Cape Town is one of the greatest cities in the entire world. Bold statement, but absolutely true. I have never met someone who didn’t like it and the hype it gets it truly deserves.
My expectations were high, and surprisingly I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, Cape Town blew me out of the water and the bar has been set very high. My only disappointment was that we only stayed there 5 days. I could have stayed for weeks!
Cape Town has everything your imagined ideal city would have: natural beauty of the mountains and beaches, vibrant city life, some of the best wines in the world, reasonable prices, and endless high quality food.
Cape Town quickly became one of my top 3 favorite cities in the world, along with Rome and Istanbul.
So what to do in Cape Town? I could write a book about it, but here are my top pics:
What to do in Cape Town
1. Take a Hike
Cape Town is for fitness and nature lovers. Hike both Table Mountain or Lion’s Head in a matter of hours with a spectacular view along every step of the way
We hiked Lion’s Head during golden hour and it was spectacular. You could see the entire city, Table Mountain, and Camp’s Bay in the distance.
View of Table Mountain on the hike up to Lion’s Head
We didn’t have time to do the Table Mountain hike unfortunately, so we took the cable car instead. The panoramic views over the coastline and city are spectacular.
2. Grab a Bite to Eat
Hold crap! I wasn’t expecting Cape Town to have such great food! I can honestly say in terms of quality, Cape Town had the most consistently good food out of any country I had ever been!
There are 2 open air markets that you can’t miss on your trip to Cape Town: Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill.
The Hout Bay Market (officially called Bay Harbor Market) runs Friday through Sunday and is the place to be on the weekends for good food and live music. Food and specialty shops line the cozy inside market and one could spend hours there. Make sure to go on an empty stomach because there is so much to try!! (There were also many gluten free options for those with allergies like me).
Tip: try the Springbok meat, it’s just like beef but a little sweeter. The springbok is the national bird of South Africa so a nice way to taste the local flavors.
Another favorite is the Old Biscuit Mill that’s only on Saturday mornings. This is another open air market with endless vendors offering a variety of foods. This was probably my favorite food experience in Cape Town, most likely because I found a number of gluten free tables offering delicate treats to satiate my cravings. It’s also another cool hangout spot!
Gluten free pastry..aka heaven in my mouth 🙂
Bombay Bicycle-order the Choco chili steak (signature dish that’s not on the menu). This was seriously one of the best meals of my life, if not the best. It sounds like a weird combo, but the flavors perfectly complemented the melt-in-your-mouth juicy steak. It was the most tender steak I’d ever tasted and I could have died a happy girl after my last bite. It’s that good. The restaurant also had a great ambiance and intimate setting.
Tip: you must make a reservation in advance as it’s a very popular place!
Bacini’s for pizza-right across from Bombay bicycle is Bacini’s. It’s nothing fancy inside, this is more of a local spot. The pizza was outstanding and they even had gluten free crusts! Avocado on pizza is a thing in Cape Town and it was friggin’ amazing! I’m hooked and now I’m always going to expect avo on my pizza wherever I go.
→An added bonus: we ran into Davos from Game of Thrones here! For extreme fanatics of the show, this made our whole trip!
Tiger’s Milk-another great restaurant downtown with that had the best gluten free leg of lamb pizza with a dallop of hummus and feta. Omg was it good.
V&A Market on the Wharf –this was the 3rd market we went to in Cape Town and it didn’t disappoint! It wasgreat for fruit juices, shakes, pastries, and also lactose free froyo!
3. Take a Road Trip Down the Coast
The plunging coastlines around Cape Town are nothing short of spectacular. You can’t leave without getting to explore the area on a road trip! Drive down the Cape Peninsula all the way down to Penguin Beach. If you have time, stop in MuizenbergBeach to photograph the row of colorful beach shacks.
Penguin heaven 😉
If you have even more time, make sure to head down to Hermanus, a quint little seaside town a 2-hr drive from Cape Town, known for whale watching and shark tank diving in its neighbor city Gansbaii.
How pretty is Hermanus??
On the way back to Cape Town, drive along False bay, which I thought was prettier than the actual Cape Peninsula honestly.
