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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: Family Travel

Andrea March 7, 2017 posted by

Twist Travel Magazine!

While I have been kicking back and “taking it easy” this last year…I found myself working on a few projects here and there, (I couldn’t help myself) I had to keep the creative juices flowing! Then something that has been in the back of my mind for a while resurfaced and I thought, well why the heck not – let’s see what happens!

As a mom who lives abroad, I eat, sleep and breathe travel, but I have been very hesitant to turn it into a job. I want to protect my travels, I am selfish with them. I do not want to ruin them by the added pressure of making money from them. It is why I have not turned Wanderlust Living into a content creating machine. However, travel is a part of me and I want to create another business that I love and am passionate about.

Twist Travel Magazine

So today I am launching a brand new digital magazine called Twist. This is a co-partnership with my very good friend Keryn Means from Walking On Travels. Twist is a collaborative family travel magazine that we curated with a team of family travel writers and lifestyle bloggers.

So here is the first pilot issue of Twist travel magazine.
I’m not going to even tell you what is in this beauty – you’ll have to click through and see for yourself!

Twist Tip: Click on the box in the lower right corner to go FULL screen – it’s better that way!

 


 

We will be publishing Twist quarterly. We are building out a website now and we have some pretty bad ass plans! Is it perfect right now? No. Is everything ready? No. But sometimes you have to JUST START. I hope you will follow along on this new creative endeavor.

And on that note –  I actually hope to write more about the in’s and out’s of building an online business from the ground up here on Wanderlust Living, because that is the one thing that always boggles people’s minds!! And if you’re gonna move about the world, you might want to know how to make money from anywhere, am I right!?

Follow Twist Travel Mag on Instagram

Twist Travel Magazine!
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
Costa Rica May 17, 2016 posted by

Sailing with Serendipity Charters

Serendipity Charters Wanderlust Living Andrea and Kids
A few weeks ago, my husband and kids took me on a wonderful sunset sailing trip for Mother’s Day. Okay let me rephrase that – I booked a sunset sailing tour for me and my family on Mother’s Day. Because let’s face it, if you want something special to happen on Mother’s Day sometimes you have to do it yourself.

Serendipity Charters offers private and semi-private sailing tours out of Playa Flamingo, Costa Rica and when I saw the Mother’s Day special that Serendipity Charters was promoting online, I booked it!
We hadn’t been out on a boat in a long time; we usually save these trips for when friends or family come to visit. It’s a fun way to spend the day with friends or a large group of people.

Serendipity is a great boat for people that want a more private and relaxed boating experience. They take private groups of up to 20, but will only do 13 for their semi private tours. There are larger boats in the area that take out 40-50 people that can feel more like a party boat and can get a bit crowded. We were on the boat with only 8 other people, so it felt more personal and enjoyable.

Serenipity Charters Hudson in Boat Costa Rica Sailing Wanderlust Living

We happen to be friends with the owners of Serendipity Charters. Our son Hudson goes to school with their son and they are very good friends. Captain Brad and Geneva sailed Serendipity down to Costa Rica from the US Virgin Islands and have been running their successful Costa Rica sailing business for four years. That is one of the biggest benefits of living in a small expat community; you get to know everyone – especially if they have a business in town. Naturally, we love to support our friends and all the local entrepreneurs. They are a great example of a family that went against the norm and set out to create a beautiful life they love.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Snorkeling

Our journey included sailing over to a small hidden beach to put down the anchor close enough so that we could swim over to the small private beach. The crew provides all equipment for snorkeling and fishing as well as lunch, snacks, fresh fruit and all drinks (beer, wine, cocktails, soda, juice). We had the most delicious chicken tacos for lunch and later they brought out champagne at sunset as part of the Mother’s Day special.

Serendipity Charters Hudson Jumping Costa Rica Sailing

Serendipity Charters Mckenna Jumping Sailing Costa Rica Wanderlust Living
After swimming and having some lunch, the crew pulled up anchor and we started to make our way back to shore while watching the gorgeous sunset. Our family was huddled on the front part of the boat and of course I was trying to take photos of both the the kids and the sunset, and as usual, everyone messed with me. It clearly didn’t matter that it was Mother’s Day, but I have to admit – this was probably my favorite part of the day. Watching my kids fooling around and having fun together, Mother’s Day made! Even if it was mostly at my expense.

