David Haberer

David Haberer

AdventureCultureScenery

Haleakala Sunrise – Maui

DSC00387

Out in the middle of the Pacific, 10k feet above sea level, you’ll find one of the greatest places to watch the sun rise and set.  It’s a bit of a drive, but a beautiful one at that.  If you’re planning on visiting Maui, then this is a must do, but make sure you plan far in advance because it’s not just open for anyone to do and will take some preparations.

Plan ahead

If this is something you are definitely going to do, then get on over to the National Parks website and request a reservation as soon as possible.  Reservations only cost $1.50/day/vehicle, but are very limited.  60 days prior to any date, reservations go on sale and may sell out within a week at peak times, or a few weeks other times.  A few extra reservations are available just 24 hours prior to going, but I don’t suggest counting on that if at all possible.  Once you get there, there is also a $30 fee per vehicle to get in to the park.  Most of the reservations seem to be taken up by tours given which will could cost you 10 times more than driving yourself.  

Also, if the Sunrise is happening at 6:00am, be there no later than 5:30am as the best viewing and colors happens prior to the sun breaking through the horizon.  People start arriving hours ahead of time, so the earlier you get there, the better chance you have at landing the perfect viewing spot.

Pack warm clothes

You may be in the tropics, but at 10k feet it’s going to be cold.  Even during the summer, expect the temps to be in the 40’s (f).  A blanket, or pants and jacket is definitely necessary.  The wind can also be a factor so be prepared.  The temperature change from the summit to sea level can be drastic, so dress in layers to be properly prepared for a full day.

Relax and enjoy the sunrise!

Don’t be in a rush to leave once the sun does come up.  The view from the summit is spectacular and constantly changing over the next hour or so.  There is also a visitor center/observatory that you should check out.  Considering you can see half of Maui on a clear day, the view is something you’ll want to soak up and enjoy.

Tip: watch out for people biking down the mountain.  This is an excursion many swear by, but it’s also dangerous as people get hurt often. 

If you have any other questions, feel free to comment below.  And as always, check us out on Instagram for more pictures and video of our adventure to Haleakala and other cool adventures around the world.

AdventureCultureReviewsRomanceScenery

The Bamboo Inn In Hana, Maui

DCIM/100MEDIA/DJI_0127.JPG

Maui is a very beautiful island and there’s one adventure anyone who goes there has either done or heard of, the road to Hana.  The entire road to Hana is only 52 miles, but the drive can take anywhere from 2-4 hours to do.  This is because the road has 620 curves, 59 bridges (most are one lane) and is all over the place in elevation.

Driving just about anywhere on the road to Hana over 20 mph is rare.  When taking into account stops made to take hikes to beautiful waterfalls, or just stopping on the side of the road to check out the view or get some banana bread, a trip to Hana and back will most likely take all day.  The only true way to fully enjoy this majestic side of the island is to stay somewhere in Hana so you save yourself the drive out there and can take your time exploring.  Hana is a small town with a population not more than 1,000 and is fairly isolated, so your options for finding somewhere to stay are far and few between.  The main and only resort on this side of Maui is Travaasa Hana and their prices reflect the lack of competition.  Other options include AirBnb/VRBO and the place we called home for a few days, the Bamboo Inn, a bed and breakfast that much more than we ever expected.

The Bamboo Inn is run by it’s owner, John, who stays out of site, but lives on sight with his dog.  This bed and breakfast only has 3 suites from the 2 story Nai’a Suite to the smaller ‘Iwa Suite and Honu Suite, which we stayed in.  Each suite has it’s own benefits, but we absolutely loved the quaint feel of the Honu.  Bamboo is everywhere here and covered the entire inn.  The doors to each of the suites are custom made and carved with different designs.  Our room had a queen size bed, kitchenette and an awesome 2-person Jacuzzi on the balcony facing out to the east with a view found only in story books.  Adding to the romance, our shower was actually located outside, under the stars, a feature we love but have only enjoyed once before, on our honeymoon.  The kitchenette had everything we could ask for including a toaster oven, small fridge, blender and basic kitchen utensils.

Check-in couldn’t have been easier as our key was info was left in an easy to find location and we just checked ourselves in when we arrived.  Checking out was similar with us just leaving our key in the room when we left.  Of our entire trip to Maui, we had the most amazing breakfast while at the Bamboo Inn.  Each morning breakfast is set out for each of the guests to grab and take and includes fresh bread, croissants, fruits and fruit juice.  This, plus a cup of coffee we made in the room, was a great way to start off each day.  

One of the best things about the Bamboo Inn though is that you have a direct view of a beautiful black beach and unimpeded view of the sun rising in the morning.  The black beach is more of a black rock beach like nothing we’ve seen before.  The “sand” is all black rocks, ranging in size from nearly the size of sand to the size of a basketball.  The sound the ocean makes when waves move the rocks back and forth was really different and something I’ll never forget.  This isn’t your normal type of beach you want to lay out on or go swimming in, but those are within walking distance.  The water here is a little rough and you won’t want to even be barefoot as the rock can be a little tough on your feet.

