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Air Canada Vacations - Page 25 of 34 - Travel Blog

23 Jul


Deudero designs

July 23, 2014 | By |

Famed Majorcan designer José Deudero has created 32 spectacular resorts for over the last 25 years with IBEROSTAR. His latest creation in Riviera Nayarit is another success.

What inspired the design of the new 

When I arrived on the west coast, I hiked high into the hills. I found an authentic Huichol community, and they were my inspiration. The whole resort 
is in harmony with the environment and filled 
with local, traditional artwork and creations.

Did you source locally?

Of course. A lot of furniture, artwork and materials were sourced locally. All the wooden centre tables, bars and stools were made from fallen trees. 
We also used Mexican marble and local Devil 
Ear’s wood.

The jaguar head in the lobby is very impressive.

It’s six and a half feet wide, the largest ever created. We commissioned Huichol artists to create it for us. It took six artists two and a half months. The jaguar is a powerful animal and each part of the beaded decoration represents part of their cosmology.

The Pacific Express Restaurant is surprising.

I was born and raised near a train station. Trains come and go, carrying thousands of people and stories. When I was young, I also travelled by train throughout India, from New Delhi to the holy city 
of Benares, a trip that had a great impact on me. 
I wanted to recapture the golden age of train travel so I designed this gourmet à la carte to feel like a dining car on a luxury railroad.

Not all the design is Mexican?

No, we drew international inspiration from South East Asia and had furniture for the guest rooms, a stone sculpture for the spa, and the pagoda near the pool created in Java that represents an old type of building, known as jogloo. It is typical of Java.

How would you describe this resort in one word?

Unique. It’s modern and has the best facilities and service but it also has a strong identity that I hope all our guests will enjoy. We wanted to create an unforgettable space, and I think we have succeeded.

Blue Mountains in Jamaica: For the Love of Nature and Coffee

July 17, 2014 | By |

Just thinking about the Blue Mountains has us dreaming of lush rainforests, beautiful flowers, and of course, delicious coffee. If you are planning a trip to Jamaica, this region should absolutely find itself on your itinerary. To put it simply, the Blue Mountains are as stunning as you would expect them to be – and maybe more.

Christopher Columbus is said to have remarked, upon his first trip to Jamaica: “It is the fairest island eyes have beheld; mountainous and the land seems to touch the sky." Not surprising, as The Blue Mountains are some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean, with the Peak reaching in at 2,256 metres, or 7,402 feet. The view from this high peak is absolutely breathtaking – and the mountains are often described as a “Garden of Eden” because of fantastic flora and fauna you can admire there.

Visiting the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are located between Kingston and Port Antonio, dominating the eastern end of the island of Jamaica. It is possible to visit the area by yourself, but for a worry-free activity, a day trip to the Blue Mountains can easily be arranged through the travel desk of your hotel.

Blue Mountains Map

Map of the Blue Mountains, Jamaica courtesy of

To reach the Blue Mountains by car from Kingston, you have two options: the first being via the main road through Irish Town, the other via Guava Ridge. These roads converge at the town of Section and the trip will take about an hour. It is also possible to reach the Blue Mountains by bus, with most buses departing from Papine, though public transport’s reliability is not guaranteed.

If you wish to stay in the Blue Mountains, Strawberry Hill is perched on a stand-alone mountaintop, 3,000 feet up in the Blue Mountains. The view from the infinity pool alone is worth the stay. It is the perfect place to kick back, relax, and enjoy Jamaica’s lush plant life.

Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park

The Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park was established in 1992 and now conserves about 78,000 hectares, or 200,000 acres of Jamaica’s last remaining rainforest, representing 4.4% of Jamaica’s land surface. The park includes three separate ranges, from west to east: Port Royal Mountains, the Blue Mountains and John Crow Mountains, with the Rio Grande Valley separating the Blue and John Crow mountains to the North. Fees apply to visit.

The Blue Mountains Peak is just 16 kilometres from the sea, meaning the area has one of the steepest gradients in the world. This makes for quite the drop in temperature, from an average of around 27°C at sea level, to just 5°C at the Peak. This difference in temperature, combined with high rainfall, feeds the lush vegetation. The Eastern face of the mountain range receives more than 765 centimetres of rain each year, providing water for almost half of Jamaica’s population.

Hiking to the Peak of the Blue Mountains

There are two ways to hike to the Peak of the Blue Mountains: in the dark, with a flashlight, to reach the summit in time for sunrise, or during daytime.

If you choose the early morning option, it is important to know that Portland Gap is the last rest and overnight stop before the Peak. From there, the Blue Mountain Peak Trail is a 5.6 kilometre hike, taking approximately 2 to 3 hours. The walk is an experience in itself, as you may need to start walking before 5 a.m. to reach the summit in time for sunrise.

The sunrise is the real spectacle, and on a clear day, you will be able to admire both the north and south coasts of the island, easily justifying the very early morning wake-up call. You may even be able to make out the shadowy outline of Cuba! Regardless of the time of the year you visit, weather conditions can of course never be guaranteed, meaning that the sunrise, and view, may be obscured by clouds or the mist that gives the mountains their bluish hues – and their name.

