Costa Rica Continued

The second day of my Costa Rica adventure with Under30Experiences included more stunning views, a new favorite spot in town and yet another coastal sunset. We began our day with a pretty tough hike through the rainforest. Though the steep and rocky path wasn’t easy to climb, we were definitely rewarded with turquoise waters, a hidden beach, and beautiful foliage along the way.

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After our hike and a quick dip in the pool to cool off our group headed to one of my favorite spots on the trip, Café Milagro. Not only do they make their own premium, single origin, estate grown, micro milled coffees (I was lucky all the coffee I bought fit in my luggage!), they have the BEST fish tacos. I started things off with a double espresso for that little afternoon pick me up and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-750-3

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After lunch we headed into Quepos where we toured the waterways on a local boat and caught the most beautiful rainbow over the river. Just in time we stopped at on land to catch our 3rd colorful ocean sunset of the trip.

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Costa Rica- Manuel Antonio National Park

I had no idea where we were staying in Costa Rica until maybe a day before my flight, not even joking! People thought I was a little crazy, some said I would go missing, but in reality I was too busy keeping up with work in the days leading up to the trip to go over the exact itinerary. Traveling with Under30Experiences was also amazing because I didn’t have to worry about any accommodations or transportation ahead of time. They took care of everything for you so you can almost just show up in San Jose ready to go.

We arrived to our new home at night, so it wasn’t until the next morning that I could really take in the scenery of where we would be staying. Villas Mymosa was such a wonderful place to spend our time in Costa Rica! The plants surrounding you are beautiful (like almost all places in the area), the pool felt amazing after some long uphill hiking, and the Mymositos outside Restaurant and Bar was the perfect place for us travelers to spend time getting to know each other more over breakfast, dinner and drinks.

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Our villas were about 2.5 miles down the road from Manuel Antonio National Park, so we hopped on the city bus and headed that way after breakfast. Whenever I travel I am drawn to a more local experience than a lavish resort, so exchanging my dollars for colones to pay for a bus ride was something I really enjoyed… even if our bus ride back consisted of being completed smashed in between people, while a couple very awkwardly exchanged aggressive gestures towards each other in the seat near us. Gotta love the little things, right!?

We arrived at Playa de Manuel Antonio and walked to the park entrance where we were greeted again with some coco locos. The group chose  to stay hydrated for our hike instead of the rum filled coconuts  (look how responsible we are!), and made our way through a gorgeous hike.
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Playas Gemelas was our first stop off the trail . The turquoise blue water combined with the black rocky shoreline and green foliage was stunning. Following a  30 minute photo shoot on the largest rock area (hello, we all had to get our selfies in with no one in the background… with 15 people that takes time!) we made our way back to the path.SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-23 SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-24

Another thing on my check list for this Costa Rica experience was seeing some wild life, and we definitely lucked out big time during our hike! At one point an entire group of capuchin monkeys crossed our path so close you could reach out and touch them if you really wanted (and if they didn’t attach to your arm when you did). Along with the capuchin monkeys, we were fortunate to also spot the howler monkeys and squirrel monkeys, but they typically keep their distance from hikers.

Our path then led to a beautiful lookout on Playa Puerto Escondido, a slightly tough uphill walk back up but totally worth the view.
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On our way back to the entrance of the park we came across the cutest smiley faced slow poke– a sloth. That little guy was maybe 8 feet from our path and he was so fun to watch in slow motion.

After exiting the park we walked up the road past some colorful bohemian little shops (always my fav!) and stopped at El Sol for lunch and to cool off from the humidity.
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Another home run for the restaurant picking by Under30Experiences by choosing lunch at El Sol ! My frozen passionfruit margarita cooled me right down from our hike and was complimented with some delicious tacos de pescado. El Sol is definitely a place I would stop on my next trip our to Manuel Antonio. Looking around the table there were so many other amazing dishes I’d like to try. After lunch we walked across the street to the the beach where we spent the rest of our day.
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Some of the group took surf lessons while a few of us ladies hung back and enjoyed some relaxing beach time (well, despite that one wave that completely took me under and almost took my swimsuit with it, eeeekkk). We stayed oceanside long enough to see yet another bright Central American sunset.

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Day 1 came to a close with Ladies Night up the road from our villas. When almost your entire travel group is made up of girls, Ladies Night is a great perk! A few vodka sodas and pool games later we ended the night with a life-size Jenga game where we discovered this U30X sticker from a previous travel group (shout out to the Nov 2015 group!).
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Next up for Costa Rica on SB– hidden beaches, local places, boat rides & more!

Costa Rica, Aren’t You Pretty

On Thursday December 10th, I arrived at the San Jose Airport in Costa Rica to begin my Central American adventure with an amazing travel group for young adults called Under30Experiences. This was my first group trip with total strangers and I absolutely loved it! Others came with friends or significant others, but just like the other half of the group I was set on doing this completely solo. I think when you go alone to something like this you’re more likely to step outside your comfort zone a little and get to know others. Not only was I looking forward to experiencing an amazing new country, but also connecting with people from all different places and backgrounds.

