Costa Rica Off the Beaten Path: Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Off the Beaten Path: Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica

OSA PENINSULA

Costa Rica
Osa Peninsula Itinerary

Discover Costa Rica off the beaten path

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 130 per day

Stay: Poor Man’s Paradise Lodge or Corcovado Guest House

Most people who visit Costa Rica end up at places like Arenal, Monteverde, and Manuel Antonio. Those places are stunning and absolutely should be visited! However, there’s an off-the-beaten-path that is one of Costa Rica’s best-kept secrets. This destination is the Osa Peninsula. It holds an astounding 2.5% of the WORLD’S biodiversity within its 700 square miles of land, and National Geographic named it the “most biologically intense place on earth.” The area is well-preserved and teeming with natural beauty and wildlife.

Sustainable travel at its finest

The Osa Peninsula is on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coast. It takes six hours to get there by car or a short 45-minute propeller plane ride to its tiny regional airport. There are a few small towns on the peninsula, but it is relatively undeveloped. The tour companies, hotels, and locals who live there are highly committed to sustainability, making it a model for eco-travel. The Osa Peninsula is a fantastic travel destination that you can feel good about visiting.

Why is it a secret? The truth is, most people don’t have the time or want to make an effort to visit.
The pristine flora and fauna that make it so unique also make it difficult to reach. If you decide to
make the journey there, you’ll experience one of the most beautiful places in the world without too
many tourists.

Visit Corcovado National Park One

National Park. This nature preserve makes up 1/3 of the Osa Peninsula and is Costa Rica’s crowning jewel. The park is home to an incredible variety of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, toucans, and iguanas. I was fascinated by the capuchin monkeys that inhabit the park, and I also saw plenty of other animals during my three-day tour. The experience of observing such a wide range of creatures in their natural habitat was truly unforgettable. The park is also outstanding, with lush rainforest and pristine beaches.

Some exciting places to see in the Corcovado National Park:

· La Sirena: a place where you can see bull sharks and alligators
· Leona: the best place to see turtle births
· El Tigre: some of the park’s best viewpoints
· Los Patos: Rincón River, waterfalls, and tall trees

Granada, Nicaragua: market

Stay at an Eco Lodge

The Osa Peninsula is a prime sustainable tourism destination with outstanding eco-lodges. These places seemingly blend into the jungles surrounding them (or have private jungles). One of our favorite places to stay on the peninsula is the Playa Cativo Lodge because it’s an all-inclusive experience perched between the water and wilderness. It’s an outstanding Osa Peninsula eco-lodge that checks all the boxes.

Surf some of Costa Rica's best waves

Local Ticos (Costa Ricans) know that the country’s best surf spots are on the Osa Peninsula. There are consistent breaks that are ideal for surfers of all skill levels. Playa Matapalo, in the Cabo Matapalo, is the best surfing spot in the Osa Peninsula. Some Ticos claim that you can ride up to 1,000 feet on a single wave on a good day!

Granada, Nicaragua: colorful houses
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Hang out in Puerto Jimenez

Puerto Jimenez is the starting point for many Osa Peninsula tours, but it is also worth checking out. It is one of the few developed places in the area but still blends seamlessly into nature. There is a fantastic wildlife sanctuary, delicious local restaurants, and intriguing shops there. If you’re looking
for something exciting to do in the evenings, the town has the area’s best nightlife.

Go on a canopy tour

Canopy tours are a popular activity on the Osa Peninsula. You can explore the lush rainforest up close and personal by zooming through the trees. Tours typically have ziplines, suspension bridges, and Tarzan swings that provide unique vantage points. On the ground, tours typically provide local snacks and beverages. Canopy tours use eco-friendly technology that doesn’t disturb the surrounding ecology.

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Get ready to travel Osa Peninsula

How to get to the Osa Peninsula:

Two main ways to reach the Osa Peninsula from San José are driving and taking a propeller plane. If you’re driving, you’ll want a four-wheel vehicle because there are many dirt roads and streams (with no bridges). The journey can take up to 8 hours, and you should not attempt this in one sitting.
Driving is an excellent option if you plan on visiting other areas, such as Manuel Antonio, Uvita, and Dominical.

The most popular way to get to the peninsula is by plane. Sansa Air is a domestic airline that makes the hour-long trip between San José and Puerto Jimenez.

Best time to visit the Osa Peninsula:

The climate on the Osa Peninsula is tropical, with lots of heat and humidity. The best season to visit is from December to May during the dry season because hurricanes often pass through during the rainy season.

Safety in the Osa Peninsula:

Costa Rica as a country is generally one of the safest places in Latin America. The biggest threat to tourists on the Osa Peninsula is Mother Nature. It is a very humid location, so reef-safe sunscreen and lots of water are essential. As with any destination, it’s critical to be aware of your surroundings
and belongings.

Nightlife and entertainment:

The best nightlife on the Osa Peninsula is in Puerto Jimenez. You’ll find plenty of places that host DJs playing everything from the blues to salsa music.

