Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

4 Budget-Friendly Hostels for Your Trip to Belize

Posted on December 12th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re like many throughout the U.S., you’re about ready for winter to be over. Or at the very least, to get a break from the cold. And while it might feel like winter’s been going on forever already, it’s actually just starting. Why not plan a mid-winter getaway to a tropical place that won’t break the bank or require hours and hours of travel? If this sounds like your idea of the perfect getaway, make sure you check out Belize. Located just south of Mexico, its nearby location makes reaching this tiny Central American country quick and easy. In fact, you can catch a direct flight to Belize from many major U.S. cities, like Houston, Miami, Los Angeles, New York, and more.

Once you’ve booked your flight, finding a place to stay at a decent price shouldn’t be a problem. Whether you’re going for the scuba diving, caving, or just to relax on the beach without the huge crowds that are typical of northern neighbor Mexico, there are worthy hostels spread throughout the country where you can certainly get a good night’s sleep. Here are 4 top picks to consider for a trip to Belize:

San Pedro Beach [Photo Credit: GNU Free Documentation, Adam Reeder]

San Pedro Beach [Photo Credit: GNU Free Documentation, Adam Reeder]

Pedro’s Inn – San Pedro, Ambergris Caye

This place is ideal for the experienced backpacker who’s looking for a bargain in a somewhat pricey area. There are two pools, lots of lounge chairs, and an onsite restaurant and bar for guests to enjoy. If you go for the private room you’ll find fresh flowers on the bed as a welcome surprise and may even get your own mini deck. This hostel is not on the beach, which is good if you hope to sleep in and avoid the noise of all those early morning scuba tours getting ready to depart.

Yuma’s House – Playa Asunción, Caye Caulker

Its prime location right on the water is one of the main attractions at this cozy and well managed hostel. You’ll have plenty to keep you busy during the day as you explore the area–think snorkeling, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and more–and taking a nap on the hammocks that are suspended from the docks by the shallow water is the perfect way to relax and catch up on some zzz’s.

San Ignacio [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Juanm77]

San Ignacio [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Juanm77]

Bella’s Backpackers – San Ignacio

San Ignacio lies nearly at the edge of Belize, right next to neighbor Guatemala, and if you’re interested in seeing ancient ruins and botanical gardens during your trip, you’ll want to pay a visit. The hostel has a home-like feel to it, with a community kitchen and rooftop lounge area. Take a walk one day to the nearby Monkey Falls and be sure to visit the Saturday market to get some fresh fruit, veggies, and cheese.

Hummingbird Guest Lodge & Hostel – Belmopan

Known as a peaceful jungle retreat, Belmopan is far away from the crowds on the islands. The highlight of this rustic property is the stream that runs through it, with a waterfall and swimming holes beckoning visitors to splash around and get respite from the hot Belizean temperatures.

If you want to brush up on your Spanish skills before taking a Central American vacation, be sure to contact us right away. Whether you’re new to the language or have a few years of practice under your belt, one of our qualified teachers will help you improve, gain confidence, and get ready for an unforgettable trip to Belize!

3 of the Most Beautiful Places in Honduras

Posted on November 25th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

When thinking of desirable Latin American vacation destinations, Honduras is one of the countries that is most often overlooked. But this Central American has plenty to offer visitors, both on the mainland and offshore. If you’re interested in an exotic-feeling getaway that focuses on nature, you’ll probably want to learn more about Honduras. Here are 3 of the country’s most beautiful destinations:

Utila [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Rythie]

Útila [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Rythie]


One of the 3 Islas de la Bahía, Útila is a peaceful and slow-paced island with one particularly interesting attraction: its famous whale shark population. While on the island, you’ll mingle with people of African, European, and Jamaican descent. While out at sea, you’ll swim alongside the largest fish on the planet. Despite having the world “shark” in its name and its massive size–whale sharks reach 40 feet or more in length–these gentile creatures are not aggressive and generally stick to a plankton diet.

Diving in Útila is surprisingly affordable and many budget conscious travelers who want to get PADI certification choose this island for their training. The island also boasts a year-round whale shark research center, which offers environmentally responsible snorkeling trips with these oceanic giants.

