Lux Surf and Yoga- The Start of Something Beautiful

I got back in May 2015 with high hopes of finding a job and jumping into the next phase of my next career as soon as possible. Months passed, interviews took place and with that came one rejection after the other.

Honestly, I took it very personally. Your head knows you’re not suppose to because the job hunt is a numbers game.

With the happiness tank that was overflowing from Costa Rica goodness slowly dwindling, I re-visited a crazy idea I had while I was down there. Why not start my own surf/yoga/adventure week in Santa Teresa that’s filled with everything I fell in love with.

That was the start of something beautiful: Lux Surf and Yoga.

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Lux Surf and Yoga is my passion project. What keeps my brain active as I continue to find a job and what’s beginning to be a great joy in my life. It started off as a simple thought at sunset when I saw a group of surf and yoga retreat’ees (is that a word?) wandering back and forth from one end of their beached off area to the other.

“This is the core of Lux. The comforts of all inclusive luxury without being stuck on a beach.”

I remember thinking “I wish I could take these guys out of their hotel grounds and show them the real side of Santa Teresa.” There’s so much more to offer beyond the walls of the resorts! Problem is, comfort. As a traveller it’s so hard to go to a destination and discover the local beauty of a place with such limited time. This is the core of Lux. The comforts of all inclusive luxury without being stuck on a beach. To share the true local adventure/fun/beauty of a destination with a small group of rad people.

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Through all my years of traveling, this is what I think makes a trip memorable:

  • Beauty of a location + Accommodations
  • Activities
  • Experience. (good) WOW moments
  • Most importantly: People

If one of these things suck but another element is exceptional, then the trip will still be amazing.

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I wanted to create a week where all 4 elements would be a 10/10. Where every single detail would be something our guests would really feel like it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. From accommodations, food, adventures etc… EVERYTHING. To do that I brought together the best of the best in Santa Teresa to deliver not just exceptional experiences but to help set the voice of what Lux would be about for the future.

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After all was said and done, Lux Surf and Yoga ended up being a 15/10!!!! This is what was included for a week of absolute luxury, fun, adventure and all around amazing times:

  • 7 nights and 8 days at a private multi-million dollar hillside Villa
  • A personal Chef for lush organic daily breakfast & dinners’ (literally from ocean to table fresh)
  • Daily private yoga sessions with internationally renown instructor Nancy Goodfellow
  • Daily Private Surf Lessons with top ranked TripAdvisor, ISA certified Instructors
  • 1 Waterfall Adventure Tour
  • 1 Jungle/Beach Adventure Tour to Playa Coyote
  • Zip lining through the jungle
  • Daily visits to local tide pools and local beaches
  • Access to an ATV at all times for transportation
  • Wi-Fi throughout the property
  • A/C in each bedroom
  • Private infinity pool

Optional Activities:

  • Private Massages up at the villa
  • Deep Sea Fishing tours
  • SUP Tours
  • SUP Yoga
  • Kayaking
  • Scuba Diving
  • Sunset Horseback Riding

Taking down the first group was nerve-wracking but the most rewarding experience of my life. There’s something about watching an idea come to life, in a way that was so unexpectedly amazing that words just can’t describe.

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It was an absolute joy to watch every single person catch their first wave, ride through the jungle in awe of mother nature, practice yoga above the jungle & witness each of them fall in love with Santa Teresa. I was terrified  that maybe people wouldn’t find the things I love as amazing as I did but at the end of the day, how could you not fall in love with a country who’s phrase is literally “Pure Life” (aka Pura Vida).

I always thought in order to start my company, I needed to go learn A ->Z and have all the pieces built perfectly in place to make sure I succeeded. What this little passion project taught me was that passion truly makes the difference. I never really understood what all these high-flying entrepreneurs meant when they said “be passionate about what you’re doing” until now. When you genuinely love what you’re about, then even the hard days are worth it. I was stressed out 85% of the time hustling to try and fill all of the spots but at the end of the day, it all worked out!

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I’m so incredibly proud of the team that came together to create this unforgettable experience and beyond stoked to get these weeks up and going! If you’ve ever felt like exploring Costa Rica, lounging poolside at a multi million dollar villa, eating fresh organic meals, zip lining through the jungle and ATV’ing through hidden roads, this is the trip for you 🙂

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Check the experience out and don’t be shy to reach out !

LUX SURF AND YOGA

 

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At 25 I quit life and moved to Costa Rica

A month ago or so, URBANEBLOC reached out to me and asked if I’d be open to being a travel & lifestyle contributor. I love to write and feel blessed to have an opportunity to share more on another platform! Anyways, here is a re-cap of the first post I did for their team. Enjoy!

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At 25 I quit life and moved to Costa Rica

Mal Pais tide Pools

In November of last year, I stuffed a backpack full of bikinis, clothes, dresses and a pair of flip flops and flew down to Costa Rica. What was supposed to be a mini-vaca became what I’d like to describe as a “this chick is going through an early 20s-life-crisis”. So let me backtrack a bit and fill you in on where I was at that moment in time.

Skew you Success!

In October of 2014, I was 24 years old, had just left a marketing start-up that I had been at for several years and was feeling down and out. Although a lot of my friends would tell me how jealous they were that I had the guts to join a start-up, the truth was I envied them.

I graduated from one of the best business schools in Canada (or so we’ve been told…) with a boatload of smart kids. My friends  went on to become investment bankers, traders, brand managers at Tier 1 Consumer Packaged Goods companies, consultants and other 1%’er jobs. Slick suits, sexy shoes, flashy cars and enviable downtown lifestyles… they were becoming the epitome of success that we had been groomed to embody.