Within walking distance is the Hana Bay Beach Park and a little beyond that is the hidden Kaihalulu beach, also known as the red sand beach.  The red sand is created from Ka’uiki Head a cinder cone hill on the north side of it.  Getting to Kaihalulu is a little bit of a hike, crossing private land, but is done regularly and is fairly well marked.

Staying at the Bamboo Inn puts you at just 30 minutes from Kipahulul, where the Pools of ‘Ohe’o (marketed as the Seven Sacred Pools) and Bamboo Forrest are.  Just north of the Bamboo Inn is the state park, Waianapanapa, which has a beautiful black sand beach, long hiking trails and caves to explore.  You’re also not too far from the lava tubes you can walk through as well.  All of things, which you shouldn’t miss, would take hours to drive to each day if staying on the west coast.  This is why we highly recommend staying here at least a night or two.

If you have any questions about the Bamboo Inn , or Hana, feel free to contact us.  You can find more information and pictures over at Instagram as well.

Resources

The Ultimate Guide for Adult-Only Resorts in the Caribbean

DSC04353

Finding that perfect place to stay isn’t always the easiest.  Here at Otus, we focus on resorts and hotels that cater specifically to adult’s only.  When on vacation, without children, the last thing most people want to be around is other people’s children running around making noise and splashing you in the pool.  There are thousands of resorts that cater to families which is wonderful, but here we’re doing our best to make it easier for those who want that extra bit of peace and serenity on their next vacation.

The internet is full of the “top xx” lists of resorts, but not everyone is looking for the same type of experience and those lists only report a handful of resorts.  In order to give you more options, we’ve decided to list every resort we’re aware of so you can do better research to find the perfect fit.  These resorts do not allow anyone under the age of 18, though some are 21+.  In addition to that, a few of them only allow couples, so check ahead of time if you’re trying to do a girls-trip or are going with a bunch of friends.

Please check back often as this list will be kept up to date as more information added as it’s changed.  There are new adult-only resorts being built right now, others that are changing from adult oriented to family oriented and reverse.  If you add a comment below, we’ll update you when the list is updated.  If we have missed anything in this list please let us know in the comments below and we’ll get it updated asap.

Resort and Hotels….Contact us if we’ve left you out or if you’d like to get an in-depth review of your resort highlighted at Otus Adventures.

Resort/HotelCityCountryAll-Inclusive
AzulikTulumMexicoNo
Casa ChameleonMal PaisCosta RicaNo
Club Med TurkoiseGrace BayTurks & CaicosYes
El Castillo Boutique Luxury HotelPuntarenasCosta RicaBreakfast Only
Excellence Playa MujeresIsla MujeresMexicoYes
Excellence Riviera CancunCancunMexicoYes
Golden Parnassus ResortCancunMexicoYes
Grand Oasis Sens -> Our Full ReviewCancunMexicoYes
Hard Rock Hotel CancunCancunMexicoYes
Haven Resorts & SpaCancunMexicoYes
Hideaway at Royalton Punta CanaPunta CanaDominican RepublicYes
Riu Palace Antillas Stay – ArubaNoordArubaYes
Hyatt Zilara CancunCancunMexicoYes
Isla Mujeres PalaceIsla MujeresMexicoYes
Kore Tulum Retreat and SpaTulumMexicoYes
Le Blanc Spa ResortCancunMexicoYes
Live Aqua CancunCancunMexicoYes
Luxury Bahia Principe BouganvilleLa RomanaDominican RepublicYes
Luxury Bahia Principe Runaway BayRunaway BayJamaicaYes
Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka’anCancunMexicoYes
Paradisus CancunCancunMexicoYes
Paradisus Playa del Carmen La PerlaPlaya del CarmenMexicoYes
Riu ReggaeMontego BayJamaicaYes
Royal Decameron Los CabosLos CabosMexicoYes
Royal Hideaway PlayacarPlaya del CarmenMexicoYes
Secrets AuraCozumelMexicoYes
Secrets Capri Riviera CancunCancunMexicoYes
Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera CancunPlaya del CarmenMexicoYes
Secrets the Vine CancunCancunMexicoYes
Senses Riviera Maya by ArtisanPlaya del CarmenMexicoYes
Sun PalaceCancunMexicoYes
Temptation CancunCancunMexicoYes
The Reef 28Playa del CarmenMexicoYes
The Royal Playa del CarmenPlaya del CarmenMexicoYes
The SoCo HotelBridgetownBarbadosYes
Villa Buena Onda HotelPlaya del CocoCosta RicaYes
Villa Lala – Premium CollectionPuerto VallartaMexicoNo
Riu Republica -> Our Full ReviewPunta CanaDominican RepublicYes
AdventureParty TimeReviewsRomanceScenery

Riu Republica – Punta Cana, DR

Riu Republica is self-described as…. “Located on a heavenly beach, the Hotel Riu Republica – Adults Only is your perfect option for enjoying an unforgettable holiday in Punta Cana. This adults-only hotel on the Arena Gorda beach has free WiFi, a varied gastronomic offer and the best 24-hour All-Inclusive service.”  So, how does it stack up?  Keep reading to find out.

