Before I even start, let’s break down what a timeshare is exactly.

Timeshares started in the U.S. in the early 19970’s in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and honestly, they were the bees knees back in the day. Timeshares are classified as vacation home sharing/homeownership programs and were seen as an affordable way to “own” a vacation home for the everyday family. It is typically a condo or similar vacation property on a resort and it’s ownership is split by weeks.

Timeshare Property in Kissimmee, Florida

For example, you as a buyer can choose to “buy” a timeshare property with a resort in Florida. This would provide you with access to this condo at this resort in Florida for a specified amount of time per year, typically 1-3 weeks out of the year (the same 1-3 weeks every year).

In order to opt in for the timeshare property, you’d either have a shared deed (owning a percentage of the property) or the more common, shared ownership (lease interest in the property for a specified amount of time, typically until death). Once you understand the structure of the program, shared deed vs shared ownership, you’d have to put down some lump sum of money, typically $20K USD on average (you can certainly find cheaper timeshare programs). In addition to your initial down payment, you’ll have annual fees, such as the annual maintenance fee for property upkeep. According to the American Resort Development Association, these annual fees cost roughly $1,000 USD on average. Note: These fees can increase.

There are additional programs that you can sign up for, for an additional fee, as an add on to your timeshare program, such as timeshare exchange programs. These programs allow you to sell your deeded week or buy available weeks. You can also swap your week if you want to vacation during a different time, or swap from your home resort if you want to visit somewhere new.

My grandmother owns a timeshare, and has for almost 30 years, through Legacy Vacation Resorts. Being that this rental has been in our family for so long, my grandma does not recall her initial downpayment, but she is adamant that it was not $20K USD. We also participate in a timeshare exchange program via Interval International. Interval offers membership at three different levels, basic, platinum, and gold, each having a different program fee and coming with varying benefits. Through our Interval membership, we are able to swap weeks from our home location, gaining access to 100’s of properties around the world, or even other vacation types such as cruises, and opening us to weeks outside of our typical, “owned” week. This membership costs an additional $100 USD on top of her annual maintenance fee and when we want to exchange or swap weeks, it costs an additional $200 USD.

My family would leverage our timeshare year over year, exchanging for cruises to the Bahamas or packing up to head to Florida to visit Disney World. It was a great, low-cost way to take a big, family vacation pre-Airbnb and before travel was as accessible as I would argue it is today. We’d also attend additional timeshare presentations to score free or reduced price tickets to Disney or sister parks, furthering our cost savings. But, as I got older and began my own travel journey outside of my family, I started to discover how affordable and accessible travel could be, outside of the timeshare world, thanks to companies like Airbnb, Expedia, Hotels.com, budget airlines like Frontier or Spirit and even loyalty programs such as my Chase Sapphire Reserved, Delta Skymiles or even Expedia’s loyalty program. The more I traveled and spent less than what my grandma pays for her maintenance fee for a week in an airbnb in say, Mexico, the less I felt the timeshare world was worth it, for me. Additionally, seeing the process of transferring our week for a new property, vs logging into expedia, or having the ability to chase flight deals, made it less and less appealing.

Because my family has had access to our timeshare for so long, we will continue to use it and find ways to make it “worth it”, but for anyone looking to purchase a timeshare today, let’s talk! Here are my pro’s and con’s

Firstly, a timeshare is not an investment. The property does not appreciate in value and it’s actually pretty hard to get out of the contracts once you’re committed, especially as the market becomes so saturated with timeshares.

Pros of a Timeshare

  • Typically a larger condo or apartment style accommodation, it can be great for larger group or family trips. Our timeshare gives us access to a 3-4 bedroom, 2 bathroom condo with a full kitchen and mini kitchen (with 2 pull out couches).
  • Convenience- By having yearly access to the same property, you can avoid any hassles of researching and booking a vacation home that may not even have availability
  • Consistent, you’ll have yearly access to your property, the same week each year, making it easy to plan vacations around your work or other schedules. If you enjoy your home property and available weeks, it is an easy trip with no to minimal planning needed
  • Ability to participate in timeshare exchange programs, for an additional fee, to gain access to additional weeks/properties

Cons of a Timeshare

  • Down payment- The initial down payment for a timeshare can cost an upwards of $20K USD and financing for these particular programs is typically difficult to secure or comes with extremely high interest rates
  • Annual Maintenance Fees-Aside from the initial down payment that is required, you will also be responsible for the upkeep of your property via an annual maintenance fee. Fees can increase year over year
  • Limited Use- Depending on the amount of weeks you’ve purchased, this is all you will typically have access to via your timeshare program (without purchasing additional weeks). You are also limited to your home property (unless you pay the additional fees for timeshare exchange programs). If you’re a frequent traveler (traveling 4-5x per year or more) or someone who likes to visit different locations, I would recommend against a timeshare program due to the limited use.
  • Properties aren’t always as updated, our property certainly needs some updating!
  • It can be hard to remove yourself from the program if you decide that it is not a good fit, having to sell your property/deed, often for a lower price that you paid for. There is a secondary market for resell your time share. Check HERE for more information.

