Archive

Archive for the ‘Beach Vacations’ Category

Oct
25

Every year, Frommer’s releases their must-do travel list, and it’s always sure to include at least a few eyebrow-raisers. Beirut, Lebanon? You might not know that it’s a sophisticated coastal city bustling with energy. Kansas City, MO? The world-class Kauffmann Center for the Performing Arts just opened, attracting some of the biggest names in dance and music.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Photo credit: Flickr

Great Smoky Mountains National Park - Photo credit: Flickr

Check out the full list here for some other surprising – and not so surprising – travel ideas.

Jul
08

Come to Aruba, Dushi

If you’re looking for a sweet spot on a Caribbean island with plenty of fun, sun and bathtub-warm water in which to float, Aruba more than meets your requirements.

First off, the small island nation is easy to navigate and everyone is extremely helpful and friendly. Not friendly just because you’re a tourist, but genuinely friendly as in, “Your car broke down? Come wait in my house to get out of the sun. Would you like a cold beverage?” The local language, Papiamento, includes the word dushi (sweetheart). It’s featured in everything from hot-dog stands to menu items to boat tours, and the word’s prevalence and simplicity serve as a soothing influence.

auaar_phototour70

Photo courtesy of Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino

My home base was the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, right on Palm Beach. The hotel finished a $50-million renovation last year, and the room décor is modern and luxe, while retaining a feeling of island simplicity. The eight-story complex includes 411 rooms (including 23 oceanfront suites), a pool with cascading waterfalls, seven bars and restaurants (such as Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, La Vista, Simply Fish and Waves Beach Bar), the Stellaris Casino and Mandara Spa.

Room rates start at $279 per night, and depend on season and type of room. I had a pool ocean view room, with ample space to lounge and also get work done. If you must work on your Aruba vacation, it’s easy to do so with the hotel’s Jack Pack—a device allowing guests to plug in laptops or iPods to 37 inch-wide TVs in each room. My room’s refrigerator kept my drinks cold, and the in-room coffee maker gave me hot java each day, until the thing fell apart in my hands. (It didn’t take long to get another one, though.)

Harnessing the wind in Aruba. Photo: Jill Robinson

Harnessing the wind in Aruba. Photo: Jill Robinson

If you want an exclusive feel to your island getaway, stay in the Tradewinds Club, on the eighth floor of the Marriott. The upscale amenity includes a private lounge with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and cocktails. In addition, you’ll have a secluded beach area to camp out under an umbrella and forget all about the stresses back home. Room rates for Tradewinds Club guests start at $504 per night.

On Palm Beach, home to high-rise hotels, I never found it too crowded. It was easy to get around the sun-worshipers when I wanted to hoof it down the beach. In the water, even though the kiteboarders zip by with speeds that make your jaw drop, it was never close enough for me to worry. Easy to relax? Check.

Just lounging on the beach not for you? Take a class at the nearby Dare2Fly kiteboarding center. For three lessons (kite mastery, “body dragging” and board lesson), the cost is $375. The Aruba Marriott also offers a special “Surf in to Luxury” package that includes accommodations at the Tradewinds Club and a free windsurfing or intro kiteboarding class.

Even kids enjoy beach tennis. Photo: Jill Robinson

Even kids enjoy beach tennis. Photo: Jill Robinson

If you’re looking for something in between, play beach tennis at the Moomba Beach Bar, right next to the Marriott. As instructor Sjoerd de Vries told me, “it’s a relaxed sport; you can play with a beer in your hand.”

Adventure seekers can take a tour of the island with De Palm Tours. The Natural Pool Jeep Adventure ($92) is a half-day trip covering such sites as the California Lighthouse, a natural bridge, the ruins of an old gold mill and a natural pool that’s perfect to swim and snorkel in. In fact, I didn’t want to leave the pool at all. I guess I’ll have to put it on my list for my next Aruban adventure.

I was in Aruba as a guest of the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, but the opinions in this article are my own.

, ,

May
05

Cinco de Mayo is a good reason to enjoy some top-shelf tequila and delicious Mexican beer, however the holiday commemorates much more than the spirits from across the border. Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s Independence Day. Rather, on May 5, 1862, the Mexican militia claimed a dubious victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla. Cinco de Mayo is not as widely celebrated throughout Mexico as one might think—the holiday is observed mainly in the state of Puebla and in the United States. Want to experience more Mexican culture? Extend your Cinco de Mayo celebration into a vacation in Mexico.

