Panamaniacs!

As you may know, our favorite hostel network, minihostels, is a network of small, really cool, unique hostels all over Latin America.  They have hundreds of hostels all over South America and just added tons of hostels in Costa Rica….and now they’re on to Panama!!  I checked out the site a few days ago to see what was new, and they have amazing new hostels in Panama, all small, cool places that offer a great travel experience.  The best thing about all this is that Panama is one of the most fascinating countries. There is SO much to do there.  Surfing, snorkeling, scubba diving, kayaking, paragliding, parasailing, sailing, hiking, trekking, canopy zip-linning, nature tours, bird watching, beach bumming, even museum-going; anything you can imagine doing on a vacation, you can do it in Panama.  Islands? Check.  Cloud Forests? Check.  Metropolitan cities? Check.  Jungle? Check.  Gorgeous beaches? Check.  Ok, so check it out!

Traveling

The best part of traveling, for me, is getting to know the culture of a place.  Of course, the culture is different from my own,  and that has its own merit and fascination, but I don’t just mean the culture of a country.  I mean the culture of the city, of its neighborhoods and street corners, of its cafes and food stands, its sunsets and early mornings.  I think my favorite way to get to know the personality of a city or a barrio is to just walk for hours through its streets.  The tourist areas will always be full of tourists and tourist kitch, just as they will be in New York City or San Francisco, and to me, that personality of tourism is pretty similar all over the world.  But the parks and streets and people that you see going about their daily lives tells you much more than a plastic statue, and I love to walk around the neighborhoods, making my way from one to another and seeing how they change.  Each place has a little story- that cafe run by the elderly couple, the dog park next to the fruit stand where school kids hang out before being scolded for dawdling, the square meter of hand painted blue tiles on an unloved, derelict building, the shopkeeper who diligently cleans his sidewalk each day before his customers arrive, the ice cream shop where two women are gossiping. You can really feel city’s heartbeat in the very early mornings, if you can get up.  People opening their shops, going to work, kids off to school; the neighborhood quite but moving.  It’s a privileged feeling, watching the city wake up, the majority of the residents still cozy in their beds, until the sun comes up and warms the pavement and the buzzing starts once again.

That’s one thing I really love about hostels.  You can talk to the owners, get to know the staff, and make friends with the locals.  It’s so much more fun and interesting to me to talk to them about their lives and interests, and to hear from a local perspective what the real gems of the area are.  You can learn and see so much more than you thought possible.  minihostels hostels are all places like this where you can meet the owners, relax, and get to know the real personality of the city you are in.  And luckily, they have hostels all over South and Central America, so wherever you go, you can have a great time.  That’s not to say there aren’t party hostels in their network for those who like that too!  But me personally, I like that they are reliably unique, safe, clean, fun places to stay and relax.

Vegetarian in Buenos Aires

I know, Argentina is not an easy place to be a vegetarian.  The culture of asado and parrilla and the pampa and the gaucho with his herd of strong tasty cattle doesn’t lend itself to people who only eat “rabbit food,” who in many cases are tourist, but that’s changing.  It’s becoming muy de onda, very fashionable and trendy in Argentina to be a vegetarian, and some fresh new places are cropping up with great vegetarian food in Buenos Aires.

My newest favorite has only been open for three weeks: Natural Station, on Parana and Montevideo.  They make wraps, sandwiches and salads out of amazing, fresh vegetables, and use all healthy and natural ingredients.  They also have about 20 smoothies you can order with tons of different fresh fruits and superfoods like polen, wheatgrass, and green tea.

In Palermo Soho, on Borges at Charcas, you’ll find Spring Restaurant, an all vegetarian buffet restaurant with amazing food.  Sushi, pasta, soups, asian food, tartitas, and humita crepes are just a few things you’ll find.  The set price is a great bargain, you can get food to go, and the price includes dessert!  When I lived in Palermo, I went here once a week and always wanted to go back.

My other favorite vegetarian restaurant in Palermo is called Prana.  It’s a yoga center and cafe, and serves incredible tofu and veggie curry, a cereal “burger” with amazing aioli, great sandwiches and fresh, delicious juices and tea.  It’s a bit pricier, but the food is just unbeatable.

