Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Caye Caulker, Belize

As the weather cools here in Canada, those that have a sunshine and hot weather addiction start to turn their gazes to the many glorious sun drenches beach destinations around the globe!

One of those stunning locales can be found on the tiny island paradise of Caye Caulker located just 32 km’s off the shores of Belize. It as beautiful sand beaches but it more known for the waters that surround it. Long on the travel list, it didn’t actually happen until I learned that you could get there by via inexpensive flight into Cancun and then bus it over Belize! Great way to make the adventure attainable sooner 🙂

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The tiny  sun soaked island is basically just a sand bar over a limestone shelf in the Pacific Ocean bordering the famed Blue Hole. It’s  full of lazy island vibes, swaying palm trees and one very unique feature…a “split” that divides the island into 2! This is the spot where most locals spend their time splashing and swimming as it has a fairly deep water right from shore. The currents can be quite strong but people do swim across at certain times of the day and it’s a great gathering place that everyone congregates to.

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The island is quite small and easily explored on foot or by bicycle.  Beautiful if shallow, white sand  beaches that line the shore on one side and docks built over mangroves on the other side of the island. The main draw to this paradise however is  the variety of ocean life in the waters that surrounds it!

 

 

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If snorkelling or diving are your thing, the islands of Belize are exceptional!! Starfish, giant tarpon, parrot fish and so much more were able to be seen snorkelling from shore or by taking a kayak out.

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11148590_10155641509935105_4948581187316938724_n11072764_10155641511255105_6037059420140493549_nExploring the ocean wildlife is one of the top reasons for visiting this region and it does not disappoint! The surround warm waters were FULL of  vibrant life big and small! Turtles, manatees,  few varieties of sharks, starfish and so much more. Snorkelling isn’t too bad right from the shore but the best sightings were on tours to the Blue Hole itself.  At the crack of dawn one morning I even got to witness the manta rays flying into the air at the island split! Very cool.

 

Random snorkelling where you don’t see anyone on the mangrove side..discouraged as there are jellyfish that masquerade as beautiful plants to the uneducated lol

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10376839_10155641509035105_1976810953722451936_n11179962_10155641517285105_5489239638898512321_nOnce your down basking on the beach, there are plenty of activities on the island to keep you busy including our favourite water toys!  Stand up paddle boards and kayaks can easily be rented and used for exploring close to shore. One of the best ways to spend your mornings but I might be biased lol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking for something a little more chilled? They have you covered – bars with swings, beach and rooftop yoga sessions under painted skies and hammock strung in cozy nooks! There’s always also a friendly pouch around to keep you company.  Places like this help inspire the Staycation paradise at home in Burlington!

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One thing you should not miss during your visit is the fabled BLUE HOLE. This stunning natural phenomenon was initially karst limestone formations high above the ocean until levels rose and is now one of the most amazing underwater places on Earth!  Snorkelling and diving trips are widely available for those that want to experience this wonderful place but you should be able to swim well. There are only 3 breaks or entrances to the interior hole with strong currents but the effort is more than worth it. Try to go at odd times or during low season as it can get busy.

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Caye Caulker is are highly recommended for a laid back, slow holiday with plenty of chances to explore an underwater paradise filled with all sorts of creatures just off the beach. It lacks the true wide white sand beaches that I usually would write about but makes up for it with charm, good vibes and lots of great island food. It will be worth a second visit someday 🙂 

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Summer Destination ~ Burlington Beach, our own hidden gem!

A wide swath of creamy sand, calm greenish blue waters framed by rolling sand dunes, big beautiful trees and a waterfront trail that goes forever. As the sun warms the land and a hint of Summer promise touches us, our love of adventure and natural beauty comes back home. We have so many lovely hidden gems in Ontario and our thoughts inevitably return to our own gorgeous little paradise in Burlington, Ontario.

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Nestled at the most westernly point of Lake Ontario, Burlington is blessed with a kilometer long, light sand beach tucked among century old trees and connected to a vibrant and friendly downtown area within easy walking distance. To explore the whole area you may park either in the downtown core or as we did at the base of the CN liftbridge and canal. From here you can walk, hike, rollerblade or walk the rest of the area. Burlington has an active & lively community and the path is always in use no matter the season.

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Walking is definitely our method of choice as you can really get in to explore all the great nooks that are found along the way. Tiny dirt pathways and wooden promenades veer off the main paved path every so often and they are worth exploring! Shady spots with beautiful views wait for your private family picnic. Catamarans line the beach creating visions of tropical destinations.

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Walking up the beach which is a protected natural area, you are greeting by visions of the wide crescent beach winding up to the skyline. Summertime brings hundreds of beach goers to its shores with almost as many boats linked up enjoying the heat in the shallow waters. A large buoyed area and a slow sandy entry to the water makes it a fantastic place for families. You can smell the myriad of BBQ lunches being cooked up in the shady grass areas of the bordering park and hear children’s squeals of laughter as they enjoy the refreshing clear waters.

