Archive for August, 2013

Costa Rica – Travel advice for September

Posted by

 

 

 

Costa Rica September Weather

The weather in Costa Rica during the month of September is one of extremes.  Generally the Pacific side is at its rainiest, while the Caribbean side is experiencing the best weather of the year.

 

The Northwest Pacific is the driest area on the Pacific side.  Temperatures will be in the low to mid 80s during the day and a little cooler in the evening.  Though it can rain at any time, the vast majority of rain will be in the late afternoon. Sunny mornings are more common than not and early afternoons are often nice as well.

The Central Pacific is fairly wet during the month of September.  Rains occur almost every day with hard rains in the afternoons and occasional rains in the morning.  Temperatures will be a little cooler than normal, in the low 80s during the day.

The South Pacific is very rainy during the month of September.  Down on the Osa Peninsula, rain is measured in feet versus inches! Temperatures dip a little to the mid to upper 80s, so it will be hot and steamy. Travel to the Osa Peninsula is not advisable during this month as many places are closed.

The Caribbean side is experiencing the best weather of the year in September. Daytime temperatures are usually in the lower 90s.  Rain can occur, but is rare and usually only at night when it does happen.

The Central Valley is similar to the Central Pacific beaches with the rain season in full swing.  Daytime temps will usually be in the lower to mid 70s.

Costa Rica September Reservations

It is the heart of the green season and therefore easier to get a good room at a good price on the Pacific side than it is in other seasons. Quality Caribbean side hotels are generally booked solid several months in advance.  Even on the Pacific side, the best hotels and those that offer great Early Booking Specials are almost always at full occupancy even though it is the lowest travel period.

Costa Rica September Costs

Many Pacific side hotels offer great green season pricing at 20-30 percent off high season prices.  Many even offer Early Booking Bonuses with free nights or additional discounts for advance reservations.  Please contact us if you would like further information on some of these deals.

Costa Rica September Holidays and Festivals

September 15- Independence Day- from Spain in 1821 – Marked with parades, dancers, street parties and the arrival of the Freedom Torch carried from Nicaragua by relay runners. Everyone in the country stops and simultaneously sings the national anthem. In the evening children carry lanterns thru the streets of their town.

 

 

 

2014 could be the first year of economic recovery in Spain

Posted by

 

 

The recuperation of the Spanish housing market will be very tied to the progress of the Spanish economy in upcoming years. The most recent facts from UN (United Nations) predict growth of the economy in 2014 but in 2013 it will continue dropping.

The Spanish economy will acquire 1.4% in 2013 and it will grow 0.8% in 2014, according to the report “Situation and Prospects of the World Economic Situation 2013” put out by economic experts from the United Nations.

The report places the shrinking of the Spanish Gross Domestic Product (PIB) on 1.6% in 2012 and it frames Spain’s situation in “a debt crisis that continues depressing the euro zone.”

“The sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone and the fiscal austerity programs in force continue being the dominant forces that depress the growth in the region,” affirm the authors of the report, who project an average growth of the countries that share the single currency of 0.3% in 2013 and of 1.4% in 2014.

These elements, added to the slowing down of outside demand and high oil prices, “predict some discouraging prospects of the future” for the Eurozone, says the UN, which nevertheless confirms the stabilization of economic activity in the first half of 2012 after the intense fall experienced in 2011.

 

Does recent huge investment in Spanish property signal bottom of market?

Posted by

Goldman Sachs have just completed the latest in an increasing number of huge property investment deals in Spanish property.

Goldman Sachs and investment group Azora have bought 3000 properties for €201,000,000 which not only concludes one the largest ever property investment deals  in Spain but also sends out  an important signal to the market in general that the property market in Spain could be set for a continued and considerable upturn, once the newly gained confidence of the investment groups filters down to the waiting public who want to buy their home in Spain at the best possible time.

Other significant signs are the recent return to substantial profits of the Spanish banks and big investment players such as US billionaire Wilbur Ross of WL Ross & Co.’s publicly announcing his intention to return to Spanish real estate investment along with his belief that the market has bottomed and the time is right to invest.

