Where to stay in Guanacaste Costa Rica: Four Seasons

Four_Seasons_Golf_Resort_Papagayo_001For this years ‘winter trip’ we decided to explore two different regions of Costa Rica: Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio.  Over the next few weeks I will be posting all sorts of tips, restaurant reviews, cool things to do in Costa Rica, the best surf spots and more!  To kick things off, let’s start with where to stay in Guanecastse.  First off, getting there is easy, fly into Liberia airport and then it is an hour and a half drive away.  The Four Seasons at Peninsula Papagayo is incredible, I mean ‘honeymoon amazing’ hotel. The views and property are truly breathtaking, hosting one of the top 50 golf courses in the world, overlooking the water no less was stunning (more about the golf to come).  There are 4 pools all of which are quite large, a jacuzzi in its own waterfall cove and beaches on both sides of the property, one with a surf shack, beach tennis and lots of hermit crabs (that scurry along the beach like moving rocks) the other with more lounge chairs and better sun. During the day the staff was fantastic, even handing out mini picoles and frozen coffee treats.2015-01-06 14.50.49

The rooms are nice and spacious, have a private enclosed sitting area, comfortable king sized bed, large bathtub that has window into main room (same style as the Unique) which means you can watch TV while bathing and the shower has window.   On our second night we had an unexpected visitor….2015-01-04 22.59.15

There are restaurants, all of which have outdoor dining areas. 1.Sol y Samba the Latin inspired rotisserie and fish house. There is a wide selection of ceviche but my favorite was the ‘Thai inspired’ with peanuts and the quinoa balls were fantastic.  There is live music every night so you can always go for sunset, tapas and cocktails. 3 The main restaurant serves breakfast daily with a buffet or an a la cart option.  The omelets are great but it’s a bit pricey.  For lunch we dined at our lounge chairs by the pool,favorite dishes of our stay: the burger, grilled mahimahi sandwich and quesadilla. 2. Cena Sociale: Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar which specializes in modern italian cuisine with the freshest local and organic ingredients.  This innovative ‘tapas style’ italian food was our best meal of the entire trip!  Start with the truffle beef tartar and the burratta caprese salad, both perfectly delicious and refreshing.  For the main dish we shared the three meat ragu pasta dish, seriously out of this in your amazing and the short ribs which melted in your mouth.  For dessert their homemade gelato is a must! They make 18 of their own flavors, my personal favorites: hazelnut and chocolate peanut butter. Caracol Steakhouse and CT Burger both located at the Golf Club.2015-01-05 15.59.02

Make sure you spend a day at the The Beach Club, an absolute beautiful hidden gem. When you arrive it looks more like you are in Fiji with a black pool that has a bridge leading to a island of lounge chairs on it, lined with infinity pools you have the perfect view of the beach which is lined with hammocks, day beds and comfy chairs. There is a separate 3 lane lap pool and one of the largest jacuzzis I have ever been in (it was fabulous). There are 3 restaurants at the Beach Club:  a ‘sports bar that has tv’s and a pool table, a lunch restaurant (or eat on your lounge chair) which served up one of the best Chinese chicken salads and chicken hummus sandwiches I’ve had in a long time.  You need a reservation for the dinner restaurant which serves contemporary fair. The beach provides the most perfect view for sunset so definitely head over to the beach club around 5pm and grab a cocktail! FYI the beach club also offers a smaller spa for massages and a gym for those of you who want to get a quick work out in.2015-01-05 16.59.50

Speaking of a spa and gym..a trip to the Four Seasons isn’t complete with out visiting their super swanky spa with a variety of treatments, dry sauna, rain showers, full makeup bar,  cold plunge pool and super hot jacuzzi on a balcony set with the stunning backdrop of panoramic views. Random – they have the best spa robes I’ve ever wrapped myself in, I wish they gave you these in the rooms (don’t worry you still get nice lightweight waffle robes and yes I realize I sound like a brat, but the spa robes seriously rocked).  As for the gym, it has a ton of treadmills bikes, stepper/elliptical mix, weights and a great view.