Whatever decision you make, do not allow yourself to be pressured by overly persuasive salesmen or what seems like a “great deal”. Take your time with your decision and weigh out the pro’s and con’s. I will say, it is not all bad, as I’m currently typing this blog post from the pool of our timeshare, because if we’re paying for it, we might as well use it, but before you get yourself tied into a contract, consider the following:

  1. How often am I traveling? Do I take more vacations than weeks I would have in my timeshare program?
  2. Will I have to pay for the upkeep of this property plus additional vacations, annually?
  3. How flexible do I want to be with my travels? And how much extra am I willing to pay for additional flexibility? (such as joining an exchange program)
  4. Do I have the funds for the down payment? Is this something that I am willing to finance, if I don’t have the upfront funds?
  5. Decide if it’s worth it to you, based on the above factors and anything else that may be important to you. A great first step would be to add up all of your fees, from the initial down payment, annual maintenance fees and additional fees you’re aware of, and divide this by the number of years your timeshare program lasts. This will be your total annual cost and if it’s say, $1,200 a year, see if that makes financial sense for your situation. Ultimately. only you will be able to determine what is worth it for you.

According to Trip Savvy, below is a list of the best 9 timeshare companies to look into. Check their website for more details on each program.

Are you a timeshare owner? What would you say are the pros and cons? Or, are you someone looking to purchase a timeshare?

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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! !
  4. 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!

I love visiting the spa as much as I love traveling and I’ve made it a personal mission to either 1) visit some of the world’s most unique, top rated spas or 2) experience the most popular treatments a location has to offer. Though my list is nowhere near exhaustive, below is my list of current favorite experiences, ranked from most unique to most common experiences/treatments! This list will include spas from all around the world and will be regularly updated- let me know if you’ve been to one of the spas listed or if you had a spa that you think I should try in the comments.

Tip: Plan your visits in advance by checking with ahead with the spas to ensure they have availability during the time of your trip! And please, tip your massage therapist!

  • Tabacon Thermal Resort & Spa | Arenal, Costa Rica
    My most recent, and favorite spa experience thus far would be at the Tabacon Thermal Resort in the Fortuna area in Costa Rica. This 5 star experience commanded a 5 star price but it was well well worth it!

    The mood of the spa is completely set as the bungalows are tucked away toward the back of the property, nestled in the rainforest between the hot springs. You’re first given a robe (or you can take the robe 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 (birthday suit is appropriate). 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 of choice. If you go with an exfoliation or wrap (which I recommend both), your service will end with you naked in the rainforest, washing off in the hot spring water-it’s as amazing as it sounds, believe me. If I had it my way, I’d be able to relive this experience, over and over again.

    The exact service I received was the Corporal Deluxe, 75 minutes of heaven, a combination of an exfoliation (I did the Cocoa Exfoliation) and a wrap (I did the Volcanic Mud Wrap)- I’d highly recommend it! There was a special running, so we received 25% off the usual $170 USD price. Check their website for updating pricing and specials!
  • Coqui Coqui Spa | Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
    The Yucatan Peninsula has been getting a lot of attention as the home to Tulum, Mexico, where travelers have been flocking in the past few years, but not many are hip to the Coqui Coqui Papolchac Residence & Spa located in Coba, right outside of Tulum. Coba is the ancient Mayan city of the Yucatan Peninsula in Quintana Roo and though the spa is not a ruin itself, it is modeled after one. In my recap and review of the spa, HERE, I outline how to make the 45 minute trek to get to Coba from Tulum.

    At the time of writing my review, I stated that this was the best massage of my life, and while it was true in that moment, the massage I received shortly after in Costa Rica might have slightly topped it due to the rainforest setting.

    Coqui Coqui offers many different services but the spa is small, only allowing 2 appointments at a time. Check HERE for the spa menu. They offer a variety of services from 45 minute back massages, 60 minute facials, 90 minute hot stone massages, and even 3hr long “rituals” complete with deep tissue massages, exfoliations and botanical baths. The price and time will differ based on what service you choose. I opted for the hot stone massage and it was the perfect amount of time, pressure, and attention that my body needed (90 minutes & $128 USD)- I lucked up as my friend was getting her Regeneration treatment at the same time, so I was able to experience pieces of her treatment just by being in in the same room!

