5 Fun Things to do in the Hudson Valley, Upstate New York During COVID-19

5 Fun Things to do in the Hudson Valley, Upstate New York During COVID-19

If you’ve been in need of a quick nature fix and some sense of adventure after months of quarantine, look no further than the nearby Hudson Valley.

The Hudson Valley, Catskills, Upstate New York—whatever you want to call it—is absolutely rich in state parks, waterfalls, hiking trails, and mountains. The best part is that it is very easy to get to from New York City. 

I went on a much needed 8-day trip and stayed at a cute Airbnb cabin in the woods located in-between Kingston City and Woodstock in Ulster County, about an hour and 45 minutes drive from NYC.

Things to do in the Hudson Valley upstate new york during corona

However, I know how frustrating it can be, especially during COVID-19, to figure out which hikes to do and what beaches or trails that are still open.

 So I put together this guide to help you figure what to do in the Hudson Valley, upstate New York during COVID-19. 

FYI, this trip is safe and perfect for solo women travelers, couples, and families.

1. Minnewaska State Park Preserve

This 22,275-acre preserve located in Ulster County (about 30 mins from where I was staying) features various trails for biking and hiking, waterfalls, and a massive lake for swimming with gorgeous viewpoints.

Points of Interest:

Awosting Falls

Waterfalls in the hudson valley upstate new york

Difficulty Rating: Easy 

I hiked to the Awosting falls, which was a fairly easy and paved 1-mile hike from the parking lot to the falls. The falls stand at 60 feet tall and are surrounded by dense woods and rocks. 

Although tempting, you can not swim in the falls, unfortunately. 

Minnewaska Lake

Minnewaska lake for swimming in the hudson valley upstate new york

Difficulty Rating: Easy

This is where you can take in these breathtaking views of this sky lake at the Minnewaska Lake View Point. 

There is also a designated swimming area called Minnewaska Lake Beach where you can enjoy taking a refreshing dip after a long hike along the trails that surround the lake.  

Pro Tip: Pack a little picnic to enjoy while taking in the views from up top!

Entrance Fee: $10 per car

Park Hours: 9 am to 7 pm

Parking: Reduced by 50% capacity to maintain social distancing. Please check this website and call before going.

COVID-19 Precautions: Social distancing and masks are enforced.

2. Overlook Mountain

Overlook Mountain Hike in Woodstock

Difficulty Rating: Moderate uphill hike. You will definitely sweat!

Located near Woodstock town, this sweaty 3 hours 5-mile hike to Overlook mountain is a must-do while in upstate New York.

The trail to the top is a clearly paved and shadowed gravel path, nothing too exciting really but the views at the top are totally worth it. Hiking shoes or sneakers with good cushioning are recommended for this hike! 

On your way up, you will come across something fascinating; an abandoned hotel from the 1800s. Here you can catch your breath for a minute or two while wondering about what happened to this eerie hotel.

Abandoned hotel at overlook mountain in the hudson valley upstate new york

As you continue your upwards hike, you will see a sign that says “Fire Tower”, this is where the hiking trail starts getting prettier. You want to keep walking until you see the fire ranger station (the small building across the fire tower) and go behind it to get to the viewpoint cliff overlooking the Hudson Valley.

Take some time to take in the views here and if you packed snacks, this would be the perfect time to enjoy them. Oh and make sure you bring your camera to capture these views!

Lastly, you will want to check out the fire tower. While technically you are not allowed to climb up, some adventurers hikers have created a small hole in the wire doors for people to climb up the tower. So if you are feeling adventurous, you can check it out for even better views. 

On your way out of (or into) the parking lot, you will notice a beautiful building across, which is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery. Unfortunately, they are completely closed to visitors right now, but you can check out their website here for updates.

Pro Tip: Watch out for rattlesnakes! I saw one but it was peacefully napping. 

Entrance Fee: $0 

Park Hours: 24 hrs

Parking: Limited, fits about 20 cars

COVID-19 Precautions: Social distancing and masks are encouraged as you will be crossing other hikers

Woodstock Town

art in Woodstock town

After your hike, be sure to drive to the artsy town of Woodstock, about a mile out from the Overlook Mountain trail parking lot. 

Here you can grab some food, coffee, or ice cream while you walk around taking in the art on the walls and checking out the various vintage shops, which are open for business right now. 

3. Ashokan Reservoir

Ashokan Reservoir in the Hudson Valley upstate new york

Difficulty Rating: Very easy

The Ashokan Reservoir is a water reservoir surrounded by the Catskill Mountains, located in Ulster County close to the Kingston area. This reservoir is what supplies New York City with water!

The Reservoir can be visited from the eastern or western sides of the town through clearly marked pedestrian bridges that are great for walking, biking, or even rollerblading. 

The views of the clear blue lake against the lush mountains are simply stunning but make sure you have enough sunscreen on because there is no shade on the trail.

Ashokan Reservoir in the Hudson Valley Upstate New York

I recommend going to the Eastside basin and packing a picnic. If you are feeling artsy like me, you can bring a sketchbook and some coloring pens to capture this scene. 

If you like to fish, fishing is allowed here with permits, check this website for info. 

Entrance Fee: $0 

Park Hours: Unknown 

Parking: Limited

COVID-19 Precautions: Practice social distancing and wear masks as you will be crossing others walking the bridge. 

4. Kingston Point Beach 

Where to swim during covid-19 in upstate new york

For some reason, it was very hard for me to find a place to swim while in the Hudson Valley. Every time we’d drive to a creek or a lake there will be No Swimming allowed signs posted.

So I was extremely excited to have found a place to actually swim and sunbathe!

Kingston Point Beach is a small beach located in downtown Kingston. Now, this is no white sand beach but still a clean beach with clear shallow waters surrounded by some beautiful cliffs. 

Traveling upstate new york during covid-19 coronavirus

The beach is a little rocky so watch out and there are lifeguards who make sure that you only swim in the designated areas. 

After swimming, you can check out this cute little coffee shop, called Village Coffee & Goods for a pick me up. They also have farm-fresh produce and other cool things like plants and kitchenware. 

