Brighton >>> (Italy) Naples >>> Rome
10/8- Fly to Naples, Italy! Try authentic Italian Pizza!
10/9- Social time at an Italian feast, Explore Naples
10/10- Explore Capri, Anacapri, and the rest of the beautiful island!
10/11- Rest day in our Air BnB, Best Pizza in Naples!
10/12- Explore Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast
10/13- Arrive in Rome and tour the sites at night
10/14- Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums
Quilotoa >>> Chugchilan >>> Isinlivi >>> Guayquil >>> Puerto Lopez >>> Salinas
5/7 – Explore Quilotoa Crater Lake
5/8 – Hike from Quilotoa to Chugchilan
5/9 – Hike from Chugchilan to Isinlivi
5/10 – Transport from Isinlivi back to Latacunga and then on to Guayquil
5/11 – Driving to the Coast and Arriving in Puerto Lopez
5/12 – Isla de la Plata: the Poor Man’s Galapagos
5/13 – Travel Down the Coast to Salinas
Uvita >>> (Panama) David >>> Bocas del Toro >>> Santa Catalina
5 hour Panama Border Crossing!
+ Checked out of Flutterby. Said our goodbyes to Laura and caught a taxi to the bus station.
+ After the very confusing bus station with multiple rude staff members, we FINALLY boarded the bus to David and took the very last seats. Because we bought the ticket directly through the conductor and not the office, when Corey gave him money and asked for change, the guy simply said it was his propina (tip) and kept it all. Not wanting to get kicked off the bus, there was little we could do so we just boarded.
+ After an uneventful ride, we got off the bus and began the process to cross the border. We ended up being at the border for just about 5 hours! It would have probably been much longer if the bus driver had not kept taking groups of 2-3 of us up ahead and skipping a bunch of people!
+ After the border, our bus continued on for a quick 45 min to David.
+ The international fair of David was happening this weekend. Tonight was the grand finale- a horse parade! Citizens from David and the surrounding area parade through the streets on horseback! Apparently there are hundreds of horses!
+Our taxi driver was driving us through the remainders of this parade. There were people on horseback everywhere! And many of them were obviously drunk! Others were riding up to beer stands and buying a few brews without even getting off their horse! We were bummed we had missed the actual parade because even this was such a site to see!
+ We made small talk with our taxi driver and learned that even he owns two horses. And he thought it was preposterous that we asked what their names were. “They have no names.” (followed by a weird look)
+ Arrived and checked in to the dorm at Bambu Hostel. Our dorm had AC. It was glorious!
+ Spontaneously ate dinner with 3 other travelers from Stuttgart! Talked about what we learned about Germany from Laura and Marius (i.e. fressneit). Also talked about lego movie theme song. Hagen thinks all Americans always say how “everything is awesome” ! Lololol
+ Corey had fried fish and Patacones (squished plantain patties) for less that $4! Liz was adventurous and tried some octopus stew! It was delicious!
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Checked out of dorm, moved into private room with AC and very small TV from the 90’s.
+ Spent early part of day checking email, talking to family/friends
+ Walked 15 minutes to town and ate lunch at Dairy Queen.
+ Stopped into the Super 99 grocery store and picked up some drinks and ramen for dinner that night.
+ Walked back to hostel and spent the rest of the day researching Panama and Colombia.
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Corey woke up and watched a movie while Liz played on her phone.
+ We then spent most of the day planning our next moves and deciding which places we were and were not going to.
+ Booked accommodation for our upcoming places and researched flights to Colombia.
+ Watched Zoolander 2 and relaxed by the pool.
+ Ate dinner at the seafood restaurant across the street again. We both got the fish special and an appetizer of fish ceviche. They were both delicious and big portions for very cheap prices.
+ Spent the rest of the evening soaking up our last night of AC and watching our tiny TV.
Arrived in Bocas Del Toro
+ Woke up and checked out of our room, but had already missed the free breakfast.
+ Caught a taxi to the bus station and then the first shuttle bus headed towards Bocas Del Toro. On the 4 hour shuttle ride, we passed many interesting landscapes and little villages. Some little kid on the bus got sick and threw up in the van, but luckily it wasn’t near us.
+ During the ride, we watched Trumbo and then Corey watched Beasts of No Nation. Liz skipped that one so she didn’t get more car sick and end up like the little kid from earlier.
+ When we arrived to the town of Almirante, we got off the bus only to find that our bags on top were never covered and the rain through the mountains got them soaking wet.
+ No time to linger however as we were quickly ushered into the first taxi and driven to one of the boat docks. After 10 minutes we loaded up, strapped on our life jackets, said a prayer we weren’t going to need them, then started our 25 min journey over to the main island called Bocas Town.
+ Checked in to South Beach Hostel and then headed for an early dinner since we had skipped lunch.
+ Ate dinner and had a few drinks at happy hour. Then walked around town and talked to a few tour operators about tours or at least locations to snorkel tomorrow.
+ Ended the night at Bocas Brewery sampling their beers and playing ladderball.
+Corey tried to teach Liz how to do the Runningman. It was not a successful lesson. 🙂
+ Caught a taxi back to our hostel and did some more planning since Semana Santa is SO busy here in Panama.
Snorkeling at Blue Coconut with over-water hammocks
+ After leaving the hostel, we took a water taxi to Blue Coconut- a waterfront bar/restaurant of off Bastimentos. This bar had free snorkel gear and hammocks hanging in the water. It was a very cool place!
+ The snorkeling was good. Half coral/sponge and half sea grass bed near the mangroves. We saw tons of fish and sponges, free swimming jellyfish, lots of brittle stars, a skate, and a yellow sea horse!
+ Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hammocks over the water and watching the owner’s dogs fetch sticks from the water over and over.
+ Ate street food for dinner and watched House of Cards before bed.
3/24 (Our 3 year anniversary! 😊)
Snorkeling at Hospital Point- cove all to ourselves
+ We moved to a new dorm (same hostel) yesterday that may be the smallest dorm we’ve ever seen! 4 beds, no windows, but it has AC!
