Celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama

Celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama

Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama.

When was the last time that you truly spoiled all your senses?

Often when choosing a holiday destination and hotel, we think about what we are going to see and what the hotel itself looks like. But what about your other four senses? Don’t they deserve a great holiday too?

When deciding where to stay in Panama City, Darrell and I wanted to go all out. After all, it was the last stop of our eventful 9 week backpacking trip of Central America!

After a quick online browsing session, I had my heart set on staying at the Tantalo. A restaurant, roof top bar and hotel, Tantalo is not only visually appealing with its unique and artistic decor but also boosted a program to stimulate guests’ other senses.

And did it live up to the hype? You bet!

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Tantalo Hotel

This hotel is cooler than I could ever dream of being. Like the perfect cocktail, Tantalo has all the right ingredients to create a trendy and fun place to sleep, eat, drink and hang out in Panama City. Even if you don’t end up staying in one of their colorful rooms, you should definitely stop in to enjoy the restaurant, roof top bar and city views.

Tantalo Hotel, Panama City, Panama

Located in the historic area of Casco Viejo, Tantalo is a three story colonial building transformed into a modern attraction. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has enough to keep you busy for days. The charming streets are full of monuments, churches, restaurants and cafes. Almost every corner and plaza is “Instagram-worthy” and will have you cooing over its beauty (okay maybe that’s just me!).

After having traveled for so long, I was starting to worry that I had travel fatigue. It felt like I no longer appreciated the opportunity to play tourist. Well Casco Viejo changed that for me! Each day I was thrilled to head out with a map in hand, winding up each and every street to tick off all the attractions in the area. Tantalo provides a map upon check in and it has all the information you need to explore the area. Our favorite stop was at the Coca-Cola cafe, one of the oldest diners in Panama City and was visited by Che Guevara.

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Tantalo Kitchen

If this artwork doesn’t tempt you to wander in, then the smell of the food definitely will. The Tantalo Kitchen is situated street-level and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails. Darrell and I had our breakfast here each day. The breakfast menu is very reasonably priced with dishes starting from USD $4. On our first morning, we both had the Omelet Calle which comes with toast and potatoes. Savored along with our coffee choices of an Americano and Soy Latte, we were in heaven. We loved the Omelet Calle so much that we had it two days in a row – it’s that good! Consider your taste buds and nose appeased.

Tantalo Kitchen - Ground Floor Restaurant

Tantalo Rooftop

Looking for a place to relax with a drink after your big day of sightseeing? Come by the Tantalo rooftop for the drinks and stay for the city views and fun atmosphere. The bar has a range of signature cocktails with food service available here too. We stayed at Tantalo on a Monday and Tuesday night in June (which is considered the off season) and can attest to the fact that the rooftop bar was still pumping up until midnight. On the weekends the bar is open to the early hours, with the possibility of a little salsa and live music. A treat for the ears.

Tantalo Kitchen - Rooftop Bar

Tropi Exotica

All the rooms at Tantalo are individually created so you can choose the space that suits your personality. I am a pretty outgoing and confident person therefore was thrilled to be staying in a room that was equally as bold and vibrant in decor. The Tropi Extotica room was designed by artist “Yanneth Albornoz” and features a large Bengal Tiger mural next to the bed.

Tantalo Kitchen - Tropi Exotica Bed

Each room includes a well stocked mini bar, safe, luggage rack, hair dryer, iron and iron board (which I appreciated as my dress has become all wrinkled during our transit). The room we stayed in was a Grande, which comes with a luxurious king sized bed and soft linen. It feels so good on your skin that you will be looking forward to bed time!

Other amenities for Grande rooms include bluetooth speakers and a private terrace overlooking the beautiful Casco Viejo. Our walk-in shower was the most unique I have experienced while staying in a hotel. The floor was raised above the bathroom tiles with floating bamboo slates. It is such a nice feeling not to have water pooling at your feet or be standing on cold tiles. A luxurious experience for your sense of touch.

Tantalo Kitchen - Sitting Area

Panama Canal

A trip to Panama City would not be complete without a visit to the Panama Canal. If you are a little rusty on your history – don’t worry! There is a three story, interactive museum waiting inside to catch you up with the past century of events. In fact the Panama Canal recently celebrated its 100th year in 2014 and just two days before we visited, opened a new expansion.

Ships pass through the Panama Canal, working their way through a series of three “locks” to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific side (or vice versa). There are usually over 35 ships per day so it is highly likely that you will see at least one during your visit. Unlucky for us, we happened to arrive on a day where there were no ships scheduled that afternoon.

Once we arrived back at the Tantalo and told the concierge, César that we had not seen a ship pass through, he contacted the Panama Canal to find out their ship schedule for the next day. Sure enough, Darrell went back and was able to see not just one, but three ships passing through the lock. Thanks to the help of the Tantalo staff, Darrell could achieve his dream of seeing this incredible sight.

