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The perfect hike paired with a side of delicious food.

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Manuel Antonio is a nature lovers’ paradise; this isn’t the type of place you come to sit on a beach all day or stay confined to your resort.

You can find almost every water and land activity known to man here; whale watching, skydiving, kayaking, snorkeling, zip-lining, off-road jeep and ATV tours through the jungle, waterfall climbing/jumping/swimming, whitewater rafting, canopy walks across suspension bridges, you name it! As you probably guessed there are TONS of great tour companies that provide these activities to tourists, and you should definitely do some of them, but these activities can add up pretty quickly if you are on a budget. We wanted to share with you one of our favorite “day-trips” from Manuel Antonio that you can do yourself for less than $30/person (including lunch) all you need is a rental car.

Rain Maker, located thirty minutes from Manuel Antonio in Parrita, Costa Rica, is one of the best bangs for your buck. $20 USD gains you access to this partial primary rainforest where you can enjoy a two-and-a-half-mile hike while you enjoy some wildlife, cross multiple hanging bridges, swim in natural pools, and even climb a waterfall by rope (if you choose) to access a secret waterfall and cave hidden in the jungle.  The hike is perfectly marked by 12 different checkpoints points so it's nearly impossible to get lost and you can take shortcuts if you prefer a shorter hike.  The first six marks are straight up hill, where you will use manmade tire steps and your leg muscles.  Once you have crossed several suspension bridges with incredible views, you will make your way downhill through waterfalls and swimming holes.

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The best part?  After your long hike you can post up at the Rainmaker’s craft brewery Perro Vida, which translates to Dog Life.  After your 2 ½ to 4-hour adventure and a few brews, chances are you’re going to be ready to eat and we have just the place for you!

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Google maps says that Rain Maker is 42 minutes away from Manuel Antonio, but that's only because everything takes longer then expected in Costa Rica and you have to drive a few kilometers on a dirt road. We usually get there in 30 min tops.  Also note that you do not need 4-wheel drive for this trip.

Tip: Google Maps works even when offline.  If you start your navigation while you're on WiFi, then it will continue with the directions to your destination.

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Next adventure will take you to the best Chicharones (pork ribs) in Costa Rica! Family owned and located on the side of their home, Kokys is the most authentic restaurant we have been to while living here.  Unfortunately, it is unable to be found on google maps, however, if you ask any local they will give you great directions on the spot!  If you're one of those people who have a problem ordering, don't worry, there is no menu and there is only one thing to order.  You also order by kilo, so if you're hungry, you better add an extra kilo of meat to your order!  The chicharones comes with a side of mashed or fried yucca (a potato-like vegetable) and fried plantains.  It is also served with delicious lime/orange wedges and their special, homemade hot sauce.  I promise you will leave here satisfied and in a meat-induced coma.

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After you're done filling up your bellies, head over to the beach and take a relaxing dip at Playa Manuel Antonio while you watch the most incredible sunset you've ever laid eyes on. Remember, it gets dark in Costa Rica around 6:00 PM so plan your day accordingly.

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Kids Saving the Rainforest

This place is just as sweet as it sounds.

My first experience to this non-for-profit organization/sanctuary was nothing short of an incredible memory.  Our family was in town with sloths on the mind.  How could you visit Costa Rica and not see these fascinating creatures?

Without any real directions, we somehow found the sanctuary tucked away in a Palm jungle, through a few turns down a dirt road, only fifteen minutes by car from Manuel Antonio.  The reason why the directions on Google maps weren't accurate is quiet simple;  KSTR doesn't want people to show up without having already booked a tour by phone or email.  We happened to be the ones who didn't follow the typical procedure.  Our advice, book in advance!

We pulled up right as the morning tour was ending, but that didn't stop the owner from being extremely hospitable to our curiosities.  We explained that we came to see Sloths, and he did not disappoint.  Not only did we have one-on-one time with a baby sloth in a laundry basket(!) we ended up on a private tour of our own to meet all of the other animals in the sanctuary.  He explained every animal's situation and how the sanctuary began and continues to grow through the help of donations, volunteers, and veterinarians that specialize in these specific species.  We could feel his excitement and dedication through every word he spoke.

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KSTR was founded in 1999 to help save the rainforest by two, passionate nine-year-old girls that lived in the area.

  KSTR's mission is to sustain the diversity of the rainforest and wildlife globally, through local action, education, and research.

Their wildlife tour teaches about Sloths, Spider Monkeys, White-faced Monkeys, Squirrel Monkeys (Titi), Marmosets, Tamarins, Kinkajous, Parrots, Parakeets and many more animals.  In order to maintain a rehabilitation center for the several species they work with, the foundation understands that survival of the fittest is their biggest issue. They also operate as an educational center and reforestation nursery.  Around an incredible 95% of the animals they tend to, are released into the wild at after they fully recover.

