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Wanderlust Living!

A travel blog for those who love to travel the world and want to bring it home and into their everyday lives. I'm just a girl trying to have a cup of coffee all around the world. Our family just moved to the bustling city of Barcelona, Spain after living at the beach in Costa Rica for three years. Try to keep up!


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Posts by Category: Adventure

Adventure April 10, 2017 posted by

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!

This past winter while we were in the French Pyrenees for ski week I was offered a chance to participate in something called winter canyoning.  Without knowing exactly what winter canyoning meant, I jumped at the chance to experience another wild and crazy adventure!  This would be the perfect opportunity to use my new Tech 21 Evo Aqua waterproof iphone case, because if you don’t have photos –  then it never happened, right!?’

What is winter canyoning?

According to our hosts at Adventure Creators, winter canyoning is much more than the physical activity you’d think it might be. Here’s their description of the adventure that awaited us.

“The biggest challenge in winter canyoning is psychological. It is after all counter-intuitive to immerse yourself in freezing cold pools of mountain water and to ‘go swimming’ when there are icicles hanging off the rocks! The rivers also run fast in winter so security is taken seriously by your fully qualified and experienced guides. This is not an activity to be taken lightly. Your first plunge into the icy water will take your breath away, but you’ll soon find yourself jumping from icy ledges into deep rock pools, abseiling down icicle-edged waterfalls and sliding down natural toboggans into the chilly waters below. This is an exhilarating and intoxicating activity like no other.”

That description either excites you or frightens the hell out of you. I was excited. My husband not so much. So I went on this activity solo.


Suiting up for Winter Canyoning

The week we were visiting the Pyrenees, they were having a bit of a heat wave, so my winter canyoning experience turned out to be more like Spring canyoning! This was nice, because even I was a little nervous about “plunging into freezing water.” While wild activities are definitely my thing, I’m not a fan of being cold.

My guide and I hiked had about a 15 minute hike to the rivers edge with all of our gear, then once we arrived we then started suiting up! I was literally dressed in a wet suit onesie, my entire body was covered including my head, only my face was seen! I was given rubber boots, gloves for my hands a helmet and of course a safety harness. I also had a backpack for ropes, some other gear and a place to put any of my personal items. 

The top pocket of the backpack is where I put my iphone that was safely secure in the Tech 21 waterproof case. I was excited to get some photos and maybe even take some video without worrying about ruining my phone, because when we came to the first waterfall I knew everything was about to get wet! 


My guide went over all the gear and how to handle the ropes and made me feel very safe. This was not my first time waterfall rappelling so I knew a bit about how to make my descent and I think he was happy that I was not new at doing these types of activities. Before I headed down the waterfall, these were the last few words we said to each other….

Me: So am I connected to you the whole time!?

Patrice: No

Me: Am I connected to anything?

Patrice: No

Me: Okay, this should be fine.

We rappelled down three waterfalls and my guide was very patient with me stopping to take photos along the way. We were in a narrow canyon with huge rocks all around us, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the river was rushing at a nice comfortable speed. The biggest challenge was not the waterfall rappelling but actually climbing over some of the big boulders in the water. Many of them were slippery so watching your footing was important. 

When we got to the point where the canyon opened up a bit we took our first plunge into the water and let our bodies just float down stream. I giggled like a kid and tried to just lay back and relax. The backpack was actually great for balancing on, as I tilted my shoulders and head back it was like a pillow.

Meanwhile, my iphone was in that front pocket and fully submerged in water! We stopped a few times along our journey so I could take photos and even shoot some video. The Tech 21 Aqua waterproof case is a great case to have for any adventures where you are in or near water. I would suggest testing the case at home as the directions say. We had a small hiccup installing the case properly so we were glad we worked that out before I went out into the wild to use it. The photos and video using this waterproof case turned out great!

I could feel the water against my wet suit, but I wasn’t cold. The water was refreshing, and it felt so amazing to just be floating on my back, looking up at the blue sky, drifting along so freely.  We had to swim to the side from time to time, and climb over more rocks as we floated along. In one section, we literally body surfed down a mini waterfall that had our bodies bumping into rocks a bit. I giggled again because it felt as if we were like human bumper boats! Then the river opened up again into a calm flow, and so we floated freely again.

Once we reached a pretty shallow part of the river, Patrice turned to me and said “we get out here”. I was a little disappointed because I just didn’t want it to end!

I sat in the river for a few more minutes to really pause and take a mental picture. I looked back at where we had just come from, I looked around at all the natural beauty one last time, took a deep breathe and got to my feet as I exhaled. We made our way up the hillside and back to the truck where we took all our gear off and shockingly I was completely dry! 

Check out my video of Winter Canyoning in the French Pyrenees!

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Disclosure: This is a post in partnership with Tech 21 and I worked with the Adventure Creators for my winter canyoning in the Pyrenees. My epic experience is all my own and I share this with you to help you get out and have your own epic experiences!

Winter Canyoning with the Tech 21 waterproof iphone case!
Adventure February 10, 2017 posted by

Nomad Together: A podcast for digital nomad families

Digital Nomad Families

So you want to be a digital nomad, but you have a family? Well good news, you can be a digital nomad family!

Digital nomads are not just twenty-something year old guys roaming the world with nothing but their laptop and flip flops. Yeah, we’ve all seen those shirtless dudes posting photos working poolside in Bali. But, guess what… there are hundreds of families circling the globe with their brood, so don’t think that just because you have kids you can’t travel the world, live abroad or have a location independent lifestyle. 

Paul and Becky Kortman host the Nomad Together Podcast that interviews digital nomad families and gives you the inside scoop to what it takes to become a digital nomad family and how many are achieving this nomadic lifestyle. Harris was recently interviewed on the Nomad Together Podcast and talks about how we choose to be nomadic a little differently. (I was not able to be on the interview unfortunately) Three is definitely not a one size fits all for being a nomadic family, and everyone does it their own way and on their own terms. Paul and Harris talk about how we are able to live abroad and work from anywhere (aka, money $$ what we do to sustain this lifestyle), putting our kids in international schools, learning another language, applying for Visas, health and medical insurance and a whole bunch more! 

