The Marietas Islands in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

When we looked up Puerto Vallarta on Google the one picture that caught our eye was the one of the Hidden Beach in The Marietas Islands. The Marietas Islands are completely uninhabited by humans & are home to 44 different species of plants and wildlife. The Mexican government had to close the islands to the public for some time so that they could restore the damage that was done due to the many tours that would go to the island destroying it’s coral and contaminating the island’s surrounding water with excessive oil from the many boats. The islands are opened to the public again, but only certain tours are able to get you in (they have to have a special license I believe).

The tour we bought included a tour around the islands, getting off at one of the beaches (not the Hidden Beach), snorkeling, and food. The Hidden Beach was a private tour with the same tour company, but for a higher price and only an older couple (about 50-60 yrs old) and us were the ones who signed up to go. I was excited because I really didn’t want to have that experience with a bunch of people at the beach since it can get crowded easily because of its small size.

Vallarta by Boat (click on the link to see their website & what they offer)

Price for Marietas Islands tour: $1,600 pesos which would be around $86.00 US dollars (that’s the total price for 2 people)

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The first beach they took us to.

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When we got on the smaller boat to go to The Hidden Beach we found out we would have to swim there from where they stopped which was pretty far from the beach. The only thing they gave us was a life vest and a helmet. We asked them if we could get flippers to swim faster, but they said that because we didn’t know these waters they couldn’t risk us damaging the corals. We thought it made sense, but definitely had trouble getting to the beach without them. We had our tour guide lead the way once we got in the water. The older couple had A LOT of trouble swimming to the beach! We had plenty of trouble swimming there as well, but it’s only natural for them to get tired easier because of their age. The guy almost looked like he was about to pass out and the woman actually had a panic attack on the way back to the boat. We feel like it doesn’t matter how good of a swimmer you are, you will definitely have trouble swimming in those waters. The problem was the current and waves. To get to the beach you have to go through a cave and sometimes the water reaches the top so they count (they said it’s usually 6-7 waves before getting everyone to go through the cave and you have to swim quickly because if the big waves come then you’ll reach the top of the cave, which can definitely be scary and even hurt you. The problem is that even if you swim quickly the current always pulls you back. You think you’ve reached the shore when you’re pulled back in and since you try so hard to swim fast you get tired easily so it isn’t for the weak!

The Hidden Beach

Price for Hidden Beach tour: $1,200 pesos which would be around $65.00 US dollars (that’s the total price for 2 people)

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As you can see the water can reach the top. If you get caught in that it could be really dangerous.

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The water was rising to the top here, so they are waiting before they head back.

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Total price for 2 people: $2,800 pesos (around $151.00 US dollars)

We loved that we had that amazing experience because it really is such a unique place, but we don’t think we’d do it again just because it’s so risky. I would say, make sure to do your research and train beforehand, if you can, before you go.

-Daylin

 

 

 

 

 

Aruba

In April we went on Carnival Vista to Aruba. One reason I like cruises is because you get the chance to explore a different place for a day. Many times you want to go on vacation and see many pretty places but will you really like it? Not all places are as nice as the images or fun. Sometimes I like to try a place before I actually decide to book a full week there and spend so much money.

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Aruba is a small Dutch island off of the coast of Venezuela. Part of the ABC island which also includes Bonaire and Curaçao. Aruba is very unique because some parts are tropical, with white sand and clear blue beaches but also has a dry climate with cactuses.

When we arrived at the cruise port first we decided to walk around near the port. We saw many places to eat and cute little souvenir vendors. The buildings were all different and very pretty, everything was clean and seemed safe. We really liked walking around but we decided to go back to the port to book a tour and come back after. There were people standing around with the little tour booklets so we chose the whole island tour.

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It was very nice it was a guided tour. During the car ride the guy explained the island’s history and when we arrived at the locations he would get off with us. He showed us around or helped with anything until we had to go back. First we stopped by an Asian store, they had everything and of course, husband had to try the local beer.