Arrival – PUJ Airport

First, before you can get to Riu Republica, you have to get there from the airport.  The airport at Punta Cana doesn’t have walls or A/C so dress appropriately, because it’s hot.  Our trip through customs was no less than 2 full hours, though we’ve heard of some people getting through faster during odd times.  Our arrival was mid-day.  So, expect long wait times in lines.  There are reports of having to pay a $10 fee to enter the country and $20 to leave, but that was done away with this year and the fees are included in your flight going forward.

Transfer to Riu

Our first recommendation is to get a private transfer to the resort.  We opted for a shared shuttle and very much regretted it.  Riu Republica is the 2nd further resort from the airport, with the Hard Rock being the only one further, so you will be the last stop.  Our shuttle “tour” took just over an hour to get to the hotel.

Check-In

Checking in at Riu was fairly painless, minus a bit of a wait.  Again, the check-in area is an open building without walls, so dress appropriately.  Rooms are already determined before you get there, so there isn’t much of a chance of changing your room unless you’re willing to wait a bit longer.  The RIU is sectioned into two distinct areas, commonly referred to as the “old” section and the “new” section.  Don’t let this fool you as the difference in their age is less than a year.  The newer section is further from the water and where most of the partying takes place.  It’s also where the water slides are.  The older section is regarded as the quiet section and closer to the beach.

Continuing with the check-in, once you’re given your document indicating your room number and wifi information, you’re on your own.  You can find a bell boy to help with the bags, but the help ends there.  Finding your room is up to you, so make sure you get specific directions before leaving.  There are more than 1,300 rooms at this resort, and while the layout is simple, it’s easy to get lost finding your room.  We found our room to be in the old/party section facing outwards towards Hard Rock/swamps on the first floor.  My first thought was that we had one of the worst rooms possible, but that attitude changed over time, which I’ll explain why later.

The Room

There are only three room types at Riu Republica, the base room, which is either facing outwards or towards the center of the resort, the Ocean View, which is the same room but faces the beach (even though it’s still 100 yards away) and the Suite, which is truly the only room upgrade you can get.  For $36/day you can upgrade to an Ocean View, or $100/day for a suite.  The rooms are basic as best with the only notable feature being the liquor bar included.  With all the bars around though we never even used the liquor.  They will only refill these bottles every other day and they only fill them half way, so don’t count on them being your only source of liquor.

The rooms have all the basic necessities, including a hair dryer, safe, 20 or so hangers in the closet and even a ceiling fan.  The Shower has an opaque window that lets whoever is in the room somewhat make out who’s in the shower.  Note, the toilet paper is akin to a very thin card board.  If you have a sensitive bum, you may want to bring some of your own.  There is also only one power outlet in the room and two in the bathroom, so bring a splitter if you want to be able to charge up more than one item at a time.  The power is 110v, US adapter style.

TIP: In order for the electricity to work in the room, you have to put a room key in a special slot.  If you want it to work after you leave the room, you have to keep it in there.  Bring a spare card that you can leave behind and you can keep your devices charging while gone.

The Food

The food at the Riu Republica left a lot to be desired, at least for us, based on our previous experience.  Get ready for a lot of buffets.  There is a buffet in both sections of the hotel with the one in the older section being twice as large as the newer one.  The food is the same, so it doesn’t really matter which one you eat at.  This is your only option for breakfast and lunch and the hours are limited.  When we originally arrived at the hotel, lunch was just finishing up so we were unable to eat for another 3 hours at dinner time.  There are a couple other small options so let’s get into those.

Jerk Chicken Stand – By the beach is a small stand that you can get jerk chicken from.  It’s open most of the day, but they only really have chicken, burgers and hot dogs.  The chicken is really good though and they will wrap it up for you to take back to your room

TIP: Bring Tupperware with you to fill with extra food.  It will come in handy when the restaurants are closed.

The Sports Bar – This place is open 24/7 and has some limited food options.  They have a very of a hot dog that I don’t recommend.  They’re very rubbery and hard to eat.  They also have cold burgers and sandwiches that can be heated up.  The last item available here is chips and queso, though 4 out of 5 times we tried to get some, the queso was all over the place and there was actually none left.  This area was never clean or even close to it.

Room Service – Nope, there is none.  This is a huge disappointment and I don’t believe any hotel/resort should be allowed to claim that they’re 5 stars without offering room service.

Dinner – Dinner is served from 6:30 – 9:00, and you have your choice of 7 restaurants in addition to the buffets.  Get there early to eat without issues.  They don’t have that much seating and if they’re full, you’ll be put on a waiting list and given a pager.  Most of the time, wait times were around 30 minutes, minus the steak house which was much worse.  These are all optional, but worth trying if you want something other than the usual buffet.

