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Posts Tagged ‘Beaches’

Both Kim and I could have stayed in Sydney for a few more days, but were excited to head to Byron Bay since we had heard so much about it from the Aussie boys we met in Chile. We couldn’t wait to check it out and get some more beach time. Marianne had been there before as well and was able to show us around and point us in the right direction for nightlife (to say the least).

 Byron Bay is a great little beach town, filled with shops, restaurants, bars, and night clubs. We spent our days relaxing on the beach, shopping for some items we had lost along the way and sipping cold beverages. To get some exercise, we did a really nice hike up to the lighthouse, where we passed the most eastern point in Australia!! So cool. It also gives you an incredible view of the entire coast.

 

Byron Bay Main Beach

Yaaaaay!

On the walk to the lighthouse

 

Another view

The eastern most point of Australia

Our hostel was quite large but also very accommodating for the amount of people staying there. We spent many a night just drinking on the patio after cooking and then heading out to one of the bars to do some dancing. One night I almost won a $20 bar tab by winning a game of flip cup (which I’m phenomenal at by the way), but I was screwed. Missed out by one game!! Later that night we went out with a group of Irish boys to a couple clubs and then tried to go to the infamous Cheeky Monkey’s. Marianne had been telling us about the $8 “jugs” (pitchers from where we come from) and dancing on the tables for months. She said it was a MUST in Byron Bay. Well, too bad that Marianne was kicked out before she or any of us even got in because the bouncer said we were all too intoxicated. What?? Nah….not us:)

 Soon the Jeff’s arrived and the debauchery continued. More beach time, more deliciously prepared backpacker dinners at the hostel, and of course more beer and wine. Gotta love that cheap box wine, which tastes awful and is known here as “goon”. ‘Goon’ is the aboriginal word for “pillow” so it includes any wine in a bag that is then put in a box, including our slightly more expensive and better tasting wine. But hey, when you are on a budget….

Hostel dinners and boxed wine...can't beat it!

 On Marianne’s last night in town, we decided to try our luck again at Cheeky Monkey. I just had to shake my booty on the tables with her before she left! We headed over early since they only served the cheap ‘jugs’ until 9pm. It was ladies night, so we all got a free, huge glass of champagne to start, and then proceeded to take back a good 12 or so pitchers within the hour! After a couple of hours of dancing on the tables (covered in sheet metal, obviously dancing on them is encouraged) we sent Marianne off in style by shouting “We love Marianne!!” in our horrible Norwegian accents for a good 5-10 minutes before her bus departed. I’m sure the other passengers loved us. We will be meeting up with her again in Montenegro this summer. I can’t wait!

 

Us at Cheeky Monkey's

Marianne and Jeff L. gettin' tipsy

Going to miss you...see you this summer!

The following morning, the rest of us booked a day trip to the hippie town of Nimbin. Not much to see there other than a bunch of head shops, druggies, and a quirky museum. However, we did stop at some cool markets along the way and a few scenic spots on the drive back.

 

The Nimbin Museum

Our last night in Byron Bay, the Jeff’s and I camped out on the beach so we could catch the sunrise the next morning. It was breathtaking. Though quite uncomfortable, it was totally worth it. Check out these pictures.

 

It was time to work our way north up to Brisbane for our one day tour of Fraser Island and then it was up to the Whitsunday Island for our sailing trip!! We said our good-byes to the Jeff’s and promised to see them again in Thailand. Byron Bay was definitely one of my favorite spots on this trip. I WILL make it back here one day.

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Sisters in Sydney

With almost 4 months of travelling under our belts, Kim and I said goodbye to New Zealand and moved on to the east coast of Australia. First stop, Sydney. We’ve all seen images of the infamous Syndey Opera House and Harbor Bridge, the Botanical Gardens, Darling Harbor, etc. Well, it’s all just as amazing as we imagined it to be. It was so great to finally see all of these things in person! With only a week in Sydney, we planned to make the most of it.

