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5 Best Beaches to Visit During Your Costa Rican Getaway

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Considering its name literally meaning rich coast, it is no surprise that Costa Rica is home to dozens of breathtaking beaches. Every year millions of tourists flock to enjoy the warm crystal clear waters, pink sands, and magical hidden coves that this island has to offer. Thanks to the beach-side Costa Rica vacation homes located all throughout the island, planning your visit is made that much easier. With gorgeous properties located throughout the island and along the beachfront, your retreat will be that much more luxurious.

While Costa Rica is literally lined with hundreds of beautiful beaches, it can be a difficult task choosing which ones to visit first. Thankfully, here is a helpful list of some of the best places to soak up the sun and have some ocean fun during your stay.

Vernazza beach

  1. La Mancha Beach

Located near the popular beach town of Manuel Antonio,  Playa La Mancha, or La Mancha Beach is one of the more calm and peaceful beaches to visit. Nestled within one of Costa Rica’s many national park, the beach is never short of amazing views. Surrounded by sparkling blue waters and ivory white sands, the shore is dotted with tiny islands in swimming distance. However, in order to make your way to the beach a bit of a hike is required. While the hard to spot trail leading to the beach is somewhat difficult to climb, the payoff for the work is more than worth it. Known for its lack of crowds (due to how out of the way it is), this spot is great if you’re looking to simply lay back, relax, and peacefully enjoy the sun. Bring out a lawn chair, a beach towel, and make sure to lather on the sunscreen.

  1. Costa Ballena

Translating in English to “Whale Coast”, this spot is located on the South Pacific coast of Marino Ballena National Park. The coastline is open to a number of water activities including kayaking, snorkeling, scuba diving, and you guessed it, whale watching! Named for its whale-like shape when being viewed from above, the beach is also conveniently the breaching place for humpback whales that return twice a year. Whale watching serves are provided as well as snorkeling services. Also know for it’s lush biodiversity, this beach is also home to sea turtles, a large coral reef and several different species of tropical birds. Great for bird watchers and all animal lovers alike, the adjacent rainforests are the site of a number of tours and enchanting trails.

  1. Tamarindo Beach

Are you looking to catch a couple of waves and hang ten? Well if so, Tamarindo Beach is the place for you! Notorious for it’s stretched out coast and amazing waves, this beach is a surfer’s paradise. In fact, it is also home to several annual surfing competitions. Don’t know how to surf yet? Don’t worry! There are plenty of surfing classing that are regularly taught along the beachside throughout the day. Along with this, there are a number of other watersports and activities taking place here so everyone is welcome. If you are more in the mood for something low profile, take a canoeing trip through the local estuaries and tropical habitats that weave around the beach. And when the sun goes down and the stars come out, you can enjoy an exciting nightlife at the number of discos and bars at Tamarindo.

  1. Hermosa Beach

Situated between two gorgeous mountains, this beautiful beach is known for its unique and scenic gray colored sands and relaxed, breezy atmosphere. There are actually two Hermosa beaches separated by Playa del Coco and Playa Panama. Most visitors coming to either of these beaches bring along a blanket and lay back on the shore to soak up the sun. The waters at this beach are usually very calm and ideal for swimming and shallow wading. The dark sand is lined with plenty of shady palms and fronds so if you decide you’re done soaking up the sun, you have plenty of options to sit back at cool off. In addition, several national parks are located within hiking distance from the beach.

  1. Avellana Beach

Here is another beach known for its big 20 foot waves and amazing surf. Nicknamed “Little Hawaii”, surfers from across the globe rush here to experience all that this beach has to offer. Covered in pristine white sands located on Guanacaste’s Golden Coast only a few miles away from Tamarindo. The remote beach is also the site of a couple of bars so you can always settle down and enjoy a drink after riding a few waves. The town of Tamarindo that is a short distance from the beach is also the location of interesting nightlife and Latin clubs. Also located near this beach is Marino Las Baulas National Park and protected nesting sites for endangered species of sea turtles. And if you’re lucky you’ll meet Lola, a pot-bellied pig that spends her days relaxing on the beach.

