There and Back Again – Family Trip Planning Family Trip Planning for Busy Folks. Cut the Fluff! What you REALLY need to plan a meaningful family vacation! Tue, 11 Dec 2018 16:53:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hiking the Vintgar Gorge Slovenia with Kids! Tue, 11 Dec 2018 16:53:42 +0000

The Vintgar Gorge Slovenia is one of the most touristy spots in Slovenia for good reason.  The stunning gorge is just north of Lake Bled.  It was carved by the beautiful blue, clear water of the Radovna River and it is really a sight to behold.  Luckily, the Vintgar Gorge is an easy Lake Bled day trip, even with kids.

The Vintgar Gorge Slovenia was one of the easiest hikes that we took during our trip.  It really is a must if you are visiting Lake Bled with kids.

The payoff for this short 3 km, relatively flat hike?  Jaw dropping views of the bright blue, perfectly clear river from platforms and bridges that criss cross the deep gorge.  Want to tackle the Vintgar Gorge walk with your kids?  Here are our best tips!

How to Get to Vintgar Gorge Slovenia from Lake Bled

Vintgar Gorge is one of the easiest day trips from Bled.  Getting from Vintgar Gorge from Bled is straightforward and only about a fifteen minute drive.

  • Go north out of the roundabout on Ljubljanska Cesta (this is the main roudabout that you will likely pass through multiple times while visiting Bled).
  • Follow Ljubljanska Cesta out of town (it will turn into Seliska Cesta).
  • Make a right on Ceska Vintgar which will take you into the village of Podhom.  You should see signs from there.

If you get turned around, Vintgar Gorge is also shown on just about every tourist map.  If you are driving in Slovenia and need a good road map, this is one of our favorites!

We highly recommend renting a car to get around Slovenia, as public transport options are sometimes not plentiful or convenient.  If you find yourself in Bled without a car, you can get to the village next to the Vintgar Gorge by bus, but you would need to walk from there.  It might be more convenient to take a tour or check in with these folks about the cost of a shuttle there.

Vintgar Gorge Price

Visiting Vintgar Bled is a great deal as far as amazing travel experiences go.  The Vintgar Gorge price for admission is 9 euros for adults / 3 euros for children 6-15 / 1 euro for children under 6.  They only accept cash for payment.  There is ample free parking.

The Vintgar Gorge Hike

The Vintgar Gorge hike is a wonderfully satisfying Lake Bled day trip with kids.  The trail is level and is approximately 1.5 km each way (3 kilometers round trip).  There is a bathroom in the building where you purchase your tickets.

Some of the trail is on ground/rock but much of it is on wooden and metal walkways that skirt the edge of and cross over the river.  The path is mostly flat, but is quite skinny in some spots so for this reason we do not recommend doing it with a stroller.

At the far end of the gorge is another building with bathrooms and snacks available for purchase.  There are picnic tables here so you can stop and enjoy the views and a picnic lunch.

We moved faster on the first half of the hike because we were trying to beat the crowds for those nice photos.  The way back was we took our time as we were passing line after line of folks going the other way.  We planned for a half day at the Vintgar Gorge and this was enough time.

The Gorge can be cool even in the middle of the summer.  Make sure to bring a light jacket and maybe even hat and gloves if visiting in spring or fall.

How to Avoid the Vintgar Gorge Slovenia Crowds

The Vintgar Gorge Slovenia is one of the most popular attractions in the country.  As such, you can expect crowds, especially in the peak tourist months of June, July and August.  Even during our late September visit, there was a steady stream of people on the walkways by mid morning.

There are a couple of good ways to avoid crowds at the Vintgar Gorge.  Our best advice, no matter what time of your you visit is to get there early.  Visiting in the spring or fall is also a good tactic if you are looking for some alone time in the gorge.

The Vintgar Bled Gorge opens at 9am.  We arrived by about 9:30am and started our Vintgar Gorge hike.  Even in September, the groups of tour bus visitors were nipping at our heels the whole way.  We had the kiddos with us, so we move more slowly than many folks.  Get to the gorge early and move at a good pace and you MIGHT be able to capture some of those amazing Vintgar Gorge photos with no one else in them.

As far as photos go, the blue water of the gorge is the most intense towards the afternoon when the sun illuminates the bottom of the canyon.  Unfortunately, this is also the time when the most people visit.

]]> 0
The Best Things to do in Lake Bled with Kids! Sun, 09 Dec 2018 02:00:26 +0000

We visited Lake Bled with our kiddos and we found it to be an immensely satisfying family travel destination.  There are tons of things to do in Lake Bled with kids!

Lake Bled is an idyllic destination with a fairy tale castle in the middle of a beautiful blue lake.  If you are coming to Slovenia you will almost certainly visit Lake Bled (it is one of the most popular tourist areas in the country).

Most folks spend a day or two at Lake Bled and then go on their way.  We found Lake Bled to be an effective base for exploring the many attractions in this epic part of Slovenia.  We spent 6 days of our trip here because there were just so many things to do in Lake Bled with the kids!

Our Favorite Things to do in Lake Bled with Kids

Walking Around the Lake

You will want to walk around the lake. It is just what you do. That way, you won’t be worried that you have missed one of those epic  views of the island that everyone comes here for.

Fortunately, walking around the lake is one of the best things to do in Bled Slovenia with kids.  Don’t worry, it is doable even with small children with a stroller. It will take most of a day with stops for lunch, ice cream, cream cake and maybe more ice cream (don’t worry, the sugar will keep your kids going and they will CRASH when you get done so you can have some quiet time!)

By the time we got back, it was lake afternoon. We had taken every conceivable picture of the castle and the island and felt satisfied with our Lake Bled experience.

>>> Cost: Free, except for buying your kids cooperation with occasional bribes of ice cream

The Lake Bled Tourist Train

If walking around the whole lake with kids sounds a little daunting or you don’t have that much time you can jump on a cute little tourist train for a spin around the lake.  Your ticket allows you to hop on and hop off at major tourist sights around the lake for the whole day.

The train is cute and most kids enjoy riding around on trains.  This would be an easy way to see Lake Bled with kids.

>>> Cost: $3 for kids / $5 for adults for the day

>>> Website:

Getting out to Lake Bled Island

Most people get out to Lake Bled island via the Pletna boat.  The Pletna boat has a long history, so this is a good way to go for the experience.  They also cost 14 euro per person and it was cheaper for us (and a fun adventure for the kids) to rent our own boat for 30 euros and row ourselves out.

We started in the morning and rented the boat first thing.  We rented from the boat rental place in the glass building at the west end of the lake (near Camping Bled). The views at this end of the lake were better in the afternoon once the sun is behind you, so you won’t be missing much by heading out to the island in the morning.