Copán Ruins [Photo Credit: Public Domain, Talk2winik]

Copán Ruins [Photo Credit: Public Domain, Talk2winik]

Valle de Copán 

If you’re looking for a place that is oozing with history and shrouded in mystery, the Valle de Copán will not disappoint. Spend a night in the nearby town of Copán Ruinas, then walk or hop on a tuk-tuk, or motorcycle taxi, for the short ride to the ruins. While they may not be as famous as Mexico’s Chitzen Itza, the impression they make on visitors is no less impressive.

From 300 to 900 A.D. this was the site of a major Incan city. Today, the site is ideal for travelers of all interests and fitness levels. There is plenty of shade and flat terrain for older folks or less active types, while those who feel up for a bit more activity can climb up a large pyramid and further explore the grounds on foot. It’s certainly worth it to hire a local guide to take you through the site and tell you about its fascinating history.

Parque Nacional La Tigra

Located near Tegucigalpa, Parque Nacional La Tigra is an adventurous hiker’s dream. There is a well developed trail system, complete with a detailed map at the entrance. This park is extremely humid and wet, so luckily parts of the trail have wood planks installed to help prevent falls in especially slippery areas. Don’t let that trick you into thinking the hiking here is easy, though–navigating the park’s trails, finding the waterfall, and reaching the highest point in the park can easily be a whole day’s work. A few charmingly basic river crossings add to the fun and authenticity of the park. La Tigra is home to all kinds of wildlife, including birds, bugs, and even frogs that are endemic to the area.

If you have a vacation to Honduras on the horizon, make sure to spend some time developing your Spanish skills before you go. Your trip will be all the more enjoyable and memorable thanks to your ability to communicate with the locals! Contact us to learn more about Spanish courses near you.

3 Hidden Gems in Costa Rica’s Culinary Scene

Posted on November 10th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re like most travelers, when you think of Costa Rica you imagine lush rain forest, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful wildlife. One thing that rarely comes to mind about this small Central American country? Its food. In fact, if you ask someone what kind of food is typical of Costa Rica, you may get a blank stare instead of a confident answer. And while much of the traditional diet is centered on rice and beans, prepared and served a few different ways, it is not at all impossible to find a greater variety of food throughout the country.

So let’s say you’re heading to Costa Rica soon. You’ve got your tree camping tour booked and have included a visit to a volcano and a turtle nesting site on your itinerary (as suggested in this previous blog post). What’s next? It’s time to figure out where you can get some great food during your vacation, and these 3 hidden gems are definitely worth a visit:

Bread & Chocolate in Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is nothing if not laid back and casual, and there are a number of good restaurants throughout this super-pedestrian friendly town. But Bread & Chocolate wins out as my favorite due to its attention to detail, not to mention all that chocolate. You can’t go wrong with breakfast here. Sure, you could pick an egg sandwich or sautéed potatoes, but why not opt for one of the sweet menu items instead? They are delivered to your table with your own serving of locally produced chocolate, which is perfect for dipping. Coffee is served up in individually sized French presses, adding a welcome touch of elegance without being at all pretentious.

View of San Jose [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.5, Erodrigufer]

View of San Jose [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.5, Erodrigufer]


Mirador Ram Luna in Aserrí

This upscale, yet welcoming restaurant offers guests a bit of everything: dinner, drinks, a show, and last, but certainly not least, a beautiful view of San Jose and the surrounding area. Travelers who are in the know come at around 5pm so that they they can take in the views before the sun sets. The 25-minute drive outside the capital and up into the mountains is a beautiful journey in itself that adds to the experience.

Playa Samara [Photo Credit: Public Domain]

Playa Samara [Photo Credit: Public Domain]

El Lagarto in Playa Samara 

Depending on the timing of your visit you may be pleasantly greeted by dozens, if not hundreds, of curious hermit crabs crawling around you at this sweet on-the-beach restaurant. Seafood and wood grilled meats are the main attraction, but El Lagarto also offers a vegetarian plate of grilled vegetables. The custom built grill serves as much as decoration and entertainment as it does as a cooking area, so be sure to snap a few pics and admire it in all its glory before heading to your table and sticking your toes in the warm sand.

It’s most definitely worth taking some Spanish lessons before your trip so you’ll feel confident ordering off menus while you’re vacationing in Costa Rica. Contact us to learn more about small group classes near you. ¡Buen provecho!