Panama Canal, Panama City

Getting to Casco Viejo, Panama

Panama City is an international hub with a modern airport, serviced by most major airlines. To get to and from the airport to Casco Viejo, you could take a taxi or travel by public transport. The closest bus station is within walking distance and connects with the railway stop of Albrook Station. From there, you can take the train to 5 de Mayo Station and walk 15-20 minutes to the Tantalo hotel.

We traveled to Panama City from Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro via an overnight bus. The bus left around 6pm from Almirante, on the mainland next to the islands of Bocas. You can travel to the station from Isla Colon by boat and then taxi. The overnight bus is advertised to arrive in Panama City at around 5am, however ours pulled into the station at 2am. I have also heard similar stories from people who caught the bus from Boquete. If you do decide to travel to Panama City by bus, make sure to keep this in mind and organize an extra nights’ accommodation if required.

Taxis are lined up at the front of Albrook bus station or you can travel metro train to Casco Viejo.


Tantalo, Panama City

Tantalo is a boutique hotel, rooftop bar and kitchen located in Panama City. Guests can choose from ten individually designed rooms. For details and pricing, check out Hotel.

Location: Calle 8 Este con Avenida B, Casco Viejo, Panama

Website: http://tantalohotel.com/

Tantalo Kitchen - Ground Floor Bar

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Tantalo, however our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for celebrating the senses in Panama City. A trip to indulge the sense of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.

Have you visited Panama City or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.

Just south of the Costa Rican border, on the Caribbean side of Panama, sits a piece of paradise. The province of Bocas del Toro consist of multiple islands and is considered Panama’s top destination. Here you can experience everything from wildlife, beautiful beaches, snorkeling, surfing, and so much more.

On our recent trip through Central America, Chantell and I heard so much about Bocas del Toro from other travelers we came across. Bocas soon was included to our list of places to visit along the way. Although Bocas del Toro has enough to keep you busy for weeks, we elected to stay 4 full days. One of the days we were there, we were rained out, which happens in the rainy season. Because of this, our recommended itinerary is for three days of serene beaches, relaxation, and sloths!

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1: Isla Colon

Bocas Town is a perfect hub to explore the area. Set on the southern tip of Isla Colon, the main town of the islands host numerous hotels, bars, and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. From here it is possible to rent bikes to roam around the island, take a shuttle to one of the many beaches, or a boat taxi to a nearby island.

Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)

Playa Estrella, known as Starfish Beach, is one of the many beaches on Isla Colon. Easily accessible by local bus or shuttle (we chose the shuttle because it was leaving quicker) to Playa Boca del Drago, it is a 30 minute ride away from Bocas Town. Upon reaching Boca del Drago, walk along the path next to the water and reach the unique Starfish Beach within 20 minutes.

In the banks of the water, not 15 feet from the shore, you will be able to see starfish living in their natural habitat. The clear water makes it possible to see starfish of every color while wading through the ocean. Seeing as these creatures are in their natural habitat, they should be only viewed and not touched. There are many signs posted that do say not to touch the starfish, yet people ignore these signs and endanger the marine life this beach has been named for. If you see this happening, feel free to remind the guests (either in Spanish or English).

It is possible to spend the entire day at Playa Estrella. Lined up and down the beach are restaurants with some offering beach side service including beach chairs with umbrellas. There are also options without any fee, with open space on the sand to lie a towel on and enjoy the view.

Walking to Starfish Beach

Day 2: Tour from Bocas Town

There are multiple tours leaving daily from Bocas Town, each including their own unique destinations. By taking some time to look at all the options that were available, we found the perfect one for us. One of Chantell’s dreams was to see a sloth in the wild, so this was the starting point for us. Luckily, there is a place called Sloth Island nearby Isla Colon and it was included in part of a tour. We ended up finding a tour including Dolphin Bay, Sloth Island, Hollywood Beach, snorkeling at Crawl Cay, and Cayos Zapatilla.

Our first stop at Dolphin Bay began with an up close experience with a number of dolphins. After a short time all of the dolphins left except a mother and her calf, who seemed to be curious about the boats. They both often swam right up next to the boat and even chased us a bit when we were leaving.

Dolphins in Dolphin Bay

Next we cruised through Hollywood Beach. Here you can lean over the side of the boat and see starfish everywhere! Although a brief site to visit, the ocean looked like glass and the view was incredible. On-wards we went to Sloth Island, in hopes of seeing at least one of these rare creatures. Lucky for us, we saw five different sloths. They are truly unique creatures and it is only possible to see them in this area of the world. Since this was the main reason we went on the tour, we were definitely excited.

Sloth Napping

Once our boat visit around Sloth Island was over, we made our way to Crawl Cay. Snorkeling in Crawl Cay is a good experience to see the local fish and coral life, but don’t expect it to be as brightly colored as the reefs to the north near Honduras and Belize. Snorkeling here can be a bit of a challenge, as fins are not typically allowed due to the shallow waters. The force from kicking with fins could damage the fragile ecosystem of Crawl Cay, so make sure to be cautious when moving around.

