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Caribbean and Mexico Archives - Air Canada Vacations

13 Mar

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All-Inclusive Luxury at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit

March 13, 2015 | By |

It’s one of those places you read about.

An all-inclusive luxury resort perched on the edge of the Pacific Coast with its sandy beach – the kind you want to dig your toes into and linger on for hours until you finally blink your eyes and can’t believe what you just saw.

A massive geyser erupts from the sea as a black girth emerges from the shimmering blue waters at the forefront of the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. Besides being a hub of elegance, the 267-room property becomes centre stage for frolicking humpback whales during whale watching season.

You never know what you’ll see when you stretch out your beach blanket here.

Here’s the 411 on Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit.

The vibe

Swanky, modern interiors with open spaces in the main public areas emit that breezy, relaxed atmosphere guests enjoy.  Find a quiet nook by the lotus pond and sit back in one of the lovely lounge areas with a coffee or visit the adults-only infinity pool and keep your eyes peeled for whale sightings.

The property

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit Grounds

This recently renovated all-inclusive luxury resort is a member of the Leading Hotels of the World, so expect only the finest in service and quality. Pretty bougainvilleas cascade off the balconies so a burst of colour beautifully offsets the honey yellow facade.

Families can enjoy time together by the pool or parents can enroll their children at the Kids Club (ages 4-12). The hours are 9 am – 11 pm daily.

The Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit has 5 pools including a children and adults-only pool, but what makes them incredible is the design. At nearly every vantage point the pools cascade into each other and that’s thanks to the wonderful infinity, plunge pools.

Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit pool

Did you forget your sunglasses? Maybe even the SPF? Ask the pool concierge for assistance. The attentive pool staff continually circulates to aid guests in libations, eats and yes, certain amenities.

Nightly entertainment is scheduled at the Lounge Bar or the magnificent Roman-inspired amphitheatre for movie nights.

The rooms

grand-velas-riviera-nayarit-parlor-suite-king-1

Parlor Suite

There are several room categories, but even the Standard Suites are spacious at 1,000 sq. ft. I stayed in a Parlor Suite overlooking the gardens facing the beach. These suites have 2 rooms, a main bedroom and a living room, as well as a large bathroom. There is 24-hour room service and free WiFi.

The food

Piaf Restaurant

Piaf Restaurant

One word: amazing. The selection in fine dining is huge. I had no idea you could dine in such elegant, stylish restaurants at an all-inclusive resort and be entertained by a distinguished crop of musicians. I dined at all 3 triple-A, four-diamond restaurants to musical accompaniments which were distinct at each location. (Fyi: Reservations are required).

Frida’s is akin to a Mexican hacienda with its Spanish colonial interior and splashes of Frida Kahlo touches. One of the biggest Frida ties is the hostess who is a dead ringer for the famous Mexican artist.

Lucca specializes in Italian fare. The Romanesque-styled decor with white columns has a grand piano as the focal point. My menu incorporated Mediterranean touches.

Piaf, the French restaurant, is a study in art and design. Whimsical blown glass art in shapes of butterflies greet guests as they enter this upscale restaurant. A smooth stone floor and muted tones elegantly showcase the extraordinary collection of huge modern wall art.

What to do

Spa

I went for a “serenity now” experience so I indulged in several activities.

I visited the spa, which incorporates traditional Mexican, pre-Hispanic remedies in its signature treatments. I tried the 50-minute Serenity Massage. The ambiance was ideal. Between the dim lighting and oceanic soundtrack, my massage therapist greeted me with a fabulous spa welcome infused with the four elements (fire, earth, water and air). Go early and get pampered by the spa butler and after your treatment, relax for hours at the private hydrotherapy pool.

One late afternoon I participated in a yoga class at the fitness centre. We did meditative breathing, the downward dog, and other moves that were totally new to me. I appreciated the instructor’s patient approach and totally recommend taking a yoga class there.

For the gourmet lover that I am, I heard about a cooking class and decided to experience a French cooking lesson. Executive Chef Claudio Hotter who oversees the resort’s 3 triple A, four-diamond restaurants helms this class. My class size was small so we each took turns creating our 3-course lunch. I picked up handy tips that day on mushroom cleaning and now can proudly say I know how to make an endive salad with a creamy Roquefort dressing.

Guests can also play tennis, golf at their choice of 2 golf courses in the area or head out on off-site excursions to explore the area. Daily resort activities are scheduled too.

Do you think the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit is the resort for you? Find out more about it here.

Award-winning travel writer Ilona Kauremszky is a co-producer of mycompasstv and mycompass.ca and works with leading publications across North America. She’s been a nationally syndicated travel columnist and has appeared as a travel expert on CBC, NPR, Yahoo Finance and other national broadcasters. Follow her travel pursuits on Twitter and YouTube @mycompasstv.  

