Alex In Wanderland http://www.alexinwanderland.com Working and playing around the world Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.7 In an (Upstate) New York State of Mind http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/09/01/in-an-upstate-new-york-state-of-mind/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/09/01/in-an-upstate-new-york-state-of-mind/#comments Tue, 01 Sep 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=37004

“Wow, that’s a change of scenery!”

The comment popped up on my Instagram within moments of me posting my first snap from back in the USA. Looking up from my iPhone, I surveyed my surroundings. A calm lake broken only by a few slow kayaks, a crisp glass of local white wine, an American flag stirring in the breeze. A change of scenery indeed. Less than forty-eight hours prior, I’d been dangling my feet in the pool at the Hamilton Princess, my last stop on a Caribbean island hop that had brought me from Roatán to Grand Cayman to Bermuda. Landing back in my home state of New York, I swapped my passport for a set of car keys and hit the road again after just one night in my childhood bed.

Upstate New York

Normally, I like to give myself a little more turnaround time between trips. But when the opportunity to explore three new corners of my home state came up, I just couldn’t say no. Which is what brought me to my current backdrop, a particularly scenic stretch of the Finger Lakes. My companions were more than half the fun — I started the trip with my sister Margaret and halfway through we headed to Rochester, where we were met by Bearded Bartender. After a weekend of family fun I swapped travel buddies and Bearded Bartender and I traveled on.

My week-long road trip would bring me to Hammondsport on Keuka Lake, Corning on Seneca Lake, Ithaca on Cayuga Lake, and my older sister Margaret’s home city of Rochester. With the exception of Rochester they were all new destinations for me, and I marveled at how long it took me to uncover these hidden gems (hidden from me, anyway) in my own backyard. I swelled with pride at each of them, excited they were all part of the state I call home. It was quite a week! I went kayaking, I took a glass blowing class, I vineyard hopped, I hiked to waterfalls, I browsed museums, I sampled fantastic restaurants and one kick-ass spa, and I glamped in one of the most beautiful tents I’ve ever seen.

I can’t seem to get this video to autoplay in best quality! Click through to Vimeo to see in all its HD glory

I have many a post coming up from this trip — prepare for some Empire State overload, guys! — so I thought we’d kick things off with a little trailer. Hope it gets you in a New York state of mind.

Have you been to New York beyond the five boroughs? Where? If not, I hope I’ll have convinced you to soon! Tell me what you’re most excited to hear about first…

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/09/01/in-an-upstate-new-york-state-of-mind/feed/ 10
Photo of the Week 220: Road Trip! http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/31/photo-of-the-week-220-road-trip/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/31/photo-of-the-week-220-road-trip/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35905

Greetings from The Silver State. The past week brought me from Nevada to Arizona to Utah and back to Arizona again, all from the seat of a JUCY camper. I feel like a whole new world has been opened up to me — the world of RV travel! I loved every moment of this trip that took in wonders like The Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, and Valley of Fire — I only wish we had twice as long in which to take it in. I have the most epic posts to write from this adventure!

Had we not had a pretty important event looming in Northern Nevada, we may have changed our plans to extend our road trip a bit longer. But turns out, the other 61,198 participants of Burning Man weren’t willing to rearrange their plans for us. Rude, right?! I write this now from Reno, and tomorrow I’ll be bound for Black Rock City. I’ll be off the grid for the week so apologies in advance for the delay in answering your comments and emails. I do have some fun posts planned, kicking off the coverage of another road trip I took this summer — one around Upstate New York! I can’t wait to see what you guys think when I return to the land of WiFi and 3G.

Wishing you a wonderful week, wherever you may be!

Photo A

Valley of Fire State ParkNevada’s Valley of Fire State Park

Photo B

The Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon’s South Rim

Photo C

Antelope CanyonNatural wonders of Antelope Canyon and Lake Powell

Photo D

Road Trip on Route 66Long, lonely roads

Photo E

American Flag PortraitAmerican woman

Which photo is your favorite?

.

Featured Blogs

Looking for new travel sites to ad to your reading roster? Searching for the perfect gift for the wanderluster in your life? Each month from here forward, I’ll be sharing an inspiring selection of travel blogs, travel projects and travel shops. Not only are these fellow entrepreneurs following their passions and creating beautiful content, they’re also supporting Alex in Wanderland by advertising in my sidebar this month — please support them back by checking out their sites and cheering them along.

Introducing Alex in Wanderland’s featured bloggers for September!

California native Justine is a fellow Southeast Asia addict. Having spent the last year as an expat based in Jakarta, she’s used the city as a launch pad and covered destinations I know and love and destinations I’m still drooling over all over at Travel Lush.

Why I Love This Blog: Right now, I love this blog because Justine just moved to one of my favorite cities in the world — Phnom Penh! Can’t wait to see what she gets up to in Cambodia’s capital.

This American couple packed up and moved across the pond to London, where they now spend their free time exploring in Britain and beyond. But that doesn’t mean Drive on The Left is limited to Europe – one peek at their destination page will show you they’ve been driving down all kinds of roads.

Why I Love This Blog: Their travel photography is top notch, and their site design displays luxuriously  large photos – and yes, I’m going to mention the fact that we had the same designer yet again!

As a Brisbane-based blogger with a passion for marketing, Genevieve manages to balance a full time job with a life of travel. Her blog The Wanderbug chronicles her travels in Australia and beyond — far beyond! She also produces useful city guides and travel itineraries for fellow wanderers.

Why I Love This Blog: Genevieve isn’t just a writer — she’s also an artist selling hand-illustrated travel maps of your favorite destinations.

Richelle is the go-to girl for information on teaching and studying abroad, specifically in China — the country she’s called home for the past couple years. Her blog Adventures Around Asia follows her extensive travels around Asia as well as her adventures in her new home away from home.

Why I Love This Blog: Richelle offers travel planning services to those heading to China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. I know who’d call if I was heading in that direction!

Get Featured

Interested in becoming a featured blogger or shop? Read more here. Limited spots still remaining for December and January.

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/31/photo-of-the-week-220-road-trip/feed/ 14
Bring on Batabano! Celebrating Cayman’s Own Carnival http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/30/cayman-carnival-batabano/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/30/cayman-carnival-batabano/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35984

We’ve all heard of the world famous Brazilian Carnival in Rio de Janiero. We’ve all seen the Nicki Minaj video of the Trinidad version. But did you know there are actually smaller carnivals all over Latin America and the Caribbean?