+ Because there were no windows we slept soundly in our little AC box and woke up with no idea what time of day it was.
+ Turned in laundry, and then hired a water taxi out to snorkel Hospital Point.
+ Hospital Point was not the most amazing snorkeling we had ever done but it was still a nice cove with grassy cliffs we had almost completely to ourselves. It was definitely a nice place to spend the afternoon.
+ After we got back to the hostel and showered, we set off to find dinner. The power went off for the whole island shortly after we left the hostel. We ended up having a hodge podge dinner of street food, Liz’s leftover chicken sandwich, and ice cream with chocolate cake!
+ Back at the hostel, we checked out and packed up to leave on our long travel day tomorrow. We are traveling from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast!
Traveled 13 hours! From Carribean Coast to Pacific Coast of Panama
+ Woke up very early. Grabbed our clothes that had been hanging to dry only to find they had been soaked by rain overnight.
+ Left Bocas del Toro on the 630am boat. Little did we know this would be one of our longest travel days yet.
+ Almost 13 hours later we finally arrived in Santa Catalina. We took a total of 7 different vehicles to get here.
— Water taxi from Bocas to the mainland — Taxi to bus station
— Bus from Almirante to David
— Bus from David to Santiago
— Bus from Santiago to Sona
— Bus from Sona towards Santa Catalina but only part way
— Old, stinky beat up SUV the rest of the way into town to our hostel- Jammin Hostel
+ Needless to say, it was an exhausting day.
+ After we checked into our hostel (which is also a pizzeria) we ordered a cold drink and some pizza!
+ In the middle of dinner, the power went out for the whole town. Corey and I had a lot of things to do online, but unfortunately the power never came back on before bed.
+ Instead we watched Parks and Rec in the moonlight outside our dorm room.
+ There are multiple kittens here running around and wrestling with each other. One of them very much reminds us of Tumbles. He is super playful and also likes attention.
+ Still no power, so we settled in for another hot sweaty night in our dorm beds.
Click here for more photos from our time in Panama!
Granada >>> Isla de Ometepe >>> San Juan del Sur >>> Tamarindo
+ Woke up at the Treehouse Hostel to howler monkeys in the morning (and all throughout the night). If you don’t know what they sound like, look it up online. They’re impressively loud for their size.
+ Walked back up the hill to the bar portion of the hostel to check out. Glad to see many of our hostelmates were still alive, although many had no memory of their actions the previous 12+ hours (It was THAT insane last night).
+ Seemingly everyone was ready to leave on the free 11 am shuttle so about 15-20 of us crammed into the pickup truck and truck bed back to Granada. Since we skipped breakfast and wanted fuel for our upcoming travels, we got lunch with Jessie and Tanice and reminisced on the funny times from the night before.
+ After saying our goodbyes, we trekked to the bus station (through another crazy market) and eventually caught the bus to Rivas for connections on to Isle de Ometepe.
+ After a bus, taxi and a very complicated ferry ride (We watched as they loaded a huge semi carrying telephone poles onto the deck of a ferry. Not our ferry thankfully!) We made it to Ometepe!
+ Walked to our hostel as the sun was setting and checked in.
+ Caught our breath for a minute from our long travels all day, then walked back into town to grab dinner.
+ Back at the hostel, Liz passed out immediately while Corey researched on the tablet.
+ Originally the plan was to spend the day exploring the island, but we instead opted to spend it lounging in hammocks (our new favorite pastime) researching for our next city.
+ From our hammocks, 2 large blue and white birds flew over us. These large birds were so different than any other bird we had seen! They had these little plumes on their heads that made them look like some type of cartoon. Almost like a Pokemon! (Over the next few days we discovered these birds are called Urraca (blue-tailed magpie) and are actually plentiful on Ometepe)
+ Not wanting to walk into town for lunch, we instead stayed at our hostel and depleted our snack reserves.
+ We did eventually head into town for dinner and went to a much cheaper, tipico style food place we had noticed the night before.
+ We also swung into a grocery store and replenished our snack supply (a must have on travels!)
+ Before sleep we watched the movie “Joy”, and prepared our bag to explore the island the next day.
+ After breakfast at our hostel, we hiked into town and rented a scooter/moped from a store run by 2 sisters.
+ The island is 2 big round volcanoes connected by a thinner isthmus. It looks almost like a pair of goggles from the air. We were on the far left end, but drove almost all around the island throughout the day! (Everywhere we could that there were paved roads)
+ We enjoyed great views both of the volcanoes and the local cities, houses, and shops.
+ Volcano Concepción is an almost prefect cone shape with clouds consistently swirling around the top. It almost looks like something out of a cartoon! Or like a vanilla ice cream scoop with chocolate on top, except the colors are reversed.
+ Volcano Maderas also has a cloudy top, but it is not nearly as perfectly cone shaped.
+ Because both volcano hikes end in the middle of the clouds with no views, we opted not to spend the money (or 8-10 hours of time) to hike them.
+ While driving we did see a troupe of Capuchin monkeys playing and eating on the roadside. So we pulled over and watched them for a bit (while making sure our phone and camera did not become their new play toy).
+ We also stopped to hike and explore a nature reserve called Chaco Verde, which had nice views of the lake and lagoon.
+ Another popular spot we stopped at was a beach called Playa Domingo. It was a nice beach and did not feel like we were on a lake at all, with the waves and sand. We got some smoothies and took in the sights for a bit before continuing on.
+ Our last stop on the island tour was a place called Ojo de Agua. While it was a nice shaded spot to swim and cool off from a natural spring, it was really just a big glorified swimming pool. We still enjoyed ourselves though and watched as people attempted a slack line above the water (and we even tried a couple times ourselves, with no success).
+ After we left there, we were headed back to our town, which was about an hour away. Around 30 minutes into our drive, the sun set and it got dark. Unfortunately, the scooter we rented did not have a right headlight and we were half blind while driving down the dark roads through unfamiliar territory.
