Travel TBT: Bachelorette in Tulum!

Tulum has been on my bucket list for a while now, so you can imagine how ecstatic I was to be able to go there for my Bachelorette party with my three best friends (Truett included! Duh!) last weekend. Travel has always been such an important part of my life, so I’ve always known I didn’t want to have your typical Vegas bachelorette with a group of drunk girls walking barefoot down the strip while I’m forcibly wearing some type of bright pink “Last Hoorah” sash over my too tight/too short minidress. More power to the girls who are down for that, but I just can’t hang anymore…which is why Tulum was perfect for me.

The health and wellness aspect of Tulum is what initially drew me in. It’s always been my dream to move to a beach town for a season to teach Pilates, eat acai bowls, and bum around for a few months, and after experiencing Tulum firsthand my dream has only grown bigger (for reasons you’ll soon find out)! Just as appealing is the pure beauty of the town, beaches, and turquoise blue waters. The absence of any gimmicks and all inclusive resorts literally speaks to my soul. When I think of a tropical vacation, I don’t think of high rise resorts…I think of boutique hotels and beach bungalows. And that is EXACTLY what Tulum is.

There are tons of things to see and do and incredible food to eat, so the below itinerary is just a glimpse of the many amazing options available in beautiful Tulum. But I promise you will not be disappointed if you choose to replicate our trip!

Day One – Thursday 

This day was mostly a travel day, but we made it to Tulum by early evening so we still had a few hours to take advantage of.

AirBNB – We chose to stay in an AirBNB rather than a hotel so we didn’t have to be on top of each other with all of our suitcases and Bachelorette-y party favors (i.e. penis balloons). Our particular AirBNB was about a 10-15 minute taxi ride from the beach in an area called Aldea Zama. Our condo was super cute and modern and included all upgraded finishes. The host was great with their communication, and despite a few hiccups, we really enjoyed our stay here. If you have a smaller group or are just with a significant other, I would recommend staying at a hotel as they are all located on the beach and that’s where you will be spending most of your time.

Rosa Negra – After checking into our condo and freshening up, we took a taxi to the beach and stumbled upon Rosa Negra. A combination of our ravenous appetites and the restaurant’s beautiful decor made our decision for us and it’s a decision we did not regret! We all ordered an array of salads, tacos, empanadas, and ceviche and were in absolute Heaven. Everything was so fresh and delicious, I’m salivating even thinking about it now. 10/10 would recommend!

Day Two – Friday

Sanara Tulum – Per my future sister in law’s recommendation, we started our day off with yoga at Sanara and breakfast at The Real Coconut. I cannot think of a better way to start my day or a more beautiful setting to do so. The yoga studio is situated right on the beach and the retractable walls were all open so we could hear the sound of the waves crashing while we flowed through our practice. After building up an appetite we made the short walk over to The Real Coconut – the most adorable, made for Instagram cafe – where I had probably the healthiest meal of my life. In keeping up with the theme in Tulum, everything was incredibly fresh and delicious. We definitely left with happy bellies!

 

Gran Cenote – After breakfast we made our way to Gran Cenote, an amazing cavern/swimming hole. This was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, if not THE highlight. The water is a stunningly clear blue and it literally looked fake in some parts. We had a blast swimming and exploring the multiple caves and looking up at the bats flying around. At one point there was a torrential downpour and it was absolutely surreal. Any trip to Tulum wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Gran Cenote, and when planning your visit make sure to go early to avoid the crowds!

Hartwood – Every person I know that has been to Tulum told me to go to Hartwood for dinner. We made reservations a few weeks in advance and were blown away by how fantastic the food was. Everyone in our group has slightly different palettes (one of which being vegan) so it was really cool to see how the different restaurants in Tulum were able to accommodate our different tastes. Hartwood was no exception as we all slowly died over our meals. One of the most memorable for all of us was the side sweet potato I ordered. It is unlike anything we’ve ever eaten…slowly cooked over a wood stove with honey butter and cacao (?!?!?!). TO.DIE.FOR.