3 Places to Visit in Panama (Besides the Panama Canal!)

Posted on October 28th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you’re planning a trip to Panama, I can guess the number one thing on your itinerary: a visit to the Panama Canal. It’s true–if you’re heading to this Central American country you’d better not miss your chance to visit its most famous landmark. However, there’s lots more to the region than its hardworking canal system. Here are 3 of my top picks for places to visit in Panama after you’ve spent a day or two learning about and admiring the Panama Canal:

Casco Viejo [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Yari Vallarino]

Casco Viejo [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Yari Vallarino]

Casco Viejo in Panama City

Casco Viejo, or The Old City, is a charming place to spend the day and see an entirely different side of Panama’s capital. Cobblestone streets and decaying buildings are being restored, with new investment and energy infiltrating the neighborhood in the form of boutique hotels and trendy cafes. Friendly street vendors sell homemade goods that make excellent souvenirs, and if you have the time I highly recommend you strike up a conversation with a few of the locals here to learn more about the area. Be on the lookout for some stunning views as you navigate the interwoven streets, plazas, and stairways of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pipeline Trail in the Bajo Mano Forest, Boquete

You’ll have your choice of a number of trails in the Boquete region, but the Pipeline remains one of the more popular thanks to the abundant wildlife and scenic waterfall that serve as a reward to those who make the 2- to 3-hour roundtrip journey. Birding enthusiasts will definitely want to visit with a qualified guide who can help them spot a quetzal, the national bird of neighbor Costa Rica, along with dozens of other types of birds that inhabit the area. Between the dense vegetation and beautiful wildlife–including monkeys and sloths, in addition to all those birds, the Pipeline Trail is a photographer’s dream.

Playa Estrella [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, JurriaanH]

Playa Estrella [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, JurriaanH]

Playa Estrella in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago located at the northwestern corner of Panama. It consists of 9 main islands and has historically been popular among partying college students, though a growing number of 20- and 30-somethings with more nature-focused interests are elevating the region’s reputation above that of a simple Spring Break destination. Playa Estrella, or Starfish Beach, is one of the area’s main attractions, although there’s no guarantee you’ll see what all the fuss is about on any given day. Some days dozens of huge starfish appear in the shallow, perfectly clear waters, and on other days not a single one presents itself. Practice your patience and indulge in a sense of optimism as you make the fun journey across the main island, Isla Colón, to sit beachside and (hopefully) see these beautiful creatures. And please, whatever you do, pay attention to the signage everywhere that reads “No Tocar Las Estrellas” and keep your hands off the fragile starfish, despite seeing a few idiots who somehow can’t fight the temptation.

Ready to put your Spanish skills to the test? If you need a little extra help before you feel ready to chat it up with the locals in Panama, be sure to reach out to us at Spanish Trainers. Whether you’re looking for private lessons or classes in a small group setting, we’ll help you get set up with an instructor in your area.

Paraguay on a Budget: 3 Hostels to Include in Your Itinerary

Posted on October 13th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Tucked away in the middle of South America lies Paraguay, a varied country that receives much less attention than its flashier neighbors Brazil and Argentina and the also landlocked Bolivia. With hot, semi-arid lowlands dominating most of the western portion of the country, subtropical forest and grassy savannas make up the majority of the eastern side. It proudly carries the nickname “Corazón de America,” or “Heart of America.”

Travel to Paraguay can be surprisingly affordable, and–even better–free of stress. For the absolute best experience, I suggest you take a no-nonsense approach to your trip. Pack light, eat casually, and stay in hostels. This style of travel is always a good bet when you want to focus on the local culture, and especially so in Paraguay where there’s zero need for stuffiness or formality. Here’s a list of recommended hostels you’ll want to check out for your trip to Paraguay:

Asuncion, Paraguay

Asunción [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Felipe Antonio]

El Nomada Hostel, Asunción

Weather permitting, you’ll definitely want to spend a few hours reading your guide book at this property’s backyard lounge area, complete with swimming pool. Despite its central location, the property is surprisingly peaceful and makes for an excellent respite from the noise. If you’re traveling solo, you’ll have opportunities to make friends with other travelers at a nighttime BBQ or over a game of ping pong. The owners’ cat wanders around the property, giving it a definite “home away from home” feel. Breakfast includes cold and hot offerings, though you’ll have a hard time resisting the smiley face pancakes.