I was still living at home, growing a business that no one knew about and essentially becoming the opposite of what my school defined as a success. I felt like a failure and was embarrassed to admit that I was depressed/worried about 95% of the time because I wasn’t having ‘fun’ all the time the way start-up life was suppose to be. Everyone else I knew was lighting it up in their careers.

What you read about startups these days is about the hoodie-uniform, laid-back, fun lifestyle. Endless articles were written about the culture of up and coming tech companies, how quickly they were growing, the strong sense of leadership and direction etc. Rarely are there articles written about the not-so-sexy things. Personally, I didn’t know if what I was doing added any value. What skills was I actually developing?  What if this fails, then what? Did I just waste all my time?

Costa came-a-callin’

I sat down and thought, I could either use this time to apply for jobs I don’t want or take a chance on myself and go somewhere completely new by myself and just live for once.  So, I found a surf school online, rented the top floor of the shop and two days after my 25th birthday, I was on a plane to the #1 surf destination in Costa Rica: Santa Teresa.

When I first arrived, tears teetered close to the edge of my little Asian eyes. The shop was in the middle of the jungle and my room was not hotel-esque by any means. It was hot, sticky, and mosquitoes were everywhere. My roommate was a long-haired blonde kid from California that used words none of my business school friends had in their vocabulary such as: rad, gnarly, stoked.

It was the best decision of my life. Living there allowed me to immerse myself in the community of expats and experience what it was like to be a local. The jungle room became home and my everyday outfit consisted of a bikini, no make-up and flip-flops.  Here’s how I eventually fell in love with Santa Teresa and lessons I learned along the way.

Lesson #1: Be open. Always. Don’t judge. 

People are different. That is a fact. My surfer roommate from California and I are as different as they come. Bonding with him and many other locals taught me more than years of school ever did. Listening to different stories and how everyone had come to Santa Teresa, forced me to check my presumptions and stereotypes at the door.

My view of the world before was very one-sided and sheltered. Go to the best schools, get the best job possible, buy a huge ass house, buy a sexy car, marry someone equally smart and successful, life well done! It’s wrong to assume everyone else needed to fit that mold otherwise they weren’t ‘good enough’.

Moving somewhere different and forcing myself to meet new people and learn about their values made me realize that each and every one of us has a different view of the world but that doesn’t make other views wrong. They’re just different. Be open, be kind and listen. 

How I Quit Life and Moved to Costa Rica

Lesson #2: You are not your career. Work is not your identity.

The most beautiful thing I learned was that happiness is different for everybody and very few people have the courage to really chase after it. I know this sounds common-sense and cliché but hear me out. So many of my friends in Santa Teresa are people that do not define success by the size of their bank account. To them, life isn’t about chasing that next promotion or a bonus, but it’s about chasing the best waves. It’s about working to fund their true passion. WORK IS NOT THEIR IDENTITY!

For the first time in my life, conversations were not about work or career related topics. One of the most annoying things about catching up with friends or meeting new people back home is the immediate career-focused conversations. It’s draining trying to come up with buzz word infused sentences to make it seem like your career’s on fire.

I basked in conversations that were genuine and real. Relationships are built on strong foundations by actually getting to know people and sharing on a deeper level. I learned how to be someone other than my career and job title.

Lesson #3: Who cares what other people think. Get on a board and just try. 

I put way too much focus on other people’s opinions and thoughts. Let me clarify: I care way too much about what people think ABOUT ME. I realized that I hate doing something if I’m not good at it because I don’t want to look stupid. Hence at the beginning I didn’t surf as much as I should have.

Everyday, I made excuses as to why I wouldn’t go out. I wasn’t scared about drowning, I was scared about looking stupid in front of all those real surfers out there.

I got completely owned by a set one day and I sat my ass down on the beach, water-logged and embarrassed.  A friend had been taking pictures of us and had witnessed everything. He sat next to me and gave me a quick pep-talk, “You gotta get back out there and try. Everybody gets owned and you learn from it. Don’t give up!”

By trying and trying again, you become great.

How I Quit Life and Moved to Costa Rica

Lesson #4: Be in the moment

In today’s tech-digital savvy world, we are absorbed in insta-likes, fb-likes, snaps etc… we lose out on being in the moment. In the jungle, we did have access to wifi but most days were spent hanging out with friends and living in the moment. I was able to experience the beauty of waterfalls, ATV through sleepy towns, learn how to cook, and sit still on a surfboard waiting for the perfect wave.

We only get one shot at living, let’s make the most of it. Let’s enjoy our surroundings and be grateful for the beauty right in front of us rather than wondering if someone will like a post. Enjoy this thing called life.

How I Quit Life and Moved to Costa Rica

Lesson #5: There’s only one you in the world. Be YOU.

This one is a bit lengthy. I realized the BIGGEST reasons why I felt inadequate was because I was living for everyone else around me. I had been living based on other people’s expectations of who they thought I was. Parents, peers, friends… I was absolutely miserable because I was so busy trying to be who they all wanted me to be and felt like I was letting them all down if I didn’t act a certain way. Things that are inherently who I am, I suppressed because it’s not what “that” Gloria was suppose to be like.

Work at living as you. Take a look at who you are. Ignore the noise and tap into yourself. Forget what everybody else is telling you to do/be and take a chance on owning who you’ve been made to be.

While I was in Santa Teresa, I did things for my own happiness. Jumping off waterfalls, learning how to ride a motorcycle or simply going to tide-pools everyday to relax and live in the moment.

I did what I wanted and realized nobody judged me for it. Own who you are and be the best you that you can be. If you’re busy trying to be someone else, then who’s going to fill your spot in this world?

The most important lesson…

How I Quit Life and Moved to Costa RicaI learned that success is different for everybody.