If you walk during the daytime, you will notice that the path to the Peak is surrounded by beautiful scenery, so plan more time to stop and admire the view. If you like bird watching, Jamaica’s National Bird, the Doctor Bird, the Jamaican Tody (Robin Red Breast) and the Mountain Witch are just a few of the species you will get to see and hear on your journey. Most travellers choose Penlyne Castle as the start of the 12.5 km hike to the Peak, which is accessible by bus or car. If you wish to start your hike after Hagley Gap, you will need to have access to a 4WD.

The trail is easy to follow with signs every step of the way. The difficulty level of the path varies by area – some parts are flat while others are gravel and may be more difficult to walk, especially if wet. Jacob’s Ladder is known to be particularly narrow and steep.

For safety reasons, it is best to hike in the Blue Mountains during the dry season, which begins in December and ends in April. The steep slopes of the mountains and its many rivers may create floods and landslides during heavy rains. Join a guided tour or verify the weather conditions before setting off. Do not forget to register at the Ranger Station in Portland Gap.

You will not find many food options in the Blue Mountains, especially once you start hiking. It’s therefore best to always carry water (tap water is safe to drink in Jamaica) and food with you at all times.

The Blue Mountains’ natural beauty: finding plants and birds

Even if your fitness level (or interest!) doesn’t allow for a climb to the Blue Mountain Peak, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the area’s natural beauty. Hardwar Gap, one of the park’s recreation areas, and the Rio Grande Valley are prime locations to admire much of the island’s fauna. Just outside of the Blue & John Crow Mountains National Park, Ecclesdown Road, in Portland Parish, is also a great place to visit.

More than 800 species of endemic plants and 500 species of flowering plants, 200 species of resident and migrant birds and the world’s second largest butterfly, the Homerus swallowtail (Papilio homerus) can all be found in the National Park.

Amongst the most impressive plant species you will get to see in the park are Lobster Claws, Orchids, Torch Lilies and Ackee – the fruit with the texture of scrambled eggs that is part of Jamaica’s national dish. The area is also optimal for bird watching: do not miss the red-haired Jamaican Woodpecker, the black Smooth-billed Ani and the rare White-eyed Thrush.


Smooth-billed Ani

Occasionally, the Natural History Society of Jamaica organizes field trips to the Blue and John Crow Mountains with special emphasis on their fauna and flora.

While Kingston is a great base for visiting the Blue Mountains, most visitors prefer to use Port Antonio as a base when visiting the Rio Grande Valley. There are many short walks starting in the small towns along the Port Antonio-Bowden road. Ginger House is not to be missed, featuring a waterfall and mineral spring (bring your bathing suit!).

Other short walk options are the 3-kilometre Oatley Mountain Trail, in very lush and impressive forests, with lookout points to enjoy panoramic views, and the 2-kilometre Cascade Water Trail, where you can swim to cool off. Both trails are situated in the park’s Holywell Recreation Area and come highly recommended.

Learning more about Blue Mountain Coffee

Blue Mountain Coffee is famous worldwide for its smooth, mild and bitter-free taste. The coffee has been produced in the Blue Mountains since 1728, when the Governor, Sir Nicholas Lawes, brought the first coffee seedlings from Hispaniola (the island where Haiti and the Dominican Republic are situated). The slopes of the Blue Mountain were cleared, creating coffee plantations that helped Jamaica become the leading coffee producer in the world by the 19th century. However, this domination was short-lived as the industry fell into decline after Emancipation, when Jamaica could no longer compete with slave-owning countries like Brazil and Cuba. Blue Mountain Coffee is still appreciated worldwide today. In fact, more than 80% of the production is exported to Japan.

Today, although some coffee estates remain, most of the beans are grown on small plots by local farmers on the Kingston-Buff Bay Road, near Section.

What makes Blue Mountain Coffee so special?

The climate in the Blue Mountains is cool and misty, with high rainfall, while the soil is rich and offers excellent drainage. These make for ideal conditions to produce the world-famous coffee.

Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labelled as such. There are different  classifications of Blue Mountain coffee.

Only coffee grown at elevations between 3,000 and 5,500 feet (915-1,700 metres) can be called Blue Mountain Coffee. Jamaican High Mountain is the term used for coffee grown at elevations between 1,500 and 3,000 feet (460-910 metres) and Jamaica Supreme or Jamaica Low Mountain is coffee grown below 1,500 feet (460 metres).

Visiting the Blue Mountains coffee plantations

If you like coffee, a visit to a coffee plantation is a great experience to learn more about the beans, the harvesting, and the process to turn the beans into the famous coffee.

