Worth it! Los Angeles Winter Trip

Ah, my poor neglected blog! Don’t worry, I’m still around! Like many other bloggers, I’ve caught cant-get-a-post-published-itis. I’m starting a foundation to fight this illness. Together, we can find a cure. Or I could manage my time better, but that would require effort. Unthinkable!

“Los Angeles is completely different city in the summer.” That’s what my (amazing) AirBnB host told me. I wouldn’t know. I visited LA for the first time in third grade on a trip with my mother to see family. While that was during the summer, we didn’t do much sightseeing, and I was too young to remember most of it. The next time I returned would be with my aunt in December of 2014, and I fell in love. Therefore, it’s no surprise that I settled on LA (and San Francisco, but that’s another story for another time) as my winter-break destination. LA as a whole may have a warm weather “vibe” – especially with the palm trees, which by the way, are not native to California – but I think it’s overlooked as a winter-break destination. In fact, it’s kind of my ideal winter oasis: a multi-faceted, unique city with tons of vintage clothes, delicious ice cream, gorgeous parks, and stunning cityscapes – all wrapped up in 60 degree weather.

What can I say? I’m not a fan of the beach. But hiking through mountainous parks, catching a Lyft to a delicious ramen restaurant, and then topping off the night with some roller skating? Or wandering through neighborhoods filled with oddity stores, vintage shops, and vegan ice cream? Sign me up. Moreover, take me back! Please enjoy my top moments and photos in Los Angeles, while I cry over the abundance of schoolwork I already have. If you’re traveling to Los Angeles, hopefully this post can give you some decent, relatively cheap, less-touristy (ish? I’m not a local, obviously) itinerary ideas.

Barnsdall Art Park

I almost excluded this park from our itinerary because we were running short on daylight. That decision would have robbed me of a wonderful experience. This park is free (well, the outside), the view is beautiful, and the architecture is amazing. Several visitors were laid out on the grass enjoying the gentle breeze, amazing cityscape, and warm sunshine. We followed suit.

Fun fact: Barnsdall Art Park is circled around HollyHock House, which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I’m convinced that you can see Ennis House, which is also designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, from Barnsdall (not in the view pictured). Don’t quote me on that.

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La Fortuna & Arenal: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots + Transportation Info + Hotsprings

La Fortuna is a popular tourist area, and therefore not particularly cheap. However, there are still a few free and cheap activities. The difference between Monteverde and La Fortuna is transportation. La Fortuna/Arenal is spread further apart, so getting from location to location can be expensive. This is important! Sure, there are free hot springs, but getting yourself there and back drives up the cost!

Heading to Monteverde? Check out my cheap Monteverde guide.

All locations will be provided in Google Maps!


Some transportation options…

Shuttle pass rumors: Some hostels or hotels have shuttle passes, but getting information on them from TripAdvisor forums can be difficult. I stayed at Hostel La Choza Inn and used their shuttle pass, which was great, but unfortunately it’s been discontinued. I’d check back to see if they offer it again in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

Renting bikes: Check out this post by Costa Rica Travel blog for information about riding bikes. I really doubt you could bike to the free hot springs (plus where would you park the bikes) but you could bike the waterfall, El Salto, and roam around freely. Just be careful.

What about walking? Some locations we were able to walk to. Other locations were too far and/or there was no sidewalk or shoulder on the road. Again, for locations like the free hot springs, the national park, the Arenal lake, etc, you’ll need a shuttle/taxi/private driver.

“I took a public bus from [area here] to La Fortuna, where do I buy bus tickets to my next location?” Red Lava Tours (located right next to the bus terminal), or at least that’s where we purchased bus tickets to get back to San Jose. Public bus info.


Hiking

Mirador El Silencio.

Arenal national park

Unfortunately, I did not visit the national park, so I’ll direct you to another resource here.

Location.
Tripadvisor page.
Cost: 17 USD per person.
Bug spray? Yes!

Mirador El Silencio

I wanted to try something different so we went to Mirador El Silencio. There’s a lake view (which we missed) and a fantastic volcano view, which I’ll get to in a minute. The trail is lots of walking up and down “steps” through a forested area. There is potential to spot wildlife here, but we only saw some pretty butterflies and many lizards. The real treat is the volcano view, which can accessed directly by following the road.

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Monteverde: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots

Despite not being the most well-known desitnation, Monteverde, Costa Rica, still lands on many traveler’s itineraries. As a budget traveler, I’ve culminated a list of all the free (or cheap) activities I personally did while in Monteverde. This isn’t everything we did, just the cheap or free things. Also, since we’re living in the digital nomad era, I’ve included some places I think have good potential for photographers.

Transportation: It may sound crazy, but we walked everywhere (except to activities which included transportation). We stayed in downtown Santa Elena. It is doable, but keep in mind the area is tons of steep hills, so it’s not for those who need accessibility. 

Accommodations: We stayed at Hostel Sloth (private room). I’ll link you to their Tripadvisor page (which also happens to have my review on it). Our room was incredibly clean, and had a mini fridge. The only drawback is there doesn’t seem to be a big social aspect to this place versus some of the other hostels. 

Climate: We visited in mid-August, and much to our surprise (more like, we didn’t research), Monteverde was chilly and windy! To quote some other backpackers at our hostel: “I packed for Hawaii, not Anarctica!” It’s true, you will need a pair of long pants and a windbreaker/rain jacket while here. It’s not objectively cold, but it’s much cooler than you’d expect. 

Note: Location links will be in Google Maps. 


Hiking/Cloud Forrest Access

Cerro Amigos: Cerro Amigos (location link) is the most recommended free thing to do in Monteverde. It’s advertised as a free hike, and it is free, but I’ll warn you that this hike is no joke. There are two small parts of the hike that are relatively flat, but other than that, it’s an hour and a half of steep uphill death.

 The two *REAL* reason to hike Cerro Amigos:

  1. The trails off the peak give you free access to the cloud forest. Check out this blog for the map of the trail. Or you can ask the radio tower watchman. Speaking of which…
  2. There is a jewelry shop at the top run by the radio watchtower man, I believe his name is Carlos. Go visit Carlos. He’s nice (brush up on your Spanish beforehand), and he makes really unique pieces for really affordable prices (cash only, obv).
It’s an hour and a half of this. Steep. 

We saw a Coati…I think.
But it’s not all ugly. 
The top is better on a clear day, but still nice on a cloudy one.
Continue reading Monteverde: Free/Cheap Activities + Photo Spots

DIY Tropigoth HeadBand: Knurly Crafts

Surprise! It may not be summer anymore, however, I figured I would post this tutorial in the spirit of Halloween. I picked up these knarly pineapple decorations from a thrift store. They’re made of a rubbery material and are more suited for home decor, but I couldn’t help myself. Initially I was going to have a two-pineapple headband, almost like wearing cat-ears or puff balls. However, it was too overwhelming, even for me, so I decided to make two separate headbands.

Continue reading DIY Tropigoth HeadBand: Knurly Crafts