Tap water

The tap water is by no means suitable to drink. Bring your Lifestraw Pro to avoid plastic pollution and keep your drinks cool.

Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler

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!

Traveling Costa Rica?

Other Central American Destinations

Places to visit in Costa Rica

 

Kingston, Jamaica – the place to be

Kingston, Jamaica – the place to be

The location of Jamaica’s capital is picturesque, nestled between the blue mountains and the Caribbean sea. While the city itself wouldn’t be considered a beauty by its looks, it is full of vibes, culture, and amazing people. While most travel guides don’t make Kingston sound like the most attractive destination, it will reward those who look and feel behind the obvious and are willing to give it some time.

read more

Pearl of the Indian ocean – Best beaches in Zanzibar

Pearl of the Indian ocean – Best beaches in Zanzibar

Zanzibar’s Beaches

TANZANIA
Zanzibar’s Beach Itinerary

A guide to Zanzibar's beaches

Duration: at least two weeks

We loved mainland Tanzania, and the experiences surpassed our imagination. After our eventful time on the mainland, we were yearning for some lazy days in the sun. Zanzibar not only affords its visitors some of the best beaches in the Indian Ocean, but it’s also within comfortable and cheap reach of Tanzania’s mainland.

Discover Zanzibar’s best beaches

The beaches in Zanzibar are stunning. White palm trees seam white sandy beaches with perfectly turquoise water. Even though Zanzibar has been a popular tourist destination for quite some time, you’ll still find authentic, quiet villages and empty beaches.

  • Windsurfing 70% 70%
  • Relaxation 100% 100%
  • Activities 80% 80%
  • Pristine waters 100% 100%

Zanzibar’s tides


The tides on Zanzibar can be strong and affect both swimming and sunbathing. The best time to swim is during high tide when the water is more shallow. The best time to sunbathe is during low tide when the water is further out and there is more space on the beach. Be sure to check the tide times before heading to the beach. Zanzibar’s beaches are beautiful, and with a bit of planning, you can make sure you have the perfect day.

Nungwi Beach, Sansibar Strand

Zanzibar’s best beaches beaches

Nungwi

Nungwi, a small village in the Northwest, is about 1 hour from Stone Town by car. We decided to go to Nungwi first because we felt like dry tomatoes after our time in the African savannah, and Nungwi is “swimmable” almost all day. Nungwi has quickly become a tourist hub and one of the most famous beaches on Zanzibar. Fortunately, we found a quiet, small, deserted bay right by our homestay. The local village center is super charming, unlike some rather touristy souvenir stands by the beach. Check out Highland Bar in Nungwi, a popular place in the village with relaxed vibes (and WIFI).

Community tourism in Nungwi

Our homestay experience in Nungwi, Zanzibar After our super pleasant homestay experiences in mainland Tanzania, we were eager to meet our Zanzibarian hosts. In Nungwi, we stayed with Jimmy, his lovely wife Fatima, their baby, and their nephew Abdula. Not only did we share meals, but the family welcomingly invited us to join their daily life. Jimmy took us to the village center, showed us where to buy the best groceries, and Fatima taught us about cooking. Bent over an open fire, we learned quite a lot about Zanzibar’s history, family life, and the famous spices. Staying with a local family also put us away from the main tourist attractions. Often we would have the beach almost to ourselves.

Best places to stay in Nungwi

 

Nungwi Strand - junger Massai macht einen Handstand
tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Michamvi Kae

Michamvi Kae won our hearts. This part of the island is very chill, with relatively many Rastafarians. Michamvi Kae is a super picturesque village seemed by beautiful beach stretches.
Some bars and restaurants at the beach have a relaxed Hakuna Matata vibe. Our favorite beach on Zanzibar We couldn’t swim during low tide because the sea withdraws quite a lot. But we used the low tide to walk for miles. Despite some fishermen, nobody crossed our path. There are some lush green mangroves right by the water. Michamvi is the place to unwind and let go. Our peaceful bungalow and Yousuf’s gentle spirit made our stay in Michamvi special. Of course, we spent our days following our inner desires, but we mainly used the time there to reflect and calm down. 

Best places to stay in Michamvi

    • Sagando Bungalows Zanzibar
    • Eden Paradise

Paje Beach, Zanzibar

Paje beach is one of Zanzibar’s best beaches. It’s located on the East coast. It is a beautiful beach that has become much more popular recently. The water is crystal clear, and plenty of palm trees provide shade. The breeze makes it a mecca for kitesurfers and water sports enthusiasts. Paje is also a great place to try out Zanzibar’s famous seafood dishes. So if you’re looking for a good vibe and a stunning beach, Paje beach is the perfect spot. 

Best places to stay in Paje

    • The Nest
    • Liquid Life by Buccaneer
Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Granada, Nicaragua: dani in front of church

Jambiani Beach, Zanzibar

Jambiani Beach is located on the Southeast coast of Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise water and plenty of coral reefs to explore. Jambiani is a great place to snorkel, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy. If you’re looking for a beach with a little more activity, Jambiani is the perfect spot. 