Our first stop was at Ayo and Casibari Rock Formation. This was my favorite! From the bottom, you could see the huge boulders and we were excited to climb to the top not knowing what we would find. There was desert sand and cactuses and other pretty trees. We started the climb which was very steep. My husband is 6’4″ and found some places a bit tight to get through, luckily I’m small and had no problems. It was a fun climb and when we got up there it was just breathtaking! Beyond beautiful you could see everything from there. The colors were amazing. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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Our second stop was near the coast where there were rocky edges and harsh waves.   At this moment I thought all of Aruba was dessert and rocks. To be honest, I was tired of seeing red sand and cactuses, I thought there were no beaches or nice landscapes. Regardless it was still beautiful. We also visited an old gold mine.  It was in ruins but you could climb to the top and once again the views did not disappoint. Everywhere you turned there was an amazing view.

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The next location was the famous natural bridge. Although the original bridge collapsed in 2005 it’s still a very nice area. There is a baby bridge to see and you can walk over it. There’s also a souvenir shop and on the outside wall, you can see an image of the original bridge.

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We learned that nothing is really produced in Aruba. Everything is imported making prices more expensive. We noticed there were all different types of social classes. We saw modest homes and also very expensive big houses with a view.

We were headed to the beach. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Along the way, we stopped for some refreshments next to the lighthouse. Then we drove down and passed by a couple of hotel zones. Our tour guide took us to a beach which was very nice but not the busiest major beach. He dropped us there and asked at what time we wanted him to pick us back up. A couple hours later he arrived on time just as he said. The beach did not disappoint as well. The sand was soft white and the water crystal clear blue.

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The word I will use to describe Aruba is unique. Not what I was expecting and full of surprises. Every time I wasn’t too sure about something, it ended up blowing me away. Views for days! Red dessert sand and cactuses to white sand and blue water. I enjoyed Aruba so much I would definitely come back in the future for a whole week to keep exploring everything I missed.

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-Dayana

Airbnb in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

The Airbnb we stayed at in Puerto Vallarta was amazing and we would book it again in a heartbeat if we ever decide to visit again, which will most likely be the case since we didn’t get to do everything we wanted. We really recommend staying at Eric and Nicki’s place, as it has a really authentic Mexican feel to it with really vibrant colors and an amazing tiled kitchen, which we honestly didn’t use, but if our stay would’ve been longer I would’ve been delighted to use.

The moment we walked into the place I knew we were going to love it. They had just cleaned, so it smelled great. The windows were all opened, so the billowing curtains announced a nice cool breeze and I could hear birds singing, which made it all the better. The fans were also on, so the air circulated around the whole place really well. We did end up turning on the AC at night and closing all the windows so we could sleep (we like it to be cooler at night, so the breeze from outside wasn’t enough). Every time we’d head out to explore, if we would see Nicki around she would give us really good tips on where to go and where to eat. She was really sweet and we were really impressed with her Spanish! She’s from the states, but has lived there I think she said for about 7 years, so she speaks it very well. We didn’t meet Eric, which I think is the actual owner of the place, but Nicki made sure our stay was a great one. She lives in the bottom part, so what you would get would be the second (kitchen & living room area), third (bedroom & bathroom) and fourth floor (washer/dryer & terrace w/ tiny pool). Keep in mind that the part of the house you would be staying at is on the SECOND floor lol. That means you’ll have to go up quite a few stairs to get to it, so we advise not to take too much luggage because it’ll be a hassle since to get to the bedroom (the 3rd floor) you’d have to go up MORE stairs and if you are not the active type it can get tiring. They do have pets (2 dogs I believe and a lovely cat) that mostly stay downstairs at her place. Their cat did wait for us outside our door the last two days waiting for us to come out and pet her, which we thought was adorable.

Click here to check out the video we made about our trip to Puerto Vallarta!

Huge 1br home private garden on river (click the link to book!)

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Outside the Airbnb
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Outside the Airbnb
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The river right across our Airbnb. There’s a really cool bridge to cross it.

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Let me know if you need more information on this beautiful Airbnb that I might’ve forgotten to add!