Cabo. Photo: migpascual

Cabo. Photo: migpascual

From lush jungles of Puerto Vallarta to the ruins of Tulum to the cultural hub of Mexico City, there is somewhere for everyone in Mexico. Cabo is one town in particular that always seems to peak travelers’ interests.

Two Cabos
Actually, Cabo is not one town, but two, linked by 20 miles of four-lane highway called the Tourist Corridor that skirts the Sea of Cortez. To the south, flamboyant Cabo San Lucas teems with bikini-filled beaches and raucous nightlife. To the north, the more dignified San José del Cabo entices with quieter pleasures. More tranquil still are the jutting cliffs of the Corridor and the surf-beaten enclaves along the Pacific Coast. Most visitors refer to the whole area as “Cabo,” but to locals, Cabo means only San Lucas.

When to Go
Get to Los Cabos any season you can. Pressed to choose the best vacation windows, I opt for mid-October through November, or April through mid-May. With 360 days of sunshine per year, Los Cabos is a sun-lover’s dream.  But the rays here are intense, so never forego sunscreen.

Arriving in Cabo
At the airport, brace for long lines at the Immigration counters, where you’ll get a card that must be turned in at the end of your stay. Head straight for Los Cabos Express, which has a monopoly on airport transportation. Depending on where you’re headed, the bus ride can take upwards of an hour, so sit back and enjoy the scenery.

All-Inclusive Resorts

  • The Meliá Cabo Real boasts a safe swimming beach and a world-class golf course along with club activities for toddlers through 12-year-olds.

A La Carte Hotels and Resorts

  • The stunning Westin Resort and Spa, located on the San José end of the Corridor, is perched on cliffs overlooking the Sea of Cortez.
An oceanview room at the Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resort. Photo: Courtesy of Pueblo Bonita Oceanfront Resorts & Spas.

An oceanview room at the Pueblo Bonito Oceanfront Resort. Photo: Courtesy of Pueblo Bonita Oceanfront Resorts & Spas.

Los Cabos Restaurants

  • On a budget, you can’t go wrong at Rosy’s Tacos or Hangman in San José. Rosy’s is open only for lunch, but I’m always happy to take time off from the beach to gobble down fish tacos with all the fixings for about a dollar each. Hangman is fun and affordable for casual dinners. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but you can bring your own.

Plan your trip to Cabo San Lucas on TravelMuse.

Plan your trip to San José del Cabo on TravelMuse.

Adapted from “Tale of Two Cabos” by Deb Vanasse.

, , ,

Apr
08

Mother’s Day Vacations

While a dozen roses, brunch and a nice scarf is a tried and true recipe for a successful Mother’s Day, why not spoil the woman who brought you into this world. A mother-daughter getaway is not only fun, but it can allow you and your mom to establish a deeper bond and create memories that will last for years to come.

In order to make the trip as enjoyable and stress-free as possible, here are some of our essential tips to planning the perfect Mother’s Day vacation:

146575859_650ff98eb4

All mothers deserve to be pampered on Mother's Day, regardless of species. Photo: Matt McGee

  • Decide as a unit what kind of trip you want. Are you looking simply to unwind or are you in the mood for more adventure? Based on this, you can both suggest ideas accordingly—i.e., a trip to a spa for those seeking relaxation or surf lessons for those craving activity.
  • Don’t let one person coordinate every detail of the trip. Rather, take turns and make compromises with the planning so that each person feels that her needs and interests are being represented.
  • Since money can be a major source of tension, determine who will be paying for what beforehand. Are you splitting everything 50-50, or will you be paying for the airfare and rooms, while she covers the meals and day-to-day activities?
  • Remember, it’s all about the quality, not the quantity. Before you book a two-week cruise, think about your past travel history. If you’re used to only spending the holidays together, opt for a beachside destination or a long three-day weekend.
  • Just because you’re committed to spending quality time with your mother or daughter, doesn’t mean you can’t embark on a group activity, such as whitewater rafting or a nature hike. In fact, the presence of strangers may prompt you to act on your best behavior and meet new families with similar interests.
  • Likewise, a mother-daughter getaway does not mean that you have to spend every single breathing second with one another. Both of you should bring along a good book or even set alone time so you can take an occasional break from one another. You’ll come back feeling reconnected and eager to continue where you left off.
  • Turn off your cell phones, iPods and what-have-you when spending time together. This only disrupts the mood and makes the other person feel as if they’re not being valued.

