From Hotels

Looking for the Best Bed and Breakfast in Washington? Check out Domaine Madeleine!

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Spacious Bedroom

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Cozy Fireplace
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3 complimentary Harbinger bottles of wine for March’s Wine Month
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Spacious Bathroom with bidet
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Deep jacuzzi in 4 out of 5 of the rooms

 

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Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and CanadaDSCN6563
Beautiful spacious private deck overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada 

 

 

Written by and photos by Michael A.

Domaine Madeleine is truly a 5-star Bed and Breakfast for an unbelievable price. In my opinion, it’s the best bed and breakfast in Washington — if not in the U.S. Never have I been so blown away by a stay at a hotel, resort, or a B&B. I’m legitimately having withdrawals writing about this place knowing that I can’t be there right now. I often don’t travel to a place more than once, but I’ll definitely find a way to get back there as soon as possible. This is truly the perfect weekend/week/month/year-long getaway spot. Now that you’ve seen the pictures, please do yourself and your significant other a huge favor and go their site right now to book your stay as this place fills up fast!

The Rooms at Domaine Madeleine

This quaint B&B is nestled right on the northern edge of the state of Washington overlooking the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. All but one of the rooms has an absolutely gorgeous view of the water and the vast well-maintained green lawn that precedes the bluffs. Each room is very spacious with huge windows facing the water to make sure that each guest can constantly admire the beauty of Domaine Madeleine’s location and experience the beauty that the Olympic Peninsula of Washington has to offer. Each room has a very earthly feel to it and comes with a beautiful painting above the bed that represents one part of the Olympic National Park.

There are five different rooms on this property. They are all nicely spread out so that you have complete privacy and it really makes you feel like you have your own little apartment. I stayed in the Hurricane Ridge Suite and it was absolutely stunning.

As I walked into the main house, I immediately fell in love with the place.  The beautiful dinning room had a chandelier hanging over the table and a huge window opening up to the beautiful green lawn, which hangs above the Straight of Juan de Fuca. There was a bowl of chocolates waiting for me as well as freshly made cookies at all times.

This room is fully equipped with a beautiful wood fireplace and lots of firewood, huge windows with an amazing view, a jacuzzi in the bathroom, flat screen TV, bidet, robes, slippers for him and her, binoculars (to see the wildlife from your room), a spacious balcony with lawn chairs and a table, and the most comfortable King size bed I have ever laid on, making this easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

With all of these amenities, this room made it so incredibly hard for me to leave and actually explore the area. I think I had the most relaxing stay I’ve ever had in my life. I would just hang out in the room with the fire going and drink wine all day while looking out at the gorgeous view. Book this place now!

The Food at Domaine Madeleine

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1st course
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2nd course
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2nd course
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3rd course
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4th course
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1st course
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2nd course
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3rd course
4th course
4th course

 

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Where much of their food is grown on the property

During those few hours that I was able to pull myself away from my room, I headed downstairs (you can also have it delivered to your room) for a four-course breakfast prepared by Brian, a Cordon Bleu-trained chef. Needless to say, if you’re going to have the best bed and breakfast in Washington the food has to also be amazing; and it definitely was!

The really cool part of the eating experience though was Brian himself. As he served each course, he would describe what was on the plate as well as where the food came from. The ingredients from each dish were truly hyper-local as just about every ingredient came from within a five mile radius of the B&B. In fact, I want to say that roughly 25 percent of the food is actually grown on the Domaine Madeleine property.

The ingredients are fresh, the food is delicious, and Brian really makes the experience wonderful and worth leaving your beautiful room for an hour or two.

Domaine Madeleine’s Location

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Olympic Game Farm; 4 feet away from our car
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Olympic Game Farm
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Olympic Game Farm; I smell Hot Cheeeeetos!
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Spruce Railroad Trail
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Spruce Railroad Trail

If you’re able to actually make it off of the grounds of Domaine Madeleine’s, unlike me, you’ll realize that this B&B is perfectly situated next to many of Olympic National Park’s main nature attractions. This is just another reason why this was easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington.

Domaine Madeleine is only 15 minutes away from the Olympic Game Farm which is a truly unique experience where you will have everything from peacocks to Bison, and Elk fighting for your attention as they swarm your car. If you drive a few minutes further, you’ll reach the Dungeness Spit & Lighthouse. In the other direction, Ediz Hook is only 30 minutes away. Go 15 minutes further and you’ll stumble upon Spruce Railroad Trail.

I stopped at Kokopelli Grill in Port Angeles on Friday night as I had heard wonderful things about their food. It definitely didn’t let me down and you should book early to get a reservation here.