    No matter what treatment you opt for, you’ll get to decide what scent you want for your oil. The spa actually produces their own oils and perfumes, available for purchase post your service! You then wait for your service either inside their lounge or outdoors, in one of the many pools or lounging poolside! During the service, you’re escorted toward the back of the building, where there’s a bit more privacy. The hot stone massage started with simple oils and a full body massage whilst the stones warmed before being added on, they were the perfect temperature. Some of the other treatments involve wraps and exfoliants so you’ll rinse off a few times during your treatment before ending in an oil and coconut filled tub- this is the part that I lucked up with experiencing because my friend was getting her treatment at the same time as my massage. If/when I go back, I’d try the entire Regeneration treatment- I’d also recommend this or the hot stone massage for anyone looking to visit!
  • Protea Kruger Gate Hotel & Spa by Marriott| Kruger South Africa
    The Protea Spa at the Kruger National Park, my second spa experience ever, introduced me to the luxury (and dare I say necessity) of facials! I received the African Goddess Golden Facial, which included an upper body massage, and my skin was absolutely glowing for the rest of our trip, at least 7 more days! Treatment takes place overlooking the Sabie River and Park, to the tune of the sounds of nature and nearby animals and birds. The massage therapists are specially trained in the various African inspired treatments.

    I honestly wish I could experience this and other treatments at this spa again -not only did I love my treatment and afterglow, but the entire experience from the knowledge and skill of the staff to the ambience they’ve been able to curate for a top-notch experience were unmatched.

    I don’t often receive facials, but this is something I’d honestly want to do more frequently, maybe 2x a year.
  • Emdoneni Lodge | Hluhluwe, South Africa
    The Emdoneni Lodge & Spa is where I visited the spa for the first time in my life! With little to no knowledge of the spa or any of the treatments, I talked with the staff and some of my trip mates to decide what my first ever spa treatment should be and the unanimous decision was absolutely a deep tissue massage. We had just made the 14 hour journey from NYC to Johannesburg, so naturally, there was tightness/soreness of my muscles. For $40 USD, my life was quite literally changed, the experience was so lux and I felt so limber after the massage, I booked another spa appointment during our South Africa trip!

    This deep tissue treatment lasted 60 minutes, with the massage therapist continually checking in with me in regards to pressure, areas I really wanted her to focus and overall how I was doing throughout- I felt completely spoiled!

    My love for the spa was absolutely birthed here! I’d not only recommend this lodge for any visiting South Africa but I’d definitely say carve out time for a quick spa treatment whilst there.
  • Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort | Nathrop, Colorado (Outside of Aspen & Breckenridge)
    We didn’t stay at the Princeton Hot Springs Resort, but we did opt for day passes to take advantage of their famous hot springs and spa. For those who may not know, a hot spring, also known as a thermal spring, is a natural body of water, produced by geothermally heated groundwater (usually from volcanic activity) from the Earth’s crust. Soaking in a hot spring can be a great, natural detox for your skin, with abilities to help with conditions like psoriasis, acne, eczema and even helping to soften rough, dry skin. It is essentially like a giant, natural hot tub and could be considered it’s own “spa treatment”. If you want to experience Mt. Princeton hot springs, you can! Check HERE for the Hot Spring Hours and Rates for information on general admission to the historic bath house, upper pools and Creekside hot springs.

    We wanted to get spa treatments, which included access to the hot springs all day in between services. I opted for one of my favs, the 60 minute deep tissue massage for $130 USD. The property had a small café where we were able to grab smoothies and snacks throughout the day-which was needed after hanging in the hot springs. My massage alone was just okay, I would ask my masseuse to apply more pressure in certain areas or to focus more on my legs vs back but she was super combative, I still enjoyed my massage, but knowing I’ve had more attentive massage therapists in the past was frustrated, but what made this overall experience great was definitely the hot springs! (Note: my friends, who had different massage therapists all LOVED their massages)

    My massage was one of the later appointments, so I spent most of the morning in the naturally, heated pool. Though it was 40° F, the pool was so warm once you were inside that the contrasting temperatures actually felt great. You definitely need to have most of your body emerged in the water to not be cold. After my massage, we decided head to the springs portion, where you sat on the rocks in the naturally heated water. And again, despite being cold outside, you didn’t feel cold once inside the water- you actually felt great!

    Be sure to pack a swimsuit and swim shoes/sandals! It may seem common sense, but I forgot my swim suit so I had to wear shorts and a sports bra and we all had to buy the $10 flip flops from the resort. There are lockers available onsite to secure/hold any belongings.
  • Riad Tahra & Spa | Fes, Morocco
    Are you familiar with a traditional Moroccan Hammam Massage? The Hammam massage technique is a centuries old Moroccan ritual, that uses hot steam to achieve a deep and invigorating cleanse-essentially, an intense bath. Women are typically, completely naked (or you can opt to wear a bikini bottom or undergarment), while men will wear bottoms.

    I figured, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, so while in Morocco, I had to try the Hamman massage. All of the Riads (Moroccan style hotel/guesthouse) that we stayed in offered this as a spa treatment (in addition to all of the standalone spas throughout the country), but, for no real reason, we didn’t decide to visit the spa until we got to Fes.

