New features, Updated site

I just wanted everyone to know that in between our Ecoglide tour and trip to Paradise Hot Springs, we uploaded some new banner photos from our trip and I added a new feature that allows you to scan through the images instead of waiting for them to appear.  Just click the arrows on the right and left of the header/banner image to scroll through all of them.  We also updated our travel map to reflect all of the places we have gone and will be going for the remainder of the trip.  We hope you enjoy!

La Fortuna – Ecoglide Videos

We are currently in La Fortuna, Costa Rica and have really enjoyed ourselves.  This morning we went on an Ecoglide canopy tour and had so much fun, we wanted to show you our videos as soon as we came home.

1) Kelly – Short zip-line
2) Kelly – Disappearing into the fog
3) William – Tarzan (Kelly did the tarzan swing but unfortunately we didn’t capture it on video, we do have pics though!)
4) Kelly – Long zip-line (*Girl behind us – “I am so over this”)

We are on our way to a hot spring for a relaxing evening and dinner.

Bocas del Toro, Panama

This was certainly the highlight of our trip.  Bocas del Toro is a group of islands – Isla Colon being the most populated and developed.  We stayed on this island because of the availability of restaurants, bars, and accomodations but made excursions to beaches both on this island and neighboring.  On our first day, we took a bus to Boca del Drago and Starfish Beach.  I have never seen a more incredible and beautiful beach and actually when we arrived, we were quite disappointed.  We were dropped off and told to walk 25 minutes in some direction (very non-specific) – we took off on our walk and there was nothing.  We thought we had walked far enough, the beach was only about 10 feet wide but the water was calm and in the distance we saw a Nautique wakeboarding boat that had been wakeboarding in the ocean (it was that calm).  We continued, to walk and we realized why everyone thought this beach was so beautiful – suddenly hundreds of starfish appeared, the water was crystal blue and there were absolutely NO waves.  That day we relaxed in the water, enjoyed cerveza and lobsters prepared and sold by locals who had caught them just that morning.  It was arguably our most favorite day.  After returning from the beach, we scheduled two dives for the following day.

We dove The Ferry Wreck and Donkey Dung and enjoyed them thoroughly.  We explained to our divemaster that Kelly had never dove in the open water and so we dove shallow (14 meters – 45 ft) for our first dive so she would be comfortable on our second dive.  All in all we saw sea horses, crabs, starfish, squid, a lion fish (http://www.abyssdivecenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Lionfish-4.jpg) and obviously hundreds of other fish.  It was a great day of diving and we were exhausted when we returned.

The next day, we took a boat to Isla Bastimentos to visit Red Frog Beach and Wizard Beach.  Interestingly, many of the locals, including the Lonely Planet, said that tourists rarely see a Red Frog anymore because of development of the area and the impact that tourism has had on the island.  We elected to hike from Red Frog beach to Wizard beach and off a wrong turn, we found three Red Frogs.  I can see why these elusive frogs are never seen:
1) They are not on the beach – they are in the rainforest
2) You think they will be big, but they are not
3) You can pay to see frogs caught by locals so many tourists just pay
The beaches were equally beautiful and included yellow soft sand, long stretches, a beach break that was enjoyed by many surfers that day.  The impact and reliance on tourism was certainly more obvious in Panama than anywhere else we traveled.  Everywhere you turned there was a tax of some sort, locals sat around drinking beer and overcharging tourists.

We had decided to take surfing lessons and met a nice Israeli couple who owned a surf shop next to our hostel but they said that the waves weren´t big enough to learn from.  We decided to leave a day early and squeeze in La Fortuna, in northern Costa Rica to see Arenal Volcano, which used to be top 10 of the most active volcanos in the world but two years ago, stopped erupting.

*On another note, when we got to our hostel, the internet, and front desk computer and guest computers were not working so I fixed them and he reduced the price of our room and gave us some free beer!

