10 Caribbean Foods You Need To Try

Caribbean cuisine has plenty of influences to thank for their amazing culinary creations, including cuisines such as African, East Indian and European. In spite of all these influences though the Caribbean has brought its own gastronomy to the table and produces dishes that are both simple and satisfying. They cook with the seasons and with the freshest of ingredients, delighting visitors from all over the world. There are hundreds of dishes to try when visiting the Caribbean but here are 10 of our favorite foods from this part of the world.

10. Conch Fritters

Considered a delicacy around the world, there is no better place to try Conch Fritters than the Caribbean, especially in the Bahamas. These fritters are small ball so conch snail meat that have been friend in batter with a number of seasonings. Conch is readily available in the Caribbean which makes this the freshest place to taste this delicious local treat. Many chefs put their own spin on this dish and often use ingredients such as onion, peppers and celery along with a variety of spices. Make sure to try this dish at numerous restaurants including the Poop Deck in Easy Bay, Nassau and Head Over to Conch Fritters.

conch fritters

9. Jerk Chicken

It one of the spiciest and well-known and well-loved dishes that originates from Jamaica. The jerk part of the dish is actually a special mixture of spices and can include soy sauce, brown sugar, whole cloves, bonnet peppers, jalapenos and more. The jerk is laced onto the chicken which is than grilled. The grilling process is of most importance when it comes to perfecting this dish and true jerk chicken is actually cooked over coals as well as fresh green wood, most traditionally the wood from the pimento tree. This tree also happens to produce allspice berries which is another component of the jerk marinade. Other meat can also be cooked in the same process and the jerk spice will work its magic by soaking the meat in its flavours.

jerk chicken

8. Aloo Pie

You will find this variant of the samosa on the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago. This soft friend pastry is made from flour and water and filled with boiled and spiced mashed potatoes. Other vegetables inside accompany the potatoes such as green peas or split chickpeas without their seedcoat. A little larger than a typical samosa it looks more like a calzone and is ordered with a sweet and sour type dipping sauce known as imli ki chutney.

Photo by: Calypsos Spice
Photo by: Calypsos Spice

7. Callaloo

This Caribbean dish actually originated in West Africa and was brought to the Caribbean by slaves. This green soup is typically made with amaranth leaves; taro leaves or water spinach. In the Caribbean this dish is often served as a side dish and calls for such ingredients as coconut milk and okra. Callaloo tends to be different from island to island, for example in Jamaica they only use the callaloo leaf, salt, onions and scallions simply steaming the vegetables while in Trinidad they use the okra and coconut milk. Wherever you decide to try it, it is definitely a must and although the dark green soup may not look appetizing at first, it is absolutely delicious.

Callaloo

6. Coconut Shrimp

This easy to make and even easier to eat dish tastes that much better in the Caribbean due to the freshness of the ingredients. Soft shrimp is dipped in eggs and coated with shredded coconut, making the sweetness of the shrimp and the crispiness of the coconut come together in one delectable treat. If you are a health conscious individual, you can opt to have this delicious snack baked instead of fried. Try these shrimps out in multiples islands, each offering its own unique twist of spices and coatings.

coconut shrimp

5. Ackee and Saltfish

Ackee happens to be the national fruit of Jamaica and thus its fitting that Ackee and Saltfish is the national dish. Parts of the Ackee fruit are actually toxic and therefore much caution must be had when preparing this dish. Salt cod is soaked overnight before sautéing it with boiled ackee, onions, Scotch Bonnet peppers, tomatoes and spices. It is often garnished with bacon and tomatoes and can be served as breakfast or dinner. It can be served alongside breadfruit, dumplings, fried plantain or eaten with rice and peas.

Ackee and Saltfish

4. Keshi Yena

Laying at the extreme south of the Caribbean is the island of Curacao and it happens to offer one heck of a local main course dish. Keshi Yena is essentially one giant stuffed cheese ball and although it is prepared differently all over the island, the end result is the same, absolute deliciousness. Essentially a round bowl is lined with Gouda or Edam cheese slices, topped with meaty filling (mostly chicken) and than covered with more slices of cheese. Sometimes the cheese ball is smothered in a Creole sauce with plenty of tomatoes and peppers. Other ingredients are olives, prunes or raisons.

