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Vacation Couple, Author at Air Canada Vacations

10 Dec

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5 Things to Know Before Visiting Hotel Xcaret Mexico

December 10, 2018 | By |

Our favourite way to travel is by enjoying the natural surroundings and local culture, which we don’t often get to experience at resorts. Last month, we visited Hotel Xcaret Mexico with Air Canada Vacations and had an amazing taco-fuelled experience. It honestly changed the way we look at vacations as it has both of our favourite travel qualities and more. It immerses you in a world of adventure, Mexican culture, and all-inclusive fun!

Looking back, we wish someone had told us these tips before visiting, which is why we’re sharing them with you! The following are suggestions on things you can do, see, and eat around the hotel. This is what you need to know before you visit Hotel Xcaret Mexico.

Take Time to Explore the Property (Pick up a Map)

Bridge at Hotel Xcaret - Air Canada Vacations

The property is truly a park in itself with jungles, a winding river with coves and inlets, and tropical surprises around every corner. To maximize your time, it’s best to plan so you can cover the highlights during your stay. Our favourites included sunrise at the Catholic chapel, kayaking the river, discovering waterslides, and walking along the jungle paths.

chapel at hotel xcaret - air canada vacations

 

 

river shot - air canada vacaitons - Hotel XcaretFor an authentic beach experience, take the far-east suspension bridge from the chapel, over the lagoon, on your way to the beach hammocks. Unlike the other side of the beach, which can be rocky, this side is semi-private, quiet, and gorgeous!

Hote Xcaret Beach - Air Canada Vacations

Ask for a map once you arrive at the hotel, you’ll find it helpful to reference later during your trip. I found the map most useful for finding where each photo station was around the property.

The Magical Wristband

From the moment we got our wristbands, we knew we were going to love them! They allow you to take pictures of yourself at photo stations around the hotel and all parks. You can find each “Xelfie” photo station by using the hotel map.

You’ll get optimal camera angles without the hassle of carrying around bulky cameras or having to attempt your best photography skills. Simply tap your wristband on the photo circle, look towards the colourful “Xcaret Eye,” and say CHEESE! You can purchase the digital photo packages at the end of your visit for a reasonable price (starting at $58.99 for all photos of 2 people at both the hotel and 1 park).

Hotel Xcaret wristbands

Stop digging through your pockets and beach bag looking for your dreaded room key.  That won’t happen at Hotel Xcaret Mexico as your wristband serves multiple purposes, including being your room key.

It’s also waterproof and has an adjustable strap, which allows you to take it off when you need to. I appreciated this feature while I showered and slept, much more comfortable if you ask me!

All-Fun Inclusive®

What is All-Fun Inclusive®? Not only are your accommodations, drinks, and food included, but so are your excursions! Hotel Xcaret Mexico goes beyond the traditional all-inclusive resort and includes all 9 of their parks and tours in your stay. That means you could visit a different park a day for a week and still not have visited them all!

Xcaret park

This also includes your shuttles to and from all parks, with rides leaving every 20 minutes from the hotel lobby. Walk a few hundred metres east from the lobby and keep your eye out for the big pink Xcaret bus.

Hotel Xcaret bus tour

Xcaret Park

We visited the emblematic Xcaret Park which has over 50 different attractions to choose from. It’s a park that renews the spirit of Mexican culture and folklore through food, exhibitions, and celebration.

Grab an Xcaret passport to keep track of where you’ve visited and try to explore them all! There are 37 different “Xelfie” stations here and we hardly got through them during our visit. Remember to use the coloured lines on the pavement to guide you through each area.

Hotel Xcaret park

Xenses Park

Prepare to have your senses come alive as the Xenses Park is filled with optical illusions and fantastic Instagram opportunities.  This is the only half-day park available and you can’t miss it!

Xenses pinwheel

Thoughtfully designed, you immediately enter into the pinwheel room that’s a sensory celebration of rainbow colours. There are two circuits of activity from here and over 50 mind-blowing attractions, games, and sensory scenarios to cover. Our favourites included the town where you didn’t know up from down, and the Xitric garden where you could drink lemonade directly from a tree!