  • Asian restaurant (buffet)
  • Italian restaurant (buffet)
  • Two “Kulinarium” restaurants (à la carte)
  • Indian restaurant (buffet)
  • Spanish restaurant (à la carte, buffet starters and dessert)
  • Steakhouse (à la carte) – Get here before 6:30 if you want a seat.  Otherwise, wait times can be up to 2 hours or you simply won’t get in.
  • Romantic open air dinner (reservations required, additional charge) – Dinner on the beach.  $150 USD.

The bars

All bars at the Riu Republica have the same options providing you with a basic white and red wine, standard liquors (no top shelf) and a bubbly white that they call champagne (only 7%).  One of the local favorites is Mamajuana, which is often referred to as the “baby maker”.  Be careful with this drink and take it easy, it is very potent.  Fortunately, you’re never too far from a bar with pool bars, a sports bar, lobby bar and even a hidden one on the north side of the beach.  This bar, Coco’s, was our favorite as there was never a wait here, and it was on the beach.  Most people never even know this bar exists and we heard from people over and over again that they didn’t realize it was there until their last day.

Another secret that most people don’t realize is that on the north side of the resort there is a small road that connects the “new” side of the resort with the beach.  During the day, there is a 10 person golf cart that goes back and forth saving you from a 10 minute walk.  Here’s where our room location came in very handy.  The stop for the transfer was right outside of our room and we utilized this multiple times a day.  We got to be where all the action was in the back half, but could get to the beach faster than even the closest rooms on the old side.  Even better, the stop by the beach stops at Coco’s bar!

Entertainment

Ok, so the entertainment is pretty tough.  If you want to party hard, spring break style, then there is plenty of entertainment for you including foam parties, twerking contests, sliding on the marble bar and the beach party.  The other side of the entertainment, mainly the shows that are put on are half as good as what you could expect from a cruise ship.  The show time for us was really a time to relax, catch up on rest and talk to friends.

The pools

There are a lot of pools at the Riu Republica.  3 of them have swim up bars and all the pools range from quiet to party central.  There is literally a pool for everyone, except kids of course.  No matter how you’re feeling you can find the right pool and enjoy it.  There never seems to be an issue finding chairs or people to meet either.

The Beach

Let’s be honest, this is why you want to go to Punta Cana.  The beach is beautiful, the sand white, the water clear blue.  Riu Republica takes great care of the beach in front of the resort and it shows.  The amount of beach isn’t quite a much as you’d hope for with a resort this size, but they make up for it by building a huge berm 100 feet back from the water.  You can be out in the full sun, under shade, or under palm trees, it’s your choice.

The second night we were there, seaweed washed up from the sea.  I had walked out early in the morning to find huge holes being dug by the workers every 20 feet or so.  They took all the seaweed, buried it and filled the holes before the crowds arrived.  I don’t see any way this beach will be washing away anytime soon as a result.  There are a lot of people crammed in to such a small area, but you can walk for a mile in either direction as the beach just goes on and on.  To the north there is only one other resort, then the beach is empty.  If you want to be alone, it’s no further than a 15 minute walk.

Other things to note

There is a gym and outdoor exercise area, though we didn’t partake.  The same goes for a spa, including massages on the beach, though Riu claims it is run by a third-party company and they can’t give much information about it.  We saw plenty of people in the gym, but the spa seemed oddly empty at all times.

The best part of Riu Republica were the people we met and friends we made.  You could be off to yourselves and never talk to another person, or you could go home with 50 new friends.  Making friends isn’t tough as everyone was very nice and finding like minded people is really easy.  Overall, we believe Riu Republica is a 3-3.5 star resort.  Reviews of this resort are all over the place and we can see why.  This could be exactly the place you’re looking for, or exactly the opposite.  Hopefully we’ve given you enough information to figure out that decision for yourself though.  If you wish to know more, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below.  More pictures and video are posted on our Instagram feed as well.

As always you can find more pictures over on our feed in Instagram.  Follow us to get all of our updates.

Party TimeReviewsRomanceScenery

Miami Beach – Ocean Surf Hotel

DSC04765

It’s that time of year again.  The sun is shining, the water is warm and the beaches are crowded.  This winter seems to never want to end, so our only option is to head to a warmer place and enjoy the sun there.   Miami beach is a popular destination as it’s easy to get to, but can sometimes be costly to actually stay there.  Luckily there are other options such as the Ocean Surf Hotel on the northern side of Miami Beach.  This hotel has fairly poor reviews on most of the web, but they’ve been working hard to change that.  The hotel has recently undergone a complete renovation, updating all of their rooms.  This isn’t a mega resort and doesn’t even have a pool, but who really needs a pool when the beach is 100 feet away?

Versace, Versace..