Our final stop for the day was Cayos Zapatilla. This small island has one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire region and is the perfect stop off for a packed lunch and afternoon swim. The tour stopped here for nearly two hours giving plenty of time to explore or just relax.

Cayo Zapatilla

Day 3: Isla Colon

For our last day in Bocas Del Toro, we wanted to go to the east side of Isla Colon. That morning, we hired bikes from a local shop and rode out towards Playa Bluff. Around eight kilometers from Bocas Town, Playa Bluff is known for its intense waves. However there are some days where the water isn’t too strong to swim out in, which we were lucky to have experienced.

Bluff Beach is seven kilometers of beautiful golden sand facing towards the Atlantic Ocean with nothing in its way. At first we had the entire beach to ourselves at Playa Bluff, which was extremely peaceful. Even with the arrival of a family of three within view far down the beach, we still felt rather secluded here. It’s perfectly possible to make a day of Bluff Beach by bringing along food and drinks by bike or even on the shuttle van from downtown.

Playa Bluff


Sun Havens Apartments and Suites

During our stay in Bocas Town, we stayed at the pleasant Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Just a short walk away from the docks and main streets, Sun Havens is perfectly situated close to everything, yet far enough away to have a peaceful nights rest. There are multiple options for room sizes, accommodating as little as two people or as large as six.

Sun Havens Bedroom

Our apartment at Sun Havens included many amenities uncommon to the island, such as high speed WiFi and hot water. It also included air conditioning, a large flat screen TV with cable, and a full kitchen which we took advantage of to save on some money. Daily cleaning is available for a nominal fee.

Sun Havens Kitchen Area

Tomaso, the owner of Sun Havens, was such a hospitable host and a fountain of knowledge on the entire area. He always had the best suggestions on where to go, what to see, and even where to eat. When we first arrived, it had been a long journey with us setting off from San Jose, Costa Rica. Tomaso was waiting for our arrival and quickly showed us to our room to rest up after our long day. Even after we rested a little, he made us a “welcome smoothie” filled with fresh fruits from around the island. It was a perfect introduction to our stay in Bocas and a welcome refresher after a hot day. Tomaso always went out of his way to make sure we had a worry free and amazing stay.

Location: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites, Calle 6a y Avenida Norte, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Website: http://www.sunhavens-bocas.com/

Sun Havens


Budget breakdown: Bocas del Toro

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (USD). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites offers multiple room choices for different group sizes. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Apartments and Suites.

Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at local restaurants and bakeries, and we had one nicer meal with friends we made on our tour. ($86.41 USD)

Activities: Bocas del Toro Tour ($60 USD).

Transport: Water taxi to Bocas Town from the mainland ($10 USD). Bike Rental ($9 USD). Roundtrip shuttle to Bocas del Drago ($10 USD).

Average daily spend: $29.24 USD each ($39.05 AUD as of July 20, 2016) excluding accommodation.

Playa Bluff South End

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama. Including island hoping, sloth sightings, dolphin encounters and serene beaches.

Have you visited Bocas del Toro or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Local guide: Astoria, New York, U.S.A.

Local guide: Astoria, New York, U.S.A.

Adoration 4 Adventure’s local guide for visitors to Astoria, New York, U.S.A. by A4A guest writer, Eva Casey.

Local guide posts provide recommendations for destinations from locals who are currently living or have lived in that particular place. Including information on the top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around with an emphasis on saving money.

Overview of Astoria

Astoria is a neighborhood in the borough of Queens in New York City. While Queens may not have the name-recognition of Brooklyn, it’s a wonderfully diverse place that’s chock full of all the things that make NYC great.

Astoria is also one of the closest neighborhoods to Manhattan, making it a haven for working professionals and artists (mainly actors, which has earned Astoria the nickname ‘Actoria’). While young people are flocking to Astoria, there are also plenty of families that have been in the neighborhood for generations. Astoria is known as being traditionally Greek, however people from many nations are represented.

Planning a trip to the states? Check out our other posts about destinations in the U.S.A.

Top 5 places to visit

5. Green Spaces in Astoria

Once the nice weather hits, you will find most Astorians enjoying their parks, the namesake Astoria Park and Socrates Sculpture Park. Right along the waterfront, these parks have just about anything you could ever want or need. In Astoria Park: a large running track, skateboard park, tennis courts and even a giant outdoor pool. Socrates Sculpture Garden, so-named because it plays host to a rotating display of outdoor sculptures and art installations, offers a unique outdoor experience.

In the summer, both parks feature free concerts, exercise and yoga classes, outdoor movies, farmer’s markets, fireworks, and more. Or simply grab picnic supplies from the myriad of health food stores around Astoria, lay out a blanket, and enjoy!