+ After about 15 minutes of no problems (and all day driving it fine), all of the sudden about half of the road/concrete was missing on the right side of the road. Before we even saw that or knew what had happened, our bike fell over on the left side and we both skidded along the pavement for a little bit before stopping. Luckily, we were only going about 15/20 kph when it happened (not the 40-50 kph we were in the daylight) otherwise the injuries would have been much worse. Corey got the worst of it since he was in front, with most of his whole left side scraped badly, but Liz had a couple injuries too.
+ It happened in front of a couple shops and a number of people ran over to help us since they saw the accident (and pointed out how the road was messed up there, which we would have seen if we had a right headlight!)
+ Angry at the fact the scooter defect caused our crash and hurting from our numerous injuries, we gathered ourselves and counted injuries. Luckily the bike still worked (although it was scratched up too) and we continued the drive back to our hostel, hopeful that the rest of our journey involved no more spills.
+ Back at the hostel we showered and spent a good 40 minutes tending to and dressing our wounds.
+ We decided against riding the scooter back into town for dinner and instead walked. We went to the street food cart of a person we had met the previous day and got delicious Salvadorian food for cheap. (Turns out our friend was an El Salvadorian who used to live in the US.)
+ Walked back to the hostel and got ready for the next day while contemplating our conversation with the scooter company the next day.
+ Ate breakfast at the hostel.
+ Got our laundry we had turned in earlier and packed our bags and checked out.
+ Drove the scooter back to the agency and proceeded to have a not so fun argument/conversation with the workers. We approached the situation very calmly, recognizing both sides of the situation. While we were responsible for the vehicle when it crashed, we also acknowledged that the cause of the crash was entirely due to the defect of their rental product (causing us not to be able to see the road). If this had happened in the U.S. with a rental company, there would normally be lawsuits threatened against the company and demands for not only all money returned, but also the payment for injuries, etc. Unfortunately, this is not the U.S. It’s Nicaragua. So between pretending to not speak English well when it was convenient, the guy at the rental shop was very demeaning and dismissive. After explaining how we couldn’t see the right side of the road with the right headlight out, he proceeded to turn on the headlight in the shop, in broad daylight, and claim he could see everything just fine. What a joke! Of course in broad daylight you can see everything. We might as well inform all the car companies that they only need to make cars with 1 headlight on the side, since it has zero effect on the driving, according to him.
+ After almost an hour of circular arguing (and Corey managing to not punch the smug man in the face for his belittling comments and insults) we settled on them keeping our $100 deposit and paying an extra $5 (on top of our $30 rental). We were both very upset and felt like we maybe should have been much angrier and not reasonable (though in a foreign country, where people can buy off police, that’s never a good idea).
+ Still upset but happy to be done with the situation, we walked back to our hostel, gathered our bags, and then boarded the first ferry off the island. Eager to leave that situation behind us, and happy it was not worse physically or financially, we counted our blessings and put our focus to enjoying our upcoming travels.
+ Back on the mainland, we broke one of our travel rules and paid probably triple the price to make our journey to San Juan Del Sur much quicker and more convenient (as opposed to chicken buses). This was partially because we were so drained from the scooter debacle, and partially because our injuries (particularly Corey’s) left us a bit handicapped and wary of trying to get on/off chicken buses quickly.
+ Thankfully our taxi driver was very nice and took us all the way to our hostel, so we didn’t need to lug our bags very far. We checked in to Casa de Olas and were happy to be greeted by much friendlier people than our previous hostel.
+ Although we were in a party hostel, all of the crazy people from the weekend had checked out that morning. So we were given our own private dorm room, which was really nice.
+ We then caught the free shuttle into the actual town of San Juan Del Sur (we were staying way up a hill about 10 km outside of town). During the 2 hours we had before the return shuttle we grabbed lunch, checked out different tour/bus companies, had some happy hour drinks overlooking the cove, and explored the town.
+ Rode the shuttle back and spent the next couple hours socializing, playing a new drinking game the Aussie’s call Downers, and eating a family style dinner of chicken curry.
+ Apparently Tuesday nights also have a pub crawl and nearly everyone was heading out. We would normally have gone with, but since we had just spent so much money on the scooter, we decided to be lame and hang out at the hostel instead. So the evening was spent browsing Facebook, Instagram, and enjoying the silence of what was now basically our own private beach resort.
+ Woke up to find Corey’s toiletry bag halfway through our window leading to the monkey enclosure, with all of the contents missing. We reasoned that the monkey must have reached his arm through the fence, in between the partially open slats and grabbed the toiletry bag from Corey’s backpack! We quickly surveyed the monkey enclosure and sure enough, stuff was scattered all throughout their messy playground. We spoke to the staff who escorted us to the gate and then he went in and recovered as many of Corey’s toiletries as possible. In the end, we got back about 1/3 of our stuff, and didn’t lose anything of great value that couldn’t be replaced.
+ We then ate our free pancake breakfast at the hostel and caught their free shuttle 10 minutes down the mountain and into town.
+ From there, we booked another shuttle to Maderas beach, where we happened to hang out with Emilie and Julia again- two Canadian girls we have been running into multiple times in different cities on our travels.
+ We also ventured off up the beach to explore the jutting rocks, tide pools, and nice tranquil coves. The water in this area was super clear and made for great swimming. We would have loved to stay longer and enjoy the sights, but we had to catch our shuttle back to town.
+ After the 30 minute ride back south, we enjoyed a cerveza while watching sunset over an almost too perfect picturesque setting of little sailboats and houseboats in the cove, surrounded by cliffs. Although we’ve never been huge sunset enthusiasts, even we can’t stop ourselves from snapping way too many photos of the beautiful orange, purple and pink skies as the sun fades away.
+ When the hoards of people on the beach taking photos finally dispersed, we took it as our cue to leave as well and set off for our next stop for the night, a brewery!
+ As we mentioned in Honduras, finding good beer in Central America has been a tough undertaking. When we do finally stumble upon a brewery with delicious craft brews, it’s nearly impossible (and would be downright wrong) not to sample them all … multiple times.