Entrance Fee: $0 

Beach Hours:  Wed-Sun 10 am – 5 pm

Parking: Limited (Every other spot has been blocked off to ensure social distancing)

COVID-19 Precautions: Social distancing and wearing masks are enforced

5. Geo Refrigeration Crevice  

Geo refrigeration crevice upstate new york

Difficulty Rating: Easy

 I left the weirdest thing for last because I have never seen or heard of anything like this before!

This Geo Refrigeration Crevice is exactly what it sounds like!

It’s a crack or a cave-like structure in the rocks that blows really cold air. It felt like I was standing under a powerful air conditioner. Definitely feels good if you are biking or hiking the rest of the trail.

Rail trail in the hudson valley upstate new york

You can get to the crevice by going through the Rail Trail and Trestle Access at Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, Rosendale, NY 12472. 

Entrance Fee: $0 

Trail Hours:  8 am – 8 pm 

Parking: Right across the trail entrance, which is directly on the highway, is a big parking lot called Binnewater Parking

COVID-19 Precautions: Social distancing and wearing masks are encouraged by all hikers.

Grocery Stores – Hudson Valley

Adams Farm

A huge grocery store that has everything!

Emmanuels Marketplace

Medium-sized grocery store with a good specialty food selection.

Davenport Farm

Small store with limited selections.

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Puerto Rico Trip: 11 Things You Must Know Before you Travel

Puerto Rico Trip: 11 Things You Must Know Before you Travel

Planning a trip to Puerto Rico soon, but wondering about safety, how to get around, the culture, the best beaches to visit..etc? 

I got you!!

To prepare you for this beautiful island, I put together this list of answers to questions you may have and things you need to know before you go on your Puerto Rico trip.

1. What Travel Documents Do You Need to Enter Puerto Rico from the US?

American Citizens and US Green Card holders (permanent residents) can travel to Puerto Rico using their driver’s license or national ID! 

You do not need a passport to travel to Puerto Rico if you permanently reside in the US. 

For citizens of different countries, you can check your visa requirements here. These are the same requirements as for entering the USA.

2. Is It Safe to Vacation in Puerto Rico?

If you are wondering if Puerto Rico is ready for tourism in 2019/2020 after hurricane Maria, then I can assure that it is VERY ready for you!

There are plenty of restaurants, hotels/Airbnbs and tour companies in full business.

Solo Female Traveler on a Puerto Rico Trip

Puerto Rico is pretty safe to travel to and I felt safe traveling as a solo female traveler. However, I have to admit that it is more fun to travel to Puerto Rico with a group of friends or as a couple vs. solo. 

I would say Puerto Rico is just as safe as New York City, so practice common sense and do not wander around San Juan by yourself at night. 

3. What is the Best Way to Travel in Puerto Rico? Do you need to Rent a Car?

Puerto Rico does not have a reliable public transportation system and most—if not all—Puerto Ricans have cars to get around.

In San Juan, it is pretty easy and affordable to get around using Uber. You can uber from San Juan to neighboring towns but it will be difficult to get around once you are there. 

Female Traveler at El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

I would recommend renting a car if you are leaving the San Juan area and wanting to explore El Yunque Rainforest or other towns. Check out car rentals in Puerto Rico here.

If you end up flying from San Juan to the neighboring islands such as Vieques or Culebra, you could rent anything from golf carts to jeeps from local shops once you’re on these islands.

Motorcycles are not recommended in Vieques because of the “wild” horses. 

4. What are the Best Months to Travel to Puerto Rico?

Best will depend on what you are looking for…

The High Season in Puerto Rico, which is the busiest and most expensive time to travel, starts from mid-December to April. But hey, you will be escaping the winter, making new friends and enjoying more of what Puerto Rico has to offer! 

There are usually flight deals from the US during the high season but you will want to book everything in advance. Hotels/hostels and Airbnb’s book up very fast and so do the internal flights, ferries, and tours!

When is the Best Time to go on a Puerto Rico Trip


The cheapest and calmest time to travel to Puerto Rico is during the Low Season or Off Shoulder Season (right before the high season). It starts from the end of April to June and from September to early November. 

This is ideal for those who can take time off during these months, prefer a calmer vacation and are looking to save some money.

September is the cheapest month to fly to Puerto Rico. Check September flight deals here.

Avoid July and April (Easter week) because that is high season for the locals. 

5. Can you use US Dollars in Puerto Rico? And do you need to Bring Cash?


Puerto Rico is a US territory which means they use the US Dollar. 

Many restaurants and hotels accept all major credit cards just like the US, however, you should always carry smaller cash bills for taxis, tours, public cars, or tips. 

6. How Much does a Puerto Rico Trip Cost?

Flights to Puerto Rico from the US range from $150-$500 depending on the season you choose to travel. Check flight prices on Momondo.

Food and Drinks

The food in Puerto Rico is incredibly delicious but expensive—think NYC restaurant prices!

Cost of a Puerto Rico Trip
Mofongo is Puerto Rico’s National Dish. This meal cost $8 at a local restaurant.
  • A meal at an average restaurant is between $8-$12
  • A meal at a nice restaurant is between $15-$30

Drinks at bars are between $8-$15 (beer is cheaper of course)

Accommodation

Accommodation in Puerto Rico is not cheap either because there aren’t that many hostels. The few hostels that do exist are not any cheaper than Airbnbs.

I recommend splitting an Airbnb with friends as this is the most budget-friendly option.

Airbnb in Puerto Rico

The price range for accommodation is between $40-$150/night. If you look you can find rooms or dorm beds starting at $20. Click here to browse through various accommodations in Puerto Rico.

I think I spent about $800 total during my 7 days Puerto Rico trip but I was doing it the backpacker budget way—Couchsurfing a few nights, cooking some of my meals, hitchhiking and splitting accommodation costs with a friend. 

I created a complete guide on how to travel the world on a student budget here.

7. How many Vacation Days do you Need for a Puerto Rico Trip?

The main island of Puerto Rico is pretty small.

