Category Archives: Destination Inspiration

Hiking The Tongariro Apline Crossing in New Zealand as a Novice Hiker

To be honest, we are not super experienced hikers. First, we live in Florida, so even hills are impressive to us. Secondly, while we’ve hiked in Kauai, Namibia and Colorado, we don’t even own proper hiking boots. We have gotten better over the years, but we are absolutely, 100% novice hikers who seem to be the right mixture of physically fit, blissfully ignorant and outdoorsy-but-also-like-to-shower-every-night kind of travelers.

In our current age (mid thirties) and state of health (active and healthy) there are not too many trails we wouldn’t attempt. True, summiting Mount Everest is not on my list, but Kilimanjaro is, completing the Napali Coast Trail in Kauai is and hiking the Tongariro Trail is. Only now we can say was, since we finished the hike in just over 6 hours in December 2015. It is certainly one for the books and every bit as impressive as I’d hoped it would be.

Here is a synopsis of our 6 hour hike, in tennis shoes, on the Tongariro Trail.

Hour 1: Park, wait for the bus, ride the bus and then start hiking (Note, 99.9% of people do this. If you park and start hiking, then ride the bus back to your car you will be hiking against the flow of foot traffic.) The first hour is easy – both in general and in comparison to the rest of the hike. The first hour consists of gravel trails, well-kept boardwalks over marshy land and a slow uphill trek. There are also port-o-potties, or temporary toilets for you to use. These are the only facilities on the path, so take advantage of them.

Hour 2: Hour 2 is up and down and even perfectly flat at times. Leaving the toilets is almost straight up, but then you reach a crater like stretch suddenly the earth looks like Mars.

Hour 3: The third hour was the highlight for me. After reaching a high point and sitting a boulder to rest and eat a snack in the clouds (literally), we marveled at the Red Crater and the prismatic pools of water below. This is also a good stopping point for lunch.

Hour 4: Stopping for lunch bleeds into the next hour, but the trek through a valley and alongside other ponds is easy enough and allows your food to digest some. If this part of the trek looks like the land of Mordor, you’re a solid LOTR fan.

Hour 5: Rises and falls in the land create for changing views of the valley below and it is tough to not trip over the loose rocks as you forget to look down at your footing while staring at the stunning beauty that is all around you.

Hour 6: The last hour is the longest, because that is just how time and life work. HOwever, for me, this was the most rigorous as it is almost entirely downhill. My body is built for uphill climbs, but downhill over the course of an hour can really wear on your knees and ankles, so be prepared. The downhill trail brings you down from the mountains, foothills and ends in a forest. This forest is the only shade found on the entire trail.

Things to know before you hike:

  • Pack water and food – more than you think you’ll need.
  • Plan on spending a few days in the area as weather might not cooperate and this causes the trail to close for everyone.
  • Dress in layers. We added and peeled off layers all day long.
  • Socks were more important and helpful to us than hiking boots were. We had water wicking, warm socks that kept dirt and small pebbles out; which was paramount.
  • We did not have walking sticks, but I can see how they would be helpful.
  • Pack sunscreen and sunglasses/hat for sure! At some points you are in the clouds, but other times the sun is intense and there is no shade to be found.
  • Did I say to pack water and snacks? The average time is 7 hours.

New Zealand: The 6 Best Ideas for a Kiwi Getaway

New Zealand is a country that feels like a world away. It’s sprawling and untamed, a perfect balance between the manmade wonders of the big cities and the glorious wilderness surrounding them. Here are six ideas for when you’re travelling through the Kiwi paradise.

Take a cruise

(image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/)

When the waters of New Zealand are so vast and glorious, it makes perfect sense to explore them with a cruise. Audley Travel recommends cruising to both the Bay of Islands and Milford Sound, two of New Zealand’s most magnificent natural wonders. The former is perhaps the less explored, a cluster of around 150 green islands surrounded by deep turquoise waters, so if you’re wanting to head off the beaten track this is the way to do it.

Seize the thrills of Queenstown

 (image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/queenstownrafting/)

If you’re looking for adventure, Queenstown is where you’ll find it. Here, you’re able to jump from the tallest bungee platform in New Zealand in the form of Nevis Bungy; you can white water raft down the Tully River; and you can even skydive if you’re feeling that brave. Plus, Queenstown is the only place in the world where you can try the coveted Fergburger, a renowned culinary delight that goes down a storm with tourists and locals alike.