A key moment that stands out in my mind was one late evening when a few of my friends and I were hanging out at a beautiful infinity pool (lots of cervezas had been consumed at that point). One of them turned to me and said, “Whatever you do, when you go back, don’t chase money. Do what makes you happy and get really good at it, the money will always follow.”

At that moment I stopped to think about my time in Costa. I was dirt poor but had so many beautiful memories, gone through experiences that changed my perspective on life and finally learned how to surf! For the first time in my life, I truly felt success and I had almost $0 left in my bank but my life account was feeling good. I finally got a glimpse of what it meant to feel success. It was a beautiful thing.

Today…

I moved back from Costa Rica this past May and un-quit life. People ask me all the time, “Why did you move back? I thought you were going to be one of those world-travelers!” I now understand that I get a sense of satisfaction from work because I enjoy solving complex problems, being in high-pressure situations and working with other people to build and deliver beautiful experiences. It’s not about selling out to the ‘dream’ but it’s about embracing Gloria’s dream life.

The job-hunt hasn’t been easy but I know that whatever I do, I put 1000% into it and always leave places better than when I arrived. I trust that God has a plan for me and where I go next will be the an amazing role where I can bring people together and build even better experiences. As my blonde Californian friend would say, “STOKED” !

Places to eat in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Final Post.

**Disclaimer: I haven’t eaten at all the restaurants in town. The following suggestions are based on the places I frequented the most and are 100% my own opinions. 

FOOD

Food is the best part of traveling and experiencing new countries. In fact, someday I hope to do a global food tour where my destinations are pre-determined by a particular dish/cuisine (any travel companies out there want to sponsor this dream?). Whether you’re strolling through the bustling streets of Bangkok or living in a jungle beach town, indulging in local cuisines to immerse yourself into a new cultures is pretty much the best thing ever. Let’s get started.

Soda Tiquicia

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Just north of La Lora is my favourite Soda in town. Soda’s are locally owned restaurants- usually cheaper than going to tourist restaurants and hella good. Here you can order fried rice, casados, burritos, salads and you absolutely must try their ceviche ( I hate cilantro with a passion but picked off every piece from the fish because their ceviche and patacones are drool-worthy good). Everything at Tiquicia is roughly $5-$6 and portion sizes are MASSIVE.
Rice, beans, salad, plantain and a side of meat. This is a typical Costa Rican dish called a casado...It looks delicious but I promise you after awhile rice and beans gets really annoying. For all the months I lived in Costa, I didn’t take a picture of a casado so thank you TripAdvisor for the picture.

A standard breakfast is again, rice & beans but fried together. This tastebud-exploding mixture is called gallo pinto and I promise you’ll be gassy all morning if you eat this for breakfast. Just don’t sit next to a cute guy or girl…beans and more beans.. beans for days … forever.. always.. beans..

Chicken Joe’s

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All of their chicken + yucca fry combos are to die for! I usually got the 1/4 chicken + an ice cold beer. Don’t forget to ask for their house hot sauce.

Burger Rancho

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Hand-crafted burgers with the best french fries in town, on days I wanted to be an ultimate fatty, this was where I’d go. All the burgers are spot on but I had a thing for the Hawaiian- Tuna; It’s pretty much a party in your mouth. Again, thank you TripAdvisor for the photo!

Casa del Mar

For the love of meat and empanadas! Casa del Mar has one of my favourite dishes in town, the Lomito Special (aka the meat special). It’s a platter of assorted grilled meats, a huge salad, sauces galore and topped with an Imperial, you’re going to be out for the night. Then we’ve got their empanadas, ask anyone in town, Casa del Mar’s where it’s at. There’s a separate menu for those lovely little pockets of goodness so don’t be shy and ask the waiters/waitresses for the paper that holds the key to your heart. During the day their empanada guys are the most popular people in town… when you see the green shirts and pizza box, take out those colones and snack on some deep fried goodness.

La Esquinita del Taco AKA THE Taco stand

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This gem is just north of the cross roads on the right hand side. It’s right before the first bridge and you’ll probably find me there at least once a day. Their burritos, tacos and jalapeño poppers are a miracle cure for hangovers or a great post-surf snack. I had a love-affair with their chicken burritos + chipotle sauce + jalapeño hot sauce. It was beautiful while it lasted.
The boys that own Taco (Aldo and Sven) also own Burger Rancho and are absolute beauties. They’re more than happy to chat and tell you about how they ended up in Santa Teresa.

Roca Mar

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Every Sunday, Rocamar is the place to be for sunset. With it’s family-friendly atmosphere with live music and fire-hooping performers, it’s a great way to end the week. They’ve got a hot grill going with tasty kebabs that are perfect pre-dinner snacks. The boys that own Rocamar are also the one’s responsible for Thursday night’s at Kika which inevitably lead to Friday morning “What happened…”‘s.

Koji’s

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As an Asian, I’ve had my fair share of sushi. So believe me when I say, Koji’s is one of the best sushi restaurants in the world. All of the ingredients are locally sourced and as fresh as fresh can get. It is unbelievable how Koji’s managed to create a perfect balance of flavour for every dish. If you were to ever splurge on a night out for food, then this is the place to do it. You’ll need a taxi or quad to get there; it’s way north by Playa Hermosa and worth the trek. Thanks again to TripAdvisor for the pictures!

Banana Beach aka my office

Banana Beach is a popular surf/hangout spot in Santa Teresa. Located next to Tropico Latino and across from Green World (Organic Supermarket), it’s a resto-bar on the beach with the best group of bartenders/servers in town. You can grab a  massive breakfast, lunch or dinner here and make sure you try their smoothies. What makes Banana a great spot to hangout is the relaxed atmosphere their servers/bartenders make on a daily basis. With hammocks out front and endless amounts of beach chairs, you’ll always find room to hangout here. During my time in Costa Rica, Banana hosted a national surf competition, craft beer fest and have nightly events to support local artisans/musicians. It’s one of my favourite spots in Santa Teresa, heck maybe in all of Costa Rica.

