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Less is More: Barefoot Luxury in Puerto Viejo, Caribbean coast of Costa Rica

Arrecife Beach Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Arrecife Beach, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Off the beaten path travel story

So you’re dreaming of getting off the beaten path and forgetting all the trivialities of daily life… it’s time to leave the alarm clock at home along with your shoes, appointments and obligations.

You’re searching for a place where you can truly relax, leave your watch behind and call time your own. You need some natural beauty and wildlife, perhaps an adventure and you don’t want it manicured and presented on a plate.Barefoot Luxury Geckoes Lodge Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

Of course there’s myriad places to choose, with far too many websites promising you Paradise at a reasonable or even discounted price and you haven’t got the energy to trawl through and what’s more, are they selling what you’re looking for?

Is Puerto Viejo and its sister settlements of Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva and Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica the place for you?

Maybe…

If a golf course, pool aerobics, room service, shopping malls, theatre, or an all inclusive resort is your idea of the perfect holiday then read no further.

But if you’re looking for a small eclectic beach town laid out along a strip of coast where the rainforest meets the ocean, with an atmosphere so laid back you have no option but to relax and where there’s loads to see and do but also a string of beautiful beaches to do absolutely nothing on, this may be the place for you.

Pareos for sale in Puerto Viejo

Traditional pareos for sale at the beach in Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is not for everyone… there’s a lot of things that it doesn’t have… like the ubiquitous chain restaurants and shops, theatre, cinema, ancient sites and all inclusive resorts.

You may have seen the traditional description of this area with photos of picture postcard beaches of white sand and leaning palm trees, houses in rainbow colours, Afro Caribbean cuisine, restaurants catering to every taste, howler monkeys hanging around in the trees and a sloth casually crossing the road.

Sloth looks comfy at Puerto Viejo

And possibly you’ve checked out the smorgasbord of activities and trips on offer from the popular zip-lining through the rainforest canopy to surfing, white water rafting, diving, snorkeling  fishing and dolphin watching to organic chocolate tours, Caribbean cooking classes, jungle or beach horseback riding to indigenous tribal visits and so the list goes on.

Zipline at Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

All in all it paints a pretty attractive picture especially when you add the wonderful wildlife spotting of laying leather-back turtles, huge iridescent blue Morpho butterflies, disguised iguanas, technicolor toucans, neon dart frogs, speedy agoutis and fishing pelicans alongside the famous smiling sloths and swinging monkeys.

Howler monkey resting on a tree at Puerto Viejo Geckoe Lodge

So is it ‘just’ this Caribbean menu that brings visitors back again and again, even those that have sworn to never revisit the same place twice because their Bucket List awaits?

Black-green poison dart frog

Maybe…

But maybe it’s all of the above plus something less tangible. After all there are other places in the world that also offer the visitor a menu of entertaining diversions,  a glimpse into another way of life and a chance to indulge a Caribbean fantasy.

Puerto Viejo and the surrounding area offer something more that resonates not only with locals and the 46 nationalities that call here home, but also with the most casual of visitors.

Crop of Baby Hummingbirds in Geckoes Garden, Geckoes Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Perhaps we could call that ‘extra something’ the sophistication of simplicity.

Imagine a place where many of the superficial pretentious trappings of modern life are stripped away:  Where the type of car you drive, the fancy clothing, the type of phone, the size of your house or TV screen or the title you hold at work becomes totally irrelevant.

Where you are simply you.

Where nature is not something you go and visit, but something you live within and are part of. Remember looking up at a sky full of stars and feeling infinitesimal in comparison? In that moment we are aware of the power of nature and our place within it.

Oxen at the beach, Geckoes Lodge Cocles Puerto Viejo Costa Rica

But the 24/7 world dampens that perception by assigning a place for nature and controlling it, which is probably why so many of us take every chance to escape the frenetic complications of modern life to something simpler, something natural, something that isn’t man made but real.

common-blue-morpho

So is Puerto Viejo all about getting back to nature and relinquishing all your worldly goods?

No, it’s about remembering what it is to derive pleasure from simplicity which affects us all on a deeper level than the often superficial, fleeting pleasure of packaged entertainment. It’s the difference between the thrill of surprise at coming across a troupe of Howler Monkeys as you walk along the beach as opposed to seeing them in a zoo.

Monkey party at Geckoes Lodge in Puerto Viejo

It’s going to sleep to the sound of cicadas rather than traffic. It’s lying on pale sand with a fish taco whilst watching pelicans swooping and diving for their fish lunch.

Pelicans fishing at Gandoca

It’s sometimes not being able to get everything you want but having to make do and in so doing finding satisfaction in the same.

Less is more

We are creative creatures: the more we have delivered without effort, the more entitled we feel and the more bored and demanding we can become. We derive satisfaction from effort and the more developed our world becomes the more we seek the simple pleasures and the rewards they bring.

In that simplicity is the sophistication of perspective. It’s simple wisdom that Puerto Viejo and its sister settlements have in spades: essentially that those quasi sophisticated possessions and preoccupations are nigh meaningless in a natural habitat.

That Less is More.