Explore the bustle of Auckland

 (image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/)

It may not be the capital of New Zealand – that title belongs to Wellington –but Auckland really is a one-of-a-kind city. It truly does offer everything you could wish for – whether you’re wanting a spot of natural beauty or the bustle of a big city centre, you’ll find it here. Consider hiking through the Shakespear Regional Park, overlooking the deep blue ocean, before heading back into central Auckland to dine at one of its many fantastic restaurants and party the night away in a vibrant club.

Take a break in Christchurch

 (image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/)

Although it’s a vast and big city, Christchurch is the perfect destination for a more relaxed New Zealand experience. Following a devastating earthquake in 2011, the city has quickly recovered through extensive efforts, blossoming into a hotspot that has a warm air of community about it. You’re able to visit some beautifully creative installations – such as the Cardboard Cathedral, erected as a placeholder for the original that was destroyed – as well as learn more about the earthquake through tasteful and insightful memorials and museums.

Indulge in the culture of Rotorua

 (image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ks_marks/)

Rotorua is a town hardly any tourists have discovered. It’s baffling that it isn’t more popular considering just how beautiful a location it is – it’s full of geothermal beauty, with hot geysers and sprawling lakes throughout for you to discover. It’s a cultural hotspot, too, with a large part of its population being Maori. You’ll see it in the century-old buildings throughout the town, as well as in the Rotorua Museum – it’s currently closed due to an earthquake, but it should be opening again very soon.

Hit the open roads

 (image credit to: https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/)

It’s said to be the best way to explore New Zealand – hire a car and take to the winding open roads. By road tripping through the two islands, you’ll come across undiscovered treasures of your own accord – secluded bays, glorious mountains and endless lakes await. Consider driving from Christchurch to Queenstown, a route that will allow you to visit the beautiful Franz Josef Glacier on the way. It’s a majestic feat of nature that is just one of many examples of New Zealand’s true beauty.

Hiking and Tramping to Cathedral Cove Near Hahei, New Zealand

Ever get somewhere and think “This is not worth it” and by “it” I mean the time, energy or money used to get there. I’ve had those thoughts before. Bangkok comes to mind. As does Disney and most movies I’ve seen in the theater in the last 5 years. Thousands of dollars, too many hours and all of our energy went into our two weeks in New Zealand, but I never once had that thought.

Throughout our 14 days on the two islands, never once did I regret the time, money and energy we expended to explore New Zealand’s north and south islands. One of our first stops was Cathedral Cove, a very worthwhile stop! Each mile and dollar was worth it to soak up the sun rays, dig my toes into the powder sand, and shiver when realizing the turquoise water was a tad but cooler than the Caribbean Ocean.

Prior to hiking to Cathedral Cove we sea kayaked around cliffs and corners and through caves. We battled winds and waves and each other, because double kayaks will do that to even the best of couples! Cathedral Cove Kayaks took us on a great adventure.

Cathedral Cove Kayaking

But after 3 hours out of the water we wanted to relax. The only thing between us and that relaxation was a “short” little hike. The hike out to Cathedral Cove is no Tongariro Trail, but it is not a short little jaunt either. And don’t be the person who takes a boat here. If you want the views, do the work. (Rant over.)

Pack a small bag with a few beach necessities, snacks and water and then start hiking in Hahei. The path is wide and even. There are rougher off-shoots that you can take down to other small patches of sand or view points. They’re pretty, but we just wanted to sit and swim and sip our libations, so we kept walking.

The walk itself is 30-45 minutes based on your level of fitness and pace. Once there, do not expect to have the place to yourself. It is a favorite for a reason! However, when you finally sink into the sand and see the boat drop off a “boat load” of people you will instantly be angry that more people are in your “secret spot.” You’ll get over it quickly though; Cathedral Cove is too spectacular to let anyone ruin it for you! (OK, now my rant is over.)

You can easily spend any entire day near and around Hahei as we did. On land, in the water or on water, Coromandel and the surrounding peninsula are worth every mile, penny and ounce of energy it takes to get there.