Photo by: The Traveling Table
Photo by: The Traveling Table

3. Jamaican Patty

Although it is most notably found in Jamaica, the Jamaican patty is also commonly found in Nicaragua and Costa Rica. This pastry is stuffed full of various fillings and spices, baked inside its flaky shell that is often tinted yellow with an egg yolk mixture or turmeric. The filling is typically seasoned ground beef but sometimes can be chicken, pork or lamb. In Jamaica the patty is often eaten as a full meal when accompanied by coco bread. This beef patty came to be shortly after the Cornish pastry was introduced in the Caribbean and using the cumin and curry spices along with the Scotch Bonnet, a hot pepper indigenous to Jamaica allowed them to make it their own.

Jamacian Patty

2. Flying Fish

One of the most popular foods in Barbados is flying fish and one can expect to have one land on their plate at some point on this island, which is a good thing considering how delicious they are. Flying fish and cou-cou is actually the islands national dish, featuring the fish steamed and served with cornmeal cooked with okra and water. Many visitors choose to have fish cutters, battered, crispy and fried flying fish that is served on salt bread, normally accompanied by lettuce, tomato, ketchup and mustard. However, which way you choose to eat this meal, you certainly won’t regret it.

flying fish

1. Boca Chica Style Fried Fish

The Dominican Republic boasts plenty of colorful and lively dishes but the most loved may just be Boca Chica Fried Fish. One of the most flavorful dishes in the Dominican, this fried fish- normally red snapper- is marinated in a mix of garlic, onions, bell peppers and paprika. Coated with flour and fried twice, the fish vendors in this part of the Island tell visitors it’s the love that goes into the recipe that makes it so good. Often served alongside a heap of friend green plantains, this dish is big on flavor.

Photo by: Arturo Feliz-Camilo via Dominican Heat
Photo by: Arturo Feliz-Camilo via Dominican Heat

8 Tips to Plan Your Vacation at Atlantis Resort

The iconic Atlantis resort seemingly rises up out of the ocean, and absolutely sprawls out across Paradise Island in the Bahamas. This resort has a colorful Disney-like vibe, with themed hotels, attractions, endless activities and crowds. Visiting (and surviving) your stay at Atlantis takes a little bit of planning, budgeting and a whole lot of patience. Don’t expect to do everything in one visit; you’ll be overwhelmed. Instead, do a little research and decide what appeals to you most, including activities and accommodations.

1. Where to Stay

Atlantis offers the gamut of choices when it comes to accommodations to cater to space needs, budget and desired amenities . The Beach and Coral Towers (the original two, built about 20 years ago) offer the most affordable accommodations. Rooms are a bit smaller, the lobbies are a little more spartan and amenities are a little more budget basic. The Royal Towers (which is the large building at the center of the resort, which you’ve likely seen in ads) offers more posh accommodations, and is located right at the Aquaventure park. The Cove and the Reef are at the top end of the budget, with more space and luxurious accommodations. The Cove offers adult-only perks (a nice touch with this family-friendly resort), including an adult -only beach section and pool. Located in the Marina area, is Harborside, which has one and two bedroom condominiums, including full kitchens and laundry facilities. Included with all accommodations is access to the Aquaventure and beaches, shuttle buses and admission to the aquariums and the library.

Atlantis Resort Bahamas

2. Dining

One thing’s for sure: at Atlantis you won’t go hungry! Guests can choose from snack shacks populating the beaches and waterparks, featuring standard snack foods along with Bahamian specialties, to family-style restaurants that are big on flavor and on portion size to gourmet options, including club dining, interactive dining and signature restaurants from acclaimed chefs. One word to the wise- if a particular restaurant appeals to you, make reservations right away. Many restaurants fill up quickly- even days in advance. Also, there is a 15 per cent gratuity automatically added to all bills (even at the snack shacks), so read your bill carefully.