Green Spaces in Astoria. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Eva Casey

4. QED

With all of the actors and artists in Astoria, it only makes sense that a performance space would open. QED hosts an array of comedy shows, readings, and open mics. In addition to being a performance space, QED, which calls itself an after-school space for grownups, has many different classes for adults, from swing dancing to flower arranging. Starting this month, QED will even be hosting a craft bazaar!

3. Brooklyn Grange

Ever heard of Urban Farming? Astoria has its very own Farm on a Roof, called Brooklyn Grange. Yes, the name is misleading, but I swear it is in Queens! In an unassuming coffee shop, Coffeed, you will see signs for a farm if you take the elevator up to the roof. Once on the roof, you will see produce as far as the eye can see. Stop by on Saturdays to visit the chickens and bees, buy some fresh farm produce at the farm stand, or simply enjoy your coffee with an amazing view of New York City!

Brooklyn Grange. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Eva Casey

2. Shop Local

With more local shops opening every week, you don’t want to miss the chance for an Astoria shopping spree. Lockwood and Lockwood Style are two of my favorites, selling quirky Queens-centric items alongside a beautifully curated selection of clothes, jewelry, and home goods. Astoria Bookshop is a wonderful independent bookstore. The Brass Owl is a women’s fashion store. The Little Soap Shop sells hand-poured soy candles and handmade soaps. Vintage and secondhand stores such as Loveday 31 and Buffalo Exchange are always fun. Hi-Fi Records and Cafe is your local record store and coffee shop all in one. Or you can even try and find the roaming Bohemian Groove boutique as it rolls around Queens in a vintage airstream.

Shop local in Astora. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Eva Casey

1. Museum of the Moving Image

Perhaps the best known museum in Astoria, MoMI caters to every TV & Film lover out there. Its permanent collection, Behind the Screen, features artifacts, audio-visual material and interactive experiences from a wide range of movies and TV series. A recent popular exhibit was the Mad Men Exhibit, a tribute to the iconic TV show, with recreated sets, costumes, and more directly from the show. MoMI also hosts screenings of a diverse range of movies, from festival favorites to old classics.

Eating and drinking

Since Astoria is so diverse, you can eat virtually any cuisine you could imagine here. Obviously the Greek food in Astoria is unparalleled (except for maybe in Greece itself). Have a meal at Gregory’s 26 Corner Taverna for serious Mediterranean vibes. Another classic Astorian mainstay is the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, around since the early 1900’s. Grab a Czech beer and dance all night in the garden.

Eating Greek food in Astoria, Queens. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Eva Casey

Astoria has seen a recent influx of coffee shops, some of my favorites being Astoria Coffee, Kinship, and OK Cafe. Brunch is a big deal in Astoria, as it is all over NYC. There are tons of places to dine al fresco all down 30th Avenue in the warmer months. Queens Comfort is a brunch destination that always has a huge line, but is worth the wait. Some other trendy restaurants and bars include: Il Bambino, The Bonnie, Kurry Qulture, and District Saigon.

Astoria Coffee. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Eva Casey

Transport

Astoria is one of the larger NYC neighborhoods, but it’s still very walkable. If you don’t feel like walking, you could take the famous NYC subway. If you get a Metrocard, each trip on the subway or bus will cost you $2.75. This can quickly add up, so that’s why I recommend walking if you can. The major subway lines that run through Astoria are the N & Q trains on 31st street from 36th Avenue to Ditmars Blvd. Also the M & R trains on 36th street, Steinway Street, and 43rd Street. There are many different bus routes that stop all over Astoria, which is another option if you’re not going somewhere the train stops.

Accommodation

To be in the heart of the action, your best bet is to stay in an Airbnb.

There is one boutique hotel in Astoria, the Paper Factory Hotel. It got that name because, you guessed it, it was converted from a 1970s paper factory into a hotel. The hotel has 123 rooms, conference and event space, indoor and outdoor garden areas, gaming room, co-working space, health and wellness center, cafe, and an in-house bar and restaurant called Mundo. OH, and there is even a beer garden in the works! Rooms start around $149, which is a steal for NYC hotels.

There are also 3 hostels, Nesva Hotel, Q4, and The Local, nearby in Long Island City, another great neighborhood on its own. From there you can walk to Astoria in about 10-15 minutes, or take the subway one or two stops to the heart of Astoria.


A4A guest writer - Eva CaseyA4A guest writer – Eva Casey

Eva Casey travels around the world writing about her experiences as a solo female traveler on her blog, Eva Explores. Eva is the Blog Editor and Social Media Manager for travel company, WeTravel.com. She is also a performing artist, specializing in sketch comedy and improv.

Follow Eva at http://www.evaexplores.com, on Facebook and Twitter.

If you would like to work with Adoration 4 Adventure, contact A4A.

