Category Archives: Central America

Helen of the Caribbean


Marigot BayA few years ago I tested the idea of tropical Thanksgiving – and loved it. After a wonderful week in Puerto Rico the idea of escaping the cold during the holidays and doing something different has stuck with me. That is how my husband and I ended up in the tropics again during Christmas.

Saint Lucia is a tiny island in the Southern Caribbean. Volcanic in origin, the island is more mountainous than most and framed by two magnificent peaks, Gros and Petit Piton, that steeply raise out of the ocean near the town of Sourfiere. They are the island’s hallmark and a truly magnetic sight – you first see them on the approach from the plane and you just can’t avert your eyes! The Pitons anchor St. Lucia like two giant sails, as if the island were a boat sailing through the Caribbean.

Over several centuries since the first European settlers arrived, the island has changed hands many times between the French and the British. Their feud and competition for St. Lucia made it known as the “Helen of the Caribbean” or “Helen of the West Indies.” The British took definitive control in 1814 and today English is the island’s official language – and traffic moves on the left. But the French have left their mark, too. The majority of the population is Catholic and speaks French Creole (Kwéyòl) known as patois. Read the rest of this entry


Tropical Thankgsiving


El Yunque

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico

Last year we tried out this Thanksgiving concept for the first time – and loved it! Instead of hours of turkey consumption and sitting in front of TV, hours of exotic food and adventures in a tropical paradise. Our choice was beautiful Puerto Rico. We started our vacation in San Juan and I already blogged about the highlights. Then we headed east to explore the island’s natural beauty.

When searching for a perfect place to stay, I had in mind something similar to our amazing time in Costa Rica a few years back. We stayed on the Caribbean coast in a charming cabin nestled in the rainforest and yet only a few steps away from the pristine beach. I wasn’t exactly finding these kinds of accommodations in the area of Puerto Rico we wanted to explore, with the goal of staying relatively close to San Juan given how short our trip was. Most of the accommodations I was seeing where large resort hotels, and even smaller boutique ones were not quite small enough to match the peace and quiet of a secluded cabin. And then I found it!

When I came across photos of this log cabin on the edge of El Yunque National Forest, I knew I had to go there! I usually stay away from providing property reviews but I make exceptions for really special places and the Hamilton cabin is one of them. Read the rest of this entry

San Juan, the walled city


Puerto Rico’s San Juan is a microcosm of the history of the Americas. First sighted by Europeans on Columbus’s second trip to the New World in 1493, the island became the gateway to Spain’s American empire. It was the easternmost island large enough to supply plentiful food and water to Spanish ships sailing from home to the Caribbean and beyond to the riches of Mexico and South America. San Juan remained Spain’s mightiest stronghold in the area for the next 350 years, only briefly occupied by the English in 1598 and by the Dutch in 1625, until Puerto Rico became a U.S. possession following the 1898 Spanish-American War. Read the rest of this entry

A frog, a church, and a volcano


Playa Cocles

There is so much to tell about Costa Rica, whether you’ve been there for just a few days or for months so like everyone else I have to prioritize. I chose three places that capture some of my most enchanting moments there: Puerto Viejo area, town of Orosi, and the Irazú Volcano.

Playa Cocles is a slice of paradise. Stretched along a dusty road south of Puerto Viejo on the Atlantic coast, it is wild and beautiful and yet only four hours away by car from San José. Thanks to Costa Rica’s laws that make the first 50 meters past the high tide mark public land, no one can own a beach anywhere in the country, saving the pristine stretches of sand and coastal vegetation from ugly commercial development. No hotel fronts, no soda stands, no beach chairs. Perfect! Read the rest of this entry