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Kokopelli Grill
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Kokopelli Grill

If you played your cards like me and barely left the property, explore the grounds of Domaine Madeleine as it is very well kept and right in the middle of nature. They have a garden and the stunning views overlook the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. Plus, you can check off your wildlife sightseeing adventure as there is a family of Bald Eagles living in the trees right outside the Domaine Madeleine property.

From the second I booked this place, Stephen, the Innkeeper, was absolutely tremendous. He not only gave me recommendations for where to eat and hike, but he reach out to every restaurant I considered just to make sure they would fit me in on a busy night. Stephen has a lot of pull in Port Angeles and the restaurants seemed to all know and value anyone staying at the Domaine Madeleine property.

Stephen not only showed me the ins-and-outs of my beautiful room, but he actually gave me a tour of the entire property. When I was out of wood for the fire (because I was using it all day), he had someone come up with more wood and set up the fire again. Stephen also made sure that my room always had wine from Harbinger Winery (DELICIOUS). I was even lucky enough to be treated to a private wine tasting in their main room with Harbinger Winery.

I really can’t say enough good things about the room, the food, the location, and the absolutely wonderful customer service and experience. This is easily the best bed and breakfast in Washington if not in the US. This had to be one of the most relaxing weekends of my life and that’s all thanks to the beauty of Domaine Madeleine. Do yourself, or your significant other, a favor and make a trip out here no matter where you are in the world. Don’t think of Olympic National Park as your travel destination and Domaine Madeleine as your place of stay, but rather make Domaine Madeleine your destination and you will be in for a great treat. This is truly a gem unlike any other.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

Things to do in Costa Rica – An Adrenaline Junkie’s Oasis

Written by and photos by Michael A.

COSTA RICA, COSTA RICA, COSTA RICA! As you can tell, I’m just a tad bit fond of my recent adventure in this beautiful country that really has everything for all types of travelers. I’d love to write a book on all you can do in this small country, but I’m going to try to keep it as brief as possible and let the pictures do the talking as words just won’t do this place justice. If you’re looking for things to do in Costa Rica, let this be your guide.

For those tired of exploring cities, Costa Rica really has it all for you. Just to name a few things before I get into my recommendations, Costa Rican highlights include: volcanoes, natural hot springs, beautiful beaches, rain forests, jungles, some of the most diverse wildlife of any country, all classes of whitewater rafting, zip lining, canyoning, rappelling, waterfall jumping, surfing, scuba diving, big game fishing, massages to knock your underwear off, and most importantly AMAZING customer service and knowledgeable guides.

I’d love to go on and on about how great the country is, but I really want to focus this article on a few companies that you absolutely must use when traveling to Costa Rica, or at least still searching for things to do in Costa Rica. I assume that you’re all smart people and have already decided that Costa Rica is the perfect vacation so I’m going to just tell you what you should do there. The customer support and service at all these below mentioned places are truly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and that’s what really sets Costa Rica apart from the other 40 something countries I’ve traveled to. All of these guides or owners never seemed to be catering to its guests because it was part of business. Rather, it seemed as though each company really enjoyed its guest and was legitimately having a great time with each of us. I really recommend all these companies below!

Where to Stay Near Arenal Volcano – Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel


Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Bedroom
Spacious rooms with very fine wood giving the room a very earthly feel.
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel bathroom
Spacious bathrooms with large windows to keep you constantly surrounded by nature.
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Patio
Spacious patio to lounge on in the middle of the rainforest.
Private hotel homes
Private hotel homes
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel Pool
The beautiful pool right next to the restaurant/bar
Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is truly a unique stay and a vacation within a vacation in its own right. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is smack dab right in the middle of the rainforest while still relatively close to La Fortuna (the very touristy town next to the Arenal volcano). Personally, I couldn’t imagine staying in La Fortuna as I just didn’t find it very nice because it’s really just a place for excursion companies to operate. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is just a 25 minute drive away which allows you to really experience the rainforest of Costa Rica while still having access to all of the fun excursions that Costa Rica has to offer.

The rooms are beautifully kept and are built out of very high quality wood. Furthermore, as you can see in the picture above, each room comes with a beautiful patio with furniture and a table so that you can relax in the morning as the rain comes down or watch a sunset while listening to the hundreds of different species chirp. The rooms are very modern yet they still do a great job in keeping its natural feel of being in the middle of the rain forest.

The landscape of this property is absolutely stunning. This hotel owns a lot of the land and they have trails on their property, which are perfect for horseback riding, night tours, bird watching, day hikes and more (all of which you can purchase for a very affordable price through the hotel). You really don’t have any reason to leave the property between your beautiful room, gorgeous landscape, pool, wildlife, and a good restaurant all on premises.