Everything’s Included

Hotel Xcaret Mexico is a one-stop shop for a complete vacation experience. When you book with Air Canada Vacations, it includes your flight, hotel accommodation, all transfers and 1 free checked bag per person. Your package even includes your meals at each park, plus a beer at Xcaret Park, and both tequila and beer at Xoximilco Park.

The All-Fun Inclusive® perks don’t end at the parks, as you’ll also enjoy complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, tennis, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkelling, and access to the kids & family club during your stay.

The Food at Hotel Xcaret Mexico

There are ten restaurants, eight bars, and a room service menu that we didn’t even scratch the surface of. We’ve become passionate lovers of local foods since visiting Mexico several times over the past few years. So it’s no surprise that we loved the authentic flavours of the Mexican buffet, Mercado de la Merced. Most mornings, you’d find us here filling our plates with salsa verde, succulent chicken and beef tacos, and sipping on rich Mexican coffee.

For lunch, we loved the carefree vibe of Las Playas, near the main pool and directly in front of the lagoon. There are beautiful swings to sip your cocktail on and tables in the sand so you can sink your toes in and truly relax. Each dish we enjoyed here was an elevated version of a classic and we enjoyed it so much that we came back every day to try something new on the menu.

Food at hotel xcaret

 

The only problem we had during our stay was trying to choose what to eat for dinner. Our most noteworthy meals were the Teppanyaki table at Xin-Gao, the dinner and show in the theatre, and a special dinner at Ha’ restaurant.

Food Tips

Shadi was elated to discover the taco stand that was set-up in front of the main buffet each evening. You’d often see a line-up in front of this famous cart, which also included fresh cilantro and lime. There are no frills here, just authentic, generous flavours. We had a second dinner at this stand on the regular, they were addictive!

Another great find was the fruit stand that’s set up in the archway in front of the main pool. With so many fresh options at my convenience, I made it my goal to try a new fruit here each day.

Hotel Xcaret fruit stand

We walked by Cantina Los Faroles a few times but never had the chance to try their menu. We did, however, return after 11 p.m. to enjoy the nightlife and lantern light show around the bar.

Hotel-Xcaret-Resort-lanterns

Needless to say, we think you should add these restaurants to your culinary bucket list at Hotel Xcaret Mexico.

Sustainability & Mexican Culture

Everything at Hotel Xcaret Mexico is made with sustainability and the preservation of Mexican culture in mind. All elements of the resort are acquired through fair trade and are locally sourced. Many of the items around the hotel are also handmade, such as the handcrafted pillows, tiles, and hammocks.

The Rooms at Hotel Xcaret Mexico

As sustainability is a focus of the hotel, many things in the hotel are made from sustainable materials, such as the pillows, duvets, and coffee pods. The coffee pods are biodegradable and actually made of corn! My favourite feature of our room was that all of the amenities were eco-friendly. The materials are locally sourced AND good for the environment. The grape lotion smelled and felt amazing and I want to buy it by the tub!

From the hotel’s eco-integrative design to their contributions to the local economy, Hotel Xcaret Mexico constantly demonstrates its promise to practice sustainable tourism.

Bonus! Book with Air Canada Vacations

As Air Canada Vacations ambassadors, we travel with them often. What we love the most about booking our vacations with them is that we literally don’t have to stress about any travel details.  Air Canada Vacations takes care of everything from the flights, hotel, and even transfers at destination.

They’ve been around for over 35 years, so you’ve got peace of mind.  You also don’t have to pay for your first checked bag when you book a package with Air Canada Vacations (which we really appreciate). Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge fly to more than 40 destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, which is more than any other Canadian tour operator (which is amazing!).

Hotel Xcaret

What’s Next

The only thing left to do is decide when you’ll be going.  With flights leaving daily to Cancún from Toronto on Air Canada Rouge, and twice daily during winter, the time is now to pack your bags and escape the Canadian cold.

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

 

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.