Aruba, Heaven in the Caribbean

There are a few destinations that would appear on nearly everyone’s bucket list. The Caribbean, and in particular the island of Aruba, would probably be high on most people’s list. If it is not on your wishful itinerary perhaps after reading this you will include it.

beach 26015 640 Aruba, Heaven in the Caribbean

Aruba has an enviable reputation when it comes to sparkling clear water, breathtaking beaches, and a near perfect climate. Aruba is even fortunate enough to be at a latitude below the hurricane belt which blights many other exotic Caribbean destinations.

Aruba has managed to hold on to the charms that attract visitors from across the globe. But not only does it attract visitors it manages to keep them. The island boasts a massive 65% of visitors return to the island. Far more than any other destination in the Caribbean chain

Off the Florida Keys

Ever since the Beach boys waxed lyrical about the island in their massive hit single “Kokamo” visitors have wanted to experience the joy of the island for themselves. It is a fact of life that the island has been developed considerably since Brian Wilson urged people to visit to a place “off the Florida Keys”

Multiple airlines and travel companies offer flights or full packages respectively. There is also a local airline Aruba Airlines that flies within the region. All flights into the island arrive at Reina Beatrix airport, a modern facility with many shops and eateries.

Palm Beach

 

In the north-west of the island you can be fortunate enough to visit a beach voted time and time again as one of the best beaches in the world. Palm Beach is a picture perfect beachside resort destination. It looks just like most people’s idyllic mental image of a palm tree-lined, white sand beach, fronted by crystal clear Caribbean waters. So much so it has an unreal appearance.

Palm Beach is the centre of tourism for the island, boasting many high-quality beachfront hotels. Here you will also find all kinds of shops offering everything from local crafts to boutique fashion. EagleBeach is another extremely popular beach resort area. It is the widest beach on the island and offers, beach huts and some incredibly comfortable shaded picnic areas as well as every conceivable water-sport.

Turtle Time

Another attraction of this particular beach is that for several months each year you will see red and white markers dotted along the shoreline. These indicate the presence of protected Loggerhead, Leatherback, Green and Hawksbill turtle nests. If you are fortunate enough to be there in the hatching seasons you may be witness to one of the most inspiring sights in nature. The nestlings make their awkward way to the sea around sunset, offering a once in a lifetime opportunity to see an increasingly rare event.

Aruba is a Dutch territory, but over 80 ethnic groups call the island home. Because of this diversity which includes Europeans, Portuguese, South American Indians, Spanish and people of Asian descent the island has an eclectic selection of food possibilities.

Pancakes and Pastechi

American chains have left their mark, with delicacies such as KFC and Taco Bell available. But there are still a very an interesting range of restaurants and cafes in every corner of the island. One of the most popular is Linda’s Dutch Pancake House, a strange Dutch-Caribbean mix that produces such delights as chocolate-strawberry or bacon and apple pancakes.

Street food in this part of the world means “Pastechi”. This is a dough pocket which is fried while the chicken, seafood, cheese or meat filling cooks to perfection. The wonderfully named ‘Waka Waka Adventure Cafe and Cantina’ is another popular place to eat. This is a family-owned small restaurant which offers local and international food. On the menu you will find local fish soup, coconut shrimp, grouper and great barbecued ribs.

Aruba really is a dream holiday destination that will lure you in and capture your heart, and the chances are you will be one of the 65% who return again.

 

 

From Spa Retreat to Golfing Paradise: The Allure of Punta Cana

Those searching for a luxurious family holiday will be pleased to know that the resort of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic boasts a modern-day paradise suited to all ages.

The area itself is positioned between 650 yards of private beach, beautiful gardens and a shady coconut grove. From enjoying a massage under a palapa to spending an entire day on one of the private golf courses, there’s an activity to suit all – possibly one of the reasons the area holds such a strong allure.