If you rent a car, you will be able to see most of the major landmarks in just 4 days but I recommend staying 6-7 days to soak in all of the island’s goodness!

For a full Puerto Rico trip itinerary including where to stay, eat, party and the best beaches to visit, click here.

4 Day Trip

A 4-day Puerto Rico trip would be ideal if you just want to visit San Juan, see the Old Town and visit a few beaches nearby San Juan. You will be able to either fit in a day trip to Vieques or El Yunque Rainforest. However, you will be moving very quickly if you try to squeeze a lot of activities.

6-7 Day Trip

A 6-7 day Puerto Rico trip would be perfect to actually relax and enjoy the different beaches that Puerto Rico has to offer. With 6 to 7 days you can spend a night or two at El Yunque Rainforest (which I highly recommend) and visit both Vieques and Culebra islands. 

8. What are the Best Beaches in Puerto Rico?

The best beach in Puerto Rico, in my opinion, is Caracas “Red” Beach in Vieques Island.

Best Beaches to Visit in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach in Vieques, Puerto Rico

But there are plenty of other visit-worthy beaches around the island…


San Juan

  • Isla Verde
  • Ocean Park Beach 

Vieques

  • Caracas or Red Beach
  • La Chiva Beach
  • Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach 

Culebra

  • Flamenco Beach
  • Zoni Beach
  • Tamarindo Beach

9. How Do You Get to Vieques or Culebra Island from the Main Island?

You have a few options if you are going from San Juan to Vieques or Culebra island:

The Most Time-Efficient Option 

Flying directly from San Juan to Vieques or Culebra.

It costs between $70-$250 one-way and takes around 30 mins. 

Book in advance for cheap flights to the neighboring islands.

The Most Cost-Effective Option

Drive or uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and ride the ferry to Vieques or Culebra.

Puerto Rico Trip Guide on transportation
Ferry Ride in Puerto Rico

The drive is about 45-50mins from San Juan to the ferry terminal in Ceiba and the ferry ride is 50 mins and costs $2. 

You can read my full Puerto Rico Trip itinerary for more details on how to travel between the islands.

10. Do You Need to Know Spanish to Travel in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Ricans speak both English and Spanish. 

But I did notice that some of the older generations or the more authentic local businesses do not speak English.

Although not crucial, I highly recommend knowing some Spanish and trying to use it to communicate. It shows respect to the locals that do choose to use Spanish to communicate and makes you a better world traveler!

11. Which is the Best Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico? And Can you Swim in the Bioluminescent Bay in Puerto Rico?

The best bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico is Mosquito Bay in Vieques. According to my personal experience and other travelers.

Why is Mosquito Bay the best?

  • It is the brightest bay in Puerto Rico due to the number of mangroves surrounding the bay
  • Since it is on the island of Vieques, it is less visited compared to the closer bio bays in Fajardo (Laguna Grande) and Lajas (La Parguera)
  • No swimming is allowed at this bio bay to conserve the ecosystem, making it even brighter!

Technically, you should not swim in the bioluminescent bays because of the fragile ecosystem that can be disrupted by chemicals on our bodies such as lotions, sunscreen and laundry detergent in our clothes.

However, at the La Parguera bay, you are allowed to swim, making it the least bright out of the three.

If I answered all your questions, please do let me know down below in the comments!

If you still have more questions about Puerto Rico, please also comment below and I will get to you ASAP.

Follow along on my adventures @__girgis.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary for Beach & Nature Lovers

In this blog post, I will share with you a complete Puerto Rico travel itinerary to satisfy the beach bums and nature lovers amongst us.  

Why Puerto Rico? 

Puerto Rico is home to the Rainforest, bioluminescent bays, many picture-perfect Caribbean beaches and delicious Mofongo (the national dish made with root veggies). Need we say more? 

Aside from all its natural beauty, Puerto Rico is JUST so easy to travel to if you live in America!

Best Beach in Puerto Rico
Caracas Beach, Vieques Island

If you are a US citizen or a US Green Card holder, this beautiful tropical island needs to be on your travel list now. Why? 

Because it is a hop and skip away from the US (4hrs non-stop from NYC!!) and requires you to carry nothing else but a National ID or Driver’s Licence to enter the island. 

There is no need to exchange currencies if you use US dollars because they also use the US dollar. The majority of people speak Spanish and English, but yeah, that’s no excuse not to try practicing your Spanish

Here is Your Complete Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary

San Juan

This is the main town that you will most likely fly into. It is known for the Old Town of San Juan filled with Spanish Colonial buildings, forts like San Cristobal Castle and El Morro, upscale restaurants and the buzzing nightlight

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary
Walking around San Juan

However, there is much more to explore outside of the Old Town.

How to Get Here?

Take an Uber from the airport into town. Uber is very affordable and reliable in the San Juan area, use it to get around instead of renting a car, just yet

Rides cost anywhere from $5-$15 around town.

Where to Stay in San Juan

I recommend Airbnb for affordable and unique stays. If you are looking for budget options, there are also a few hostels, I stayed at Villa Eshta. Or you can stay at Hotel Stay at Marre right on the beach. Book in advance the winter is high season in PR. 

Must-Do in San Juan

After walking around the Old Town and visiting the fortress, you will want to spend a day at Ocean Park Beach sipping on Pina Coladas from Numero Uno Beach Bar while sitting on bean bags watching the sunset. For another tropical day at the beach visit Isla Verde Beach.  

Check out the Santurce area of clubs and restaurants!

Ocean Park Beach in Puerto Rico
Delicious Drinks at Numero Uno Beach Bar

Where to Eat in San Juan?

For breakfast and HUGE smoothies head over to Pinkys in Calle Loiza. The best tacos in town are at Acapulco.

Green Smoothies for Breakfast at Pinkys in San Juan
Big Smoothie Portions at Pinkys

Enjoy an upscale dinner and amazing service at Verde Mesa in Old Town (Vegetarian/Allergy-friendly!).  But for really authentic traditional and affordable food head over to La Placita (The Central Market area) and eat at La Alcapurria, say hi to the lovely owner Irvin!

