La Paz Waterfall Gardens – Costa Rica

La Paz Waterfalls and Sanctuary is one of the more popular tourist activities in Costa Rica. The main attractions, of course, are the two waterfalls but you won’t get to them until you first make your way through the sanctuary exploring the flora and fauna of Costa Rica and the Costan Rican rainforest. You’ll see amazing greenery in addition to bird habitats where you can even hold a toucan on your arm, a butterfly house, reptile buildings, hummingbird clusters, jungle cats, monkeys and a host of other creatures. You can even take photos in a colorful ox cart.

Ox Cart Ride at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica
Ox cart ride before getting to the waterfalls.
Butterfly House - La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Costa Rica
Making friends with a butterfly, unfortunately, not one of the pretty blue ones (see the video).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you make friends with some animals, you’ll “hike” along a path to get to the waterfalls. I believe the waterfalls are between 35 and 37 meters each – definitely worth seeing and very pretty, but they’re certainly not the largest you’ll see in the world.

La Paz Waterfalls, Costa Rica La Paz Waterfalls, Costa Rica

 

 

 

 

 

This video will take you through a mini tour of the sanctuary and waterfalls starting at the beginning of the tour and ending at the waterfalls, so be patient!

The visit to La Paz was part of a larger combo tour in Costa Rica on which we also visited the Doka Coffee Plantation and Poas Volcano so keep an eye out for those posts soon!

Cholula, Mexico

In addition to my exploits from a home base of Mexico City, I also spent a couple of weeks in Puebla, Mexico. Puebla is about 2 hours outside of Mexico City and has much more of the old style Spanish architecture that I love than does D.F. and was a very welcoming and friendly city with an awesome tourist information office and free performances put on in the Casa de Cultura almost every day (you can pick up a schedule at the tourist information office, which is 2 doors down).

It’s also bordered by Cholula, home to “the largest archaeological site of a pyramid” in the Americas (wikipedia). It’s a huge pyramid that was covered by the Spanish because they did not approve of the native peoples’ worship of idols other than their Catholic God, so they buried the pyramid and built a church at the top of the newly created hill. Today, you can visit the pyramid’s tunnels (now buried beneath the hill), the church at the top of the hill, and the ruins at the pyramid’s base. It’s a quick trip from Puebla and if you’re in the area well worth it, though I’m not sure I’d go out of my way to get there from Mexico City if you’re not headed in that direction anyway.

Some pics of my day there are below:

 

Church atop the pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoChurch atop the pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoView from the church atop the Pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoChurch atop the pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoChurch atop the pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoRuins and church at the pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, MexicoMe inside the tunnels of the Pyramid of Cholula - Cholula, Puebla, Mexico

Spring Equinox Celebration at the Pyramids of Teotihuacan

About an hour outside of Mexico City sit the ruins of the ancient city of Teotihuacan and last month I visited to experience the Spring Equinox Celebration hosted there where people believe they can absorb the energy of the sun by wearing white and soaking up the rays while exploring the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.

I won’t give you all of the details about Teotihuacan, as it’s easily Googleable, but you can watch my video of the Spring Equinox Celebration below.

In order to get from Mexico City to Teotihuacan you can go to Autobuses del Norte station on the Mexico City metro. When you come out of the metro you will see the bus station directly in front of you and you want to go all the way to the left of the station (gate 8) to purchase a bus ticket to Teotihuacan. Make sure you’re headed to the pyramids/ruins and not just to the town of Teotihuacan. The bus costs 40 pesos (less than $4 USD) and takes about an hour. From there you stand in line to buy your tickets to enter, which are 57 pesos each. Please note, if you have a video camera you have to pay extra to bring it in and you need to purchase the ticket at the same place that you purchase your entrance ticket, but nobody will tell you that until you walk all of the way to the next gate and you’ll be sent back. How much the video camera charge is depends on your camera’s model.

Once inside you’re basically free to explore on your own and you can exit and re-enter all day with your ticket so I recommend going out to the street vendors for lunch, drinks, and some jewelry. When you’re ready to head back to Mexico City just return to your entrance gate and you’ll see buses lined up to take you back.

It’s an incredibly easy day trip from Mexico City and well worth it. Just remember to bring your sunscreen!