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Near the middle of the beach, is where Burlington Beach Rentals resides. The beach shop is contained in the beautiful historic Pump House and has everything you could ever need to enjoy a day at the beach including towels, sunscreen & beach toys. Whether you’ve come prepared to enjoy the day or not, Burlington beach Rentals is there to make life easy for visitors and locals alike.Just behind the building, on the beach ready for your enjoyment “Beach Spots” consisting of either muskoka chairs, sun loungers and great little SPF50 blue and red colored huts dot the beach and are for rent by the day or hour. Reminiscent of a tropic holiday, they strive to bring the vacation experience home. Complimentary wi-fi is included for all their guests. If you’re feeling a little more adventurous paddleboats and stand up paddleboards are ready and waiting on the shore!

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You can’t find a better way to spend an afternoon than by taking out of their water rentals and enjoying the sights and sounds from the water. Bring a picnic lunch and take it with you, the paddle boats have cup holders and space for a small basket!

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If you’re staying in the area longer they also have beach yoga classes at sunrise & sunset. Full moon social’s every month along with lots of other fun events and activities! Conveniently right next door a small concession is ready to feed your hunger and even satisfy the sweet tooth with yummy ice cream. Showers, change rooms, bathrooms and a playground round out this busy and fun spot.

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Heading farther up the beach, the massive trees start to over hang the water and limestone rocks jut out of clear waters making for picturesque stops. Eventually you round the curve and head back up on the path that leads into Spencer Smith Park. A tiny round protected bay can be found at this junction and if you’re lucky swans can be seen bobbing in its protected waters.

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Spencer Smith Park leads into our downtown core and is a gorgeous large park that lines the majority of the downtown area ended with a large curved pier that completes the scene. Here is where the great city holds numerous awesome festivals throughout the summer months. Sound of Music is Canada’s largest, best and free outdoor music festival held yearly in June. Thousands of fans flock to the area to hear well known and local talent fill the park with music. A full listing of summer events can be found here. On quieter days you can enjoy the reflecting pond surrounded by benches and sometimes home to fancy R/C ships that sail on its surface. Right next door a new playground and large splash pad are ready to entertain the kids for the whole afternoon.

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Following the boardwalk you eventually find yourself staring at the large delicately curved pier that is now the crowning glory of the park. Beautiful in the daytime but even more so at night. This is one of our favorite places to watch the sunset. As the daylight slips colored beacons light up the night sky from its edges.

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No visit to the Burlington waterfront would be complete without a stop in the lovely downtown area. Absolutely full of fine dining, wonderful outdoor patios and great shops all within a few blocks. A small town, friendly feel with big city amenities. One of the things we love most about being here is the awesome vibe of the city and its people. You are always welcome and you will always enjoy your visit!

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If you haven’t recently visited this gorgeous city…it’s time to come back and see what you’re missing 😉

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Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Treasure Beach, Jamaica

After spending 6 nights in the gorgeous, white sand haven that was Negril I was ready to set off to discover some of the hidden gems tucked away on the South shores in the fair isle of Jamaica. I had heard about the area during some quick research the night before I had boarded my last minute flight to a new country. The allure of black sand beaches, a string of coves to wander and the fact that it was still undeveloped was enough of a draw to make me want to see it for myself.

Traveling solo around a country tends to add up, not only in cost but time and here is where creativity helps in saving on both!  The famed Pelican bar was 2/3rd of the way to my final destination and always a big draw! Built with donated lumber and a bit of thatch, it was the only bar I had heard of that existed a mile or so from shore! I managed to find 3 other hostel guests that also wanted to go and between us we were able to charter a private taxi turning what could have been a long travel day into a fun adventure that didn’t break the bank!

Windows down , music up we made our way up through the interior dodging not so tiny potholes that threatened to swallow anything that didn’t see them coming. A quick stop in Savanna el Mar for some not so fast, fast food and some unknown delicious tasting fruit we continued on until we reached Black River. This hard working Jamaican hub is one of the oldest cities in the country and the gateway to the south shores of the island.

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Many boats are available to take you to the fabled Pelican bar. After some quick negotiations that included a divine sounding lobster dinner that would be waiting on our return ($1000 J each), we climbed on board an old fashioned turquoise longboat and sped towards the tiny speck where we would spend our afternoon. The ocean here had a different quality and color than Negril. While just as beautiful in its own right, the waters were an opaque turquoise and seemed ladened with minerals and full of mystery.

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Pelican Bar was exactly as advertised and we had a great afternoon. Where else could you spend your days drinking Red Stripe, playing dominos and doing absolutely nothing but worshipping the sun, miles from any speck of land. Constructed of donated lumber, some thatch for shade and a good many license plates and tokens left behind by travellers before us, I doubt it would survive much of a storm. Luckily no storms threatened and the hundreds of names carved in every square inch of wood, friendly locals and surrounding pelicans made their marks in our memories. After swimming and chillaxing under our shady nook all afternoon we accompanied our captain back to his home where dinner was waiting as promised. Beautifully seasoned lobster with vegetables, rice and plantain were delicious and I was happy to splurge just a little to enjoy a seafood dinner with the group. Seafood while plentiful on the island is also very expensive…unless you manage to catch it yourself 🙂

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With a full belly and slight trepidation, I said my goodbyes to my new friends and got dropped off at the side of the road to await the next route taxi that would take me to Treasure Beach. I have a penchant for exploring the path less taken and this isolated series of coves with black sands and few travellers had peaked my interest as soon as I had heard of it on the travel forums I had scoured hours before my last minute departure.

