Tag Archives: Beaches

Santa Marta and Bahia Concha

Following our 3 day bus journey from Venezuela, we finally arrived at our first destination in Colombia just before 6 in the evening. We took a taxi from the bus drop off point just outside of Santa Marta and headed to the Dreamer Hostel hoping they would have a room for us for a couple of nights.

Upon arrival we discovered that the newly opened hostel would be able to accomodate us but only by offering us a suite option which was their last room. At 90,000 pesos per night we thought it was a bit steep until we saw the room, which resembled more a boutique hotel than a hostel. They also had a swimming pool, bar, restaurant, kitchen and hammocks. We thought about it for a couple of minutes and then booked ourselves in, after all we felt we deserved a treat!

We spent a couple of nights at the hostel and in that time basically recharged our batteries. The location of the hostel was great as it was a 5 minute walk from a commercial centre which had everything we needed from ATMs to supermarkets.

Santa Marta - park on the way to shopping centre

On the last day we decided we take a day trip organised by the hostel to Bahia Concha, a beach on the fringes of the Tayrona National Park.

The beach was nice but nothing spectacular and when we arrived it was also fairly deserted, however by 11am the locals arrived and it got quite busy, which we found strange as it was a week day. The water was calm and safe to swim in but surprisingly cold for the Caribbean sea. However, the sand had a lovely gold like quality, it seemed almost like there were flakes of gold in the sand which made the coastline seem to glitter.

Bahia Concha - empty beach and calm water

The beach facilities included a restaurant offering fresh fish, so much so that they would bring you the fish on a platter to choose the ont you wanted. There was also a drinks service on the beach and a couple of vendors selling sweet treats. We took our own food and drinks but bought a top up for our water and some very nice coconut treats!

Bahia Concha - calm waters

All-in-all it was a nice day out on the beach and a chance to top up our tans one last time before moving inland.

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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Our final stop in Costa Rica turned out to be Cahuita on the Caribbean Sea. We originally travelled from Dominical and Uvita on the Pacific side taking in the scenic mountain route running parallel to Chirripo. For our final 5 days in the country we had planned to get back to the Caribbean side and do a final spot of snorkelling and then try to see the sea turtles coming in to lay their eggs.

We had heard rumours that there were sea turtles in the Manzanillo National Park, next door to Cahuita. So we opted to try our luck instead of trying to get into Tortuguero National Park which seemed a lot more expensive and difficult to get to.

Cahuita National Park: beach and the lagoon

When we arrived in Cahuita we asked around and were told that yes there were turtles nesting in the area but as we were now at the very end of the season the chance of seeing them was very slim. With that in mind and knowing that the price of the tour would be $40 p/p, plus boat expenses which could be up to $20 each, we decided that we were too close to the end of our budget to take the tour with such slim chances.

Instead we opted for a fantastic afternoon of snorkelling at $25 p/p. The price was for a 3 hour tour around the coral reef at Cahuita Point. We had previously been snorkelling in Belize along the barrier reef but were surprised by the amount of beautiful and deadly fish lurking around, including a couple of nurse sharks who swam right past us!

The last few days of our time were spent on the beautiful white sandy beach of Cahuita National Park, where there is no set entrance fee but instead they just ask for donations and you can come and go throughout the day.

Cahuita National Park: sandy beach

The feel of Cahuita is unlike anywhere else in Costa Rica, it’s Tico meets Creole, which means the vibes are very chilled and the place seems to go slower than time itself.

Cahuita: main road

It was a great place to stop and recharge before moving onto South America, and as it was still low season the beaches and town were very quiet allowing us to really soak up the atmosphere!

Cahuita National Park beach: a quiet spot

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Posted by on July 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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After our stay in Domincal we headed a little further south towards the national park of Ballena, a whale reserve area. Although out of season we had heard that there were secluded beaches and quiet spots along the coast.

We found a great little place to stay in just 5 minutes from Uvita beach called Felix Cabanas. For $30 per night we had a private cabin with kitchen and bathroom and use of the swimming pool and hammocks. We decided to stay a couple of nights and to explore the nearby beaches.

Uvita: cabinas Felix

The best one we found was playa ventanas, about 10 kilometres further south. Although part of the national park the entrance was not manned by any park ranger which made access completely free. When we arrived just after lunch there was not a soul to be seen, we literally had the place to ourselves. The surf here was also less strong than in other areas making it possible to enjoy a swim.