Playa Carmen Pizzeria

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Do you enjoy Sangria? Do you enjoy delicious cheesy pizza (the lactose in me hates this)? EXCELLENT! The pizzeria down in front of Playa Carmen has a daily 2 x 1 happy hour between 5-6PM (sunset). For $6 you can get yourself 2 magically delicious sangrias (the glasses are the size of my face.. see above). The guys that work at the pizzeria are the funny and remember everyone that walks through their joint. So stop in and say hello to Danny, Alain and the boys 🙂

Vista de Olas

This is a must-do activity if you’re in Santa Teresa. If you’re a guy trying to win a girl over, take her up here for sunset because the view is stunning. Perched at the top of a hill in Mal Pais, Vista de Olas is a hotel/restaurant with a beautiful infinity pool open to the public. You pre-pay a tab and drink till you’re ready to leave. If you go over the tab amount then all you do is pay the overage. It’s a great way to spend a last night in Mal Pais/ Santa Teresa. The view is stunning every time.

Fishermen’s Village

Look at it…it’s just.. wow…caaaammmann… Ya like to cook? How about fresh fish? What about fresh Mahi Mahi? Sounds good eh? Well then friends, pop over to the Fishermen’s Village in Mal Pais for a day of fishing (chat with the boys at Jobbie’s down by Playa Carmen to set that up) and take home your lovely fishies for a night of bbq’ing. Don’t like boats but like fresh fish (ok but let’s be real.. who doesn’t like fresh food?)? Hop over to the fishermen’s village anyways to buy the catch of the day straight from the locals. You’re helping them out and helping yourself out. Did I mention that it’s fresh? As in, straight out of the water, into a boat and straight to your stomach? Yes siree.

There are TONS of other restaurants and bars in town but the places mentioned above are the spots I frequented the most. Nativo is a great bar to go to any night of the week for a chill spot to watch sports and hangout with friends. There’s Taphouse further north by Green World- their beers were getting a little squirrely and induced serious hangovers closer to the rainy season but they’ve probably turned it around. There’s also the Bakery which is a popular place at the crossroads. For smoothies, there’s the Maracuya in Santa Teresa next to Kina surf shop. Frank’s Place at the crossroads has a pool in the back if you wanted to go for a lunch and cool off at the same time. Over in Mal Pais there’s Ritmo , Mary’s ,and Caracolas that are worth a visit too.

TIPPING!
Please please tip your servers and bartenders! 
The ‘tip’ that’s included in the bill doesn’t actually go to the staff (average hourly wage is $3/hr) so please leave a generous tip for all the hard-working servers in town! They’re the ones that are responsible for creating the vibe that we all know and love in Santa Teresa.

That’s all for now! I’ve been back in Toronto for almost 7 weeks now and this will probably be my last post about Santa Teresa.

Until next time!

Day Trips Part 2: Montezuma, Puntarenas Costa Rica

(Click here for “Day Trips Part 1” )

Apparently there are over 30 “Montezuma”s in the world, so to be clear, this post is about Montezuma, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. Or as I like to call it, “Hippie land”. You know you’re close when the smell of Rasta-dreads slaps you in the face like a ton of bricks… JUST KIDDING! It’s not stinky at all. Alright, enough nonsense- here we go!

Montezuma, Costa Rica

Located in the southern most tip of the Nicoya Peninsula, Montezuma is a peaceful little (by little, I mean tiny… and by tiny, their ‘downtown’ consists of 2 little roads that make up a sideways L) town. It’s most popular attraction is the waterfall but it’s also a prime spot to buy unique hand-made trinkets from the local artisans!

How to get there

From Santa Teresa

The most straightforward (not as scenic) way to get to Montezuma from Santa Teresa is through Cobano. Hop on your quad and make your way to the Crossroads (start of town where the banks are) then swing a left and keep driving following the signs to Cobano. Once you’re in Cobano, swing a right at the major intersection (it’s where the banks are) and again, follow the signs that point to Montezuma.

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You’re close to Montezuma when you go down a steep hill and you’ll see another road come up on the left. That’s the road you take to go into town but if you drive past that road and keep driving straight till you cross the bridge, you’ll see a parking lot (more like a patch of dirt) with a happy hombre chillin’ in his shack. For 1000c you can leave your quad there and hike over to the waterfalls!

There are other ways to get to Montezuma from ST/Mal Pais but it’s pretty much through the jungle. I’d highly recommend popping over and chatting with one of the boys over at Jobbie’s Longboards Surf Shop and asking them for directions to get there through Cabuya. See below for the awesome map Bubba drew out when a friend of mine and I asked for a full day trek!

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If you opt to take this more scenic, rustic, jungle route, then do yourself a big fat favour and stop at the Cabuya bakery for a snack (or a full on meal…). Their pizza’s are carbalicious and insanely cheesy (I’m lactose and couldn’t resist) + their salads are worth the drive.

Waterfall
The main attraction! Once you’ve parked, it’s about a 15 minute hike to the falls and it’s a beauty.

TIP: Wear sturdy shoes for this trek. Flip flops WILL BREAK. Or you can go local and go barefoot 🙂 

Here we have 3 waterfall levels but the biggest and most popular is the one at the end of the hike… ta-dah!!


