central america | costa rica | nicaragua

presse agent MJ Shaw

After a week of teaching yoga and dance at the amazing Anamaya Resort in Montezuma, Costa Rica, my boyfriend joined me and we quickly headed north – where the prices are cheaper and the tourists are fewer. Nicaragua was next, and although the difference in economy was immediately apparent (it’s the second poorest country in the western hemisphere, after Haiti), the mix of Spanish colonial cities, gorgeous (often untouched) beaches and lush jungle mountains, make it an aesthetically pleasing place to explore. despite the poverty, the people are proud and ready to share a laugh, and tourists are actively protected. In fact, we saw machine gun-carrying soldiers positioned in trees on a few occasions. There to watch over us? We hope so! We quickly coined Nicaragua the loudest country in the world, as there is always reggaeton blaring, people yelling, horns beeping, whistles blowing… even churchbells and roosters are chiming in by 5:00am. All this is to say, the true-grit ‘real’ nature of the culture makes it a vibrant and exciting place to visit.

After our major Nicaraguan stops, we passed through Honduras and arrived at the surfer beach town of El Tunco in El Salvador. Though El Salvador’s economy is improving, its more recent civil war means tourism is less developed. Luckily the bf spoke Spanish, or we would have been relying on ridiculous hand-gestures to communicate. However, our attempts to rent a motorbike were moot as there were no rental companies – even in the most touristy beach town. But no problem, just walk into someone’s yard and ask them if you can rent one of their cars and they’ll happily hand you the keys. Seriously. No money down. It’s been said that El Salvador’s hottest commodity is its people, and we’d have to agree: friendly, fun and kind. Another highlight was our two-day trip through the mountain towns of Rutas de Las Flores. This 36km stretch (named for the explosion of wildflowers between October and February) routes through the heart of coffee country and is dotted with authentic rural charm and pockets of eco-beauty. Back on the beach, we discovered the best $5 meal money can buy: 2 local beers and 4 jam-packed delicious fish tacos. It’s no wonder these two countries are starting to fill up with ex-pats looking to escape the cold and capitalism. We may very well be next!

TK Melissa-Jane (aka ‘MJ’) is an actor, choreographer and fitness expert based in Toronto. She coordinates empowering and joyful retreats abroad via dynamicretreats.com

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