-Daylin

Our trip & what to do/eat in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We just got back from our trip to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and it was amazing (PLEASE GO CHECK OUT OUR AWESOME PUERTO VALLARTA VIDEO)! Words can’t describe how awesome it was. We were looking to go somewhere different yet close enough to Florida that we wouldn’t have to spend so much time on our way there since we were only able to go for 5 days. We decided on Puerto Vallarta after having two pages opened, one with Expedia for prices and the other with a map to look up places. On our quest, we actually found really cool places to visit, but it was just not the right time to go. Until we finally found Puerto Vallarta and at a great price!

We didn’t expect to need more days than we booked our trip for, but man were we wrong! Five days was just not enough. We did so much, yet we missed out on doing so many things we wanted to do. We are thin, but definitely not in the greatest shape to be doing so many outdoorsy things so we would do an excursion one day and would want to take it easy the next just because we were so sore the next day from all we did. I do barre classes which really prepared me more than I thought, but my husband hasn’t had the time to work out as much as he’d like so he struggled more in certain activities.

When we got there we were tired and really hungry. While walking to the Malecon we saw a restaurant/pub that looked pretty cool and saw they were airing a soccer game, so we went in and grabbed some drinks and relaxed while watching the game. Our vacation had started!

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This is a bridge that crosses the river in front of our Airbnb house

 

Los Muertos Brewing

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Madrid vs Atletico Madrid (3-0)
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“Flight”

Our Airbnb host recommended we walk around a close by area to the house and find some local eats and that’s exactly what we did! We just found a whole bunch of locals sitting down at this long table in a hidden street and a whole bunch of vendors to the side selling food. This dish had meat, rice, beans and a salad. Super good!

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Carne a la Mexicana
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Taquitos de Pollo

At night we walked around a nearby neighborhood and found a restaurant called El Mole de Jovita and decided to give it a try. I’m usually really picky and don’t like to risk trying things when I’m really hungry but I always make an effort when we’re traveling to try things, especially when I’ve never heard of or seen it before. I’ve heard of “mole” (pronounced Mo-Leh. Like the MO of the word “MOtion” and the LE like the word “siLEnt” is the best I could explain the pronunciation in English as.) before but didn’t know what it looked like or what exactly it was. It looked interesting though because the lady was actually making it outside and giving samples as people walked by, so we decided to stay and eat there after tasting it. After talking with our waiter for a while we found out he actually lived in the Tampa Bay Area a few years ago but had decided to move back to Mexico and live in Puerto Vallarta. What a small world!

They have 3 different type of moles. Mole Jovita, which is the original mole (chocolate base), Mole Pipian (squash base) and Mole Verde (tomato base). I liked the Mole Jovita and Mole Verde and my husband liked the Mole Pipian and Mole Verde, so we both ordered chicken with the two mole sauces we liked. It tasted like something I’ve never tried before, but very good and we’d definitely come back here again if we ever get the chance to visit again.

El Mole de Jovita

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There was also a lady singing while we ate
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Tasting the mole
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Mango Margarita
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Mezcal de Cucumber
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Chicken covered with Mole Jovita (the brown sauce) & Mole Verde (the green sauce) w/ rice & salad
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Chicken covered with Mole Pipian (the orange sauce) & Mole Verde (the green sauce) w/ rice & salad

The next morning we had breakfast at around the same place where all the locals were eating at the day before. Again there is no name for the place, so you’d just have to pick whichever of the stands or spots you like the food from what you see and order.

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This was my hubby’s, but it was sooo good! Scrambled eggs w/ ham and like a shredded beef sandwich with lettuce & tomatoes
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I went safe and just got scrambled eggs w/ ham and toast

After, we went to like a 7-eleven type store called Oxxo and bought a Mexican energy drink to try something other than the regular red bull we always get. I’m not really into green tea (it was green tea flavored), but it was really good. Tasted much better than red bull in my opinion.

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We then headed out to Conchas Chinas beach. Throughout our trip, we noticed that asking taxi drivers for recommendations was a good idea and this beach was a great beach to take our drone and our cameras to since it wasn’t a beach where there’d be many people at. Actually, when we went there were just a few people and no one really stayed long since the current was strong.

Conchas Chinas Beach

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Conchas Chinas Beach
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We had it to ourselves for a while 🙂
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This was a little past Conchas Chinas beach. Right where Lindomar resort is at.

