Destinations We Love: Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is one of the top destinations for Wanderers and it is easy to see why. Featuring two gorgeous coastlines, abundant wildlife, awesome adventure sports, and acres of national parks, this Central American country is a great pick for a couple that loves nature or is seeking adventure.

Here are our top five things to do while in Costa Rica:

Raft the Pacuare: Costa Rica is home to some amazing rafting, and the Pacuare is considered the best of the many raftable rivers.

Ziplining in the Cloud Forest: Ziplining was invented in Costa Rica, and one of the most popular places to do it is in the cloud forests of Santa Elena and Monteverde.

Relaxing in Hot Springs: Arenal Volcano is surrounded by naturally occurring hot springs. Remember to include an evening for soaking in warm waters and enjoying each other’s company.

Meet the Local Wildlife: A trip to Costa Rica wouldn’t be complete without seeing some of its famous wildlife. Our favorite spot for wildlife is in Tortuguero, where we’d recommend visiting the nesting sea turtles and exploring the vibrant jungle canals by boat or kayak.

Enjoy the Surf: Costa Rica is a fantastic place to learn to surf or to simply laze on the beach. Make sure to give yourselves at least a couple days to work on your tans or surfing skills or both.

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When to go: Avoid hurricane season, and visit between late November and early April.

Don’t forget: Sports sandals like Keens or Chacos, they might not be so cute, but they’re great for any adventure sports you might choose to do.

Unmissable journey: The dirt roads of the Nicoya peninsula may be bone rattling, but they make for fantastic travel stories, and at their end you’ll find spectacular beaches.

Best meal: Fresh fish ceviche and a freezing cold Imperial eaten in view of the ocean can’t be beat.

Souvenirs: Take home some of Costa Rica’s famous coffee or a bottle of the ever-present Salsa Lizano.

Language: Spanish, though many Ticos (Costa Ricans) speak English.

Have you been to Costa Rica? What are your tips for other Wanderers?

Destinations We Love: Havana, Cuba

Picking the perfect honeymoon destination can be intimidating, but here at Wanderable we want honeymoon planning to be easy and exciting. That’s why we started this series of blog posts featuring Destinations We Love:

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Perhaps you’re a couple that has done a lot of traveling and want to go somewhere that isn’t on the usual list of honeymoon destinations. Or maybe you are looking for a destination rich in culture and romance. The re-opening of Cuba to travelers visiting on a People-to-People* license has made it is easier for Americans to visit this otherwise forbidden isle.

Though many couples might not consider Cuba as a honeymoon destination, it is a great choice. To start, Havana oozes romance. Picture cobblestone streets lined with pastel colored colonial buildings, fresh mojitos, live music, and dancing in open air plazas. Are you starting to get the picture?

Not-to-miss while you’re in Havana:

“Mi mojito en La Bodeguita, mi daiquiri en El Floridita”: Visit Papa Hemingway’s two favorite bars for these classic Cuban cocktails. While a bit overpriced and certainly touristy, it would be a shame to miss these historic watering holes. Bring a sharpie so you can add your names to the graffitied walls of La Bodeguita and don’t miss taking a photo with the bronze sculpture of Hemingway in El Floridita.

Learn a new skill: Ask a bartender to teach you the secret to a perfect mojito, pick up a few steps of basic salsa, or learn how to roll a Cuban cigar.  Not only will you be able to show off your new skill when you get home, you may make a personal connection and have a great story to tell.

Eat at a paladar: One of the best ways to get to know Cubans is eating at a paladar.  These privately run restaurants are usually located in people’s homes and are the best place to sample local cuisine. One of our favorites is Doctor Cafe, located in Miramar.

Explore Havana Vieja: Be sure to plan spending at least a full day exploring Havana Vieja. Many of the old plazas have been restored and you can spend hours people watching from the cafes that line them. We love perusing the book sellers on the Plaza de Armas and listening to the musicians on Plaza de la Catedral.

Sunday afternoon at el Callejon de Hamel: This alleyway has been covered in brightly painted murals and on Sundays comes alive with live music and dancing. You’ll be sure to meet some local characters and have a chance to show off your best dance moves.