Beautiful isn’t it? Don’t forget cervezas & snacks. There are a few cliffs/rocks you can jump off of; girls hold onto your bikini tops and wear surf bottoms…from personal experience opt for functional over flimsy and cute.
To get to the waterfall above this one, you have to hike up a dirt-wall which is across from the big waterfall–using waterfall a lot here.. my bad if it gets confusing–. Once you hike-up, this second fall is smaller and   (apparently that’s the one Tom Brady jumped off of and made patriot fans pee their pants)

Zip Lining
Full disclosure, I never went zip lining in Montezuma (already did it in Montverde) but I’ve heard it’s pretty fun. SunTrails Montezuma Waterfall Canopy Tour is the company to go with.

Tortuga Island
This is a full day tour you can book with different companies. We went with ZumaTours ( they also do private shuttles to and from different major cities around Costa) and it was around $50 or so. It’s a full day of booze-cruising, snorkeling and a pretty sweet lunch on the island. FYI, they provide the drinks!

If you’re thirsty or need a little snack then pop into Chico’s for a little break. It’s right by the water and there’s always a table available.

I’d recommend leaving earlier in the morning to avoid the extreme heat from the afternoon sun on your ride over. Slather on sunscreen, pack a hat and shades! One of my favourite ways to end the day is to take the route home via Mal Pais and chill out at playa Seucos (Secret Beach). To get there, you drive right to the end of Mal Pais to the fishing Village and follow the trail in front of the blue building all the way to the beach. It looks jungly and scary but totally worth it.

That’s all for now!
laters

Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica

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ALOHA friends! A few weeks back I arrived home in Toronto, Canada from the most amazing little journey. I left to live somewhere new without knowing too much about anything. During that time I hopped on a G Adventures tour to get out of town for Semana Santa (Easter) and to see a bit more of Central America. No regrets! The trip took us through Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and back down to Costa Rica. You now have the pleasure (or misfortune) of reading through all the spots we stopped at and the different activities we muddled around in.

Antigua, Guatemala

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I spent less than 12 hours in Antigua (where the group met to start the tour) but its definitely a spot I’ll be visiting again in the near future. It reminded me of walking down the streets of Barcelona or Eze Village in France. Tons of cobblestone roads with restaurants and shops tucked away in sneaky corners. It’s a beautiful thing. Unfortunately my flight got in way late and all I did was eat in Antigua (… no complaints there..) but a few friends that got in earlier said the church, main park and shops were really cool to checkout.

Antigua has a very particular vibe. Everything seems like it was hand-placed to be in its little spot and there’s a beauty in the rustic atmosphere. Every time I turned a corner, there were rose bushes, cute park benches, old-style fire hydrants and endless amounts of neat little cafés. When you’re out for a late night stroll, the live music flows through the streets and you can pop into local bar for a quick drink. Definitely a place I’ll be re-visiting in the future!

Main Cerveza (Beer) in Guatemala: Gallo (pronounced: guy-yo)

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Copán, Honduras

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Main things to check out here are the ruins which are easily walkable from town (not even 15 minutes) and the Luna Jaguar Spa Resort. The spa is made up of natural hot springs in the jungle. It’s actually worth the bumpy ride up the hill (pack a sweater, it gets chilly). They’ve even got a little pool for you to sit in and get your mud mask on (so sexy).

Main Cerveza in Honduras: Imperial, Salva Vida, Barena

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Roatán, Honduras

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Now this little gem of an island is gorgeous. In order to get there, you can either fly directly onto the island OR go to La Ceiba and catch the ferry (operated by Safeway Maritime it’s around $60 USD for a round trip ticket). It’s a modern comfortable boat but we got unlucky with bad weather so it was a yack fest on our ride over.

We were on the West End side right at the end of the road. To be honest, can’t remember for the life of me what the hotel was called and it definitely wasn’t great so do yourself a favour and book a spot based on TripAdvisor recommendations.

In terms of food, all the restaurants were average but my FAVOURITE meal was a street-side grill. If you stroll down the road, just across from the Lighthouse restaurant, there are 3 family-run sidewalk grills set-up. Stop. Grab a seat and enjoy! They give you a platter filled with your choice of meat, amazing potatoes, salad and pitas.

My friend and I also went diving on this majestic little island (S.E.A lovers, Koh Tao is still more beautiful!) with Coconut Divers, it was AMAZING! First off, I hadn’t gone in almost 3 years and they were so helpful putting the equipment together and re-jigging my memory. I do have to say, they do an amazing job over in Roatán protecting the reef which allowed us to see tons of fish and a turtle 🙂

León/Granada, Nicaragua

No words to describe the beauty of Nicaragua. AND it’s extremely affordable (aka cheap). In León we did a quick walk through of the town but the main activity here is to go Volcano boarding down Cerro Negro.

cerro-negro-nicaragua volcano-boarding-nicaragua gadventures-nicarauga-leon top of cerro negro

Basically you’re given a choice: ride a toboggan like sled or try and volcano-board (snowboard style) down the side. The latter is more difficult and really slow so we all went for the toboggan style. Everyone carries their own board up the volcano + a backpack that’s got your coveralls, goggles and gloves (sidetone here: bring your own scarf to cover your face). The hike up the volcano took about an hour and was surprisingly difficult but DEFINITELY worth it. I mean, aside from the fact that I literally just wanted to throw my baggage into a crater and cry (totally didn’t…), when I thought I couldn’t take another step, TA-DAH! We reached the top. Everybody goes down one at a time and you high-five each other with big dusty hands at the very end. Sexy times. So go do it 🙂

Granada. Oh Granada. GORGEOUS! It was the most developed city we visited in Nicaragua and unfortunately because of Semana Santa, a lot of the key attractions were closed. You absolutely have to grab a bite at the Garden Café and burn off the calories by strolling down the main strip at night and immerse yourself in all the noises onslaughting your ears. From mariachi bands, loud latin bar music, to spanish filled conversations, it’s an insane experience. The whole strip of restaurants is an experience in and of itself.