Wine Tasting in Gibbston Valley, New Zealand

Wine tasting is our thing. We love drinking it, we love touring a vineyard and we love meeting other enthusiasts in the tasting room. That being said, we are not experts on all wine, just those we like. We are most familiar with Napa reds and thus gravitate towards Cabernet Sauvignon and this rule of thumb has worked for us around the world … until Gibbston Valley, New Zealand.

Our first week in New Zealand we must’ve tried 4 or 5 different Cabs and Red Zins that we didn’t love. Then, we spent just one day learning about and tasting New Zealand wines and figured out why! Pinor Noir is the way to go … as is making a day trip to Wanaka and Gibbston Valley while you are in Queenstown, New Zealand.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel grapes do not like the hot dry summers – but Pinot Noir does. In fact, 70% of the grapes grown in the Gibbston Valley region are Pinot. Once we knew this, our wine selection and experiences were immensely better!

The scenery of the region varies from rolling hills to mountains, lakes and rushing rivers. Almost all of the water is bright blue – as one comes to expect in New Zealand. While each tasting room and vineyard has its own flare, a few really stuck out to us – and all for different reasons.

Rippon, Wanaka – Rippon’s wines were refreshing, but to be honest, the view is why we visited. The tastings are free and the help is friendly – both strong qualities and very important. But, in my opinion – Rippon should be enjoyed outside. Lupins overlook green fields of vines which melt into turquoise waters which is then met by rugged mountains. It is breathtaking.

Wild Earth, Gibbston Valley – Wild Earth is tucked into the hillside and is located at an old gold mine. To enter you have to cross a metal foot bridge to get to the tasting room – pretty awesome! However, a better description of tasting room is likely “restaurant.” Come here hungry and thirsty! Mike and I are big eaters and I left almost uncomfortably full. The 6 wines you taste are paired with deliciously prepared meats and vegetables. The pairings ranged from chicken, beef, venison and lamb. There were points when I forgot to sip my wine because I was all about the food. It is a must taste kinda place!

Gibbston Valley Winery, Gibbston Valley – Chances are if you taste in this region, you will end up here. The caves are neat, and unique to the area. While impressive, the caves are not the biggest, longest or deepest, rather, just the only in the region. Gibbston Valley Winery also has a cheesery  … yes please! You can’t miss stopping here and sampling the yumminess. Or, better yet, buy some, and a bottle and picnic in their beautiful gardens; it is an experience for sure!

I don’t think I realized this until writing this post, but Gibbston Valley was a tasting experience, but not for wine, but food too – a total win-win if you ask me! From this point on, which, was actually Day 9 of 14 days, we loved every local wine we tried. It is amazing what you can learn if you seek out the information, and the goods!

Hiking the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii

There is hiking. And, then, there is hiking the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast in Kauai.

As hiking trails go – there are smooth, flat lanes all the way to rugged, steep and rocky pathways. There are hikes along river beds and valleys, and those along mountain crests with 360 degrees views.

The Kalalau Trail in Kauai is popular and scenic, so we assumed it would be an easy, smooth hike. WRONG!

The trail is rugged. The trail is rocky. The trail is up and down.

That being said, I did the hike in Chaco sandals and Mike was prepared enough to have both, Chacos and his shoes. I wish I had closed toes, but I was thankful for sturdy Vibram soles. Mike liked the protection from pebbles in his shoes, but hated that be slipped around. Put our shoes together and we would be golden. Put our shoes together and you’ve got a decent pair of hiking shoes … go figure!

Even though you are at the beach and in a tropical paradise, pack and wear your hiking boots/shoes. The trail can get muddy, so slipping is a concern. The trail is rocky, so twisting your ankle is a concern. The trail has loose gravel in places, so small stones in your shoes is a concern. The terrain’s elevation often undulated and uneven, so blisters are a concern.

Pack plenty of food and water as the trail is long – even to the first major stopping point. If you’re on the trail, you might as well hike to Hanakapi’ia beach. Mike and I stopped here, drank water, ate our snacks, swam and then headed back. This took us almost 6 hours. It is a long day; be ready with nutrition and hydration.