Best places to stay in Jambiani

Kendwa Beach, Zanzibar

Kendwa beach is located on the Northwest coast of Zanzibar. It’s a beautiful sandy beach with turquoise water and plenty of coral reefs to explore. Kendwa is a great place to snorkel, and there are plenty of restaurants and bars to enjoy. We visited Kendwa village and loved it here! Despite the more prominent hotels, you’ll find some charming smaller Boutique Hotels there too. Some of them take part in responsible waste management efforts.

Best places to stay in Kendwa

    • Varadero Boutique hotel
    • La Fontana Restaurant & Bungalows

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Get ready to travel Zanzibar

Public Transport on Zanzibar

It’s effortless to travel the island by daladla. You should give it a try! Daladalas are the cheapest way to cross the island. Since Zanzibar is not too big, it doesn’t take too long to get around.

Best time to travel Zanzibar's beaches:

We visited Zanzibar in October and November, which is the shoulder season. It’s the perfect time to visit Zanzibar’s beaches as you most likely will have them to yourself. The rainy season on Zanzibar lasts from March to May. Expect some rain in November and December, too

Tides on Zanzibar

Most of Zanzibar is profoundly affected by the tides. Some beaches become unswimmable. Make sure you check the tide calendar. Swimming is only possible at high tide. Kendwa and Nungwi, the most touristic spots, form the exception. Check out the tide calendar beforehand.

Money

Load up on cash before heading to Zanzibar’s beaches. Unfortunately, ATMs are hard to find.

Safety on Zanzibar

The security instructions of Germany’s Federal Foreign Office could make you shudder. While we could feel some tension, mainly at night in Stone Town, we felt comfortably safe elsewhere on the island. Locals are super friendly and helpful. They will let you know when it’s time to be more careful. In touristic centers, additional caution is required, meaning you shouldn’t be walking alone.

Places to stay on Zanzibar

You will find everything from simple hostels to expensive luxury accommodations on Zanzibar. However, we can only recommend one of the many homestay experiences in Zanzibar.

Tap water

You can not drink tap water in Zanzibar without risking becoming sick. Bring your Lifestraw Pro and enjoy cool drinks while avoiding plastic pollution.

Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler

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 Lifestraw Pro to avoid having to buy bottled
water.
Sunscreen: Protect marine life and use reef-friendly sunscreen.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Tanzania

Tanzania is one of the most diverse and beautiful countries in the world. You can explore bustling cities, go on safari to see some of the most incredible wildlife on earth or relax on some of the best beaches in Africa.

Check out our packing list to prepare for all Tanzania has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.

 

Going to Tanzania?

Let us inspire you!
More African destinations

Places to visit in Tanzania

With its diverse cultures, beautiful nature and rich history Tanzania is a country not to be forgotten.

Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches

Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches

BEST BEACHES IN ECUADOR

Pacific
Pacific Coast Itinerary

Ecuador's pristine beaches

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 35 per day

Ecuador, the small Andean country, offers its visitors plenty of things to discover. Quito, the highest capital in the world, picturesque villages, Quichua cultureAmazonian rainforest, and not to forget: the Galapagos islands. Many travelers, therefore, decide to skip the Pacific coast (as Dani did). However, Ecuador’s coast offers excellent surfing, deserted beaches, and charming villages. Ecuador’s coast is a truly underrated gem that you should not miss.

Ecuador’s 2237 miles of coastline offer the perfect beach for everyone. If you are seeking relaxation, you will find peace in Canoa. Mompiche offers more adventures and excitement, while Puerto Lopez offers vast empty beaches and excellent whale watching. If you are into surfing, we’d recommend you to visit Montañita, which is also a popular backpacker’s hotspot.

While Dani was off to explore Mindo by horse, Lauri returned to Ecuador’s Pacific coast for the 4th time. 

Mompiche

Mompiche is a small fishing village located on Ecuador’s Pacific coast. The town is known for its dramatic black sand beaches, perfect for surfing and exploring. Mompiche is also home to several charming restaurants and cafes, making it the ideal place to relax and soak up the atmosphere.

The waves here are some of the best in the country, and there is a surf school right on the beach if you want to learn how to ride them. Mompiche is also an excellent place for those who want to explore more of Ecuador’s coast, as there are plenty of deserted beaches to discover nearby.

There is also plenty of opportunity for hiking and exploring the nearby jungle. We stayed right by Playa Negra – a beautiful black sand beach that is definitely worth a visit. Even if you’re not into surfing, the beach is still worth a visit for its stunning scenery.

 

Best place to stay in Mompiche:

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Puerto Lopez - birth grounds from humpback whales

If Puerto Lopez is known for anything, it’s whale watching.

Every year, between June and September, humpback whales come to the waters off Puerto Lopez to mate and give birth making Puerto Lopez one of the best places in Ecuador (and indeed, the world) to see these magnificent creatures up close. In addition to whale watching, Puerto Lopez is also home to several beautiful beaches, making it the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun.