If you are a golfer you will love this place! The Golf Course is one of the top 50 golf courses in the world and let me tell you it is absolutely stunning! If you aren’t up for the course head over to the driving range which costs $20/pp for clubs, next to it is a small mini golf area which is actually a bit tough!  There are also 4 tennis courts.  Definitely take a golf cart and explore the property, it is a fun, beautiful ride where you will encounter lots of monkeys and iguanas.2015-01-06 17.15.35 HDR

 Overall there really is nothing like The Four Seasons Peninsula Papagayo, it is well worth the trip..as for the negative.. They nickel and dime you ie grabbing a muffin for our drive on our last day cost $6, it was good but not that good and getting a transfer to a restaurant (that was a 10 min drive) costs $60, there were others, so go in knowing this will not be a cheap vacation but it definitely is worth it!


Wine bar in Itaim: Vino!

2014-02-11 21.46.55As you know I am always on the hunt for a good wine bar and to my surprise only 2 blocks from my apartment I discovered Vino! A wine bar, restaurant and store all in one = great find! When you walk in the front area feels and looks like a wine store with the walls lined with wine bottles and 2 long high tables that look like they could be perfect for tasting sessions.  There is also a large selection of imported beers so you don’t have to be a wino to enjoy it.  You can choose your favorite bottle right off one of the shelves or ask for one of the many options by the glass (we went with the bottle). In the back there is a nice anti pasta bar with a great selection of cheeses, meats, vegetables etc.  Check out the nice cheese and meat plates we put together.2014-02-11 19.48.36

2014-02-11 19.48.39We also had the mushroom polenta which was delicious as well as the brie salad which was also quite good; I would definitely recommend both .I haven’t been for lunch (yet) but was told they serve an ‘all you can eat’ menu of their favorite dishes with the waiters bringing individual servings of yummy dishes like chicken risotto, ravioli, polpettone and more(can’t wait to try it!). The lunch costs U.S. $ 39.00, during the week and £ 49.00, Saturday, Sunday and holidays.  Will try to get there for lunch in the next few weeks and let you know how it is!

Rua Professor Tamandaré Toledo, 51 – Itaim

Experience the Natural Pools in Porto de Galinhas

<img src="natural-pools.jpg" alt="natural pools" />The main highlight of Porto de Galinhas is the Natural pools.  Located on the beach in front of the town (super easy to get to). Check out one of the pools that is in the shape of Brazil (above)!  There are two ways to see and explore the pools.  Option 1. You can walk through the water and explore during low tide but as soon as the tide starts coming in, they stop letting people walk across.  Option 2: Take on of the little boats and you can explore for a little longer. 2014-06-28 16.31.47 The boat costs R$20, it is a short ‘paddle’ over and they provide snorkel masks plus food to feed the fish.  Some areas are protected, your boat guide will explain and point out the various types of corral, and give you food to feed fish; which is actually more fun than it sounds as there are tons of fish and they swim up to you! Check out all the fish below!fishThere are lots of sea urchins and the coral is quite rough so keep your flip flops on!  It is a beautiful and magical experience as you watch the tide come in and the pools disappear. Have fun swimming in the pools with all the fish and then head back to town for lunch= perfect day! Check out some more pics of the pools:

playing with the fish

playing with the fish

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Where to stay in Porto de Galinhas


Looking for a nice and fun place to stay in the beautiful Porto de Galinhas (60km from Recife, about 1-1.5hour drive)  Head to Village Porto de Galinhas, with a great location, and fun amenities you will have a wonderful stay.  Village is located right on the beautiful beach of Porto de Galinhas the property is covered with hammocks, pools and tropical gardens full of  flowers and tamarins (native to the area).