Overall, Costa Rica is a country saturated with exciting culture and beautiful nature for you to enjoy. With its illustrious beaches with their aquamarine waters and sandy shores, watersports, nature trails and more, there is something on the island for anyone and everyone. Hopefully this list is a step forward in helping you narrow down your search for which beaches you’ll travel to first on your trip to this magical island.

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How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland

Find out how all about How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland, including visiting Geysir and Gulfoss and staying at Vatnsholt Hostel.

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Self Drive the Golden Circle with Icelandic horses

Everyone that visits Iceland cannot miss the Golden Circle tour. But the ultimate question is whether you should see the Golden Circle with a tour company or self-drive the Golden Circle in one day yourself? I highly recommend doing the latter.

And if you want to self-drive the Golden Circle, these travel tips will help you on your next adventure to Iceland.

Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland

How to Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day

Tour companies can be significant. But being herded onto and off a bus all day as you try to get around all the sites along the Golden Circle route seems ridiculous. Wouldn’t you rather have the freedom to stop whenever you wanted to take some photos, go toilet, or chill out staring at a waterfall?

Visiting Gulfoss Falls Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day

Visiting Gulfoss Waterfall – Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day

What kind of rental car do I need in Iceland?

Depending on the time of year and your travel plans, you should be fine just getting a small sedan. We hired the cheapest car from Hertz, and it worked out perfectly. Since we covered a vast distance during our entire trip, we wanted to make sure it was fuel-efficient and comfortable.

If you are heading there in winter (November – March), you may want to consider picking up a 4×4. Some roads can be closed, and the roads are very icy/snowy. Check the Iceland road conditions on this official website before heading out.

What is the best Golden Circle route I should take?

There are no set routes if you self-drive the Golden Circle. You either head clockwise or anti-clockwise. But the best part of the Golden Circle route is that you will have to try hard to get lost. That’s not saying it can’t be done because we somehow missed the turnoff coming out of Reykjavik, but you have to ignore all the big signs pointing out the attractions along the way.

You are starting from Reykjavik, head in a clockwise direction towards your first stop, which will be the Continental Divide between the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates. You can go diving here and wander around for a good hour, exploring the many pathways.

Or if the wind is howling and it is freezing like it was the day we did it, run around for 10 minutes grabbing some photos, then bugger off again.

Silfra-Tectonic-Plates-splitting-in-Iceland.jpg

The next major stop along Highway 35 on your Golden Circle route is the Geysir minefield, aptly known as Geysir.

Stinking like rotting eggs, the sulfur and steam rise from the ground as you pull up to the information center and cafe. This is a perfect stop for a bit of coffee and a late brunch snack. If you do stop to warm your insides, then this also gives you time to judge your visit between any tour buses that might show up. Just wait half an hour, and they will all be herded back onto their diesel belching coaches, and you can enjoy the peace and tranquillity by yourselves.

Visiting Geysir during Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland

Visiting Geysir – Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day

The final major stop around the Golden Circle is the cascading Gulfoss Waterfall.

We were a little underwhelmed as we were there at the end of the winter season, and a lot of the water was still trapped beneath the frozen lakes and glaciers to the north. Still, it was beautiful with the ice creeping up the frozen canyon walls from the bitter northerly winds while dripping icicles hung precariously over the waterfall’s lips.

Make sure you take the steps down into the canyon and walk along the river pathway. Well worth the mini-hike, and you can feel the spray from Gulfoss as you explore the path.

Gulfoss Waterfall Self Drive the Golden Circle in One Day in Iceland

While these are the three significant stops along the Golden Circle, these shouldn’t be the only reasons you stop.

Around every bend, along every straight, and over each hill, there are many photographic opportunities to snap. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape. So while Adela was quite happy to keep her toes warm under the car heater, I was busy running around the car like photography loony.