I didn’t have to wait long before spotting a red plated car with Treasure Beach on the side. Climbing into the 5 seater with 6 people already inside, we drove the remaining 30 minutes to French Bay for $200J. No one waited for me or knew I was coming because as hard as I had tried, I had never been able to reach any of the tiny guesthouses I was interested in. Rolling in just before sunset I was dropped off in front of Shakespeare Cottage. The gates and doors were open but not a soul was to be found. This I hadn’t expected!  After cooling my heels and checking out my new surroundings I left my big bag and decided to head out to find anyone that could rent me a room. Luck was again on my side as I spoke to a friendly local that informed me that I should go to the very back of the property and yell “Dickie” as loud as I could. That should bring the owners, she said. True enough a few minutes later Dickie’s wife wandered over, rented me my own private room with fan for $25/ night…total score!

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Treasure Beach was black to Negrils white in every respect.  Quiet and mellow with rolling pastures and hills as a backdrop and the crash of ocean waves beating the black sanded shoreline. There was a trail right in front of the house that led directly to the ocean and I couldn’t wait until the next morning to heed its call. As I admired the deep orange of that first nights sunset, I had the entire beach to myself and my thoughts. It was a truly peaceful and zen experience that I will always remember. Heading back home to what turned out to be a most comfortable bed, I got a great nights rest before starting starting my adventures of the area early the next morning. No wi-fi, no distractions, not even a rooster to wake me at dawn.Image

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Treasure Beach is best seen on foot, following the coast and stopping to explore anything that catches your fancy. A few restaurants and small resorts dot the landscape here and there but for the most part it is undeveloped and free of mass tourism. Less expensive than most destinations in Jamaica and richer in community feeling. Everyone knows everyone here and after a few days, they know you too. A place to get lost or find yourself, it resonates with the soul and brings peace to the mind. Over the course of 3 days, I explored the entire area from Frenchman’s Bay to Great Bay and easily stayed within my $40/day budget including accommodation!

Starting my days with freshly brewed Blue Mountain coffee at the Blue Smurf cafĂŠ (highly recommended at 100J/ cup AND they even had milk!!) I picked a direction each morning. With no wi-fi and little time to research before I arrived, each day I still managed to find amazing hidden gems, great places to eat and friendly locals to tell me about the history of this quiet heaven. Some of my most favourite finds and moments were:

 Glorious Sunsets:

Deep orange with undertones of burnt yellow lite the sky every night. Framed by jutting rocks, crashing waves and black warm sand.  Every night I would make sure to pick a slightly different place to watch. Always sitting in the sand, trying to embed every magical moment to memory. I preferred having this nightly ritual to myself but most locals and travellers alike headed to Eggys. A tiny little hut on the beach with some chairs and well priced Red Stripe. Here you can mingle, exchange the days stories and share your adventures. A must stop, a least for one sunset!

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Discovering the MOST gorgeous tree with a private, natural pool & the talented artist the called it his workshop!

Wandering the coast line from Calabash Bay back toward Frenchman’s Bay there is a rocky point jutting out that separates them. From a distance I had no idea what I was walking towards but the closer I got, the more excited I became. There growing amongst the sharp rocks and sparse vegetation was the most perfect, beautiful tree I had EVER seen. Ancient, twisted branches called out to the sea they were hovering over. To my absolute delight, natural tiny pools had formed on each side of the tree. Protected from the waves and sheltered from the sun…absolute heaven. Could I have discovered my own private oasis?! I spent the entire afternoon there and was soon joined by a Clancy. Clancy is a local artist that works with local wood to produce beautiful hand made works of art. Not only did I make a new friend, after some conversation I got to experience something amazing!

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Clancy worked in wood and I had noticed this beautiful giant log in my little pool with me. Further conversation revealed it was Linden wood ( Jamaica’s national flower) and he had been soaking the wood for weeks to get it ready for carving. It really was my lucky day as he decided to chop off a piece and make something right in front of my for my love that was waiting back home. I watched him take a piece of nothing and turn it into a beautiful souvenier paddleboard with nothing but a machete. That is a memory that I will carry forever. If you’re ever in Treasure Beach, make sure to seek this artist and his beautiful tree out. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience or reminder of my time here.

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 Favorite swimming spot:

One draw back of the Treasure beach area is the strong riptides and currents that are present at most of the beaches. You can feel the power of the currents just sitting on the edges and swimming out beyond the waves should only be reserved for very strong swimmers. Especially if you are travelling solo. A local well known restaurant and hang out, Jack Spratt’s has a tiny cordoned off area and a lifeguard on duty and would be the best place to bring a family. I overcame this by stopping in every tiny, me size pool that I can across in the wanders instead. There were plenty of them if you took your time and looked. On the last day I came across THE BEST spot for actual swimming in the area. Located at the end of Calabash bay about ½ km before Great Bay is a large protected spot between 2 reefs that hem either side of the pool in. Here the water was clear, calm and excellent for snorkelling. Many local children and families came to cool off during my time there, confirming its safety. If I had more time, I would have spent another afternoon floating happily in the dancing soft waves.ImageImageImageImage

Exploring tide pools:

The tide pools from Calabash Bay to Great Bay were amazing, plentiful and yielded new excited finds every day I was there. You never know what creatures would be left behind and I got to see a great amount of sea life up close and personal. In fact I could have collected quite a nice dinner for myself if I had the heart to take the crabs I found from their homes. Tiny bumblebee like fish, puffers, snails and so much more were there to delight me at every turn. It was like have my very own sit in aquarium and it was awesome!!!

