TSA PreCheck, Global Entry & Why You Should Get It

U.S. Department of Homeland Security offers five different risk-based programs under their Trusted Traveler Programs: TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST. For the purpose of this blog post, I will only be writing about TSA PreCheck and Global Entry – I have both programs.

TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck is for departures from U.S. airports for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents. Benefits include but is not limited to, no longer needing to remove shoes, laptops, 3-1-1 liquids, belts, or light jackets when going through airport security allowing for an expedited security screening. If you are traveling with a child under the age of 12, they may accompany a parent or guardian with TSA PreCheck on their boarding pass. It currently cost $85 to enroll and if approved, it lasts 5 years.

3 Steps

  1. Apply: Submit an online application, which should take no more than 5-7 minutes and schedule an appointment at any enrollment center.
  2. Enroll: Attend the in-person interview that you scheduled in step 1. At this interview you will provide finger prints, supply citizenship and identity documents.
  3. Enjoy: The perks of having TSA PreCheck once you are approved.

Global Entry

Global Entry (Trusted Traveler Network) is for travel by air, land, and sea for U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, and select foreign nationals. Benefits include reduced wait times with self-service kiosks, no paperwork to be filled out by passengers upon entry, and TSA PreCheck. It currently cost $100 to enroll and if approved, it lasts 5 years.

3 Steps

  1. Apply: Submit application online.
  2. Enroll: Once you enroll and are conditionally approved, you can complete your in-person interview upon arrival to the United States from an international country (this process is called Enrollment on Arrival). If you are not traveling anytime soon, you can also schedule an appointment at an Enrollment Center.
  3. Membership: Once approved, enjoy the benefits for 5 years.

Why You Should Get It

I went with the Global Entry option because I know I travel outside of the United States at least three times a year and I am constantly traveling domestically by air almost every other month. Applying for Global Entry just made the most sense for me. I originally applied in January of 2020. However, I did not hear back from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until November 2020. Applications were really backed up. I assume because of the pandemic. I wasn’t able to schedule my appointment at an Enrollment Center until the end of January 2021. The day of the interview was smooth and easy. At my appointment the individual working there asked me a few questions and then snapped my photo. Then I was provided with my Known Traveler Number and bam! I was in and out in about 15 minutes.

The Known Traveler Number is the number you enter when purchasing flights. By entering this number, the airline will automatically flag you as a traveler with TSA PreCheck and it will be reflected on your boarding pass – mobile and printed.

Two words: Life Saver!

just right on time before the close the gates. More times than I would want, I am the latter. I don’t know if it’s the rush or cause I simply tend to leave things, such as packing, to the very last minute. Having TSA PreCheck has saved my life a number of times this past year. While the regular security line is super long, the TSA PreCheck line has been short – saving me time!

One TSA PreCheck benefit I appreciate so much is not having to take off my shoes, belt, light jackets and not having to take my laptop out of my bag. This makes the process go by super quickly. I will admit though, there was one time I was flying out the Washington Ronald Regan Airport and the TSA PreCheck line was longer than the regular line and I started to panic. I started off in the regular line and when the TSA Officer noticed that I was TSA PreCheck she allowed me to move forward to the conveyor belt as a TSA PreCheck traveler. I am not sure if that will always happen, but I do appreciate that she allowed it that one time.

I have had the opportunity to use Global Entry a few times this year – traveling back to the United States from Aruba, Turks & Caicos, Colombia, and Peru. Going through Global Entry also saves you a lot of time. Not a lot of people have Global Entry, which makes the line much shorter compared to the regular lines.

All in all, I highly recommend enrolling in either of these programs. The cost of each program, the benefits that come with each program and the duration of the program makes it completely worth it.

For more information on both programs, visit the Homeland Security website here.

If you have questions about either program or want to share your personal experience please comment below.

Paracas & Huacachina Full Day Trip with Peru Hop

When traveling to Lima, Peru you must add Paracas and Huacachina to your Peru bucket list . Be ready for a long day of traveling on the road, enjoying a boat tour of Ballestas Islands and sand boarding down the sand dunes of Huacachina.

This full day tour was booked via Peru Hop. Peru Hop is a well known travel company taking many travelers to different cities from the north of Peru all the way to the South. Peru Hop operates on the hop-on-hop-off system where you purchase a single bus ticket and that one ticket takes you to any one of its many stops throughout Peru. This ticket is valid for a year. You can hop on and hop off as many times as you would like and you can stay in each stop for as long as you would like. No need to call a taxi. Peru Hop will literally pick you up and drop you off at your hotel or hostel. This is a great opportunity for solo travelers, backpackers, or for anyone really.

Aside from their option to hop-on-hop-off, they also offer one, two, and three full day trips with the three full day trip including Secret Slave Tunnels, Ballestas Islands, Paracas National Reserve, Pisco Vineyard, and Dune Buggy & Sandboarding. My mom and I booked their one day full day tour including Ballestas Islands (Paracas) and Dune Buggy & Sandboarding (Huacachina) for total of USD $129 per person.

This full day trip includes two destinations with one activity in each location, pick up and drop off from your hotel or hostel, and transportation from Paracas to Huacachina. The only thing not included is food.

Itinerary of the Day

5:30 AM – Hotel pick up and embark on a 4 hour drive to Paracas

10:00 AM – Arrive in Paracas and enjoy a 2 hour boat tour of Ballestas Islands

1:00 PM – Depart Paracas and head to Huacachina

2:30 PM – Arrive in Huacachina. You have about an hour to explore Huacachina

4:00 PM – Dunebuggy and Sandboarding activity lasting about 2 hours

6:15 PM – Grab a quick dinner

7:00 PM – Depart Huacachina and head back to Lima, Peru

1:00 AM – Arrive at Hotel

Paracas – Ballestas Islands

Once you arrive in Paracas you will have some down time before the boat tour to use the bathroom. You will then head to the dock where you will board an approximately 40-person boat. The boat tour lasts about two hours. During this tour you will get to see penguins, sea lions, and more, as well as learn the history of Ballestas Islands. My favorite part of the tour was honestly the sea lions. I am a huge fan of animals and I truly enjoyed watching them in their natural habitat.