All photos in this article are the property of A4A guest writer, Eva Casey.


Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 adventure's local guide for visitor's to Astoria, New York. Including top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around on a budget.

Have you visited Astoria or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.

Itinerary: La Fortuna, Costa Rica (2 days)

Itinerary: La Fortuna, Costa Rica (2 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for La Fortuna, Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a dream destination for many and for good reason. Known for its dense rain forests, unique wildlife, formidable volcanoes and startling seaside, there are so many experiences available to visitors.

During our 9 week backpacking trip of Central America, Darrell and I only had five days of our itinerary allotted for Costa Rica (although we would have loved to spend much longer!). So in the lead up to our visit, I began to read everything I could get my hands on about Costa Rica. I wanted to make sure that we made the most of our short time in this famed vacation destination.

After considering many recommendations, we choose to spend the majority of our time in La Fortuna. Darrell was particularly excited to see Arenal Volcano. A seemingly perfectly formed volcano that dominated the skyline and thick jungles surrounding it. Another positive was that La Fortuna is also very accessible from the capital, San Jose. 

In total, we spent three nights in La Fortuna. As traveling goes, I was sick for the better part of our first day. Therefore, the following is our recommended itinerary for two days rather than squishing everything into one day, as we did. After all, when in Costa Rica you should be on Tico time.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1: La Fortuna

Breakfast on the patio

During our stay in La Fortuna, we stayed in Villas Josipek. Nestled in the lush rolling hills above La Fortuna, Villas Josipek offers cozy bungalows with the option of a fully equipped kitchen. The cabins are available with one and two bedrooms or there is even a four bedroom house available. We choose to stay in the one bedroom with kitchen. This came with a double bed and two bunk beds, so it would be a great choice for small groups or families.

After being on the road for the better part of the past three months, we were so thrilled to have a fully equipped kitchen we could cook our own meals in. My favorite part of the day was sitting on the patio of the bungalow, sipping coffee and looking out into the gardens of Villas Josipek. Cooking is also a great option for those who are budget conscious (aren’t we all?).

Villas Josipek - Bungalow with Kitchen

As I was pretty sick during my stay, I really appreciated staying in a private bungalow with all the required amenities to be comfortable. It was nice to rest in the double bed, under the cool bedroom fan and catch up on recent movies. This is also a great way to unwind after you have had a busy day full of adventure activities. Villas Josipek provides cable TV and WiFi right to your cabin, which is pretty impressive considering we were in the middle of the jungle.

Villas Josipek - Bungalow with Kitchen - Bedroom

Catarata Rio Fortuna

While visiting La Fortuna, you are probably going to want to visit La Fortuna Waterfall or “Catarata Rio Fortuna”. The waterfall is located a short drive from La Fortuna. Alternatively, if you have traveled without a car then you could consider a tour or catching a taxi.

The grounds of La Fortuna Waterfall are well maintained with stairs and a pathway leading through the jungle. It is about a fifteen minute walk from the park entrance to the base of the waterfall. There are quite a few stairs so be prepared with the right footwear. It is also recommended that you take along plenty of drinking water, insect repellent, swimwear, a towel and change of clothes. There are restrooms available near the entrance so you can get changed before descending to the waterfall.

There is an entrance fee, however the waterfall and the view during your short trek are very impressive. Make the most of your money by planning to stay a few hours. After reaching the waterfall, take your time taking snapshots then head into the cool water for a dip.

La Fortuna Waterfall, Costa Rica

Day 2: La Fortuna

Baldi Hot Springs

Imagine a luxury spa, natural hot springs and a mammoth water theme park all rolled in one. That’s what you can expect at Baldi Hot Springs. The park is an architect’s delight of strategically placed cascading waterfalls. Starting from the back of the park, the hot spring water erupts from the top of a man made mountain running down through a series of pools.

In all, there are twenty five pools in the park ranging in design and water temperature. Each pool has a sign indicating what the depth and temperature is for the pool. Whether you want to stay ankle deep or be fully immersed under a waterfall, there is a pool for you. For those who fancy a drink without having to get out of the water, there are several swim up bars in the park, including a sports bar showing the current big match.

Baldi Hot Springs, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Families are in luck, as there is a dedicated water park that will keep kids amused for hours. Tall water slides are available for children of all ages. For those looking for some pampering, Baldi Hot Springs has a dedicated spa with many treatments available.

Darrell and I visited on a day pass, and ended up staying over five hours. We had a great time trying out the different pools and relaxing in the sun chairs. If you are visiting and have some room in your budget, consider the “all you can eat” buffet lunch with an assortment of traditional foods as well as soup and pasta. Darrell and I gorged ourselves on a late lunch, finishing with the sweet cakes and coffee. Be sure to come early and, if possible, on a week day. We arrived around 11am and there were only a handful of other visitors. After midday however, bus loads of tourists started to arrive. Although the park is huge and can take many visitors without feeling full, it was still nice to have a pool to ourselves for a few hours.