 We ended up staying at the Blue Parrot, a small, family-owned hostel filled with all sorts of travellers, long term residents, all looking for a good time. Our friend Doug that we met in Argentina was landing in Sydney the same day and we were excited to reunite with him after our time we spent together in the wine country of South America. Our friend Marianne we met there as well would join us 2 days later from Norway. The Mendoza clan together again! The hostel was located in the Kings Cross area, great for it’s nightlife and also known as the “Red Light District” of Sydney. Luckily, the hostel was around the corner from all the madness, so we didn’t really get that vibe at all.

Together again!

 We spent the first few days wandering around the city – a walk through the Botanical Gardens along the harbor, took plenty of pictures of the Opera House, had champagne in Darling Harbor and checked out the street markets in the Rocks, the oldest neighborhood in Sydney. We made a couple of new friends at the hostel, The Jeff’s, both from Canada, that joined us on our trip to Bondi Beach where locals and tourists alike flock to surf and soak up the rays. Marianne and I laid on the beach and relaxed, while Kim and the others did the 5 kilometer coastal walk from Bondi to Coogee Beach, passing other small surfing beaches along the way. 

Syndey Opera House

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Darling Harbour

Bondi Beach

On the coastal walk

Another day, we all did a day trip to the Blue Mountains, located a couple hours outside of the city. They are called the blue mountains because of the blueish shade they take on from the sky and surrounding landscape. We had this crazy old tour guide that really liked to hear himself talk so we decided to take the trail instead of the cable car up to the viewing point just to get away from him. We hiked down (and then back up) the 1000 steps to take advantage of the amazing views. It was a great work out too!

 

The Blue Mountains

The Three Sisters

 

Our group

 Most of our nights were spent hanging out at the hostel with our new friends. We had some fantastic grilling sessions, a night of Marianne’s stellar caiparinas and caipiroskas ( a drink we became a fan of in South America), drunken walks to the nearby Elizabeth Harbor, a never-ending poker game, plenty of drinking games and late night parties on the stairs across the street. Um, yeah, we weren’t allowed to drink or make noise in the hostel after 11:30pm…so that’s where we ended up.

 We both absolutely loved Sydney!! Once again, I could totally live there. Now it was time to move further up the coast to the laid back beach town of Byron Bay. We even talked Marianne into joining us for a few days before she headed off to Newcastle for her semester of med school. The Jeff’s would join us as well a couple of days later. We were just too much fun to not see again:)

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After four days of holiday gluttony with the Brinches, Mary, Nicole, and Andy (a few of my awesome friends from home) flew into Christchurch to join Kelly and me on a whirlwind tour of the south island. With only twelve or so days to see the sights, we all piled into a rental car and and started to make our way north. Figuring out how to drive on the other side of the road AND the car is always interesting…

Day 1 – Kaikora
Kaikora is a small backpacker town on the east coast and is known mainly for its whale-watching tours. Kelly and I are ruined on whale-watching after Argentina, so we all decided to have a fancy seafood meal instead. We splurged on curried mussels, scallops, steak, and New Zealand crayfish. The rest of the evening was spent drinking and dancing at a reggae club across the street from the hostel. Before heading out the next morning, we hung out on the extremely windy (yet lovely) beach and checked out the nearby seal colony.

On the beach

Day 2 – More Wine Tasting (We Missed You, Leticia)
Driving through the Marlborough wine country on our way to Nelson, we would be stupid not to stop at the local wineries along the way for some tastings. Alan Scott and Cloudy Bay Wineries were not only recommended to us, but were located right next to each other. Score! We sampled some nice bubbly, a few reds, and sauvignon blancs for which New Zealand wineries are well known for.

Me, Nicole, and Mary at the Alan Scott Vineyard

We arrived in Nelson during the late afternoon, had a quick nap and then headed into town to meet my friend Julia for drinks. Julia is another Kiwi I met when I previously lived here…I hadn’t seen her in eight years and it was so great to catch up.

Days 3 and 4 – Abel Tasman National Park
The girls did some shopping around Nelson the following morning and after stocking up on booze and food at the grocery store, we made the short drive to Abel Tasman National Park, popular for its golden beaches. Our hostel was an awesome place called ‘The Barn’ where we had a couple of private cabins and lots of outdoor common areas with fire pits…it sort of felt like we were camping.