+ So after we finished with our flights of their 3 different homemade beers, we went across the street to a good (an,d cheap) seafood restaurant that was recommended. Our referral source was spot on and we split a delicious seafood dinner, comprised of about 5 different types of seafood in a big paella-like mixture.
+ We caught the last shuttle back to our hostel at 8 and then spent the evening hanging out around the pool watching drunken debauchery from some of the Australian Amigos in town for their last night. The hostel had a policy where if you accidentally bumped into and knocked over the giant Jenga tower, you had to run around the pool naked. Let’s just say it happened often enough to question if they were all still accidents. Luckily, we kept our distance and made it to bed unscathed.
+ Today marks 2 months of travel!!! It’s hard to believe how fast time has gone by, and how many things we’ve done/places we’ve been to. We were nearing the end of our time in our 5th country, Nicaragua but had 1 more full day for exploring.
+ Hermosa beach was our destination for the day, about 30 minutes south and known for big beaches and lots of Surfing.
+ After 2 more shuttle rides, we arrived just in time to snatch up the last available hammock. The views were great and luckily we had a very strong ocean breeze to combat the oppressing heat. We didn’t laze around for too long though because we wanted to go exploring the tide pools while it was still low tide.
+ So we at off on foot again and for about 2 hours we wandered around on the perilous cliffs and rocky outcroppings. It was very similar to the coast of California with the huge waves crashing against the cliffs and various coves, just far less abundant sea life. We still managed to find a few different sea creatures before hunger drove us back towards the restaurant area. Unfortunately on our trek through a shrubbery area, Liz had her second bout of “I love to put my hand on a cactus” fever. So as her left hand was still recovering from the scooter induced road rash, her right hand’s jealousy led to Liz picking out about 20-30 little cactus needles from the folds of her fingers.
+ Lunch was surprisingly filling and afterwards we spent the rest of our beach excursion lounging in hammocks reading travel guides and watching surfers successfully (and some unsuccessfully) catch some gnarly waves.
+ There was another gorgeous sunset right over one of the huge rocks jutting out of the ocean and we managed to see it through just long enough before hopping on our return shuttle back into town.
+ We had 2 hours to kill (or so we thought) until our hostel shuttle came so we grabbed dinner at a cheap roadside Mexican restaurant, then stopped by the Brewery again for a blues fest they were having. We had heard they would have some different beers on tap, but we were forced to drink the same delicious ones from the night before. Darn.
+ The 8 pm shuttle that was supposed to pick us up never came. After 30 minutes of standing around waiting, we ducked into a different hostel to await the next shuttle at 10pm that headed right next door to our place. While we waited, we researched for our border crossing into Costa Rica the next day.
+ After finally arriving back at our hostel, we spent our last night there hanging out with people, swimming in the pool, and preparing for tomorrow’s travels. Luckily, we somehow still had the whole 6 person dorm room to ourselves this whole time!
+ In the morning after breakfast we booked flight tickets out of Costa Rica since they require you to show onward transportation when entering through customs.
+ We said goodbye at the hostel and then walked down the hill to the main road to wait for the chicken bus from San Juan Del Sur to Rivas, where we would catch a different bus to the border.
+ After standing around for a while with no luck, we finally agreed on a good price with a taxi driver to the border, skipping the backtracking to Rivas and saving some time. He was nice and gave us some helpful tips and info for Costa Rica. We’re really happy we took Spanish Lessons in Guatemala otherwise we wouldn’t be able to communicate well in these types of situations!
+ The border crossing was rather seamless and relatively quick, compared to other crossings we had done. We even got a good exchange rate from the Nicaraguan Cordobas to the Costa Rican Colones. Which is good, because we had been repeatedly warned by many other travelers how expensive Costa Rica is compared to other surrounding countries, so we would need every penny we could get!
+ We immediately caught a bus to Liberia, where we would catch another bus to our destination for the next few days, Playa Tamarindo. This place was recommended by Liz’s relatives so we were excited to visit some of the same places they had been.
+ Corey was particularly excited about Costa Rica, as it had been near the top of his bucket list for many years! Plus he read so much about the country in the guide books, he was anxious to do all the exciting adventures Costa Rica offers!
+ After arriving in the Liberia bus station we got our next ticket, but unfortunately the bus wasn’t leaving for 90 minutes so we plopped down in a bus station cafe and did more reading until it was time to undergo what was to be our most interesting chicken bus ride yet.
+ We sat in the back row bench this time to keep an eye on our bags, even though we knew it would be a bumpier ride. Although the ride was only about 2 hours, we had some very interesting characters sit next to us. The first was a drunk girl in her 20’s who was very friendly and even spoke decent English, but was very hard to understand due to the slurred words and erratic train of thought. The second was a large sweaty man in his 40’s who at first seemed angry and standoff-ish, but then also started talking to us about who knows what. We both tried our best to communicate in Spanish or English with him, but we were never sure exactly what he was saying. It turned into a 20 minute game of charades while we covered topics ranging from snow, Santa and chimneys, him maybe or maybe not liking various states (we’re not sure which) and smiling a lot. Or none of those are correct and we were as confused as we looked.
+ This “chicken bus” was different than most because instead of going on the most direct path to it’s destination (but still stopping frequently to pick up people) it turned on a bunch of side roads, and in and out of neighborhoods. So it took twice as long as it should have. We asked someone if this bus was indeed headed to Tamarindo and they just responded “Yes. Pura Vida” (Meaning relax and go with the flow).
+ After finally making it to the end of the bus line, we walked through town to Pura Vida hostel and checked into the last 2 dorm beds.
+ We quickly befriended a Canadian guy who had been staying in Tamarindo for about 10 days already and loved it. He gave us some tips and pointers about the area and then walked us about halfway towards a dinner spot he recommended before we parted ways. Liz was craving some southern style BBQ and she was in luck because Tamarindo was the most touristy place we’d been since we started in Cancun, so they had tons of American style restaurants and shops (at American prices) and huge resorts too. So we easily found a BBQ restaurant and indulged our nostalgic taste buds.