Karana Hostel, Encarnación

The vibe at Karana Hostel matches that of the entire town of Encarnación–quiet, low key, and peaceful. The complimentary breakfast is basic, but you can always opt to take advantage of the well-equipped kitchen if you’re looking for something more robust. The property is simple and clean, and you’ll especially appreciate the (genuinely) hot showers if you’re visiting in the rainy months. Rooms are outfitted with generously sized closets that have locks, so you can rest easy leaving behind your belongings while you go out to explore the ruins or other local attractions. Check out the hanging garden that features a collection of soda bottles that have been up-cycled into flower planters while you’re there.

Jesuit Ruins, Paraguay [Photo Credit: Public Domain, PattyP]

Jesuit Ruins, Paraguay [Photo Credit: Public Domain, PattyP]

Casa Alta Hostel, Ciudad del Este

The lush green courtyard at Casa Alta Hostel is the perfect place to spend an evening or two while passing through Paraguay’s Ciudad del Este. It features a beautiful swimming pool and an outdoor BBQ that just begs to be used. I recommend you make the 20-minute trek into town, buy some supplies, and spend the night chatting up the owners and fellow travelers as you prepare a home cooked meal. If it’s raining, you can always take advantage of the upstairs BBQ and mixed indoor/outdoor space or even relax in the TV room.

Paraguayans are uniquely proud of their indigenous culture, Guaraní, including the language of the same name. More than 90% of the population speaks both official languages of the country, Spanish and Guaraní, so you have a good chance of picking up a few essential words and popular phrases while you’re there. If you’re eager to get your Spanish ready for the journey, contact us at Spanish Trainers and we’ll set you up with private or small group classes.

Comfy Colombian Hostels That Fit into Every Backpacker’s Budget

Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

With its warm people and colorful culture, it’s no wonder an increasing number of adventurous travelers are packing up their bags and heading to the beautiful country of Colombia. From the colonial charm of Cartagena to the picture-perfect beaches of Providencia Island, whatever your idea of the perfect vacation may be, it’s likely you’ll find plenty to swoon over as you travel through the country. And if you’re interested in saving a few dollars, I can’t say enough about the option of staying at hostels versus traditional hotels. While they certainly don’t offer luxury resort amenities, they provide everything you need to get a good night’s sleep. Here are a handful of my top picks that I encourage you to check out if you’re planning a Colombian vacation:

Cartagena [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Norma Gomez]

Cartagena [Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Norma Gomez]

Hotel El Viajero in Cartagena

Conveniently located in the heart of Cartagena’s historic district, you just can’t get any closer to all the action. The rooms are simple and clean–the essentials when it comes to any good hostel. They even have air conditioning, lots of shelf space, and flat-screen TVs, plus many have private bathrooms. The rooms and bathrooms are tight on space, but the tidiness and affordability of the place make it a non-issue. A small onsite computer room is available to guests along with free coffee service throughout the day. The reception is open 24/7–a big perk for backpackers who may be arriving on a late bus.

Hostal Mar y Mar in Isla San Andres

You’ll want to spend all your time on the beaches while visiting Isla San Andres, so why pay a fortune for a hotel? The Hostal Mar y Mar features a white-washed, contemporary design, and spacious rooms come furnished with air conditioning, mini fridge, and microwave. Private bathrooms even have warm water showers–a luxury not always guaranteed in this corner of the world! The beach and downtown are both just a 5- to 10-minute walk away, and the hostel offers airport pick-up for about 6 dollars.

Medellin [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, seth pipkin]

Medellin [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, seth pipkin]

Urban Buddha Hostel in Medellin

Brightly colored murals and an eclectic collection of artwork set the scene at this energetic and welcoming hostel in Medellin. If you need a place to meditate or decompress after a few busy days on the town, grab a siesta in the peaceful garden, complete with pond, hammocks, and plenty of greenery. The helpful staff is always on hand to set you up with tours or offer advice on where to go next.