Mur Mur – After dinner we strolled through town and stopped at a few boutiques and bars, but we ended up planting ourselves at the cute little bar at Mur Mur and had a great night. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I don’t drink and have been drunk only once in my life (off two glasses of wine in my old apartment with my fiancé). Considering it was my Bachelorette party, I figured I should let loose a little bit. Two glasses of rose and two shots of tequila later…I was SMASHED. My friends thought it was the most hilarious thing they’ve ever seen. “Our necks should support our heads better.” – Me

Day Three – Saturday

Ahau Tulum – We came to Ahau for breakfast on the beach and I swear to you I had the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever had in my entire life. I used to live in San Diego so that’s saying A LOT.

Beach Day – One of my biggest priorities on the trip was having a day to relax on the beach. Donning the matching bathing suits my besties got for us, we found a public beach next to Azulik and rented lounge chairs for 300 pesos per person (to go toward food and drinks). After living on the freezing East Coast for the past few months this was exactly what I needed.

Posada Margherita – Most likely owned and operated by the creators of Pinterest. This Italian restaurant is one of, if not THE cutest places I have ever been to. We ate right on the beach (as in toes in the sand) during sunset and were basically on one big honeymoon because it was perfect. The pasta is made fresh and was some of the best I’ve had anywhere in the world. Something to note is that Posada does not take reservations and gets really busy during the late dinner hours so if you want to avoid waiting you may want to consider coming early.

Papaya Playa Project – Other than small bars along the main road, Tulum is fairly quiet in terms of nightlife. The one night the town really comes to life is on Saturdays at Papaya Playa Project. This beach bar turned nightclub is right on the water and has multiple levels with various bars scattered throughout. We had planned for this to be the one big night of the trip, but were unfortunately disappointed with how it turned out. The potential this place has is huge, but the whole vibe really fell flat to us. Maybe we were just unlucky, but the DJ on that particular night played nothing but lounge music and it felt like you had to be on drugs to really enjoy it. We put in a solid effort but after a couple hours we decided to head back to our AirBNB, where we ended up having an awesome time drinking and played Heads Up. LOL

Day Four – Sunday

This day was another travel day as we prepared to head home, but we managed to take advantage of our last few hours by using the bikes provided by our AirBNB to explore Tulum Town on our way to breakfast.

DelCielo – Another Instagram worthy cafe located in Tulum Town. Truett literally ordered Huevos Rancheros every day and she said her favorite was at DelCielo, which means A LOT coming from her! I had an acai bowl with a croissant on the side. 🙂

 

Three and a half days in Tulum definitely was not enough when considering all this dream of a beach town has to offer, but I was SO happy with how my Bachelorette trip turned out and I wouldn’t change a thing for the world. A special thank you goes to my best friends who gave me the trip of a lifetime. I can’t wait to return the favor on your future Bachelorettes!

If you have any questions or favorites from your past trips to Tulum you think we should know, please send us a note because we will definitely be back!

xo,

Ashley

Travel TBT: Fiji

I traveled to Fiji at the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 with my (now ex)boyfriend, and I can honestly say I have never been more relaxed in my life. 2011 was a rough year for me so I was in desperate need of an escape…and Fiji ended up being just what the doctor ordered. I spent the entire two weeks I was there with absolutely no agenda or itinerary. I woke up when I wanted, ate what I wanted, and chose to spend my days how I wanted. It was incredible, but let me tell you…island fever is REAL. Two weeks is a little TOO much relaxation for even me, and that’s saying a lot because I’m probably one of the laziest people I’ve ever met. If I could have changed anything about the trip I would have probably cut it down to about 10 days, but complaining about being in paradise for too long is definitely a #firstworldproblem so I’ll shut up now.

Viti Levu

We started the trip with a week on Fiji’s main island, Viti Levu. We flew into Nadi and took an hour shuttle ride that passed through some of the country’s most substantial sugar cane plantations to my hotel located on Natadola Beach. Nadi is the main hub for travelers so this is where your trip will start and end whether you’re traveling to one of Fiji’s many islands or heading out to go home.

Intercontinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa – This resort is one of the nicest hotels I have ever stayed in, even to this day. It’s not particularly luxurious or anything, but everything from the grounds to the staff are all first class. Fijians in general are incredibly warm and hospitable people, but everyone at the Intercontinental went out of their way to make sure we enjoyed our stay. Which is pretty important considering this is the type of resort you don’t really leave. It has everything you could possibly want: multiple restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world, an incredible spa with every amenity imaginable, several different pools for all types of uses, a gym in case you’re the type of person that works out on vacation, and of course the beautiful beach the hotel is nestled on. This is the part of the trip we splurged on as it wasn’t exactly cheap, but it was definitely worth every penny.

Biausevu Waterfall – The concierge at the hotel set up an all day hike for us that led to the beautiful Biausevu Waterfall on the Coral Coast. Our amazing tour guide, Chimmy, picked us up from the hotel and took us to a small village to start the hike. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip as we were able to get away from the resort vibe and immerse ourselves into the culture (as best as we could with the short amount of time we had) and see what the real Fiji was all about. This hike is definitely a must if you ever find yourself on Viti Levu!

Tokoriki Island

We spent the second half of the trip on Tokoriki Island. To get there we shuttled back to Nadi from the Intercontinental and took a boat to to Tokoriki. Although Viti Levu is technically an island, Tokoriki gives you more of the island feel as it’s fairly small and is home to only two hotels.

Amunuca Island Resort – Luckily for everyone in the world, this hotel no longer exists. But this is where we stayed so I might as well mention it. Looking back it’s pretty hilarious how bad this place was. The room was a joke, the staff gave zero fucks, and I remember eating an inordinate amount of Pringles that week because the food was THAT BAD. The one redeeming quality Amunuca had was its location, which ended up making up for most of the negatives. Tokoriki Island is an absolute dream with the most beautiful white sand beaches and clear, blue water. We spent most of our time on the beach and in the ocean…tanning, jet skiing, kayaking, snorkeling, etc…so the fact that our hotel sucked didn’t really take away from our experience.

Monuriki Island – The watersport hut at the hotel hosted tours to different nearby islands every day so we chose to visit Monuriki, where the movie Castaway was filmed. The island itself is stunning and once we got there we had a few hours to ourselves to explore and swim. One of the things I couldn’t help but laugh at was the island’s proximity to its neighbors. Tom Hanks literally could have just swam to a hotel and called his wife. Ugh. 😉

Tokoriki Island Resort – On one of our kayak trips, we discovered Tokoriki Island Resort – the only other hotel on Tokoriki Island. The drastic difference between this resort and ours was comical and we immediately regretted not doing better research because Tokoriki Island Resort is AMAZING. I swear even the air felt different on its side of the island. The grounds were spectacular and the staff actually enjoyed being alive. We came here for dinner the night after our discovery and the food was just as delicious as expected. If I ever go back to Fiji this is where I will be staying and I recommend you do the same!

 

When I was initially planning my trip I juggled with the idea of possibly traveling to somewhere other than Fiji, like Bora Bora or the Maldives. You probably can’t go wrong with any of those options, but I am SO glad I chose Fiji. There is so much more to this beautiful place than just the beach and turquoise waters, and having the opportunity to see parts of the country Google doesn’t show and meeting the sweet locals that were beyond proud of their homeland was something I will cherish forever. If you ever have the chance to visit this amazing country you should absolutely take it.

 

xo, Ashley

Travel TBT: The Runaway, Jamaica

A few years ago, my former boss, Kalisa, left at my old job at TastingTable.com to open a bed and breakfast near her family in Jamaica, called The Runaway (life goals!). As soon she started a Kickstarter, promising a community-oriented luxury bed & breakfast on Jamaica’s north coast focused on amazing local food and curated cultural experiences, my co-worker and I booked a trip for three couples to go stay. Then we patiently waited 9 months for our trip.

A month before the trip, Kalisa sent over about 30 options for outings and food for our 4 day trip and we started to get insanely excited. We chose a few hikes, trips and outings. Kalisa and Jeff (her partner) booked our transportation to/from the airport and everywhere we went. The Runaway provides all your meals, including breakfast, packed lunch for trips, snacks, daily cocktail hours with custom cocktails, beer, dinner and dessert, but will also make reservations for you to go out to eat. Kalisa is a professionally trained chef and used ingredients local to Jamaica to make some of the best meals I’ve ever had. I experienced  flavors I don’t think I ever would have otherwise ever would have. I am not exaggerating when I say I gained 5 pounds in 4 days (see food in photo 2 in the gallery above).

