Beginner’s Guide to Havana, Cuba

Beginner’s Guide to Havana, Cuba

On what might be the coldest day in Toronto this year (minus 19 WTF?!?), I can’t help but reminisce about warmer days in Havana. Last year was my first (and definitely not my last) time in Cuba. As I think about my experience as a newbie to the country, I’ve compiled the following list of Dos and Don’ts for beginners in Havana.

Take a Classic Car Ride: This is an absolute must. No matter where you are in Havana, you’re surrounded by these antique vehicles that double as taxis. Have your pick at a hard top or convertible, but just make sure you agree on a price beforehand. (And yes, you can negotiate).

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Carry Tissues and Hand Sanitizer: Keep in mind that Cuba is a pretty poor country so toilet paper and hand soap isn’t necessarily readily available. Many washrooms will have an attendant so be sure to have some spare change to give to them. If you’re a germaphobe, I suggest coming up with ways to handle the grime of the city because it would be a huge shame for you to miss out on such a beautiful city.

Always check your change: Cuba has two currencies. The Cuban Pesos are used only by locals and cannot be converted back to CAD or USD. The Cuban Convertable Peso is what you will have your cash exchanged into at home before your trip and has a higher value than the local currency. Because of the difference in currencies, it’s strongly encouraged to check your change with vendors who may confuse the two (intentionally or unintentionally). While this didn’t happen to us, I did overhear a mother/daughter duo talk about it because it had happened to them earlier in the day.

Stay in a Casa: casa is basically a homestay. Staying in a Casa allows you the opportunity to see how the locals live. We found our casa on AirBNB and they were great! While the owner and operator didn’t speak much English, her son acted as our translator. He managed most of the communication before our trip and greeted us upon our arrival. Complete with our own en-suite washroom, it was more economical than a big chain hotel and it included breakfast! Cuba is extremely safe so there’s really no concern major concerns about not staying on a resort (just be mindful about what you’re carrying and your surroundings, especially at night).

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Don’t be afraid: Step outside of your comfort zone and the tourist areas. B wanted to seek out a boxing gym in a run-down part of the city that produces some of the best boxers. Even though I had been advised to avoid that part of the city, it was the middle of the day so I joined him. As we walked past the tourist-friendly area into this “off-limits” district, people went about their day and barely took any notice of us (even though we stood out like a sore thumb). While on our journey, a young couple happened to be walking along side us and used the chance to practice their English. At first my guard was up but quickly came to my senses and knew there was no harm.

Don’t get your hopes up on anything on a menu: Quite possibly one of the biggest lessons I learned on my first trip to Cuba. Because the majority of ingredients (meat included) is of short supply, it’s common to find out that your first choice isn’t available that day, or that they’ve already run out. Be sure to select at least 3 things on the menu that you would like to eat and go from there.

As I look out my window and see the 8 centimeters of snow on my balcony, I can’t help but miss Cuba just a little bit more. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what are your Dos and Don’ts when visiting Cuba! I can’t wait to go back…

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

There are view places that have truly taken my breath away. The Kananaskis Valley in Alberta is one of them and the Amalfi Coast in Italy is another. On this trip to Vietnam, the place that had that affect on me was Halong Bay.

We were picked up by our tour (Maya Cruises) bright and early at our hotel in Hanoi. After about 2.5 hours in a ballin’ limousine bus, we arrived at the dock to board our ship. While we waited, we met some of the fellow visitors and chatted about life back home next to fish drying on the rack. While it wasn’t the fish that became part of our dinner, it did remind me of my childhood, back when my grandpa would dry and salt cod fish to preserve for the winter.

After a short taxi, we boarded our main ship with our outstanding guide, Tommy. We were greeted with a welcome drink and taken to the dining area for our 5-course lunch. This was my first cruise experience and it did not disappoint. After our lunch, we were given our room keys and told the agenda of the day. As we sailed further into the bay, the group of us made for two Australians (one of whom was originally from Vancouver), a Brit, and two Taiwanese from Halien. We quickly became a pretty tight knit group as there were only 7 of us.

After lunch and getting sorted in our rooms, we hopped into our bathing suits and prepared for our group kayaking tour around the bay. Once we were all in our respective boats, Tommy guided us around some of the house boats and showing us their oyster farms.