Like the Cayman Island’s own Batabano.

Batabano 2015

Batabano Cayman Islands

Batabano is a relatively small and young festival in the Carnival world — launched in 1983, today Batabano includes around 2,000 revelers and just one day of festivities (two, if you count the children’s parade held a week prior.) But it was big enough to bring me back to Grand Cayman, an island I spent a summer living and working on five long years ago.

Alex in Wanderland regulars know Heather, who still lives on the island, quite well by now! While Heather and I have met up literally around the world, I hadn’t seen her back on the island that first introduced us since 2010. When I started planning my Central America spring trip, I knew it would end with a week in the Cayman Islands, kicked off with Batabano.

Batabano 2015

Batabano Cayman Islands

Going to Cayman Islands for Batabano

The year prior, Heather had jumped in Batabano for the first time. Wait a minute — what’s jumpin’, you ask? — let’s kick this off with a little vocabulary lesson, soca-style.

de road: the road (we’re warming up with an easy one, mkay?). As in, “We’re jumpin’ pon de road!” Which brings me to my next vocabulary word…

jumpin': Parading with. As in, “Who you jumpin’ with?” or “I’m jumpin’ with Tribal.”

bands: if you’ve been to Mardi Gras, these are basically like the krewes of Batabano. My band for Batabano was Tribal.

soca: The main type of music played at Batabano.

whining: The main type of dancing done at Batabano. Need a more visual definition? This video is one of my favorites. I describe it as a kind of Caribbean twerking.

steps off: starts at. As in, the parade steps off at Public Beach.

Right, so now that we’re all a bit more oriented, back to Batabano — after Heather got her first taste of Batabano, she swore it would now be an annual event and I needed little convincing to join her for round two. For this sequin addict, it was a dream come true.

Cayman Carnival

Going to Cayman Islands for Batabano

Participating in Batabano means joining a band, picking out and paying an exorbitant amount for a costume, and then showing up ready to whine down. Anyone can join in! We were jumpin’ with Tribal, so back in February we downloaded the entrance forms and started the lengthy process of deciding which costume to choose. Tribal’s theme was “dis paradise” and there were about five different costume types to choose from. While technically our group could have all chosen various costumes, you do have to line up with your color at the various judging stations, and we didn’t want to have to split up, so we decided to all go together on the green one, Poison Ivy. Once that was decided, we each decided if we wanted to buy the base line, mid-line, or front line costume, which were various levels of elaboration and price. Heather and I decided to splurge on the front line, which came to about $325US dollars.

Yup, it’s a big splurge! But that fee also includes your membership into your band, as well as unlimited drinks throughout the day from the booze float. You’re given a Tribal-branded water bottle at the start of the parade, and you just dance up to the booze truck anytime you want a refill. It’s basically magic.

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

Batabano 2015

Going to Cayman Islands for Batabano

For 2015, the parade had a freshly extended route, beginning at Public Beach (by Calico Jacks, if you’re familiar with the island) and ending in Georgetown along Seven Mile Beach. We were so grateful that the rain that had been plaguing the region for weeks held off for the day. While were initially bummed by the overcast weather, we ended up grateful that we weren’t in direct sunlight all day — we worked up quite a sweat dancing!

The fantastic thing about Batabano — aside from the magical refilling booze truck — is that it’s a diverse mix of locals, expats, and tourists, of all ages, and of all body types. It’s also just so fun to watch this incredibly conservative island let loose. Guys, they don’t play R-rated movies on Sundays here, but you come for the first weekend in May, and you will literally see people humping in the streets. That said, it’s all in good fun and everyone from elderly cheering sections to uniformed police officers get in on the fun.

Going to Cayman Islands for Batabano

Batabano Cayman Islands

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

While some of these pictures look a little wild, I feel like I need to emphasize how respectful everyone we encountered was. My favorite story was from Heather, who recounted the tale of a guy trying to whine up to one of her flustered friends, who clearly had not yet made enough visits to the booze-mobile. “Um… I don’t do that!” she said, and the guy immediately stopped, said, “That’s okay. You look really beautiful. Have a nice day!,” and went off to dance with someone else. Ha!

Batabano 2015

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

Batabano 2015

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

As the parade approached Georgetown, things started to get a tad sloppier. Our costumes were literally falling to pieces by this point — don’t think because they’re expensive they’re going to last more than one wear — and the dancing was getting noticeably looser. I’d debated seriously whether or not to bring my big dSLR with us — most of the girls just had their iPhones — but I was so glad I did. I think being responsible for it kept me somewhat in check, and these photos are just priceless!

Our only regret was that getting ready ran a little long, and we didn’t have time for the polished pre-parade photoshoot we’d planned on. But these action shots are probably even better.

Batabano 2015

Batabano Cayman Islands

Batabano Cayman Islands

Batabano was simply one of the most fun days of my year. I love dressing up and wearing ridiculous costumes, I love dancing and listening to different music, and I love immersing myself in something special from another culture. Batabano checked all those boxes! I was in 100% festival bliss.

Batabano 2015

Jumpin with Tribal, Cayman Batabano

Batabano 2015

Technically the party went until midnight (bars close at midnight on Saturday in Cayman, as alcohol can’t be sold on Sundays) but we cashed out long before that. I think about eight hours passed between the photo on the left and the photo on the right, and as you can see my energy and enthusiasm levels were pretty much tapped. I gave it all to de road!

The word Batabano comes from the island’s heritage as a turtle island, and referred to the joy that was felt upon finding a turtle’s nesting tracks. These days it refers more to the joy felt upon finding the perfect tail feathers or calypso reggae track, but like a turtle, I think I’ll be returning to the same beach over and over — Seven Mile, where my Carnival dreams first came true.

Batabano 2015

Want to go to Batabano?

If you don’t know someone in Cayman, you have to be somewhat of a go-getter to actually jump in the parade. The bands don’t necessarily make it easy to find their information or sign up (here’s the tourism board’s quite erm, brief how-to page), but don’t let that dissuade you — it’s totally do-able and would be great fun for a group of friends looking for a unique Caribbean vacation!

