El Coloso Restaurant

March 31, 2014

I rarely eat fast food at home. I prefer cooking or eating healthier meals but this restaurant was recommended to us by Rebecca. It was literally a 1 minute walk from our hotel. We love to try local food especially when it's recommended by a local so we had to give it a try. 
We first went there at night for dinner and we ordered chicken and pork fajitas. It was really delicious but people flock to this restaurant for one reason only - fried chicken and nachos! I wanted to wait until the next day to try it as I didn't want to eat greasy food before going to bed. I was drooling though every time someone ordered the fried chicken. The restaurant is always busy. Truck drivers would stop and get the fried chicken to go because it's conveniently located on the main road. 
The next day, after a 2 hour hike, I was ready to eat the fried chicken. Nothing like a glass of coca-cola to quench my thirst. It was a super hot day and this was heaven. 
The long awaited fried chicken was worth every bite. It was too much for me to finish this serving. It came with two pieces of chicken and nachos. It was very very good!
One of our late night snack was nachos.  I usually order nachos at home when I go to a pub and I usually get a big pile of nachos and all the toppings piled high in the middle. I usually hate it because I can never get the toppings on each nacho but this was perfectly made. Each nacho was covered with toppings and guacamole. It was expertly prepared and delicious too! 

Termales Los Laureles

March 25, 2014

Natural hot springs is very popular in La Fortuna/Arenal. The most popular tourist hot springs is Tabacon but it's very expensive. For $80 per person you can enjoy the hot springs inside Tabacon and it comes with a buffet dinner. You can also go there for lunch and it's a little bit cheaper. 

For a cheaper alternative, we were told to go to Baldi hot springs. It offers the same hot springs and buffet combo for lesser price than Tabacon. 

We opted for neither of those places and instead asked our trusted hotel receptionist, Rebecca to give us the name of a local hot springs she would go to. She told us to go to Termales Los Laureles. It was a 10 minute drive from our hotel and we absolutely loved it. 

For $12 a person, you can't go wrong with the price plus we loved the fact that it was mostly locals who go there. No overcrowding either.
Not only do they have the hot springs, you can also use the different pools that they have.
The grounds are well kept aside from a minor construction for the slides.
The hot springs has 5 different tiers. The top is the hottest and it goes down in temperature as you go to the lowest tier.
The attractions in Arenal and La Fortuna closes before 5pm and nothing else to do at night but to eat out. This is a great way to spend some time outdoors while enjoying the natural hot springs from the volcano. I soaked here for hours.

Change room facilities are available and I believe you can also use a locker but you have to bring your own lock.

You can also bring your own food and have a picnic. Benches and tables are provided including a barbeque station. Just be sure to bring your own charcoal and grilling equipment. You can spend the whole day here with family and friends.
We actually came here twice. On our second night, we brought our own food and had our dinner in one of the picnic huts. It was the best!

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

March 21, 2014

La Fortuna is a small town very close to Arenal Volcano. It has small shops, restaurants, bus station, banks, and grocery stores. It's a busy town packed with tourists who are all there to see Arenal volcano.
We were greeted by this view on our drive into town. This reminds me of Mayon Volcano in Legazpi, Philippines.

We stayed in a hotel along the main road that leads in and out of Arenal and La Fortuna. I loved that we were centrally located (we had a grocery store, shops, and restaurants around the hotel) but the downside was the constant noise from morning to night. Thankfully, I can pretty much sleep through the night even with blaring car noises. 

A little walk through town for lunch and having a gelato while browsing around souvenir shops.This is the main square in La Fortuna.

I have this slight obsession with wood furniture and this shop pretty much fulfilled my dreams but alas, I can't bring it home with me. My grandmother had a similar rocking chair at her house and I used to sit on it every time I came to visit. I really wanted to take this home if only it could fit inside my suitcase. The shops were all locally made and I was delighted to meet the store owners.

My definition of home

March 18, 2014

Sometimes, I develop strong connections to places I travel to. I first felt that about Spain. Every time I went there I just felt at "home". I think one of the reasons why is because I usually stay in an apartment and I get to shop for groceries and cook just like at home. At the same time it extends to much more than that. I feel at home because of the people, the general atmosphere, the food, and I just feel at ease. Last year, when we crossed the border from Spain to Portugal, I was weeping in the car because I didn't want to leave. It's that bad for me when I leave Spain. I have separation anxiety. 