An hour was enough time for us to row out to the Lake Bled island and back and explore a little bit.  If your kids are older climbing to the top of the church tower on the island to ring the wishing bell is a fun activity.

>>> Cost: 20-30 euros to rent your own boat, 14 euros pp to ride the Pletna boat

Summer Toboggan Bled at Straza Bled

We had seen the the toboggan run the day before when we were poking around Bled Castle.  The kids had gotten super excited about it.   We found a pathway near the Hotel Jadran (on the south side of Lake Bled) to take us up to Straza Bled, a mountain adventure park above the city.

This was a great motivational stop for the kids!  The toboggan run was not expensive, and even our littlest one could go in one of our laps (kids need to be 8 to ride by themselves.) There was a little neat hiking loop at the top with scenic views. The kids had A BLAST going down the hill.  This was one of our family’s favorite things to do in Lake Bled. Definitely a win.

>>> Cost: One ride 5 euros for children, 8 euros for adults (discounts for multiple rides)

>>> Website:

Swimming at Lake Bled

There is a really lovely public swimming area just underneath Bled Castle on the shores of the lake.  The Lake Bled Public Lido has fenced swimming pools at various depths, restroom and changing facilities, slides, a diving board, a playground and sandbox for the kids.  When we visit again in the summer, we will certainly plan a day for a picnic here!

>>> Cost: Whole day 7 euros for adults, 4.50 euros for children.  Cheaper tickets available after 5pm

>>> Website:—beauty/swimming-pools/Public-lido

Bled Castle

I have a confession to make.  Despite oodles of other travel blogs and websites telling us that we MUST go here when we visited Lake Bled, we did not.  It was not for lack of beauty – I am sure the views were adequately spectacular.

We had read that there wasn’t a lot for the kids to actually DO inside the castle.  We had already had some amazing views of the lake and its iconic island and church and paying $25 for us to go in for 10 minutes to take some more amazing photos just wasn’t that appealing at that moment.  There, I promised honesty and now you have it.

This is not to say that the castle won’t be worthwhile FOR YOU, it just wasn’t for us (we did see another amazing and super kid friendly castle in Austria on our way back that I will write about sometime soon!)

>>> Cost: 11 euros for adults, 5 euros for kids (14 and under)

>>> Website:

Hike Up to a Viewpoint

The views of beautiful lake Bled are amazing walking around the lake, but they are even better from above.  There are a number of trails that lead up to viewpoints.  The easiest one to attempt with kids is the trail to Ojstrica Bled.

This trail to Ojstrica Bled heads up from the western end of the lake, not far from Camping Bled.  It is marked by a sign and is listed on the tourist maps that you can pick up around town.  It is listed as a ten minute hike, so triple that with kids 😉

If your kids are older and are up for a harder hike, you can hike upwards from the Ojstrica Bled viewpoint to the Osojnica Bled viewpoint, which will yield more lovely views.

>>> Cost: Free

Tasting Some of that Yummy Lake Bled Cream Cake

While walking around the lake, make sure to stop somewhere for some of that darned Lake Bled Cream Cake.  The Park Hotel Bled Slovenia is the original proprietor of the cream cake, but pretty much every place sells it for around 4.50 euros. It is worth having with lunch when you are poking about. There are also lots of places along the lake to stop for ice cream whenever the kids need a motivational boost.

>>> Cost: 4.50 euros, give or take


Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Lake Bled

How to Get From Ljubljana to Lake Bled

  • Most people come to Lake Bled from visiting Ljubljana.  Lake Bled is easy to get to from Ljubljana.  It is an easy 45 minute drive north on the A2.
  • You can also get from Ljubljana to Lake Bled by train.  The train takes an hour and a half to two hours.  The train station in Bled is on the north side of the lake (Camping Bled is within walking distance of the train station and this is a great choice for your stay!)
  • If you are looking to travel by bus, buses depart hourly during the summer for Lake Bled from Ljubljana.  The trip takes a little over an hour.

Where to Park Around Lake Bled

If you are not staying by the lake, parking can be difficult during the summer.  Our farm stay host recommended parking at the parking lot next to Camping Lake Bled.  It is less busy than the area with most of the parking at the other end of the lake.  There is also a public bathroom nearby in the building towards the lake (always a plus with little ones).

If you are cheap like us and don’t want to pay for parking, we found free parking on the north side of the lake next to the train station (please verify that this is still true before you park!)  If you are going to walk around the whole lake anyways, you can park here and save some money.

Take the stairs down in front of the train station (if you have a stroller, it will need to be carried.) Starting counter clockwise around the lake, you will come to a toilet (paid) if anyone needs a pit stop.

Where to Stay in Lake Bled with Kids (what we wish we would have known)

We had an amazing stay at farm stay Dolinar Krainer, just ten minutes outside of Lake Bled.  If you are looking for a place to stay for your Lake Bled holidays, this is a solid choice.   It was nice to be just a little bit outside of the congestion of Lake Bled in our own spacious apartment.

In hindsight, staying at Camping Bled Slovenia would also have been a really great option.  They have these amazing little family cabins that would have been perfect for us, and they are located right near the lake.  If you visit Lake Bled in the summer, they have a lovely little beachy area down by the lake where the kids can splash and cool off.

The icing on the cake of staying at Camping Bled is the fact that you can walk right from here around the lake without having to worry about where to park (parking around Lake Bled gets congested in the summer).  You could add swimming in the lake to your list of awesome things to do in Lake Bled. If we were to return in the summer time, we would definitely stay here.

What are The Best Lake Bled Restaurant with Kids?

Our explorations of the restaurants around Lake Bled showed us that what is true of many overly touristy areas is also true here.  They breed a slew of high priced, mediocre quality restaurants.  Please correct me if I am wrong, but we felt that it was much easier to find authentic Slovenian cuisine once we got out of Lake Bled.

Fortunately, this was not true of Pizzeria Rustica.  This was our favorite Lake Bled restaurant by far.  This highly rated pizza place really was worth all the hype.  Excellent pizzas at super reasonable prices.  Our pizzas came really quickly, which is always a bonus with hungry little ones!

What Are the Best Day trips from Lake Bled?

Lake Bled was an excellent base for exploring this corner of Slovenia.  Many folks stay in Ljubljana and visit Lake Bled as a day trip from there, but we like staying outside of big cities and it was nice to be able to have more than one day to explore the area around the lake.  We stayed near Lake Bled for six nights in a really nice tourist farm just outside of town.

From Lake Bled, we took some lovely daytrips to the Vintgar Gorge, Lake Bohinj, the Vrsic Pass/Julian Alps and Soca Valley and Ljubljana.  These are all within easy driving distance of Lake Bled.

Vintgar Gorge:  This is an easy hike with kids just a short distance from Lake Bled.  The waters of the river were this beautiful blue color that was just hard to believe was real.  This is a great way to get out to the Vintgar Gorge.