We introduced ourselves outside the airport, packed up the van, and headed out to our first stop of the day- cocolocos and crocodiles!
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Something I liked about Costa Rica right away was all the little random shops on the side of the road, especially the ones serving coco locos ;-). I’m slightly addicted to coconut water already, so getting to drink right out of the coconut itself and get a little rum buzz while doing so was a great way to start the trip.

Coco locos in hand we walked just down the road to the Tarcoles Bridge to checkout some huge crocodiles and take in our first out-of-van views of the area.
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Next stop was Playa Hermosa, whose name literally means “Beautiful Beach”. The black sands of Playa Hermosa were so unique and almost made the ocean waves and sunsetting sky pop more than usual. To say we enjoyed a “pretty” sunset would be an understatement, it was absolutely gorgeous. SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-5 SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-7 SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-8 SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-9

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After watching the colors turn from bright blues to warm orange and pink we continued taking in the view over dinner at Bowie’s Point. Another benefit of traveling with Under30Experiences was all of our dinners were included in what we already paid for the trip! This made things even easier for all of us travelers, and I enjoyed my first taste of Costa Rica with a Pilsen beer and Tuna Poki. Perfectly ripe avocado pieces mixed with super fresh local tuna over rice, it’s making me hungry just thinking about that dinner!SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-12 SauvignonBlue-CostaRica-13

The group then packed back in our van and drove through Quepos towards Manuel Antonio to our home for the next few days. After settling into our rooms a few of us grabbed a bottle of wine and enjoyed a glass and conversation with our toes in the pool.

Next Up: Day 2 of hiking, monkeys, beaches and ladies night, stay tuned!

Beautifully Plated

Being a very visual person myself, I am always inspired by beautiful things, from the spaces surrounding me to the food I eat. Have you ever been served a dish so gorgeous you almost don’t want to eat it? I know I have and sometimes that is half the fun of dining out… or dining in if you like to play chef at home!

There really is an art to how a dish can be put together… even a simple sauce can act as a brush stroke on canvas. Check out these stunning plates that are not only delicious to eat but almost even more delicious to look at.

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Weekly 5 Favorites

#1- Paradise Memories

The dreary weather left me exhausted as this week began. It’s amazing how much weather can affect your entire day and I was ready for a break from the cloudy skies and rain. I took a mental escape back to my time in Laguna Beach last year… the beautiful rocky coast and bright blue waters. Although my current physical location might not be ideal, I am so grateful to have those memories to look back on and to be excited for what the future may bring.
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#2-This Striped Shirt

With the cold weather comes a whole different wardrobe… out with the tank tops and in with the comfy long sleeve shirts! I snatched this one up at Target the other day, only 2 for $20! Style and affordability is always a good combination 😉

CLICK HERE to shop the look

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#3-Seeing the Magic Happen at Work

We are just now launching our newest line of travel accessories at PurseN and I am SO excited about how well it’s been received. In addition to the more luxurious fabrics and finishes of the collection, we’ve introduced the latest in Jewelry Cases the Primas! This amazing travel jewelry case has revolutionary pouches to keep your necklaces in place and keep them tangle-free, it’s the best. This week we did a video shoot showcasing the Prima Jewelry Cases and I was so proud of all of our hard work. We have been developing this design for most of 2015, and seeing it all come together makes me grateful to work where I am an integral part of the journey.

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#4-Close Friendships

Nothing brings together the best of friends like a birthday dinner. I am so thankful to have these ladies in my life to be the sisters I never had. We have been through so many journeys together, lived in multiple places, helped each other through relationships, breakups and new beginnings. Remember to never take these people in your life for granted.

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#5-Margs & Guac

What better way to end the week than with the best margarita and guacamole in town! I am totally obsessed with Bartaco– the food, the atmosphere, the drinks… all of it is my thing.  I can never pass up an opportunity to introduce a friend to this spot for the first time.

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Tasty Tuesday Tacos

I am obsessed with tacos. No joke, I’m seriously obsessed and could eat them everyday of the week.  The perfect afternoon for me would be sitting outside on a patio in beautiful wether, enjoying some live music, tacos, and margaritas with great friends. Just writing this is making me crave springtime so I can do just that.  In the meantime though, here are 5 awesome taco recipes you’ve GOT to try!

1. Honey Lime Tequila Shrimp Tacos  {via Tartine and Apron Strings}

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2. BBQ Cauliflower & Chickpea Tacos with Creamy Lime Sauce  {via She Likes Food}

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3. Thai Chicken Tacos  {via Mountain Mama Cooks}

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4. Grilled Steak Tacos with Cilantro Chimichurri Sauce  {via Feasting at Home}

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5. Crock Pot Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Tacos with Pineapple Slaw  {via Host the Toast}

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Falling in Love with Santa Barbara

The next morning after arriving in Santa Barbara I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the city for the whole day.  I packed up my overnight bag, said goodbye to my cute little SB studio in the hills and headed into town. It was still early that Saturday, probably around 8am, but people were already out and about downtown- riding bikes, taking walks and enjoying the cool morning breeze.