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This beautiful, less known paradise has many wonders to explore. Best for romantic escapes or really getting away from it all. There are enough small shops & local restaurants to satisfy needs but it is far from bustling. Time spent here is peaceful, there is noone to hurry you, sell you things on the beach or interrupt natures song. Next time I would certainly bring the man that holds my heart. Fully restored and ready to integrate back into society, it was time again to pack my bags and prepare myself for what would be the MOST challenging leg of my trek. Making it all the way back across the country to Montego Bay using public transport. I knew it would be an adventure but I had no idea the adventure it would be. Join me next week to follow the rest of my trek North through half of Jamaica and up through the mountains before descending to my destination. It was a journey that I will talk about for awhile! Lol

 If you are interested in JOINING me on one of my awesome adventures, we are NOW BOOKING for our epic beach lovers trip to Costa Rica in November 2014. 9 nights, 5 bucket list worthy adventures, 4 stunning beaches & towns. Almost all inclusive for $2195 CAD pp (double occ) including flights from YYZ. For those in other areas, we can give you a land only price and you can meet us there!

Carpe Diem my friends, life is too short to wait!!

Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Negril, Jamaica on a shoestring budget

Seasoned traveler or freshly bitten by the travel bug, we all yearn to explore unknown places, experience new things and in the process get to know ourselves even better.

This adventure started as my wanderlust had been poking at me for our entire frozen winter. I promised myself I was going to discover at least one new country a year and time was ticking. The ocean was calling my name, and somehow I was going to heed the call despite the insane rising prices of travel that were now prevalent in our Arctic Vortex of a climate. Diligently checking flight prices to anywhere hot & unknown after a week of searching I found a great fare (with some crazy layovers) to the fair isle of Jamaica.

Honestly Jamaica was never on my backpacking list.. as a solo woman traveler with a penchant for wandering where ever she likes it didn’t seem like the safest of destinations but the pictures of stunning beaches and smiling faces couldn’t be resisted. After one nights hesitation I booked myself on a flight leaving in mere days and challenged myself to have an absolutely amazing adventure on a shoe string budget. It wouldn’t be fancy…but it would be fabulous!

With a bit of a plan, the lightest rolling duffle I have ever been able to pare down to and a whole lot of unknown I headed to the airport. It was not my first last minute adventure so  I decided not to book anything except my first night at a guesthouse in Negril. How would I get there remained to be seen.

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As luck sometimes smiles on the friendly, I had the pleasure of meeting a lovely lady on the flight who was also heading to Negril. My public transit adventures would have to wait as I happily accepted a direct ride with her friend that was waiting. On the drive down I learnt that Peter had been coming to Jamaica for over 25 years and was as familiar as the locals…oh lucky day! With a bit of advice and plans to meet the next day I was dropped off at the gates of the hostel.

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The word hostel seems to bring some crazy images into the minds of some people. I have stayed in many a hostel in my travels, some are beautiful and some are not so much but they all give you a place to rest your weary head after a hard days adventuring. With a little luck & research you can almost always find a great place to stay that doesn’t break the bank. Some can even compare to snazzy boutique hotels at a fraction of the cost!  In Negril, that place ended up being Judy’s Guest House. Big iron gates & no visitor welcome signs gave me immediate confidence in the security of the compound and the lush gardens on the other side made me even happier.

Judy’s Guest House was a maze of tiny walkways, little cabins and a riot of color and greenery. Outdoor bathtubs, hammock gardens, community kitchen and a tiny store that boasted drinks to freshly made cakes rounded out the compound. Not too shabby for $23/night!

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Route taxi’s are definantly the way to go when travelling Jamaica on a budget. It is the preferred method of transport for the locals and as long as you don’t mind having the taxi stop and pick up passengers on the way…and possibly cramming twice the amount of people that SHOULD be in there, you will save yourself a TON of cash. Route taxi’s always have red plates…others will stop and offer you a ride but always stick with the red plates. Another tip ALWAYS negotiate your fare before getting in! Route taxi’s go back and forth on a set route all day. You can hire them out for a private charter or just switch taxi’s when you get to the end of the route. The fares can vary but it’s usually 130 Jamaican (or appx.1.30 CAD). They will ask you for more but you have be firm and be prepared to walk away and wait for another taxi.

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Personally, I am a walker. I find no better way to really get to know a country and it’s people that wandering about on your own 2 feet and taking in the sights as you go. The streets of Negril..and all of Jamaica really are narrow with cars dodging about erratically and at speed trying to avoid the ginormous  potholes that are everywhere. You have to be very careful and very aware as you make your way down the very edges of the laneways.

The hostel was located at the base of the cliffs (West End) which ended up being the PERFECT location to explore both areas!