You can visit the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, where Jablum coffee is produced. Victor C. Munn, an English planter and processor established the factory in 1923 on just five acres (2 hectares). Today, approximately 1.4 million pounds of green beans from over 6,000 farmers are processed here annually. Enquire about the tour at your Kingston-area hotel. On a tour of the factory, you will get to see the coffee beans drying (in season) and being processed. This is also a great place to purchase roasted coffee beans. Space in your luggage permitting, bring back as much coffee as you would like – there is no specific limit to how much coffee you can bring back to Canada, as long as you do not exceed the duty free limits (up to $750 for a trip of 7 days or more).

North of Newcastle, you can take a one-hour tour of Craighton Estate Great House and coffee plantation, where you can learn about coffee cultivation. From the over 200-year old estate’s gazebo, sitting in 2,600 feet above sea level, you will be able to admire the views over the mountains and the villages below.

The Blue Mountains offer something for everyone. From quaint villages to challenging hikes to rewarding vistas to great coffee tastings, you are sure to find something you enjoy in the region. And in true Jamaican fashion, there will be plenty of friendly locals to make the visit even more memorable. Happy travels!

02 Jul


Jamaican Slang You Should Know Before Travelling

July 2, 2014 | By |

Before visiting a destination where the people speak a language different from your native tongue, it is a good idea to learn a few words and phrases from the language that they speak. Doing this can help you navigate, do simple tasks like ordering food or thanking a person. It is also a common courtesy to the people you are interacting with. You might not be able to speak their language fluently, but that small amount of effort and being polite could really help you out and go a long way in regards to them being willing to help you out in return.

The official language of Jamaica is English and you should be able to travel throughout the country without having any problems communicating. However, if you really want to impress and get to know the locals, then it might be a good idea to learn a bit of their other language known as Jamaican Patois.

What to know about Patois

Patois (pronounced like Patwah), is known by linguists as Jamaican Creole. It is mainly based on the English language with different uses of grammar, mixed with various African languages, native words and even a bit of Irish English.

Jamaican Patois is more often spoken than written and one of the hardest parts about learning the language is that it isn’t legally recognized. Because of that, the language isn’t standardized either. This means that there are many variations of different sayings and many variations as to how things are spelled as well, with no one way being wrong.

Key phrases travellers to Jamaica should know

Often times you will find that the Patois word compared to the English word is an altered direct translation like “Thank You” being “Tank yuh”. Other times the Patios version might be more of an explanation of what you are trying to say in English. An example of this is “Goodbye” being “Walk good” which is like saying, “take care” or “travel safe”. If you think about it too much it might be harder for you to learn. This is the type of language that just kind of flows out of your mouth.

To begin, here are a few Jamaican slang expressions you should know before travelling. Some of these are very basic words that you would want to know or at least get an understanding of before visiting Jamaica.

Hello = “Yes sah” or a more casual greeting would be “whaa gwaan” which is the equivalent to “What’s up?”. There are numerous variations for greeting someone, which also include: “Whap’am” and “How yuh stay?” which means “How are you?”.

An appropriate response to one of these greetings might be “irie” which means “alright” or “fine”.

Good Bye = “Walk Good” or “lata”

Thank You = “Tank yuh”

Yes = “Yah man”

No = “Nuh” or “No sah”

Drink = “drinkz”

Water = “watta”

Eat = “nyam”

How much is this? = “Ow much is dis?”

Examples of more advanced expressions for the adventurous linguists

If you think you have an ear for languages and you want to be able to communicate a bit more with the locals, then these few expressions and phrases might help you out.

Perhaps you are looking for directions?

Show me where this is located = “Mek I know weh dis deh”

Where is the bus stop? = “Weh di bus tap deh?”

Or maybe you want to make some small talk?

Who sings this song? = “A who sing da sang ya?”

Where is the party? – “Wich paaat di paaty deh?”

What are you doing? = “Wha yuh a do?”

Tips for meeting the locals and practicing the language

Now that you have a handle on the lingo, it is time to meet some locals, try out what you have learned and perhaps learn more from first-hand conversations. Jamaica Local Rastafarian

If you are staying at a resort during your vacation, the best place to start is at the bar. Pick a time of day where the hotel bar is not overwhelmed, take a seat at the bar, grab a drink and strike up a conversation with the bartender, preferably a local. Hotels are all about customer service and most bartenders love to chat, so this is the best way to test out your new skills without going too far outside your comfort zone.

If you feel more comfortable like you have a handle on things, ask the bartender, the concierge or your tour guide where they would suggest you can go to hang out with some locals. Hopefully they will recommend a great local watering hole where you can not only strike up a conversation with some real locals, but you might also get the chance to try some great local fare.

A few key phrases to know for customer service interactions

Aside from common pleasantries and small talk, it is also a good idea to figure out a few phrases of Patois that relate to customer service. From shopping at a market, to getting service at a restaurant or bar, here are some prime examples.

How much is this? = “Ow much is dis?”

What is that? = “A wah dat?”

Can I have… = “Cyan I ave…”

Can I order? = “Cyan I orda?”

What is the best? = “Wah is di bess?”

I like this. = “Mi like dis.”