Atlantis Drink

3. Aquaventure

Do you like your waterparks super-sized? Then you’ll love this one that spreads out over a staggering 141 acres. There are your standard water slides- raft rides that twist and turn and thrill, along with some crazy body slides. The Abyss features a 50 ft near vertical drop plunging you into the dark. Regular water slides too tame for you? The Leap of Faith is aptly named, with a near 60 ft vertical drop out of a replica Mayan Temple that lets you accumulate some serious speed- to flow your way right through shark-filled lagoon (you are encased within the waterslide, of course). Aquaventure’s  lazy river is far from lazy. Think whitecaps and waves, tossing you about on the River Rapids. Crowds are large around this park, and inner tubes for the raft rides are a hot commodity. A tip: Enter the River Rapids at one of it’s many small entry points along the way, where there are far less people (and more tubes), rather than the main beach/entry point for the ride.

waterpark Atlantis Resort

4. Aquariums

Atlantis has a massive marine environment, with some 11 million gallons of saltwater, 50,000 sea creatures and over 200 species represented. The Dig, located in the Royal Towers, replicates the lost city of Atlantis, and guests wander through tunnels filled with artifacts and a wide variety of marine life to observe. If snorkeling out in the open water isn’t your thing, you can snorkel through the aquariums at the Dig. Located in the Coral Towers is Predators Lagoon, filled with sharks, barracudas and other toothy marine animals. A highlight- a clear tunnel running through the aquarium allows you to observe the fish and marine animals from below, and you can also take some really cool “underwater” pictures of the Royal Towers above.

Sharks Atlantis resort

5. The Beach

If you are a beach lover, than you’ll love the miles of beaches available along Atlantis’s shoreline. Each one of their beaches has a distinct vibe all its own. The largest, Atlantis Beach, offers the most space, but is also public, meaning that you’ll encounter a number of vendors and expect to pay for things like umbrellas. Paradise Beach, located between the Reef and the Cove hotels is serene, with cushy chairs and shade covers. The Cove Beach has awesome snorkeling and tends to be slightly less crowded than the others. A tip: Can’t find a beach chair? Ask one of the attendants to help seat you. They don’t permit “saving” of chairs, and if people have left only towels behind, they will be happy to remove them to find you a seat.

Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock.com
Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock.com

6. Transportation

Don’t be deceived. This resort is huge, and expect to walk a lot. The resort does provide shuttle buses that run between the different hotels very regularly, starting for the most part around 8am in the morning until midnight (although some do run later). A word of warning: for those who plan to hike it, expect that you are going to be walking an awful lot even after the bus drops you off. You many want to save some of those steps by hopping on one of those buses.

Atlantis Paradise Island

7. Entertainment/Activities

When you’re not sunning on the beach or whirling your way down the water slides, there is no shortage of entertainment options. Atlantis is home to the largest casino in the Caribbean, expanding over 60,000 square feet. There is also an on-site comedy club, and magic shows. There is a full-sized movie theater showing recently released movies, as well as a full library from which to borrow your beach read. Kids (up to age 12) will enjoy Atlantis Kids Adventures and their ongoing roster of kids activities. Tweens and teens have their own spot to go at night time, with age appropriate nightclubs (complete with ID and cover charge).

Photo by: Flickr/Jesse Lazaro
Photo by: Flickr/Jesse Lazaro

8. Dolphin Cay

If taking a waterslide through a shark tank isn’t enough of a marine encounter for you, visit the expansive Dolphin Cay, where guests can swim with dolphins (either underwater or have a shallow water encounter) or have an experience with sea lions. For the really enthusiastic, you can be a trainer for a day. Like with the restaurants at Atlantis, you are advised to reserve well  in advance, as spots are limited and fill up quickly.

Photo by: Siren Universe
Photo by: Siren Universe

10 Secret Caribbean Hotels

There are hundreds of thousands hotels and resorts across the Caribbean and many of us have a picture in our minds that they all tend to be mega-resorts; but assuming this would be wrong. Besides the sprawling resorts that are littered with hundreds of rooms, pools and families; there happens to be more than a handful of incredible hotels that remain a secret. Some have been around since the 1960’s, others are new, but all of them offer superior landscapes, service and dining. From Jamaica to Antigua; these 10 secret Caribbean hotels are well worth a visit.

10. Turquoise Cay -Great Exuma, Bahamas

It used to be a former fishing lodge but just recently this lodge underwent extensive renovations and opened as a hotel. There are only a total of eight, simple yet elegant rooms each named after the different shade of blue painted on the walls. Furnishings here include round tables with wicker furniture and lobster print cushions, lamp bases filled with sand and daybeds suspended over the beach. Guests should plan on relaxing in the infinity pool that cascades into the bay or getting active with the kayaks and paddleboards available to rent. The Peruvian-Asian restaurant serves up amazing sushi and fresh seafood while music plays lightly on the outdoor deck under the twinkling stars. Guests shouldn’t miss out on visiting Little Exuma, the smaller island of the pair and home to Santana’s Grill Pit; a favorite spot that Johnny Depp often heads to.