Lake Bohinj:  Lake Bohinj is Lake Bled’s laid back cousin.  Located within a thirty minute drive of Lake Bled, and it is much more natural and less developed.  This is a great place to escape the tourist crush of lake Bled and enjoy some of Slovenia’s abundant natural beauty.

The Julian Alps and Vrsic Pass (and the Soca Valley):   The beginning of the Vrsic Pass is about 45 minutes north of Lake Bled near Kranska Gora.  We spent an amazing morning driving through the pass with views of the stunning Julian Alps and the afternoon picnicking by the Soca River (yes, the water really is THAT blue.)

Ljubljana:  This goes counter to much of the Slovenia travel advice out there, but instead of staying for 2-3 days in Ljubljana, we chose to stay in Bled and take a couple of daytrips to explore picturesque and walkable Ljubljana.  It is only a 45 minute or so drive south of Lake Bled.

PS.  Here are some of my favorite Slovenia travel guides!

]]> 0
The Best Things to do in Ljubljana with Kids Tue, 20 Nov 2018 22:12:16 +0000

If you are planning a visit to Slovenia with kids, Ljubljana will most certainly be on your itinerary.  The good news is there are tons of great things to do in Ljubljana with kids and toddlers!

Ljubljana is Slovenia’s small, walkable jewel of a capitol.  What the city lacks in the way of big, flashy “must see” sights it makes up for with its laid back nature, small size and large swaths of pedestrian only walking zones.

Top Things to do In Ljubljana with Kids

The Museum of Illusions

The Museum of Illusions in Ljubljana should definitely have a place on your Ljubljana must do list if you are visiting with kids.  The museum is located close to the old town.  If it a fun place to stop for an hour or two and it is not terribly expensive.

The museum has 2 floors of illusions including a room where you can take a photo and look like you are standing on the ceiling as well as other visual illusions.  My 3 and 5 year old did not understand the hows and whys of all of the illusions, but they still thought that it was a fun diversion.

Tivoli Park Ljubljana

Tivoli Park is within walking distance (with a stroller or with older kids) from Ljubljana’s Old Town.  This is Ljubljana’s main park and it is a nice place to let loose a little if the kids are tired of seeing the Ljubljana sights.

The park has a lovely little café near the main playground.  It looked like an easy stop for lunch or a glass of wine before heading over to play.  Our kiddos loved the playground in Tivoli Park Ljubljana.  It has a zip line (always a favorite) and some really neat slides as well as a wide variety of other areas to explore.  While the Park Tivoli Ljubljana is not the most spectacular European park that we have ever been to, it was well worth a couple hours to explore.

The Ljubljana Castle and Funnicular

The castle and funicular ride up to it are one of the most popular things to do in Ljubljana.  The views from the top are captivating and the kids always enjoy the ride up to the top.

While this is one of the most popular things to do in Ljubljana, this was not a Ljubljana must do for us. We had limited time to spend in the city and have visited other castles that were more engaging for the kids.  If you are spending a couple full days in Ljubljana, you should definitely add this to your list!

The Ljubljana Central Market

We always make it a point to visit local markets when we travel.  The Ljubljana Central Market was one of the nicer ones that we have visited.  The Ljubljana Central Market is located close to the old town and the idyllic river.

The kids really enjoyed munching on fruit and berries from the market.  What I liked about this market is that it was not crowded (granted, we visited on a weekday).  There were also a number of vendors selling reasonably priced souvenirs like travel sized jars of honey and other Slovenian specialties.  Note – the Ljubljana Central Market is closed on Sundays.

A River Cruise in Ljubljana

A river cruise to see the sights is always popular with the kids!  Ljubljana is a city of bridges, and the water is the best place to see them.  This Ljubljana river cruise is a great value (kids under 6 free!) and it is offered on a unique and traditional Slovenian wooden boat.

The Free Walking Tour Ljubljana

The free walking tour is one of the more popular things to do in Ljubljana.  We did it and it was a great way to get a general overview of the city and some history.  The kids got a little antsy (ok, a lot antsy) and so I would not generally recommend it for someone with young children.  The stories and history would perhaps be interesting enough to hold the attention of older children.

The Ljubljana Open Kitchen (Odprta Kuhna)

If you are going to be in Ljubljana on a Friday between May and October, you HAVE to check out the Open Kitchen.  Local restaurants and food vendors set up booths in the old town.  It is a great opportunity to try a wide variety of Slovenian and international cuisine in a short time.

The Best Hostel in Ljubljana with Kids

Villa Veselova

The Villa Veselova is my top suggestion for where to stay in Ljubljana with kids on a budget.  This family friendly hostel in Ljubljana is located in a charming old building close to the top things to do in Ljubljana.  The hostel is located in a quiet, safe neighborhood (always a concern when I am booking a cheap room).

We booked the turquoise room.  It has one set of bunk beds and two doubles that pushed together into a queen.  The room included a private (but separate) bathroom just around the corner.  The hostel provides a very basic breakfast of cereal, fruit, yogurt, bread and jam (enough to get you by for a bit).

Book early here for a private room – the hostel also rents our rooms by the bed and you need to ensure that you book the whole room for a family with kids.

Our Must Hit Ljubljana Restaurants with Kids

Vigo Ice Cream Ljubljana

This is consistently ranked as one of the top two ice cream spots in Ljubljana.  It is conveniently located just off of the main square and the triple bridge in Ljubljana and is close to the tourist information office.

The flavors were vibrant and the optional drizzle of chocolate on the top made the ice cream extra yummy.  I enjoyed my kids’ simple lemon ice cream more than my more complex mixed flavor, but they were all yummy and not overpriced for such a popular spot.

Gostlina Sokol

On the surface, this looks like one of those overly touristy restaurants that I usually avoid.  If it were not for a recommendation from one of my favorite Slovenia guide books, we would not have eaten here.  I am so glad that we did (and wish that we had been able to eat here again!)

This Ljubljana restaurant is located in the heart of the old town just off of a picturesque square.  The interior is rustic and historical looking and was a fun way to experience our first meal in Slovenia.  The menu featured a huge variety of Slovenian specialties that were as good or better in quality as any other restaurant that we ate at in Slovenia.  A definite must for you Ljubljana restaurant list!

Puffy Pancakes Ljubljana

This little stand is located on one of the main pedestrian thoroughfares into Ljubljana’s old town.  Our kids loved it so much that we stopped here twice.

When you order, they made you a basketful of tiny little pancakes fresh on a special griddle.  Once your pancakes are done, you choose from a variety of sweet toppings for them.  They are small, finger sized bites that are super kid friendly (though a little messy) and easy to share.

