Archive for the ‘Hacks’ Category

Hacking Barbados – 3 Day Itinerary

by admin

Barbados Beach

The east Caribbean island of Barbados is full of non stop picturesque beaches, rolling hills, colonial architecture, and rum distilleries and shops.  With accommodations and restaurants to suit any taste, along with the warm and friendly Bajan people to bring you a welcoming feeling, this sophisticated tropical island with a long, rich history is recommended for travelers of all types.   Here is a 3 day ambitious itinerary to visit the best sites Barbados offers:
Day 1
  • Hotel – Stay in a location that allows you to access the east and west coasts of the island easily.  The Hilton hotel is in an amazing location on the southwest point of the island.  You could also stay in an Airbnb rental near there if you are looking for more budget friendly options.
  • Scooter Rental – Rent from Demario’s Cycle World in Bridgetown if you’re traveling solo or with one companion.  The rental cost is approximately $55 USD/day and will even deliver to you for $20 extra.
  • Granny’s Restaurant – This is a legendary local restaurant located in Oistins.  Definitely try the macaroni pie and stewed beef.
  • Cutters – Drive out towards the east coast and stop at Cutters for the best rum punch you’ll ever have.
  • Crane Beach – This picturesque beach is surrounded by cliffs with The Crane Hotel overlooking.  Go to the south side of the beach and walk along the cliff path to find a point to jump off into the ocean.
  • Bottom Bay Beach – Located about a 10 minute drive from Crane Beach.  Many travelers consider this the top beach on the island.  Walk down the beautifully landscaped steps to reach this palm tree fringed cove and true paradise.
  • Foursquare Rum Distillery – Drive 15 minutes back west to reach the rum distillery, which is located on an old sugar plantation dating back to the early 1600s.  If you reach here after closing time, the caretaker is usually open to take you on private tour if you offer him a nice ‘tip’.  The distillery has an impressive setup and uses green technology to protect the environment.  Make sure you try their line of rums, including Doorly’s XO.
  • Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry – The big thing to do on the island on Friday nights.  There are many local restaurant shacks lined up one after another serving amazing fish (mahi-mahi, flying fish, tuna, swordfish) and all types of local food in an informal setting with Reggae and Calypso music playing in the background.
  • St Lawrence Gap – The best nightlife scene is located in the ‘Gap’.  This 1.3km stretch of road located 5-10 minute drive west of Oistins is full of restaurants and lively nightlife with local musicians and DJs.
Day 2
  • George Washington House – This restored plantation house from the 1700s was visited by George Washington in 1751.  It is worth a visit if you’re into the historical significance, but skip if you have already seen other restored colonial homes.
  • Cuz Fish Stand – Beach shack serving amazing fish and cheese cutters (only $9BBD) on the beach on the west side of the island.  Be prepared for a long line.
  • Jamaica 246 Restaurant – If Cuz Fish Stand is closed or too long of a line, go around the corner to this authentic Jamaican restaurant.  Try the curry goat or jerk chicken.
  • Carlisle Bay / Brownes Beach – Beautiful picturesque beach with calm bright blue water and white sand beach.  Looks like something off a travel agency poster or calendar.  Spend a couple hours here taking in the majestic views, while enjoying the warm water and sail boats on the horizon.
  • Mount Gay Visitor Center – Located 10 minutes drive north of Brownes Beach.  Mount Gay is the world’s oldest rum brand started in 1703 and named after Sir John Gay, who managed the company owned by John Sober (not making this up).  The tour is about 45 minutes long, and even though you don’t get to walk through the distillery, you get to sample many of their rums and is worth the visit.  Definitely try the XO rum.
  • Brighton Beach – Another picture postcard beach located 5 minutes drive north of Mount Gay Visitor Center.  On the north side of the beach there is a tide pool with warm crystal clear water that the locals play in.  On the south side of the beach, check out Weisers Bar to cool down with a couple of rum punch drinks.
  • TML One Love Bar – Popular rum shop and karaoke bar in Holetown (located 15 minutes drive north of Brighton Beach).  Stop here for a very strong rum punch, cheap local beers, and local atmosphere.
  • John Moores Bar – Another popular rum shop full of local characters and tourists located right on the beach north of Holetown.  Go here for amazing sunsets while sipping on long aged rum.
  • Shakers Bar & Grill – Highly rated local restaurant.  Make reservations ahead of time if going on the weekend.  Steak, ribs, and fish dishes are all excellent.
Day 3
  • Harrisons Cave – One of Barbados top tourist attractions. Tour the subterranean cavern on a tramway and view the crystallized limestone, flowing streams and waterfall.
  • Hunte’s Gardens – Unique and beautiful gardens built up in an old sink hole by horticulturist Anthony Hunte.  Anthony if very friendly and will personally give you a tour of the gardens while telling you about the history of the island.  Definitely worth a 30 minute visit.
  • Bathsheba – Soup Bowl – This east coast beach in the small town of Bathsheba is known as famous surfer Kelly Slater’s most favorite beach in the world.  Named for the foamy surf found here, it is home to many surfing competitions.
  • Morgan Lewis Windmill – Drive 20 minutes north of Bathsheba to reach the only intact sugar windmill in Barbados.
  • St. Nicholas Abbey – Located a few minutes away from the windmill, this mansion was built in 1658 and is one of only three Jacobean mansions left in the Western Hemisphere.  This former slave and sugar plantation is also home to an active steam and rum distillery.
  • Sandy Lane Brunch – If you splurge on one thing on the island, this brunch should be it.  Priced at $160 USD/person and located in a beautiful beach front setting at the luxurious Sandy Lane hotel on the west coast of the island.  Make sure you make a reservation and bring your appetite for the huge buffet that includes dishes such as whole roasted pig, made to order steak and lamb chops, king crab legs and lobster, and amazing desserts such as the vanilla creme brulee and bread pudding.
  • Mullins Beach – One of the most popular beaches on the west coast of the island.  Another white sand and crystal clear blue water beach with a bar with an amazing view.
  • Brown Sugar Restaurant – If you still have room left after the Sandy Lane Brunch, head to Brown Sugar for some of the best Barbados and Caribbean cuisine on the island.