Toucan-eating-Palm-fruit,-Geckoes-Lodge,-Cocles,-Puerto-Viejo,-Costa-Rica

Someone who has never been here recently asked me,

“So, I’m confused, is Puerto Viejo developed or under developed?”

The answer Vadim, is both.

Under-developed in gaudy consumerism, pretensions, entitlement and predictability.

Highly Developed in simple pleasures, which I would argue is the ultimate in sophistication.

Less is More. But don’t take my word for it:

Come and see for yourself

Gandoca Lagoon Talamanca

Things To Do and Where To Stay on the Big Island of Hawaii

Summertime and hot days go hand in hand. Rest and relaxation beg to be added to the mix and after a long year, it is well-deserved. What better place to find much needed rest and relaxation than the beach, where one can play volleyball, then run to catch some waves. Many people want to get rest, away from the hustle and bustle, on a private property on a secluded part of a tropical island. But, then, they may eventually become restless and want to be active.
One of the most relaxing and charming places to go this summer is none other than Hawaii. So what is there to do in Hawaii besides sipping tropical drinks and relaxing on the shore?

Take for example, the charming town of Captain Cook on Hawaii’s Kona Coast. Here are some fun activities that we love in Captain Cook:

  • Captain Cook is one of the most ideal locations to grow coffee, which is probably why Koa Coffee was named the best coffee by Forbes in 2001. If you’re in the area, tours of the plantation are available.
  • Surfing and kayaking at Kealekakua Bay

Surfing at Captain Cook

  • See some Dolphins at Hookena Beach

Dolphins at Hookena Beach

  • Hike through Volcano National Park to discover hidden lava flows, cloud forests and see stunning views of the ocean.

Also, of course there is always just Sunbathing at the beach. All of these great activities are very accessible to the locals of the area, so why not pretend your one by renting out one of their homes? Give yourself a few more days of tropical Summer fun by taking advantage of this great deal at Kona Leilani

SUPER SEPTEMBER: Stay 4 nights for $400! (Valid for Sept, 2012 for groups of four guests. Additional guests are $15 per person per night, $100 cleaning fee not included.)

Aloha Hawaii!

As winter has settled in in the Northern Hemisphere, my mind has regularly drifted to the tropical beaches of Hawaii. There is nothing like the crystal blue water, the lush rainforests and the beautiful golden beaches that cover the eight major Hawaiian Islands. As I walk past the snow piled on the pavement I can’t help but think about my swimsuit, buried in the bottom of my drawers, and how great it would be to escape these icy temperatures and head to paradise.

When I imagine my Hawaiian escape, I want a mixture of culture, scenery, sun, sand, surf and of course nature. I don’t want it to be over populated with tourists but I want it to be relaxing, and suitable for children. Naturally my choice is Kauai, the Garden Isle and the oldest of the main Hawaiian Islands. I like the idea of tropical flowers and vegetation, the rainforest and the canyon. Plus, the island has some truly stunning beaches that can’t be overlooked.  If I was to head to Kauai, Hawaii tomorrow, my ‘holiday to-do list’ would look something like this…

 

Take a boat to Na Pali

Na Pali is a fifteen-mile stretch of coastline on the northwest side of Kauai. Much of the coast is inaccessible due to its sheer cliffs which rise as high as 4,000 feet above the ocean. I would take a boat to check out this magnificent spot, however if you’re more of an active person, hiking is also an excellent way of getting there. The hikes are particularly amazing, and it is definitely worth going a little bit further to reach the waterfall which is particularly breathtaking. Some of Kauai’s best snorkeling is found around the Na Pali Coast also, so this is a great opportunity to see some amazing tropical fish and maybe even a Hawaiian green sea turtle, if you’re lucky! This stunning area of Hawaii is certainly not to be missed – pictures do not do it justice

 

Kalalau Trail

 

Hanalei Bay

Hanalei Bay is the largest bay on the north shore of Kauai and is thought of as one of the best beaches in Hawaii. The picturesque beach is nearly two miles long, shaped like a crescent moon and is surrounded by mountains.  The bay is a great place to go surfing (particularly in the winter months), body boarding, paddle boarding, fishing, sailing and swimming.

 

Visit Hanapepe Art Galleries

Hanapepe, which has also been touted Kauai’s “Art Colony”, is a mecca for art studios and galleries. It’s easy to spend many days wandering the rows upon rows of galleries and enjoying the local art work. If you’re in Hanapepe on a Friday night, check out the art night called Hanapepe Art Walk which is held over a two-block stretch of Hanapepe Road.  It is these art nights that revived Hanapepe over a decade ago, and helped create Hanapepe to be the art and cultural center that is has become.  If you’re looking for a piece of artwork to buy, this is also a great opportunity to support the local community.