Here are some ideas for unique and memorable Mother’s Day vacations:

Paris

Treat your mom to a posh shopping vacation in Paris. Read our article on Paris shopping.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Paris on TravelMuse.

Cabo

Your mother has been working hard her entire life. Take her to Cabo for a spa vacation where she can really unwind. Read our article on Cabo spa vacations.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Cabo on TravelMuse.

Grand Cayman

Ready for a little adventure? Take your mom to Grand Cayman to go scuba diving. Read our article on diving in Grand Cayman.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Grand Cayman on TravelMuse.

Yosemite

If you and your mother are looking to build some teamwork skills this Mother’s Day, consider rafting down the Merced River in Yosemite National Park. Read our article on rafting in Yosemite.
Plan your Mother’s Day vacation to Yosemite National Park on TravelMuse.

Need additional ideas for your Mother’s Day vacation? Use our inspiration finder to give you more ideas.

, , , , , , , ,

Mar
26
Spring break always comes just in time; right when you think you can not stand a minute more of the snow, rain and clouds, your spring break escape to some place warm pulls you out of your winter funk. So this week TravelMuse has decided to share some of our favorite beach photos—something to remind you that spring is on the horizon and summer is nipping at its heels.
Horseback Riding in Cabo. Photo: Bruce Tuten

Horseback Riding in Cabo. Photo: Bruce Tuten

Waterfall in the Caribbean. Photo: √oхέƒx™

Waterfall in the Caribbean. Photo: √oхέƒx™

Newport beach sunset. Photo: dgeertsema

Newport beach sunset. Photo: dgeertsema

Photo: √oхέƒx™

Photo: √oхέƒx™

Plan your beach vacation on TravelMuse.

Want to have your photos featured on TravelMusings? Add your spring break photos to our TravelMuse Flickr group or TravelMuse Facebook page, and we’ll publish our favorites.

, ,

Feb
08

Top Five Spring Break Spots—College Edition

You’ve made it this far through the school year—time to recharge for finals and blow off some steam at one of TravelMuse’s top spring break destinations:

1. Jamaica

Pristine beaches, reggae and lingo like “go jam” (socialize)—it all adds up to an island paradise. There are plenty of all-inclusive resorts to choose from, but you can find something a little different (and cheaper) by staying at a furnished apartment or guest house. Explore limestone caves, waterfalls and mineral springs; listen to live reggae in Montego Bay or Negril; visit Bob Marley’s Birthplace and Mausoleum; discover the Ocho Rios Craft Market for unique souvenirs or the decadent Devon House to step into the past. Or, simply relax on the beach and enjoy paradise.

Visit www.visitjamaica.com for travel deals. Plan a trip to Jamaica on TravelMuse.

Let your school stress melt away in Jamaica. Photo: 04deveni

Let your school stress melt away in Jamaica. Photo: 04deveni

2. Costa Rica
San José and Tamarindo both offer the nightlife any spring breaker desires, but for those on a budget the best bet is Jacó for discos and dive bars galore. For surfing, the beaches of Jacó, Esterillos, Hermosa and Boca Barranca provide the best waves. Costa Rica is ideal for those looking for an eco-adventure. With 20 natural parks, eight biological reserves and numerous protected areas throughout the country, there are plenty of opportunities to hike, bike and do other outdoor activites. Trek up to see one of the finest volcanic craters in the world in Poás Volcano National Park; enjoy zip-lining through the cloud forest in Monteverde; or go rafting on the Reventazón River.

Visit www.visitcostarica.com and read our Costa Rica articles for more information. Plan a trip to Costa Rica on TravelMuse.

3. Panama City Beach

The tried-and-true college Spring Break locale, Panama City Beach has 27 miles of beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay in the northwest of Florida. The beach town welcomes college students every year for what has to be the prototypical spring break experience. Enjoy live reggae at Willy’s Pier Bar; eat seafood on the open-air deck of the Barefoot Beach Club; sip fruity cocktails at the Tiki Bar on the beach at Sandpiper Beacon Beach Resort. For a break from the sun, head over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium housed in a 75-foot high cruise ship run aground.

Visit www.visitpanamacitybeach.com for more information. Plan a trip to Panama City Beach on TravelMuse.

4. Europe
Yes, Europe is an expensive choice, but deals can be had, especially during the spring. Virgin Vacations offers packages at nearly half the cost of the same trip during the summer.
As every college student with thoughts of backpacking knows, hostels across the continent are an affordable accommodations option, but check out universities in the city or cities you plan on visiting to see if they rent out dorm rooms during breaks.

