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Air Canada Vacations - Travel Blog

23 Oct

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Things to Do in Puerto Plata

October 23, 2018 | By |

Get ready for care-free floats in the pool with cocktails in hand, snorkelling off idyllic islands, and adrenaline-inducing exploration! The northern province of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic has become an increasingly popular vacation destination, because of its gorgeous beaches and laidback lifestyle. There are beach resorts all along the coastline where you can enjoy luxurious amenities and find the relaxation you deserve.

But don’t be fooled, there’s also a multitude of different experiences waiting for you in this lush Dominican paradise, including historic sites and immersive cultural opportunities. Consider a longer stay so you’ll have time to complete your growing list of things to do in Puerto Plata.

The balance of activities available to us was a nice surprise. As a result, we’ve compiled our recommendations into the top 5 things to do in Puerto Plata.

The Vacation Couple in Puerto Plata

Visit Paradise Island

On the border of the province, just off the coast of Punta Rucia, you’ll find one of the smallest islands in the world, Cayo Arena, aptly nicknamed Paradise Island.  You can spend the afternoon lounging, eating, drinking, swimming or snorkelling around this 2,000 square foot slice of paradise.

Visiting Cayo Arena is part of an all-day excursion available through Air Canada Vacations. Our tour included a VIP boat ride with unlimited drinks, coffee, and fresh fruit, as well as a delicious buffet lunch with lobster. Our day started with great music, friendly staff, and a floating champagne bar.

Once we arrived at the main attraction, Cayo Arena, we all found an area to ourselves. The sand was so soft that in certain places, it actually felt like walking in Jell-O! While we snorkelled, the fish were out in abundance and unabashedly swam by us in their natural habitat. No visit to Puerto Plata would be complete without a visit to Cayo Arena, an idyllic slice of paradise!

Jump Off Waterfalls

The Damajagua Waterfalls are a series of 27 cascading waterfalls in the Dominican jungle made by Mother Nature and the Damajagua River. You’ll strap on your life jacket and helmet before climbing up to the 7th waterfall to begin your adventure of climbing, sliding, or jumping off into the water below. For the faint of heart, there’s the option of taking stairs down, but we recommend taking the more exciting route and JUMPING!

You’ll only cover a quarter of the waterfalls in this 2-3 hour tour, so it won’t take up your entire day.  We recommend going early and enjoying your buffet lunch before carrying on with your day under the Dominican sunshine.  To balance our day, we visited a nearby beach before going back to our resort to indulge in all-inclusive luxuries.  This brings us to our next point, one of the most essential things to do in Puerto Plata…

Relax At an All-Inclusive Resort

The coast of Puerto Plata is filled with views of lush vegetation, rolling mountains and a gorgeous ocean with tons of marine life to explore. Staying at a beach resort ensures you’ll take advantage of all of Puerto Plata’s natural surroundings. We stayed at the Grand Bahia Principe San Juan, a short 10-minute drive from Rio San Juan.

This resort is part of the Spotlight Collection, which elevates your vacation with exclusive added values. I’m talking more à la carte dinners, in-room amenities, and 4,000 bonus Aeroplan® Miles per couple!

The Rooms

With 845 rooms across their grand property, this beautiful pastel community in the jungle feels open and airy.  Besides our beautiful balcony, the mini bar was a feature that we really loved as it had a variety of pop, juices, water, and beer that we could grab at any time.  Our room was located at the centre of the property, which made getting to the beach, pool, lobby, and most restaurants an absolute breeze.

The Food

Although Shadi and I love a sit-down meal at an à la carte restaurant (which we’ll get to soon), our true passion is buffets. And the main restaurant, La Brisa International Buffet, did not disappoint us! We were pleased morning, noon, and night at the selection of fresh foods served. Also, they had an ice cream bar, need we say more?

What to Do

With a swim-up bar and ample room to float around, the main lake-style pool is where the party’s at! We also enjoyed the quieter times at the other pools, as they gave us privacy and had direct access to the beach.

We had over 1.5 km of private beach at our fingertips, surrounded by thick, bright, and beautiful flora. You could wade in the water or take a stroll on the sand, and sunsets were truly magical here.

Take advantage of both the snorkelling and paddle boarding, as both are complimentary with your stay. Or you can go that extra mile and indulge in spa services with facilities that are adorned with Dominican touches. Who doesn’t love having a relaxing massage on the beach while listening to the soothing sounds of the sea?

Go on a City Tour

With a full-day tour of the city, you’ll be able to learn while visiting influential places. Here are our top things to do in Puerto Plata, city edition.