17 Feb

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4 Tips for Planning the Ultimate Group Vacation

February 17, 2015 | By |

Nothing beats a holiday with your friends and family. Affordable, easy to organize, and memorable – group travel can be all these things with a bit of smart planning. Don’t believe us? Check out these 4 expert tips for making your next group vacation a reality!

1. Involve everyone in the planning process

You’ve proposed an awesome group vacation to your best mates, now what? It’s time to make some important decisions and remember, everyone’s opinion counts. Obviously, you’ll need to agree on the travel dates and destination. A truly successful group trip, though, will balance the interests of each traveller. Start by asking everyone to describe their ideal getaway and note down common traits. If you’re all beach bums wanting to stay at a top-rated resort, great! If there are strong differences, try to reach a compromise. In the end, make decisions as a team and everyone will be a happy camper.

Group travel

2. Discuss a budget

Money can be a sensitive issue, but it’s important to know how much everyone is willing to spend upfront. This will help narrow down the hotel choices, dining options and possible trip activities. It will also help avoid any unexpected surprises later on. Case in point: you don’t want to suggest a spur-of-the-moment scuba diving trip only to find out that no one can afford it. Or worse, you don’t want to be the one who’s sneaking glances at their wallet. Set a budget and minimize the awkwardness.

3. Take advantage of group deals

There are tons of benefits to travelling with your buds and we’re not just talking about taking poolside photos together. We’re talking about serious savings to be had. Do the research correctly and you’ll be able to score free flights, free rooms and free upgrades. Book by a certain date and you’ll find yourself rewarded with a discount. Just be sure to pay attention to what qualifies as a group. Usually, the magic number for perks to be applicable is 10 passengers, and this can include kids. We know what you’re thinking: “the more the merrier” has never rung so true.

4. Outline a trip itinerary

Once your group has chosen the must-dos and must-haves (Tip 1) within the set budget (Tip 2), it’s best to draft a potential itinerary. This especially helps if you foresee an action-packed trip or if you need to accommodate different interests. Keep in mind, you don’t have to spend every minute of every day together. Feel free to split into smaller groups or even venture off independently. You want to return home with wonderful memories, not the regret that you didn’t get to cycle along the coast because of poor planning.

Vacation activities

Need more help in planning your perfect group getaway? Don’t hesitate to contact our team of Group experts.

10 Feb

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5 Tips for Planning the Perfect Romantic Getaway

February 10, 2015 | By |

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, why not surprise your other half with a vacation, something that will allow you to truly connect and rekindle the romance in your relationship? Not a bad idea, right? However, it’s not always easy to plan a vacation that meets both of your romantic needs. That’s why we’ve made a list of the 5 key ingredients that make for the perfect romantic getaway.

1) Head somewhere sunny

Sunny Vacation

As you are probably aware, Canadian winters can feel particularly long. The best tip we can give you is to escape the cold, snowy weather and head somewhere sunny with your partner. Some of the best sunny destinations are in Mexico and the Caribbean due to their postcard-perfect landscapes –turquoise water and white sand beaches– and the fact that you’ll leave with a sun-kissed glow. What can we say, love is even brighter in the sun.

2) Stay at an adults-only hotel

Adults-only vacation

For a romantic retreat, there’s nothing better than being in a kid-free environment (as much as we appreciate their high energy). To do this, choose an adults-only hotel, so that you can enjoy a relaxing vacation at your own pace. Imagine sitting poolside, without any major noise or distractions, or having just the intimate setting you need to lounge side by side with your partner by the sea.

3) Choose a hotel with a spa

Spa Vacation

For couples-only vacations, one of the sweetest things is to go to a hotel with a spa. Book a massage for two to unwind and take advantage of a special moment with your special someone. Several resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean also offer massages on the beach, as well as thermal baths. Let a professional take care of you and your loved one, while you experience a sensorial journey. It’s the best way to awaken your senses and leave the excess baggage you may have brought with you behind!

4) Opt for luxury services

Luxury Vacation

Is there nothing too good for your sweetheart? Try a luxury vacation, frills and all. When was the last time you treated yourselves to a lavish retreat, anyway? Take some time to spoil yourselves. In sun destinations, there is no shortage of luxury hotels that offer personalized service. Dive head first into a world where hotel staff will be at your service to meet any of your needs. To fully maximize each moment of your luxurious romantic getaway, opt for a room with direct pool access, butler service, a hot tub and room service.