Funny expressions

Learning a new language can be a fun experience and is a great way to expand your mind. As with learning any language, it is always fun to not only learn the most common words to help you get by, but also to learn a few funny words and phrases as well. Here are a few you might enjoy.

“Blabba mout” = Someone who talks too much.

“De olda de moon, de brigher it shines” = The older a person is, the wiser.

“Wanti wanti can’t get it, getti getti no want it.” = The grass isn't always greener on the other side.

These few words and phrases should get you started talking like a Jamaican local or at least help you attempt to communicate with them. Don’t forget that being polite, saying “please” and “thank you” can really go a long way. Hopefully they will inspire you to learn more and feel more comfortable speaking with the locals.

Remember that English is the native language of Jamaica, so you don’t need to learn Jamaican Patois to travel there. These suggestions are just for fun and they might help you understand some of the reggae music that you are sure to hear.



26 Jun


Views of Zurich

June 26, 2014 | By |

Your first stop in Zurich has to be the fun and buzzy Zurich-West. It’s your best bet to bust open your preconceptions about Zurich.

The city has over 2,000 places to eat and drink, anything from glass-clad modernism to cool reclaimed factories and Michelin stars, and Zurich’s chefs proudly spin local seasonal ingredients like air-dried Grisons beef, high-quality cheeses and organic vegetables. For more traditional fair, head to the sidewalk taverns of the lakeside medieval old town, particularly the Nierderdorf area. (For art buffs, check out Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dadaism).

If shopping is your thing, head to Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s shopping mile, or the 135 stores at Zurich’s Main Railway Station, or the 116 shops at Zurich Airport, the perfect place to pick up some classic souvenirs like fine chocolate (the best in the world) and watches (also the best in the world). Zurich’s International Airport is only a 10-minute train ride from the city and makes a charming final destination for your trip to Switzerland. After your shopping, take advantage of free WiFi, comfortable lounges, a kids play area, and even an observation deck if you want to take in one more inspiring view.

26 Jun


Spectacular Views of Switzerland

June 26, 2014 | By |

When you order fondue in Switzerland, it will be a warm, gooey decadence of Gruyere and  Emmental. It’s a Swiss classic and not to be missed, but let this be the beginning of your explorations, not the end.

To start with, its transport system really is as wonderful as you’ve heard and can get you pretty much anywhere you want to go, on time. Zurich is a forward-looking lakeside town of restaurants and artists nested in medieval stonework with a world-class airport nearby. The Lake Geneva region has a delicious undiscovered wine country, while Lucerne, one of the great destinations of the Alps, will always make you feel on top of the world.

Air Canada Vacations wants you to take all of this in. That’s why we have non-stop year-round flights to Geneva and Zurich, lots of hotels across the country and easy options for train passes, car rentals and activities, so you can get out and embrace the wonder of a mountain hike, a scenic bike ride or a lakeside stroll. We’ve even put together some pre-planned itineraries, taking you to the most spectacular views we could find.

26 Jun


Views of the Alps

June 26, 2014 | By |

The view from Mt. Pilatus is one of the best in Switzerland, possibly all of Europe. 73 peaks fade endlessly into the horizon. Below, the crisp mountain lake, and next to that, the charming Alpine town of Lucerne, where you started your journey on the Golden Round Trip.

From the winding historic streets of Lucerne, take a steamboat across the lake. Next, it’s a ride up the world’s steepest cogwheel train, which actually celebrates its 125th birthday this year. (A cog train uses a wheel with teeth to grip a special track up the mountainside.) The section through the tunnel is particularly exciting.

Once at the observatory, spend some time with the local band, have a drink or take the last few steps to the very top of Mt. Pilatus. Theodore Roosevelt and Queen Victoria reached the summit, so you’re in good company.

Your return is just as spectacular. A gondola lift takes you through panoramic views, over the foothills and back down to the lakeside forests. In the summer, be sure to stop in Frakmuntegg on your way down for a go on the longest summer toboggan run in Switzerland – it’s a fun ride!

26 Jun


Domaine du Daley

June 26, 2014 | By |

The Lake Geneva Region grows unusual grapes like Chasselas and Gamay, creating a unique and flourishing wine culture. Winemaker Cyril Séverin, owner of the Domaine du Daley, takes us to his vineyard and this beautiful part of Switzerland.

What makes a great wine?

The grapes. Well balanced, not too big, not burned by the sunshine. The top wines have to be worked by hand on the vine as in the cellar.

Your vineyard was founded in 1392, what does that mean to you?

We are the oldest brand in Switzerland. It pushes us to improve and express through our wines our tradition and respect for this place.

How would you describe your wines?

We try to give the best elegance and finesse to all our 22 wines. Each wine is only produced in 1,000 to 8,000 bottles. Quite special.

Do you have a special seasonal wine?

The Chasselas or Gamay are very nice in spring or summer. Viognier is more enjoyable in autumn and winter.

Your wines are unfiltered, how does that affect the experience?

We call them “alive wines”. No filtration, no treatments on the wines, gives an authentic expression of the structures. They are more emotional wines.