Check out tourism board Web sites like www.visitbritain.us and www.visitdublin.com to find free attractions and discounts. Plan a trip to Europe on TravelMuse.

London is just one of your many options for an adventurous spring break. Photo: Jim Linwood.

London is just one of your many options for an adventurous spring break. Photo: Jim Linwood.

5. Austin

During spring break, the average high temperatures are in the mid to upper 70s. The locals are dedicated to the city’s slogan—“Keep Austin Weird”—with attractions like the Cathedral of Junk (junk turned art in a resident’s backyard) and the South Austin Museum of Popular Culture. Mix in numerous nightlife options, particularly along Sixth Street, gorge on delectable barbecue at the likes of the Salt Lick and get to know the “Live Music Capital of the World” for a memorable Spring Break.

Visit www.austintexas.org or read our Austin articles for more information. Plan a trip to Austin on TravelMuse.

Post adapted from “10 Top Spring Break Spots” by Andrew Weiss.

, , , , ,

Jan
19

Miami: Home to Super Bowl XLIV

For those lucky enough to be able to attend the Super Bowl on February 7, 2010, there are a lot of great attractions, hotels and restaurants to visit on your Super Bowl extravaganza. Hosted in Miami Gardens, Fla., Super Bowl XLIV couldn’t be experienced in a more mild-weathered climate, especially considering the deep freeze plaguing the majority of the United States. For those who can’t afford a ticket (the cheapest I found was priced at $1,731 each on StubHub!) but are still interested in visiting Miami, TravelMuse has the best travel-planning information on the home of Super Bowl XLIV.

miami 2

Photo: Sarah Ackerman

The Basics


History

Prior to being claimed by the Spanish in 1566, Miami was inhabited by the Tequesta Indians and was better known as Biscayne Bay Country. After a local citrus grower convinced railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to extend his railroad to Miami, the city was officially born in 1896.

How Long to Stay
A Miami vacation makes for a great weekend getaway, especially if you’re looking for a romantic escape. If you plan on bringing the family, allow at least a week to give you time to visit all the attractions and sample Miami’s great hospitality.

Getting Around
If you are staying on the beach, you don’t need to rent a car as it’s easy to get around via taxi, scooter or GoCar. If you’re staying down south or intend on visiting any of the major tourist attractions, it’s advisable to rent a car during your stay.

Transportation from the airport is pretty inexpensive, either by taxi or shuttle. The majority of visitors fly into Miami International Airport (MIA), however Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) is only about 40 minutes from South Beach. For the most part, flights into Fort Lauderdale are a lot cheaper if you’re flying domestically.

Miami Neighborhoods


Miami Beach & SoBe (South Beach)
South Beach is famous for its architecturally preserved, historic Art Deco buildings dating back to the 1930s and 40s. Also, nightlife is most prominent here, playing host to world-renowned celebrity hangouts, clubs, bars, resorts, boutique hotels and of course, the beach.

Aventura
Classified as North Miami Beach, Aventura is an elegant mix of high-rise apartments, family homes and stylish residents. Located on the mainland, the views along the intercoastals are extraordinary. Affluent and modern, Aventura offers stylish restaurants, Founders Park, the Aventura Mall, a country club, golf course and several great resorts and spas.

Coral Gables & Coconut Grove
From its conception, Coconut Grove has been a haven for the creative, attracting musicians, artists, authors and many a free spirit. Situated on the bay, it boasts gorgeous scenery, a marina, a waterfront park, a host of art galleries, sidewalk cafés, boutiques, open-air shopping mall and numerous excellent restaurants.

Key Biscayne
Key Biscayne is an island located six miles off the coast of Miami and linked to the mainland via the Rickenbacker Causeway. A resort community, Key Biscayne has it all, including the Miami Seaquarium and a wide variety of water sports and outdoor activities.

Downtown Miami and the Brickell Area
Brickell, the center of Miami’s financial district, lies just south of Downtown and the Miami River. Originally more of a business area, Brickell is fast becoming a trendy, vibrant neighborhood filled with sidewalk cafés, restaurants and prestigious hotels catering to business travelers and banking professionals.

Miami Design District

This 18-square block area situated just north of Downtown Miami is filled with a collection of chic and stylish galleries, trendy restaurants and contemporary furniture stores.