5) Treat yourself to a romantic dinner for two

Romantic dinner for two

Hedonism is an integral part of a romantic getaway, and what better way to seek pleasure than to wine and dine with your honey? No romantic escape would be complete without the quintessential dinner for two. Make sure to choose a hotel with restaurants that your partner will enjoy – most all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean offer a variety of à la carte restaurants that range from French fare to classic Italian. You'll also want to make reservations in advance. To up the ante, dine al fresco on a terrace at sunset. There’s a reason why they say food is the key to the heart…

 

To plan your perfect romantic getaway, start browsing our destinations and hotels in Mexico and the Caribbean today. And one last piece of advice: Valentine’s Day may seem like the ideal occasion for a couples-only getaway, but really you can plan this kind of vacation any day 😉

11 Nov

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Top 10 Resorts to Check Out This Winter

November 11, 2014 | By |

Tired of staying at the same old places every time you seek sun and sand? Time to switch it up and check out something new! Lucky for you, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 resorts you should check out this winter. These include some brand new properties, as well as recent additions to Air Canada Vacations’ roster of resorts. Located across Mexico and the Caribbean, these places range from design to eco-friendly. Check them out!

 

1) Valentin Perla Blanca (Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba)

Valentin Perla Blanca Tea Coffee Bar

Tea and Coffee Bar

Opening this November, Valentin Perla Blanca is an adults-only resort with absolutely no shortage of bars: there are 10 in total, including a mojito bar, sports bar and tea/coffee bar. Styled in modern décor with splashes of colour, rooms are located in 3-storey buildings and come with a garden, pool or ocean view. In the evening, you can watch live bands and shows at the theatre, or show off your dance moves at Les Club Nightclub.                                      

2) Papagayo Beach Hotel (Willemstad, Curaçao)

Papagayo Beach Hotel Curacao

King Room

Opened in late 2013 in Curaçao’s popular Jan Thiel region, Papagayo Beach Hotel is a design hotel with clean, sleek architecture and ultra modern furnishings. Each of its 155 rooms is equipped with an open bathroom with walk-in rain shower, as well as a view of the ocean, garden, lobby or Papagayo Plaza Boulevard. The hotel is also home to Specialty Restaurant Papagayo, a local hotspot that is celebrated for its international dishes.

3) Barceló Punta Cana (Punta Cana, Dominican Republic)

Barcelo Punta Cana

Pool view

This large, almost 800-room resort on Bávaro Beach has something to suit all ages. A kids club, water park, rock climbing wall, trampoline and trapeze are plenty to keep the kids happy. For the adults, the casino and nightclub are great places to cap off the day. Barceló Punta Cana also features 7 restaurants, 3 swimming pools, 3 tennis courts, a full-service spa, as well as daily activities that range from aerobics to water volleyball.

4) St. Lucian by Rex Resorts (Rodney Bay, St. Lucia)

St Lucian by Rex Resorts

Mariners Restaurant and Bar

St. Lucian by Rex Resorts is conveniently positioned in Rodney Bay: it is directly on Reduit Beach, a 5-minute walk from the shops and restaurants of Rodney Bay Village and a 10-minute drive from St. Lucia’s capital of Castries. It offers an array of beach activities, such as sailing, snorkelling and cricket, and boasts a beach view at the on-site Mariners Restaurant & Bar.

5) Sandos Finisterra Los Cabos (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico)

Sandos Finisterra Los Cabos Spa

Spa with panoramic views of the Bay of San Lucas

The panoramic views of the Bay of San Lucas are a huge draw at Sandos Finisterra Los Cabos. In fact, the entire resort centres around the beach, from beach dining and parties, to an array of beach sports and beach conservation efforts (sea turtles lay there eggs here every summer). Additional highlights of the Sandos Finisterra include its Cupcake Café, the clifftop location and ocean views of the Whale Watchers Bar, and the fact that downtown Cabo San Lucas is only a 15-minute walk away!

6) Grand Palladium Riviera/Grand Palladium White Sand (Riviera Maya, Mexico)

Grand Palladium White Sand entrance

Grand Palladium White Sand

It is so nice to see that a resort complex so large has managed to preserve its natural surroundings so well. Part of the colossal Palladium Riviera Maya Complex, the Grand Palladium Riviera and Grand Palladium White Sand resorts are extremely eco-friendly.  Here you can find flamingo ponds, visit the crocodile habitat and spot other wildlife like coatis and iguanas randomly around the grounds. The complex is surrounded by a mangrove forest and has manicured gardens that complement its ecological appeal.

7) SeaGarden Beach Resort (Montego Bay, Jamaica)

SeaGarden Beach Resort

Lobby/Lounge

SeaGarden Beach Resort is an all-inclusive resort with a “homey” feel. Family-operated, this 140-room resort offers an intimate setting with classic, warm décor and bamboo-lined grounds that are reminiscent of the countryside. It is only a 5-minute drive from Sangster International Airport, a 3-minute walk from Montego Bay’s Hip Strip (a collection of shops and restaurants on Gloucester Avenue) and just steps from the Caribbean Sea.