Unfortunately my own Batabano was not without hiccups. I landed on a Friday evening, and we went straight to pick up our costumes. When we got to the front of the long line, we were told our feathers, aside from our headpieces, were not yet ready for pickup. Annoyed but having no other choice, we made a plan to return the next morning (the morning of the parade!). That morning, we got a text from Heather’s roommate: “There are no feathers.” Now, granted, our costumes were still fantastic. But what they were meant to look like was even moreso. And after paying quite a bit to upgrade to more elaborate costumes, we now looked exactly the same as others who had payed significantly less. Without our backpieces and body feathers we felt a bit like Vegas showgirls, and were frustrated considering how much money we’d spent, but what can you do? We were promised a partial refund and so we tried to brush it off and not let it mar our day of fun. And it didn’t! Unfortunately things turned a bit ugly after the festival — we applied for our refunds amid rumors of feathers held in costume, band-against-band sabotage, and other small island drama. And we never heard a word. Eventually, after dozens of emails, phone calls and Facebook messages, Heather filed a claim with her credit card company and we were given a full refund. While that might sound like a win, I think it definitely ruffled a few feathers — hardy har — and put her in an awkward position for such a small island. I don’t think we could jump with Tribal again, sadly. Though considering their site is currently down, who knows — maybe no one will. While it was a headache and a bummer it didn’t mar my experience — I’d absolutely go back for Batabano again, but I’d probably jump with a more organized and established band like Swanky.

For those looking to join me, band options include Tribal (though based on my experience with them I’m not sure I can recommend them), Swanky, LIME, Pirates… and supposedly Fresh and Bachannal, though personally I don’t remember seeing them in the 2015 parade.

Batabano 2015

Batabano Tips

1. Don’t feel self-conscious. I was somewhat dreading putting my costume on, as at the time I’d been obsessing even more than usual over the few spare pounds that have been preventing my jean shorts from zipping up. But as soon as I got on de road, I felt like amazing! There were so many women of all shapes and sizing whining down, and not a one of them was thinking about what their booties looked like while they were doing it. It was a nice reminder that there’s nothing sexier than confidence and having fun.

2. Consider your footwear. The parade route is long and our feet were aching by the end of it! Yeah, those stilettos worn by the ladies in the Nicki Minaj video are a crock. While some girls were actually wearing trainers (personally I would rather chop my feet off than wear sneakers anywhere but the gym or a strictly athletic activity), I think we found a happy medium wearing comfortable sandals. Some were wearing bedazzled boots which looked amazing but I think would get a tad sweaty.

3. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The day starts early with mimosas for most, and the party goes ’till midnight! They had to pause the parade in Georgetown when one participant fainted from a combination of overindulgence and dehydration. Remember to fill your bottle with water every once in a while to stay happy and hydrated.

4. Check out my full list of Cayman Islands blog posts for more ideas of what to do while you’re on the islands!

Batabano 2015

Thank you Heather, for making Batabano so amazing for me! We think our next stop is Carnival in Trinidad… has anyone been? Let me know about the fantastical festivals and Carnivals you’ve been to in the comments below!

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/30/cayman-carnival-batabano/feed/ 21
When it Rains, It Pours: Going Back to the Beginning in Grand Cayman http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/28/returning-to-grand-cayman/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/28/returning-to-grand-cayman/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35985

I was a little nervous about returning to the Cayman Islands.

First, I was nervous it might kill me a little to go back, because it’s such an emotionally charged spot for me. I spent a happy summer here with the love of my early twenties, a relationship that would eventually turn my heart and life inside out. I wondered if coming back might stir up old memories turned toxic with hindsight.

Rainy Days in the Cayman Islands

Then, I was nervous that getting there might actually kill me — like, all the way dead — to go back. The storm that had cast a literal cloud over my time in Roatán was following me across the Caribbean, and as I spent my final night in Central America holed up in the unglamorous transit hub of La Ceiba (not in my original plan, but with airports and ferries shutting down in Roatán I had to flee the island early to make my international flight), I obsessively followed weather reports, trying to determine if my plane would make it off the runway. There are just two direct flights from Honduras to the Cayman Islands per week, and if mine didn’t take off, I’d miss Batabano — the festival that was bringing me back in the first place. Eager as I was to get out of La Ceiba, the rickety ride that had gotten me there was one of the most unnerving flights of my life, and I wasn’t looking forward to being in the air again.

Rainy Days in the Cayman Islands

Rainy Days in the Cayman Islands

The amazing news, ranked in order of amazingness: (1) My flight arrived in Grand Cayman safe and sound, if a little bumpy. (2) I got to spend a week with Heather, one of my favorite humans, and Sabai, one of my favorite canines. (3) The rain held off for Batabano, one of the most fun days of my year — a day you’ll be hearing a lot more about.

The less-than-amazing news? The rain came right after the last feather from Batabano was swept off the streets, and it didn’t relent for six days straight.

Rainy Days in the Cayman Islands

Day after day, we crossed our fingers for a few hours of sun. We hopped in the car to drive to Rum Point during a seeming bright spot only to turn around when we arrived to torrential downpour, we debated on weather or not to head to the beach when we saw a break in the clouds, we wondered if it was worth it to go diving when we’d spend the boat rides wet and freezing.

Time is the greatest luxury I’ve had on Grand Cayman, so I certainly can’t complain that I haven’t seen the island in all its sun-shiny beauty. I most certainly have. And luckily, girl talk and silly giggles aren’t weather dependent. But Heather and I are both certified vitamin-D addicts, and at this point it had been nearly two weeks since I’d seen the sun. Melancholy, mixed with memories, was setting in.

Rainy Days in the Cayman Islands

And then, something wonderful happened. On my final day on Cayman, the cloudy fog lifted and the sun came bursting out from its hiding place. The palm trees swayed a little prouder, the sand shone a bright white, and the water glistened the same turquoise as my favorite shade of pedicure polish.

Submerging myself, finally, in the ocean, I remembered — I remembered this island that played such a big role in my story.

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

I remembered beach days soaking up the sun with new friends. I remembered meeting my boyfriend — a label I’m so hesitant to affix these days, but was so innocently enamored with back then — after work to swim across Smith’s Cove. Driving up to the North Side on his days off to do crazy bounce dives off the wall with tanks thrown in the back of a truck. Nights out on all-you-can-drink pirate ships and in strip mall nightclubs, days working in the ocean, weekends showing the island to my family who eagerly made their way down in shifts to visit.