<img src="village.jpg" alt="village" />

Stay in apartments with hammocks hanging from outside on the porch or in one of the 7 bungalows which are a little bigger and include a nice outdoor space facing the ocean with hammocks, lounge area and breakfast nook.<img src="village.jpg" alt="village" />

The pools are awesome! Nearly a thousand square meters of swimming pools for adults and children (it is very family friendly, but not in a crazy kid running all over the place kid of way), nets for pool soccer and basketball line the edges of one of the pools, there are three whirlpools, and their awesome thirty-nine interactive fountains (Think the scene with the kid running through the water fountains in Blank Check)- below.<img src="village.jpg" alt="village" />

In high season, this space serves as a venue for a weekly evening shows with popular ballet, evoking the Pernambuco Carnival and all its rhythms. There is a night club, the Paranambuco Disco Bar. Every Thursday they have a show; Shall We Dance? Starting with love & swing following with American classics and ending with Latin Tango Mania. From 22:00.  When we were there, there was live music and dancers, it was fun and they got everyone in the place to samba!

Other perks that Village has to offer: lots of hammocks for those looking to relax, tennis courts for those looking to stay active, outdoor massages, ping pong tables, and a kids theater

<img src="village.jpg" alt="village" />

There are 2 restaurants, one serving a traditional buffet breakfast filled with fresh fruit, breads, omelet/tapioca station each morning and a buffet at night, the other you can order a la cart and has a wide variety of seafood dishes and traditional Brazilian fair. Our first night we had the grilled fish with shrimp filled tomato sauce (above) which was delicious.  The dinner buffet was not my favorite, so stick to the a la cart.

<img src="village.jpg" alt="village" />

Having fun playing in the water

The Negative: We visited during the World Cup and the occupancy was high; therefore, the Internet connectivity was weak during peak hours. The hotels drivers wanted to charge us R$160 to transport us back to Recife, thankfully found a Taxi with some negotiating only charged us R$60.

Overall, we really enjoyed our time at Village, the location is ideal, only 10 mins from town by car or 30min walk on the beach, the pools were great I would recommend staying here if you are planning a trip to Porto de Galinhas or if you are in Recife and want to get out for a bit.

Fun House SP

funhouse-consolacao-2Set in an actual house, Funhouse is a unique mix of house party, bar, and mini-club.  the decoration is inspired by Coney Island in New York.  Personally, I think this is super random, I’ve been to Coney Island and besides the russian baths it’s not a place I would normally hang out at, plus Funhouse looks like a regular American carnival, I don’t see any resemblance to New York.IMG_1420_baixa-530x353

You see the bar immediately when you walk in (top picture), they have a pretty decent  list of shots and mixed drinks.  Downstairs behind the curtain (next to the bar), you’ll find a dance floor and stage area where you could find DJ’s or a band playing a variety  of music like electronic, pop anthems, hard rock, or funk carioca.  Upstairs is more of a lounge to hang out, waiters will serve your drinks as there is no bar up there. It is a random crowd from young to old, and the scene changes throughout the night, 3am and on being the  ‘prime time’.  The only real negative is that you have to pay (R$30 cover or R$60 with consumption) upstairs in order to leave, if it is crowded you could be there for a while (not ideal when you just want to end the night)
Fun House, Rua Bela Cintra, 567 – ConsolaçãoSão Paulo SP

Iguassu: Brazil side + Boat toar

brazil3The Brazilian side of Iguassu is incredible, shorter trails but you are right up close and you will get completely soaked! Check out some of the pics from the Brazil side:


Coati’s these little guys are everywhere, super cute but don’t feed them!

me falls brazil

me brazil side

brazil1Ok, now that you have seen what the falls are like from above, you have to check them out from below by doing the Macuco Safari Boat Tour.  It cost R$340 for 2 people.  This tour is split into 3 parts a drive through the forrest where I guide will point out all different trees and tell you about the area.  Then a short hike until you get to the water.  Once you reach the water  you will get on a boat so get ready to explore the waterfalls up close and be prepared to get completely drenched! It is really fun there is a guy taking pictures and video during the tour so you can get pictures after. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheck out the double rainbow! The picture below is right before we went under the falls…….DCIM108GOPROAnd here is when we entered the falls.  It is crazy loud, water sprays at you from every direction and it is extremely powerful but it is awesome and I highly recommend doing a boat tour of the falls (they are available on the Argentina side as well). DCIM108GOPRO

