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The sunny beaches of Cabo San Lucas may have gained popularity as a spring break destination, but it’s also a great place to plan a couple’s getaway. Check out the best things to do for two on your trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 

I’d previously labeled Cabo San Lucas as just a crazy college party scene, so I didn’t think much of it as a place to plan a trip for our 10-year anniversary. But Aaron had been wanting to visit a few other places down in Baja California like Todos Santos and La Paz, so we decided to stay a few days in Cabo San Lucas at the start of our trip.  

I grew up in Arizona, and Baja California is the desert-meets-sea landscape that I used to dream about. Instead of a mirage appearing in the distance, the stunning ocean blues here are real. Cabo San Lucas is located on the very tip of the Baja California Peninsula in Mexico, surrounded by the Sea of Cortez on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. With almost 365 days of sunshine, warm desert air, and an endless supply of ocean views, Cabo San Lucas is the perfect place to plan a relaxing and fun couple’s getaway. This part of Mexico is an incredible destination if you’re traveling with family or friends too, but we’ve got a few ideas of things to do in Cabo San Lucas that are perfect for two.  

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

1 Book a Hotel Room with your own private plunge pool 

We booked a room at the newly opened Solaz Resort, located on the beachfront corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. I was initially confused about which Cabo was THE Cabo. When people say Cabo, they’re usually referring to the more touristy Cabo San Lucas. San Jose del Cabo is about 30 km up the road, closer to the airport. The area is collectively referred to as Los Cabos, and the stretch between the two towns is lined with beachfront resorts.  

Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort, is located right in the middle of this hotel zone, situated between two natural rock beds which makes the ocean calm enough to swim. Both the architecture and the location of this resort are absolutely stunning. The sleek modern buildings highlight the views of the Sea of Cortez while the landscaping looks like a beautiful desert botanical garden.  

Our room included a private back patio with a plunge pool, so we could take a morning (or evening) dip without leaving our room. We still spent our fair share of time at the pool though, with 100 meters of infinity edge overlooking the sea.  

>>> Check booking.com for rates and availability.

2 Relax on a Sunset Sail with Cabo Adventures 

A romantic sunset sail might sound like a bit of a cliché for a couple’s getaway, but it’s the best way to enjoy the sunset views in Cabo San Lucas. We hopped aboard one of Cabo Adventure’s beautiful sailboats for a tour around the bay. Our captain opened up the sails and we glided past some of the most famous views in Cabo San Lucas, like El Arco and Lover’s Beach.  

This tour by Cabo Adventures is billed as a luxury sunset sailing adventure, and it lived up to that label. Our guide, Pepe, made everything run so smoothly from beginning to end, including the drinks and the food. The delicious hors d’oeuvres turned out to be enough for a light dinner, which included chips and guacamole, pasta salad, and Caprese salad.  

As we sailed back into the harbor, we chased the sun, so we saw the sun set three different times.  

Note that this is an adults-only cruise. While this is a pretty smooth ride, if you do tend to get seasick, I would take some Dramamine before coming onboard. You can book your sunset sail with Cabo Adventures here

3 Visit Lover’s Beach (and Divorce Beach) 

Visiting Divorce Beach on a honeymoon or couple’s trip might sound like a bad omen, but these connected beaches are one of the prettiest areas in Los Cabos. Lover’s Beach (Playa del Amor) and Divorce Beach (Playa del Divorcio) are on the rocky peninsula right before you reach El Arco and Land’s End. Lover’s beach is usually calm enough to swim and snorkel, while the rough waters and riptides on Divorce beach mean it’s not safe to hop in.  

Most people get to these beaches by the water taxis that leave from Medano Beach. Once you’re down on Medano Beach, lots of vendors will walk by trying to sell you water taxis, jet ski rides, and deep sea fishing trips. Water taxis to Lover’s Beach usually cost about $5 to $10 a person, depending on your negotiation skills and how many people are in your group. You can usually have them drop you off at the beach and then set a time to pick you up. If you don’t want to spend time on the beach (or if the water is too rough to land), you can do a little 30-minute glass-bottom boat tour of Land’s End that includes buzzing by Lover’s Beach and El Arco for about the same price.

Don’t forget to bring your own water, snacks and beach gear if you’re spending a few hours here. We usually bring these microfiber beach towels to most of our beach trips since they’re so compact and lightweight.

4 Jet Ski through Chileno Bay 

When Chileno Bay is calm, it’s a great place to go jet skiing! We rented a jet ski from one of the vendors along Medano Beach, the main beach in Cabo San Lucas, and had a blast! Rates are around $40 for a half hour and $65 for a full hour. If you’re looking for more adventurous things to do in Cabo San Lucas, there’s also parasailing, kayaking, and those crazy water jetpacks.  

5 Get a Couple’s Massage 

There’s no better way to relax than a couple’s massage. If you’re looking for luxury, opt for the hotel spa. If you want something convenient and cheap (think in the $20 for 90-minute range), there are a few spots along the beach that may not have the amenities of a hotel spa, but still, give a pretty good massage. 

6 Snorkel in the Sea of Cortez 

You’ll find the best snorkel spots starting from Cabo San Lucas going up the coast along the Sea of Cortez. You can bring your own snorkel gear (we usually pack this $30 ProDive snorkel set with us) and check out places like Playa Empacadora, Playa del Amor (or Lover’s Beach), Playa Santa Maria, and Playa Chileno. If you’d rather book a boat tour, Cabo Adventures has several options that take you to great snorkeling spots around Los Cabos.  

Planning a Trip to Cabo San Lucas 

Getting to Cabo San Lucas – Los Cabos International Airport is located just outside San Jose Del Cabo, or the Old Town. It takes about 30 to 45 minutes to drive from the airport to Cabo San Lucas. We caught a Southwest flight from Orange County down to Los Cabos using points and our companion pass. If you’re looking for a travel rewards credit card, I highly recommend the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card.  

Car Rental – The most convenient place to rent a car is at the Los Cabos Airport. Check RentalCars.com to compare prices of the world’s biggest car rental services, including Hertz, Avis, and Budget. Note that you will have to purchase third-party liability insurance when renting a car in Mexico. 

Hotels and Airbnbs in Los Cabos – As a popular tourist destination, there are plenty of hotel and Airbnb options in Los Cabos. You can opt to stay in San Jose del Cabo, a smaller, more traditional Mexican town that is closer to the airport. Between the Cabos, there’s a 30 km stretch of highway running along the Sea of Cortez with dozens of large, waterfront resorts called the Corridor. Cabo San Lucas is the new, more touristy town at the very tip of Baja California.  

We opted to stay right in the middle of the Corridor, at the recently opened Solaz, a Luxury Collection Resort. This was one of our favorite hotel stays ever. You can check rates and availability on booking.com. 

Airbnb has a number of homes for rent in Cabo San Lucas. If you’re new to Airbnb, use our referral link here for 15% off your first home booking, up to $400 off! You can also use it for $15 toward an Airbnb experience of $50 or more.  

Booking.com has more options, with hotels available in the town of San Jose del Cabo and along the Corridor, and in Cabo San Lucas as well.  

Thank you to Cabo Adventures for hosting us during our time in Cabo San Lucas. Next time we’re in the area, we wouldn’t hesitate to book another tour with them! 

The post What To Do on a Couple’s Getaway to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico appeared first on No Man Before.

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Everywhere we went in Costa Rica, I was on the lookout for sloths. But it wasn’t until we visited Manuel Antonio National Park that we actually saw them. Manuel Antonio is the smallest national park in Costa Rica, but one of the most biodiverse parks in the country.  

Along with both two and three-toed sloths, there are three different types of monkeys, iguanas, and coatis. There are over 100 mammal species and 184 different species of birds. Birds are always tricky to spot, but if you’re lucky you might see the fiery-billed aracari toucan or the magnificent frigatebird. 

Manuel Antonio National Park also has beautiful beaches, so a trip to the park easily deserves a full day. For everything you need to know before you go, check out these tips for visiting Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica! 

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

1 The best time to visit isn’t necessarily dry season 

Precipitation averages drop to almost zero and prices soar during Costa Rica’s dry season, which typically runs from December through April. While it’s great to be able to count on sunny days, it’s also busier, more expensive, and can be really hot during the dry season.  

We’re big fans of traveling during shoulder season and found early May to be a great time to visit the park. Manuel Antonio National Park has highs in the 80s year-round, but the average temperature starts to drop a few degrees in May, and it feels a bit cooler with the rain. While the forecast kept threatening rain during our day at Manuel Antonio National Park, which enjoyed a perfectly warm and sunny beach day. That said, the next day it did start pouring rain at about 3 pm in the afternoon. We just made sure to get up early and fit in everything we could before the rain hit! 