3190493796 dea0977477 From Spa Retreat to Golfing Paradise: The Allure of Punta Cana
Photo Credit: Flickr user Ed Yourdon via creative commons license.

 

Sports

Other activities include a variety of water sports, such as snorkeling in the azure blue waters, water polo, wind surfing and kayaking, as well as a number of land-based options. From volleyball to football, to yoga classes and an archery academy, there’s certainly something for everyone.

All-inclusive

Many of the packages available boast all-inclusive stays, which certainly takes the hassle out of your holiday. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at regular intervals throughout the day and for those who find themselves a little peckish in between, a trip to one of the open bars, where you’ll find an abundance of snacks, is sure to suffice.

3187855972 31f1832f33 From Spa Retreat to Golfing Paradise: The Allure of Punta Cana
Photo Credit: Flickr User Ed Yourdon via Creative Commons License

Local attractions comprise the famous Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park, which sits at the Southern end of Punta Cana and boasts over 500 species of exotic plants, as well as 11 natural lagoons. Those that wish to view an abundance of the area’s tropical birds will find them at the Manati Park, whilst many of the local companies offer excursions in the shape of jeep safaris, which take you on a tour of the nearby tropical jungle.

Punta Cana is renowned for its many luxury golf courses; in fact, it’s been given the title of the Caribbean’s golf mecca. With more than 12 courses in operation, many of which have been designed by famous golfers, there’s a level to suit all.

 

As well as the many excursions and activities on offer, many quite simply visit Punta Cana for its stunning beaches, which have been consistently ranked as some of the world’s best. When you wish to delve into an activity that boasts the ultimate in relaxation, a trip to one of the resort’s many spas is a surefire way to forget all of your worries and woes.

To find out more about this stunning part of the world, simply visit the Club Med website.

 

 

Discover Grenada

Grenada is often an over looked island in the Caribbean, but it couldn’t be a better place for the holiday of a lifetime! Packed with strange, exciting and unforgettable things to see and do – it is a great place to explore and a brilliant alternative to the usual holiday package. Pack an underwater camera and some walking boots to go with that bikini and save plenty of room to bring back some of the islands specialties.

We’ve all done the obligatory museum visits on holiday to make ourselves feel less guilty about ignoring the local culture and lying on the beach with our eyes closed, but in Grenada you’ll find a sculpture museum definitely worth leaving your sun lounger for! In fact, it’s even on a beach, so you can still enjoy the sand between your toes.

diving page underwater statue Discover Grenada

Grenada’s underwater sculpture park in Moilinere Bay is filled with 65 sculptures ranging from figures based on the island’s men and women to typewriters, kitchen utensil and bicycles which were designed to create an artificial reef to attract sea life to the bay. You can visit the eerie yet unforgettable scenes either by snorkelling, scuba diving or taking a trip in a glass-bottom boat and there are plenty of guides to take you down if you prefer.

Lively tourists will love Grenada because once you’ve acclimatised to the gorgeous weather you can begin exploring some of this Caribbean Islands hidden gems. Don your walking boots (or comfortable sandals) and lather on the sun cream for a hike through the rainforest of Grand Etang National Forest. Treks can last from 15 minutes to 5 or 6 hours, so there is something to suit everyone! Head to the beautiful Grand Etang Lake to cool off or take a dip under the Seven Sisters Waterfalls a little further on.

3617478583 659a0afc6f Discover Grenada

For those of us who need a few days off after a day of hiking up Grenada’s mountains and waterfalls, (or who need to load up on energy beforehand), a leisurely visit to the Grenada Chocolate Company is a must. See how the cocoa is grown, how the beans are fermented and how the chocolate is finally made – and buy some to take home!

3933098745 0393a3e54e Discover Grenada

Grenada is also famous for its rum so make sure you leave time for a visit to the rum distillery at River Antoine on the north east coast.  The way they make rum here hasn’t changed for generations so not only will you be amazed by their techniques, the people and the scenery, but you’ll also get the chance to sample a cheeky taste of rum too.