 

Wild Hawaiian Goats

 

See Waimea Canyon

Waimean Canyon on the West Side of Kauai is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. While it’s not as big as the Grand Canyon, it certainly is as breathtaking. The canyon is approximately ten miles long and 3,000 feet deep and was initially formed by a collapse of the volcano that created Kauai as well as the steady process of erosion from heavy rainfalls. The Waimea Canyon State Park is great for a day trip as it encompasses 1,866 acres of wilderness to explore with numerous hiking treks. If you’re looking for a bit of adventure, why not see the river from the bottom of the canyon, and kayak down the river. Whether you’re seeing the Waimea Canyon from the top or the bottom, don’t forget your camera, you’re bound to get some stellar shots!

 

Hike to the top of Sleeping Giant Mountain

As with Na Pali if you want to take the ‘easy route’, drive to the top and walk for ten minutes to reach the summit. If you’re feeling extra energetic, give the hike ago, it’ll make reaching the top that much more satisfying! The Sleeping Giant is a mountain ridge in the Nounou Forest Reserve. The mountain, which is officially known as Nounou Mountain, received its nickname due to the traditional Hawaiian legend about a giant who overate at a party in his honor that when he laid down to rest, he never woke up. The hiking trails lead right up to the highest point of the ridge which could also be the giants “forehead”.

 

Kalalau Beach

What’s on your Hawaii to-do list? If you’re planning on checking out this tropical oasis out, be sure to check out our vacation rentals on the islands!

Where the sun always shines – Australia’s Sunshine Coast

I don’t know why we ignored it for so long. My family and I were told repeatedly how amazing the Sunshine Coast was, how beautiful and relaxing the area is and how it has “something for everyone”. Finally we decided we’d give it a go, and it quickly became one of our favorite places on earth.

The Sunshine Coast is situated south of Brisbane on the East coast of Australia. This location was perfect for everyone in my family. It has warmth and sunshine, beautiful beaches, amazing surrounds and attractions, cool restaurants, cafes, bars and shops and is perfect for children. My family and I chose Caloundra, which is only an hour’s drive from Brisbane airport, to spend our holiday.

We hired two cars to get out to Caloundra and easily navigated our way from the airport. We stayed on the beautiful Kings Beach which is the main beach of Caloundra. The beach is patrolled year round by the Surf Life Saving Club and is a great spot to catch some waves. We purchased some cheap body boards from a local shop and spent many afternoons catching the waves into the beach with the kids.

We were also lucky enough to find accommodation right on the beach with a beautiful pool which was great for the kids. There are a number of restaurants along the waterfront in Caloundra and most evenings we’d walk along the boardwalk that runs beside the beach throughout Caloundra and find a new restaurant to try each night. There is also a small township with many eateries, numerous shops and a market every Sunday.

After our first few days in Caloundra we decided to explore some of the other areas on the Sunshine Coast. One day when the sun was high we packed a picnic, our swimsuits and some sunblock and headed to Currimundi Lakes. This is a hidden gem on the Sunshine Coast and was only a ten minute drive from Kings Beach. Currimundi Lakes is a great place for kids as the lake is very calm and shallow, particularly when the tide goes out. We were joined at the lake by our extended family so we had five children ranging in age from eleven months to eight years old. The older children had a blast running and swimming between the sandbanks, and the younger children enjoyed splashing in the shallow water. There were a few cafes in the area as well as a fish and chip and ice cream place right beside the playground.

Although the Sunshine Coast’s beaches are incredible, that’s not all there is to do in this magical part of Australia. One of the most popular attractions is of course the Australian Zoo made famous by Steve Irwin aka The Crocodile Hunter who was killed by a stingray in 2006. Australian Zoo offers guests the chance to cuddle with koalas, hand feed the elephants, meet the tigers and watch a crocodile show. Underwater World in Mooloolaba is also a great day out. You can watch sharks being fed, touch stingrays and starfish, check out tropical Australian reef fish, enjoy the seal show and even receive a kiss from one of the seals! Mooloolaba is also a great town to check out. It has some incredible restaurants and some very trendy shops. It’s the epitome of a beach town and even has some chic bars which my sister and I checked out.

One event to put in your vacation calendar is the Eumundi Market which is held every Wednesday and Saturday. This market is one of my favorite parts of any trip to the Sunshine Coast. The market is Australia’s biggest art, craft and produces market and sells everything from clothing, toys, jewelry, artwork, fresh fruit and vegetables, hot food and Australian souvenirs. Once I even got to ride a camel at this market…. Just saying!

Also worth checking out when you’re exploring the Sunshine Coast is The Ginger Factory, particularly for the ginger shop and their cordial mixes! They also have a great bee show and honey tasting tour and their ice cream (which is made in their on-site creamery) is divine! Sunshine Plaza in Maroochydore is great for a spot of shopping and the canals that run through the middle give it an extra special touch. Aussie World isn’t too bad as far as theme parks go and the Ettamogah Pub is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. If you are a nature lover, have a wander through the Noosa National Park or the popular Glasshouse Mountains. Make sure you take your camera to capture some breathtakingly beautiful images.

I have a lot of love for the Sunshine Coast. I’ve been there twice now, and both times have been drawn back to Kings Beach in Caloundra. It’s a truly beautiful area of Australia and there is so much to do for the young and the old. It is definitely one part of the world I would recommend to anyone for a dream vacation.

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