Travel Gift’s for Under $25

As the holiday season approaches I wanted to take some time to round up some of gift ideas for your favorite travel enthusiast is your life. ¬†Some of these items make great stocking stuffers and are on my list as well ūüėČ ¬†And the best part about these gifts are that they are all under $25!

Pack-able Water Bottles

Valpur Pack-able Water Bottles

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Hydrapack Stash Collapsible Water Bottle

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Packing cubes

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Toiletries Containers 

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Quick Dry towels (variety of sizes)

Turkish Towels: For the beach, baths, and blankets

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Small Towels: For personal use

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Cord bag

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Hiking the Southern France Calanques

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In the summer of 2016 we had tickets to one of the Euro Cup games.  Our game was set in Marseille, France and we got to watch England vs Russia.  It was our first out of country soccer game and it was a blast.  Definitely an unforgettable experience.  We knew we would be in Marseille for a few days and wanted to see some of the best sites.  A friend pointed us in the direction of the Calanques National Park.  This park spreads pretty wide across the coast but is an approximate 45 minute drive from the city center of Marseille.

If traveling to this area I definitely think heading to these blue narrow inlets dipped into the sea side cliffs is a must!

You have a few options to get to these Calanques:

1. By boat tour

2. Kayak

3. Hike (what we did!)

Although the others seem just as amazing I will tell you about our hiking experience.

These can be tricky to get to by train from Marseille but definitely possible.  We were lucky and had a rental car, so a few toll booths and about an hour drive we arrived in the town of Cassis.  Cassis is a small town and completely adorable to walk around for a day.

Parking:

We first made the mistake of trying to take our rental car right into the heart of town, but parking was slim and the roads were narrow.  We finally found a parking lot across the street from the Le Bestouan beach. This lot was great, I would recommend the location and ease of finding a spot here instead of on the narrow streets.

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Before we set out on our hike we stopped at a restaurant right by the parking lot called “Le Pastis by Little Pap√©”.¬† They were kind enough to let us purchase some sandwiches to-go, we put those in our backpacks to enjoy during our hike as it was still a little early for lunch.

Once ready to start follow the signs to the right (if facing the beach).  This starts with a small walk through the town roads before getting to the trail head.

Calanque #1

Calanque de Port-Miou

This was first calanque we came across, right off the walk through the streets.  It looks more like marina instead of a natural landscape, but still beautiful with its blue waters.  Boats were docked along the edges.  Once passing this one is when you arrive at more of a dirt path and need good shoes. For the rest of this hike make you may want to have a pair of hiking or gym shoes, we saw many people struggling that did not have the proper footwear.  Although it seems like you are just heading to the beach, this hike has lots of slick rocks and hilly landscapes to climb up and down (pictures below).

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Calanque #2

Calanque de Port Pin

After hitting more the the hiking trail head to the first of the beach-y calanques.  This hikes brings you to the top of the calanques to over look the beautiful waters on the coastal side of France. Absolutely magical.  A steep climb up and right back down brought us to the second calanque of the day.  I was in awe of the crystal blue waters.  Make sure you bring a swim suit to take a dip in these amazing waters.  We also enjoyed our packed sandwiches on the rocky sides here.  After a quick stop knowing we would see it again on our way back we took off for a third and final calanque.

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Calanque #3

Calanque d’En-Vau

This was definitely more of an aggressive hike.¬† A lot more than we realized but all worth it in the end.¬† At some points I felt like we were scaling the cliff sides! Definitely some steep inclines and declines, and the loose rocks didn’t help.¬† It is where the gym shoes become a necessity.¬† It was quiet the hot day in June so we were glad we brought plenty of water.

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After awhile we were covered in sweat and dust but made it d’En-Vau.¬† I felt like this one was a lot more dramatic than the others.¬† The sides of the inlet were so tall you had to to really turn your neck to see all of it.

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Although the waters were a little cold, getting in is amazing.  Not only does it feel great after that hot long hike, when else would I get the chance to go into these incredible coastal French waters.  We were with another couple so we took turns watching our backpacks on the beach.  I could of spend all day here, relaxing, climbing the rocks, and people watching.  This was definitely the most blue and surreal waters I have ever been to.