2 Stay near the Park at Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge 

We stayed just a few minutes from the park at the Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge. It was not only incredibly convenient, but the spacious rooms had the best views of the ocean. Si Como No Resort is perfectly nestled into the hillside overlooking Espadilla beach and surrounded by lush vegetation.  No matter where we were at the resort – on our balcony, at breakfast, or just hanging out on the deck by the pool, the views were incredible!

The property is located down the street from the entrance at Manual Antonio National Park and they offer free shuttles both to the park and Espadilla beach. Using the shuttles means you don’t have to worry about parking and it’s easy to get to the park early.  

We played in the family pool that has a fun slide, but they have an adults only pool as well. 

The hotel also includes a wildlife refuge where you can book both night and day tours. We were hoping to do the night tour since so many animals are nocturnal, but unfortunately, the pouring rain on our last night put an end to those plans. You can book a tour here, and check booking.com for prices and availability for Si Como No Resort.

3 Get to Manuel Antonio National Park early 

When we were reading up on Manuel Antonio National Park, we saw that the park limits the number of daily visitors, so entry is not guaranteed. Entrance is limited to 600 people on weekdays and 800 on the weekends. This can be an issue during the busier dry season, with people lining up at 6:00 am to secure a spot when the park opens at 7:00 am. We arrived around 8:30 am in early May and had no problem getting into the park. However, it is still a good idea to get there early to walk the trails before it gets too hot out. Plus, a lot of animals are more active in the mornings. 

Opening hours are from 7 am to 4 pm every day of the year except for Mondays, including all holidays. The weeks surrounding Christmas, New Years and Easter are typically some of the busiest times for the park, so make sure to get there extra early in order to get in.

4 Bring cash to purchase your tickets 

Entrance is $16 per person and they accept cash only. Children under 12 are free of admission. Buy the tickets at the Coopealizana booth, which is one block north of the park entrance. I was surprised at how many places in Costa Rica defaulted to using USD. We noticed that it’s a pretty favorably exchange rate, sometimes even better than paying in the local currency of colones.

5 There are two lines, so split up and have someone hop into both 

There is a line to purchase your tickets and a line to enter Manuel Antonio National Park. If you do get there during a busier time and are traveling with one or more people, have one person in your group get in line to buy the tickets, and then another to save your spot in the entrance line. That way you won’t be at the very end of the entrance line after you’ve waited to buy the tickets. 

6 Book a guide if you want help finding harder to spot animals in the park 

Many of the animals and birds in Manuel Antonio are adept at keeping themselves camouflaged, so hiring a guide will help you see what’s hiding in all of the trees. Monkeys are easy to spot on your own (they can get pretty rowdy), but a guide will help you find birds, snakes, and insects. Your guide will not only point out the animals and tell you about them, but most carry high tech telescopes, so you can get a closer look at those sloths that like to hang out in the highest branches of the trees!

Most guided tours are about 3 hours, which includes time at the beach. If you didn’t book a guided tour ahead of time, then there are a lot of guides offering their services at the park entrance. Guides typically charge $25 per person, but you can negotiate a lower rate, especially if you have a bigger group. Just make sure the guide is affiliated with the ICT (Costa Rica Tourism Board). If they are, they should be able to show you their official ICT card.

7 Bring a refillable water bottle 

It’s important to stay hydrated while in the park, so bring a refillable water bottle. We really like RTIC and Hydro Flask water bottles. The small cafes within Manuel Antonio will refill your water bottle for a fee. Since the tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, you can also use the water spigots near the bathroom or down by the sand at Manuel Antonio Beach for free.  

8 Wear moisture-wicking clothing and comfortable walking sandals 

Getting sweaty is almost unavoidable, so wear light, breathable, and moisture wicking clothing. Most of the paths around the park are paved and fairly flat, but you will be putting in at least a few miles, so opt for comfortable hiking sandals. I love these Chacos and bring them on any trip that involves warm-weather hiking and water; Aaron is a pretty big fan of his Tevas. The highs will most likely be in the 80s no matter what time of year you go, and things really heat up when it’s sunny. 

9 Bring your beach gear 

We originally planned on going to Manuel Antonio for the wildlife, but the beaches within the park are beautiful too! Plus, it’s the best of both worlds because a lot of the animals (especially the monkeys) make their way down to the beach.

Make sure to bring your swimsuit and beach towels. We use these microfiber beach towels when we travel since they’re so compact. There are bathrooms near Manuel Antonio beach where you can change into your swimsuit and showers to rinse off afterward. 

Make sure to keep all your bags and backpacks zippered shut once you’re at the beach! While we were hanging out at Manuel Antonio Beach, a capuchin monkey pulled a plastic rain pancho from someone’s backpack and run with it through the trees. We also saw a raccoon dig around in a beach bag until it pulled out a banana.  

Not all of the animals were trying to steal food. There were lots of huge iguanas, and it seems like a few sloths call the trees around this beach home. I saw a few people mention they saw sloths near Manuel Antonio Beach, and sure enough, we spotted two on the walk down the hill towards the sand. Some sloths stay in the same exact tree for years, so there is actually a pretty high chance they’ll still be there when you go.

Once you’re at Manuel Antonio Beach, you can keep following the park trail to the other side of the little peninsula to get to Playa Espadilla Sur. If you go back the other direction and go further south in the park, you’ll reach a small beach called Playa Las Gemelas.

10 Keep your eye out for animals in the afternoon too

Many animals are active in the afternoon too. We walked the main park trail towards the exit when Manual Antonio was closing around 4 pm, and there were tons of squirrel monkeys playing in the trees. 

11 Some of the best sunsets are right outside the park 

Manuel Antonio National Park closes at 4 pm, but don’t let your beach day end there! We hopped on over to nearby Espadilla beach to spend the rest of the day just outside the park. Aaron rented a beat-up surfboard for $6 and we spent the last couple hours of daylight playing at the beach. When the sun started to set, the sky burst into the brightest shades of pink and orange before fading into a deep red. The colors were some of the most vivid I’ve ever seen! 

Planning a trip to Manuel Antonio

Getting to Manuel Antonio – Manuel Antonio is located about 3 hours from San Jose, and 4.5 hours from Liberia. We opted to rent a car while we were in Costa Rica, but you can also take a bus or private shuttle from the airport. There is also a small airport in Quepos, so you can fly into the area from other parts of Costa Rica.

Car Rental – We had a great experience with local company Vamos Rent-A-Car. If you’re going to be driving a lot around Costa Rica, I highly recommend getting an SUV with four-wheel drive. You can read our tips for driving in Costa Rica and all about our experience with Vamos Rent-A-Car here.

Hotels and Airbnbs in Manuel Antonio – This is a popular tourist area, so there are a lot of hotels and Airbnbs to choose from. We loved our stay at Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge. The rooms were clean, comfortable and spacious, the grounds were beautiful, and the views over the beach can’t be beaten. Plus, you’re only a few minutes away from Manuel Antonio National Park. Check out Si Como No on booking.com here. For more options, check out Airbnb where you can get $40 off your first stay using our referral link here.

More things to do near Manuel Antonio – If you’re planning on spending some time in the area, there is so much to explore. Check out waterfalls like Nauyaca, Poza Azul, Cascada Verde or El Pavon. Besides Manuel Antonio, other beaches that are good for surfing are Playa Dominical, Quepos, and Isla Damas. Playa Biesanz is one of the best spots to snorkel near Manuel Antonio. If you’re planning on traveling to other areas in Costa Rica, check out the rest of our posts here

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Thank you to the Si Como No Resort & Wildlife Refuge for hosting us during our time in Manuel Antonio. Next time we’re in the area, we wouldn’t hesitate to book another stay with them! 

The post 11 Tips for Visiting Manuel Antonio National Park appeared first on No Man Before.

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The Arenal area is one of the best places to go in Costa Rica if you’re looking for adventure. With a home base in the small town of La Fortuna, you can soak in natural hot springs, rappel down waterfalls, go white water rafting, and hike through lava fields. Here is our list of amazing things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica!

Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for 10 years. When Aaron and I were planning our honeymoon back in 2009, Costa Rica was at the top of my list. We ended up picking a different destination, then life got busy, and then it was a decade later and we still had not made the trip. As we were coming up on our anniversary, we decided to finally do it and plan a trip to Costa Rica. 