What will be interesting is to see how individual buyers react.  Large investment groups buy before the market turns upwards, while traditionally the public at large tend to wait until prices have already started to rise before buying.

With construction of property in the coastal areas of the Costa Blanca at a 5 year high, it could now only be a matter of time before we see savvy Brits buying again in the volumes we have seen in years gone by.  When they do return to the market in numbers they will join the Scandinavians who have been quietly snapping up the best of the property bargains and the new modern style of properties being constructed for them.

 

 

8 Exciting Cancun Excursions

Posted by

 

As a popular tourist destination located on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, Cancun is considered a tropical paradise with its gorgeous beaches, coral reef, water sports and party opportunities. However, by venturing out on Cancun, travelers can see and experience so much more like Mayan archaeological sites, stunning natural wonders, remarkable theme parks and once-in-a-lifetime adventures. Check out some of the best Cancun excursions.

 

8 Sian Ka’an

 

Sian Ka'an
flickr/Javier Hidalgo

Presenting one of the most awe-inspiring excursions on the Yucatan Peninsula, Sian Ka’an is a large nature preserve that shelters hundreds of animal and bird species as well as stunning landscapes. Visitors here can kayak through wetlands, walk along forest boardwalks and wade through crystal clear lagoons to see the likes of egrets, sea turtles, tropical fish, crocodiles and more. Other exciting activities abound here also like fly fishing, snorkeling and birdwatching. Additionally, there are more than 20 archaeological sites located on this preserve such as the ruins of Muyil, an ancient Mayan trade center.

 

7Xel-Ha
Xel-Ha
photo/xel-ha.com

Xel-Ha is an ecological theme park where visitors can encounter the wonders of the ocean as well as marvelous land attractions. Thrilling adventures abound here like swimming with dolphins, petting stingrays and cliff-diving. Additionally, visitors can trek along jungle trails, meander through tropical gardens, feed fish from a floating bridge, and visit a sacred Mayan well that is home to exotic birds and beautiful orchids. An excursion to Xel-Ha is often combined with nearby Tulum.

 

6 Xcaret Park
Xcaret Park
flickr/Dtraveller

Located in a beautiful setting, Xcaret Park is a theme park that encompasses an underground river, beaches, a coral reef aquarium and even several Mayan ruins. Activities include swimming with dolphins, snorkeling near a coral reef and walking through a recreated Mayan village. What’s more, visitors can safari around an island of jaguars, walk through a butterfly pavilion, explore a bat cave and watch a pre-Hispanic ball game. Not to be missed here is a spell-binding show of music, dancing, folklore and vibrant costumes that leads visitors on a journey through Mexico’s history from Mayan times to present day.

 

5 Cozumel
Cozumel
flickr/Grand Velas Riviera Maya

One of the most popular Cancun excursions is the island of Cozumel. The island’s miles of beaches, crystal clear waters and coral reef make it Mexico’s prime spot for diving and snorkeling. This idyllic port-of-call also offers other water activities like deep-sea fishing, surfing, kite surfing, and glass-bottom boat tours. Because it was once regarded as a sacred place by the Mayans, Cozumel also offers several interesting archaeological sites here such as San Gervasio and El Caracol. Another popular attraction here is the Chankanaab National Park, which features beaches, walking trails, an aquarium, botanical garden and a large population of iguanas.

 

4 Cancun Whale Shark Snorkeling
Cancun Whale Shark Snorkeling
flickr/dfinney23

While visiting Cancun, tourists have the unique opportunity of experiencing the once-in-a-lifetime adventure of swimming with whale sharks, which rank as the world largest fish species. Between the months of May and September, the waters along the Yucatan coast attract a large population of whale sharks in search of fish eggs and plankton. There are several day trip operations in Cancun as well as places like Isla Mujeres and the Holbox Islands that offer snorkeling equipment and boat rides out to where they can opt to swim with the gentle giants or simply watch them from the boat side. Additionally, these tours offer the opportunity to encounter other species like dolphins, manta rays, sea turtles and tropical fish.