Mount Isabel de Torres

Chris the Redeemer statue

Riding the teleferico was an event on its own. It’s the only cable car in the Caribbean and allows for panoramic views of the city and coastline from 800m above sea level.

As we headed up Mount Isabel de Torres, the breathtaking views slowly presented themselves and the anticipation began to build. Once we reached the top, the large Christ the Redeemer statue was waiting for us with open arms.

During your time up here, we recommend wandering through the Botanical Gardens and taking in the surroundings. This colourful garden covers nearly 7 acres and features 600 varieties of tropical plants.

Brugal Rum Distillery

One of the most memorable experiences we had in Puerto Plata is touring the family-owned Brugal Rum Distillery. The Brugal family is the largest producer of traditionally made rum in the Dominican.

We toured the distillery with Jassil Brugal, a 5th generation brewmaster. Her passion for the process was apparent as she spoke to us. It was fascinating to learn about the aging process and see each step along the way. The tour ended with a rum tasting and a new appreciation for premium rums and the legacy of the distillery.

Central Park

Found in the centre of Puerto Plata city, Parque Central welcomes you with its surrounding palms and colourful pastel architecture. The main square is a beautiful place where locals relax and spend time with friends and family. You’ll find a café, and restaurant around the square, as well as bakeries, street art, souvenir shops, museums and the Atlantic Ocean just a couple of blocks away. Wandering these gorgeous streets should be at the top of your list of things to do in Puerto Plata.

Go Beach Hopping

Puerto Plata beachesWith over 100 km of beautiful beaches to choose from, it’s easy to find a spot to enjoy. We visited as many beaches as we possibly could which resulted in time at Playa Sosua, Cabarete, Playa Dorada, and the stunning beach at the Grand Bahia Principe San Juan.

Each beach seemed to have its own distinct personality, with Kite beach in Cabarete being one of the most memorable. We wandered along the shore admiring all the kiteboarders slicing through the water. One surfer stood out from the rest, and locals shared that he was a world champion kitesurfer. Watching him cut through the waves and do flips in the air is an experience we’ll never forget!

Why You Should Visit Puerto Plata

There are many more things to do in Puerto Plata, but these are our absolute favourites. It’s truly an experience like no other, with such a rich diversity of activities for you to choose from.  With so many different options for food, activities, and accommodations, you can craft the perfect combination for you.

Air Canada Vacations offers flights from Toronto to Puerto Plata weekly during the summer months and four times per week during the winter months. Plus, you’ll be receiving 1 checked bag per person plus all transfers from the airport to your hotel in your package price.

This blog post was written by The Vacation Couple, ambassadors for Air Canada Vacations. See what the Vacation Couple has been up to.

 

12 Oct

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Things To Do In Kauai

October 12, 2018 | By |

Film fans might instantly recognize the awe-inducing landscapes of the so-called “Garden Island.” Kauai’s emerald-hued mountains and verdant valleys have played co-starring roles in many big-budget flicks, from Jurassic Park and Avatar to Godzilla and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But don’t be intimated by the island’s Hollywood good looks—it offers tons to do for every type of traveller.

For the nature lover

Outdoor explorers, buckle up. Kauai’s nickname is somewhat misleading, unless your garden also includes a rugged coastline of sea cliffs, or a canyon carved out of lava rock. The Napali Coast Wilderness State Park invites you to admire its most beautiful sights. Trek its winding trail, cruise by in a kayak, or see it all from above in a helicopter. Next, meet Kauai’s version of the Grand Canyon, the spectacular Waimea Canyon with its rocky terrain tinged in shades of red, orange and green. Hike to the park’s lookouts to take in its gorgeous gorges and dense forests.

For the foodie

Of course, gardens also provide produce, and Kauai uses its resources in a wealth of ways, from healthy vegan meals to deep-fried delights.  With Hawaii’s multicultural heritage, the island’s food is globally inspired—its dishes borrow from Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Filipino cuisine. For fresh ingredients, stop at Kauai’s Sunshine Markets (farmer’s markets) in towns like Lihue, or Hanalei. Try originals like spam musubi, a sushi snack found in most grocery stores, or Koloa’s Puka dog, a hot dog in Hawaiian sweet bread, topped with a spicy sauce and tropical fruit relish. No visit would be complete without enjoying the country’s colourful dessert: cold and delicious shave ice, served up perfectly at Wailua Shave Ice in Kapaa.

For the aquaphile

Kauai is not all insurmountable peaks and intimidating vistas. It’s also secluded stretches of white sand and jungle-bound beaches perfect for rest and relaxation. Opt for the golden shores of Kauai’s East Side, nicknamed the Coconut Coast. Near the navigable Wailua River and its famous waterfalls, swim, snorkel and spot all types of underwater dwellers off Lydgate Beach, with its two rock-enclosed lagoons. Crescent-shaped Poipu Beach, on the island’s southern coast, is a popular pick for families and those looking for all types of nautical activities. Forest-rimmed and idyllic, Kauai’s beaches are your window to the Pacific’s crystal-clear waters.

