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Our Favorite Escapes

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Close your eyes and imagine yourself in your happy place, someplace peaceful, some place that makes you take a deep sigh of relief...that's your escape. 


Our team here at Madda Fella is a bit of a motley group, but we share one thing in common...we like a great escape. A place where we can hang our hat, have a cold one, hang with the "locals," or just simply say "ah." 


Times are strange, but knowing we have our "escapes" can make the days a little less stranger and a hell of a lot brighter. 


Here are our team's perfect escapes. Maybe some or all of these will give you some inspiration to get out and wander. 


Mike - Golfito, Costa Rica, Central America

Nestled between the evergreen rain forests and coastal lowlands is a small, somewhat backward town, on the shores of the Golfo Dulce and the Pacific in Southwest Costa Rica. The population is about 12,000. Decades ago, it was the center of a major banana-growing region, which has since been replaced with palm oil plantations. 


Been there about a dozen times. Here’s what I like best: Vibe, People, Food, Outdoor Adventure. 


Be prepared, aspects of this town are a throwback to 50 years ago. The charm lies in the low-key vibe, which is evident when you’re on approach the town’s air landing strip.


Roosters bandying about, cold beer in an open-air hut awaiting you, and warm greetings from the very limited staff. Actually, you don’t go inside for any reason. Bags are left near the airstrip to grab and go. And yes, it is best to at least know a few basic Spanish words. 



Across the board, the people are warm and friendly, genuinely glad to see you, and will actually help. They don’t operate in the same time dimension as the hustle/bustle USA…very laid back. 


The food is fresh…from fruits to veggies to seafood and meats. Same with the water. That close to the rainforest, they have abundant supplies of freshwater.


Your money goes a long way. I don’t want to use the word “cheap”, rather it is very, very affordable. $15 can get you a great meal and a couple of drinks. Actually, you could “disappear” there for a while. And there’ve been a few we’ve stumbled across at waterfront bars that have done exactly that.



Air is that deep clean type. The cross between the rain forest and ocean makes it incredibly pleasant. 


Ann - Aruba

Aruba is a surprising Caribbean Island located off the coast of Venezuela.  What makes it surprising:  Aruba is a desert. Cactus and aloe grow naturally on the dry landscape. Only the hotel resorts are surrounded by lush tropical trees. This is a place where white-sand beaches and turquoise water meet a rugged desert landscape. All of it is perfect for exploring.


The Aruban people are full of warmth and enjoy visitors from anywhere in the world. They are gracious and happy to take you on private tours of their island.  Once you get off the beaten path, it’s not unusual to see herds of donkeys and goats roaming the island. 


The locals will patiently try to teach you Papiamento, their native creole language. I remember some of the words “Hopi bon” (very good), “ban goza” (let’s enjoy) and “serbes” (beer).Other languages of the island include English, Dutch, and Spanish. Whatever language you speak the locals will easily find a way to express their warm and welcoming nature.  Their smiles and sincere eyes say everything.

The locals are proud to show you some of the island’s history.  There are over 300 prehistoric pictographs to be discovered on the island.  These ancient paintings of the Caiquetio shamans are visible in the island’s rock formations.  Some of the most accessible are located in the Fontein and Guadirikiri caves.


A portion of the island is dedicated to Arikok National Park.  One of the best features of the park is the Natural Pool known as “Conchi.”  The water is pristine and offers a secluded swimming hole surrounded by volcanic rock walls.


Other Aruba fun facts:

- Freshwater is a scarce commodity so Aruba built the world’s 3rd largest water desalinization plant.  

- The friendly iguanas on the resort grounds will wander up to your beach palapa and they have blue tongues

- It’s located outside the “hurricane belt” so you can visit any time of the year


Aruba’s people will reward you with long-lasting fond memories.  So, explore all of its “nooks and crannies” in the desert and then quench your thirst with tropical drinks and “serbes” on the beach.  The entire island is a wonderland…. looking forward to a return trip.  In closing, and in the native Papiamento, “Mashi Danki Aruba!”

Tia - Cacapon, wv

I’ve traveled to some unique places: Cuba, Israel, Peru, to name a few, but my ultimate escape is just a short 2.5-hour drive from my house - a wooded 3 acres equipped with an old camper, a porch, and a makeshift fire pit. Oh, and a hammock. Cannot forget the hammock. 


My wife and I purchased some property that runs along the Cacapon River in Cacapon, WV a few years back with the intention of building a treehouse. Come to find out, treehouses are harder to build than we expected and our trees are really not that great. (Although, we have a lot of them) So, for now, we are sticking with the old camper that came with the property. (And that’s fine by me)


As we drive through downtown Berkeley Springs, and then pass the most beautiful overlook, (always stop at the overlooks) and wind our way towards Doris’s Deli and then take the next left, I get a complete sense of calm. My jaw relaxes, my shoulders lower, I breathe better. Heck, even the dogs know when we make that left-hand turn that we have “escaped.” It’s at that point, two of our four pups will jump in the front seat and sit on my lap and stick their head out the windows. They can’t get enough of the fresh air. 

As soon as we make that left-hand turn, we lose cell reception. That just maybe the best part. We make our way down winding roads and then across a bridge with no rails and no reflectors for the night. (We live on the wild side out here) And we always stop at the bridge to admire the splendor that is the Cacapon River and the rolling hills surrounding it.


Our weekends at our little slice of Almost Heaven are spent floating down the river, reading, and napping in the hammocks, drinking beer or moonshine, and just being at peace. Heck, we’ve even become pros at cooking over coals - homemade pizza, paella, the best darn breakfast casserole you’ll ever taste - we cook it all. 