Frequently Asked Questions about Visiting Ljubljana

How to Get to Ljubljana

Ljubljana is located at the heart of Slovenia. There are a variety of ways to get to Ljubljana:

  • By Air: Air France, Lufthansa, EasyJet and LOT Airlines all fly into Ljubljana from various cities in Europe.
  • By Train:  You could fly into Munich and take the train to Ljubljana across Austria.  It is approximately a 6 hour train ride.  There is no way to take a direct train to Ljubljana from Italy.
  • By Shuttle: Fly into Venice, Italy and it is easy to take a shared ride van into Ljubljana.  The cost is reasonable and it only takes three hours.
  • By Car:   Renting a car and driving into Slovenia turned out to be the cheapest option for our family.  We flew into southern Germany and drove south across Austria.  It was a six hour drive, so we don’t recommend this for a short trip, but it was beautiful!

How Many Days to See the Best Ljubljana Sights with Kids

This is a hard question to answer, because everyone’s interests are different.  For us, two to three full days in Ljubljana would be plenty.  We spent two partial days exploring the Ljubljana must do sights and while we would have liked to have had a little more time, we felt it sufficient.  Ljubljana is relatively small compared to many other European capitols making it easy to traverse in 2-3 days.

How to Get Around Ljubljana with Kids

Ljubljana is one of the most walkable cities in Europe and we had no problem getting around with the kids using a stroller.  We stayed in a hostel that was close to the Ljubljana Old Town. Preseren Square is at the center of the Old Town in Ljubljana and it is a great place to start your explorations.

If you want to venture further afield or are staying in accommodation further out, you will need to take a bus as Ljubljana has no subway or other public transit.  This is a great guide about how to get around in Ljubljana.


]]> 1
What You Need to Know About Tourist Farms in Slovenia Sat, 17 Nov 2018 13:24:07 +0000

What is it like to stay on one of the many tourist farms in Slovenia?  Imagine staying in breathtaking rural farm surroundings.  Your beautiful apartment or room is well equipped with everything that you might need.  Outside, the kids have plenty of room to run around and a playground to explore.

After eating a fresh from the farm, homemade breakfast you get to know the farm animals with the kiddos or head out sightseeing in the epic Slovenian countryside.

This is a delicious picture of life on a Slovenia tourist farm.  A tourist farm is usually a working farm which offers accommodation and often breakfast and sometimes options for other meals.

There is an amazing network of Slovenia tourist farms throughout the country.  I am confident that these are some of the best places to stay in Slovenia.   The opportunity to experience rural life in Slovenia in this way and to be taken care of like family by our amazing hosts was a big part of why we chose a Slovenia farm stay.

Benefits of a Slovenia Farm Stay

  • A local expert at your fingertips to give you insider tips on the best restaurants and things to see and do
  • Many tourist farms in Slovenia offer farm fresh breakfasts and some offer the option of dinner as well.  The food that we ate at our tourist farms was some of the best that we had on the trip, and the value for these meals was better than any restaurant that we ate in.
  • If you have kids, staying at a Slovenia tourist farm is great because unlike many hotels or apartments, there is generally plenty of outdoor space for the to run around and explore and often farm animals for them to meet.  You may even be able to participate in doing chores on the farm to give your kids a different perspective.
  • A deeper immersion in local culture and traditions than you would get staying in more traditional Slovenia accommodations.  We loved learning about Slovenia’s deep agricultural heritage and the kids got a hands on feel for what life is like on a farm.  It was really incredible to see how common it is for multiple generations to live and work together on these farms.
  • Many tourist farms in Slovenia have a deep history going back generations which you will learn about if you stay.

Tips for Finding and Booking the Perfect Slovenia Tourist Farm

If you are looking for ideas about where to stay in Slovenia, a tourist farm is a great choice that will give you a unique cultural experience.  Here are tips for finding and booking the right Slovenia tourist farm for your needs:

  • There are MANY tourist farms in Slovenia that offer rooms with one queen or double bed.  Room or apartments in a farm stay that can accommodate a different bed configuration or a larger family are less common.  Book early for best choice.
  • Plan to spend a minimum of 2-3 nights in each tourist farm.  This is the minimum amount of time that you should take to immerse yourself in the farm experience and get the most out of it.  As a bonus, many Slovenia tourist farms offer a discount for a longer stay.
  • Book direct.  I always got better rates or better amenities booking directly through the farm stay than through a third party website.
  • I love to read Tripadvisor reviews for the places that we are thinking of staying.  Read over reviews to learn about the particular nuances and unique features of the farm stays that you are considering to help you make your decision.
  • Most farm stays offered the option for “half board” which generally includes the room plus breakfast.  If your farm stay offers “full board”, you might have the option of adding dinner on.  When we booked self catering apartments with kitchens, breakfast was sometimes an additional charge (typically 5-7 euros/person, kids free or half price).
  • All of the Slovenia farm stays that we booked required a deposit ahead of time.  This is understandable given that these are small, family run operations with limited rooms available. This is a little different than what most westerners are used to when booking hotels.
  • Many tourist farms in Slovenia do not accept credit cards, so these deposits will need to be made by bank transfer.  After researching, I found that Western Union was the easiest way to do this online (if needed, the tourist farm will provide you with the numbers that you need to make the transfer).
  • Time moves more slowly in Slovenia.  Every one of the e-mails that I sent to the tourist farms that we stayed at in Slovenia before our trip was answered accurately and completely, but sometimes it took a few days.  These folks are busy with the chores of running a working farm AND accommodating guests.  Be patient if communication is slower than usual for US standards.
  • Most of our farm stays requested payment in cash, so plan your cash flow during your trip accordingly.

The Best Places to Research Slovenia Tourist Farms

The extensive network of tourist farms in Slovenia provide some of the best opportunities for authentic cultural immersion that we have experienced.  If you are looking for ideas for where to stay in Slovenia during your family holiday, here are some great resources to get you started:

Our Experiences at Three Tourist Farms in Slovenia

Dolinar Krainer Tourist Farm (near Lake Bled, Slovenia)

Tourist Farm Dolinar Krainer is centrally located up in the hills in a small village between Lake Bled and Lake Bohinj.  If you are looking for accommodation in Bled Slovenia, I highly suggest this farm stay.  We were less than 10 minutes from Lake Bled, but being out of the busyness of the main area of Bled Slovenia hotels area was a welcome respite to our busy days of sight seeing.

The road up to the tourist farm was narrow and windy, but the views from the top and from the village were captivating.  This area of Slovenia has a lot to see and do, so we stayed here for six nights of our trip.

The apartment that we booked for 3 adults and two children fit our needs perfectly.  It had one bedroom with one queen bed and three single beds around the edge of a dining room/kitchen.  Highlights of our apartment were a nicely stocked kitchen, a lovely little balcony and heated bathroom floors.