Cultural Districts
From Little Haiti and Little Havana, to Liberty City, Hialeah and South Miami-Dade, each district is so culturally diverse, they might as well be countries unto themselves.

Miami 1Photo: Mr. Thomas

Hotels

Being a world-renowned tourist destination, Miami offers plenty of accommodation options. The beaches are lined with boutique hotels, resorts and hotel chains, while downtown Miami and Brickell cater more to the business traveler. However, more options are available than just your average hotel.
An increasingly popular trend, especially on the beach, is condo-hotels, providing visitors with the luxury of a hotel and the convenience of a condo. Generally a fraction of the price of hotels, this option is ideal for longer stays. Read more in our Miami Hotels article.

Additional Information

To read more about Miami’s neighborhoods, find the perfect hotel or decide on the best attractions to visit (including museums, beaches, water activities, restaurants and more), read our full article on Miami, “Miami: The Beaches and Beyond” on TravelMuse.

Plan a trip to Miami on TravelMuse.

Other Miami articles to read on TravelMuse:
Get Your Dough On
Miami’s Top Events and Festivals
So Many Miami Hotels, So Little Time
Best of Miami’s Nightlife Dining
Best Meals in Miami
Hot Miami Wine Bars

* All information on Miami adapted from “Miami: The Beaches and Beyond” by Kim Michele.

, , ,

Apr
06

I’m sitting in the lobby of the Hacienda San Angel in Puerto Vallarta, and wishing I wasn’t leaving. After spending five days in this fantastic Mexican coastal town, my absolutely favorite thing has been this beautiful hacienda in the old part of the city, with 21 rooms spread throughout five different buildings.

Once you’re enclosed within the hacienda, you’ve got three swimming pools to choose from, a handful of common areas (with Wi-Fi and even a free telephone to call people within the United States and Canada), a friendly and attentive staff, and the feeling that you’ve been transported back in time when you have all day to relax and do absolutely nothing. If you want to explore, you’re within walking distance of the old town and the shopping district, as well as the malecón (the seaside walkway).

When I arrived here two days ago, I immediately felt that I wanted to call home and send for my things so I could move in. I’ll blog more about my trip this week, and will have some Puerto Vallarta articles on the site soon. In the meantime, check out www.haciendasanangel.com and see if you don’t want to move in too.Hacienda+San+Angel+small

,

Oct
21

Getting a Glimpse of Guanaja

I just returned from two weeks on Guanaja, one of HondurasBay Islands. Aside from enjoying plenty of hammock time, great views of wildlife (spotted eagle rays, dolphins, ospreys, magnificent frigatebirds), island food, tropical sunny weather (and some spectacular evening thunderstorms), and visiting friends, I had some interesting “beyond tourist” moments that I want to share.

Anyone can have a “beyond tourist” moment on vacation, and it doesn’t even require getting out of the resort (although it’s nice to do so, in order to see how the locals live). Just spend time talking to the people who live in your destination and get to know them a little. Since I’ve been visiting Guanaja for more than 10 years and own property there, I’m regularly doing things like grocery shopping for myself, buying plants from the local nurseryman and chatting up locals in the bank line.

guanaja+main+street

Here’s a glimpse into the island of Guanaja that the guidebooks don’t cover:

•    While I was shopping in Casa Sikaffy, one of the island’s largest grocery stores (that’s smaller than your average 7-Eleven), the lights suddenly went out. First thought: power outage. Nope. The owner’s sister walked up to me and explained, “There’s a funeral, and the body just passed in the street outside, so we turned the lights out for respect.” The street that she was referring to? A pedestrian walkway that’s only 7-feet wide.

•    Guanaja’s a relatively small island with limited infrastructure. Plastic recycling is something it hasn’t been able to tackle in a realistic way, until now. An ex-pat friend, Mike, showed me the island’s new “bottle crusher,” which takes piles of plastic bottles and presses them into large squares—ready to transport to the mainland for recycling. It’s a great way to get trash off the streets and beaches, and money into the pockets of islanders.

•    I had the chance to talk with a gentleman from one of Guanaja’s families that date from English settlement times, in the early 1800s. Mr. Borden is 80, and he told me about all the property throughout the island that he’s owned over the years. While it’s certainly an overstatement to say that he’s owned the entire island, his property holdings have covered a large amount of territory. It was a pleasure to hear about what Guanaja was like in the “old days” when there were few people, no electricity and the fishing “industry” consisted only of families fishing for their dinner.

, , , ,