Costa Rica Itinerary | Off the beaten-path without the masses

Costa Rica Itinerary | Off the beaten-path without the masses

Costa Rica Itinerary

Off-the-beaten path

 

Itinerary duration: 3 -5 weeks

Itinerary budget: $ 105 per day

Itinerary start & end:  San José

Costa Rica, a name synonymous with breathtaking natural beauty, lush rainforests, and stunning beaches, has long been a sought-after tourist destination. It’s a place that often graces the covers of travel magazines and finds its way onto the dream itineraries of wanderers worldwide.

Explore Costa Rica without the masses

We welcome you to a Costa Rica itinerary that takes you beyond the typical tourist trail. Instead, we’re here to guide you through the quieter, more authentic side of this incredible country. While this may not be your typical Costa Rica itinerary – it’s an invitation to explore hidden gems in a more personal and authentic way.

Our journey begins in San José. It may not be the flashiest city, but it has its own unique allure. Dive into vibrant markets, explore intriguing museums, and savor authentic Costa Rican cuisine. Afterward, we will take you to the hidden gems along the Caribbean side, all the way from Cahuita to Manzanillo, before we head over to explore Costa Rica’s Pacific

Costa Rica’s hidden gems

When I first considered visiting Costa Rica, it felt a tad intimidating. The thought of throngs of tourists and crowded attractions didn’t quite align with my desire for an off-the-beaten-path adventure. Yet, here’s the beauty of travel – it often surprises you when you least expect it. But beyond the well-known attractions lay a treasure trove of hidden gems.

San José

San José may be the stepping stone for many as it will be your arrival at the Airport. While the capital may not immediately strike you as a typical tourist hotspot, it holds a unique charm worth exploring.

Costa Rica’s capital is where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with friendly locals, and set the tone for an off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica itinerary that’s rich in authentic experiences.

San Jose 1

How to get to San Jose

Whether you're flying into Juan Santamaría International Airport or taking a scenic bus ride from other parts of Costa Rica, you'll find that San José serves as a convenient hub for exploring the country.

If you reach San José’s international airport, you can simply call an Uber to take you to your destination.

Where to stay in San José?

I love staying at the Train Suites Barrio Escalante for the views but I also enjoyed staying at Chillout Escalante Hostel and Casa Escalante Hostel.

The Train Suites in Barrio Escalante are the most sophisticated option.

Is San José safe?

Whether you're flying into Juan Santamaría International Airport or taking a scenic bus ride from other parts of Costa Rica, you'll find that San José serves as a convenient hub for exploring the country.

If you reach San José’s international airport, you can simply call an Uber to take you to your destination.

Things to do in San José, Costa Rica

Mercado Central in San Jose, Costa Rica

Sightseeing in Barrio Amon

Start your adventure by exploring the heart of the city. Wander through the historic district, Barrio Amón, where charming colonial architecture and quaint coffee shops transport you to another era. Don’t miss the National Theater, a neo-classical masterpiece that hosts world-class performances. For a dose of culture, the Pre-Columbian Gold Museum and the National Museum offer fascinating insights into Costa Rica’s history and art.

Go on a day-trip

San José, Costa Rica, serves as a fantastic hub for diverse day trips that allow you to explore the country’s natural wonders and cultural treasures. One option is the Paulo Carrillo National Park, where you can embark on a rainforest adventure and encounter an array of wildlife while hiking through pristine trails. Alternatively, the Irazú Volcano Half Day Tour from San Jose takes you to the summit of the Irazú Volcano, offering panoramic views of the massive crater and surrounding landscapes. Whether you’re craving a nature-focused escape or a cultural immersion, these day trips offer a taste of Costa Rica’s rich diversity and are easily accessible from the capital city.

Nightlife in Barrio Escalante

As the sun sets, San José comes alive with a vibrant nightlife that caters to every taste. Whether you prefer a sophisticated cocktail bar, a pulsating nightclub, or a cozy local tavern, you’ll find it in Barrio Escalante. 

Visit the Central Market

Indulge in some retail therapy at the bustling Central Market, where you can peruse local handicrafts, traditional foods, and artisanal goods. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs and immerse yourself in the daily life of the city.

Marvel at Street Art

San José’s streets are a canvas for talented street artists, and you’ll find vibrant murals adorning the city’s walls. Take a self-guided tour through neighborhoods like Barrio La California, where you can admire the creativity and cultural expressions of Costa Rica’s urban artists.

streetart in san jose

Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica is a well-kept secret, offering a different side of this enchanting country that’s often overlooked. Here, you’ll find hidden gems waiting to be discovered amidst the swaying palm trees and reggae beats.

Cahuita

Nestled along Costa Rica’s pristine Caribbean coast, Cahuita is a place that has been plucked straight from a traveler’s dream.

Cahuita is a tranquil escape that effortlessly blends the beach’s natural beauty with the lush embrace of the rainforest.

However, the town’s charm lies not only in its breathtaking landscapes but also in its unique character, with brightly painted houses that reflect its residents’ vibrant culture and Afro-Caribbean heritage.

Costa Rica’s capital is where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with friendly locals, and set the tone for an off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica itinerary that’s rich in authentic experiences.

Cahuita1

How to get to Cahuita?

From San José MEPE bus station, you can easily take a bus to Cahuita. While the ride starts and ends quite picturesquely, but it can become quite long, especially when traffic is heavy on the weekends or holidays. Book your tickets in advance when traveling during the high season. Expect to travel for at least 4 hours.

Where to stay in Cahuita?

Staying at the Bungalows Aché Cahuita feels like Robinson Cruzo deluxe! You can hear the jungle sound and the waves crashing at the same time!

Is Cahuita safe?

I always felt very safe in Cahuita. Just make sure to not walk nearby beaches at night.

Things to do in Cahuita, Costa Rica

Mercado Central in San Jose, Costa Rica

Beaches in Cahuita

 Cahuita National Park is the closest beach to town. Despite its incredible beauty above water, the park boasts some of the most magnificent coral reefs in Costa Rica, making it a prime destination for snorkeling and diving. 

Hiking and Wildlife in Cahuita

A stroll along the park’s well-maintained trail is like entering a wildlife sanctuary. Keep an eye out for howler monkeys, sloths, raccoons, and countless bird species as you meander through the lush rainforest. The park’s appeal lies in its serene beauty and the chance to encounter wildlife in its natural habitat.

Nightlife in Cahuita

While Cahuita’s nightlife may not rival that of its neighbor, Puerto Viejo, it has its own charm. Enjoy a reggae-infused evening at local bars and restaurants, where you can savor delicious Afro-Caribbean cuisine and mingle with friendly locals.

Shopping in Cahuita

Cahuita’s streets are dotted with quaint boutiques and stalls selling handmade crafts, jewelry, and unique souvenirs. It’s an excellent place to find one-of-a-kind treasures and support local artisans.

Yoga in Cahuita

Cahuita offers a handful of yoga studios and retreat centers for those seeking inner peace and tranquility. Practice yoga amidst the sounds of the rainforest and the soothing Caribbean breeze to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

street art in San Jose, Costa Rica

Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is the liveliest town with lots of hip cafés, bars, restaurants, and shops. The nearby beaches are fun while nearby National Parks offer a catch of clean hair.

Puerto Viejo

How to get to Puerto Viejo?

