Monthly Archives: November 2016

10 Best Vacation Islands in the Caribbean

Magnificent surroundings, turquoise blue water, palm trees, sandy beaches, exotic food and diverse cultures all come to mind when one dreams of escaping to the Caribbean isles. With over 7,000 islands to choose from, each one with its own unique charms, it can be a daunting task trying to plan the perfect Caribbean holiday. But that’s what we’re here for! So take a look at our list of the Caribbean’s best vacation islands.

1. U.S. Virgin Islands

The US Virgin Islands, only 1,000 miles away from the city of Miami, are something akin to 50 floating emeralds in a sapphire sea. Because they are part of the United States, the islands have somewhat of an American feel, but they nonetheless remain quintessentially Caribbean.

There are three main islands, all located within easy travel distance from each other. St. Croix, the easternmost island is also the largest and covered in green, rolling hills. St. Thomas hosts the capital city of Charlotte Amalie, and offers 13 miles of sandy beaches along its irregular coastline. Then there is St. John, the smallest of the three, most of which is covered by national park.

The US Virgin Islands has the busiest cruise port in the Caribbean and stellar shopping facilities on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. Liquor, tobacco, jewelry, native arts and crafts, fine art, leather goods, the list goes on. St. Thomas particularly is one of the best duty free shopping destinations in the Caribbean. There is no sales tax up to $1,200 per family member when you shop in the US Virgin Islands!

The islands are also great location for activities like hiking, turtle watching, snorkeling, scuba diving and water sports.

2. Turks and Caicos

Imagine 224 miles of beaches! That’s what you’ll find in Turks and Caicos! This coral reef-laden island paradise is known throughout the region for its unspoiled natural beauty. Providenciales, also called Provo, is the most popular among the many islands with tourists. However, if you prefer a quieter island, head over to Grand Turk and discover its charming old town and colonial past.

The Turks and Caicos are considered to be some of the world’s top destinations for scuba diving. Both islands have abundant coral reef, and thanks to the many dive shops it’s easy for both novices and experienced divers to get out on the water.

Shopping addicts will also love the Turks and Caicos with its array of designer watches, gold jewelry, local art and casual-island wear on display.

For nighttime entertainment, head over to Osprey Beach Hotel in Grand Turk for ripsaw music on Wednesdays and Sundays or to Grace Bay Club for a beautiful sunset around a beachfront fire pit.

3. St Kitts

St. Kitts was once known as ‘The Mother Colony’, the first permanent English settlement in the Caribbean. Today the island is covered in tea plantations with the locals still practicing decidedly British traditions like afternoon tea. One of the island’s prime attractions is the Brimstone Hill Fortress, which stands 800 feet high and offers stunning views of the mountainous island and its beaches.

Visitors looking for more of the island’s rich colonial history can visit the Romney Manor Plantation, which was once owned by Thomas Jefferson. Likewise they can also visit the capital city of Basseterre to check out its many colonial-era buildings.

It’s not all history on St Kitts, the island has plenty of water activities too. Deep sea fishing, sailing, diving and windsurfing are all possible in the area. Check out Pinney’s Beach, the most happening spot on the island!

4. Sint Maarten/Saint Martin

Sint Maarten is an island that is divided into two halves, a French northern half and a Dutch southern half. At less than 100 square kilometers, it is one of the smallest islands in the world to be divided amongst two nations.

There is a border between the two sides, though checks are infrequent. The principal airport on the island is the Princess Juliana Airport, located on the Dutch side of the island. The airport is an attraction in itself because of its wild landing approach, which sees jets flying above a nearby beach and beachgoers just before hitting the runway.

The French side of the island is called Saint Martin. Known for its nude beaches and naturist lifestyle destinations, it is also noted for its delicious cuisine and luxury shopping. Its capital and largest city, with just under 6,000 people, is Marigot.

The Dutch side of the island is called Sint Maarten. Its capital and largest city, with only 1,300 people, is Philipsburg. Mostly famous for its vibrant nightlife, casinos and rum-based alcoholic beverages, it serves as a popular port of call for visiting cruise liners.

5. Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles that was formerly a colony of both Britain and France. At only 600 square kilometers and 170,000 people, Saint Lucia is one of the world’s smallest independent countries.

It’s a beautiful, volcanic island that is covered in lush green rainforest. Its most famous landmarks are the Pitons, two peaks that jut straight up from the sea and are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One fun way for visitors to really explore the island is to hike to the peaks of these mountains with local tour guides.

The capital and largest city of Saint Lucia is Castries. The city has 60,000 people and is the point of disembarkation for most cruise ship passengers who visit the island. Marigot Bay is another city in Saint Lucia and is home to what many say is the most beautiful bay in the entire Caribbean!

Saint Lucia is a popular island for vacationers because of its hiking, diving, snorkeling and numerous beaches. Special note to Jazz music lovers, the St. Lucia Jazz festival is held in early May and is a great time to visit the island.

6. Aruba

Aruba is well known for its luxurious resorts, timeshares and fantastic casinos. Leading the way is the Copacabana Casino at the Hyatt Regency Aruba, the Crystal Casino at Renaissance Aruba and the Stellaris Casino at Aruba Marriott.

Don’t blow all of your money though, because Aruba also has other activities worth your while. Visitors can try their hand at snorkeling, diving and windsurfing, just to name a few. The Arikok National Wildlife Park is a great place to explore and hike the island’s desert terrain.

Aruba is a constituent country of Holland and has an interesting mix of Caribbean and Dutch culture. This is best seen in the island’s local cuisine. Check out the “dine around” program from the Aruba Gastronomic Association, which offers visitors a chance to dine at a wide number of restaurants throughout the entire island and taste everything Aruba has to offer!

7. Jamaica

Jamaica is one of the most popular islands in the entire Caribbean for vacationers! It’s a large island, more than 10,000 square kilometers, and befitting its size it has a wide array of beaches and charming cities.

Port Antonio on the island’s northeastern coast is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole country, Boston Bay Beach. Pass the time by relaxing on its white sand, trying your hand at surfing or eating at one of its many jerk pork street-food stands.

Another interesting part of Jamaica is Montego Bay, on the island’s northwestern coast. This is where many of Jamaica’s large resorts are situated, and is a very popular getaway with international visitors. There’s certainly no denying the appeal of long white sand beaches, all-inclusive luxury resorts, sunny weather and pulsating nightlife!

A unique way to experience Jamaica is by visiting the world-famous and raunchy resort Hedonism II. Located in Negril, this exclusive attraction is known for its anything-goes party atmosphere. Swingers and exhibitionists alike have been singing its praises for years!

PS: Make sure to brush up on your Jamaican English before your trip by listening to some Bob Marley!

8. Dominican Republic

One the largest countries in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic occupies the eastern half of the island Hispaniola, which it shares with Haiti. Rest assured though, the Dominican Republic is a world apart from the troubles that have recently befallen Haiti.

The Dominican Republic is famous for its rich wildlife, beautiful white sand beaches and exciting nightlife. Its locals, meanwhile, are known for their good looks, tanned bodies and relaxed demeanors.

The two most visited areas in the Dominican Republic are Puerto Plata and Punta Cana. Puerto Plata is a medium-sized city located on the country’s northern coast. It offers a sizzling nightlife, beautiful beaches and excellent shopping. Punta Cana, on the other hand, is located in the far east of the country. It’s a more remote area than Puerto Plata and it offers plenty of solitude and some of the most striking beaches in the Dominican Republic!

9. Cuba

It may come as a surprise to many Americans, but Cuba’s tourism industry is alive and well. In fact, tourists from every nation but America have been frequenting Cuba for years and the island is especially popular amongst Canadian and French travelers.

Travelers who have visited Cuba, often say that vacationing on the island offers a glimpse of what the Caribbean was like thirty years ago. With its paradisaical natural beauty, unspoiled by large resorts and mass tourism, Cuba is certainly a welcome relief from the Caribbean’s more commercial destinations.

The capital of Cuba is Havana; a city steeped in historical lore. Before the communist revolution, after all, Havana was the hottest spot in the Caribbean. A center for movie stars, international playboys and gangsters alike, who came to celebrate the good life in one of the city’s many casinos.