Tip: on your drive back from Hermanus, stop at Betty’s Bay, the less-touristy version of Penguin Beach. There was hardly anyone there when we went and we got up close and personal with the little guys! The cost is 10 rand for a parking permit but no one was there to enforce it.
4. View Cape Town from Above
One of my favorite things to do in a new city is get an epic aerial view. No view can get more epic than from a helicopter! We had 360 degrees of unobstructed views of the beautiful city, coast lines, beaches, peaks, and mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking.
Unedited GoPro pic from the helicoptor
We decided to go with NAC Helicopters for our flight over Cape Town, mainly due their almost perfect reviews as well as their impeccable safety record (100% accident-fee). The perfect safety record alone is a deciding factor when it comes to putting my life into someone else’s hands in the air.
NAC Helicopters also offers tailored destination flights, so if you really want to ball out and show up somewhere in style, this would be a fun thing to splurge on!
The staff was super professional and kind, and I felt safe from the minute I walked into the door greeted by their warm smiles.
Tip: make sure to schedule the helicopter tour early in the trip in case of cancellations due to weather. We actually had our first flight cancelled so ended up re-scheduling it on our last day luckily.
5. Hop On Hop off Bus (seriously)
I never in a million years thought I would recommend a “touristy” Hop on Hop off Bus, but this is definitely an exception! The public transportation in Cape Town and vicinity is not that great so this is actually a great way to see all that Cape Town has to offer! You can buy a one-day pass for around $12 and a 2-day pass for around $20.
Spellbound in the enchanted forest inside Kirstenbosch gardens
The Hop on Hop Off bus has 3 different color-coded routes and I recommend all 3 if you have time! It’s no surprise my favorite was the purple route since this was the wine route!
Camp’s Bay-what I called the Malibu of Cape Town
If you’re short on time like we were, we only had a day to do the bus tour. Our favorite can’t miss stops included:
Purple wine route (the entire thing)
6. Drink World Class Wine
South Africa is known for its Pinotage red blend, distinctive to this area of the globe. Make sure you try a glass (or 5) of this delicious red wine, as this blend is not grown anywhere else in the world!
There are SO many vineyards within an hour or so drive from Cape Town and I recommend spending an entire day in Stellenbosch, and if you have time Franchoek as well.
The wine tasting crew! Carebear Abroad and I, along with our friend Nick, who lives in Cape Town. We met Nick on our 12-day Turkey trip 2 years before. #travelfriends
Our favorite winery was Vergelegen Estate. The property grounds were impeccably gorgeous and the staff was extremely interactive and fun. Oh, and apparently you can have a picnic in the camphor forest, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was closed when we went, but if you end up going, please let me know how it is!
If you’re planning what to do in Cape Town, hopefully these 6 recommendations are at the top of your list! There is so much more to discover in this unique city and we only just cracked the tip of the iceberg.
I cannot wait to get back to Cape Town and stay longer next time to enjoy more of the local life. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming about it. ♥
PIN for later 🙂
Disclaimer: I was a guest of NAC Helicopters. However, my opinions are my own and I am in no way obligated to leave positive feedback. I thought the helicopter tour was awesome and the best way to see the city!
Have you Been To Cape Town? What were Your Highlights? Did I miss Anything? Do tell! ♥
Who doesn’t have “doing a safari in Africa” on their bucket list? This girl sure did! I have always dreamt about doing a safari, since I was young. In fact, it was at the very TOP of my bucket list. However, this dream never seemed like a reality as I was always told safaris cost like 5 grand. WRONG!
If you’re not too high maintenance and don’t mind “roughing it” a little (and by roughing it I mean glamping), they can totally be affordable for most budgets!
As my friend CareBear Abroad and I would be in South Africa, we really wanted to visit Kruger National Park, the biggest safari park in South Africa!
Searching for a tour company can be extremely overwhelming because there are SO many tours in Kruger National Park. The one thing we did know is that we wanted a safari with a SMALL group size for a more personalised experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience and we wanted it to be perfect!
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We found a tour company called Africa Spear Safaris that offered small group safaris. It got great reviews and had a very reasonable price. Bingo! We chose the 4day/3night option with a pickup from Johannesburg.