Hacking Nicaragua in 14 Days

by admin

The land of Lakes and Volcanoes lives up to the hype with beautiful countryside and enough adventure locations for any adrenaline junkie.  With so many amazing destinations and activities to choose from, it’s difficult to spend less than a couple weeks traversing the country.  Here’s your ideal travel guide for hacking Nicaragua in 14 days:

Day 1
Fly into Managua Airport (MGA) and rent a car. Note that there is a minimum insurance cost of USD $12.99/day added onto the rental fee quoted. Drive to Somoto, which should take approximately 3.5 hours on predominantly smooth highway. Stay at Finca Mejia for an authentic experience.

Day 2
Traverse Somoto Canyon, which is a unique geological rock formation where the vertical rock walls extend for approximately five miles.  You can float down the river on inner tubes and jump off points (up to 20 meters) at various points.  After you complete the canyon tour, pack up your gear and drive 1.5 hours to Esteli.  Stay at Hotel Los Arcos, which is centrally located in town and offers spacious rooms.

Day 3
Four of the top 10 cigar factories in the world are located in Esteli.  Check out a factory tour then hike to the Salto de la Estanzuela Waterfall. El Quesito and Cafe Luz restaurants in town serve great local food.

Day 4
Drive to Leon (avoid GPS directions and make sure you take the major highways). Check out San Jacinto hot springs on the way (make sure you pay a guide to take you around).  In Leon, stay at El Convento (a former convent converted into a boutique hotel) or Hotel Flor de Sarta.  Explore the town and walk the cathedral rooftop at sunset.  El Sesteo restaurant serves amazing local cuisine and juices.

Day 5
Beach Day – Drive less than 30 minutes to Playa Las Penitas and Playa Poneloya, which are located next to each other.  Play Poneloya is less developed and has many local huts/bars/restaurants serving fresh fish along the beach.  Head to Barca de Oro restaurant on Las Penitas for dinner.

Day 6
Get up early and take a tour to Cerro Negro Volcano for a hike and volcano boarding.  Head back to your hotel for an hour siesta, and if you still have enough energy, take another tour to the Telica Volcano for an amazing sunset hike.  Back in Leon, check out El Bodegon for dinner.

Day 7
For more of a less traversed, remote beach feel, head to El Transito beach an hour drive south of Leon.  This beach is more beautiful than the more popular Las Penitas or Poneloya near Leon.  Have lunch (including amazing tacos) at Cafe Caracol.  After El Transito, head north about 20 minutes along the beach road to another amazing beach – El Velero.  If time permits, drive another 10 minutes north to Miramar Beach for a beautiful sunset.  For dinner, go to the food stands behind the Cathedral in Leon for cheap and delicious local food.  For dessert, check out Kiss Me ice cream with their homemade waffle cones.