If this hotel looks familiar, it is probably because you’ve watch the tv series “The Assassination of Gianni Versace”.  This show was shot partially in front of the hotel and on the beach there to recreate what happened as accurately as possible.  During our stay, people would occasionally stop in front of the hotel just to get pictures as a result.

The Penthouse

The rooms at Ocean Surf include your basic single/double room, 4 balcony rooms and one penthouse suite.  For the sake of our review, we will be reviewing this based on the Penthouse suite, as that’s where we stayed.  If available, I highly recommend the penthouse.  This room has been recently renovated as the pictures on their own website don’t reflect the changes.  Our attempt to check in early was denied because they were just finishing up the renovations, so we were either the first ones or one of the first ones to stay there after the changes.  This isn’t a 5 star suite that you may be thinking of, but it is very large, includes a mini fridge, table and chairs for eating, couch, king bed and plenty of space.  You have the entire 4th floor to yourself, which is pretty cool, and you have a nice balcony with a great view of the beach and surrounding areas.  You can actually watch the sun rise and set from the same balcony as there is nothing to block your view.  The lower balcony rooms will still have a great view of the sunrise, but not the sunset.

Getting around/Parking

Most of what you could ever need is within walking distance.  On the same block includes a couple convenience stores, CVS, Walgreen’s, a vegan bakery (a must), a boutique, and a few other places to eat.  If you do have a vehicle, you don’t have to worry about the crazy $35/day fee to park it as there are numerous parking spots on the street and in the parking lot next to the hotel that only cost $1/hour for ten hours/day.  So the most you could have to pay is $10/day.  Overnight, parking is free, so if you’re done during the day you may never have to pay to park.  We found that they weren’t too serious about ticketing for parking as we’d wake up an hour or so after paid parking started and wouldn’t pay until then.  You can use an app on your phone to manage your parking.

The Beach

All you have to do is cross the street.  In addition to that, the hotel will give you beach chairs and towels free of charge.  Everything you need to relax and enjoy the day are at your finger tips.  The beach in front of the hotel is similar to the rest of Miami Beach.  But, it isn’t nearly as crazy or packed as south beach.  This is more of a great place to go and relax.

Everything Else

There was little to complain about except that the hotel doesn’t have an ice machine (though you can get ice next door) and the rooms didn’t have a coffee maker.  There’s nothing worse then not having that first cup of coffee in the morning and we feel that including those in the rooms would be a great addition.

Miami isn’t the most affordable place to stay, especially on the beach.  So, if you’re looking for a place to stay with some history, that’s affordable and convenient, the Ocean Surf hotel is definitely worth a look.

As always you can find more pictures over on our feed in Instagram.  Follow us to get all of our updates.

Resources

How to get the Best Deal on Flights

aircraft-airplane-architecture-912619

As we are getting ready for our next adventure, I thought it would be a good time to talk about flights.  The one question we hear over and over is, “How do you fly for so cheap”?  Flights are the last thing anyone wants to spend money on for vacation.  All they do is get you to your destination where you’d rather be spending your money.

  1. Flexibility.  The biggest way to save on flights is if you are flexible on the dates you need to fly.  There is always some deals to be had no matter what, but if you are flexible, you can save hundreds or more.  Flying during school times is always a benefit and flights on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually the cheapest.  Most airlines will show you an entire month at a glance to see when the best times are to fly, and some airlines even have special saver months or weeks where you can get a flight for a fraction of the normal price.
  2. Mix Airlines.  Nowhere is there a rule that you have to use the same airline to depart and return.  Very often, one airline has a great deal to get you to your destination but raises the price to come home.  Take the time to look at other airlines, or even nearby airports to find a better return trip.
  3. Extras.  A lot of airlines try to get you in the door with a low price, but charge fees for extras, like checking a bag, or even a carry on.  Make sure you know all of the fees upfront before booking that trip.  If you have to check a bag, you also want to do it during the purchase process and not wait until you get to the airport.  Prices are much cheaper if you pay for a checked bag upfront.  As always, Southwest still has no baggage fees, but their ticket prices usually reflect the bags upfront.  Spirit won’t even let you have a carry-on without a fee, but most airlines will.
  4. Travel Agents – Just kidding, never use a travel agent.  They don’t care about getting you the best deal.  They’ll help you book whatever gives them the best commission.  This may be the easy way out, but will always cost you a lot more.
  5. Rewards – There are always rewards to be had for flying.  Make sure whoever you fly with that you sign up for their rewards program and get credit for your flight.  Using credit card miles or even the airline’s credit cards can reap major rewards as well.  About one in 3 of our flights that we take is free from rewards, either through a credit card or frequent flyer miles.  Maximizing those miles can be very lucrative.  We’ll go into these tricks in another article as the features of each airline and credit card different greatly.

When we start looking for a flight there are a few resources that we start with.

