Best seafood restaurant in Manuel Antonio

z 1For some of the best seafood in Manuel Antonio you must have dinner at Z Sea Restaurant which is only a short walk from Gaia hotel. The restaurant is beautiful and definitely stands out amongst the laid back town.  Inspired by St Tropez this all white restaurant with romantic lighting and the open air breeze it is perfect for a date night. Keep in mind restaurants close at 10, so go on the early side! Z is famous for its seafood but also has a nice selection of steaks, pastas and sandwiches.  If you are doing for seafood (which I would recommend) definitely try one of the seafood sample platters for 2 or 4 people. The ‘royal’ includes crab, muscles and lobster and a shrimp cocktail.zWe chose the 2 person traditional sampler that came with dorado ceviche, dorado, sea bass, mackerel, tuna and vegetables all prepared in different fashions.  The crusted sea bass was my personal favorite.  We shared the creme brule for dessert which was good but the homemade chocolates on the house were phenomenal!  They also give you a complementary glass of lemonchello or amaretto which was a nice way to end the meal.  All of the above plus 2 glasses of wine , a Caesar salad and a large bottle of water total with tip and tax was $100.  The staff was very friendly and attentive, and the experience was fabulous, if you are looking for great seafood in Manuel Antonio I highly recommend Z Sea Restaurant.

Z Sea Restaurant,  Plaza Yara Hotel, Manuel Antonio, Puntarenas, Costa Rica

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Best beach in Manuel Antonio

2015-01-08 13.17.22The Manuel Antonio North beach is one of the most beautiful pristine beaches we have ever been to (and we’ve been to a lot of beaches!). There is a shuttle from Gaia Hotel that will take you there every hour which is super convenient.  Rent chairs, umbrellas, surf board or order food/drinks at Marys which has a relationship with the hotel so you can put the charge on your room ($14 for 2 chairs, a giant water and surfboard). 2015-01-08 13.18.38The sand is soft, the waves are perfect for a variety of surfing or body surfing levels.  The beach is very clean and feels untouched, you will have the perfect here so enjoy it!

Italian cuisine in Manuel Antonio

gondolaIn the mood for some Italian food while in Manuel Antonio? Head over to Gondola Restaurant.  The atmosphere is very laid back and simple but the food bursts with flavor.  Start with the caesar salad that comes with homemade croutons. gondola1I had the mahimahi with pesto mashed potatoes and broccoli in a lemon sauce which was incredible, one of the best fish dishes I had on the trip! gondolaThe bolognese pasta was also quite delicious and the portions were a good size so we weren’t overly full and had room for dessert. Try the grilled pineapple with strawberry ice cream it is refreshing and will satisfy your sweet craving:) For a laid back evening with good food head over to Gondola.

Gondola Restaurant, Hotel Tres Banderas | Manuel AntonioManuel Antonio National Park 6350Costa Rica

Zipline and White Water Tubing Adventure in Guanacaste

upsidedown

For those of you who have been reading my blog for some time it is no secret… I love zip lines! If there is a zip line wherever I am traveling in the world…I will find it!  If you are staying in Guanacaste you MUST do the Canyon tour at Guachipelin.  This a day full of different action packed activities that will blow your mind and yes it is awesome for all ages.  I highly recommend getting the full day pass ($75/per person) which includes white water tubing, horse back riding (we skipped this), zip lines, rapelling, Tarzan swing, rock climbing, 2 water falls and a visit to the hot springs!  Sounds awesome right?! So I’m going to breakdown each of the exhilarating parts of your day starting with the Rio Negro Tubing Adventurerafting 1

First off, you must wear Tevas, aqua socks or sneakers (no flip flops) if you’re like me and the last time you wore a pair of Tevas was at sleep away camp many years ago (I’m not telling you how many years!) you can buy a pair of aqua socks at the main desk for $20.  As a group you pile into a van that takes you to where all the equipment is,have the usual safety briefing and then walk to the foot of the Victoria Waterfall where the tubing adventure begins.  This was legit white water tubing on class 3 rapids, you will get bounced and turned around, and drop over a few waterfalls- it is an absolute blast! tarzan1

It’s pretty clear… I have done a lot of zip lines: full ropes course style, through rain forests and even directly into the ocean. This zip line course was something completely different than anything I have ever done and it rocked! The adventure takes place in a majestic canyon created by the erosion of the Rio Blanco river over a million years.  You start with 4-6 regular awesome zips across the Forrest, then fly directly next to a waterfall which is pretty incredible.  When you get to that landing you might be a bit confused (this was something I had never seen), on the edge of the platform facing the waterfall is a slide (like you would see in a playground) but it has been cut in half… once you are hooked in you actually slide down the slide down the half slide over the waterfall canyon.  Don’t be surprised if you get that ‘I’m on a roller coaster about to drop feeling’.  I tried out the batman style of flying which I was surprised wasn’t my favorite.  My new favorite mode of zip lining- going upside down (I know it sounds crazy but wow what a rush, I can’t wait to do it again!repelIn between one of the canyons you have to repel down the canyon and then rock climb you way back up to the next platform.  This was my fist time rappelling (shocking right?!), not as scary as I had expected and now I’m looking forward to doing it again.  Check out the Video HERE The Tarzan swing will really blow your mind as you pretend you are Tarzan literally swinging over a canyon– yes it was insane!!  Truly one of the most beautiful experiences I have had as you are surrounded by to much beauty.  In total there are 12 zip line cables, 24 platforms, 2 climbing walls, a hanging bridge, via ferrata (rappel) and the amazing Tarzan swing. rock climb

Next stop…the hot springs! Check back in

Hacienda Guachipelín, Rincon de la Vieja National Park, Las Pailas

Open daily from 8am to 5pm

 FYI: Children must be at least 8 years old, or 1.30 meters tall (4.3 feet tall) to go on the tubing adventure.

Where to eat in Guanacaste: Ostra

7fea5c5cc9eec330db0a45af5809e470If you are vacationing in Guanacaste a dinner at Osta Restaurant located at the Andaz Peninsula Papagayo is a must!  The hotel itself is beautiful and has a similar in style to the four seasons with a number of pools and a killer view.  To start make sure you make a reservation for this exotic indoor/ outdoor restaurant specializing in Seafood (otherwise you won’t make it through the front gates!).andaz-peninsula-papagayoThe restaurant is beautiful, and creates an elegant sophisticated atmosphere with white curtains flowing in the wind or creating little private dining cocoons. When you walk past the bar area you will sea a different kind of bar next to it.. ..a ceviche bar.andaz4-608x608You are reading that correctly, we’ve all seen the potato bar, the taco bar, the salad bar (of course) but this was the first time I had ever seen a make- your-own Ceviche bar.  Obvisouly we had to start here.  Order your drinks and head up to the bar, where the chef will explain all of the ingredients, let you smell or taste some of the sauces and concoctions he uses to craft customized fabulous ceviche. Check out the ones we made below. Delicious and fun!2015-01-05 21.27.36

For the main course there is a nice selection of seafood , I recommend the seared tuna with herbed penne; the unusual combination is a delicious perfect pairing and the shrimp with pumpkin risotto was a creamy treat. This is not your average seafood restaurant it is a full exotic dining experience

Ostra, Andaz Peninsula Papagayo

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

poolsporto12014-06-28 12.14.39

 

Where to stay in Porto de Galinhas

VIllage

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