8) Sonesta Ocean Point Resort (Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten)

Sonesta Ocean Point Resort

Azul Mediterranean Restaurant

Sonesta Ocean Point Resort, the brand new sister property to Sonesta Maho Beach, has a contemporary Caribbean style with a breezy, beachy feel. Its Azul Mediterranean Restaurant is adorned with blue accents to reflect the colour of the Caribbean Sea, while Ocean Terrace Restaurant offers al fresco dining with an ocean backdrop. The sea also acts as the focal point in all of Sonesta’s suites. And speaking of the beach, Sonesta Ocean Point is right near the infamous Maho Beach, where Boeing 727s fly famously low to land at neighbouring Princess Juliana International Airport.

9) Savannah Beach Hotel (Hastings, Barbados)

Savannah Beach Hotel

Courtyard

This restored, 19th-century plantation house provides a glimpse into the history of Barbados. In addition to preserving its colonial style, Savannah Beach Hotel houses Rachel’s Bar & Restaurant, set in the World Heritage-designated Garrison Savannah area and named after a famous Barbadian slave-turned-hotelier. For those who want to delve into the history of Barbados a little deeper, Historic Bridgetown is only a 7-minute drive from the hotel.

10) Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort (Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica)

Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort

Exterior

Uniquely designed to reflect Costa Rica’s ecological beauty, Hyatt’s recently opened Andaz Peninsula Papagayo Resort boasts an open-air concept and architecture that mimics natural shapes like shells and cocoons. Relaxation is key at this resort, where you can unwind at Onda Spa, spend your days on the secluded beach or take in views of Culebra Bay and its jungle surroundings from the comfort of your room. Dining is an equally organic affair at this hotel, where the focus is on locally inspired dishes and farm-to-table ingredients.

 

Want to see more properties like these? Take a look at our complete repertoire of resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean!

 

27 Oct

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How to Get the Christmas or New Year’s Vacation You Want

October 27, 2014 | By |

Seeking refuge in the hot Caribbean or Mexican sun this holiday season? If you’re thinking of trading in your winter boots to celebrate the holidays in your bathing suit, better get a head start and plan smart. Here’s how to get exactly the vacation you want, at the price you want, and ensure your travel goes as smoothly as possible:

Book early to get your destination and resort of choice

The period between mid-December to early January is a peak travel period, which means vacation packages during this time sell out very quickly. If you want to get the best choice of destinations, as well as resorts (including those with Privileges – things like preferred room location, free Wi-Fi and guaranteed à la carte reservations), you’ll want to get on that fast.

Book early to save

There is a misconception that the longer you wait to book your travel, the better a discount you will get. Truth is, if you wait until the last minute, not only might you not get what you want, but you’ll miss out on very appealing deals like these. There’s a reason why they say the early bird catches the worm…

Be extra sure you’ve gotten the absolute best price

Air Canada Vacations offers a Best Price Guarantee on all our destinations. That means that if you book a package with us and you find a lower price elsewhere within 24 hours of your initial reservation, we'll refund you the difference, up to $400 per booking.

Save time at the airport by checking in online

Winter weather is sometimes unpredictable. If driving conditions are less than ideal on your departure date, this may mean more time in getting to the airport. If you do not plan to check a bag and want to save time at the airport, then check into your flight online. You can check in as early as 24 hours before your flight and can either print your boarding pass at home, print it at a self-service check-in kiosk at the airport, or opt to receive an electronic boarding pass.

Ready to start planning your holiday travel? Get the vacation you want now!

 

17 Oct

By

Top 5 Things to See in St. Kitts

October 17, 2014 | By |

The West Indian island of St. Kitts may be small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in natural beauty and a rich history. Here are the top 5 things to see in St. Kitts:

Frigate Bay Beach

Frigate Bay Beach

If you’re heading to St. Kitts for the beach, then South Frigate Bay should be on your radar. It is probably St. Kitts’ most visited beach, boasting golden sands, warm water and a strip of bars and restaurants that particularly come to life on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. For something more low key (i.e. less touristy), you’ll want to check out North Frigate Bay, though the water there tends to be a little rougher.