The rooms are beautiful and the landscape is unreal, but my favorite part of my stay was getting to talk to one of the owners and hearing about how this is a hotel for the community. More times than not, business is all about money and getting the most out of each visitor. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel has done something extremely unique in this aspect which really makes this place extra special and gives it a very real Costa Rican vibe. These owners want to make sure that each of their guests really gets a true Costa Rican experience while still making sure to not turn the area into another resort where Americans visit and wipe out the culture to the point where you don’t even realize that you’re in a foreign country anymore. Chachagua Rain Forest Hotel is a very self-sufficient hotel where they grow a lot of their crops, recycle (obviously), and hire only those from the local town to ensure that this property remains not only a profitable business, but also a major contributor to the lives of the locals. You’ll see brothers and sisters working together or a uncle and nephew and so forth. I thought this was something truly special as you don’t have this authenticity elsewhere in Costa Rica.

Bottom line: Do yourself a favor and spend at least a few days here so that you can really enjoy Costa Rica for what it is and not just stay in the tourist trap of La Fortuna.

TripAdvisor rating: 4/5
TripAdvisor link

Arenal Combo Volcano Hike with Red Lava Tourist Service Center

Arenal Volcano
View of the famous Arenal Volcano at the start of the tour
They allow you to take a dip halfway through at this waterfall
Take a dip halfway through the tour at this waterfall

 

Natural hot springs
Nightcaps and mud facials in the natural hot springs.

The guides at Red Lava Tourist Service Center are knowledgeable and friendly! GREAT customer service! They have amazing reviews all over TripAdvisor for a very good reason. The company’s big seller is the Combo 2 Volcano Hike which I strongly recommend. I unfortunately only was able to do the second tour but it was still a great treat. The combo hike compared to the one I did are pretty different from one another. During the Combo hike, the morning hike is a bit rigorous as you climb the Chato Volcano, which is right next to the Arenal volcano. Make sure you bring solid hiking shoes; anyone in decent shape shouldn’t have any issues with the hike. I opted for the second hike as it’s much more leisurely. You could probably get away with wearing tennis shoes as there isn’t really any climbing. Your guide will take you to beautiful locations where you’ll have stunning views of the Arenal volcano. You’ll also visit a beautiful waterfall and end the day with shots in natural hot spring. The nature aspect of this trip is obviously stunning. However, the most impressive part of the hike was all of the knowledge our guide provided. We weren’t just walking from location to location. Every so often, our guide gave us facts about the plant life or a beautiful bird call we heard echoing throughout the rain forest. He made the trip very educational and fascinating. I couldn’t have been more pleased with this hike.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5
TripAdvisor link

Rappelling and Whitewater rafting with Pure Trek Canyoning

 

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First Rappel of the day; 175ft down a waterfall
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Rappelling through waterfalls

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Oh boy! If you want adrenaline, look no further. Start your morning off with a 185ft rappel down a gorgeous waterfall with Pure Trek Canyoning. Not your cup of tea? Well, I didn’t think it would be mine either since I’m kind of afraid of heights and I’ve never rappelled before. Somehow though, these great guides wiped away all my fear and got me to go through with the tour.

Although this trip is great for those seeking thrills, this actually turned into a big growing experience for many of us on this tour. These guides face customers with my similar fears on a regular basis. They are nice and friendly and really help you believe in yourself to overcome fears. Before you know it, you’re rappelling down 100ft waterfalls like it’s absolutely nothing. I think we went down a total of around nine amazingly beautiful waterfalls. Also, there is a zip line/monkey drop where you essentially zip line about 50 ft. At that point they stop you and then you just drop another 50 ft or so right before the stop you a few feet above the ground from your free fall. SO MUCH FUN!

Although the guides were having a great time with us, we constantly felt safe in their hands.

Whitewater Rafting the Balsa River (Class 2 and 3)

Constant rapids throughout the 2-3 river ride.
Constant rapids throughout the 2-3 river ride.

Once the rappelling in the rain forest wrapped up, Pure Trek Canyoning then took us to the Balsa River where we went whitewater rafting. Much like the rappelling, I didn’t really have much experience with this extreme sport. Once again though, I felt perfectly safe. They made sure to keep the guides/customer ratio very good at around one guide for every four people. Although I thought a Class 3 was going to be a bit easy, these rapids actually turned out to be a lot more fun, adventurous, and continuous than the Class 5 that I did previously.

