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Melissa Manzo, Author at Air Canada Vacations

05 Aug

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11 Stunning Infinity Pools in Mexico

August 5, 2015 | By |

The infinity pool: a swimming pool designed so that water flows over the edge, typically producing the illusion that it merges into the ocean or sky. Infinity pools are not only visually stunning, but an awesome recourse for cooling off on your sunny vacation. Here are 11 of the most stunning infinity pools in Mexico that beckon a swim.

1) Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Cancun (Cancun)

Bel-Air-Collection-Resort-Spa-Cancun_Infinity-pools

2) Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta)

Hyatt-Ziva-Puerto-Vallarta_InfinityPool

 

3) Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya (Riviera Maya)

Secrets-Akumal-Riviera-Maya_Infinity-pools

4) Barcelo Ixtapa Beach  (Ixtapa)

Barcelo-Ixtapa-Beach_InfinityPool

5) IBEROSTAR Playa Mita (Riviera Nayarit)

IBEROSTAR-Playa-Mita_InfinityPool

 

6) Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos (Los Cabos)

Hyatt-Ziva-Los-Cabos_InfinityPool

7) Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta All-Inclusive Resort (Puerto Vallarta)

Crown-Paradise-Club-Puerto-Vallarta_InfinityPool

 

8) Grand Velas Riviera Maya (Riviera Maya)

Grand-Velas-Riviera-Maya_Infinity-pools

9) Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit)

Bel-Air-Collection-Resort_PVR_InfinityPool

10) Le Reve Hotel & Spa (Riviera Maya)

Le-Reve-Hotel-Spa_InfinityPool

11) Hyatt Zilara Cancun (Cancun)

Hyatt-Zilara-Cancun_Infinity-pools

Got the urge to take a dip in one of these infinity pools? For more information on these hotels, check out our full listing of resorts in Mexico.

 

05 Jun

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5 Must-Have Family Adventures in the Caribbean

June 5, 2015 | By |

Looking for your next family adventure? The Caribbean is more than just pretty beaches – it is full of stunning natural surroundings that set the stage for exhilarating adventures. From bobsledding to swimming with dolphins, here are 5 family adventures you must have in the Caribbean.

1) Paradise Island – Nassau, Bahamas

Swimming with dolphins

Paradise Island, located just off Nassau, is an adventure in itself. At Dolphin Cay, enjoy an entire day of play. Begin with a 30-minute in-water interaction session or a deep water swim that will immerse you in the underwater world of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. Once you become more acquainted with their environment, sign up for the “Trainer for a Day” program, which gives you a glimpse into the exciting lives of dolphin and sea lion trainers. Other family-friendly activities in Paradise Island include the Pirates of Nassau interactive museum, Aquaventure (141 acres of water slides) and Lego Fantasy Camp.

2) Bávaro Adventure Park – Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Ziplining

With its white-sand beaches, multitude of all-inclusive resorts and accessibility to activities like snorkelling and sailing, Punta Cana is quickly becoming the Caribbean destination for families. However, there is even more adventure awaiting you outside the resort area. Bávaro Adventure Park is the ultimate playground. Like heights? Embark on a zip line adventure (complete with 2 hanging bridges, 7 cable lines and a total of 8 different challenges), or the flight simulator (fly to a height of 20 metres above ground while admiring a 360-degree view of Bávaro). Additional park activities include Segway tours, a trampoline, mountain biking and climbing opportunities aboard a Caribbean pirate ship.

3) Eco-adventure parks – Riviera Maya, Mexico

Snorkelling

What better way to experience Riviera Maya’s ecological surroundings than to explore one of its elaborate eco-adventure parks? Xcaret offers a plethora of wildlife viewing opportunities: flamingos, jaguars, turtles, butterflies, you name it. You can also swim with dolphins, explore underground rivers and watch Mexican folkloric shows. At Xel-ha, you can snorkel in a natural cove that is home to hundreds of tropical fish, hike the various jungle trails and later relax in the designated hammock area. Xplor, one of the newest eco-parks in Riviera Maya, features 3 km of zip lines, underground rivers and the opportunity to drive through tunnels and caverns aboard an amphibious vehicle.

4) Mystic Mountain – Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Mystic Mountain in Ocho Rios definitely delivers on magical experiences. To begin your adventure, you must access the mountain via chair lift, from which you can take in breathtaking views of Ocho Rios. Once at the mountain, choose from a variety of activities. Bobsledding, inspired by the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, is probably the most popular activity: once strapped into the sled, you’ll slide down the mountain on a 1000-metre-long track! Additional attractions at Mystic Mountain include the Mystic waterslide and infinity edge pool, zip lining, a butterfly garden and a hummingbird garden.

5) Wildlife and marine life exploration – Barbados

Marine life

If you have children too young for scuba diving or snorkelling, an excellent alternative is the Atlantis Submarine Adventures in Barbados. Once underwater, you can spot an array of marine life, which may include sharks, stingrays and sea turtles. Want to observe wildlife above ground instead? Take a day trip to the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, where you can stroll freely on the grounds while observing wildlife such as the Barbados Green Monkeys, an array of colourful birds such as flamingos and peacocks, and a variety of reptiles including iguanas, turtles and snakes.