Serendipity Mothers Day Sunset Sailing Tour

Mckenna Serendipity Costa Rica Sailing

Serenipity Charters Sailing in Costa Rica Playa Flamingo

Serendipity Charters Costa Rica Sailing Private adn Semi Private Tours
Serendipity Charters offers two half day tours. The morning charters depart at 8:30am – 12:45pm; the afternoon sunset cruises are from 1:30pm-5:45pm (or after sunset. They also offer full day charters that depart at 11:00am and return at 5:45pm or after sunset. For more information or to book your tour contact Geneva at Serendipity Charters.

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Meet Captain Brad and Geneva –  read their story!

Sailing with Serendipity Charters
Family Travel April 28, 2016 posted by

Off the Grid: Trinidad, Cuba

Trinidad Cuba Colorful Streets and Church Wanderlust Living

When we booked our trip to Cuba we knew that we would be spending most of our time wandering the streets of Havana, but we also wanted to either head over to the popular beach destination, Varadero (about 1 1/2 hour from Havana), or go down to Trinidad (about a 4-hour trip).

Since we live at the beach in Costa Rica, we decided to skip the beaches of Varadero and go spend three nights in Trinidad. Varadero looked beautiful, but it also seemed like a bunch of mid-level, all-inclusive resorts that would be filled with tourists. While Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, seemed to be one of those places you probably shouldn’t miss.

Getting to Trinidad from Havana

We could have hired a private cab ($500) or taken the local bus (about $30 each) from Havana to Trinidad. Typically, the Fellman way is to hire a private cab/shuttle (not gonna lie) but we opted to take the bus. We thought this option could make for a great story and it saved us some money.

Unfortunately, nothing fun or unexpected happened on the bus ride. The bus was a mix of  local Cubans, European backpackers and a few other tourists, and everyone pretty much just kept to themselves. I guess I should have been happy that the bus ride was uneventful, but I was secretly hoping for a fun story to tell.

When we finally arrived in Trinidad, we were dropped off at what looked like an old abandoned building with some benches and chairs. The only way to tell this was the bus station was the line of taxi drivers outside hoping for some business.

Trinidad Cuba Pedi Cab travel with Kids Wanderlust Living

My husband Harris quickly picked out a friendly looking chubby guy by making eye contact and giving him a little nod. The cab driver immediately grabbed my suitcase and lead us around the corner to where we assumed his car was parked. When we turned the corner he led us to his pedi-cab. My kids immediately jumped on, while I thought, “he cannot possibly pedal all four of us and our bags to our hotel.” When Harris told our cab driver where we were staying, a look of concern crossed his face, his eyes got really big and he immediately grabbed his phone to call someone.

What you need to understand is that most people stay in Trinidad at hotels known as casa particulars, which are rooms for rent in people’s homes. Casa particulars are essentially what is now known as Airbnb, but Cubans have been doing it for years. We were staying about 12 kilometers / 7 miles outside of Trinidad at Playa Ancon. Clearly this mode of transportation was not going to make it the 7 miles out to the beach.

With the Spanish that we did understand, we knew he was calling his dad who had a car. And sure enough, five minutes later a beat up old car came around the corner and pulled up right next to us. The pedi-cab driver’s Dad got out and started helping his son put our luggage in the trunk of his car. We all pile in and off we went!

So even though nothing wild and exciting happened on the bus ride, I’m happy that I have this memory of my kids playing on the pedi-cab and seeing this man call his father for help, and his father instantly be there for him. It’s small moments like these that I travel for.

Club Amigo Costa Sure Hotel Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
Playa Ancon, Trinidad Cuba

Even though we skipped Varadero, we decided that it might still be good idea to stay at the beach near Trinidad to break up the trip for the kids. I could wander the streets of historic cities all day, but my kids cannot. So to keep everyone happy we booked a room at Hotel Club Amigo Costa Sur so the kids could play at the beach and we could keep cool in the pool.

Cuba does not allow more than three people to a room, so you have to book two rooms if you are traveling as a family of four. We booked two of the ocean front suites, that were side by side. Above is the photo of our suites, we had both the left and the right. The inside of the room was as basic as a hotel gets but we were only a few steps to this gorgeous beach (see photo below).