Hundreds of majestic animals gather off the coast of Isla de la Plata to Mate. So if you are in Ecuador from June to the end of September, don’t miss this natural spectacle. The tour should cost around $50. Please make sure that you ask beforehand not to get too close to the whales to reduce the stress somewhat.

Best place to stay in Puerto Lopez:

Playa los Frailes - scenery and party

It is only a stone’s throw from Puerto Lopez to Los Frailes, probably the most beautiful beach in Ecuador. The picture-postcard beach is located in Ecuador’s only National Park, Parque Nacional Machalilla. It is surrounded by tropical dry forests, a cloud forest, archaeological sites, and the Pacific Ocean. The beach of Los Frailes is genuinely unique. You can find all Ecuador’s different landscapes in one place, plus a good party on the weekend!

Best place to stay in Los Frailes:

  • Hostal Machalilla

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

Canoa - Ecuador's coolest beach town

Canoa is a small beach town about an hour’s drive from Puerto Lopez. Canoa is the perfect place to relax and escape the hustle and bustle of city life. The town has a laid-back vibe and plenty of cafes, bars, and restaurants to enjoy.

Canoa is our favorite beach town in Ecuador. Kilometers of beaches, great surf spots, good cocktails, and the most relaxed inhabitants. The bamboo huts are equipped with hammocks, perfect for chilling during short rainfalls. We loved to explore the towering cliffs at low tide. Canoa is also the place to try paragliding! The 12 miles of beach offer breathtaking views!

On top of that, the region is known for having the best food in Ecuador! Canoa is a foodie haven! Our absolute favorite is Tigrillo: The vegetarian delicacy of plantains, eggs, and cheese is the perfect Ecuadorian breakfast.

 

Best place to stay in Canoa:

Montañita - Backpacker & Surf Scene

Montañita is the southernmost point of the four coastal towns and is only an hour’s bus ride from Puerto Lopez. Known for the best surf waves and cheap accommodation, Montañita has become a backpacker’s paradise. Here you can find the sun, great surf, and lively nightlife. If you are looking for a cool surf scene, then Montañita is probably the place for you!

 

Best places to stay in Montañita:

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Get ready to travel Ecuador

The best time to travel to Ecuador's beaches

Travel to the Pacific coast from December to May to get as much sunshine as possible. Even though it is the rainy season, it’s sunny and hot. The rainfalls pass quickly.

From June to November, it is often dry but mostly cloudy.

How to travel Ecuador's coast

The coastal villages can be reached from Quito by bus in one day (approx. 7-10 h). Therefore, we can only recommend you take the night bus. It’s very comfortable, and you will find yourself in dreamy fishing villages when you get off the bus in the morning.

The earthquake of 2016

On the coast, you can feel the Afro-Ecuadorian culture. In the sleepy villages, the people are very cordial and wait patiently for every visitor.

After a terrible earthquake in April 2016 shook Ecuador’s Pacific coast, entire villages collapsed. Tourism is vital for people on the beach.

Safety along Ecuador's coast

The aftereffects of the earthquake are still noticeable, with communities that are not directly on the beach most affected. Be careful to stray too far away after sunset. Robberies do occur from time to time.

Tap water

Make sure to bring your Lifestraw Pro to enjoy cool water while avoiding buying plastic bottles. 

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Sunscreen: Protect the unique ecosystem and be extra careful to use reef-friendly sunscreens. 

Plastic: To avoid unnecessary plastic pollution, bring your collapsable food container, cutlery, and a Lifestraw Pro

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Screenshot 2022 10 16 at 17.09.10

Best Eco Lodges in Ecuador

With its lush rainforests, beautiful beaches, and abundance of wildlife, Ecuador is a nature-lover’s dream come true.

But what makes Ecuador truly unique is its commitment to sustainable tourism. From composting toilets at eco-lodges to reforestation projects, Ecuador is working hard to preserve its natural resources.

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Galapagos island – an alternate universe

Galapagos island – an alternate universe

Galapagos Islands

ECUADOR
Galapagos Itinerary

Backpacking the Galapagos Islands

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $125 per day

A visit to the Galapagos Islands with its unique inhabitants has long been on our bucket list. The volcanic archipelago is known for its unique wildlife, including sea lions, lizards, and giant tortoises.The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, about 1000 kilometers from the Ecuadorian mainland. The islands are renowned for their unique and diverse wildlife, which was studied by Charles Darwin during his famous voyage on the Beagle.

Imagine a place where sea lions and lizards are just hanging out in the village like it’s the most normal thing to do. That’s the Galapagos islands for you! We were blown away after our first minutes.

Shortly after purchasing our flights, we were getting a little worried: the Galapagos islands are supposedly one of the most expensive destinations in South America! There was no way we would be able to afford a Galapagos cruise, so we decided to backpack the islands. Although most of the islands are uninhabited and can only be visited by cruise ship, there are three populated islands (San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela) where you can backpack and explore on your own. This article will share tips on traveling the Galapagos Islands without a cruise.