Chillin at the campground

For New Year’s Eve, Andy whipped up a batch of his glorious marinara sauce and we basically got sloshed on champagne and laughed all night at god-knows-what before the obligatory countdown to midnight. It was so amazing to have three of my best friends there with us to celebrate. Since we’re all getting old, we were in bed before 1 a.m….we had to get up at seven to catch our water taxi into the park to do part of the Abel Tasman Coastal Track.

Andy and Nicole ready to celebrate NYE in Abel Tasman

New Year's Eve is hilarious

I hiked in Abel Tasman years before and it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. After our informative and scenic boat ride, our water taxi dropped us off at Tonga Bay where we would start our hike along the coastline and through rainforest down to Torrent Bay. Parts of the trail were tough, but the views and beaches were spectacular. The hike took about 5 hours (including our stop for lunch) and we arrived at the beach to relax in the sun until our water taxi home arrived. What a fantastic way to spend the first day of a new year!

In the park

 

Day 5 – Long Ass Day of Driving to Franz Josef Glacier
The next day was spent mainly in the car driving down the west coast with a stop at the Punakaki ‘Pancake’ Rocks and the ‘greenstone’ capital of Hokitika to do some shopping.

We arrived in Franz Josef just in time to check into our hostel, catch a view of the mountains, and grab some dinner and wine at a local restaurant.

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City of Sails

Wow.  South America was fantastic. Kim and I can’t wait to make it back there one day and see more.  We were sad to leave and I will definitely miss speaking Spanish all the time, but both of us were very excited to move on to New Zealand!  Familiar faces for Kim and new and amazing scenery and fun for me!

We knocked out our longest flight of the trip with ease and made it into Auckland bright and early.  One of Kim’s old flatmates, Ben, was there to pick us up and take us to his and his wife‘s Jo’s place for the next couple of nights.  It was so nice to be out of the hostels for a bit!  A nice comfy bed, cleanliness, privacy…awesome.

We rested up for a couple of hours and then Ben took us for a drive around town.  Our first stop was at the “biggest supermarket in the Southern Hemisphere”, Pak n’ Save, for Tim Tam’s, a local treat.  Kim has not shut up about these cookies since she returned from here in 2002, and I totally understand why!  They are phenomenal. T wo delicious cookies with cream in the middle then covered in chocolate.  Milk chocolate, dark, white, whatever you prefer. Wonderful.

Then we went to a beautiful lookout point near his house called the Te Atatu Pennisula, drove over the Harbour Bridge, and then headed into downtown. We went to Doug Robinson MeyerPark, drove down Paratai Drive, home to the most expensive real estate in the city because of the ocean views, and went to Mount Eden, which had a great view of Auckland.

Kim and Ben with city view in the background

Auckland

We then went to meet Jo for a drink after she got off work at a great little bar called Sales Street Bar and then checked out the biggest Les Mills gym in New Zealand.  For those of you that aren’t familiar with who/what that is, all of the programs Kim and I have been doing at Gold’s Gym in Austin for the past few years are choreographed and originated here. Afterwards, we took a drive down by the pier and then headed home for some Thai take away and TV.

Jo and me at the bar

Since Ben and Jo were both on holiday for Christmas, they took us around town again the next day.  We went to Soljans Winery for a quick drink and then to Muriwai Beach to check out the gannet nests and black sand.  After stopping for some ice cream, we headed over to Mission Beach for some beers and delicious green lipped mussels, one of the things New Zealand is known for.  Then they took us to the Michael Joseph Savage Memorial for an amazing view of the entire city. Auckland is definitely one of the most beautiful big cities I have ever seen.  It is known as the City of Sails because the it has the highest number of sailboats per capita than any other place in the world.  The water is the most incredible shades of blue.  It’s breathtaking.

The girls at the winery

Muriwai Beach

Gannets

 

Fooling around on the beach

Black Sand!

On the way to Mission Bay

After a nice day around town, we rested for a bit at the house and then went out for Indian food. Kim has bragged on the amount and quality of the Indian restaurants here due to the large number of immigrants in New Zealand.  I was finally getting my chance to see what she was talking about. Ben and Jo took us to their favorite place in town, Chapati. It was unbelievable.  The lamb korma literally melted in my mouth.  We finished the night off with a few bottles of wine and headed to bed.