I think I can speak for Carey as well and say this was one of the best experiences of our lives! NOTHING can compare with being in the wild in Africa on a safari!
Note: Please don’t go on a safari unless you have a nice zoom lens. I made the mistake and have literally no good pics to show from it. Thankfully, my travel partner Carebear Abroad was with me on this trip and she was able to supply most of the wildlife pics for this article (as marked). Thank you Carey!!! ♥
Kruger National Park Safari
So, What Exactly do you DO on a Safari?
This may sound stupid, but I have always wondered what you do all day on a safari. Well, I can tell you that you go out searching for animals on a game drive LITERALLY ALL DAY LONG!
Our mornings started at about 5am with a small pre-brekkie snack and coffee at 5:45am. I am so NOT a morning person and nothing can get me out of bed at 5am…except animals! I love animals to death. Maybe even more that people. Is that bad?
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The first morning game drive starts at 6am sharp, prime time for large feline viewing! After brekkie, you embark on another game drive in the afternoon, followed by lunch and then a final late afternoon game drive.
Dinner usually commences at 7 or 8 and then it’s time to pass out. It was an exhausting schedule, but 100% worth it. The adrenaline and excitement kept us awake all day! That and coffee…lot’s of it!
The first night we had a BBQ dinner with choice of steak, chicken, or pork. It was really tasty and we were were even offered seconds!
We brought our own wine into the safari camps, which saved us money. I recommend stocking up if you plan to engage in consuming any alcohol (and I fully support this action ♥).
Does a Small Group Size Really Make a Difference?
OMG, HELL YES it does! Carey and I were accompanied by a lovely British family of 3, making a total of only 5 people in our vehicle. I cannot tell you how much of a difference this made! We were really able to bond with this family and now have some new friends in the UK!
Our small safari crew and awesome guide Dave. We miss you guys!!
As we were driving through Kruger, we saw so many other bigger safari vehicles jam packed with people. The people in the middle had a crappy view and couldn’t really get in position for great photos. I am SO glad we chose the smaller group as it made the experience so much more memorable!
Are you in Danger During a Safari?
A traditional safari vehicle is an open vehicle, meaning the sides and sometimes the top are fully open and exposed. The guide will explain to you on day one to avoid loud noises, sudden movements, or sticking any body part outside of the vehicle as wild animals can see this as a threat.
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So really, you aren’t guaranteed full safety, but don’t let that deter you. Nothing is guaranteed in life. They take out 100’s of vehicles daily and the chance of something bad happening is slim. Just follow your guide’s precautions and you will be fine! The fear of a dangerous animal encounter is half the thrill! Trust me on this one.
What Kind of Close Animal Encounters Did We Experience?
Here is s quick clip straight from my iPhone that I put on IG, just to give you a little idea of what you will see…
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Our first morning started out with a sunrise over the dewy/foggy land. Out of nowhere, the mysterious elephants appeared in the distance. It was so eerie and beautiful, it’s something I will never forget!
The scariest part was when one huge bull elephant came within 10 feet of our vehicle, stopped and stared us down for a good 5 seconds, and then went on his way. I’m not going to lie, I was trembling as I realised the power of this humungous being weighing a few tons. At any moment he could have charged and trampled us.
We had a prime location on the road and the lions started to cross RIGHT beside our vehicle. They literally came within 2 inches of the car. At any point, they could have jumped up and mauled us to death and my heart was racing like I had never experienced before.
We were able to see the whole pack of lions cross with a front row seat! Our guide Dave said that in 30 years that was the second best lion encounter he has ever witnessed.
The thrill and adrenaline that runs through your veins when you’re up close and personal with a deadly wild animal is the most exciting thing I have ever experienced in my life. It’s something hard to explain and you would only understand once it happens to you! It gives me goosebumps just thinking of it.♥
What kind of animals do you see at Kruger National Park?
A shit ton! Here is a list of animals we saw:
What is the Big 5?
The coveted big 5 consists of the elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion, and leopard. This is why most people go on safaris, to see the prized big 5!
You are never guaranteed to see the Big 5 quite honestly. But I’d say you have a good chance in Kruger. We were lucky enough to see the big 5 twice! We actually saw the big 5 on one single game drive in the afternoon. It was incredible!