What’s next

Answer the call of Kauai! We make it easy for you to discover Hawaii’s greenest island with packages and flights from Canadian cities, including our new, direct flights from Vancouver. Hot travel tip: Book by November 4 to enjoy Flight & Hotel packages to Hawaii for under $999.

11 Oct

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OOOOOH, CANADA

October 11, 2018 | By |

From see to shining see 

At once untamed, refined, and culturally captivating, Canada lays out vast, virgin wilderness as easily as it does vibrant metropolitan hubs.

Morning mist floating over the foothills of the Rockies. Frosty Yukon tundra under the glimmer of midday. Colourful fishing boats lapped by wavelets as the sun melts into the Atlantic. A night of pristine cuisine, cutting-edge art shows, and tasty cocktails spilling over into dawn. From good morning to bonsoir, Canada stays eternally compelling.

A land of impressive extremes, its seasonal cold of legend is effortlessly matched by the warmth of its people. Still, there’s just some stuff that Canada does better than any place on the planet.

Here’s why the Great White North is so great right now.

Winter. Wonderland.

Winter activitiesRustic accommodations in comfy log cabins, dogsledding through the Yukon (mush!), Tundra Buggy rides across ice-white landscapes for a world-class feast in an 18th century fort, hanging out on an ice shelf with adorable harp seal pups in Îles-de-la-Madeleine after a wildlife heli-tour, proper 5-star luxury at a pristinely refurbished chateau—literally and figuratively—Canada is the coolest playground around. And it never closes for cold weather.

Of course, should your perfect cold-weather getaway involve carving up double black diamond trails (or sipping hot cocoa back at the lodge after a few hours on the bunny hill), Canada delivers nothing but downhill dreams of packed powder in some of the best ski resorts on earth.

Need more?

Check out our Canadian winter adventures

Taste lives here.

Best food in CanadaAn eclectic and culturally rich history can’t help but inform all things culinary here. Every urban cityscape is a true foodie promised land. And it’s not all fries, curd cheese and gravy…

You can’t throw a dumpling without hitting a tasty, traditional Asian eatery in Van City—Vancouver is home to Canada’s largest Chinatown. Delivering contemporary edibles, authentic flavours and innovative cocktails, Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie is a preferred way to get your night started, or wind it down.

If you’re going to try poutine, try it in Montreal—no city does it better. For less humble fare and no-fail, upscale gustatory pleasure, tuck in at Liverpool House from the folks that spawned Joe Beef.

Still hungry? St. John’s plates some of the choicest seafood in Eastern Canada. If it has fins, feathers, fur or foliage and it’s local, Raymonds knows how to serve it so that it elicits eye-rolling ecstasy.

Wild. Life.

Canada wildlifePeppered with hidden geographic gems only a local could find and conspicuous mountain ranges looming larger than life, Canada is nirvana for the nature set.

With jutting, snowcapped peaks aching for an Instagram pic and freshwater lakes begging for a dip, Alberta’s provincially protected Kananaskis Country offers a rarefied glimpse of raw wilderness you simply couldn’t get elsewhere. Cue elk lumbering through a secret stream looking for the leaves to lunch on.

Unspoiled forests are hard to top, but a day kayaking the Johnstone Strait as a pod of humpbacks crest the surface to spray summer air with blowhole mist comes pretty close. Keep an eye out for the tell-tale two-tone of Orcas—the gentle giants are also known to loll about playfully in these waters.

Need more?

Check out our Canadian summer adventures

Open road. Open heart.

Road trip CanadaGet pulled into the sky by gondola over Sulphur Mountain after parking by the Rockies for a view that will stay with you. Always. Steer your wheels towards the glacier-fed, turquoise waters of Lake Louise, crowned by cloud-scraping mountains and then on to Okanagan wine country. Keep on rolling to the First Nations totem poles of Stanley Park and the whistling Steamclock of Gastown—all waiting for you, your road bud and your camera as you pull into Vancouver.

Got some wanderlust left in the tank? The heart of Montreal’s buzzing metropolis is Mount Royal Park—its mountain paths and sprawling green spaces were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who designed Central Park in NYC. Do make time for the cafés and cachet of the Mile End: it’s the coolest neighbourhood in the world, ranked.
Need more?
Check out our Fly & Drive adventures

27 Sep

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Where To Stay in Saint Lucia

September 27, 2018 | By |

ROYALTON SAINT LUCIA RESORT & SPA

This oceanfront relaxation haven promises every possible stress-melting amenity. Luxury accommodations, upscale eateries, a top-notch spa coupled with impeccable 24-hour room service and an exclusive member’s only Diamond Club pool and Beach Bar means relaxation is assured here. Royalton even boasts an adults-only Hideaway section.