After we flew our drone (the DJI Mavic Pro, which we totally recommend) for a while and enjoyed the view of Conchas Chinas beach we wanted to head to the other beach the taxi driver suggested we visit, Mismaloya Beach (a popular beach in Puerto Vallarta with a view of Los Arcos which I will show below). When we got there we actually ended up horseback riding up to “El Eden” where one of the scenes in the movie Predator (1987) with Arnold Schwarzenegger was filmed at. They take a picture of you in the entrance and then you can enter the park. We didn’t do anything in the park but just have lunch at the restaurant there. You can, however, do many things there like zip lining, swimming in the river and hiking. The restaurant honestly was a bit over priced (we guessed it was due to how touristy the place is) and the food was ok. I personally didn’t really like my food, which was just chicken with rice. My husbands fish tasted great though, so I guess it’s a hit or miss. The view of the river where we sat was nice because it was a little farther from all the kids at the other side playing in the water. If you have kids though there is a closer area by the water where you can eat while your kid plays in the river. The river isn’t deep and the zip lining is right across from the restaurant.

As for the horseback riding tour, there really isn’t much to say other than it was EXTREMELY HOT and it takes an hour to get to El Eden from where the tour starts. It was just my husband and me so that was nice, but I wouldn’t take that tour again if they offered it to me. Beautiful horses, but I didn’t like the fact that they gave me a horse that had just had her baby about 3 months ago and was really impatient and honestly I wouldn’t have ridden on her if the guy didn’t offer to hold her while I was on the whole trip to El Eden because I was so scared. I felt sorry for the guy cause he had to walk holding my horse the whole 2 hours to and from the Park, but they shouldn’t have done that. The horse was wanting to go back to her baby the whole time and I felt horrible about her being away from her newborn after I found out. I don’t think it was a specific tour agency because it was just some random guy that was by the tour agency stands at the Mismaloya bus stop, so I can’t tell you the tour agency name since I think it was just a local with a ranch full of horses trying to make some money. Of course, leave it to us and follow the guy *sigh*.

Parque Nacional Ecoturistico El Eden de Vallarta

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Their menu. Prices in Mexican pesos.
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The chips & salsa were not so good. The chips were kinda stale.
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I loved the pina colada. My husband ordered it for him but didn’t like it because they barely put any alcohol lol
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My chicken dish. The beans were kinda gross and only half of the chicken was good the other part tasted weird
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My husband’s dish. The fish was really tasty!

At night we went to an event (maybe like a fair) they were having with a show and a whole bunch of food game stands. We had crepes and got a little too addicted to the shooting game lol (no pictures of that though).

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The same guy that we bought the horseback riding tour from sold us the Marietas Island tour the next day with a legit tour agency called  Vallarta by Boat. I will be talking about that tour on a separate blog post because I have quite a lot to say about it, so stay tuned for that!

In that specific tour, we met a group of people and decided to meet up at night for dinner. They were from Puebla, Mexico and it was their first time in Puerto Vallarta as well. We waited for them at the Malecon (an oceanfront promenade that borders the shoreline along the downtown area’s main street, Paseo Diaz Ordaz) while we took pictures around the area. They said that they also got suggestions about where to eat from their taxi drivers and so far all the restaurants were great, so we decided to try another restaurant they had on their list called Cuates y Cuetes. It was right by the water and you could choose to eat inside or outside on the sand. It was by far our favorite restaurant on our whole trip! Definitely, give it a try if you are in the area!

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“The Boy on the Seahorse”, one of Puerto Vallarta’s main symbols and the first statue that was placed in downtown Puerto Vallarta
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El Malecon
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Los Arcos Amphitheater
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The Vallarta Dancers (2006) sculptor Jim Demetro

Cuates y Cuetes

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Outside seating at the restaurant Cuates y Cuetes with the view of the pier in Los Muertos Beach
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The strawberry daiquiri was so good!
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Queso fundido con chorizo (melted cheese with sausage)
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What my husband got. It was fish, but he doesn’t remember the name.
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Camarones al Coco (coconut shrimp w/ rice & veggies)
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I also got “Tacos Rosita” so yummm!!! (sorry pic was taken w/ my phone)

The next day we took another taxi drivers suggestion and tried a restaurant called Cafe de Olla and it didn’t disappoint! Absolutely wonderful! It was full of locals, so we knew it had to be good!