+ After dinner we walked around exploring the city and found another brewery! (One of the perks of the American influence in the city. ) We sampled some of the craft beers they had on tap, but chose to move along due to the small cups you got and the poor service. But the beer was good!
+ On our walk back to our hostel, we happened to see a giant movie projector screen on the top of a tall hotel showing the most recent Star Wars movie! We were both excited to watch it again so we hurriedly found our way to the top, only to catch the last 5 minutes or so. Although we were disappointed, they were about to start their second movie which was “The Revenant” so Corey talked Liz into staying and watching. We ended up being the only ones up there the whole time so it was like our own private rooftop theater! Complete with a cool ocean breeze and a cold beer. We were happy we were there for their weekly movie night.
+ Afterwards we went back to the hostel and quietly snuck into our dorm rooms, as usual being the last ones awake.
Leon >>> Poneloya >>> Las Penitas >>> Granada >>> Laguna de Apoyo >>> Granada
+ Had to get up early for our Volcano Boarding excursion on Cerro Negro.
+ Our hostel, Tortuga Booluda, provides fee pancake batter for guests to cook their own pancakes. Liz lit a gas stove for the first time and cooked pancakes for us!
+ We walked to Quetzaltrekkers and met up with our group. Rode in the back of some sort of Army jeep for about 45 minutes out to the Volcano. On the way out, another Volcano nearby called Telica actually erupted right in front of us! We didn’t get to see any lava, but still watched huge clouds of smoke and ash bellow into the sky, which was pretty cool.
+ On our shuttle, we met some nice people from the states (NC, and CA) and a nice Swedish girl, Rebekah, who was actually staying at our hostel!
+ Our trek to the top of the Cerro Negro volcano took about 45 minutes and we got to view the crater and a few sulfur steam vents with all of the yellow stained rocks around them. The higher we got, the more windy it got. This made for some treacherous trekking with the boards strapped to our backs between our backpacks. (We each looked like Buzz Lightyear with the boards strapped to our backs) At times we felt like we were almost blown off the mountain with the 50+ mph winds.
+ It was finally time to go Volcano Boarding! After putting on our full body suits, safety glasses, gloves, and bandanas, almost every inch of our body was covered and we were ready.
+ They say opposites attract, and never have Liz and I had such opposite experiences as we did going down the mountain. Since you have the ability to control how fast you go (based on how much you use your feet to slow and stop yourself), it’s up to each person what level of daredevil they want to achieve. Liz set the record that day for slowest descent, seemingly slow enough to admire each rock and viewpoint along the way. Corey nearly broke the sound barrier and his rocket sled trip ended at the bottom after about 30 seconds, leaving a trail of dust and an avalanche of rocks tumbling down behind him.
+ Both of us had a lot of fun though and luckily our tour company was the only one to allow us to go down twice! So back up the mountain we went (although this time half the group opted to stay behind, content with only the 1 risky thrill ride). The hike up was even more windy this time, but we made it up faster with the smaller group. Our second rides down, Corey went even faster, clocking in around 77 kilometers per hour, and Liz may have gone even slower (but was still the prettiest and most graceful Volcano Border in all of Nicaragua!).
+ Afterwards we met up with the rest of our group and had a delicious lunch of soft tacos with a new fancy ingredient: refried bean paste! Despite the name (and look), it was actually really good and everyone at the table stuffed themselves.
+ The ride back to the hostel was fun and we were all good friends by the time we arrived back in León. Dirty, hot and sweaty we all said our goodbyes and raced back to our hostels to take showers and get the countless black rocks out of our hair, ears, noses and other various crevices.
+ After our showers, we stayed confined to sweat in our hostel and escape the sun for the remaining few hours of daylight.
+ In the evening we went out again and after a quick stop to buy shirts from our Volcano boarding experience, we headed down to get ice cream at a place we had been recommended to visit called “Kiss Me”. Although the ice cream was very good, we paid more than we normally do for dinner for 2 here.
+ While strolling through the city afterwards, we found a celebration concert taking place in Central Park. They were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of some famous freedom poet (we think?) and there were various dancing and singing groups that performed. We stayed for about 90 minutes and alternated between watching the concert, the nearby wedding taking place at the huge cathedral, and just watching all the different types of people walk through the park.
+ We had heard about a delicious pizza place we needed to visit so we headed there for dinner. The place had funny drawings on the wall, but the food (and service) was a bit disappointing.
+ On the walk back to our hostel, we passed a bunch of crazy clubs and bars that rivaled Downtown Orlando!
+ The rest of the evening was spent lounging in hammocks at the hostel and planning our next few travel moves.
+ We slept in a little at our hostel and woke up just in time to have the last few pancakes.
+ It was time to head back to the Pacific Coast, our first time there since we were in Guatemala. We were going to a secluded backpacking lodge on the beach called the Surfing Turtle that was only about 45 minutes southwest of León.
+ The shuttle to the Poneloya beach was leaving from a different hostel so we packed up our stuff and walked over there in time to catch the bus with about 8 other backpackers.
+ When our shuttle bus went as far as it could, we had to then strap on our bags and walk a couple hundred yards through soggy sand (it was low tide so no boats or cars would work). We eventually reached a deep enough part that had a little river to cross so we paid a dollar, and boarded a boat for all of 30 seconds to go about 30 feet to the other side. Then it was another 15 minutes of walking to the actual hostel. There was supposed to be a free horse and carriage to pick us up and take us, but as usual in Central America, things are not always as advertised.
+ Covered in sweat from the almost nauseating heat, we checked into our dorm room and ordered lunch.
+ The last thing you want to do when you’re hungry, hot and tired is wait forever for your lunch. But that’s exactly what happened as we watched seemingly every other person in the hostel get there food as we sat there for over 2 hours waiting! We finally complained (for the 2nd time) and magically less than 5 minutes later we got our food. We assume they had lost our ticket. This experience, combined with some surly staff members, was not a very good start to our experience here.
+ After we finished our small and tasteless burgers from their overpriced menu, we could finally do what we came here to do and relax at the beach!