Casa Amigo Costa Sur Trinidad Cuba View from Bungalow

Costa Sur Trinidad Cuba Beach Wanderlust Living

Trinidad Cuba Playa Ancon Club Amigo Hotel Wanderlust Living

There are only a few hotel options in Playa Ancon and booking a hotel room in Cuba can be difficult if you are an American. You will need to go through a European or Canadian booking site. This will most likely change soon as the Cuban relationship with the United States keeps opening up, but for now you can use a booking site such as Gala Hotels. Hotels in Cuba are not fancy, a little dated and they’re not extremely service orientated, so don’t expect the American standard of customer service.

When booking our trip to Cuba, my husband was in a few email conversations with Cuba Travel Network and a local representative even met us at our hotel to give us a brief overview of Trinidad, points of interest and most importantly, where to eat. A cab ride from Playa Ancon to the city center of Trinidad was about $8 and I was happy with our decision to stay out at the beach.

Musicians on the street in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
Trinidad, Cuba

Our cab driver dropped us off at the bottom of the pedestrian only streets in Trinidad and from the second we got out of the cab it felt like a director just called “Action!” on a movie set. We came to an intersection that had musicians playing their instruments, horses pulling supplies in wagons, fruit vendors, local Cubans hanging out on the corner, store owners standing in their doorways, vintage cars parked randomly along the street and only a few other tourists roaming around. Yup, Trinidad was well worth the trip.

We really didn’t have a plan when we went into Trinidad. I hadn’t done much research either. We just walked around and explored the streets, wandering in and out of anything that seemed interesting  There are plenty of museums and historic mansions with colonial architecture to admire as well as unique shops and art studios to walk through. Many of the casa particulars let you walk through their main floor living area, which are more like exhibits of carefully placed furniture. One woman even lead us to her back garden and offered us a room to stay in as well.  Just be sure to give them a small donation for letting you walk through their home.

Trinidad Cuba horse and cart

Trinidad Cuba Local Guy Smoking a Cigar

Colorful Buildings Strees of Trinidad Cuba
Trinidad Cuba Street Musicians Wanderlust Living

Trinidad Cuba Musicians Wanderlust Living

Streets of Trinidad Cuba History Museum Wanderlust Living
The iconic yellow bell tower that is in most photos of Trinidad is the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco (Museo Nacional de la Lucha Contra Bandidos), An old convent that has been converted into a museum dedicated to the history of bandits. It’s worth a walk through mostly because you can climb the bell tower to see gorgeous views of Trinidad.

Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living Street 1
Trinidad Cuba Travel with Kids Wanderlust Living
Museo Historico Municipal Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living

Cafe Don Pepe Trinidad Cuba Coffee Shop
Across from Trinidad’s famous bell tower is Cafe Don Pepe, a small garden cafe that is a perfect hideaway to grab some shade on a hot day. They have a full menu or you can just stop for a coffee, lemonade or a mojito.

Trinidad Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living

San Jose Restauratn Trinidad Cuba
We were told that San Jose Restaurant was one of the best restaurants in Trinidad, and at first we walked right past it. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, just a doorway with a small sign, but inside was a beautiful restaurant with exposed brick walls with framed photographs and dark wood furnishings.  The restaurant is narrow but keeps going further and further. After the first dining room there is an enclosed glass bar area, a second dining room, the kitchen and then a back garden dining room.

We were told to get there early because it fills up fast. Playing our cautious card, we got there so early we were the only ones there, except for a few people sitting at the bar. The service and food was fantastic and the kids didn’t complain about having pizza and milk shakes for dinner.

Pottery in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
After dinner we stumbled upon this beautiful art gallery filled with clay pottery just a few doors down from the San Jose Restaurant. I wanted to buy every. single. piece. I had a horrible time deciding which ceramic vase, lantern and pot to buy, but I did limited myself to only two pieces.

Shopping local artists in Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
This woman weaves these little handbags by hand with colorful straw. McKenna and I each bought one. There are plenty of hand painted pieces of art to buy as well as other interesting pieces of jewelry, wooden cigar boxes and small musical instruments at shops throughout the town.

Taberva Botija

Taberna La Botija Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living
We ended our night at Taberna La Botija which is a must while in Trinidad. This little tavern is dedicated to the history of the thousands of West African slaves that worked in the sugar mills near Trinidad. I am certain you have never seen this decor in a restaurant before. Hanging on the walls are chains, shackles and knives and the wait staff are dressed as slaves. Taberna La Botija is open 24 hours and there is live music every night. I wished we had ate dinner here to try the food, but we only stopped in for drinks, dessert and to listen to some music.

