Local Bloggers and Influencers Are The Secret for Insider Scoop

A wasted afternoon at a tourist-trap attraction?

Yup, been there; it has happened before.

A clear memory of this was in 2009 on a trip South America; getting stuck in the tourist trap that is La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Known as the birthplace of the tango, La Boca, a one-time shipyard has a famous walkway, El Caminito, where tango dancers perform and artists exhibit their work on this colorful street.

The true grittiness of the neighborhood is lost and now it is essentially a tourist trap, full of people touting for business. It is filled with over priced tourist trinkets and t-shirt heaven; faux tango eatery and photo hustlers are in abundance. The only genuine thing left is Boca fútbol stadium 4 blocks north, with a soccer museum charging $12USD entrance. A wasted afternoon indeed.

I wish we would have been warned that this place was the equivalent to San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf or Khao San Road in Bangkok. If only we would have known a blogger... or local for the inside scoop!

Every major city has bloggers obsessed with what's new and great in their backyard, particularly in regard to restaurants. Using Google Blog Search to find bloggers in whatever city you are visiting is a great place to start. You can also use Instagram by searching in the search or through geo tags.

Bloggers and influencers are a phenomenal resource but do not just read what they are writing: Contact them for personal recommendations. The more specific your request — and the more you flatter them for their insight and wit — the more likely you will be to pique their interest and get a response.  

Being from San Francisco, there is no denying that it is a foodie's mecca of must-try places. One might ask: "What's your favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurant within walking distance of the Hotel Vitale on Mission Street? We are looking for a place with a romantic vibe, ideally because it is our anniversary. We'd be so grateful for your help because you obviously know what's going on in San Francisco!" Bloggers love to provide tips and recommendations on their city!

Have I tried this? Yes!  

I've had plenty of people ask me as well via Instagram, and I've shared some of my insights as well.

While in Hoi An, Vietnam, I got in touch with via Twitter with Jodi from Legal Nomads, connected me with two bloggers that were currently in Hoi An--James from Nomadic Notes and Leif, a freelance travel writer and Lonely Planet author.

Gregg and I got the opportunity to have a Cao Lau dinner and share travel stories with James and Leif, followed by a fruit shake along the river. We also did research online as to what online travel bloggers recommend. Many recommended Ms. Chien's Pho Cao Lau Hu Tieu in the Central Market. The steaming bowls of pho were amazing!

By browsing Instagram, you can also get ideas in where to venture next. So, if you are unsure of where to head to, ask local bloggers!

Cover Image Credit: @amybuglione, Instagram; First published June 25, 2013; Updated August 14, 2017.

Insiders Guide to Costa Rica's Boho Beach Town of Santa Teresa

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Bright sun, gleaming sands, crystal-clear waters make the perfect backdrop for the boho beach town of Santa Teresa. This place is paradise with a great international community that reflects on it's restaurants. Pura Vida (pure life) is the true mantra and lifestyle of this shabby yet charming town. I can see why so many flock here and never leave. The town of Santa Teresa on the Pacific side of Costa Rica has stolen a piece of my heart in an odd and humbling way. There is something about this surf town clustered around a dusty semi-paved road that feels right. Perhaps it is the simplistic way of life, and it’s low key, unpretentiousness. There are no flashy cars or designer duds. There is that feeling anonymity.

I love the international vibe of the people who have settled there – Argentinians, Italians, Israelis, French and Canadians who seem to be following and living their art and passion. There is down right good food, stunning yoga decks, a great farmer’s market, and always a wave to catch somewhere. There are it’s imperfections, plenty of them, which make it that much more authentic and likable. It is a real town. It’s not a bubble; its vibe and counter culture is very much like Burning Man and other places that have moved me.

The small towns that lie next to each other - Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, and Hermosa - all harmoniously play off one another. Whatever you are in the mood for you can find within minutes. The rustic charm and craggy rock pools of Mal Pais, the relative bustle of Santa Teresa with its shops and restaurants, or the quiet, tranquil beauty of Hermosa.

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Santa Teresa’s Shortlist On Where To Eat

The Farmer’s Market on Saturday afternoon for fresh veggies, dream catchers, gluten-free crackers and a fun hippie beach vibe. Product C for the freshest fish in town and awesome lunch. You have to try the fish tacos and ceviche; it’s made with love. Green World Store for fresh fruits and vegetables, including locally grown and organic produce. Also available is a good variety of natural pantry staples such as coffees, honey, nuts, and jams.

As you walk through town, you’ll come across plenty of restaurants. As a gluten intolerant traveller, Santa Teresa offered a variety of places that offered naturally gluten-free options, as well as gluten-free specific places. Chicken Joes for some life changing Peruvian ceviche and the most amazing and flavorful rotisserie style chicken you'll ever have. (I didn’t try the chicken as I don’t eat meat aside from fish.) Koji‘s for incredible sushi and a bit of a scene. If you’re lucky, while you are there the power will go out in town, and you can eat your entire meal by candlelight. Brisas del Mar for a beautiful sunset dinner. Zwart Cafe for delicious fresh food, great people watching, an up close look at Canadian artist Margriet Zwart's studio. You’ll feel like picking up a paint brush releasing your creative energies.

For the gluten-free traveller in Santa Teresa… Olam for fresh, organic salads and juices. If you’re here for breakfast, try the gluten-free pancakes. Marianne, the French bakery, for coconut macaroons. Kasava for gluten-free bread and bagels. Chop It - Holy Cow Burger for delicious burgers, hand-cut fries, salads and smoothies all made with integrity. They also offer a variety of gluten-free options.

