Curacao Trip

19 02 2012

My fabulous tan is starting to fade and I’m no longer craving breakfast daiquiris, so the time has come to share some photos from my trip to Curacao.

Along with my friend H and her friends J and P and their adorable 6 year old son, we stayed at the Breezes resort in Curacao from January 22-29. It is the only all-inclusive resort on Curacao and I can’t recommend it enough. I was a little nervous because I had read several negative reviews prior to our trip, but I can honestly say that the complainers must be bat-shit crazy because I enjoyed every aspect of this resort and I’m not typically an all-inclusive vacation type of gal. J and P like this resort so much that this was their third visit. I had previously done the AI thing in the Dominican Republic with MM about 8 years ago (THE WORST) and Cancun 6 years ago with my cousin (waaaayyyy better), but since that time I had really fallen in love with trips focused on culture, history, food and a little adventure (Tokyo, Amsterdam, London, Chicago, Paris, Costa Rica, NYC, etc.). After a beyond-hectic couple of months at work I realized that what I really needed was to recharge my batteries and just sit on a beach somewhere for a week with a book and really unwind – not have to think about cooking or schedules or museum hours or dinner reservations. I will admit that I was worried I would get a little bored of the whole beach thing after a few days but I really didn’t. I was ready for 7 days of sun, sand, buffets and blended boozy drinks!

Upon landing in Curacao, we were guided to the Sunquest desk and given our room info and our plastic Breezes bracelets that identified us as guests at the resort. A 20 minute air-conditioned shuttle bus ride later – we were in paradise.

Beach view

Sail away...

On the resort

Pools I never swam in

Our rooms were located in the Pelican wing. A number of the reviews I had read claimed that this was the best wing to be in. I can’t say for sure, but I had no complaints! We had requested a ground floor room through our travel agent, so we had patio doors that opened to a little patio set and right onto the beach. Two huge comfortable beds, plenty of drawers, a massive TV that seemed to always be playing Friends or Big Bang Theory (yay!), and a huuuuuge shower. Our cleaning lady was absolutely lovely (we left her about US$3-5 per day) and the one issue we had (large towels weren’t replenished one morning) was quickly resolved. What I really liked about the area we were in beach-wise was that it was the best area to walk out into and snorkel right off the beach. The Pelican wing also had its own bar with a grill and was a little quieter because it was away from the main pool/bar/buffet/disco area.

After a quick lunch at one of the beach grills, we promptly slathered ourselves in sunscreen and hit the beach. My fellow travellers are huge snorkelling fans and I had bought a cheap mask and snorkel for the trip from Winners. After a few shaky minutes adjusting to breathing through my mouth without the fear of swallowing water, I fell in love with snorkelling and it was definitely a highlight of the trip. This resort is known for its amazing snorkelling right off the beach – there’s even a rock wall a ways out that keeps the larger waves and sharks out but keeps a shit ton of cool fish and plant life in. The water is so clear you can see all the way down. It really was amazing.

I ♥ Snorkelling

Little Mermaid-ing it

Fishies

Sergeant Majors

The food thing is typically the same at all AI’s: one main buffet for breakfast and lunch, a few grills or snack bars for lunch, and dinner at the buffet or one of 2 or 3 restaurants on site that you book upon arrival (typically, you are allowed to visit each restaurant only once). It was the same at Breezes. The buffet breakfast was fantastic – pancakes, bacon, eggs made to order and an omelette bar. It was good every day. For lunch, I preferred the beach grills over the buffet only because I fell in love with the cheeseburgers and veggie burgers (the best I’ve ever eaten, hands down). The serve yourself nachos and cheese was also amazing…a little too addictive. They also had krokets which are Dutch and I loved them – they were even better than the ones I pick up at Dutch stores around Toronto – as well as chicken nuggets, french fries and stuff like that. But the lunches at the buffet were always good too. For dinner we booked the three restaurants (Italian, Japanese and a beach steak house). J and I skipped the beach steak house as she is a vegetarian and I rarely eat red meat or meat at all on vacation unless it’s a cheeseburger or some chicken. And this resort was big on fish which was amazing. I did not have one bad meal the entire week. If I had one complaint, it’s that I ate too well. The Japanese restaurant was my favourite – we sat right at the grill and watched our food being cooked. So yummy.