+ We relaxed in the hammocks and read the guidebooks for the upcoming countries.
+ The hostel was hosting a “speed dating” activity to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did not participate but had fun asking each other the silly questions the organizer had selected.
+ After the speed dating the main bar closed and the beach bar opened up with a bonfire. Everyone moved down closer to the water to continue hanging out.
+ The surfing turtle is the only thing on this section of beach as it becomes an island with low tide. With almost zero light pollution, we could see the clearest night sky we had ever seen! So many stars! We felt like we could even see the Milky Way!
+ Went to bed in our 16 bed dorm on the 2nd floor of a thatched roof hut. We made sure to book this dorm specifically as we had heard great things from other travelers. The dorm was completely open air. (2 walls were only screens) this meant we had great ventilation and beautiful views to wake up to!
+ Corey’s bed was a top bunk closest to the screen. He definitely enjoyed his sleep that night!
+ Woke up to the beautiful view and packed up our bags since we were checking out today.
+ Ordered breakfast of pancakes and fruit. Liz says they were the best pancakes she has ever had!
+ All of our accomodations in Nicaragua have offered free organic coffee throughout the day but it’s been SO HOT everywhere that Liz had not even taken advantage of this!
+ Hung out at the beach for most of the day. Corey played KanJam (a frisbee game) with some Canadian guys and finally got to use his football he won from Miller Lite back in Honduras.
+ After a small lunch, we headed back into town to our next hostel. We eventually caught the local bus and rode it a short ride to the other side of the beach called Las Penitas.
+ We checked in to Barco de Oro and were greeted with free juice, friendly staff, and mermaid wall art! This hotel was not right near the waves but was actually right along the tidal flats.
+ We walked down the beach a bit to watch sunset and the waves splashing over the large rocks.
+ Back at Barco de Oro we ate dinner (another delicious and cheap jalapeño steak!) and planned out our next moves.
+ Corey decided to skip surfing lessons for now and wait for better waves.
+ Ate lunch at a nearby hotspot called the Lazy Turtle and had a lazy day researching how to get to Granada and where to stay once we arrived.
+ Caught the local bus back into Leon. This bus was much more crowded than the previous day and stopped on the far west side of Leon. Hired a taxi to take us directly to the bus station for Managua.
+ Rode in small minivan to Managua then on to Granada on the city bus. All for less than $3/pp!
+ Arrived in Granada around 9 pm. Had trouble finding our hostel because Google and Tripadvisor both showed incorrect addresses. After walking about 12 blocks with all of our gear, we finally stopped into Oasis Hostel (not our original choice) and booked 2 nights. Oasis had tons of signs advising not to walk around the city at night. Woops! We were glad we didn’t have any problems.
+ Got dinner at a tipico restaurant for really cheap and watched street performers.
+ Walked back to the hostel, set the fan on full blast, and tried to fall asleep as quickly as possible to escape the heat.
+ Spent most of the day lazing about in the hammocks and using the free computers to do research for upcoming travel and tried our best to stay cool.
+ Left the hostel in the afternoon and saw a long line of people waiting for something a few doors down from the hostel. Eventually a door opened and the waiting adults poured into the building. One by one each person reimerged toting a little kid. It was the pickup line for elementary school! Most parents rode away on their bikes with the kid sitting sidesaddle on the bike frame. It was quite a sight with the bikes riding every which way on the sidewalk and down the middle of the road.
+ Talked to a few tour companies about activites for the next few days.
+ Ate dinner at Toritos and decided to take advantage of the promotion they were running for a good deal on a nice room. We made a reservation for a room for the next night with AC! Woohoo! What a luxury!
+ After another free breakfast of AYCE pancakes, we checked out of Oasis and moved our bags across town to Toritos.
+ Took the shuttle to Laguna de Apoyo and stayed the day at Paradiso Hostel.
+ It was so windy the lake was more like an ocean with waves! The cooler weather was a great escape from the Granada heat.
+ We spent a while lounging in hammocks, reading our travel guides, and sipping on a licuado.
+ Then we headed down to the beach (lake) where Corey got some use out of his football and threw around with some french Canadians for a bit while Liz floated in a tube on the lake.
+ Returned to Granada and headed back over to Toritos to shower and enjoy our AC!
+ Ate some disappointing pizza for dinner at a place that was popular, but not very well organized.
+ Met Rebekah (from volcano boarding) and her hostel mates for a drink.
+ Went back to Toritos and watched some spanish TV before bed. Corey really likes watching movies he’s already seen in Spanish and trying to figure out what they’re saying.
+ After breakfast we took a walk down to the coast of Lake Nicaragua. This is the largest lake in Central America! It was obvious the city had done some beautification of this area but unfortunately it was still not a great part of town.
+ On the walk back, we unknowingly walked under someone actively painting the ceiling of an overhang. Liz got a big drop of paint on her lip and quickly realized what was going on! We ran past the building and escaped with only a few drops on our clothes (including 1 big one right on Corey’s crotch area, so that will surely look weird every time he wears that shirt in the future).
+ Wanting to work out some kinks we had developed from these hard dorm beds, we decided to try a unique experience we had read about online. It was a place called the Seeing Hands Blind Massage. This business offers cheap massages and a source of employment for the local blind residents of Granada. We each got a 40 min massage for $11 each!
+ Ate a quick lunch of leftover pizza and then caught the free shuttle to the Treehouse hostel.
+ Treehouse is exactly that! A treehouse built into the side of Mombacho Volcano about 30 minutes outside of Granada. A suspension bridge, lots of hammocks and thatched roofs and also a lot of climbing up and down the side of the mountain for the bathroom and private rooms.
It is a cool setting being in the middle of the jungle with monkeys all around but the hostel itself was overpriced and not very well managed.
+ Ate a communal, family style dinner the hostel workers cooked that consisted of chicken and rice. Corey sweet talked one of the staffers and managed to sneak in some seconds!
+ The place was also known as a party hostel and since it was Friday night, and the treehouse was offering free shuttles from Granada every couple of hours, more and more people kept showing up. Eventually drunken craziness was beginning to surround us and we were starting to question if this place was for us.