 

Want to start planning your family adventure today? Check out our list of family-friendly resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean to begin planning your stay. (Tip: Choose from one of the many resorts where kids stay and eat free!)

 

02 Apr

By

Top 10 Resorts to Check Out This Summer

April 2, 2015 | By |

Trying to find the newest, hottest resorts to stay at this summer? Search no more, as we have shortlisted the top 10 resorts to check out this summer in Mexico and the Caribbean. These include some brand new and recently renovated properties, as well as properties that have been newly added to the Air Canada Vacations lineup. From villa accommodations to boutique hotels, these are 10 resorts you definitely want to check out.  

1) Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria (Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba)

Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria

Snack La Caleta

The beach at Eurostars Cayo Santa Maria is an absolute pièce de résistance, with its pure white sand and turquoise water. If you want to maximize your intake of ocean views, make sure to dine at the Mediterranean Aire de Mar Restaurant, or stop by Snack La Caleta, a poolside snack bar that also overlooks the Caribbean Sea. A variety of activities are on offer at this resort, including non-motorized water sports, 2 tennis courts, a kids club and a yacht club.

2) Beach House Turks and Caicos (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Beach House Turks and Caicos

The 21-suite Beach House Turks and Caicos is a boutique hotel with an intimate setting. As a guest, you are entitled to dedicated lounge spaces on stunning Grace Bay Beach. Ranging from 1,150 to 1,580 square feet, guest suites feature a kitchenette, as well as a balcony or terrace with a day bed. The on-site Beach House Restaurant is a popular dining spot in Providenciales and showcases a creative Caribbean and contemporary menu. For additional dining options, you can take a shuttle to the hotel’s 2 sister properties, Alexandra Resort and Blue Haven Resort.

3) Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta (Riviera Nayarit/Nuevo Vallarta)

Bel Air Collection Nuevo Vallarta

Bel Air Collection Resort & Spa Vallarta has your wellbeing in mind. Its Asian-style spa is perfect for some R&R: in addition to various spa treatments, it offers daily yoga and meditation, as well as a special low-calorie diet program for the health-conscious. Its infinity pool overlooking the beach does nothing but inspire relaxation, and a variety of special services like tea time and a nightly turn-down service with petits fours adds to the serene experience offered by this resort.

4) ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas (Willemstad, Curaçao)

ACOYA Lakefront Villa

Lakefront villa

Lush lodging is the name of the game at ACOYA Hotel Suites & Villas. Deluxe rooms feature a private patio surrounded by a tropical garden. Suites range from 2 to 4 bedrooms and are appointed with a large private balcony, fully equipped kitchen, living room and dining area. Featuring a garden, pool or lake view, villas come fully furnished and offer the ultimate private sanctuary. On-site amenities include a swimming pool, a spa and fine dining at Restaurant Seasons.

5) Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall (Montego Bay, Jamaica)

Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall Spa

The new, adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall is the epitome of luxury. Stylishly decorated, each guest room features handcrafted furniture, a furnished terrace, designer toiletries and plush bathrobes. Dining is a regal affair as well with access to 3 exclusive restaurants, as well as 6 restaurants that are shared with its sister property, Hyatt Ziva. When you want to go for a swim, you can choose from a total of 14 pools, including 9 swim-up pools and 5 whirlpools, and when you’re in the mood for relaxation, indulge in a service at the oceanfront spa.

6) Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico)

Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta

Lobby

It’s amazing that Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta can provide an oasis so close to bustling downtown Puerto Vallarta. The hotel lobby itself is like a mini sanctuary, housed in an enormous palapa and adorned with a calming, rushing waterfall. The resort is surrounded by the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains and it offers a beautiful private beach on the Bahía de Banderas, the second largest bay in the Pacific Ocean.

7) Be Live Collection Canoa (La Romana, Dominican Republic)

Be Live Collection Canoa La Romana

Be Live Collection Canoa offers a convenient location in La Romana, right on Bayahibe Beach. It also facilitates day trips to neighbouring Del Este National Park, where you can explore over 400 caverns (some of which contain ancient pictographs), a variety of flora and fauna and Saona Island. The resort’s amenities cater to all ages: a lagoon-shaped pool, multiple dining options, a spa, fitness centre and kids club make it perfect for either a couple’s getaway or family vacation.

8) Point Grace (Providenciales, Turks and Caicos)

Point Grace Beach

Featuring a remote location on the point of 19-km Grace Bay Beach, the 28-suite Point Grace offers a quiet, peaceful setting. Appointed with British Colonial architecture, this boutique hotel offers guest suites that are over 1,000 square feet in size, and that include a kitchen, terrace and upscale bathroom. It is also home to 2 Caribbean restaurants, as well as the oceanfront Thalasso Spa which incorporates the properties of sea mud and sea water into its treatments.