 

3Tulum
Tulum
flickr/CasaDeQueso

Tulum presents a popular Cancun excursion for both its historic ruins and one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches. Once an important trading and ceremonial center, the Mayan ruins of Tulum consist of several different structures that make for an interesting visit. The ruins are perched on a cliff overlooking a picturesque beach of white sands and blue-green waters. A favored spot among photographers, this beach is also ideal for snorkelers and kite surfers. Nearby the ruins and beach is the Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park where visitors can explore some of the world’s most incredible underwater caves and cenotes.

 

2 Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres
flickr/mickou

One of the most popular day trip destinations from Cancun, Isla Mujeres is a small island of only about five miles. With white sands and shallow waters, the island’s beaches are perfect for swimming, snorkeling and relaxation. Nature enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Turtle Farm, a hatchery and sanctuary for endangered sea turtles. History lovers will enjoy exploring the Mayan ruins at Punta Sura as well as the beautiful 19th century Hacienda Mundaca, built by a Caribbean pirate.

 

1 Chichen Itza
#1 of Cancun Excursions
flickr/nielsvk

A visit to Cancun wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Chichen Itza, one of Mexico’s most visited attractions. Dating back to 750-1200 AD, Chichen Itza served as a major center for religious, commerce and politics during the Mayan civilization. The ancient features here testify to the Mayans’ impressive knowledge of both architecture and astronomy. Significant structures not to be missed here include El Castillo, a striking temple pyramid dedicated to the Plumed Serpent god, as well as the Temple of the Warriors, the Great Ballcourt, the Wall of Skulls, the observatory and the Sacred Cenote.

 

 

Keeping Kids in School; Playa del Carmen’s New School Year Starts

Posted by

 

School started 4 days ago  in most areas of Playa del Carmen!  And with the help of the KKIS Project many deserving kids will be well equipped and ready to take on the new year!

 

Entrence to the KKIS event, Pelopidas School, Playa del Carmen

 

Friday was a special day for us at Top Mexico as we were invited to help the KKIS Project put a lot of smiles on the faces of kids at Pelopidas School in the Guadaulpana neighborhood of Playa del Carmen in the morning.  As we have mentioned before, the KKIS Project works hard all year making various efforts to support keeping the kids of Playa del Carmen in school.

 

The van its filled with backpackets for the school

 

Their main effort his summer has been to collect school supplies and search sponsorships from people to help provide filled backpacks to the children in need before the start of school at the end of August.  Yesterday we visited one of the last schools on the list.  We loaded the back packs into the trucks and gathered into a room with 58 back packs and plenty of kids and parents.

 

Children receiving a back pack

 

One at a time the child’s name is called and the child or parent came to accept the back pack.  It was very touching because the kids showed so much appreciation in their face.  It was also very nice that each name that was called had a couple moments of fame as their photo was taken and everybody clapped.  It just made the experience so lovely for the kids!

Afterwards the KKIS project was thanked graciously by one of the parents who were speaking on behalf of all the families.  The kids even came around and hugged and thanked each one of the volunteers.

 

KKIS project volunteers ready to equip children to the school

 

The efforts of KKIS are now coming to a close as the final deliveries are being made.  But they will not stop!  Come October they will continue their efforts with new projects all intended to help the kids in school and enjoy learning.

If you are looking for some way to give back to the community and get involved here in Playa the KKIS Project is a sure way to do it; and they are always happy to have more help!

 

10 MUST-VISIT CANADIAN BREWPUBS

Posted by

 

1. Bellwoods – Toronto, Ontario

 

 

Among the city’s favourite patios, this downtown microbrewery in Toronto’s hip Ossington neighbourhood has seen packed tables since its opening in 2012. A frequently changing menu incorporates seasonal elements in both the beer and the food, and cooperation with other local businesses results in some tasty collaborations: beer from popular restaurant Woodlot served at the restaurant, and the brewery’s stout made into ice cream at nearby bakery Bakerbots.