As for the bar situation – I never had to wait long for a drink. As I mentioned above, our wing had its own bar and grill so that was super convenient. I woke up around 7 or 7:30 each day and would slip out our patio doors onto the beach and claim a great little shaded section of beach chairs with a thatched hut above. That was about a 3 second walk from the bar. I’m nothing if not strategic. A recurring complaint I read about the resort was that the drink cups were small. I agree, they were. So I would order two at a time. No biggie. I saw a lot of people had brought their own insulated mugs and the bartenders were more than happy to fill them. Our bar did run out of certain types of liquor or mix throughout the day. Again, no biggie – I just asked for a recommendation from the bartender and I always got great drinks. I’d never been a huge fan of pina coladas but I did a complete 180 on that! The resort bars also did a ‘Drink of the Day’ and those were always super tasty. And usually blue in colour because of the Curacao liqueur they use. Yup, that’s where it comes from!

Lots of love for our daily beach spot!

Squinty

On our first day at the resort, H and I signed up for the Introduction to Scuba Diving course and booked it for two days later. It’s free! This resort really appeals to divers because not only can you get certified in a few days in Curacao, but anyone who is certified qualifies for one free tank per day. There are certified instructors on site who are happy to take people out as well for a fee. The night before our lesson  I started to get a bit nervous. And I was super thankful that I hadn’t gone ahead and booked (and paid) in advance to do the full course and certification. I was a bit worried I may chicken out. And chicken out I did! After carrying what felt like 80 pounds of equipment on my back to the pool in a skintight wetsuit for our pre-ocean pool lesson (in front of guests at the resort lounging by the pool and just staring at us), I didn’t even make it through the pool portion. I kind of knew I wouldn’t make it during the ‘school’ part where the instructor talked about all the things you had to do while lowering into the ocean or coming up and the equipment and the breathing and…and there were just so many things to remember, not to mention the whole BEING UNDERWATER part which is panic-inducing enough. Our first instructions in the pool were to sink to the bottom of the shallow end and just breathe – and if we could stay there for 3 minutes without panicking we were good to go. I was not good to go. I popped up (another guy did the same about 2 seconds before me – it’s always easier to bail with a partner), apologized to H, accidentally grabbed someone else’s fins and did the sad walk of shame back to the dive shop. I made my way to my little beach oasis, waited for the bar to open, and let a strawberry daiquiri at 10:30 a.m. soothe my soul. Oh, and I snorkelled solo for the first time for over 2 hours and that’s when I really fell in love with it. J and P got certified later in the week (they’re so cool) and H finished the intro class and went for a dive later in the week. She is now thinking about getting her certification too. So proud of her.

On our last full day at the resort, we hopped on the shuttle bus to the city of Willemstad. It was adorable and looked so much like Amsterdam, one of my favourite cities in the world. The shopping is definitely geared towards women and the cruise ship crowd – jewellery, high-end clothing and watches. I had a hard time finding an affordable souvenir shop and in the end I probably paid way more than I should have for a shot glass that says ‘Dushi’ on it (I know, right? I laughed too but in Curacao it means ‘I like it’), a cup and a spoon for my mom. I actually liked the souvenirs available at the airport better, and they were about the same price.

On the (windy) bridge in Willemstad

Willemstad

Our flight left around noon and we had booked our airport shuttle for 10:30 a.m.(the last available one), so that we could enjoy as much time on the resort as possible. We got to say goodbye to our favourite bartender ‘Baby Love’ who made a special drink for H and I (and she did it a little sneakily because technically the bars opened at about 10:30 and we were there earlier but everyone boarding the bus was hoping for one last drink to go!) She made us Banana Monkeys and H and I sipped them forlornly while dragging our luggage through reception. I was so sad to leave, but as mentioned above I found some great souvenirs at the airport and a really cute purse for US$10. The piece de resistance was purchasing a 1 litre bottle of Grey Goose for $37.  I’m completely obsessed with Grey Goose and I love a good deal. Thrilled.

One last note – for anyone reading this who might have kids, J and P said that this resort has the best Kids Club they’ve ever come across. I can believe it. Their son loved it so much that when H and I would try and take him our of the club to hang out with us for a bit and eat or swim while J and P were at their scuba lessons, he would often say no and opt to eat with the Kids Club. The people were super nice, they were open from about 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (with a break between 5 and 6), and the kids were kept very busy.

Sigh.

I want to be back there.