I dreamed of lush green jungle, exotic animals, and epic adventures. And Costa Rica did not disappoint. The first stop on our trip was La Fortuna, a small town in northwest Costa Rica built at the base of Arenal volcano and surrounded by verdant jungle and natural hot springs. Our days in La Fortuna were a mix of hiking to waterfalls, soaking in hot springs, and spotting monkeys swinging through the trees.  

If you’re looking for amazing outdoor adventures, then La Fortuna is one of the best places to go in Costa Rica. It seems like if there’s a high-adventure activity you can think of, then you can do it in the Arenal area near La Fortuna. We’ve narrowed our list to the best things to do in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. 

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

How to get to La Fortuna 

From Liberia: If you’re coming directly from Liberia Airport, it’s about a three-hour drive to the center of La Fortuna. The roads are paved and easy to drive, so you don’t need to worry about having four-wheel drive for this route. 

We added a stop at Rio Celeste in Tenorio Volcano National Park which only added a few extra minutes to the drive. This waterfall is definitely worth the stop! We opted to rent a car while we were in Costa Rica so we could have the flexibility to go at our own pace and make stops like this. If you’re thinking about renting a car, read this post with 11 things you should know about renting a car and driving in Costa Rica

You can also book a shared shuttle from the airport for USD $54, or a private minibus for USD $270 if you’re traveling with a group. 

From San Jose: La Fortuna is also about a three-hour drive from the San Jose airport in the capital city of Costa Rica. A shared shuttle costs USD $55 and a private shuttle costs USD $200. There is a direct bus route from San Jose to La Fortuna, which you can learn more about here

➳ Read more: 11 things you should know before driving in Costa Rica 

When to Visit La Fortuna 

The most popular (and busiest) time to visit La Fortuna and the Arenal area is the dry season, which runs from December through April. The high temperature is usually in the mid 80s F (30°C).  We visited at the end of April, which meant it was shifting to shoulder season. We had some rain on and off, so we just made sure to pack rain jackets and panchos. Shoulder season (May through mid-August) is a great time to visit because, while there is rain, there is also sunshine and the area is not as busy as the peak dry season.  

Hotels in La Fortuna 

Since La Fortuna is a popular tourist spot, there are plenty of hotel options for every budget. Quite a few of the hotels have on-site hot springs, which are included as part of your night stay. 

Luxury 

Tabacón Thermal Resort & SpaWe opted to stay a night at the Tabacon Thermal Resort and Spa, which is a 5-star hotel and also one of the most popular hot springs in La Fortuna. It’s easy to see why once you enter the grounds; it felt like we were soaking in a natural tropical paradise. Our night stay gave us access to the hot springs for two days, as well as early access from 8 am – 10 am before day visitors arrived. We loved every part of our stay at the Tabacon; the staff was super friendly and attentive, the rooms were spacious, and the beds were amazingly comfortable. Rates start at $300, which is more than we typically spend on a hotel, but when we added up the cost of day pass tickets for the hot springs ($85 for full day) and what we would spend on another hotel, it didn’t end up being too much more to stay at the hotel. The Tabacón Resort does sell out often, so book early if you want to stay here. 

The Springs Resort & Spa at Arenal: This Springs is another luxury resort with one of the best views of Arenal Volcano. As a guest of the hotel, you have access to both the hot springs on the property as well as the Club Rio Outdoor Center, which is about 1.5 km from the resort along the banks of the Arenal River. You can book adventures for an additional fee, like kayaking, tubing, horseback riding and rock climbing, or simply hike the trails and enjoy the additional natural hot springs. Rooms start in the low $400s. A 2-day pass to the hot springs costs $68. 

Mid-range 

Baldi Hot Springs Hotel & Spa: Booking a night at the Baldi Hot Springs Hotel & Spa gives you access to one of the world’s largest hot springs resorts. There are 25 thermal water pools surrounded by lush vegetation. There is also a special kid’s area with slides. Rooms start in the high $100s. Day passes are $32.  

Hotel Arenal Kioro Suites & Spa: This is another hotel with a phenomenal view of Arenal Volcano, plus amazing hot springs on the property. Many of the spacious rooms have floor to ceiling windows to highlight the views. Rooms start in the high $100s. 

Budget 

Casa Luna Hotel & Spa: This rustic hotel set among peaceful gardens has great views of the other volcano near La Fortuna – Cerro Chato. The property does feature a pool and several hot tubs; however, these are not fed by the natural hot springs in the area. Rooms start at $70. 

San Bosco Inn: Check out the San Bosco Inn if you’re looking for a great deal. Rooms are basic but clean and start at $30. While there aren’t hot springs on the property, your room rate includes access to the hot springs at their sister hotel, the Volcano Lodge, Hotel & Thermal Experience. It’s hard to beat a private room, full breakfast, and access to hot springs for $30! 

Things to do in La Fortuna  1 Soak in natural hot springs 

One of the biggest draws to La Fortuna is the abundant natural hot springs in the area. Underground aquifers and rivers are naturally heated by Arenal Volcano, bubbling up into steamy hot mineral baths. There are over a dozen hot springs resorts in La Fortuna, so the hardest part for us was narrowing down which ones we wanted to visit. We opted to visit the hot springs at Tabacón Thermal Resort and Spa by booking a night at the hotel as I mentioned above. See the hotel section above for a list of the best resorts with hot springs in La Fortuna along with the day pass rates.  

2 Hike through the lava fields around Arenal Volcano 

We’d heard that you could see Arenal volcano from the town of La Fortuna, but we didn’t get a glimpse of this famous, perfectly conical-shaped volcano until the last day of our visit due to the foggy skies. 

Arenal Volcano lay dormant for almost 500 years until it unexpectedly erupted in 1968. This explosion destroyed three small towns at its base. Steam and intermittent lava flow continued to spew from the volcano’s crater up until 2010. Arenal volcano has been dormant for almost 10 years so you can hike around it for great views in either Arenal Volcano National Park or the Arenal 1968 Volcano View and Lava Trails. Both parks cost $15 to enter and take you through the lava fields around Arenal Volcano. Since the parks offer similar landscape and views, you’ll probably want to do one or the other, not both. 

We decided to go with Arenal 1968 based on the pictures we saw while researching the trails beforehand. There are two loops within the Arenal 1968 Volcano trails, and we took the shorter one due to timing. While it was cloudy and foggy when we started the hike, some of the clouds started to clear so we could see the bottom of the volcano throughout our hike. The trails here are easy to follow, but you can book a guided tour to get in-depth information on the flora, fauna, and history of the area. 

3 Take a Safari Float along the Peñas Blancas River  

The safari float along the Peñas Blancas river with Aventuras Arenal is a fun, laid-back way to enjoy the lush surroundings. The only way to access most of the river is by boat, so we got to see a whole other part of Arenal that we otherwise would’ve missed! 

The Peñas Blancas river weaves through Costa Rica’s Tilaran Moutain Range, and we hopped in our raft at a spot about 20 minutes from La Fortuna. Most of the river is very calm, which is why this tour is a float and not a rafting trip. If you want something more heart-pounding, opt for one of the white–water rafting trips that will have you rushing through class IV rapids. 

Our guide from Aventuras Arenal did a great job of spotting animals we definitely would not have otherwise seen – we saw lots of birds (including a glimpse of a toucan!), bats, crocodiles, and a Jesus Christ lizard. Our guide did an amazing mimic of the Howler Monkeys roar (he said they call them the Costa Rican lion) which got all of them talking.  

The Safari Float tour with Aventuras Arenal doesn’t end on the river. We made a stop on our way back to La Fortuna at a chocolate farm to learn about their organic process of growing cocoa beans and making chocolate. It also included tasting their varieties, from 100% chocolate to milk, all of which were delicious! 

This is a great half day trip if you have limited time in La Fortuna. We only spent two days in the area, so we didn’t have time to take the popular day trip up to Rio Negro, which is about 2.5 hours away. Aventuras Arenal also does this tour, so if you have more time you can book that tour here.

4 Go White Water Rafting 

There are a few rivers near La Fortuna that have great white-water rafting. If you want something fun but still relatively easy, book a trip down the Balsa River. The Balsa river has class II and III rapids. 

For a more adrenaline-pumping ride, go rafting down the Toro River. Here you’ll paddle through challenging class III and IV rapids. We weren’t able to do a rafting trip as all of the tour operators have age minimums at least a few years older than our three-year-old, so this is on our list for the next time we visit Costa Rica! 