 

2. Le Saint-Pub – Baie-St-Paul, Quebec

 

 

Not far from popular ski hill Le Massif, Le Saint-Pub has been a fixture in the Charlevoix region since its opening in 1998 alongside affiliated brewery Microbrasserie Charlevoix, which now handles increased demand – its bottles are sold across the province, in western Canada and even into the US – at an offsite location, though the original brewing room is still in use: on our visit, it was hosting several whisky kegs for experiments in barrel aging. Order a “palette” – a set of tasting glasses – to try what they’ve got on tap, and enjoy alongside a menu packed with dishes making excellent use of local food products and, naturally, beer.

 

3. Spinnakers – Victoria, British Columbia

 

 

Canada’s oldest brewpub – it’s been around for decades – sits on Victoria’s Inner Harbour and offers a broad selection of brews in bottles, growlers, cans and on tap. Besides the standards, come by for a pint of the daily cask, using local ingredients such as Silk Road tea, or seasonal selections such as the saison pêche, made with Okanagan peaches. Consider bringing home a bottle of their made-on-site malt vinegar.

 

4. Yellowbelly – St. John’s, Newfoundland

 

 

Located in a historical 19th century building and named after a local tale involving the city’s Irish immigrants,Yellowbelly is a busy place – be sure to make reservations so you don’t miss your chance to sample the well-reviewed lineup of beers brewed on premises. As for food, menu items include wood-fired pizza, burgers, salads and fish and chips, but the most popular pick might be the mussels steamed in pale ale with sea salt – reputedly a huge portion, so bring plenty of friends.

 

5. Le Trou du Diable – Shawinigan, Quebec

 

 

Named in reference to a “cauldron” in the local waterfalls that folklore has it leads straight to hell, Le Trou du Diable– “the hole of the devil” – overflows in summer with visitors and locals seeking a taste of its selection of beers on tap, available in a four-glass tasting palette. Popular local-inspired brews have included La Shawinigan Handshake, an homage to the city’s most famous export, former prime minister Jean Chrétien, and his infamous (and oft criticized) chokehold against an anti-poverty protester in 1996.

 

6. Bushwakker Brewpub – Regina, Saskatchewan

 

 

This Regina institution makes its way onto plenty of best-of lists both for its vibe – it’s located on the main floor of a restored warehouse – and for its beer selection, with nine year-round standards, a specialty mead and 20 seasonal brews. The food menu includes several selections made with beer: try the Saskatchewan hot plate, a platter including house-made cabbage rolls, perogies and beer bread; shepherd’s pie with porter-marinated beef; and for dessert, chocolate stout cake.

 

7. The Gahan House – Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

 

 

Named after the prominent 19th century local merchant in whose former home it’s located, the Gahan House is Prince Edward Island’s only brewery as well as a favourite restaurant among Charlottetown locals. Popular menu picks include the seafood chowder, bacon-wrapped scallops and the “brown bag” fish and chips; seven draught beers are available from a pint down to a sample tray. Book ahead for a tour of the brewery, which will also include samples.

 

8. The Grizzly Paw – Canmore, Alberta

 

With its prized view of the city’s famous Three Sisters mountain range, you’ll have trouble keeping your eyes on the menu (let alone finding a seat) at this popular Canmore restaurant. Menu items come with recommended beer pairings – the chicken quesadilla, say, with Grumpy Bear Honey Wheat, or the chocolate cake with Moose Knuckle Coffee Stout – though indecisive beer lovers are welcome to sample a taster set instead. Nondrinkers might want to try one of the company’s six sodas, all on tap.