These house boats became a thing after the invention of polystyrene foam, which allowed for the building of cheap floating platforms. Prior to that, the families of Ha Long bay lived on land in traditional houses and in the natural caves on the islands. The last family living in a cave home moved out in 2009. Now, due to the bay’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site, no new private homes are allowed to be built on land. Only a few yellow and red park ranger stations dot the landscape. The days of the floating homes are numbered too – the government is relocating those families back on land, due to the environmental impact of the breakdown of the polystyrene floats. I do wonder if ten years from now, visitors to Ha Long bay will see recreations of these villages, built strictly for tourists.

We chose the 3 day / 2 night option while the rest of our group would head back to Hanoi after just one night. While our boat made its way to drop the group off, we boarded a “day boat” cruise which included a different tour guide and a new group of sailers, all of whom were from neighbouring cruises in the bay. We were the last to join the group before we made our way to the famous Cat Ba island.

Cat Ba is the largest island in Halong Bay and is the only island with habitats. It’s also home to the endangered Cat Ba monkey. The monkey lives more in the middle of the island and there are less than 100 left in the world. While we didn’t see any of the monkeys, we did take a bicycle tour to Viet Hai, a small village just a few kilometres from the eastern port. The ride was a pretty easy one with only one big hill that I couldn’t tackle on the bike myself (I’m not a cycler) and the views were incredible.

After a visit to the hospital and school (both of which seem a bit much for a town of less than 200 people), we stopped in for a fish foot massage – strangest feeling ever! – and a rice wine tasting before heading back to the dock. The wines that we did try were infused with rose petals or banana… there was also the infamous snake wine which none of us tried but can be seen in a number of southeast Asian countries including Vietnam. After a nice bicycle ride back to the boat, we made our way to a kayaking raft where we paddled our way to our own private beach.

Paddling in Halong Bay really did bring us up close and personal to the bay. It’s unfortunate that over the years, so much pollution has accumulated in the bay. As you paddle around, it’s not uncommon to cross paths with multiple plastic bottles, plastic wrappers, pieces of styrofoam, and even a rubber glove. But as we made our way back to our main cruise ship, we did see two rangers gathering garbage from the bay, so there is hope for a cleaner bay in the future.

After an action packed trip, we ventured onto the water one last time to visit some caves before we left Halong to make our way back to Hanoi. I have to say that after two weeks exploring Vietnam, Halong Bay was by far one of the highlights of our entire trip. I only wish I could have spent more time…

Ho Chi Minh – Saïgon

Ho Chi Minh – Saïgon

The air is thick with the smell of gasoline, garbage, and urine. The streets are loud with the hustle and bustle like any major metropolis. As I’m attempting to cross the street, bikes weave around me at all speeds, honking to make me aware of their presence. I’ve been in Vietnam over a week and I’m now in Saigon… I don’t know what I expected but this wasn’t quite what I had in mind.

Ho Chi Minh City is big, really big. With over 13 million people and close to 8 million motorbikes, its the largest city in Vietnam. Originally settled by Khmer people, it was slowly taken over as the Vietnamese people headed south. In the 18th century, the French arrived and brought with them their architecture, food, and religion. The French ruled for 90 years and left a very big mark on the region, which can been seen in the city and street design, the buildings, and the food. During this time, the city’s name was changed to Saigon as it was easier to pronounce than Gia Dinh. The term Saigon is now interchangeable but is mostly referring to the city centre area.

After the French lost the battle of Dien Bien Phu, South Vietnam gained its independence. The country was split into two, the north being communist backed by the Soviet Union and China, and South Vietnam being non-communist. The south at the time was led by a corrupt government, which led to small gorilla armies to emerge throughout the region. The USA remained supporting the government in the south but it wasn’t long before the two regions went into war that lasted 20 years.

The Vietnam war wasn’t something that I was very familiar with. In high school, and throughout my entire education, a huge emphasis was placed on teaching the two World Wars, leaving little room to educate on both the Korean and Vietnamese wars. It might be because Canada’s independence was so closely tied to events in the WWs. So I could be brought up to speed, B and I visited both the War Remnants Museum in the city, and took a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. Both experiences gave me the history lesson that I was craving and opened my eyes to how long-term damaging this war was, remnants that can still be seen today…

HCMC wears you down. Whether it’s the humidity, the honking, or the constant “you buys something” in the markets, it’s a draining experience. Having said that, there are moments of quiet tranquility that makes the city special in a way. Nôi Quy park near our hotel allowed for this gentle reprieve. In the morning, you can find locals enjoying the little bit of nature practising Tai Chi, exercising in the free outdoor gym, playing a game of Jianzi (like badminton but with your feet), or just relaxing or even napping on a bench. Outside of the park, you can always find people taking a break on the back of their parked motorbike or seated on a stool under an awning or umbrella. It doesn’t matter where they are, the Saigonese know how to relax. In my opinion, you have to in order to enjoy the city.