From San José MEPE bus station, you can easily take a bus to Cahuita. While the ride starts and ends quite picturesquely, but it can become quite long, especially when traffic is heavy on the weekends or holidays. Book your tickets in advance when traveling during the high season. Expect to travel for at least 4 hours.

Where to stay in Puerto Viejo?

Puerto Viejo offers a very diverse range of accommodations. Casa BOHÖ is beautiful property, tucked away so you can truly feel the jungle and nearby beach but close enough to walk or bike to Puerto Viejo. Namu Garden Hotel & Spa will blow your mind! It’s a special luxury retreat which caters to all senses and the choice for you if you are looking for a luxurious option.

Is Puerto Viejo safe?

Yes, but take certain precautions such as watching out for your belongings and not walking on the beach at night.

Things to do in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Mercado Central in San Jose, Costa Rica

Beaches & water activities in Puerto Viejo

Nearby, Playa Negra and Playa Blanca are local favorites for sunbathing, swimming, and beachcombing.

Just a few minutes drive away,  Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, and Punta Uva are just a few of the paradisiacal spots where you can soak up the sun, surf the waves, or simply unwind in the tranquil surroundings. For the adventurous souls, there are opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, and even canopy tours in the nearby rainforests.

National Parks near Puerto Viejo

The Cahuita National Park, just a short drive away, offers a unique opportunity to hike along a coastal trail surrounded by lush greenery. Watch for howler monkeys, sloths, and countless bird species as you explore this natural wonder. Another hidden gem is the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge, which is just a 30-minute ride away, with pristine beaches and mangroves. 

Nightlife in Puerto Viejo

Evenings in Puerto Viejo come alive with reggae rhythms and a relaxed, bohemian vibe. Explore the town’s bars, lounges, and reggae clubs, where you can dance the night away to the sounds of the Caribbean. The nightlife here is far from the hectic party scene you might find elsewhere, making it perfect for those looking to unwind and mingle with locals.

Shopping in Puerto Viejo

The town’s streets are lined with colorful stalls and boutiques selling handmade jewelry, clothing, and unique souvenirs. It’s a great place to pick up a memento of your Costa Rican adventure and support local artisans.

Yoga in Puerto Viejo

If you’re in need of rejuvenation and self-discovery, Puerto Viejo is also known for its thriving yoga community. Numerous studios and retreat centers offer daily classes, workshops, and even immersive yoga and wellness retreats amidst the tranquil backdrop of the rainforest and ocean.

street art in San Jose, Costa Rica

Manzanillo

Costa Rica’s capital is where you can immerse yourself in the local culture, connect with friendly locals, and set the tone for an off-the-beaten-path Costa Rica itinerary that’s rich in authentic experiences.

Puerto Viejo4

How to get to Manzanillo?

Buses to and from Puerto Viejo run regularly. It takes about 40 minutes to reach.

Where to stay in Manzanillo?

There are several beautiful accommodation options in Manzanillo. Some of my favorites are Tranquila and Faith Glamping dome.

Is Manzanillo safe?

Yes, but take certain precautions such as not walking on the beach at night.

Things to do in Manzanillo, Costa Rica

Wild caribbean beach of Manzanillo at Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Beaches & Activities

Manzanillo’s coastline is a paradise that feels untouched by time.  While you won’t find any beach chairs or amenities, I promise you it is one of the most stunning beaches you will ever see!

The beaches here are nothing short of idyllic, with golden sands and crystal-clear waters seamed by primary rainforest. The air and the views are simply breathtaking. Spend your days lounging on the beach, swimming in the warm Caribbean Sea, or exploring the coral reefs through snorkeling or scuba diving. The underwater world is a hidden treasure trove of colorful fish and vibrant coral formations.

National Parks in near Manzanillo

Right next door, the Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge offers an immersive experience in Costa Rica’s diverse ecosystems. Hike through dense rainforests teeming with wildlife, including howler monkeys, sloths, toucans, and the endangered manatee. The trails are well-maintained and provide an opportunity to connect with nature in its purest form.

Hidden Treasures 

What truly sets Manzanillo apart is its aura of authenticity. This is a place where you can immerse yourself in the local Afro-Caribbean culture. Chat with friendly locals, savor delicious Caribbean cuisine and feel the reggae and calypso music rhythms that permeate the air. Take the chance to explore the small village and its charming, colorful houses, each with its unique character and story to tell.

street art in San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast

Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast feels much more Latino than the Caribbean. The infrastructure is much better developed in most places, so they are easier to reach and attract many more tourists. However, if you skip the most popular destinations and put a little effort into reaching the rather unknown destinations, you are in for a real treat!

Peninsula de Osa

Nestled in the southwestern corner of Costa Rica, Peninsula de Osa is a place that feels like a world unto itself. For travelers seeking to escape the beaten path and explore hidden gems, this remote paradise is an absolute must-visit. Here, nature reigns supreme, and the allure lies in the untouched beauty that unfolds before your eyes.

Osa Peninsula 11

How to get to Peninsula de Osa?

Your journey typically starts with a flight to the nearby town of Puerto Jiménez. From there, you can embark on a scenic drive or take a boat ride to reach the Peninsula. The journey itself is an adventure, offering glimpses of the lush, untamed beauty that awaits. It will take you a day to get there.

Where to stay in Peninsula de Osa?

I checked out Poor Man’s Paradise Lodge and Corcovado Guest House and loved both of them!

Is Peninsula de Osa safe?

Yes, it's a very safe area.

Things to do in Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica

Sloths in Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Corcovado National Park and Piedras Blancas National Park

Peninsula de Osa is home to not one but two national parks – Corcovado National Park and Piedras Blancas National Park. Corcovado, often hailed as the “crown jewel” of Costa Rica’s national parks, is a biodiversity hotspot. Hike through pristine rainforests and cross-hanging bridges, and marvel at the rich tapestry of wildlife, including scarlet macaws, tapirs, and jaguars. Piedras Blancas, on the other hand, offers quieter trails, secluded waterfalls, and opportunities for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.

Beaches on Peninsula de Osa

The Peninsula boasts some of the most pristine and secluded beaches in the country. Whether you’re at Playa Llorona, Playa Blanca, or Playa San Josecito, you’ll find soft sands, azure waters, and an overwhelming sense of serenity. These beaches are a sanctuary for relaxation and a chance to bask in the sun, far from the crowds.

Hiking Trails on Peninsula de Osa 

If you’re a hiking enthusiast, Peninsula de Osa is your playground. There are trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels, each offering a chance to immerse yourself in the rainforest’s splendor. The paths are alive with the sounds of nature, and you might encounter troops of howler monkeys, colorful poison dart frogs, and elusive tapirs along the way.

Other Activities on Peninsula de Osa

Whether you’re into birdwatching, canopy tours, or kayaking through mangrove forests, Peninsula de Osa offers many activities. Explore the Golfo Dulce, a tropical fjord known for its incredible marine biodiversity, or take a night hike to witness the rainforest’s nocturnal wonders.

sunset in Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Uvita

Nestled in the southwestern corner of Costa Rica, Peninsula de Osa is a place that feels like a world unto itself. For travelers seeking to escape the beaten path and explore hidden gems, this remote paradise is an absolute must-visit. Here, nature reigns supreme, and the allure lies in the untouched beauty that unfolds before your eyes.