9) Meliá Jardines del Rey (Cayo Coco, Cuba)

Melia Jardines del Rey

Opened in January 2015, the Meliá Jardines del Rey is a beautifully styled hotel that blends contemporary décor with a design that emulates a sugar cane plantation. It is home to 9 restaurants, 6 bars and a sweet corner called Macao, which offers a variety of ice cream and snacks. There is a boulevard that extends from the lobby to the beach, and guest rooms are located in 3-storey bungalows.

10) Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort (Riviera Maya, Mexico)

akumal-bay-beach

Though Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort is now sporting a brand new look after a recent renovation, it has preserved what is at its core: a laidback, beachy vibe and unspoilt natural surroundings. Rooms are now ultra-sleek junior suites with outdoor hot tubs, but have retained their main focal point: an amazing view of Akumal Bay. The resort also offers pop-up beach bars and access to a world-class snorkelling site that is home to sea turtles and a beautiful coral reef.

 

Looking for more resorts like these? If you did not get a chance this past season, you may still wish to look at our Top 10 Resorts To Check Out: Winter Edition, or consult our full listing of properties in the Caribbean & Mexico.

 

20 Mar

By

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Antigua

March 20, 2015 | By |

Itching to travel to a new Caribbean island? While the Caribbean offers all-around stunning beaches and warm weather, each island is unique and has its own distinct personality. Allow us to introduce you to Antigua, a small island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Antigua:

1) Antigua, meaning “ancient” in Spanish, was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral called Santa Maria de la Antigua (St. Mary of the Old Cathedral).

2) Approximately 80,000 people inhabit the island, with over 31,000 people living in the capital city of St. John’s.

St. John's, Antigua

St. John’s – photo by Ron Kroetz (Flickr)

3) Antigua is home to 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.

Antigua Rendez-Vous Beach

4) Shirley Heights is where you can get one of the best views of Antigua. It is also the spot where party-goers converge every Sunday evening to witness a beautiful sunset, while enjoying the aromas of barbecue and moving to the soca, reggae and calypso beats of a live steel drum band.

Antigua Harbour

5) Stingray City, a popular site on the island, is home to – you guessed it – stingrays. Here you can swim with stingrays, feed them and learn about their natural habitat.

Stingray City

6) Goat water is one of the island’s specialty dishes. While its name may suggest otherwise, the dish is actually a thick, hearty stew made with mutton, cloves, cinnamon and hot peppers.

7) Ziplining through the jungle and mountain hiking are popular outdoor activities on the island.

Ziplining

8) Devil’s Bridge is a natural bridge located in a remote area on the northeastern part of the island. Due to the harsh waters that surround the bridge, legend has it that it is home to the devil.

Devil's Bridge

9) Great Bird Island is a small islet situated 3 km from Antigua that measures only 20 acres (smaller than the average city park!) A variety of endangered species live here, including brown pelicans, red-billed tropicbirds, the Ameiva griswoldi lizard and the Antiguan racer (a type of snake).

Brown Pelican

Brown pelican – photo by M. Dolly (Flickr)

10) Antigua Sailing Week is one of the top sailing events in the world and takes place every April at Nelson’s Dockyard in St. John’s. Even if you are no sailing expert, it is a great opportunity to see a variety of yachts and boats.  

Think Antigua could be a contender for your next Caribbean escape? Find out more about the island here.

 

16 Mar

By

7 Amazing Landscapes in Ireland

March 16, 2015 | By |

There is something almost mystical about Ireland’s landscapes. From giant cliffs and stunning coastlines, to “vanishing lakes” and isolated villages, the Emerald Isle offers plenty of enchanting scenery. Here are 7 amazing landscapes you must feast your eyes on in Ireland.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

To say that the Cliffs of Moher are breathtaking is a complete understatement. This landscape is so awe-inspiring that it has served as the backdrop to several Hollywood movies, including Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and the Princess Bride. From here, you can see as far as the Aran Islands and Galway Bay, as well as Connemara.

Connemara

Connemara Ireland

Driving through the coastal roads of Connemara is full of pleasant surprises – hidden beaches, small bays and secret coves will delight you along the way. (Connemara is Irish for “Inlets of the Sea,” after all). The Twelve Bens Mountain Range is another focal point, as are the sheep that you can spot in the surrounding rolling green hills.

The Giant’s Causeway

Giant's Causeway

Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, The Giant’s Causeway is a series of hexagonal basalt rocks that formed 50 to 60 million years ago as the result of a volcanic eruption. Due to The Causeway’s resemblance to a set of stepping stones, legend has it that they were used by giant Finn MacCool to cross over into Scotland for a battle with a rival giant.

Cushendun

If you’re a fan of HBO’s Game of Thrones, then the seaside village of Cushendun may look familiar to you. Highlights of the area include the Cushendun Caves and Loughareema, also known as the Vanishing Lake (due to the fact that streams flow in, but none flow out).

Slieve League Cliffs

Slieve League Cliffs

Though the Cliffs of Moher get more attention, the Slieve League (Grey Mountain) Cliffs in County Donegal are just as spectacular, if not more so. At 600 metres (1,968 feet), they are Ireland’s highest seaside cliffs and quite possibly the highest in Europe. At the bottom of the cliffs lie two rocks named the “school desk” and “chair” (rightfully named for obvious reasons).