    Massage times and specifics will differ by location, so at Fes my treatment cost $30USD and lasted 50 minutes and again, it was essentially an intense and relaxing, private bath. I was taken to the back of the spa, in a dimly lit, warm room with a huge tub of water. I undressed and the masseuse lathered me up, massaging my body with various oils and creams and rinsing them with hot water, 1-by-1. It was a very unique experience, and though I was uncomfortable at first, I’d most likely do it again!
  • Traditional Thai Massage | Phuket, Thailand
    While in Thailand in 2017, I had a few things on my bucket-list, and at the top was absolutely getting a traditional Thai massage. In a traditional Thai massage, practitioners use their hands, thumbs, elbows, forearms, and even their feet to reduce tension in your muscles, this plus the combination of stretching and movements distinguishes a Thai massage from other massage techniques. You also may be more sore post a Thai massage versus receiving other types of techniques.

    While we were in Phuket, we noticed spas on almost every corner, so we priced a few spas and went with the one where we felt gave us the best deal- time of massage for price paid. While I don’t remember the exact price we paid, I know it wasn’t over $50USD. The beds were placed on the ground, which was necessary for the masseuse to be able to use their feet/stand on your back and really do some of the movements needed for the treatment. Most of the spas weren’t super lux, by any means, it was one of the best massages I’ve received, I felt so relaxed afterward and got all of the knots worked out of my back and legs!

    If/when visiting Thailand, you MUST get a Thai massage. While you don’t want to go anywhere that would be seen as dirty, obviously, I’d focus less on aesthetics and make sure it’s a legit spa/massage parlor and that you’re not overpaying.
  • Bella Shine | Hong Kong
    While in Hong Kong, we knew we’d be remiss to not take advantage of the super inexpensive massages that were available! A local friend recommended the Bella Shine Spa and though we were initially apprehensive of the location, it seemed like an abandoned area in the Industrial area of Kwun Tong, I thoroughly enjoyed my massage! I went for a personal fav treatment, a traditional deep tissue massage that lasted 60 minutes, for $50USD. There was nothing particularly special about the spa or even the treatment, it was a simple, low frills, yet excellent massage!

    I like to take advantage of getting massages while traveling throughout Asia because they’re typically just that, low-frills, yet excellent with technique! If you’re looking to get a massage while traveling over that way, I’d say you don’t need to find any overly expensive massage parlor to get a quality massage.
  • Serenity Spa | Poconos, Pennsylvania
    While this is currently the last ranked on my list, that does not mean I did not thoroughly enjoy my experience at the Serenity Spa while visiting the Poconos! While visiting the Serenity Spa, I opted for a traditional hot stone massage for 55 minutes for $85 USD! The massage therapist was very attentive to me and my body throughout the entire experience. Serenity was akin to a typical massage parlor, with not many bells and whistles, but if you’re looking for a great treatment in the Poconos area, this is your go-to!

On my journey to explore all 50 U.S. states, taking in the diverse cultures and vast landscapes across this country, I wanted to prioritize outdoor experiences, delicious/unique foods and learning as much as possible along the way. Arizona had been high on my bucket list as I had heard nonstop praise in regards to the foodie scene, the mesmerizing views and rich history. I set out to explore Arizona in May 2020, but with the global pandemic still raging, postponed my trip to March 2021. At this time, certain parts of the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon were closed as the Navajo Nation wanted to protect themselves and the land as covid-19 disproportionately impacted their community, so we decided to save both of these specific visits for a later trip.

Let’s talk a little bit about Arizona! This state is located in the American Southwest. It is affectionately known as “The Grand Canyon State” in reference to it’s most popular tourist attraction, with almost 6 million visitors annually. Arizona is actually the 6th largest state in the United States, with 85% of its land covered with nature, rainforests, wildlife, mountains and protected Indigenous reservations/lands. If you are someone who is looking for outdoor fun and adventure, this is an excellent year-round option for you as the climate tends to be less humid with sunny skies; except the weekend we happened to visit where temperatures ranged from 40-60 degrees with rain and frost some mornings! The best time to visit if you’re looking to explore the desert is Jan-March whereas June-August works well for exploring the mountains. Despite when you’re planning to visit, check the forecast for potential inclement or abnormal weather patterns and pack accordingly!

Arizona’s time zone is Mountain Standard Time. There are two major airports that service Arizona, the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) in Phoenix and the Tucson International Airport (TUS). We flew in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbor!

Arizona on the map, in the American Southwest, nestled between California and New Mexico

I loved my time spent in Arizona, so much so, that I’m already thinking about a return trip. Just as the pictures and postcards suggest, Arizona is gorgeous, especially Sedona with its contrasting red, clay dirt and mountains against it’s almost always vibrantly, blue sky! The bulk of our 4 day trip was spent in Sedona and if I had to do it again, I’d definitely add more time to my overall trip so that we could make our way to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, experience a few more hikes, soak in warmer weather as it was abnormally cold when we visited, and then add more days on the back end of my trip to explore Phoenix. Our time was spent equally eating and exploring, as we had wild excursions like the Devil’s Bridge hike and the hot air balloon ride, while trying some of Sedona’s “best” restaurants in town!