My favourite part about Granada was our visit to Laguna de Apoyo. Which is essentially a huge-ass lake made from a volcano crater and it’s STUNNING. You pay a $7 entrance fee at one of the hostels there and you can spend the whole day laying beachside and drinking $1 Toña’s like a boss 🙂

Main Cerveza in Nicaragua: Toña (ton-ya)
tona at laguna de apoyo Laguna_de_apoyo
For all you rum drinkers out there, Nicaragua is THE country to be in. Flor de Cana is basically a national treasure and damn good rum. Spoil yourself and when you enter the country buy a bottle of 18 yr. It’s tear-worthy delicious. If you forget to, you can pick up countless 7yr bottles at any grocery store for a steal.

flor-de-cana-nicaragua-rum

Ometepe, Nicaragua

ometepe lake ometepe
C’mon now… that’s just ridiculously beautiful.
Ometepe is an island in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua made from 2 volcanoes. You do need to hop on a ferry to get there (get there early and lineup before the ferry even arrives otherwise you might be standing the whole ride over… not so comfy with all your bags).
This was hands down a special visit. We did a homestay with a local family where english/spanish dictionary’s were a lifesaver! Let me tell you friends, I wish I had done this earlier. Although we only spent 2 nights here, my hermana (sister) taught me more Spanish than I ever picked up in Santa Teresa. Our families were all in agriculture and lived modest lives. Spending time with them fired up my desire to someday develop a successful social enterprise. Basic needs that can be solved with technology to improve the overall quality of life for those living on $1/day.

In terms of activities, my friends and I did quite a bit sight-seeing and hiking around nature reserves but the highlight of this trip was El Ojo de Agua. It’s a natural pool that our family encouraged us to go to because it’s like a ‘fountain of youth’. (Supposedly, it keeps you lookin’ young and sexy). It really is quite beautiful but we went on a holiday so it was RAMMED with locals and visitors. Still worth checking out 🙂

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Oh Monteverde! The teeny tiny city where everybody parties at the same bar (Bar Amigos) and you feel like a badass zip lining through the jungle and over it. This was my second visit to this frigid town so I opted not to go bungee jumping/ziplining/tarzan’ing/nightwalking/all around naturing again. If you do visit this town, YOU HAVE TO do all of the above and you can go see the boys at Aventuro Adventure Park , they’ll get you sorted out 🙂 .

cloud-forest-monteverde-costa-rica  monteverde-treeziplining-aventura-monteverde tarzan-ziplining-monteverde
It seriously is a tiny town and you’ll probably see the same people all over the place. Popby the Burrito place that’s in a hostel, it’s across the street from the Chicken place (so descriptive.. i know.. but once you’re there just ask around and everyone will point you in the right direction).

Arenal, Costa Rica
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Best part about getting here is the ferry across the man-made lake (Arenal)! From Monteverde, get yourself to the lake and then ferry your way over. It’s a beautiful thing. We made the mistake of being exceptionally hungover for this little adventure and almost had an oopsies on the ride over… but if you’re responsible and in the right state of mind, you’ll be golden!

Arenal’s another fun little adventure town! Here, get yourself over to the Desafio Adventure Company‘s office for an array of activities. Canyoneering (do it!), Caveing, white water rafting, WATERFALL JUMPING (totally did this and loved it, the tours called “Gravity Falls”), paddle boarding (also loved this), hiking (100% did not do this… it’s apparently a legit hike where you’re climbing and everything).

My decision to go was finalized when a friend posed this question: “If you’re having a tough time deciding, ask yourself, when’s the next time you’ll get the chance to do this again?” When he put it that way, the decision to go was made in 2 seconds. I’m SO happy that I went through with it especially because of the amazing friends I made along the way. If you ever have an opportunity to pick up and go explore, do yourself a favour (yes favour with a ‘u’ .. i’m canadian!) and don’t overthink it. Go and live 🙂

I’m now back home and funemployed, I’ll make a point to actually post more about the past few months in Santa Teresa. Maybe I’ll get extra touchy feely and share all the ‘grown-up’ life moments that happened … maybe…

laters!

Mal Pais and Santa Teresa Tide Pools

hola from Copan, Honduras! This is a continuation of ““What else is there to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica other than surfing” (even though I’m not in Costa at the moment…). One of my favourite things to do during low-tide is to  is to hit up one of the tide pools and float around like a lazy duck. Let’s start with my favourite!

Mal Pais Tide Pools

Take a look… the pictures do a pretty solid job of explaining why it’s one of my favourite spots (also free).

BEAUTY!
Best (and only) time to go is at low tide which changes every day so either google it or ask a blonde-haired surfer (they’re everywhere). To get there, walk along the beach past Playa Carmen and you’ll see rocks jutting out. Keep going for a solid 10-15 minutes and you’ll know you’re there because the rocks look walkable after a while. Can’t miss it.

On your walk over, look on the beach for black crackly looking rocks and snatch one up to make a face mask once you get to the pools! Smash it up with a teeny bit of water then slather it over your face. Nature’s a beautiful thing.

Santa Teresa Tide Pools

I don’t actually know if it’s called the Santa Teresa Tide Pools  but it’s not exactly in ST but it’s not exactly Hermosa either so we’ll just stick with the former.

