Vinales, Cuba – 3 must do’s!

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What can I say, by now it’s probably a bit obvious that I’m a sucker for farm towns.  I’ve just returned from spending a week in Cuba (mainly in Vinales) and after all of the research I did before the trip, I wanted to share my learnings and some of my favorite spots/stops from the trip.  Throughout the week, I hope to help debunk some of the rumors and also help in the planning of your trip or inspire you to visit Cuba!

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  1. Horseback ride through Vinales Valley!  There are so many places to link up with a horseback riding guide.  We were lucky enough that there was a spot right next to our Casa Particulares in which I would highly recommend.  For $25 CUC, we spent hours riding horses through the valley where we took a tour of a tobacco farm, a coffee farm, a cave, and a restaurant with a look out over the entire valley.  You pay for food and drinks along the way but that was to be expected.

    IMG_13982. Eat the local fruit!  You will likely get a taste of this from your host if you stay in the Casa Particulares and have breakfast with them but we also stopped and bought a massive bowl of mangos for $1 CUC.  They were delicious and the fruit is just so tasty on the island.

    IMG_12953. Eat at Finca Agroecologica.  This is not somewhere you will see locals eating so it is quite well known by tourists but it’s truly an amazing experience.  You can walk the farm and see them growing everything you will eat.  It’s a beautiful farm to table experience in one of the most epic sceneries.  We loved it so much, we went twice!  You will get more food than you can ever finish.  My favorite thing was actually a special smoothie type drink they made with peppermint, local honey, pineapple, coconut, and more.

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    Miguel, the grounds keeper showing us the animals and around the farm.

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    If you can speak and/or understand Spanish, Miguel will tell you a lot about the property.

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    Just looking at these photos makes me want to go back!

    I would have also added climbing to this list but I know not everyone would be up for that.  I will dedicate a separate post for any climbers out there :).  Cuba was incredible but since it is starting to become easier for Americans to travel there, there are many things changing about travel to the country.  I read so many myths before our trip that I didn’t realize until we got there but also so many solid travel tips that I’m glad I was prepared for.  I will post those later this week.  For now, enjoy!

Tikal, Guatemala.

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Seeing the Mayan remains in Tikal, Guatemala was an incredible site.  We hiked back through the grounds and climbed some of the towers.  What the Mayans built with human power and a whole lot of faith was unbelievable.  Apparently the ruins continue on underground quite a ways and there is much more to be excavated.

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The stairways were very steep.

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Rob resting at the top of one of the smaller towers.

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We saw a nice sized tarantula.

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The slate where heads were chopped off… yikes.  The Mayans definitely liked to “sacrifice” people.

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Stunning.

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This is one of my favorite photos.  Looking at one of the other temples from afar.

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Tikal is beautiful and historical.  It was remarkable touching history and imaging what it used to be like back in the day.

Belize It!

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We officially touched down in Belize yesterday and I can say so far it has far exceeded any expectations or thoughts we had about it.  We knew it was going to be amazing but it’s blown us away with it’s island breeze, turquoise waters, and slowed down pace.  Here’s a little peak into Ambergris Caye!

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Our Airbnb hosts greeted us with a free drink!  They call these ones dirty bananas.

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There are cute island dogs everywhere, this one belongs to our property and his name is Marvin.  Used to be starvin’ Marvin but they fed him up really good.

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We asked if we could take our drinks out on a pier and they answered of course, there are no rules here!  We dig it.

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My nap spot for the next week, do not disturb :).

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We found our way to the Palapa Bar which I’d been dreaming about and it was everything I was hoping!  Sun, tacos, beers, and ocean inner tubes – true vacation mode!

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The bar sits over these waters at the end of a Pier.

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It was a true warm welcome!

Arabian Adventures.

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Ever since my big horse trip in Bosnia, I’ve been chasing that fun riding and have been checking out new places to go riding trails.  A friend of mine had a great recommendation and wanted to go riding as well in Point Reyes, CA last weekend so we went here and had an awesome and beautiful ride with Susie and her beautiful Arabians.  She can accommodate all levels and has very well behaved horses.  It was a great chance to explore northern California in my most favorite way 🙂

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On our way to the trail head, there were some great horse signs on the road.