After the boat tour we returned to the main land. We were given about an hour to grab lunch. For lunch you have two options: you can either preorder from one specific restaurant through PeruHop before arriving to Paracas or you can select from the many restaurants on the boardwalk where you want to eat. If you go with the first option, the food will be ready for you once you finish the boat tour. If you go with the second option you will have to wait a little bit before getting your food. My mom and I decided to go with the second option.

To be very transparent, I did not get the name of the restaurant we selected because I was having a moment as a result of my pants being soaked from the boat tour. I was extremely uncomfortable. I was able to dry off for the most part before heading back to the bus.

Paracas Boardwalk
Sleeping sea lions
40-person boat tour

Huacachina – Dunebuggy & Sandboarding

Hands down, this was my favorite part of the full day trip with Peru Hop. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America. Remember it is desert so yes, it is hot and sunny. Bring your sunscreen because you will get a tan. You will have about an hour to explore this desert oasis before your two hour dune buggy and sand boarding tour. Walk around, grab something to eat if you like and use the bathroom. There are no bathrooms once you are on the tour.

If you are an adrenaline junkie and you are not afraid of rollercoasters sit in the front of the dune buggy! The buggy takes unexpected turns during the tour so much make sure you safely secured at all times. This was such an amazing experience! I felt like a little kid again, screaming and holding on tightly. After some fun on the buggy we then had the opportunity to sand board down three steep sand dunes. At first, I was hesitant because I was super nervous. However, I am so happy that I took a leap of faith and decided to do it. It is definitely a rush going down the sand dunes.

The very last thing we did, which was a perfect way to end the tour was watch the sunset. It was one of my favorite sunsets I have ever seen. I felt complete serenity and a major sense of gratitude for being able to go on this Peru trip with my mother. After the sunset we were dropped off near the bottom of the desert oasis.

You will have about 45 minutes to grab a quick bite. If you can’t sit and eat, you can definitely order for take-out and eat it on the bus ride back to Lima, Peru.

Sunset from the sand dunes
Enjoying the view


Ballestas Islands – make sure you to sit as close to the front of the boat as possible. If you sit in the back of the boat (last 3 rows) you will get wet because of the wind and waves. The people sitting in the very last row got soaked. I recommend bringing an extra pair of bottoms just in case you have no choice but to sit in the back of the boat.

Dunebuggy & Sandboarding – while on the dunebuggy have your cellphone or any other valuables secured because the vehicle is extremely unpredictable. Your phone may fall out of your hands. This has happened to many travelers in the past. Also, make sure to bring sunglasses because when you are going up and down the sand dunes the velocity of the buggy will cause sand to get into your eyes.


I loved this tour. The only thing I did not enjoy about this tour with Peru Hop is the time we ended up arriving back to our hotel. We left at 7:00pm from Huacachina. It is a four hour drive to Lima, Peru so technically we should have gotten back around 11pm or 11:30pm the latest depending on traffic. However, Peru Hop offers pick up and drop off to your hotel or hostel to all travelers. Meaning we were literally dropping off travelers in most neighborhoods once we arrived in Lima, which made our drop off time a little after 1:00am. My mom and I were exhausted. Other than that, I 100% recommend Peru Hop for this experience.

How I Spent 48 Hours in Santa Marta, Colombia

Santa Marta – known for its colonial architecture- is the first Spanish settlement of Colombia. Santa Marta is a small city located on the northwest side of Colombia about 4 hours (driving) from Cartagena and an hour flight from Medellín. If you are visiting Cartagena and interested exploring smaller areas of Colombia, I do recommend a visit to Santa Marta. Although, I was only in Santa Marta for about 48 hours (2 nights) I am extremely satisfied with what I was able to accomplish.

Getting There

  1. From Cartagena – Your best and cheapest option is to take a bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta. The trip takes about 3-4 hours for a total cost of 65,000 pesos when traveling with Berlinastur. You don’t need to purchase tickets in advance. However, you can if you want. There is a bus that leaves almost at every hour of the day. There is about a 30 minute layover in Barranquilla, where you can get off the bus, stretch your legs, use the bathroom, and purchase snacks if you’d like. (FYI: all Berlinastur bus terminals charge you 1,000 pesos to use the bathroom). Berlinastur offers air conditioner and wifi on board. Overall, it was a smooth ride.
    • You can take a flight from Cartagena to Santa Marta. However, there are no direct flights. It would take roughly the same amount of time if not more to take a non-direct flight from to Santa Marta as taking a bus. I highly recommend ground transportation.
  2. From Medellín – The fastest way to travel to Santa Marta would be taking a direct flight from MDE to SMR (usually 1 hour & 10 minutes). Flights range between $50 to $200 depending on the airline and the season. You can book flights through LATAM, Avianca, and Viva Air.
    • You can take ground transportation if you would like. However, Medellín to Santa Marta is about 520 miles which is a little hours 14 hours on a direct shot on route 45.

Where to Stay

You have the option of staying in the center of Santa Marta which is what most tourists opt to do or you can stay in the outskirts of Santa Marta, which is what my mom and I decided to do. Only reason for this was because of the location of our hotel. We were highly recommended to stay at Irotama Resort – located about 15 minutes from the center of Santa Marta. If you decide to stay at this resort, I recommend staying in El Lago tower. It is the newest tower at the resort with a beautiful entrance. We were instantly greeted by the hotel staff and offered a welcome drink from the bar.

Irotama Resort also offers villas and bungalows. The concept is super cute. However, you don’t get the same view as if you were you stay in El Lago tower. There are three pools, one of which is a kids pool, and access to the beach. I spent most of my time in the pool located on the 3rd floor. There were less kids there and cute pool side seating.

Our stay included a buffet style breakfast from their Coco Bar Cafeteria. There are other food options on the premise, such as Luruaco, Chiaro di Luna, Barra Viva, La Carreta, and more. I enjoyed their food.