The famed 7 mile beach truly is a sight to behold. Stretched out in a wide bay with the Negril River at its beginning at a wee island dotting it’s tip. Soft white sand meets glorious blue and green crystal clear waters that sparkle in the sunshine. You can see fish from the shore and the temperature was as warm as I could ever wish. I spent 6 nights exploring every inch and had managed to walk the entire length and back within the first 2 days.  Learning from the past has encouraged me to wander the entire area I’m visiting as soon as I get there..that way I don’t miss anything and leave sad because something fabulous was discovered the last day!

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Walking most places, taking route taxi’s when necessary and eating local food I managed to stay under my budget of $45/day including accommodation! Below are some of the highlights of my time in Negril and  the West End.

Favorites: 

Enjoyed many a morning or afternoon on the stunning shores of 7 mile beach. Loved meeting the local children and the string of never ending vendors that walk up and down the beach daily bringing everything from food, to aloe plants and souvenirs. My favorite parts of the strip were the very beginning between the Negril River & the first stand of the more commercialized areas as well as the protected area about 3/4 of the way to the point which was deserted and full of mangroves and tiny personal beaches between the trees! All free!

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Meeting one of the local boys who decided to share his fish with me! Apparently it has a rock hard shell and they put the entire thing in a fire to cook and then flake off the outsides to reveal the white meat inside..it was delicious!

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My first glass bottom boat ride to snorkel off the reefs 1 km away from shore! I was invited to accompany my new friends as their guest ❤  I’m an avid water lover and always bring my own gear so I was ready! Cost? Free 🙂 Except for a few jellyfish stings anyway.

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Discovering that the tiny beach at the end of the street where I was staying (St.Mary’s Bay) was THE BEST place to go snorkeling! I finally swam with Manta Rays here on a random stop…a huge highlight of my trip and I was able to tick it off the bucket list. Oh happy days! One of my most favorite finds on all the trip.

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The spectacular meals that were found for an affordable price & off the beaten path in the West End Cliffs…Jamaican Food is divine. Saltfish & Ackee are my new favorite breakfast items…even took some cans home! One of the things I love about travelling is trying new dishes, fruits and anything else that wanders my way. You can’t discover new favorites if you don’t try things.

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Sunsets at Whoopies Cafe….just 20 min’s away (walking) from the famed Rick’s cafe and at least 1000% better (in my humble opinion) Beers were $300 J instead of $700. You could cliff jump or just walk down the stairs. No crowding and they even had a hammock garden. Murphy’s restaurant across the road had inexpensive and amazing food as well. Total Score! A big thank you to Peter for letting me in on this hidden gem!

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VS Rick’s Cafe..

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Exploring Xtabi and the underground caves, snorkeling from the cliff! (Cost $400J including my beer)

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Lastly the gorgeous flowers and plants that were absolutely everywhere! I had a different flower in my hair every morning. Pure bliss!
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Negril truly is truly a breath taking destination….I was sad to leave and had thoughts of staying a few more days but adventure called. The next leg of the trip was heading off the beaten path down to the South coast of Jamaica, specifically the Treasure Beach area. Remote with black sand beaches and a fabulous community feel, I was excited to check it out myself. I hadn’t been able to get in touch with any of the inexpensive guesthouses so I was going with a hope & a prayer that I would find something on budget. Even better, I had turned a long travel day into a fun adventure instead. Recruiting 3 other hostel guests to do a day trip to the famous Pelican Bar. A tiny structure of planks and thatch that was built about a mile of so off the shores of Black River. Having 4 of us in total, we chartered a taxi for the day. I packed my bags, took everything with me and started the 2 hour journey to the South coast with the intention of being left behind and finding my own way to my final destination. More fun, less stress and a great value!

If you are interested in hearing more about my wanders, portions will be posted weekly…on Wanderlust Wednesdays of course! If you are interested in JOINING me on one of my awesome adventures, we are NOW BOOKING for our epic beach lovers trip to Costa Rica in November 2014. 9 nights, 5 bucket list worthy adventures, 4 stunning beaches & towns. Almost all inclusive for $2195 CAD pp (double occ) including flights from YYZ. For those in other areas, we can give you a land only price and you can meet us there!
Carpe Diem my friends, life is too short to wait!!

Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Ios, Greece

 A younger version of Mykonos..this tiny island nestled just above Santorini is blessed with lots of varied, gorgeous beaches ready to party at a moments notice! You would think after 24 hrs there,the islands name should mean Good times…all the time! A destination for the young or young at heart.

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Chora (the main town)  is a maze of narrow alleys and painted white cobbles reminiscent of Santorini. Shop owners and residents alike hand paint the lines in front of their properties daily keeping them pristine and perfect complement to the many gorgeous vistas found at every corner! The town itself is very hilly and you will undoubtedly be climbing stairs for most of your visit…luckily it’s more than worth it!