Baldi Hot Springs

Exploring La Fortuna

The town of La Fortuna is a mishmash of hotels, restaurants and shops selling tours. Large advertisements for adventure activities such as zip lining, hiking, horse back riding and everything in between, call out to you. The town is very walk-able, centered around a cute little park and with a backdrop of Arenal Volcano.

This is a great place to come for lunch or even just a coffee. The restaurants available range from low cost “sodas” (the name for local restaurants) right up to a full service dining experience. Darrell and I enjoyed a relaxed afternoon walking all over the town and treating ourselves to pastries and coffees in a “panaderia” (bakery).


Villas Josipek

Located just 10 kilometers outside the center of La Fortuna and a two hour scenic drive from San Jose, Villas Josipek is a great place to make your jungle escape. The hotel provides a series of bungalows and a house on the edge of the jungle. The resort is also home to a well loved botanical garden, featuring both native and exotic flora.

Villas Josipek made our stay in La Fortuna truly memorable. The staff were so kind and attentive, going out of their way to make sure we had a comfortable stay. Even as we were leaving, the staff were offering recommendations for places to visit in San Jose. It is such a warm and welcoming place to be.

Location: Villas Josipek, Highway 702, Costa Rica (2km north of Chachagua)

Website: www.costaricavillasjosipek.com

Villas Josipek - Cabins


Budget breakdown: La Fortuna

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Costa Rican Colones). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Villas Josipek offers one and two bedroom bungalows as well as a four bedroom house. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Rooms & Rates.

Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at a local restaurant and bakery. (2845 Colones).

Activities: La Fortuna Waterfall ($28 USD). We received day passes to Baldi Hot Springs as a gift from a friend. For the current prices for day passes, hotel accommodation, spa and restaurant, please refer to Baldi Hot Springs.

Transport: Initially Darrell and I had planned to travel to La Fortuna by bus, however due to my cold and pinched nerve in my back (did I mention I was sick?), we decided to hire a car at the last minute. Traveling by car to La Fortuna was very convenient and made our trip so much easier. By having the car, we were able to explore the area at our own leisure and easily drive to pick up groceries. When looking for a rental car, make sure to obtain multiple quotes. Also consult with your credit card company as you may already have insurance for car rentals and not have to pay extra for it. ($100.18 USD for 3 days car rental and 13,596 Colones for fuel).

Average daily spend: $39.40 USD each* ($52.45 AUD as of 5 July 2016) excluding accommodation and Baldi Hot Springs. This amount includes car rental for 3 days allowing for travel in and out of La Fortuna.

Villas Josipek - Entrance

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Villas Josipek. We also received day passes to Baldi Hot Springs from a friend as a gift. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 2 day itinerary for La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Including visits to La Fortuna waterfall, Arenal Volcano and Baldi Hot Springs.

Have you visited La Fortuna or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

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Itinerary: Backpacking Nicaragua (12 days)

Itinerary: Backpacking Nicaragua (12 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Nicaragua by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.

.It is always difficult to plan out an itinerary for a country that you have never traveled to before. It can be hard to know which destinations to visit, how much time to spend in each place and most importantly, how much it is all going to cost.

Recently we spent 12 days backpacking through Nicaragua, with stops in Leon, Granada, and Ometepe. This is an overview of where we stopped and what we did on our Nicaragua trip, including a full budget breakdown below. Our route could be used as a full itinerary or modified for any trip type and duration.

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1-4: Leon

Leon is located about an hour shuttle or 2 hour local bus ride south of the border of Honduras and Nicaragua. Leon, once the original capital of Nicaragua, is the second largest city in the country. This city is rich in history (the original Leon was buried by volcanic eruptions) and a great place for food. We were lucky enough to be pointed in the best directions for food by Monica of Posada la Gordita and were never disappointed. The Nicaraguan tacos with fresh cream were our favorites.

The main attraction of Leon, for travelers, is the ability to go Volcano Boarding. This is the only location in the world where you can go down the side of a volcano at high speed. Make sure to look around for the best deal, but most companies that provide this experience for around $30 USD.

We used Leon as a low-key recovery location during our 9 week trip. There were many amenities here that we had not seen all over Central America, including a movie theater that showed movies in English. For only a few dollars we were able to munch on pop corn whilst watching the latest X-Men film.

Leon is known for its extreme heat and humidity, yet we only experienced a single full day of the heat. As luck would have it, during our stay, it rained nearly every day. Other activities visitors enjoy include the local water parks, museums and historic walking tours.

Leon Church

Day 5: Travel from Leon to Granada

We took 2 local buses to Granada from Leon with a stop in Managua. All buses leaving from Leon depart from the main bus station next to the market. Our shuttle bus from Leon to UCA bus station in Managua took around an hour and a half and cost 54 Cordobas per person. From UCA bus station it is simple to find the mini bus to Granada. This is an hour trip and cost $1 US dollar per person.