They basically served the same options everyday in Coco Bar Cafeteria. A variety of fruits, arepas with different types of cheese, meat options, pan de queso, smoothies, and cereal just to name a few.

Irotama Resort has their own taxi drivers which is what we used to get to the center of Santa Marta. This service was not included in our stay. We had to pay 20,000 pesos each way.

Food and Drinks

Donde Chucho – is a well known seafood restaurant in Santa Marta with two locations, one is located in el Parque de los Novios and the second one is in the main city of Santa Marta. I ordered Langosta al Ajillo (grilled lobster) with a side of French fries for $65,000 pesos. This dish was absolutely delicious and well cooked. One of the best lobsters I have ever indulged in. The service was great and it was super busy so keep that in mind. Reservations are not required, but I do recommend it if you for sure want to dine here.

Restaurante LamArt – also known for their seafood menu, is located near Los Parques de Los Novios. Here I ordered Pulpo a la Gallera (grilled octopus on top of mashed potatoes) as an appetizer for 29,000 pesos, and Pasta Negra con Camarones y Calamares (black pasta with shrimp, calamari, and muscles) as the main meal for 38,000 pesos. Both items on the menu were delicious. I am a huge seafood lover, and octopus is definitely in my top 3! This restaurant’s octopus was delicious.

Holguer Pizza – Italian restaurant with a super chill ambiance. Entering this restaurant made me feel like I was stepping into Italy with the decor and the overall vibe to the place. I ordered a Napolitana Pizza for 18,400 pesos. If you are in the mood for some pizza, I would highly recommend this place. The service was great and the pizza was delicious.

Gnam Gelateria – if you are a fan of ice cream or even if you are not, this is a must! I tried their arequipe gelato and it was delicious. They have a variety of flavors and a beautiful mural of a young girl right outside the ice cream shop. You won’t miss it! If you like to add fruits to your ice cream, and other toppings, they have that option as well.

Oficina – is a must for drinks. They have happy hour all night – two drinks for 20,000 pesos. Drinks include but are not limited to, margaritas, gin tonic, mojitos, Cuba libre, and piña coladas. I was unable to find their website. However, it is located in the Parque de los Novios before you reach Holguer Pizza. If you’ve reached Holguer Pizza you’ve gone too far.

What to Do

Aside from enjoying the resort amenities, there was a lot of time spent walking around el Parque de los Novios and exploring a little further out to the beachfront. My mom and I decided not to partake in the many excursions offered from Santa Marta because we really wanted to just relax on this leg of our two week Colombia trip. If you are interested in further exploring Santa Marta and doing excursions, here are the top 3 must do activities:

  1. Tayrona National Park – known for its rich biodiversity, is about a 30 minute drive from Santa Marta. This National Park offers palm-shaped coves, coastal lagoons and rainforest.
  2. Playa Blanca – if you are looking to experience a beach day while in Santa Marta, Playa Blanca is where you must go. This beach is only located about 15 minutes from the center of Santa Marta. You can take a car, bus or taxi.
  3. Minca – considered one of Colombia’s hidden gems, is about a 40 minute drive from Santa Marta. If you have a car you can drive or you can simply take a taxi. Taxi’s leave Santa Marta frequently throughout the day. Take a day trip to Minca and hike up Los Pinos or take a dip in Pozo Azul. If you consider yourself a nature lover and adventurous traveler, Minca is for you.

Is Santa Marta Worth Visiting?

In my honest opinion, Santa Marta is worth visiting. I never heard of it before and I am glad my mother made sure to add it to our Colombia tour. Santa Martha is small town with a variety of things to do specially in the surrounding area. The food was absolutely delicious and the overall feel of the location was super welcoming and calming. It was a nice break from the life in Medellín and Cartagena.

Top 5 Favorite Travel Apps

Let’s talk about travel apps! There’s so many apps out there, each serving its own unique purpose. There’s apps for specific airlines, flight deals, ground transportation, experiences, activities, and excursions. There’s apps for solo female travelers, downloadable maps, and so much more! 

Here I have compiled a list of my top 5 favorite travel apps that I use when planning a trip and while traveling:

1. Secret Flying:  

This travel app provides free alerts of flight deals, both cheap flights and error fares. The flight deals provided are from your departing home city and other main airports around the world. Secret Flying provides airfare prices for either one way tickets and/or roundtrip flights, as well as specific travel dates (usually month-to-month), and the airline(s). 

Once I see a flight deal provided by Secret Flying (one that speaks to my travel bucket list), I make my way over to google.com/flights to further search on the flight deal. Most of the flight deals I have purchased is BIG thanks to Secret Flying. 

2. Hopper:  

This is a flight and hotel app. To be honest, I only use this app for flights. I have not explored the hotel section of the app. You tell Hopper where you want to go and then it shows you a breakdown of the prices for one way flights and/or roundtrip flights.

The prices are color coordinated –
Green: being the most inexpensive option
Yellow: being inexpensive, but still more money than the cheapest option
Orange: being expensive
Red: being the most expensive option

Once you have reached the point where you are seeing all of the different price options for your specific location you can either decide to purchase the flight as is or select “watch this trip”. Hopper predicts whether or not the prices are likely to decrease or increase for your exact travel dates. 

3. Airbnb:  

This is an accommodation and experiences app. I absolutely love, love, love this app! To be honest, I prefer to stay in a cute, modern, centralized Airbnb accommodation rather than a hotel. Although, some Airbnb accommodation options are in hotels so that’s a plus for travelers who prefer hotels. This app allows travelers to find just the right Airbnb in almost every single destination across the world. When searching for Airbnbs in a specific location this app allows travelers to save their searches. Travelers can create a number of different saved lists for different locations. 
What is also great about this app is the different experience options provided for all types of travelers including solo, couples, and groups. Travelers can purchase experiences ranging from tour guides, city walks, bar crawls, salsa lessons, animal encounters, and more! 
Even if you decide not to use this travel app to find your accommodation, I would definitely recommend using it for excursions and overall things to do. If you currently do not have an Airbnb account, use this referral link to save up to $55 on your first stay.