The Burren

The Burren is Irish for “rocky area” – and indeed, it is. Stretching from the Atlantic coast to County Galway, this unique landscape consists of exposed limestone formed by a geological cataclysm. In spring, the arid landscape comes alive with an assortment of colourful wildflowers.

West Cork

West Cork

Running from the town of Kinsale to the tip of the Beara Peninsula, West Cork is an area known for its rugged landscapes, from deserted beaches to isolated villages. Among the landscapes you must witness here is Old Head, a large headland that juts into the Atlantic and that is home to forts, a lighthouse and one of the most stunning golf courses in the world.

Ready to see these amazing landscapes for yourself? You can opt for a multi-day tour of Ireland, day tours from Dublin, or rent a car if you wish to plan your own itinerary.

 

24 Feb

By

11 Free Things To Do in Las Vegas

February 24, 2015 | By |

Think Las Vegas and you’ll likely think extravagance: casinos, fancy hotels, elaborate entertainment. A trip to Las Vegas, however, does not have to break the bank. In fact, there are plenty of free things to do in Las Vegas. Here are our top 11 free shows and attractions in Vegas:

Conservatory & Botanical Gardens at Bellagio

Everything at the Bellagio Hotel is an experience, and its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens are no exception. There are 5 distinct exhibitions per year: one for the Chinese New Year in January, followed by one for spring, summer, fall and winter. Each exhibition is treated as a theatrical production, featuring a colourful assortment of flowers, plants and trees that requires months of preparation.

The World’s Largest Permanent Circus at Circus Circus

Every half hour between 11:00 a.m. and midnight, the World’s Largest Permanent Circus takes centre stage at the Carnival Midway at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino. Each segment lasts about 10 minutes and features stunning performances by acrobats, trapeze artists and jugglers. Make sure to get there at least 15 minutes in advance if you want to get a seat!

Free gaming lessons at various casinos

Are you a novice when it comes to casino games? No need to worry! Several casinos in Las Vegas offer free gaming lessons to get you started. They’ll introduce you to the basic rules, etiquette and strategies for games such as poker, roulette and blackjack. The Luxor, Circus Circus and Excalibur are among casinos to offer such lessons.

The Fall of Atlantis at Caesars Palace

This 11-minute fountain show takes place inside the Caesars Palace Forum Shops. It tells the tale of sibling rivalry, as the son and daughter of King Atlas battle over who should take over as ruler of Atlantis. The story is brought to life by 9-foot animatronics, as well as dazzling water and fire effects. While you’re there, you can also marvel at the 50,000-gallon saltwater aquarium that surrounds the area.

Flamingo Wildlife Habitat

The Wildlife Habitat at the Flamingo Las Vegas Hotel and Casino is like a miniature oasis amid the hustle and bustle of The Strip. Chilean flamingos, exotic ducks, black swans, Japanese koi and yellow catfish are among the wildlife you can observe here.

Auto Collections at the LINQ Hotel & Casino

The Auto Collections at the LINQ is a sort of living antique and muscle car museum, featuring over 250 vehicles. The cars on display are all for sale, so the collection changes frequently. You may also occasionally see iconic cars from famous Hollywood movies or that have belonged to celebrities. For an even more enriching experience, opt for a free audio guide to learn about the history of the vehicles.

CBS Television City Research Center at The MGM Grand

Ever wondered what it’s like to be an executive for a major TV network? At the MGM Grand’s CBS Television City Research Center, you can be a TV exec for a day! You’ll learn the ins and outs on deciding which shows get put on the air, as you view a selection of shows and learn how to register your opinion on the cast and content of each one.

Carnevale di Venezia at The Venetian

No need to go all the way to Italy to get a taste of the Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice). For a quick glimpse into what the Italian festival is all about, head to the Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian Hotel. Every day (at different intervals), a troupe of gondoliers, living statues and jugglers put together a 15-minute performance that emulates the famous Venetian carnival.

The Volcano at The Mirage

The Volcano at The Mirage is a spectacular sight, featuring 2 volcano systems, a lagoon and fire shooters that shoot flame more than 12 feet in the air. As if that’s not enough, the fireballs move to the sounds of an exhilarating soundtrack created by Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Indian composer Zakir Hussain. The sound is so powerful that you can actually feel the rumble of the volcanic movement.

Paris attractions at Paris Hotel and Casino

No, it’s not the real Paris. But with the amount of detail put into its design, it could be! If you’ve always wanted to see famous Paris attraction like the Eiffel Tower, the Paris Opera House, l’Arc de Triomphe and l’Hôtel de Ville, just stroll throughout the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino for free!

Laughlin tour

This one is exclusive to Air Canada Vacations. Book a vacation package to Las Vegas and you get a free tour of Laughlin, a city off The Strip that has just as much to do as Vegas does (minus the hustle and bustle). This resort destination has tons of casinos, shopping, spas and golf courses to keep you busy, as well as outdoor activities like fishing, swimming and boating.