The best part of our stay was being taken care of by Isa, the lady of the house.  We indulged on her breakfast each day which included freshly baked breads, local prosciutto ham and cheese, local eggs and farm made goat cheese.  Yum.  The dinner she cooked us on one lucky night of our stay was made from scratch and substantial.

Isa happily invited us and the kids to the pasture with her to see the goats.  The kids were excited to come back and see how the goats were milked, but the wily goats had escaped their pasture that night and Isa did not find them until well after dark.  Next time.

This was a lovely introduction to Slovenian hospitality and a great way to start our trip.

Tourist Farm Ramsak (Near the Solcava Panoramic Road and Logar Valley)

Tourist Farm Ramsak was a little off the beaten path, but in a nice way.  It is located near the epic Solcava Panoramic Road and the Logar Valley.

We stayed here for three nights in cozy separate apartment that looked like a little mini chalet.  The views of the mountains from the wrap around balcony were amazing.  I sat out on the balcony one night wrapped up in a blanket just enjoying the peace and stars while watching the moon come up.

Our lovely little apartment had one queen bed and three singles in two separate rooms.  There was one twin bed and the queen in the back bedroom. We slept with both kids in the back bedroom which closed with a door.  The two singles in the front bedroom were too close to steep stairs for our comfort with the kids.

The downstairs had a nice dining table, a comfy couch with a tv and a well stocked kitchen.

The kids enjoyed the trampoline in the yard a lot.  They also liked looking at the farm chickens and a special trip down to the trout pond to feed the fish.

We ate breakfast in the dining room in the main house each day.  We were served freshly baked bread, fresh preserves and prosciutto ham with local cheese and freshly made yogurt from their cows’ milk.

We were also offered dinner on two separate nights which we gratefully accepted.  All I can say about these meals is that it was like having a Slovenian grandmother cooking home cooked Slovenian specialties for us from her kitchen and it was wonderful and was a very special part of our trip.

Tourist Farm Kmetija Tonin

Tourist Farm Tonin was the last of our three Slovenia tourist farms.

If you are looking into Piran hotels but want to stay a little outside of the big city, Tourist Farm Tonin was as ideal choice.  We got the best of both worlds here – a small Istrian village just a short drive away from beautiful Piran.

Tourist Farm Tonin is on the edge of a lovely little Istrian village called Puce in the south western portion of Slovenia.  The views from this village of the surrounding countryside were breathtaking.  I thought that we were in the Italian countryside!

This Slovenia tourist farm was completely lovely and entirely different in character from the mountainous farms that we had come from.  The two apartments that make up the accommodations are housed in a traditional stone farm house.  There is a little terrace in front and the windows in our room looked out over the backyard and the farm’s extensive olive plantings.

Upon check in, we were welcomed with wine and spirits made on the farm.  We indulged in homemade breakfast each day in the rustic and cozy dining room downstairs.  Breakfast featured the farm’s home made olive oil, homemade breads including the most wonderful dark spelt bread that I have ever had, as well as fresh juice and locally made prosciutto that melted in my mouth.

They only offer dinner for larger groups, but we found a really wonderful restaurant in a nearby village (it was a little bit of a splurge, but this was one of the best meals that I have ever eaten ANYWHERE).

Our rooms were clean and entirely adequate.  They each had one queen sized bed and a fold down couch.  They had a well equipped kitchenette with a stove top, fridge, sink and microwave as well as a dining table.

The kids had a great time playing in the farm’s large backyard.  There was a small swing set as well as a pen with donkeys and other farm animals that the kids really enjoyed.  It was an easy place to enjoy our last few days in Slovenia.  We left well fed and happy with as much of the farm’s home made olive oil as we could fit in our suitcase.

]]> 0
Is it Possible to Travel Switzerland on a Budget? Mon, 12 Nov 2018 01:31:06 +0000

We are experienced budget travelers and have had good results staying within a tiny budget in other cities that are traditionally deemed “very expensive”.  I was SURE that it would be possible to travel Switzerland on a budget.

Despite all of the warnings that I had read, I thought that I would figure out some tips and tricks for saving money in Switzerland that others had missed.  It can’t REALLY be that expensive, can it?

I am here to report that Switzerland was one of the most stunningly beautiful countries that we have ever been blessed to experience.  It is also one of the most expensive and no amount of scrimping and picnicking could satisfyingly fix that.  Expensive?  Yes. Worth it?  COMPLETELY.

Here is what I learned about budget travel in Switzerland:

It Can’t Be Done.

Just kidding.  But planning a budget trip Switzerland takes much more work for less reward than in any other country that we have been to.  Here is what we figured out:

Our Best Tips to Travel Switzerland on a Budget

Head Across the Border

If you are staying near the Swiss border, you can save A LOT of money by crossing the border to eat and shop.  The relative ease of crossing borders within the EU makes this a feasible plan.  People who LIVE in Switzerland actually drive long distances to make grocery runs across the border.  We took a day trip when it was raining in Zurich to nearby Konstanz, Germany and prices for meals in restaurants dropped by about half when we crossed the border.

Drink Milk and Eat Cheese

No, this is not an advertisement for the dairy industry.  Its just that milk is the only really good food deal that we found in Switzerland.  The cheese at the gas station was also local and well priced.  Even the “cheap” dairy at the gas station was rich, creamy and from happy Swiss cows.

The Swiss are quite proud of their milk and cheese and for good reason.  It was some of the best dairy that we have ever tasted, and the price tag was comparable to what we pay here in the US for our “average” to low grade milk and cheese.

Like dairy? Eating good Swiss dairy is another way to travel Switzerland on a budget

Late Night at the COOP Supermarket

COOP is a popular supermarket chain in Switzerland.  There is one in almost every town.  We discovered that one hour before closing, most COOPs mark down all of their premade salads and sandwiches and anything else that is close to expiration.  We would make our COOP run nightly to pick up lunch for the next day and whatever cheap, fresh ingredients that we could use to cobble dinner together at our apartment or hostel.

This was still not super cheap (we were spending $50 per night on dinner ingredients, a bottle of wine and lunch for the next day, even at half off) but was the cheapest available option.  This leads me to the next point…


The cheapest sit down restaurant that we found in Switzerland was attached to the Balmers Hostel in Interlaken where a burger and fries was 20 euros!  Even fast food was RIDICULOUS – 10 chicken nuggets at Burger King was 9 euros (almost a 1 USD per nugget).

We stayed exclusively in apartments and hostels and cooked all of our meals.  Cooking a lot of your own food is one of the easiest ways to save money if you are trying to travel Switzerland on a budget.

We did miss out on the culinary part of our Swiss cultural experience, but for a group of five, eating out just wasn’t in the budget.

Get off the Tourist Path

It is ALWAYS true that getting off the beaten path will generally get you better food at lower prices.  This is DOUBLY true in when planning budget travel Switzerland.  This was confirmed for me tonight through a helpful conversation with a local.