4. Maps.Me: 

This is a geographic travel app. Maps.Me will literally provide you with a map of anywhere in the world.

Before I depart to start my travel adventures I always search the map of the city I will be staying in and I download it. Downloading the map before arriving to my international destination allows me to access the map without being connected to WiFi/internet. This is useful because it is not guaranteed that I will have access, depending on where I am.

​Sometimes I opt in to having the daily $10 international charge, but not always because it can become pricey especially if you are traveling for a long period of time. Maps.Me assists me in getting from point A to point B without getting lost.

5. Mobile Pass: 

This is the Mobile Passport app. It allows U.S. citizen and Canadian passport holders to proceed through an expedited entry to submit  their passport and declaration information to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.
​Thanks to this app you can put away the pen and paper because you can complete all the necessary information/paperwork online. All in the comfort of your mobile device.  I love apps that makes the actual act of traveling from one country to another just a little bit more smooth, especially when you are returning to your home country.

Again, the apps mentioned above are only the top 5 travel apps I personally use frequently. I know there are so many more great apps out there. Travel apps such as Skyscanner, Red Zone, Tourlina, Booking.com, Hostel World (the list goes on) were not included on this list but are still great and super useful.  


Reasons Why You Should Spend a Weekend in DC

I have been living in DC for a year and a half now, and I can honestly say that I love living here – it’s my second home. I moved here for work right after graduate school because it was a great opportunity, and I knew I wanted something different. DC is a diverse metropolitan area filled with life. I am a young, Afro-Latinx, who is a proud city girl, so I knew this was the place to be! One of my favorite things about DC is that there is always something to do, places to see, restaurants to experience, and the ability to brunch every weekend! I didn’t know brunch was a thing until I moved to DC, and honestly, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I freaking love brunch! 

I live in the Georgetown neighborhood, which is on the Northwest side of DC (close to the Virginia state border). Although I’m not in the center of it all, I am happy to be close to some of my favorite parts of DC with access to the metro system, which is super easy to use once you get the hang of it!

I think of DC as the place where anyone can go no matter their interest because they will always find something to do. DC is home to a number of different food festivals, music festivals and more. You can catch a baseball game – huge shoutout to the Nationals for winning this year’s World Series! You can check out many DC theaters and enjoy a current film. If you like playing boardgames there are a number of restaurants, and chill spots where you can hang alone or with friends and they have board games you can borrow. I promise you whatever your interests are there is a place here for you to simply enjoy yourself over a weekend or longer! 

In this blog post, you’ll see a some information about LGBT friendly areas, things to do, restaurants for Sunday brunch, happy hour and other occasions, day parties, nightlife, and more! This is only some things out of many things you can do here! Eventbrite is also your best friend when trying to find things to do in DC at any moment. Everyday there are a number of events and things to do! Be open to explore and don’t be afraid to get lost in the streets of DC. You’ll end up somewhere you didn’t know you would enjoy!

LGBT Friendly

Washington DC is one of the most welcoming, LGBT friendly area in the nation. There is a variety of LGBT friendly restaurants, bars, lounges, and neighborhoods that you can explore:

Nellie’s Sports Bar – DC’s first gay sports bar! For more information visit their website here.

Explore Dupont Circle – LGBT friendly neighborhood in DC filled with restaurants, bars, lounges, and mini shops! You can also experience a number of outdoor activities during warm weather. 

Red Bear Brewing Co. – DC’s 100% gay-owned brewery. Stop by if you are interested in tasting a variety of IPA’s and/or other brews. For more information visit their website here

Embassy Row Hotel Rooftop – located in Dupont Circle, this hotel is part of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, and it is considered to have one of the best rooftop pool in America. For more information visit their website here

DC Pride Parade – this parade usually takes place the first weekend of June. However, it is super fun and it attracts many people from all over the country. ​

Other Gay Bars:

  • JR’s Bar & Grill
  • Duplex Diner
  • The Dirty Goose
  • Larry’s Lounge
  • ​Number Nine
  • Pitchers & A League of Her Own
  • Orchid 
  • The Fireplace
  • Trade
  • Green Lantern
  • The DC Eagle

​Note: Many of the places mentioned above are regularly visited by white people. I have not been able to find many bars that are LGBT friendly and many visited by people of color.

Things to Do

Go check out:

  • White House
  • United States Capitol 
  • Supreme Court of the United States
  • Washington Monument
  • Lincoln Memorial
  • Reflecting Pool
  • MLK Jr. Memorial
  • World War II Memorial
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial
  • Korean War Veterans Memorial
  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Smithsonian Fun – free entrance:

  • ​National Museum of American American History & Culture
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Art
  • Hirschhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden
  • National Portrait Gallery
  • National Gallery of Art
  • ​Air and Space Museum 
  • National Zoo
  • ​American Indian Museum 
  • ​Postal Museum

Other Things to Check Out:

  • Artechouse
  • Union Market 
  • CityCenter DC
  • Street Art 
  • GLOW DC (Dec.-Jan.)
  • United States Botanic Garden
Brunch/Happy Hour/Restaurants!


  • Madhatter (American)
  • HalfSmoke (American)
  • Boqueria (Tapas)
  • Southern Hospitality 
  • Nick’s Riverside Grill 
  • Founding Farmers DC

Happy Hour 

  • El Centro (Mexican)
  • Barcelona Wine Bar (Tapas)
  • Mission (American)
  • HalfSmoke (American)
  • Chicken & Whiskey
  • El Rey (Mexican)
  • Church Hall (American)

Other Restaurants 

  • Los Hermanos (Dominican)
  • Farmer’s Fishers Bakers
  • Guapos (Mexican)
  • Sushi Para
  • Mai Thai (Thai)
  • Smoke & Barrel (American)
  • Busboys and Poets 
  • Cedar Restaurant

These are places that I have personally gone to eat either during a Sunday Brunch, Happy Hour, and/or just to eat on a regular occasion.