Nomad Together Podcast

Episode #46: Long-Term Nomadic Life with Harris Fellman of WanderlustLiving.com


Some of our friends are waiting for Harris and I to write a book, and I’m not saying that’ll never happen – but until it does, Paul and Becky Kortman have a book, the Family Freedom Guidebook and a ton of resources on becoming a digital nomad family! They also have a great Facebook group for digital nomad families, so if you are thinking of jumping on the digital nomad bus, it’s a great place to start!

 

Nomad Together: A podcast for digital nomad families
Adventure January 12, 2017 posted by

Climbing the Roman walls of Girona

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Barcelona Day Trip to Girona

Girona is a very popular day trip from Barcelona and is just about an hour train ride to the north. The first country house we rented was about 30 minutes from Girona so it was easy for us to go and spend the afternoon exploring this historic city that dates back to the first century, BC. A few of the top highlights for visiting Girona is the Cathedral of Girona, the Forca Vella (old roman fortress), the Jewish Quarter and walking along the Roman walls that once protected the city.

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Barcelona to Girona

Girona is a small very small city that is easily walkable, you do not need a car. Barcelona to Girona by train takes about 45 minutes and only costs 12 Euros. However, if you do happen to have a rental car you can easily park it at the train station for the day and walk o the city center, which is what we did. The walk from the Girona train station to the historic city center is a 10 minute walk. We explored the old city, the Forca Vella and walked along the Roman walls and then walked back to the train station with only a moderate level of complaining from the kids. 

Our main goal was to see the Cathedral and walk the Roman walls, so we did not spend a lot of time investigating the restaurants, shops or the Jewish Quarter. I hope to go back another time without the kids so I can take my time stopping in some of the shops and exploring the Jewish Quarter a bit more.

Eiffel Bridge Girona Spain

Eiffel Bridge

When walking to the city center from the train station you will follow signs and eventually come to Rambla Llibert which is a pedestrian only street with shops and restaurants. This runs parallel to the Onyar river and there are a few bridges, one of those bridges is the famous red bridge in Girona named Eiffel Bridge. It was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1877 before the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

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Cathedral of Girona

The Cathedral in Girona is officially named The Cathedral of Saint Mary of Girona, but to keep things simple everyone just says The Cathedral de Girona. It is not hard to find once in the city center, and there are signs to point you in the right direction. We simply found our way to the side of the Cathedral and then followed a large staircase and pack of people around to the front.

Fun Fact: The Cathedral of Girona was the location for a major scene in Game of Thrones, which was incentive enough to get my husband excited to see a Cathedral.

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I’m always been most impressed with the doors on cathedrals.

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Roman Walls of Girona

From the Cathedral we just kept wandering around and found ourselves among the Roman walls just naturally and when we saw a staircase we took it up. As we navigated our way along the walls, and climbed more stairs, we started to see some pretty incredible views of the valley. We just kept along the path and continued exploring until we reached a beautiful courtyard, where we did a little resting in the shade. Across the courtyard there was a large bell tower to climb that gave more stunning views and an impressive vantage point of just how far the Roman walls went!

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As you can see, we made the kids do a lot of walking that day, but they survived.
(It really wasn’t that bad, my kids like just like to be dramatic). 


There is a small trolley that you can ride around to see the city, so if you are with anyone that has any health conditions or are traveling with have very small children, and hey – there’s no shame in hoping on just for fun! 

If you are in Barcelona and looking to get outside the city to see a bit more of Catalunya I would highly recommend this day trip. You can easily take the train up int he morning and spend a day wandering the old city, have lunch, enjoy some gelato and be back in Barcelona for a late Spanish dinner! The city of Girona website has a lot of great information about the history of Girona and other interesting things to do and see when you visit, be sure to check it out before you go.


Climbing the Roman walls of Girona
Adventure November 3, 2016 posted by

Renting a Country House in Spain

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Renting a Country House in Spain

Let me just start by saying that this will be the first of many posts about renting a country house in Spain, because I plan on staying in as many as I possibly can. I am obsessed with them. I want one.

There are hundreds of these country houses for rent all over Costa Brava, the northeastern region of Spain, in Catalunya. Costa Brava is the gorgeous coastline just to the north of Barcelona that has one postcard perfect beach town after another. However, going a little further inland you’ll find the quiet rural countryside with quaint little villages that eventually lead you to the Pyrenes mountains. So clearly, an amazing part of Spain.

Renting a country house in Costa Brava was not on the major to-do-list when we first moved to Barcelona, but some friends of ours were in Barcelona for a few weeks and they actually gave us the idea. They wanted to get out of the city and see a little bit of the countryside, so they booked a room at Pasteral Hotel Rural, a charming little hotel that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere – but we were up for the adventure! They had actually booked the last room, so while searching for a place to stay near our friends we happened upon this old country house for rent, we booked it and away we went!

Getting from Barcelona to Costa Brava

This particular country house we rented was in the town of Pasteral which is about 30 minutes outside of Girona. It is an area more well known as La Cellar de Ter, a very rural area known for miles of biking trails. These biking trails are called Vias Verdes (which means “green-ways”) and are old railways that have been covered and have been turned into beautiful biking paths throughout the countryside. This area is also popular for fishing because of the Ter River. The river actually sits right behind this house and we went for a few walks by the river and each time we spotted men fly fishing.

One of the most popular destinations in Costa Brava is the city of Girona and it is very easy to get here from Barcelona by train, it only takes about an hour. You can either rent a car in Barcelona and drive yourself to your country house or you can take the train and rent a car right at the Girona train station. Car rentals are cheaper in Girona then in Barcelona, so to save some money you may want to go this route. We needed a car to get out to the country house, to explore the area and to get to the stores to do some food shopping, but if you are staying in Girona you may not need a car.

*There are other trains that hit the coastal towns of Costa Brava, however I have not taken them yet.

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Can More Pasteral Country House

When we arrived to the Can More Country House, the owner and his daughter (who spoke english) were there to greet us and show us the property. The owner only spoke Spanish, and while we understand a lot of Spanish, it was nice that he had his daughter there to help translate anything we did not quite understand or if we had any specific questions. As he showed us around he kept looking at us for some sort of sign or nod of approval, I think he genuinely wanted us to be very happy with the house, I could sense the pride he had for it. He was so sweet and kind.