Uvita4 1

How to get to Uvita?

From Tracopa LTDA Bus Terminal you’ll have to ask for the closest bus going to Uvita. The tickets can be paid in cash only. The trip will be anywhere between 3.5 -4 hours.

Where to stay in Uvita?

Arboura Eco Cabins is super close to the beach and super cute!

La Uvita Perdida has stunning views!

Is Uvita safe?

Yes, it's a very safe area.

Things to do in Uvita, Costa Rica

Sloths in Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Beaches & Activities

Uvita’s beaches are nothing short of breathtaking. The iconic Whales Tail, a natural sandbar resembling the tail of a giant whale, awaits at Marino Ballena National Park. It’s a place where you can walk along the spine of the sandbar, surrounded by turquoise waters on both sides, and witness the magic of the Pacific Ocean. Snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking are just a few of the aquatic adventures you can embark on.

Hiking in Uvita

Whether you’re trekking through the Marino Ballena National Park or exploring the jungle trails around Uvita Waterfall, every step brings you closer to the heart of this paradise. Other popular options include hiking to the stunning Nauyaca Waterfalls, which involves traversing lush jungle terrain before arriving at these cascading marvels.

Shopping 

The town’s streets are dotted with charming boutiques and stalls selling handmade crafts, jewelry, and unique souvenirs. It’s a great place to find one-of-a-kind treasures and support local artisans.

Yoga & Wellness

Uvita is a hub for yoga and wellness enthusiasts. Numerous studios and retreat centers offer daily classes, workshops, and immersive yoga and wellness retreats amidst the serene backdrop of the rainforest and ocean. It’s the perfect place to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul.

sunset in Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Montezuma

The bohemian town of Montezuma is not only super colorful and pretty but also surrounded by beaches on one side and lush rainforest on the other. You’ll find plenty of hiking trails and day-trip opportunities during the day cool hang-out spots, bonfires, and some parties during the nights. It will take you a while to get to Montezuma but the hassle is definitely worth it. 

Montezuma 7

How to get to Montezuma from Uvita?

ow to get to Montezuma from Uvita: To embark on the journey from the tranquil paradise of Uvita to the bohemian haven of Montezuma, you'll experience a delightful combination of road and sea travel. Begin by taking a scenic bus ride from Uvita to the nearby port town of Puntarenas. From there, a ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya presents a picturesque opportunity to witness the Pacific's beauty and possibly even spot dolphins playing in the waves. Once you arrive in Paquera on the Nicoya Peninsula, a pleasant drive through lush forests and quaint villages will lead you to Montezuma.

How to get from Montezuma to San José?

Take the ferry ride across the Gulf of Nicoya back to Puntarenas. From there its only a 90-minute bus ride back to San José.

Where to stay in Montezuma?

Is Montezuma safe?

Yes, it's a very safe area.

Things to do in Montezuma, Costa Rica

waterfalls near Montezuma, Costa Rica

Beaches near Montezuma 

The beaches of Montezuma are nothing short of paradisiacal. From Playa Montezuma to Playa Grande, each stretch of coastline invites you to unwind on its golden sands, swim in crystal-clear waters, or simply listen to the gentle lullaby of the ocean waves. It’s a haven for beachcombers and sun-seekers alike.

Waterfalls in Montezuma

Montezuma is renowned for its stunning waterfalls, and the hike to the Montezuma Waterfall is a must-do. Wander through lush rainforest trails, cross suspension bridges, and reach the cascading falls that invite you to take a refreshing dip. The sight and sound of the water crashing into the natural pools are a treat for the senses.

Hiking Trails in Montezuma 

Nature lovers and adventure seekers will be spoiled for choice with Montezuma’s hiking trails. Explore the Cabo Blanco Absolute Natural Reserve, where you can traverse through pristine rainforests and observe diverse wildlife. The hike to the Cabo Blanco’s viewpoint offers panoramic views that are nothing short of breathtaking.

Other Activities in Montezuma

Whether you’re interested in snorkeling, horseback riding on the beach, or taking a yoga class amidst the serene rainforest.

Boat on beach in Montezuma, Costa Rica

Practical travel tips for Osa Peninsula

What is the best time to visit Costa Rica

Always!

The best time to visit Costa Rica largely depends on your preferences and the experiences you seek. The country has two primary seasons: the dry season (December to April) and the wet season (May to November). The dry season is ideal for outdoor adventures, with plenty of sunshine, less rainfall, and lush green landscapes. This is the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices. On the other hand, the wet season offers a unique charm, with fewer tourists, vibrant rainforests, and occasional afternoon showers. It's a great time for wildlife enthusiasts and budget-conscious travelers. Ultimately, the best time to visit Costa Rica depends on whether you prefer dry, sunny days or don't mind a bit of rain while enjoying the country's natural beauty and diverse ecosystems

Is Costa Rica safe for travelers?

Costa Rica is generally considered a safe destination for travelers. The country has a stable political environment, a strong rule of law, and a relatively low crime rate compared to some of its Central American neighbors. However, like any other destination, it's essential for travelers to exercise common-sense precautions. This includes safeguarding personal belongings, avoiding poorly lit or deserted areas at night, and staying vigilant in tourist areas where petty theft can occasionally occur.

How to get to Costa Rica?

Most travelers arrive by flying into Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in San José or Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia. These airports serve as the main entry points for international flights. From there, you can access various domestic airports, like Juan Santamaría Airport in San José or Tamarindo Airport in Guanacaste, if you plan to visit different regions of the country. Additionally, Costa Rica offers excellent bus services that connect major cities and towns, making it possible to arrive by land from neighboring countries such as Nicaragua and Panama.

How can I protect myself from sandflies?

P

Buy some handmade coconut oil to protect yourself from sandfly bites! They are especially active during morning and evening hours.

Can I drink tap water in Costa Rica?

P

In Costa Rica, 92.5% of the population, has access to drinking water. The quality of tap water is safe to drink. If you still feel uneasy, bring your self-cleaning bottle. The bottles will keep your water fresh and cool, too!

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Trash: bring your collapsable food container & Lifestraw Pro with you to avoid causing plastic pollution.


Sunscreen: Protect Costa Rica's marine life and wear reef-save sunscreen.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing Central America

Central America is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure!

Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

Places to visit in Costa Rica

Pura vida!

Why I love traveling Lebanon

Why I love traveling Lebanon

Why I love traveling Lebanon

Historic cities, mountains, beaches & exquiste food

Duration: at least 10 days

Budget: $ 55 per day

Lebanon got my heart from the second I arrived last year. Indeed it was such a special travel destination for me that I am returning to Lebanon for a second time this summer. I am super excited to discover the tiny country between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea a bit more.

However, I noticed that whenever I tell people about my upcoming travel plans I get a lot of disbelief.

  • Sight Seeing 100% 100%
  • Beaches 90% 90%
  • Activites 100% 100%
  • Culture 100% 100%

Even though Lebanon is still in deep crisis, here is my homage to one of my favorite travel destinations. May this love letter inspire you to discover this mesmerizing country and help overcome some common misconceptions about traveling to Lebanon.

The People of Lebanon

Although Lebanon shares many cultural traits with its Arab neighbors, it also has unique characteristics that set it apart from other countries in the region.