Playa Ventanas: to the north

The cove was littered with coconut trees dropping their fruits, so much so we helped ourselves to a couple for later. When we returned to the cabanas we struggled to open the coconut as we did not possess a machete like the locals seem to carry around at all times! However, the owner of the cabanas kindly came to our rescue and showed us how it’s done, allowing us to enjoy chilled coconut chunks by the pool. The perfect ending to our day!

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Posted by on July 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The village of Dominical is still a lesser known beach on the tourist trail and offers you a chance for peace and quiet. We stayed at the Piramy’s hostel which is just across the road from the beach and a little further away from the couple of larger hotels that can be found there.

The accommodation seems to be catered primarily towards dorms but they do offer some pretty good rooms, although basic. Unfortunately the rooms have uncovered windows around the top of the walls which is not great for keeping out mosquitos and other bugs. The beds did have a net over them but it was riddled with holes.

However, if you are looking for a beach front hostel and don’t mind taping up the holes in nets then the hostel is a nice little place.

Playa Dominical: thunderstorm brewing

We only stopped for the one night as we were headed to Uvita down the road and liked the look of the place. The beach is not ideal for swimming as it has pebbles and strong currents but it is almost deserted and offers you a nice place to read a book. If you are into surfing though it is an ideal place for you as we seemed to be the only non-surfers there!

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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Manuel Antonio National Park

During our stay in Quepos we decided to visit the National Park of Manuel Antonio. I had visited the park 6 years ago when I had spent some time in Quepos and was keen to see it again.

Since my last visit they had obviously had an influx of visitors as the entrance had been moved to a small road off the main street, and the old entrance on the beach now served as the exit. We arrived a little after 7am and found crowds of tours at the entrance gates. 6 years ago at the same time I had been waiting alone for the park ranger to turn up to let me in…

The park has obviously greatly improved in terms of trails, signs and the facilities available like showers and toilets. We did almost every trail available taking in most of the park which took us until 12.30. It can get quite hot in the late morning and despite being in the shade for most of the walk we still managed to slightly burn our exposed shoulders, which we did not expect.

Manuel Antonio National Park: new path

The main difference I noticed between now and before was the distinct lack of wildlife. We did get lucky and come across a family of white face monkeys crossing on one of the trails, but apart from that we rarely saw any other animals. Whereas 6 years ago there had been monkeys in virtually the whole park jumping through the trees screeching at each other, along with lots more birds and giant iguanas all over the beach.

Manuel Antonio National Park: white face monkey

Can you see the crab? 

Manuel Antonio National Park: spot the crab

The beaches were still as beautiful as I remembered them but we were unable to make the most of them as they had changed regulations and you were not allowed to re-enter the park if you decided to go out.

Manuel Antonio National Park: quiet beach

As we had no lunch with us we had to leave and couldn’t come back in. I found this incredibly hard to believe as surely they could just stamp you in and out and allow you to fully enjoy the day at the park.

Manuel Antonio National Park: beach through trees

So unfortunately after we had lunch we had to instead content ourselves with the public beach which unfortunately is not as calm to swim in.

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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Quepos and Manuel Antonio beach

In August 2006 I spent a month in Quepos doing my TEFL/TESOL course and knew that I would one day return to this beautiful part of the world.

Manuel Antonio beach: sunset

Nearly 6 years later I arrived feeling a little apprehensive about how much it might have changed and as much as I would like to say that it hadn’t, it inevitably had.

The first big change was the town itself. You know deep down that the minute you see a sign advertising the next town has a Subway or Pizza Hut that it will not be a nice quiet town.

Driving through Quepos I was taken aback by the sheer number of cars on the road as well as the back to back signs now competing for your eyes down the streets. Despite it not having really grown in size, the once small, quiet town now seemed instead to have been taken over by shops and hotels.

Quepos: street near the bus station

The big shock came as we headed to our pre-booked hostel. I couldn’t quite believe it when I saw it but the Pura Vida hostel now resides in the building of my old school. To say it was strange walking into your old school and seeing it converted into a hostel is an under statement and a half!

Once checked in I couldn’t resist driving down to Manuel Antonio and seeing just how far the changes had gone.The once quiet road was now buzzing with traffic and just before the half way point to the beach I started to notice the increase in hotels and restaurants. The shocks came with the large complex resorts that now replaced the once lush beautiful road side forest. I would say that the buildings had easily doubled in numbers in 6 years.