What will surprise us on a tour of your vineyard?

The view! This region of Lavaux is a steep hillside of terraces facing south to Lake Geneva, a UNESCO World Heritage since 2007. You can see Lausanne to Geneva, and even France.

Can you recommend any restaurants or bars that we should visit?

Flon and St-Pierre are good areas in Lausanne. Au Chat Noir is my favourite restaurant. It’s a fine-dining brasserie with lots of surprises.

One thing every Canadian should do here?

Visit in the summertime. We have a lot of music festivals and Lake Geneva is like a Swiss seaside.

What’s next for the Domaine du Daley?

To bring Swiss wines to the world.

20 Jun


Walking Along Negril’s 7-Mile Beach

June 20, 2014 | By |

For many, arriving in Jamaica is the experience of a lifetime. Imagine waking to warm tropical beaches, cool drinks under a golden sun, long relaxing afternoons wandering the streets filled with Caribbean culture and enough adventure for even the most avid adrenaline junkie. With plenty of shops, restaurants, and outdoor activities, this Caribbean island is a tropical paradise for anyone needing to take a break from a busy schedule. Negril’s 7-Mile Beach is the most famous beach on the island, and has been rated in the Top Ten Beaches worldwide by many travel magazines. The soft white sands and thriving reefs just offshore attract thousands of tourists each year.

Negril caters to tourists far more than Ocho Rios does, but it’s far quieter than Montego Bay. The result? A perfect combination of relaxing natural getaways, beautiful resorts, and adventure sports for travellers of all ages and levels of experience. In short, Negril has a little something for everyone, and much of it is centred around this postcard-perfect beach.

No matter what your interests, Negril’s 7-Mile Beach has enough attractions to ensure that you’ll find something that suits you.

Take an invigorating walk

With so much soft white sand, coastal views, and lush rainforest just outside your hotel, why not explore down the beach? Despite its title, 7-Mile Beach is little more than four miles long, making a hike down the length of it and back a reasonable excursion if you have a few hours to spare. It’s also worth exploring in smaller segments, as the heat can sometimes be exhausting. Be sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen! Watch a sunset you'll never forget with sand between your toes, or have the beach to yourself as the sun rises over the ocean.

Engage in some retail therapy

Shops near the all-inclusive resorts on the north end of the beach can be overpriced, offer less, and the quality of the items offered is not nearly as good as it is at the south end of 7-Mile Beach. It’s possible to find local crafts and goods almost anywhere, and there’s a tourist mall that offers the best dresses, watches, and luxury items in Negril. Don’t be afraid to shop locally. You’ll have twice the fun, as bartering with the locals can get you some fantastic deals and you’re certain to enjoy yourself in the process.

"Wasting Away" at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville

One of 7-Mile Beach’s most popular hangouts, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, boasts a wide selection of delicious international and local foods; of course, you're going to want to order a margarita!

Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Negril Jamaica

“Margaritaville” by Huseyin Sakaoğlu (Flickr)

Right on the beach, it has its own section of snow-white sand leading to the ocean. A large water trampoline floats temptingly in the shallows, and families and young adults alike are certain to appreciate the friendly, relaxing atmosphere of this vacationer’s hotspot. I dare you to make it through your whole meal without singing a Jimmy Buffet song out loud!

Take a leap at Rick’s Cafe

This is likely the most popular restaurant on the island. Rick’s Cafe is set atop one of the cliffs that line 7-Mile Beach. It offers excellent food, a lively atmosphere, and markets itself primarily towards the younger generation of vacationers.

Rick's Cafe Negril Jamaica

“Ricks Cafe (Jamaica)” by Ras Juanjo (Flickr)

For a true taste of the Caribbean, order their world famous surf and turf; the lobster will make your mouth water! Families are also welcome, but it’s recommended for families with older kids, as there isn’t a great area for young children to swim. After all, if you visit Rick’s Cafe, you should really bring your swimsuit. It’s famous worldwide for its cliff diving. Local divers will show off their skills by leaping from the highest points of the cliff, for a small fee. Some will even climb to the tops of trees overhanging the cliffs and execute perfect dives from there. Amateurs can also dive from any point, at their own risk. It’s reasonably safe, and the slight sting upon hitting the surface is easily overlooked when compared to the exhilaration of leaping off a towering Jamaican cliff to land in the pure warm waters below. Tales of cliff jumping into the blue sea are sure to impress your snowbound friends at home in Canada!

Get wet at Kool Runnings Water Park

With multiple water slides, lazy rivers, and kiddie parks, Kool Runnings Water Park is the perfect destination for families looking for a place to get out and enjoy the warm Jamaican sun. A sure fire hit with families, if you want to win the "best parent" award with your kids for the day, you'll want to take them here! One of the only water parks in Jamaica, Kool Runnings Water Park was voted the Best Attraction by the JHTA in 2013, and for good reason! Well-maintained and affordable, locals and tourists alike enjoy fun family trips to Negril’s top attraction on 7-Mile Beach. Be sure to try out the bungee trampoline!