Plus, have you seen how adorable the Icelandic horses are?

Self Drive the Golden Circle with Icelandic horses

Golden Circle Self Drive in Iceland

What time should I leave on my self drive around the Golden Circle?

Luckily as you are your boss today, you get to have a sleep-in and a leisurely start to the day. Most tour companies will leave before 8 am to have enough time to make it around all the sights and still be back in Reykjavik by 5 pm.

We left at 10 am, perfect because most tour buses were a couple of hours ahead of us. This allowed us to have a lot more space at the major attractions and not jostle elbow to elbow trying to get the best photographs. We also didn’t return to Reykjavik (see below), so we could take our time at each stop.

Where to stay if you self drive the Golden Circle in one day

While most people will base themselves in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, we decided we wanted to stay further along the South Coast as that was where we were headed next. Our choice was simple, the beautiful Vatnsholt Hostel in Selfoss. Plus, it is also one of the best places in the world to see the Northern lights.

Vatnsholt Hostel Review

Location

Vatnsholt is located just over an hour from Reykjavík off Highway 1. It is a perfect location after you have driven the Golden Circle as you don’t have to go back into the city.

The Rooms

Our room was private inside their old home, which had been renovated. There are other rooms there, with a big shared kitchen and lounge, but we were the only ones staying in Vatnsholt Hostel at the time.

Vatnsholt Hostel Review

The sunset from Vatnsholt Hostel

Other Amenities

The kitchen inside our apartment was perfect, and they had this crazy fancy shower with about 40 buttons inside. We spent ages just trying to figure out how to make it work! They also have free WiFi and are one of the best restaurants that I have ever eaten at. The breakfast buffet selection in the morning is never-ending (get the waffles), and make sure you eat dinner there at least once.

Staff

The owners are amicable and went out of their way to ensure we were comfortable, and well looked after. Make sure you ask Johann and Margret to show you the dancing goat video.

Social Atmosphere

There wasn’t much of a social atmosphere as it was the end of the winter season. A busload of tourists did show up around midnight to watch the Northern Lights one of the evenings, but we didn’t chat to them.

Cost

$60 US for a private room for two people.

Overall

We fell in love with Vatnsholt Hostel and would have stayed longer if we had the time. Unfortunately, we had to buzz off along the coast for a few days, but it would be the perfect base if you had an extra week or two in Iceland. The owners have also lived in the area for years, so they have plenty of local knowledge that you should use, such as finding the private geothermal hot pools up in the hills…

It is the best place to stay if you plan to self-drive the Golden Circle in one day and then explore the south coast afterward.

Disclaimer: We were guests of Vatnsholt Hostel, and thanks to HostelWorld for organizing, but as always, our thoughts are always our own.

Have you driven than the Golden Circle before? Or did you take a tour bus? What were your highlights?

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Minimize your environmental footprint when you travel

Avatar of Warrren Hamels

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The world is full of so many miracles of natures, sites with history, and distant locales with simply delicious food. It’s no surprise that many succumb to the travel bug. Yet an appreciation of the world also comes with the need to take care of our planet, which is why many people are focusing now on their eco-footprint when venturing afar. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to help make an impact after the coronavirus. Likewise, click here to work on yourself in the meantime.

Our article describes ways to travel more ecologically friendly by being mindful of your transportation mode, switching to alternative power, reducing waste and carbon footprints, and choosing reputable and green-friendly travel providers.

Sail the Ocean Like Greta

This option may be more in line with some of our recent lotto winners, but it’s absolutely worth a mention. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg chose to cross the Atlantic ocean in an emission-free catamaran instead of flying by plane or other high-emission travel. While there probably aren’t too many catamaran’s and captains available, it’s still a great idea to remember that travel and vacation by wind power are an eco-friendly option.