Plan for a hike that takes the entire day. The earlier you arrive the better for a few reasons. First, you might find a parking spot. Parking is extremely scarce, so arrive before the sun comes up to make sure your spot. The trail runs along the western coast of the island which means it is in the shade until noon. The afternoons are brutally hot and little shade is found along the trail certain times of year. Bring hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, for sure!

Our hike time was not the best given our poor shoe choice and 500 stops for photos (it is that scenic), but we were not in a rush. Hiking Kalalau was one of our favorite adventures while on Kauai. In fact, I’d like to return to hike the entire trail, camping and everything. I know, I know. You probably don’t believe me. I barely believe me.Who knows, maybe they have a glamping option! 🙂

Beaches in Kauai, Hawaii

Going to the beach is an obvious activity in Hawaii. But, all beaches have ups and downs – and not just the waves and tides. Here are our favorites of Kauai and why (or why not).

Polihale Beach – I’ll start with this beach because it was my absolute favorite on the island. It is secluded and picturesque and the perfect venue to watch the sun sink into the water. It is secluded and a local favorite because you MUST have 4 wheel drive to access this beach. The roads leading into the beach and state park are sugar sand, or very deep sand, that a car with front wheel drive only just cannot make it through. Michael and I even helped a car who took the risk (and failed). We helped the couple to push their car out of sand. Meanwhile, the locals drove past and shook their heads. You can’t blame them though; there are signs posted in multiple locations along the road; so proceed at your own risk. Not to mention that they’ve likely helped their fair share of clueless tourists. So, the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle is both a blessing and a curse, depending on how you look at it for this beach. A pitfall of Polihale Beach are that the waters are very rough. Polihale Beach is not a swimming beach, but the fact that it is not busy and so scenic made it our favorite.

Brennecke’s Beach – Brennecke’s Beach is the opposite of Polihale in that it is very busy and easy to get to from a busy road in Poipu. But, on the flip side, you can easily swim. Another plus is that you have the chance to see turtles nesting. This is a common occurrence on other beaches on the island, but this is the only place we saw a turtle on the beach while on Kauai. You also have the option of sipping a cocktail at Brennecke’s Beach Bar while watching the waves if you want. This kind of option is always good when you’re fed up with other tourists stepping over you and screaming children. Sorry! (Not really!)

Shipwreck’s Beach – Like Polihale, Shipwreck’s Beach is not good for swimming, but it is great for watching surfers and boggy boarders. The waves crash violently at the shore, making for dramatic wipe outs and impressive rides. Parking is also very close. The beach is next to a large resort, so you will not have the place to yourself, but it was not as busy as Brennecke’s when we were there around sunset.

Tunnels Beach– Tunnels beach is a long, curved shoreline, offering beach goers space to spread out and feel like you have a place to relax without hearing other’s conversations or music. It is also great for snorkeling, a long stroll on the beach and shell/rock hunting. The large black lava rocks against the bright turquoise water make for a beautiful view when on land too. We also saw a monk seal bathing on the beach, the only sighting during our week on the island.

Ke’e Beach – Ke’e Beach is known for its snorkeling, calm waters and sunset views. We experienced all 3 and agree with its reputation. The biggest downfall of this beach is the parking problem, and it is a problem. The beach is also at the trail head for the Hanakapi’ai Trail; the most popular trail on the island. Arrive early, or wait until just before sunset and hope you find a spot. Expect to walk at least a half a mile once parked. It’s a hike; before the hike.

Hanakapi’ai Beach – Speaking of hiking, Hanakapi’ai Beach is only accessible by boat or a couple of hours of hiking. But, oh man! It is so worth it! Pack plenty of water, hiking boots and snacks and enjoy a pristine beach while eating, re-hydrating and cooling off in the water. But, again, parking is an issue as you park in the same area for this hike and beach as you do for Ke’e Beach. So, again, get there early, really early.

All beaches are not created equally, but Kauai’s beaches are known around the world for a reason. Kauai is the perfect destination for beach lovers and for outdoor lovers in general. 

Waimea Canyon – Kauai, HI

We spent a day at the Western Rim of the Grand Canyon during a whirlwind road trip from San Diego to Las Vegas. It was an out of the way “pit stop” and made us realize canyons are dramatic, colorful and beautiful land forms to explore and adore. We treated Waimea Canyon in Kauai with more “respect” and admired her from more than one angle!

waimea-canyon-kauai

Waimea Canyon is located on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. It is an easy day trip from Lihue or Poipu and lives up to its name “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” It is not quite as big as The Grand Canyon, but seeing the canyon from as many different angles as you can is bound to satisfy your thirst for nature and beauty, adventure and exploration.