At this point in the day, we were all pretty hungry as we’d been moving around since around 8 a.m. This tour thankfully comes with lunch. This was no ham and cheese sandwich type of lunch though. They took us to a restaurant where we had an authentic Costa Rican meal and even got to try freshly brewed Costa Rican coffee. Once we finished eating, they showed us how sugar is produced from sugar cane. This trip was much more than just an adrenaline rush, but was also an educational trip leaving us a bit more knowledgeable and cultured about the country.

typical Costa Rican food
An authentic Costa Rican meal

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

 

Night Jungle Tour with Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge and Wildlife Refuge

 

Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
Red Eyed Tree Frog
There's a SNAKE in my boot!!
There’s a SNAKE in my boot!!

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Tarantula Tarantula
Tarantula

I strongly advise going on a night jungle tour with Arenal Oasis Eco Lodge and Wildlife Refuge as the jungle really awakens with some amazing creatures at night. This is pretty much a real life Planet Earth experience. As night became dark, we were led through the jungle with nothing but our flashlights. Our guide Issac was extremely knowledgeable and seemed to know just an unfathomable amount of information about each insect, reptile, amphibian or plant. He also taught us about their calls, behavior, and why certain traits evolved the way they did. The tour was around two hours and we saw a ton of wildlife, including poisonous snakes, Banana spiders, and the only Red Eye Tree Frog that I saw my whole time in Costa Rica. I told Issac how important it was to me find one of these and he was thankfully able to come through. This was a surreal experience and a true bargain. Make sure you do at least one night jungle hike while in the area.

TripAdvisor rating: 4.5/5
TripAdvisor link

Desafio Gravity Falls

rapelling in Costa Rica
Literally stepping off of a cliff
One of your rappels
One of your rappels
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Canyoning through the beautiful Costa Rican Rainforest

I think we all grew up with the love of jumping in rivers off of rocks or swinging into lakes by a rope. Well, this takes those loves to the next level with Costa Rica’s newest extreme excursion which combines waterfall free jumping and some rappelling. You must be in at least decent shape for this one and love a good rush! This was definitely the excursion that I was worried about the most during my time in Costa Rica. Rappelling down 150ft waterfalls and jumping without ropes over waterfalls 30ft down can easily make your skin chill. However, Desafio makes you feel extremely safe as they take you through beautiful canyons deep in the rainforest. They had three guides for the four of us on the tour so that we each had individual attention throughout each jump and rappel. They really emphasized safety with every single jump. Plus, this company had a professional camera that was able to take some amazing photos of you in action as you conquered your fears. They also took us out to a very nice lunch once our goosebumps finally settled.

Desafio Cooking Class

homemade tortillas
Making tortillas from scratch
Most of the food that you cook with is all organic grown on their land
Most of the food that you cook with is all organic grown on their land
A typical Costa Rican meal
A typical Costa Rican meal

Although Desafio definitely prides itself on being extreme and for adrenaline junkies, they also cater to those that want to get a little more sophistication and culture out of their Costa Rican experience. For a rather small fee, they take you up to the mountains to a restaurant where 80 percent of the food is grown on that property. They walk you around and show you all the plants to give you a better understanding of spices and medicines in their natural state. Once our small group finished walking around, we headed to the kitchen where we had two Costa Rican ladies help prepare a traditional  meal. By far the coolest part of this excursion was learning how to make tortillas from scratch. Culture is often deeply rooted in food and this was a very cool experience.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

Manuel Tour of Manuel Antonio National park

Concerned monkey
Concerned monkey
Howler Monkey
Howler Monkey

 

I'm going to steal your Taco Bell
I’m going to steal your Taco Bell

Photo 10-2-16 8 52 02 a.m.

 

I'm a proud iguana
I’m a proud iguana

Let me first start off by saying, Manuel is the man! I wouldn’t be surprised if the city of Manuel Antonio were named after him ;). Manuel runs his own operation, Manuel’s Tours, and he usually keeps his tour groups very small. He is unbelievably knowledgeable and very well respected amongst all of the guides of Manuel Antonio. When you hire Manuel to guide you through the national park, you actually hire 100 guides as all guides help one another out to make sure that their customers can see as much wildlife as possible and boy did we!

I’ve never spent money on a guide when going through a national park as I just didn’t think it was ever worth it. After trekking with Manuel, please take my advice and hire this man. Otherwise you are completely throwing away your $16 entrance fee down the drain. The animals in this national park are obviously hard to see as animals should be. Manuel let us look through his spotter scope, which made finding all of these animals crystal clear even when far away. Manuel was an absolute godsend and I can’t imagine my time in the forest would be as great had he not been our guide. There is so much more to see than just monkeys, but you won’t see it unless you have a guide like Manuel with a trained eye and his spotter scope.