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The Can More Pasteral Country House was built in 1496 and used to be an old barley mill. The owner made sure to reference that this was about the same time as Christopher Columbus had discovered the Americas. Which was an important time since he was introducing many of these European crops of wheat, rice, barely, and oats to the new Americas.  I just wished I spoke better Spanish to have been able to ask him even more questions about the history of this house.

There is a small farm on the property with chickens, goats and a few large white ostrich like animals, called rhea’s. The kids naturally wandered over to the animals right away and the owner went and got some bread to let the kids feed the goats. Later that afternoon the owner brought us over a dozen farm fresh eggs, I’m assuming they were probably just hatched from his chickens that morning!

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This is a rhea, a flightless bird related to the ostrich and emu. There were several of these walking around and while they don’t look all that friendly, he stood near one of them and told the kids that is was safe to pet them. But i still kept my distance. The wings on these things were gigantic!

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This house has four bedrooms, three of the bedrooms were upstairs and one bedroom was downstairs. The beautiful stone walls made it feel a bit like sleeping in a cave. There was a window in each room, but the windows were small  so the rooms were a bit dark. There were also two bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs. The house was very clean and very well kept.

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I assumed that this was a place where maybe there was water and the men tied up their horses and hung up their hats! But I really have no idea and that is probably not what they did. This was inside the house, so clearly not a place horses came, but perhaps it used to be outside…? It obviously has something to do with the barley being processed here, but I am still wondering what this was used for.

If you know what this is or what it was used for – please share in the comments below!

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The kitchen had everything we needed and  I loved digging through all the old plates and bowls, there was such an eclectic mix of floral patterns and colors. I love old ceramic dishes, coffee mugs, silverware and glass bowls. There is just something about these things that make me very happy, they’re like little vintage treasures. I wonder how long some of these things have been with the house!?

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There is a BBQ grill and we made dinner with our friends both nights. We also just enjoyed sitting around having delicious snacks, enjoying wine and watching the kids run around and play. On the last nigh they even put on an entire show for us.

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This was the view from the the side patio where I enjoyed a glass of wine as the day just started to get that warm dusk glow. Perfection.

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Walking around the neighborhood we saw a few other country houses too! (However, I am not sure these are is for rent)

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Waterfall in Costa Brava

A waterfall in Costa Brava, Spain??  This isn’t Costa Rica!

The only reason we discovered this waterfall is because the friends we were with (who we met while living in Costa Rica) saw some people in swimsuits, carrying a bunch of bright floatation devices down a random dirt path – so they assumed there must have been a place on the river for swimming. So being the curious types, the next morning we put on our swimsuits and went to see what those people were walking to, and sure enough it lead us to a waterfall.

The only way I could describe how to get there was take the main road up the mountain and when you see a huge manufacturing like building, park and go behind it and follow the path. (I know – crazy!) It was not marked at all, so clearly this is a “only the locals know” type of spot. A lesson in keeping your eyes open and be sure to observe what the locals are doing or where they’re going!

(I have tried to research this waterfall on the internets, but I kept coming up short, sorry!)

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I had posted on Facebook joking that we bought this country house and people took me very seriously, because clearly it is totally something we would do.

So I shot this video explaining that we did NOT buy it and gave a small tour. Enjoy!

Since staying at our first country house, I have been planning my escapes to stay in more of them!

There are larger country houses to rent if you are traveling as a group, some have been renovated and more modernly updated, some are more luxurious and have pools!  I’ll gladly stay in some of those fancy ones too, but at some point they are no longer a quaint little country house but large estates or Spanish villas. Nothing wrong with that – but with all those modern updates I can’t help to think that it might take away some of the charm, simplicity and authenticity of a true country house stay. But hey, I’m willing to do the research to find out!

I am looking forward to staying in a variety of country houses, but I know that this first one will always have a special place in my heart!

You can find some country houses for rent on most booking sites like HomeAway, VRBO, Bookings, and even AirBnB. Just search Costa Brava or Girona. There is also Catalunya Casas / Charming Villas  / Holiday Houses Costa Brava.

Renting a Country House in Spain
Adventure October 11, 2016 posted by

Epic Family Ski Vacation, Whistler Blackcomb

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Whistler Blackcomb was just named the #1 Ski Resort in North America (again) by Ski Magazine, and I can attest to this award because it’s definitely an epic destination for a family ski or snowboard vacation! Last winter we chose to go to Whistler Blackcomb for our family ski vacation because we had not been to Whistler for 10 years! The last time we were in Whistler we only had McKenna and she was just one years old and well, let’s just say, Hudson was a souvenir from that trip;) So Whistler has a very special place in our hearts.

Getting to Whistler Blackcomb

From Costa Rica we flew to Los Angeles and stayed for a few days to see some friends then flew direct from Los Angeles to Vancouver. We rented a SUV and drove from Vancouver to Whistler Blackcomb. This drive will take you about an hour and a half, depending on traffic and any road delays. I would allow 2 hours in your trip planning. This drive is very scenic as you make your way up the BC-99 “Sea to Sky” highway passing the Vancouver Islands, so make sure you are looking out the window!

There is a Vancouver to Whistler shuttle service if you do not want to rent a car. There is also a round trip bus service for only $35 through EpicRides.com.

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Where to Stay

10 years ago we stayed at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, it was fabulous from what I can remember and I am sure it is still fabulous. However, this time we chose to stay at The Coast Blackcomb Suites at Whistler, which is an all suite ski-in/ski-out vacation rental property in the upper village. We rented a two bedroom suite, one bedroom had a king bed for us and another bedroom two twin beds for the kids. Our kids are getting old enough that renting a condo is nice so everyone can have their own space.

Our suite included a full kitchen, another added bonus when traveling with kids and you’re staying for more then just a couple nights. Breakfast was included in our stay and every afternoon there was hot chocolate, marshmallows and cookies put out for the kids (and adults). We LOVED staying here for the ski-in/ski-out access. We were literally only a short walk to being on the mountain, strapping on our boards and flying down to the base of Blackcomb, and coming in at the end of a long day was so easy!

