Self-Loving in Central America

Amazing adventure. Incredible friends. Ridiculous laughs. Delicious food.


Just a few things that come to mind when I think about my three weeks travelling through Central America. I was going to write a 3 Part Blog about each country we traveled to (Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua), but I think it’s more efficient to just hammer out my whole trip in one post. Please note, there are one too many inside jokes and I apologize if you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, but I hope you enjoy!

First flight, Kelowna to Vancouver! After a 12 hour layover in Van, one that included many glasses of wine, margaritas, and eventually scotch while arguing that the Oscars’ big screw up was in fact a pre-planned publicity stunt, we finally flew into Panama City. I would say that the flight was uneventful ad I quietly slept with my head resting on my neighbors shoulder (thanks buddy, or shall I call you BF #1?), but Kendra would beg to differ.. We will leave it at that. Adios Canada!


Panama City was my first taste at seeing a different culture, in a different world. The last 9 years my travelling experiences composed of all-inclusive trips, a few visits to the United States (5 alone to Vegas), and travelling Western Canada. I was ready to start exploring, until we realized it was The Carnival, a celebration that originally started in Brazil and is now internationally recognized. We literally landed in the city the same day as the Panamanians were celebrating said “los carnavales.” I have never been so afraid and uncomfortable walking around hundreds of la policia holding machine guns! After a trip to the Panama Canal with probably one of the only english speaking cab drivers in Panama, (or our whole trip in general) we got dropped off downtown where the celebration ensued. Latin music, people getting sprayed with hoses, cheap food and $1 beers (little did we know this would be the best deal we would come across on our trip, thanks to Costa Rica food and drink prices mimicking Canada..) and loooong lines. Fortunately, the lines were too long and the afternoon party shut down before we could get in. Moment of gratitude, for the city did not need to witness a Kel and Kenny party..

After walking most likely 10 kilometers, (I can’t be sure because I left my FitBit at home with Mr. Marlow) we decided not to return to the Carnival Festival that evening, as we had an early flight to David in the morning. I also was strongly aware that even in the dark my blonde hair would stick out. Don’t worry, I become less scared as the trip goes on, when the 4 of us girls walk through the streets of Jaco at 3:30 in the morning, confident we could take on any danger, despite the warnings from our new New York friends. Instead, Kendra and I spend our evening in the comfort of Wifi and authentic American food at non-other than the Hard Rock Cafe Panama, for the second time during our 2 day stay.

A quick flight to David, and a taxi to Boquete (we skipped the more financially friendly bus ride when our cab driver shout out basically any number to drive us the whole way), and we were at our second destination!

If you’ve never been to Boquete, then definitely go on your next trip to Central America! Nothing like any of the other spots we visited. I can say that with confidence in our TinTin themed hostel, a room decorated with Solar System artwork and a lovely photograph of Greece, and a few blankets, aka unzipped sleeping bags. Thankfully, this little town offered so much to do we really didn’t need to spend much time in our 8×8 room. However, instead of turning right towards the town, where all the action is, Kendra and I naturally turned left. Not much going on this way. We ordered breakfast at a diner, Kendra only received half of hers, and we  both left wondering how we were going to tell each other we didn’t want to stay. I was already secretly planning our escape early to Bocas Del Toros, the islands of Panama, which was our next stop.

However, the next few days proved us wrong, as we gallivanted the streets and became one with the locals. I will never forget Mike, and Debbie (rest in peace Susan), and of course Howard, who tried to set me up with his 42 year old son from New York. I will keep that in mind Howie. And then there was Alex! An australian that was hitchhiking his way across Central America. Here I am hoping and praying for first class transportation between destinations and he’s on the side of the road with his thumb out for the sake of adventure and to save a few bucks. It’s been amazing watching your travels my friend.

Below: Alex, me, Kendra, and Mike!

Alex, Kendra, and I were lucky enough to spend an evening in a 25, 000 sq ft house, with some rich american kids, Wilson (the volleyball from Castaway, actually), and a drive to the top of a mountain in Boquete to see a view that I thought was “nice.” I’m glad we made it out alive.

We rode bikes, zooming down the mountain while kids laughed and waved. Except for one sad little family where a witch yelled at us.. will never forget that cackle. We went to a coffee plantation, and were thoroughly enthused at the process. We rode horses, mines name was Tornado (just kidding, Janero), that tempted to run a whole bunch of times until I pulled back hard on his reigns. Sorry Tornado, but I don’t have the core strength nor the skills to let you run as you wish. Trot slowly, my dear.