Restaurants in San Juan, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Beautiful interiors of Verde Mesa in Old San Juan

All the restaurants mentioned above are vegetarian-friendly! 

Where to Drink in San Juan?

La Placita is a fun place to dance and drink. When you get there look for an outdoors bar called El Coco de Luis for cheap drinks. Or head over to Old Town to La Factoria (rated the top 50 bars in the world) for anything from wine to tiki mixed drinks. 

El Yunque Rainforest 

Puerto Rico Itinerary for El Yunque Rainforest
El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

This is not something you want to miss on your Puerto Rico trip. Many people visit El Yunque as a day trip but in my humble expert opinion, it is worth a night’s stay (or two) in the mountains and jungle near the Rainforest!

How to Get Here?  

Now would be the time to rent a car. It is about a 45-50 mins drive from San Juan. There are NO reliable public buses but you can also Uber from San Juan. Uber costs between $30-$50. 

Where to Stay in El Yunque

I highly recommend spending a night or two in the mountains, you won’t regret it! I stayed at Elemental Eco Retreat Airbnb, which was truly a magical place.

Best Airbnb's in Puerto Rico
The View at Elemental Eco Retreat

Must-Do Trails in El Yunque Rainforest *

*Note that hiking El Yunque Rainforest is appropriate for all fitness levels and ages. There is also no entrance fees!

When you enter the rainforest you’ll first stop at La Coca Falls and the Yokahu Tower. If you continue to drive up the road, you’ll come across a 5 mins trail that leads up to another beautiful waterfall/natural pool called Juan Diego Waterfall.

El Yunque Rainforest Puerto Rico travel itinerary
Juan Deigo Waterfall at El Yunque Rainforest

For an easy-moderate hike, keep driving until you see signs for Mt. Britton Trail. This is a 45 mins one-way hike on paved roads leading up to a tower with stunning views of the forest. 

The longest hike in the park is 2 hrs one-way and its called Caimitillo/El Yunque Trails leading up to El Yunque peak. 

Hiking El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico

Make sure to be out by 6 pm as that is when the gates close. 

Where to Eat in El Yunque?

There are no restaurants in the El Yunque rainforest. There were also no restaurants close enough by our Airbnb. I recommend going to Walmart in San Juan and packing enough food and snacks for this trip. Or if you have rented a car you can drive to the nearby towns for restaurants.   

Vieques Island

Best Beaches in Vieques
Caracas or Red Beach in Vieques Island

Vieques is an island off of the main island of Puerto Rico known for its stunning Carribean beaches and arguably one of the best of the Biolumencent Bays in Puerto Rico. It is 45 mins by ferry from the town of Ceiba. I recommend spending at least 2-3 days here.

How to Get Here?  

You have a few options depending on where you are and how much time/money you have. 

Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques
Ferry from Ceiba to Vieques

From El Yunque Rainforest to Vieques:

Drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal in Ceiba, about a 45-50 mins drive from the Rainforest. If you did not rent a car, then make sure you organize for an uber to pick you up beforehand, ours cost $50. 

From San Juan to Vieques:

You can still drive to Ceiba Ferry Terminal, it’s about a 1-hour drive and then catch the ferry to Vieques. But the most time-efficient option would be to fly straight into Vieques. This a 30 mins flight from San Juan International Airport. I heard its such an awesome experience and the views are great! 

Flights range anywhere between $70-$250 one-way. Book in advance for cheap flights to Vieques.

Puerto Rico Travel Itinerary to Nearby Islands
Bring your Rental Car on the Ferry

Ferry Tickets to the Nearby Islands of Puerto Rico

If you take the ferry, you can purchase your ferry tickets in advance online here or arrive at the Ceiba Ferry Terminal early enough to buy them there in person. The cost is $2 for a one-way ticket at the ferry terminal

How to Get Around Vieques Island

If you didn’t bring your rental car on the ferry, then you can rent a vehicle* once you’re on the island or even better, rent a golf cart

Or 

You can take private taxis. This is the number to call (787) 741-8294 to request a pick-up. They cost $10 or $15 to almost anywhere on the island.

How to get around in Puerto Rico
Gua Guas in Puerto Rico

Another option is public cars called Gua Gua. These stop by the ferry terminal or in Esperanza and can take you to Caracas beach for $5 each way. 

*They don’t recommend renting motorcycles because of the horses that roam free. Watch out for those at night! 

Where to Stay in Vieques

I stayed at Casa Arena. This is a beautiful Airbnb with a pool & private access to the beach. You’ll need a car if you stay there because it’s away from the main area. 

Airbnbs in Vieques
The View from our Balcony at Casa Arena

If you want to be in the main area of the island stay on Esperanza. There is Lazy Hostel or a nice hotel called El Blok, both are right on the main beach in Esperanza. Here are other great hotel options around the island; Malecon House and Isla Hermosa Guesthouse.

Must-Do in Vieques

Caracas or Red beach (the most beautiful beach on the island of PR!), La Chiva beach, Black Sand beach, Sun Bay beach & the Bioluminescent Bay (Mosquito Bay), of course. If you like the nightlife, then check out the Isabel II square for some hot bachata and merengue tunes. 

Female traveler at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques Puerto rico
Beautiful Shell at Sun Bay Beach in Vieques

I recommend Vieques Kayak tour company and Harold as your tour guide. I had an incredible time with them! 

Black Sand Beach, Puerto Rico Travel Guide
Playa Negra or Black Sand Beach in Vieques

Pro Tip: Make sure to check out the beach at night to see the stars, but go with a group for safety. 

Where to Eat in Vieques Island?

Puerto Rico Vegetarian Food Guide
Vegetarian Mofongo at El Guayacan

Bananas for a variety of foods and fun drinks, El Guayacán for traditional Puerto Rican food (the mofongo can be made vegetarian here), Lazy Jacks for cheap bar food and El Blok for high-end food.

Culebra Island  

Culebra is another island off of the main island of Puerto Rico. It is smaller in size than Vieques, known for it’s Flamenco Beach with the navy tank in the water and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with sea turtles. This island is ideal for a day trip from San Juan or Vieques.