Day 8
Get up early and drive 3-3.5 hours to catch the ferry to Ometepe in Rivas.  If you want to take your car, make sure you book a spot on the ferry at least 2-3 days in advance.  Otherwise, you can show up 15-30 minutes early and buy a ticket for a few dollars/person.  You can view the ferry schedule here.  The ferry ride takes 1-1.5 hours.  Make sure you book a ferry to the port (San José or Moyogalpa) that is closest to where you’re staying in Ometepe.  Stay at La Via Verde, Xalli, Finca del Sol, or Hefziba Airbnb (if you want to stay close to Moyogalpa). Once you arrive, rent a scooter for ~$25/day and go to Ojo de Agua for a dip in the beautiful natural pool setting and to jump off the rope swing.  If you still have a couple hours of daylight, go to Chaco Verde lagoon for an hour hike to see howler monkeys and beautiful vegetation.  Watch the sunset at the beach at Hospedaje Charco Verde.  If you’re staying near Moyogalpa, check out La Esquina Caliente restaurant for great local food.

Day 9
Concepcion Volcano – Book a guide the day before and ensure you get a good night’s sleep.  Pack at least two liters of water/person, plenty of snacks, and long sleeve shirt.  Leave your hotel between 7-8 and go to the base of Concepcion Volcano.  This hike is extremely difficult up the 5400ft volcano – 10 miles and 28000 steps up and down tough terrain.  The first 1000 meters will take you through rain forest full of bananas, amazing trees, and monkeys.  Be careful of coral snakes as well.  Once you get above the rain forest to the view point, the terrain becomes especially treacherous on steep rocky/sandy/muddy landscape.  Many guides do not want to go to the crater from here as they will get paid the same amount whether or not they go any farther.  Even if they say it is too windy, push the issue with hiking to the crater.  It is very dangerous as you get closer to the crater and not having a guide has caused many people to get in trouble.  Even though you can’t see much at the crater (due to the clouds), the hike is well worth it.  You can use an app such as Galileo to track what elevation you’re at.  The views coming down the mountain (after the clouds start to clear) are amazing.

Day 10
If you can still move your body a day after the Conception Volcano hike, go to the San Jamon waterfall on the south side of the Maderas Volcano.  Only attempt the full hike up Maderas if you are in great shape and don’t mind sludging through very muddy terrain.  There is a 3km road or hike get up to the waterfall.  You need a four-wheel drive vehicle if you want to drive up the first 2km.  The last 1km is only accessible by foot.  Swim at the base of the beautiful waterfall then head back.  If you still have energy, hit up the Chico Largo Adventure zip line or make another stop at Ojo de Agua.  If you are staying at the east side of the island, go to La Omaja hotel for sunset.

Day 11
Take the ferry back to Rivas and drive 1.5 hours to Granada.  Stay at the Casa Lucia Boutique and Yoga Retreat, Hotel Plaza Colon, or Mansion de Chocolate. Explore Granada town and check out Catedral de Granada, ChocoMuseo, Iglesia de La Merced, and Guadalupe Church.  If you have a car rental, be sure to keep it guarded/locked up at night.  Go to Bocadillos Restaurant for 2 for 1 happy hour drinks and amazing tapas.
Day 12
Go to Apoyo Lagoon in the morning and get a day pass at the Monkey Hut.  Take a kayak out and swim in the crystal clear water.  Head to the Masaya Market if you have some time to kill.  Most of the booths are filled with the same touristy knick-knacks you can find anywhere.  Make sure you book the Masaya Volcano night tour a few days in advance and head there before sunset.  The crater is immense and you can see lava at night.

Day 13
Drive 45 minutes to Mombacho Volcano and take the truck to the top of the volcano.  You can hire a guide to take you through all of the trails in about 3 hours if you move at a fast pace.  You can see the various craters, along with monkeys and sloths (if you’re lucky) along the trails.  Head back to town and go to Cafe de los Suenos for lunch and fresh juice.

Day 14
If you have a night flight out of Managua, take a 1-2 hour boat ride ($20/hour) through the amazing Islets of Granada to see the beautiful mansions and monkey island.  Go to Villa Mombacho Restaurant for lunch/dinner before heading out to Managua for your return flight.

*Note that the Corn Islands or San Juan del Sur are not included in this itinerary.  The Corn Islands are a beautiful beach destination, but similar to other Caribbean experiences without many unique things to do.  San Juan del Sur is the party destination of the country, which can be found in many other places like Cancun.  It is recommended to spend the majority of your time seeing the unique experiences of the country.