And lastly, we visited the hot springs, where I awkwardly slid amongst slippery rocks along the shallow river until I found a large one out of the water where I would sit like a beached whale and soak up the sun. Afterwards I made sure we hit up a local juicery I’d been eyeing up called JuiceMi (I promise I’ll get to that TripAdvisor review) and fueled up on some greens. Also, I apologize for the green juice in a cup photo, I feel like as a nutritionist this post is seriously lacking food/drink posts!

Boquete was definitely an experience, but it was time to hit the islands, Bocas Del Toros!

Ahhhh El Agua Lounge. The place I’ve been dreaming about. A floating hostel above the turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea. You travel between the islands by boat, which is quite a bumpy experience, reminding you that you aren’t back home in Kelowna driving to the second natural health food store that day in your honda civic.

Day one consisted of settling in, soaking up the sun, playing in the water, losing my sunscreen, reading in hammocks, playing beer pong, and I think one of the most important events: introducing Kendra to Vodka Sodas. Why she’s never had one in her life? I have no idea. I was able to con some white wine out of the secret stash but otherwise vodka sodas were the drink of choice at the Agua Lounge.

Unfortunately, our second day in paradise was overcast and rainy. That didn’t down our spirits (once again, we’re from the Okanagan), and after taking a boat ride to Frog Beach, we set up camp on some beach chairs and started on the mimosas. A few chilled red wines later, I started to realize my “I’m Ready To Parrrrrty” shirt was inappropriate at the somber yoga retreat we landed upon. It also might have explained why the staff was hesitant to give me the bathroom key because I wasn’t “staying there.” Eventually they complied, we stole the wifi code off a lovely east indian gentleman (that in fact did not read “The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari” which I assumed after he said he quit his job to travel) and we cleaned out a few bottles of red. The next half hour comprised of Kendra and I taking a fishing boat back to our island, in the pouring rain, laughing the hardest I actually think I did this entire trip, while reciting “The Notebook” to each other. “I wrote you every day for a YEAR!” Good times, Kenny, good times.

After a night of some serious dancing, shouting out to the crowd that Justin Bieber was from Canada, and making some new instagram friends, we were ready to head to Costa Rica and meet the girls in San Jose. Unfortunately out of the pack of eager cab drivers awaiting us at the bus station as we piled off the bus, we picked the one that likely smoked a drug that rhymes with whack. That or he had ADD. I feared for my life as he talked to us in faster than normal spanish, kept his eyes on us and NOT the road, and kept flicking the roof lights on and off as if he wanted to create strobe lights for his passengers. Needless to say, we made it to The Shining look-a-like hostel, had some free breakfast and too many cups of coffee, and hopped a cab to the San Jose airport to meet Chelsea and Rebecca for what would be another amazing two weeks.



The 4 of us made it to the Room2Board Hostel located in Jaco, Costa Rica. I highly recommend this place, and so would TripAdvisor as it was voted the #1 Hostel in Costa Rica last year. Bryan, the owner, immediately notice my Oilers hat and informed me he would be playing the Oilers & Islanders game on the projector the following day. I liked this place already! Originally from LA, now living in Costa Rica, I still found myself raving about how beautiful Kelowna is and that everyone should live there, as if it’s superior. I did this multiple times throughout the trip, to anyone who will listen, regardless of how many margaritas I’ve ingested. What can I say, Kelowna, I have a crush on you!

The Hostel was 4 stories high, and the rooftop comprised of multiple hammocks, and a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean; the beach where I would finally take my first surfing lessons, and the backdrop to which we would watch the most gorgeous sunsets. Kendra said it best when describing Jaco Sunsets “no matter what anyone’s doing, they drop everything and run to watch the sunset like zombies.” I remember watching the sun slowly set from the rooftop, and once it was hovering over the peninsula we would bound down the stairs and run to the beach to get the full effect. It never gets old.

Surfing was insane! Incredible and exhausting at the same time. All the burpees in the world couldn’t prepare me to hop up on the surf board like the pros do! I was able to get to my knees, hop onto my feet, and ride the surf to the shore. We all managed to take our surfing skills to the next level, and it felt pretty damn good.

We managed to make it out a few nights in Jaco too. We played pool at the Beetle Bar, and went dancing for ladies night at Jaco Blues, where I spent most of my time requesting “Single Ladies” to the look-a-like DJ Khaled. Between the Spanish pop that none of us could identify, he managed to play 17 seconds of Beyoncé to which I immediately broke out my all too often practiced Single Ladies routine and rejoiced in International Women’s Day. I should also mention the night club was riddled with hookers, wobbling around on their giant heels, and creating quite a show for us. After being introduced to Chiliguaro shots at Room2Board, this was my go-to shot this evening. Patiently waiting at the bar where they decided to place all the speakers directly over the crowd and you yelled your drink order just hoping they would get it right (and hopefully not drug the white Canadian girls that can’t see them making said order). I haven’t seen such poor communication since my last relationship.