These days the casinos are gone, but remnants of the city’s glamor still remain. Hemingway’s old haunts call to visitors and classic American cars ply the streets, sailing past the crumbling facades of disused hotels.

But that’s enough about Havana. The best place to enjoy Cuba’s beautiful sun, sand and surf is at Varadero on the island’s northern coast. Situated on a tiny peninsula, only one-kilometer wide and jutting out into the sea, visitors will find 20 kilometers of white sand beaches, dozens of beachfront resorts and Cuba’s only 18-hole golf course.

10. Barbados

The small island of Barbados is without a doubt one of the most beautiful islands in the world! It is the easternmost island in the Caribbean and is surrounded by an offshore coral reef, giving the island’s waters an amazing turquoise color and making them ideal for snorkeling or swimming.

More so, friendly locals, known as Bajans, do their best to make sure that visitors to Barbados feel the true warmth of the Caribbean!

Most visitors to the island choose to stay on its west coast, also known as the Platinum Coast, where many of the island’s luxury resorts and villas are located. One of the many notable beaches in the vicinity is Mullins Beach; a great place for swimming.

The capital of Barbados is Bridgetown. Here visitors will find a large selection of duty-free shops and restaurants. Many of the hotels and resorts on the island offer free shuttle services to and from Bridgetown.

For a great dining experience, Brown Sugar in southern Barbados offers more than 30 creole and local dishes. Try souse (pickled pork, stewed for hours), cou-cou, buljol, Bajan flying fish, coconut shrimp and many more. Don’t miss the pawpaw pie and rum pudding for dessert.

10 Destinations for Honeymooners

More than just a romantic getaway, a honeymoon is about creating memories that will last a lifetime. The destination selected for such an important life event has to be many things: romantic, exotic, fun and most importantly, memorable.

Las Vegas, Nevada

While Vegas has a reputation of being “Sin City”, the truth is that the city is well suited for all and there are plenty of fun and exciting options for couples. Of course there are the various casinos offering poker games and other gambling, but Vegas is much more than just gambling.

Las Vegas casinos offer numerous options to newlyweds for entertainment including Broadway caliber shows, world-class entertainers, and some of the best nightlife in the United States. The Excalibur offers something you don’t see everywhere and that is live action jousting tournament known as the Tournament of Champions. While technically a dinner theater, patrons dine Medieval style while watching one of the more unique performances you will see in Vegas.

If you are a bit more adventurous, you can try the Vegas Zip Line. The zip line runs the length of Fremont Street and is an 800 ft controlled descent that can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour. Also, remember that the Grand Canyon is just a couple of hours away and you can even purchase day trip tickets with local companies and save the expense of renting a car for the trip.

France

While it sounds cliché, France is without a doubt the most romantic country in the world! Of course, Paris is the most popular destination for honeymooners. Known as the city of lights and considered to be the world’s most romantic city, Paris has been entrancing newlyweds for centuries. Take a romantic stroll along the river Seine, shop as much as your pocketbook can handle on the Champs-Élysées and enjoy the incredible views from the Eiffel Tower.

France, of course, is much more than just Paris. The Loire Valley is located several hundred kilometers southeast of Paris is world renowned for its charming vineyards, delicious wine, rural beauty and elegant châteaux. Although many of the châteaux have unique qualities that would make them special to visit, three that truly stand out are Chambord, Azay le Rideau and Chenonceau.

In the south of France visitors flock to the Côte d’Azur and the city of Nice. Here the turquoise water, year-round sun and pulsating nightlife keeps couples entertained. One interesting time to visit the French Riviera is during the Cannes Film Festival. Held every year in May, this festival attracts celebrities and entertainers from around the world. The entire region takes on a festive atmosphere and there are many free shows and concerts to enjoy.

Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia is an island nation in the Lesser Antilles that was formerly a colony of both Britain and France. At only 600 square kilometers and 170,000 people, Saint Lucia is one of the world’s smallest independent countries.