Cafe de Olla

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Their menu

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The orange juice was perfect and seemed freshly squeezed
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Hot chocolate (I know, I was crazy in drinking this with how hot it was outside, but I wanted something with chocolate so bad lol
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Shredded beef w/ beans and plantains
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Chilaquiles con Carne (tortilla chips topped w/cheese & some delicious sauce poured all over, plantains, beans and meat.

After we had brunch we went to Los Arcos to fly our drone and get some cool shots for our video and after, Mismaloya Beach to relax on our last day. We don’t know what the big hype was about Mismaloya beach because you could barely swim with all the small boats anchored so close to shore and more kept coming in. I also had the impression it’d be a long beach, but it was extremely small and full of people. I would’ve gone back to Conchas Chinas Beach in a heartbeat if it hadn’t been so far away from Mismaloya. The only thing it has that makes it special in my opinion is a view of Los Arcos.

When we got back to our Airbnb to watch the video we had taken it turned out it was out of focus the whole time, so we made the decision to go back to Los Arcos (a 20-minute drive) to take the video again. We just couldn’t leave Puerto Vallarta until we got the shot of Los Arcos. I mean that’s one of Puerto Vallarta’s main sites. We couldn’t miss it! We made it at sunset and actually got some really cool shots!

 

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Mismaloya Beach

 

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This was a shot from the first time we went.

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My husband flying his drone
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The taxi driver took us to a hidden beach where we could get some cool shot for our video
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La Piedra del Diablo (The Devils Rock). Our taxi driver said that dark spot on the rock, which looks like the devil with his horns (he is standing up and you could see the horns and his walking stick), is called that because it looks like the devil and weird things have happened around the rock. He said one incident in the 1900s was when a camera crew in a boat going under the image was suddenly flipped over and their things disappeared never to be found. I thought that was pretty interesting, but of course, probably made up lol.
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Sunset at Los Arcos

The same taxi driver who took us to Los Arcos a second time was the one who recommended the last restaurant we went to and that’s when we found out they are not all going to recommend the best places to eat. Many taxi drivers get a commission for taking people to certain restaurants/places, so you have to be keen in observing who is who, something I lack completely. My husband could tell he was trying to get us to go to this restaurant and found it fishy (he’s pretty street smart) he said it had a nice view though so we just let him take us. The restaurant truly did have an amazing view and great food, the only thing was that it was really expensive and full of foreigners, something we usually avoid because it’s a sign of something being expensive and also we like to try what locals eat. Be careful about being fooled to go somewhere expensive when you could eat good and cheap somewhere else. Either way, we enjoyed it! The view really was incredible and we got to meet a really sweet 10-year-old boy who was in charge of preparing guacamole for anyone who asked for some. He said that after school he would go straight to the restaurant to work and that when he grows up he wants to be an architect. We thought he was adorable and commended him for staying in school and not dropping out.

Our waiter recommended everything we ate and we just went with it. We don’t regret it even though some things I would’ve never ordered had I been back home lol. Everything was delicious, but I completely forgot to get the name of the dishes, so I’ll come back to update it if I find it.

Ah Caramba

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The view @ sunset
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Pina Colada (idk we just craved it I guess lol)

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Cheesecake
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Night view 🙂

Below are other recommendation from taxi drivers.

Restaurants (recommended by several taxi drivers)

Mariscos Tino’s

El Palomar de los Gonzalez

Pipis (2 taxi drivers went on about how great this restaurant was and said it’s cheap and delicious Mexican food)

Mauricios

Hotels recommended by one of the taxi drivers we met

Hotel Rosita

Hotel Gaviota

Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Great Moments

Villa Premiere Boutique Hotel & Romantic Getaway

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PHEWW!! That was a longgg post! Hopefully I didn’t bore you too much. Since it was way too much information I decided to split it into parts, so look out for our post on the Airbnb we stayed at and for the review of the Playa del Amor tour!