Last night, I had dreams about Costa Rica. I woke up feeling panicked and I felt like booking the next available flight out of Toronto to San Jose so I could come back. I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Costa Rica. I was so happy there. The weather was glorious. The people super friendly. The food was amazing! I got to eat all my favourite fruits. I walked around only wearing shorts, shirt, and flip flops. I was happy being at the beach. Being near the ocean calms me. I've always been drawn to water and I can feel myself automatically relax when I'm near the ocean. 

I can't explain how hard it is for me to leave those two places that I can now call home.  I literally feel like my heart is being ripped out every time I leave. 

My mind is already planning another escape to Costa Rica next year. 

Have you ever felt this way? 

Renting a car in Costa Rica

March 14, 2014

We rented a car in Spain last year (it was expensive) but definitely worth it. Having a car gives you the freedom to go wherever you want and at the time that suits you. No waiting for a bus/train schedule to hold you back.You must know how to drive standard though because most car rentals outside of North America does not carry (or in limited quantities) automatic cars. Always check before booking if you have any specific requirements.

We researched about renting a car in Costa Rica. The car itself is cheap to rent but the insurance was more expensive than the car rental price. We found out the government controls the car insurance in the country and you basically have no choice but to get it.
We reserved a car with Hertz and it was easy to find the location because it was on the main highway and all the car rental companies are beside each other. 

Once there, the paper work took a bit long and of course we were asked if we wanted additional frills like a GPS and more insurance coverage for tires and windows. I was getting nervous about my bf driving and almost told him to forget it but I have confidence in him that we will just be fine. 

When we finally got inside the car, I breathed the sigh of relief and buckled up. We were armed with a map and my bf's driving skills. Getting out of San Jose was easy. Following the signs wasn't too bad either. It was after San Ramon when I got a little scared because we had to go up and down the mountains. It reminded me so much of Spain and how we drove along the winding road along the coast. 
The road was paved but it was very narrow with a lot of sharp turns. The view made up for the scary ride for sure. We had to cross a lot of bridges along the way and had to be careful when we saw school crossing signs. You really have to mind you speed as it changes quite quickly and if you get a ticket, you cannot leave the country!
After over two hours of driving, we made it to La Fortuna without getting lost.  

Overall, I think it was worth it for us to rent a car in Costa Rica since we went to a lot of places in a short amount of time. Also, our compact car was fuel efficient and gas was cheap. I only recommend getting an SUV if you have at least 4 people and planning on driving off the main road. The road during summer is in great condition and paved. We never had a problem. Always mind your speed especially on school crossings. I repeat, do NOT get a ticket! 

San Jose, Costa Rica

March 10, 2014

This weekend has been an avalanche of social engagements. I turned a certain milestone two weeks ago while in Costa Rica and my family/friends has been celebrating with me this weekend. Friday night was a big party with my friends at a bar where they surprised me with the camera I've been lusting for a year now. I finally have the Fuji x-m1. Very excited to use it. 
I had brunch with my family on Saturday and yesterday was a baptism party for a family friend's daughter. I am exhausted today but at least I have the day off so I can finally catch up on blogging. 

Costa Rica has always been on my radar but for some reason planning never worked out until now. I'm so glad everything finally aligned and we booked our trip. I didn't want an all-inclusive vacation so I planned everything myself. I used Avianca Airline and it was the quickest way to get to San Jose with a 50 minute layover in San Salvador, El Salvador. 

We arrived in San Jose very late so there was nothing else to do but check into our hotel and sleep. The next day was Sunday and all the museums were closed so we just walked around to get a feel of the city. I was surprised that the temperature was cool instead of hot. It suited me fine though because I didn't want humidity. 

A couple of things I noticed in San Jose:
  • Lots of fast food restaurants like Mcdonalds, Burger King, KFC, Popeyes etc - it's packed full of people and not enough local restaurants in the main city square. 
  • No one was smoking indoors and also outdoors. They have laws on smoking inside any buildings. restaurants, etc. but I was also surprised that no one was smoking even in street corners which is really good. 
  • A lot of police presence in the main square during the day but not at night. We had a friend who went to San Jose before and advised us not to go out at night so we stayed in for dinner.  
We only stayed in San Jose for a short period of time before exploring the rest of the country. More on that soon. 

Reflections Part II

March 4, 2014

Hello! I'm back from my trip in Costa Rica. Another birthday in another country. Another year older and a big birthday milestone. I feel old in number but forever young at heart.

I'm always grateful to have a chance to travel and I never take it for granted. This trip was especially special to me. I felt very peaceful and I enjoyed every single minute of it.

I can't wait to share more of my stories and photos with you.

Happy March!!!

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