WINDJAMMER LANDING VILLA BEACH RESORT

Offering the ultimate all-inclusive family vacation spot where kids eat, play and stay free, Windjammer guarantees serious fun for everyone. Spacious two or three-bedroom family villas, complimentary waterskiing, wakeboarding, and activity-heavy kids clubs all add up to the perfect escape for your clan. Stay busy or take it easy all day in a swaying water hammock.

COCONUT BAY BEACH RESORT & SPA

Nestled into 85 truly luscious acres of Lucian beauty, one mile of which is nothing but private breezy beach, this award-winning all-inclusive escape boasts nine dining options, seven bars, five pools, and an 11,000 square-foot oceanfront spa where worries easily melt into the sea. With a 50,000 square-foot Kidz Klub and an epic onsite water park, it all adds up to playcation perfection.

BODYHOLIDAY SAINT LUCIA

Promising a restorative world-class respite from all of life’s troubles, this wellness sanctuary hidden in a secluded cove cradled by white sand beaches, tropical gardens and lush rainforests is the prime vacation spot for those seeking true rejuvenation of body, mind and spirit. Mountain hikes, five-star restaurants, indulgent therapeutic treatments, or playful water sports—it’s all here for your body.

JAMES CLUB MORGAN BAY

A vibrant blend of refined and refreshingly casual, this all-inclusive resort is characterized by pristine, romantic beachfronts offering lazy, sun-soaked days in loungers or exciting sailing adventures. Want to hit the links instead? Cap Estate Golf Course is mere minutes away. And Saint Lucia’s capital city of Castries is just next door should shopping and nightlife be in order.

BAY GARDENS BEACH RESORT & SPA

Lagoon-style swimming pools, bubbling Jacuzzis, and free passes to Splash Island, the Caribbean’s first inflatable open-water sports park on Reduit Beach only steps away from Bay Gardens, this spot is perfect for wet and wild family fun. With edible  access to a collection of top-shelf resort eateries and restaurants in Rodney Bay Village next door as well as free spa treatments* it’s also all-inclusive luxury, guaranteed.

Saint Lucie Family Vacation

*Conditions apply.

 

27 Sep

By

Saint Lucia Travel: Let Her Inspire You

September 27, 2018 | By |

VOLCANIC WONDER

Caressed on all sides by aquamarine seascapes and pristine, palm-fringed beaches, the volcanic wonder that is Saint Lucia also boasts lush rainforests tucking much of the island’s looming mountains and plunging valleys under a dense emerald blanket. But her iconic Pitons, captivating twin peaks rising majestically out of the sea, truly define her rarefied geography.

Offering the Caribbean’s only drive-through volcano, restorative mineral mud baths, reef-rich waters that beg for snorkelling escapes, quaint fishing villages peppered with colourful boats, mesmerizing music festivals, award-winning luxury resorts and world-class culinary delights, Saint Lucia provides unforgettable getaways leaving no traveller unsatisfied.

What to do

What to do in Saint LuciaSEA, SUN & SAND

For sun-kissed waterskiing, bumping banana boat rides, or a refreshing cocktail at dusk it’s hard to beat the golden, family-friendly sands of Reduit Beach. For the snorkeller set, it’s the unspoiled offshore reef of jungle-adjacent Anse Cochon or the cliff-backed edges of Smugglers Cove to peep technicolour rainbows of marine life. Seasoned divers will find their sanctuary in the volcanic outcroppings and famous Key Hole Pinnacles submerged off the Bay of Soufriere—do keep an eye out for brightly speckled peacock flounders and parrot fish.

Those seeking a truly rare shoreline event can camp overnight on Grande Anse during nesting season, from March to August, to spy protected leatherback sea turtles laying their eggs in the sand.

SUPERNATURAL NATURE ESCAPES

Saint Lucia NatureTowering almost 3,000 imposing feet above sea level, Gros Piton and its smaller sidekick, Petit Piton, are UNESCO World Heritage hot spots and not-to-be-missed excursions for the outdoorsy type. A winding hike through Caribbean flora to the panoramic summit of the Pitons will forever etch itself into your memory. For family treks, the Tet Paul Nature Trail never disappoints—an aptly named Stairway to Heaven handily showcases the divine allure of the island.