-Daylin

 

 

 

St. Maarten

St. Maarten is one of the many beautiful islands in the Caribbean. This was our second time here and we just loved it. We went on a cruise in April of 2016 although you’re only there for a day it’s definitely worth it. The interesting thing is that the island is divided, one side is Dutch and the other side is French. We always rent a car so we can go around and stop wherever we like. The first time we went around the island and could really tell the difference between both sides. The second time we were just focused on the main things we wanted to do and didn’t drive around as much.

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The people are friendly and the culture is alive. Warm blue Caribbean Sea and fine soft white sand. The colors are so vivid. The green mountains, blue ocean and colorful homes. This is truly the definition of a vacation. It’s so beautiful and there’s perfect weather year round.

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Our first stop was to a beautiful beach we found while driving. The scenery was just breathtaking. There were rocks that extended into the ocean so of course, I had to stop and take pictures. There were also nice sailboats to look at and admire.

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After spending some time there we went for a drive and recognized spots from the prior visit. We stopped at some shops and walked around the plaza. Then we got in the car trying to find this amazing restaurant we had lunch at last time we were there. It was next to the beach and had seafood on a huge outside barbecue. But no one could remember where it was and we drove around hungry for what seemed like hours. We finally gave up, maybe it wasn’t even in business anymore. We found a little strip of seafood restaurants, which seemed way over priced. So we just ended up enjoying the outside view and eating ribs, at least they were yummy.

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The main thing we loved in St. Maarten is Maho Beach. The beach is right across from the airport. This is the only place in the world you could have this experience. The planes come in from the ocean and land on the strip, getting as low as 100 feet. There’s a person on a microphone announcing the airplane that is coming in and where from. People stand underneath to get amazing shots. The most interesting part is when the airplanes leave. The jet blast is crazy, you have to hold on to everything if you don’t want it to end in the water. People would actually hold on to the fence and legs flying in the air from how strong the wind is. Actually, it’s quite painful if you stand by the water the sand hits you and it hurts so bad. At one moment someone fell and rolled all the way out to the water. The airplane goes down the runway then quickly lifts up in a short space due to the mountain being close by. You truly have to experience this.

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-Dayana

Airbnb in Peru

Peru was the second place we tried Airbnb out again and we truly loved it. We were going with my parents and wanted them to experience what Airbnb had to offer. We had so much fun on our trip and I’m glad we had the chance to share it with them.

The first place we stayed at was in Cusco, Peru. It had a Spanish style/feel to it that we loved. The host was really nice, although we never really saw her or her husband. They did have other rooms in the house and we would occasionally see other guests in the middle patio area. It was also very centric from all the things we wanted to do.

The best place to stay at, to then visit Machu Picchu, would be Cusco unless you ‘d like to stay in the town of Aguas Calientes (Aguas Calientes is the closest access point to Machu Picchu). The only thing is that it’s hard to get a place there because it books fast and I think it’s also expensive (I don’t really remember though), so make sure to book with time. It is definitely worth staying in Cusco in my opinion because the city has so many more places to see than Aguas Calientes. Don’t get me wrong, Aguas Calientes is incredibly magical and worth checking out for sure, but you can easily finish seeing it in a day so I would suggest looking for a place to stay at in Cusco rather than in Aguas Calientes (if you’re only going for a week or less) and just visit the little town instead of staying the night. If you’re staying for longer than a week and can fit Aguas Calientes in your trip, then, by all means, stay a night at least.

Charming Apartment in City Center (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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Neighborhood

I don’t have any pictures of the inside because I only took video of it, but you could click on the link above and there will be pictures of the inside on their page. Everything did look just like the pictures, so definitely recommend!

Our second Airbnb was in Puno, Peru. Puno is located on the shore of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America, and they aren’t kidding when they say that because to me it looked like an ocean. It’s located at such a high elevation (12,556 ft) that if you’re from Florida, which is at ocean level, or any other lower point you would definitely have trouble breathing. My husband and I did get a little out of breath when we would run or walk fast, but my parents had a really hard time, so we would really recommend drinking lots of water, drinking coca tea, and/or buying oxygen cans before making your way up to Puno.