Basseterre

St Kitts Circus square

Basseterre, meaning “lowland” in French, was the first French town in the Caribbean and is the capital of St. Kitts. If you’re looking to sightsee here, a good first stop would be the National Museum, housed in the 1894 Treasury Building that was built from hand-cut volcanic limestone. Architecture buffs will likely appreciate St. George’s Anglican Church and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. If you just want to take it easy, then lounge with the locals in Independence Square or by the tall green clock tower in Circus square.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

St Kitts Brimstone Hill Fortress canon

St. Kitts has some pretty outstanding mountain and sea views, and its main military site is no exception: Brimstone Hill Fortress’ location atop a hill provides exceptional sea views. The fortress is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due in large part to its well preserved 17th– and 18th– century military architecture. Known as the “Gibraltar of the West Indies,” it was built by slaves under British rule and served as a major British garrison in battles against the French.

Rainforests

St Kitts Ziplining Rainforest

Approximately one quarter of St. Kitts is covered by rainforests, which boast an array of tropical and medicinal plants, waterfalls, several bird species and the black-faced, grey-haired Vervet monkeys. Hiking, horseback riding and ziplining are the most popular ways to explore the island’s ecosystems.

Coral reef systems

St Kitts Sea Turtle

The beauty of St. Kitts also extends below sea level. If you’re willing to plunge into the underwater world, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with popular diving sites. Among several spots are the Black Coral Reef, which is lined with black coral trees; Sandy Point, a National Marine Park where you can navigate through swim-through canyons; and Turtle Bar, where you can observe, as the reef’s name suggests, sea turtles.

 

Want to see more about St. Kitts? Check out other activities on the island.

 

14 Oct

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JOYA by Cirque du Soleil: A New Attraction in Riviera Maya

October 14, 2014 | By |

Here’s something new to add to your Riviera Maya travel itinerary: JOYA. Cirque du Soleil’s first resident show outside of the US (look out Las Vegas and Orlando), has its own custom-built theatre, a story ingrained in Mexican heritage and oh, it offers dinner too.

Cirque du Soleil with a side of food

Joya Cirque du Soleil dinner

If you’ve already witnessed one of Cirque du Soleil’s masterpieces, you know that these shows engage the senses. But what stands out about JOYA, is that it gets your taste buds involved too. JOYA is the first and only Cirque du Soleil show in the world to offer a culinary element to the theatrical experience. You’ll have the option to add dinner to your show (the menu is said to be international) and champagne too (Mercier is apparently the bubbly of choice).

Custom-built Vidanta Theater

Joya Cirque du Soleil Vidanta Theatre

Then there’s the theatre. Built exclusively for JOYA, the 600-seat Vidanta Theater provides an intimate setting and features design elements that make you feel immersed in the surrounding Yucatan jungle. The project was undertaken by Groupo Vidanta, a leading developer of luxury resorts, and is located near one of its existing resort complexes, the Grand Mayan.

The JOYA story

Inspired by Mexican culture, JOYA outlines the transformative journey of an alchemist and his granddaughter. They uncover a hidden gem (hence the name JOYA, Spanish for “jewel”) in a mangrove and share their recently discovered life secrets with future generations.

Joya Cirque du Soleil BotanikJoya Cirque du Soleil NocturnaJoya Cirque du Soleil Ritual

JOYA launches November 8. Pre-sale tickets are available exclusively with Air Canada Vacations.

 

01 Oct

By

Top 7 Destination Wedding Locations in Mexico and the Caribbean

October 1, 2014 | By |

Planning a wedding is a tall order. From the venue to the menu, there’s lots to think about. That’s why more and more Canadian couples are opting to melt some of their nuptial stresses away by heading to Mexico and the Caribbean to host their Big Day. If you are considering this attractive option, here are some destinations to get your wedding wheels turning.

Mexico

Ahhh Mexico. Land of ancient ruins, chocolate and beautiful wedding locations. Providing a stunning backdrop, Cancun and Riviera Maya remain popular destination wedding picks not only for their white sand beaches, but for their expansive coral reef system and jungle surroundings. There are numerous activities to keep you and your guests busy: Explore ecological parks like Xcaret and Xel-Ha by day and hit the clubs of Cancun or Playa del Carmen by night. On Mexico’s Pacific side, Puerto Vallarta offers bay and mountain views, while Riviera Nayarit, a surfer’s paradise, is a great choice if you want to go off the beaten path.

When to host your wedding in Mexico: November to April is the busiest time of year; May to October is rainy season, with the most threatening hurricane months being September and October (though low season can mean less crowds and less expensive travel).

Jamaica

Jamaica Island Vibe

If you equate your future destination wedding with a relaxed island vibe, Jamaica’s definitely got that “don’t worry, be happy” kind of attitude. Montego Bay remains one of the most popular tourist areas of Jamaica for its friendly locals and vibrant nightlife. Negril is known for its rugged coastal cliffs and its famous Seven Mile Beach. The waterfalls of Ocho Rios, a former fishing village, are another draw for those considering a Jamaican wedding.