Trinidad Cuba at night street scene Wanderlust Living
Hudson Trinidad Cuba Wanderlust Living

We spent a full day and one night walking around Trinidad, and I felt it was plenty of time to explore this charming city (especially, if you are traveling with kids). I would have liked to experience staying at a casa particular, however –  I was very happy that we were able to go back to the beach. I would highly recommend this option to anyone traveling to Trinidad with kids. It really helped keep the family dynamic in check and our kids were entertained in between all the walking around the streets of Trinidad.

Trinidad, Cuba Travel Wanderlust Living

Off the Grid: Trinidad, Cuba
Family Travel April 9, 2016 posted by

Los Angeles still feels like home

Los Angeles Wanderlust Living

No matter where we may roam, Los Angeles still feels like home.

Since we moved from Los Angeles to Costa Rica almost three years ago, we definitely feel like we’ve made a home in Costa Rica, but the minute we landed in Los Angeles it felt like we were really HOME. There is something about Los Angeles that feels very comfortable and familiar. Maybe it’s because that’s where Harris and I met, got married, and bought our first house. I guess it’s where our story began so we will always be connected and drawn to it. Neither one of us is from Los Angeles originally, and we don’t have any family that lives there, but we have a lot of great friends and thousands of crazy stories and cherished memories in that city.

When in Los Angeles I went running and ran past my old building where I lived before Harris & kids, and it brought back so many memories. I moved to Los Angeles without knowing a single person. It was probably the biggest and scariest decision I’ve ever made, and one that ultimately changed the direction of my life forever. This is probably why LA will always have a place in my heart. Even if the traffic still sucks.

The main reason we were in Los Angeles was to apply for our non working Visa’s so we can move to Spain. We had to collect some last minute paperwork, get an FBI background check and all of us had to get seen by a doctor, to literally give us a clean bill of health. The Visa process is no joke and took weeks of planning and preparing, which I will post about in another time in complete detail – to help anyone else that wants to apply for a Visa. We can give you a step by step guide!  Warning – it is not for the weak.

Santa Monica Beach Los Angeles Wanderlust Living

Even though we were there on official move to Spain business – we were able to see so many friends and have some fun with the kids too. They were on Spring break after all. We stayed in Hollywood and the cutest AirBnB apartment that was tastefully themed as Alice in Wonderland, cruised Hollywood boulevard, spent an entire day at the beach in Santa Monica, ate incredible food, saw a movie, went to a bookstore, went bowling (things they don’t get to do very often in Costa Rica) and did another escape/maze room.

This was the second time we did one of these escape rooms and it is by far the favorite thing for the kids to do! Have you heard of Escape Rooms? { here are two companies in Los Angeles that we have done Maze Rooms  / Logiquit }

While running around all over Los Angeles I had the feeling that at some point we’ll probably end up moving back. And not just because McKenna declared that “When she’s an adult she’s moving to LA.” I just still love all the energy and there is so much to see and do, not just in the Los Angeles area but all of California! However, we are still very much in operation move to Spain, and excited to go explore Europe for a couple years. Then we shall see where go after that…

We definitely feel more like citizens of the world and so it’s hard to say where home is, but the minute we landed in Costa Rica I was happy to be…home.

Costa Rica is home Wanderlust Living

 

Los Angeles still feels like home
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
Family Travel July 13, 2015 posted by

Spending the summer in Spain

Traveling in Spain
School is finally out here in Costa Rica and we’ll be spending the summer in Spain — whoo hoo!

Our kids get out of school pretty late here — we are on a trimester system so we have three long breaks throughout the year. Our last day of school was July 8th and what tends to happen is all the expats leave for the summer. Most head back home to the United States or Canada to spend time with family and friends (that’s what we did last summer), so this summer we’ll be traveling around Spain for five weeks!

Traveling around Spain

We are headed to Madrid, Granada, Seville, Valencia and Barcelona. For this trip we decided to entirely AirBnB it — we have rented five different apartments in each of the five cities. Not only did we find this economical, but we also wanted to be able to settle in a bit more and have a little more space than your average hotel room. We’ll also be working a bit, so opting for places that have a dining room table or a desk in one of the bedrooms was appealing to us. The kids will also have their own separate rooms in some of the apartments we rented, which is a good thing at their age. When you are traveling with kids for long extended periods of time, everyone needs some space from time to time. I’m excited to experience all of these different apartments and report back on how well we did… or didn’t do.  (And no, AirBnB is not sponsoring this trip.)