Fly high: Go parasailing

For a breathtaking view of the beautiful 7-Mile Beach of Negril and the fantastic Caribbean ocean, book a parasailing tour. You’ll fly up to 500 feet in the air, allowing you the best bird’s-eye view of Negril and its neighbouring towns. Parasailing is one of the most popular activities on 7-Mile Beach, and is great for families or single riders alike. Suitable for all ages, the Parasailing Professionals run rides daily. Rides start and finish at the boat, and no experience is necessary to enjoy this fun and exhilarating adventure!

Where To Stay The Night

Plage de Negril Jamaique

Beaches Negril Resort & Spa

Families will enjoy this beautiful resort at the north end of Negril’s 7-Mile Beach. With no less than three outdoor pools, there’s plenty for the kids to do! The resort also offers a full range of activities, including kayaking, sailing, windsurfing, hydrobikes, waterskiing, and more. There’s plenty to do for all ages. Kids will love the mini-club, while parents might enjoy relaxing at the spa or taking advantage of the nightly activities. Teens can make friends at the teen disco held every night, and enjoy adventure sports during the day. The Beaches Negril Resort & Spa also has its own scuba and water sports activity centre, which sets it apart from the majority of the other hotels and resorts lining 7-Mile Beach.


Sandals Grande Riviera Beach and Villa Golf Resort

This all-inclusive resort at the end of the beach is the perfect getaway for couples. It boasts 7 impressive pools (not including whirlpools, of which there are plenty to go around), 15 restaurants, and 9 bars. It specializes in weddings and comfortable private suites for couples. It is reserved for those 18 and older, which some honeymooners prefer. This resort has one of the best spas on the beach, with an impressive array of treatments available, ranging from mud baths and reflexology to pedicures and aromatherapy. A quiet, relaxing haven, Sandals Grande Riviera also offers complete wedding packages. Couples can choose from a wide range of colour palettes, work with their own wedding coordinator, and customize their own wedding through the Sandals Wedding Designer site online.


Grand Pineapple Beach Negril

The Grand Pineapple Beach Negril is the best resort around for singles looking to get away from the rush of everyday life and spend some time by themselves. It’s smaller than the other resorts, and doesn’t offer multiple pools or organized events. However, it is in a beautiful location, and has a pool, bar, restaurant, and is by all accounts a classy, well-kept resort. Sailing, snorkelling, and tennis are a few of the on-site activities offered here. The resort is located near many other attractions, and horseback rides, dive centres, shopping malls, and water skiing can be found just a short walk away.

View all the resorts in the area


Things You Should Know Before Visiting

– The beach is actually just over 4 miles long, though tourists have insisted on keeping the famous 7-Mile title.

  • For the best shopping, visit the south end of the beach.
  • West End Road, south of downtown Negril, offers the best local cliff jumping. Not for the faint of heart!
  • Topless sunbathing is allowed all along 7-Mile Beach. Full nudity is allowed only in certain locations, such as private coves on the West End cliffs.
  • Exploring outside of your resort or hotel is completely safe, so long as you use the same street smarts you would at home. Don’t walk alone in strange areas at night, keep in mind that drugs that are illegal back home are also illegal in Jamaica, and treat officers and locals with respect.

19 Jun


Views from the Train

June 19, 2014 | By |

Air-inclusive rail tours

Swiss Pass your ticket to ride

This is the only ticket you need to get unlimited access to all of the Swiss Travel Systems’ amazing trains, buses and boats. Plus, you get free admission to more than 450 museums and 50% off most mountain railways. These two rail itineraries are just suggestions; feel free to use your pass however you like.

UNESCO Switzerland

9 days | 7 nights

Discover three of Switzerland’s most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage sites. From Zurich, ride to Bern, the nation’s capital. The well-preserved medieval old town was listed in 1983 and is a wonderful afternoon walk. Your next destination is La-Chaux-de-Fonds, the heartland of Swiss watch-making. The iconic mountain railroad takes you to your last stop on this 7-day tour, Jungfraujoch, site of the largest glacier in Eurasia and the highest rail station in Europe.

Cultures of Switzerland

11 days | 9 nights

This exhilarating 11-day itinerary takes you to the heart of Switzerland’s German, French and Italian cultures. Fly into vibrant, German-speaking Zurich. Then ride the scenic rails of the Wilhelm Tell Express south through medieval Alpine Lucerne all the way to the gelato and palm trees of Lugano. Next, it’s west to the sophistication of Montreux, the international savoir-faire of French-speaking Geneva and your flight home.

Tales of a Foodie in Jamaica

June 10, 2014 | By |

If you’re anything like me, as soon as you read “Jamaica,” strong smells of jerk chicken come to mind. Yes, food is definitely an integral part of Jamaican culture. Experiencing local eateries and tasting local delicacies should be an essential (and delicious!) component of any trip to this Caribbean country.