When to host your wedding in Jamaica: The temperature is most comfortable between October to December; January to March are very busy months; April to September is rainy season (which can mean less crowds and less expensive travel, though certain attractions may be closed).

Dominican Republic

Punta Cana Beach

Punta Cana

If a beautiful beach ranks high on your destination wedding criteria, then you must consider Punta Cana, home to 35 continuous kilometres of white sand and said to have some of the best beaches in the Caribbean. If you prefer to steer clear of the crowds, you may want to look into the secluded, tropical rainforest location of Samana, or the luxury resort town of La Romana.

When to host your wedding in Dominican Republic: Peak tourist season is from December to February, as well as July and August. Rainy season is from May to October, with the most threatening hurricane months being August and September.

Barbados

Underwater

Barbados has a lot to offer beyond its sandy beaches. It is considered the culinary capital of the Caribbean, the birthplace of rum and has preserved much of its British influence in historic Bridgetown. Wedding locations here are unique and varied: besides resorts, you can choose to get married underwater in a luxury submarine or underground in Harrison’s Cave.

When to host your wedding in Barbados: High season is from December to mid-April; mid-April to June is when the temperature is most comfortable; July to November is “rainy season,” although storms rarely hit the island.

Cuba

Holguin City

Holguin

Cuba offers great value for money, making it a very attractive option for budget-conscious destination wedding seekers. Varadero and Cayo Coco are the most popular tourist areas for their pristine tropical scenery and crystal clear waters. Holguin is a nice alternative for its colonial and cultural charm. Combining African beats with Spanish-influenced guitar, the island’s music will only add to the charm of your Cuban wedding.

When to host your wedding in Cuba: Peak tourist season is from mid-December to mid-March, as well as July and August. Rainy season is from June to November, with the most threatening hurricane months being September and October.

Bahamas

 nassau

Comprised of 700 islands and 2,400 cays, the Bahamas is synonymous with the deep blue sea. Exuma is home to 365 of those cays, offering unbeatable sea views and a quieter vibe than some of the neighbouring Bahamian islands. Nassau, on the other hand, has a busier pace, with upscale restaurants, casinos and duty-free shopping. Plus, its colonial days have left behind Victorian cathedrals and mansions that can act as a stunning architectural backdrop to any wedding.

When to host your wedding in Bahamas:High season is from December to February; March and April is spring break time (probably best to avoid if planning a wedding); May to November is the quietest time of year.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica Mountains

Though Costa Rica is not part of the Caribbean, it is an essential destination to consider for a tropical wedding. Nature lovers will rejoice in this ecological playground. Its rainforests are ideal for activities like hiking, zip lining, horseback riding and waterfall rappelling. Surfing is another popular activity in beach towns like Tamarindo. For a more romantic setting, you can visit Arenal Hot Springs or La Fortuna Waterfall. Plus, the country abounds in flora, fauna and delicious food. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive experience, you may want to consider resorts in Liberia

When to host your wedding in Costa Rica: High season is from December to April; rainy (green) season is from May to November (though that can mean less crowds and less expensive travel).

Have an idea of where you want to say “I do?” Then you’re ready for step two! Start exploring resorts that can accommodate your destination wedding.

 

03 Sep

By

Beyond the Beach: Top 10 Things to Do in Barbados

September 3, 2014 | By |

Barbados is so much more than a pretty beach destination. Sure, it has immaculate turquoise waters, year-round warm weather between 25 to 30 degrees and almost no humidity – but there is much more that lies beneath the sun and beyond the sand.

This British-influenced island has a rich history, a variety of sporting and cultural events and an amazing food scene.

When choosing your next winter (or summer) getaway, you may want to consider this gem of a Caribbean Island. Here are some of the top things to do in Barbados:

1) Visit Mount Gay Rum Distillery

Firstly, allow us to give credit where credit is due. We would not have this wonderfully sweet liquor called rum, if it were not for the Barbadians. The first rum, a fiery drink called “Rumbullion” or “Kill Devil,” was made of fermented cane juice and introduced by plantation slaves in the 17th century. Eventually, it underwent distillation and a much smoother alcohol, now known as rum, was born. If you’re interested in seeing where the magic happens, get your fill at Mount Gay Rum Distillery, producer of the oldest brand of rum in the world.

2) Drink rum punch

Barbados-rum-punch

Once the Barbadians perfected their national liquor, they went on to create another delightful alcoholic concoction: rum punch. Luckily for us non-Barbadians, they have made it very easy to remember how it’s made: 1 of sour (lime juice), 2 of sweet (simple syrup), 3 of strong (rum) and 4 of weak (water and ice). Of course, if you’re in Barbados, just head to the local rum shops to savour the real deal.