The way I enjoy a city is through their food. I had high hopes for the south as I had been told that most of what us Canadians know as Vietnamese is the food that comes from the southern region. What I quickly came to find is that HCMC is largely a city of chains. Here you’ll find Starbucks, Burger King, Popeyes Chicken, and a shocking number of Sushi and Korean restaurants. Sure there are sidewalk stalls serving up HCMC’s finest but there’s barely any room to sit as the sidewalks double as motorbike parking. Our first meal was Banh Mi (likely everywhere else we’ve visited) but to be honest, it left a lot to be desired.

Saigon does do a few things well – the markets. If you want souvenirs, cheap clothes, or even a Samsonite suitcase for cheap (like I did!), head over to Ben Thành Market. Do not pay the price given unless you’re in the no haggling area. My new suitcase cost me $50 CAD whereas back home it would be closer to $150. If you want Adidas, Nike, or Underarmour, go to the Russian Market. They also have extras from shops like Zara, Banana Republic, and Mango! Some are knock offs, but there’s a good amount that’s just excess from the factories all in Vietnam. Lastly, there’s a food stall market which was quite possibly my favourite thing to do in Saigon aside from the museums. It’s just around the corner from the Ben Thanh Market and bares its name. Here you can find most Vietnamese dishes like Banh Mi, Pho, Bun Chai, and of course, my favourite, Banh Xeo.

While Saigon/Ho Chi Minh isn’t the prettiest, cleanest, or calmest city ever and despite its faults, I’m forever grateful for the chance to have visited and experienced all that makes it special.

Hue – A Foodie’s Paradise

Hue – A Foodie’s Paradise

Hue was on my list as we planned out our trip to Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) was on B, and Hanoi we knew we had to do. I wanted to do Hue for the Old Imperial Capital, or the Citadel as they call it… but what I quickly came to learn about Hue was more than old building ruins, I have learned the Hue should be more known for the food.

Sure Bourdain (RIP) had visited before, and I had seen the last episode he did while visiting the region, but it didn’t hit me until our first meal. In the pouring, soon to be monsoon-like, rain that stayed with us the entire time, we made our way to grab some lunch after our hour flight from Hanoi. We stumbled upon the restaurant and bar area of Hue city centre and plopped down at a place called Xuân Trang where I order Banh Khoai (without the pork of course!) and an order of chicken with rice. B got Nem Lui (ground pork patties grilled on lemongrass skewers). Place number one set the bar high.

Our first food in Hue was amazing, my jet-lag, not so much. Four days into the trip and I still had trouble sleeping the entire night, needing naps during the day… but my Hue nap took us into well into the night and we ended up missing dinner. At 11:30 pm we took to the street only to find that Hue is not a town of late night eats. After wandering around for a good 30 minutes in the rain, I turned on my data and found a food stall that serves burgers and fries… not very traditional but I was starving. We weren’t the only ones, and found a group of three Malaysian travellers who were also in search of food. We all went to the burger stand together and took it back to our respective hotels… even Hue’s roadside burgers and fries are outstanding!

Breakfast the next morning was included in our hotel. The buffet had a wide assortment of fresh fruit, breads and pastries, meats (which B made a comment on), rice, crepes and more. What really stood out was the pho. I’ve come to learn over my short time in Vietnam is that pho is eaten really any time of the day… and it differs depending on the city (not really a surprise here). B was so obsessed with it that he convinced me to get a bowl. And he was right to obsess over it, it was THAT good. (Naturally I asked for mine without the beef in it – I’m so complicated)

Aside from the Banh Khoai which I so desperately wanted to try, I wanted Banh Beo. These tiny coin shaped rice circles come with shrimp and fried onions and I had had them at a Vietnamese restaurant back in Canada. Knowing that they’re a uniquely Hue dish, I knew I had to check it off my list. We ordered a dish of them at a restaurant called Madam Thu, which serves up traditional Vietnamese food and has vegetarian options! As our mains, B ordered chicken and rice while I ordered a vegetarian Banh Khoai (honestly, could not get enough on that stuff!). Our Banh Beo came with the traditional fish sauce but what really made the dish was the chilli sauce that they provided. The spicy was a nice compliment and I should have ordered more.