Cayman Islands Art Museum

Cayman Islands Art Museum
National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, the best cure for rainy day blues

I spent a happy summer here with my first real love, living in a tiny apartment — on this trip I went for a run past it, and was delighted to recall that this potassium lover once lived in a complex called Banana Walk — and getting around on his motorbike and my cheap bicycle. I went from a timid Open Water diver to a confident PADI Rescue Certified underwater videographer. I made friends that still play a massive role in my life today — Heather, my all time favorite travel buddy, Wim, who I’ve since watched get married, move to Hawaii, and become a mom, and Brian, a friend I urged to go visit Koh Tao, and someone who now makes that island feel like home no matter how long I’ve been away.

Banana Walk Cayman Islands

Banana Walk Cayman IslandsMy old Cayman digs

I shouldn’t have been afraid to return to Cayman. The summer I spent here was a turning point, one massive leap towards a life of travel. You can’t hide from old memories, and I can’t look back on my past and cherry pick out parts that were unpleasant but brought me where I am today — which is somewhere pretty fantastic. I might have first come to Cayman for a relationship that took a lot from me, but I returned for the friends, the lessons, and the beauty that this place gave me. All it takes is one beautiful day to remember it.

Cayman Islands StingraysYup, we did attempt one dive — stay tune for the roundup for the funny story of how it failed

Cayman Islands Currency

Seven Mile Beach, Cayman Islands

Cayman Islands Stingrays

It’s amazing, everything you see when the sun comes out.

Smith's Cove, Cayman Islands

Next up, something a little lighter and brighter… Batabano!

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/28/returning-to-grand-cayman/feed/ 23
Photo of the Week 219: Las Vegas http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/25/photo-of-the-week-219-las-vegas/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/25/photo-of-the-week-219-las-vegas/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35903

Greetings from the great American West! I spent the last week — yes, week — in Las Vegas kicking off what’s going to be an epic trip around this corner of the country. I’d hoped to get this post up yesterday as we drove away from the neon lights of The Strip but turns out much of Route 66 is completely off the grid, including cell phone service!

If you’ve been following along on my Instagram or Snapchat (@wanderlandalex) you know I had quite the week in Vegas with various friends bopping in and out along the way. Most people reacted with a look of horror when we revealed we were spending six nights on The Strip, but I think I paced myself well. Three nights of serious clubbing, one night of local bar hopping, and two nights of straight-to-bed. I squeezed in shows, dinners, tours, pool time, and even some real life realities like work and working out. Five trips later, and I’m still not sick of Sin City! It was an awesome week and I can’t wait to share some of my favorite new Vegas discoveries with you all eventually.

But for now, I’m back on the road spending the next five days circling the Grand Canyon in a JUCY camper with my girl Zoe. Which is to say I’m sure next week’s check-in will have a totally different vibe! While working from the passenger seat of a camper is already proving to be much more challenging than I expected, I’m hoping to get some great posts from my time in Cayman Islands up this week — my final posts from my Central America/Caribbean trip before I move onto my US summer.

But for now…. can’t wait to hear your thoughts on Photo of the Week!

Photo A

Downtown Las VegasExploring Downtown Las Vegas

Photo B

Gambling DowntownEmma gambling for the first time!

Photo C

The Neon MuseumThe incredible Neon Museum

Photo D

Drai's Las VegasInside Drai’s Nightclub

Photo E

The CromwellSplashing out at The Cromwell

Which photo is your favorite?

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/25/photo-of-the-week-219-las-vegas/feed/ 46
Diving in Barefoot: Scuba Diving Roatan with Barefoot Cay http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/21/diving-with-barefoot-divers-roatan/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/21/diving-with-barefoot-divers-roatan/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35983

Five days in Roatan flew by. And while compiling my notes and photos for a post about my time there, I had to admit that quite frankly, I didn’t squeeze much into them. I could blame the weather, or my partner-in-crime Rika (with whom I was too busy gossiping and giggling to be bothered to leave a beach chair), or the gorgeous hotels we stayed in that I had zero desire to leave. But really, I don’t think there’s a need for excuses. Because we did do one thing, and on Roatan, it’s the most important one.

We went diving.

Diving in Roatan

On a previous trip to Roatan five years ago, I’d done two dives on the West coast of the island — a post from that day reveals that my underwater photography has certainly improved over the years! This time, I was pretty pumped to go diving on the islands less visited yet more spectacular East coast. We were bunking down at the beautiful Barefoot Cay, which has an onsite dive shop that we could report to moments after stepping out of our own bungalow — my favorite kind of morning commute.

We hopped onto one of the Barefoot boats, and off we went to Mary’s Place, often regaled as the top dive site in all of in Roatan.

Diving East Side Roatan

Diving East Side Roatan

Diving with Barefoot Cay Roatan

I could see why. We weren’t blowing bubbles long before we stumbled upon our first seahorse, hiding out amongst a forest of healthy corals and schools of busy fish. Unfortunately this was when I started to realize that my Canon PowerShot S100 was acting erratically — this and my dives in Bermuda were the last I’d ever take with it before it went to camera heaven. While it served me loyally for years, the focus and color balance of the camera were definitely a bit wonky on these dives, though I did my best to set things straight through post-processing.

Speaking of post-processing, I get emails and comments asking for editing tips on a pretty regular basis these days. While I’d love to whip up a post about it, it’s the kind of thing that would be so much better taught in person. I’m currently mulling over the idea of trying to put together an underwater photography and editing workshop this year in Thailand. I’d love to gauge interest in something like that, so raise your virtual hand if it’s something you’d consider attending if you were near!

Seahorse in Roatan

But back to Roatan. We didn’t linger long with that seahorse — there were squid to catch! Cephalopods are some of my favorite underwater creatures to meet underwater. Don’t even get me started on cuttlefish.

Diving with Barefoot Cay Roatan

Diving in Roatan

Squid in Roatan

Diving East Side Roatan

But, never a species to be upstaged, another seahorse emerged, just daring us to try to give anything else our attention. As our divemaster signaled it was time to head back to the boat, I gave a satisfied okay sign in return. Despite my technical camera difficulties, it had been a gorgeous dive.