Manuel’s Night Jungle Tour

A beautiful butterfly
A beautiful butterfly
Ribbbbet anyone?
Ribbbbet anyone?
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Your worst nightmare; a scorpion-spider
nighttime crawlers - a scorpion
nighttime crawlers – a scorpion
The Fearless MANuel taming the deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The Fearless MANuel taming the deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The deadliest snake in Costa Rica
The deadliest snake in Costa Rica

Once again, let me start off by saying, MANUEL IS THE MAN!! Did I mention that he fought off Costa Rica’s most dangerous snake right in front of me? Yeah, that happened. As with the day tour, it was an incredibly small group (me and one other person) so he was able to answer all of our questions and taught us a lot about the evolution of the landscape and life within it. He taught us some neat tricks on how to spot these creatures in the middle of the night. Among other things, we saw snakes, toads, scorpions, and the hideous scorpion spider. Manuel is truly a good man that cares deeply about his guests having a great time and you will when learning all of the cool facts that he has to offer.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

ADR Adventure Park

waterfall zip-lining
Zip-lining through a waterfall. Yeh, that’s pretty damn cool
Rapeling through the rainforest
Rappelling through the rain forest

Eight extreme activities all wrapped up into one excursion! Although the name is a bit confusing, this is NOT a park. The guides at ADR Adventure Park took us into the middle of the jungle for the activities. This is a great value for the amount of different things you get to try, like zip lining through a waterfall (Yes, you read that correctly!). There is quite a bit of zip lining in this excursion which is one of Costa Rica’s main attraction. So, if you’re looking to do some zip lining which I’m sure 90% of you are, then take this tour. You get a taste of a lot of different activities such as a high rope swing, rappelling, a good amount of hiking, a waterfall jump, and more all included in one. The location is absolutely stunning and the photographer they bring is amazing! I had to buy these pictures as these action shots were just so unreal.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5
TripAdvisor link

Surfing in Manuel Antonio with Coconut Surf and Skate

Your Surf scene
Your surf scene
surfing in costa rica
Costa Rica Surfin’

Surfing is big in Costa Rica. Although Jaco and Dominical are supposed to be pretty big surf spots, the town of Manuel Antonio has so much more to offer than these other towns.  Shoot Coconut Surf and Skate an email as his surf setup is right outside Manuel Antonio National park on the free public beach. If you’re driving toward the National Park from Quepos, it’s one of the first parking lots to the right you can enter and you’ll see him right there. He both rents out his boards and gives three hour surf lessons that I was told were pretty good by others. So, make sure to send him an email to get his prices and scheduling.

H2O Adventures (Class 5 Whitewater Rafting EL CHORRO)

With good reason, I was definitely nervous about this Class 5 rafting trip with H20 Adventures since I’ve only been rafting twice and the highest class I’ve ever done was a 3. It’s important to know how the classifications work though so you have an idea of what to expect. Class 5 doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rapids are 10 times tougher than a Class 2 or 3 would be. In fact, the Class 3 might even be tougher. Rather, a very important factor in determining classification is based on the danger level and the magnitude of how badly someone could get hurt. Once again though, this company really emphasizes safety (of course after making you sign your life away via a waiver!). We had a 3:1 rider to guide ratio, which was perfect not only for getting down the river, but also learning logistics on the strategy of taming the beast. We saw a couple of wipeouts as some of these rapids get pretty intense as you drop 8-10 ft followed by hard rights and left turns to avoid slamming into boulders. I felt completely safe the entire time (that could also be because I had a secret plan to ride the body of any of my boat members in case we tipped). This company also had a professional photographer with us.

TripAdvisor rating: 5/5

TripAdvisor link

As I’m sure you figured by now, I was a bit worried about many of these excursions due to my lack of experience and fear of heights. But, that’s what’s so great about Costa Rica; it’s a place far enough from home where you can be whatever you want to be, conquer your fears, get a rush like never before, and really grow as a person. If these words and glowing recommendations on things to do in Costa Rica haven’t convinced you to book a flight to Costa Rica immediately, I sure hope the pictures get you there because this is one special place.

 

 

 

San Francisco Weekend Getaway to Cambria

Written by Meaghan Clark

Anyone who has visited a small coastal California city will likely feel an odd sense of nostalgia when visiting Cambria – narrow streets lined with locally owned antique shops, a sprinkling of ‘for lease’ signs, and a hodgepodge of restaurants offering up everything from Mexican to Italian.