I could go on and on about the food in Hue, but all good things must come to an end. Aside from the endless rain, and the crippling jet lag that I still haven’t kicked after 6 days, we’ve made our way to our next destination (Hoi An). But I know that Hue will always have a special place in my food-loving heart.

My top 5s of Toronto

My top 5s of Toronto

 

This past weekend, a friend of mine flew in from Calgary. He had been to Toronto a handful of times and was only in town for a day. After arranging a time to meet up, the old familiar question came up, “So, what do you wanna do?”

This all too familiar question is one that I ask myself on a weekly basis, usually over Saturday morning coffee with B – What do we want to do? It’s summer in Canada’s most populated city and yet, we still need to ask ourselves that question… usually to the same answer, “I dunno.”

As I reflect on this question, I’ve devised a list of my top three things to do in the following 5 categories:

  • Shopping
  • Adventure
  • Food and Drinks
  • Nightlife
  • Free

Hopefully, by the end, I’ll have answered my question so I can make the most of the rest of this summer – and you can too!

Shopping

I’m definitely not a mega shopper by any means, but I do enjoy a splurge every once in a while. Which is why I really love Yorkville. This pedestrian-friendly shopping district has all of the big names Carrie Bradshaw would crave. Prada, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton to name a few (I’m sure you’ve heard of them), but also shops that are a little more within my price range – There’s even a Winners!!

If big names aren’t your style and you’re looking for something a little more eclectic, Kensington Market has you covered. Located just north of Chinatown, Kensington Market is a pedestrian district filled with vintage inspired shops, cute cafes, and instagram-worthy corners. It’s not for the faint of heart, but an area that everyone needs to visit at least once.

If it’s food you love to shop for, hands-down my favourite foodie find is St. Lawrence Market. Within walking distance from Union Station, you’ll want to bring your appetite to St. Lawrence Market. The indoor market is open year-round and holds a multitude of butchers, cheesemongers, vegetable vendors, bakeries, and even a mustard vendor! Head downstairs if you need a break from shopping and indulge in any culture of foods – but really, what you’ll want is the eggplant parmesan sandwich from Uno Mustachio and you may want to split it with a friend!

Adventure

In my opinion, you can’t truly adventure in Toronto without visiting the Toronto Islands. The islands are just a short ferry ride away and are the perfect mini adventure to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Since you can’t drive to the islands, boating or biking are often transportation methods of choice. You can rent either from either side of the ferry and even though hoards of people make their way across every summer weekend, there’s plenty of water-front locations that you can call your own. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, there’s always Hanlan’s Point (the ever so popular clothing-optional beach).

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If you’re someone who likes to splurge for adventure, there’s always the CN Tower edgewalk. Now I’ll be honest, this isn’t exactly how I would prefer to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon, but for those who are super adventurous and aren’t afraid of heights – this one’s for you.

For those who cringe at the thought of extreme heights and hanging out nude outdoors, there’s always Toronto’s multitude of Escape Rooms. These puzzles have themes that appeal to almost everyone from a Harry Potter themed adventure to escaping rooms in a real life castle at Casa Loma!

Food and Drink

If I’m going to be completely honest with myself, 90% of my entertainment in this city centres around food, and drinking. It’s a vice that I don’t know if I want to kick considering the territory I still have yet to cover.

For evenings that are special, I like to spend the night at a little place in the Distillery called Cluny. This French-inspired bistro never fails to impress me. From the wine selection to the ever-changing, seasonal menu, this resto is our go-to when we want to splurge.

I’ve always said that my last meal on Earth would be Mexican and Toronto definitely punches above its weight in delivering authentic cuisine that is muy bien. With so many great places, it’s hard to short list them but if I must, here are my top 3:

  • Playa Cabana on Dupont
  • El Caballito Taquila y Tacos on King St W
  • Barrio Cerveceria on Queen E

If it wasn’t Mexican, or French, it would have to be Japanese. When we moved to Toronto almost two years ago, I have to admit that good sushi was hard to find… but Izakayas are second to none (ok… maybe Japan). Our go-to Japanese snack bar is a little off the traditional tourist path, but well worth it: Sake Bar Kushi on Eglinton.