Look at HappyCow.net to find a huge list of vegetarian, vegan-friendly, and healthy restaurants all over the world, and ask your hostel if they know any place.  Good hostels aren’t hard to find, just look on http://www.minihostels.com Many city pages on minihostels also have restaurant recommendations that include those hard to find vegetarian restaurants!

Travel Planning

So, being a travel-addict, I tend to frequent travel forums, travel sites, and travel blogs as both an outlet for my addiction and further fuel for the fire.  I find amazing new ideas, plans, tips, etc, and can give out some advice if I have experience.  It’s a really fun way to plan and/or fantasize about your next trip!  For instance…

Ever since reading the conquistador accounts of South America and the Amazon, I have wanted to travel through the area, but I didn’t really have any idea of how to do so.  I didn’t really think trekking through the jungle on my own would be a sane idea, and I figured most guided treks would be too simple and touristy for me.  HOWEVER, on the minihostels.com travel forum, or maybe on their travel guide section, I found this awesome guide for taking a boat trip down the Amazon!  It’s not luxury travel, it’s much more a real experience!  So that is my newest fantasy… the boyfriend is not too thrilled…he prefers to lie like a lizard on the beach for hours… boring!

Also, the Lonely Planet South America Travel Forum is a great place to ask questions, advice, and get tips about your travel.  If you need a good hostel or tour company, or want to test out an idea, it’s an awesome place to do it.  These people know what they’re talking about, and you can often find people in the places you want to go to give you advice.

Costa Rica

playaThe thing that makes Costa Rica amazing isn’t just the fact that it has amazing beaches and waves, virgin jungle and cloud forests, incredible waterfalls, and super friendly people–it’s the fact that it’s absolutely gorgeous and warm all year round!  Even with summer coming to a slow, burning end, Costa Rica stays warm throughout the year.  Thinking about a good place to escape for one last hurrah?  Or a warm, glowing caribbean country where you can lounge on the beach in december?  Costa Rica is beautiful, a beacon of eco-tourism, and a great deal for budget travelers.  Some of the resorts and hotel and break the bank, but minihostels has scouted really great, personal, unique hostels all over Costa Rica that are perfect for travelers on a budget!  One amazing hostel in Santa Teresa called Pacifica Surf Studios has 8 huge, private studio rooms, with a king bed, pull-out couch, beautiful private balcony, and amazing prices.  The owner knows everything there is to know about tourism in the area and can even take you on tours.  You can get surf lessons from experienced teachers who work at their surf school, or just rent a board from them for the day, take spanish lessons, yoga classes, get a massage, and get great tourism secrets from the owner.  It’s a really special place for those who are looking for something a little different than the usual packed-with-drunken-college-kids, noisy, touristy hostels, and are looking for a place with real charm, character, and knowledgeable, friendly people.  Check out their new website here where you can make reservations.  If you are a member of minihostels, you get 10% off every night!  And at every other hostel in their network!

What to do on a Monday Night in BA?

It`s not exactly a well kept secret but the Bomba del Tiempo takes place most Mondays at Konex (Sarmiento 3131) and is THE thing to do on a Monday. They are a percussion group that began in 2006 and focuses on improvisation. They also have special guests that come every week and play with them.

I`d heard a lot about it and made my way there for the first time last night.  First thing you`ll notice is the line wrapping around the block. It`s definitely a good idea to get there early, or buy tickets earlier in the day if you want to see the whole show. The line`s not so bad though, there`s people selling cervezas frias and pan relleno and everyone is just chilling out and getting in the mood. Once you`re inside and the music starts there`s no way you`re not moving. This is the only time I`ve seen the Argentineans really cut loose and DANCE. Definitely recommendable. ALSO if you need a place to stay while travelling through Argentina and South America check minihostels.com! Great deals on great hostels!

Our NEW AND IMPROVED Favorite Hostel Network

So we mentioned we loved Minihostels, and now they got their new site up and running! You can make reservations with no booking fees and if you’re a member you get 10% off your stay! AND if you’re not a member you can become one for only $10!! Sweet deal!