“Oh my God, oh my God, go back, go back…..leopard…in..tree”.
I could barely speak as I saw this beautiful creature lounging high up in the tree. The above photo is of the leopard I spotted with my own eyes after we were eagerly searching for the last of the Big 5 animals.
At one point I thought we might not get to see one as the leopard is the most elusive and difficult to spot out of all the Big 5. My crazy cat lady instincts kicked in big time and of course I would be the one to spot this gorgeous large cat. #catwhisperer ♥
What Should You Wear During a Safari?
We had our safari in August, which is technically their summer. Winter is their dry season, and we were told by our guide that August and September were the best months to visit Kruger National Park.
Anyway, winter in South Africa means frigid mornings and evenings and very hot afternoons. I would definitely recommend bringing a jacket, hat, gloves, wool socks. It was also a little windy when were were driving, adding to the cold.
We always brought a change of clothes for the afternoon as it got super hot. You will have time to change during lunch hour so keep that in mind! We were bundled up for winter in the mornings and evenings, and in tank tops and shorts in the afternoons.
You also want to keep in mind that you will want to wear something comfy as you will be sitting in a vehicle literally all day. I wore my gym pants/leggings every day and it worked out perfect. When it comes to safaris, comfort definitely wins over style!
Note: you definitely want to bring some bug spray and/or mosquito repellant bracelets for your safari. I didn’t want to take malaria pills due to the possible side effects (personal choice) so I made sure I covered myself from getting eaten alive. I used a combo of natural bug spray and bracelets. I also do NOT like Deet chemicals so I went with the natural alternatives which worked out excellent! I didn’t get ANY mosquito bites on my entire 4-day safari so I highly recommend the below products I used.
Is Kruger National Park too Touristy?
Yes and no. But for the most part no. Let me explain. At some points, especially with the lion viewings, there were way too may vehicles there than we would have liked. Our guide Dave informed us that there are even FaceBook group dedicated to spotting the big cats (lions and leopards). With real time updates, these vehicles were able to get to the scene very quickly. But half the fun of a safari is spotting the animals on your own! So I don’t get it.
On the other hand, the fact that there are daily vehicles cruising through the park, the animals are used to the noise of the engines. Therefore, they never get scared away and you can view them in their natural habitat! A huge plus! I would also assume they are less likely to attack humans due to this, but hey, that’s just my opinion.
What are the Accommodations Like?
Let me start by saying I am SO not a camper. It doesn’t mean i’m high maintenance. It just means I like electricity and NO bugs. So I knew this would be a challenge for me.
Have you heard of glamping? Welp, this was kinda like that and it ended up being not that bad! We were able to try out 3 different accommodation types on this safari.
1.Simple “tent cabin”: this was basically like a little hut with 2 beds, a fridge, and a small dresser, and thats about it! The communal bathrooms/showers were about a 50 meter walk from our place. It was scary at night and we were warned of possible monkeys and/or hyenas, so once it got dark, we decided to hold it until the morning.
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Note: most the cabins had only one or 2 outlets, so keep that in mind if you have a lot of electronics to charge. In the last cabin, there was only ONE outlet so we had to share, which really sucked seeing as we both had our phones, cameras, Gopro’s, and extra power banks to charge. We made it work, but barely!
I have been using the Jackery dual power bank for the past year and it was a total lifesaver on this trip! It has 2 USB ports to charge and it charged my iPhone and camera batteries at least 3 full charges each. This power bank is slightly heavier than I would like it to be, but it’s by far the BEST I’ve ever used and a must have for my travels.
*You also have the option to upgrade accommodations so make sure to check when booking your safari!
The Importance of a Great Safari Guide
Iv’e said this many times before: a tour guide can really make or break a tour! We got lucky with the BEST guide named Dave.
He had been a park ranger for 25+ years and his passion for it seeped through his skin. A plus was that he knew a bunch of secret spots for viewings and never let us down!
He was highly engaged with us and always made sure were were comfortable and having a good time. He had a soft demeanour and was the nicest guy! We miss you Dave!