Make your camera work harder this summer and have an unforgettable adventure in Grenada!

Author: James is a keen travel writer who writes about the Caribbean and other exotic destinations.

Photo credit: #1-The Grenada Collection, #2 and 3- ishouldlogoff!

Thanks to James for today’s guest post.  If you’re interested in guest blogging for IShouldLogOff, email us at info [at] ishouldlogoff.com. Thank!

Havana: The beat of life

The Cuban rhythm of life, an internal beat fed by the musical beats of son and the continuous swaying of hips, gets into your soul.  Havana thrives off this distinctly Cuban beat.

It’s a sound, a movement and a feeling without which you can’t understand the country or it’s people.

Cuba may be considered off the beaten path, especially for most Americans, but Havana has over two million inhabitants making it worth a visit, especially if you can get beyond the tourist area and into the heart of Havana.

Most tourists arrive to a beautiful tourist terminal and are whisked away to glossy boutique hotels and restaurants in the old section of town, Habana Vieja.

habana 1024x767 Havana: The beat of life

Along the way, visitors may not notice the rundown once glamorous homes that line each avenue or the ragged children playing baseball with small sticks and bottle caps. If they do, this image of Havana is quickly replaced with perfectly painted colorful homes, stores full of “authentic” Cuban souvenirs, streets lined with iconic American cars and fantastic food. On their stay these tourists may visit one of the many museums, take in the ballet, enjoy a street performance, or wander around the perfectly landscaped streets of Habana Vieja, only leaving this haven to visit other historic sites while traveling in the comfort of a private cab or a coco taxi, all while spending the government designated tourist currency.

FidelIsMyHomeboy Havana: The beat of life

This is not the beat of Cuba.  This is not the heart of Havana.

What these tourists are experiencing is a fabricated Cuba, artfully designed for their enjoyment and pleasure. What they are missing is the authentic raw in your face Cuba, the spirit of a people who have prevailed through imperialism, the harshest economic blockade for over 50 years, not to mention numerous hurricanes and near starvation after the fall of the Soviet Union.  It’s this spirit that makes Cuba a fascinating place, not the landscaped avenues of Habana Vieja.

CheInCuba Havana: The beat of lifeThe real Havana is not glamorous by any standards. The city is littered with once stunning mansions now turned to into tenement houses with their crumbled balconies held up by discarded lumber and once beautifully painted facades chipping away in the sunlight. Neighborhoods are dotted with old movie theaters hiding tattered seats and curtains, and streets with cars that when you look closely, have been haphazardly rebuilt with whatever parts or makeshift parts are available.

Living in Cuba for five months gave me the inside view of Cuban life and culture.  With a residency card I lived among the residents of Havana, shopped in their same stores, and wandered along the same streets. Despite its outward appearance, Havana is thriving.

If you were to walk down the street with you eyes closed you would be bombarded with sounds of radio, drums, trumpets, voices singing and talking, the smell of the salty ocean breeze, simmering black beans and fresh fruit.  Take it in for a moment and you would quickly find yourself walking to a different beat. With your eyes closed, you could easily mistake the city for paradise, not a dilapidated rundown place.

It’s this sense of Havana that most tourists miss, they only see the outward beauty of the rehabilitated homes and buildings and the carefully rehearsed tourism dance that Cuba plays, they miss the authentic Havana beat.

Having lived there I fell in love with the daily beat, the never ending music and laughter, and the inner strength of Cuban people. My favorite experiences were the unexpected invite into a house, the taste of fresh ice cream in a crowded sweltering room full of boisterous families, the impromptu salsa dance with a stranger in the middle of the street as an old radio played from a nearby living room, the continual excitement of not knowing what you would find in a shop, and the pleasure of taking a cool dip in the ocean.