+ Luckily, right when we were considering escaping to our room to watch a movie, we met 2 Canadian girls named Jessie and Tanice. They ended making the trip out there well worth it! We spent the whole night talking and people watching. The now crazy party combined with the motor skills needed to get around to each part the treehouse made for lots of excellent people watching. Occasionally people needed assistance back to their room/bed (who knows if it was their bed!?)
+ Around 2am the 4 of us decided it was bed time and made the 10 minute climb down the rocky path to the rooms in the dark. Fell asleep listening to the crazy party still going on.
+ Liz woke up once or twice at night and early morning to the sounds of howler monkeys outside our room, but luckily they haven’t evolved enough to pick locks so we were safe inside our room and mosquito net.
Click here for more photos from Nicaragua!
Antigua >>> Copan >>> Utila >>> La Ceiba
+ After only a few hours of sleep, our shuttle bus picked us up at 4am from our hostel for our 7 hour journey into Honduras.
+ We tried to sleep most the way but were not very successful.
+ Finally said goodbye to Guatemala after about 3 weeks and crossed the border and arrived in Copan, Honduras around 11am.
+ Explored the town and ate authentic street food for lunch.
+ Walked to different bus stations and mutual travel agencies to find out information about onward travel to Utila.
+ Napped back at our hostel “Berakah”.
+ Delicious (and fancy) dinner at Twisted Tanya’s. Corey had jalapeño filet mignon and Liz had ravioli.
+ Corey watched “The Avengers” in Spanish on TV while Liz organized pictures on the tablet.
+ Woke up to our hostel (and the entire town) not having any electricity or water. Fun!
+ Wandered around town until we found a good breakfast/lunch spot.
+ Afterwards, we had a 20 minute hike out to the main attraction of the town, the Copan Ruins.
+ Explored the ruins and surrounding nature trails for a few hours. We saw a few Agouti, a Honduran deer!, a Capuchin monkey (looked exactly like Marcel from “Friends”!), and tons of wild Macaws!
+ After finishing with the ruins, we sat under some trees and watched the Macaws eat, argue, and fly all around us. Really cool!
+ Walked back into town and caught a Tuk-Tuk to the “Tea & Chocolate Place”, a neat family run reforestation project.
+ After sampling their various noni tea, chocolate (with fresh cacao beans) and homemade hot sauces, we relaxed in hammocks, drank some delicious chocolate, and watched the sunset over the jungle.
+ Ate dinner at multiple street food stands (tacos and kebabs!)
+ On a quest to find a shop willing to make change for our large bills, we met the owner of a dive center/hotel on Guanaja (the 3rd bay island). He was very nice and his hotel sounded great! Unfortunately Guanaja is very remote and only accessed via express air charter. So we don’t think we’ll get to it on this backpacking trip, but hopefully in the future!
+ Woke up early to catch 6 am bus to La Ceiba. We decided to forego the direct tourist shuttle because it was 3 times the price of the local bus. When we arrived at the local bus station, the 6am bus was not the same as advertised and was actually an old school bus with updated seats. Because of the savings, we hopped on anyway for the projected 7-10 hour ride.
+ We connected in San Pedro Sula (yes THE San Pedro Sula everyone says to avoid because of high murder rates) and boarded another bus for the 3ish hour ride to La Ceiba.
+ Liz somehow managed to sleep for the majority of BOTH bus rides! Now that’s talent! Corey caught up on a few movies (Daddy’s Home, Creed, South Park).
+ After arriving in La Ceiba a few of us backpackers all split 2 cabs to get to the dock for the Utila ferry.
+ The cab drivers dropped us off at the ferry for the Utila Dream. We all bought tickets and dropped off our bags to be loaded on the boat. Only after this did we all realize that there is a much cheaper ferry a block down the road! We were so frazzled from our long day of travel, that our whole group of backpackers did not even bother to look for other ferry options! Despite our online research about the ferry, nothing mentioned the 2 different companies with such different price points! We were frustrated that we had saved money on the bus but then lost it again with the more expensive ferry. Oh well. We live and learn.
+ We talked with a friendly traveller (Cait) from Massachusets on the 45 min boat ride to Utila on the large catamaran.
+ After arriving at the ferry dock, we found Captain Morgan’s dive center, checked in to stay, and signed up for dives starting the next day.
+ Ate dinner at the sports bar “Skid Row” so Corey could watch the Pro Bowl. It was awesome.
+ Woke up at 6:45 am and got ready for diving!
+ Dove 1 dive on the Northside and 1 dive closer to the Southside of the island. The Northside is supposed to have better chances for spotting Whale Sharks as well as better visibility for diving. This was Liz’s first dive in 3 years!
+ On this dive we saw a giant spider crab ( similar to those you would see in Alaska!), a lobster (possibly dead?), and tons of different kinds of fish.
+ Spent the afternoon exploring the rest of the island (looking for good, cheap restaurants) and talking with other dive shops.
+ Ate dinner at Munchies with super cheap pasta special! Yum!
+ Spent the rest of the evening talking to a really nice couple, Gio (a girl from California who majored in biology) and a local Utila guy.
+ Decided to snorkel instead of diving today to save some extra money, but still went out on the dive boat at the same time in the morning.
+ Snorkeled 2 different sites again (1 north, 1 south), saw a moray eel swimming along the reef, a bunch of trigger fish, and a huge nurse shark (probably 9-10 feet long) just hanging out under a reef shelf!
+ Back at the hostel we showered, packed up, and checked out of our hostel. (We decided that we wanted to try out another company while on the island to better our luck of finding whale sharks!)
+ We ate lunch at a local hotspot called Rehab (famous for their drinking challenge, though we did not partake).
+ Checked into our new place, Altons, on the other side of the island. Spent the afternoon watching “The Rock” in the hang out area and updating the blog.
+ Went out for dinner, stopped to check prices at a party restaurant called “Underwater Vision” and started talking with a nice older couple from Wisconsin! (Right up near where Liz’s family is from!). Ended up eating wings (the 2nd time in 1 day for Corey!) and staying the whole time.