 

Wondering what else you can do in Las Vegas? Check out our Vegas page for the full low-down on Sin City, including a multitude of other activities (which may not be free, but can be booked in advance!)

 

13 Feb

By

30 Must-Have Experiences in Europe

February 13, 2015 | By |

There are literally thousands of reasons to visit Europe. Each country has its own unique personality and charm, and to sum it all up in a blog post is a very tall order. Though we could go on forever about why to visit Europe, we’ve shortlisted 10 popular European cities and identified 3 must-have experiences in each one. Here are 30 (of many) must-have experiences in Europe.

London

London Tube Underground

The Tube (aka The Underground) in London

1) See London from the Thames Cable Car: Take in views of landmarks such as the Thames Barrier, the Canary Wharf and the Olympic Park, before ending your journey near the O2 Arena entertainment complex. 2) Kensington Gardens: Stroll through one of London’s 8 Royal Parks and spot famous attractions like Kensington Palace, the Peter Pan Statue and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. 3) The Tube: Not only is the Tube an essential part of getting around the UK capital, it is also the world’s first underground railway system. A few words of caution before use: Plan your Tube journey out beforehand and avoid using it during rush hour if you can.

Paris

4) Sunset at Montmartre: For the best sunset in town, take a seat somewhere on Montmartre hill or on the steps of the Sacré Coeur Basilica that sits at its summit. 5) Parc de la Villette: The third largest park in Paris offers plenty of things to keep you busy, including museums, theatre, concert halls, live performances and 26 architectural follies (decorative monuments). 6) Berthillon ice cream on Île Saint-Louis: Berthillon’s artisanal ice cream and sorbets are iconic in Paris and come in flavours like lavender and strawberry daiquiri. In summer, get a taste of the real deal at the manufacturer’s original location, La Maison Berthillon, on Île Saint-Louis.

Barcelona

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

7) La Boqueria: Walking along Las Ramblas in the Ciutat Vella, you will eventually stumble upon the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (aka La Boqueria), one of Europe’s largest food markets. Its grand iron entrance leads to a colourful world of fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and seafood stands, as well as popular tapas bars like El Quim. 8) Gaudí: Antoni Gaudí, a famous architect who practiced Catalan Modernism, left his mark absolutely everywhere in Barcelona. His most famous work consists of the Gothic and Art Nouveau-style La Sagrada Familia, as well as Park Guell. 9) The Beach: Any cosmopolitan city with a beach is a winner in our books. Two of Barcelona’s most popular beaches are bustling La Barceloneta Beach and Nova Icaria Beach.

Rome

10) Eating a wood-oven pizza in a piazza:  A piazza, Italian for public square, is a place where people convene, socialize and dine. One of the best things to eat in a piazza is a thin, crispy Roman-style pizza. They are sold al taglio (by the slice) and popular options include the margherita (tomato, mozzarella and basil) and the capricciosa (a sort of all-dressed pizza). 11) Colosseum: It would be a crime to go to Rome and not see the Colosseum, a place that housed public spectacles, gladiator contests and re-enactments of famous battles. 12) Vatican Museums: These museums within the Vatican City house some of the most renowned Renaissance artwork in the world and are a must if you are in Rome. The Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Raphael Rooms and the Borgia Apartments are among highlights.

Nice

Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach near Nice

Villefranche-sur-Mer Beach near Nice

13) Promenade des Anglais: Offering exquisite views of the Bay of Angels and lined with several cafes, this stunning promenade is best experienced by either strolling, jogging or cycling along. 14) A day at the beach: While Nice’s pebble beaches may not be easy on the feet, they are definitely a pleasant sight for the eyes and are a must when on the Côte d’Azur. Nice is also home to sandy beaches like Villefranche, as well as private beaches like Lido Beach. 15) Day trip to Monaco: Just 20 km from Nice is Monaco, the French Riviera’s glamourous sovereign city state. Browse ritzy boutiques, awe at expensive yachts and make a stop at the Monte Carlo Casino.

Dublin

16) Pour the perfect pint of Guinness: If you find yourself drinking a pint of Guinness in a Dublin pub, you’ll quickly realize that pouring the stuff is considered a local art form. The Guinness Storehouse is an excellent place to master the pour and you’ll even receive a certificate once you’ve successfully done so! 17) Stroll through Trinity College: In addition to admiring Trinity College’s awe-inspiring architecture and gardens, you must pop into the Old Library to see the Book of Kells, a world-famous illuminated manuscript from 800 AD that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. 18) Abbey Theatre: Also known as the National Theatre of Ireland, this theatre was the first state-subsidized, English language theatre and was home to many writers of the Irish Literary Revival. It remains active to this day and is a fantastic place to see a play.

Brussels

19) See Grand Place at night: One of the prettiest sights in Brussels is the Grand Place, when it is lit up at night. This is the city’s central square that houses gothic-style guildhalls, Town Hall and the Breadhouse. 20) Eat Belgian waffles and fries: Waffles and fries are staples in Belgian gastronomy. Waffles are best eaten with Belgian chocolate drizzled on top and come in 2 variations –the Liege waffle (a dense, rounded waffle) and the Brussels waffle (a lighter, rectangular-shaped waffle). Fries here are well-loved for their extra crispiness (they are fried twice) and for the variety of sauces you can dip them in (the sauce andalouse is a local favourite). 21) Brussels’ Comic Book Route: As the birthplace of comic strips, Brussels is home to a Comic Book Route, a series of murals that feature characters from popular Belgian comics like Gaston and The Adventures of Tintin.