San Cristobal- the island of the sea lions

San Christobal mesmerized us within the first minutes of discovering the town. The closer you get to the Malecon, the more sea lions you’ll see! It’s incredible how they seamlessly integrate into the city. You won’t see stray dogs; instead, you’ll spot sea lions casually hanging out on benches, in front of houses, or even in bathrooms. We couldn’t believe our eyes!

San Cristobal offers plenty of things to do, and we could have spent much more time there! Despite the cheaper things to discover on your own, plenty of tour operators offer 360-degree tours, dive excursions, and day trips to nearby islands.

Best places to taste Tanzania’s cuisine

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

San Cristobal | La Galapaguera Tortoise Habitat

It was our first time to see giant turtles and one of the main reasons to visit the Galapagos islands! The hundreds of year-old tortoises are free to roam around the area as they please, so you must keep your eyes open. We were lucky to arrive late (as always) around lunchtime, and it seemed like the tortoises were having lunch, too! We were lucky and saw about 20 giant tortoises as they all came together to one feeding spot! It’s incredible to imagine how old they are, how many things they’ve seen, and how they go on with their lives. We would have loved to interview one of those giants about their life perspectives! The center is also a breeding center, so we also got to see babies and mid-agers (younger than 100 years).

San Cristobal | Playa Puerto Chino

This picturesque beach, located about 30 km from the main settlement, is the perfect spot to relax after visiting the turtle conversation center. However, it’s not easy to get there. You can either go there by bike (it’s challenging), on tour or rent a taxi. Sadly, we couldn’t find any buses. So we took the most accessible and cheapest option. Our taxi driver dropped us off at the turtle conversation center, and we agreed he’d pick us up at Playa Puerto Chino in the late afternoon.

You’ll reach the secluded beach after a walk of about 10 minutes. The bay is home to sea lions, and we had the beach entirely to ourselves when we went. It was terrific to observe sea lions in their natural environment.

Helpful tip: There are no restaurants nor any other facilities. So bring your food and drinks if you are without a tour. We ended up quite hungry. Also, bring bug spray because there are some horse flies around. They’ll only bother you on the way to or from the beach.

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

San Cristobal |Playa Mann

Our favorite beach on Cristobal! Why? We loved hanging out amongst the many sea lions who made this stretch of beach their home. Also, it’s the only beach we could find offering tasty, affordable, authentic food! It was the first beach we had discovered, and we loved watching the sunset from there. It’s a spot also visited by locals, especially during sunset hours. It was lovely to hang out and make new friends.

Santa Cruz | Turtles and touristic hub

Since we only figured out that it was easy to hop between the islands, our trip to Santa Cruz was spontaneous and unplanned. We were going to skip Santa Cruz for Isabella when a tour operator offered us a 360-degree tour for as little as 30$ each. He told us he had only two Bolivians on that tour and wanted to fill it up. So even though we got to spend very little time on the island, we got a good overview of what it had to offer.

Santa Cruz is, without a doubt, the touristic center of the Islands. The island is conveniently located right between Isla Isabella and San Cristobal. On the one hand, the tour gave us a good overview, but to be honest, we didn’t like running from one site to the other.

Best places to stay in Santa Cruz

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Santa Cruz |El Chato tortoise center

Our favorite thing to do in Santa Cruz was by far the visit to the El Chato, the giant tortoise center! We didn’t spot as many as in San Cristobal, but we could see them from an even shorter distance, and they are even bigger!

Santa Cruz |Las Grietas

On our tour, we also visited Las Grietas, a water tunnel that offers excellent snorkeling. You must hire a water taxi or walk about 20 minutes from the main pier to get there. It gets pretty crowded, though, with many people jumping and taking pictures. The walk there through unique fauna was more our thing.

Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon
Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Santa Cruz |Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is one of our favorite places in the Galapagos. It’s a beautiful, secluded beach perfect for a relaxing day. It is split into two parts: the angry (brava) beach and the calm (mansa) beach.

How to get to Tortuga Bay

The Tortuga Bay trailhead is located at the end of Charles Binford Avenue, a few blocks behind the main tourist dock area close to Las Ninfas and hotel Fiesta. Just follow the path for about a mile and a half (30-45 minutes from the trailhead) to arrive. The trail is paved, flat, and easy, leading through an old lava field colonized by Palo Santo trees and Opuntia cacti. It is a pleasant walk, accompanied by Darwin’s Finches and Galapagos Mockingbirds flitting between the trees and the melodic tunes of Yellow Warblers. Don’t forget to look to the ground, where red-throated lava lizards scurry around the dry brush habitat. When you arrive at Tortuga Bay, you’ll be greeted by white sand beaches and turquoise waters. It’s truly a paradise!

 You can also reach Tortuga Bay by boat. The journey takes about 20 minutes and costs around US$10 per person. Boat departure times vary, so checking at the dock for information before setting off is advisable.