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What To Do + Where To Stay

There is plenty to do in Santa Teresa like The Healing Cuisine for a cleanse or cooking class with Joanne focused on eating habits that promote health and sustainability for our planet. Stay at the super chill Otro Lado Lodge to stay and/or to do some beautiful spiritual yoga with on a beautiful deck and then have lunch afterwards. Or rent Milarepa for a quiet vibe with friends.Florblanca Pilates for finding balance and harmony. Pranamar for yoga just steps off the sand. Surf everywhere from Playa Carmen to Santa Teresa to Hermosa. Rent a bike from 360 Surf Shop and ride down to Hermosa for solitude on your very own secluded slice of paradise. Or ride to the end of Mal Pais for a long swim in the calm waters and buy fresh fish when it comes off the fishing boats in the late afternoon. Head to Kika for live music Tuesday and Thursday nights and Rocamar for a lovely sunset vibe on Sundays.

Where To Shop

Ladies, you have to buy one of the locally made surf bikini’s Tica Surf they look amazing and actually manage to stay on as you get tumbled through the ocean. Onda Verde for an eclectic cute collection of clothes, bags, jewellery hand-made locally. Camisado Vintage for vintage. This amazing little vintage shop carries the best in vintage beachwear and is owned and operated by our long time friend and Canadian ex-pat Staysail Shed. Bean & Bejuco where you will only find products with the highest quality ingredients from hand soaps, Burts Bees beauty care, Coconut & Argan Oils and raw snacks. Organic, eco-conscious, ethical… these are just a few words used to describe the various items stocked on the shelves.

Did you enjoy this post? Let me know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! I’d love to keep giving you travel tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail. Don’t forget you can follow me on facebook, twitter, instagram & bloglovin‘.

Insiders Guide to Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after Greater São Paulo.  We think it's time to stop calling Buenos Aires the "Paris of South America." As anyone who's been here will tell you, this city has a spirit all its own.

Spend a day visiting the city's many fine museums and the amazing Recoleta cemetery, then hit the modern Puerto Madero neighborhood at night to take your pick of the city's coolest restaurants and clubs. Get ready to explore the vibrant unknown, this time by the way of Buenos Aires.

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Insiders Guide to Buenos Aires

Eat Well

Cabaña Las Lilas: If you are looking for some of the best steak in South America, Cabaña Las Lilas is a Buenos Aires institute in Puerto Madero. A bit on the pricer side for Buenos Aires standards, but well worth it. The service is excellent and the portions are large. Anyone who visits Buenos Aires will tell you to come here. Do and you'll know why!  What to try: The morcilla (blood sausage) was delicious and the mollejas (sweetbreads), which were thinly sliced and then sauteed until crispy at the edges were delightful. For a main course, the Medallon de Lomo was tender, flavorful and cooked to perfection. To finish up, they bring you shots of Limonello and Grapa, which hit the spot. Cabaña Las Lilas, Alicia Moreau de Justo 516 (Puerto Madero), Buenos Aires C1107AAL, Argentina; www.laslilas.com

Juana M:Tired of meat? Located on the edge of the Recoleta neighborhood, Juana M has the best salad bar in the city that comes with anything that you order. We loved it here so much that we ate here twice on our trip. This was one of our favorite spots. Everything comes a la cart so if you want any sides other than what comes with the salad bar make to order it too. Prices are very reasonable. Juana M, Carlos Pellegrini 1535 - Retiro, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Olsen: Probably one of the most beautiful restaurants in Buenos Aires. Olsen's has a really pleasant terrace, and even in the cooler evenings it is nice to seat there as there are outdoor heaters. You are easily transported to a place different than Buenos Aires, or South America for that matter. Olsen is known for their vodkas and their drinks. We didn't know anything about Scandinave food and we loved it. If you like seafood, this place is worth checking out. Ask for the crab spring rolls for starters and the white salmon for a main course...it is worth it! Olsen, Gorriti 5870, Buenos Aires 1414, Argentina

Live Well

Floralis Generica: This giant metal mechanical flower is a short walk from the Recoleta cemetery and worth a visit. The size is quite impressive and is situated in s nice park with plenty of places to relax. There is no entry fee.

Casa Rosada: The government’s executive branch is housed in this building, a strange mix of various architectural styles, perhaps best known for the balcony from which Evita rallied the working class crowds.

Plaza de Mayo: The political center of the country, this famous plaza is the location of the well-known balcony of the Casa Rosada from which Eva Peron addressed adoring crowds of workers.

Calle Museo Caminito: Colorful and traditional, this walkway in the La Boca area is dominated by tango dancers and artisans.

Cementerio de la Recoleta (Recoleta Cemetery): The Recoleta Cemetery was opened for ordinary people in 1822 but as Recoleta’s reputation improved, so did that of the cemetery. Now many presidents and historic figures important to Buenos Aires history are buried there like the beloved Eva "Evita" Peron

El Ateneo Grand Splendid: Situated in an old theater, El Ateneo is one of the most popular bookstores in Buenos Aires.

Overrated and worth avoiding...

La Boca O.K. well it is worth checking out but keep in mind that this place is a tourist trap. It's like visiting San Francisco and going to Fisherman's Warf or New York City and going to Time Square. Be careful of pick-pocketers...  Other Tourist Trapsworth skipping... Calle Florida, San Telmo, Cafes at Calle Caminito