Manuel Antonio: main street by the beach

When we hit Manuel Antonio beach 10 minutes later I could see that it too had changed and unfortunately not for the better. The once quiet surfer’s beach was covered with sun loungers and parasols, the road had parking marshalls competing for you to choose their parking site, something that never even existed before, and disappointingly the once colourful market stalls that ran along the beach front were nowhere to be seen.

We sat at Marlin’s restaurant, one place which had strangely not changed, and took in our surroundings. It was still a beautiful place with the unmistakable stretch of coastline melting into the forest, but it had lost that tranquil feeling.

Manuel Antonio: sandy beach

We stayed in Quepos for a few days and enjoyed sunsets at the port, walks on the beach in Manuel Antonio, revisited the national park, did a snorkelling trip and even splashed out for a dinner at El Avion restaurant, something which was also still there.

Manuel Antonio beach: sunset haze

Yet despite everything I could not re-kindle the happiness and peacefulness I had felt from the first time around. Our time in Quepos did make me all the more appreciative of having experienced the area before mass tourism arrived and glad I had not waited any longer before returning as unfortunately there seemed to be plans for even more resorts to be built.

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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Playa Hermosa

Whilst on our way to Quepos we decided to take a look at the beaches along the way, including Jaco and playa Hermosa.

We arrived in Jaco first and were unsure as to whether to stay or not. The town is literally door-to-door bars, hotels and restaurants. So much so that signs are clambering over each other to try to get your attention.

After asking at a couple of hostels for prices, which by the way are not easy to find amongst the confusion, we discovered that it was actually an expensive place to spend the night, so we decided to move on.

Playa Hermosa, our next stop, proved to be the complete opposite. It seemed deserted in comparison to Jaco, so much so that we found a cabin across the road from the beach for $30.

Cabinas Brisa del Mar were basic but provided all we needed for our stay, including kitchen and private parking. The really nice touch was the noon check out time which gave us time to go to the beach in the morning and then freshen up before heading on.

Playa Hermosa

The beach was nice to relax on but it is not a swimmer’s beach as the surf is quite strong and needless to say this attracts a fair few surfers to the region. So after a couple of hours we decided to head onwards to our main destination, Quepos, which was now just less than an hour away.

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Liberia, playa coco and playa panama

Our initial thoughts were to travel down the Nicoya Peninsula to explore the beaches so we decided to set up camp in Liberia, the first main city after the border.

We arrived courtesy of a lift from the border and were left at the junction on the pan-american highway. Our first thoughts of the city were not good, as we looked around all we saw were fast-food places. We headed into town and soon discovered that all the hostels listed in our 3-year-old guide-book were either no longer there or had changed.

After some searching we found Hospedaje el Tope, not far from the main plaza, and not ridiculously priced. Although basic it had charm, with outdoor seating areas amongst plants and fruit trees and colourful lights at night. The only downside was no kitchen so we decided to stay only a couple of days.

Hospedaje El Tope garden at night

We later moved to Hostel Dodero on the other side of town which was very nice and clean, with kitchen and parking but seemed to lack the same quirkiness of el Tope.

After a day of researching we came to the conclusion that tours in Costa Rica are very expensive and that if we wanted to see even half the things on our list then we could probably save money by actually renting a car.

So we booked ourself a Suzuki Jimny for just over a week and were immediately off to visit nearby places including the beaches of Playa Coco, Playa Hermosa and Playa Panama.

Upon arriving at Playa Coco we were immediately relieved to have the car as it was a true tourist destination with the main road to beach lined with bar after bar.

Playa Coco: shops and parking

The beach area itself, although quiet due to low season did not seem very big and after a few hours of walking around we decided to move on – something which would have been difficult to do without the car.

Playa Coco: paved path on the beach

Playa Hermosa, our next stop proved to just be a richer area with large, expensive looking resorts, so much so that we just drove straight through.

Calm waters of Playa Panama

Our last stop, Playa Panama, we had high hopes for as we had read about it being long stretches of quiet sandy beaches. It did not disappoint. We arrived to discover we were the only people there. There was only one bar/restaurant situated near the beach front but other than that it was just the parking area and the beach.

Playa Panama: empty beach

We parked up and were greeted by rows of palm trees on the beach edge, despite the weather not being on our side it was still a pretty sight.