Photo by: Turquoise Cay
Photo by: Turquoise Cay

9. The Caves, Jamaica

This all-inclusive, child-free resort offers visitors an incredible experience as soon as they walk through the door. The focus here is the ocean and all 12 wooden thatch cottages are located on the cliff top overlooking the sea. Each cottage is painted its own color and has its own private sundeck completed with hammocks. Leaping into the water from the 20-meter cliff is one of the most popular ways to cool down here, and for those who aren’t daring enough, you can find your peace lounging by the pool. As for the dining, guests here are encouraged to order breakfast whenever they want and the choices are endless, as goes the same for lunch and dinner. The candlelit bar built out of rocks creates the perfect after dinner setting and with a maximum of 36 guests at one time; you won’t have any trouble relaxing here.

8. Secret Bay Resort -Portsmouth, Dominica

This award-winning small hotel is immersed deep in nature on the unspoiled island of Dominica. Made up of just six sustainable luxury villas and bungalows, visitors here can be sure to have the utmost of privacy. Secret Bay is unique in many ways, including its cliff top location that overlooks the Caribbean Sea. This hotel also features two beaches, the magical Cario River, a spectacular sea cave and exquisite dining. Don’t worry about using the full kitchen that is located in your villa as the superior cooking service that is offered will come to you, and use only the best local and organic ingredients. Along with terrific views, gourmet meals, and above average service; guests are treated to such activities as kayaking, snorkeling, cooking classes, yoga and massages. With guests having to be over the age of 12, there is no need to worry about screaming and splashing children running about the tranquil resort.

Photo by: Secret Bay
Photo by: Secret Bay

7. Sugar Reef -Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines

65 tropical acres, eight beautiful rooms and one extraordinary private beach awaits visitors at Sugar Reef. Situated on a 65-acre coconut plantation straddling a breathtaking bay with quarter-mile-long beach views, Sugar Reef has managed to create the uniquely Caribbean tradition of living in luxury that is open to views and breezes, along with the occasional lizard and bat. The main dining room boasts enormous driftwood chandeliers where the best lobster roti on the island is served. The eight bedrooms are split between the Beach House and the French House, each featuring high quality linens, driftwood mirrors, four poster beds and French doors. Popular activities here include cycling through the estate, kayaking, snorkeling and gathering around the huge tables at night to play board games. Lush green mountains, sparkling blue ocean and the white sand beach is enough to make anyone want to stay at Sugar Reef forever.

Photo by: Sugar Reef
Photo by: Sugar Reef

6. CasaSandra -Holbox, Mexico

On the tiny island of Holbox, just north of Cancun sits a paradise inside a paradise. CasaSandra is the islands chicest hotel and the owner, a full-time artist has created a natural masterpiece. The hotel was designed with love, conceived with art, music and coziness in mind. With 18 rooms plus 1 luxury villa, personalized service and the absence of TV’s, telephones and radios; this resort is truly for those looking to bring tranquility into their lives. Known as having one of the best places to eat on the island, guests certainly won’t go hungry when they are staying here. Breakfast is served in the open air seating while dinner is taken in the elegant dining room complete with beautiful music and art. The islands’ claim to fame is the sheer number of whale sharks that congregate here from June to September and guests of the hotel should be sure to take some time out to swim with these majestic creatures.

Photo by: CasaSandra
Photo by: CasaSandra

5. The Dunmore -Harbour Island, Bahamas

The most famous beach on Harbour Island is three miles long, one mile wide and in certain lights the grains beneath your feet glow a soft pink color; hence the name Pink Beach. The Dunmore happens to be located smack dab in the middle of the beach and has been around since the 1960’s. In recent years the hotel was taken over for two former guests and has since gone under renovations, making this hotel even better than it was before. The 14 beachfront and garden cottages are decked out in teak furniture, graphic patterned cushions and rattan blinds. Guests can often been seen lounging by the pool or beneath turquoise umbrellas on the palm-fringed beach. The restaurant at the Dunmore produces some of the best food on the island, including snapper sandwiches, fish tacos and fresh lobster.