Galapagos 65

Santa Cruz|Playa Brava

Strong currents & great surf

As you reach the end of the trail arriving at Tortuga Bay, your first sight of white sand will be Playa Brava. The water currents here are powerful and most suitable for surfing. However, this is a strictly no-swimming zone as it can be dangerous.

Galapagos 72

Santa Cruz |Playa Mansa

Calm waters & wildlife

Save your swimming for Mansa Beach, where the water is crystal clear and much calmer. Tortuga Bay is teeming with marine life, such as iguanas, crabs, turtles, and many different types of birds. It truly is a nature lover’s paradise!

Isla Isabella - lizards and surfing

Isla Isabella is the least populated and least developed of the three islands we visited. As soon as we got off the boat, lizards greeted us. Casually hanging out, they weren’t bothered by passengers getting off the ship and walking past them. They look like miniature dinosaurs.

The island consists of one main settlement comprising charming one-story houses. You can find several restaurants and bars along the beach. Isla Isabella felt authentic. It’s one of those places where tourists and locals easily meet and get to know each other. The island is unpretentious and offers plenty of things to do.

Best places to stay on Isla Isabela

    • Chez Manany Galapagos Ecolodge
    • Hostal Galapagos by Bar de Beto
Granada, Nicaragua: Lauri in Parque Colon

Surfing on Isla Isabella

A local friend told us that there is excellent surfing on the island. It’s one of the things tourists and locals love to do on the island. So we rented a surfboard for a day and had a fantastic time. The waves were great, and the water was crystal clear. We even saw some turtles while we were surfing!

Isla Isabela|Hike Sierra Negra and Volcán Chico

Hiking Sierra Negra is one of the best ways to experience the diverse landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. Although you could be forgiven for assuming that Volcán Chico is a volcano in its own right, it is just part of Sierra Negra and is considered to be a parasitic cone. In simple terms, this means it is another way for lava to exit the central volcano. Hiking Volcán Chico and Sierra Negra allow you to see two very different sides of the same coin. While Sierra Negra is primarily bald with very little vegetation, Volcán Chico is covered in lush greenery. The only way to access Volcán Chico and Sierra Negra is via guided tour. Tourists are not allowed to visit the area without a guide, and the Galapagos authorities are very strict about this.

The hike is open all year round, assuming the volcano is not in a period of high activity. During these times, Sierra Negra tours will be postponed until the danger passes. This can take weeks or even months. Hiking Sierra Negra is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most unique ecosystems on Earth.

Hiking the volcano takes around 5-6 hours from start to finish. Even though the trail’s incline is gradual, the hike can be strenuous for some due to the distance and heat of the equatorial sun. But trust us, the views are worth it! Once you reach the crater’s edge, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible panorama of Isabela Island and a sense of the scale of the eruption that created Sierra Negra. On a clear day, you can even see nearby Fernandina Island.

During periods of high activity, tours will be postponed until it’s safe to visit again.

Isla Isabela|Snorkeling Las Tuneles

Snorkeling Las Tuneles was by far one of our most unforgettable snorkeling trips ever! The boat ride itself already promised adventure. However, since the sea was rough this day, our captain had to undergo some quite thrilling maneuvers till we entered the area of las Tuneles. The collapsed lava tunnels are home to white-tipped sharks, turtles, giant pirate fish, and many other sea creatures. We even saw some seahorses in the wild! It was utterly unique! However, keep in mind that the Pacific is sometimes cold and rough. Also though we were wearing neoprene suits, we were still freezing. On our way back, we saw penguins, manta rays, and dolphins as they accompanied our boat. It was incredible! To top it all off, we even saw giant turtles in a romantic mood.

Get ready to travel ECUADOR

How to backpack Galapagos islands

Backpacking the Galapagos Islands is possible! However, it’s not as easy as other South American destinations or Ecuador’s mainland. This is even truer if you are trying to travel spontaneously without much planning. You can only visit the three inhabited islands without a cruise.

San Cristobal

San Cristobal is also the administrative capital of the archipelago.

Animals on San Cristobal: sea lions, giant turtles

Santa Cruz

The island is not only the touristic hub but also the most lively city in the whole Galapagos archipelago.

Animals on Santa Cruz: sea lions, giant turtles

Isla Isabela

This island almost felt magical to us. Spend some days and sit down and watch the wild biological diversity.

Animals on Isla Isabella: sea lions, Lizards, penguins, manta rays, sharks

Wildlife on the Galapagos Islands

Maybe most importantly: Many species are endemic to one island, which means you’ll only find them in one place or island. Hence you won’t find all the animals you want to see in one place. This makes traveling between the islands necessary.

How to get there and away

Fly into San Cristobal and fly out from Santa Cruz! This will save you time, money, and a full day on a boat. The touristic infrastructure is well developed on the islands, and you’ll find everything but the internet there.

 

How to visit the Galapagos Islands without a cruise?