You’re going to need a ride to get to these ones. Go north on the dusty roads as if you were driving to Hermosa but before you hit the weird fork in the road (there’s a tree in the middle.. random…). There are a few areas to park on the left, you’ll see random patches of space in between trees. Careful with your stuff because it’s quite common for things to disappear if you’re not paying attention… other than that, it’s a kick ass time 😀

Other Tide Pools…

Haven’t taken pictures at these one’s yet but they’re all a great time as well~

  1. Ranchos Itauna: It’s actually a hotel but there’s tide pools out front to float and play in
  2. (Not so) Secret Beach: to get here, drive to the end of the road in Mal Pais where you hit the fishermen’s village. Keep driving till you roll up to the white building (don’t hit it) then swing a left down the creepy looking trail with roots sticking out and where it looks like you may get severe suspension damage. Drive till you can’t drive anymore (you’ll see a parking area). Get out, follow the trail down to the beach and then stare. Once you’re done staring at its wonderfulness, walk left till you hit the pools and snorkel around 🙂

REMEMBER: Drive responsibly down the dusty roads… no need to be a prick .. also don’t forget the cervezas…

I’m sure there’s tons that I’m missing so feel free to add more!

Laters~

Day trips Part 1: Coyote, Guanacaste

Casa-Calitas-Guanacaste-Playa-Coyote-Costa-Rica

Other than surfing there really isn’t much to do in Santa Teresa. JUST KIDDING! This is more than just a surf/yogi town. You can trust me on that because I spent a lot of time dawdling doing anything/everything but surfing for a solid 2.5 weeks out of sheer terror. Here’s part 1 of “What else is there to do in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica other than surfing”.

Day Trip to Playa Coyote, Guanacaste

Just the other day a few of us up at the Green Rooms hopped on quads and drove out to Playa Coyote and had a ‘jolly good time’ (that’s my way of getting all you english folks back! Princess, OUT).

How to get there (from gk’s perspective… landmarks, left/rights)

  1. Find someone with a quad (ATV/ 4×4)
  2. Rent a quad for the day

Once you’ve got one of these beauties, head north on the dusty roads of Santa Teresa (away from the crossroads/banks) until you can’t go any further close to Hermosa, then swing a left at the split. Keep on quad-ing along till the road actually ends this time in Manzanillo (you’ll see a beachside restaurant on the right and the beach on the left) and at this point the beach becomes your road! Further along, cross through the Rio Bongo (x2) and follow the signs to Coyote. The drive is BUMPY so pad your butt/seat before heading out. I highly recommend bar/resto-hopping on your drive down… not only is an ice cold beer (& unnecessarily large shot of tequila) a wonderful break from the dust/poop/storm you’re driving through, but your butt will thank you. Mariscada Lunch from the beachside hut At one point you’ll come to a split in the road, go left and drive past the big restaurant and head towards the beach for the best meal of your life. There’s a secluded beach hut restaurant run by Carlos the coolest little Tico man and if you like seafood, sweet bajeezus please order the Mariscada. Look at this… just look at the dish.. it’s calling you down to Coyote. marsicada-costa-rica-playa-coyote-guanacasteAccording to food.com , it’s a shellfish stew which was a “poor recipe started in Portugal, then traveled to Brazil during colonization”. Regardless of where it started and for who, it’s one of the tastiest things I’ve ever had. After a solid 10 minutes, prep yourself for a bout of food coma and a nap in one of the hammocks. It’s 100% necessary and encouraged. Now, go visit Carlos! The View Point Once you’re done wiping the drool off your face from hammock-time, as you head out on the road agin, swing a right up the hill (it’s a dirt path so keep an eye out for it…) just outside of the beach shack. It’s a very uncomfortable ride up the hill through the jungle (there is no trail… just crater after crater). This view was totally worth it… Coyote-Guanacaste-View-Point-Nicoya-Peninsula Casa Caletas  Next stop, Casa Caletas for some more beers and a quick dip in their gorgeous pool! This spot’s a boutique hotel nestled right over the Rio Bongo. Drive straight instead of turning right back towards Manzanillo and go down for a few minutes and there are a few signs that’ll point you towards the hotel. Pop in for a dip, but most importantly, stay sober long enough to check out this stunning view. Casa-Calitas-Guanacaste-Playa-Coyote-Costa-Rica Whaddaaaaaaa beautttttttt. Basically, the view from everywhere we went was movie-esque. Fingers crossed Hollywood doesn’t find out about these secret gems so the rest of us can be selfish and enjoy the pristine beauty of Costa Rica. That’s all for now!

Beaches Galore in Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Hola! Struggled a bit getting on wifi yesterday (#jungleproblems) but we’re back online and socially inept with our faces glued to our computers again (just kidding…the monkeys are a great distraction every few minutes or so). Today’s post is dedicated to the 3 main beaches to surf down here in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. What inspired this post? Why thank you for asking! It’s quite selfish really. After getting bombed on multiple times by mother nature’s big blue/white waves for weeks, yesterday with the help of friend’s, I was up surfing the big boy waves *happy dance*.

Where to Surf in Santa Teresa

1. Playa Carmen/Banana Beach

This little gem is the first beach you hit enroute to town. It’s a quickie turn at the crossroads down a little dust trail and BAM! Look at this view. Playa-Carmen-Puntarenas-Costa-Rica (totally not me surfing in this picture.. that’s Tom John from WALES!)
As an outside-surf noob, this is my favourite beach since the waves are calmer and not as ginormous as Santa Teresa. Great place to get your first natural netty-pot experience. NOW, for those of you thinking about coming down, I highly recommend taking surf lessons. You could always just rent a board and give’er a rip but it is 100% worth the investment and will save you a lot of misery. Down by Playa Carmen, there’s an awesome surf shop (Jobbie’s Longboards) run by a solid group of Canadian boys (high-five for the motherland) who will have you up and going in no time. Complete sidenote, this is a great spot for sunset because the Pizzeria on the beach has a daily 2 for 1 happy hour (5-6PM..their sangrias are my weakness) for $6 and you’ll walk out all kinds of happy. Otherwise, pop across the street to Frank’s place to buy all sorts of boozey goodness and grab a pack of whatever your liver desires. Sit back, crack a can open and watch one of the best sunsets of your life, courtesy of Costa Rica.