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In addition to the sanctuary, Kids Saving the Rainforest manages a Bed & Breakfast to help raise funds to save the rainforest and wildlife in the area.  The Blue Banyan Inn is located on the property so if you're looking for a quaint place to say - you don't have to look far!

If you're planning on a visit to Costa Rica, or better yet, to see us - we'd be happy to book KSTR as a must-see tour!

Hours: Monday-Sunday: 9:00 AM - 12:00 PM They also have private tours available

Send an email to: info@kstr.org or to book call: (506) 4070-0340

Click here for KSTRF on Trip Advisor 

 

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A Costa Rican Saturday: Organic Seeds + 8th Annual Whale & Dolphin Festival

Along with our friends from Girl in the Raw, we spent the morning taking a glimpse into the Vegan lifestyle at the Organic Annual Seed festival in Tinamaste, Costa Rica, where we learned about the benefits of growing your own organic fruits and vegetables, enjoyed some serious good eats, and picked up some Mangosteen superfood.  (pictured below)

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We then headed over to our days' main attraction: The 8th Annual Whale and Dolphin Festival.

If you’ve ever been to Costa Rica, chances are you traveled to Dominical or Uvita where the beaches are untouched and the views are 360 degrees of perfection. Uvita is known for its Ballena Marine National Park (Bahia Ballena) and their famous Whale's tail.  Located about an hour south of Manuel Antonio, it is part of the National Marine Whale Park.  The ecosystem of the park protects the whale-breeding grounds and the Whale's Tail itself is a result of the currents that meet, which creates a perfect bird's-eye view of a whale's tail.  Almost a year ago, we walked out to the end of the tail before the tides met and witnessed the feel of walking on water.

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The Whale tour prices include a two-hour boat tour of the Ballena Marine National Park, park entrance fee, water and fresh fruit (which was delicious!) Note it does not include transportation to the park. (Credit card is accepted for everything but the park entrance fee)

We opted for the 2-hour tour instead of a private 3 hour tour with a local that was offered to us upon our arrival.  Tour operators offer boat tours departing every two hours between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m.  We were one of the last groups to go out at 3:00 PM, which also gave us the pleasure of seeing the sunset through the clouds on the Pacific.

We were prepped in Spanish and off we went with ten other people, two guides, and some choppy water.

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A little weary of what we were getting ourselves into, we took it all in and had an incredible time! We saw 16 different whales during our tour alone.  Although we didn't catch any dolphins, we did see a full hour of breaching whales, baby whales, and even up-close encounters where we were just feet away from all of the action! The guides were incredibly informative and answered all of our curiosities.

The festival also includes live bands, tons of Costa Rican keepsakes for purchase, and a taste of the local culture.  Surrounded by restaurants and lively nightlife, the festival caters to all types of tourists and locals.

More information is available pn the festival’s website: www.festivaldeballenasydelfines.com

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If you’re ever in the area when this festival takes place, we recommend not to miss it!

 

 

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Carpe

5 ways our lives have changed for the better, living in Costa Rica

A lot of people ask us why we picked Costa Rica as our next home after traveling to so many places around the world. What is so special about it? Our answers are usually practical. Such as, its close enough to home (and cheap enough) to visit family often, low-cost of living, amazing wildlife and beautiful landscapes, excellent climate, happy people, good food, business opportunities, the list goes on. Most people are satisfied with these answers because they make sense. But the real reason is that we just feel better here and we knew we needed to be here, we just didn’t know why yet. Well, we’ve been living in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica for over four months now and I can finally put into words exactly why we moved here. Read below to see the 5 ways our lives have changed for the better since moving to Costa Rica.

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be fearless to whatever sets your soul on fire.-3

Don't move to Costa Rica if...

We've been to 24 countries and counting and so far we have yet to find a "perfect" place to live. It's a relative term after all, we can think of a few destinations that would be perfect if the cost of living was 1/3 of what it actually is - but contrary to public opinion, we didn't hit the lottery and cost of living was a large factor. Other factors we included in our search of our new home were business opportunities, access as a tourist, healthcare, food, people, nature, culture, weather,   lifestyle, and proximity to family. We've been living on the pacific coast of Costa Rica for a little over three months now and we plan on being here for a long time to come, its our little slice of heaven but it's not for everyone.

We can think of a million reasons why you should move to Costa Rica but there are a few factors that you should keep in mind if planning on moving here.