Traveling between the three inhabited islands is easy. However, a few things to remember: Buy your tickets a day in advance to be sure. Secondly, the boat rides can be pretty rough! Bring sea sickness medicine and a plastic bag, and don’t eat or drink too much before you get on! The price is fixed at $30 per ride and takes about two hours from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz and another two hours from Santa Cruz to Isla Isabella. Lastly, remember that it’s not always possible to travel from San Cristobal to Isabella in one day.

How high are the fees for the Galapagos Islands?

Before arriving at the Galapagos Islands, be prepared to pay $20 for a transit control card and $100 or even $140 if you stay longer than two weeks for National Park Fees. Both fees have to be paid in advance! However, it’s easy to do once you arrive at Quito or Guayaquil airport.

Best time to travel the Galapagos Islands?

The archipelago is located along the equator, yet the climate is not typically tropical. However, in December, the water was too cold to swim.

From January to May: It’s hot with higher rainfalls

June to November: The weather is cooler. Marine life is very active.

Safety on Galapagos islands

You are gravely mistaken if you think of the Galapagos islands as only a natural paradise. On the contrary, the islands are on the cocaine smuggling route. Lately, even US forces have been deployed. Nonetheless, the islands are entirely safe for visitors.

Tap water

You can not drink tap water on the Galapagos islands. So make sure to bring your Lifestraw Go to enjoy cool water while avoiding having to buy plastic bottles.

Challenges for the conscious traveler

Animal Encounters: Even though it is incredibly tempting to touch and come up close with the wildlife, keep your distance and do not ever touch or feed them!

Sunscreen: Protect the unique ecosystem and be extra careful to use reef-friendly sunscreens.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Ecuador

You’re packing your bags for a trip to Ecuador – congratulations! You’re about to embark on an amazing journey into one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.

Wondering what to pack? Check out our packing list to prepare for all Ecuador has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries!

Traveling Ecuador?

Ecuador Itinerary

Places to visit in Ecuador

Dive into a land of contrasts!

Tobacco Caye – Caribbean paradise ?

Tobacco Caye – Caribbean paradise ?

TOBACCO CAYE

Belize
Tobacco Itinerary

The smallest island we have ever visited

Duration: at least one week

Budget: $ 75 per day

Stay: Reef’s End Lodge or Gill’s Cove

Tobacco Caye – Our paradise in Belize! Dip into the most turquoise waters, snorkel, dive, and chill out. Get your authentic Caribbean experience! The tiny Caribbean island lays just 12 miles off the shores of Dangriga- a 40-minute boat ride. Without a doubt, the setting of Tobacco Caye is paradisical. The tiny island, which seems to sit on pink Conch shells, is surrounded by some of the most pristine water you’ll ever see. Tobacco Caye might have been the most unique place we visited during our trip through Belize. Dani visited Tobacco Caye the year before and felt a special connection to the island and its 15 permanent inhabitants.

Belize’s Central Cayes is much less visited than the Cayes up North. However, Tobacco’s prime location within the Great Barrier Reef offers incredible diving and snorkeling opportunities. The crystal clear water surrounding the island shimmers in blue and turquoise. The island is so tiny; it will take about 5 minutes to circle the whole island on foot.

Tobacco Caye is small but holds so much for those open to it! It’s a place not made for everyone, but to us, it’s extraordinary. We have learned a lot about ourselves, also. Tobacco will always be calling for us!

 

Tobacco Caye is an island destination like no other. Why? Compared to other island destinations dominated by resorts and luxury, Tobacco Caye has maintained its authentic charm. If you are up to it, you’ll be able to participate in the island’s life. Its inhabitants will welcome you with open arms, and over some community meals and activities, you’ll be able to understand how the island life shapes its people.P.S The Caye may be tiny, but check out our “good to know” to make your experience extra amazing!

Dive into the biggest Barrier Reef of the Northern hemisphere

Tobacco Caye sits within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve and offers countless diving opportunities. Dives and excursions can be arranged on the island. The guys are knowledgeable and proud of their home. Belize’s Barrier Reef is a UNESCO world heritage site with a striving turtle population. On top of that, the reserve is home to more than 500 species of fish!

Cavalerio church in Leon, Nicaragua
Granada, Nicaragua: market

Home of the stingrays

Since none of us had a diving permit and fishing was not our thing, our water activities were limited to snorkeling. You can either borrow gear and venture out from Reef’s end by yourself or go on a tour. The marine life close by is super beautiful and diverse.

Tobacco Caye is also home to 7-8 giant stingrays. They follow the fisher boats when they come back and are marvelous to look at! Over at the western side of the island, fishers tend to clean their catches. Thereby they attract the local stingrays. It’s so cool to see them feast on fish leftovers. You can even carefully touch them. They feel like wet silk.

After exploring the nearby marine life (you should also go out at night!), you can explore nearby snorkeling sites with one of the island guys.

Day-trip to other nearby Cayes

One of our most fantastic day trips was to Southwater Caye. With Gustan, who has been living on a 100-year-old sailboat, we got to sail across the most beautiful water to visit the nearby Caye. It’s probably one of the most fantastic boat experiences ever!