5 Visit La Fortuna Waterfall 

One thing we quickly realized while planning our trip to Costa Rica is that most things cost money, and kind of a lot of money. While we’ve spent days hopping from waterfall to waterfall in Bali, that would quickly get expensive in Costa Rica. The entrance fee to the La Fortuna waterfall is $18. There are nice facilities at the entrance including bathrooms, showers, and an orchid walk, which I imagine looks spectacular when the orchids are in bloom (there were no flowers when we went).  

Before you head down to the waterfall, check out the stunning 75-meter drop of La Fortuna waterfall from the viewing platform. There are 400+ well-maintained stairs with handrails that take you to the bottom of the waterfall. You can usually swim at the pool below the waterfall, just be extra cautious as the rocks are slippery and the current can be strong. You can also swim a bit further down the river.  

6 Jump from the rope swing at the El Salto swimming spot 

El Salto is a popular local swimming spot right outside of town. This swimming hole on the Fortuna River has a rope swing and a small waterfall. And best of all, it’s free! El Salto is about 2 miles from the church in the center of town. You can walk, take a short taxi ride, or park your car right before the bridge and walk a few minutes down to the river. 

7 Walk above the rain forest at the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park 

One of the best places to see wildlife in the Arenal area is the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park. The 3.2km trail takes you above the rain forest, where you can spot sloths, monkeys, birds, butterflies, snakes, and frogs. You can do this walk self-guided (entrance fee is $26 per person), or book a tour ($65 per person). People tend to have better luck with animal sightings earlier in the morning. There are several other tours you can book in the park, including a horseback riding tour. 

8 Rappel down waterfalls on a Canyoning Tour 

If you’ve been rappelling before and thought that was fun, then check out a canyoning tour that will have you flying straight down a 200-foot waterfall. Be prepared to get wet as you make your way down and through some amazing canyons in the Arenal area. 

9 Take a walk through the rain forest at night 

The majority of animals in Costa Rica are nocturnal, so you have a better chance of spotting them at night. Book a guided night tour at the Arenal Oasis Wildlife Refuge to see nocturnal animals like sloths, armadillos, snakes, and the vibrant red-eyed tree frog.  

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While planning our trip to Costa Rica, we talked to a few friends about their experiences and almost everyone came back with the same two responses: the country is an amazing place to visit, but the roads are terrible. We’re talking roads-so rough-that-your-tire-pops-off type of terrible (this actually happened to a friend a few months ago). We like to have the freedom to explore and go at our own pace while traveling, but after hearing this experience, we were a bit concerned about driving in Costa Rica.

Despite the warnings of bad road conditions, we knew we wanted to rent a car in Costa Rica. Plus, our itinerary was turning into more of a road trip, so driving ourselves was the most convenient option. If you’re planning on driving in Costa Rica, here are 11 things you should know before renting a car and hopping behind the wheel. 

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Car Rental in Costa Rica 

If you’ve planned your itinerary and decided that a car rental in Costa Rica is your best option, then here are a few things you should know before booking. 

1 Costs of renting a car in Costa Rica 

Renting a car in Costa Rica can be pretty pricey. The car rental itself is usually reasonable. An SUV will usually run about $20 to $40 a day, depending on the type. It’s the insurance that starts to add up.  

We rented a standard-size automatic 4×4 SUV that would comfortably fit 5 people plus luggage from Vamos Rent-A-Car, a local Costa Rican rental car company with a great reputation. The car rental cost $200 for the week, or about $28 a day during shoulder season (late April/early May). The rates will fluctuate a bit depending on what time of year you’re visiting.

2 Mandatory and Optional Car Rental Insurance  

The cost of rental car insurance is often just as much as the car rental itself, so you may soon be paying twice as much as you initially expected. Insurance is broken out into three different levels: Third-party liability insurance, the basic CDW, and the full CDW.

Third-Party Liability Insurance – The minimum insurance you must purchase is the third-party liability insurance (or PLI), which covers others (or a third party) in the case of an accident. For us, it cost $12 a day. This insurance is mandatory by Costa Rican law, so there’s no declining this one.  Most rental car companies will include this as a line item when you book online. If they don’t, it just means that it’s going to be an added charge at the counter when you go to pick up your car.

Collision Damage Waiver – This is additional insurance that you can purchase to reduce the deductible you have to pay in case of any loss. At Vamos Rent-A-Car, the basic CDW is $9 a day and full CDW is an additional $13 a day. That brought the total insurance daily rate to $34. The CDW rate can fluctuate with the type of car you book, but at Vamos it was a fixed rate.

We typically decline the CDW and rely on the coverage provided by my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card when renting cars. However, we noted in the card benefits that any losses related to off-road operation of the rental car weren’t covered. We weren’t actually planning on going off-roading, but heard so much about the bad road conditions and didn’t know if some of the dirt roads in Costa Rica would be considered “off-road.” We decided to play it safe and purchase the CDW from the rental car company. Luckily, we didn’t have any problems, so we didn’t have to go through the claims process with rental insurance. 

If you plan on declining the CDW with Vamos Rent-A-Car, print or email the PDF of your card benefits to the rental car company. I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, and all the card benefits are clearly laid out here. Other rental car companies may require a signed letter from your credit card company explicitly stating that the CDW is covered within their policy. Check with the rental car company’s policies ahead of time if you plan to waive the CDW.

3 Book your car directly to avoid hidden fees 

In order to avoid any surprise fees, I recommend booking your car directly with the company you choose. We’ve booked through a third party on a trip to England a few years back and thought everything was fully paid, only to find out we had to pay more when we got to the counter at the rental car company.  

We really appreciated Vamos Rent-a-car’s simple and straightforward booking process that had no hidden fees. Everything was clearly labeled, and the amount we were quoted online is the amount we paid. 

4 Car rental companies in Costa Rica 

Most major car rental companies have offices near both the main airports in Costa Rica (San Jose and Liberia), and there are a few great local companies as well. After reading a lot reviews searching for the best car rental in Costa Rica, we opted to go with Vamos Rent-A-Car based on the promise of no hidden fees, competitive prices and a large number of positive reviews from other travelers.

Our experience with Vamos Rent-A-Car was great from beginning to end. Booking online was easy, they had the car that we reserved ready to go, and we were off and on our way in no time.  

We drove a Mitsubishi Outlander from Liberia to Arenal, Monteverde, and down to Manuel Antonio National Park. We drove through a few areas with very bumpy dirt roads and super steep inclines, so we were really happy we went a 4×4 with higher clearance. 

Vamos offers a number of free add-ons including a child seat and a cooler. After booking our car, I followed up with Alex from Vamos and he personally confirmed for me that they would have a car seat for my son (I’m always worried that this will somehow be overlooked and they’ll be all out of car seats when we show up). 

Vamos is piloting a new program where you can purchase a few beach and pool essentials, and they’ll have it all ready to go in your car. We picked up some beach mats and sand toys for our time in Manuel Antonio National Park, and then added in a few panchos in case we got stuck in a downpour (which we definitely did, several times. These were a lifesaver!). They also have pool floats, noodles, and beach umbrellas. It was so convenient to have these items ready to go in the car without having to make a stop at a store. 

We picked up a few extras with our rental car from Vamos Rent-A-Car including sand toys, beach mats, and rain panchos

Driving in Costa Rica  5 Destinations are kind of spread out 

Unless you’re opting to hang out at an all-inclusive resort in Guanacaste, you’re probably going to soon realize that places within Costa Rica are kind of spread out. Plus, there are beautiful places and views along the way, so driving yourself is a great option to explore Costa Rica.  

During our trip, we made a big loop from Liberia to Arenal, Monteverde, Manuel Antonio, then back up to Liberia. This loop is about 14 hours of drive time. We made stops in between to places like Rio Celeste Waterfall and took a side trip to Nauyaca Falls. Renting a car made this incredibly convenient! 

7 Is Four-wheel drive necessary? 

Unless you’re sticking to the main highways, then the answer is yes. We found the main highways to be in really good condition – the pavement was smooth and the signage was great. Once you get off these main highways, things can get bumpy. Watch out for unpainted speed bumps and potholes when driving through smaller towns. 

Most of the rough dirt roads we encountered were around Monteverde and south of Manuel Antonio State Park towards Nauyaca Falls. Even if we didn’t engage the four-wheel drive on all of the dirt roads, the higher clearance was helpful too.  

6 Road conditions change with the seasons  

We went to Costa Rica in the shoulder season (late April/early May), and while there were very bumpy dirt roads, it was still relatively easy driving for our four-wheel drive SUV. 