I digress. Also, chiliguaro shots are basically cold chili in a shot. I realize that sounds absolutely terrible and I don’t know any other way to convince you of it’s deliciousness, then just to say go try it. But good luck because I googled the ingredients and it’s more than just some chili powder and hot sauce… I did see one middle-aged lady enjoying one by herself at 8 am while I ate my pinto and eggs. I was quite jealous, it would have complimented my breakfast perfectly. Goals for next trip I guess!

Above is the delicious salad I ate every day! It was called the “Surfer Abs” Salad… FYI it does not give you surfer abs when you are drinking chiliguaros on the daily.

We rode bikes down main street in the scorching heat, had a few arguments with the ATM, and became enemies with condensation. We laid by the pool, and swam in the pool, but made sure there would be “no love scenes” as per the rules. All in all, Jaco was a place for sunsets and surfing, meeting new friends and getting out of our “comfort zones.” I will definitely be back <3

A hop, skip, and a jump, later, we arrived in Samara. I’m kidding. We took a an hour long speedboat to Montezuma, and then a shuttle to Santa Theresa. Rest in Peace Curious George 🙁 From there, we were unsure of how we would get to Samara. And regardless of the 3-4 15 minute breaks at work I spent on my DuoLingo app learning the language, we were unable to express to our shuttle driver where we were trying to go. After about 15 minutes of negotiating on a piece of paper, we settled on a deal. The next 3 hours consisted of mild-moderate anxiety as we winded throughout the Costa Rican mountains on dirt roads, and even a small panic attack as we drove up to a dead end and I was sure we took a wrong turn. Nope, he put on the 4×4 like it was standard practice, and cruised through the river. Despite the Mumford and Sons discography playing in my ears, which usually calms me down, I remained on hyper alert until we pulled up to our Tico Adventure Lodge in Samara.

Ah, Samara, a hidden gem. I shouldn’t be shouting out to the world how beautiful this spot is as the locals are trying to keep it authentic, but let’s be real, I think like max 10 people read these blog posts. I’m sure my summary of my trip won’t leave the airports flooded with tourists heading to Samara. But please, take note when you are planning your next trip to Costa Rica.

Okay so Samara. Home to a beautiful beach on the Nicoya Peninsula, lined with restaurants and beach chairs. We attempted surfing again, me feeling a little over confident and having less success, but still as much fun. Samara is home to my first ever jalapeno margarita, a beverage I would keep my eyes peeled for on the rest of the trip, and one that I would always relate to my Central America travels. A jalapeno margarita and ceviche in Costa Rica is to glass of Merlot with dark chocolate at home in Kelowna, it just feels right. I already can’t wait for my homemade jalapeno margaritas this summer!

Our hotel offered yoga every morning, so naturally Chelsea (currently in her yoga teacher training!) and I jumped on the opportunity to attend a class, conveniently held just steps away from our cabin like room. I should note, they had not so very convenient bunk beds that brought me back to my family bible camp days. Except this time I wasn’t begging my cousins for the top bunk,  I “lucked” out when Kendra wasn’t so lucky playing beach volleyball and crushed her poor ankle (I hope your mom doesn’t read this Kenny!). I got the lovely privilege of climbing down in the middle of the night crossing my fingers my foot would find the ladder. Luckily it did, and there were no other broken bones this trip.

Anyways, I managed to somehow make it through the 90 minute yoga class, that was more challenging than a power flow moksha class on a hot day, and we went on with our day surfing, sipping margaritas, and playing said volleyball game. We ended the day with delicious wine, probably one of the best meals I’ve had this trip, and me flirting with a male server named “Handsome” that I didn’t even actually meet. I went back the next day to scope out this “male model” and found a good-looking teenager scrubbing dishes in the back. I then pretended this whole Handsome ordeal never happened.. I don’t know what you’re talking about!

Thank you Samara. I already can’t wait to return 🙂


Travelling to San Juan Del Sur wasn’t the most difficult of travels. However the border crossing consisted of taking out our passport a dozen times, the Nicaraguan patrols not having change for a twenty when the fees were only twelve bucks and asking me to go ask the panhandlers outside for change (genius if you ask me), and us being directed by 16 year olds with machine guns. After we successfully crossed, we found our lovely driver Juan, (who we made sure to ask him what his name was instead of asking if he was in fact Juan)  got in his sketchy little car where the doors don’t open from the inside (another great stealing tactic), and made our drive to San Juan Del Sur.