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My adorable horse was named, Cody.

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The mountains and the views were stunning.

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Trish and I on top of the trail with our sweet horses.

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We rode through so many different terrains.

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The redwoods were beautiful, too!

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We packed the horses up to take them to the trail so we also put them back in after the ride.

We did about a 2hr ride and there were about 5x of us as guests.  The drive from San Francisco to Point Reyes was beautiful and the town is adorable with a little main street.  I can’t wait to go back and check out more of Susie’s trails!

Hello, Tokyo.

DSC_0317On our way back from Auckland we stopped over in Tokyo for a 20 hour layover. I was struck with a nasty bout of food poisoning so unfortunately I only got to experience the Haneda airport (which was lovely, actually) but Nick was able to spend a few hours in the city and captured some images for me. The one place I wanted to go to was the Harajuku District but Nick told me no one was out and about so that makes me feel a little better. Anyway, I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos with you.

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DSC_0304(Yoyogi Park)

DSC_0334(A tranquil fountain. Can you hear it?)

DSC_0337(Lots and lots of sake!)

DSC_0341(The beginning of a beautiful sunset)

I would love to be able to go back and see the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Even though I was forced to stay in the airport I was able to make the most of it. When I finally started to feel better, I shopped around and took in everything that I could. Haneda has this amazing balcony overlooking Tokyo. When the sun went down I bundled up and took a look at the city covered in lights. I was sad I couldn’t be in the middle of it all but these pictures make me feel like I got to be there.

Taranaki Falls Walk.

DSC_0135_2We were unable to go near Mount Tongariro as it was covered in snow so we decided to take a hike to a famous waterfall. The Taranaki Falls took about 45 minutes to get to and we were able to walk on the very tip top of the falls and run through the very bottom. It was a ton of fun and we got some really beautiful photos.

DSC_0136_2(Water gaining speed)

DSC_0145_2(Mt Doom behind me)

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DSC_0204(Underneath the falls- it was SO LOUD!)

DSC_0215_2(It ended up being a great day, even if Mt Doom wasn’t able to be conquered)

DSC_0218_2(One thing I loved about New Zealand? The moss, it’s everywhere)

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This was such a great walk, we saw so many beautiful sites and were engulfed in trees. I wish the whole world looked like this. I guess I’ll just have to go back to beautiful New Zealand.

Lost in the City.

DSC_0508Brittany found this great lookout in San Francisco and decided we had to take photos there. I am so glad she did because it gave new life to this beautiful skirt I got at Anthropologie post-Christmas.

DSC_0515(It has a princess feel to it, I love how it shimmers in the sun)

DSC_0519(I pair it with these awesome booties Lindsay gave me and a simple clutch. With a skirt like this, basics pair best)

DSC_0521(It’s actually on sale right now)

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DSC_0525We found the way this skirt looks best, high above the most beautiful city in the world with a breeze to compliment it!

Maori Culture.

DSC_0338When we visited Rotorua, New Zealand, we took in the story and culture of the Maori people at Te Puia. They danced and played music for us. It was a lot of fun and they were very interactive, our friend Bryan was chosen to be the chief of a different tribe. We weren’t allowed in until Bryan was deemed safe.

DSC_0344_2(This was part of the dance that the men were performing)

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DSC_0369_2(Nick and Bryan were told to get up and dance with the tribe. I think the little boy with the red glasses stole the show though)

Similar to Hawaii, the Maori culture performs for visitors and is excited to share their history and culture with guests. I thought it was a lot of fun and would recommend it to anyone visiting the North Island of New Zealand!

Backroad Jeep Trek.

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Last weekend I got to spend some time adventuring with Emily.  We had so much fun taking her jeep on some backroads to explore.  She knows all the good places so we hopped in and took off.  The Sierra Nevada mountain range is full of hidden treasures.  Some of them aren’t even hidden :).

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Heading up the mountain!

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We ended up back at this amazing meadow, remember this from THIS post?  How differently beautiful does it look from the last time?

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We also found some mud puddle to go through which we may gotten the jeep a little bit dirty : )

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We stopped to play with our cameras and let the dogs run.  What better place to soak it all in?

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It’s sad how there isn’t any snow and it’s January but we found a way to still enjoy the beautiful outdoors!