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After awhile we had to pull ourselves away and head back.  We stopped at Calanque de Port Pint again, and got in the water more as it was not as crowded on our way back.

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After arriving in Cassis we headed into the town to get dinner and some drinks to enjoy at our apartment while watching the first of the Euro Cup games before ours the next day.

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Somethings you might want to consider while hiking:

  • There are a lot of other calanques that are easier to access but not as scenic
  • If not able to complete the hikes the boat tours looked great, and brought you right into the calanques, as well as the kayaking looked like amazing!!
  • Make sure you bring your swimsuit, it’s hard to resist getting into those waters
  • Bring lunch so you can spend more time there
  • Make sure you have plenty of water!
  • Again wear good shoes!

 

 

What to Pack for Zion National Park

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When visiting Zion, and especially planning to complete some of their must see hikes, such as Angel’s Landing, The Narrows and Observation Point don’t leave without these items.¬† When we spent 2 days in Zion, you can read about it here, we were glad to have everyone of these essentials.

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1. Hydration Bladders

If enjoying some of the longer hikes at Zion you want to make sure you stay plenty hydrated.  Hydration bladders are the best way to go.  They are lightweight, fit well in most hiking backpacks and can be easily be refilled.  I would suggest getting a 3L bladder.  Although this seems like a lot the water it will go fast, especially if hiking during the summer months.  Zion has a few areas to refill but they are not at every bus stop, so it is better to be prepared.

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2. Hiking Poles

These are a must if wanting to hike The Narrows, but they also came in handy during other hikes as well.¬† The Narrows can get quiet slippery, these will give you more stability when trying to maneuver the river and slick rocks.¬† The poles also helped when trying to figure out the depth of the river at varying points.¬† My sister had these pack-able hiking poles which folded up nicely during hikes like Angel’s Landing in which you don’t need them.

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3. Hiking Shoes

Make sure you have a sturdy pair of shoes with a great grip on them.¬† You will need it while on Angel’s Landing and The Narrows when you need that extra traction.¬† I love using my Ahnu shoes, but don’t forget to pack an extra pair or some sandals to change into after getting wet in The Narrows.¬† We hiked the river as our last hike of the day to make sure we weren’t in soggy shoes the rest of the day.

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4. Waterproof Bags

If planning to hike The Narrows you want to make sure your gear is protected.  If bringing anything valuable with you (cameras, cell phones, etc) make sure you have a waterproof bag.  I used a friends waterproof backpack as I had my camera with me, but these pouches are great for cellphones.

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5. Food/Snacks

Some of the hikes in Zion can be pretty lenghty, make sure you pack some snacks to give yourself an energy boost.  Getting back to the Lodge to get lunch can be hard to do with their busing system.  We packed things such as jerky sticks, peanut butter crackers, applesauce pouches, granola bars, tuna packets, fruit strips, etc.

Some other things to consider:

  • Camera
  • Waterproof Camera for The Narrows
  • Hat
  • I love these Columbia shirts to keep the sun off (and they have pockets!)
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Quick drying clothes

 

 

 

A Guide to Nayara Resort

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I wanted to give you guys more information on what to do on the Nayara Resort and Spa grounds.  I wrote about where and what to eat on the resort here and what to do around the town of La Fortuna here. If wanting to stay mostly on the resort, Nayara offers plenty to see and do.

What to do:

Pools

When are went to Nayara they had two different pools to enjoy, but since then they built another one! As mentioned in my previous post Nayara has a side called the Springs that is adult only.  Since we were traveling as adults we were able to enjoy the second pool they have to offer.  I will never be able to get over the volcano views from sitting pool side at Nayara.

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Bars

Bars were located at both pools to enjoy during the day.  They also had a happy hour that we took advantage of.  We bought our own wine in town that we enjoyed on our porch some days also, I could spend hours enjoying these volcano views.  There is also a wine and tapas bar to enjoy drinks in the evening.