We flew into Montego Bay and below is what we did. You can absolutely do these things yourself, but if you are able, try The Runaway!! Now, Kalisa and Jeff run global pop-up trips to places like Bali and Cuba and I must say, I am dying to go. 100% would recommend any trip you can fit in your schedule with The Runaway.

Scotchies: This is THE spot to go get local jerk chicken. The ribs were also fantastic. Do not miss it! There are also a few tourist shops next door if you need to bring anything home for people or enjoy funny tourist items.

Silver Sands Beach: This was one of the beaches closest to us. The water in Jamaica is warm and clear and you will never want to get out.

Cranbrook Flower Forest: This is a beautiful tropical garden preserve with some of the most amazing plants, flowers and trees you will ever get to see in person. You can wander here, but you should pay to get a guide to take you on the hike to the river head where you can swim and stay as long as you like.

Stush in the Bush: You will need a reservation to visit this insanely amazing, organic farm dining experience. Do not leave without buying hot sauce and passionfruit jam to take home!

Bamboo Blu: This is a simple beach front bar and lounge that is great for a night out.

Blue Hole: This is a hike to several pools and waterfalls. You will need tickets and a guide. I would suggest reserving ahead, but you can also get guides upon arrival. They have life vests if you are an unsure swimmer. You’ll get to jump off and propel down waterfalls, go to underwater lagoons and generally will see some insanely beautiful nature.

The Runaway: Again, this is the incredible full service, luxury bed and breakfast we stayed at. It books up really fast these days, but if you can manage to stay there, your heart, your stomach and your memories will thank you forever.

Amsterdam

Travel TBT: 24 Hours in Amsterdam, a Quick Guide!

A few years ago, one of my best friends got married in Germany. Not wanting to waste a great excuse to travel in Europe, my friend and I managed to squeeze in 4 cities (London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Zurich) in 7 days before going to the wedding. We had roughly 24 hours in Amsterdam and we absolutely fell in love. I would recommend staying in the city longer, but if you’re pressed for time, here is a great little day.

Stay at The Flying Pig Downtown Hostel: We found this hostel by reading reviews and were blown away. We stayed in a private room (queen bed with its own bathroom) and it was heaven. Even with the private room, it was super affordable. The staff is really nice and they give you a really great map with lots of pictures (useful later in the day 😉 ). There is a bar (and a smoking room) right on the bottom floor of the hostel. It’s perfectly located downtown, walking distance from the red light district and only a few blocks from the train if you are arriving that way.

Go to the Barney’s Uptown for brunch:  I can’t lie to you, we stopped at the Barney’s Coffeeshop (FYI: “coffeeshops” are what shops that sell marijuana are called) across the street first. We bought a few pre-rolls and took them to Barney’s Cafe with us. We had a champagne brunch and lit up at the table. For two California girls, it was a surreal and amazing experience.

Go find the infamous i amsterdam letters: Chances are you’ve seen the i amsterdam letters on Instagram. They spell out “i amsterdam” in nearly 7 foot letters that span about 80 feet. It’s a tourist haven, but a photo-op you shouldn’t miss nonetheless. The letters are moved around to different parts of the city throughout the year, so they can be new even if you’ve seen them before.

Go to the red light district: As the official website says, the red light district “leaves nothing to the imagination”. You might be shocked. You’ll see women dancing in their shop windows to grab passersby, but it’s an experience you shouldn’t miss. And, don’t worry, plenty of people walk through without actually visiting a brothel. You’re perfectly safe!

Picasso Museum: We tried and failed to go to the Picasso Museum. We didn’t realize you need to reserve tickets in advance and the line for entry was several hours long. We heard it was amazing, but given how little time we had in the city we decided to just skip it. Plan ahead and add it to your day!

Wander: When your plans fall through, just walk! The great part about the location of our hostel was you could walk 30 minutes in any direction and see so much of Amsterdam: a cheese shop on every block (heaven!), tourist shops with adorable trinkets, and as many coffee shops as your heart desires. You really get a feeling of a city when you don’t make a plan and just go where your eyes take you.