Kinder Barcelona 2007

Back to Barcelona

Spain has a special place in our hearts because it was the first extended trip we took with our kids when they were babies — Hudson was only one and McKenna was almost three. Hudson literally learned to walk on the cobblestone streets of Barcelona. We even have video of it… somewhere! Back in 2007 there was no AirBnB yet so we rented an apartment in Barcelona for a month (we were so ahead of the trends!).

This trip was also their first international schooling experience. We enrolled them in half-day at Kinder Barcelona so Harris could work and we could have some time to see the city and without the kids in tow. That is McKenna up there in front of the door!

This was really where it all began for us. That trip was us testing the waters to see if we could actually make living abroad with kids a reality. At the time, I was not working and this was before I started Savvy Sassy Moms. In fact, on this particular trip to Barcelona, Harris set up my very first blog — Have Kids Still Travel — which was just to keep the grandmas informed on what we were doing and to show them that their grand-babies were OK.

A month in Barcelona gave us a taste of living an international lifestyle as a family and I think this trip made us believe we could actually live and work anywhere!

Barcelona 2007 collage WanderlustLiving

Looking back, my picture-taking skills were horrible back in 2007 and my camera wasn’t very good either. But here are a few pictures from that trip that we love. The beach pictures are from the island of Mallorca, which is off the coast of Spain.

There were no iPhones, I wasn’t on Twitter yet and there certainly wasn’t Instagram way back then, but on our trip to Spain this time, you can follow all our steps through Spain by following @andreafellman on Instagram — I will be sharing photos daily!

Resources for traveling with kids in Spain

I have been doing a little research before we leave and, of course, there are a ton of websites that list the same ten tourist things to do in each of these cities — that’s easy to find! However, I like to dig a little deeper and try to find out where some of the local favorites are, too. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Mamma Proof

Barcelona & Madrid: I stumbled upon Mammaproof, which actually has two websites — one for Madrid and one for Barcelona. These are fantastic city guides! They feature all the family-friendly dining options, bookstores, children’s stores, parks and more. We will be visiting many of their suggestions, for sure!

Con Botas de Aqua

Madrid: I also found this beautiful website, Con Botas de Aqua, a lifestyle blog for Madrid. Her photography and style is beautiful, which gives you a real sense of Madrid. We will be hitting up many of her recommendations.

Babyccino Kids

Sevilla: I found this great city guide to Sevilla on Babyccino Kids, which was written by a mom that lives in Sevilla.

Continental Fairy

Valencia: The Continental Fairy is a mom and lifestyle blog written by an expat mom living in Valencia, Spain. I have been drooling over her photos!

Christine in Spain

Spain: Christine in Spain has been living in Spain for over five years, mostly in the southern Andulasia area, but now she lives in the northern Basque country, which is north of Madrid. She takes beautiful pictures and shares not only her travels in Spain, but also what it’s like to be an expat.

La Tortuga Viajera

Spain: La Tortuga Viajera (The Traveling Turtle) has been living in Spain for five years and has a wealth of information on her website about all of Spain and many other places in Europe. I love her romantic story about how she ended up living in Spain.

 

Have you been to Spain?  Any tips or favorite places?

Spending the summer in Spain
Family Travel June 12, 2015 posted by

Two great hotels in Havana Cuba!

Booking Hotels in Cuba

When looking for hotels in Havana Cuba it can be a little more difficult then you are used to if you are American. Right now, you can not book through a US booking agency like Hotels.com or Expedia, You will need to either book through a European booking agency online, through a tour company or you may need to pick up the phone and call the hotels directly.

Booking a hotel room in Cuba as a family can also be challenging. The hotels in Cuba do not allow more than three persons to a room, therefore you need to book two rooms for a family of four or if you call the hotel, they may have a suite as an available option. Most rooms have two twin or full size beds so sharing these beds with older children might be a little tight anyways.

After doing some initial research online I stumbled upon Hotel Florida and we ended up calling and speaking to the manager, Jose. He told us he had a family suite available at the other hotel he manages which was right next door, Hotel Marques Prado de Ameno. These two beautiful hotels are actually connected by a small hallway, and if you stay here you can experience the beauty of both hotels!

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba

Hotel Florida Havana

Hotel Florida is a great location and walking distance to many points if interest. Located on the corner of Obispo and Cuba Street. Obispo is a very popular pedestrian only street which has many restaurants, a small outdoor artisan market (that we loved) and this street leads you right down to Central Park and the Capital building.