 

Don’t move to Costa Rica if…

 

You don’t like to sweat

Unless you are situated far up in the mountains, and chances are you aren’t because more than 75% of all expats that move to Costa Rica live in or near a coastal town, you are going to break a sweat even during the smallest task. A quick run to the grocery store? You will sweat your butt off inside since they don’t have AC.  And then again walking to your car to load the groceries.  And then again taking them into the house. That's three separate sweats just to get groceries! You’ve never really sweat until you’ve hiked in Costa Rica. (I've been drier after just getting out of a shower.)  Love hot showers? You won’t anymore! Plan on taking multiple cold showers per day to stay fresh and be careful not to break a sweat drying yourself off.  It happens all.the.time.

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live free.

Celebrate your freedom by using your passport this year

America.

Land of the free, home of the brave.

I don’t think I need to explain to anybody reading this post about what freedom means to Americans, frankly it's difficult to talk about without cutting deep, but I hope to raise awareness about one freedom in particular that should be celebrated more often.

No, I’m not a gun lobbyist and no I don’t have a political agenda here, I'm talking about your passport. And since research suggests that only 35% of Americans over 18 currently have a valid passport, that means the vast majority of citizens DON'T have one! If you haven’t been sold yet on just how valuable this little blue book is please allow me the pleasure of breaking this down for you. An American passport is the 4th strongest passport in the world behind only Germany, Sweden, and a three-way tie between Finland, France, Italy, Spain and the UK. We are allowed to travel freely to 174 out of the 218 countries of the world, 160 of which can be visited without a visa. If life was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this would be your golden ticket! OK maybe now is not the best time in your life for a vacation, but seriously you can go anywhere you want, whenever you want, and all you need to do is buy a plane ticket. That may not seem like a revelation to you but it is a luxury that many people around the world wish they had. Which reminds me of a man we met outside of a restaurant in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Our 5 favorite eateries in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Our 5 favorite local eateries in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is one of the most-visited towns in Costa Rica, and for good reasons. Not only does it house some of the top beaches in the world, unique wildlife, and some of the happiest people, but it also has some of the best restaurants Costa Rica has to offer.

From breathtaking beachfront views to neighborhood digs, Manuel Antonio restaurants have a knack for local flavor.  After visiting here for a month and now living here for longer,  we have developed a love for some fantastic local establishments that tickle our taste buds. Here's a list of our five favorite local spots to feast, relax and take in some unparalleled views, and sip on some spectacular Costa Rica coffee.

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five reasons why you should use a private tour guide.

Five reasons why you should use a private tour guide

I’ll be the first to admit, we used to be the type of people that “didn’t need” a tour guide.

We believed this to be a waste of money and preferred to move at our own pace without being stuck to a third wheel for several hours. This all changed when we met Eduardo in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Eduardo is a local guide who had been providing volcano and jungle tours in the area for more then twenty years. He just so happened to be setting-up shop in front of a restaurant that we had chosen for the evening and he had such a friendly and warm demeanor that it was impossible not to engage him in conversation on the way out. After a twenty-minute conversation, and some negotiating back and fourth, we had agreed on a six-hour tour the following morning. The plan was to meet at 7:00 AM for coffee; we would be driving in our rental car and he would direct us where to go. The itinerary was to hike the Arenal volcano in the morning, visit the hanging bridges park, take a dip in the natural hot river, and then finish the day with a typical lunch at his favorite local spot. We saw more and learned more about the area in that one day than we would have in a week on our own, and all for under $100. Was it worth it? Absolutely! Here’s our top 5 reasons on why you should choose a tour guide on your next jungle adventure.

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Prepare yourself_ Never underestimate a short hike in Costa Rica

Never underestimate a short hike in Costa Rica

My husband and I would consider ourselves novice-to-average hikers, we are capable of walking/climbing for a few miles at a time and know how to prepare for each journey. We’ve hiked some of the most scenic places in the world together: Machu Picchu, Angkor Wat, the ancient city walls of Dubrovnik, and almost every National Park in the USA west of the Mississippi.

Hiking in Costa Rica is in a league of its own. The relentless and intense sun, coupled with drastic elevation changes and extreme humidity, can turn even the shortest most-innocent hike into a scary situation.  Let me give you an example from our most recent “waterfall hunt”.

After a two-hour drive on an uneven dirt road, up and down a small mountain, and crossing two suspension bridges that probably weren’t supposed to be driven on, we finally made it to Eco-Chantilles waterfall! All that was left was an easy 300 meter walk down a hill.  We brought a decent-sized bottle of water, music, some fruit, and of course our machete.