For one, its rugged and mountainous terrain has made it a refuge for a wide range of people throughout history, from religious and ethnic minorities to political dissidents. Some areas of Beirut for example feel like a day trip to Armenia.

This rich history and diversity make Lebanon a fascinating place to explore and meet new people from all over the world.

I really enjoyed getting to know people and always felt very welcomed anywhere I went.

What stuck with me until this day is the incredible resilience of the people, their warmness towards me, and their infectious way of embracing beautiful moments.  

 

Concert in Lebanon
Sunset in Lebanon from Frozen Cherries

Sunsets in Lebanon

The sunsets over Lebanon are one of a kind! The unique setting between mountains and the Mediterranean Sea makes up for some of the most stunning sunsets I have seen in my life.

No matter where you are in Lebanon: up in the mountains or by the water, I promise you one thing: chasing sunsets in Lebanon is totally worth it.

My two favorite ways for watching the sunsets in Lebanon are:

– Frozen Cherries Bar

– Paragliding into the sun

 

 

Beaches in Lebanon

To me, Lebanon is way too exciting to be considered a mere beach destination. What I love about the beaches in Lebanon:

1. A beach is never far away

2. Lebanon’s coastal region was once home to some of the most influential and fascinating centers of trade and culture known to man. The Phoenician ports of Tyre, Sidon, and Byblos were bustling hubs in the 3rd millennium BCE.

So I can combine some hours by the beach with super interesting cultural sights.

3. Beach Clubs: Though I am not a big supporter of private beaches, visiting a beach club in Lebanon is a very fn experience and a good way to get to hang out with the local crowd.

 

Me at Lazy B, a beach club outside of Beirut
our lunch in Lebanon

Food culture in Lebanon

Let me tell you. the food I tasted in Lebanon was some of the best in the world!

The demographic diversity is also represented in Lebanon’s food and so I got to try different flavors every day.

Making Lebanese food culture so special is the practice of ordering several plates and sharing them with your friends.

Short Distances

Lebanon is tiny and due to its unique location between mountains and sea, you could go skiing in the morning and enjoy the sunset by the water. Basically, anywhere you go in Lebanon is never really too far away making it very easy to travel around.

us on a road trip in Lebanon
house in Beirut with visible bullet holes

Feeling safe

Despite the political tensions with Israel, the geographic proximity to war countries, and the ongoing crisis in Lebanon: 

I always felt very safe!

As a female traveling around I experienced much respect and friendliness anywhere in Lebanon. 

Even though the economic situation is terrible, I was told that petty crimes such as pickpocketing are basically non existent. 

 

Accommodations in Lebanon

There are stunning places to stay in Lebanon. In the absence of international hotel chains, Lebanon is home to very unique Airbnbs across the country as well as several charming boutique hotels.

beautiful view in Lebanon
me counting money in Lebanon

Budget

Lebanon is a very budget-friendly destination especially when compared to other destinations in the Middle East. 

When traveling solo expected to pay:

– $ 40 per night for a comfortable accommodation

– $ 4 for street food

Variety of things to do

The small country offers so many things to do that I promise you won’t get bored no matter how many times you return.

The mountains offer exquisite accommodations, vast hiking terrain and trails, and even the possibility to ski. 

The cities allowed me to get a glance at modern Middle Eastern life. I embraced the architecture wandering the streets and enjoyed shopping at the lively souks. 

The beaches are super beautiful and the surrounding towns offer plenty of things to do. Despite enjoying the beauty of the sea, you can even go diving. 

 

me in a mountains house in Lebanon

Get ready to travel Lebanon

Public Transport in Lebanon

Taking public transport is quite the challenge though not impossible. There are several companies operating within Beirut and other major cities. You most likely won’t be able to find a schedule.

The bus map project  is doing a great effort in mapping out the public transport in Beirut. They even offer a tour discover Beirut by public transport, which is super cool and intersting. 

 

Safety

While there are some safety concerns to keep in mind, I personally felt completely secure during my trip there. Of course, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the political situation and any border tensions with neighboring countries. 

I was told that petty crime such as pickpocketing is almost non-existent.

As a female traveler, I felt very safe. I was never harassed, cat-called, or made to feel uncomfortable in any kind of way.

Best time to travel Lebanon

From April to October!

Though it does get hot during the summer months, you can always cool down by the beach!

It does get rainy and grey during the winter months from November to March.

Tap water in Lebanon

Do not drink tap water in Lebanon. The infrastructure is in pretty bad shape and you’ll never know what comes out of the pipe.

I use a water purifier when on the country side. However, Lebanon is so far the only country where I buy bottled water in the cities. 

 

Where to get money in Lebanon

Getting money is not only an issue many Lebanese face on a daily basis. You will also be confronted with a lack of functioning ATMs and basically non-acceptance of credit cards anywhere. 

Therefore. Bring enough Dollars to exchange on the black market. This is faily easy as you#ll find exchanges anywhere within Beirut. 

Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler

For me, it was definitely the ethical concern of traveling to a country in such a deep crisis. It took me a visit to realize that it is ok to visit and the Lebanese are happy to have visitors coming back. 

Power outages

Power outages in Lebanon are a real struggle for the local population. 

As a traveler, you most likely feel very little impact of the power outages as most accommodations have their own generators. 

Some neiguhborhoods of Beirut and the surrounding area get pretty dark at night. However, the busy neighborhoods will still have nightlife and restaurants. 

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing for a trip to Lebanon

Packing for Lebanon can be quite a challenge! Not only does the climate vary greatly regionally but there are also so many activities to plan for.

Traveling Lebanon?

Lebanon Itinerary

Places to visit in Lebanon

Things to do in Beirut | 2023 Update

Things to do in Beirut | 2023 Update

I did not know what to expect and was taken by huge surprise by this pulsing and simply beautiful city. The “Paris of the Middle East” as many referred to Beirut is a stunning city that wears its heart on its sleeve. Despite the crisis, there are so many cool things to do in Beirut!

read more
Packing for Lebanon | What to bring

Packing for Lebanon | What to bring

Getting ready to embark on a trip to Lebanon? But before you head off for your magical Middle Eastern adventure, there’s one important thing you need to do: pack! In this blog post, I want to share my advice with you on what clothing essentials you should pack, gadgets that will make things easier along the way, plus some tips designed with the budget- and eco-conscious traveler in mind.

read more

Lebanon travel in 2023  | Everything to know

Lebanon travel in 2023 | Everything to know

Traveling Lebanon 2023

Practical Travel Tips

Everything to know from power shortages to money

Lebanon is in deep crisis but do not let it keep you from visiting this incredible nation. The Lebanese are as welcoming as ever and will show your beautiful country.

There is very little touristic infrastructure making Lebanon the perfect place to explore for the independent traveler. But it also means that you have to prepare yourself a bit better than on your trip to Central America.

Get ready to travel to Lebanon

When traveling to Lebanon you’ll face some challenges caused by the economic crisis and international sanctions. However, as long as you are aware of them, you can come prepared and fully enjoy your trip to Lebanon.

Power outages in Lebanon

Power outages are something very common for the Lebanese, especially during the ongoing economic crisis. Sometimes the power goes out for hours.

This means there are almost no city lights in certain areas and lots of houses turn dark. To solve the issue many Lebanese have installed generators. 

When booking an Airbnb, be considerate of the power outages. Many of the listings will tell you if they have a generator. 