The air smells better out there. And life seems sweeter. In the midst of all of COVID chaos last year I had the best summer of my life because I spent nearly every weekend at our run-down camper in the middle of nowhere West Virginia. It’s the simplicity of it all that makes it so wonderful.

Steve - holy mackerel 

I have been so fortunate to have seen Hong Kong back in the 1980s. Also traveled through 10 countries in Europe, spent time in Central and South America, along with four months in South Africa seeing the glory of Kruger National Park, and beauty Cape Town. Recently, I have seen the majesty and beauty of the Grand Canyon. All those experiences were incredible. I have photos, from them all and unbelievable memories to cherish forever.


Seems odd that my favorite escape is outside, under a house on Fenwick Island, Delaware. The abode rests about a one-minute walk to the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, (usually with a beer in hand). We gather once or twice a year, just to play some golf, fish, or, just for no reason. The precise location is the homemade Tiki Bar called The Holy Mackerel, which rests, precisely under the house to keep any foul weather at bay. The stilts that support this seaside venue add character, and the Tiki Bar itself is cut out of the storage area beneath the seaside house. One side of the bar is a wall to the outside world. The other side is inside the storage area when not in use. But the wall opens up by folding down providing an 8-foot wide and 3-foot-deep bar. 


On the inside, there is an old refrigerator always filled with a variety of beers. The beers in that fridge range from the most complex and tasty IPAs, to light beers, to old favorites like Natty Boh (National Bohemian), and Hamm’s. The ‘décor’ of the place is simple, eclectic, unique, and features the artwork of our host.  Seating consists of 4 brightly colored chairs, a few Adirondack chairs nestled in the sand, and a few hanging ‘hammock’ chairs. There is a TV behind the bar, not the 88-inch screen plastered across most establishments, but maybe a nice little 13-inch tv, nestled behind the bar amongst the posters, pictures, and various personal items collected or brought to this charming locale. 


The TV is just kind of there, no one really watches it, rather, there is music playing on a little speaker connected to someone’s iPhone. Often, folks at the Holy Mackerel will partake of a few Romeo and Juliet stogies. But folks are always mindful of those who do not smoke and are sure to sit in a place where the smoke drifts, carelessly into the salty sea air.



What makes this place so special? Friends. The folks that we have known for 50 years, 50 days, or 50 minutes. It is just a place of warmth, camaraderie, relaxation, and fun. It is three or four days of seeing people you love, swapping old stories, poking good-natured barbs at each other, and talking about……. well, NOTHING. Some folks may fish, some may golf, some may nap, but throughout the day and night, the Holy Mackerel is our center of the universe. It is a place where everything is at peace and worries are a million miles away. It is sheer joy and a place that is so very…. simple and PERFECT.

Grace - st lucia


My favorite place to genuinely escape is where I can focus on mind, body, and spirit. In essence, put me in a place where I can genuinely rejuvenate. In the past I’ve done triathlons, run the Marine Corp marathon, did plenty of 10K and half-marathons. The time to train for those events is long gone, but I love a physical challenge and find it as rejuvenating as that cold mojito on a beach. 

For me, that place is in St. Lucia. Tucked into the Lesser Antilles, about 1,500 miles south of Miami. A bit more mountainous than other Caribbean islands, with gorgeous beaches and great hiking trails. Yes, you’ll get those quads burning.



Even more interesting, at least to me, is that there are several serious wellness centers on the island. If you want the beach, great sun, but also want to burn some calories, drop a few lbs. and sweat then this is a great choice. One place, in particular, is called “Body Holiday”. Fantastic facilities, lots of wellness activities, great food, and yes, cocktails. People are wonderful and certified in their specialties. Their theme is, “Give us your body for a week and we’ll give you back your mind.” ( There you go! And you thought you “lost your mind”. Now you know where to find it!

scott - independent brewery

Let’s face it we all are under a great deal of stress every day. There’s the family, extended family, and of course trying to balance the work-life balance with the jobs that need looking after around the house. We all need to take a break from it now and then, to put things behind us, even if it is just for an hour or two. This is why my escape is a short walk or an even shorter drive from my house. 


Several years ago, Independent Brewery opened about a mile away from my home.  They brewed and served a wide variety of homemade lagers, pilsners, IPA’s, and flavored hard seltzers. It was a small place and I tried it out, after all, it was so close to the house, I had to see what was up. It was a small friendly place with about 10 or so beers on tap initially. The folks were hoping they would catch on and be able to stay afloat. They did not serve food, rather, depending on the day, food trucks would come up and provide a wide variety of seafood, subs, salads, pizzas. 

I found the people who worked there to be especially charming, maybe a little eclectic, but universally friendly and extremely interesting. The place had character, from its a smallish inside bar to its special outside area which featured firepits, propane heaters for those chilly nights, and nowadays the place has a huge tent for inclement weather. There are no TVs whatsoever. This isn’t a sports bar it’s a place to come, have great conversation, enjoy a cold beer, and chill. The atmosphere is very real here. 


Take a look around you see moms and dads with their little ones, next to a group gathered for an after-work drink, next to a group of folks who get their hands dirty at their office. Sometimes I meet up with a buddy or two as the workday winds down. Other times, I may just head up by myself just to take a deep breath, enjoy a new IPA offering and listen to some live music from a local artist. It’s just a perfect place to spend an hour or two with a few friends or enjoy the atmosphere by myself. 



Over time I have also come to know the owner and many of the folks who work there. A great group of folks with varied backgrounds but all with colorful stories. The banter with them always ends with smiles or a big laugh. It’s not a loud raucous place, it’s not a crowded bar with music blaring, rather a great place to unwind with a friend or two, while enjoying the day. The perfect place to escape. 

Whether it's an island, the mountains, a neighborhood bar, or your own backyard, may you have a place that you can "escape." 


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