3) Meet celebrity chefs at the Food & Wine and Rum Festival

Food is a fundamental part of Barbados. It is the first and only Caribbean island to have Zagat-rated food (including its street food!) To honour its culinary heritage, Barbados has recently introduced the Food & Wine and Rum Festival, which takes place in November across various locations on the island. Cooking demonstrations are hosted by international celebrity chefs such as Mark McEwan, Marcus Samuelsson and Anne Burrell. Wine and rum tastings, as well as live entertainment, are also part of the mix. Make sure to get a taste of it all!

4) Try the Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry

Barbados-fish-shack

If you’re in town on a Friday night, don’t miss the Fish Fry at Oistins Bay Gardens. Choose from an array of fish such as tuna, flying fish, mahi-mahi and swordfish and get it grilled or fried. A plate of fish and beer typically costs about US$15. You can also look through the local arts and crafts items on sale and then dance the night away to reggae and calypso beats. No need to dress up for this event – it is totally informal.

5) Have dinner with a show at Harbour Lights

If you like your dinner with a side of show, head to the open-air Harbour Lights nightclub on a Monday or Wednesday night for their Beach Extravaganza. Sink your feet in the sand while enjoying a BBQ dinner, dancing and fire-eating performances.

6) Party it up at Crop Over Festival

Barbados-crop-over-festival

Crop Over is to Barbados what Carnival is to Brazil. It has dancing, parading, vibrant costumes and public street parties. It originally began in 1780 to celebrate the end of the cane harvest, then declined with the sugar industry and was later revived in 1974. The festival runs from May until the first Monday of August, also known as Grand Kadooment Day (both the festival’s grand finale and a national holiday).

7) Sip afternoon tea

While you can really have afternoon tea anywhere in Barbados, Chatters Tea Room remains a unique place to partake in this British West Indian tradition. Located in the Bagatelle Great House, both a former plantation and home of the first governor, Chatters Tea Room provides a historic backdrop to your tea time. If you want to take high tea to even greater heights, indulge in a cake or tartlet too.

8) See historic Bridgetown & its Garrison

Bridgetown is the capital of Barbados, its only city, port of call and historic centre. The Garrison, an 18th– and 19th-century British military base and a current UNESCO World Heritage Site, is its main historic attraction. Within this area you can also find St. Ann’s Fort, the Nidhe Israel Synagogue and the George Washington House, where “Dinners with George” are scheduled to begin in December. (Barbados is the only place George Washington ever visited outside of the US). And for a Canadian historical fact: Did you know the town of Bridgetown, Nova Scotia was actually named after this very Bridgetown in Barbados?

9) Watch a cricket match

Colonial architecture and high tea are not the only contributions the British made to Barbadian culture; when they came, they also brought cricket. Now Barbados’ national sport, cricket has made quite the career for famous Bajan players such as Sir Garfield Sobers. Head to Kensington Oval for professional matches or to take a tour of the stadium where legends have played. For something more local, you can always try to catch an impromptu game in a village field.

10) Sit back and lime

Of all things you must do on your Barbadian vacation, perhaps the most important, is liming – the Barbadian art of having a good time. Liming can be done any time, any place, whether you’re enjoying one of the activities above or hanging out in the comfort of your hotel room. So no matter what, just sit back and have a good lime 😉

Want to know more about Barbados? Check out these insider tip videos or start planning your Bajan getaway today.

 

25 Aug

By

Top 10 Things for Families to Do in Jamaica

August 25, 2014 | By |

With its postcard-perfect beaches, lush jungles, and vibrant culture, it’s easy to see why so many vacationers crave the laid-back “Island Vibe” of Jamaican paradise. Jamaica offers many unique experiences for both seasoned adventurers and first-time travellers. Choose from exciting activities like zip-lining down mountainsides or rafting down jungle rivers. Alternatively, relax on the beach, find a local treasure at a street market with friends, and take advantage of the luxuries offered at your all-inclusive resort! With so many things to do and see, Jamaica has become one of the most visited vacation destinations in the world. But what does Jamaica have to offer for families looking for the ultimate vacation experience?

The answer: A lot!

At resorts such as the Beaches Negril Resort and Spa, families can enjoy fun kids clubs, adventure excursions, and beautiful beaches. Parents, why not leave the kids in the hands of a capable babysitter while you take some time to relax at the spa or check out a nightclub? Jamaica also offers multiple family-friendly cultural tours and historical sights. Best of all, all of them are doable as a day trip, no matter which Jamaican city your resort is located in.

If you have a limited amount of time to spend sightseeing, it can be a bit tricky to pick just a few excursions out of the many available. To make your selection easier, here are our top 10 family adventures to have in Jamaica.

