And The Winner of Sunflower Beach Contest Is…

And the winner of our Facebook contest for 3 free nights stay at Sunflower Beach Hostel in Rimini, Italy is…

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Congratulations! You have 1 week to choose the dates you would like to stay or we will choose a runner up!

10 Reasons to Visit Costa Rica in Rainy Season

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By Angelica Troeder

 

Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in the Northern Hemisphere. In 2015, over 2.6 million tourists came to frolick in the country’s cities, beaches, and rainforests. Visiting when the sun is out all day is what most travelers prefer, but what about when it’s Costa Rica’s rainy season? Is the rain a damper or does it add to the adventure? To fill you in, the rainy season is roughly from May through November and visiting during that time can be the best time to go.

 

Here are 10 reasons why you should visit Costa Rica in rainy season:

 

  1. Rainy Season is Green Season

Sunny days may be beautiful but Costa Rica is actually very dry and brown outside of rainy season! Much of the land dries up and does not look like what the world and social media has shown it to be. To see the luscious greens and rolling green hills we see in photos, you have to visit when it rains. Otherwise, you will be disappointed.

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  1. Nature at Its Best

Not only will the lands be green, but the rainforest adventure you have been picturing comes to life in rainy season. Huge green leaves, lush trees, and bountiful plants will be everywhere.

If you love a good storm, then you will get to watch plenty during Costa Rica’s rainy season. Get your camera out or turn off the lights and grab a bag of popcorn. Some of the best lightning and thunder occurs during these months and if sun does peek out, a rainbow is sure to show.

 

  1. Cooler temperatures

Although humidity comes with rain, the temperatures will cool down in the day and night compared to high season. This will make it more comfortable for everyone, especially if you hate sweating after a day at the beach. Sleeping becomes a bit easier also as you might not need the air conditioning some nights.

 

CR croc river

 

  1. Less Crowds

During rainy season, you can have more room and more of everything for you. There are less crowds overall, which means it is faster to get around and do what you like. Excursions will not fill up as quickly and if you go out to a popular club or restaurant, chances are your service will be much quicker too.

CR rained on rocks

 

  1. Less Expensive

With the rain and less clouds come lower prices. It is cheaper to fly to Costa Rica during rainy season and hotels drop their prices. There still is a cost, as nothing is free, but you can get a better deal and put your savings aside for something else. Negotiate on the prices also in town, especially for locally sold food on the streets and tours.

 

  1. The Waterfalls

Back to nature – we could never forget the waterfalls. During dry season, they are smaller and those cool pools you want to plunge into may not even exist. During rainy season is when the waterfalls are at their fullest size. Find one, grab a rope, and jump in for a swim.

 

  1. The Rivers

Some of the best activities in Costa Rica include white water rafting, kayaking, and going for walks in the mud! Without rain, many of these activities would be impossible and some of the rivers dry up too much in the dry season. When it’s raining, these rivers are flowing and so are you with them.

 

  1. Ripe Fruits

This is the time of the ear when the fruits of Costa Rica ripen and are at their juiciest. June is the best time to eat their mango. Also try their papaya, cas, and guaba fruits which are available usually at the beginning of summer.

 

  1. Surfing the Waves

If you are a surfer, then surfing is at its peak in Costa Rica during the rainy season. Waves are plentiful, larger, and easier to find at the beaches. It gets much more calm in the dry season when some beaches can be like bays with almost no water. Catch those waves and hang ten.

CR surfing

  1. Turtle Watching

Although wildlife is around year-round in Costa Rica, the rainy season is a special time for the turtles. It is easier to catch them mating and their eggs hatch in September. The most famous are the arribadas in Ostional where the turtles take up the entire beach usually and there is hardly any space to walk!

 

Have you visited Costa Rica in rainy season? What would you most look forward to doing while there?

All images in this article are by Angelica Troeder.

And The Winner is….

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Congratulations to Megan Hatt! You have until June 2 to email info@backpacksandbudgets.com to claim your prize!

Budget List: Central America on a Shoestring

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By Natasha Lincoln

 

Central America is a wonderland: Lush jungles, pristine beaches, insane wildlife, active volcanoes, ancient ruins, vibrant culture, and so much more. Luckily for travelers, it is also incredibly affordable! Central America is right up there with S.E. Asia as one of the cheapest travel destinations. However, each country has fairly different costs; I hear of travelers all the time being shocked at prices in certain countries; Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama. Although they are still fairly inexpensive, compared to a lot of other travel destinations, it is still good to have an idea of how the different countries vary in prices. I listed the countries below from the most expensive, to the least.

 

I broke it down by calculating the average costs for traveling on a tight budget, and here is what I went by:

 

“A meal out” = A modest meal, at a modest restaurant.

“Accommodation” = A dorm bed in a typical hostel.

“Local Transportation” = Local bus systems, chicken buses, you know, not the fancy kind.