Guide to Puerto Rico's beaches
Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island

How to Get Here?  

This will depend on which part of Puerto Rico you are getting to Culebra Island.

To get from Vieques to Culebra:

The cheapest option would be to catch the earliest ferry leaving Vieques to Ceiba Ferry Terminal. At the ferry terminal, you will catch the next ferry going to Culebra. This route takes about 2 hours but will cost you $4 total

Alternatively, you can book a flight from Vieques to Culebra, but it will stop in SJU.

To get from San Juan to Culebra:

You can fly directly from San Juan International Airport (book it in advance here) or you can take an uber to Ceiba Ferry Terminal and catch a $2 ferry to Culebra. Here is the ferry schedule. 

Where to Stay in Culebra

Here are some nice places to stay in Culebra; Villa del Sol 302, and Villa Ensenada Honda.
You can either stay for a night on the island or do what I did and head back to San Juan after exploring. You can take the evening ferry back or fly back to SJ.

Must-Do in Culebra Island  

Flamenco Beach ($2 entrance fees), Zoni Beach and Tamarindo Beach for snorkeling with turtles.

Flamenco Beach in Culebra Island
A Navy Tank in the Middle of the Ocean at Flamenco Beach

When you get off the ferry, you will find a lot of Gua Guas (public cars) shouting out the names of the popular beaches. It is very safe to ride these cars and it only costs $3 to get to Flamenco Beach!

Where to Eat in Culebra? 

Puerto Rico Culebra Travel Itinerary

Culebra is a very small island so your options are limited here. There is a decent supermarket on the island if you want to cook but Zaco Tacos is a must-try for REALLY good tacos. 

For Bonus Savings: Use Rakuten to get cashback on your bookings! Also here is $40 off your first Airbnb stay. 

Make sure you pack light so you can easily hop in Ubers and the ferries, here is your complete guide to packing and traveling light!

I hope this Puerto Rico travel guide helps you plan your upcoming trip but If you still have questions, do not hesitate to contact me here.

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

5 Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit This Winter

If you are reading this now, then you and I have a lot in common: 

We both LOVE sunshine and beaches and dread the winter! 

Fret not because I have 5 insanely affordable beach holiday destinations you can hit up this winter to cure your summer blues.

And, If it’s cold where you are right now and you can’t travel just yet, then picture this:

You, chillaxin’ on a hammock, one foot lightly grazing the soft white sands, with a refreshing pina colada in hand and the sounds of ocean waves in the background….you are smiling real big because this whole set up cost you less than $40/per day! 

Ladies and Gents, here is a list of 5 truly unique and affordable beach holiday destinations to visit this winter:

1. Central America 

Place: Bocas Del Toro, Panama 

The Vibe: Bocas is a province in Panama off of the Caribbean coast that is made up of a bunch of islands with stunning turquoise waters, rock formations, and marine life. The main town is Bocas town where you can stay in super cute hostels, eat at trendy cafes, and party like there is no tomorrow—look up Filthy Friday!

Must visit: Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)—this beach has many brightly colored starfish that you can see up close in the shallow water. Please respect these creatures by not taking them out of the water, they need to be in it to survive. 

Starfish beach in Panama; one of the affordable beach holiday destinations
They were that close to me!

Weather: Consistently in the mid 80s°F/20s°C, with some rain here and there. Hello tropical weather! 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10-$16. Check out Hostel Mamallena and La Guayana 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $50-$100 for hotel rooms and less than $50 for private rooms in hostels. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$8 Local meals, $10-$15 Fancy Meals.

Pro Saving Tip: With many affordable supermarkets in town, I ended up cooking most of my meals to cut down on costs. While this might not be your idea of a fun vacay but when you’re tight on cash, cooking a meal with new or old friends is actually loads of fun! 

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers on an affordable beach holiday destination in Panama
Party in the middle of the ocean!!

Why go there?

Sun and fun. Bocas is the ideal place to be lazy or to go wild. There are many restaurants and parties happening throughout the week. You can’t get bored here because of how accessible it is to get to the surrounding islands by hopping on a $3-$5 water taxi from Bocas Town. 

If you are looking for an adventure to add on to your trip to Bocas in Panama, then check out Nomadic Matt’s blog post on Boquete.

Place: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua 

The Vibe: Quiet/lazy beach town located on the southwest coast of Nicaragua. With a ton of Pacific beaches within driving distance to choose from, this town is perfect for surfers/learning to surf, budget backpackers, yoga lovers or those who simply desire to tan their beach buns while sipping on yummy affordable dranks.

Playa Maderas

Must Visit: Playa Maderas, MIxcal Beach, Playa Hermosa, The Beach House (for 2 for $5 Happy Hour drinks!)

Weather: Pretty dry with average temps. of 80s°F/30s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $5-$15. Check out Naked Tiger or Casa Oro in the heart of town.

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $19-$40 for private rooms in hostels, $35-$50 Hotel rooms.

Pro Saving Tip: Stay at an all-inclusive eco-luxury resort for one week for $449! Or $52/ day including breakfast. 

Average Meal Price: $4-$10

Price of a Beer: $1

Affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America
Fresh coco for $1

Why go there? 

With many beaches around and various activities to indulge in, I doubt you’ll ever get bored in San Juan Del Sur. You can do a 1 week yoga retreat for less than $500, or take up surf lessons for $25/hr or even Spanish classes by the beach for $10/hr. This is definitely one of the most affordable beach holiday destinations in Central America. 

2. The Carribean 

Place: Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic 

The Vibe: Pristine and quiet white sand beaches on the Samaná peninsula in the northeast part of the DR. Enough said! 

P.S. if you are a bachata lover, you will fall in love with this town and the dancers at the clubs. 

Must Visit: Playa Bonita, Playa Coson 

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations to Visit in the Winter
Secluded pristine white sand beaches

Pro Saving Tip: Take motorcycle taxis from town to the beaches because they only cost around $1-$4!

Weather: Tropical wet and humid weather with an average of 70s°F/25°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $15. My fav is Dan & Manty’s Guesthouse

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms from $50-$100, Private room in a hostel from $24-$45. 