  1. Kayak Explore – When you don’t really know where you want to go, but are curious to see where the best deals are, this is the site for you.  You can enter in your home airport and it shows you, on a Google Map, all the airports you can fly to and general prices, based on the time of year or month that you choose.
  2. Scott’s Cheap Flights – This isn’t really a site to search for flights, but a mailing list that you can sign up for.  They have a free mailing, but don’t expect to get much good info out of that.  For $40/year you can have flight deals sent to your email address on a daily basis.  Scott’s Cheap Flights mostly only deals with international flights, so if you’re looking for something within the county, this won’t help you (with the exception of Hawaii).
  3. Google Flights – Leave it up to Google to make searching for flights easier.  This is the fastest site to check across most airlines.  Google Flights gives you direct links to the airline’s sites for booking, so there isn’t a middle-man fee.  Keep in mind that Southwest isn’t represented here, as you’ll always need to check them independently.
  4. Momondo – Funny name, but great flight searching capabilities.  Scott’s Cheap Flights has a feature they call “Flight Hacker”, which will mix airlines for your flights.  This can save you a lot of money by giving you the best deal for each leg of your trip.  They link directly to the airlines, so there isn’t a middleman again.
  5. Airfarewatchdog – Another great site to show deals on flights as well as set up your preferred locations in order to receive emails when new deals are available.  This is similar to Scott’s Cheap Flights, but for domestic flights instead of international.

So, when is the best time to book a flight?  There are sites out there that’ll tell you a certain hour of the week is the best time, which may be true in general, but each airline has very complex algorithms they’ve put in place to modify flight prices throughout the week in order to get all of their seats booked for the highest price possible.  As a general rule of thumb, the middle of the week (tues/wed) is the best time to book flights.  If you’re looking early enough, you can watch the price of the flights daily for a week or so and see how they compare.  Or if a really great deal pops up, sometimes you just need to book it right away.  Most of the airlines now give you 24 hours to cancel a flight for a full refund, but check the fine print ahead of time.

Party TimeReviewsRomance

La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa

sDSC02970

Sometimes finding a great resort doesn’t mean having to leave the country. Amanda and I have taken a break a couple of times to skip on over to Lake Conroe to stay at La Torretta Lake Resort and Spa. While the overall stay is generally positive there are some things that you need to understand if you do choose to stay here.

Let’s start off with the good though. The rooms at La Torretta are well appointed with plenty of space and luxuries. If opting for a lake view suite, you’ll be put on the 7th floor or higher as the lower floors have their view blocked. They also have cabins for around the same price that offer a quieter and more private setting should you choose. We have stay in both and they both have their own benefits.

Parking at La Torretta is by valet or by driving around back to another lot and a decent walk back. Valet is $12 or $18 overnight, but you can park for free. Just realize that when you park yourself, you’ll have a 10 minute walk back to the hotel. Also, if staying in the cabins on the golf course, you will be making this walk often.

The spa is very luxurious, but pricey. We did a couples massage and enjoyed it, but there was nothing too special about it. Prices overall at the resort are on the high end because there isn’t much competition for them, but if you look around well, you can often find prices for a third of their normal rates proving just how much they mark it up.

The highlight of La Torretta is their pools. A kid pool, a lazy river, another pool with slides and yet another pool for everyone to enjoy. On top of that there is an area that is adult’s only with another pool and hot tub, supposedly. Here’s an area where you can expect to be disappointed. When we came to the pool there were no less than a dozen kids under the age of 10 playing and splashing in the adult pool. I asked an employee what was going on and she said they’d make them leave if we put in an official complaint. So, it was up to us to be the bad guy in order to use an amenity that we were excited about having. As you know we tend to stay at adults-only places and having an adult’s only pool means we can listen to music that may not be appropriate for kids, relax and enjoy the pool without kids running around, screaming and splashing us. As we sat there and stewed, I finally called the front desk and was assured that they would take care of the problems. Two hours passed before anything was done. To make matters worse, the waitresses never came around after that to take orders or serve us. We had to walk to the other side of the water park area just to order a drink.

Some other issues to be aware of include the fact that they have far too few elevators for their size. Expect to wait 5 minutes or more for an elevator. Also, the room keys weren’t working one night and they were having to send someone around to let people in their rooms.

La Torretta has been around a while and is showing it’s age unfortunately. Their lack of concern for their guests is disturbing and needs to be attended to before we can recommend staying there. It’s rare for us to be negative about somewhere to travel to, but our stay at La Torretta is not what we had expected or hoped for.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. And don’t forget to follow Otus on Instagram for more pictures and videos of our adventures.


AdventureCultureReviewsRomanceScenery

Hotel Villas Nicolas

DSC00027

Thank you hurricane Irma for making us have to extend our trip.  With our return flight cancelled due to the Ft. Lauderdale airport being closed, we had no choice to be extend our trip.  Excited to see more of Costa Rica we quickly decided on heading down to Quepos with the intention of seeing Manuel Antonio Park, more wild life and beaches.  Excited to try something new out, we hopped on booking.com and found Hotel Villas Nicolas for a great price.  We didn’t stay long, but still enjoyed every minute we had there.