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Yoga

Every morning they have yoga to take advantage of.  We had a busy schedule but I did get to enjoy a yoga class before I left.  Hearing the rain forest sounds and slight drizzle hitting the open air hut was incredibly relaxing and rejuvenating.

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The Spa at Nayara

As mentioned in my previous post, we stayed at Nayara when they were offering a package deal, this offer included a couple’s hot stone massage.¬† I have had a few massages before at resorts and spas but never a hot stone one! I am now a fan.¬† The warm stones made the massage even better! They offer other skin treatments, therapies and couple’s treatments at well.

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Fitness Center

Nayara offers a fitness center with the basic workout equipment that you might need.¬† We passed this place while heading for our massage but had a pretty packed schedule and didn’t end up going inside.¬† But it looked clean, and had views I would not complain of.

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Hot Tubs

Nayara has a few hot tubs available around the resort.  We never had an issue finding one to relax in.

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Walk the trails

Definitely spend some time enjoying the small paths around Nayara.  We did this a few times during the day and night.  We enjoyed viewing the different plant species and make sure you keep your eyes peeled as we were able to spot a sloth, birds, and a few types of frogs!

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5 Things to do in La Fortuna

4C9047FF-AA8E-422C-9BB4-D5AB535351B0As mentioned in my post before we got to spend our honeymoon at Nayara Resort in La Fortuna, Costa Rica.  Although the resort offers more than enough, we wanted to make sure we saw the town of La Fortuna and  more of the rain forest than directly on our resort.  We were lucky enough to book with Nayara at a package deal, so a few excursions were included but we also added on a few more. Although we booked most of these through out resort they are all options that can be booked on your own as well.

1. Zip Lining

Our resort partnered with Sky Adventures to book our zip lining tour.  A van picked up us and a few others at the resort to take us there.  The company runs their excursions out of the Monteverdi and Arenal areas in Costa Rica.  Sky Adventures offers a range of activities, zip lining, tram rides, bike trails, sky walk, tubing and more.  Zip lining through the rain forest was one of our favorite memories in Costa Rica.  It was raining lightly during part of our excursion, and it felt more like you were in the rain forest than ever.  It was a great way to see the sights and sounds of.

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2. Hot Springs

There are many options in the area to enjoy a dip in a natural hot springs.  After a little research and asking friends who have been everyone pointed us to Eco-Termales Hot Spring in La Fortuna.  We choose this one because although children were allowed in this one it seems to cater to adults more.  As we were on our honeymoon this one seemed more relaxing, compared to some in the area that had water slides.

This was such an enjoyable experience.  The hot springs have different areas of water that are all different temperatures.  It was fun to move around and see the differences.  We enjoyed a cocktail in the hot springs as well.

 

3. La Fortuna Waterfall

One morning we grabbed a taxi from our resort to hike to La Fortuna Waterfall. Although there are a few steep descents this is a fairly easy hike, the trail leads you down through the rainforest and within 20 minutes you arrive at the 200 ft tall waterfall.  The water is a crystal blue, and sitting along the bright greenery makes it stand out even more.  Make sure you wear your swimsuit if interested in getting in the waters surrounding it.

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4. Hanging Bridges

This excursion was one booked through our resort.  We were picked up by van and taken to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park.  Since this was part of our honeymoon package we were in a group with a guide.  At first we were not fond of the idea of hiking along with a guide.  But after the tour we were very happy with having someone so informative with us.  Our guide pointed out lots of different insects and animals, that we would of surely passed up if we were on our own.  He was very knowledgeable and made the excursion even better.

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5. Taxi to LaFortuna

Our resort had a daily bus to take us into the town of La Fortuna.  We took that option in the morning then took a taxi back when we were finished exploring.  This was a great time to check out the small local shops and grocery stores.  The grocery store was a great place to stop and pick up our favorite coffees and sauces to take back home.  It was quiet foggy that day but I can imagine that there is a better view of the volcano from the town.  We stopped at Restaurante La Casada for a delicious Costa Rican lunch, and if you know me a refreshing mango smoothie. If anyone knows how to replicate those Costa Rican mango smoothies please send me to trick immediately!