The Monarch Butterflies in Michoacan / Las Mariposas Monarcas de Michoacan

Las Mariposas de Michoacan
My new butterfly friend at the butterfly preserve in Michoacan, Mexico.

One of the things I was most excited about seeing when I came to Mexico was the monarch butterfly preserve in Michoacan. All of the monarch butterflies in North American migrate south to Mexico to wait out the cold season in this one area, so there are literally millions of butterflies flying all around you and it’s an incredible experience. The butterflies are only in Michoacan from October to March, and I arrived in March, so this is the first adventure I had in Mexico because I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Take a look at this video of the preserve and if you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, the info on how to get there is below.

It’s super easy to get to the butterfly preserves from Mexico City, where I’m staying. I took a bus from Mexico City to a town called Zitacuaro and from there to a town called Ocampo. Altogether the buses cost about $15 USD one way. In Ocampo, which is a tiny little town, I was only able to find one hotel called Hotel San Carlos. It was basic but clean and the lady who helped was wonderful. The hotel for one night cost roughly $20 USD. It’s best to go up to Ocampo the day before, spend the night, and then head up to the preserve in the morning (around 8 or 9). You don’t want to go too early because it’s cold in the morning so the butterflies are not that active, but you also don’t want to go too late or the preserve will start to get crowded. You can take a taxi or a group van up to the preserve from Ocampo. A taxi will run you just under $10 USD, the van will be less than 2 bucks (even with the surcharge you’ll get for not being Mexican).

Once at the preserve, we opted to ride horses up to the actual butterfly area. The price is about $6.25 USD but this is a one-way fee so be sure to double whatever price they tell you. I loved riding up to the butterfly area but if you’ve never ridden a horse before I wouldn’t suggest making this your first try. The horses have saddles, but the reins aren’t full reins, they’re strings, and if you’re too short for the stirrups (like me) they won’t adjust them for you so you end up bouncing around quite a bit. It’s also a pretty steep climb and the horses sometimes stumble a bit. You ride the horses about 3/4 of the way up and then you have to get off and walk the rest of the way with a guide. You’re not allowed to enter the woods without a guide but they’re just there to make sure you don’t wander off where you’re not supposed to be, not to give any information about the preserve or the butterflies, so try to do some research before you get there. Once you get to the observation spot you’re allowed to stay as long as you wish but you have to remain quiet in the area so as not to disturb the butterflies. Trust me, you can get lost in the fluttering for well over an hour. Whenever you’re ready you just grab your guide and head back down where you can grab another cab or van back to Ocampo.

We had dinner in Ocampo before turning in the day we got there and then had breakfast and lunch there the next day before heading home. The total for the three meals was maybe $10 or $15 USD per person and they were big, tasty meals made by someone’s mom or grandmother. That means all told the entire adventure cost less than $100 and was absolutely well worth it.

Italy, Greece, and Turkey

I love to travel, so even when I’m not being a nomad I take a trip every year for my birthday. This year I took a cruise – with my parents and cousin – to Italy, Greece, and Turkey and it was AMAZING!

I’ve been trying to get my parents to try out cruising ever since I worked on a cruise ship after finishing undergrad and this is the first time they finally agreed to take one. We went on the Norwegian Jade out of Civitavecchia, which is about an hour outside of Rome. I’d been to Italy before, but this was my first time in both Greece and Turkey and it was also my first time as a full-fledged guest on a ship and my first time on Norwegian (I worked on Royal Caribbean).

We had some serious difficulties getting to Italy because of flight delays but, luckily, we’d given ourselves a day buffer so we didn’t miss our ship. I emphatically recommend getting to your departure port at least an entire day early if you’re ever going on a cruise. There are just too many things that could delay you and you wouldn’t want to miss your cruise just because you were too cheap to get a hotel for one night. Once we made it to the ship, however, it was smooth sailing (pun intended) and we had a fabulous time. Thank you so much to Freddy, Joe, Rodrigo, and the rest of the Jade crew for showing me a fabulous time! I’m still partial to Royal Caribbean (better food) but you all made sure my birthday cruise kicked booty.