Another highlight of this property was the pool and jacuzzis. We took advantage of these almost every afternoon and the kids really looked forward to running down in their robes and jumping in the cold pool and then soaking in the jacuzzi. We were so close to the slopes that you could see the chair lift right from the jacuzzi. I highly recommend this property if you are traveling with or without kids.

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Ski Rentals & Ski School

Another big bonus to staying at the Coast Blackcomb Suites was that the ski & snowboard rental shop was right downstairs. Our entire family got fitted for our boots and boards, and when they didn’t have the right size board for Hudson, they had delivered it from the other rental shop in the main village. I also loved being able to store our boards in the shop over night.

Family Travel Note: We were in the upper village and while they do have ski school in the upper village, they do not specifically have snowboarding school for kids there. Kids that are snowboarding do have to meet at the main village for ski school. So we did have to take them over to the main village the two days they went to ski school.

Getting to the main village from the Coast Blackcomb Suites is very easy and convenient. Right outside is a bus stop that picks up about every 8 minutes, it makes a few stops along the way but will drop you right at the main village and the base of Whistler mountain.

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Moms Who Snowboard {aka Snow Hoes}

My very good friend, fellow travel writer and snowboarder Claudia Laroye from The Travelling Mom, is Canadian and lives in Vancouver. She drove up with her two teenage sons for the day to snowboard with me and this was definitely a special treat for me!  Forget the family, Claudia and I set off on our own for a girls snowboard day and boarded all day together, and by all day I mean ALL DAY. My legs were on fire by the end of the day, but nothing a Caeser (the Canadian version of a Bloody Mary) at Garibaldi Lift Company couldn’t fix 🙂

We started out at the base of Whistler mountain, I had not taken the Peak 2 Peak Gondola yet so we grabbed it and headed over to Blackcomb later in the day. We grabbed a yummy chili bread bowl and a beer for lunch – because that’s what snow hoes eat for lunch. When we got outside after our lunch break it had really started to snow and it was the most beautiful winter wonderland.

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The Peak 2 Peak Gondola is the longest and highest in the world. It is an incredible ride between Whistler and Blackcomb mountains giving skiers/snowboarders and sightseers some pretty epic views. The gondola ride is 2.7 miles and takes about 10 minutes ride. You do not have to be a skier or snowboarder to go on the gondola, but you will need to buy tickets if you do not have a lift pass.

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Where to Eat

Probably one of the most important things besides actually skiing or snowboarding is eating! I am always looking for healthy options while on vacation, but I have no problem indulging either. We really didn’t get into any fine dining on this trip, we went for family friendly and convenient and we stayed in, made a light dinner and curled up by the fire a few nights.

On the Slopes, in the upper village at the base of Blackcomb is Merlin’s Bar & Grill and is right near ski school and the learning area, which makes it very convenient for families to grab a bite to eat. We ate here more than once, because of some of the healthy options (fish tacos & hummus with veggies) and the food was good.

In the main village we went to Village Sushi, Gone Eatery and a classic favorite The Old Spaghetti Factory, for some good old fashioned spaghetti! Carb load people. And of course pizza! My husband went and picked up Creekbread to bring back to the room for dinner one night and it was fanstastic! I believe they also deliver but check the website for details. And you can’t walk through the village without stopping at the local favorite, Pure Bread. Get your coffee fix and all things bread, pastries, cakes and more!

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The Olympic Village

When you need a day off from the slopes head to the Olympic Village. As you walk along the main street in the village there are huge snowbanks that the kids love to climb and slide down, this alone will keep them entertained and if your husband watches them you can do some shopping.  The Olympic Village also has an ice skating rink and a nice park for kids to run around, climb, swing, and slide.

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Last year at the Whistler Convention Center they had an indoor play area with lots of activities, jump houses, games and even cookie decorating for the kids. Be sure to inquire about this any other special kid- friendly programs or activities happening when you visit!

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Ziplining with Ziptrek

You can take the girl out of Costa Rica but you can’t take the Costa Rica out of the girl…

Since I was coming from Costa Rica, I thought it only appropriate to zip line in the snow! My kids are not wild about zip lining so my husband stayed back with them and they let me go at this one solo. However, I think this would be an epic activity for families to do together!  ZipTrek offers zip lining tours year round, but doing it in a winter wonderland was really unique. Not only do you fly through a valley of snow covered trees and over a gorgeous rushing river, but you’ll also walk across a few hanging bridges too. Definitely a fun way to see Whistler from another vantage point.

*Children must be 6 years old or 65 lbs to go alone, but kids under 65 lbs have the option of going tandem with a guide. Check the website for more age specifications and requirements.

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Even though I had not been to Whistler in 10 years, it all came back to me and it was very easy to navigate. I can see why Whistler Blackcomb has been voted #1 in North America for 3 years in a row. I really like having the option to ski both mountains and it’s so easy to get form one to the other. I also find the blue trails are perfect for my skill set and there are plenty of trails to have fun on as a family too.

The only thing I regret is not getting to the spa, how did I let that happen? Ah well…I guess that just means I have to go back.

Disclosure: This was not a media stay we booked our accommodations on our own.
We were given media lift tickets, two days of ski school for my kids and my Ziptrek experience was comped.

Epic Family Ski Vacation, Whistler Blackcomb
Adventure April 13, 2016 posted by

Hiking in Los Angeles: Griffith Park

Griffith Park Hiking Trails Los Angeles Family Travel WLL

The Las Catalinas hiking trails in Costa Rica are to blame for my new found hiking obsession, but I realized that I just might be a hiker when on two of my recent trips back to Los Angeles my favorite thing I did was go hiking. Most people do not think of LA and say “Oh – hiking!”  but they should, because hiking in Los Angeles is a great way to escape all that traffic! And if you are traveling with kids it’s a great place to let them run wild.

Griffith Park Hiking Trails

Griffith Park is LA’s version of Central Park, with over 53 miles of trails set on 4300 acres it is the largest urban park in North America! {thank you wikipedia} For Angelenos that do not live on the west side near the ocean Griffith Park is their beautiful oasis to escape the city. Griffith Park is not the only place to go hiking in LA either, there are plenty of great hikes all around Los Angeles – Discover Los Angeles has a helpful list of some of the best places to hike in Los Angeles. However, the Griffith Park hiking trails are some of the most popular because they give you some of the best views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign.