The road conditions typically get worse during rainy season as dirt turns to mud, roads get washed out, and little streams turn to gushing rivers. Make sure that you’re comfortable driving in these tougher conditions. Aaron has spent enough time riding quads out in the desert that I think he found these off-roading road conditions more fun than nerve-racking. 

8 Best Apps for driving directions in Costa Rica 

Google Maps – I usually use Google Maps and had no problem using this in Costa Rica. We just downloaded the areas where we’d be driving in Costa Rica to our offline maps. We had service for most of the time we were in Costa Rica, but having offline maps was helpful when we lost connection in more remote places. 

The directions and estimated time to our destination in Google Maps were both accurate. I’m sure drive times can get a lot longer during the rainy season when roads are muddier and harder to drive, but when we went in May, Google Maps appropriately accounted for the slower drive time on bumpy dirt roads.

Using the satellite view on Google Maps was pretty handy when we were trying to find an Airbnb in the jungle down a dirt road – the location wasn’t exactly correct within the map, but we could locate the home down a nearby road within satellite view.

Waze – I noticed that a lot of road signs were sponsored by Waze, so that’s a great option to use for directions while driving in Costa Rica. 

Maps.me – This app also has offline maps, so you can still get your directions even if you don’t have cell service. 

Basic tips for Driving in Costa Rica  9 Do you need an International Drivers License? 

You do NOT need an international drivers license to drive in Costa Rica unless you’re from a country that does not use the Latin alphabet. 

10 Filling up at gas stations 

All the gas stations we used in Costa Rica were full service, which means the attendant pumps the gas for you. Just let them know whether you need regular, super gas, or diesel before they start filling your tank. We always paid in credit card, but there may be some stations that only accept cash, so it’s best to have some on you just in case.  

Since gas prices are regulated by the government there is no need to worry about searching for the best price. When we went in May 2019, the price for a liter was ¢618 ($1.04 per liter, or about $3.94 a gallon). The price for gas went up to ¢691 a liter while we were there, so filling up at the end was a bit more expensive. 

11 Parking in Costa Rica 

When we had to pay for parking in Costa Rica, it was usually between $2-$5. Some attractions have free parking, while others will charge you a few dollars. In big cities like San Jose and popular beach destinations, you’ll often have someone try and get you to pay them to watch your car for street parking. While this parking is technically free, paying them a few dollars may help you avoid being targeted. If they start out high, you can also try to negotiate them down. 

I hope you learned everything you need to know about renting a car and driving in Costa Rica. Let us know if you have any more questions in the comments below. 

The post 11 Things You Should Know About Driving in Costa Rica appeared first on No Man Before.

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On the way home from a trip to the UK a while back, we picked up a fun Cath Kidston shark backpack for our toddler to carry his treasures and toys when we travel abroad or when we’re at home in Newport Beach. He stuck a few sand toys in it on trips to the beach and packed it with small toy cars, crayons, and stickers for the plane. He’d even sometimes wear it when it was empty, just because he loved his shark backpack.

Before starting preschool this last year, I started looking for a toddler backpack that was a bit bigger to carry lunch and a few supplies but had a hard time finding something that wasn’t just full-size. Whether it’s for school or for travel, it’s important to find a toddler or kids backpack that’s the right size for their smaller frames, durable and easy to care for, and also lets them show a bit of their own personality with fun colors and prints. I set out to find a few practical, high-quality backpacks that were sized down enough for small children. Check out these backpacks for toddlers and kids that are cute, functional and perfect for travel.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, read our full disclosure. Thank you for supporting brands that make No Man Before possible.

Toddler Backpacks (for 4 and under)  1 Cath Kidston Kids Mini Rucksack 

Cath Kidston is a British retailer with playful prints on its clothing and accessories. I walked by their window front off of the main square in Cambridge, England almost every day when we lived there, and loved the whimsical floral patterns and little British soldier prints. Cath Kidston makes a few different sizes of backpacks for toddlers and kids with new prints every season. The sizes start with the Mini Rucksack which is just the right size for a toddler backpack. 

➳ Shop Now: $29 on Cath Kidston 

2 FJÄLLRÄVEN ‘Mini Kånken‘ Water Resistant Backpack 

If you’ve been eyeing one of the classic and colorful FJÄLLRÄVEN backpacks for yourself, you can also get a mini one for your mini-me. This is the perfect toddler backpack, though you may be tempted to borrow from your kid’s closet and use it as your own mini pack from time to time. Plus, it’s water resistant and comes in so many bright, bold colors. 

➳ Shop Now: $70 on Amazon

3 Walker Goods Mini Arrow Pack 

Walker Goods was created by a young family to inspire other families to travel simple, and it’s easy to do that with the cute and quality Mini Arrow backpack. While this travel backpack was made for kids, the straps conveniently adjust to fit anyone from young kids to adults. 

➳ Shop Now: $50 on Walker Goods 

4 Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar Pack

If you do a lot of hiking and outdoor adventures, then this Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar pack is a great choice for a toddler backpack. It has a little extra padding on the back and breathable shoulder straps to make it more comfortable for longer wear. It comes in pink, green, and blue.

➳ Shop Now: $40 on Amazon

Kids’ Backpacks  5 J.Crew Kids’ Backpack

If your kids are little older and need something that’s not mini, but not quite full size, the J.Crew crewcuts backpacks are a great option. These kids’ backpacks easily fit school essentials like a standard size folder, so it’s a good choice for back-to-school. Plus, most of these backpacks are made with nylon so they’re durable and easy to clean. I picked up a J.Crew backpack with a fun space theme when our son started preschool, and it still looks brand new almost a whole school year later. There’s a water bottle pocket on the outside, which is handy for both school and travel. J.Crew has sales pretty often with 30% to 40% off full-price styles, so these kids’ backpacks are a steal if you pick one up on sale! 

➳ Shop Now: $49.50 on J.Crew

6 Cath Kidston Kids’ Medium Backpack or Padded Rucksack

Cath Kidston bags are so cute, I had to mention them again if you want a kids travel bag that fits a few more things. Opt for the Medium Backpack or Kids’ Padded Rucksack to size up for older kids. These backpacks are made of oilcloth, so they are durable and waterproof.  

➳ Shop Now: $40 to $48 on Cath Kidston

7 Japan Anello Original Mini Backpack

During our trip to Tokyo, Japan last year, one of the first things I noticed was that almost everyone had an Anello backpack. I bought the medium backpack while I was there, and it’s been my go-to backpack ever since. I love the structured zipper that creates a rectangular opening, so you can see everything in your bag (traditional bags and purses sometimes feel like a black hole to me where things just disappear, but a larger opening makes it so much easier to find what I need). They have both small and mini-sized options that include all the same features as the larger ones, including the structured zipper opening for the top, an extra zipper on the back, a roomy interior, a front zip pocket, and side pockets for water bottles.   

➳ Shop Now: $62 for Mini on Amazon /// $39 for Small on Amazon 

8 REI Co-op Kids’ Tarn Pack 

If you’re looking for a rugged pack made for your family outdoor adventures, the REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack has all the options your kids will want when hitting the trails. This kid’s backpack has padded shoulder straps, a hip belt to help distribute weight, easy-access water bottle pockets and a front stuff pocket with stretch mesh. The REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack comes in two sizes. The Tarn 12 is made for kids 5-to-8-year-olds, and the Tarn 18 is best for 8-to-12-year-olds. 

 ➳ Shop Now: $34.95 for Tarn 12 on REI /// $39.95 for Tarn 18 on REI

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On the way home from a trip to the UK last year, we picked up a fun Cath Kidston shark backpack for our toddler to carry his treasures and toys when we travel abroad or when we’re at home in Newport Beach. He stuck a few sand toys in it on trips to the beach and packed it with small toy cars, crayons, and stickers for the plane. He’d even sometimes wear it when it was empty, just because he loved his shark backpack.

Before starting preschool this last year, I started looking for a toddler backpack that was a bit bigger to carry lunch and a few supplies but had a hard time finding something that wasn’t just full-size. Whether it’s for school or for travel, it’s important to find a toddler or kids backpack that’s the right size for their smaller frames, durable and easy to care for, and also lets them show a bit of their own personality with fun colors and prints. I set out to find a few practical, high-quality backpacks that were sized down enough for small children. Check out these backpacks for toddlers and kids that are cute, functional and perfect for travel.