When we arrived at midnight and walked passed the smokey bar with music pumping and very crowded dance floor. It was the exact scene I had hoped to find in Cuba and seeing this the very first night was the perfect welcome to Cuba.  As it turns out, Hotel Florida is a very popular spot for dancing!

There is a small cover charge to go into the bar at night, but free if you are staying at the hotel. I highly recommend you get down there and have a mojito and soak up this vibrant energy.  Apparently, some of the men that dance here are the best in Havana and they are there because they want to teach you how to dance. And yes, even I got up enough courage to hit the dance floor, I had no idea what I was doing but my teacher was patient and very kind. It’s so much fun and anyone can give it a try, no one is judging you, so go for it!

The breakfast in the morning was not your typical style of breakfast, it was an assortment of meats, cheeses, breads and fruit. One morning they did have scramble eggs. If you have read anything about Cuba, they are not known for their food, so don’t expect much.

I recommend heading down the street to the bakery or one of the small cafes to grab your morning coffee and a pastry. There is also a very well known coffee shop and cafe called O’Neils that is just around the corner. We also stumbled upon the Black Cat Cafe one morning, which was very charming and had an assortment of pastry options. Just ask at the front desk and they will point you in the right direction to get to either of these places.

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba Wanderlust Living Travel

Hotel Florida Havana Cuba

Hotel Florida Rooms

We did not stay in one of these rooms, but I asked to take a peek inside. The rooms are furnished with an eclectic mix of vintage furniture and they are a bit smaller then you might be used but very nice and clean.

HOtel Marques de Prado Ameno Havana Cuba

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno

We arrived late at night the brick archways were glowing and the plants dangling down from the second floor made it look like an enchanted garden. Our room was a large suite with a queen size bed and they brought in two twin size beds for our children, which had no trouble fitting in the space.  The suite also had a nice sitting area and three large blue doors that opened up to a small balcony. The room is dark with only a few lamps, until you open up the large blue doors and let the natural light from the street fill the room.  The bathroom was very large, but with older fixtures and plumbing and our shower did leak a bit.

There is a lovely courtyard in the center of Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno and a small restaurant and bar downstairs. We actually never ate there but we did go down to get the kids some water and soda one afternoon which was very convenient.

Both of these hotels are in a great location, really in the center of it all and walking distance to almost everything.
I loved staying here for the beauty that surrounded us and for the location. We were able to enjoy two hotels at once. The hotels are a bit older and might not have very modern amenities or furnishings but that is also the charm of being in Cuba and enjoying the historic buildings for what they are.

Havana Hotels Wanderlustliving

 

Courtyard Hotel Florida Cuba

Marques de Prado Ameno

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno



Hotels in Cuba
Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno Courtyard Havana Cuba

Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno Wanderlust Living

Disclosure: I was given a small media rate. However, all my opinions are my own.

Two great hotels in Havana Cuba!
Adventure May 4, 2015 posted by

What was it about Cuba?


Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living

What was it about Cuba?

Some trips are just really hard to put into words. When people ask me “How was Cuba?” I start rambling on about how cool and unique it was, while my brain starts scrambling to find the perfect BIG words to actually define and describe it. I travel a lot, I’ve been to some unique destinations, but what was it about Cuba that made it so special? And why did Cuba make me cry?

Cuba is refreshingly disconnected

We were forced to unplug – completely. We did not use the internet for seven days. (No, this was not the reason I cried) but it might be the key reason I loved this trip so much. Harris and I don’t go on vacation; we go on work-cations, so for both of us to not be cramming a few hours of work in each day, checking email or posting to social media was, well, something pretty extraordinary.

That might sound sad to some, but really it’s not. It’s who we are and why we get to do what we do.

This was the first trip that I wasn’t at the dinner table checking Instagram or responding to some email that wasn’t urgent. I let it all go. I was completely present. Shockingly, it only took about a day to seize this opportunity and not even try to get online.

Being unplugged and unreachable was freeing – and finding this freedom in a Communist country was pretty ironic.

Internet in Cuba

There is internet in Cuba. Some hotels even have wi-fi, but not many. We stayed at Hotel Florida and they are currently working on getting wi-fi but while we were there only the manager’s computer had Internet. He told Harris and I we could use it whenever we wanted. Harris used it twice, but it was only to look up a few travel-related things.