P.S.: Elevators won’t work either during time of outages!

Carnival in Kingston, Jamaica 2023
us in front of mas camp at Jamaica carnival

Lebanon's financial crisis

Cash is key in Lebanon as credit cards are hardly accepted anywhere. The mistrust in financial institutions and the government is just too deeply rooted. On top of that the Lebanese bank used to have a fixed exchange rate until 2023 which was up to 20 times lower than the black market value.

On top of that the availability of cash is greatly limited.

If you are traveling to Lebanon in 2023 make sure to bring efficient cash funds to exchange. Lebanon is a very safe country so don’t worry about bringing cash.

Make sure to download the Lyra App to know the daily value. You will find plenty of currency exchanges basically anywhere.

Credit cards are currently not accepted anywhere. Please note that you can not use your credit cards for withdrawals either.

In case you run out of money, you can use Western Union and have somebody transfer your money that way.

Internet and phone

VPN Client

International sanctions will keep you from visiting certain websites. As I had to work during my stay there was no way around installing a VPN client.

Make sure to download the VPN client before getting there. 

Wifi in Lebanon

Wifi is so-so. I find the local mobile network to be a lot better than most of the Wifis I tested during my trip. 

Getting a sim card in Lebanon

Do get a sim card when traveling around Lebanon. Its super easy and you are so much more flexible. I usually get an ALFA sim card which works great and is pretty cheap. Make sure to bring your passport when buying one!

Me in Jamaican carnival costume
Carnival party in jamaica

Is it safe to travel Lebanon in 2023?

Yes! Even though the country is suffering from a terrible economic crisis and the conflict with Israel is ongoing, you can ( and should) travel to Lebanon.

Petty crimes are almost non-existent, and so are any violent crimes towards visitors.

As a female, you always feel safe and welcomed any time of the day.

However, the situation in Lebanon may change quickly and without much further ado. Make sure to keep up with the local news and avoid any kind of demonstration.

 

Religious diversity

As the most religiously diverse country in the Middle East, Lebanon is home to 18 different religions.

Christianity, Islam, and Druze are the main religions, with Christianity making up about 40% of the population, Islam about 60%, and Druze about 5%.

With such a diverse mix of religions coexisting within one country, Lebanon has a unique and fascinating history that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Whether you are a believer or simply interested in the cultural aspects of religion, a trip to Lebanon is sure to be an eye-opening and memorable experience.

me at Jouvert in Jamaica

Religions in Lebanon

Religion plays a huge role in every Lebanese life as it heavily impacts politics (one reason why Lebanon has been unable to elect a president), daily practices and law enforcement, and of course marriages. I found it to be super interesting to learn how the religious diversity is impacts such a tiny country.

Lebanon11

Sunnis and Shi’ites

For curious travelers, there’s nothing like getting to know a country’s history and culture. In Lebanon, that means understanding the divide between Sunnis and Shi’ites, two sects of Islam that have had a lasting impact on the nation. The tensions between these groups can be traced back to the early days of Islam when the question of caliphate succession split the religion in two. It’s taken on different forms over the centuries, but today, it’s still very much a part of life in Lebanon. For those interested in history and politics, a trip to Lebanon is a must. With about 50% of the population identifying as Sunni and 60% as Shi’ite, it’s the perfect place to explore the complexities of religious diversity. Who knows, you might even leave with a new perspective on the world.

Lebanon10

Druze

Unlike other Islamic groups, the Druze have eliminated all rituals and ceremonies, rejecting the five pillars of Islam and having no defined holy days. Only those born into the religion can be considered Druze, and actual religious practice is limited to a small elite group known as ‘initiates’ or ‘uqqal.’ The Druze are mainly found in the south of Mount Lebanon, where the elite men can be identified by their distinctive mustaches, low-hanging trousers, and white caps. Meanwhile, Druze women wear white veils and long black dresses. It’s fascinating to learn about the history of this religious group, including their current leader, Walid Jumblatt, and local hero, Fakhr el-Dine Maan II.

Lebanon9

Maronites

When it comes to Christianity in the Middle East-North Africa region, Lebanon stands out from the crowd. Looking specifically at Lebanon, you’ll find that the Maronite denomination is the largest group of Christians in the country. With origins tracing back to the late-4th century, the Maronites are deeply rooted in the history and culture of Lebanon. The foundation of a monastery around the figure of St. Maron was the catalyst for their formation and their influence has since grown throughout the country. It’s fascinating to see the impact that this denomination has had on Lebanon and its people and serves as a reminder of the rich religious history that exists in this diverse region of the world.

Tours are a must!

Lebanon is an incredibly diverse and deeply complex country. To understand better and reach other destinations than Beirut I highly recommend going on at least two tours while you are here. I love the walking tour of Alternative-Beirut. The people are very cool and you get a much deeper insight into the city and its challenges. 

For outside of Beirut, check out Tourleb!

Nada is a super cool person with lots of interesting day trips around the country that take you way off the beaten path and right into the heart of Lebanon!

me at Jouvert in Jamaica

Thinking about traveling Lebanon?

Lebanon itinerary

Things to do in Lebanon

No matter how often you return to Lebanon, you will never get bored!

San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

Things to do in San Salvador

El Salvador
San Salvador Itinerary

A resilient capital rich in history, scars, and hope

Duration: at least one week

Stay: Hotel Oasis

San Salvador is exciting, its energy infectious. The city, with its many museums, churches, and murals, offers visitors the opportunity to learn and understand El Salvador’s history. Colorful murals often grace San Salvador’s walls. Pay attention when passing them. They often tell the stories of recent history and aim to raise awareness of social issues. 

We were in complete awe every time we explored and loved learning about the culture through its friendly people. We highly recommend this amazing city, as San Salvador has so much to offer no matter what type of experience you’re hoping for.

A capital between volcanos and beaches

The pulsing capital is surrounded by stunning volcanos, frolicking with many day trip opportunities.

If these weren’t enough reasons to visit, you could also reach some of the most lively beaches in El Salvador are a short bus (about one hour) away. San Salvador mesmerized us and stole our hearts. We can only recommend visiting and getting to know its fabulous people.

  • Sight Seeing 85% 85%
  • Culture 95% 95%
  • Activities 100% 100%
  • Nightlife 70% 70%

San Salvador, El Salvador’s resilient heart. The capital bears deep scars. Many of them are still visible at Centro Histórico and tangible in the hearts and memories of its inhabitants. Its heartache was omnipresent. Yet the city’s fierce determination for a better future and aspirations are infectious, making San Salvador our favorite capital in Central America.

Centro Histórico

San Salvador’s historic center is a window to the past. Until recent years, most middle-class people did not dare to visit their Centró Histórico after the civil war ended in 1992. Then, step by step, the San Salvadorians took back their center as the wounds slowly started to heal. Restoration is taking place between the bullet-scarred walls and crumbling buildings, and several bargain shops, food vendors, and visitors have sprung up. There are various second-hand stores, and we indulged in a shopping spring. We have gotten to know the El Salvadorians as fierce and optimistic, and the historic center represents precisely this to us.

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

National Library

We visited the National Library, where the peace bibliography is exhibited. Shortly after Valentine’s day, we found a wall created by visitors expressing their love for their country, peace, and literature.