As it turns out, restaurants are a little less expensive when you make an effort to get out of large, touristy cities and out of the handful of Swiss villages that most tourists frequent.

Buying a Swiss Train Pass Might Not Save you Money

Trains in Switzerland are AMAZING and we loved our experience traveling on them with our kids, but they are not cheap.  Price out carefully all of the train rides that you want to take to see if you come close to at least breaking even with a Swiss train pass before buying one.

Do keep in mind that your Swiss Pass gives you discounts on mountain lifts and some other attractions.  I wrote a whole post with details of our cost analysis of our Swiss Train pass VS the cost of buying tickets.

If there are more than two people, it is sometimes cheaper to drive in Europe than take a train (even with the high cost of gas).

Getting a train pass may or may not be a good way to travel Switzerland on a budget

Bring a Suitcase Full of Food

If we would have known how hard it would be to travel Switzerland on a budget, we would have checked a suitcase of food from home to cook in the hostel.  Not joking.

Travel with your essentials in a carry on and save your checked luggage allotment for bringing a small roller filled with food basics like noodles, oatmeal, and other powdered, non perishable staples (don’t forget to bring some spices and basics like cooking oil).  Plan out some easy one pan meals that use minimal ingredients before you go.  This sounds extreme, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Book Early

I booked our hostels and apartments in Switzerland nearly six months before our summer trip and I got some decent deals by Switzerland standards (including this awesome hostel in Interlaken and a great apartment in Zurich).

They were still not “cheap”, but decent places that contributed to our goal of saving money in Switzerland.  By the time we were two months before our trip, all of these more budget friendly accommodations options were fully booked, leaving only more expensive hotels left over.

Staying in a hostel is a great way to travel Switzerland on a budget

Budget travel in Switzerland is tough, but it is sooo worth it! This coupon book has 2 for 1 offers for many restaurants and attractions around the country. I wish we had known about this when we visited Switzerland…it will help with saving money in Switzerland!

]]> 0
Our Top Tips for Traveling with Kids and Loving it! Sat, 08 Sep 2018 10:49:25 +0000

We have a few big trips with the kids under our belts now.  Each time we travel, we figure out a new tip or trick that makes our travel successively easier.  I am excited to share our best, hard won secrets of traveling with kids with you so that you can add them to your travel ninja tool belt!


If you find this useful, here are some other posts about our experiences traveling with our kids as babies and toddlers

Transportation Upon Arrival

Splurge on transportation to make you arrival as easy and stress free as possible.  This is not the place to pinch pennies, when you are all tired from a long flight and you drag the kiddos into a labyrinth of public transportation with a heap of bags in tow (TRUST ME ON THIS ONE….WE HAVE DONE THIS).  This is a super stressful start to the trip and it can set the tone of the things to come.

Book a Decent Place

Spend a little extra to get a decent hotel.  I am not saying that you need to stay at the Ritz, but don’t cut funds and end up at a place that is dirty or unsafe like we have.  When we were traveling before kids, staying in a place that was a little on the scuzzy side to save a little money  was tolerable.  Now, not so much. Clean and safe are our minimum now.  We don’t need fancy, but we don’t compromise on the basics.

Room to Run?


Make sure you have available options for a place for them to run off steam at any moment.  Plan for this.  If you can, find accommodations that are near a great park (bonus for having an amazing playground!)   This will lessen everyone’s stress level immensely.  Planning your days out during your trip, make notes in your plans about where the nearest parks are for each location.


Set an itinerary but be willing to let go of it.  We plan for no more than one big activity early in the day, before nap while the kids are still fresh.  Now that the kids are a little older, we sometimes try a less intensive sight or activity in the afternoon.  Evening time is reserved for nothing more than dinner and hanging out, experiencing local culture.  We feel now that this time is just as important as the time that we spend seeing the sights.

Got Food?

ALWAYS have food and snacks with you, and keep an extra special treat or snack up your sleeve for when you really need to shift gears or attention for a bit.  You never want to run out of food for any reason.  Plan for more snacks than you think you will need for unexpected situations or delays.

Don’t forget to bring some special snacks for mommy and daddy…something you really LOVE (these are MY favorite snack bars!)  Travel is hard…you need nourishment to keep up with those little people!

Is Eating out Worth It?

Until the kiddos are out of the toddler stage, it might be less stressful for everyone to minimize sit down restaurants when traveling.  Some families might be more adventurous than is in this regard, but for us, we have a lot more takeout food from grocery stores and picnics. When we do eat in a restaurant, we choose carefully.  We look for a place where the wait will not be too long and with enough noise that the kiddos won’t be a huge disruption if they get a little loud.

Plan and Prepare

Prepare your kids ahead of time for what the day will hold.  Sit down in the morning and map out the day with your kids.  Let them know what the plans are.  Tell them about the parts that they will likely enjoy most and when they will happen.  As we proceed through our day, we are constantly talking with the kids about what the next steps are.  This helps them adapt to the new situations that travel brings up and makes the trip run more smoothly.

Don’t Bring Too Many Toys

The first few times that we traveled with the kids the fear of running out of things to amuse them drove us bring way too much stuff.  We were loaded down with oodles of activities that they didn’t use. We don’t anymore.

Now that our kids are preschool age and older, they get their tablets and headphones as a special treat when we travel.  Other then that we stick to bringing a koosh ball to play catch, perhaps a small game of memory, a sticker book for each of them for the airplane and sometimes these story cards.  Basically, we like to stick to lots of open ended activities that can be utilized in a variety of ways.

There are usually enough new experiences and things to see during travel to occupy their brains without needing too many extra things.

Relax and Enjoy the Journey!

Travel with kids is an altogether different process than before kids.  Sometimes, we have to realize that the journey IS part of the destination.  We cherish our travel time because the challenges and experiences bring us closer together as a family.   Travel provides rare, uninterrupted family time free from distractions and the ever present “to do” list.  We try really hard to let go of expectations and just go with the flow and focus on enjoying time together, whether we are checking something off of our bucket list or just hanging out chasing pigeons.


]]> 3
Learning to RELISH A Slower Travel Style With Babies Wed, 05 Sep 2018 10:00:00 +0000

“Babies change the way that you travel”. This phrase is commonly repeated to new parents, but the reality of this doesn’t really set in until you take your first big trip with a baby.

Now that we have a couple trips under our belts with our babies (now toddler and preschool age), we are starting to appreciate the challenges that traveling with a kids can bring.  Traveling with kids also brings new opportunities and a pleasant change of pace that can be refreshing, once you can shift your expectations around a little bit.

We were those manic, see everything travelers, frantically covering the globe, trying to see everything, every where, as fast as possible. We would pack our days, morning until night, doing whatever necessary to see all of the “must see” sights in any new destination.