If you are staying in the Hollywood, Loz Feliz or Silverlake area the easiest entrance is on Fern Dell Drive, right off of Loz Feliz Blvd or you can take Western Ave or Vermont Ave straight up and you run right into it. There is free parking all along the street but it’s best to get there earlier in the day to grab a parking spot as it can get packed the later you go.

Hiking Path at Griffith Park Los Angeles

Los Angeles Wanderlust Living
Griffith Park Observatory Hiking Trails Los Angeles Wanderlust Living
Of course you can also visit The Griffith Park Observatory, it’s open until 10:00pm everyday except Mondays and has a variety of free events happening each week. You can even go horseback riding at Griffith Park and there’s even pony rides for kids. There’s even an old fashioned merry-go-round on the other side near the LA Zoo entrance. So, I guess what I am trying to say is – there is a lot to do at Griffith Park, so make sure to put it on your list when visiting Los Angeles!

Hiking in Los Angeles Wanderlust LivingGeocaching in Los Angeles Giffith Park Wanderlust Living

My friend Kim hiked with me one one of my trips back to LA and she likes to Geocaching in Los Angeles, so she was on the hunt for a new geocache treasure – and of course she found one! I like hiking solo but I also like hiking with friends, I mean I love meeting up for coffee or a cocktail but catching up while moving and getting some fresh air so much better!

Hiking in Los Angeles Griffith Park Trails View from Above WLL
HIking in Los Angeles Griffith Park Observatory Wanderlust Living

This particular morning back in December was chilly and the sky was sort of spooky, but I loved it.

I don’t think that we need a scientist to tell us that unplugging and getting outside is good for us, but in case you have some doubts, I found this article Ah, wilderness! Nature hike could unlock your imagination. I know for me that getting outside helps me clear my head, brainstorm ideas, work out stress and life’s frustrations. Not to mention, hiking just makes me feel healthier and happier. So regardless of what any study says, you should always do things that make you healthier and recognize the things that make you happy – and do more of them.

Here are some Los Angeles Hiking Resources for you, happy hiking!

Modern Hiker: LA Hiking Trails

Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

I found these bad ass chicks over on Instagram –  Girls who Hike LA on Instagram

So I think it’s official, I’ve become a hiker and I’ve got a new Camelbak to prove it. {Ha!} No really, I just bought this waist Camelbak at REI and I love it.

To follow my hiking and other travel adventures – andreafellman on Instagram.

Do you hike? Do you hike in Los Angeles and have any tips to share or hikes to recommend?

Hiking in Los Angeles: Griffith Park
Adventure January 2, 2016 posted by

Obsessed: The Las Catalinas Hiking Trails


Costa Rica Las Catalinas Hiking and Trail Running
Las Catalinas. I’m obsessed.

There is something magical and slightly addicting about the Las Catalinas hiking trails. Some mornings I wake up and I swear I can hear them whispering my name. If I go too many days without getting on the trails, I feel empty. Going to Las Catalinas to hike is my therapy, my church, my place to hide. I’m not a very emotional person, but I’ve shed a lot of tears on those trails. Some of those tears are filled with anger and sadness but many are filled with gratitude and happiness too. I have always needed a place like this in my life, and I’ve always found one no matter where we live, but this has to be the prettiest one yet!

Of all the places in Costa Rica, I no doubt have the most photos of the views from the Las Catalinas trails. It’s a locals favorite and a true gem. I’d say it was a hidden gem, but the word is out on this spectacular place. Construction is happening every day as they build and expand in this area. The hiking and biking trails will remain of course, but Las Catalinas will not look the same two years from now, and it makes me and others that live here little sad.

Las Catalinas Hiking Costa Rica Wanderlust Living Andrea Fellman

On some of my hikes I think about the people I’d love to share the trail with. I wish everyone I cared about could hike the trail at least once. To see what I see – but to see it for themselves. Although, as much as I want to share this place, there is a part of me that is extremely selfish and I’d really rather just have it all to myself.

I tell everyone that is visiting this area of Costa Rica that getting to Las Catalinas is a must, even if it’s just a day trip. I guess I’m not really helping keep it a secret.

Hiking the Las Catalinas trails is not only a good mental work out but an extremely good physical work out, specially if you run some of it! You should be in good health to hike up here, it can get very hot and there are some very steep sections of the trail, not to mention it can be very rocky and uneven in some parts. It is best to head out early before the sun really starts to beat down on the trail. I always take a water bottle, my ipod and my phone, (in case of an emergency) and for photos of course. I share a lot of my photos on Instagram to give people window into what I see.

Hiking in Costa ica Las Catalinas Playa Danta Trails

Hiking the Las Catalinas trails feels very similar to life.

There are exposed parts of the trail that are filled with so much sun and then there are darker parts of the trail that become very narrow and close in on you. Just when you think you have it all under control you’re confronted with a steep hill or a rocky path. You have to know when to slow down and take it easy, but also recognize when you need to challenge yourself, when you should pick up the pace and move a little faster. There are a few small bridges that will help you get over some rough terrain, much like a friend extending a helping hand.

In the beginning, I was so focused on getting out to the look out point that I rushed past and missed so much of the trail. Now, I’ve learned to pay attention and appreciate every single pieces of the trail. Every twig, branch, pebble, rock, and scurrying little creature. It’s all so beautiful.

Las Catalinas Guanacaste Costa Rica Hiking Trails Epic Views Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking Trails Costa RIca Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking the trails Wanderlust Living

Costa Rica hiking trails Las Catalinas

Las Catalinas Costa Rica Trails Playa Danta Wanderlust Living

Las Catalinas Costa Rica HIking Trails View
Las Catalinas HIking Trails Dry Season
The trail has two very distinct seasons, green and dry. For most of the year it is green and lush, during the rainiest months (September and October) the trail can get a bit muddy and buggy. During the dry season everything turns brown and it’s extremely hot, dry and dusty. The dry season is not my favorite, I’d take bugs and a little mud over the dry heat any day. It is the driest in February, March and April. During the dry season, I highly recommend getting out there before 8am and never after 11am. 