Family adventure is on hand both high and low. While a rainforest Aerial Tram tour will glide you effortlessly up and over crawling forest canopies, an intimate bike escapade to Errard Falls amid a serene rainforest leads to its refreshing waters and cascading falls.

INFINITE ISLAND FLAVOUR

Harbouring world-class chefs who’ve creatively exploited an abundance of homegrown tropical fruit and ocean-to-plate seafood, vibrant Rodney Bay is punctuated with over thirty refined restaurants sure to satisfy every one of your taste buds. Saint Lucia is a true sensory experience no foodie will forget.

At the other end of the culinary spectrum is the “Friday Night Fish Fry”—an electric weekly street feast in Anse-La-Raye—where paper plates of lobster, grilled snapper, and Caribbean BBQ are all an easy grab. While colourful boats line the beachfront, musicians, residents, and local artists fill the streets for outdoor concerts with improvised dancefloors. Bring comfy shoes—the party often spills over until sunup.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Wedding in Saint LuciaCradled in the heart of the Lesser Antilles, romance is simply a matter of course here. No matter where you land, Saint Lucia’s vistas of matchless natural beauty guarantee an unparallelled lover’s retreat. Guided walks through rainforests amidst birdsong, galloping on horseback over virgin sands, plunging into a secluded private pool with the Pitons providing that quixotic backdrop, slinking into a swaying hammock built especially for two as the orange-pink sun melts into the horizon with champagne in hand—love comes easy here.

Giddy honeymooners or life-long partners—all are seduced by Saint Lucia’s infinite charms. Unsurprisingly, many come to her golden shores to tie the knot too.

NON-STOP CULTURE FEST

From French colonial architecture and the artisanal handcraft of vine-woven baskets to traditional bright plaid dresses still honoured by the descendants of the Carib people, Saint Lucia is a constant cornucopia of culture and tradition.

Promising five explosive festivals in one running from January to October, the Soleil Saint Lucia Summer Festival offers Food & Rum, Jazz, Carnival, Roots & Soul and Arts & Heritage events letting you immerse yourself in local culture all year-round.

But the “Jump Up” block party that goes off without fail every Friday night in the fishing village of Gros Islet is a surefire way to sample serious Lucian culture—charcoal-grilled street treats, spiced rum and resonant Caribbean bass lines fill the ocean air long after the stars have come out.

 LUCIAN REJUVENATION

Saint Lucia yogaWith a mind to restore his troops through the therapeutic powers of hot, mineral-rich springs flowing forth from Soufriere’s volcano, King Louis XVI ordered baths built on Saint Lucia in the late 1700s. Today, the rich history of restorative healing continues.

Visitors can indulge in the height of spa treatment splendour by caking their faces, and the rest of them come to that, in a purifying mud mask at Sulphur Springs. Or soak in Louis’s restored baths at the nearby Diamond Falls Botanical Gardens.

Self-care gets elevated at the Rainforest Spa on Sugar Beach—which lives up to its name—tranquil treatments take place in gazebos perched on stilts above a gushing stream on the forest floor below.

17 Sep

By

Top 3 Excursions in Montego Bay

September 17, 2018 | By |

All day adventure, always…

Secluded stays and seascapes aren’t the only ways you’ll satiate your senses in the Bay—more adventure always awaits inland. And that remains true all over the mesmerizing island of Jamaica.

Black River & Appleton Estate Rum Tour

Black River & Appleton Estate Rum TourCrossing paths with a crocodile or a chestnut-bellied cuckoo is par for the course, while you drift down the Black River, a long, lazy waterway flanked on both sides by dense and vibrant tropical vegetation. Unspoiled and spectacular, the river run gives way to a luscious lunch and a tour of the world-renowned Appleton Estate where welcome samplings of some of the very finest rum ever aged is assured.

Ultimate Thrill Seekers Pass & Adventure Falls

Ultimate Thrill Seekers Pass & Adventure FallsA 2,000-acre plantation playground punctuated with river canyons and rainforests is yours to explore from up high by zipline or down low, while tearing through mega-fun mud trails by ATV. After an authentic midday snack of Jamaican jerk, ice cream and peak Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee blend, wash off the day’s playfulness at Adventure Falls, with its 50-foot cascade of fresh water and 300-foot water slide. Don’t miss this monumental island experience.

Island Routes Reggae Sunset Cruise Montego Bay

Island Routes Reggae Sunset CruiseExperience the magic of the MoBay coastline from the casual comfort of the Island Routes Reggae Sunset Cruiseliner. You’ll even have time to stop in Margaritaville, literally! Made famous by Jimmy Buffet’s hit, this liquid locale comes complete with water trampolines, floating obstacle course, and a 12-story water slide designed to drop you right into the Caribbean. Dry off back aboard with DJ-spun music and savoury snacks as the setting sun disappears over the ocean horizon.

