Dominical y Uvita // Weekend Travel Edition


Do I ever stay home?! Well.. barely. The reason why I travel so much is simply because I want to use my time wisely and get to know as much as I can of Costa Rica before I leave. Which sadly is very very soon… I have also mentioned before that the little town that I live in doesn’t really have too much to offer, so there really is no point in staying in and watching Netflix at home all day. I can do that when I am in Germany! I should take advantage of my time here, shouldn’t I? That being said, Charlotte and I have decided to make a short trip out to the Pacific coast. Wednesday was a holiday (Annexión de Guanacaste)  and we took Thursday off, and since we have a new schedule (it changed a few months ago) we also have Fridays off!  So we had 4 days in total for our mini vacation. On Tuesday night we slept in a hostel in San José, so we would be able to catch an early bus the next morning. On Wednesday it took us only about 4 hours to get from San José to Dominical. We stayed at the Cool Vibes Hostel, which is the most popular one, and there aren’t many others around because it’s a very small beach town. The rest of the day we just chilled, walked around a little, checked out the beach and cooked some food. I had a late night yoga session before going to bed. The next day we made plans to go surfing in the afternoon, so in the morning we just went out for breakfast and chilled by the pool at the hostel and talked to some other travelers. A few hours before our surf lesson we got a call from our instructor that the waves are too high right now and that a storm was coming.. so sadly our class got canceled and we rescheduled for the next morning. So Thursday ended up being another chill day. On Friday morning we had our surf lesson, and it was Charlotte’s first time trying it. I was super stoked to get back in the water because I’ve been enjoying surfing so much and just never want to stop learning it! We were a group of 4, two brothers from the USA joined us, and we had two instructors – Oscar and Sarah. They explained everything super well, we practiced for about 20min at the beach how to stand up on the board etc. Then we got into the water and started catching waves. It was so much fun and it was my best surf lesson so far, because the explanations were very precise and they always told us what we could do better. I was so happy that I was able to catch so many waves! Charlotte also really enjoyed it even though she had a harder time but that is totally normal, because it was only her first time and I think she did really well for that. The class lasted 2 hours and we had a little snack break with some cookies and watermelon, in total it cost 50$ – which I think is a good price because they were really good instructors! Once we got back to the hostel we just chilled for a while and then cooked some lunch before we headed to Uvita. It took about an hour by bus to get there (it’s just a bit down south) and then we walked a few minutes to our new place called Flutterby House, which is located close to the Ballena National Park. It is a super cool hostel with treehouses, a yoga terrace and a very open and light atmosphere. They focus on sustainability and recycle, compost and try to minimize their waste, and they also have a restaurant that offers many vegetarian and vegan options, with their aim to use as much organic and local grown food as possible. Definitely a very cool place I can recommend and they also have private rooms. On Saturday morning we were up on our feet at 5:30 am. We wanted to check out the popular Nauyaca Falls that are located close to Dominical (we wanted to do that while staying there but our plans changed due to the surf lessons), so we took the 6am bus towards the entrance, and started hiking once we arrived. The trail was about 5km long, with lots of up and downs, we walked through small streams, dense jungle and had some amazing views of the valley and surrounding mountains. After about 1 1/2 hours we made it to the falls and we were completely blown away! I haven’t seen that many waterfalls in my life so far, so I was definitely impressed. There were two different waterfalls, one more high up that was incredibly beautiful and a lower one which was more like a cascade. We took a dip in the lower one and it was cold but so refreshing after the hike. It was only us and another couple from the Netherlands, so we had the whole place to ourselves really. It was so beautiful and relaxing to swim, and sit by the waterfalls…we were both in awe of Mother Nature’s beauty. After about 45min more and more people kept coming and after an hour and a half we decided to hike back. We had only eaten a few nuts for breakfast so we were starving. As we left, the horse riding tours made their way up and I just gotta say – PLEASE do not support these tours here!! They’re awful. When we arrived at 7am, the horses were already sattled up and had to wait for 3 hours knotted to a pole.. also the hike is definitely manageable and if you do have health problems you can be transported by car to the waterfalls! Back at the hostel we ordered some food at the restaurant and just chilled out. It ended up raining the rest of the day so we just spent our time socializing and reading. On Sunday we made ourselves some breakfast and then headed out to Marino Ballena National Park. We had to pay 6$ to get in, then we walked for about an hour along Playa Colonia, which is a very beautiful beach. The park is named after the humpback whales that migrate to the region from about August to September and December through April. It is also famous for its whale tail that appears only at low tide, which is a 1km long “beach” of rocks. We were super impressed by the symmetry of the tail as we walked along it! Mother Nature really never disappoints. Then Charlotte and I parted our ways because I went to get another surf lesson, and she didn’t want to so she went back to the hostel. I had a private lesson with Oscar and it was sooo good! I was able to actually ride some real waves not just whitewash waves! He also challenged me with a smaller board and it was definitely more difficult but I think I did a pretty good job. After the lesson I met up with Charlotte at Flutterby house and we got ready to take our bus back home. The bus was supposed to leave at 3pm but ended up leaving at 4pm, and we got stuck in traffic pretty badly. At 10pm we arrived in San José and from there we had to take an uber to Alajuela, otherwise we would’ve missed the last bus to Poás which is at 11pm every night. We got home super late and immediately fell asleep…