Las Catalinas HIking Trails Views Costa Rica Wandrlust Living

Las Catalinas Hiking Wanderlust Living Costa Rica Playa Danta

Las Catalinas Playa Danta Beach Costa Rica
At the end of my hike I like to sit here and look out at the water –  sometimes I even jump in.

I hope everyone can find a place like this in their life.

Obsessed: The Las Catalinas Hiking Trails
Adventure November 10, 2015 posted by

Five Costa Rica favorites for #FindingCostaRica

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The Findery app is #FindingCostaRica for the next two weeks, and they asked me to create a 10 Days in Costa Rica travel itinerary!

Since I live in Costa Rica this should be a breeze right?

Ahhh… no, not really.

When I get asked about where to stay and what to do in Costa Rica, my response is always the same. What type of vacation or travel experience are you looking for?

People travel for different reasons, not to mention a wide range of budgets and ages of those traveling with them. Whether you’re up for an off-the-grid adventure or looking to simply rest and relax poolside, there is definitely something for everyone in Costa Rica.

I do have some absolute favorite places I always recommend to just about anyone visiting Costa Rica, so while I was creating this itinerary, I thought about what I would do if I left Costa Rica for a few years and was coming back to visit. What would I want to do and see again? That was how I came up with this 10 Days in Costa Rica travel itinerary.

Here are 5 of my Findery notemaps — for the full itinerary head on over to the Findery Blog!

Finding Costa Rica on Findery

Las Catalinas Guanacaste Costa Rica Hiking Trails Epic Views Wanderlust Living


1. Las Catalinas, Playa Danta

Las Catalinas is a locals’ favorite and absolutely high on my list of places to visit. I go hiking here at least two times a week, I’m a bit obsessed with the beauty of these trails. Las Catalinas is an up-and-coming housing project, community and resort town. There is no doubt Las Catalinas will look very different two years from now as more and more is being built, but for now it is our family’s favorite place to spend the day. Las Catalinas Point

Rio Celeste Waterfall Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
2. Rio Celeste Waterall

If your dream of traveling in Costa Rica includes treking through the sometimes muddy and wet damp rainforest in search of hidden treasure, then put hiking the Rio Celeste waterfall on your list. The hike to the waterfall is not difficult; it can get slick and you may get wet, but so worth it! If your kids don’t get dirty, then they didn’t have enough fun! Rio Celeste Waterfall Hike

La Carolina Lodge Costa Rica Wanderlust Living

 

3. La Carolina Lodge

I’ve gushed about La Carolina Lodge a few times now, but that’s because it was truly an unforgettable experience. Perhaps it was the people I was with combined with a time when I truly needed a weekend to unplug and get away from it all. Regardless of why I thought it was magical, La Carolina Lodge is off the grid, and I highly recommend it. If you do find yourself sitting in the naturally-heated hot tub next to the rushing river, I hope you find it just as magical! La Carolina Lodge

The Club at Mar Vista Guanacaste Costa Rica
4.  Mar Vista

Watching the sunset from any beach in Guanacaste is going to be pretty spectacular, but watching it from an infinity pool with a cocktail in hand might make the sunset even better! The Club at Mar Vista is open to the public, so anyone can go take advantage of this local hot spot. There is a full restaurant, bar and a mini zipline for the kids! The Club at Mar Vista

Tabacon Hot Springs Wanderlust Living Costa Rica

5. Tabacon Hot Springs

You cannot come to Costa Rica and not sit in the volcanic hot springs. There are several hot springs to choose from in the Lake Arenal area of Costa Rica. You will have a hard time deciding, but that’s why you’re here — to let me help you decide. I’ve been to a handful of them, and while you can never really go wrong with any hot springs, I still come back to the Tabacon Hot Springs as my absolute favorite. It’s award-winning and has been featured in Condé Nast for a reason. Tabacon Hot Springs

 

Tip for #FindingCostaRica: You can visit endless pools and beaches anywhere, but come to Costa Rica to explore and expect more!

Head on over to the Findery Blog for the full itinerary for 10 Days in Costa Rica, where I share more tips on getting the most out of your Costa Rica adventure!

And while you’re there — go sign up for Findery and start leaving your own notes!

Five Costa Rica favorites for #FindingCostaRica
Adventure November 5, 2015 posted by

Westin Playa Conchal: Best all-inclusive Costa Rica Resort

Westin Playa Conchal Pool Wanderllust Living Guanacaste Costa Rica
Best All-Inclusive Costa Rica

When planning your Costa Rica vacation, where you stay is probably the most important part of your trip. You can find everything from rustic lodges totally off the grid to luxury hotels and condos to all-inclusive resorts. Your choice really depends on the type of trip you want.

If you’re a family looking for an all-inclusive Costa Rica resort with luxury amenities and a little adventure on the side, I would suggest the Westin Playa Conchal. I have been to a few other all-inclusive resorts in Guanacaste and while I like each one for different amenities, I believe the Westin Playa Conchal is the best choice for its location, beach, food and service.

Westin Playa Conchal Guanacaste Costa Rica All Inclusive Resort

Location, Location, Location

The Westin Playa Conchal is an all-inclusive resort sitting right on Playa Conchal, one of the most beautiful beaches in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Only about an hour drive from the Liberia airport on a fully paved road, you can rent a car and feel safe getting there very easily — yes, I recommend you rent a car so you can explore the other areas nearby. If you don’t rent a car, don’t worry; the Westin has plenty of shuttles that will take you to some of these other nearby destinations as well.

The one thing I don’t like about all-inclusives is sometimes you feel a bit locked in, and it’s difficult to get out and explore the area around you. Other all-inclusives are literally tucked away from everything, and it takes too long or too much effort to get off the resort. The Westin Playa Conchal is not like that and happens to sit in the middle of so many other beautiful things to see and do.

The Westin is only about a 20-minute drive — or shuttle ride — to the popular surf town of Tamarindo, where you can take surf lessons, get out on a catamaran, shop and visit many local restaurants and bars. The Westin is also just about a 10-minute drive to Playa Flamingo, another favorite beach of ours.