My Itinerary (see below for detailed itinerary information):
Thursday: Travel Day, Hotel Check In @ Arabella, Dinner @ The Hudson
Friday: Pink Jeep Tour, Breakfast @ Creekside, Relaxation & Wine Tasting @ Page Spring Cellars
Saturday: Hike @ Devil’s Bridge, “Jazz” Brunch @ Soundbites Grill, Travel to Scottsdale, Dinner @ Zuzu
Sunday: Hot Air Balloon Sunrise Ride w/ Rainbow Ryders, Travel Day


Detailed Itinerary:
Thursday: I arrived to the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) after a direct 5 hour flight with Jet Blue around 12:30 pm local time, my friends arrived shortly after me and we picked up our rental car. We rented via National and caught the airport shuttle to the Rental Car Center (about a ten minute ride) before making the scenic 2 hour drive on I-17 to Sedona! Phoenix’s airport was very nice, but a bit difficult to navigate at first as it’s split into 2 terminals, Terminals 3 & 4 (yes, there’s no 1 or 2), and there aren’t many signs outside of baggage claim (on the arrivals side) to let you know what exact terminal your in.

In Sedona, we chose to stay Hotel Arabella, known for it’s amazing views of the red rocks and close proximity to all that Sedona has to offer. Arabella was super low-frills, and though they could stand to make a few cosmetic updates, the hotel was spacious, clean, close to where we needed to go, had a heated outdoor pool and great views! I’d honestly be tempted to stay here again on a future visit to Sedona if I didn’t want a super lux hotel experience! Check HERE for my hotel tour! After checking in around 4:30pm, we decided to freshen up a bit and head for dinner at one of the most popular and acclaimed restaurants in the area, The Hudson.

Admittedly, I’m often skeptical of overly hyped restaurants as I usually find that the food is average at best, but Hudson did not disappoint, from the views, the cocktails, the meals (get the steak) and the service! There was a LONG wait (around 6:30pm), as it seemed that the whole city of Sedona decided to also head to the Hudson for dinner, but we grabbed a spot at the bar (after about 15 minutes) and grabbed a few drinks. We ended up ordering our meals at the bar as well as our table didn’t become available until about 1hr and 30 minutes after our arrival, but we didn’t mind, our bartender took excellent care of us and the food was superb! Phoenix is known for the prickly pear margarita so we tried that as well as a few of the other speciality margaritas and cocktails and for dinner my friend and I split the steak meal (we subbed the potatoes for the grits, which were AMAZING) and a caesar salad, while our other friend got the scallop meal! The Hudson has daily happy hour from 3-6pm where they offer some drink and food specials, but outside of that I’d definitely say it’s mid-tier pricing, but worth the price tag!

After a long day of travel, we decided to call it a night early and get a head start on the next day with our Pink Jeep Tour!

Friday: Friday started early with a 6:30am Pink Jeep Tour with the Pink Adventures Tour company of Sedona where Jessica was our instructor! The tour came highly recommended from every blog as a must-do, and I’d absolutely co-sign all of those reccos. The tour cost $146 USD and lasted about 2 hours.

While in Sedona, our tour guide Jessica mentioned that every restaurant in the area was a great option to check out, with the exception of one-89 Steakhouse- so we avoided this eatery.

Post the Pink Jeep Tour, we decided to head to Creekside for breakfast located downtown, or as locals call it “Uptown Sedona” near the Main Street District (most attractions, shops, restaurants and art in this area). I’d highly recommend Creekside for both the food, the service and the views!

After breakfast, and a brief break in the hotel room regrouping post an early morning, we decided to head to the heart of Arizona’s wine country, Verde Valley, right outside of Sedona in Cornville, AZ! Verde Valley is a trail full of 25 wineries, but we decided to check out the Page Springs Vineyards where you have Page Springs Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards, Javelina Leap and Da Ranch. We actually only made it to Page Springs Cellars and it was so cold (about 40 degrees), so we stayed inside the tasting room. I did the mixed flight which was a tasting of 5 red and white wines for $12USD, I didn’t love any of the wines I tried enough to buy a bottle, but I was really impressed with the overall experience! Our night ended at this winery (where we also grabbed “dinner”, I got the margherita pizza and a charcuterie board to split with my friends!

The Page Spring Cellar is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year! There was a bit of a wait when we arrived as they had the outdoor area closed because of how cold it was, but we were able to taste a few wines until our table was ready!

