southern region of the Caribbean Sea, just north of Venezuela and Curaçao. It is one of the ABC islands that make up the “Dutch Caribbean” which help to make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The ABC islands are Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao.

The citizens of Aruba are all Dutch nationals, and as such, Dutch is one their official languages, alongside Papiamento, a creole language spoken amongst the ABC islands. English and Spanish are also extremely popular languages on the island, my tour guide letting me know that most students learn all 4 languages (Dutch, Papiamento, English & Spanish) while in school. As a visitor, if you speak one of these 4 languages, you’ll be able to easily navigate around the island.

A few other facts: unlike most other Caribbean islands, Aruba has a more dry climate and desert-like landscape, having extremely warm weather and sunny, clear skies year round. It is also outside of the hurricane belt- though it does still experience some hurricanes, just not as often as some other islands. The official currency of Aruba is the florin, but the US dollar is widely accepted across the island, I did not exchange any money and mainly paid with my Chase Sapphire Visa credit card or US cash ($1 Aruban Florin=$.56 USD).

Aruba is known as the Happy Island for it’s warm 82 degree days, warm sands and even warmer people! And Aruba Ariba (the title of my series) is also the name of the official drink of Aruba- it is often served as a welcome drink and is quite delicious.

The island is small, taking roughly 45 minutes to drive from one end to the other. The capital, and main area of the island is Oranjestad, which is where you’ll want to stay. So, let’s get into it!

Where to Stay When Visiting Aruba
First things first is planning out your lodging; I recommend selecting your hotel by what’s most important to you, proximity to activities, aesthetics, or price. Aruba is home to some of the best hotels & resorts in the Caribbean. You’ll have your choice of all-inclusive, adult only, family friendly and even hotels called out for being especially welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community.

My friends and I stayed at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (a Marriott Property) in Oranjestad and we absolutely loved it. There are two sides to this hotel, the adult only side and the side that is family friendly. Both sides have several amenities such as pool and beach access, but the adult only side has additional shops and seemed to be the main location. On my next visit I would stay on the adult only side and recommend this to anyone traveling without kids! Check HERE or check below for a tour of the hotel.

Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino


Note, staying at the Renaissance Aruba will allow you access to the infamous Flamingo Beach, forgoing the $125 fee for non-hotel stayers. More on Flamingo Beach below and in another post!

My cab ride from the airport to the hotel was less than 10 minutes door to door, it was $21 USD however. It was super easy to hail a cab to get anywhere we needed and most often, the hotel would either call the cab for us or call for the hotel shuttle.

For Other Hotel Options:

🏨 Adult Only
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa
RIU Palace Antillas
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (Adult Only Side)

🏨 Family Friendly
Divi Aruba All Incluisve
Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino (Kid Side)
Tamarijn Aruba All Inclusive
Aruba Marriot Resort & Stellaris Casino

🏨 LGBTQ Friendly
Barcelo Aruba
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
Machebo Beach Resort & Spa
RUI Palace Antillas
RIU Palace Aruba
Talk of the Town

Though small, the island is full of culture and adventure, depending on what you’re up for. We spent 4 days exploring Aruba and seriously contemplated missing our flights to extend our vacation in paradise. See here for a list of my favorite and must-do activities to fill your itinerary:



🤸🏾‍♂️ First up, have you ever been ATVing? I hadn’t prior to this trip, I was a bit nervous, but I had so much fun! We hooked up with @rockabeachtours_aruba  for their 4 hour long “Discover Aruba”. Single ATVs start at $125 USD, Doubles at $160 USD, and UTVS (2-5 passengers) $180 USD. There were 3 in my party, so we did one of the Honda 4×4 UTVs and took turns driving. There were 5 stops throughout the day-Aruba’s Natural Bride, BushiribanGold Millll ruins,  Natural Pool Cave w/ Cliff Jumping, California lighthouse and a Secret Beach Stop with more cliff jumping! I’d absolutely say this is a must do when visiting Aruba, it was a great way to see the entire island, sightseeing and having fun along the way! Book on their website (rockabeahtours.com)- the tour came with one light snack and hotel pick-up/drop-off.


🤸🏾‍♂️ Spend a day (or more) at the Renaissance Private Island where the infamous Flamingo Beach is located.  I’ve already written on my IG (see last post) on all things Flamingo Beach and couldn’t rave more about how beautiful the island and water is, how fun capturing pictures with the flamingos are and the other activities that are available on the island! Flamingo Beach is a MUST-Do when visiting Aruba & spring for the cabana 😉!


🤸🏾‍♂️ Though I skipped out on this, my girlfriends went on the Aruba Champagne Breakfast & Lunch Cruise with snorkeling. For $85 USD you’ll get a luxurious cruise with Champagne cocktails and unlimited drinks & food, with the opportunity to snorkel and swim along Aruba’s coastline! This “half-day” tour lasts about 4 hours and it does not include hotel pick-up/drop-off! Definitely doing this on my next visit!

🤸🏾‍♂️ & Lastly, ever wanted to spend the evening floating on crystal blue waters watching the sunset over the horizon? Well, if not, dream bigger and experience it in Aruba on a Happy Hour Sunset Sail with food and drinks, for $60 USD!

Having all of this fun will certainly work up a big appetite, thankfully, I had some of the most amazing and delicious meals while here! Below is a list of my favorite eats that you HAVE to check out on your visit.

For a video and little look at the good eats, click here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CHt4r5clo-p/

Pinchos Grill & Bar Aruba’s Most Romantic Sunset Restaurant
Yemanja My Absolute Fav, get the steak
Dutch Pancake House
The Pastechi House
Rotisserie La Braise Aruba
Papiamento Restaurant
Agua Grill Restaurant
Le Petit Café

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I’ve always been told that Aruba was quite expensive, but maybe living in New York/other Northeast States has my opinion skewed, but I found it quite affordable. Meals averaged $20 USD, I got steaks for most of my dinners which averaged closer to $30 USD. The alcoholic drinks ranged from $9-$15 USD and our hotel, and a few other locations, had happy hour specials where drinks were 1/2 off! Here is a breakdown of my trip expenses:

And finally, COVID-19 protocols. We’ll unfortunately, be dealing with Covid-19 for the foreseeable future and I was very impressed with how the island has been managing the virus and incoming tourists. My first blog post, apart of my Aruba Ariba Series, details all of the necessary steps you must take in order to visit the island, please read all about it HERE.

Follow me on IG and check my Aruba highlights for additional pictures and a full video recap of my Aruba adventures, HERE or searching @fiyflyflournoy.

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