(When booking at Hotel Florida ask for Jose – tell him the Fellman’s sent you! )

Yes, some people in Cuba have cell phones, but I hardly saw them and they certainly weren’t walking down the street or sitting at dinner totally glued to them. In fact, when I brought mine out at a few restaurants to take photos I felt awkward. I could feel curious eyes on me. Probably wondering either what the hell is that in her hands? or why on Earth is she taking pictures of her food?

Traveling to Cuba Internet
Our second hotel when we traveled down to Trinidad, Cuba had one computer in the lobby and with our upgraded bungalow room reservation we were given 1 hour of free internet a day, which we needed a token for. BAH! When Harris went to use this Internet it had such an old version of Internet Explorer that it did not have gmail.

We had traveled back in time – literally.

Travel like it’s 1995

Traveling to Cuba was old school and I liked it! We were getting back to our roots like when we backpacked through Europe with no internet and no apps or maps to tell us where to go. You had to ask questions, seek advice and just go with the flow. You might think this would be frustrating, but it wasn’t. It was refreshing.

There is beauty in being in the moment, getting lost or stumbling upon things by accident.

Instead of hiring a private taxi/shuttle to take us down to Trinidad, Cuba we took the bus. I realize this is not old fashioned, plenty of people take the bus, but with no internet we needed to find the bus station, which meant Harris physically going there by cab to find out what time the bus departs, when we needed to be there and how much it would cost. For Harris – this was old school.

The other thing about taking the bus is that you open yourself up for a possible story to tell later, or we might meet someone interesting or learn something. I secretly wanted something crazy to happen at the bus station, unfortunately nothing did. However, while at the bus station this is where I really understood how behind Cuba is in regards to technology.

While waiting for the bus we let the kids take out their iPads and the people around us were mesmerized by these electronic devices. Two people literally stood behind our kids and stared at their screens with the look of honest concern. They were unable to process what the hell it was.

It wasn’t as if we were from the future – we WERE from the future.

Cuba Cloassic Cars

The Classic Car Show

Fitting that I visit Cuba so close to the 4 year anniversary of my father’s death (May, 6th). The end of April is always emotional for me, my heart gets heavy, it knows what’s coming.

{Warning: this is where I cried}

My Dad was a serious car guy, like most dads who were born in the 50’s, I suppose.  When he was younger he drove a midnight blue 1965 GTO.  I remember going to the old Classic Car Shows when I was a little girl and watching something physically and emotionally come over my dad as he walked around the cars and commented on their bodywork and the size of their engines.

Cuba is the mother of all classic car shows, he certainly wasn’t going to miss this.

The cars that have been kept in mint condition are for the tourists to take an hour tour of Havana. It costs 35 pesos and you get a great view of the city and we made stops at Revolution Park and The National Hotel. These are of course not the only classic cars cruising around Havana, they’re everywhere. Many of them are used as regular taxi’s or just an everyday vehicle.

The drivers of these pristine cars are in fact the owners. Many of these cars were their father’s or grandfather’s and have been passed down to them. I could feel a sense of pride from our driver when he told us that it was his father’s. These cars hold so much history and are the only obvious connection to the United States.

As we drove around Havana in that beautiful blue 1961 Chevy it was the typical Fellman family scene – I was trying to take 100 pictures, McKenna was complaining about the heat and all my picture taking, Hudson was goofing off and Harris was squished in the middle of the back seat just laughing and along for the ride. Then somewhere in between the all the laughing and picture taking, I cried, because I could feel someone else in the car with us that day.

Dad, I hope you enjoyed the ride.

Blue Chevy in Havana Cuba Wanderlust Living

Cuba Cars

PInk Classic Car in Havana Cuba

Blue Havana Cuba Cars

Havana Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living
Classic Cars in Cuba Red

Pink Classic American Cars in Cuba Wanderlust Living

 

Wedding Couple in Cuba Havana Classic Cars

Green Car Cuba

Cars of Havana Cuba

Classic Cars in Cuba Havana Green

 

Fellman Cuba

Disclosure: I traveled to Cuba as a travel professional, I am not an expert on international law or personal travel into Cuba.

What was it about Cuba?
Adventure April 27, 2015 posted by

Traveling to Cuba: Here come the Americanos

Cuba Classic Cars Wanderlust Living
When we bought four tickets to Cuba a few months ago, I was giddy with excitement, but I was also a bit naive on the situation for Americans traveling to Cuba. I knew Obama had just announced he was working on restoring relations with Cuba, but let’s be honest –  I didn’t know exactly what that meant.