Photo by: The Dunmore
Photo by: The Dunmore

4. Hotel Deep Blue -Providencia, Colombia

Located on the beautiful Colombian island of Providencia lies a luxurious 12-room resort that is well worth the effort to get there.  The rooms are elegantly furnished with king size beds, private balconies and beautiful furnishings; all with an amazing view out to the sea. The restaurant is one of the most stunning features of this property as it is built right over the water and diners will enjoy the sounds of the waves lapping against the deck and indulging in mouth watering international cuisine. Hotel Deep Blue is part of a biosphere reserve giving way to a variety of animals, near-deserted beaches and a traditional Creole culture. Enjoy the private boat, snorkeling in the clear waters or trekking through the verdant jungle at this amazing hidden gem in the Caribbean.

Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue
Photo by: Hotel Deep Blue

3. Inn at English Harbour, Antigua

It may have opened in the 1960’s but this hotel has managed to stay under the radar, blanketed by thick palm forests complete with its own crescent of sand. Expect to see bright red flowers, colorful birds and painted clapboard buildings among the property. Currently there are 28 rooms which include beautiful four-poster beds, mahogany washstands and breathtaking water views. There are two restaurants on –site, one located down at the beach and another atop a hill. Expect a mix of dining options and be sure to try the lamb and mint sauce that is a favorite of guests. A small spa, sparkling pool, boutique full of gorgeous handmade dresses and tennis courts rounds out this intimate property.

Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour
Photo by: The Inn at English Harbour

2. Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

It is only a 15 minute plane ride from the glitz and crowds of Nassau but visitors will feel a world away when they get to this secluded island with its white sands and turquoise waters. Here is where Kamalame Cay lives; a collection of houses sprinkled along the shores among the thousands of coconut palms. This resort features such awesome amenities as tennis courts, a spa pavilion over the water, beachfront Tiki bar and the Great House dining room. Visitors are treated to luxury linens, nightly bonfires, incredible antique furnishings and some seriously good food. Plan on dining on fresh crab dim sum, fresh caprese salads and fresh bread baked from the on-site bakery. Plenty of celebrities grace the likes of this hotel around the holidays and we wish you the best of luck trying to get a reservation here.

Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas
Photo by: Kamalame Cay, Bahamas

1. Golden Rock Inn, Nevis

What was once a 19th century sugar estate, complete with an array of stone buildings and rampant forest is now a breathtaking property that features incredible flora and fauna, along with eleven cottages. The old counting house was restored and transformed into the foliage-framed reception and the dining areas and outdoor terraces look onto serene reflection pools. Bamboo trees, palms and orchids are home to colorful hummingbirds and dragonflies throughout the property. Each cottage is designed to be different, each featuring unique amenities and the utmost privacy. Lively Caribbean cuisine is served using the freshest of ingredients and patrons can choose to sit on one of the decks overlooking the sea or within the intimate garden settings. Visitors here won’t find fully-stocked minibars or TV’s in their cottages; instead they will find beautiful surroundings that evoke the feelings of tranquility and peace.

Photo by: Raymond Jungles
Photo by: Raymond Jungles

8 Things to See and Do in the Bahamas

The island chain of the Bahamas is rich with history, culture and romantic legend that lends to its appeal. First settled by English Puritans, the Bahamas became popular with pirates in the late 1600s and early 1700s because of the vast number of islands (700+) and shallow waters that made for prime treasure hiding. This patchwork of islands and cays interlock its way through some of the clearest waters in the world- making it an ideal spot for snorkeling, diving and beach time. It’s also home to the third largest barrier reef in the world. It’s easy to get around this group of islands, with ferry boats and frequent flights facilitating access. Here are some notable attractions.

8. Cable Beach, Nassau

Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are in the Bahamas, and Cable Beach lives up to that reputation. Cable Beach follows along the North coast of Nassau through New Providence. This stretch of beach is home to a number of resorts and hotels, so for travelers seeking beachfront accommodation, this is a good spot. Guests appreciate waking up to views of turquoise water and miles of sugary white sand.

Cable Beach, Nassau

7. Nassau Straw Market

Nassau is a wonderfully walkable city, that is safe and well-marked. There are lots of shops, restaurants and cafes sandwiched around the downtown core. For tourist shoppers seeking out bargains and souvenirs to bring home, the Nassau Straw Market on Bay St.  is worth a visit to pick up handmade Bahamian straw crafts and gifts, as well as other wares.