Nightlife

My nights of bar hopping and cover have long since past – so if you’re looking to me to tell you the hot dance spots in TO, I’m sorry to disappoint. Instead, I’d rather gather with a group of friends over drinks and fun. Here are my top three ways to spend an evening on the town.

I’m competitive… so when I can spend an evening kicking my friends’ asses at a game of ping pong over beer, I’m all of it. SPIN, located on King W, is my absolute favourite place to crush an evening.

Toronto attracts talent – so it’s no shocker that on most weekends, you can catch some type of show. With 5 Mirvish theatres in the downtown core, and multiple music venues big and small, a night out to catch a show is within easy reach.

If a more laid back, tame evening is what you’re looking for, gathering with friends over some board games is always a good time. Snakes and Lattes (not just coffee, they have beer and wine too!) allows you to play unlimited games with your crew without needed to pack your closet with an assortment of games you’ll only play once or twice.

Free

Living in Toronto isn’t cheap, so sometimes all a girl needs is a night that doesn’t put a dent into my bank account. The city is insanely walkable – even though it’s a very vast city. I’d recommend exploring one neighbourhood at a time and expand from there. Harbourfront, Queen West, Leslieville, and the Distillery District are all good places to start!

Coming from the east coast, I have always been spoiled by beauty and beaches… grudgingly, I have to say that Toronto has somewhat the same. While the beaches in Toronto are 10x more populated, and not on the ocean, they’re free and a great way to spend a summer day.

One thing that Toronto also does well is festivals – and many of them have free components. Just this past weekend, there were at least 3 festivals happening on the same weekend, all with free entry (but bring cash for some cheap eats).

La Habana Ooo La La

La Habana Ooo La La

My Mojito in La Bodeguita My Daiquiri in El Floridita.” – Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway may have been onto something in the 1950s, but so many things have changed since his departure. Both bars are now caricatures of their former selves. Think about it, back in Ernie H’s day, these were local bars, with people going there to meet people, hang out, and perhaps even have a meaningful conversation with a local. Nowadays? Not so much.

El Floridita is a throwback to some serious first-season-of-Mad Men style, but with fruity drinks that ol’ Don Draper would sneer at, I convinced B. to join me there for a drink. The signature Daiquiri is 6 Cuban Convertible Pesos (CUC). Around the bar (packed three deep in standing room), tourists from around the world snap selfies and play with their smartphones. Many are somewhat rushed because they need to get back to their cruise ship. As for La Bodeguita? We literally couldn’t get in, because the tourists were overflowing into the street.

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Walk five minutes south from there, and things change. Away from most of the main tourist sites and historic squares, there’s a strip of bars with a healthy mix of locals and foreigners. Our favourite place has a little sign over the door that says “Aqui jamas estuvo Hemingway” – “Hemingway was never here”. Inside, another sign has a crossed-out wifi sign and says “Hablen entre ustedes”  – “No wifi, talk among yourselves”. In other words, our kind of place. Daiquiris are 3.50CUC, and the Mojitos are 3.00CUC, and are much better in quality and value than the ‘historic’ bars of Havana. Hemingway was a pretty cool dude – I’d imagine he would gravitate to this sort of a bar if he were alive today, rather than going to the themepark versions of his old haunts.

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Havana may not be Cuba’s music capitol but it sure holds it’s own. Around every corner, music is blasting from homes and restaurants. Tips are customary if you find yourself at a restaurant or bar with live music.

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Being in Havana is a distracting blend of the old, the new, and the now. The old is all around you by way of old 1950s cars smelling of gasoline and putting down main city streets. The new is the signs that American and Cuban relations are improving (albeit in fits and starts) and you see this by all of the Americans visiting the city. The now is how the Cubans live. Despite being a bustling city of over two million people, there is a strong sense of community in Havana. Everywhere you go, everyone seems to know each other. Neighbours actually talk with each other, people play dominoes in the park. Don’t get me wrong, smartphone zombies exist too, but I somehow think there’s a healthier balance of screentime and genuine interaction here than in many of the cities I’ve visited. Things have certainly changed since Hemingway’s time, but just like the vintage cars, the best elements of Cuban culture are still running strong.