He was constantly informing of us animal behaviours, pointing out each and every bird species, and telling us some crazy stories. If you happen to get a tour guide named Dave, please ask him about the elephant whisperer story! Pretty creepy!
Pros and Cons
small group size (5 total)
private transport all the way from Johannesburg
our awesome guide Dave
3 game drives a day
high chance of seeing the big 5 (we saw them twice!)
BBQ dinner was great
thrilling animal encounters
accommodations were basic, but much better than sleeping in a zip-up tent!
not many gluten free options (story of my life)
not many food options in general
lack of outlets (hey, this is supposed to be roughing it, isn’t it? Haha)
Note: I must mention one of the cons specifically was that the owner forgot about my gluten allergy (not cool). I was able to eat the BBQ, but the early morning snacks of muffins, etc I couldn’t eat so I was literally starving and hangry. On the other hand, Dave was awesome and went with me to a little shop and personally bought me some snacks to eat in the mornings, so it worked out. Forgetting about a food allergy is NOT something to take lightly because some people DIE from it. (My condition is not life or death, but some are…). So ya, I have had some bad luck with tour companies “forgetting” about my allergy and it seems to be happening more often. I would recommend double checking a few days before your tour to make sure they have note of it! It didn’t ruin my time or anything, but I had to mention it because I can’t just highlight all the good.
The Final Verdict
Overall, you must do a safari once in your life before you die. You just have to! It is one of the top3 experiences of not just traveling, but of my life!
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The thrill of findings these animals and then to have a close encounter is the most thrilling thing I have ever experienced. At some moments, I cried tears of joy because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
I am so glad we chose to tour with Africa Spear Safaris on our first Kruger National Park Safari and I would 100% recommend them! This one goes down in the books! Thanks guys!♥
Note: Carey and I were guests of Africa Spear Safaris during our safari. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This experience was AMAZING and I would highly recommend this company.
Full disclosure: the few Amazon products in this article are affiliate links, meaning I may earn a small commission if you purchase these products, at no extra cost to you. This is what keeps the blog up and running so a special thank you for that! ♥
(Blog post by Crazy Travslista (me!) and video by my travel partner in crime CareBear Abroad) ♥
I am a sucker for boutique hotels, what can I say? I cherish the small, unique, and more personalised feel of staying in a boutique hotel, as opposed to a big chain. When I tell you we found the perfect boutique hotel in Cape Town, we really mean it!
Is it a house, is it a hotel? Who cares, it’s freakin’ awesome!
The Derwent House Boutique Hotel used to be a house. It has since been transformed into the cutest little hotel consisting of only 10 rooms in the main house, as well as 18 self-catering apartments located in the rear of the property next to the pool. It also has a pool plus jacuzzi and great outdoor seating area that would be great for parties. Although we didn’t have much time to try them out, it was nice to have the options. It also was nice to look at from the living room.
It was the perfect little hideaway during our time in Cape Town. Having that “homey” feel in a new city/country is really important!
Oh, and in case you were wondering, it has a perfect 5 star rating on Trip Advisor! I’m not surprised.
That View Though
We were lucky to have a room with a fabulous view of the infamous mountains in Cape Town. We could see both Table Mountain and Lion’s Head from our window and we weren’t expecting that. Such a nice surprise to wake up and pull back the curtains to see these grandiose mountains staring right back at us. With the foggy haze in the backdrop, it was perfect!
The Most Cozy Little Living Room
Th entire guesthouse had a classy interior with pops of color, especially in the living room. The contrasting funky furniture was so pretty we couldn’t stop taking photos of it. The couch was comfy and as soon as we walked in from the frigid nights, it was so inviting, especially with the cute little furnace in the center.
There was one day when it was rainy in the morning so our plans were cancelled. We just sat on the soft couches on our laptops making plans for the day. It was actually really nice to sit back and unwind for a bit.
Friendliest Staff Ever
The staff was super friendly, like to a heightened degree. Luka, the manager, was never seen without a huge smile across his face. He constantly checked in on us to see if we needed anything (but not to an annoying extent). When we were leaving, we mentioned how coffee for the road would be nice. He quickly ran in and ran back out with our coffee to go! The entire staff had a great energy and were always making sure we were having a good time. That definitely didn’t go unnoticed!