"Nassau straw market 1" by BrokenSphere - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Nassau straw market 1” by BrokenSphereOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

6. Sandy Toes Beach, Rose Island

Sandy Toes Beach is located on Rose Island, just off the coast of Nassau. Accessible by boat only, this private island hosts full day excursions as well as private events. Excursions include boat transportation, drinks, lunch and snorkeling at the private beach. The waters in the Bahamas are incredibly clear, but the waters at Sandy Toes Beach are exceptional, and swimmers and snorkelers can expect to see a lot of marine life very clearly with very little effort.

Photo by: Youtube/samevansmedia
Photo by: Youtube/samevansmedia

5. Arawak Cay (Fish Fry), Nassau

No visit to Nassau would be complete without a visit to Arawak Cay’s Fish Fry. Located about a 15-minute walk west of Nassau’s downtown proper, this group of restaurants include humble shacks alongside full restaurants (some with air conditioning). There are few better (and less expensive) places on the island to sample Bahamian specialties, like conch fritters, conch chowder, cracked lobster, snapper and grouper- among many other fish dishes.

Photo by: Bahamas Finder
Photo by: Bahamas Finder

4. Pirates of Nassau Museum

Nassau was the center of the rich pirate lore that surrounds the mystique of the Bahamas. Nassau was home base for many pirates (even some pirate celebrities like Blackbeard). The configuration of the harbor facilitated their ability to launch attacks successfully on merchant ships. Nassau is known of the “capital of piracy”. The Pirates of Nassau Museum is an interactive exhibit that lets visitors view and experience the colorful history of piracy in Nassau.

"PIRATES OF NASSAU MUSEUM, NASSAU" by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
PIRATES OF NASSAU MUSEUM, NASSAU” by JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MDOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

3. Atlantis, Paradise Island

Popular with cruise day trippers and with resort travelers, the monster resort of Atlantis lies just outside of Nassau on Paradise Island, connected to Nassau by a massive bridge. This sprawling resort contains several different hotels, dozens of restaurants, four beaches, the largest casino in the Caribbean, two major aquariums and a 141 acre Waterpark, complete with waterslides that immerse you in a shark tank. The hotel sells a limited amount of day passes for visitors to experience the aquariums, water park and beaches.

LivetImages / Shutterstock.com
LivetImages / Shutterstock.com

2. Lucayan National Park, Grand Bahama Island

This 40-acre park is comprised of lush mangroves, forests, waterways and sparkling white sand beaches. There is also an extensive network of caves, and is home to one of the longest limestone caves in the world. Two of the caves are open to the public; swimming is not allowed, and diving is only allowed in specific locations with a permit. Visitors will enjoy Gold Rock Beach, especially at low tide, where miles of rippled sand pave the way for an oceanside stroll.

Photo by: Hike Now
Photo by: Hike Now

1. Lighthouse Beach, Eleuthera

While you could plonk your beach chair just about anywhere in the Bahamas and enjoy miles of pristine white sand, the beaches on Eleuthera and Harbour Island offer a slightly different experience. The white sand is tinged with pink, and has a refined, soft texture that you don’t find on the other islands. Lighthouse Beach is known as one of the more remote, unspoiled and beautiful beaches- perfect for a lazy afternoon in solitude.

Photo by: Eleuthera Paradise
Photo by: Eleuthera Paradise

The 8 Cheapest Winter Vacations for 2020

While some of us are still hanging on to our pumpkin spice lattes and savoring the last days of fall, others are already daydreaming about how they’re going to escape the snow. Although lots of vacations are expensive and costs can be prohibitive for some, these 8 locations will help you travel on a budget this winter.

8. Cuba

Cuba has long been a fairly inexpensive vacation spot for Canadians and Americans willing to risk not being able to get back into their country. Although U.S. relations with Cuba have been improving, travel restrictions for tourism are still in place. For Canadians and others, Cuba remains an inexpensive Caribbean option. Havana is the place to go for the most culture, although other popular spots include Manzanillo de Cuba and Varadero. Round-trip flights can be as low as $300 USD, and hotels start at $50 USD per night. If you’re looking for an all-inclusive option, things get even more affordable: a 7-night package deal, including all taxes and fees, starts around $380 USD for 2 people.