We were especially surprised when my partner went swimming in the very calm waters and within 5 minutes a jet ski with 2 guys arrived without warning and hovered around him. We were not sure what they wanted until after 10 minutes or so one of them descended and came and sat on the beach near me, leaving the other guy to go back to wherever he came from.

At this point I noticed his shirt and realised he was actually a lifeguard. I was speechless at how efficiently they had turned up out of nowhere just because 1 person was swimming. Never had we ever seen such a quick response to ensure safety.

Playa Panama

If you are in the area and are looking for a safe and quite beach then we would highly recommend Playa Panama – even when the weather is not great. Just imagine how beautiful it must be with the sun out!

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Playa Maderas

We planned our last stop in Nicaragua to be on the coast, to top up our tans and relax a few days before border crossing to Costa Rica.

Originally we had planned to go to San Juan del Sur and had found a nice hostel online that we liked the look of. However, after arriving from Ometepe the hostel in question didn’t have any availability. We were annoyed with them as their policy was on a first come first serve basis yet they had taken bookings. We had tried to book but they never replied to our emails.

After looking around the town a little disheartened we couldn’t find anywhere we liked the look of so after reading some leaflets we realised there were more mini beach resorts a short way from San Juan del Sur, in particular Playa Maderas.

Playa Maderas seemed to have the most selection in terms of nearby eateries and places to stay. With this in mind we stumbled upon a poster for Casa Maderas, an eco-lodge with free breakfasts, free shuttles services, restaurant, swimming pool and a 10 minute walk from the beach. Upon arrival we also discovered it had a communal kitchen which was a bonus.

It was a little expensive for our normal accommodation coming in at $US36 per night, but when we considered the fact we could take free shuttles to and from the beach and San Juan del Sur whenever we needed to we thought we would give it a try.

Casa Maderas Eco-Lodge

Casa Maderas turned out to be a nearly finished resort of sorts. Opened just under 6 months ago it feels too small to be considered an actual resort but too expensive to be classed as a hostel, despite the dorms and communal kitchen, instead it seems to sit somewhere in the middle.

To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. The peace and tranquillity of the place was phenomenal. The only “noises” were from the chorus of frogs at night and the howler monkeys in the nearby trees in the morning.

Playa Maderas: sandy beach

The beaches themselves are not really for swimming as the waves and currents are too strong, but if you’re into surfing then it’s the area for you. There are plenty of surf board rental places, both from Casa Maderas and on the beach along with surf lessons.

Playa Maderas: surf

If like us you just want some downtime you can just walk along the beach to the many semi hidden coves, or if even that is too strenuous for you then there is always the pool!

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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Las Penitas

From Leon we decided to take a taxi to the nearby coast area of Las Penitas, just short 40 minutes ride away for a respite from the constant heat in Leon. The taxi cost us $12 but for the return we opted for the bus as we had to get to the main terminal.

The coastal area has high waves and is not great for swimming but perfect for surfing. If you want to swim then you can do so in the very large pool that forms when the tide goes out in the morning. Due to the surrounding volcanos the sand on the coast is black but strangely enough it does not get too hot to walk on.

Las Penitas: Pacific coast beach

We stayed in small hotel called Barca de Oro literally at the end of road in Las Penitas and next door to the Isla Venando Wildlife Refuge. The place had a very relaxed feel to it and we were virtually the only guests, partly due to the low season and partly due to going in the week.

Las Penitas: view from the Barca de Oro

The only downside to the hotel was you had to buy your meals there or in a nearby restaurant. If you plan to visit the area there is a hostel with cooking facilities but there were no shops that we could find nearby that sold food so make sure you bring enough for your stay.

If you like fresh fish then you will love this area as the fisherman bring in their daily catches to the hotels so you are always ensured fresh fish at very reasonable prices.

Las Penitas: fisherman selling fresh fish

On our second day we decided to rent a kayak form the hotel and visit the Isla Venando Wildlife Refuge. We set out at about 2.30pm and didn’t get back until 6.30pm!

We hadn’t planned to stay out so long but once you start going along the mangroves you keep wanting to see what’s around the next bend and as we had the place to ourselves it was hard to turn back.

The trip itself did not reveal much wildlife for us but it was a really nice afternoon out as long as you don’t try to park up as the mosquitos along the mangroves are ferocious as we found out the hard way!

After 2 days we were ready to move on and decided to head to Granada for the next leg of our journey.

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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Uncategorized


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