When to go: Avoid hurricane season and the crippling heat of summer, and visit between late November and early April.

Don’t forget: Your passport, Cuban visa, if you’re American, the appropriate license*, and cash.  American credit cards won’t work in Cuba, make sure to go prepared!

Unmissable journey: Take a ride along the malecon in a classic 1950’s taxis. We’d suggested ending up at the Hotel Nacional for a sunset mojito.

Best meal: Ropa Vieja (stewed beef) with a side of moros y christianos (rice and beans) and a daiquiri at a local paladar.

Souvenirs: Americans are limited to books and artwork, so don’t try to slip a few Cuban cigars into your luggage! There are some fantastic artists in Cuba, consider bringing home a painting to remember your adventure.

Language: Cubans speak Spanish in an accent that can be difficult for even native Spanish speakers to understand. Don’t let it put you off, just ask people to speak slowly (un poco más despacio, por favor), Cubans love it when tourists at least try to speak Spanish.  If you get totally stuck, many Cubans speak English.

*A few words on going to Cuba legally: Many Americans are astounded to find out that they can travel to Cuba legally. The easiest way to do so is on a People-to-People license, with a licensed tour operator who will take care of all the necessary travel documents and arrangements. People-to-People tours focus on encouraging cultural exchanges between Cubans and Americans and are designed for the average traveler.

Have you been to Cuba? Do you have any tips you want to share with other wanderers?

Honeymoons with a View: National Park Destinations

For couples who  prefer the views of towering mountains to towering buildings, dips in fresh water lakes to chlorinated pools and falling asleep under a canopy of glimmering stars instead of city lights, opting for a nature-oriented honeymoon destination can be the perfect way to celebrate your new life together amidst an awe-inspiring backdrop. Today Wanderable presents our picks for some of the best national parks around the world for honeymoons with a view!

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Zion National Park, Utah

Why we love it: Utah’s oldest national park is known for its magnificent canyons and breathtaking views. Weave your way through the Navajo sandstone walls together and duck behind a rock to sneak a kiss. Active honeymooners will love the park’s endless hiking possibilities with over 100 miles of backcountry trails.

When to go: May, September and October are great months to explore the park and avoid Utah’s sweltering mid-summer heat.

Stay: Want creature comforts? Cozy up together after a long day of hiking in the Buffalo Vista Honeymoon Suite at the Zion Mountain Ranch and enjoy a king sized bed, fireplace and jacuzzi tub for two. Or if you prefer getting back to the basics,  set up camp at the Watchman Campground which offers easy access to the park trails, nicely sized lots and some shaded sites.

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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Why we love it: This picture speaks a thousand words and yet only captures the smallest fragment of this park in Southern Patagonia’s charm: with staggering peaks, wind-swept hills,  bright blue glaciers and wild horses, Torres del Paine is the kind of place you can get utterly lost in together on your honeymoon, in the good kind of way. Couples can opt for a day hike to reach the park’s iconic towers, or spend five days tackling the park’s popular “W” route together.

When to go: October through April brings the warmest, hiking friendly weather.

Stay: Honeymooners looking to really indulge during their stay need look no further than Hotel Salto Chico, which is located in the heart of the park and features sweeping views, gourmet dining, on property stables and deluxe, television-free rooms.  The more adventurous types can opt to trek through the park and nestle into in their own tents or in the “refugios” (lodges) scattered along the route.

Banff National Park, Canada

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Why we love it:  Canada’s oldest national park is nestled amongst the Rockies and filled with alpine landscapes, pristine waters and views for days. Bike enthusiast honeymooners can take advantages of the park’s paved trails, while hiking routes will take you to dazzling waterfalls and glaciers. End your afternoon soothing your aching muscles together in the park’s natural hot springs.

When to go: Summer months bring the park alive for hiking and biking, while winter months are better for couples interested in snow sports.

Stay: Luxury minded honeymooners can unwind at the Fairmont Banff Springs, known as “The Castle in the Rockies” with a word class spa, fine dining, and lavish suites, while the Two Jack Lakeside Campground has covetable plots along the lake for honeymooners open to sleeping in the great outdoors.

Would you consider a National Park for your honeymoon? If so where in the world would you choose?