Hostal Encuentro in Cali

First, it’s worth pointing out that dorm rooms at the Hostal Encuentro feature individual beds laid out in an large rooms. No bunks, which means no worrying about whether you’ll get the top or bottom bed! But the real selling point of this homey, family-run hostel is the rooftop terrace, which offers fantastic views of the city and surrounding mountains. The location is ideal for walking around Cali and discovering its beautiful parks, restaurants, shops, and more.

You’ll quickly discover the warmth and hospitality of Colombian people after arriving. To make the most of your trip, we invite you to sign up for private Spanish classes. Being able to communicate with front desk staff, taxi drivers, and other locals will open new doors and lead you to even more exciting opportunities to learn about the local way of life. Call or email us today!

3 Places to Visit in Chile That Will Leave a Lasting Impression

Posted on September 13th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Quick, list 5 facts you know about Chile.

If you’ve never been to the South American country, this simple task probably sounds astonishingly difficult. And that’s truly a shame, because there is so much to love about this incredible place. An attractive location along the southwestern coast of South America extends more than 4,000 kilometers in length, which means the terrain is varied–and extreme. In the north, the Atacama Desert has the distinction of being named the driest place on Earth. To the south, stunning glaciers and vast mountain expanses dominate the landscape of the Torres del Paine National Park. Any vacation to Chile is bound to be rewarding, but if you’re looking for the most awe-inspiring destinations, these 3 top spots make an excellent starting point for your research:


Valparaiso [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Javier Rubilar]


Let your desire to “Go! Go! Go!” fall to the wayside as you visit the casual and almost bohemian town of Valparaiso, located just 70 miles north of Santiago. It’s a vertical town, but fortunately there are plenty of charming spots to stop and rest in between all the walking. Visit Paseo Gervasoni and admire the oversized artwork that adorns the buildings and perhaps buy a few fresh watercolor paintings that artists sell along the streets. No visit to Valparaiso is complete without taking a few rides on the colorful Polanco or El Peral ascensores, or funiculars, which take you to greater heights where you’ll enjoy lovely views of the town and harbor.


Make the vertical ascent up the Cerro San Cristobal on a sunny weekend morning and you’ll be surrounded by a pleasant mix of locals and tourists who are out to enjoy the beautiful weather. The views from the top are spectacular. If the weather’s less than pleasant, head downtown to one of the major museums, like the Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. You’ll feel like a more responsible and knowledgeable world citizen after spending an afternoon at the 4-year-old Museo de La Memoria y Los Derechos Humanos, which educates visitors on the devastating events that occurred during the 1973-1989 Pinochet dictatorship. End your time in Santiago on a high note by visiting the charming Barrio Lastarria, which boasts a growing number of cafes, casual restaurants, antique vendors, and artisans who sell their fares along the sidewalks.

Atacama Desert [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Daniel Weiss]

Atacama Desert [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Daniel Weiss]

Atacama Desert

You’ll feel as if you’ve been transported to a faraway planet as you explore the Salar de Tara, which is home to incredible rock formations, mysterious-looking lagoons, and the Reserva Nacional de Los Flamencos. Visit a geyser field for a fascinating natural show around you and then stop by a natural hot spring nearby to bring up your body temperature. Remember, altitude sickness is to be expected out here, so give yourself time to acclimate for a day or two before heading out for any major hiking or exploring.

Whether a vacation to Chile is in your near future or just a dream right now, learning Spanish is a great next step. Go ahead and send us an email to learn more. Our instructors are native Spanish speakers who offer both private and small-group classes. Whatever your learning style, they’re ready to help you master the Spanish language!

Learn Fact from Fiction When it Comes to Mexican Cuisine

Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

If you live in the United States and have yet to travel south of the border, you might think Mexican cuisine consists of tacos, chimichangas, chalupas, and burritos. And while that assumption isn’t completely off the mark, the food you’ll eat while vacationing in Mexico is a whole lot different than what you’re used to up here–and, it’s worth noting, a whole lot better, too!

Before I traveled to Mexico for the first time, my idea of a taco was a crispy shell filled with a little ground beef and a whole lot of toppings–mainly sour cream, salsa, and cheese. But when I stepped foot in Mexico, I saw that there was a whole lot more to the culinary scene than that. Salsa from a jar? No way! Cold tortillas? As if! Whether you’re planning on hitting up street vendors, upscale restaurants, or a combination of these equally inviting dining options, you’re in for a real treat when it comes to eating your way through Mexico on that upcoming trip. Here’s the scoop on what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to a northerner’s perspective on real Mexican food:


Chiles [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Christopher Holden]

Myth: All Mexican food is spicy.