We had a scenic 10 hour train ride to Wellington the next morning. Ben and Jo gave us a proper farewell and saw us off at the train station. The were so nice and hospitable.  Thanks so much guys!  We’ll see you again for a drink our last night in New Zealand!

Jo and Ben, our fabulous Auckland hosts!

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Chillin In Chile

Kelly and I only had a week in Chile, so unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore much of the country and stuck mainly to Santiago and Valparaiso. We’d definitely like to make it back someday to visit the Atacama desert and see the Lakes District and Pucon.

After waiting two hours in immigrations and customs and then getting screwed on the price of the cab, we arrived at our hostel in the Bellavista barrio of Santiago, which is known for it’s numerous bars, cafes, and clubs. Kelly and I had heard mixed reviews about Santiago, mostly that it was ‘just another city’ and that there wasn’t much going on.   Aside from the thick layer of smog that hung over the place obscuring the Andes, we thought it was rather nice…clean, easy to get around, and plenty of parks and green space.

During our time in Santiago, we hung out in the park of Santa Lucia, climbing up to the top tower to take in the views of the city.   After snapping some photos, we made our way to a nearby craft market and encountered an Asian lady selling egg rolls out of a cardboard box.  Kelly and I stuffed our faces for less than $2 on some of the best egg rolls we ever had…cheap delicious street food cannot be beat.

Entrance to Santa Lucia

View from Santa Lucia

One morning I climbed to the top of Cerro San Cristobal to see the statue of the Virgin Mary, which also has a church and an outdoor theater amongst some nice gardens (you can take a cable car to the top, but I needed the exercise).   The views of the city were outstanding, but again, the mountains were hidden by the smog.   Another day, Kelly and I wondered around the center of town and the Plaza de Armas before having a typical Chilean lunch of roasted chicken and french fries, topped with a fried egg and grilled onions.  So simple, yet so yummy.

View from Cerro San Cristobal. Can you see the smog?

Virgin Mary statue

Cool statue in the Plaza de Armas

This brings me to the subject of Chilean food.   There is definitely more variety than in Argentina (a lot more seafood) and we found that Chileans use a bit more spice in their dishes.  They also put mashed avocado on everything, including on one of my favorite foods here — the Chilean hotdog (which are sold EVERYWHERE).  For less than $4, you can get a ‘completo’ or an ‘italiano’, which is a hotdog smothered with avocado, tomatoes and mayo on a crusty roll with fries and a drink.  Nice.

Italiano

Fried eggs make everything better

Our evenings we spent at the hostel drinking with new friends and hitting the neighborhood bars (well, Kelly did anyway).

Interesting story behind this one

Since the coastal city of Valparaiso and the resort town of Vina del Mar were only a couple ours west of Santiago, we decided to hop a bus over for a few days with a few Aussie friends.   National elections were taking place over the weekend, so most all businesses were closed and we figured lying on the beach would be a great way to pass the time.

The city of Valparaiso is situated on the coast amongst dozens of ‘cerros’ (hills).   There are elevator lifts located all over town to help people up amongst the winding streets and a lot of the buildings are covered in graffiti, which is actually quite beautiful.   We wandered down to the port, visited some craft markets, ate at Cinzano (a restaurant specializing in Chilean seafood) and spent a couple of days lazing on the beach in Vina del Mar.

Dinner at Cinzano

Renaca Beach

Valparaiso

Since most of the bars were closed during our time here, we hung out at our weird hostel and watched movies with the Aussie boys and some Brits.   We spent a couple of more hot days in Santiago before catching a 14 hour flight to New Zealand for the holidays.

Random thoughts on Chile:

 -Chile is much more expensive than Argentina.

 -The wine is delicious and you can get a good bottle for around $5 – $6.  We were going to try and hit up a couple of wineries while we were here, but it just didn’t happen.  We drove by a few vineyards though on our way to Valparaiso and they looked lovely.

 -Every family member makes it a point to see their loved ones off at the airport, which is nice for them, but makes the place crowded and annoying for me.

 -George Castanza’s and Mandy Patinkin’s twin brothers ran for office here. Not really, but…maybe?