“Alcohol”= Amount per beverage; it’s all about the essentials.

 

Costa Rica– Costa Rica shocks a lot of travelers, not just with beautiful coast lines, jungles, and immense biodiversity, but also with it’s prices. After having traveled through Central America, most travelers are surprised by how much more, in comparison, things cost in Costa Rica.

Daily Cost: $28

A meal out: $7

Accommodation: $14

Local Transportation: $3.50

Alcohol: $3.50

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Panama- Panama is the southernmost country in Central America, and has a lot to offer: modern cities with crazy nightlife, rain forests, as well as more historic and cultural colonial cities. Prices can be a bit high, depending on where you are and what you are doing, but for the most part, is fairly affordable.

Daily Cost: $22

A meal out: $7

Accommodation: $10

Local Transportation: $3

Alcohol: $4

 

Belize- Belize is most known for it’s crystal clear, pristine waters, and is great for learning to scuba dive and for fishing. This country is certainly not the cheapest, but relatively moderate in pricing.

Daily Cost: $20

A meal out: $7

Accommodation: $9

Local Transportation: $2

Alcohol: $4

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Guatemala- Guatemala is the northernmost country is Central America and insanely beautiful; my personal favourite. The pricing is very affordable, and there are many rainforests to explore, volcanoes to hike, and ancient ruins to visit.

Daily Cost: $13

A meal out: $4

Accommodation: $4

Local Transportation: $2

Alcohol: $2

 

Honduras- Honduras is definitely an underrated country, it is just as beautiful as the other Central American countries, and one of the cheapest (next to Nicaragua). By knowing which areas to visit, you will have a wonderful time here.

Daily Cost: $12.50

A meal out: $3

Accommodation: $3

Local Transportation: $4.50

Alcohol: $2

 

Nicaragua: Nicaragua is probably the coolest country in Central America, aside from it being the cheapest and having lots of wildlife, beautiful beaches (awesome surfing!), and jungles… There is volcano boarding!

Daily Cost: $10

A meal out: $4

Accommodation: $4

Local Transportation: $0.50

Alcohol: $1.50

 

Other tips to save money:

 

Work trade

 

Central America is a dangerous vortex- One of the biggest lies I hear here is: “I will be leaving tomorrow.” A lot of travelers check into hostels for just a night or two, but end up staying for much longer. If you are wanting to extend your stays, there is an easy and free way to do this: work trade! Since Central America is such a popular destination for backpackers, there are an abundance of work trade opportunities. You can exchange work at a hostel, a farm, or with a local in exchange for free accommodation and (sometimes) food. Here are a few websites that help make this easy:

 

Work Away

Helpx

Wwoof

 

Hitchhiking

I have hitchhiked in several different regions of the world, and by far, Central America has been the most hitchhiker friendly; most people are picked up within 10-15 minutes (depending on the traffic in the area). You are free to do this at your own risk, but I have had great experiences getting to know people, and getting places for free this way.

 

Buy a Bottle of Rum

 

Like I said, the essentials. If you go out and buy drinks/shots at the bars, you may notice your money quickly disappearing. The best thing to do, at least in my experience, is to go to a large market and buy a (large) bottle of liquor for pregaming.

 

Eat at Sodas and Shop at Markets

 

Sodas are locally run and operated restaurants that are generally smaller, a lot cheaper, and completely locally run… It is a great way to experience local cuisine! Also, by shopping at markets and making dinner at a hostel (this is especially fun if you do it with a group of people), you will save a whole lot of money, and get to spend time getting to know interesting travelers.

 

Talking with travelers and locals

 

As you travel along, be social! I know this may seem obvious, but you will gain much greater advice on the best/cheapest places to go and things to do you from the people you meet while traveling than researching online. Try not to plan too much ahead, and keep your heart and mind open!

 

Central America is an absolutely beautiful and unique region of the world to explore. The more you can make your dollar stretch, the farther you can go and the more you can discover; luckily, this is rather easy to do!

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Happy discovering,

 

Natasha

A Local’s Guide to Visiting Los Angeles

By Brittany MacRae

 

Disclaimer: Los Angeles is HUGE. I have been fortunate enough to spend the last four years enjoying LA bliss. However, there is still a lot of LA that I have yet to see (ex: Hermosa Beach, LA Museum of Art, La Brea Tar Pits etc.) With this being said, I’ll happily provide tips and share some of my go-to faves, but I am by no means the “master of LA.”

 

What is LA in a nutshell? LA is the land of brunch, hiking and dogs. Yes, you read that correctly, dogs. Everyone has one.

 

LA in a nutshell

 

 

BRUNCH

 

Granville – Studio City

Granville offers a delicious, organic but highly indulgent (you gotta try the village French toast) brunch. It’s in the heart of Studio City, and a short walk away from an awesome shopping strip. Grab a bite then shop it off.