Cuba Beach

7. Panama

Here’s a destination not many people would consider when they think about flying south for the winter: Panama. This Central American country doesn’t get a lot of love from sun-seekers. Nonetheless, Panama City is a prime destination. The flight will set you back around $550 USD to the lesser demand and more infrequent flights, but accommodations will run you around $40 USD a night for a 3-star hotel. Package deals are also available, usually running around the $1,000 USD  mark—a little higher than some would like to pay, but worth it to get to a destination that’s off the beaten path for most snowbirds. Unlike high-traffic destinations like Punta Cana and Cancun, Panama City is still economical and less likely to be overrun with spring-breakers, making for a relaxing vacation whether you go all-inclusive or not.

Panama

6. Florida

Your Florida vacation can either be really expensive or really cheap. While people flock to Orlando and Miami, there are plenty of places that offer all the sun and sand with a lower price tag. You can fly to Tampa for the same price as Miami, but you can pick up 3-star accommodations for $65 USD per night in Tampa (compare Miami at $90 USD per night). If you insist on Miami or Orlando, a flight will set you back around $200 USD, and a hotel in Orlando can cost as little as $49 USD per night. If you’re visiting either of these popular locations, definitely check into package deal options offered by travel agencies and vacation companies to see if you can get even better pricing. Other options for those looking to get off the beaten path could include West Palm Beach and Daytona Beach.

Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

5. Bahamas

At first glance, the Bahamas might seem overpriced to a lot of North Americans. First, they’re relatively close to Florida, but flight prices seem to jump, and hotels start around $75 USD. Package deals, in theory, should make a trip to the Bahamas a little more affordable, but the truth is that you’re better to book the Bahamas yourself. Flights can be as little $380 USD and even with the cost of accommodations for 7 days, that’s still cheaper than some of the packages out there. Selecting your own destination in the Bahamas also allows you to best pick the venues suited to your itinerary. While Freeport is an option, it is more expensive than the bigger port of Nassau. This is one destination where looking for last-minute deals and seat sales will save you more cash.

Nassau, Bahamas

4. Jamaica

How much you pay to escape to Jamaica really depends on where and how you go. For some destinations, package deals are your best bet; all-inclusive vacations for Ochos Rios start around $680 USD with all the taxes and fees in. Montego Bay, on the other hand, is better for travelers looking to build their own itineraries: a flight will set you back around $500, but accommodations can be as low as $30 or $40 USD a night. Runaway Bay is another do-it-yourself option; you’ll still need to fly into Montego Bay and accommodations are better booked on your own—a package deal in this area will actually cost you more. Kingston, the country’s capital, is more expensive to fly in to, as its airport is smaller than the one at Montego Bay.

Jamaica

3. Arizona

If you’re looking to escape the cold, why not consider Arizona? Located in the middle of a desert, Arizona is actually more pleasant during the winter months and you can score a roundtrip flight to Phoenix for about $300 USD. At the lower end of things, accommodation hovers around the $40 USD per night mark. While not exactly a high profile destination, Arizona has been gaining popularity with the snowbird crowd who are looking for alternatives to Florida, at a lower price-point than California. Phoenix, in particular, has a lot of attractions—including a number of golf courses. If you want to hit the greens, definitely consider Arizona as your winter escape. While you may not be able to pick up package deals for Arizona like you can for some sun destinations, definitely keep your eyes peeled for deals—seat sales can save you a pretty penny on airfare.

pool arizona

2. Mexico

Mexico has long been known as a haven for snowbirds looking to escape the chill of winter without feeling the pinch of their pocketbooks. While destinations like Acapulco and Cancun are on the lists of every spring-breaker, try nabbing up a cheap destination vacation to one of Mexico’s many other charming areas, like Puerto Vallarta, where a flight will cost you about $380 USD but a hotel will set you back just $35 USD a night, or you can package it up for about $600 USD. Ixtapa and Manzanillo are popular destinations as well, and both come with a similar price tag. Other, less-frequented Mexican destinations can cost a bit more since there’s less demand for flights, but hotel prices remain low throughout the country. Last-minute deals and seat-sales can be your best friends to get to these less-frequented locales.

Mexico 2

1. Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic has earned a reputation among snowbirds and travelers as a relatively cheap destination to soak up some sun. Popular with spring-breakers, the Dominican Republic has a few popular destinations like Punta Cana and Puerto Plata. Flights will run you around $500 USD to either destination, but 3-star hotels are available for about $60 USD a night. Like other destination vacations in the Caribbean, you can look for a package deal to maximize your savings; roll your flight and hotel together into a 7-night all-inclusive excursion for about $900 USD. Other popular destinations on the island include Santo Domingo, which is a better book-it-yourself option; the flight is slightly more expensive than other areas on the island, but accommodations will set you back just $35 USD a night.