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After our short stint in Colonia, we hopped on a bus and headed over to the small beach town of Punta del Diablo. We originally were going to make a stop in Punta del Este; however, we heard it was a lot more touristy and a bit of a party spot. Our friend Marianne that we met in Mendoza had gone to Punta del Diablo a month or so before and suggested that the slow-paced and less visited beach would be more our style.  And boy was she right…

Punta Del Diablo

We took her recommendation on the hostel as well, El Diablo Tranquilo. The hostel itself was decent, but quite crowded. It was also run by all Americans from Chicago, who were all very nice, but obviously lacking in culture.  The hostel also ran a bar on the beach that had mediocre food but a great drink selection.  And the bar did draw a nice local crowd as well.

During the low season, the town only has about 300 inhabitants.  But they do get up to 20,000 visitors at a time from all over Uruguay and other countries.  We spent our days lounging around on the beautiful, almost deserted beach (save for a handful of surfers), strolling down the unpaved, sandy roads, consuming our fair share of alcohol, and hanging with our new friends at the hostel.  There are a ton of little cabanas lining the beach and had we had known, we would have rented one of them for the week and definitely suggest that option to anyone who travels here. You can get a pretty decent price if you have 3 people or more.

The main road

We also went horseback riding with a local named Fabian and two girls from Sweden. It was such a great day! Kim and I hadn’t been on a horse in over 17 years so we were a little nervous. Especially because my few experiences riding ended in me either falling off or my horse laying down in the mud with me still on it. Yeah. And of course, Fabian gave me the slightly unruly horse, Imilio, but was great once you show him you’re in control. Kim’s horse Borracha (“drunk girl” in Spanish), was awesome. They named her that because she weaves back and forth down the road and always stops to munch a bit on the way. It was hilarious. Fabian led us through the local national park and we stopped for some cookies and wine before doing some galloping down the beach. It really was a nice combo:)

Cowgirls!

Wine break

I also made friends with one of the only Uruguayan guys that worked at the hostel, Matias. He offered to make us an authentic Uruguayan meal at his place our last night in town. It reminded us a lot of our mother’s stew she used to make us. It consisted of steak, chorizo (a type of sausage), bacon, pasta, potatoes, carrots, yams, and onion in tomato sauce. It was so delicious and really nice to have some good comfort food for a change.

There wasn’t much to do in Punta del Diablo, but that was exactly what we were looking for. We could have actually stayed here another week or so. Kim and I really enjoyed it here. However, it was time to head back toward Buenos Aires so we could get over to Chile. We stayed one night in Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo and had lunch at an old port that is now filled with restaurants and small shops, and then went to a local market to have a look. It was crazy big and sold everything from produce to live chickens, ducks, and turkeys. One night was definitely sufficient for Montevideo. The next day we hopped our ferry and cruised back in to Argentina.

We didn’t have much time in Uruguay, but were definitely glad we included it in the trip. Here are some random thoughts and/or highlights about Uruguay.

-It’s much more expensive than Argentina. Boo.

-Chivito’s are awesome. It’s a type of sandwich that is served everywhere consisting of really thin steak, a fried egg, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Lots of mayo. MMMM.

-The stray dogs are so cute. The same ones hang around the people they like and escort you all over town. A walk to the store, a stroll on the beach, heading home from the bar? “Heck yeah I’ll come!”

-The men are very attractive in this country. Yep.

-The people are extremely laid back and friendly.

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Dominical Days

Please note that Kelly is the author of this post, even though it is posted under Kim’s name.  Internet access DRAMA!

Oh Dominical.  What a great little beach town!  We said goodbye to our  friends at Vista Serena to head south to Dominical.   After a pretty painless hour and a half bus ride, we reached the Antorchas hostel, our home for the next 5 days where we waited for Yesenia and Andres.   She is friends with the owners and helped us get a hell of a deal…our room was $8/pp/night with a private bath.   Other than the thick stench of mold in the room, it was a pretty good set up since we only showered and slept in there so the smell wasn’t too big of a deal.  Plus, the beach was literally 75 yards from our door.   Awesome.

Outside of Antorchas

Outside of Antorchas

Playa Dominical is 25 km of open, amazing beach that is ideal for experienced surfers.   The water is crystal blue and the waves are huge!   It’s absolutely beautiful.   I’d also like to mention that we are so happy to be traveling in the low season.   There are so few people around, it’s really nice. The town itself is two streets; one lining the beach with a few sodas, bars and restaurants  and supermarkets on the other.   There are no more than 200 or so people living here.  Yeah…

The streets of Dominical...sorry, this one got cut off.