Palacio Nacional

It sits right next to the Catedral Metropolitana. The impressive Palacio National, the republic’s first building, was constructed in 1870. Today the Palacio Nacional is home to the national archives and sometimes features art exhibitions.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Teatro Nacional

San Salvador’s Teatro Nacional might be the oldest theater in Central America. It is the most important for arts and culture in El Salvador.

Iglesia El Rosario – A must-visit church

Our favorite building, and the fascinating one, is Iglesia El Rosario. While the building is rather unimposed from the outside, you’ll find a kaleidoscope of colors once you enter. Thousands of colored glass pieces set in the half-moon-shaped ceiling create and fantastic play of colors as the light shines into the building. The atmosphere is sheer beautiful. Designed by the young Ruben Martinez, the church aims to be the first statement against the elitism of the Latin mass. A symbol of equality and solidarity with the working class and the poor.

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
San Salvador El Salvador 10

Catedral Metropolitana

The cathedral is perhaps the most impressive building on the central plaza. The original building, constructed in wood, burnt down in 1956. The church also played an essential role in the civil war when anti-government protestors overtook the cathedral on several occasions. Tragically, 24 people were killed on the cathedral steps in 1979. When one year later, tragedy struck again. While human rights champion and archbishop Monsenor Oscar Romero’s funeral took place, security forces opened fire, killing another 44 people. The late archbishop’s thumb is located in the cathedral’s basement and can be visited during opening hours.

Party the night away in Zona Rosa

No Latin American capital is complete without its Zona Rosa. This elegant and affluent part of the city stands in contrast to San Salvador’s Centro histórico. Hip cafés, lively nightspots, and many fancy restaurants make up Zona Rosa.

Leon, Nicaragua: Central Park
Leon, Nicaragua: Cerro Negro

Hike Parque National El Boquerón

Known as the “big mouth” because of its steep-walled crater, we reached El Boqueron within a 30 minutes drive from San Salvador. The national park consists of two significant peaks making up Volcan San Salvador. It also goes by the name Quezaltepe. There are various hikes you can do within the national park. Some of them lead to lookout points with views over San Salvador. Walking around the crater is possible. With a guide, you can challenge yourself by hiking down the crater’s walls. You’ll find some (pricey) but delicious restaurants on the road to the park. It is the perfect spot to spend a relaxed evening amongst San Salvador’s hip crowd. The views over the city by night are stunning! We loved “Pupuseria Loka.” The Llorc con queso pupusas are our favorite!

Live the surfer's life at Costa de Balsamico

The distinct places lay 2 hours outside of the city. The two black sand beaches offer fantastic surfing opportunities and buzzing nightlife on the weekends.

San Salvador 4

Our favorite beaches around San Salvador

San Salvador 2

El Tunco

Even though we really wanted to visit the well-known El Tunco beach, we almost couldn’t get ourselves to leave San Salvador. Take this as a token of how mesmerizing the city truly is. Yet, we made it for at least a long weekend! Let us tell you: El Tunco parties hard on the weekends but is super relaxed during the week.

Best places to stay around in El Tunco

San Salvador 3

El Zonte Beach

Playa El Zonte, on the other hand, is supposedly much quieter. The waves make it the perfect spot to learn how to surf.

Best place to stay around El Zonte

View of Santa Tecla, El Salvador

Santa Tecla – the place to spend the weekend

Because of San Salvador’s complicated past, many locals were afraid to go out and enjoy their city. “Nueva San Salvador” sprung up 15 km outside of San Salvador. Santa Tecla, a pedestrian-only strip, turns into a lively weekend market. At night bars and nightclubs are open to entertaining Santa Tecla’s visitors.

Practical travel tips for San Salvador

How to get to San Salvador by bus

P

Depending on where you are coming from, you'll arrive at:

Terminal de Occidente:
San Salvador's bus terminal handles all arrivals and departures from Western El Salvador, e.g., Santa Ana (bus 201, $1.35, 1,5 hours), Ruta de las Flores/ Ahuachapan (bus 202, $1,5, 2,5 hours), or La Libertad (bus 102, $0.60, 1 hour).

Terminal de Oriente:
The bus terminal handling Eastern El Salvador, e.g., San Miguel (bus 301,$4, about 3-4 hours), Suchitoto (Bus 129, $0.70, 2 hours), La Union (buses 304&446, $3.50, 4 hours)

Terminal del Sur:
This bus terminal serves all Southern destinations, including Costa del Sol (bus 495, $1.25, 25 hours) and Puerto el Triunfo (bus 185, $1.60, 2 hours)

Public transport in San Salvador

P

You can easily explore the city and its surroundings by bus. Unfortunately, the buses might sometimes take a slightly different route depending on traffic. But don't worry, many El Salvadorians have lived or had family in the US, making it easy to find someone who speaks English and helps you out.

What is the best time to visit San Salvador?

P

Our friends recommend to come back in August for the “Fiestas Agostinas” in San Salvador and “Las Bolas de Fuego” in nearby Nejapa. The "Fiestas de Agostinas" celebrate San Salvador's patron saint with parades and fireworks. "Las Bolas de Fuego" is a spectacle that follows a long-standing tradition of throwing fireballs at each other.

Where to stay in San Salvador?

P

Zona Rosa and Colonia Escalón are two of the best neighborhoods to stay in. Naturally, the prices are a bit higher. Alternatively, check out Antiguo Cuscatlan. The young community close to the university is more budget-friendly.

Is San Salvador safe for travelers?

P

There is no denying it. San Salvador is a Central American capital, and certain precautions must be taken. Don't flash your big camera around and take taxis at night. Yet, San Salvador felt a lot safer than one would have expected. We felt comfortably secure and welcomed. You have to note that until today, El Salvador is ruled by fear and brutal memories. Therefore, many locals take extreme precautions and will advise you against many things. As a visitor, you must be aware of that and know that you are NOT the target.

San Salvador's civil war – Who was Archbishop Oscar Romero?

P

El Salvador's past was brutal and dark. Thousands of people were tortured, disappeared, or murdered during the civil war. Yet, Oscar Romero stood with his people and demanded justice. The remarkable bishop stopped the reconstruction of the famous Catedral Metropolitana to help the poor instead. In 1977, when he became archbishop, the police shot down 24 people. Tragically, Romero was killed only three years later. Even at his funeral, the killings continued. Yet, today, Oscar Romero is widely beloved and remembered. His life and memory of him are unintendingly tied to San Salvador's dark past.

Can I drink tap water in El Salvador?

P

Do not drink tap water in El Salvador; bring your self-cleaning bottle instead! While water from the National Water Company (ANDA) is generally safe, you never know the water source the restaurant, hotels, and so on may use.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Trash: Often, you'll find food vendors selling typical Nicaraguan dishes on the go. It's not just delicious but cheap. To avoid plastic wrapping, choose to buy your food at the bus stations and have them put it in your collapsible container. Bring your water filter or UV bottle to avoid having to buy bottled water.

Sunscreen: Protect Marine life and wear reef-friendly sunscreen!

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing El Salvador

El Salvador is super diverse and offers plenty of things to do. Check out our packing list, and get ready for an incredible adventure!

Find everything from eco-friendly toiletries to the only travel shoes you’ll ever want to exciting travel gadgets!

Places to visit in El Salvador

Do not skip El Salvador! It’s one of the most amazing countries to visit in Central America!