Day Parties & Nightlife

Weekend Day Parties & Nightlife: Bars, Lounges and Clubs

  • Lost Society
  • Ozio Martini & Cigar Lounge
  • Marvin’s
  • Diet Starts Monday
  • Rosebar Lounge
  • Saint Yves
  • Gryphon
  • Abigail
  • Bravo Bravo 
  • Cafe Citron
  • Big Chief
  • Pure Lounge

Hookah Available 

  • Lost Society
  • Ozio Martini & Cigar Lounge
  • Chi-Cha Lounge
  • Rosebar Lounge
  • Saint Yves 
  • Pure Lounge

Tulum is a Seafood Lover’s Paradise

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I am a huge foodie! It’s the second, if not first thing, I focus on when traveling. I want to the experience the best of the best meals (and drinks). Both, in popular, well-known restaurants, but also hidden gems. Tulum is THE spot for amazing food, especially if you are a fan of seafood! It’s been 5 years since I became a pescatarian. 

Tulum truly is a seafood lover’s paradise. I expected to eat a lot of tacos when in Tulum, which I did.

However, I also tried other meals such as grilled avocados with nuts, grilled octopus, crab soup, matcha smoothie bowls, and more! 

When it comes to food, be ready to spend money in Tulum. If you are eating at any of the restaurants located on the beach, you will be spending a good amount of money on your meal. If you eat in Tulum town then you can expect much better prices if you are traveling on a budget. 

Below you will find a list of my favorite food spots in Tulum! A little bit of breakfast, lunch, and dinner options for all (not just seafood lovers like myself)! 

Gitano – is a Mexican restaurant with a jungle like environment, offering a variety of small and large plates. We ordered shrimp tacos (240 pesos), grilled avocados (240 pesos), grilled octopus (280 pesos), ceviche (300 pesos), and mahi mahi tosada (220 pesos). We absolutely fell in love with the grilled octopus so we ended up ordering it again! First meal in Tulum was a success! Gitano set the bar high for all the meals that came after. 

Rosa Negra – is a tribute to Latin American Culture. There menu is made up of cuisines from Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, and of course Mexico. We ordered arroz de mariscos (seafood rice – 545 pesos), bisque de cangrejo (crab soup – 395 pesos), salmon al sarten (grilled salmon – 615 pesos), and tostados de atun (tuna toast – 430 pesos). 

Rosa Negra is in my top 2 favorite restaurants in Tulum! Please go and check out for yourself why! They recently opened up, so they aren’t as well known as they should be by tourists. ​Located right across from Gitano. 

Tora – is a contemporary Japanese cuisine restaurant. The service in the restaurant was honestly one of the best services I have ever received. The attention the waiters and even the head chef gave us was indescribable. We ordered arroz con cangrejo (crab rice – 540 pesos), open temaki salmon (raw salmon toast – 255 pesos), rollos camaron tempura (shrimp tempura roll – 395 pesos), sopa miso tofu (miso soup – 150 pesos), and two infusion balls, which are crystal balls with alcohol and natural fruit flavor (260 pesos each). 

Philosophy – is the main restaurant in hotel Casa Malca, offering traditional Mexican cuisines. We ordered guacamole, shrimp tacos and grilled octopus. Unfortunately, I can’t recall the prices for each dish. However, it was a total of 1000 pesos for each person to enter hotel Casa Malca and that was used as credit towards their menu. We had 2000 pesos on credit during our time at hotel Casa Malca.

Emilia Tulum – is a Mexican restaurant located in the main town of Tulum. We each ordered three fried shrimp tacos (585 pesos), and drinks – margarita (125 pesos) and mai tai (160 pesos). Emilia is the only restaurant we experienced in the town of Tulum and it was absolutely delicious. Emilia restaurant is located near Mi Cielo Hotel Boutique. 

Matcha Mama – is a plant based restaurant. Food options range from matcha to smoothies, bowls, açai, kombucha and more! We ordered Matcha Colada bowl, which has matcha, banana, kiwi, almonds, and coconut (180 pesos), and Mango Tango bowl, which has mangos, plantains, ginger, honey, vanilla, chia seeds, and passion fruit (200 pesos). It was a great breakfast option before heading to the airport! 

Raw Love Cafe – is a vegan restaurant located on Ahau Tulum’s property. We ordered a maca vanilla bowl (200 pesos), avocado toast (190 pesos), and a chocolate dream bowl (210 pesos). This is more than enough for two people. The bowls are extremely filling. We could have honestly done well without the order of the avocado toast, but it was so good! FYI – they accept cash only!

The food in Tulum is to die for. Like I said, I enjoyed a lot of tacos. However, I was able to try so many new dishes. In the process, I learned something new about myself – I absolutely LOVE grilled octopus! What was your favorite dish in Tulum?

Most Instagrammable Places in Tulum

Tulum is heaven for fans of Instagrammable places! While being here it was a bit hard to put down my phone because I wanted to take a picture of everything. Almost everywhere you go you will find an Instagrammable photo opportunity ready to be taken. Make sure to have your phone or camera ready! Every time I travel, I always try to find the cutest, most artsy, and eye appealing places to take photos of. Tulum is perfect for all of the above! 

I decided to compile a list of my top 5 favorite spots where I captured my favorite photos while in Tulum. Make sure to make your way all the way down to the end of this post, I added a bonus location just for your enjoyment! 

1. Pablo Escobar’s Mansion

This is a must! I purchased Casa Malca’s Beach Club day pass for 1000 pesos. This day pass granted me access to Pablo Escobar’s Mansion. Once you are on the beach side make sure to find the statue of the big head and go through the door behind the statue. Once you go through the door you will find kaws work, the floating couch with the white dress curtains, a beautiful bathtub, and more! 

2. Matcha Mama

A vegan restaurant located on the main Tulum beach road. This is the most visited location for a great Instagrammable spot in Tulum. Matcha Mama is famous for their “I love Tulum so Matcha” sign and their cute swings.

3. Cenote Calavera

About a 10 minute drive from Tulum town. There is a 100 peso entrance fee. Parking is limited and free. Cenote Calavera is a great photo opp, mainly known for their ladder and swing found in the cenote. 