Iguassu: Exploring Parque das Aves (Bird park)

tucan samHave you ever wanted to get up close with a toucan? Walk amongst the butterflies? Talk to the parrots? You must go to Parque das Aves , the famous bird park located a short walk from the main entrance into the Brazilian side of Iguassu.  There are 1020 birds covering about 150 different species some of which are endangered.  me and tucan

The place itself is beautiful, and provides a very unique experience as you will find birds from all over Brazil and around the world.  There are lots of stunning flowers, and you will take yourself on a nice tour with some of the areas sectioned with the birds in cages and the rest of the areas you can actually walk around with them (which is really cool).  Besides birds there are monkeys, turtles, alligators and snakes!turtle

me and parrot

me and the tucans


Overall you will spend about an hour and a half and it costs R$50 for 2 people.  Have fun!

Parque das Aves: Av. das Cataratas, KM 17.1 Foz do Iguaçu – PR ao lado do Parque Nacional

Iguassu: Argentina side

map arIf you are staying on the Brazilian side of Iguassu (see previous post for where to stay), it is a a quick one hour drive over to the Argentina side.  You will need to bring your passports and stop and get some pecos (there is a gift shop about 10 mins before the boarder where you can exchange your money).   As you drive over the bridge before you get to the customs entrance you will be in 3 countries at once: Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay (pretty cool right).  FYI if you are an American you will need to pay a fee to enter into Argentina, this payment allows you to go in and out of Argentina as much as you want for 10 years. The Argentina side encompasses a larger area of the park so get ready to hike and explore as you will probably need about 5-6 hours on this side.argentina side

Once you enter the park there are 3 trails, so you can start wherever you want, I recommend starting with the middle trail, then the Paseo Ingerior (lower level catwalks) then the La Garganta del Diablo known as the Devil’s Throat.  Check out some of the pics from the middle and lower trails:

Salto Bossetti: Super powerful and you get completely soaked!

Salto Bossetti: Super powerful and you get completely soaked!

me falls ar

argentina side

arFinally, take the tram up to the catwalk that let’s you explore the Devil’s Throat  up close

Devils Throat

Devils Throat

The Argentina side is really spectacular and an active fun day! There are a few restaurants and ‘fast food’ options, I will tell  you that Restaurant La Selva, was very disappointing.  It was a way too expensive buffet for what it was, cost us the same as if we had gone to a nice restaurant in Sao Paulo.  Once you have finished exploring the park and are ready to head back to the Brazil side, make sure you stop at some of the specialty wine stores, we got 4 really nice bottles of wine for only $56!

Where to stay in Iguassu

hotel-das-cataratasIguazu Falls are the massive waterfalls of the Iguazu River that separate Argentine and the Brazilian state of Paraná. They are one of the 7 World Wonders so when I say it is an amazing place to visit, believe me it is! Now, when planning a trip to see such an amazing place it only seems right to stay in an equally fabulous place such as Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, which is the only hotel located within the Iguassu National Park. The biggest perk to staying at Hotel Cataratas is being able to enjoy the magnificent waterfalls in the evening and at dawn, when the park is closed to other visitors.Hotel-das-Cataratas-3Situated in the midst of the beautiful forrest and falls this is truly a luxury hotel experience.  The rooms are very nice, comfortable queen beds, tv and the jr suites have a private backyard area with table and chairs.  The large swimming pool is stunning, open 24 hours and it is heated during the winter months (mid May-mid August) (something you don’t normally find in Brazil).  There is a nice gym, tennis courts and a beautiful spa with steam and sauna rooms. Outside there is a game area with ping pong and foosball tables (below) and inside is a cozy living room with fire place.