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 Beaches : There are 8- 10 prisitine beaches scattered around the island..each with its own flavor. These two were my favorites

Mylopotas Beach is the most popular beach on the island and very international . It regularly features as one of the “Top 10 Beaches in Europe”. More than 1km long and very wide,  golden sand and crystal clear clean water stretch out in a horseshoe banked by rocky outcroppings that are great for snorkelling. Located 2 km’s from the main town and is easily accessible by public bus, or simply walking. Since the town is on such a steep incline walking down is the prefered mentod as you can take time to take in the magificent 365 degree views before descending. A bus ride back is usually a good idea though 😉

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While wandering to Mylopoptas beach, there are lots of alleys and donkey paths one could decide to explore. This is how I stumbled upon Kolitsani Beach. (The best adventures are always that way) Down a random steep path you step out to find yourself in cove protected on all sides by rocky cliffs. Super calm, even on the windiest of days it is a great place to spend a low key day away from the crowds. The ocean is still and perfect for floating till your hearts content. These are no amenities here so hopefully you remember to bring what you need!

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Activities: Laying on the beach or lounging in one of the many super chill beach bars is the favorite pastime of many visitors. For the more active traveller, windsurfing /kite surfing and sea kayaking are all avaliable by the water.  You may also hire a boat to take you a little further out for some snorkelling and diving. Volleyball nets are set up at a couple of the beaches and is a great way to get to know fellow travellers!

Nightlife: The main town is a maze of tiny alleys connecting what seems to be a million clubs and bars that stay open until the sun rises. Famous DJ’s come to spend the Summer and lead the all night parties. Most of the hostels plan nightly bar hopping adventures and when you first arrive it’s easier to follow the crowd than get lost in the alleys later!  The most popular spots change yearly but some of the most memorable are :

Orange:  Famous for its jelly shots and homemade chocolate and caramel vodka shots.

REDBULL: Great dance floor and fantastic drink specials!

Shooters: Pump action fun guns loaded with alcohol make sure everyone gets a taste.

Slammer Bar: you wear a helmet, take a shot, and the bartender slams you on the head with a hammer. ( yup, it’s true! )

Kandi: international cast of DJ’s,outdoor seating and open until sunrise!

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A beautiful island absolutely full to the brim with zest for life and quite unforgettable 🙂

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Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Montezuma, Costa Rica

This stunning, laid back beach town located on the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula will be the first stop on our “Beach Lovers SUP, Surf & Yoga adventure this November and with good reason. This tiny spot on the Pacific embodies the “Pura Vida” lifestyle Costa Ricans adore.  Tourists, villagers and ex-pats agree this is a special spot on earth. Many a traveler has ventured in for a few nights and ended up spending their remaining time within its charms…more than a few just didn’t come home at all! 🙂

MontezumaNext stop...paradise

So let’s explore some of the things that make Montezuma amazing!

 Area Beaches:

 Playa Montezuma

Located right in front on the town. Very picturesque white sand beach and the busiest in the area. Great for sunbathing and nightly bonfires. I didn’t really spend too much time here other than taking pictures as it’s fairly busy with boat taxi’s and passengers coming and going. That’s okay because there is nothing but stretch after stretch of fabulous beaches on either side!

Main Beach

Going Left:

The miles of named beaches are usually only seperated by rocky outcroppings between them. Climbing over and exploring rewards you with unexpected delights like hidden warm pools in the craggy rocks exposed as the tide went out…now that is magical afternoon if you remember to bring the Bubba Keg lol

Montezuma sunrise Craggy outcroppings divide the beaches

All of the beaches are snowy white, some with buttery soft sand..some with larger sand granules but all have qualities that make them awesome unto themselves. Hermit crabs LOVE the granular beaches and they are everywhere! There are many sea turtles that come to nest in the area and protected hatcheries spring up to watch over the eggs until they hatch. If you are lucky, go at the right time of year and know where to look you might even get to see the babies hatch and be released en masse into the ocean. I was lucky and got to see giant leather-back babies! The nearby reef is also great for snorkeling.

Baby Leatherbacks!!Crabs on the beach

There are 2 main waterfall areas on this side.. Piedra Colorada and El Chorro. My favorite was Piedra as it’s an easy walk and the cascading pools are all in the shade..especially great if you’ve gotten too much sun.

Playa Grande is next with a wide, gorgeous beach that is perfect for surfing or swimming. One of the favorites with the locals and most visitors.

Isla Tortuga is located 9 km further and is an optional all day trip that is more than worth the time. Super fine, buttery soft white sand and blue/green waters surround it and provide amazing snorkeling!! Here the vivid hues of turquoise, green and blue ocean reminded me of the Caribbean!

Isla Tortuga Beautiful calm waters

On the right:

MonteZuma Waterfall

Not a beach but surely worth at least an afternoon of your time. Bit of a clamber upstream along boulders you will follow seemingly endless freshwater cascades and swimming pools. The big waterfall with the deepest swimming basin is an appx 30 min hike up and around obstacles but it’s worth it! A giant 60 ft waterfall drops straight down and you can swin right underneath if you like. The brave can clamor up the steep “path” to the top pool and take in the views. Lots of places to climb up and jump in too 🙂

Montezuma FallsMontezuma Falls lower cascades

Cabuya and Cabo Blanco

A short bus ride away Cabuya boasts a rare island cemetery that is used by the villagers up until recently. The path is only accessible at low tide BUT that doesn’t stop an adventurer from snorkeling their way across lol  Some of the best snorkeling is beside the island and right in front of the beach itself. It was amazing to see the burial sites and get a tiny glance into the culture of the area.