Athens

The Acropolis in Athens

The Acropolis in Athens

22) The Acropolis: You can’t go all the way to Athens and not see the famous ancient citadel of a powerful civilization. In addition to seeing the remains of buildings like the Parthenon and marvelling at the skilled use of marble, you must experience the view of Athens from the top of the hill. 23) Lounge around at Thissio Square: For even more outstanding views, head to Thissio Square. From here, you can sip a coffee at an outdoor café while gazing at the Acropolis and Lycabettus Hill. 24) Browse the farmers’ markets: Each neighborhood in Athens has its own farmer’s market (or laiki) which takes place once a week. Get your pick of the freshest fruit, veggies and fish, or other things like kitchenware and flowers.

Munich

25) Beer Gardens: As soon as temperatures warm up in March, Munich residents flock to the city’s large chestnut gardens to socialize over beer. These gardens are set up with tables and benches and typically seat a few thousand people. You can try one that is affiliated to a restaurant or find a BYOB garden. 26) Starnberger See is the closest lake to Munich city centre and offers activities like swimming, sailing and surfing. 27) Sleeping Beauty Castle: Neuschwanstein Castle is a nineteenth-century castle nestled on a hilltop, which was used as inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. It is best done as a day trip from Munich and for something extra magical, take a horse-drawn carriage up the surrounding hillsides.

Lisbon

Tram in Lisbon

Tram in Lisbon

28) Take the trams and elevators: This is one of the best and easiest ways to navigate through the narrow, cobblestone streets of Lisbon. Make sure to take tram number 28 through the historic district and the Santa Justa Elevator, which offers a fantastic view of Lisbon up at the top. 29) Awe at world treasures: If there are any two monuments you should see in Lisbon they would be the Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower, which date from the time of great Portuguese explorers like Magellan and Vasco da Gama. 30) Listen to Fado: Fado music is considered the soul of Portugal and the best places to hear it are in the historical district of Alfama. Popular casas de Fado (Fado houses) include Casa de Linhares and Pateo de Alfama.

 

Ready to have one of these European experiences or create one of your own? Check out our Welcome to Europe page for more inspiration or to start planning your own European escapade!

 

27 Jan

By

Top 5 All-Inclusive Luxury Resorts in Dominican Republic

January 27, 2015 | By |

Looking to lounge in the laps of luxury in Dominican Republic? As if the perks of all-inclusive resorts weren’t sweet enough, these resorts have stepped it up a notch with added bonuses like secluded locations and butler service. If indulgence and opulence are at the top of your Dominican Republic vacation wish list, you’ll definitely want to take a look at these top 5 all-inclusive luxury resorts.

1) Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, Don Pablo Collection (Samana)

Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Don Pablo Collection Samana

Ever dreamt of escaping to your own private island? Well, a vacation to the Luxury Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado, Don Pablo Collection comes very close to that dream. As the only hotel located on Samana’s remote island of Cayo Levantado, this adults-only, all-inclusive resort offers all the privacy and tranquility you need. Here, absolutely nothing can get between you and the beach, which by the way, features hammocks, “Bali beds” and a massage gazebo. Plus, the resort is part of the Don Pablo collection, Bahia Principe’s luxury guarantee.

2) Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa (La Romana)

Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa La Romana

When staying at a resort chain that boasts “Unlimited-Luxury®” as its motto, you know you’re in good hands. At Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa, you can indulge in a body treatment at its 21,000-square foot spa, enjoy name-brand liquor at all on-site bars and savour gourmet cuisine at 11 different restaurants (where reservations are never required!) If you’re feeling particularly parched, hungry and/or lazy, take advantage of a pool and beach waiter service or 24-hour room service.

3) IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro (Punta Cana)

Iberostar Grand Hotel Bavaro Punta Cana

From its majestic Greco-Roman architecture to its personalized “Grand Experience” service, the adults-only IBEROSTAR Grand Hotel Bavaro rolls out the red carpet. Stroll throughout the grounds and you’ll notice landscaped gardens, lakes and flamingoes. If you’re in need of some rejuvenation, spend an afternoon in the 2-floor spa or in the fitness centre (with views!) In the evening, cool down with a drink and some entertainment in the hotel’s on-site ship (that’s right, a ship). If that’s not enough, you are also entitled to a free butler service throughout your stay. Talk about red carpet treatment!

4) Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana (Punta Cana)

Zoetry Agua Punta Cana

Zoëtry resorts focus on the “Art of Life®.” At the Zoëtry Agua Punta Cana, that means wellness features such as a spa, 24-hour fitness centre, yoga and stretch classes. For the foodies, that’s wine tastings, culinary classes and unlimited top-shelf spirits. A free 20-minute massage and 45-minute horseback riding lesson are also included with your stay, as part of the Endless Privileges® program. Rooms are no exception to the resort’s lavishness either: all suites feature a balcony or terrace with beach or garden view, as well as hardwood floors and natural stone accents. Plus, the resort’s remote location means access to a much less crowded beach (a somewhat rare find in Punta Cana).

5) Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection (La Romana)

Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville Don Pablo Collection La Romana

Boasting colonial-style architecture and a peaceful setting, the adults-only Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville, Don Pablo Collection in La Romana has plenty of charm. Couples may particularly appreciate its romantic allure: Private dinners on the dock, long walks on a long stretch of beach and gazing at sunset views over the bay are all very love bird-friendly activities. Rooms may also spark a little romance – each suite has a jetted tub for two, a separate shower with rain showerhead and 24-hour room service. A day at the spa can also up the ante.

 

Ready to get a taste of lavish vacationing in the Dominican Republic? Browse for more resorts on our Dominican Republic travel page.

22 Dec

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Top 15 Destinations to Visit in 2015

December 22, 2014 | By |

Wondering what the world has in store for you in 2015? With a new year, comes new resolutions. And with new resolutions, comes the need for new experiences. This upcoming year, make your new experiences about seeing new places, eating new food, meeting new people. Not sure where to start? From luxury destinations to foodie favourites, these top 15 destinations should give you a very good glimpse at what 2015 holds for you.

1) Nassau, Bahamas

Nassau, Bahamas

The hustle and bustle of Nassau never gets old. As both a popular cruise ship port and the commercial hub of the Bahamas, this city has an undeniable pulse. Bay Street is particularly bustling, with its myriad duty-free shops, restaurants and the famous Nassau Straw Market. In 2015, the buzz will be around the opening of Baha Mar, the biggest project to be undertaken in the Bahamas since Atlantis. In addition to 2,200 luxury rooms, this new mega resort will house a Vegas-style casino and approximately 40 restaurants.

2) Saint Lucia

Who knew there was such a thing as a drive-in volcanic crater? Whether you knew of its existence or not, you should know that Saint Lucia has one. It’s called La Soufrière Volanco (or Sulfur Springs) and you can drive up to its crater to witness it emit steam and sulphur. If you’re feeling slightly more adventurous, you can even have a warm sulphuric mud bath (though you should be warned that as much as it softens the skin, its rotten egg smell may not be well received by your nose). If first-time experiences are what you’re after in 2015, then this may be something to add to your wish list.

3) Osaka, Japan

In 2015, you may want to familiarize yourself with the expression kuidore (Japanese for “to eat yourself bankrupt”). Osaka’s food scene is booming and if you have appetite to spare, then you may want to sample Osakan fare. Takoyaki (octopus balls), Kushikatsu (a deep-fried meat or vegetable skewer) and Okonomiyaki (pork- or seafood-filled pancakes) are among street food favourites. And don’t forget to check out the multiple Michelin-star restaurants scattered around the city.

4) Turks & Caicos

Marina at Blue Haven Turks and Caicos

Marina at Blue Haven Turks and Caicos

Turks & Caicos is all about luxury – world-class hotels, spas, golf courses. In the last couple of years, it has undergone even more development in the luxury department. In 2015, make sure to check out some of Providenciales’ newest boutique hotels, including the all-suite Beach House Turks & Caicos and the Blue Haven Turks & Caicos, which has its very own marina!

5) Panama

Panama City Skyline

Panama is a country of stark contrasts: it is highly industrialized on the one hand, yet an eco-friendly haven on the other. If you’re looking for a city pulse similar to Miami, Panama City has got it: its abundant high-rises, dining and nightlife are why it has been dubbed the “Miami of the South.” If nature is more your thing, you can hike through the national parks of Coiba and Darien, awe at the cloud forests of Chiriqui or check out the Panama Canal.

6) Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Pura Vida (literally translated as “Pure Life” in English) is probably the most commonly used expression in Costa Rica. While its uses are varied, the meaning is universal: life is beautiful and you should know it. And if there is any place in the world where you can see Mother Nature’s beauty on full display, it has got to be Costa Rica. This is a country with some of the richest flora and fauna in the world, impeccably fresh produce and amazing vistas. If you have not yet had the chance to visit this mecca of natural beauty, make sure to add it to your 2015 bucket list.

7) Hawaii

Kauai Hawaii

If island hopping is on your travel wish list for the new year, then Hawaii should definitely be on your radar. The Hawaiian Islands have got it all: Visit Kaui for some history, Oahu for action-packed Honolulu, Maui for its culinary delights or the Big Island for its volcanic sights. See more Hawaii Highlights.

8) Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy

Milan is currently in full swing, preparing to host one of the world’s main events of the new year: Expo 2015. The theme of the exposition is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” and will take place from May 1 to October 31, 2015. It will feature more than 60 custom-built pavilions and the city is currently planning special exhibitions and the opening of new museums for the event.