Average Meal Price: $2-$5 local food in town, $10-$20 food at the beach

Price of a Beer: $2

Female travelers at an affordable beach holiday destination in the Dominican Republic
Perfect deep blue waters (unedited photo)

Why go there?

A trip to Las Terrenas can be as luxurious or as an affordable beach holiday destination as you want, depending on where you stay. With that being said, the beauty of all the beaches will never fail to make you feel like you are at a 5-star resort, regardless of where you end up staying! 

3. South America  

Place: Tayrona National Park, Santa Marta, Colombia 

The Vibe: A unique mix of lush tropical jungles and perfect blue Carribean waters. Tayrona National Park is located at the intersection of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta and the Carribean coast. This is for those who crave an adventurous beach holiday. Think sleeping outdoors in hammocks or tents and waking up to the sound of the waves and tropical birds. 

Surreal Rocks at Tayrona National Park in Colombia
Surreal Landscape at sunrise in Tayrona National Park

Pro Saving Tip: Catch a local bus ride for $2 from the town of Santa Marta which drops you off by the entrance of the park. From the park entrance, it is an approximately sweaty 2 hours hike in the jungle to the beach. This is an easy hike, just a little humid so wear breathable clothes and carry a light day pack. 

Must Visit: The whole damn thing, if you can! But the most popular beach in Tayrona is Cabo San Juan. 

Weather: Humid and rainy but definitely HOT!  We are talking 90°F/32°C

Average Hostel Price/Night in Santa Marta: $6-$12. Check out Dreamers Hostel 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night in Santa Marta: Hotel rooms from $20-$85. Private rooms in hostels from $15-$45. 

Hammock or Tent Accommodation Price in the Park: $12-$60. Check out Tayrona Tented Lodge with all meals included! If you want to sleep in a hammock for $7, then take a look at this option

Average Meal Price: $3-$12. Don’t forget to pack them snacks!

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable Beach Holiday Destinations in South America

Why go there?

Because you will love Colombia as a whole and you will have such an adventure hiking, taking in the biodiversity of the park and swimming in the ocean. There are many picture opportunities here, so take advantage!

For a complete guide to visiting the park check out this blog post

Important Park Operational Info: Gate is open from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The last permitted entry is at 4 p.m. Tayrona is closed from end of Jan through Feb. Please check online that the park is open on your intended visit date. 

4. North Africa 

Place: Sharm el Sheik, Egypt

The Vibe: A diver’s heaven. Sharm is located between Egypt’s majestic Sinai desert and the Red Sea known for its clear waters with surreal coral reefs, palm-lined beaches, and endless bars and nightlife activity. Gather up all your loved ones, because this affordable beach holiday destination is perfect for groups or families!

Red sea in Egypt surrounded by the Sinai desert

Must Visit: Ras Mohammed National Park, Adrenaline Beach, Terrazina Beach, Saint Catherine Monastery, Naama Bay (for the nightlife) 

Weather: Hot but breezy at night averaging 70s°F/20s°C. You will have the best tan of your life, I’m telling ya!

Average Affordable Hotel Price/Night: $20-$35. If you want an authentic desert experience check out Sinai Old Spices B&B

Average All-Inclusive Hotel Price/Night: $55-$200. Labranda Tower Bay is an all-inclusive hotel with desert and ocean views, appropriate for all kinds of travelers.

Average Meal Price: $5-$8

Price of a Beer: $3

Sharm el Sheikh is one of the top most affordable beach holiday destinations in the world
The Sinai Desert

Why go there? 

A unique combination of authentic North African/Middle Eastern culture and a desert landscape contrasted by picture-perfect beaches. You can camp out in deserts for an adventure, take up diving lessons in the world’s best waters for diving or simply enjoy a luxury vacation at an all-inclusive hotel for the fraction of the price you’d pay anywhere else. 

Diving in the red sea in Egypt

Pro Saving Tip: Make friends with the locals and learn a few words in Arabic. You will really impress the Egyptians and they might hook up the prices for you, habibi! 

Safety Tip: If you are a solo traveler, travel around with a local guide or a local friend. 

5. Asia

Place: Koh Rong Island, Sihanoukville, Cambodia 

The Vibe: Low-key developing island with secluded white sand beaches and lush jungles. This is perfect for those looking for a major social media/city detox. There are very little distractions here and you will definitely enjoy being one with nature. Just be prepared for the power outages, limited wi-fi, and food options. 

Must Visit: Koh Rong Samloem (you can swim with planktons that light up in the water at night—it’s truly magical!)

Koh Rong Island in Cambodia; one of the most affordable beach destinations in Asia

Weather: Warm and dry weather averaging in the mid 80s°F/20s°C

Average Hostel Price/Night: $10. Coconutbeach Bungalows offers private tents with beds for $5/night and private rooms starting at $15! 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: $15-$50. Lost and Found offers private rooms for $15, including breakfast, that are right across from the beach on Koh Rong Samloem

Average Meal Price: $2-$5

Price of a Beer: $1.50

Affordable beach holiday destinations in South East Asia

Why go there?

As far as affordable beach holiday destinations go, it doesn’t get any cheaper or better than this. This island was one of my top favorite places during my entire trip to Cambodia. You can find free hanging hammocks from trees by the beach to relax on while sipping on your $1 fresh smoothie and reading your favorite book. 

For a more extensive guide on Koh Rong Island read this blog

Fun Fact: The Survivors 32nd season was filmed on Koh Rong Island! 

Place: Hoi An, Vietnam

(Ha Long Bay is cool too, but Hoi An is cooler, in my humble opinion at least)

The Vibe: Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this old riverside town has an interesting mix of Chinese, Japanese, French and Vietnamese flair. Here you can shop, eat amazing foods, chill by the river (check out the Full Moon Lantern festival), get your temple fix and sunbathe at the beach. 

Must Visit: Hoi An Town, The Riverside, Cua Dai Beach, An Bang Beach, Chuc Thanh Pagoda

Hoi An Town in Vietnam

Weather: Dec-Jan is still considered the rainy season in Vietnam but temps are averaging 70s°F/20s°C. Feb-Mar is warm and dry. 