If you’re into spicy food, you’ll have no trouble getting your hands on some truly sweat-inducing, tongue-burning sauces for your meals in Mexico. Fortunately, those of us with a lower tolerance for heat have the option of skipping the hot sauce and still enjoying our meals.

Fact: Mexican food can make you sick.

This is a fact for many U.S travelers who head to Mexico and don’t play have a plan when it comes to eating safely. Here are a few tips to lessen your chance of getting a belly ache: 1) eat yogurt with probiotics on a daily basis for a week or two before you go on vacation, 2) avoid lettuce-based salads, and 3) drink plenty of bottled water every day. It’s probably wise to avoid street food for at least the first few days of your trip, especially if you’ve had gastrointestinal issues while traveling abroad before.


Fresh Tortillas [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, ProtoplasmaKid]

Myth: Tortillas are all the same.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that you’ve never really had a tortilla if you haven’t had a freshly made, still warm flour tortilla served fresh off the press or griddle. Be prepared to have your mind–and taste buds–blown.

Tacos Carnitas

Tacos Carnitas [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Jess Lander]

Myth: All Mexican food is the same.

Nope, wrong again. Mexico is a huge country, like the U.S., and unsurprisingly has a number of regional cuisines spread from coast to coast. It’s easy to find great seafood in popular coastal communities, like Cancun on the Caribbean Coast, or Acapulco on the Pacific Coast. In other regions you’ll find an eclectic mix of food including cream-based soups, stuff sweet peppers, grilled steak, and lots of other dishes beyond the traditional tacos and moles you’ll find nearly everywhere from coast to coast.

If you can’t tell your chapulines–toasted grasshopper with salt and lime–from your chilorio–simmered pork served in chile sauce, it’s time to brush up on your Spanish. Contact us today and we’ll get you set up in no time at all, whether you need small group lessons or prefer one-on-one language classes.

5 Unusual Foods You’re Bound to Try While Vacationing in Peru

Posted on August 19th, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Whether you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, a trained chef, or just someone who enjoys delving into the local cuisine while away on vacation, your taste buds are in for a real treat if you’re planning an upcoming vacation to Peru. Carnivores will rejoice in the variety of meats that are served up roadside and in 4-star restaurants, while those of us with a sweet tooth can delight in all types of sugary concoctions. Has your appetite been whetted? Continue reading to learn more about 5 unusual foods you’re bound to try during your visit to Peru. And get your taste buds ready for some truly fantastic food!

Peruvian Ceviche [Photo Credit: Dtarazona]

Peruvian Ceviche [Photo Credit: Dtarazona]

1) Ceviche

Most Latin American countries have their own take on ceviche, but many travelers agree that the traditional Peruvian variety beats the competition in strides. The ingredients are simple, and the results phenomenal. Mix freshly caught fish, squid, or other seafood with red onion, an almost absurd quantity of just-chopped cilantro, ají amarillo–that’s a spicy, tangy yellow pepper, salt, and pepper, then top it with fresh juice from at least a few limes. It’s served with fried, crunchy corn kernels and sweet potatoes. Don’t ask questions; just try it on a hot day and you’ll see what all the fuss is about.

2) Cuy

Cuy may be Peru’s most famed dish. In case you haven’t heard of this one, it’s guinea pig. Deep fried or cooked over coals, you’re likely to have your choice of preparation methods. Depending on where you go to try it, you may even pick out your own from the litter that’s running around at the restaurant’s property. This is a truly traditional dish that you’ll find in the mountains of Peru, where people do things the old-fashioned way, unlike in ultra-modern Lima.

Anticuchos [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, astuviaje]

Anticuchos [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, astuviaje]

3) Anticuchos

If street meat is your favorite category of food, you’re going to love anticuchos. Cow hearts are skewered and cooked, then served up by friendly street vendors everywhere from sleepy beach towns to bustling city neighborhoods. You’re likely to see these offered up in fancy restaurants as well, but if you’ve got a well-traveled stomach I highly recommend sticking to the streets for your anticucho fix.