 

9. Rockbottom – Halifax, Nova Scotia

 

 

Known locally for its popular trivia Tuesdays, Rockbottom is friendly and intimate with an expansive menu of pub favourites like gourmet burgers and fish and chips made from beer-battered Atlantic haddock. Beer is brewed on-site and includes everyday stouts and ales as well as seasonal creations. Every Saturday at noon, pull up a bar stool as the brewmaster cracks open the weekly experimental firkin – that’s a small cask that holds about 41 litres – for everyone to taste. Get there early – it’s been known to run out in as little as three hours.

 

10. The Pump House – Moncton, New Brunswick

 

 

A downtown Moncton fixture since 1999 – it boasts of “brewing since the last century” – The Pump House outgrew its in-house brewing capabilities within just a few years and now ships bottles across much of Canada from an offsite brewing plant. But back at the original location, drop by to sample the East coast cuisine – think classic pub fare plus fresh oysters, beer-steamed mussels and a salmon sandwich – plus the range of award-winning beer, including the intriguing and top-selling blueberry ale.

 

 

 

 

6 MUST-SEE DESTINATIONS IN CANADA

Posted by

 

Planning your next trip, but not sure where you want to go? Explore Canada’s vast country—we have some world-renowned treasures right here at home.

 

Canada’s diversity can be seen not only in our people and culture, but also in the incredible range of tourist attractionsthat draw travellers from the world over. Looking to take a quintessentially Canadian trip or recommend one to a foreign visitor? Here are 6 of the most exhilarating options from all regions of the country.

 

Whistler’s Wonders

 

 

Whistler is a fabulous ski resort, that along with Vancouver hosted the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. But you may not be aware of the literally thousands of activities in the area, which Tourism Whistler has compiled in a list called “2,010 Things to Do.” Some highlights—fly through the trees on a zipline; slide down all the runs, green to black diamond, at the Coca-Cola Tube Park; soar over glaciers in a float plane; see the world’s largest concentrations of bald eagles; and go to barbecue at 6,000 feet. That leaves just 2,005 more

 

Drumheller’s Dinos

 

 

Forget Jurassic Park. You can find a 26-metre-tall dinosaur (viewing platform in its mouth) in Drumheller, Alberta, the “dinosaur capital of the world.” Drumheller Valley contains some of the Canada’s most eerie and spectacular scenery. There are dozens of natural and man-made attractions in the area, from the Hoodoos (5-7-metre-tall rock pillars that took millions of years to form), to the Royal Tyrrell Museum (one of the largest paleontological museums in the world), to the historic Atlas Coal Mine, where you can ride in a real coal car.

 

Belugas and Bears

 

 

Churchill, Manitoba, with a population of just about 1,000, might not seem like a tourist capital. But visitors flock here for the chance to observe up close two fascinating creatures. Each summer, over 3,000 beluga whales feed, socialize and raise their young in the waters of the Churchill River. And in October and November, people return to board tundra vehicles and ride around what’s considered the polar bear capital of the world.

 

All Falls Down

 

 

However you see it—an observation deck at its side, a boat at its foot, a tunnel behind it, a helicopter ride from above—Niagara Falls, Ontario is one of the wonders of the world. Some 4-6 million cubic feet of water go over its crest each minute. For all ages, there’s plenty more to experience in the area, from a local marine theme park to a casino to tours of 19th century forts.

 

Last Gaspe

 

 

Montreal and Quebec City are unrivalled, but another Quebec destination, the Gaspésie, has its own charms. In 1534, Jacques Cartier erected a cross at the end of Gaspé Bay and claimed Canada on behalf of the King of France. Almost 500 years later, visitors continue to explore the region—Percé Rock; Parc de la Gaspésie (among eastern Canada’s highest peaks); Reford Gardens (where the microclimate allows for the cultivation of rare species); Miguasha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; dozens of picturesque villages; and much more.

 

Nature’s Roller Coaster

 

 

Twice daily, the mighty Bay of Fundy fills up with and empties 100 billion tonnes of water, creating the highest tides in the world. Spanning Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, the Bay attracts tourists who marvel at the rich ecosystem and breathtaking coastline—and who seek the thrill of riding atop the crest of the tidal bores.