2. Santa Teresa (La Lora)

Santa Teresa Sunset- La Lora Further north of Carmen is the famous Santa Teresa surf spot. Most people over down by La Lora have got serious sexy surf skills. A touch more aggressive and strong but still tons of fun! When I learned to surf back in November, my first lesson was out here and the instructor said he did it on purpose so that every beach after would be easier. He was right. I got owned and tumbled around for a solid 2 hours out there and when we hit up the other beaches, popping up was easy breezy (just a little easier… still ate sand for a few more lessons). If you’re planning on staying closer in town, hit-up Nick at Costa Rica Surf and SUP for lessons or paddle board tours! This stretch of the beach is also what my friend likes to call “Victoria’s Secret” because all the girls (and boys) have bangin’ bodies. There’s something about this little town where everyone becomes ridiculously good-looking, fit, insanely happy thus stare-worthy.

3. Playa Hermosa

Playa-Hermosa-Puntarenas-Costa-Rica (photo courtesy of Matt Nordstrom at Nord Photo)
Here we have the calmest of the three beaches and where most surf shops take their students to learn how to get up on those floaty boards. It’s busy but a great environment to really build your confidence since everyone out there is just starting out as well. It’s further north on the dusty roads and you’ll definitely need some form of transportation to get there but a solid spot for a day of picnic’ing or just bumming around. There are tons of other little beaches up and down the coast but these are the 3 main surf-spots for those of you that are thinking about a surf, yoga retreat! Stay tuned for more on restaurants and day-trips around the lovely Puntarenas province.

Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

It’s been awhile internet world!

Costa-Rica-Sunset

Follow along as I scribble about this wonderful journey in Costa!
I’ve got quite a few hours in a day to fill, so might as well share these experiences and be a productive member of society (…does that count as being productive?).

A lot went into this decision to move away from home for a few months to take a chance on myself (more on that later…) and trust that everything would work out (prayer & patience people.. it works!).

So here we go! In the next bit, for those of you wanting to visit Costa Rica, specifically Santa Teresa, I’ll write about all the good stuff and the not so good stuff and realities of what it’s like to be away from the wonderful world of “OMG-YOU’RE-25-AND-NOT-IN-A-SUIT”.

*Disclaimer: there’s way more good than not so good … 

“That’s when my heart was the saddest”

immigrant-hands-mom

Those are my mom’s hands.

Those hands lifted hundreds of boxes of tobacco, candy, cases of pop and cooked thousands of meals to get this family to where it is today.

My mom and I went out last week to buy a few presents for an upcoming “Ddol”–it’s a huge party for a Korean baby’s first birthday to celebrate good health (back in the day during the wars, making it to a year was a huge feat). We were in the car and my mom pulled out the cute little dress that she had picked out for the baby. She looked at it, smiled and then turned to me with so much sadness in her eyes. This is what she said (translated into english):

“You never got to wear nice things as a baby. I always wanted to buy you guys nice clothes and saw it in the stores, but could never buy it. We saved every penny. You, your sister, your cousins.. you all wore the exact same clothes because we couldn’t afford the pretty dresses. I always looked at them and felt so sad my kids couldn’t wear those nice things. One time when you were just born, your dad was downtown in a meeting, your grandparents were busy so no one could look after you. This was soon after I gave birth and I had to work at our store right away. We couldn’t afford help so I brought you with me. I put you in an empty tobacco box right by the counter so i could watch you and look after customers. That’s when my heart was the saddest… (keu-dae neun oma-gah ma-eum chae-il seul-puh-soh in konglish for those of you who understand korean) When you needed a diaper change I couldn’t do it right away and you had to wait because we couldn’t afford to have help…My heart hurt the most at that moment seeing you in that box… Not being able to provide for you guys, having to leave you there, not being able to change you because people were in the store… we just had no money. I’m really sorry and when you guys have babies, we’ll buy them the nice things we could never buy you… ”

If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you may be wondering why I write so much about my family (my grandma’s struggles, being a 2nd gen immigrant kid etc…). Well friends, I don’t have a very good answer. Why I chose to write this today is because of a conversation I had with one of my closest friends yesterday. The way our business is currently going, I feel so ashamed and hurt that I can’t give back to my parents for everything they sacrificed so I could get a good education. My parents have always been very supportive no matter what I’ve been up to. They’ve even said they’ll help me financially while I’m still living with them-this made me so so upset and doubled the feeling of failure. My friend (thanks nar) did a reality slap-in-the-face check and said “Listen, if you’re fortunate enough that your parents will help you. Then do them a favour and work hard. Work hard so their sacrifice is worth it” (I’m paraphrasing a bit, but that was the jist of the convo).

I never realized how hard my mom had it until I started interviewing A LOT of moms for our company. Their hardships as Canadians were enough to scare me from having kids, but then I thought about immigrant parents and how much harder it must be for them without the language, support network in Canada or the finances to support their kids. I thought back to that conversation I had with my mom in the car and it just broke my heart. Every mother wants the best for their child and I can’t even imagine how hard my mom was on herself. The thing is, we didn’t need the nice clothes or fancy outfits…

Immigrant kids can all probably relate to this, our parents worked really hard. My mom once told me “do you know how many packs of gum I have to sell to buy that?”

Without a strong command of the english language, she did pretty damn well for herself. Most immigrant kids can relate to this so in conclusion: We have no excuse not to succeed. Laziness is such an awful trait to have and furthermore so disrespectful to what our parents put in.

Be motivated and choose to be great.

Thats all.