San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

San Salvador | a resilient capital, rich in history, scars and hope

San Salvador, El Salvador’s resilient heart. The capital bears deeps scares, many of them still visible at Centro Histórico and in the hearts and memories of its inhabitants. Its heartache was omnipresent, yet the city’s fierce determination for a better future, its hopes and aspirations are infectious and the reason why San Salvador is our favorite capital in Central America.

read more

Portland: lush vegetation, chill vibes and beautiful scenery

Portland: lush vegetation, chill vibes and beautiful scenery

THINGS TO DO IN PORTLAND

JAMAICA
Portland Itinerary

Waterfalls, lush greenery, turquoise waters and charming villages

Duration: at least 10 days

Budget: $ 75 per day

Portland is my favorite Parish in Jamaica when it comes to scenery. I love coming here after getting wild in Kingston to unwind, relax, and take in the stunning nature. Compared to Negril and Montego Bay, Portland is a lot more authentic and rural.

Portland gets the most rainfall and is lush and green, offering many outdoor activities. Some of Jamaica’s most beautiful waterfalls, such as the Reach Falls, can be visited from Portland.

Portland’s beaches are some of my favorite in all of Jamaica. I love Portie because it is so laid back and still manages to maintain an authentic charm, even though development has increased.

  • Sight Seeing 40% 40%
  • Beaches 70% 70%
  • Day-Trips 95% 95%
  • Party 100% 100%

If you want to find the best beaches in Jamaica, head straight for Portland. Several stunning sandy stretches with unique vibes run along this Jamaica’s eastern coastline! In addition, I love discovering the vibes of the different villages along the coast.

Winnifred Beach - full of vibes

Winnifred Beach is a must if you want to mix with locals and experience the vibe. On weekends, the music is pumping, folks profiling, taking selfies, couples cuddling, families relaxing, and the food is cooked from the vendors who have food stands. In addition, you might find yourself doing a little shopping with the artisans showcasing their labor. To me, Winnifred beach had some of the best beach vibes in all of Jamaica.

You’ll be asked for a voluntary donation at the entrance to support keeping the facilities and beach clean. Winnifred beach has by far the best food options of all the beaches in Portland. 

Me at winnifred beach in Portland, Jamaica
Me at Frenchman's Cove Beach in Portland, Jamaica

Frenchman's Cove - breathtakingly beautiful

Frenchman’s Cove is a little paradise in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Frenchman’s Cove is a small beach with pristine sand and the bluest water breaks. The area mixes fresh and salt to make an enticing natural pool on one side with beautiful colors ranging from Blue to Green! Pay attention: as you walk from the entrance to the beach, you’ll notice that the trees have little signs. Frenchman’s Cove is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. The entrance fee is only $10, and a restaurant is on site. However, the food is only so-so.

San San Beach - snorkel & enjoy the tranquility

San San Beach is a beautiful, private beach near Frenchman’s Cove. You can enjoy this gorgeous stretch of white sand and turquoise water for a small entrance fee. If you’re ready for a challenge, you can swim to Pellew Island, about 200 meters from the shore. San San Beach is also one of the best beaches for snorkeling. Several reefs off the coast have legally enforceable fishing restrictions to swim and explore without worry.

San San Beach in Portland Jamaica
Long Bay beach im Portland, Jamaica

Long Bay - the Kingstonians' weekend getaway

Long Bay in Portland, Jamaica, is great for catching the vibes and relaxing. The town is small and chill, with plenty of restaurants and bars serving food by the beach. All accommodations in Long Bay are within walking distance of the beach. The stretch of beach is vast and offers plenty of space for sunbathing. Sadly, during my visit, the beach was rather polluted with plastics. However, I still enjoyed my time in Long Bay. Wild Ponies Beach Bar by the beach is always a vibe, and you’ll even have bonfires on Wednesdays. Acai Cafe across the street not only serves the BEST coffee in all of Jamaica but also hosts parties on the weekends!

Boston Bay

Boston Jerk Center  – Home to Jamaica’s best Jerk!

What’s certain is that the Boston Bay Jerk Center is one of the most popular and well-known places to get Jerk in all of Jamaica.

Jamaican Jerk is a culinary tradition that is centuries old. The term “jerk” refers to how meat is seasoned, smoked, and grilled. Jerk seasoning usually includes Jamaican bird peppers, pimento, and pepper elder. However, modern recipes may include Scotch bonnet peppers, scallions, garlic, ginger, pimento, thyme, and cinnamon. Jamaican Jerk is a remnant from the era of slavery when Maroons would transform tough cuts of meat into tender, delicious dishes. Today, Jamaican Jerk is enjoyed by people all over the world. It is a delightful and healthy way to season the meat. Jamaican Jerk is a culinary tradition that everyone should celebrate and enjoy.

The annual festival celebrating jerk brings together Reggae musicians with drinks tastings set against an exciting competition where participants showcase recipes. The festival takes place in July. Entry starts at $25.

IMG 5871

Surfing in Boston Bay

The beach at Boston Bay is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. The shoreline offers soft white sand, great waves to surf, and delicious Jamaican food you can enjoy while relaxing! The water was always super calm when I visited Boston Bay, making it perfect for swimming.

Skating in Boston Bay

Boston is maybe the coolest village nestled along Potland’s highway. The good surf has attracted surfers in Jamaica ever since. Now you’ll also find Boston BMX and SKATE Park attracting locals and visitors alike.

 

Portland's stunning Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon The gorgeous Blue Lagoon is one of the most beautiful sights to see in Jamaica. The water changes its color depending on where there’s light from. Once considered bottomless, the Blue Lagoon is an underwater sinkhole about 180 feet deep. You can get there by Route Taxi from Port Antonio in only 20 minutes. I loved visiting the Blue Lagoon early on a weekday. It was super quiet, and I truly enjoyed the serenity of the place. It’s popular and busy on the weekends. I went for a short boat ride to a nearby Pellew Island, which was a fantastic way to spend the afternoon as the waters were magical!

Ackee in Jamaica
Secret waterfalls in Portland, Jamaica

Cool down at the waterfalls in Portland

Portland is Jamaica’s wettest parish, resulting in lush greenery and making it a nature lover’s paradise, with four spectacular waterfalls to explore.

Reach Falls is the most popular, and for a good reason—it’s easily accessible. You can swim in the refreshing pools beneath the falls. However, the other waterfalls are well worth the effort to reach. If you plan on visiting Reach Falls, I can highly recommend you go in the morning during the low season. Reach Falls is one of Jamaica’s most popular sites and, therefore, super busy. 

Nanny Falls is where the Maroons (Jamaica’s runaway enslaved people) hid from their pursuers.

At Nonsuch Falls, you can swing out over the waterfall on a rope for an unforgettable experience.

Portland is truly a place where you can connect with nature and feel your cares melting away.

If you feel like visiting Jamaica’s secret and remote waterfalls, get in touch with my friend Birgitta from @streetsofjamaica. She knows the most beautiful spots to hang out.

Discover the Blue Mountains

From Port Antonio, you can easily explore Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. This massive mountain range covers over half of the island and is home to Jamaica’s most stunning scenery. You have plenty of hiking trails and several waterfalls, and natural pools to cool off in.