But the surface interval was about to be even better.

Seahorse in Roatan

Climbing onto the boat and shimmying out of my gear, I looked over Rika’s shoulder as a flash of silver caught my eye. “SHA….rrrrrkkk?” I gurgled, and started reaching for my mask and fins before my brain had fully processed what my eyes had — it wasn’t a shark, it was a pod of dolphins.

Or, as one of the Spanish speaking divers who had just surfaced cried, “Delfín! Delfín!” I’ve been blessed to see dolphins many times from the surface of the water, most memorably in Hawaii, but this was the first time I’d seen them on their own turf, in the blue. They clicked and sang at each other, and moved with such grace. It was a tear-up-in-the-mask kind of moment.

Dolphins in Roatan

Dolphins in Roatan

Dolphins in Roatan

It’s pretty hard to top that, right? Well, we had one more dive in which to try. This time we were headed to a site called Parrot Tree Point, which I was disappointed to learn was not named for a band of underwater parrots.

But hey! There was a pretty cool scary-looking eel and barracuda right off the bat as a consolation prize.

Diving East Side Roatan

Barracuda in Roatan

And some gorgeous swim-throughs guarded by — you guessed it — yet another camera-loving seahorse.

Diving in Roatan

Roatan East Coast Diving

Roatan East Coast Diving

Emerging from the swim-through, we followed along a coral wall pulsing with life. I spotted several of my fish favorites including a skittish filefish, an aggressive lobster, a shy banded cleaner shrimp, and — oh hey! — a very rare indeed Rika fish.

Diving with Barefoot Cay Roatan

Diving on Roatan

Diving in Roatan

Diving on Roatan

Yup, diving in Roatan was pretty alright.

Scuba Diving on Roatan

Scuba Diving on Roatan

Diving with Barefoot Cay Roatan

When it was once again time to surface, we still had one more surprise in store. After all, ow could we possibly leave the ocean without a swim-by from an ever-so-special eagle ray? At this point, we were getting downright spoiled — dolphins, seahorses, and an eagle ray, all in one day of diving? I didn’t know what we’d done to deserve it.

Scuba Diving on Roatan

Ready to book your ticket to go diving in Roatan? Head to Barefoot Divers, where you’ll be treated like underwater royalty. I loved being the only boat out on the dive site, and being whisked from pier to dive point in so little time! And major props as well to Rika for just being an absolute gem. Don’t even think about heading to Roatan without checking out her hilarious blog.

Diving with Barefoot Cay Roatan

I can’t think of a more lovely sign off to my time in Central America! Next post, we’ll be hopping right on over to the Caribbean, where I broke up my journey back to the US with a sweet little stopover in the Cayman Islands…

What sea creature is still on your underwater bucket list? Have you been diving in Roatan? And hey, let me know what you think about that workshop!

.

Many thanks to Barefoot Divers for hosting me. All underwater photos in this post were taken with Canon PowerShot S100 and its Canon PowerShot S100 Underwater Housing. See a full list of my photography gear here.

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/21/diving-with-barefoot-divers-roatan/feed/ 62
Love at Second Solid: A Review of Creating Harmony Solid Conditioner http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/19/creating-harmony-solid-conditioner-review/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/19/creating-harmony-solid-conditioner-review/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=36570

Last year, I fell wildly in love with solid shampoo, and it was a complete game changer in how I pack and how I travel. The only bummer? While Lush’s solid shampoo was solid (get it?), their solid conditioner left a lot to be desired, an opinion I saw echoed many times in the comments section of my post about making the switch. So my search for a companion bar to my beloved shampoo continued.

Lush

About six months ago, I finally found my match. When I was back in the US over Christmas, my friend Nadia recommended I give a brand she’d found called Creating Harmony a try. I ordered a sample size of both their solid shampoo and solid conditioner, and crossed my fingers hoping for the best.

Because with tresses touching all the way down to my waistline, finding a good fit was a search I took seriously. As these photos of me goofing around on a recent trip to Aruba show, I’ve got some serious hair to keep conditioned.

The following photos brought to you by the talented Kristin of Camels and Chocolate. Ah, the things I won’t do to make my friends laugh.

Solid Conditioner Review

Solid Conditioner Review

Goofing Around in Aruba#fashion

Why Solids

Why is finding a solid shampoo and conditioner so important to me, instead of just going the easy route with the easily available liquid kind? First of all, for the traveler, there simply could not be a greater invention — the solid bars are insanely compact and lightweight compared to the amount of the liquid versions you’d need to cover the same amount of washes. And there’s no chance they’re going to explode in your backpack after a long flight! Plus, if you’re committed to packing carry on, these babies can sail through security.

Second of all, for the sustainability minded, they are a fantastic choice. They can be tucked into reusable containers and cut down considerably on the amount of plastic you use and then need to find recycling facilities for.

Creating Harmony has great sustainability and community-minded business principles that I as a consumer appreciate.

Solid Conditioner Review

Creating Harmony Conditioner

The verdict? I love it! While solid shampoo is an easy switch and instantly loveable, I do admit using solid conditioner takes a little getting used to. You have to kind of rub the bar all over your head, and without the lather that comes with shampooing, it’s a little trickier to get it distributed through your hair. I usually give my scalp a quick once over and then use both hands to run the bar firmly along the length of my hair like I would a flat hair brush. However, I very quickly adjusted and when I step out of the shower, the results are the same if not better than what I used to get with liquid conditioner.

Creating Harmony sells two different sizes, a 1oz travel bar and a 3.5oz full size version. I eventually ordered both sizes and I found the full size version a little unwieldy to use and too large to travel with, so am sticking to the travel size.

Solid Conditioner Review

Room for Improvement

I do have a few minor complaints. First of all, I wish they’d ship the bars in wax paper like Lush does, rather than in plastic bags, as eliminating single use plastics is one of my goals in using solid products. Also, I gave Creating Harmony’s solid shampoo a try, hoping that I’d be able to order both shampoo and conditioner from the same company, but I didn’t love it anywhere near as much as Lush’s shampoo. So while it is a slight hassle and does involve slightly higher shipping costs, I’ll continue to order my shampoo from Lush and my conditioner from Creating Harmony.

Creating Harmony Solid Conditioner Review

What About Storage?