Downtown was way more gorgeous during the day than when I saw it the night before: the streets totally lined with trees, ivy-covered buildings and cool little allies filled with shops and restaurants around every corner.

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My first mission of the day was to find some amazing brunch. I wandered around and ended up at Jeannine’s off Figueroa St., right off of the main strip downtown. There was a line to get in which is always a great sign, the menu looked awesome and it’s a family owned place which I love. After just a short wait I placed my order at the counter: Huevos Rancheros and 2 mimosas (who doesn’t like a little vacation morning buzz?), and grabbed a table on the little outside patio.

Seriously… best. breakfast. ever. Maybe it was that 2nd mimosa at 8:30am that made me so excited about this meal I was enjoying but either way, I still think about that breakfast today. And less than 3 months later when I returned to Santa Barbara for a second taste, you better believe I also got a second taste of both of these. I’ve recreated it at home but it’s never quite the same without that homemade salsa of theirs.

iPhonePics_0101After brunch I spent hours wandering the streets, taking pictures along the way. Something I love about traveling alone is there’s no one else’s schedule or wants to consider other than your own. I could stop and photograph all the little details surrounding me along the way without a care in the world.

I became obsessed with everything about Santa Barbara that day.

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A few hours later I came across this outdoor Indian shop on lower State St. Something about the Indian culture really draws me in- all the tapestries, radial patterns, burning incense, vibrant colors, the intricate details and textures. I shopped around for a bit and found the perfect blue tapestry to bring home and a few other beautiful pieces. When I returned to SB again in November I came back to this same shop and picked up another larger tapestry: both are hanging in my bedroom today.

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My day in Santa Barbara felt like it couldn’t get any better! But boy was I wrong. Remember my new SB friend, Tour Guide Stephen, whom I’d the night before? One of his must-sees for me to check out was the Santa Barbara Courthouse. Seems a little strange doesn’t it… but it is by far my favorite place in the city. You will find out why in the next blog post!

 

 

Journey into the SB Life

After devouring my second In-N-Out burger in less 24 hours of my SoCal trip back in August, I left Long Beach and headed up the coast towards Santa Barbara. I decided to take the longer route up the 1 along the coast. While Malibu ended up throwing some not-so-fun traffic my way, I couldn’t ignore those gorgeous ocean views along the way.

It seemed like around every bend there was a view of another beautiful cove, the bright blue water shining under a perfectly clear sky. I made a few pit stops along the way to get my feet in the sand, take in the view, and stretch my legs for a bit.

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My goal was to get settled into Santa Barbara before sundown. It was actually per my mother’s suggestion I was heading up there in the first place.  According to her, SB was “totally my style and I would so love the vibe and feel of the city”. What can I say… she was 100% right.

I could already tell driving into the city that I would be in love. I checked into my cute little studio rental off airbnb just outside downtown, changed out of my bikini, and headed towards the marina. Boy was I craving some seafood and a glass of sauvignon blanc! The marina was breathtaking and I got there just in time to catch the sunset.  Between all of the boats, tall palm trees, rolling hills in the distance, the sparking ocean and the smell of seafood, I couldn’t stop smiling to myself. I grabbed a bar stool at Brophy Bros. facing this gorgeous view and ordered myself some oysters and a glass of wine to watch the sun go down.

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By the time the last oyster was enjoyed and the last sip of wine was drunk, the sun had gone down and I was ready to head into downtown for some more exploring before turning in for the night. Even at night downtown Santa Barbara was amazing! I wandered the streets, checking out all the different alleys off of State Street that were filled with shops and restaurants.  After a good bit of walking down the main stretch I was in the mood to keep this sauvignon blanc thing going and set out to find a cool little wine restaurant/bar. A block or so off the main road I found Intermezzo Bar & Cafe, a vibrant little place with a cute front patio, wine on tap and one more seat at the bar waiting just for me.

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I snatched the last seat up and ordered a glass of wine. The bar was filled with classy men and women, either on dates or out with friends, and all of whom were dressed quite nicely. I suddenly remembered how I was dressed that night– crazy patterned rave looking leggings, a Hangout Festival tank top, flip flops, and my hair all pulled up up in a high bun.

I looked like a 17 year old who has just gotten back from a music festival.

I laughed at myself for a minute, kind of loving the fact that I looked slightly ridiculous in this place. No wonder the bartender immediately ID’d me but didn’t bother with the couple sitting to my left. About half way through my glass of sauv blanc I found myself in a conversation with the man sitting to my right at the bar named George. George had been living in Santa Barbara for almost 15 years by then and knew so much about the city. I told him I was only in town for the next 24 hours and asked what things I HAD to see before heading back to Orange County. He was more than happy to give me a run  down on the must-sees and gave me his number in case I “had any questions about anything tomorrow”.

I now had my first SB friend- Tour Guide George.