We had an amazing short trip to the Pacific coast and I am so happy that I was able to go surfing again and explore more of Costa Rica’s stunning nature. Yet again we met some great people (a lot of teachers from Germany!) and we enjoyed ourselves so much. Now we’re back at work, and we only have 3 weeks left! 3 WEEKS!!!! I can’t even believe it and I have such mixed feelings about leaving and going back home.. time has passed by so fast! Right now I am actually waiting for my family to arrive! They are traveling through CR for 3 weeks and I will join them on the weekends when I don’t have to work. I am super excited to see them again after such a long time but it also marks the end of my time here which makes me feel very nostalgic… I am definitely going to make the best of my last few weeks here.


El Paredón – My personal Paradise // Guatemala // Part IV

We decided to do the entire route to our destination El Paredón by taking multiple Chickenbuses. From Santiago (Lago Atitlàn) our first stop was a small town called Cocales. Every Chickenbus has a bus driver and a ‘helper’ – a man who collects the money, which they do while the bus is driving and that can be very shaky and adventurous on the roads of Guatemala. The helper also gets out at every stop and yells out loud where the bus is going, during the ride he also stands in the frame of the open door, so he can easily jump out and help people get in and out. So we had asked the helper if they were going to Siquinala as well, and he confirmed so we didn’t have to switch buses in Cocales (one less Chickenbus – yes!). From Siquinala we switched to a different bus towards Sipacate. When we got to the small town we took a Tuk Tuk towards the lancha  (boat). From the small dock we drove along the river – Rio Acomé, which is parallel to the beach and flows into the ocean. Then we had to walk another 15min to get to our accommodation Soul Food Kitchen. We got a lovely welcome from the hosts and settled in at our new home for the next few days. As it was late afternoon already we didn’t do much, just checked out the beach and chilled by the pool for a while. In the evening we ate dinner at the restaurant that is part of the hotel (it’s not a hostel because they don’t have dorms, it’s more like a bed and breakfast feeling but without breakfast haha). The food was so delicious and finally something else for once – Thai and Indian curries and different types of asian noodle dishes! (Imagine my happy face right now). It was a successful Sunday! On Monday we decided to just chill out (we don’t do much more than that haha), we slept in (actually just me) and we went to a local place called Yolis, they cook out of their home kitchen and have a few tables on their patio. We ordered some pancakes and smoothies and we got huge portions for only 35 Quetzales each (4€ !!). We spent the day reading books we had borrowed from the bookshelf and enjoyed the tranquility of the beautiful oasis. We were the only guests staying there for the entire 5 days, and we loved it. We had organized some surf lessons for late afternoon and were super excited to get back in the water! It was so much fun and we had super friendly teachers, Jairon and Anderson who are our age and are local surfers. In the evening we ate at Soul Food Kitchen again, which we ended up doing every night because it was just so good! Tuesday and Wednesday were spent the same way. We got up, went to Yolis (one time we went somewhere else) for breakfast. Then just chilled by the pool, reading our books, taking a dip, reading some more, taking our surf lessons, eating dinner and then going to chill by the bonfire with the local surfers (Christian, Efren, Jairon, Anderson, Jorge etc.) – the guys were all super nice and chill and we had a great time talking and playing “Chinese whispers”  (I had to google the english translation and had no idea that you guys call this game by this name! In german it’s ‘Flüsterpost’). The best part was the sky. We could see endless stars and even the milky way as we waited patiently for shooting stars. I appreciate the little things the most… and coming from a big city with many lights I unfortunately can’t see many stars there, but the universe gifts me with its beauty in many places around the world. And all I wished for, when I saw a shooting star, was that I want tomorrow to be a good day. And it was.