We decided to go in the winter for a few reasons: 1) We didn’t want to deal with the crazy heat in the summer 2) We got avoid the worst of the crowds because it was low season 3) We chose winter for the other two reasons, but the bonus was it’s cheaper to go on the off season. All around, it was a GREAT decision and I would definitely do the Med on the off season again. The weather really wasn’t that bad if you dressed appropriately and we were happy to avoid the lines and sunstroke that we know are common at the sites we visited during the summer months.

After Rome we headed to Greece and visited Olympia and Athens. We took tours organized from the ship in both ports and had a great time.

In Oympia, we visited an olive farm and saw the ruins.

Ruins at Olympia
As our tour guide said: “The ruins are in ruins,” at Olympia.

 

Dancing at an Olive Farm Near Olympia, Greece
Our tour took us to an olive farm where we got to taste ouzo and wine, enjoy a Greek lunch, and have some fun dancing.

In Athens we took a tour of the city and went to the New Acropolis Museum and saw the Parthenon.

New Acropolis Museum with the Parthenon in the Background
In Athens we took a tour of the city including the New Acropolis Museum and the Parthenon (in the background of the pic).

Next we headed to Turkey where we stopped in Izmir and Istanbul. In Izmir we visited the ruins at Ephesus, which are probably the most incredibly ruins I’ve ever seen. The city is very well preserved and the infrastructure they had in place at that time was amazing.

Ephesus
This is one of the main streets in Ephesus
The Library at Ephesus
Apparently, the library at Ephesus had a secret passageway that led to the brothel across the street. I guess some things never change,
The Library at Ephesus
Another shot of the Library at Ephesus.
The Amphitheater at Ephesus
The Amphitheater at Ephesus.
One of the Main Streets in Ephesus
One of the Main Streets in Ephesus.
Sign Outside of Ephesus
I added this pic just for fun, but this is an awesome sign we saw at vendor’s stand just outside of Ephesus.

Next we went to Istanbul and saw the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sofia, and the Palace at Dolmabahce. To be completely honest,  I wasn’t all that impressed with either the Hagia Sofia or the Blue Mosque but the Palace was really enjoyable. I also got to see an old friend of mine who lives in Istanbul now so I had a blast.

Inside the Hagia Sohpia
Inside the Hagia Sohpia.
Outside the Blue Mosque
Outside the Blue Mosque.
Outside the Blue Mosque
My cousin and I right before we went into the Blue Mosque. I’m not sure why we’re sparkling, but it’s a cool photo.
Outside a Mosque Lit Up at Night in Istanbul
Outside a Mosque Lit Up at Night in Istanbul.
Outside the Gate at Dolmabahce Palace
Outside the Gate at Dolmabahce Palace.
Aqueduct in Istanbul
This aqueduct in Istanbul is special because it’s not closed off for preservation – cars still drive under it every day.

After Turkey it was time to head back to Italy and we stopped in Naples before heading back to Civitavecchia. We took a tour to Pompei and had some incredible pizza before getting back on the ship and heading home.

Pompei
One of the main streets in Pompei.
Plaster of a Body from Pompei
Our tour guide told us that as they excavated Pompei, they made plaster casts of the spaces left in the ash by the bodies of those who perished there. This is one of those casts.

After Pompei it was back to Rome for us where went to see St. Peter’s in Vatican City (a little hectic given we were there right after the Pope announced his resignation).

 All in all it was an amazing trip and it was the perfect way to start out my year as a nomad. I had a wonderful time and I hope get to see my friends on the Jade again soon.

And the Journey Begins!

So far in my life I’ve been lucky enough to visit dozens of places around the world – many numerous times – and I love to explore new countries and cities. That’s why I’ve decided to bite the bullet and leave my day job so that I can have the freedom (one of the greatest benefits of being an entrepreneur) to travel where and when I please.

While I’ve loved helping the small businesses of Washington, DC start and grow I can’t be tied down geographically anymore so I’m heading out. Because I think aspiring entrepreneurs might need to see a little taste of where their lives could take them, I’ll be sharing some of my travel adventures with you here.

First up this month: Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Greece and Turkey are new for me – so please share your suggestions for what to do and see in Istanbul, Izmir, Athens, and Olympia! I’ve been to Italy before, but I’m excited to explore it as a slightly older and wiser traveler!

I might not be online much while I’m off exploring, but I promise to post as soon as I’m back. Wish me luck!