9) Curaçao

Curacao diving

In 2015, Curaçao will celebrate 5 years of its semi-independence as an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its Dutch influences are nevertheless visible on the island – in the colonial architecture of Willemstad, the local specialties at MarsheBieuw (also called Old Market) and in the local patois called Papiamento. Besides it cultural diversity, Curaçao has over 40 world-class dive spots – see our top 5 here!

10) Grenada

Spice Mas Festival Grenada

Also known as “Spice Island,” Grenada is one of the world’s largest producers of nutmeg and mace. Spice is not Grenada’s only gem though; this island is abundant in other natural riches like its beaches, the Annandale Falls, the beaches at Morne Rouge Bay and Grand Anse, and the flora and fauna of Grand Etang National Park and Forest Reserve. In 2015, get a taste of the island by attending the Spice Mas Festival, Grenada’s colourful carnival that features music, parading and masquerading.

11) Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Riviera Nayarit, Mexico

Move over Riviera Maya, it’s time for Riviera Nayarit to shine. This 320-kilometre stretch of Pacific coastline is definitely a quieter alternative to its Caribbean-sided counterpart. You can golf in one of two Jack Nicklaus golf courses in Punta Mita, surf in Sayulita or relax in the peaceful town of San Blas. Riviera Nayarit will be seeing a significant amount of touristic development in the coming years, so go visit before the crowds swarm in!

12) St. Kitts

St Kitts Sea Turtle

St. Kitts may be small, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked when planning your 2015 travels. This little island has plenty of history, which is visible in the capital city of Basseterre. It also has plenty of natural habitat to explore, from its rainforests to its coral reef systems like Sandy Point and Turtle Bar. See our Top 5 Things to See in St. Kitts for more ideas.

13) Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs has had a mini tourism boom in the last few years and its number of lodgings is estimated to be in the triple digits by mid-2015. In addition to its desert scenery, 10,000-foot mountains and evening spas, the city is now also home to the Architecture and Design Center, launched in late 2014 to preserve the city’s desert modernism movement.

14) Barbados

Foodies, there is one thing you should know for 2015: The food scene is absolutely blossoming in Barbados. Having just celebrated its 5th edition this past November, the Barbados Food & Wine and Rum Festival has become a culinary success. In addition to wine and rum tastings, it features cooking demonstrations by international celebrity chefs such as Mark McEwan, Marcus Samuelsson and Anne Burrell. Stay tuned for the 2015 program.

15) Chile

Patagonia, Chile

It’s never too late to visit the end of the earth. After making a stop in the capital city of Santiago (which, by the way, has opened a number of new museums and art galleries in the last few years), most travellers will either head to the Atacama Desert or to trek through the bare, rigged landscapes of Patagonia (a.k.a “the end of the earth”). Another must for a 2015 trip to Chile is its brand new wine and food festival, which will take place in late September.

27 Nov

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5 Diving Spots to Explore in Curaçao

November 27, 2014 | By |

Curaçao’s beautiful beaches are for more than just lounging around: they offer tons of amazing diving opportunities. In light of its world-renowned marine life, we’ve put together a list of the top 5 diving and snorkelling spots in Curaçao. Here they are!

1) Superior Producer

In 1977, the Superior Producer set sail for South America, making a stop in Curaçao along the way to refuel. Unfortunately, the ship never made it to its final destination. Today, this shipwreck lies at the bottom of the ocean and makes for a fascinating diving experience. It is covered in various species of corals, including the orange tube coral. When the polyps extend to catch food in the night, the wreck turns orange. Different areas of the wreckage are suitable for different diving experience levels: the open wreck is ideal for beginners, while advanced divers can explore the engine room and crew cabins.

2) Porto Mari – The Valley

stingray

In addition to its beach, Porto Mari offers great diving and snorkelling opportunities. Home to a double reef named “the Valley” that is accessible from the shore, this diving spot is ideal for beginners. There is a variety of marine life to observe here, including sting rays, eagle rays and groupers. After your underwater exploration, you can cool down with a drink at Porto Mari’s boat-shaped beach bar.

3) Curaçao Sea Aquarium

The Curaçao Sea Aquarium is not just a place to observe marine life from a distance – here, you can get into snorkelling gear and swim with stingrays, groupers and tropical fish in the aquarium’s natural lagoons. Sharks and sea turtles also reside at this aquarium, though these are creatures you will have to observe from behind a glass partition.

4) Mushroom Forest & The Blue Room (aka “The Cave”)

Blue Room

Mushroom Forest is exactly what its name sounds like – a series of coral formations that look like mushrooms. Right next to Mushroom Forest is the Blue Room, a cave that is accessible via a narrow opening that allows sunlight to pass through, giving it a vivid blue colour that makes it appear as though it is lit up.

5) Playa Kalki (aka “Alice in Wonderland”)

Dubbed “Alice in Wonderland,” Playa Kalki’s reef features an underwater wonderland of colourful fish. Lobsters, eels, dolphins and whale sharks can also be spotted. The beach (Kalki) gets its name from its limestone cliffs, called “Kalki” in Papiamentu (one of Curaçao’s three official languages – Dutch and English are the other two).

Want to explore more than Curaçao’s underwater world? Check out our Curaçao travel section.