The streets of Dominical...sorry, this one got cut off.

Dominical beach around sunset

Dominical beach around sunset

Kim on the beach

Kim on the beach

We ended up running into a couple from Spain (Viva Espana!), Alan and Silvia, that we had met in Monteverde.  They stayed at Antorches too and we all spent the evening hanging out at the hostel in the great little seating area equipped with hammocks, TV, tables and chairs.  Christian, the crazy DJ/artist from Ibiza joined us as well.

The next morning, Kim and I went for a long walk on the beach.   The beach is so incredible in the morning.   Wow.   We then spent the day with Yesenia and Andres in Uvita, another beach town, even tinier than Dominical and about 15 minutes south.   We went to the marine park, Marina Ballenas, and enjoyed the empty beach.   Literally, other than one other family, we were the only ones on there.

On the beach in Marina Ballenas

On the beach in Marina Ballenas

Kelly and Yesenia

Kelly and Yesenia

I watched our things while Yesenia took Kim down a spot where two beaches collide and the waves break up against each other.  From a plane view, it looks just like a whale’s tail.   When the tide is low, you can walk down the length of the tail.   So cool!  We then went back to the hostel that night for some dinner and wine.

The next day, we all went back to the marine park for a whale watching tour for around $20, which included an hour or so of snorkeling, and another 2 hours of riding around and looking at whales, huge sea turtles and all the deserted beaches with rocks and caves.  They also gave us yummy pineapple, watermelon, and fresh coconut!   It was a fantastic day.

Us and Andres enjoying our fresh coconut on the boat

Us and Andres enjoying our fresh coconut on the boat

Sea Turtles!!

Sea Turtles!!

The following day, it poured rain and we just hung around at the hostel.  I spent some time with my new friend, Roberto, a local Tico that works as a tour guide in Corcovado National Park on the southern coast.   He knew so much about wildlife, surfing and everything Costa Rican.   Good times.

Roberto!

Roberto!

The day after was perfect for heading out to see a waterfall that everyone kept telling us about.  What an adventure…heh.   Again, the directions to anywhere in Costa Rica are crazy.   So after passing the waterfall by about 2 miles on a tiny gravel road uphill, Alan and Silvia got their rental car stuck in a small ditch!   Luckily we were near a house where a guy from New York was staying with his nice big Four Runner.   He had got stuck the day before and was more than happy to help us out.

Stuck Car

Stuck Car

After a few tries of some necessary pulling and pushing on our part, the car was out with no damage.   He then took us back to the house for some water, a great view of the ocean and then proceeded to take us down to the where the waterfall was.   All in all, it was worth the trouble.   The waterfall was beautiful.   After some climbing and swimming and my failed attempt at the rope swing, we headed back home for lunch and a relaxing evening.

Our reward after the car fiasco

Our reward after the car fiasco

At the waterfall

At the waterfall

Kim busted it on the rocks a couple of times, but finally got there...

Kim busted it on the rocks a couple of times, but finally got there...

Kim and I both really loved Dominical.   The morning walks, the numerous trips to the beach to watch the surfers, the sunset and the waves…it was perfect.  After some yoga on the beach for me and a quick dip for Kim, we decided to go ahead and make our way back to San Jose.   We could have spent a few more days there, but our Spanish friends had to leave.   They offered us a ride in their car (Woohoo! No bus ride!) back up to Manuel Antonio to crash at Vista Serena for a couple more days before we headed back to Yesenia’s.   We got to see a few of our friends from the previous week and also met an Australian couple who were 6 months into their around the world trip.   We’ll be hanging with them in our  upgraded private room. So nice!   Alex was going to have to split us up to make room for others, but instead he set us up for the same price in a two room “suite” with living room, TV, kitchen and private balcony with the Aussies.  Can we say good karma?

Sunset in Dominical

Sunset in Dominical

We fly out of San Jose on Thursday, the 15th to our next stop, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA! Stay tuned for a Costa Rica wrap up! PURA VIDA!

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