We drove the rim and flew over; both were a great way to experience a canyon. We also hiked, some, but saved our energy for hiking the Napali Coastline Trail a few days later.

Our first day on the island started with a helicopter ride around the island, focusing on the canyon. What an incredible way to start our trip. We flew with Mauna Loa and splurged for the private “doors off” tour.

doors-off-mauna-loa-kauai

One might balk at the price ($287 USD per person). However, after reading reviews that mentioned middle seats and horrible views on the larger helicopter, we agreed the money was well worth it. We were so right! Mike and I had unobstructed views the entire time. The wind hitting your skin and the sound of the routers and propeller, coupled with the views, was an incredible visceral experience.

mauna-loa-helicopter-tour-kauai helicopter-flight-over-waimea-canyon

Two days later we found ourselves back at Waimea Canyon, but this time we were on solid ground. The place is just as beautiful though!

driving-waimea-canyon-kauai jeep-wrangler-rental-kauai

waimea-canyon-small-waterfall-uluru

We drove, stopped for photo ops and even hiked at Kalalau Lookout. Although there wasn’t much of a view as the peak was heavily shrouded in a dense cloud. It was an eerie feeling to not be able to see more than about a hundred meters ahead, even though you should have been able to see for miles!

kalalau-lookout-cloud kalalau-lookout-standing-in-a-cloud wettest-place-on-earth-kauai hiking-near-kalalau-lokout-kauai

From up above or ground level, either way you look at it (pun intended), Waimea Canyon is impressive. Thousands of years of wind and water have carved pathways through rock. Our world is an amazing place. I’m so happy I was able to explore this little corner of it.


How to Choose the Clothing for a Short Break in La Plagne, France

I have always liked the mountains better than the sea. The air is fresher, and the view is more inspiring. But, there is one problem: finding the right clothes to wear can be a challenge. It seems easier to do that when the weather is really hot. After all, you just need a dress and a pair of comfy sandals.

But what happens when it’s freezing outside and you want to go skiing?

Photo Credit : pexel.com

Say you have planned a short ski break in La Plagne, a resort with over 50 years of fame. You bought the tickets, you know where you’re staying, but do you know what to wear? If you don’t, do not worry, you are about to find out soon.

Picking your equipment is essential if you want to enjoy skiing rather than struggle with it. And to make the most of it, what you should remember is this: keep warm and stay dry.

It is what you should keep in mind, whatever piece of clothing you plan to wear while skiing.

But let’s focus on the main things you should wear:

  • First and foremost, you need a base layer. It is extremely un-absorbent and actively transfers water away from your skin, experts say;
  • You should also buy a comfortable jacket that lets you breathe and move properly. But, before buying one, pay attention to the details: the added features of the jacket can make a world of difference.
  • Of course, don’t forget about the trousers. They should also be breathable and waterproof, as well as the jacket. So, avoid wearing jeans, for instance. They get wet and are inflexible, especially when it’s really cold outside.
  • Socks are as important as all of the above. Trust me; you don’t want your feet to freeze. From my experience, it hurts so bad that you can’t focus on anything else, except the fact that you want to feel warm again. So, while skiing, you should wear socks made of wool or silk, for example. These are materials known for their heat retention;
  • Remember the gloves! It’s the same thing as with the socks. Both hands and feet are extremities, and it’s important to keep them warm because if they are, your whole body is. On the contrary, if your hands and feet are freezing, it doesn’t matter what else you’re wearing, because it seems like your whole body is freezing;
  • And last, but not least, you need a hat and a helmet: the first one will keep your head warm, while the other will protect you from getting injured;

Photo Credit: RomGuig at English Wikipedia

Ok, enough about the main clothing. What about other accessories?