Granville

credit: organiceyourlife.com

 

Blue Jam Cafe – Sherman Oaks OR West Hollywood

Blue Jam is notorious for having weekend morning line-ups, and it is WORTH the wait. Blue Jam is a perfect fit for any group because they split their menu into “All-Day Every Meal” and “Heath and Fitness,” so all needs are met. My friends and I always go to Blue Jam for their blueberry pancakes, they’re OUTTA THIS WORLD.

 

BLD – West Hollywood

BLD is another local-fave, and all you need to do is check out their brunch menu. http://www.bldrestaurant.com/pdfs/BLD_Brunch.pdf

Need I say more?

 

Runner ups: SunCafe Organic, The Hudson, Crave Café

 

DINNER

 

Crossroads Kitchen – West Hollywood

Guys, I get so passionate about this restaurant because it’s so freaking good. Plus, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard frequent it, so it has to be good, right?!

 

This is a vegan restaurant, but wait, don’t scroll, there are no obvious vegan cues. In fact, most people don’t even make the connection because on the menu things are listed as usual. (Hint: try the meatball pizza, and kale caesar) I took my Italian friend here without mentioning that the restaurant was vegan, and he couldn’t get over how incredible the cheesy pasta was – this is a MUST TRY. If the food can fool an authentic Italian, it can likely fool you too. 😉

 

Crossroads Kitchen

 

Firefly – Studio City

 

Firefly is a trendy (I’m serious, the door is inconspicuous and made of leaves), upscale restaurant with an epic drink list. If you’re willing to get dressed up and spend a little more on your meal, you won’t be disappointed.

Runner ups: Café Gratitude, Sugar Fish (sushi), Genwa Korean BBQ

 

SNACKS + SWEETS

 

Go Greek Yogurt – Beverly Hills

If you decide to trek into Beverly Hills or find yourself walking down Rodeo Drive you MUST stop at Go Greek Yogurt. They have self-serve frozen Greek yogurt and fresh Greek yogurt made with traditional ingredients. The owners are both from Greece and you’ll see that this is reflected in the taste of the yogurt.

Go Greek Yogurt

 

Pressed Juicery – Glendale @ The Americana

Craving a fresh juice? Or hoping for something sweet? The Glendale Pressed Juicery is the only location where they serve juice and healthy frozen yogurt (made from dates, bananas etc.) With 5 different flavours and multiple healthy toppings, this is my favorite guilt-free dessert.

 

Pressed Juicery

 

HIKING

 

Remember how I mentioned LA folks love dogs? Here’s where you’ll see ‘em all. LA newbies will be told to hike Runyon Canyon but it’s almost always packed with the Beverly Hills and West Hollywood crowds. I recommend the following:

 

Fryman Canyon

Fryman can be a bit crowded, but it’s way less crowded than Runyon. This is my go-to hiking location, I’m here almost everyday.

 

Fryman

 

 

Will Rodgers State Park

W.R.S.P is located in the Pacific Palisades, which is one of the most beautiful areas in Los Angeles. If you want a full 360 view of LA – this is your spot.

Pacific Palisades

 

 

SHOPPING

 

Take a stroll down Melrose Ave – West Hollywood

 

Melrose Ave is like the Queen West of Toronto, or Bushwick of NYC. It has everything hip and trendy, and hosts tons of vintage hot spots. Looking for something dressy? Check out: Decades, TenOverSix or Creatures of Comfort. Get your style from street cues? Check out: Wasteland, Joyrich or Posers.

 

Shop among hippies and cyclists on Abbott Kinney – Venice Beach

 

Abbott Kinney not only has amazing restaurants (check out: Café Gratitude) but also has innovative and independently owned shops. If you’re looking for a cute boho outfit, or want to check out some awesome boutiques? Don’t miss Abbott Kinney. Insider tip: After you’re done checking out these shops, walk a few blocks south to the beach to experience the famous/grungy Venice beach boardwalk.

 

Abbott Kinney Venice

 

RANDOM EXTRAS:

 

– Rent a car and drive to Laguna Beach (1.5HR out of LA)

– Check out Malibu and stay for a sunset

– Do In&Out Burger ONCE (get your burger protein style + fries animal style)

– Go to a lookout point on Mulholland Drive

– Go to “The Abbey” for an epic gay-lounge experience

– Head to “Laurel Hardware” for great cocktails and nightlife

– Sing your heart out in ‘Little Tokoyo’ at “Max Karaoke Studio”

– Go to Beachwood Canyon for a great view of the Hollywood sign

– See an improv/comedy show at Hollywood Improv

 

BEST NEIGHBORHOODS FOR ACCOMODATION:

(in no particular order)

– West Hollywood

– Studio City

– Beverly Hills

– Sherman Oaks

– North Hollywood

– Santa Monica (is great, but far out from everything!)

 

LA is quick paced and exciting, so get outside your comfort zone and begin exploring! Please leave me a comment below if you end up trying out some of these spots, or if you have favorites of your own!

 

 

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