Roccella Ionica

Replica Russian Viking boat

Go Electric for Roadtrips

Electric cars of old meant short trips, low power, and frequent plug-ins. But times have changed. Modern electric cars are packed with horsepower and have a lengthy battery life, making them fantastic cars for road trips. In fact, CNN notes that by 2040, more than half of new cars will be electric. Reduce your reliance on fossil fuels while you take in the scenery. Electric cars reduce noise pollution too.

Pack Light when Flying

If you must fly, reducing the weight you bring is a simple consideration that can help save in long-term greenhouse gas contributions. The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. In addition to helping cut down on air pollution, you’ll also eliminate the risk of excess baggage fees or getting your bag rerouted.

Another friendly flying tip is to book non-stop flights when possible. Take-offs and landings are where the most fuel is wasted, so choose your flight path wisely.

What to pack for the Camino de Santiago?

Bring Your Own

When it comes to food and drink, you need to be strategic. You can’t bring a bottle of water through airport security, but you can bring an empty, reusable bottle. Simply fill this at a drinking fountain after you pass through the scanners and avoid plastic bottle waste as well as bottled water company ethics. On the other side of security choose food served with compostable plates or cutlery if possible. If you’re unsure of the food options coming up, pack some items that provide their own packagings – like a banana, apple, or avocado.

When you do eat and drink out on vacation, try to eat and drink local. Local foods create a lower carbon imprint since they don’t need to be transported as far. In addition, there is less difficulty in getting these foods to market, so they will taste fresher and require fewer chemicals and additives. If you’re shopping at a farmers market or just for souvenirs, bring your own reusable bag with you on vacation.

Check Your Hotel’s Reputation

Many hotels now are embracing green measures. Check to see if your hotel meets architectural LEED standards, or otherwise uses upcycled or recycled building materials. Look to see if they are associated with any environmentally supportive organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, or any of the local and national sustainability initiatives in their area. Look for the simple things, like if the hotel embraces smart laundry – avoiding fresh daily towels or linens without reason. Do they use single-serve shampoos, or offer bulk dispensers to reduce plastic waste. Last, see if your hotel participates in additional carbon offset measures, and volunteer to support these initiatives if possible.

Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa Edinburgh

Travelling is good for the soul, but it’s time to make your travel good for the planet too. Choose your method of transportation wisely, traveling by ground or sea if you can. If you are limited by time or terrain and choose to fly in the smartest way possible, by reducing weight and excess plastic packaging. Select non-stop flights and shop smartly while you are away. Stay at green-friendly hotels and review their impact during your bookings. Every step counts when concerning the health of our planet. Your small choices can lead to big results long-term if you keep these eco-tips in mind.

 

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The Often Overlooked Benefits of Rail Travel

Avatar of Warrren Hamels

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Adventure Travel Tourism is Taking Off

Out of all the modes of transportation, planes, trains, buses, ships, rail travel might be the winner for long distance trips.

Why? Well, for one thing, there’s the sights that one can see, then there is the ability of the individual to meet others and enjoy a whole different experience while also potentially contributing to a cleaner environment as well by maximizing for efficiency.

Yes, trains could offer one of the most immersive travel experiences that you could enjoy in your lifetime.

Rail travel is great for a couple of more reasons as well. Think about it, once you are on it, you are good to go.

Rail travel doesn’t really rush you from one location to the other like you are a part of a flock of sheep (looking at you, airplanes). Instead, it gives you ample time to kick back, relax and enjoy the extended time it takes to get you to your destination.

Due to that reason, tailor made train holidays have gained quite some traction among those who want to not only travel the world as much as they could, but actually explore all of what the planet has to offer in all its natural glory. You can’t argue with that approach either – I, for one know that when I travel with friends or family, my journey has to absolutely live by that motto.

Granted, rail travel might not be for the fast-moving business people that have to make it to important meetings in quick fashion, but it is definitely the right mode of transportation for those who have got some extra time on their hands either due to a vacation from work or a break from school – or just because they have taken a leaf out of Richard Burton’s book and decided to travel across the world as a way of life.