If you want a truly unique experience, check out the Maroons. These are descendants of enslaved Africans who escaped from their captors and established communities in the remote areas of the Blue Mountains. The Maroons still maintain many of their traditional customs and beliefs. You can learn about their culture by staying in one of their villages.

Rastafarians are also prevalent in the Blue Mountains. They, too, have created communities where they practice their religion and way of life. Suppose you’re interested in learning more about Rastafarianism. In that case, several tours and activities will allow you to do so. Just be respectful of these communities and make sure to comply with customs. To learn more about things to consider when staying at a Rastafarian village. School of vision is a fantastic place to stay and catch the vibe.

IMG 5282
Rafting Rio Grande River, Jamaica

Rafting Rio Grande River

Where there are waterfalls, naturally you’ll find plenty of rivers. Because river rafting seemed like one of the most touristy things to do, it took me 3 visits to Jamaica until I finally decided to raft down the Rio Grande River in Portland. Berrydale, located 30-40 minutes from Port Antonio, is the perfect starting point for your rafting adventure in Portland. I loved that, contrary to other rafting experiences in Jamaica, I was lucky to enjoy the stunning scenery away from the crowds. 

Rafting was originally a form of transporting bananas from the plantations. However, Errol Fylnn, who once lived in Portland, enjoyed taking in the beautiful scenery from the raft and started a tourist trend. Rafting Rio Grande will take you along the river for about 1.5 hours till you reach Belinda’s restaurant, a charming no-fuss authentic Jamaican restaurant by the river. After lunch, it will take about an hour to reach the finishing point. 

Fairy Hill - the best place to stay

Fairy Hill is, in my opinion, one of the best places to stay in Portland. The village has grown naturally, and while many guest houses are springing up, Fairy Hill keeps its distinct charm. To me, Fairy Hill offers everything for a perfect Jamaican getaway: It’s also ideally located right in the middle between Frenchman’s Cove and Boston Beach making it easy to get to both. The locals are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. There are some great food options, such as Ital’ish and Aya Naturals. And: there is a tiny bit of nightlife going on!

By the way: Fairy Hill is also home to one of my favorite places to stay in Jamaica: Rass Rod’s charming home! You can find Rass Rod’s house on Airbnb.

Rass Rod's home: the best place to stay in Fairy Hill Jamaica
church in Port Antonio, Jamaica

Port Antonio

Port Antonio is the place to be for backpackers coming to Portland. The midsized no-fuzz town is a lively vibe and is the perfect point to base yourself on and start exploring Portland.

Nestled along the marinara, you’ll find plenty of authentic restaurants, shopping, a decent weekend market, and cool parties! Charming old churches and buildings are sprinkled between colorful Caribbean houses.

The Errol Flynn Marina almost makes it seem like you are in Europe. It’s a nice spot to come and hang out. You’ll also find a Devon House there if you feel like ice cream. There is plenty of route taxis to keep you moving around Portland Parish.

Many of Portland’s most stunning waterfalls, such as Reach Falls and Nanny Falls, are best visited from Port Antonio.

Port Antonio Party schedule:

Sundays: Celebrations Sundays

Mondays: Iconic Mondays

Tuesdays: Quarts Tuesdays

Thursdays: Road Block

Fridays: Intense Fridays; Jungle party @livingdaylightsja

Practical travel tips for Portland & Jamaica

Which language is spoken in Jamaica?

P

The official language is English, but you'll also hear Jamaican Patois spoken throughout the country. It's a colorful and vibrant mix of English, West African languages, and Spanish influences. Don't be afraid to interact with locals and try out some basic phrases in Patois - they'll appreciate the effort and you may even learn a thing or two.

What is the offical currency in Jamaica?

P

The Jamaican dollar is the official currency and is accepted everywhere on the island. However, US dollars are widely accepted as well, so it's always a good idea to have some cash in both currencies. You can easily exchange your money at banks or ATMs throughout the city. Just be aware that the exchange rate may vary, so it's best to check before making a transaction. Also, don't forget to tip - it's customary in Jamaica and greatly appreciated by service industry workers. So make sure you have some small bills on hand for tipping at restaurants, bars, and hotels.

What is the best time to visit Kingston?

P

The climate stays pleasant all year round. It might rain a bit more during hurricane season from June to September, but you still won't get bored on rainy days!

Kingston is home to many festival and events, so if you want to check them out, plan your dates accordingly.

Is Portland safe for travelers?

P

As a female traveler, I felt safe. Portland is very quiet at night and there is not so much going on. Downtown Port Antonio gets somewhat sketchy in the late hours.

Is there an ATM in Portland?

P

In Portland, getting Jamaican dollars from ATMs or exchanges is not always possible, especially in the villages. Get money in Port Antonio.

Public Transport in Portland, Jamaica

P

Route Taxis go around the Port Antonio area and even down to Fairy Hill and Boston Bay. The further South you go, the fewer Route Taxis on the roads.

Public Bus: The bus stop is downtown Port Antonio and Anotto Bay. I couldn't find a schedule. They seem to go more frequently than the Knutsford.

Be aware that the time stated refers to calculated driving time, not the actual time to reach a destination. Adding to the driving time are stops and bus switches which are not apparent when buying the ticket. Due to Covid, there are fewer buses than usual, and it is better to buy the ticket online.

Can I drink tap water in Jamaica?

P

Even though Jamaica is considered a third-world country, it provides the best water quality in the region. You are, therefore, safe to drink tap water. This is especially true in the cities. However, if it makes you feel uneasy, bring a water purifier.

What's the biggest challenge for the conscious traveler?

P

Tourism leakage: Jamaica is a tropical paradise that's adored by tourists worldwide, but it has a problem that's hidden from sight - tourism leakage. This phenomenon refers to the loss of revenue that occurs when international hotel chains capture a large chunk of tourist dollars, leaving very little money behind to benefit the local economy. If you're among the millions of visitors who flock to Jamaica every year, there's a simple way to help mitigate the effects of tourism leakage: support Jamaican-owned hotels, shops, and restaurants. By doing so, you can put your money where your heart is - and give the people of Jamaica a chance to thrive. So don't be shy about seeking out local businesses on your next vacation. Your decision to keep tourism dollars within Jamaica could make a world of difference.

Beach access

While Jamaica is known for its beautiful beaches, there have been some issues with access to these public spaces. In recent years, many resorts and private properties have restricted access to certain parts of the beach, making it incredibly difficult for locals to maintain their life and right to the sea. Support public beaches and say no to all-inclusive tourism!

Trash

Make sure to bring a foldable food container and cutlery with you! The amount of waste caused by food sold on the street is incredible.

Sunscreen

Make sure to protect Jamaica's marine life and bring reef-friendly sunscreen!

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Jamaica

As you see, there are plenty of things to experience in Jamaica. To come fully prepared, check out my packing list for Jamaica, which includes everything from eco-friendly toiletries to sustainable fashion and even the coolest travel gadgets!

Traveling Jamaica?

Jamaica Itinerary

Places to visit in Jamaica

I’ll be going back to Jamaica for the fourth time this April. I promise you: no matter how many times you’ll return, you’ll always discover something new in Jamaica!

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Safety Tips for Solo Female Travelers

I’m excited to share with you some invaluable safety tips garnered from my own experiences, aiming to equip fellow wanderlust-driven women with the confidence and know-how to explore the world on their own terms, safely and securely.

read more