Toddler Backpacks (for 4 and under)  1 Cath Kidston Kids Mini Rucksack 

Cath Kidston is a British retailer with playful prints on its clothing and accessories. I walked by their window front off of the main square in Cambridge, England almost every day when we lived there, and loved the whimsical floral patterns and little British soldier prints. Cath Kidston makes a few different sizes of backpacks for toddlers and kids with new prints every season. The sizes start with the Mini Rucksack which is just the right size for a toddler backpack. 

➳ Shop Now: $29 on Cath Kidston 

2 FJÄLLRÄVEN ‘Mini Kånken‘ Water Resistant Backpack 

If you’ve been eyeing one of the classic and colorful FJÄLLRÄVEN backpacks for yourself, you can also get a mini one for your mini-me. This is the perfect toddler backpack, though you may be tempted to borrow from your kid’s closet and use it as your own mini pack from time to time. Plus, it’s water resistant and comes in so many bright, bold colors. 

➳ Shop Now: $70 on Amazon

3 Walker Goods Mini Arrow Pack 

Walker Goods was created by a young family to inspire other families to travel simple, and it’s easy to do that with the cute and quality Mini Arrow backpack. While this travel backpack was made for kids, the straps conveniently adjust to fit anyone from young kids to adults. 

➳ Shop Now: $50 on Walker Goods 

4 Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar Pack

If you do a lot of hiking and outdoor adventures, then this Deuter Kids’ Schmusebar pack is a great choice for a toddler backpack. It has a little extra padding on the back and breathable shoulder straps to make it more comfortable for longer wear. It comes in pink, green, and blue.

➳ Shop Now: $40 on Amazon

Kids’ Backpacks  5 J.Crew Kids’ Backpack

If your kids are little older and need something that’s not mini, but not quite full size, the J.Crew crewcuts backpacks are a great option. These kids’ backpacks easily fit school essentials like a standard size folder, so it’s a good choice for back-to-school. Plus, most of these backpacks are made with nylon so they’re durable and easy to clean. I picked up a J.Crew backpack with a fun space theme when our son started preschool, and it still looks brand new almost a whole school year later. There’s a water bottle pocket on the outside, which is handy for both school and travel. J.Crew has sales pretty often with 30% to 40% off full-price styles, so these kids’ backpacks are a steal if you pick one up on sale! 

➳ Shop Now: $49.50 on J.Crew

6 Cath Kidston Kids’ Medium Backpack or Padded Rucksack

Cath Kidston bags are so cute, I had to mention them again if you want a kids travel bag that fits a few more things. Opt for the Medium Backpack or Kids’ Padded Rucksack to size up for older kids. These backpacks are made of oilcloth, so they are durable and waterproof.  

➳ Shop Now: $40 to $48 on Cath Kidston

7 Japan Anello Original Mini Backpack

During our trip to Tokyo, Japan last year, one of the first things I noticed was that almost everyone had an Anello backpack. I bought the medium backpack while I was there, and it’s been my go-to backpack ever since. I love the structured zipper that creates a rectangular opening, so you can see everything in your bag (traditional bags and purses sometimes feel like a black hole to me where things just disappear, but a larger opening makes it so much easier to find what I need). They have both small and mini-sized options that include all the same features as the larger ones, including the structured zipper opening for the top, an extra zipper on the back, a roomy interior, a front zip pocket, and side pockets for water bottles.   

➳ Shop Now: $62 for Mini on Amazon /// $39 for Small on Amazon 

8 REI Co-op Kids’ Tarn Pack 

If you’re looking for a rugged pack made for your family outdoor adventures, the REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack has all the options your kids will want when hitting the trails. This kid’s backpack has padded shoulder straps, a hip belt to help distribute weight, easy-access water bottle pockets and a front stuff pocket with stretch mesh. The REI Co-Op Kids’ Tarn Pack comes in two sizes. The Tarn 12 is made for kids 5-to-8-year-olds, and the Tarn 18 is best for 8-to-12-year-olds. 

 ➳ Shop Now: $34.95 for Tarn 12 on REI /// $39.95 for Tarn 18 on REI

The post 8 Cute (and Functional) Travel Backpacks for Kids and Toddlers appeared first on No Man Before.

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When we moved back to California in 2017, we were introduced to what spring could be in Southern California. Although we previously lived in Los Angeles for five years, I don’t think I ever saw more than a few wild golden poppies during our time there. That was probably due to the fact that both of our work schedules were always a little bit crazy during the first few months of the year, so we didn’t get out as much as we’d like. Plus, California was going through one of the worst droughts in its recorded history. Not a lot of rain means not a lot of wildflowers in Southern California, so the thing we saw that was golden most often were people’s lawn (aka dead grass). 

The rain gods finally smiled down on Southern California, and in late 2016/early 2017 we received so much rain that not only did much of the region finally emerge from the five-year drought but experienced the phenomenon called super bloom. Hills that were usually dead and brown sprung to life, carpeted in verdant green before they burst into intense shades of orange, yellow and purple. The wildflowers took a bit of a hiatus in 2018, but they’re back in full force in 2019 with another super bloom.  

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During super bloom, there are so many places to see wildflowers in Southern California. Wildflowers typically start blooming in late February and early March, and some last until the start of summer in June. There are a few popular spots that thousands of people flock to for the wildflowers, but also some lesser-known places that still have a lot of blooms. We’ve included a few places to see wildflowers that are closer to us in Orange County since we don’t always have time to drive a few hours each way, but still want to enjoy the flowers. Check out this list of the best places to see wildflowers in Southern California in the spring. 

A quick note: We know that loving nature means respecting it. During our visits to these wildflowers, we stayed on existing paths and did not step on, sit on, or pick the flowers. We want others to be able to enjoy them too! 

Wildflowers near San Diego   1 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park 

We first learned about Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in 2017 when it experienced massive super bloom, and the usually dry desert floors were blanketed in bright purple flowers. Anza-Borrego is California’s largest state park and has so much to do in every season.  

For an up-to-date status of wildflowers in Anza-Borrego and the best places to see them, check out this website or call the park’s wildflower hotline at (760) 767-4684. You can also stop at the visitor’s center to pick up a map and talk to a ranger about the best spots. 

Flowers you’ll see: Parish’s Poppy, Sand Verbena, Brown-eyed Evening Primrose, Desert Sunflowers, Desert Lilies, Lupine, Dune Primrose and many more native California desert wildflowers 

Blooming season: February through April 

Location: Call (760) 767-4684 for updates on best spots within Anza Borrego or check out this map here

➳ Read more: A Complete Guide to Anza Borrego State Park 

2 Julian 

Julian may be famous for apple-picking (and apple pies!), but it’s worth a trip in the spring to see the daffodils bloom. Daffodils aren’t native to Julian; they were first planted by a resident in the 1990s. Since then, the whole community has joined in on the effort to plant the daffodil bulbs each November. There are now over three million daffodils in the area. 

Blooming season: the daffodils usually start blooming in early March 

Location: Roadsides of Julian, California 

3 Carlsbad Flower Fields 

These rainbow fields of giant ranunculus in Carlsbad, California aren’t wild, but they’re too beautiful to miss. In 2019, ticket prices are $18 per adult and $9 per child to visit the over 50 acres of flowers. Check the Carlsbad Flower Fields website for events and up-to-date information. 

Flowers you’ll see: Giant Ranunculus 

Blooming season: March 1 through mid-May 

Location: 5704 Paseo Del Norte Carlsbad, CA 92008 

Hours: 9 am to 6 pm daily 

Wildflowers in Orange County  4 Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore 

When these hills were set ablaze with bright orange California poppies in 2017, the color was so mesmerizing it literally stopped traffic on the 15 freeway. This has become one of the most popular spots during California’s super bloom in recent years, so try to head out early or on a weekday to enjoy these flowers without so many crowds. We hiked about a mile in where we found more flowers and less people.

Peak bloom is hitting in mid-March in 2019, which also means peak crowds. This city of Lake Elsinore is working to help with the parking situation by adding a shuttle. If you park in the nearby outlet mall parking lot at 17600 Collier Ave., there is a shuttle running to Walker Canyon on the weekends from 8 am to 7 pm. The shuttle costs $5 per person. No pets are allowed on the shuttles.

Flowers you’ll see: Golden poppies, plus purple, yellow and white wildflowers 

Blooming season: February through April 

Location: Walker Canyon Trail near Lake Elsinore 

5 Chino Hills State Park 

We could see poppies flowering in Chino Hills State Park from the freeway. Check out the Upper Aliso Canyon Trail or the Bane Canyon Loop Trail to see wildflowers. 