Sunset

Stuff I bought:

Stuff I bought

  • Peach-coloured purse – $10 at Curacao airport
  • Curacao spoon for my mom
  • Mug
  • Sunglasses – $5 at Curacao airport
  • Citrine earrings ($10) and matching necklace (free) from a jewellery shop in Willemstad
  • Postcard
  • Fridge Magnet
  • I ♥ Curacao sticker
  • Snorkel and mask
  • Decorative shells
  • ‘Dushi’ shot glass
  • Perfume from the Perfume Factory in Willemstad that smells like fresh ocean air




Pura Vida: Costa Rica Vacation

12 04 2011

I’m back from Costa Rica, where the motto is “Pura Vida,’ which means “We hope you’re not super fond of your belongings, because we’re going to steal them.”

Kidding, kidding.

‘Pura Vida’ is Spanish for ‘Pure Life’.

We did get robbed though.

On our first day.

Before we got to our villa.

It was all uphill from there, though!

All (barely concealed) bitterness aside, we did have a truly wonderful trip. I think the sign of a good sunny destination vacation is how itchy you are (peeling!) when you get back. According to today’s itch scale, this trip was amaze balls!! Ha.

As mentioned above, things started out a bit rocky. After picking up our rental van we decided to stop off for some essentials (read: beer) en route to our rental villa. While inside a grocery store, a bunch of our luggage was quickly thieved from our (locked) rental van. Boo. I consider myself lucky: I had my passport and wallet on me. My carry-on backpack was stolen, though. A bit of a bummer as it contained my (brand new) cute bikini, my newish glasses, my camera (tear, tear) and my travel pillow. Others lost more: laptops, all their clothes, toiletries. Two people had their passports stolen. Basically, asshat thieves grabbed everything carry-on sized, which for some of the people on our trip (there were eight of us in total) was all of their luggage. Blerg.

Sidenote: if you ever go to Costa Rica, make sure nothing bad happens to you because the entire police force of Costa Rica has the combined IQ of a lawnmower.

On the upside, our villa was beeee-autiful. Four bedrooms, huge open kitchen and living room, great patio with BBQ, blessed air conditioning, and a lovely private pool with decorative waterfall (want one for my postage sized living room!) and ocean view. We were within walking distance to the beach (Playa Hermosa) and all the restaurants we ate at in the area were phenomenal. 

We got up super early one morning and did a full day excursion that started with horseback riding, then zip lining, then a mud bath and hot springs. It was my first time horseback riding and it’s something I’d always wanted to do. What I wasn’t anticipating was horseback riding ON THE SUN. Which is about how hot it felt that morning. Of course I got the horse that wouldn’t get out of the tiny puddle-sized creek we trotted through. Of course. And we were explicitly told NOT to let the horses stop and drink or else they’d get stomach cramps.

Cut to me whispering: “Please horse. Stop drinking. No? Umm…giddy up? No? Um. Fuck.”

As for the zip lining – the best! Me and MM must have talked about it like a hundred times before we left for the trip. We were all: “Yeah! Zip lining! Totally! No prob!” But to actually stand there at the first line (there were over 8 in total, varying in lengths) I almost pooped myself. You’re essentially hurtling yourself through the forest attached by a rope to a a wire. And there’s a sassy leather glove involved.

Then I watched a 6 year old girl ride across the first line 100 feet above the ground like it was her job (note: she also had no problem on horseback, and frankly she was cuter than a box of puppies but in my heat-crazed state I probably misinterpreted her carefree giggles as smugness). The first line was, frankly, terrifying for the first 10 seconds, then amazing (but I didn’t have the nerve to look down yet), then terrifying again when you realize that your hand is the brake. That’s right, your hand. Encased in previously mentioned sassy leather glove.

God I loved it though. Every second of it. I would definitely do it again, in a heartbeat. If anyone knows of a good place in Ontario please let me know.

On another day we drove down to a surfing village called Tamarindo. I was all amped to learn how to surf..until I saw the size of the waves and the number of people riding them/hanging ten/being awesome. That didn’t scare off the boys on the trip! They all rented boards and gave it a shot, without lessons, and did really good! I opted for a boogie board and had a great time. I caught some waves that were so strong they carried me all the way up to the beach. And then off my board. And then over some rocks. And then for good measure, one wave flipped me over and then my board came back and whacked me over the head. Cute.

We visited some nearby beaches, enjoyed some very tourist-friendly happy hour drink specials, ate a lot of really good food (mahi mahi was a standout) and hung out  around our pool. Thanks god for the pool! My GAWD it’s hot in Costa Rica. Good times.

This is the part of the post where I’d usually post pictures of the trip. But my camera was stolen. So.

Here’s where we stayed in Costa Rica. Highly recommend it!








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