Day 6-9: Granada

Granada is the perfect location to see the variations of Nicaragua without having to go far from the city itself. The city has a very European feel to it and was in fact a Spanish colonial city. Granada is an attraction unto itself with colorful buildings, numerous cathedrals to visit, and perfect places for people watching while drinking coffee.

While here, we joined a night tour to the Masaya artisan markets and to see the current lava flows in Masaya Volcano. This has become one of the top things to do in the area as the lava is highly visible and flowing inside the volcano, which can be seen from the top. We also went to Laguna de Apoyo, a beautiful lagoon about 45 minutes from Granada, which makes for a perfect day trip of kayaking, swimming, and relaxation. Read more reasons why Granada should be your next destination.

Masaya Volcano at night

If you have done everything there is to do and want something more, Las Isletas is an additional option. Las Isletas is a grouping of 365 small islands that were formed when Mombacho volcano exploded long ago. They range from absolutely tiny islands, to ones large enough that people own the land and have built houses on them.

Las Isletas

For a truly unique experience, take a trip to the chocolate spa and museum. This was where we indulged in chocolate spa treatments and even made our own chocolate bars.

Day 10: Travel from Granada to Ometepe

To get from Granada to Ometepe, it requires 2 buses and a ferry. We took the bus from south of the Central Plaza in Granada to Rivas for 31 Cordobas per person. From Rivas we took a quick 15 minute local bus to San Jorge. The local bus can be picked up as it is passing by on the street adjacent to the bus station for 7 Cordobas a person. The final step is an hour long ferry ride to Ometepe for 35 Cordobas per person, but it can vary depending on which ferry you take and the time of departure.

Day 11-12: Ometepe

Ometepe is an island set in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. Formed by the two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas, Ometepe is an outdoors destination with most visitors intent on hiking at least one if not both of the volcanoes. Try to visit in the non rainy season as it becomes much more difficult to climb any of the volcanoes and all of the activities are outside.

Many visitors to Ometepe rent scooters or motorbikes so that they can explore the island. We heard stories of people not getting their deposit back or having issues, so just be careful in negotiating these deals. Alternatively, there are many tours you can take to various parts of the island. Unfortunately for us, Chantell was very sick during our stay so we literally were not able to explore at all. Luckily, the ferry ride across provides one of the best views of the island and volcano.

Concepcion Volcano

Want to extend your trip? Consider an escape to the northern beaches of San Juan Del Sur.


Budget breakdown: Nicaragua

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (Nicaraguan Cordoba) when available. Nicaragua widely accepts USD and often encourages it. See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD and USD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: We searched on various hostel and hotel websites for the best deals. For more information, read our tips for finding travel accommodation on a budget.

  • Leon – Private room and bathroom for 4 nights ($60 USD)
  • Granada – Private room and bathroom for 5 nights ($85 USD)
  • Ometepe – Private room and bathroom for 3 nights ($45 USD)

Food: We dined on a mixture of street food, local restaurants, convenience store snacks and the occasional mid range cost meal. The most delicious meals were often the cheapest and a sign of a good place will be crowded with locals. We also purchase bottled water, unless filtered refills were provided by the hostel/hotel. (308 Cordobas average per day on food and drink).

Activities: Day trip to Laguna de Apoyo (24 USD), Masaya Volcano/Market Night Tour (40 USD), Leon Movie Theater (110 Cordobas).

Transport: Shuttle from Leon to UCA Managua (108 Cordobas), Bus from UCA to Granada (2 USD), Bus from Granada to Rivas (62 Cordobas), Bus from Rivas to San Jorge (14 Cordobas), Ferry from san Jorge to Ometepe (70 Cordobas)

Average daily spend: $16.43 USD* per person ($21.91 AUD as of 3 July 2016).

*During our time in Leon and Ometepe, we did not do any tours so this amount will vary depending on the activities you want to do. This daily amount could be reduced by cooking your own meals.


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Adoration 4 Adventure’s 12 day backpacking itinerary for Nicaragua on a budget. Including stops in Leon, Granada and Ometepe.

Have you visited Nicaragua or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.

Local guide: Toronto, Canada

Local guide: Toronto, Canada

Adoration 4 Adventure’s local guide for visitors to Toronto by A4A guest writer, Lottie Reeves.

Local guide posts provide recommendations for destinations from locals who are currently living or have lived in that particular place. Including information on the top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around with an emphasis on saving money.

Overview of Toronto

Toronto is a multi cultural city that could be identified as New York’s little sister and London’s cousin. It is big enough to be full of things to do, with a 24 hour hustle, but is small enough for you to explore each neighbourhood by foot.  This enables you to spend a day in China Town, Little Italy, Little Portugal and the downtown Canadian hub of the city.