View from the island cemetary

Cabuya cemetary

This island borders the famed Cabo Blanco Reserve that was the first protected area in CR!  Brimming with monkeys, lizards and exotic colorful birds as far as the eye can see, it is only surpassed by the even more amazing sea life can be seen within its borders. Several loops can be taken in the park and a guide can help you spot things you didn’t even realize were looking back at you!

Jan  2013 150CR 2013 048 Cr wildlife sloth toucanSnorkeling fun

 

If you didn’t get the impression before, I have to admit of all the magnificent destinations in this beautiful and much varied country, this tiny little village really placed me under its spell. Nestled between the ocean and steep cliffs lush with vegetation, it’s a nature and beach lovers paradise!! Most mornings you are awakened by the calls of howler monkeys urging you to run to the beach to check out yet another magnificent sunrise. Days are spent wandering the endless  great beaches and little hidden nooks that Montezuma seems to have in endless supply. The bohemian little one road beach town itself is full of restaurants & peddlers that serve up delicously fresh and flavorful meals.  When dusk settles, most congregate in the middle of the 2 road intersection to socialize and watch fire dancers from the nearby school practice and perform their intoxicating dances  and eat the most amazing gelato 😀

Fire dancers in the main square Delicious home made goodies Seriously good food

Not a bad beginning to our epic adventure and a MUST DO if you are lucky enough to find yourself in this glorious country!

 

If YOU would like to join us on this amazing adventure, feel free to contact us via the form below for the full itinerary & pricing. Dates are Friday, November 21st to Sunday, November 30th…9 nights for 5 vacation days…Woo hoo! 

Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Horseshoe Bay Beach, Bermuda

While the wind might whistle and blow outside our doors..and the arctic temps  make even the most ardent Winter lover pack on another few layers before  attempting to leave the house we have a respite. We are free to crank to heat, close our eyes for a few minutes and let our imaginations and some pictures take us to a sun filled paradise. A small escape but one that brings a smile to every beach lovers lips and soon reminds us that Summer will also find us in a few months..and this year it will be all the sweeter.

So take a seat, get comfy and follow us to the enchanted island of Bermuda this week.

Bermuda is made up of 181 coral covered, lava based islands and is divided into 9 Parishes. Famous for its pink sand beaches, scooter filled roadways and sublime snorkeling in its calm, clear turquoise waters. Located to the east of the bottom tip of Florida, the climate is temperate year round and generally between 20 – 30 C!

Bermuda location bermuda_map

With so much shoreline and reef  protected azure waters you can imagine just how many spectacular beaches the island is home to. Today we venture to one of the most popular..making the top 10 list of Worlds Most Beautiful Beaches for many years.  

Horseshoe Bay lies on the main islands south coast in the parish of Southampton. Easily accessed, the public bus can drop you off right at its doorstep! As soon as you catch a glimpse of the wide swath of fine pink sand and beckoning still waters you will run, not walk down the giant hill that marks the entrance. Magnificent limestone rock formations  dominate its flanks and the warm sheltered sea almost radiates different hues of blues and greens like glittering gemstones.  The fine pink sand defies photography and keeps its true beauty for the person that can witness it with his own eyes. The warm waters of the Gulf stream bring over 650 different types of marine life into its sheltered waters making it one of the best places in the world to grab your snorkel and be able to spot magnificent creatures from the beach. 

Turquoise Waters  here comes paradise

This little piece of heaven is fully public with bathroom facilities, a small food stand and handfuls of umbrella and chair rentals during high season. Soliciting isn’t permitted so you won’t find the usual souvenir traders or wandering craftsmen. Even during the busy season, when the fine sands are full of day trippers  you can continue walking and find relative solitude if you prefer. Make sure to take the trail that leads up to one of the rock formations as it gives you another different breathtaking view of this pretty little cove. With all this going for it, you can easily see why it attracts beach lovers from across the globe.

View from the pathSnorkeling in Bermuda

In trade for the abundance of beautiful sand….. Bermuda depends on imports for most of its needs making it one of the priciest places to visit and live.  In fact other than a few fresh water wells the majority of fresh water is collected on the pretty white rooftops and stored in underground tanks built into each home! More quirky facts that help give imbibe its unique vibe include that visitors are not permitted to rent cars and everyone drives on the left hand side of the road. Bermuda shorts can be worn by gentlemen for nearly any occasion and taxi’s are the norm as most public transportation stops service at 7 p.m. The island has a mysterious past as part of the famous Bermuda triangle and a long history with pirates of the high seas and over 150 shipwrecks in its waters.

Bermuda shorts everywhere!Collecting rainwater

While most food and daily living necessities are shipped in, Bermuda is blessed with an natural abundance of  beauty, super friendly people and Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. You can’t leave the island without partaking in the infamous Dark & Stormy 😀

Goslings-Dark-and-Stormy

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Monterosso al Mare, Italy (Cinque Terre)

This little boot shaped country jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea instantly calls to mind happy thoughts…excellent wines, fabulous climate…delicious, fresh food and of course…glorious beaches!