Saturday: Another super early morning, we wanted to hit the Devil’s Bridge Trail before 7am, to hopefully beat the crowds and grab a few pictures! We arrived at about 6:50am and there were already quite a few eager hikers who also wanted to get an early start to catch some amazing views. Devil’s Bridge and Devil’s Bridge Trail is a breathtaking view and experience, with a 54ft high/45ft long natural bridge, it is Sedona’s largest sandstone arch. It’s located in the Coconino National Forest, off of Highway 89a. The views are amazing and you’re even able to walk across the natural “bridge” or arch to get a picture.

There will be tons of other travelers, hikers, bloggers and IG influencers who will be making this roughly 4 mile roundtrip trek to get the same views as you, so plan accordingly, the wait when we made it to the top was 2 hours for a picture (so we skipped that and grabbed a photo on a closer nearby ledge. The hike is said to be moderate, which for 75% of the journey, I’d agree, but there are portions where you’ll have to climb up a few steep inclines and rocks that I would argue would be difficult for someone not in good shape/who has any difficulty walking. You can still do portions of this hike and just stop before the steep incline and still get amazing views!

We actually entered the wrong trail when we arrived and walked 1 mile in the wrong direction, making our total trip a little over 4 hours and 6.5miles long! You’ll know you’re in the right spot when you see all of the signs that say Devil’s Bridge trailhead. Check back soon for more details on hiking to Devil’s Bridge! And while it is a bit nerve wracking for anyone who may have a fear of heights, there are only 2 recorded deaths from the bridge, so it is a safe journey!

Post our hike, we went back to Arabella to freshen up, pack our belongings and check out of the hotel. We wanted to check out Soundbites Grill (who claims to be the best restaurant in Sedona) for brunch before heading to Phoenix. We were able to get a seat outside, facing the rock formations, where I enjoyed a steak salad, the clam and lobster chowder and a berry sangria- so good!

After fueling our stomachs and the rental car, we made the 2 hour trek back to Scottsdale, where we hit a bit of traffic, before getting to our Airbnb. We settled ourselves into the bnb, freshened up and then went into town for dinner and drinks at Zuzu Restaurant in the Hotel Valley Ho. Zuzu was super cute, from the atmosphere and décor, the staff and live performers and the food and drink. Get the brookie, get the salmon and get the Mango Tango to was it all down. Check out their IG for more food pictures and inspo! The night ended at Zuzu as we wanted to get rest for our super early hot air balloon ride the next morning.

Sunday: We ended an already amazing trip with a bang, waking up at 4:30am for a sunrise hot air balloon ride with Rainbow Ryders, at 5:30am! The place was about a 15 minute drive from our bnb, and we stopped at a Starbucks on the way for some early morning fuel before our ride! Once we arrived at the site, we had to fill out waivers (basically saying they weren’t liable for injury or death) and then we split into groups based on our instructor, packed into vans and drove to the site where we’d actually fly off from (about a 5-10 minute drive). Despite the crazy things I tend to do on vacation, I have a fear of heights, but I’d this excursion over and over and over again! There were about 15-20 total flights that morning, so we waited around as the balloons were being filled up, and then we hopped in our basket and lifted off. The ride was so smooth, scenic and peaceful, any jitters or angst I had left immediately.

Our instructor, Jesse, was also great with explaining the science behind the right and keeping the group entertained. The ride lasted about 45 minutes before we landed softly about a mile away from where we started (the van met us at our landing location), where we toasted to a great ride with a complimentary glass of champagne/mimosa! This was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I am blessed to have been able to do, especially in a gorgeous location like Phoenix! Rainbow Ryders offers both group or private rides and you can either they sunrise or sunset and they operate year round! This excursion cost us $190 USD, and included the ride, a glass of champagne and post-ride certificate!



After being “eye-level” with the sun as it rose for the day, we decided to grab breakfast as our last hoorah in Arizona and went to FAME for breakfast, but even at 8:30am, they had a long wait. Instead, we drove a few minutes down the road and grabbed food at Emilio’s Cafe! I got the steak and eggs meal and a $3 mimosa and was completely satisfied!

I can say confidently, I did not have a bad meal while in Arizona, everything was so good!

Post breakfast, we decided to head back to the bnb to pack up so that we could make it to the airport and drop off the rental to leave time for check in and bag drop!

Our time in Arizona was well spent and we just scratched the surface, I absolutely plan to return to explore more of what this state has to offer!

My recommendations:
Rent a Car: During our time exploring mainly Sedona and the brief time around Scottsdale, we did not see a lot of public transportation options. Though ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft were available for transport, if you plan to do multiple cities, excursions, or hikes, not only will your pockets thank you, but you’ll be thankful for the flexibility in your schedule- especially if it’s a tight one/quick trip! I always utilize expedia.com when booking my car and leverage insurance from my Chase Sapphire Reserve or companies like these HERE, vs getting the rental company’s insurance! Check out my latest post for 8 tips on renting a car HERE.