Overall we had an amazing time in El Paredòn. To be honest it was more than amazing, it was one of the best places I have seen and experienced in all of my travels. Just a small surfer village only accessible by watertaxi (there is a road but it takes way longer and is not the fun way to do this haha), NO WIFI – which made everything so special and even more enjoyable. The whole vibe of the place was just tranquilo (calm, serene). No stress, no drama – literally good vibes only.  The beach was beautfiul; black sand, huts made out of palm trees and barely any people  (maybe the most was 20 people). There are only a few restaurants and hotels/hostels around, a few shops to buy snacks and then just fields and the houses of  the locals. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, always vibranting with good energies. We were fortunate enough to be alone at our accommodation, so we got to know the owner a little bit. Gary is a middle aged man (maybe between 45-50 something) and has traveled all around the world. Originally from South Africa, he has opened up 14 restaurants in different countries. He stays somwhere for a few years, builts up a restaurant, works on it until he wants to move on and sells it to locals. He had opened up his last restaurant in Honduras where he had lived for 6 years. After Honduras he originally wanted to go to Nicaragua but he had some problems on the border so he decided to stay in Guatemala. About 2 years ago he started his project in El Paredòn, with his restaurant Soul Food Kitchen.  He actually didn’t plan on adding rooms, a pool and a hang out area but he changed his mind and did. A young couple, Caroline from the USA and her boyfriend Dani from Guatemala City, have been working with Gary for the last 6 months with Caroline being the manager. They are currently building a bar area and a small appartment for Gary. The couple is probably going to take over the place once he decides to move on. The 3 were super nice and interesting people, and we felt very comfortable and welcomed by them. I enjoyed my time here so so much, and I might have left a little piece of my heart there. I can’t even describe what it is – but if you have ever felt a strong, vibrant and unique connection to a place then you can probably understand. To me the people that I meet influence my perception and feeling of a place extremely, and in this case they have made it very special. This is the oasis I’ve been dreaming about and I have found it. Dreams do come true, and your own, personal paradise really does exist! You just gotta believe in it and one day you will find it. Trust me.  With that being said, we had to leave my favorite place on Thursday morning. I was actually pretty bumped, I could’ve easily spent a few years there. But life goes on, and I will return for sure. We took a shuttle to Antigua and spent our last day strolling around, eating some good food and Lina also did some souvenir shopping while I was sleeping in the hostel dorm (I stayed up very late so I was super tired). We went to bed early and woke up around 3am to go to the airport. Our uber driver picked us up and once we were at the airport we checked in and waited for our flight. We have really enjoyed our time here in Guatemala, and once again I am so grateful for all the amazing opportunities in my life. I can definitely recommend you guys all the places we have traveled here – Guatemala is a beautiful country, it has so much history and culture that is still alive today and the nature is unbelievably stunning (there are over 37 vulcanos!), the people are genuine and compassionate. I already see myself in the future – traveling a few months through Mexico and then going down to Guatemala, Belice, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. Hopefully with a surfboard in my arms. On Friday morning we arrived in Costa Rica and our ways parted, I went back home to Poás and Lina went back to Heredia…

Gracias Guatemala por tu amabilidad!


Lago Atitlán // Guatemala // Part III

Well… our bus ride wasn’t really how we imagined it to be like. We were told that we would switch buses in Antigua and then transferred to whichever hotel we were staying at in one of the villages around the Lake. Once we got to Antigua they let us wait 3 hours  until we could continue the trip. We were kind of pissed because they said nothing about that, but we used our time wisely and went back to one of our favorite restaurants called Samsara – if you’re looking for healthy vegan and vegetarian options in Antigua, this is the place! Some time later we had finally made it to the lake. We had to take a watertaxi from Panajachel  to San Pedro, where we were staying. Lago Atitlán is the second largest lake in Guatemala. There are many little towns and villages around it, that you can all reach by watertaxi. The population in this area are mostly indigenous Mayan people, which is definitely noticable since they speak different languages and walk around in their traditional clothing. We had booked our stay at the Hostel Casa Buena Vibra – a super chill place, with private rooms and a rooftop with a well equipped kitchen and a cozy chillout area. The owners were a french woman and her guatemalan husband, who is a local tattoo artist, they also had a little son who was soo precious! They were super friendly and helped us with everything we needed. On Wednesday we didn’t do much except buy some fruit and vegetables, then we made some dinner and went to bed. On Thursday we were still kind of lazy and tired so we just strolled around San Pedro, ate some good food and then took a dip in the fresh water of the lake. On Friday we decided to be productive for once and hiked up San Pedro Vulcano. It’s the local vulcano that has an altitude of 3020m. We got up early in the morning and took a Tuk Tuk (YES they have Tuk Tuks here!!) up to the entrance. We had to pay 100 Quetzales (GTQ) which is about 12 – it includes the entrance fee and an optional guide, you can choose whether he goes up to the top with you or only walks along the first 20min of the trail. We went for the 20min, and also grabbed some free walking sticks. The hike was definitely difficult because 98% of the trail was really steep, and there were barely any flat parts. Also I’m not a frequent nor experienced hiker.. soo yeah my body was feeling it. It took as about 3 hours to get to the top. Along the way were a few viewpoints, where you had amazing views over the beautiful lake and the mountains and villages around it. In the beginning there were also some corn fields and coffee plantations, and the best part was the swing. I was swinging around looking over the most beautiful view, the breeze touching my skin and hair, and I just felt so free and happy. At the top we sadly could only see the lake for a few seconds and then the clouds closed up. We didn’t have high expectations to see anything at the top so it was okay. It was also super cold, so we only stayed for about 20-30min, eating some bagels with hummus. Then we made our way back down which took as another 3 hours. Of course we had to stop by the swing again and enjoy the unique feeling one last time. I was so happy and proud of myself that I have accomplished this! It was my first vulcano that I have hiked up to the top and also the first summit I have ever reached! It was definitely difficult and on a scale of 0-10, an 8 for me. It is so incredible to see what your body is capable of! We were back in our beds around 1:30pm and just relaxed for a while. In the evening we went out for dinner to treat ourselves. On Saturday we started off our day renting some paddle boards for an hour. We paddled along the shore and enjoyed the different perspective of the lake. A little girl swam up to my board and chatted with me for a while, she called herself Angel (yes she was an angel indeed). The local people swim and bathe/shower in the lake with shampoo and even wash their clothes in it. There is also a lot of plastic waste floating around. This is the reality we live in.  A place can be so beautiful but yet so easily ruined by us humans… In a free magazine about the area, it stated that San Pedro has banned the use of plastic utensils and bags at all restaurants and shops. And we just started noticing that after we had read it! So there are definitely things that the people are doing to improve the situation, and it’s also important to do your own part of course. I try to bring my own bags whenever I go shopping, whether it’s at home in Germany or abroad during my travels. After our quick paddle session, we walked around the market and bought some handmade rings and bracelets. After lunch we decided to head to San Marcos – a little town on the other side of the lake. We walked along a small nature trail that had some great viewpoints and just chilled out for a while. They also had a platform for cliff jumping but we didn’t bring our bathing suits 🙁 It was still a great, chill afternoon just walking around, drinking some coffee and simply enjoying the atmosphere. We cooked some dinner at the hostel and went out for a beer or two at this place called Sublime. To be honest it was rather disappointing, nothing too special and the music was ehhh but also we weren’t really lookig for an all-nighter, so we called it a day. On Sunday we took a watertaxi to Santiago where we took a Chickenbus towards El Paredón