What is this honesty bar concept? Well, just like it sounds! The hotel provided many cold drinks, bottled water, beer and wine in the fridge available at all time of the day. You take what you want and mark it down on the list and pay at check out. I’ve never seen something like this in the U.S. before so I thought it was pretty cool! They must be really trusting!
OMG the breakfast! Everything was so nicely displayed I wanted one of each! For coffee, they give you your very own mini French press machine. I thought that was very nice, especially for someone who drinks lots of coffee!
The best part of breakfast were the daily specials. Each morning, we were surprised with a new set of choices. Some of the spicy options included eggs Benedict, chorizo, and Turkish hummus and spices (pictured below on the left).
The quality of food was fantastic and super fresh, it was definitely the highlight of our stay. (You know you’re a little piggy when the food was the best part of your stay haha #noshame).
The one negative was that there were NO gluten free options. This might sound a bit nit-picky, but in a city so extremely gluten-free friendly, this was a bit of a disappointment. I was still able to eat well, however my choices were very limited. There was also no milk alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, so keep that in mind if you have food allergies!
Quiet & Ideal Location
Well, since the hotel used to be a house, it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood in the trendy Tamboerskloof area. That means it was pretty quiet! It was also right offKloof Street, one of the BEST streets in all of Cape Town for food. They also had plenty of street parking and a few private spots if you rent a car. An extra plus since we had a car!
The city centre and popular Long Street was just a 15 minute walk. The first day when we didn’t have our car yet, it was raining so we took a freakishly cheap Uber ride to the center. I think it ended up being $2. So even if you don’t have a car, it’s super easy and cheap to get around.
Right down the street is a place called Bombay Bicycle. This place is a must! I had the best steak of my life here…and actually might be mybest meal I’ve ever had! The choco-chilli steak isn’t on the menu, but ask for it if you go. The combination of chocolate and spice covering a melt-in-you-mouth tender steak was heavenly! Reservations are required as this place is quite popular!
Other Awesome Features of this Hotel
Super fast wifi-rare to find on the continent of Africa.
Free port and sherry available for guests. Hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right?
Heating pads under your mattress, for those who like to stay crisp when they sleep.
Free coffee, tea, and snacks all day.
Turn down service nightly with animal shaped chocolates. Because #Africa
Local cellphone to use- we had local SIM cards so we didn’t need this, but I thought it was extremely convenient to offer for guests.
DVD collection and DVD player in rooms. We had a packed schedule and didn’t have time to unwind with a movie, but what a cool idea, huh?
Bathtub with nice bath salts. I don’t care too much for baths, but Carey was super excited for this feature!
Daily weather and events sheet left in room-this was a first for me! Every hotel should provide this if you asked me. We have been spoiled haha.
Secure gate that only they could buzz you in and out. If safety is an issue for you, rest assured the place is very secured! Someone is there 24/7 to buzz you in.
Ok, what we really want to know. How much will this place set you back?
This 4 star hotel will cost you $124 during low season and up to $160 during high season for a standard “Fabulous Room” or self-catering apartment.
Cons (Because not all stays are perfect…)
There was no hot water one night so we had to go to a different room to shower one night. They quickly fixed it the next morning…and also gave us a nice bottle of champagne for the inconvenience.
As I mentioned above, they weren’tvery accommodating for food allergies.
Random, but the bathroom doors were made of stained plexi-glass, so there wasn’t as much privacy as I would have liked. Not a huge deal, but thought I would mention it.
Overall, we had such a great stay here! It was so cozy and we really felt like we were staying in someone’s home! The staff were super friendly and always had the biggest smiles on their faces. Anything we needed, they accommodated very quickly and with a great attitude!
The location was perfect, along with the view, and the breakfast was outstanding! I would recommend this place 100% to anyone going to Cape Town. When I go back, I would never even think abut staying anywhere else.
Note: Carey and I were guests of Derwent House Boutique Hotel during our stay. My opinions, however, remain my own and I am in no way obligated to write a positive review. This place freakin’ rocked and it might just be my new fav boutique hotel! ♥