About Hotel Villas Nicolas

This is a hotel situated in Quepos, Costa Rica, that caters to adults only, a feature we tend to always look for.  The villas are on the top of the mountainous terrain that overlooks the beaches.  Our view was amazing, set with our own hammock and private porch.  The room wasn’t that large, but had everything anyone could need for their stay.  Included with your stay is a cooked to order breakfast that doesn’t disappoint.  The hotel is also on the bus route for Quepos and Manuel Antonio, so you can get just about anywhere for a small fee.

We were also lucky enough to see some white-faced monkeys running across our view in the morning.  The sounds of the rain forest are very calming, but not too much to overwhelm you to where you can’t sleep at night.

Our stay was short with no preparation so we wanted to make the most of it.  Everyone working at Nicolas was extremely nice and gave us just about every bit of information we could ask for about Queposand Manuel Antonio.  We spent a day at Manuel Antonio and went down to the local beach, Playa Espidilla, twice.  Keep in mind, depending on how you get to this beach, you may need a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  We choose the tough path on the northwestern part of the beach, which was extremely rewarding once we got there.

Tip: Supposedly at Playa Espadilla, if you get there early enough in the morning, you can see crocodiles walking out to sea to catch some food and take it back up to the river/swampy areas.  We didn’t get up early enough to see this, but heard from multiple people about it.

We would highly recommend staying at Hotel Villas Nicolas when in the area.  The price for what you get can’t be beat and it’s location to everything there is in the area is great.


AdventureCultureReviewsRomanceScenery

Zephyr Palace

DSC09199-s

Zephyr Palace, a 5 start resort near Jaco in Costa Rica, is everything it claims to be and more. I’ve been watching this place for a while now, with plans to go there eventually. Somehow everything just worked out for us to finally take our first trip to Costa Rica and stay at the Palace. In all of our travels, this ranked as one of the greatest views. Visiting during the rainy season, we were lucky enough to have the entire 7 suite “palace” to ourselves all but one night. Each room is decorated in a different theme and makes you feel like royalty. We started out with 3 nights in the New World Suite, followed by 3 nights in the Egypt Suite. Both rooms had their own benefits and in the end, we were very happy to get to use both. There isn’t a bad suite at Zephyr Palace. The other suites available are similar or better than what we got to experience and we hope that some day we will be able to return and try them out.

About Zephyr Palace

Zephyr Palace is an add-on to beautiful boutique hotel Villa Caletas tucked up top of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean about 10 miles north of Jaco. The drive here from the San Juan airport took us around 1.5 hours and completed with a 2 mile drive up the mountain ridge with some of the most amazing views. For those scared of heights, looking down may make you a bit squeamish. On the way from the airport, make sure you stop at Crocodile Bridge to see the crocs. We don’t see a reason to pay for an excursion there, but it’s definitely a sight to see.

Zephyr Palace was built in the 90’s but is still very modern with it’s amenities. We found Wifi to be available everywhere and Cable TV was available though we rarely watch tv, especially on a vacation. We did enjoy having a mini fridge to use and espresso machine in each room. All rooms also come with a personal hot tub which was cleaned spotless every day. Even after coming back from the beach and getting sand in the hot tub, it somehow disappeared the next day. This is one of the things we love the most about Zephyr Palace. Since we were the only ones there, we never saw any other guest, but we also rarely saw anyone working there. It was as if it was our own private home. They do have security cameras around the place and we’re pretty sure they used those to know when we left the room or pools. Once we left our room someone had to be there cleaning it up and was gone before we ever got back. Staff was also very accommodating and would bring us buckets of ice for our Champagne, and give us rides over to Villa Caletas. Room service was also very handy to have with their prices being very reasonable.

While we adventured out every day, we also made good use of room service. Food was always delivered within 30 minutes and was delicious. The prices were reasonable as well for the food, though high for drinks, but they have no problem if you bring your own. We were really surprised when we took a bottle of our own Prosecco to the pool to drink over at the beautiful infinity pool at Villa Caletas and they brought us a bucket of ice and two glasses, no charge. Also, these places believe in being as natural as possible, not using any pesticides for the greenery and pretty much just letting the jungle grow uninhibited.

I also have to give one of the employees, Alex, a shout out after he let me know we had a flat tire on our car and helped change it. It’s service like we received at Zephyr Palace that will bring us back for another stay.

New World Suite

We stayed our first three nights in the New World Suite. I picked this one out mainly for the balcony. The room is on the lower floor and it’s balcony jets out past the rest of the palace. As a result, it’s the only room with a balcony that has direct access to the sun directly above. For privacy there are blinds that you can pull around the hot tub and there is also a private set of stairs from the deck that leads directly to the pools. The room had a huge mirror over the bed which you eventually realize is a window to the bathroom and a tv that popped up out from the foot of the bed. When we were in our room, we spent most of our time on the deck. It had a couple of loungers, a table and chairs and the hot tub. The views are incredible and something to really take in.