Flowers you’ll see: Golden poppies, violet owl clovers, lupines, and many more 

Blooming season: February through April 

Location: 4721 Sapphire Rd, Chino Hills, CA 91709

6 Santiago Oaks Regional Park 

This regional Orange County park is tucked behind a neighborhood. We went very early on in the season and found a few small patches of poppies along the Weir Canyon Loop, plus lots of other colorful wildflowers.  

Flowers you’ll see: Golden poppies, arroyo lupine, fiddleneck, Indian paintbrush, blue-eyed grass, California wishbone, and bush sunflowers 

Blooming season: February through April 

Location: North of 2145 N. Windes Drive, off Santiago Canyon Road, in Orange, CA

7 Crystal Cove State Park 

The coastal paths in Crystal Cove are lined with bright yellow bush sunflowers after a winter of good rain. The flowers are all throughout the park, but our favorite spot is the wooden boardwalk leading from Pelican Point Parking lot 2 down to the beach. 

Flowers you’ll see: Bush sunflowers, plus more along the coastal paths and in Moro Canyon across the PCH 

Blooming season: Peak bloom is usually mid-March 

Location: Pelican Point parking lot #2, Crystal Cove State Park 

8 Laguna Coast Wilderness Park 

There are over 40 miles of hiking trails throughout the 7,000-acre Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Each year the Nix Nature Center holds a first-day-of-spring wildflower hunt. 

Flowers you’ll see: morning glories, hyacinth, popcorn flowers, southern suncups, and many more 

Location: 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, on both sides of Highway 73

Wildflowers near Los Angeles 9 Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve 

The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is one of the most stunning displays of wildflowers in the state when these rolling hills burst into vivid oranges and yellows. Parking is $10 per car and no dogs are allowed in the park. Check out current photos of the blooms here

Blooming season: February through April. Peak viewing is typically late March or early April. 

Flowers you’ll see: Golden poppies, forget-me-nots, slender keeled fruit, and filaree flowers 

Location: 15101 Lancaster Rd, Lancaster, CA 93536 

10 Carrizo Plain National Monument 

The open grasslands of Carrizo Plain National Monument burst into waves of purple and gold flowers. You can find updates on the spring flowers on the BLM California Facebook page here

Blooming season: mid-March to mid-April 

Location: 17495 Soda Lake Rd, Santa Margarita, CA 93453 

Have you found any great places to see wildflowers in Southern California this spring? Let us know in the comments!

The post The Best Places To See Wildflowers in Southern California  appeared first on No Man Before.

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This post is sponsored by Boulder Canyon, the maker of delicious potato chips! 

Whether we’re at home in Southern California or traveling, we’re always heading out on a hike or down to the beach. Since we’re often on the go, I usually have a few snacks in my bag so I’m prepared whenever hunger strikes. Boulder Canyon potato chips are a convenient and delicious savory snacking option that we love to bring with us. 

A Healthier Chip 

I know potato chips have a bad rap for being unhealthy, but these thick cut chips are made with only a few simple ingredients and kettle-cooked in unique oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil.  

Like true Californians, we’re pretty crazy about avocados in all forms – we’re chip–dipping in guacamole and spreading mashed avocado on our morning toast, so the chips kettle-cooked in avocado oil were an instant favorite for me. 

Avocado oil has heart-healthy fats like oleic acid and the antioxidant lutein which can reduce the risk of eye diseases. Plus, the Canyon Cut means chips with ridges, which are extra thick and crunchy.

For a kid that can be pretty picky, Hudson is a fan of the Hickory BBQ flavor (I thought he might stick with the plain sea salt). 

Boulder Canyon even has a bag of chips with 60% less sodium in case you’re craving that hearty crunch but want to ditch the salt. 

New Packaging, same great taste

In honor of reaching their 25th anniversary of cooking up simple, flavorful chips, Boulder Canyon is rolling out new packaging! While the bags may look a bit different than what you’ve seen in stores, the same great chips are inside! Boulder Canyon was started in the Flatirons of Colorado, so the new bags highlight where they were born — the great outdoors!

The Perfect Snack for Outdoor Adventures 

The last few winter months have been exceptionally cold and rainy here in Southern California, so we’ve jumped at the chance any time the clouds have cleared to head to the beach. We spent a sunny but cool afternoon down at Crystal Cove State Park and brought a few bags of our favorite Boulder Canyon potato chips to enjoy. 

We love walking the coastal paths along the bluffs of Crystal Cove, surrounded by a natural landscape with the sound of waves crashing below. Up from the bluffs, there’s a better vantage point to see dolphins swimming out in the sea, and I’m still hoping to spot a Gray whale on the annual migration down south. 

All the plants and bushes are finally starting to bloom after all the rain we’ve received this winter (hoping for another super bloom this year!), so it looks beautiful and smells amazing. Some of the boardwalks to the beach are lined with bright yellow bush sunflowers during the spring. After enjoying the views from up above, we made our way down to the beach to enjoy the sunset.

Boulder Canyon encourages you to “Follow Your Path” by fueling you for your outdoor adventures. Follow Boulder Canyon on Instagram and Facebook. 

The post Boulder Canyon Chips: The Perfect Grab-and-Go Snack For Outdoor Adventures appeared first on No Man Before.

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The Sawtooth mountains rival many of the more popular mountain ranges in the U.S. in both size and beauty, but outside of Idaho, they’re still relatively unknown. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, fast-flowing rivers, and over 400 alpine lakes, there are countless adventures for those who want to explore. Find out the best things to do in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains!

I first connected with Christina McEvoy on Instagram back in 2016, a few months after I started my own travel Instagram account. I followed her family’s travels throughout the western United States and in their home state of Idaho. While I’d never been particularly interested in visiting Idaho (I’d crossed over into the southern part as a kid, but going back didn’t really cross my mind), the way they showcased the state with hikes through beautiful forests, camping and fishing trips to crystal clear lakes, and the occasional soak in a natural hot spring moved Idaho way up on my bucket list.

We took a trip to Boise this winter to visit family that recently moved there and loved our time skiing and snowshoeing, and of course, we had to spend some time in a steaming hot spring. Next time, we’re hoping to make a summer trip up to the Sawtooth mountains, where Christina and her family have spent plenty of time exploring. 

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Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, read our full disclosure. Thank you for supporting brands that make No Man Before possible.

I asked Christina to share her favorite things to do in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains in the summer. I’ll let her take it from here!

When you think of Idaho, the first thing that comes to mind is probably potatoes, but did you know that Idaho has more wilderness than any other state in the lower 48? In fact, 60% of the state is covered in forestland! Idaho is a hidden gem by many standards, especially compared to its more popular neighboring states of Washington and Oregon. Idaho is stunningly beautiful, filled with alpine peaks, jewel-colored lakes, untouched forest, and sparkling rivers.

If you love outdoor recreation and beautiful landscapes in every season, Idaho won’t disappoint. Here, you can escape the crowds of other more popular destinations nearby like Yellowstone and find solace in the outdoors.

Summer is one of the most popular times to visit Idaho, so if you’re looking for an epic trip into one of the most beautiful national forests, look no further than the Sawtooth mountains. Compared to other more well-known mountain ranges nearby such as the Teton Range, it is just as breathtaking and dramatic. The dense green forests of the Sawtooth Wilderness are set to a backdrop of snow-tipped rocky crags during the warm summers. Some even call it Idaho’s best-kept secret because it doesn’t take much to discover an empty hiking trail, quiet lake, or solitude in the backcountry.

If you’ve got a few days to spend in these mountains, we’ve got you covered with some of the best outdoor activities you can find in the Sawtooths. This will be an adventure you’ll never forget!

Getting to the Sawtooth Mountains

First of all, how to get here? The closest major airport is located in Boise, Idaho, a short 3-hour drive from the Sawtooth mountains. You can also fly into the smaller airport in Hailey, which is just outside Sun Valley, Idaho and only an hour from the Sawtooths.

Where to stay when visiting the Sawtooth Mountains

The small town of Stanley (population 68) serves as the gateway to the Sawtooths. For hotels in Stanley, Idaho we recommend Mountain Village Resort and Stanley Town Square. Our very favorite place to stay when exploring the Sawtooth mountains is Redfish Lake Lodge, right next to Redfish Lake. Also check Airbnb in the area for a cozy cabin or a larger home if you’re coming with a bigger crew (and if you’re new to Airbnb, sign up using our link here and get $40 off your first stay). For more hotel options, check availability in Sun Valley, a ski resort town located on the edge of the Sawtooth National Forest.