When I first wrote my Lush review, I adored their cute reusable travel tins. In my original review, other Lush fans complained that they found them difficult to open and use. While I didn’t have that problem at first, as time went on I found the tins were prone to being dented and misshapen and did in fact eventually become difficult or impossible to open and close, especially with slippery hands in the shower!

Thankfully, I found a solution — humangear’s ingenious and endlessly reusable Gotubb, which can be easily popped open with one hand. (Creating Harmony sells reusable plastic containers as well, but they are screw-offs, so do require two hands and are a little trickier to maneuver.) Granted, they aren’t as cute as Lush’s little tins, but they’re much more practical for travel. I found a pretty good compromise — I keep my Lush tins for my shampoo and conditioner in the shower in my old bedroom in Albany, and take the Gotubbs on the road with me. Gotubbs come in a few different colors, and I gussied mine up with one of the Creating Harmony stickers I peeled off the plastic delivery bag so I’ll always remember all their info for reordering.

Creating Harmony Solid Conditioner Review

Solid Conditioner Review

Where to Buy

Creating Harmony solid conditioner can be ordered directly from Creating Harmony or on Amazon in full size or travel size. A 1oz bar is $3.90 and a 3.5oz bar is $12.50, with shipping costs extra.

Gotubbs can also be ordered directly from humangear or on Amazon, where they are conveniently eligible for Amazon Prime. A three pack is $7.99 with free shipping on Amazon.

Curious to hear what you guys think in the comments! Now you tell me, what are your favorite eco-travel products?

.

Note: I am in no way affiliated with Creating Harmony and was not paid or perked for this review. As a matter of fact, they didn’t even know I was writing it. I was provided with a set of Gotubb containers for consideration and am excited to be able to share them with you.

I will earn a small commission off any purchases made through the Amazon links in this post, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting Alex in Wanderland!

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/19/creating-harmony-solid-conditioner-review/feed/ 50
Returning to Roatan http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/17/returning-to-roatan/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/17/returning-to-roatan/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 15:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35982

It may not seem possible to those that are following along with my seemingly never-ending coverage from this adventure, but my four months in Central America felt like they truly flew by. As my plane touched down in Roatan, it felt like just yesterday that I’d landed in Managua. It was a meaningful place to end my trip.

In 2010, I visited Honduras for two weeks — it was the cheapest and easiest place to get to from the Cayman Islands, where I was spending the summer working as a photography intern. I spent two weeks diving on Roatan, partying Utila, and rafting and ziplining at a jungle lodge outside La Ceiba. Five years later, I found myself back in Central America, and in a fun little full circle twist, I decided to end my trip using that same flight route in order to visit my ‘ol photography guru Heather, who is now a close friend and frequent travel buddy.

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Roatan

I loved that first trip to Honduras, but outside of Copan there weren’t many other new destinations in Honduras left that I was absolutely itching to visit. There was, however, a person — my girl Rika, who I’d been online friends with for years but had yet to meet in person. As soon as I booked my flight out of La Ceiba, I knew a meet up in her adopted home of Roatan would be in order.

Rika knows everyone who’s anyone and knows everything that’s anything about this little island. At first, I was just planning to crash with her — by her invitation, of course — but then, shortly before I arrived, she asked if I might like to check out some of the island’s most beautiful boutique hotels instead. TWIST MY ARM, RIKA. Twist my arm.

And that’s how I found myself, after another travel day from hell (stay tuned to a future roundup for a recap of that particular disaster), melting into island bliss at The Beach House.

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

I knew from my previous week on Roatan — when my ex-boyfriend and I had balked at the price of the local hostel and spontaneously rented a spare room from a local divemaster — that bohemian West End was much more my style that built-up West Bay. Yet The Beach House is the perfect blend of the best parts of both, laid back and luxurious.

Basically, I was pretty pumped to find that those looking for gorgeous digs needn’t relegate themselves to West Bay to find them. With studios starting at $95 a night, it’s a pretty darn decent deal for being beachfront in the Caribbean. Roatan in general is one of those fantastic destinations that offers Caribbean perks at Central American prices.

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

With a private dock, a waterfront restaurant and bar, and a cute beach boutique, The Beach House is a one-stop shop for style. West End is loaded with amazing restaurants and chilled-out beach bars, yet I think it would be hard to tear oneself away from The Landing, where I had some of the best salads and specialty cocktails of the trip.

The Beach House Roatan

The Beach House Roatan

The Landing Roatan

Speaking of salads, Rika and I had a big ‘ol laugh over comparing the food photos we put on Instagram versus the food photos we very pointedly don’t. Like this gorgeous mango avocado salad lunch I enthusiastically posted, and the carbohydrate bonanza dinner monstrosity that we devoured privately in shame – until now. Sorry Rika!

The Landing Roatan

Bar on the Bay Roatan

When we weren’t at The Landing, I loved that we were walking distance from West End’s best dining and nightlife. Neighboring Utila might be known as the party island, but Rika showed me that Roatan knows how to get down as well. We had one very fun Saturday night out, a decision that we did pay for for most of Sunday. Unlike some tropical destinations (ahem, Koh Tao), Roatan actually does have a distinct weekend where the bars and clubs are significantly more lively than they are on weekdays, which vacationers should take into account.

Roatan Nightlife

Roatan Nightlife

At least we had a gorgeous place to recover in the next day.

The Beach House Roatan

Three nights in West End went by in a blip, but we didn’t linger — Rika wanted to show me the East side of the island, which on my previous trip I’d only breezed through by motorbike. This time, we camped out at the beautiful Barefoot Cay, a mecca for divers and design lovers between French Harbour and Brick Bay.

Barefoot Cay sits on a teeny four acre private isle just a stone’s throw from shore, but you still need to hop on a thirty second boat ride to reach it, which I think just increases the charm. In my next post, I’ll show you some of the beautiful dive sites we visited while diving with the Barefoot Cay boat. But first, a look at the sweet little island that we decompressed on, pre and post-dive.

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Our room was a one-bedroom suite with a separate living room, full kitchen, spacious porch, and small desk area in the bedroom — perfect for editing photos after a dive! Barefoot Cay is somewhat isolated and so having a kitchen onsite is a nice way to mix in some low-key homemade meals with the ones offered in the onsite restaurant, though those were so good I admit they’d be hard to pass up.