  • Goggles may prove to be useful, especially if it’s a really snowy or sunny one. You need to see where you’re going if you want to stay safe and enjoy the view. So, make sure you pick a pair that fits you properly and doesn’t fog up;
  • Sun cream may also be a good idea. I know, it might sound surprising, but the sun may hurt not only your eyes but also your face, even if you might think it cannot be as intense as if you were laying on the beach, in high season;
  • You will also need a backpack, in case you want to spend all day skiing. You need something to carry supplies, such as water or food. As I’ve said before, make sure that the backpack is not too heavy.

All in all, make sure you organize well, before leaving on your ski break. That is if you want a stress-free vacation on the slopes in La Plagne. Otherwise, it would be such a shame, don’t you think?

A Note from Diane : Tim Baker is a freelance writer and author of this guest post. If you are interested in contacting Tim to learn more about his awesome travel adventures or writing, please email him at tim_bakers@hotmail.com.

48 hours in San Francisco

Michael and I have popped in and out of San Francisco 4 times now. I say “popped in” because the longest we have stayed in the city is 48 consecutive hours. We seem to fly in, spend a little time exploring and then head out of town for a road trip; there are so many places to explore in and around of San Francisco. Nonetheless, despite our quick trips here, it is my favorite American city.

48 hours in San Francisco

Click the photo for a live Google Map

I am not a city dweller. I am typically overwhelmed by the traffic, one way streets, smells and litter; San Francisco is different. Don’t get me wrong, the city has all of traffic, litter and odors one can tolerate, and then some, but I am inexplicably drawn to the city.

One thing that I have learned from our brief trips to San Francisco is that you can pack a lot into your time there, even if it is only 48 hours. The perfect quick trip, layover or weekend in the city by the Bay would go like this!

Day 1
8:00 am – Workout at Arena Ready Crossfit. Duh! You guys know we love to drop in to other CrossFit gyms while on the road.

9:30 am – Since you’ve worked out, do not feel guilty, at all, for enjoying sunshine, coffee and breakfast at Martha and Bros Coffee Company in Noe Valley. Their lattes and breakfast burritos are amazeballs!

Martha and Bros Coffee Comany Noe Valley San Francisco

10:30 am – Alamo Square Park and The Painted Ladies. Take in the view, snap pics and sing the theme song from Full House.

11:30 am – Catch the Trolley at California and Van Ness. Ride (one way) over Nob Hill, through Chinatown and end in the Financial Building. This line in less “touristy” and drops you a few blocks from the Ferry Building!

San Fran Trolley Ride California and Van Ness Line

12:30 pm – Stroll around the Ferry Building and find lunch looking at the water, boats and hustle and bustle. There is so much to see in the city, but this a must while in town for 48 hours.

2:00 pm – Coit Tower is a mile walk or ride away. Visit this tower for bird’s eye views of the city and bay.

3:00 pm – Pier 33 is a few blocks away and where you will depart for your Alcatraz Tour. Book these tickets ahead of time and enjoy!

6:00 pm – Head down the pier to Pier 39 to wander shops and take pictures of seals.

6:30 pm – Leave the mayhem of the pier behind for the Marina District, via Lombard Street (aka the curviest street in the US). Wander the Palace of Fine Arts Gardens and day dream about living in one of the multi-million dollar mansions near by.

Palace of Fine Arts 48 Hours in San Fran

8:00 pm – Sushi during your short trip to San Fran is a must! Saru Sushi Bar is a favorite of ours, and critics!

9:30 pm – It is time to go back in time and enjoy Bourbon and Branch. Do not forget the house rules. Don’t worry, we will believe you go, even if there is not a picture on social media to prove it! (*Note: Contact Bourbon and Branch prior to arriving in the city to set up your experience.)

Day 2 –
8:30 am – You are only half way through your weekend in San Francisco. Start your day right with a little caffeine and yumminess. A breakfast pastry and coffee will fuel your morning. Stop at Henry’s Coffee House on Noriega between 25th and 24th Ave to fuel up

9:00  – Get your coffee in a to-go cup and climb the 16th Avenue Tiled Stairs to Grand View Park.

10:00 am – Rent Bikes to explore the relatively flat park paths of Golden Gate Park at your leisure. Strawberry Hill, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Bison Paddock and the Conservatory of Flowers are a few favorite spots in the huge park.

11:30 pm – Admire the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Fields. You can walk, fly kites, picnic, open a bottle of wine or just snap photos.