It’s a beautiful, volcanic island that is covered in lush green rainforest. Its most famous landmarks are the Pitons, two peaks that jut straight from the sea and are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. One fun way for visitors to explore the island is to hike to the peaks of these mountains with local tour guides.

The capital and largest city of Saint Lucia is Castries. The city has 60,000 people and is the point of disembarkation for most cruise ship passengers who visit the island. Marigot Bay is another city in Saint Lucia and is home to what many say is the most beautiful bay in the entire Caribbean!

Saint Lucia is a popular island for honeymooning couples because of its hiking, diving, snorkeling and many beaches. Special note to Jazz music lovers, the St. Lucia Jazz festival is in early May and is a fun time to visit the island.

Mexico

Mexico’s popularity as a honeymoon destination is undeniable! Tourists tend to stick to the coastal regions, but thankfully Mexico has about 6,000 miles of coastline to enjoy!

One Pacific coast hot spot for honeymooners is Cabo San Lucas. Popular with Californians, Cabo is located on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. The city hosts a countless number of luxury resorts and health spas. The weather is almost always perfect and the drinks are cold!

On the opposite side of the country the tropical Yucatan and its Caribbean coastline is the big attraction. While Cancun gets its fair share of honeymooners, the city may be better suited for drunken spring breakers. Other places in the Yucatan like Playa del Carmen and the island of Cozumel offer quieter and more romantic alternatives. The warm nights, Caribbean Sea and jungle atmosphere all combine to create the perfect honeymoon.

Want to do something crazy on your honeymoon? Check out the Hidden Beach Resort near Playa del Carmen. This is one of the world’s most luxurious nudist resorts! Guests are greeted upon arrival with a glass of champagne and stay in one of 42 beachfront suites overlooking the Caribbean Sea, complete with a private two-person Jacuzzi. The resort is gated and surrounded by walls within a mangrove jungle and no one is allowed to take photos or videos, perfect for a relaxing vacation.

French Polynesia

French Polynesia is the ultimate honeymoon destination for couples who can afford it. Consisting of several island groups in the South Pacific, there are three main islands: Tahiti, Moorea and Bora Bora.

Tahiti, being home to the territory’s only international airport, is the first island most visitors see. It’s known for its indulgent health resorts and spas, however there are other activities like the local markets, cascading waterfalls, jungle hikes and secluded beaches.

Bora Bora is the most strikingly beautiful island in French Polynesia. Surrounded by coral reel, the island is a volcanic caldera and has a dramatic rise from the sea. Here couples can find some of the world’s most secluded, luxurious and expensive resorts. The traditional style on the island is to build private bungalows over the water and connected via wooden piers. This type of accommodation provides the utmost in elegance and surely makes for an unforgettable experience.

10 Most Visited Caribbean Islands

The choice destination for daydreamers everywhere, the Caribbean easily surpasses even the most fantastic images that spring to mind. Grab a pina colada and get ready to leave the slush behind because it’s time to check out the top 10 most visited Caribbean islands. A few more sips, and yes, there’s the warm breeze and the azure waves lazily lapping at your feet while you feast on mango and fried yucca. And we’re off…

1. Turks and Caicos Islands with 354,000 visitors

Turks and Caicos is the ideal Caribbean destination, with around 230 miles of white sand beaches lining the 40-island archipelago. Avid divers and snorkelers can enjoy pristine reefs, thanks to the protected status and lack of industry. Additionally, visitors can fish, bird watch and explore caves and shipwrecks. Or just unwind and indulge at the upscale resorts that often play host to vacationing celebrities.

2. Sint Maarten with 424,000 visitors

Sint Maarten is a mix-and-match of various cultures, cuisines and things to do. The Dutch constituent country shares the tiny island with the French collectivity of Saint-Martin. Visitors can feast on cuisine that mixes Dutch, French and native elements, test their luck at the casinos, spend the winnings at the duty-free shops, party until dawn, and then finally, take in the natural beauty. Adrenaline junkies can parachute over the island, explore the central mountain range and partake in any number of water sports. Sint Maarten is also ground zero for yachting, echoing the over-the-top indulgence of the whole island.