If you ever feel like visiting nearby Cayes, you can always inquire about the local guys; they’ll do anything in their power to show you around! Glover’s Reef, an even remoter island, is only a 45 min boat ride away.

Leon, Nicaragua: barrio Sutiavia
Tobacco Caye, Belize

Get an understanding of island life

Often, when traveling to an island destination. You only get to see the paradisical side of it. While Tobacco is paradisical, it also offers you a unique chance to engage in island life. With Jerome being our provider, we shared countless community meals and got to hear the stories and the gossip. We felt at home, included.

Life on Tobacco Caye is pretty slow. It’s all about the sun, the sea, and the ganja. Most locals rise with the sun, take a smoke, and go out fishing. By the time the sun is fully up, everyone has taken another smoking break and busses them with either providing for their guests or cleaning the island. In the afternoon and evening, its time to enjoy life or take visitors out for a dive. Spending time together and letting time pass is essential.

Tobacco Caye – a seafood haven

Locals dine on the menu of the sea. Jerome and the sea provided for most delicious food during our journey. As you walk across the island, you might feel like Tobacco Caye is settled on pink conch shells. But, if you take a closer look, you can tell by the whole that they’d been on the menu once, too. Tobacco Caye is genuinely tiny. It’s a tight community where everyone watches out for one another. During the week, island kids attend school on the mainland and stay with their mothers or relative. On the weekends, though, they’ll come and visit. You’ll hear laughter and giggling.

Tobacco Caye, Belize: stingray

Get ready to travel to Tobacco Caye

How to get to Tobacco Caye

The cheapest way to get to Tobacco Cay is from Dangriga. Usually, there is one small boat per day, but make sure you check with the locals or arrange for transport with your hotel. Captain Doggy is our favorite person to take us to and from the island. He’ll charge you around $40 one way. Unfortunately, there is no boat leaving or arriving after dark.

Places to stay on Tobacco Caye:

 If you need a little more comfort, we can recommend the Reefs End. With its bar, it’s also the “touristic hub.” Our dear friend Jerome runs Gill’s Cove. We’d say middle-class accommodation is probably the center of island life. Jerome is a passionate cook, and his “terrace” is the meeting point for locals and tourists alike.

There are other, smaller accommodations, but you’ll have to contact somebody local to help you find the cheapest deal. Or you can shoot us an email, and we can try to put you in touch with our friends.

Where to eat on Tobacco

Usually, you’ll have to book accommodation with meals included since there is no such thing as an independent restaurant. However, you might inquire about Lily from Reefs End or Jerome to join them for meals.

What to bring?

There is only one small kiosk on the island. So bring everything you need. However, the booth only sells chips, sweets, cigarettes, and drinks.

Where to get money?

There is no ATM and no way to get cash on the island. Life on the island can quickly get expensive, so bring enough cash!

Best time to visit Tobacco Caye?

You don’t want to be stuck on a tiny island during hurricane season, which lasts from June to November, but since Tobacco can get pricey, try the shoulder months of May and October!

 

Tap water

In the towns, the water is supposedly drinkable. But as you will spend a lot of time on the water and Cayes in Belize, bring a Lifestraw Go to be safe and avoid causing plastic pollution. The Lifestraw Pro will keep your water fresh and cool, too!

Biggest challenge for the responsible traveler

Eating fish: To protect marine life in Belize, fishing is regulated by seasons to guarantee the species’ time to recover. Therefore, make a point of not eating lobster or conch when not in season!

Conch season runs from October to June. Lobster season is from July to February.

Sunscreen: Protect the unique marine life in Belize, and always wear reef-friendly sunscreen. Check out our guide to coral-safe sunscreens here.

Plastic: Bring your Lifestraw Go to avoid causing trash by consuming bottled water.

tanzania travel Zanzibar beaches

Packing List Belize

Check out our packing list to prepare for all Belize has to offer. You’ll find anything from clothing to travel gadgets and eco-friendly toiletries.

Places to visit in Belize

A Small Country with a big personality!

San Ignacio, Belize – Wild rivers, Maya ruins &latino vibes

San Ignacio, Belize – Wild rivers, Maya ruins &latino vibes

San Ignacio and its twin town Santa Elena form the heart of the “Cayo” district. While there is a comfortable touristic infrastructure, San Ignacio manages to maintain an authentic and vibrating charm. Contrary to the coastal part of Belize, Spanish is most widely spoken. San Ignacio is surrounded by lush vegetation, fast flowing rivers, Maya ruins, and caves. There are lots to do in this lively little town!

read more
Caye Caulker – backpacking and diving haven

Caye Caulker – backpacking and diving haven

Caye Caulker, Belize’s backpacking hotspot charms it’s visitors with its easy going and fun vibes. It’s an excellent place to get to know Belize. While it is far from representative, it shows you the fun, carefree side of life. Creole, Rastafaris, and travelers perfectly blend. On top of that, Caye Caulker offers several amazing things to do.

read more