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How to travel the Galapagos without breaking the bank

How to travel the Galapagos without breaking the bank

When my mother-in-law told us she wanted us to accompany her on a trip for her 60th birthday, we all began planning on where to go and what to do. Top of our list was Vietnam and Cambodia but after some extensive research by my MIL, she wasn’t comfortable with making that trip. When crunch time came, B said “if you could go anywhere, regardless of cost, where would it be?” – Her response… “The Galapagos”.

To get to the Galapagos alone can be costly. There are no flights to the islands outside of Ecuador so you must first make your way to Quito or Guayaquil. From there, most people tour the islands via an organized cruise. Average cost of these run you at least $2,100 per person for the most budget-conscious package. Since B and I are neither cruise people nor did we want to drop that kind of dough on a 6 day trip, we proposed another alternative – stay in local hotels and limit our adventure to two key islands. We’d use the taxi boats to get from point A to point B, and eat at local restaurants.

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After a brief two day stop over in Quito, we boarded our plane to Baltra. The flight takes just over 2 hours, and as you approach the Galapagos Islands, you’re played an instructional video on what to do and not do while visiting the islands. This includes appropriate distances between you and the animals, disposing of garbage, and how to minimize your footprint while exploring. When you land in Baltra, there’s a fee to enter ($100 USD) and from there, a bus takes you to the ferry which transports everyone from the airport island to the main island of Santa Cruz.

The main town of Puerto Ayora is an hour away from the airport and buses run based on flights in and out. If you miss the bus, like we did, you can expect a LONG wait before another one arrives. If you’re lucky, you’ll already have arranged transport, which we didn’t, otherwise you can arrange to have someone come in from town. After waiting in the hot, unsheltered sun, we opted to call in a ride.

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Puerto Ayora is a very walkable town, situated along the water and packed with restaurants, cafes, gift shops, and tour operators. Within walking distance of the town is the Charles Darwin Research Station, where people from all over the world come to study and promote environmental education. We spent a few hours exploring the centre and could have spent more time if our day had permitted but with the heat and it being lunch, it was time to head back into town. Another popular destination just outside of town is Tortuga Bay. It’s quite a trek between the town and the beach so bring plenty of water, but in the end, it’s worth it. The beach is vast and beautiful. On one side, there’s plenty of waves, but as you walk along, you come to a secluded little piece of paradise. Here the water is more calm and is not only popular with the locals, but with iguanas too.

IMG_0805After a few days relaxing in PA, we set sail to our next destination: Puerto Villamil on Isla Isabella. Home to the Galapagos Penguin, Blue Footed Boobies, and Sally-Lightfoot crabs just to name a few, Isla Isabella is an animal lovers paradise. Much more undeveloped compared to neighbouring Santa Cruz, but with still plenty to do. Here we spent much of our time snorkeling with sea lions, relaxing by the beach, and exploring the little town of PV.

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Outside of PV is the Wall of Tears. After WW2, Ecuadorian prisoners were shipped to Isabella and the island served as a sort of prison. In the beating heat, these exiles were instructed to do useless tasks, one of which was to build this wall… a wall which served no purpose other than to torture those who built it. It’s only a 5 km hike or bike, but there are a lot of things to distract you along the way. If you take a bike, be prepared for a hilly ride and bring lots of water. If you choose to stop along the way, there are bike racks. The best part of PV is the unspoiledness of the surroundings. Sure, there are people, and there is clearly life there, but it’s much quieter and underdeveloped than the main island – which means you really do see more animals out in the wild.

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To get between islands, you have a few choices. There are the ferries, which are small boats that carry more power than you’d expect. They’re rough… and I do mean rough. As a girl who grew up on the water, and in boats, I even had a hard time sitting in my seat as we bounced around for the duration of our transport. If you’re not a fan of boats, or have a hard time keeping down your cookies, there are small planes that travel between the islands. Since B is more of a flyer than I am (I hate flying), he and his mom took the plane back to Santa Cruz while I stuck to the boat. Either way, you’re in for an adventure.

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In the end, our trip to the Galapagos didn’t break the bank. Our hotels ran us about $130 per night (we stayed for 6 nights), our meals ran us anywhere between $7 – $15, beer on the islands was about $3, transportation (all in) cost under $200. In the end, it was much more economical, adventurous, and well worth the effort to see penguins in the wild.

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