It was a steep descent and the ground was very wet.  On the last leg of the hike, I slipped on a rock and dropped our water bottle down a mysterious hole and it could not be retrieved. We thought it was no big deal since we were only three football fields away from our car.  We decided to head back after an hour at the waterfall. Halfway up the mountain, we were dripping sweat and over-heating. We made frequent stops to try and cool down, but there was no shade in sight.

What would happen if one or both of us passed out? Who would come looking for us? Would we wake up?  These thoughts were clouding up our minds which caused me to slightly panic.  As you probably guessed, we made it out alive but we definitely learned our lesson.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A SHORT HIKE IN COSTA RICA!

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Simplify your life.

The cost of moving to paradise

Living in Paradise definitely has its perks.  We can’t deny our two-a-day pool breaks, scenes from National Geographic outside our front door and the fact that we are supplied with the actual daily amount of vitamin D that the human body needs.

Feel like hiking up a waterfall and taking a swim after? Par for the course here, we call that Tuesday. However, moving to another country definitely presents challenges.

One of the reasons we moved to Costa Rica was to enjoy a simpler lifestyle, to find a balance between work and play.

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Powering down

Last night we had our first meet n’ greet with the rainy season here in Costa Rica.

 

Last time we visited we were in the midst of rainy season but we barely saw a few raindrops.  Let’s just say we thought our monkey-friends were tap dancing on our roof trying to bring down Casa de Stan!

We lost our power for three, twenty-minute spurts, just long enough to spoil our refrigerated goods.  Long enough to cut off the cool breeze we had going on.  Long enough to make us start profusely sweating through our clothes.  That was just an experience well, we needed to experience.  What we didn’t want to experience was not being prepared for the total darkness, hello we live in the rainforest!

Scattering to find a candle to light (without a scent of course, since they attract mosquitos!) was like a game of Marco Polo.  Even though we were both working on our computers, watching Netflix and cooking food, we didn’t let the lack of electricity get to us.  There was nothing we could do about it anyway so why freak out over nothing.

We did have our first #reallycostarica moment but hey, we laughed it off and filed under #nothingwecandoaboutit.

We spent the blackout talking. We spent it laughing about the bugs that could be crawling on us.  We spent it doing things we wouldn’t normally be doing at night.

What did we learn from this experience?  When life hands you obstacles that you can’t control, take that time to laugh it off and reflect on the good.  Oh, and to keep candles on deck at all times.

 

 

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Pura Vida living: Costa Rica

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It’s hard to explain that the first place we traveled to, before 23 other destinations, was the one that made us feel the most at-home and somewhere we wanted to live one day.  It could be the fact that we met amazing life-long friends who have helped us tremendously while making our move, or the fact that learning Spanish is much easier than it is to learn German. Or maybe its the proximity to home since it’s only a five-hour plane ride instead of twenty-four hours.  Whatever the reason is, we adore Costa Rica and all of the wonderful places it has to visit.

Although we moved to a beach town in the middle of the mountains, Costa Rica has all types of climates and atmospheres to accommodate most people.  For instance, Monte Verde, which is where you will see unreal Cloud Forests, is located high up in the mountains and is usually chillier in temperature.  Although you can still find typical food (Costa Rican food) you can also find many other types of restaurants and shops.  La Fortuna, home of the Arenal Volcano, is located in a more modest town, with temperatures closer to San Jose, which is a bit cooler as well (the largest city and hub in Costa Rica).  On the Caribbean and Pacific side alike, you will find local flavors and similar hot, tropical climate.  There really is a climate for everyone, although Costa Rica does not have distinct four-seasons year like back at home, there are shifts in the weather that make more days tolerable against the heat.

Costa Rica also has a plethora of activities for everyone, including large families.  From adventurous activities to nature hikes in the jaw-dropping National Parks, Costa Rica holds it’s own.  Our favorite local activities include hiking just about everything, kayaking, enjoying the sun and beach days and visiting our weekly farmer’s market to buy obscene amounts of tropical fruits that we do not have in the states.  I forgot to mention our favorite Costa Rican tradition, living the Pura Vida lifestyle. (read: pure life)

 

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As we call Costa Rica our new home, we will blog about some troubles and milestones we find along the way.  Stay tuned for more on Costa Rica and everything this wonderful country has to offer!

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La Fortuna/Costa Rica

Our first stop in our travels to Costa Rica.  La Fortuna, Costa Rica is full of adventures, wildlife and wonderful typical Costa Rican food.

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Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Our favorite place in our travels — seeing is that we MOVED here!  Manuel Antonio is a beach town with plenty to do!  Manuel Antonio Park is one…

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Sierpe, Costa Rica

The extremely small town of Sierpe is located in the southern part of the Puntarenas Province in the Southern Pacific region. Sierpe is known for it’s beautiful Osa…

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