I would recommend going super early in the day or during the last hour of their hours of operation. It is a high tourist spot, which makes it difficult to capture a photo without people in the background.

​Luckily, I was able to capture this photo when most people were out of the cenote or on the other side. 

4. Raw Love Cafe (Wooden Structure)

It is home to a beautiful hotel, Ahau Tulum, and a vegan restaurant, Raw Love Cafe. As you’re on the main road in Tulum Beach, you will not miss it. I would say the best way to find this wooden structure is by putting Raw Love Cafe in your GPS. There is free parking across the street, but only if you are staying at the hotel and eating at Raw Love Cafe. Other than that I would recommend walking and/or riding a bike. 

5. Azulik

 A 4 star hotel with a restaurant, a sunset experience, and amazing views of Tulum, located on the main road of Tulum Beach. If you aren’t staying at the hotel, I would recommend doing the sunset experience for $50 USD to get you inside of the property. Once you are inside, find your way to the top where you can capture a photo of a beautiful bridge, and unique seating as well. 

Note: the staff can be a bit mean in the sense that they aren’t open to allowing people to really explore the property to capture photos. I would say be as nice as possible and work your magic. 

6. Chichen Itza

one of the seven world wonders, home to Kulkulkan Pyramid. I would recommend getting there as soon as they open, 9am. I arrived at 10:30am and there were a bunch of tourist groups. This made it difficult to capture photos without people in the background. Luckily, I managed to capture a couple of good ones, but it was a struggle. Keep in mind there is a 78 peso toll each way. 

What are your favorite Instagrammable places in Tulum?

Bali Food Heaven

Food, food, food! Who doesn’t love food? I’m a huge food lover and Bali really amazed me with their food options, especially as a pescatarian. It was interesting because I ate more vegan food than ever before!

I wouldn’t say the food I ate in Bali is authentic Balinese food. I do wish I could have done a better job with being intentional in eating more Balinese food.

These restaurants were decided based on Google and Pinterest searches for recommendations. However, I did enjoy eating at the restaurants captured below. I was able to learn new things about myself through this experience: I love passion fruit, dragonfruit, banana fritters, pad thai and most importantly I love eating vegan food.

There were times when I missed eating shrimp, salmon, fish, and cheese, but I was just fine without it. Perhaps going vegan might be something I might want to try in the future. 

I am supposed to go vegan for the month of February. I am including this in my blog as a way to hold myself accountable since I have shared it with all of you.

Bali Cocoa Park – located in Ubud, is a park with activities as well as a restaurant. This is the first restaurant we went to for lunch. The food was absolutely delicious and the service was even better. My travel buddy and I were the first to eat there this day and the waiter brought us a plate of passion fruit on the house. I ordered a dragon fruit juice (20,000 IDR), seafood pasta (65,000 IDR) and banana fritters (40,000 IDR). Full meal, including a drink and dessert, for about $9 USD. I found it to be extremely inexpensive.

Alchemy – located in Ubud, is a raw, vegan and organic restaurant. We had our Thanksgiving dinner here and it was delicious. Alchemy was having a Thanksgiving dinner special: main course, juice, and dessert for 185,000 IDR (about $14 USD). I ended up ordering a Philadelphia Mami Nori (sushi), melon blush juice which consists of pineapple, watermelon and lime, and a cloud 9 dessert, which is a vanilla “cheese” cake and raspberry oculus. If you are a fan of vegan food, I highly highly recommend! 

The Elephant – located in Ubud, this restaurant is 100% vegetarian. However, most dishes are easily adjustable to vegan and gluten free options if needed. I ordered pad thai (95,000 IDR), mango dragon fruit smoothie (45,000 IDR), and a sticky rice pudding (40,000 IDR) for dessert. Roughly about $13.50 USD. I loved loved loved this restaurant. The food was delicious, and the smoothie was to die for. Bali made me realize how much I love dragonfruit. Now I want to have it all the time!

Kynd Community – located in Seminyak, Bali is a plant based (vegan) restaurant. It is the #1 vegan restaurant in Seminyak, not only for it’s amazing Instagrammable opportunities, but for it’s amazing food. The chiefs put in time in creating each item that arrives on the table of every client. You can tell with the taste and the attention to detail. This is the last restaurant my travel buddy and I ate at before heading to the airport. I ordered a berries & cream smoothie (59,000 IDR) and paradise pancakes (80,000 IDR). Roughly about $10USD. Next door they have an ice cream spot where you can get a half coconut filled with ice cream and cute edible decor!

What are some restaurants in Bali you would recommend for first timers, those with specific dietary restrictions, etc.?

Visiting Bali is a Must and Here is Why!

Bali is an Indonesian island, located in Southeast Asia, mainly known for its rice fields, beaches, and intense focus on self care – gotta love all their spa options. 
I didn’t have any expectations going to Bali and I’m honestly glad I didn’t. Bali truly blew me away. I fell in love with this island. Since the moment I stepped foot out of the airplane I felt this immediate feeling of pure tranquility (perhaps it was the music playing in the background at the Denpasar airport). Everyone I met was super kind and willing to help. 

Bali really is like all the images you see on social media. However, one thing that isn’t mentioned is how gentrified Bali is becoming. I noticed it mainly at the restaurants and in specific areas where there were so many white individuals rather than Balinese. There is a huge increase of tourists in the area. I would still highly recommend visiting Bali if you have never been. ​

Fun fact: If you have a newborn baby you are expected to carry the baby until they reach three months. After the three month mark, the baby is able to touch the ground. 

Where to Stay

Think about the type of experience you are hoping to gain from Bali. Are you wanting experience what it might be like in the heart of Bali – Ubud, or are you wanting to be in more of a tourist area with resorts and beaches? On this trip to Bali, I stayed in Ubud at Rumah Sekar’s Bed & Breakfast. I booked this accommodation via Airbnb. (If you have never signed up for an Airbnb account, use this referral link to save up to $55 on your first stay.) 