When we arrived at the place I thought it was so cute and castle-like on the outside. It’s pretty much located in the middle of nowhere with no wifi, which I honestly didn’t mind, and right next to Lake Titicaca. We were not too pleased to find out that there was no hot water. I blame ourselves for not doing so much research about the place and not preparing ourselves for what we would be getting ourselves into. It was really inconvenient because we were all wanting to take a shower so bad. They were pretty new at Airbnb and were still making repairs, so the shower was under construction. I felt like I was in Cuba again having to take a “shower” with a bucket full of warmed up water. They had to warm it up for you and take it to you. Also, it was extremely cold, so you can only imagine the experience we had.  We also didn’t like that the bathroom was outside. We didn’t mind or even think about it when we booked the place until there was a thunderstorm the next day and my husband and my dad both REALLY needed to use the bathroom. Extremely scary stuff! We laugh at it now and tell people that at least we have a story to tell. The hosts, a couple with a really cute baby girl, were the sweetest and humblest people and were so hospitable. They barely spoke with us, even though we speak Spanish, they had someone else that also helps them with all the bookings, not only speak with us but also give us the tour of the place. We thought they were just a little shy, but they were definitely welcoming and we loved that they made breakfast, lunch and dinner for us and everything was so yummy and different from what we are used to eating. Also, worth mentioning is the fact that EVERYTHING was spotless and approved by my OCD mom lol. We would think that by now they should have hot water and the shower should be finished so that more people can book this place because aside from that everything was wonderful.

Huencalla Lodge (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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The door they are peeking into is the bathroom. The top floor where the window is is the hosts’ bedroom.
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The patio area. We recommended for them to have some outdoor seating for future guests since it’s so nice outside.
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The view of Lake Titicaca was truly wonderful and my favorite part!
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That door you see was our room.
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Lake Titicaca
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Lake Titicaca
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Our room
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Breakfast
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Dinner
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After we rested a bit from the long ride there, they took us on a boat ride on Lake Titicaca

They had us try Totora Reeds that grow from Lake Titicaca and they reminded me of sugar canes, except for they are not sweet at all (does that make sense? lol). If you are willing to try one, I would suggest just having one bite and that’s it. Don’t keep eating them even if they insist. I ended up eating most of them because my husband didn’t really like them and to not seem rude gave them to me to eat them for him. I’m lucky I have a pretty strong stomach, unfortunately for my husband and my dad they weren’t so lucky. We later found out that Totora Reeds can cause diarrhea…I won’t go on lol.

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Me trying a Totora Reed

At night, they took us to an open area in front of the house where they set up for a bonfire and had roasted marshmallows and wine.

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Waiting for the rest of us.
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Just chilling

After Puno, we headed to Ica, Peru a place with one of the driest climates in the world. Located on the border of the Atacama desert we weren’t going to pass up on going sand boarding and riding a dune buggy (amazing experience & definitely recommend). We rented an Airbnb RIGHT next to a sand dune and although we didn’t get to do it, you can go up the dune whenever you’d like and take amazing sunset views. We will never forget our amazing host Luis! We were lucky the first few days of our stay there were no other guests in the other rooms in his house and got him to give us a tour of Ica and take us to some of his favorite local eats. He was such a sweetheart and we appreciated him giving us his time to give us a taste of his amazing city. He took us to a winery (click here to go to Tacama Vineyard’s website) and to his favorite chocolate shop (click here to go to Helena Chocolatier’s website) to buy their famous Peruvian chocolates. Another thing we are grateful for was for all the tips about safety he gave us and advice on where to go and cheapest places to buy things and get the best deals. The room was clean and although the bathroom in our room could use some repair, it was a beautiful place to stay at and they also included breakfast. We would definitely recommend this place to anyone wanting to visit Ica!

Vacation Getaway in Gorgeous House! (click link for more pictures and for booking)

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Patio area & pool
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Patio area
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Dune was right behind the house!
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Desert in Ica, Peru
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Desert sunset
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Striking a pose lol

 

-Daylin

 

St. Augustine weekend road trip

On a long weekend, I decided I wanted to take a road trip to a nearby city that I hadn’t visited. We always travel farther, outside of the state or even out of the country but you also need to explore your own state. Husband is always on board when I come up with my spontaneous ideas. I have a list of must visit cities that are driving distance and every time it just gets smaller and smaller. This time we were driving to St. Augustine about three hours from our home. We woke up really early to make it there in the morning and were driving back at night. Little did husband know I had a surprise in store for him.