I can’t imagine a more beautiful base for a week of diving — or just relaxing.

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Unfortunately, the weather was not on our side for my week in Roatan — again, stay tuned to a future roundup for all the details — but suffice it to say that it seriously messed with my plans (and my head!) Turns out, a freak weather pattern hitting Central America was going to wreak all kinds of havoc on final days, forcing me to flee Roatan early rather than get stuck there, and nearly canceling my flight to the Cayman Islands and causing me miss the festival I’d specifically planned my trip around. That stress kind of followed me throughout the week, as did the ominous dark skies warning of the storm to come. Between the bag weather and the crop burning on the mainland, we rarely had a blue sky or a hint of sun.

Yet we still layed out under the muggy skies — can’t blame a couple of girls for tryin’!

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Snorkeling in Roatan

Gorgeous as the Barefoot Cay pool may be, there was another spot that captured our attention more — the palapa. We spent hours here, snorkeling and swimming, reading and hammock swinging. And of course, goofing around with my underwater camera.

Snorkeling in Roatan

Snorkeling in Roatan

Snorkeling in Roatan

So, it turns out this trip to Roatan wasn’t about doing and seeing it all. But you know what? I’d done that once before, and that’s the beauty of going back somewhere for the second time. Instead, this trip to Roatan was about soaking up my last few days in Central America in style, checking out two gorgeous hotels on each side of the island, and endless giggles with a fun new friend.

And while it was unintentional, I feel like we nailed the perfect Roatan itinerary — a few days in West End checking out the lively restaurant and nightlife scene, and a few days over on the East coast enjoying some solitude and scuba.

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Barefoot Cay, Roatan

Snorkeling in Roatan

Stay tuned for one more post about our diving adventures,
my final dispatch from Central America!

.

Many thanks to The Beach House and Barefoot Cay for hosting me in Roatan. As always, you get my honest thoughts and opinions regardless of who is footing the bill. And muchas gracias to Rika for being the best tour guide a girl could ask for!

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/17/returning-to-roatan/feed/ 40
Photo of the Week 218: Martha’s Vineyard http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/16/photo-of-the-week-218/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/16/photo-of-the-week-218/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35902

Greetings from Albany! I spent this weekend back in my hometown in order to cheers to the latest of my high school friends to tie the knot. It was a beautiful wedding and I was grateful that the bride texted me last year within hours of booking the venue and told me I better be present while she said I do — how could I not comply? And bonus! The night before the wedding, Aziz Ansari performed a surprise show at a comedy club four minutes from the house I grew up in, in a comedy club that used to be a Chinese restaurant. Apparently he wanted to work out some new material, and needed an intimate venue in which to do so. My mom and I talked our way into the final of three sold out showings, and I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. I felt so lucky to catch the show, in Albany of all places!

I had actually planned to spend the entire week upstate tying up loose ends from the summer and preparing for my next big takeoff, but when I realized that my mom, my pup and my sister were all going to be in Martha’s Vineyard I couldn’t stand kicking around in a big ‘ol house alone while they were all just a few hours away. So I hopped on a bus and squeezed in a last few magical Vineyard days before saying goodbye until next summer.

Tuesday is my big take off for the West Coast and beyond, and I won’t be returning back to New York until the spring. That’s a long time to say goodbye for, but there’s little time for nostalgia as I try to pack and prepare as many posts as possible before my departure time. Pre-trip nerves have begun to settle in as I take stock of my to-do list and watch the minutes run down on the clock!

Next week, I’ll be reporting from Las Vegas. But for now, a look back at the week past…

Photo A

Woods Hole FerrySunset over the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard

Photo B

Martha's Vineyard PhotographyMy favorite dog and my favorite cottage side door

Photo C

Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association CottageVineyard chic

Photo D

Martha's Vineyard Campmeeting Association CottageAt home in Oak Bluffs

Photo E

Crooked Lake House WeddingToasting to the new Mr. and Mrs. in Crooked Lake

Which photo is your favorite?

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/16/photo-of-the-week-218/feed/ 36
Macaws and Mayan Ruins: The Charming Town of Copan, Honduras http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/14/macaws-and-mayan-ruins-in-copan/ http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/14/macaws-and-mayan-ruins-in-copan/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 14:00:00 +0000 http://www.alexinwanderland.com/?p=35981

Macaws. Mayan ruins. Men who wear cowboy unironically. Who wouldn’t want to go to Copan?

Actually, a lot of people. With under one million international visitors each year — and the vast majority of those heading to the Bay Islands — Honduras still retains an air of off-the-beaten-path authenticity that can be a little trickier to find in tourism powerhouses like Costa Rica (according to some statistics, Honduras is the least visited country in all of Central America). Of course, there’s a trade off for that breathing room, mainly in the form of limited infrastructure and security issues. I’m generally fairly oblivious to safety statistics, so I was surprised by the number of my fellow backpackers who told me they were skipping over Honduras due to crime concerns. “Don’t you know they have one of the highest murder rates in the world?,” one dorm mate in Antigua asked me. “Um, actually I did not,” I said, replied, while scratching my head with one hand and discreetly beginning to google on my iPhone with the other.

Yet there was nary a whiff of trouble in the charming Copan Valley.

Copan, Honduras

Copan, Honduras

Via Via, Copan

Due to my unexpected detour over to Guatemala City, I arrived in Honduras with only nine days to go until my flight out of Central America departed from La Ceiba. On a previous trip to Honduras in 2010 I’d visited Roatán, Utila, and La Ceiba, and so I decided to dedicate some of my time to somewhere new — the tiny mountain town of Copan, just over the border from Guatemala.

While geographically close, I felt far away from the country I’d just departed — there was a new currency, a palpable rise in temperature, a noticeable increase in visible firearms, and, thanks to gaucho culture, a strong penchant among the male half of the population for cowboy hats.

Copan, Honduras

Copan, Honduras

The town of Copan is teeny tiny, but packed with charm. I checked into Via Via guesthouse, where I shared an adorable private room with Polly, a girl I’d met in Semuc Champey, and also dined on many a delicious meal. Also worth raving about were San Rafael, which had one of the most beautiful selections of bread and cheese I’d seen anywhere in Central America, and British Colonial House, which lured me in with promises of Thai curries and delivered in the most delicious kind of way.