Though bite-size, Cambria is the perfect counterpart to any hectic city lifestyle. Don’t worry about packing the latest fashion trends for your evening outing, making an endless stream of reservations, or book excursion after excursion. Cambria’s appeal is the anti-city where long afternoons spent watching 5,000-pound elephant seals or strolling along Moonstone Beach make you forget about “FOMO” (at least for the weekend).

El Colibri Boutique Hotel, Cambria
Image courtesy El Colibri Boutique Hotel

We escaped for a getaway that began at El Colibri Hotel, a contrast of sorts from the traditional beach motels or bed & breakfasts that line Main Street. Despite its youth (the hotel opened in 2010), El Colibri delivers comfort with in-room fireplaces, a luxurious spa complete with Jacuzzi tub, and educated staff that make it feel right at home in this rustic town.

WHERE TO EAT

Linn’s

Quintessentially small town appeal is the bread and butter at Linn’s, or rather the olallieberry at Linn’s. This mogul family owns much of the West Side in the shape of various restaurants, gift shops and packaged goods. Linn’s Easy as Pie, Linn’s Restaurant and Linn’s Fruit Bin are all equally comfortable in setting as they are hearty in country samplings. As cliché as it might seem, no one here will bat an eye – order up an olallieberry pie, warmed, or a breakfast pastry to savor the sweet local flavors of Cambria.

Indigo Moon, Cambria fine dining, best restaurant

Indigo Moon

For any San Franciscan, finding an outdoor space is an anomaly, In Cambria, Main Street is lined with patio after patio, but Indigo Moon isn’t just packed because of its tree-lined deck and star-filled views. The food or is equally as spectacular for both lunch and dinner (plus weekend brunch), with hearty portions and favorable pricing. Highlights from brunch included the eggs benedict, grilled chicken, brie and apple sandwich, and spice rubbed wild salmon salad.

Robin’s Restaurant

Robin’s is the Ritz Carlton of Cambria. Precocious (but not too pricey), Robin’s Restaurant offers unique cuisine in a fantastic setting. A landscaped deck offers prime outdoor seating for brunch, lunch, and dinner and the eclectic menu caters to every taste bud in your party. Don’t be concerned about sharing a pasta special, Thai noodles or a curry alongside artisan cheese plates or spring rolls – the flavor combinations are always on point.

WHAT TO DO

Upon arrival, kick off your shoes and take advantage of your proximity to Moonstone Beach Boardwalk where locals typically enjoy sunset. The rocky beach is breezy and warm, and the perfect welcome to your Cambria stay.

Image courtesy Hearst Castle
Image courtesy Hearst Castle

Cambria often gets overlooked. Its seaside neighbor, San Simeon, boasts one of the world’s largest estates in the States. Hearst Castle is a short drive away and well worth the visit. Book your tickets for a Sunday morning Grand Rooms Tour (extend your stay with a Cottages & Kitchen Tour) and forget the crowds or lines.

As your bus tour winds down the road back to ground level, keep an eye out for Piedras Blancas Light Station, your next destination. Reserve a tour and escape into history alongside the rocky shores.

While you’re in San Simeon, stop at the vistas to view the elephant seals where, depending on the season, hundreds or thousands of elephant seals bask in the warm sand and sunshine of W R Hearst Memorial State Beach.

Nitt Witt Ridge, Cambria tourist attractions

If you’re ready for an unusual encounter that’s been marked as a historical landmark, escape to the Nitt Witt Ridge a collectors obsessed-turned museum that offers daily tours. After your experience, sample the day’s tastings from local brewery Cambria Beer Co. (open daily).

WHERE TO SHOP

Cambria shopping, Garden Shed

Garden Shed is an oasis within walking distance of downtown, offering an eclectic collection from local artisans. With DIY in their blood, everything in the 6,000 sq. ft. indoor/outdoor space is appealing in their unique displays, friendly faces and original collections. Peruse for the afternoon, or if you’ve got a green thumb and ample outdoor space, find something for the garden.

Wineries are ingrained in any city dweller escape, and Cambria offers a great selection of local vineyards offering weekend tastings on State Route 46.

Stolo winery Cambria wine tasting

Local favorite is Stolo Family Vineyards, located just off the beaten path. The Stolo family lives on the property where their 94-point Syrah was created, as well as refreshing and ceremoniously scrumptious Chardonnay and Gewurztraminer. The $8 tasting fee is a steal compared to any Napa getaway, and bottles ranging from $25 to $50 are a must, as they can’t be purchased anywhere else.

Thank you again to El Colibri Hotel for hosting us and Archer and Hound for setting up our destinations. Feel free to check out more things to do at Visit Cambria.  