If you’re looking for a bit more adventure, I highly recommend taking a drive out to Las Catalinas at Playa Danta. This is a great day trip from the Westin, where you can experience the hiking trails either by foot or by mountain bike.  You can rent mountain bikes, stand up paddle boards and kayaks from Pura Vida Ride. Las Catalinas has swings and some beach activities for the kids and the restaurant Limonada is a great place to grab a cold beer or a mojito and some fresh ceviche or fish tacos.

For one last stop, just a short five minute drive away from the Westin is The Club at Mar Vista, where you must go and watch the sunset while sitting in their infinity pool. It’s a local favorite and the shuttles at the Westin will drive and pick you up for a small charge.

Playa Conchal Costa Rica All Inclusive Best Beaches
Playa Conchal

If you’re looking for one of the best beaches in Costa Rica, Playa Conchal definitely tops the list. We’re lucky enough to live about 10 minutes from this gorgeous stretch of sand, and it’s one of our favorite beaches in Guanacaste. Playa Conchal translates to “shell beach” and has this name because a large portion of this beach isn’t sand, but broken up pieces of shells. On the north end of the beach, the broken shells are very large and it can even hurt a bit to walk on them, but as you walk south they get smaller and smaller, turning into very small specs of shells and eventually into white sand. Playa Conchal is also the whitest sand beach you’ll find in the area. On most beaches in Costa Rica, the sand is a bit more brown then people might expect.

Playa Conchal Costa Rica Beach kIds playing in the waves

All beaches in Costa Rica are public, so anyone can visit Playa Conchal, but it is a difficult beach to get to, and the Westin Playa Conchal is the only hotel with direct access to Playa Conchal. This helps keep the crowds down. However, during local holiday weekends the beaches here can get busy with Costa Rican families driving up to escape the city of San Jose. They provide beach chairs for all their guests and you can rent snorkel equipment, kayaks, mountain bikes and jet skis from the resort’s activity desk — located right next to the entrance to the beach.

HorsebackRidingConchalCostaRica

Just outside the Westin you’ll see some vendors selling clothing, jewelry and small gifts. You might even see men with horses; they’re available to take you horseback riding on Playa Conchal. They charge a very fair price but you can always try to get a little discount, too. You can set this up directly with the Westin’s activity desk if you want a specific day and time. One of my favorite things to do on the beach is take advantage of the $20 massage from the local ladies, they have tables set under the trees in the shade, and you can’t beat the price!

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Pool Guanacaste Wanderlust Living Travel

Westin Playa Conchal Lagoon Pool Wanderlust Living Costa Riica

The Pool

There is one large pool, and it’s actually shaped like a turtle if viewed from up in the sky. The shape of this pool means it’s a bit more lagoon style, with plenty of different areas and different depths. There’s a swim up bar under a big palapa and a volleyball net for guests who want a bit more activity in the pool. Young children can have floatations devices in the pool, and there is plenty of shade and umbrellas to get out of the sun.

Excellent Service

I stayed here for a long weekend while I hosted the ROAR Retreat, and the service was exceptional. The entire staff from the maid service, room service and restaurants to the general staff around the pool were all very friendly and courteous. The staff was always smiling and expressing that “pura vida” attitude and feeling. Everyone who attended the retreat told me the service was outstanding as well, so it wasn’t just me getting a little extra attention — everyone genuinely felt like the service was fabulous! You can certainly practice your Spanish with the staff, but if you don’t know any other word in Spanish than “Hola!” don’t worry — the staff knows english very well.

Westin Playa Conchal Typical Costa Rican Breakfast Wanderlust Living Guanacaste Costa Rica

Flavorful Food

The Westin has some of the best food I have had at an all-inclusive resort, ever. Living in Costa Rica, I know that the food here can be pretty bland and nothing that spectacular, so I was very impressed with the Westin’s variety of options and assortment, particularly at the Mitra International Buffet which serves their buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. We also had two incredible dinners at both the Catalina’s restaurant and the Faisanela Italian restaurant: delicious food and excellent service! They have a number of other restaurants on the property as well, but some are only open seasonly.

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Guanacaste Wanderlust Living

Modern Luxury Suites

The rooms here are not like other all-inclusive hotels you might find, which I really like. Instead of a huge building with hallways and elevators, every suite is located in a small building with only a total of four suites. They’re modern bungalows surrounded by lush greenery and beautiful landscaping. Every room also has a nice size balcony or porch for relaxing and you can have your double doors wide open for a nice breeze into your room — as long as it’s not too hot, of course. All of the rooms are suites that come with a sitting area, desk and kitchenette. The refrigerator is restocked every day with water and soda. Room service is also all- inclusive, and you can order anytime throughout the day.

Westin Playa Conchal Costa Rica Golf Course Guanacaste Wanderlust Living

The property is large and can get a bit confusing when walking around or trying to find your room, but they have golf carts driving around all day, so you can ask for directions or jump in and they will take you where you want to go. The Westin Playa Conchal also has an 18 hole Golf Course, Luxury Spa, Tennis Courts and a Kids Club.

Staying at an all-inclusive does not mean you are stuck on the property, but the Westin Play Conchal is not a bad property to be stuck on either! They are happy to help you with any excursions or tours and have shuttles onsite willing to take you anywhere in the area.

As I mentioned, I have been to a few other all-inclusive resorts in the area and while it’s always hard to choose a favorite because each has their own special amenities. I do think the Westin Playa Conchal is the choice if you want to stay in this area of Guanacaste and have an easy time getting out to explore a little bit more!

 

 

Disclosure: I stayed at the Westin Playa Conchal as a paying guest, but did work with their events team for a retreat I co-hosted and received a group rate. I also live in Costa Rica and have experienced the Westin beach Club amenities and have been to playa conchal many, many times and have always had a great time. I highly recommend this beach to anyone that comes to Guanacaste.

Westin Playa Conchal: Best all-inclusive Costa Rica Resort
Adventure November 3, 2015 posted by

Buena Vista Lodge: Water slide through the rainforest!

Buena Vista Lodge Waterslide Gigantic Tree
Buena Vista Lodge

One of my favorite things about living in Costa Rica is escaping to somewhere new for the weekend. Living at the beach is great, but planning some weekend getaways to explore more of Costa Rica helps shake up things a bit. A few expat friends told us about the Buena Vista Lodge, which is home to the longest waterslide in Costa Rica, stretching 420 meters (1/4 of a mile). Clearly we needed to experience this waterslide for ourselves.