If you fall under any of those categories or are just an adventurous soul who wants to enjoy their time off of everyday chores, then rail travel might just be the experience that you are looking for.

Here are a few reasons why experiencing rail travel could give you a little – or a lot of – something that you would cherish for the rest of your life.

The Scenic Sights Are to Be Held With Awe

Peyto Lake, Banff National Park

Peyto Lake – Visiting the Canadian Rockies by Train

No matter how many flights you have caught within your lifetime, watching a sunset through a plane could never beat the same sight when it is witnessed through some luscious mountains on the ground (trust someone who has experienced it firsthand).

While this is mostly due to the extra time that you get to enjoy the sight while traveling by train, the “backdrop” aspect of the scenic locations is what makes it a thousand times more magnificent.

This added effect of natural sight staging is not only reserved to sunsets, but depending upon the route of your journey, could very well extend to you witnessing sparkling waters as your train jumps through bridges as well. You may find you are practically hugging the clouds as the train goes through highpoints of elevation; or you coming face to face with glaciers as the railroad moves inches away.

Simply put, by getting into a train for your journey, you sign yourself up for an adventure of exploration, something which a compactly packed airplane or a single-worldview cruise ship cannot offer.

The Food Provides an Unforgettable Gastronomic Experience

When you are traveling, and especially when you traveling abroad, having great food is one of the most pressing concerns that you may have in terms of adaptability to the new location.

While food travelers like the legendary Anthony Bourdain may have introduced an entire generation and more to come to the gastronomic offerings of different cultures, it still does not change the fact that your taste palette – and more dangerously, your stomach – might not be as adaptable to newer cooking techniques.

No matter how bland airplane food could be, you end up wolfing it down in fear of what you might be offered at landing, but that bland concoction of ingredients itself does not go very well with your system.

On the other hand, when you take a bespoke, well-designed journey through a train, you open doors to let yourself enjoy a wide variety of foods that could rival a Michelin-star restaurant (that is, at least by the opinion of those who travel frequently by trains).

The menu in extended-journey trains is designed in such a manner where you could try various dishes each day of your rail travel, and still end up with plenty of options that you could enjoy on your returning journey home.

This provides rail travel with some well-earned brownie points. It makes sense too – after all, if you have to live in the train for a few days, why not live your best life while doing so?

The Cabins, Seating, and Entertainment Offerings Could Rival a High End Hotel

And not a creepy hotel from American Horror Story that would give you the heebie-jeebies either, but something that could provide some serious competition to high end vacation destinations.

From well-decorated and comfortable sleeping cabins to one of a kind parlor seating, depending on the train you select for your travels, you could enjoy an array of comforting spaces that would make you feel like you are on a moving vacation.

The entertainment spaces in these trains also seem to offer the world to their passengers. The details that are present within is what really makes the trip.

Think about it, you can enjoy a cocktail in a more extravagant fashion when you see sip while looking upwards through the glass ceilings that let you have a clear view of the morning sky or starry night thousands of miles above. Being able to consume drinks at the well-stocked bar built within the train does not hurt the experience either.

Similarly, the parlor and other common entertainment areas in such trains could also provide you with customized entertainment options, where you could read a book while sitting by the panoramic windows or enjoy a movie through one of the screens within the train’s fixtures.

All in all, the entertainment options in these modern trains have the ability to transport you back to the glory of yesteryears without the added hassle of living without technology. Only those who have experienced this mode of travel could really resonate with these words – which is why, if you haven’t done so, then this would be the time to book your rail travel vacation.

Rail Travel Strikes the Perfect Balance Between Relaxation and Activity

Rail Travel is great because it incorporates technology and simplicity, one can find the perfect balance between rest and relaxation as well as the ability to be active.

So, if you are planning to take a vacation soon, make it one that is centered around rail travel. While you might not witness a murder on the Orient Express, you could still enjoy all the amenities which that train had to offer – actually, much more than that, minus the homicide.

 

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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