Playa Del Carmen vs. Cancun: An Amazing, Authentic Alternative for a Riviera Maya Vacation

by Andrea Verdin

When planning a vacation, who doesn’t immediately begin to daydream of an all inclusive resort, with beautiful white sandy beaches? Who doesn’t yearn for miles of beautiful tropical jungle, with a small village nestled in between the leaves and fronds? Who doesn’t want to climb and explore the ancient ruins, only to be washed by a rainstorm once at the top?

Jordan Verdin Photo
Jordan Verdin Photo

Well, for my family and me, this was the experience we had at Playa Del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is located on the Caribbean coast of Mexico, about an hour south of Cancun. It’s in the state of Quintana Roo, in the Yucatán peninsula. While it’s only an hour away from the popular Cancun, it’s worlds apart in terms of experience. Firstly, Playa Del Carmen is still considered a beach town; that means everything is still smaller scale. Even the hotels and resorts, which are monolithic, are on the outskirts of town, leaving an adorable, sleepy town with locals at its center.

Playa Del Carmen has regulated hotels and large business so that they cannot go past three stories in height. This means that you do not have to worry about your view of the jungle or beach being marred by an obnoxious skyscraper. This is not the case in Cancun, which has a much more industrialized feeling attached.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t find great food, or that you won’t be able to get some great shopping done while at Playa Del Carmen. Guests are encouraged to experience La Quinta, more commonly known by tourists as 5th Avenue.

La Quinta has an interesting mixture of shops. You can find both Mayan-made products with their makers sitting quietly in their booths, or you can access a sprawling, air conditioned mall with designer shops and familiar chain restaurants. One of the best ways to unwind after a day full of adventure, snorkeling and eating is to walk as far as you can down La Quinta. Pop into each shop, take a look at their wares, and negotiate with the shop owner to get the best bargain on the trinket, piece of clothing or memento you want to keep from your trip.

Jordan Verdin photo
Jordan Verdin photo

If you walk off the main strip, there are more localized shops and stands with food that the locals eat, such as el Fogon. This two story taco shop was packed with families, couples on dates, and tourists who knew how to shop around before settling on dinner. Everything was chopped as it was ordered, and you can’t help but try to fill yourself with as many tacos and tortas as possible.

While there are lovely restaurants along La Quinta, there are plenty of taco stands along the blocks near La Quinta that will give you the best – and cheapest – fare. What you need to do is look for a stand that has plenty of locals waiting in line for something to eat. This lets you know that the stand will have fresh food, great flavors, and a decent price attached. One of my husband’s favorite parts of the taco stand crawl was the churro guy at the end: once he received an order for churros, he would place the fresh batter into boiling oil before throwing it into the cinnamon mix. Customers are left with delicious, piping hot churros to top off their already full bellies.
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Another bonus of being in Playa Del Carmen is the quick access available to Cozumel, an island sitting just a few miles off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. For under 20 dollars, guests can take a round trip ride to an even more remote part of the Riviera Maya. Cozumel is only partially developed, and doesn’t have a lot going on after the sun falls, so it’s great for a day trip.

The view from our fish house in Cozumel
The view from our fish house in Cozumel

Once you arrive, don’t feel like you have to stay in the port village of Cozumel. There’s an entire island to see! We rented a buggy, then hit the open road. There’s a single road that circles the entire island, and we were able to stop at the southernmost point of the island and have lunch at a small shack on the beach.

The fish was freshly caught, the breeze was beautifully cool, and the sights were spectacular. Along the way around the island, there are several stands selling coconuts just off of the trees, and you can even stop and get a massage on the sand while your family or significant other snorkels along the reef.

 

Top Tips for Summer Switzerland Vacation Trips from an Insider: Nature, Wine and Chocolate Galore!

By Andrea Verdin
Photos courtesy Switzerland Tourism

Even though we are in the middle of our summer vacation season, the Wander team cannot stop planning ahead and daydreaming about what next adventure is down the pipeline. Coming back from the Mexican Riviera, I’ve got my mind on the next big excursion, and Switzerland seems ideal for a luxurious getaway.

People around the world have been heading to the Alps for thousands of years for jaw-dropping views and amazing experiences that cannot be had elsewhere. However, there’s so much to experience, it’s nearly impossible to figure out what to do while in Switzerland.

I asked Switzerland expert Greg Witt from Alpenwild about some of the tops tours, attractions and special events that guests should make sure to include in their tours, and here’s just a glimpse of what Witt suggested. We reached out to Witt and Alpenwild because of the knowledge regarding the Alps he could provide.