This strategy is wonderful and exhausting and completely and utterly impossible with little people in tow.

Now when we travel, we usually don’t get to see everything on our list.  We might miss [gasp] a major attraction because it will just be too grueling for the little ones (and thus not fun for parents).  We might rush through a museum and see only the highlights because nap time is coming and a meltdown will happen if we stay a moment longer.

Divide and conquer has become a strategy in our travel tool belt.  If one or both parents really wants to see something that it NOT kid friendly, sometimes we leave one parent with both kids or one parent takes the “easier” child to the sight while the other does something more fun with the other kid.

One big attraction is the most that we schedule in one day, sandwiched by plenty of time for naps and markets and playing in the park.  No more running from morning till night.

There are some benefits to this new, slower mode of travel.  We don’t’ see as many “big” sights, but we are much more likely to relax with other families in the local park, or to look for opportunities to stop in a local square to let the kids chase pigeons and indulge in some ice cream.

Traveling slow means that we prefer to rent a home or apartment instead of booking a hotel.  “Living” for the week instead of just staying somewhere means that we are more immersed in local culture, cooking meals with produce from the local market.  We love having a space for the kiddos to sleep in another room, and overall the apartment gives us a more relaxed approach to our travels.

Travel with a small children is different.  Sometimes it can be more difficult, but we wouldn’t trade traveling with our little ones for ANYTHING!

Here are some of my other writings which contain the best tips that we have learned from traveling with babies and toddlers:

]]> 4
Our Experience at the Worlds Largest Bounce House Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:29:58 +0000

We took a day trip last weekend to visit Big Bounce America – The World’s Largest Bounce House.  I had seen this springy marvel on one of those Facebook videos and just thought that my little ones would LOVE it!  I was right (the adults had a lot of fun, too!)

This attraction travels around the country, visiting a different location every weekend.  We visited while it was close to home in St Cloud, Minnesota.

The attraction consists of the large main bounce house and a number of smaller bouncy structures.  Your ticket includes entry into the main bounce house for a one hour window.  The times are separated by age group so little ones are not bouncing with big kids and vice versa.  There are even separate adult sessions!

I suggest purchasing the separate ticket for the bounce village.  The bounce village consists of a large slide, 4-5 obstacle course type bouncers, a giant ball pit and an open bouncer.  Your ticket for this can be used at any time during the day.  We started out day in the bounce village before our scheduled session in the main bounce house.

The main bounce house is quite impressive.  The size is hard to gauge, but I would describe it as equivalent to 4 high school gymnasiums put together.  It is anchored by a DJ booth at the center that plays upbeat, party music during your session.

Inside the main bounce house there was an obstacle course, 2 slides (one larger, one smaller), and lots of room to bounce and play.  There were large beach balls scattered about.  Bubbles emanated periodically from a bubble machine at the center and the kids made a fun game of bouncing and catching them.

Throughout the one hour experience, there were games and contests that were facilitated.  The whole thing was a lot of fun.  An hour was plenty of time.  By the time we were done with our hour, we were exhausted and just about ready to go.

The day that we visited, it was sunny and it was quite hot during our scheduled one hour time in the main bounce house.  There were people walking around spraying water to cool things and people down, but it did get quite uncomfortable.  If possible, book a session early in the day or late in the afternoon into evening once the sun is less intense.

This is a great activity for all ages and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  It is definitely worth your time, even if it is a little out of your way.



]]> 0
What to do in Interlaken with Kids Thu, 09 Aug 2018 15:33:10 +0000

Interlaken with kids might be your favorite vacation ever (it was certainly right at the top of our list!)  There are so many places in Europe that are frankly not very  toddler friendly.  Luckily, Interlaken is not one of them!

The Bernese Oberland region is one of the best places to visit in Switzerland with kids because of the huge array of easy, kid friendly daytrips from Interlaken.  There is at enough in and around this Swiss mountain paradise to fill an Interlaken itinerary for a family with for at least a week!

Switzerland can be CRAZY expensive, but it is sooo worth it!  This coupon book has 2 for 1 offers for many restaurants and attractions around the country.  I wish we had known about this when we visited Switzerland…it would have saved us a TON of money!


If you are looking for more information about traveling with kids to Switzerland, please explore these when you are done here:


We stayed at an amazing, family friendly hostel in Interlaken.  We recommend it wholeheartedly to ANYONE visiting the area.  Interlaken was a perfect base for our family to explore the Bernese Oberland which truly showcases the very best of what Switzerland has to offer.

Suggestions for What To Do in Interlaken With Kids

Canyon Walk Aare Gorge Switzerland:

This easily walk through the beautiful Aare Gorge yield stunning views.  There is a playground at one end the kids can make a game out of finding little green worm characters that are hidden in the rock walls.  I can’t take credit for this amazing find.  Check out the Moms, Tots Zurich Blog’s Aare Gorge Page for detailed instructions.

Grindelwald First  / Lake Bachalpsee / Pfinsted Toboggan Run:

This area is awash with stunning scenery and fun stuff to keep the kiddos amused.  The Grindelwald Cable Car will take you up to Grindelwald First where you will find a neat cliff walk and the start to the easy, stroller friendly hike to Lake Backalpsee.  The Pfingstegg Cable Car takes you up a different way to access a summer toboggan run and a small playground.  Glacier Gorge is also close.  It offers an easy hike down a beautiful gorge with a neat “web” feature that you can crawl out on spanning the river below.


Lauterbrunnen Valley Switzerland / Trummelbach Falls hike:

The Lauterbrunnen Valley Switzerland is an area that we really would have liked to have spent more time exploring.  Surrounded by epic mountains, this area has idyllic Swiss villages and lots of beautiful waterfalls to explore.  The Trummelbach Falls hike from Lauterbrunnen is an easy pathway that leads to Trummelbach Falls.  Trummelbach falls is a series of waterfalls that cuts through the rock to funnel the immense volume of glacial melt off from the surrounding mountains.

Trummelbach falls might not be suitable for small children.  It is extremely loud and somewhat dark, wet and slippery.

Schilthorn / Murren / Allmendhubel Switzerland:

This was truly one of our favorite days in Switzerland.  Taking the cable cars to the top of the Schilthorn and exploring the village of Murren and the Allmendhubel Flower Playground at the top of the Allmendhubelbahn (funicular) was something that we all enjoyed.

Harder Kulm:

Taking the funicular to the top of Harder Kulm in Interlaken was a surprise highlight of our trip.  We ended up here on our last day in Interlaken because the weather was bad higher in the mountains.  Harder Kulm is considered Interlaken’s “home” mountain.

The bottom of the funicular is an easy walk, right off of the main street in Interlaken.  The views from the viewing platform of Lake Thun and Lake Briensz were unforgettable and there were a number of Interlaken hiking trails that are accessible from here.