If you are wanting to stay in Ubud, I would highly recommend staying at Rumah Sekar’s Bed & Breakfast. There are a total of four private bedrooms with their own private bathroom and balcony/eating area. Rumah is extremely sweet. She helped us get in contact with a personal driver and we ended up hiring him everyday, which made exploring Ubud and part of Seminyak a bit easier. 

Every night Rumah would ask what breakfast option I wanted to eat (there’s four to choose from) and every morning I was super excited to eat breakfast with an amazing view of a rice field. Rumah does have a pool and I enjoyed it once after a day of sightseeing. It was a great way to decompress after a long day. 

If you are wanting to have a more resort, beach vibes type of experience I would definitely recommend staying in Seminyak. ​There’s a strip with many hotels/resorts and beaches such as: 

Aksari Villas Seminyak – Offers a one bedroom villa with private bathroom, pool, and jacuzzi. Great for solo travelers, two travelers, and couples. Depending on the time of year you will spend about $130-$165 a night. This is ranked #2 out of all the hotels in Seminyak. 

L Hotel Seminyak – offers a more contemporary chic decor for a traveler on a budget. Depending on the time of year you can expect to spend about $50 a night. Great for all travelers. 

Double Six Beach (Luxury hotel) – This hotel offers single bedroom suites to two bedroom suites with a private pool to a penthouse. Great for all travelers. Depending on the time of year expect to spend around $350 a night for the most inexpensive option. 

Things to Do

Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary – is a conversed area based on the concept of Tri Hita Karana which translates to “three ways to reach spiritual and physical well being. When visiting the monkey sanctuary DO NOT bring a plastic or paper bag, do not bring plastic bottles, do not bring any type of food, do not pet the monkeys nor look them in the eye, do not approach baby monkeys, and do not  scream/run if a monkey makes contact with you. 

Lempuyang Temple – also known as the Gates of Heaven, is located about 3 hours from Ubud. This is a must see location in Bali. Unfortunately I was not able to go this time around, but it is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to Bali. I did my research though, definitely go early in the morning because the line is extremely long. You are only given about three shots before the next person gets to go up. 

Tegallalang Rice Terrence – is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Bali. There is an entrance fee of 15,000 IDR. However, when I went it was totally free. All I had to pay for was the super extreme swing experience which was 224,000 IDR including tax. There are other activities you can participate in. Biggest recommendation with this location is to bring water and sunscreen! The heat/sun I took in during my time here legit almost caused me to pass out because I didn’t stay hydrated. 

Tirta Empul Temple – is a Hindu Balinese water temple located outside of Ubud. The temple consists of bathing structures where Balinese Hindus go for purification rituals. There are two sections of water with the bathing structures. I would definitely recommend doing your research before visiting this temple and participating in the purification because each bathing structure means something. Not all bathing structures are meant to be used. 

Real Bali Swing – definitely one of the most famous Instagram spots in all of Bali. There are many swings in Bali. However, this is the Bali swing (hence the word real in front of the words). They offer swing, rafting, elephant rides, tours and more! 

Goa Gajah – also known as the elephant cave, serves as a sanctuary. I would definitely recommend checking this site out. FYI – if you are currently on your menstrual cycle it is recommended that you do not enter out of respect for the Balinese culture and beliefs. When you are on your menstrual cycle, it is believed that you are not entering in your most purified self.  ​​


1. Hire a private driver to explore the island of Bali. This makes it easier for pick up and drop off at different tourist sights. It also allows you to meet and learn from a local. It is a small way to help local businesses, knowing your money is going straight to the individual. On the first day our private driver charged us 600,000 IDR which is about $45 – $45 for a full day of driving from tourist spot to tourist spot for two people is amazing! 

2. Make sure you plan in advance a day to day itinerary if where you would like to go. There are many places to see in and/or around Ubud. However, many of the sights I mentioned above are about 1-3 hours from Ubud. 

3. Take some time in getting to know the Indonesian currency and the conversion rate of your specific country. For first two days I was a bit lost and I am pretty sure I probably overpaid someone. The smallest bill is 1,000 and the largest bill is 100,000. Do not get the bills confused. 

4. For recommendations on places to eat in Ubud and Seminyak visit my Bali Food Heaven blog post. 

Bali, oh Bali. I wish I would have known that four nights was not enough. Dedicate at least 7-10 days in Bali if you really want to explore different parts of the island. Bali is definitely a location I will be revisiting in the near future. Have you ever traveled to Bali?

How I Spent 50 Hours in Singapore

What comes to mind when you think of Singapore? Aside from my high school math teacher, for me the movie Crazy Rich Asians comes to mind. Ever since I watched the movie in the movie  theater, I instantly added Singapore to my bucket list. Crazy Rich Asians does a great job in showing the main attractions. However, you need to go to Singapore to experience it first-hand. There is way more to Singapore than just what the movie depicts. The best part is – Singapore was only a $20 flight from Kuala Lumpur, so I asked myself why not? Singapore it is! 

Singapore is an island city-state located approximately one degree north of the equator in Southeast Asia. In addition to Singapore’s main island, the nation includes 63 islands, most of which are uninhabited. It is one of the cleanest and safest countries in the world. So if you are thinking of traveling solo to Singapore – let this serve as the sign you need to do it!

Guess what? Singapore uses Grab (similar to Uber and Lyft) as a form of transportation! Make sure to download the app and set up your account before you fly into the country.

Singapore is not as expensive as people make it out to be. It is definitely more expensive than other Asian countries, but it is not expensive compared to the cost of things in the United States – mainly DC, which is where I live. The currency exchange is $1 USD = 1.35 Singapore Dollar.