Cahuita and our trip to Panama

We traveled by bus to Cahuita, a small Caribbean town with few tourists and easy-going attitude.  That evening we went to the National park alongside the beach, swam in the pool in our hostel, and had an incredible meal at a local restaurant called Miss Edith’s.  Of course, every moment of our trip has been entertaining.  They warned us that the pepper was “hot” and I have not always had the best luck with peppers (ex. Time when Rob forgot to take the seeds out of the stuffed jalapeno poppers), but of course I tried anyways.  This pepper almost ruined my meal but after a few liters of water I was good to go.  This pepper was so hot that when I rubbed my mouth with the hand I used to move the pepper it left a burnt feeling alongside my face.  It was ridiculous.

That night we were watching Pregnant in Heals (the only show in English, this is why everyone hates America – they only show the WORST TV internationally) and I noticed a black rock looking figure on the side of the wall in our hostel.  I got closer and realized that there was a bat on our wall.  Kelly freaked out and I opened the door intent on getting it out of our room.  To my surprise, I hit the bat with our key and it fell to the floor behind the door and naturally I thought it was dead because at this point it had not flown or moved.  When I moved the door, I quickly realized that it was not dead.  Kelly ran to get the hostel owner and I waited anxiously in the room to ensure I knew where it was when he arrived.  Turns out, after a few minutes of trying to catch this bat with the hostel owner as it flew around our room, that harmless fruit bats are common in this area.  We slept soundly after the encounter but it is never a dull moment on our travels.

The next morning we decided to take a bus to the border town of Sixaola.  It was a beautiful bus ride through Del Monte and Chiquita farms with thousands of banana trees.  Interestingly, after bananas begin to grow, they wrap the fruit with plastic bags which I am guessing is to protect the fruit as it develops.  We arrived to the Panama border, got our passport exit stamps and crossed the most unstable bridge I have ever crossed that still allows cars and trucks to cross.  Once on the border we met a Californian family (of four) and we hired a taxi to the port that would take us to Bocas del Toro.  As we boarded the boat, the local boatmen told us to put on life-jackets and probably 30 seconds before I told Kelly, “If the locals put on the the jackets, we will.”  We put on jackets.

The trip was largely uneventful but beautiful and now after spending a day here in Bocas, it is quickly becoming one of our favorites.

Hostel Pangea – San Jose, Costa Rica

On our way over to the east coast we decided to stay in a different hostel in the city to have another experience.  When we got off the bus we were hounded by taxi drivers who wanted to charge us $5 dollars to get to our hostel (which turned out was just around the corner).  We walked the wrong way and found a taxi driver who would use meter but unfortunately didn’t know where he was going – long story short, it only cost $1.50 even though he got lost.  He dropped us off in front of what looked like a jail of some sort with old-time security complete with a little eye-hole door (Kelly says – “like Wizard of Oz”) that revealed a very industrial looking hostel that had been recently renovated.  It was clean and comfortable and had a great view of downtown San Jose.

After having an incredible nights sleep, we decided to stay another night and spend some time seeing San Jose.  The next morning we went to a museum, the market, Casa Amarillo (the Yellow House – comparable to the US White House), and Old Town where we saw plantation homes from the coffee industry.  We relaxed and got ready for our trip to Cahuita.

Montezuma, Costa Rica

Sorry for not updating our track and blog sooner, we have been on the move!

We took the local bus to Cobano, Costa Rica which is equidistant from Playa Santa Teresa and Montezuma.  We decided to hire a private taxi with Patrick (Patreek) and Marie-Claude (the Canadian couple) to Montezuma which was much more comfortable.  When we arrived we walked around the small town to find a place to stay and we happened on Pargo-Feliz Hostel, an ocean-facing restaurant/hostel with clean rooms and friendly owners.  After settling in, we relaxed in a natural pool created by the over 150ft waterfall south of town.

The next morning we ate breakfast and within minutes after, we decided to take a trip to Isla Tortuga for snorkeling, local lunch, and relaxing on the beach.  It was beautiful.  The snorkeling was iffy because of the visibility but otherwise was very nice.  Another important story, which will be realized in the future post, was that a local guide taught us how to crack open coconuts and drink the juice and eat the pulp.  It was a delicious and filling treat, and a skill that looked easy to replicate.  We stayed another night and woke up before departing to San Jose to visit a butterfly garden in the mountains ran by an Oregonian family.  Our guide was an ex-zoologist and teacher from Boulder, Colorado who knew almost everything about the local plants, animals, and insects and was a wealth of knowledge.