+ Hung out back at our dive hotel and did some blog work while watching “Drive” on tv.
+ Woke up early again (like our 4th day in a row! Ugh.) to meet our new dive master and get gear ready for our 2 north side dives today.
+ Both of these dives were way more impressive than the 2 previous sites. We explored 2 seamounts with surrounding mazes. (Spur and groove reef)
+ Tons of schooling fish, multiple moray eels, 1 large burrfish (similar to pufferfish), 1 sneaky (and large) barracuda hiding behind the school of fish and 2 cow fish!
+ Corey was an expert at spotting the eels both sleeping and swimming! He pointed them out to the group multiple times!
+ In between the 2 dives, the boat captains are always on the lookout for dolphins, pilot whales or whale sharks to snorkel with. On this trip he spotted some dolphins! Corey and I thought it would be a huge group of dolphins hanging out but only after getting in the water did we realize it was only about 6 dolphins who were swimming by. Liz could see them but was no where close. Corey was able to swim along behind them for about 30 seconds, but because the dolphins were already on the move, none of us snorkeling were able to keep up. We all climbed back in the boat and continued on to the 2nd dive site.
+ After we returned to the dock at Alton’s, we changed and found lunch at a nearby restaurant.
+ We wanted to do a night dive, but Alton’s was charging more than we wanted to spend. We spent the afternoon price checking other dive centers on the island.
+ While diving can be awesome, it is a very expensive hobby! Utila is known for some of the cheapest diving in the world, but diving everyday can still far exceed a backpacker budget.
+ We stopped by the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center here on the island to talk to them about looking for whale sharks. They explained that when pilots are flying between Utila and the mainland, they let the research center know where they have spotted whale sharks. The good news is the research center does not need to drive around randomly looking for the sharks and has a much better chance of actually seeing them. The bad news is no one has seen any sign of the Whale sharks for a few weeks.
+ Watched sunset at Alton’s in the chairs on the dock.
+ Ate dinner at stir fry place that is only open a few days a week. It was delicious and huge portions!
+ After dinner, we walked over to this dock people had mentioned had some wildlife at night. After looking around for a bit we saw tons of huge tarpon hanging out and a few spotted eagle rays swam by!
+ Ate breakfast at Alton’s and then lounged around in hammocks on the dock before checking in at Underwater Vision.
+ Took a tuk tuk to Coral View. (Small bar with shore access reef at the end of the Utila lagoon)
+ The snorkeling was way better than either of us expected! We were in the water for over 2 hours! The reef was very shallow in some areas and very deep in others. We saw multiple eagle rays, 2 puffer fish, christmas tree worms, TONS of different fish (wrasse, tangs, damsel fish, few groupers, etc.)
+ Caught a tuk tuk back into town and ate lunch of pizza and then split a lionfish burger! Yum! Tasted very similar to crab cake.
+ Came back to Underwater Vision and got fitted with gear for the night dive.
+ This was our first night dive since we got our Advanced Open Water certifications at FSU!
+ The night dive was really awesome and filled with all sorts of cool creatures that are more active and visible at night. We saw 2 octopus, a bunch of shrimp, lobster, a brittle star, and a tiny eel.
+ Throughout the dive we were all swarmed by fish that were attracted to our lights to feed on the illuminated micro organisms! The fish ranged in size from a minnow to the size of Liz’s hand! They were nibbling our hands and arms as they swarmed around us swimming at top speed and bumping into our faces. It was quite the experience.
+ The coolest part was when we all turned off our lights so that we could see the bioluminescence in the water! Simply by moving our arms and legs around, the water would light up with a glowing neon green color with all of the micro organisms that were being disturbed. Super cool!
+ After our dive was over, we all hopped right back into the water without our dive gear just to swim around and see more bioluminescence.
+ We spent the boat ride back alternating between staring at the bioluminescence from the boat disturbing the water below and the magnificent display of stars above.
+ After a quick clean up of our gear for the last time on Utila, we skipped the roudy party scene at our hostel in favor of hanging out with our friend Cait we had met on the way over to Utila.
+ We ended up spending the rest of the night talking with her, a nice girl named Lola, and the coolest bartender on the island, Tom(?). He even kept the bar open for us after hours since we were having such a good time hanging out.
+ On the way back home we grabbed a good street taco to supplement the pizza we had earlier, then packed up our bags back at the room to leave Utila the next day.
+ Our initial plan was to go snorkeling for 1 last time in the morning from the dive boat, but the water was too choppy and the bed too comfortable so we chose a lazy and relaxing morning instead.
+ After a quick ATM visit and settling up with our hostel, we ate lunch on the dock at Altons and then set off to explore the other end of the island.
+ Walked by some building with very large walls with barbed wire on top and the gate said “King Kong Gate” on it. We nervously chuckled at how that wasn’t possible, and then hurried along just in case.
+ At the end of our walk was a nice public beach/park with Iguanas and a nice snorkeling area, although the wind was still too strong on this day so we cut our visit short and headed back.
+ We spent the remaining hour or so before our ferry was to depart lounging in hammocks and soaking up the last bits of island life before heading back to the mainland.
+ Our ferry ride back was still very smooth despite the much larger waves and we were glad we were in the bigger, more expensive ferry to avoid any potential sea sickness (that we heard happens often with the cheaper, smaller ferry). Plus we still had our free sodas to comfort us.
+ We were met at the gate by our free shuttle driver to the Jungle River Lodge we would be staying at for the next few nights. We were joined by a nice British guy named Liam and after a brief tour of the city and a quick 30 minute taxi ride, we arrived at our new hostel in the jungle. The perfect weather we were blessed with in Utila gave way to about 18 hours straight of rain and much cooler temperatures at our higher altitude.
+ We ate dinner right at the hostel and caught up on work with the tablets before watching the final 80% of “The Fugitive” (Liz had only ever seen the first 20% about 5 different times).
Click here for more photos of our time in Honduras!