12:30 pm – Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin Headlands. Roll the windows down and enjoy the ride over the GGB; it is amazing. Exit the highway quickly for the best lookout points in Marin Headlands.

1:00 pm – Continue to Sausalito for lunch at Bar Bocce for lunch. Their outdoor space and menu are both top notch.

3:00 pm – Cross the Golden Gate Bridge back into San Francisco. Head west to Baker’s Beach for a walk in the sand, maybe a swim in the water and a great view of the GGB.

Baker's Beach Golden Gate Bridge

4:00 pm – Keep driving along the coast to Land’s End. You can walk trails in this park, check out the Labyrinth and yes, take more picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. The views of the bridge are all beautiful! Do not miss the Holocaust Memorial or the Legion of Honor either!

6:00 – Are you tired yet?! Good, you should be! You only have 48 hours in this great city! But, take a moment and relax with a drink and delicious dinner at the Cliff House. Your view will be worth a million bucks. Depending on the time of year, you might even get a sunset over dinner. If you don’t, you can always walk the beach before of after dinner to watch the sun sink into the Pacific Ocean. (*This restaurant is semi-fancy pants, so you might consider having a change of clothes in the car with you, or freshening up at your hotel if it is convenient.)

8:00 – If you still have a little gas in your tank and are up for one more little adventure, check out Smuggler’s Cove for a craft cocktail. It is well known, so it might be busy, but the menu is funky and the drinks are delish!

There is no time for sitting around when you only have 48 hours in San Francisco. I hope this post gives you an idea of how to manage your time and where to spend it. I love this city. I cannot wait for another 48 hours (or more out there)!

Belize or Costa Rica

Small, but uniquely different countries, make up Central America. They share borders, but that is about it. We have traveled in two of these countries and since then have answered countless questions about which is “better.”

Belize or Costa Rica Vacation

That is a tough question.

Rather than pick a favorite, here is a side by side comparison of Belize and Costa Rica. Slightly similar, but mostly amazing countries that offer food, fun, sun and adventure in their own way!

First up is cuisine. The food of a location is paramount to Mike and I when we travel, so I will just assume we are not strange and others share our same views. There are definitely some cross over in the cuisine with their strong Aztec, Mayan and Caribbean influences. However, the mountains of Costa Rica gives them coffee and the islands of Belize lend to more seafood in their diet.

Belize

Costa Rica

Diet Staples: rice and beans, seafood, poultry, tamales wrapped in plantain leaves Diet Staples: Gallo Pinto, rice and beans, local tropical fruit, pork, beef
Unique Dishes: Gibnut meat (small rodent), ceviche, boil up, black dinner Unique Dishes: Casado, Arroz con Pollo, Olla de Carne
Local Drinks: Belikin Beer, fresh juices, Belikin locally produced Guinness Stout, seaweed shake Local Drinks: Refrescos (fruit smoothie), Agua Dulce, Horchata, Guaro Sour, Imperial Beer, coffee

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The next most important feature, for us, of a location is its capacity to entertain us. While museums and city lights attract some, adventure and outdoor activities are king for us.

Belize

Costa Rica

Jungles: Cave Tubing, Mayan Ruins, jungle walks Jungles:  waterfall repelling, ATV rides, jungle hikes, hanging bridge walks,
Water: snorkeling, SCUBA diving, fishing, Water: white water rafting, surfing, hot springs of Arenal, zip lining, fishing

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When beginning your research, you will face the daunting task of narrowing down your exact destination(s) for your vacation to Central America. Here are some top locales within both countries for your to learn more about.

Belize

Costa Rica

·         Ambergris Caye

·         Caye Caulker

·         Placencia

·         Cayo district

·         Monteverde /La Fortuna

·         Jaco

·         Tamarindo

·         Corcovado National Park

Costa Rica Colorful Frog

Both countries offer jungles, beaches, culture, great food and friendly people. A few other general observations include:

  • Costa Rica can feel “Americanized” but it can also be wild and rural.
  • The official language of Belize is, get ready, is English.
  • Driving your own rental car is easy in most parts of Costa Rica as much of their infrastructure near popular destinations is new(er).
  • Getting to and from the mainland of Belize is easy and you have options. Just plan ahead.