17 Sep

By

Sandals Montego Bay: The Hottest Resort in Jamaica

September 17, 2018 | By |

New. Hot. Authentic.

Sand so silver-white it shimmers. Crystalline aquamarine seascapes that look like they were filtered by cosmic forces. Lush and verdant tropical forest canopies. The finest (and spiciest) flavours in the Caribbean. People as warm as the Jamaican sun—both of which will leave a golden X on your heart, forever. There is truly no place like Jamaica.

Stay in Montego BayNestled in the northwest of all its life-affirming wonder is the quintessential luxury sanctuary for lovers. Is it romantic? Well, there’s a proper Love Nest Suite®, if that’s any indication. No other resort does sensual, adults-only experiences better than Sandals®—unsurprisingly, their Montego Bay hotspot, where it all started, is no exception. And good news, paramours! This flagship escape is now fresher, more fabulous and, if you can believe it,
hotter than ever.

Restaurants Montego BayA Day in MoBay at Sandals
Luxury shuttles with select rooms will usher you from the airport to a premier, private beach of pure powder and incredible accommodations in mere minutes. Every possible all-inclusive amenity is yours here—even full-access play passes to Sandals Inn and Sandals Royal Caribbean, should a playcation from your playcation be in order.

Luxury Suites SandalsSink into the Tranquility Soaking Tub™ for two, and watch sun meld with seascape, or swim right up to your room in brand new luxury suites, while the Butler Elite service easily attends to your every whim with white-gloved precision, 24-7.

If you manage to leave your bed for some flavour instead, your taste buds will have unlimited entry to impeccable eateries, some of which will have you savouring authentic Jamaican fare right on the beach while your sand-buried toes curl in ecstasy. If that’s not enough gustatory goodness, there are three more restaurants on the way.

There’ll also soon be an Over-the-Water Wedding Chapel for next-level nuptials. Have your sacred vows consecrated by the sanctity of the sea and consider that every Sandals Resort allows you access to the signature “Aisle to Isle” program, with plenty inspirations to design your celebration of love so it’s as unique as you are. Your gathering would be incomplete without a little media magic? The new fully stocked multi-media conference centre will easily seat 300 guests for any event.

Weddings Sandals Montego Bay

Sunup is fun up at Sandals

From ultra-fun tubing and serious snorkelling to satisfying sailing and playful paddle boarding, Sandals Montego Bay offers a gateway to the calm, reef-rich waters that define the Caribbean. Still, energy-intensive activities are as plentiful here as lazy days spent relaxing in restorative rays of sunshine.

Scuba Diving Montego BayWant a massage seaside? Done. Or melt your stress indoors at the signature Red Lane® Spa offering mindful self-care and welcome rejuvenation—body, mind and spirit. Of course, four freshwater pools are yours at all times if you’d rather soak your troubles. You’ll also enjoy unlimited access to three soothing whirlpools should your brand of stress need something of a twist. Landlubbers seeking leisure activities can hit the courts, shoot hoops or shoot pool, play board games or challenge each other (or other couples) to prestigious, high-stakes ping-pong matches.

Pool Sandals Montego BayTypical day at Sandals Montego Bay – Sundown, live it up

If you want to go extra and glow up come sundown, after-hours parties are always going off between the sand and the stars at Sandals. So are weekly theme nights in the wildly fun carnival style—fire breathers, more epic eats and fanned, feather headdresses colour midnight-blue skies as music fills the ocean air. For expertly poured cocktails, there will soon be Latitudes Overwater Bar, where you’ll walk, or dance, on water as you sip the night away. Of course, darts and a dram of whisky will complement everything on tap at The Cricketers Pint, a proper English pub where freshly pulled conversation is available every evening.

Sandals Montego Bay Sunset

14 Sep

By

The Best Time to Visit Portugal

September 14, 2018 | By |

It’s impossible to resist the many charms of Spain’s friendly coastal neighbour. Perpetually sunny, rich in culture and history and naturally breathtaking, Portugal paints a pretty picture year-round. Check out our breakdown of the best times to go to Portugal.

Spring & Summer

It’s no secret that hotter days and warmer waters bring in bigger crowds. That being said, the numerous outdoor festivals and balmy beach weather welcoming you between May and July deter shrugging off a spring or summer Portugal vacation.

Festival Frenzy

Portuguese people honour their saints in very interesting ways. Case in point: the Festa de Santo Antonio in Lisbon. It pays homage to Lisbon’s patron saint with feasts of grilled fish, street parties to rhythmic fado music and…free weddings! Meanwhile, you might want a hard hat for Porto’s Festa de São João, an eccentric tribute to Saint John the Baptist. Festivities include the odd tradition of banging revellers on the head with colourful plastic mallets, as well as more typical goings-on like fireworks and dancing.