Fun fact: It is illegal to chew gum in Singapore. Don’t even think about it. ​​

Where to Stay

Singapore is a small country – I stayed near Little India. It is not located in the city center of Singapore. However, it wasn’t hard to get around within the two days I was there. I can say that housing in Singapore is a bit pricey. My travel buddy and I stayed at an Airbnb for two nights. (If you have never signed up for an Airbnb account, use this referral link to save up to $55 on your first stay.) The total cost for the two nights including fees was $98.25. If you think about it, it is not bad at all. However, that is because we stayed in a townhouse in a private room. The room had it’s own private shower. As for the toilet that was shared with everyone else in the house. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it wasn’t horrible either. There was a helper who lives in the house, and she was super nice. She was a life saver because the plug converted I was traveling with did not connect to the outlets in Singapore. Overall, hotels and entire apartment options on Airbnb are super expensive per night so keep that in mind. Housing is the only thing I would say was expensive in Singapore. 

The closer you are to the downtown area, the more expensive the stay is going to be. That is a fact anywhere you go. If possible, I would recommend staying in the city center. If you can’t then Little India is a great location, especially if you plan on exploring that neighborhood. 

Day One

Checked in and dropped off our belongings at the Airbnb. Walked around the corner and ate lunch at Twenty Eight Cafe. I ordered their salmon mac and cheese ($22 SGD). It was my first time having salmon mac and cheese, and it was really good actually. That or I was just really hungry.

After enjoying a much needed lunch we walked about 30 minutes to Marina Bay Sands located in downtown. Marina Bay Sands is the must stay at hotel with a rooftop infinity pool. It is about $400 a night in their most inexpensive room. Aside from being a hotel, it is connected to a shopping center. Made a quick stop at Pandora (I collect exclusive pandora charms from every country I visit).

Once I purchased my pandora charm we made our way to Gardens by the Bay where we saw the beautiful Supertree Grove.

There are a total of 18 Supertrees, two of which are connected by a Skyway. It is free to see the Supertree Grove. However, if you want to access the OCBC Skyway there is a fee of $8 SGD. The view you see from the Skyway is totally worth the fee. You can see the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands and more!

After we experienced the Supertree Grove we got a little bit lost trying to find the Grab/Taxi pick up point. It almost felt like we were walking around in circles trying to find it. Once we did, we hopped in a Grab and made our way to Merlion Park.

Merlion Park is a famous Singapore tourist attraction, home to the Merlion. Merlion is a mythical creature with a lion’s head and the body of a fish, it is the well-known tourist icon of Singapore.

We went to park around 6:30pm and there were so many tourists there. It was difficult to capture a shot without people in the background. I would recommend going early in the morning if possible to avoid the crowd.

Near Merlion Park there are a bunch of restaurants, which is great for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. We did a walk through of all the restaurants, checked out their menus and decided where we wanted to eat from there.

Dinner at The Pelican it is! The Pelican, located directly across from Marina Bay Sands, is known for its seafood and steak. I ordered the clam linguini pasta ($28 SGD). It was so so good! It reminded me of the seafood pasta I once had in Venice. If you are a happy hour fan, The Pelican is the place to be with happy hour 1 for 1 on Monday-Thursday 12pm-3pm and 5pm-9pm, and Friday 12pm-9pm.

Day Two

Breakfast at Wild Honey, located in Mandarin Gallery on Orchard Road, was awarded Trip Advisor’s Excellence Certificate of the Year. You must, I repeat you must, eat at this restaurant when you travel to Singapore. It was my favorite restaurant in Singapore. I ordered the Norwegian breakfast toast, which is an avocado, grilled asparagus spears, poached eggs wrapped with Norwegian smoked salmon, Hollandaise sauce & salmon pearls on wholewheat brioche ($28 SGD) and a Queen Bee kombucha ($10 SGD). This was the first time that I’ve had asparagus in my breakfast and honestly it was delicious. Here is an updated link of their menu.

After breakfast at Wild Honey, we hopped on bus #65 and stopped at Tekka Place. Tekka Place is the bus stop for Little India. Little India is known for its traditional Indian restaurants.

The photo you see with the colorful background was taken on the side of the House of Tan Teng Niah, which is a two story colorful villa

This is one of the few remaining Chinese structures in Little India. 

After exploring Little India make sure you make your way to Haji Lane – walking distance.

Haji Lane is filled with shops, restaurants, bars, street art and more. We entered a few shops, tried on clothes, and enjoyed the street art until we had to make our way back to Orchard Road for our 4:30pm time slot to The Bubble Tea Factory! Tickets were $25 per person, and it was the best $25 I have ever spent. One of my favorite parts of this trip was experiencing The Bubble Tea Factory. The amount of creativity that was used in every room was out of this world. I kid you not, it was my favorite pop up museum that I have ever attended. Not only was the creativity on a high, the creators made an interactive activity where it encouraged you to speak with other visitors in the factory. I hope the creators of The Bubble Tea Factory decide to take this pop up museum to the United States.

After my travel buddy and I spent about three hours enjoying the greatness of The Bubble Tea Factory we knew it was ready for dinner. We walked over to Violet Oon located in Ion Orchard – shopping center. Here I ordered Dry Laska ($25 USD) which is their wide rice noodles with prawns, vegetables, and their special laska gravy. We had a super long day. Once dinner was over we made our way back to the Airbnb to pack and get ready for bed.

Day Three

On day three we woke up on time only to enjoy brunch before heading to the airport. We checked out of our Airbnb, and headed to PS Cafe – located in Raffles City, with our luggage. I ordered a grilled prawn sandwich ($28 SGD), a lemon-lime and mint kombucha ($12 SGD), and a banana mango crumble ($15). When I tell you I was stuffed. Holy moly was I stuffed. This was the most I had eaten on the entire trip. I couldn’t breathe, but it was so worth it. 

The service at PS Cafe was truly amazing. The servers were attentive and the manager noticed we were visitors (I bet the luggage gave it away), and he actually gave us their 20th anniversary coffee mug for us to take back to the United States. The manager was far too kind. 

I was literally in Singapore for about 50 hours (I did the math), and I honestly felt as if I experienced, saw, and ate a lot. The great thing about short trips is that it almost makes you plan correctly and encourages you to make the most of your time in any given location. Yeah I could have stayed in Singapore another night or taken a later flight. However, I left Singapore feeling extremely happy with all that I was able to accomplish in such little time allotted.