There are 3 restaurants on the property: 1.Ipê Grill which is located adjacent to the pool, serves a delicious buffet breakfast from 630am-10am and an unbelievable buffet with special  ‘gaucho’ style barbecue section in the evenings from 730-11pm.   2. Itaipu Restaurant, the ‘fine dining’ option that serves a blend of Brazilian-international fusion dishes. It is really lovely if you choose to dine outside on the veranda you can hear the falls and the sea bass is delicious! 3Bar Tarobá, perfect place to start your evening off with a drink and some good appetizers. daniel swim

The hotel has a special concierge that will help you to schedule all of the activities you would like to do including:white water rafting, helicopter trips over the gorge, trip to the Argentina side and jungle treks to view amazing wildlife.

How to get to Iguassu:

By Plane: Foz do Iguassu International Airport is located 15km from Iguassu Falls on the BR-469 highway, which provides access to the falls.  By Bus: A large number of inter-municipal, inter-state and international bus services stop in Foz do Iguassu. The bus station is located 5km from the city centre, on Avenida Costa e Silva.  By Car: The main links to Foz do Iguassu are via the BR-277, a road that links the city with Curitiba, Porto de Paranaguá and São Paulo. BR-469 provides access to Iguassu National Park and Iguassu International Airport.

Belmond Hotel das Cataratas: Rodovia Br 469, Km 32, Iguassu National Park, Foz do Iguassu 85855-750, Brazil

Tel: +55 45 2102 7000, Reservations (Local): 55 21 2545 8878  Email: reservas@hoteldascataratas.com

Movie night in Sao Paulo V.I.P style

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Folks, this is NOT your average movie night out…. Brazilians love anything that screams exclusivity and going to one of the VIP movies definitely has that appeal.  Right when you enter Cinapolis you will see a special lounge sectioned for VIP movie goers which includes a full bar, and select menu (not your average movie treats).   2014-04-18 18.42.34

I don’t know about you, but when I go to the movies popcorn is usually part of the package. At the VIP movies you have a choice of 6 different types of popcorn: light, herbs, parmesan, chocolate, caramel and pepper with lime.  We had half caramel and half pepper with lime, it is an amazing combination, I swear worth trying it!  As you may also notice from the menu below, alcohol is allowed in the theater! One of the perks about Brazil..you can drink anywhere you want whenever you want:)  Feel like a bottle of wine, no problem it will be served to you at your seat in a bucket of ice.  A cold beer, caipirinha, just ask:)
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If you are really hungry and popcorn just wont cut it, there is a nice selection of ‘not your average movie going food’ like sandwiches, mini hamburgers, chicken tenders, salmon tartar, crepes, and of course petit gateau (Literally, every place that serves food in Sao Paulo offers this for dessert).2014-04-18 18.45.512014-04-18 18.45.56

If you are one of those people that hates waiting in line, don’t worry, just go in and take your seat. If you have ever been to Sing Sing in the village you know the ‘order button’  (i.e. door bell you press and a waiter comes running) I am talking about… they have an order button at every ‘love seat’ so you press the button, a waiter will come, take your order and serve you when it is ready- pretty sweet!   The seats are ‘love seats’ i.e two leather lazy boy chairs that are super comfortable and fully recline so you can snuggle up with whoever you are watching with.  I’ll be honest, the whole experience is pretty spectacular and you might not want to go to the movies like a normal person ever again after such fabulous comfort and service.2014-04-18 21.49.12

Each love seat comes with a little table, cup holder and lamp on each side so it almost feels like you are in your living room, very convenient.  These VIP theaters show regular films (we saw Divergent), 3D and 4D. Yea you read that correctly, 4D is apparently like a full on interactive ride with all the perks I have already listed.  In 4D your chairs move you get misted when it is raining in the movie, wind blows apparently it is really cool and makes you feel like you are actually in the movie, unfortunately nothing was available when we went but hopefully I get to try it soon and report to all of you about it:)  A night like this doesn’t come cheap, costs about R$200 for a couple so personally, I would recommend it for a special occasion.  Definitely worth experiencing, let me know if you have been and what you thought!