We really enjoyed our time on the west coast and decided that it was time to travel across country to see eastern Costa Rica and Panama.

Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

I always figured that over the past 25 years, I had learned how to read.  Turns out, I can’t.  It was late and instead of walking 100m north, we went south because I read Lonely Planet wrong.  We ended up staying in a tree-hostel called Don Jon’s and had one of the most miserable nights of sleep Kelly and I have experienced together.  To be fair, it was not because of Don or Jon (or whomever the place was named after).  It was a beautiful room with an outdoor hammock, clean bathroom, solid wood floors/walls (everything), and a flock or group or something of roosters that began cooing at around midnight until 7:00a. We got out of bed after sleeping very little and knew we needed to move, save our sanity.

The next morning we went 100m north of the bus station to Hostel Cuesta Arriba.  We absolutely love this place.  The rooms are small but comfortable with AWESOME air conditioning.  On our first day we went to the beach, relaxed, and walked up and down the coast.  We found a local Tico restaurant with big portions, great food, and no English speaking cooks.  That evening we went to sleep early and woke up to rent bikes to go to Playa Hermosa (this was Kelly’s idea).  Turns out, bikes that you can peddle up hills (in Kelly’s world), are just as good to walk next to.  We probably went 3km and 1km was spent walking the bike, because she was “so tired [she] could die.”  We almost got stuck in a huge storm but we made it back without incidence.  Overall, we had a great time in Playa Santa Teresa and are planning to move out to Montezuma with a nice Canadian couple we met here.  We will keep everyone posted.

In full disclosure, I walked my bike as well.

San Jose – Playa Santa Teresa

We landed in Costa Rica at 11:00p and made it through customs and to Hostel Galileo in about 20 minutes – Brian (hostel manager, ex-Wall Street financer from California) said it should have taken at least that much time to get through customs.  We were greeted by multiple hosts, from California to Europe, and joined them with a shot from a distillery in town and a local craft beer (Kelly was reluctant but didn’t refuse).

The next day we spent some time talking to travelers either arriving in Costa Rica or leaving to figure out the best way place to visit next.  We heard the volcano in La Fortuna was dormant and was more touristy that we had thought so we decided to head to Nicoya Peninsula.  We attempted to board the 2:00p bus at 1:00p and were thankfully stopped by a local police officer who told us (in broken English) that we “need to relax.”  Turns out, our phones were not acclimated to Tico (what locals refer to themselves as) time.  Upon boarding the bus we met a couple from Israel on their way to Playa Santa Teresa and a man with his young son on their way to Montezuma (man was hammered, son was not).  We rode the bus into the mountains west of San Jose to Puntarenas where we got off and boarded a ferry that crossed the Gulf of Nicoya to some town that is not even on the map.  We road for 45 minutes to Montezuma and after another 15 minutes the road turned to dirt and we still had 30 minutes left.  I can firmly state that Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica does not have paved roads.

We will update soon about our experiences here in Playa Santa Teresa, hope you all enjoy the pictures I have posted on my Twitter feed.

IAH – MEX – SJO

Kelly and I are waiting at the airport here in Houston to take off to Mexico for the first leg of our trip to San Jose. Last night after we packed our bags and Kelly put the pack on her back for the first time, we quickly realized that she would need to remove some items to meet “weight restrictions.” She is much more comfortable with the current weight of her pack and as I type this she is getting her fingernail polish removed at SpaXpress (could be a long trip).

We had an incredible wedding weekend and wonderful week with our families in Gulf Shores. Graduation yesterday was a great experience, hard to believe that I have finished medical school. We can’t wait for the next few weeks and are looking forward to our move to Palo Alto. We will be updating the blog throughout our trip as we have internet available.