Our Rental Car from National

Pack accordingly: Arizona is the only U.S. state that’s covered by four separate desert regions. During the day, temperatures in the desert tends to rise, while at night temperatures can drop drastically. Dress warm and dress in layers if you plan to hike early or even do a sunset hike, so you can remove layers if you start to overheat! Also, remember to drink plenty of water!

Plan Ahead: Arizona is huge and popular excursions can be spread out across the state, depending on what you’re looking for! Build your itinerary and lodging around your excursions and not vice versa, will you visit the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon, hike devil’s bridge, and explore Phoenix in one trip? Well you’ll want to plot out the excursions and develop your route from there. We flew into Phoenix International Airport and decided to head straight to Sedona (roughly 2 hours away) and before heading back home, stopped over in Scottsdale/Phoenix area for 1 day, spending the bulk of our trip in Sedona. The Grand Canyon would be roughly 2 hours from Sedona and Antelope Canyon roughly 4. All of this needs to be taken into consideration as you decide where you will stay and how long your total trip will be! If you have limited days, say an extended weekend, I say you narrow down to your top choices and even plan your route how we did, beginning your trip in Sedona and finishing in Phoenix/Scottsdale before heading the airport. If possible, take a whole week for your Arizona vacation, there’s no shortage of things to do or see!

Trip Expenses:
According to Budget Your Trip, the average cost to visit is Phoenix is roughly $114 USD a day for 1 person, whereas, Phoenix Business Journal states that a family of 4 says you can expect to spend $236 USD per day (both figures include food and lodging). Our trip was a bit more expensive than that, averaging closer to $294 USD per day. We definitely dined at more expensive restaurants and did relatively expensive (but so worth it) activities such as the hot air balloon ride and the pink jeep tour. See below for a breakdown of my expenses:

You can certainly make your trip more affordable by dining at less expensive restaurants, choosing less expensive meals/drinks, or doing less/cheaper excursions! There is a way to make Arizona more affordable and just as enjoyable by doing more free hikes and outdoor experiences! Also check sites like Groupon or Airbnb experiences for discounted excursions.

Is Arizona on your list to visit? If not, it definitely should be!

There are so many reasons to rent a car when visiting another country, the most convincing one is convenience, picture this: you arrive to the Cancun International Airport (CUN) to get ready for a few days of sun and fun in Tulum, Mexico, but after 7 hours of flights + layovers, you have to wait an additional 2 hours for the next shuttle to drive you the 73 miles to Tulum. You’d wish you had thought about renting a car instead so you can make the 1.5hr trip yourself and get to paradise ASAP.


Tip: Click the Country/City name to access my guide and trip recap.

The other reason that renting a car in another country is justifiable is cost. Oftentimes, it’s cheaper to have your own wheels vs relying on public transportation, ride sharing, shuttles and taxis! Quick taxi ride here, jump in a lyft there…and boom, you’ve spent upwards of $100USD for transportation in a day. When visiting Costa Rica, we were staying 3 hours from the airport, our hotel offered a $190 USD per person, one way OR we could rent a car for $500 USD for the total trip, including insurance, split between two. The latter made sense because we then were able to drive to all of our excursions, dinners and places we wanted to visit, with only the additional costs of gas and tolls. We definitely saved money!

Lastly, some locations don’t have a lot of public transportation options available. Think Los Angeles, unlike it’s “large-city” counterparts NYC and Boston, LA does not have a wide transit network, you can’t quickly hop on a train to get across the city and though ride sharing app Uber was birthed on the west coast, it can still be costly.

So, now that I’ve convinced you that you should consider renting a car, check below for a few tips:

  1. Probably the most obvious, but have your driver’s license! If you’re in the U.S., you should have a U.S. driver’s license, please check THIS list to understand how to get a license in the US if you’re a U.S. citizen and what to do if you’re a visitor/not a U.S. citizen! A U.S. driver’s license is acceptable to drive in all 50 states in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, some countries in Europe, the Caribbean, South America and Africa.

    For other circumstances, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required (in addition to a valid license from your own country). IDPs are valid for a full year, but check local website for the most up-to-date information. IDPs are available in over 150 countries around the world and can be translated into 10 languages. Also note, having a valid driver’s license or IDP is a requirement to secure a reservation for many rental car companies.

    So, how do I get one? Companies like AAA make the application process easy, complete the application, present a passport picture and valid driver’s license and pay the $20 USD processing fee. Check HERE for more information or google “IDP for XXX country” to get more information.

2. Make sure you have insurance coverage. It is illegal to drive without insurance coverage (and without a license) in most countries.

I have the Chase Sapphire Reserved travel credit card, and it’s hefty $550 USD annual fee comes with a ton of travel benefits, including Special Car Rental Privileges and Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver that covers up to $75,000 USD in theft and collision damage. This waiver enables me to bypass most insurance plans offered by rental companies (except in rare instances where a country wants you to have additional insurance specific to their laws-like Costa Rica). See HERE for more information on the Chase Sapphire travel benefits. Check with your credit card company and your personal car insurance to see what options and coverage is available to you, you’d be surprised!