Italy, like its gorgeous neighbouring countries is littered with beautiful beaches and exploring them all would be a fantastic way to spend a Summer!

Today we will venture into an area nicknamed the “Italian Riveira”. Located in the middle of the Western side of Italy, this stunningly rugged peice of coast line is known as Cinque Terre (Five lands). Strung along an 18 km stretch of steep cliffs and mountains, a footpath connects the 5 pictureque villages that perch along its edges. The entire area became a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997, which includes the entire length as a  protected marine area and national park.

Rio Maggiore Sangria on the Italian Riviera = Perfection

The entire area is visually stunning and old world Italian. The five tiny villages are also connected through a mono rail for those that don’t want to hike up and down the 18 km’s of mountains blessed with olive groves and dry-stone-walled vineyards as far as the eye can see.

Each of the villages– Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia,Manarola & Riomaggiore have their own charms and if you are in the area it would be a crime not to visit each one! If you are able..the absolute BEST way is to take the footpath and walk along the coast…the views are absolutely spectacular and you can reward yourself with an tasty treat when you arrive at each village! A little tip though…if you get up at 4 a.m. and venture off on this crazy hike on your own…don’t walk softly as there are lots of wild boars in the area! (Yes, there is a story there lol) The world famous “Lover’s Walk” is a small part of the trail and offers spectacular sunsets and a place to “lock” your love forever.

Lovers Walk

Of the 5 villages, the beach that captured my heart was Monterosso al Mare. Last of the five heading North, it features a gorgeous castle overlooking a beautiful large white sandy cresent beach. Along its shores a boardwalk is backed with colorful, old italian buildings and mouthwatering local cuisine. The water is warm, usually calm and provides excellent snorkelling. A giant statue of Neptune built in 1910 oversees the very west end of the beach and towers over the sea making a visually gorgeous swim! After you are done, the rest of the time can be spent wandering the cobbled alleys discovering tiny shops and tasty delicacies.Monterosso

If you find yourself planning a trip to Italy, make sure to include Cinque Terre for at least a few days…it is one of those places that will live forever in your dreams.

Wanderlust Wednesdays ~ Nosara, Costa Rica

As we finalize the details for our epic SUP & Surf trip this November, I thought it would be fitting to cross over and head back into the gorgeous Costa Rica where our adventure will take place. We have already visited a couple of villages and beaches but have yet to take a virtual wander to the sublime Nosara.

Located on the Pacific  along a string of stunning coastline, this tiny former fishing village still retains that wild & free vibe along its shores. For generations this area was used mainly as a pasture for cattle but that all changed in the 1970’s. Reforestation and tourism interest has returned it to one of the lushest and loveliest spots in the country. There are quite a few beaches to explore in the area along with a river that winds its way to the ocean. Here are a few of our favorites:

 Playa Guiones

If miles of white beach stretched out in a perfect crescent shape with gentle waves lapping at the shore is your idea of perfection..Playa Guiones is for you. A rare tropical dry forest borders the crescent and is home to an assortment of wildlife. Within this 3 mile stretch there is soo much to see and do. One of our favorite walks in to the South Point, where you can wander on the pink hued sands. Lots of tide pools are a daily occurrence and a perfect spot for snorkelling with an abundance of colorful seashells scattered on the shores.

For those with adventure in mind, this is also THE spot for surfing with perfect breaks with multiple peaks found on the left and right sides.

Playa Guiones sunset-at-playa-guiones

Playa Peleda:

Very family oriented with lots of shady almond trees and tide pools to play in. One of the memorable scenes of this gorgeous strip is a natural ‘blow hole” that gushes through the rock formations giving a sense of how powerful the ocean really is. The best time to catch the show is when the tides transition. Just behind the  rocky reef you will find a beautiful walk toward the river mouth. Pelicans flock to the area and you will be surrounded as they fish for their dinner where the river meets the ocean.

Playa Paleda Playa Pelada

Playa Nosara :

This beach is quite remote and you have to hike up through the river to get there. The hike is well worth the effort though as this is where you will catch a glimpse of local fishermen using time honored methods to catch their dinners. Further upstream you will arrive at the black sanded Playa Nosara bordered with mangroves and surrounded by so much wild and aquatic life you could spend hours just taking it all in. Howler monkeys can easily be spotted on the shores but you won’t hear their famous howls unless it’s morning. Make sure to take everything you need as there are no amenities close by. The surf and waves at the mouth of the river are some of the highest and most dangerous in Costa Rica and reserved only for the most experienced. Swimming is not advised at all but that’s fine as a 15 minute walk brings you to another fabulous and safe area.

Playa Nosara

Nosara itself is a tiny village without alot of ammenities. It still carries that remote beach feel and calls to the hearts of eco tourists, yoga practitioner and surf enthusiasts. Many world class schools that cater to these passions can be found. Another amazing feature of this area is the abundance of seas turtles that come to nest here. They can be found year round but the greatest numbers congregate between August and November on the days just before a full moon. Put all this together and you can easily surmise why many a traveler has lost his or her heart after stumbling upon this tiny paradise.

This tiny, gorgeous piece of heaven will be the first stop on our EPIC SUP, SURF & YOGA adventure this fall so if you want to experience all of it for yourself…reserve your spot now!