Egypt Suite

Wanting to try out as much as possible, it was tough, but we left the New World Suite for the Egpyt suite. This was one floor above New World and thus had a slightly even better view. This room was decorated really nice, but the downside is that the hot tub is tucked away in the porch losing that view when you’re using it.

The Pools!

The pools here are one of the amenities that you don’t want to miss. They’re so beautiful, you feel bad even getting in them. The Piscina pool, the infinity pool at Zephyr Palace is the top pool and our favorite view, while the garden pool is a more private tucked away pool. I could see this pool being used for parties of larger groups or for your wedding, if you choose to have it here. In addition to these two amazing pools, you can head on over to Villa Caletas and use their infinity pool as well. That pool is incredible as well, with nature surrounding it, an infinity edge, and another view of the Pacific Ocean. For us, we didn’t use this pool as much because we were enjoying the solidarity of Zephyr Palace way too much.  Check out the videos below to get a really good look at what these pools look like and the views that accompany them.

Private Beach

If the pools and views weren’t enough, Zephyr Palace and Villa Caletas have a private beach. Their beach is usually described as being a rocky rough beach, but we found that there’s more to the story than that. There are three ways to get to the beach and we did all of them. First, you can hike down from the resort, more on that below.The second way down is by way of the Hotel’s truck. It leaves every hour down to the beach and back every hour on the half hour. The problem with this, in our opinion is that the last transfer back was at 4:00, too early for us. You can stay longer if you choose the third way down, by way of your own vehicle. They recommend only doing this if you have 4-wheel drive and I will agree with that. We booked a 4-wheel drive vehicle knowing this in advance and did drive it down once. The way back up is steep, but we were able to make it without iss aren’t any guard rails and it’s a long drop at points if you were to lose traction so be careful if you do choose this route.

Back to the beach…There are plenty of lounge chairs and even beach beds available for use here.  There is no charge for these like some resorts do.  This area is a rocky part of the beach with the waves hitting up against a rock wall.  Walk 50 feet to the north though and you’ll find a nice beautiful sand beach.

Hiking and Waterfalls

One way to get down to the private beach is to hike.  In order to take this hike, they ask you to sign a waiver then take you to the start of the trail.  Keep in mind that you’re 1200 feet up and it’s over a mile to the beach. This isn’t a walk in the park and though it starts our really nice with stairs and a paved walkway, that quickly disappears and the hand rail even disappears soon after that.  You’re left to your own devices to get down the rest of the way.  The best part about this hike though is when you’re about 75% of the way down, there is a small bridge to walk over a running stream of water. If you walk under the bridge and back up the stream about 100 feet, it turns to the left and there are some of the most beautiful waterfalls that you can enjoy all to yourself. We had a hard time leaving these, but knowing there was a beach at the end to enjoy, we eventually finished our journey.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, or even one with little chance of seeing children, Zephyr Palace should definitely be on the top of your list. Even if the place was fully booked that means only another 12 people would be around, which by most cases is still a very private vacation. We give Zephyr Palace 5 stars for the way they treated us and the overall beauty experience of our entire stay there. We hope to be able to go back, experience other rooms and/or stay at Villa Caletas in the near future.

As always you can find more pictures over on our feed in Instagram.  Follow us to get all of our updates.

AdventureCultureParty TimeReviews

Pirate Adventures at the Texas Ren Fest

22563612_1727760683901308_1372587464_o

We had the opportunity to visit the Renaissance Festival in Texas this last weekend.  This is the 43rd year they’ve been doing this and it is considered to be the largest one in the US.  Each weekend is a different theme and there is lots to do for everyone.  The theme for the weekend was Pirate Adventures, though we aren’t quite fully in character.  Amanda was a Snow Queen, wishing it was much cooler than the 90 degrees we had to endure.  I just didn’t want to wear a shirt, so I threw on a piece a leather and called it a day.

This is a must do event that spans 10 weekends in the fall about an hour northwest of Houston.  In addition to the faire, you can camp out for the weekend, but beware, the activities going on late at night are no place for kids to be.  If you do decide to bring kids, keep them in your camp area at night.  No matter what, you’ll meet the nicest people and forget that you live in the 21st century for at least a little while.  I’d say that about 50% of the people there are dressed up and the costumes are some of the most amazing ones we’ve ever seen.  People really get into this and go all out.

On the camp grounds there is also a large building used each Saturday night for an “After Dark” party.  This weekend the theme was Burlesque.  Entertainment inside included different types of dance, and burlesque shows.  There is also a room for karaoke and a VIP lounge for those who decide to pay a little extra for the included appetizers.  This was our first time going to After Dark and it was amazing.  First, it was a nice break from the weekend heat as the place was cooled down very nice.  But we met a lot of really nice people, were entertained and had an excuse to dress up again, always a plus for us!

If you ever get a chance, go check out the Faire.  You can find more information on their site at: https://www.texrenfest.com/ and as always you can find more pictures over on our feed in Instagram.  Follow us and get all our updates.