1 – Take a Canopy Tour 

Fly through the jungle like a tropical bird with Ocho Rios’ Canopy Tour.

Canopy-tour-ocho-rios

See the sights and sounds of the canopy as your tour guide introduces you to the various species of flora and fauna unique to Jamaica and the Caribbean. Both kids and adults are sure to come away having had the time of their lives with this exhilarating and educational adventure.

2 – Try Jamaican Bobsledding

Ever heard of bobsledding in a country where temperatures rarely dip below 23 degrees? Since the movie Cool Runnings, bobsledding has become the ultimate Jamaican experience.

Bobsledding-Jamaica

If your family is ready to race down the mountain track through the jungle, head to Ocho Rios’ famous Mystic Mountain Rain Forest Adventures – a kid’s dream come true. In the meantime, why not get a preview to see what all the fuss is about?

3 – Take the Family Dog-Sledding… Without the Snow

Jamaica is full of surprises, like Chukka Caribbean Adventures. Another Ocho Rios adventure, this dog-sledding outfit is perfect for the animal lover in every kid. All of the dogs at Chukka Caribbean Adventures are rescue dogs, and are eager to lavish affection on every visitor to walk in. Families can choose from either the “Encounter” or “Experience” options. Spend time playing with the sled dogs and watching them run a course or two, or hop in a buggy and experience full-scale Jamaican dog-sledding for a few minutes. Due to the heat, expect to spend much less time in the buggy than you would in a colder climate. 

4 – Don’t Miss Dunn’s River Falls

Dunns-River-Falls-Ocho-Rios

Without a doubt Jamaica’s most popular sight, Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios attracts thousands of visitors a year. Take a tour up to see the river! There are multiple fun ways for a family to make their way up the river depending on the ages of their children. Excursions to Dunn’s River are most easily done with kids aged 6+, as most tours consist of hikes, buggy rides, or ATV adventures. Families with very young children might enjoy taking a bus tour.

5 – Raft the Jungle Rapids

Best suited for families with kids aged 9+, river rafting has always been a fantastic family adventure. Suit up in your life vests, grab a paddle, and hit the rapids! Braco Adventure Tours in Falmouth offers multiple river adventure tours, from the original fun of river rafting, to other experiences such as river boarding and kayaking. What better way to get up close and personal with Jamaica’s natural beauty?

6 – Join the Adrenaline Junkies at Rick’s Cafe

If you can’t decide between relaxing with a cold drink and hitting some adrenaline-inducing adventure sports, why not head over to Rick’s Cafe, near Negril? This popular restaurant on the coast is known world-wide for the cliff-jumping that takes place there. Perched on the edge of a 30-40 ft cliff, Rick’s draws in adrenaline junkies from around the globe. Sip an ice-cold drink and watch locals and foreigners alike leap from incredible heights to plunge into the turquoise waters below, or try your own hand at it. Teens are sure to enjoy spending an hour or three at Rick’s Cafe.

7 – Go for a Family Ride Along the Beach

The Montego Bay Shore Excursion is a dream come true for young equestrians in the making. Saddle up and take an afternoon or evening ride along the beach, enjoying the sights along the way. Watch the sun set on the ocean as your guide takes you on a tour across the bleached white sands. Could anything be more perfect?

8 – Explore the Local Culture with John Hall’s Adventure Tour

John Hall’s Adventure Tour is well known for being extremely family-friendly. Babies are more than welcome on this tour. Your guide will take you out of Montego Bay and into smaller, less-visited towns and villages around Jamaica. You’ll experience local dance, foods, and customs. Kids will enjoy playing games, learning interesting facts, and meeting local children. If your family wants to get away from the crowds and see Jamaica from a new perspective, the John Hall’s Adventure Tour is perfect for you.

9 – Swim with Dolphins and More at Dolphin Cove

Swimming-with-dolphins-Jamaica

Dolphin Cove is not to be missed, especially if there’s a marine life fan in your family! Swimming with dolphins is a bucket-list item for many travellers, and where better to finally tick it off the list than in beautiful Jamaica? Dolphins aren’t the only marine life at Ocho Rios’ Dolphin Cove. Visitors can also meet the local stingrays, feed wild sharks, snorkel with colourful tropical fish, and take a kid-friendly walk through a portion of the jungle.

10 – Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures

Recommended primarily for teens, Rusty’s X-Cellent Adventures in Negril is an adrenaline-packed mountain bike tour that leads participants over rocky, muddy, and wild terrain for a unique look at Jamaica’s wild side. Teens are sure to have a blast. Expect to return to your resort muddy and exhilarated!

Jamaica has a lot to offer, whether you’re into adventure sports or simply want to finally take the time to relax. With so many options to choose from, you’re sure to find a tour which perfectly suits your needs!