Hacking Trinidad in 3 Days

by admin

Maracas Beach

Trinidad is not your normal travel destination like its sister island Tobago, where all the tourists flock to the beaches and resorts.  It’s a gritty, melting pot mostly known for its high energy Carnival with soca music, calypso, and non-stop parties.   Trinidad is covered in undeveloped beaches, waterfalls, nature watching, and many other outdoor activities.  But with the high rate of violent crime and safety concerns, many tourists choose to skip over this destination.  Even with this in mind, the culture, people, party atmosphere, food, and nature scenery makes it a destination you can’t pass up.
Here’s the 3 day whirlwind tour you can complete over a long weekend in Trinidad:
Day 1
  • Maracas Beach – The best beach in Trinidad.  Located approximately 20 minutes drive from Port of Spain.  Rent a beach chair, grab some Carib beers, and Bake and Shark and you’re in paradise.
  • Richard’s Bake and Shark – Located on Maracas Beach.  There are a plethora of other Bake and Shark copycats on the beach, but Richards is the only one with a long line and locals recommend.  The shark meat sandwich with homemade bread and amazing sauces and toppings keep this place serving over 2500 sandwiches a day.
  • Las Cuevas Beach – 10 minutes east of Maracas is Las Cuevas.  Another beautiful place to enjoy a Carib beer and watch the locals play soccer on the beach.
  • Blanchisseuse Beach – 15 minutes east of Las Cuevas you will arrive at the fishing village Blanchisseuse.  Supposedly there is not much of a fishing atmosphere left as the majority of the villagers now live off their government checks (according to the locals) and choose not to fish any more.  The beach is still pristine and beautiful and a can’t miss.
  • Queen’s Park Savannah Market – Queens Park is a large Savannah surrounded by architectural gems (magnificent seven) of years past.  After a long day of beach trekking, nothing is better than a local smorgasbord filled with everything from roti, jerk chicken, homemade ice cream, fresh tropical juices, and doubles.  I tried the yard fowl roti, cow heel stew, tamarind juice, and coconut ice cream and would return every night if I had the chance.
  • St James – With your adrenaline pumping from the anticipation of first night in Trinidad, it’s time to check out the local ‘rum shop’ experience in Trinidad.  The neighborhood St James is most well known for the local rum joint Smokey and Bunty, which was closed due to a recent fire, but there are plenty other rum shops to choose from.
  • Ariapita Avenue – After sampling local rums and beers in St James, head over to Ariapita Avenue, which is loaded with local dance clubs and bars.  All of the locals go ‘liming’, which is the term used to go hang out and socialize.  All of the locals and soca music carry a high energy and keep you from crashing from a long day of exploring.
Day 2
  • Paria Beach and Falls – Get some coffee in you to push away your hangover and start on an early trek to this amazing hike.  The trail head is located on the other side of Blanchisseuse (about 50 minute drive from Port of Spain).  You definitely need a local to show you the way as it’s 4 miles each way of winding trails before you come across a secret cove, the untouched Paria beach full of turtle egg mounds, and then onto Paria falls at the end of a trail off of the beach.
  • Bake and Shark – On the way back from the falls, stop at Maracas beach again to sample one of the other amazing bake and shark shacks (unless you can’t pass on Richard’s for a second time).
  • Fort George – This vintage fort is the perfect place to watch sunset with the breathtaking view overlooking the entire city of Port of Spain and ocean.
  • Paprika – For a higher end, local party atmosphere, check out this eclectic restaurant turned nightclub for top 40 and soca mix to early morning hours.
Day 3
  • San Antonio Green Market – Located 15 minutes from Port of Spain in Santa Cruz.  Open from 6am-1pm Saturdays and 8am-1pm Sundays every week of the year.  Come eat a local, healthy breakfast from many different food and produce vendors.  Don’t miss the authentic Venezuelan food here.
  • Macqueripe Bay – Head west to Chaguaramas for a beautiful beach with crystal clear waters.  The view from above the beach is amazing.
  • Angostura Rum Factory – One of the Caribbean’s leading rum producers and the world’s market leader for bitters.  Tours are held during the weekdays in which the highlight is being able to sample most of the rums they produce.
  • Femmes du Chalet “Breakfast Shed” – Great local food for a cheap price.  No frills attached atmosphere.
Local Food to Try
  • Roti
  • Doubles
  • Pelau
  • Black pudding (blood sausage)
  • Phoulourie
  • Souse
  • Black eye peas and rice
  • Pastelles
  • Oil down
  • Callaloo
  • January-May dry season is best time to go for weather
  • Rent a car.  Taxis are harder to come by and motorbike options are limited
  • Violent crime is high every year.  Be careful of the areas you traverse to
  • Visas not required for stays of 90 days or less
  • Carnival is the most famous time of year to go
  • English is the official language
  • The currency is the Trinidad and Tobago dollar, also known as the TT (pronounced teetee)
  • Tap water is safe to drink
  • Purchase a prepaid SIM card and GSM phone from Digicel or bmobile stores for as little as TT$100