Average Hostel Price/Night: $4-$9. Check out this $6 hostel right in town. 

Average Hotel/Private Room Price/Night: Hotel rooms average between $14-$35. Private rooms at hostels are between $15-$30. G Boutique Resort offers you luxury for $35/night including a fresh breakfast and access to a pool. 

Average Meal Price: $1-$5

Price of a Beer: $.50- $1.50

Hoi An riverside is an affordable beach holiday destination in Vietnam
Hoi An’s riverside lined with bars and restaurants

Why go there?

This is truly an extraordinary and often underrated affordable beach holiday destination for those already traveling through Vietnam or South East Asia. I highly recommend it to travelers who want to have a unique cultural experience, old town venturing, delicious CHEAP street food, and the beach, of course. 

If you want to learn how to save and budget for an upcoming trip, even as a college student, then you should read this blog post!

Happy summertime in the wintertime, y’all!

Disclaimer: I may make a commission on some of the links mentioned in this post at NO additional cost to you!

The Best All-Inclusive 1 Week Yoga Retreat in Nicaragua (For Less Than $500!)

The Best All-Inclusive 1 Week Yoga Retreat in Nicaragua (For Less Than $500!)

You might be wondering…

Why Would You Go on a 1 Week Yoga Retreat?

If you live in a city like New York City, then you know what it means to be constantly rushing around, feeling overwhelmed by things to do, and even the things you didn’t do!

Female traveler on a yoga retreat at the beach in Nicaragua
7:30 am Ashtanga yoga at a secluded beach in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

In July 2019, after being in the city for only 7 months, I really needed to recharge my energy and getaway. I searched online and found a too-good-to-be-true deal I couldn’t pass up, on a yoga retreat in Nicaragua. It was a little less than $600 for an all-inclusive 1 week yoga retreat at a yoga resort called Eden on the Chocolata. 

Lush green trees at the yoga retreat at Eden on the Chocolata in Nicaragua
Eden on the Chocolata—it is all very real!

& Why Nicaragua?

Nicaragua had everything I wanted; the beaches, the tropical weather, Spanish, dancing, and the stunning nature. It is truly heavenly. Not to mention how kind and hospitable people there are. Also, did I mention how budget-friendly this heavenly destination is?!! 

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Please note that Nicaragua is still going through some political unrest (do your research) and their economy really needs our support. I know what your next question is… 

 So . . . is Nicaragua safe for solo female travelers?

Good and important question!

I went on the 1 week yoga retreat in San Juan del Sur (SJDS), which is a beach town on Nicaragua’s southwest coast, solo and had no issues during my trip. I would be aware of the big cities, like Managua though. 

You will most likely have to fly into Managua to get to San Juan Del Sur, and there is no reason to stay in the city for more than a layover.  You can take a Chicken Bus to San Juan del Sur from Managua (read details below) or a taxi direct to the resort for $70. 

Chicken Bus for backpackers in Central America
“Chicken Bus” in Central America

If you decide to get to San Juan del Sur the adventurous way, AKA taking a Chicken Bus. These are old school buses that go throughout the country, mainly what the locals ride to travel around between cities. The bus rides cost about $5 for the 4 hours journey from Managua to SJDS.

Then How Do You Get The Chicken Buses in San Juan Del Sur?

In Managua, you will go to El Mercado Central (be really aware of your belongings here) and look for buses going to Rivas. At Rivas, you will take another Chicken Bus going to SJDS. Then finally a $5 taxi to your yoga resort at Eden on the Chocolata! 

Chicken Buses in Nicaragua
Inside a “Chicken Bus”

Program Breakdown & All the Deets

Duration: The retreat duration is 6 nights and 7 days (There is an option for a 3 days yoga retreat as well)

Price: $449/person (for dates below only) I paid closer to $600 in July

Accommodation Type: Shared eco-luxury bungalows with fans (no AC), private bathrooms in each bungalow and private porch with hammock. Private bungalows are also available for $899-$999.

Dates: 15 – 21 December 2019            
12 – 18 January 2020
            9 – 15 February 2020
            15 – 21 March 2020

(Note that you can book this yoga retreat any time of the year but it will cost a little closer to $600 for the 1 week yoga retreat and will not include everything mentioned below.)

Yoga retreat eco luxury accommodation in San Juan Del Sur Nicaragua
Eco-Luxury Bungalows at Eden on the Chocolata

What’s included in the price? 

  • 2 daily yoga sessions (1 hr Vinyasa, Yin, and meditation classes)
  • 1 Yoga sculpt session (a yoga class which incorporates high-intensity training)
  • 6 nights eco-luxury accommodation
  • Daily delicious vegetarian breakfast and dinner buffet, made with local fresh ingredients
  • 1 day trip to Playa Hermosa, includes 1 surf lesson and transport
  • 1-hour massage or Reiki treatment (one of the best massages I’ve had!!)
  • Movie night
  • Free time to enjoy San Juan Del Sur and the surf beaches around town
  • Unlimited use of Wifi (works only in the main area), incredible swimming pool, yoga deck, and outdoors gym 
  • Unlimited coffee, tea and filtered water
  • Small groups to ensure a great quality experience
  • Free daily shuttle to and from San Juan del Sur town since the retreat is a bit further out
  • Photo album from the retreat week
Yoga deck at Eden on the Chocolata yoga resort
Yoga Deck at Eden on the Chocolata

This is how your daily schedule will look like:

7 AM: Freshly brewed coffee & Tea 

7:30 AM: Morning yoga class (1hr class)

9 AM: Breakfast (super filling and delicious!)

10:30 AM: Shuttle to SJDS town departs
(or free time from 9 am – 5 pm)

4:30 PM: Shuttle departs back to the retreat from town

5 PM: Evening yoga class (1hr class)

7 PM: Family-style dinner 

Review of The Yoga Retreat Experience

This is the most bang for your buck type of retreat! For that price, this is a steal

The resort is beyond gorgeous, you will instantly feel at peace when you step in. The air is very crisp and fresh. The pool overlooks the jungle and the bay. The view from your bungalow is green and luscious. You will wake up each day to the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys. 