4) Helado de Lucuma

No visit to Peru is complete without trying lucuma ice cream. Lucuma is an iron-rich, flavorful fruit that’s surprisingly hard to describe. It looks sort of like an avocado, but you probably won’t see the fresh fruit during your vacation anyway. Lucuma-flavored ice cream is a favorite among Peruvians, whether it’s delivered from a vendor pushing his cart along the beach or served in an upscale restaurant.

Picarones [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Antox00]

Picarones [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Antox00]

5) Picarones

Another traditional dessert item, picarones are especially near and dear to me because they are made with so much love. They’re just as commonly made in homes as they are by street vendors. Regardless of where you find them, don’t pass up your chance to buy a mound of these deep fried dough rings that balance crispy and spongey in the best possible way. The finishing touch is a big scoop of honey-like, sweet syrup that is poured on top and makes a perfect dipping sauce. One word:  Yum!

If you’re getting ready for a trip to Peru, now’s the time to brush up on your Spanish. Knowing the local language will transform your experience, so don’t skimp on this part of the preparation. You’ll be so grateful you invested in learning Spanish from the moment you arrive and hit the streets and beaches of Lima. Contact us to learn more about private and small group Spanish classes in your area.

7 Places You Have to Visit on Your Vacation to Panama

Posted on July 31st, 2014 by Dusty Fox in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Panama is generally visited by more adventurous travelers, with those looking for resort-based experiences heading to its more developed neighbors. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have an ultra-luxurious vacation in Panama, because that is most certainly doable–especially if you’re headed to the super chic Panama City. But if your idea of a great vacation includes a little bit of roughing it and a general open-ness to the unknown, you can really have an unforgettable journey through this small country, best known for the manmade canal that runs through it, connecting the Atlantic to the Pacific. Intrigued? Here are 7 places you should include in your penciled in itinerary for an awesome Panamanian vacation.

Photo Credit: Alex Proimos, Creative Commons 2.0

Santa Catalina [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 2.0, Alex Proimos]

Santa Catalina – Whether you’re an experienced surfer or have never touched a board in your life, this is a great spot to get out on the waves. Some people claim it’s among the best surfing destinations in Central America.

Isla Coiba – This island was once a major penitentiary, which has served the local wildlife population quite well. Today, visitors can go snorkeling and kayaking in the hopes of seeing aquatic animals up close and personal and can take nature tours around the island to view its eerie prison remains and the local flora’s progress in reclaiming its land.

Photo Credit: Stan Shebs, Creative Commons 3.0

Gatun Locks [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Stan Shebs]

Gatun Locks – You have your choice of locks to visit along the canal–a must for any trip to Panama, naturally–but many prefer the esclusas de Gatun since it puts you so close to the ships passing through. Even if you’re not interested in mechanics or transportation in any way, don’t miss your chance to see this extraordinary engineering feat.

Boquete – This sweet little town not only boasts a growing art and music scene, but it also makes a great base camp for the nearby “Lost Waterfalls” hike. If you haven’t yet seen a howler monkey up close during your travels, be sure to grab your camera and visit the folks at the Alouatta Lodge.

Casco Viejo – Panama City’s “Old City” is the ideal place to spend a day on the street, walking around between shops and cafes, sampling the local cuisine, and leaving worries and schedules behind. Some streets are more well kept–and safer–than others, so keep your wits about you and be smart when it comes to going out at night time.

Isla Bolaños – If you’re just aching to get it away from it all, Isla Bolaños is a great place to do it. Keep an eye for surfacing whales along the shoreline as you lay on the beach sipping from a fresh coconut.

Photo Credit: Dirk van der Made, Creative Commons 3.0

Sendero de los Quetzales [Photo Credit: Creative Commons 3.0, Dirk van der Made]

Parque Nacional Volcán Baru – After you’ve had enough rest and relaxation, head to the Sendero de los Quetzales hiking trail to look for the magnificent quetzal (that’s a bird, in case you were wondering). Few people actually spot it, but if you’re one of the lucky ones you’ll have bragging rights for the rest of your life!

Having at least a working knowledge of the Spanish language will make all the difference when traveling in Panama, especially if you’ll be venturing off the usual tourist route. Contact us to schedule private or small group classes and you’ll be listo in no time at all!