St. Augustine is on the northeast coast of Florida on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s the oldest city in the US and is known for its Spanish colonial architecture. There is much to see and do so expect to do a lot of walking. When we arrived in the morning we drove around and spotted the trolley so we decided that was the best way to see everything in the least amount of time. They had different packages that took you around the city but also let you visit some attractions and the ticket was for two days. We spent most of the day going around and seeing everything from afar.  The stop that was included in our package was visiting the Fountain of Youth. It’s a spring that is said to restore the youth of the person who drinks or bathes in the water. Discovered by Ponce de Leon when he arrived in Florida. It’s an archeological park so you get to walk around and see the story. There are many things to do there and my favorite part was interacting with the peacocks. They walk around freely flaunting their beauty. I got to feed one and get some amazing shots.

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After that we grabbed some food, it was around 5:30. We realized it was already too late to visit the other attraction in the package so we decided to just walk around town before heading back home.

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A couple hours later we were exhausted and ready for the three-hour drive back home. But first I had to use the bathroom since I had “forgotten” too. We drove by gas stations but I just didn’t want to use it there until I saw an IHOP and that’s where I chose. Secretly I had booked a hotel for two nights and I was looking at the address the whole time and luckily it was connected to the IHOP. I went to the “bathroom” but I was actually checking in. When I went back to the car I showed my husband the hotel keys and he said, “what did you do”!? I had packed a luggage with everything we needed and it was in the trunk the whole time. Now we didn’t have to drive back and we could explore some more.

The day after we woke up, got ready and went off to breakfast. I found this breakfast place located in a cute little neighborhood, called The Blue Hen Cafe. There was a huge waiting line outside about an hours wait and that’s when I knew it had to be good. But it wasn’t just good it was so amazing! I had the Zada Jane’s Stack, egg omelet over sweet potato fries. My husband had the Southern Omelette and Pumpkin Pancakes.

The Blue Hen Cafe

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Zada Jane’s Stack, egg omelet over sweet potato fries
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Southern Omelette
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Pumpkin Pancakes

 

We then went on the trolley to the other attraction which was the Old Jail. It was actually next to the hotel so they made sure to make it look like a beautiful Victorian home from the outside. Later it was turned into an attraction where people visited and learned its history. We also went to the famous fort which is the oldest in the US named Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. We saw the amazing views and explored inside. We were so tired from walking and it was so hot. We grabbed some drinks nearby the fort at a Mexican restaurant named Frida Taqueria & Tequila Bar. Then we drove to the beach for a relaxing evening. It was so beautiful we stayed until the sunset.

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Then we went back to the hotel to shower and change and it was husbands turn to pick a restaurant for dinner. He did perfect! He chose Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille. It had outside seating just how I love it. A live band, but not too loud. Nice decorative lighting and amazing food. We started with some She Crab and Crispy Calamari. I had the Shrimp Scampi and he had the French Quarter Tenderloin. We couldn’t make it to dessert.

Harry’s Seafood Bar & Grille

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She Crab
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Crispy Calamari
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Shrimp Scampi
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French Quarter Tenderloin

The next day it was time to drive back home after grabbing some breakfast. I found another perfect place named Maple Street Biscuit Company. This was my favorite place because everything tasted so amazing. I had the Sticky Maple. Flaky biscuit, all natural chicken breast, wood smoked bacon all topped with real maple syrup. My husband had the Five and Dime. Flaky biscuit, all natural chicken breast, wood smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, topped with sausage gravy and a fried egg. With a side of Hashups. Home fries, smoked ham, red and green peppers, grilled onion, melted cheese and topped with gravy. Yumm!

Maple Street Biscuit Company

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Sticky Maple
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Five and Dime
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Hashups

 

I would definitely recommend visiting St. Augustine and once you’re here visiting all of these places to eat is a must!

-Dayana