For those who can’t leverage the above options, there are still other insurance solutions available. Click HERE for a list of my favorite, reputable insurance companies that can offer coverage for your entire trip INCLUDING rental car insurance. Some of the companies include AIG, Travel Safe, Trawick Travel Insured, and more.

3. Navigation prep! Gone are the days of printing out map quest directions and following along the written instructions! In your hometown/country, you’re probably used to just leveraging apps like Google Maps or even Waze to maneuver through new or unfamiliar territory, but when in a new country, you have to plan ahead for things like access or lack of service. Rental car companies do still offer GPS rentals for a small fee, but alternatively, you can take Google Maps with you abroad, to over 104 countries! Before traveling, ensure you either have service or a SIM card and then download google maps and you’re ready to hit the road. If you will not have service, you can plan ahead by downloading an offline map, which can still give you driving directions despite having slow or no internet connection- check HERE for more information on offline maps.

4. Budget for additional expenses such as gas and tolls! I always recommend that people carry at least $20USD or its equivalency in cash for emergencies, but I suggest more than this when a rental car is involved. You can do some research ahead to roughly estimate how much you’ll spend in gas and fees to have an idea of how much to budget, and I recommend that you carry cash in addition to cards, in the event that cash is the only thing available. I also recommend understanding what the most common currency is and converting a few dollars to the local currency before hitting the road-sometimes, toll booths will only accept cash/cash in the local currency.

5. Familiarize yourself with the local rules of the road. Ignorance of the law is never a valid excuse for breaking said law. Unfortunately, you need to be overly aware of things that are illegal, like turning right on red in the city of New York, this isn’t allowable whereas it’s a norm in many other U.S. cities.

And aside from actual laws, know the “rules” of the road. What side of the road do you drive on? While 163 countries drive on the right-side of the road, you’ll find left-side driving in most (former) British colonies like South Africa, UK, and Bermuda for example.

Infographic: Which Side Of The Road Do You Drive On? | Statista

6. Actually booking the car. I am huge promoter of booking experiences and excursions once at your destination, but for rental cars, I don’t like to always throw caution to the wind. I typically book my rental cars via expedia.com, it not only helps me to build points to use towards future stays/rentals, but it comes with 24/7 customer service and a menu of rental car companies to choose from! I can also read reviews from previous travelers to sort out any red flag or sketchy companies.

7. Consider parking costs or restrictions. In some cities/countries, you might not only spend a lot of time searching for parking, you may pay a lot to secure a spot as well. I try to look for hotels or Airbnb’s that include complimentary valet or parking, but this is not always an option when visiting larger cities like New York or D.C. in the US. Factor these costs into your overall rental budget!

When visiting big cities in the U.S. I leverage apps like ParkWhiz, Park Me or SpotHero, to find discounted parking rates! Click HERE for a list by Emily Delbridge on the Best Parking Apps to Save Time & Money.

8. When reserving your car, pay attention to the details. What kind of car will you need? Will you be doing any off-roading? How many people are traveling with you? Will you need a van? Do you need a lot of trunk space? What are the weather conditions? Will you need a vehicle with snow tires? Do not assume that the rental car company will think of these things for you! On a ski trip to Denver in the middle of December, we were given a rental car WITHOUT snow tires, and we slid up and down those mountains!

You’ll also want to make sure the vehicle is automatic if you are not trained in driving a stick shift (also known as manual or standard) – they are not the same! In the U.S., 96% of Americans drive automatic vehicles, but worldwide about 1/3 of the world’s cars are manual!

Additional Notes: Safety is always a top priority. Pay attention to your intuition if a situation makes you feel uneasy. Try to drive only during day light and on well lit streets. Lock your car and hide valuables when not in the vehicle.

Planning a road trip? Check out my Road Trip Essentials, Ultimate Road Tripping Guide HERE

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!

As a black woman, I like to enter any space unapologetically as myself, but I’d be kidding myself if I acted as though I’m always well received. Though this doesn’t stop me, I still go where I want, I take the proper precautions first, some of these things are:

  1. Building a loose itinerary and sharing with my emergency contact so that someone always knows where I am
  2. Ensuring that I am always able to contact someone, either by turning on my international service with AT&T or purchasing a SIM card that enables cellular use
  3. Vetting my lodging choices by reading through several reviews, whether I’m staying in an AirBNB, hostel or a hotel!
  4. Though I encourage solo travel, I travel in groups or with another partner often, especially if a destination is notorious for becoming unwelcoming to solo women travelers
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Despite the world being unjust and there being a few unkind people, I am overwhelmed with the kindness I’m often met with from strangers, even while traveling in the US! Alongside 11 other travelers, Franny The Traveler, had us share our top destinations and compiled that list HERE on her website! Check out the post to see what my recommended city was and to get sometimes to help plan your next adventure, even if it’s in your own backyard!

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