This is the Havana tourists don’t see, the one that is only a few blocks off the beaten path, that will really make you fall in love with city.

SunsetInHavana Havana: The beat of life

Looking to visit Cuba?  What about island hopping on a Caribbean cruise?  Check out CruiseLineFans, a cruise community with the latest news, updates and user written reviews.

Looking for Luxury? Paradise in Antigua

Thanks to Iain Miller for today’s guest post.  If you are interested in guest posting with IShouldLogOff, email us at info [at] ishouldlogoff.com. Thanks!

Carlisle Bay Beach 250x145 Looking for Luxury? Paradise in AntiguaIf you were asked to picture a luxurious holiday destination on a Caribbean island, I can imagine what you might conjure up: a beach front hotel, pure white sand and crystal clear blue sea against a tropical green backdrop, fine dining, beautiful décor, and service-with-a-smile. Well, welcome to Carlisle Bay, Antigua where they’ve got it all, and more.

Clearly not content with creating the beautiful One Aldwych hotel in London, Gordon Campbell Gray has turned his impeccable attention to the Caribbean and, more-than ably assisted by his interior design partner Mary Fox-Linton, they have created the picture of beach-side style, luxury and comfort.

Let’s start at the beginning. On arrival at V.C. Bird Airport, just outside the Antigua capital of St. John’s, we were met by our driver who transferred us to Carlisle Bay. I’m sure he didn’t stop smiling for the whole journey! After winding up a gravel driveway through lush tropical rain forest we had our first glimpse of paradise – a crescent of simply elegant architecture tracing the line of the inviting turquoise water that lapped onto the white beach. On entering reception another smiling face ushered us to a sofa and offered cooling towels and drinks as we signed-in and we were personally welcomed by the Manager before being shown to our rooms.

Carlisle Bay Room 250x145 Looking for Luxury? Paradise in AntiguaAnd what rooms! Opening onto the beach, they seem to have successfully embodied the spirit of the resort in their design: spacious, stylish and fresh, yet comfy and laid-back – designed and manicured in every detail, but in a way that speaks more of hospitality than pretentiousness. There are a selection of one, two and three bed suites, all en-suite, all with TV and DVD facility, internet access, Gaggia espresso machines and, most importantly, all with a terrace or balcony from which to drink in that beach view.

After the obligatory sun-bathe and swim on the beach we began to explore Carlisle Bay’s many other facilities. We started with windsurfing and other water sports in the bay – non-motorised to keep the water crystal clear and the noise disturbance down, and then the yoga pavilion and the Blue Spa and gym.

My partner raved about the West Indian Massage she received and went back twice for more during our week-long stay! The wonderful library and air conditioned Italian leather-seated private cinema were touches that I really enjoyed, offering more than the usual ‘action-only’ facilities of many hotels. Exploring the mangrove lagoon by kayak was another unique and thrilling activity not to be missed.Carlisle Bay Pool 250x145 Looking for Luxury? Paradise in Antigua Although we weren’t with children, it was clear to see that the Kids Clubs and resort’s own babysitting service were very popular and allowed parents their own space to relax and explore.

Breakfasts are included in the price of the suite, and just like them, every care and detail has been lavished upon them, including a choice of patisseries that wouldn’t have been out of place in Paris. The two restaurants provided intimate, high quality dining. Indigo on the Beach leans towards fresh Caribbean seafood, grills and salads, while East is the more formal of the two – dark wood and deep red décor – and serving an impressive array of Asian cuisine. It’s possible to order from the full menu of either restaurant and have it delivered by room service, allowing you to enjoy your meal from the comfort of your own terrace.

Eventually, our week at Carlisle Bay came to a close and we had to leave the luxurious solitude and head back to normality. But even as we said our farewells to the friendly and ever-beaming staff and were waved-off by the Manager, I was sure we’d be back again…

Editors Note: We didn’t get to the Caribbean Islands on this RTW, but this sounds heavenly.