Since we decided to travel via shuttle instead of flying into Managua from San Jose, we had to find accommodation for one night in San Juan, as our hotel that we booked the following 3 nights was unavailable. We were fortunate enough to get the last 4 beds at Naked Tiger Hostel, and even more fortunate that it was Monday, and everyone was either hungover or sleeping off Sunday Funday and we were able to relax around the pool. It has the most beautiful view of San Juan Del Sur, and I’m forever grateful of the 36 photos I got to take of the sunset. My sunset photos take up approximately 75% of my pictures, and is responsible for me deleting countless apps that I may or may not even use to free up more space for future sunset photos. I have priorities, K? Plus, every 5 minutes the sun sets just a tiny bit more and it’s not my fault the whole sky changes and I need to take another 5 photos? Thank you science.

That evening, I decided to join the rowdy group of 20 year old  Germans and leave the girls behind. It was a hard decision, one that was made easier the more tequila shots said Germans were buying for me. We headed into town, down the steep dirt road that lead us up there, and went to a few bars (Canadian owned Loose Moose, Iguana-which we would frequent many other nights during our stay-and LIT,meaning “Lost in Translation”, but also the most popular trending verb in 2016). Needless to say, I ended up getting LIT off some cheap tequila, ate a delicious taco, attempted to swim despite the 1100 pm NO SWIMMING rule, decided against it once I saw Jose and his machine gun smiling down at me in my birthday suit, and then climbed up into my bunk bed and slumbered off. I had a glimpse of the town and fell in love, and I couldn’t wait for the next few days.

Above is a view from our amazing hotel in San Juan Del Sur.

This was probably the best travel day ever. 6 minutes later were pulled up to our hotel room, located on the West side of the town, right on the water. A gorgeous pool and oversized hammocks greeted us, along with air conditioning and wifi. The next three days was filled with sunshine, margaritas, and laughs. Okay that’s a lie, there was also sangria, gelato, and tacos. There was dancing, tattoos, and meeting new friends. This was our adventure destination. (So many adventures!) And even though we “missed” Sunday Funday, it didn’t stop us from having a party. These 3 days were bliss. Even the part where there was a torrential downpour and I thought the roof was going to collapse right then and there on us in the Cerveceria. For the record, this was precisely the 17th time I thought I was going to die on this trip. We made it out alive and had some laughs and boomerangs at Iguana where the ladies drink for free. And I’m not talking watered down drinks like Union Hall used to sell (Edmonton peeps!), but real free drinks with real liquor, that encouraged us to dance the night away at LIT (what else is new) until the wee hours of the morning.

Me and some peanut butter gelato!

I will most definitely be visiting San Juan Del Sur (little did I know we would be back sooner than later), but thank you, and hopefully next time we’ll end up with some El Snacko’s from El Gasolina.

Popoyo was our next stop. I was dancing my heart out to “Something Just Like This” by Coldplay (on repeat) to turn around and see the girls completely knocked out. I literally was laughing so hard I was snorting and the driver started giggling. If you know me personally, I’m sure you had the privilege of seeing the full video of this via snap chat. You’re Welcome.

We stayed in large teepees in the jungle. I slept a lovely 13 hours the first night and recharged myself for a what would be quite a hectic few days! Our second day in Popoyo consisted of yoga class taught by the one and only Chelsea (thanks girl!) and the most delicious breakfast of an omelette and oats with raisins, cinnamon, and banana. By the way this is like day 20 of my vacation, I kissed Keto goodbye at my first taco. We also had a nice little tub of peanut butter that sat comfortably at our table and went super well with our fresh squeezed banana drink.

The rest of the day we explored new beaches, had mini photo shoots, drank beers and played cards, had a romantic dinner, and caught sunsets. Simply lovely.

 Oh we also met some California friends that drove Bex and I back to San Juan Del Sur to catch the REAL Sunday Funday. It was legit one of the best parties I’ve been to! And was totally worth getting lost and almost driving back to Costa Rica with passportless new friends and getting into trouble. Our last day before our departure back to  Canada, and it was totally spent living every minute to its fullest! I kind of felt like I was in Las Vegas without the Bebe dresses and sparkles.

Above, one of the last photos I took of this incredible vacation. Unless you wanna see us wearing sombreros at the Mexican airport…

Cheers ladies. You guys were a hell of a group to travel with and I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anyone else! So many amazing memories. Love you to pieces.



1 Comment Self-Loving in Central America

  1. Robyn Galloway April 6, 2017 at 2:10 am

    Say, Kelly, that sounds like it was such a fun trip. Lots of energy, adventure, nice scenery and sunsets.
    I like the mention of the top bunk at Bible Camp. I recall the night when Tickle me Elmo fell out of bed and we all had a good laugh. Also the fact that my car was so full of stuffed animals that we almost couldn’t close the door.
    Looking forward to seeing you soon.


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