Cooling Off After my Morning Yoga Class in the Pool at Eden

The bed is super comfy. The rooms are huge with closet space and a private bathroom with hot water and towels. I went in July so the weather was humid, hot and a bit rainy. Definitely keep that in mind because they do not have AC, all I had was a ceiling fan and a floor fan.  

You are in the middle of nature so it goes without saying that there will be bugs. Lots of bugs and mosquitos. Keep your bed net secured in place, wear bug spray at night and you’ll be just fine. 

A Surreal Sunset over San Juan Del Sur Beach in Nicaragua
A Surreal Sunset over San Juan Del Sur Beach in Nicaragua

The yoga classes are interactive and restorative. Kelly who leads the morning class will incorporate some yoga philosophy, spiritual readings, and reiki with essential oils in her yoga classes.

Female traveler meditating with yoga teacher at a yoga retreat
435hz Meditation on the Yoga Deck of Eden on the Chocolate Danny Holmes

When I was at the retreat I had a couple of amazing teachers, Danny and Renata, they pushed what I thought to be my limits or physical and mental boundaries in yoga and helped me sit longer with my “discomfort”. 

Not going to lie but the food might have been my favorite part about this yoga retreat. Every single meal is cooked by the owners or their staff in their kitchen made only from the best and freshest ingredients with LOADS of love! 

All inclusive yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Hearty and Fresh Breakfast Smoothie Bowl at Eden on the Chocolata

They serve the food family style so it will be a great opportunity for you to socialize and meet new people. Breakfast includes eggs, plantain fries, rice and beans, and smoothies or smoothie bowls. Dinner was always a different cuisine each day, dessert included! 

Overnight Oats Smoothie with Fresh Fruits at Eden on the Chocolata
Overnight Oats Smoothie with Fresh Fruits at Eden on the Chocolata

Finally, something to keep in mind that this is a family-friendly and animal-friendly resort so you will be around kids and cute animals. 

Animal friendly yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Taco the Zen Master

What Can You Do in Your Free Time in San Juan Del Sur? 

The Town Vibe 

San Juan Del Sur is a small and colorful beach town with a beach right in town, appropriately called San Juan Del Sur beach. This beach is lined with seafood restaurants and bars with really great happy hours. Check out Beach House for their 2 for $5 drinks and $3 appetizers. 

Minimal earthy restaurant and bar called Beach House in San Juan Del Sur
Beach House Bar and Restaurant in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Wander around and you will come across many artisanal shops that sell the cutest handmade art. I got these tiny paintings done on feathers from one of the shops.

Ding Repair Cafe in San Juan Del Sur Town- They Don’t Use Any Disposal Plastic so I Love Them!

Beaches 

There are many beaches around San Juan Del Sur—they’re mainly surf beaches. Playa Maderas is beautiful and a great place to learn how to surf. There are also two more secluded beaches right by Eden on the Chocolata; Nacascolo Bay, a 10 min walk and Mixcal Beach, a 20 min walk. 

Surf School at Playa Maderas in San Juan Del Sur
Playa Maderas Surf School in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

To get to the beaches, you can take the free shuttle from the yoga resort into town and look for Casa Oro Hostel. They have shuttle service going to different beaches daily, starting at $5. 

Shuttle Schedule from Casa Oro to the Beaches of San Juan Del Sur
Shuttle Schedule from Casa Oro to the Beaches of San Juan Del Sur

Food 

The town itself is filled with cheap local eateries (check out El Mercado) and health food cafes. I recommend Simon Says for $4 smoothies, Ding Repair Cafe for yummy smoothie bowls and healthy bites, and Art Warehouse for fresh and HUGE salads bowls. Save room for dinner at Eden! 

Interested in learning Spanish in San Juan Del Sur?

Lago Azul Restuarant and Spanish School by the Beach of San Juan Del Sur

This was a two birds, one stone situation. I took advantage of the free shuttle going into town from the yoga resort and took up daily Spanish classes by the beach at Lago Azul Restuarant and Spanish School. My teacher Cony was funny, very patient and pushed me to have more conversations in Spanish. I believe my Spanish improved just by taking 2 hrs of classes a day. And guess what? The cost per hour was $10! 

What Did I Learn from My 1 Week Yoga Retreat? 

When I got back to New York City, people who met me post-retreat said I was glowing. People were asking me what I did differently. They sensed new energy vibrating from me. I felt less stressed out–I was really burned-out from my job and the city before the retreat. The little things that annoyed me every day, for example on my daily subway commute, did not bother me as much. Or, maybe I was simply able to breathe and let go of these little annoyances.

Female Traveler at a 1 week yoga retreat in Nicaragua
Yoga Retreat Glow

I also developed a solid morning routine because of this retreat and my amazing teachers. I now wake up much earlier, meditate for 5-10 mins, journal and start my day at a slower pace similar to what I experienced at the yoga retreat. 

This retreat was a physical and mental reset for me. I learned to be okay with moments of silence, to be “bored” or simply do nothing on the weekend, to breathe and just enjoy the good food and language barriers. I even went a whole week without my daily cup of coffee!

I still do that. 

Is This 1 Week Yoga Retreat for You?

If you are in a place in your life where you feel unbalanced, need mental clarity or the courage to redirect your life, then traveling to Nicaragua and doing a yoga retreat might help you out a lot. I highly recommend taking a different type of vacation if you are in a rut.

Where Can You Book This Incredible 1 Week Yoga Retreat in San Juan Del Sur?

You can book directly on Eden on the Chocolata’s website. Or email Remy and Kelly, they will help facilitate the bookings and answer any questions you may have! Let them know I sent you for good karma! 

You can also book nightly stays the yoga resort without doing the retreat here.

Eden on the Chocolata contact info:

edenchocolata@gmail.com

If you want to know how to pack for this 1 week yoga retreat, then you will need this ultimate packing guide to travel light! 

Thanks for reading. Happy traveling and remember to take a DEEP breath!