The Buena Vista Lodge sits in the foothills of the Rincon de la Vieja National Park, which is only about an hour drive north of the Liberia airport. However, plan on another thirty minutes on a bumpy dirt road to actually get to the lodge. Most places in Costa Rica worth getting to usually have a piece of challenging road, so be patient and you’ll get through it.

The Buena Vista Lodge is a one-stop-shop kind of place; you can do several typical Costa Rican activities and check them all off your list. They offer hanging bridges, zip lining, horseback riding, hiking trails, hots springs and — of course — their famous jungle waterslide. If your time in Costa Rica is limited or you’re on a bit of a budget, this is the place for you.

Buena Vista Lodge Tractor

We dropped our stuff in our rooms right when we arrived and quickly changed into swimsuits to get to the hot springs before they closed for the day. You can take a 30-minute nature hike down to the hot springs, or you can jump on the gigantic green tractor and get a ride. I wish the hot springs would have been closer and more convenient to the rooms, but the kids really appreciated the tractor ride, and on the way you”ll be able to soak in some gorgeous mountain views.

Buena Vista Lodge Hot Springs Pool
Buena Vista Lodge Hot Spring Pool McKenna Brooke

Hot Springs and Mud Bath

There are five hot spring pools, a sauna and a volcanic mud bath. Mud baths in Costa Rica are not as luxurious or exotic as they might sound. It’s pretty much a large bowl of volcanic mud, and everyone just stands around slathering it all over their bodies — a pretty humorous scene. If you are not close with the people you are traveling with, it’s definitely a special bonding moment as you stand in the sun like statues letting the mud soak into your skin. Once the mud is dry there are showers to rinse, and a man will even spray the back of your legs with a hose for you. You feel a bit exposed and the water is cold so you’ll want to jump back into the hot springs as quickly as you can!

You can use to store some of your things in lockers, and towels are provided for you. There is also a small bar to purchase soda, beer and a limited selection of alcoholic beverages — mostly rum.

Buena Vista Lodge Bar Costa Rica

Buena Vista Lodge Cabin
Buena Vista Lodge Cabinas

The accommodations are very basic: two beds and a bathroom, but for $70 a night I wasn’t really expecting anything fancy. Our room didn’t even have shampoo in the shower, and the bath towels were more like hand towels. I think the keyword here might be “rustic.” There are other rooms and cabin options, but we reserved our rooms late and were traveling with two other families. We literally got the last three rooms available. I did see some other cabins near the lake on the property that looked a bit larger and might come with a few more amenities, but you’d have to inquire about those.

While the accommodations might have been a bit dull, we weren’t there for the rooms anyway. It was all about the jungle waterslide!

Mckenna Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Buena Vista Lodge Hudson

Buena Vista Lodge Jungle Water Slide Costa Rica 201560

Buena Vista Lodge Jungle Water Slide

You will begin your jungle water slide adventure down at the small pool where you will plunge into at the end of your ride. You’ll be given your helmet and tube there; everyone must wear these to go down the water slide. Women and girls need to wear a pair of shorts over their swimsuit bottoms. I suggest bringing a pair of athletic shorts with you or you’ll have to wear these funky leather chaps that they provide. You can put your belongings on a few benches around the small pool, but there are no lockers so do not bring any valuables with you. If you have towels bring those as well, as they do not provide them for you.

Buena Vista Lodge Waterslide Wanderlust Living

While you are meandering through the rainforest at a slight incline right next to the waterslide, you may think that it doesn’t look like much. Then you hear screaming in the distance before seeing someone zoom past you, with water rushing all around them! It’s faster than it looks.

When you reach the top, you stand and wait your turn on a platform. Once it is your turn, you will sit down on the slide and wait for the tank to fill up with water. There is a simple piece of wood holding the water back behind you. Then the man operating the slide pulls the rope to raise the wood door, causing a burst of water to push you forward and away you go!

Harris Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Andrea Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Lily Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Sue Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Ward Buena Vista Lodge waterslide

Brooke Buena Vista Lodge waterslide
Tavio Buena Vista Lodge waterslide
Ynette Buena Vista Costa Rica 2015
I have to say, this water slide was way more fun than I expected!  The water was a bit cold, but it was all a part of the experience, from walking along the dirt path, sitting at the top in anticipation for the burst of water to hit your back and push you down, to the cold water splashing up in your face as you twisted down this narrow green slide. A thrill of a good time!

Since I took all the pictures of everyone in our group coming down, I was able to witness the pure joy, excitement and fear on their faces – which was also very fun for me!  It did take some convincing for the smaller kids to go down, they were a bit scared once they saw that the rushing water is what pushes you in the beginning, but once they overcame their fear they couldn’t stop running up the trail to do it again and again.

Buena Vista Lodge Hanging Bridges Costa Rica 201508

Buena Vista Lodge Hanging Bridges ad More!

We did not do the zip lining course, but we did walk the hanging bridges. The hanging bridge course was the perfect length and height for all of the kids in our group — ages 7-12 — but younger kids can easily walk this course as well. The Buena Vista Lodge also has a large pool separate from the hot springs and water slide. You can enjoy horseback riding on their ranch, as well.

The main restaurant food is typical Costa Rican food, served cafeteria style. You’ll find fish, chicken, rice, beans, plantains, fruit and some side salads. If you’re looking for other options, there are two additional restaurants on the property where you can order from a menu with more options. We did eat at one of them, and found your typical American fair of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and french fries. The food was fine, but not extremely exciting.

Overall, we had a great time and the water slide was well worth the visit. We stayed for two nights, and I really don’t think you need to stay anymore than that. If you are really pressed for time, you could enjoy what the Lodge has to offer in one night. You can also visit the Buena Vista Lodge for the day through a tour company or if you are staying at another hotel in the area. They sell day passes and individual tickets for all of the activities, so you could just visit for the day and continue onto your next destination.

Disclosure: This was not a press trip and no discount was given to me for my stay. 

Buena Vista Lodge: Water slide through the rainforest!