If you worship a more modern set of idols, Portugal attracts some of the best musicians and bands in the world with top-notch summer music festivals cropping up near its main cities, from the indie sounds of NOS Primavera Sound to the rockin’ rythms of Super Bock Super Rock and the eclectic star-fueled lineup of NOS Alive.

The Portugal’s Delightful Duo rail tour brings you to Lisbon and Porto during any of these events!

Beach Time

Praia de Rocha

A spring or summer trip to Portugal calls for soaking up the sun along the country’s dreamy coastline. A prime place to do so is the sunny southern region of The Algarve where spectacular rocky cliffs surround golden beaches varying in size and popularity:

  • Praia de Rocha buzzes with high-rise beach resorts and lively bars and restaurants to entertain the hotels’ inhabitants.
  • The smaller, secluded Praia do Camilo serves up a postcard-perfect setting with the gorgeous Ponte da Piedade also just a short walk away.
  • Don’t skip out on iconic Praia da Marinha, aptly named one of the best beaches in Europe and located down a dramatic cliff side.

We could keep listing our favourites, but taking a tour of the Algarve, like our Portugal City & Coast rail tour, will let you discover yours, from the surfing paradise Praia do Amado to the adventurous Praia de Benagil and its sea cave.

Fall

We love fall travel to Portugal: cooler climate, quieter cities and…wine harvest season! Sure, the Atlantic isn’t as sizzling, but it’s often still warm enough for a dip, plus all popular sights have cleared of their summertime crowds.

Take a Hike

Sintra

A drop in temperature makes this season perfect for hiking Portugal’s many trails without breaking a sweat.

Near Lisbon, the fairy tale-like, UNESCO-listed village of Sintra sits a day-trip away. Wander up romantic forest paths leading from the town’s Moorish Castle to the colourful, Disney-like Pena Palace, surrounded by gardens and the rugged landscape of the Serra Mountains. Take on the coastal trails of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, home to continental Europe’s most westernly point, Cabo da Roca, and mystical monuments like the Convent of Capuchos or the Hermitage of Peninha.

Turn your trek into a pilgrimage by climbing up all 686 steps leading to the Nossa Senhora dos Remedios sanctuary in Lamego. Shrouded by dense woodland, it offers quite the view of the town and surrounding hills once you’ve made it to the top. Elevate the experience by timing your visit with the Festival of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary’s shrine. Join thousands of religious devotees in pious processions, including one that carries the statue of Our Lady of the Remedies on an oxen-lead cart.

Wine & Dine

Douro River

We kept the best for last: food and wine!

The scenic and charming Douro Valley lures you in with its rolling green hills and aromatic vineyards, including those specializing in the region’s famous Port wine. Douro’s a breathtaking sight any time of the year, but wine harvest season really steals the show with its landscape coloured in autumnal shades. Many of the area’s wineries will invite you to participate in the harvest, from grape picking to stomping and the inevitable taste testing. That glass of vinho tastes even better once you’ve worked for it.

Fall’s cooler nights prompt heading indoors and trying all of the country’s culinary delights. Savour everything from traditional bacalhau to pork-based dishes, spicy piri-piri chicken and creamy Serra da Estrela cheese. Of course, complete any meal with one of their famous (and delicious!) custard tarts, pastéis de nata. For a seasonal treat, hunt for sweet Portuguese Rocha pears, freshly picked from the Oeste region.

For a fall trip, Lisbon Your Way or Porto Your Way tours lead you to the best of both cities and their surrounding regions, including the Douro Valley and Sintra.

What’s Next

Keep an eye out for all our tours to Portugal! They run from spring to fall and are the best way to take in all the sights or experiences mentioned. Hot travel tip: while some of our tours, like the Fly & Rail tour Sunny Portugal or our Fly & Drive tour Highlights of Portugal, operate as early as April or May, others like Portugal North to South only take off in June. This might influence when and how you decide to travel to Portugal! You can always opt for our year-round option, the Lisbon Your Way Urban Getaway.

07 Sep

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Sea Italy: Italian-Style Cruising

September 7, 2018 | By |

The best view of Italy? Standing starboard, floating on the Mediterranean! Costa Cruises carries you to top spots on the incredible Italian coast with a departure from France and stops in Spain. All aboard!

