Our Trip to Hilton Head Island

Okay, gather round closely, because I’m going to say something controversial here. Are you ready for it?

We went to Hilton Head Island, and we didn’t love it.

It was fall, so it was off season, which may have affected our experience. But y’all I don’t know what all the hype is about.

We stayed at the Marriott SurfWatch property, which really couldn’t have been nicer. We had a really nice room with a view of the ocean. The rooms are actually more like condos, with a full kitchen and living room area. I think they would be great with a family. The resort had really nice pools and a beautiful beach area. Even in the fall we found that the water was still warm enough for the outdoor pool. There was a beach bar with good drinks and decent food. The resort is also conveniently located to grocery stores and other things on the island. I think our mistake was leaving the resort property. We like to go out adventuring and check out the local restaurants when we visit somewhere new, and this is where things went downhill.

We headed out to see the famous Hilton Head lighthouse. The lighthouse is in the Sea Pines Resort community. We didn’t realize we couldn’t just drive right up, the community is gated, and they charge an $8 dollar (cash only) fee for a day pass. They advertise this as a luxury gated golf resort, and while there were some gorgeous homes it was mostly condos that were built in the mid 80’s and nothing special.

We finally made our way to the lighthouse and found a bunch of kitschy t-shirt shops all selling the same thing in the area. For an additional $4.25 per person you can climb the 90 foot lighthouse and take in the view (and another t-shirt shop at the top). We opted not to do this, instead walking around and checking out the scene. We drove around the resort area and checked out several different shopping spots and restaurants hoping to find something less cheesy, but no such luck. We did make our way onto the beach here, and it is beautiful. The beach is wide with plenty of room for running and playing, so that’s a pro!

We ended up having lunch at Fishcamp on Broad Creek after leaving the Sea Pines area and doing some driving around the island. This was probably our best find of the trip. The atmosphere was great, we sat outside, the weather was perfect and the food was good.

Based on the recommendations of several people we made a dinner reservation at Il Carpaccio. I’m not going to go into to much detail about this place, because some people clearly love it, but we left. After they served our bottle of wine and salad. We paid for it and wasted a full bottle of wine. I have never ever left a restaurant after placing my order. EVER.

We found ourselves in the parking lot of the restaurant starving and with no plan for dinner. OKKO, a hibachi restaurant was close and seemed like a safe choice, so we went for it. The food was standard hibachi, good but nothing special. The family at the table with us were locals and they told us about the Purple Cow Bakery next door, so we picked up a slice of cake on the way back to the hotel. We figured we had earned it. It was really good cake, which we obviously ate for breakfast the next day.

After returning to the hotel, we discovered what was probably the best part of the trip. The island has what appears to be very strict lighting codes, so when you’re out at night it is super dark. When we ventured out onto the beach at night, we realized this made for the BEST stargazing. We sat out on the beach for a long time enjoying the fact that we could see so many stars.

The next day we ventured out looking for some other things going on on the island, and mostly found more t-shirt shops. We decided to abandon looking for the fun spots on the island and head back to our resort to just hangout. We rented bikes from the resort and rode down the beach and had a great time. We spent the afternoon at Sea Salts, the resorts beach bar, watching college football and eating. We had planned to venture out for dinner again, but after striking out so many times, we decided to order Carraba’s take-out, because it was right at the entrance to the resort, and at least there would be no surprises.

While the beaches at Hilton Head were beautiful this really just wasn’t our scene. We loved the resort, and had we gone in with a different mindset of just hanging at the resort and relaxing instead of trying to explore somewhere new, this may have been an entirely different experience.

Here’s the thing… I think if you planned to golf all day there may be a lot for you here. If you have a family and you plan to stay in and cook, there were plenty of nice resorts with big pools and beach access and you would never have to leave. Sometimes hanging at a nice resort and stargazing is just what you need, so it definitely isn’t all bad.

However, there really is not much in the restaurant scene, which is probably one of our top things about going on vacation. Hilton Head is VERY commercial with all the chain restaurants you can imagine and a huge outlet mall with ALL the stores. Obviously, this sounds perfect to many people, or it wouldn’t be such a popular spot. So to each their own I guess.

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Have you been to Hilton Head? What did you think? I’d love to know!

 

 

 

Costa Rica – Pura Vida

On the next day of our trip we met Jhonny bright and early in the hotel lobby to go on the Buena Vista Tour. Again, we can’t say enough nice things about Jhonny and he really made our trip, but we did not have an English speaking guide. We drove close to two hours to the area near Arenal Volcano, stopping at Llanos de Cortes waterfall on the way to check out the view. If this had been our only stop we probably would have gone in swimming, but thinking of being soaking wet in the car for the next hour or more did not seem fun so we opted for just taking a few pictures.

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Llanos De Cortes Waterfall

After checking out the waterfall Jhonny was nice enough to stop and buy us fresh coconuts from a roadside stand. It was my first time trying fresh coconut water and it was so good! When we arrived for the Buena Vista tour a guide led us down 15 hanging bridges. We opted for the bridges over ziplining because we chickened out, but I think the bridges may have been just as scary if not more. We were high in the trees and the bridges shook and jumped with every move. We did see some monkeys and other animals so that was really neat.

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Buena Vista Hanging Bridges
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Jhonny!!
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#PIMPINJOY
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. Can you see how far the ground is below?

After surviving the bridges,we changed in to swimsuits and hiked up to the top of a water slide that had been built through the forest. It was so fun, it’s pretty long (about 500 meters) and really sent us flying down the hill it was built into. Then we were served a traditional Costa Rican meal. We then met up with the cowboys who got us ready to ride horses to a volcanic spring, where we were able to swim and relax.

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This wrapped up the Buena Vista tour, and we headed back to the hotel. It was a busy and full day, but we loved having the chance to experience so many things in one place. After the two hour drive, we got back just in time to take in another beautiful sunset at the resort and order room service for dinner.

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Most of the rest of the trip was spent at the resort. We took a shuttle in to Tamarindo on our second to last day to do some shopping and eat diner. We saw what was maybe the most beautiful sunset of the trip from the beach. Seriously the sunsets in CR were unreal, watching the sun drop right into the Pacific without a cloud in sight was so amazing. We stopped in a restaurant for the best shrimp and mango ceviche and just took in the views. We enjoyed the evening in Tamarindo, but I would say we had a better experience when we went the first time during the day. There were a lot of people on the beach and the sidewalks that were selling stuff and just generally harassing tourist, we didn’t have this experience during the day light.

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We spent the final two days of the trip relaxing around the resort. Swimming in the pool, ordering food and drinks (and ice cream) by the pool, walking on the beach, and just being lazy. We went back and had dinner at Sabanero Steakhouse our last night. It was so nice to have the chance to relax and take it all in.

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All the stars!! From the pool deck at night!

Costa Rica you sure were beautiful! We can’t wait to return! Any tips or suggestions for a return trip? Leave them in the comments. If you missed the first part of our trip, find it here.

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