Torontonians are friendly, welcoming and proud to help visitors to their city with directions, recommendations and discussions on the successes of their sports teams.

Planning a trip to Canada? Read my best hiking spots in Vancouver

Top 5 places to visit

5. Kensingston Market

This is the eclectic hub of the city, a bohemian market with a hipster feel. Any one of the coffee shops makes a great place to people watch. The fresh fruit and veggie stalls sell great produce alongside the local butcher. From yoga studios to live music in the streets, local businesses support each other creating an environment that’s all about the local community.

Street Music in Kensington Market. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Lottie Reeves

4. Trinity Bellwoods park

In the summer, the park is filled with people from all walks of life jamming on their instruments, sipping a craft beer, pushing kids on the swings, walking their dogs or having a quick game of baseball. In winter the ice rink comes to life while kids and adults alike play in the snow. Whatever, the season, there’s always something going on at the park that’s a stone’s throw from the CBD and overlooks the city’s skyline.

Trinity Bellwoods Park Ice Rink. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Lottie Reeves

3. The CN Tower

Probably the city’s most known tourist attraction, the CN Tower ‘towers’ over the city and is the dominant feature in the skyline. From the viewing platform you can get a grasp of the layout of the city, get your bearings and see just how it all fits together. If you’re happy to push the boat out (go all out), the revolving restaurant at the top is a great treat.

Toronto Skyline at Sunset. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Lottie Reeves

2. The Distillery District

Located towards the eastern suburbs, the distillery district is, as you may have guessed, made up of old distilleries. Some of which still produce great tasting alcohol, but all of which have been restored and renovated to bring a new lease of life to the architecture. The area is filled with cafes, galleries, hand made products, fancy restaurants, hot dog stalls, and markets. At Christmas time, it is home to the best Christmas market in the city – with the best mulled wine too!

1. The Islands

There are plenty of harbour cruises that take you around Lake Ontario, through the islands and show you the city from the water. However, you can just take the ferry out to the islands for much less money! Once on the island you can play Frisbee golf.

Eating and drinking

Toronto has a huge range of foods from western to Asian, there’s something for everyone’s taste buds! Both Queen Street West and College Street, between Spadina and Ossington Avenues, have a great selection of local restaurants ranging from affordable to decadent. These are also great neighbourhoods for drinks, from ‘just one beer’ to a night on the tiles, there are plenty of options.

Bohemian Queen Street West neighbourhood. Photo credit: A4A guest writer - Lottie Reeves

Poutine is a traditional Canadian dish that consists of chips, gravy and cheese curd. It’s typically eaten in the early hours of the morning on your way home but can be got at any time of the day! Smokes is a chain that offers a variety of different takes on the traditional dish with toppings including pulled pork, bacon and chillies.

A Ceasar is a traditional Canadian cocktail…I am not telling you what’s in it because you won’t want to try it. But you should.

Transport

The public transport system in Toronto is great. The TTC (Toronto Transit Company) manages trains, streetcars (trams) and the subways. The city is laid out in a grid, much like New York, so it is easily navigable with streetcars or buses going from north to south and east to west on all the main streets. The ticket system means  that for one price you can switch from bus to streetcar to subway if you need to, as long as you’re still going in roughly the same direction on one journey. This makes it an affordable way to travel.

Toronto is the only city I have been to where, when missing the last subway of the night, I was given a free pass for a streetcar to make sure I got home safely! Some of the streetcars are 24 hours, otherwise the buses and subway run pretty long hours throughout the day. Therefore there is usually a safe and affordable way to get home without having to walk too far.

Accommodation

Being a large city, it is sometimes confusing to know where to stay, however being in the residential areas gives you a great insight into life as a local. For that reason, Airbnb is a great option for accommodation and there are plenty of different prices. Anywhere south of Bloor Street, north of King Street and located between Roncesvalles and University Avenue as the vertical streets, will mean you’re in a great location to easily and quickly explore the city.

There are a handful of hostels all located fairly centrally, in and around Kensingston Market and China Town areas. These would be the most affordable option if you’re traveling solo or in a couple although they are more expensive than hostels in places like Asia! If there are more than 2 of you, Airbnb will likely work out more reasonable.


A4A guest writer - Lottie ReevesA4A guest writer –Lottie Reeves

Lottie is a qualified teacher originally from the UK, currently living in a caravan while exploring South Africa. As well as blogging at Princess In A Caravan, she is the founder of Global Handprints, a social enterprise that offers professional teaching, and road tripping, volunteer placements, off the beaten path in South Africa.

Follow Lottie at www.princessinacravan.com and Global Handprints at https://globalhandprints.wordpress.com.

If you would like to work with Adoration 4 Adventure, contact A4A.

All photos in this article are the property of A4A guest writer Lottie Reeves.


Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure's local guide for visitor's to Toronto, Canada. Including top places to eat, drink, stay and how to get around on a budget.

Have you visited Toronto or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below! 

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.