Cruisin’ with Costa

What’s better than sailing to Italy? Sailing to Italy on an Italian-helmed ship! The Italian cruise line offers a unique nautical experience in an authentic setting inspired by its cultural heritage. Think festive ambiance, delicious Mediterranean cuisine and elegant decor inspired by Italy’s most awe-inspiring Renaissance masterpieces. Hop aboard their Costa Diadema ship, nicknamed the Queen of the Mediterranean and named after the Italian word for “tiara.” With a reputation like that, expect royal treatment for the whole family. We’re talking fine dining, a bar-lined terrace, luxurious spa and every form of sea-bound entertainment you could possibly want. Plus, enjoy Italian-style extras like lessons in Venetian mask-making, indulging in a Roman steam bath or sipping excellent espresso in the ship’s lounge.

Set Your Course

Costa Cruises goes overboard with their 7-night Western Mediterranean cruise. Departing from the buzzing French port city of Marseille, it sets sail to beautiful Barcelona for a taste of tapas and a gander at Gaudi’s architecture. Next day, anchors aweigh as you make your way to Palma de Mallorca, a sunny city set on a Spanish island and your last stop before being Italy-bound. Then, you’ll answer the call of Cagliari, on the southern coast of sublime Sardinia. Think glorious beach dips and walks around historic landmarks. Day six is all about Rome—its romance, its ruins, its architecture…its pizza. Before setting back to Marseille, soak in Savona, a gorgeous seaside city on the Italian Riviera.

What’s Next

Interested? Who wouldn’t be! Get your sea legs ready for this maritime journey across the Mediterranean. Plus, when you cruise with us, expect nothing but smooth sailing with our Cruise Promise. Hot travel tip: The travel dates for Costa Cruises’ new itinerary departing from Marseille are from September 2 to 23, 2018 or from May 12 to September 29, 2019. Plan accordingly!

 

02 Aug

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Best Reason to Visit Jamaica: Jamaican Food!

August 2, 2018 | By |

Vacations often leave you looking slimmer, from all that on-the-go action and exploration. A trip to Jamaica might not be so kind to your waistline, considering the country serves up some of the best dishes in the Caribbean. Here are our picks of the Jamaican cuisine you need to try!

Jerk around

Jamaican allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg–these are just a few of the ingredients found in the jerk seasoning that defines one of Jamaica’s most iconic dishes: jerk chicken. Sweet and spicy, perfectly grilled, the flavourful meat is traditionally served with rice and beans or bammies, a tasty fried flat bread of sorts. Of course, you can also get jerk pork, jerk fish, jerk…lobster (!). Find jerk dishes anywhere, from street vendors to your resort’s restaurant.

Patty cake, patty cake

What’s not to love about the Jamaican patty? It’s perfectly golden, flaky and filled with delicious, seasoned meat (or vegetables). This sublime snack is actually a product of colonialism: a derivative of the Cornish pasty brought over by the Brits, spiced by Indians with cumin and curry and kicked up by Africans with cayenne pepper. While awesome on its own, you can try it like a local and stuff a patty in some sweet coco bread for a unique Jamaican sandwich.

Feeling fruity

It’s not all starch and meats. Being a tropical island, Jamaica is ripe with exotic fruits you might have never heard of. Most often eaten with saltfish, ackee is the island’s national fruit, an alien-like cluster of black seeds and spongy yellow flesh. Kind of like a tropical potato, breadfruit can be roasted, steamed, mashed or fried and makes for a superb side-dish. There are countless others that sound as colourful as they look: the grape-like, gelatinous guinep, the juicy June plum, heart-shaped sweetsop, spiky soursop, and something called the Stinking Toe. Okay, we haven’t tried that last one, but you can do the honours!

Liquid lunch

You’ll need something refreshing to wash all that down. Try sorrel, a red drink brewed from hibiscus blossoms, often spiced with cinnamon and ginger, or punched up with some of that famous Jamaican rum, if you fancy an extra kick. Savour the soda suited for the sun: Ting, offering just the right amount of grapefruit-flavoured fizz to cool you down. Finally, you really can’t leave Jamaica without trying a hot cup of Blue Mountain coffee, one of the world’s best brews from Jamaica’s highest mountain.

What’s next

Yum, all this is Jamaican me hungry! Any of these dishes can be tasted in the Jamaican destination of your choice. Montego Bay, or “MoBay,” is a hip city and a popular spot for dreamy, waterfront hotels. It’s a great base to explore the spectacular shores and paradisiacal settings of the idyllic resort town of Negril or former fishing village of Ochos Rios. Meanwhile, Kingston is the cultural heartbeat of Jamaica, sitting at the foot of the dramatic Blue Mountains. Hot travel tip: Book your winter vacation to Jamaica with us by September 9 to get $600 off per family and 8 days of free airport parking!

Savour the flavours of Jamaica!