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For food and drink options at Nayara check out my post here.

Nayara Resort Spa & Gardens

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They next few posts will be about our time at Nayara Resort in Costa Rica.  Today I will be reminiscing about the food and drink options on the resort.  When picking out a place to enjoy our honeymoon we were reluctant to choose a typical all inclusive or cruise.  We like to move around when we travel and see as much as we can.  But we also knew that the two months before our wedding we were going to be more than busy (buying a house, planning our wedding and spending two weeks in Europe the attend the Euro Cup,) we thought might want to schedule in some time for relaxation.

We were looking for the perfect location, somewhere with a shorter flight (with only one week of time we hate to spend too much time en route), plenty to see and do but the option to relax, as we were going to need it.  This is when we stumbled upon Nayara Resort in Costa Rica.  At certain times of the year they offer a more all-inclusive package.  Our package included with our room, a breakfast buffet, nightly 3 course dinners including a wine pairing with one, a hot stone massage, and a few excursions (which I will talk about on another post).

The rooms are huge, we booked the smallest (and cheapest) option called Caista Deluxe.  But look at our room! Not pictured is the outdoor shower and hammock.

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My first post for our time on Nayara will be about the food options.

Altamira Restaurant

This is where they host breakfast each morning. Breakfast is included with most rooms, they set out a fabulous buffet spread.¬† I still dream about eating breakfast here every morning. So many fresh fruit options, omelettes, Costa Rican hot dishes, and my favorite, French Press coffee brought to your table and coconut water sipped right from the the coconut itself! And this view from our breakfast table each morning didn’t hurt at all.

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Tip: at breakfast they also lay out some pre-made sandwiches, fruit and granola bars. We always took a few to eat during the day on our day trips.  They were not the most filling but helped save $$.  We would then only have to order a pool side snack to tie us over until dinner.

This is also a spot for lunch and dinner.  Although we never did eat lunch here as we were often out on excursions during the day, we did dine twice at this location.  The first night we came was a traditional Costa Rican themed meal, they had many great steak options and a delicious coffee creme brulee, our second meal was more of what you would expect at a traditional buffet with lots of different options.

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Kali, Kali Pool Bar

This bar is where we ordered a few pool side lunches from.  They have a variety to choose from nachos, burgers, ceviche, plantains, along with smaller snacks to order with your drinks.  We also found that if you hang around the pool long enough they would occasionally come around serving samples of drinks, snacks and desserts!

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Nostalgia Bar

This bar was quaint a wine and tapas bar.  Some people just head here for a glass of wine at the end of the night, but they also offer tapas style meals.  Tapas is by far my favorite way to eat! Small plates of food where you get to try almost everything, sign me up! Luckily this was part of our package.  You can choose from a few different set menus, the meal came with 5 courses along with 5 different wines paired with each course.  Oh my goodness, this was a highlight of the trip.  So delicious!

Asia Luna

My husband and I tends to cook a lot of Asian food, and we always love trying new places for inspiration.¬† At this restaurant we shared some sushi, spring rolls, a wok dish and dessert.¬† Although I will say as great as this restaurant was we found its portions to be a little small.¬† My favorite from Asia Luna was the grilled pineapple, I think I loved it so much because it caught me off guard, I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did!

Amor Loco

If visiting without children I would suggest going over to Nayara Springs, an adult only section of the resort. Amor Loco is located pool side, with indoor seating as well.  We went back to this restaurant twice! We felt like this restaurant served meals that left us feeling fulfilled, and more of a fine dining feel.  Not one bad thing to say about our dinners here.  Everything we had we thoroughly enjoyed. They offered any thing from zucchini blossoms, steaks, seafood and desserts. Our favorite was the filet migon, topped with a foie gras and coffee sauce.

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Drinks

I want to leave you with a tip for drinking at the resort.  If traveling on a budget, as we were, make sure you take advantage of their happy hours.  Ask at the bar about times and specials.  We also picked up some wine in town and enjoyed a glass on our porch before or after dinner as well.  This really helped minimize our bill at check out!