Jamaican cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures – from the indigenous people of the island, to the Spanish, British, Africans, Indians, French and Chinese – who have all made their mark on the island’s history. The techniques, flavours and spices all have different origins – so do the ingredients. While plenty are native to Jamaica, many foods have been introduced and are now grown locally.

Ackee and saltfish: Jamaica’s national dish

Jamaica’s national dish is ackee and saltfish. It is traditionally served for breakfast, but any Jamaican will tell you that it is delicious at any time of the day. Ackee is a fruit, but has the texture of scrambled eggs. It is folded into saltfish and Scotch bonnet peppers to create this unique dish. It is often served with fried plantains, callaloo (similar to spinach) or johnnycakes (fried or baked bread.)

Canadians will be surprised at just how spicy this dish is – especially for breakfast. Most Scotch bonnet peppers have a heat rating of 100,000-350,000 Scoville heat units, which is a lot spicier than the peppers we traditionally find in Canada. The Scoville scale is how we measure just how spicy a pepper is : the higher the heat rating, the spicier the food. Jalapeno peppers, for example,  have a heat rating of 2,500-8,000. The Carolina Reaper is currently considered to be the world’s hottest chilli pepper, with a heat rating of 2,000,000-2,200,000 Scoville heat units. Hot!

Interestingly enough, saltfish may have been introduced to Jamaica by way of Canada. Legend says that plantation owners were looking for an inexpensive source of protein for the growing population of enslaved Africans who worked on their land, so they traded the salt-cured cod for rum and molasses.

Jamaican traditional dishes to try on your trip

Jamaica is known worldwide for another popular dish: Jerk. Its key ingredient? Jamaican jerk spice, made with Scotch bonnet peppers and allspice, also known as pimento in Jamaica. A recipe is hard to find, as all chefs and cooks like to put their own twist on the classic, and recipes are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. What we do know is that pork, chicken or fish are dry-rubbed or wet-marinated with the jerk spice, and then the meat is roasted or smoked, often for hours. You’ll often see old oil barrels being used as smokers but traditional ovens are used too. The dish is often served with even more hot sauce and festival bread (a Jamaican cornbread fritter). Everything else depends on who is doing the cooking!

Jerk chicken and red stripe

“Jerk chicken with red beans and rice” by Clint McMahon (Flickr)

Interested in trying jerk from different Jamaican institutions? The Jamaica Jerk Trail offers a map that will help you locate some of the country’s most famous jerk restaurants.

Other popular Jamaican dishes are the famous patties (you can’t leave Jamaica without trying a Juici patty!), and rice and peas, which are actually pigeon peas or kidney beans.

Rastafarian culture

The Rastafari movement is an African-based spiritual ideology that arose in the 1930s in Jamaica and that was later popularized worldwide by Bob Marley. Visually recognizable because of their dreadlocks, the Rastafarians also observe an Ital diet. This diet aims to increase Livity, or the life energy that lives within all human beings. The food Rastafarians eat should therefore be natural and come from the earth.


Interested in trying this type of cuisine? You will find a cluster of food huts called Old Bay in Green Island. One of these is Ital Vital, which serves vegan Rastafarian health food such as beans stewed in coconut milk, ackee with tofu and bulgur rice.

Origins of the Ital diet

The word “Ital” derives from the English word "vital.” The diet is an essential part of Rastafarian culture , and early adherents adapted their diet based on their interpretation of several books of the Bible. For example, they were influenced by the following passage: “Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food." (Genesis 1:29).” Today, however, many Rastafarians consider the movement to be more a way of life than a religion.

Rastafarians observe a vegan diet that is free of chemically modified ingredients or artificial additives (such as dyes, artificial flavours, preservatives, etc.). They eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, and staples in their diet include coconuts, bananas, callaloo, pimento and coconut oil. What’s most surprising is that some do not use salt at all in their cooking.

Some less strict Rastafarians will use pure sea or kosher salt and will even eat fish, as long as it is less than 12 inches. Chicken may also be added to a non-strict diet, but pork and shellfish are not likely to be eaten by anyone following an Ital diet. Their meat is considered to be unclean and harmful to the body because they are scavengers.

Local drinks – from rum to Blue Mountain coffee

Jamaicans love their rum. Rumour is there are more rum bars per capita in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world. Rum punch is very popular on the island and easy to reproduce at home to instantly feel on vacation. It is possible to tour one of Jamaica’s oldest and most famous rum factories, Appleton Estate located in the Nassau Valley (90 minutes from Montego Bay), and Canadian adults can bring back one litre of alcohol upon their return to the country.

Another Jamaican favourite is coffee¾but not just any coffee, Blue Mountain Coffee. As its name states, this coffee is grown in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, and is one of the most popular and expensive brands in the world. To be considered Blue Mountain Coffee, the beans have to be harvested in Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland or Saint Mary. Blue Mountain Coffee is a globally protected certification mark, meaning that only coffee certified by the Coffee Industry Board of Jamaica can be labelled as such. This brand of coffee, known for its smooth, mild and bitter-free taste, is now sold everywhere in the world, in fact, more than 80% of the production is exported to Japan, but it is at the height of its freshness on the island.