Flores & Tikal // Guatemala // Part II

A good 12 hours later we arrived in Flores, Petén. We were extremely tired and exhausted because the sleep during our ride wasn’t really sufficient. We got to our hotel and asked when we could check-in. It was only 6am so we knew we had to wait atleast a few hours. The receptionist told us that our room would be ready at 9am. We went up to the rooftop and listened to music and enjoyed the view. At 9am we asked for our room but they said it’s not ready yet, and because all we wanted to do was sleep we asked if we could switch to another room with an equal price. It was a pretty big place and you could look into a lot of windows, so we knew that they weren’t even close to being booked out. For whatever reason we could not switch rooms and we had to wait until 1pm to get into our room! To pass the time faster we went to get some coffee, and once we got into the room we passed out. The rest of the day we just hung out and rested, and booked a tour to go to Tikal the next day. Flores is located in the north of Guatemala and part of the city is on a tiny island (Lina said it’s the size of Lindau if that helps). The small lake is called Lago Petén Itza. Most people make their way up here to explore the Mayan ruins of Tikal (UNESCO world heritage) or to do a 5-day jungle trek to El Mirdador an ancient Mayan site as well. The next day we started our tour at 3am. We got picked up by our shuttle and drove 1-2 hours towards the site. Then we started walking towards the first pyramid. Before going to Costa Rica I had bought new Trekking/Hiking shoes for cases like this one. My sleepy self forgot to wear long, thick socks and wore short socks instead. Immediately my heels started rubbing against the shoe and within an hour my skin started peeling. It literally was so uncomfortable so I decided to just continue the tour barefoot. Most of the trails were grass or foresty soil, just sometimes there were little rocks. We hiked up the first pyramid to watch the sunrise, but sadly it was pretty cloudy and we couldn’t see too much of it. It was still amazing to hear the jungle awaken early in the morning, with the different sounds of the animals. We continued the tour and saw many more pyramids, statues and altars. The first constructions of the ancient city started back in 400-300 BC and probably more than 90.000 people used to live here. It was a very intresting tour but we were soo tired that at times it was very difficult to listen to the guide. We got back to our hostel around 1pm and we decided to nap for a while. Later that day we went out to get some food and just strolled around the little island of Flores. On Tuesday we decided to check out a nearby beach so we hopped on a watertaxi to San Miguel and we walked down some trails until we arrived at Playa Chechenal. It was a nice beach, it didn’t really have sand just mainly grass and some wooden picnic tables. There were barely any people there and we enjoyed our afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the fresh water of the lake. A few hours later we walked back on a different trail, passing a lookout where we had a beautiful view of the island and its surrounding towns. Back on the island we had one last dinner and then headed off with another night bus to Lago Atitlán…