“Mr. Obama’s decision will ease travel restrictions for family visits, public performances, and professional, educational and religious activities, among other things, but ordinary tourism will still be banned under the law. Mr. Obama will also allow greater banking ties, making it possible to use credit and debit cards in Cuba, and American travelers will be allowed to import up to $400 worth of goods from Cuba, including up to $100 in tobacco and alcohol products.” from the The New York Times.

So, should we go to Cuba? Was it okay to take the kids to Cuba?

I voted for Obama, so clearly I get to go to Cuba!

Cuba with Kids Wanderlust Living

I’ve never been afraid to take my kids anywhere. We took our kids to Guatemala and had an incredible time. But Guatemala, although known to be a little dangerous, certainly was not off limits to Americans for the last 50+ years.

I was more concerned with what we would do with the kids in Cuba. I knew there would be plenty of learning opportunities, there always are when showing your kids the world, but will Cuba have enough to keep them interested and entertained? Will there be something for them to eat? (Always a Mom’s first priority – feeding her kids.)

Booking our trip to Cuba

Once we started to research Cuba, we found plenty of European tours and Canadian booking services, traveling to Cuba as a Canadian or European is no big deal. Searching for Cuba hotels on TripAdvisor was not like searching for hotels in other destinations, many of them did not have pictures or prices listed and you certainly could not book through any American booking websites. We needed to contact many of the hotels directly or book through a travel service such as the Cuba Travel Network.

When booking a hotel in Cuba, you cannot have anymore than three people to a room. So yes, a family of four needs to book two hotel rooms. This will be frustrating and a bit more challenging when searching for a hotel in Cuba. It’s not as easy as hotels.com that’s for sure.  When you do search for room availability  just be sure to select one room for two people, twice.  Some hotels have family suites, that will accommodate a family of four, but we discovered this by talking to the hotels over the phone directly. It’s old school but picking up the phone served us very well. If you do not speak Spanish, you’ll want to learn the phrase “Habla ingles?”. Usually they will find someone that knows a little English to help you.

We flew from Costa Rica on Copa Airlines to Panama City and then to Havana, Cuba. When we got to the gate in Panama City, we were told we had to buy a Visitors Visa for $20 and fill out a form (for each of us) for our reason for visiting Cuba. Our reason for visiting was journalism, since I am a travel writer and would be doing research and writing about our trip to Cuba.

Cuba Currency Wanderlust Living

Cuban Currency

You can not pay for anything in Cuba with American money and you can not use any American credit cards. They will exchange American money at the airport and at the banks in Cuba, but I recommend exchanging your money at the airport. The lines at the banks in Havana were out the door and down the block, you’ll be waiting in line a very long time.

When we exchanged our money at the airport the rate was 97/100 but there was a 10% exchange rate, so we got 87 Cuban “Convertible” Pesos for $100 American dollars. You need to budget and bring enough cash that you think you will need for the time you are in Cuba. For a family of four we planned for $300 a day to be on the safe side. Happily we spent way less than this per day!

Travel Note: There are actually two currencies in Cuba one that is exchangeable and one that is not. “Convertible Pesos” and Non-Convertible Pesos. The currency that is not convertible is only good in Cuba. Those are the pesos on the right side of the picture (with the faces). So you need to be careful when Cubans are giving you back change.

Once on the ground in Cuba, we made our way through customs and found a friendly taxi driver who helped us over to the money exchange counter. He patiently waited for us and then brought us to his car. He charged us 35 pesos to take us to our hotel in Havana. It seemed like a fair price to us, and it was 11:00pm at night and after a long day of traveling, we were not about to haggle on the price.

Let the Cuban adventure begin

Once at his car/taxi –  the driver’s wife was in the passenger seat and so the four Fellmans squeezed in the back seat. As we left the airport he turned up the Cuban salsa music and then asked us where we were from. We said “America” and with much shock, surprise and a big smile said, “Oh! Americanos!!”

This would be the first of many “Oh! Americanos!” We would hear over the next week….

I then silently prayed this guy was really taking us to our hotel.

{More on Cuba to come!}

havana Cuba Street Musicians

 

Disclosure: I am a travel professional and traveled to Cuba as a journalist for education and research. I am not an expert on the international law or personal requirements for traveling to Cuba.

 

Traveling to Cuba: Here come the Americanos