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Since we have visited they have added more restaurants and even a coffee bar, in which I would love to go back and try!

Stay tuned for more of what to do on the resort and in town.

 

One day on the Ring of Kerry Itinerary

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During our recent trip to Ireland we decided to take on the task of completing the Ring of Kerry in one day. There are so many stops and sights to take in so we had to narrow it down to our must see views. ¬†I love using Google My Maps to help keep track of what locations peak our interest and then plan out a course and time frame from there. ¬†When planning out your own trip I would make sure you leave time for some stops you might not expect. ¬†Ireland is full of places you want to pull off the side of the road and admire the country’s beauty.

Breakfast at Bed and Breakfast

When researching places to stay I immediately starting looking for the typical Airbnb apartments and houses. ¬†But in Ireland I think it’s best to go for the B&Bs. ¬†These also can be found on Airbnb’s website. ¬†Most serve you a large Irish breakfast and buffet for a small fee or even include it free with your stay. ¬†This large breakfast gives you a great start to a full travel day.¬† We often found our self still full from breakfast so we didn’t need to stop for a big lunch most of the time. ¬†We stayed in Killarney at the The Ardee House B&B. ¬†Click here for $40 off your first Airbnb stay!

Ballycarbery Castle

After a couple of pull off stops from Killarney we arrived at Ballycarbery Castle.  I thought this would just be a quick stop and go.  But we learned you can actually go inside and if not afraid of heights take a sketchy climb to walk along the second floor of the castle.

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Portmagee/Valentia Island

Our next stop was Valentia Island, if you enter from Portmagee you can drive to the island without taking a ferry.  Once on the island we took a left and immediately pulled off to take in a few views, pictured below.

On Valentia Island looking at Portmagee

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Not even 300 feet from our last stop we spotted this incredible view.

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Geokaun Mountain and Fogher Cliffs

I won’t lie, this was a little tricky to find as it wasn’t a location found on our car GPS and we didn’t splurge for cellular data to be able to use Google Maps. ¬†But having a hand held hiking GPS helped us find our way.¬† This park has several pull offs where you can leave you car and complete a few small hikes/walks.¬† Each overlook stop is connected by¬†a quite steep gravel road, but we didn’t have much trouble in our basic 2 wheel drive rental car.¬† This park has a booth charging 5 euros per car, make sure you have change. Our first stop was the Fogher Cliffs, pictured here.

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It was quiet foggy so I am sure on a clear day you could see farther.  Our next stop was an overlook on Knightstown.  This park would be a great spot to stop for a packed lunch, it had many picnic tables available.

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Lunch

We by passed a real lunch for a few snacks, as we ate a large breakfast but Knightstown and or Portmagee would be great places to stop for a quick bite.

Kerry Cliffs

Not far from Portmagee was our stop at the Kerry Cliffs.¬† This is County Kerry’s version of the Cliffs of Moher. ¬†If does cost 4 euros per person, collected at a small booth.¬† Some people complain of this charge but I believe it was money well spent. ¬†After parking the car and paying at the booth it is only a quick 5-10 minute walk to the cliffs. ¬†From here you can go left or right for different views. ¬†I would suggest trying to hit all the viewing spots. ¬†They were quiet incredible, and windy!

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Skelligs Chocolate

Our next major stop was Skelligs Chocolate.  This chocolate shop sits with view a great view of the ocean.  They will literally give you a sampling of every chocolate in the shop.  I love the variety they they have.  We bought a few small boxes for souvenirs and gifts.

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Moll’s Gap

Due to some road closures that would make our drive difficult we skipped Kenmare and drove through Moll’s Gap.¬† This is more of a drive by area, with not too many places to pull off the road.¬† At one point we stopped at a small store/restaurant with a few spots to check out the views.

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Ladies View

Next was a quick stop at the famous ‘Ladies View’ viewing spot.¬† We didn’t say long as we wanted to make it back in time for a tour and tasting at Killarney Brewing Company before dinner.

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Killareny has lot’s of great spots for dinner and drinks.¬† We ate Cronin’s Restaurant and it was delicious!

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