“Alpenwild is the leading operator doing hiking and walking tours in the Alps. Our most popular trip is the Haute Route, a legendary trek through the highest peaks in the Alps linking Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn,” said Witt. “It’s the most scenic trek in Europe. It connects the historic mountain resorts of Chamonix France and Zermatt Switzerland. Along the way we traverse ancient trade routes, pass immense glaciers, skirt scenic alpine lakes, and come within view of the 14 highest peaks in the Alps.”

With no further ado, here’s what Witt recommends for those traveling to Switzerland this summer.

The majestic Matterhorn
The majestic Matterhorn
  • Book a view from the Swiss mountaintops
    If you’re looking to get 360° views and the fresh mountain air, Witt recommends the Stanserhorn Cabrio, the world’s first double-decker cable car with an open air upper deck. Another option is a new mountain attraction in Engelberg called the Rotair, the world’s first revolving gondola.

    “So like the Cabrio you get 360° views, but with the Rotair, the gondola car does the rotating as you ascend to the summit of Mt Titlis,” said Witt. “Once at the summit of Mt Titlis you can get your palms sweating by crossing Europe’s highest suspension bridge—the newly-completed Cliff Walk. On the tamer side, don’t miss the new Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Located at the home of International Olympic Committee, the newly-reopened museum explores the events, athletes, and history of the Olympic movement. It’s the most interactive, engaging, and entertaining museum I’ve ever visited—guaranteed fun for all.”

  • Eat the cheese and chocolate; sample the wine.
    If you’re planning a summer Switzerland vacation, it’s essential to eat as much Swiss chocolate as possible.

    “For chocolate lovers, Lindt will be opening a much-anticipated chocolate attraction in Zurich in 2016,” said Witt. “But for those who want to satisfy those cravings this very minute, go to Maison Cailler, Nestlé’s premier chocolate factory, for a tour followed by unlimited tastings.”

    SWITZERLAND - SOMMER - BRAUCHTUM - TRADITIONENFor those more interested in food and wine, Alpenwild offers a tour called Cheese, Chocolate, and the Scenic Alps.

    “We link Alpine meadows, farms, dairies, and vineyards with some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alps,” explained Witt. “Switzerland is really emerging as a gastronomic powerhouse in Europe, and it’s becoming recognized as one of the great culinary regions in Europe. The cheese, wine, and chocolate are superb. The word is getting out—you can have a great food and wine experience in the Alps.”

  • Find a travel agency that will cater to your specific wants.
    If you want a trip that focuses solely on hiking, then you need to find a company that primarily offers hiking trips. If you’re looking for a haute trip that has individualized experiences catered to small groups, don’t expect every company to provide what you want. However, Alpenwild offers a wide array of what Wanderers might be looking for.

    Dividing the cheese ceremony in the Justis valley, Bernese Oberland. Each cattle owner fetches his animals in autumn and collects his share of the cheese produced.
    Dividing the cheese ceremony in the Justis valley, Bernese Oberland. Each cattle owner fetches his animals in autumn and collects his share of the cheese produced.

    “We specialize in the Alps—it’s really all we do,” explained Witt. “It’s our passion and expertise and we’ve been at it for three decades. We know the trails and towns inside out. We know the hoteliers and their rooms, the restauranteurs and their menus. Our guides are on the trails every day throughout the summer which gives us a level of expertise that other operators can’t match. And our guests get a richer, more enjoyable experience.”

    Guests who choose a summer Switzerland vacation with Alpenwild will stay in carefully chosen inns, small hotels, and classic berghotels. They are typically independently-owned inns that offer a superbly satisfying mix of a welcoming atmosphere, traditional cuisine, and authentic charm.

    “We pride ourselves in offering exclusive experiences and unique itineraries that would never be possible on other tours or traveling alone. We make cheese over an open fire with an alpine farmer, we learn the art of making chocolate truffles with a master chocolatier, and we’re hosted for winery tours and tastings by the region’s top vintners.”

    Wine tasting in the wine cellar of Gerard Raymond at Saillon, Canton Valais.
    Wine tasting in the wine cellar of Gerard Raymond at Saillon, Canton Valais.

    Summer is prime time in the Alps and you’ll find a full array of hiking, walking, culinary, and sightseeing tours at www.alpenwild.com. Additionally, Alpenwild offers an intriguing variety of specialty and custom tours throughout the year—photo tours, cheesemaking, literary tripsplein aire paintinghistory toursChristmas market tours, and trips for cross-country skiers and snowshoeing.

For more information, or to book a summer Switzerland vacation, check out the Alpenwild website.