Note:  The Interlaken Visitor Card that you will get if you are staying any Interlaken accomodations gives you a discount for the Harder Kulm funicular as well as a host of other great discounts!



Thun, Switzerland:

Thun Switzerland is a super cute and off the beaten path Swiss village at the opposite end of Lake Thun from Interlaken.  You can either take the train or take a boat cruise across the lake (or do the cruise one way and the train the other.)  There are some great things to do in Thun Switzerland making it an easy daytrips from Interlaken.

St Beatus Caves:

This is a neat cave complex and series of impressive waterfalls not far from Interlaken.  There is a captivating dragon themed playground, making this a good half day option for those looking for Interlaken activities with kids.

Lucerne Switzerland and Mount Rigi:

One could easily spend a few days in exploring Lucerne on its own merits.  If all you have is a day, it is one of the most pleasant daytrips from Interlaken.  You can either DIY this or book a tour for maximum convenience.  The city and its iconic bridge against the backdrop of the mountains are a sight to see.  Mount Rigi is even more impressive – this was one of our favorite days of our trip!

Ballenberg Open Air Museum:

The museum features 250 traditional Swiss buildings in an idyllic mountain setting with farm traditional farm crops and gardens.  This is a really fun day out for those looking for Interlaken Switzerland activities with kids!

This coupon book has a 50% off coupon good for entry into the Ballenberg Open Museum as well as a host of other discounts.

Jungfrau Park:

This will be a nice treat if your kids are just done with mountains and cutesy little villages.  This is an amusement park that has a great indoor and outdoor play area for kids as well as a variety of other shows and amusements.  It is also great for those looking for an option for what to do in Interlaken with kids on a rainy day!

If you are looking for more ideas for what to do in Interlaken with kids, here are some great suggestions from the Interlaken Tourism Folks: www interlaken ch 


]]> 1
Arenal Xilopalo Review – A Diamond in the Rough in La Fortuna Costa Rica Fri, 15 Jun 2018 10:00:00 +0000

We were expecting simple, budget accommodation in La Fortuna.  What we got at Arenal Xilopalo was an experience that touched our hearts and left us yearning to stay far longer than our short stay in Arenal La Fortuna would allow.

If you are looking for things to do Arenal Costa Rica, come back up when you are done to check out some of these other posts from out time in this beautiful jungle paradise!

We chose Arenal Xilopalo Hotel because of its convenient location, close to La Fortuna town.  It is within walking distance of the shops and restaurants in La Fortuna, yet set back in its own tropical oasis.  Arenal Xilopalo is convenient to the Arenal hot springs and other popular Arenal La Fortuna attractions (and your hosts are happily to help with suggestions for things to do Arenal Costa Rica.)

The Arenal Xilopalo Hotel is a family run operation owned by a delightful and entrepreneurial spirit named Jose.  When we arrived, Jose was occupied but Jose’s mom welcomed us with glasses of fresh orange juice while we waited to check in.

When Jose arrived a few minutes later, he hurriedly checked us in so that he could show us some of the trails around the property and one of the resident sloths sleeping in the trees before it got dark. The next night, he caught us and showed us a blue jean frog.

Arenal Xilopalo is truly a work of passion and a work in progress.  Jose clearly has a passion for sharing the land with visitors and in making people feel genuinely welcome.

The hotel came about after Jose’s father got tired of renting apartments. They had previously been in the transportation sector or Costa Rica’s tourism industry, driving folks around.  They decided to try the hotel business and Arenal Xilopalo was born.

Xilopalo itself is a type of petrified wood that is indigenous to the Arenal La Fortuna area.  It is purported to have a number of healing qualities.  You can see beautiful examples of this stone in some of the beautiful sculptures carved by a local artist that grace the hotels lobby.  You can also buy small carved pieces of Xilopalo wood as a lovely souvenir of your time here.

Rooms at Arenal Xilopalo

Arenal Xilopalo currently offers some renovated and some unrenovated rooms. We stayed in one of the unrenovated rooms and it was a little rough around the edges (but a SUPER deal!)  To be honest (until the renovations are completed) if your budget allows for it I would book one of the newly renovated rooms.

The renovated rooms are beautiful, spacious and perfect for a family with kids!  The ones that we saw were up on the second floor. They have a balcony that overlooks the La Fortuna Arenal volcano. They have beautiful, rustic wood walls, kitchens, living rooms and lots of space to spread out.

Rooms at Arenal Xilopalo


Rooms at Arenal Xilopalo

Rooms at Arenal Xilopalo

Rooms at Arenal Xilopalo

Everyone at the hotel was welcoming and helpful with any need that we had. This property is a little rough around the edges now. The lobby and grounds are still in the process of being renovated.  When it is complete Arenal Xilopalo is going to be an amazingly beautiful property (and I am sure the prices will go up accordingly).

Some little details about things that I had read in some Tripadvisor reviews about this place – the WIFI worked great, and AC was cold and the rooms were clean.

Restaurants in Arenal Costa Rica Near Arenal Xilopalo

When you stay Arenal Xilopalo, there is a restaurant at the back end of the property. They offer guests a great deal – $7 for a casado or a hamburger with ice cream and a fresh fruit smoothie. It was honestly not particularly authentic.  It caters almost exclusively to tourists, but the service was fast and the food was good. It is a good option if you need something easy and quick (bring a flashlight if you are walking over there after dark – the path through the jungle back to the hotel is not lit and it was a little spooky at night).

Our FAVORITE La Fortuna Costa Rica restaurant near Arenal Xilopalo is a truly off the beaten path hidden gem.  It is tucked away in an odd parking lot behind some other buildings.  It is called Soda Mima, and you shouldn’t let its rough surroundings dissuade you.  This was some of the best Costa Rican food we ate during the whole trip and one of the best restaurants La Fortuna Costa Rica.

Soda Mima - The best restaurant near Arenal Xilopalo

Soda Mima - The best restaurant near Arenal Xilopalo
Soda Mima - The best restaurant near Arenal Xilopalo
Soda Mima - The best restaurant near Arenal Xilopalo

All of the entrees that we ordered were noteable and worthy, but the taco was especially memorable.  It was HUGE, the meat was tender and well seasoned.  One could have easily fed two people.  We wished that we had found this place sooner – we didn’t get over here until our last day right before we left.  Definitely a must if you are visiting La Fortuna Costa Rica.

In summary, if you are looking for a hotel or hostel La Fortuna Costa Rica with beautiful views of the La Fortuna Arenal Volcano, I can wholeheartedly recommend a stay at Arenal Xilopalo.  The renovated rooms, beautiful surroundings and warm hearts of the family that runs this hotel are more than enough to over look its rough around the edges façade.

]]> 2