But I did more than eat and sleep — I swear. Copan proper is light on sights, and after one wander through town with a camera and one quick loop through the teeny Museo de Arqueología Maya, I felt like I’d seen it all. The surrounding valley, however, is rich with sights and activities for travelers, from horseback riding excursions to a working chocolate farm to a elegant hot spring. One afternoon, after a morning on my laptop, Polly and I set off for one of the most popular of them all — Macaw Mountain.

Copan Macaw Mountain

Copan Macaw Mountain

Copan Macaw Mountain

Macaw Mountain began as a private collection of rescued macaws in Roatan in the 1980’s. By 2000, there were more than 100 birds being cared for and thus they were relocated to Copan, where they they would have a dedicated facility for their care. Most of the birds in the park are former pets that the owners were no longer willing or able to care for — some were foreigners who returned to their home countries and were unable to bring their feathered friends with them. The rest are wild birds that were injured or ill and turned over to the park by animal services — in those cases, they try to rehabilitate and release the bird. However, birds born in captivity typically can’t be released back into the wild. While I’m sad that so many pet birds have been abandoned by their human companions, I’m glad they have a place to go as safe and beautiful as this.

Macaw Mountain is more than just pretty, though — the park was educational and informative, and highlighted the close relationship between macaws and the Mayans, who revered them as sacred.

Copan Macaw Mountain

Copan Macaw Mountain

Copan Macaw Mountain

The highlight, of course, was the final section of the park, where human-friendly macaws are hanging out ready to greet visitors. A park employee who knew the name and temperament of each bird was nearby, ready to make introductions and interpret body language to let us know when a bird wasn’t in the mood to socialize.

Thankfully, I found one willing to selfie with me.

Macaw Selfie

Macaw Selfie

Later, I was ready for the big one — Copan’s namesake Mayan ruins. Having already been to Tikal in Guatemala and Xunantunich in Belize, I was somewhat concerned that I’d be ruined out, the Latin American version of templed out, a condition that affects travelers across Southeast Asia. But Copan had a few things working in its favor. First of all, it was walking distance from town, which made this bus-averse traveler extremely pleased. Second of all, it’s a fairly small site, and the rumor has it that’s it’s one spot that’s easy to explore without a guide.

So off I went, first thing in the morning, to explore before the day’s heat and crowds followed me in.

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

After paying my $15 entrance fee, I snapped a photo of a wall map and started wandering. Like the other two I’d visited on this trip, this is a true jungle ruin, and the surrounding canopy pulsed with life. There were plenty of walking trails leading into the jungle that I’d have loved to have taken were I not alone, but considering I was I went straight for the main event.

I was delighted by what I found. While small and relatively squat, the Copan Ruins featured the most beautiful and intricate carvings I think I’d ever seen at a historical site. I couldn’t get enough!

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

One motif in particular looked mighty familiar. I guess those guys at Macaw Mountain knew what they were talkin’ about!

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

The ruins of Copan might have been no more than a half-day’s entertainment at most, but I sure did make the most of it — I could have stayed longer too, had I visited the onsite but separately ticketed Sculpture Museum. I was planning to do so but ended up not having enough cash and being kind of tired and not really caring, so all is well that ends well. I saw some pretty badass sculptures right there at the ruins, anyway.

Some of them just begged for matching mean-faced selfies. Those Mayans really had RBF nailed, don’t you think?

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

Copan Ruinas, Honduras

My time in Copan was short and sweet, with an emphasis on the sweet. I spent three nights here and thought it was a good amount of time to check out a few of the areas attractions as well as soak up some of the languid mountain air.

Though practically they really don’t make it easy for you (see my transportation section below), theoretically, Copan is the perfect stopover between Guatemala and the Bay Islands, where most travelers to Honduras are eventually headed. Including, as it turns out, me…

Next stop, Roatan! Have you ever visited Honduras? Where did you go?

Copan, Honduras

Practical Info

Where I stayed: Vía Vía, which no longer has dorm rooms available as advertised in many guidebooks. That said, private rooms with private bathrooms are a great value at $10 per person.

Where I ate: As referenced above, great best are Via Via, San Rafael, and British Colonial House. Smoothie shacks are scattered around town and make for a great breakfast or snack. The only place I can’t recommend is Twisted Tanya’s, where both I and my dining companion were underwhelmed.

How I got there: Direct shuttles from Antigua take 6-7 hours and cost around $30USD — I was able to get one to pick me up in Guatemala City, from where it takes 5-6 hours to reach Copan. That part was easy. Getting from Copan onward to anywhere else in Honduras, however, is a pain. I was shocked to find there was no shuttle between Copan and Le Ceiba, where travelers catch ferries to the Bay Islands, considering these are the two biggest tourist draws in the country.

But after inquiring at literally every travel agency in town I received just one answer: you must go by public bus. (There is also a more expensive and luxurious bus company, Hedman Alas, that provides connecting service with just one stop to La Ceiba — but it arrived too late in the day to take the ferry, which takes on an overnight in La Ceiba to your trip.) In order to travel from Copan to either Roatan or Utila in one day, you need to leave on either the 5:00am or 6:00am bus to San Pedro Sula, connect in San Pedro Sula to a bus to La Ceiba, take a cab from the La Ceiba bus station to the La Ceiba ferry terminal, and then take a ferry to your island of choice. With memories of seasickness from my last ferry ride lingering in my mind, I decided to cut out a step and fly from San Pedro Sula directly to Roatan for $74. Including the $6 I spent on the bus and the $15 I spent on the cab to the airport, it was an expensive day, but I thought it would be worth it. Instead, it turned out to be one of the most disorganized and hectic airport experiences of my life, saved me zero time, and scared the crap out of me. At least I can say with confidence I won’t fly with SOSA ever again! If I could do it all again I’d just bus all the way to La Ceiba, and at least save some cash while suffering through a painful travel day.

Bonus tip: There are a number of high-end spas in the area, but for an affordable option right in town ask about massages at Via Via. A masseuse nearby has a small studio set up in her home where she gives hour long massages for 600 lempiras (about $27 USD). I had a full massage one day, and a half-hour foot massage on another!

]]>
http://www.alexinwanderland.com/2015/08/14/macaws-and-mayan-ruins-in-copan/feed/ 59