3. U.S. Virgin Islands with 536,000 visitors

Water Island, St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas comprise the U.S. Virgin Islands, each with their own unique, must-see qualities. Over half of St. John’s 12,500 acres are national park, and each beach comes standard with clear waters, pristine sand and unspoiled views. For a historical take, walk the Heritage Trail on St. Croix and then visit the protected sea turtles at Sandy Point. Splash around in shallow Magens Bay and walk through the capital on St. Thomas. And if that isn’t enough, truly get away from it all on Water Island, where there’s no cars and nary a store, and barely 200 inhabitants.

4. Barbados with 568,000 visitors

As if the beaches and slow pace of life wasn’t enough, Barbados is also the birthplace of rum, and no visit is complete without a night of too many rum punches. Enjoy the signature drink while watching the horse races, at a fish fry, at the club or at any point of the the 70 miles of beaches. Honeymooners and travelers can snorkel or swim in the reefs on the south side of the island or surf on the choppy waves on the eastern edge, which is considered one of the best surfing spots in the world.

5. Aruba with 870,000 visitors

Just off the coast of Venezuela, Aruba is outside the the main hurricane avenue and has a dry, sunny climate, making it the ideal for a Caribbean getaway. The island has it all, from Arikok National Park, which covers almost 20% of the island, to world-class wreck diving and surfing to an all-night nightlife. Whether chilling out on Eagle Beach or horseback riding through the countryside, Aruba’s motto of “One Happy Island” immediately rings true.

6. The Bahamas with 1,346,000 visitors

Consisting of 700 islands, of which just 23 are inhabited, it seems the possibilities are endless in The Bahamas. From Christopher Columbus to the pirate Blackbeard, the chain of islands has seen its fair share of history’s noted adventurers, but these days the visitors tend to be of a calmer ilk. Honeymooners, adventure seekers and families can soak up a wide range of activities, including the endless beaches and pampering in the many resorts. Get moving with all sorts of water sports or a dive for some sunken treasure. For even more traveling, check out the unique sights and history of the various islands.

7. Jamaica with 1,952,000 visitors

Jamaica’s probably the best known out of all the Caribbean offerings thanks to Bob Marley, reggae and Rastafarianism. Swirled together with jerk seasoning, Jamaica presents a rich mix of culture and history unlike the rest of the Caribbean. The island is also the poster child of elopers and newlyweds everywhere, with its romantic all-inclusive resorts and dreamy landscapes. Outside the resorts, visitors can find breathtaking waterfalls and trails as well as the Caribbean’s dependable crystalline waters and the chance to swim with dolphins.

8. Cuba with 2,688,000 visitors

Although restricted for U.S. citizens, Cuba sees a steady stream of worldwide visitors every year, including a growing number of American visitors arriving from Canada or Mexico. The Antilles’ biggest island lack of economic powerhouse pales in comparison to its incredible rich heritage, food, and history. The faded architecture looks more shabby chic than run-down, and the preservation of iconic sites and traditions presents visitors with a deep look into Cuban history and pride. And the country’s popular medical tourism proves that Cuba has plenty of modern offerings. Of course, it should go without saying that the lush countryside, bays and inlets are just as vivid as the houses, music and people in the cities.

9. Puerto Rico with 3,048,000 visitors

Although small, Puerto Rico requires at least a week’s stay to truly experience the wide range of activities and day trips available. The flawless island features world-class beaches, stick-to-your-ribs food and the El Yunque rainforest. Added to the charming colonial architecture and electric hum of life, Puerto Rico is one place that fits the bill for all types. The rum tastings certainly don’t hurt the island’s image, either.

10. Dominican Republic with 4,306,000 visitors

The beauty and the sense of being a part of a buzzing, pulsing atmosphere makes the Dominican Republic a fine choice for a holiday. The scenery just doesn’t stop, from beaches and waterfalls to deserts and mountains packed into its half of the island of Hispaniola. Santo Domingo, the Caribbean’s largest city, bounces along to a blasting merengue soundtrack, stealing the title of the city that never sleeps. And the near guarantee of new friends and a push to eat more all signify the makings of a perfect getaway that requires a sequel.