There are also plenty of camping options if you’re more adventurous and want a taste of some of the most coveted and beautiful camping sites in the state. Camping around Redfish Lake is very popular, so if make sure to reserve 6 months in advance. Other great camping spots include Stanley Lake (our personal favorite), Pettit Lake, or Iron Creek.

There are endless recreational opportunities in the Sawtooth mountains, however, these are our top 5 must-do activities.

Paddleboard or Kayak at Redfish Lake

One glance at Redfish Lake, and you’ll instantly want to dive in. (FYI: it’s cold though!) Redfish Lake is one of the main attractions in the Sawtooth mountain range and for good reason. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous. The water is as pristine and clear as you can get, and it’s the perfect alpine lake to spend a lazy summer day on. There are several beaches where you can hang out for the day and let the kids play in the sand. You can also rent a paddleboard or kayak over at the dock at Redfish Lake Lodge. In my opinion, this is the best way to get around the lake and take in the beauty of the majestic mountains around you.

Paddleboarding on Redfish Lake

Take a hike

There are endless, beautiful trails to explore in the front and backcountry of the Sawtooths. Some of the best shorter day hikes include Fishhook Creek and Redfish Lake Inlet.

If you want something more challenging with epic scenery as the reward, don’t miss Bench Lakes, Bridal Veil FallsIron Creek to Sawtooth Lake, Alice Lake, and our very favorite, Goat Lake. The hikes to Alice Lake and Goat Lake are both great options for backpacking since the trails are somewhat long and difficult. Spending the night at the lake gives you a bit more time rest your feet and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Fly fish on the Salmon River

You can’t come to Idaho without fly fishing. If you’re an experienced fly fisherman, there are plenty of great spots to cast your fly.  If you’re new to the sport, there are some great guides that can teach you everything you need to know about fly fishing. We recommend Sawtooth Adventures. They are super professional, know all the best spots and will teach you all the ins and outs of fly fishing. You’ll feel like a pro (ok, almost) by the end of the day!

Soak in natural hot springs

Idaho has more natural hot springs than any other state in the U.S., with 130 of over the 300 hot springs safe to soak. There are several hot springs located in the Sawtooths, so you’ll have to visit at least one while you’re here. 

Boat Box Hot Springs is about 3.5 miles up the 75 from Stanley–look for steam and a small pull out that fits 2 to 3 cars. Hot water is piped into an old mining cauldron, so you and three of your friends can stew in here while enjoying the view of the Salmon River (see photo below).

Sunbeam Hot Springs is a bit further up the 75, also along the Salmon River with a few rock pools that catch the hot water.

Kirkham Hot Springs is located on the way to Stanley if you’re coming from Boise, right off the 21 and along the Payette River. These are possibly the most popular hot springs in the state due to their proximity to Boise (a little under two hours) and the nearby campground, but there are quite a few pools to accommodate anyone looking for a relaxing soak after a long hike.

Go whitewater rafting

If there is one thing you should do on a summer trip to the Sawtooth mountains, it’s go whitewater rafting! Idaho has world-class whitewater and it’s a great family adventure that everyone will love! There are plenty of whitewater rafting day trips in the Sawtooths, but if you want something a little more adventurous, take a multi-day trip down the Salmon River. We had a great experience The River Company and highly recommend them.

Map of things to do in the Sawtooth Mountains

About Christina McEvoy

Christina McEvoy is a photographer and outdoor travel blogger at Adventure Together. She can also be found on Instagram where she documents her family’s travels and adventures. Her goal is to inspire others to get outside and explore. She and her family are from Boise, Idaho but are currently traveling full-time through Central and South America.

The post 5 Epic Adventures in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains appeared first on No Man Before.

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We’re pretty light packers by nature, but I’ve always had a hard time with shoes. Most of our travels include a combo of hiking, surfing or swimming at the beach, and walking down little town streets. I used to find myself trying to pack a different shoe for each situation. In the past, I opted for hiking boots, which were a bit overkill if we were only hiking for a few miles, or compromised with an old pair of tennis shoes that didn’t really work well for any of these situations. I started looking for a pair of versatile, minimalist hiking shoes that would easily transition between outdoor and urban adventures.  

The versatile hiking shoes listed below are lightweight, packable and comfortable, making them perfect for your next trip that includes hikes in the mountains, treks down to the beach, jaunts about town, or all of the above. 

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 Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on one of them, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. For more information, read our full disclosure. Thank you for supporting brands that make No Man Before possible.

Vans UltraRange Rapidweld

Living in SoCal, we’ve been longtime fans of Vans (the Old Skool Classics are my everyday shoe). Vans launched the UltraRange line in 2017 and we knew we had to check them out; they took the classic Vans look and made a shoe that was meshy and lightweight, but still had enough traction for a moderate hike. We’ve taken the Vans UltraRange Rapidweld up mountains, through deserts and of course down to the beach plenty of times. They’re comfortable for outdoor adventures and everything in between. 

➳ Shop Now: Vans UltraRange Rapidweld

Lems Trailhead

Lems Shoes came about when its founder saw a gap in the market for minimalist hiking shoes that would make the “mountain to town” transition. The Trailhead hiking sneaker does just that, all with cool 90s retro styling. These sneakers follow the natural shape of the foot to create a wider, more comfortable toe box. The shoe is made out of microfiber and air mesh so it’s both super lightweight and vegan.

➳ Shop Now: Women’s Lems Trailhead /// Men’s Lems Trailhead

adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Voyager Sleek Parley

These adidas hiking shoes may lean towards a classic sneaker look, but I love the low-key styling and branding. These shoes are a great pick if you plan on doing a lot of water hikes; the fabric is quick-dry and there’s a built-in drainage system. Plus, the Outdoor Terrex CC Voyager Sleek Parley shoes feature adidas’ Stealth rubber outsole for good grip for whatever you come across on the trails. 

➳ Shop Now: adidas Outdoor Terrex CC Voyager Sleek Parley

ECCO Aspina Toggle Hiking Sneaker

I love my ECCO hiking boots, but they take up half my suitcase and I don’t exactly want to be wearing them everywhere. The Aspina Toggle Hiking Sneakers are light and comfortable, so they’ll easily take you from the plane to pretty much any adventure you have planned on your trip.  

➳ Shop Now: ECCO Aspina Toggle Hiking Sneaker

Teva Arrowood 2 WP

If you already love Teva sandals, but need something to handle more rugged terrain, then check out the Arrowood 2 WP hiking shoes. These chic and simple sneakers have waterproof uppers, so you can take them puddle jumping down city streets or through a walk in the rain without your feet getting wet. 

➳ Shop Now: Teva Arrowood 2 WP

Vivo Barefoot Primus Trail FG 

The barefoot movement continues to gain momentum, and Vivo Barefoot has been leading the charge for over 10 years. Vivo Barefoot is all about doing what’s best for your feet and helping you establish a more sensory connection to your surroundings. If you’re used to wearing traditional shoes with a lot of padding and a regular heel-drop, then it may take some time to transition to barefoot footwear. These trail runners are super lightweight and flexible, but still provide the traction and toughness you need for long runs (or hikes) through rocky terrain. 

➳ Shop Now: Women’s Vivo Barefoot Primus Trail FG /// Men’s Vivo Barefoot Primus Trail FG

Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Luna Leather Sneaker

Merrell is well known for their traditional (bulkier) hiking boots but created a great barefoot running and hiking shoe option with the Vapor Glove 3 Luna Leather Sneakers. These shoes are seriously slimmed down with almost zero ground-to-foot separation and literally fit like a glove. The leather uppers and grippy Vibram outsole mean they’re great for dealing with cold and wet weather. 

➳ Shop Now: Women’s Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Luna Leather Sneaker /// Men’s Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Luna Leather Sneaker

Lems Primal 2 

Lems first foray into the market was with barefoot shoes, including the Lens Primal 2. These shoes follow the natural shape of the foot with an extra-wide toe-box. They’re also built on a zero-drop platform, which helps with spine alignment and proper posture. Lems also has an extremely packable and lightweight leather hiking boot perfect for colder weather travels.  

➳ Shop Now: Women’s Lems Primal 2 /// Men’s Lems Primal 2 

Xero Shoes Prio

Xero shoes is another leader in the barefoot movement, with the founder inspired to make a better running shoe after repeated injuries. The Xero Shoes Prio use the company’s signature 5.5mm FeelTrue rubber that provides adequate protection but still allows you to feel the ground underneath.  

➳ Shop Now: Women’s Xero Shoes Prio /// Men’s Xero Shoes Prio 

The post 9 Versatile Hiking Shoes Perfect for Travel appeared first on No Man Before.

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