Tia Maria dark liqueur combines two Jamaican favourites: rum and Jamaican coffee beans. The legend associated with the drink dates back to the mid-17th century. A beautiful young Spanish aristocrat reportedly fled the turmoil that colonial war brought to the island of Jamaica. Her maid saved one family treasure: a small jewellery box with black pearl earrings and an ancient manuscript with the recipe for a mysterious liqueur. Of course, the recipe was the famous drink, so it was then named after the woman, Tia Maria. The liqueur was then “rediscovered” in the 1950s by Dr. Kenneth Leigh Evans, who began to produce and market it.

Red Stripe beer, a pale lager, is well known and very appreciated in Jamaica. It is easily recognizable by its stubby brown bottle. Coconut water and coconut milk are also popular in Jamaica, and tap water is safe to drink.

Where should you eat in Jamaica?

One thing is for sure, a big part of Jamaica’s food culture is found on the street. Indeed, many of Jamaica’s best dishes can be found in roadside shacks. Don’t let the looks scare you away, the food prepared in these mobile restaurants is safe to eat, and delicious to boot. In fact, don’t be put off by the lack of a sign. Some food stands do not have permanent addresses or names!

Curried goat is a street food staple and a popular dinner choice, especially for parties. In fact, it is said to be best at a local backyard party! Festivals and carnivals will often bring in experts to prepare the dish perfectly. If your visit does not coincide with a major event, the restaurant Moby Dick in Kingston is also renowned for its recipe.

If you wish to stay at your resort to eat, you will find that many offer fine-dining options. Sugar Mill Restaurant is a renowned establishment serving both Caribbean and International cuisine, located in a restored 17th-century mill, inside the Half Moon resort in Montego Bay. For the best seasonal ingredients including locally caught seafood and fresh vegetables, Jake’s Country Cuisine at Jake’s Hotel is a must-visit on the South Coast.  The food is delicious, but you must come here for the view from the restaurant, which is simply stunning, day or night.

If you are staying in Ocho Rios, a visit to Bizot Bar is a must for Jamaican specialties and American foods alike. Also available are in-room and private outside dining, as well as a beautiful Gazebo, the perfect place to watch the sunset while enjoying a cocktail.

A great dining option in Montego Bay is Scotchies, on Falmouth Road, an institution famous for its jerk chicken and pork, and festival bread. There are two other Scotchies locations in Jamaica, in Kingston and Ocho Rios, so you’ll be sure to find one close to where you are staying. In Montego Bay, be sure to dine at the Houseboat Grill – you will not forget this relaxed and delicious experience!

Negril is the place to be for foodies visiting Jamaica. Rick’s Café is considered to be one of the best beach bars in the world. It has been open for 40 years, and is popular with locals and tourists alike. The place is always packed, thanks to live music every night and beautiful sunsets. Zimbali’s Mountain Cooking Studio has been described as “an experience you must have in Jamaica” and the menu features organic fruits from their garden. 3 Dives and Murphy's West End Restaurant are also places to visit for authentic Jamaican cuisine. Finally, the Caves is also a must-try experience in Negril: yes, you can eat in a candlelit cave! Tables are also available oceanfront, where you can try the Cliffhanger, the Caves’ signature cocktail, and foods ranging from jerk to tropical field greens.

Devon House Ice Cream, in Kingston, is considered to be amongst the best places to have ice cream in the world. The parlour serves 27 different flavours, including a beer-based ice cream called the Devon Stout. A must-try! You’ll also find stands all over Jamaica.

Some restaurants add a service charge to the bill in addition to the General Consumption Tax of 16.5%. Jamaican and US dollars are accepted at most establishments.

Cooking Jamaican foods at home

After coming back home from Jamaica, your taste buds will surely be asking for more traditional and spicy Jamaican dishes. Many cookbooks, such as The Real Taste of Jamaica and Traditional Jamaican Cookery, offer tricks and tools to reproduce traditional Jamaican dishes at home.

Ingredient availability will vary by region and season, but more and more traditional Jamaican produce is available in Canada. No need to worry if you can’t find some of the ingredients, as many recipes have now also been “Americanized” to help you reproduce them at home with what you have access to, such as this ackee and saltfish recipe.

Jerk is one of the Jamaican recipes that’s the hardest to reproduce, partly because of the lack of a proper grill. However, if you have access to a charcoal barbecue, this Jerk chicken recipe is a must-try, especially for the Jamaican barbecue sauce! It’s about as close as you will get to the real thing¾unless you can convince a local to give you their traditional family recipe! Make sure to bring back some Walkerwoods jerk seasoning from Jamaica to create your own jerk meals back home.

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

A cold Red Stripe beer, available in certain Canadian locations, is a must to cool off the heat from the delicious spicy jerk chicken dishes!

Happy eating!

Photo credits :

"Jerk chicken with red beans and rice" by Clint McMahon is licensed under CC BY 2.0