Punta Cana Dominican Republic

10 Best Places to Learn to Dive the PADI Way

If you want to learn to dive the first thing you need to do is locate a reputable dive instructor. The gold standard in dive education is PADI which stands for: The Professional Association of Diving Instructors. PADI is the world’s leading scuba diving training organization and has courses for ages eight and up with certification courses for those age 10 and up. You can locate PADI certified instructors and facilities in landlocked cities, YMCA’s and dive shops all over the world. If you are going to learn to dive why not do it in place that you will always remember and take some time to also enjoy the surroundings. When planning your next vacation, why not also learn to scuba dive and give yourself another reason to look forward to that next adventure. We have compiled a list of some of the best places on earth to learn to scuba dive the PADI way while also experiencing a great vacation.

10. Bahamas

Bahamas is a popular destination and easily accessible for most Americans. There are several dive centers on the island including Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas. Stuart was a stunt diver in the James Bond movie “For Your Eyes Only”. After earning a reputation as a top notch underwater stunt coordinator, he saved his money and in 1987 bought a dive boat. Subsequent stints in various resorts and his role as the go-to film underwater coordinator, led Stuart to open a dive center. Offering various PADI certification classes and divemaster courses Stuart also takes certified divers on shark dives, has a kid’s certification course and even has an underwater wedding venue if you want to have the wedding experience of a lifetime. When not diving, the Bahamas offers great beaches, nightlife, boating, fishing, the world’s deepest blue hole and the third largest reef in the world. A wild horse preserve, various nature preserves and great weather. What more could you ask for?

Dean's Blue Hole, Bahamas

9. Scotland

Scotland you say? Scotland doesn’t necessarily come to mind when you think of scuba diving. For wreck divers, those that enjoy exploring sunken vessels and such, then Scotland is the perfect choice to learn to dive. Scapa Scuba is located in Orkney and the only dive shop in the area. Courses in open water diving, rescue diving and more are offered. One reason Scotland is an ideal place is that at the end of WW1, in 1919,  the German Navy scuttled 52 ships at Scapa Flow and this makes for what is today one of the world’s best wreck dives. When not diving, explore some of the Neolithic remains in the area that date back over 5,000 years, a cathedral founded by Vikings or visit some of the nearby towns.

Photo by: Scapa Scuba
Photo by: Scapa Scuba

8. Greece

Learning to dive in Greece has two advantages, the opportunity to learn to dive while enjoying the Aegean Sea and, well, the fact that you’re in Greece. One of the places you can learn to dive is the Atlantis Diving Center, located in the Halkidiki region. The Halkidiki region is in the Northern part of Greece and consists of three peninsulas jutting out into the Aegean Sea. Here the dive sites offer underwater caves, reefs and a variety of sea life. When not diving you can visit unique historical sites such as Mount Athos which holds monasteries and has been continuously inhabited for 1800 years. Visiting Mount Athos is restricted to a certain number of visitors per day, males only and special permission has to be obtained. The city of Thessaloniki is nearby and offers a mix of old world charm with modern city.

Roy Pedersen / Shutterstock.com
Roy Pedersen / Shutterstock.com

7. Spain

Costa del Sol is known for luxurious resorts and hotels, beautiful beaches, fine dining and a vibrant nightlife. Simply Diving, in Malaga Spain, has been operating in the area since 1999 and has a cadre of international instructors. The 5-star dive center has classes ranging from beginner to night diver, underwater photography, dive master and instructor training. Some of the dive sites visited are Gibraltar, the site of war vessel wreckage, and La Costa Tropical, Europe’s first ever National Marine Park. When you’re not diving you can enjoy any of the popular tourist destinations in Spain. If you want to escape the tourist areas for a few days then head inland and visit one of the many small villages and towns where you can enjoy hiking and cycling through the countryside surrounded by olive groves and fields.

Scuba Diving in Spain

6. Peru

Located in the northwestern part of Peru, the town of Mancora is a popular beach resort destination and home to the Spondylus Dive Center. Spondylus was the first PADI certified dive school in Peru and has all types of courses for children and adults. Popular dives include El Ñuro Beach where you can get up close to different marine life such as sea turtles, octopus, moray eels and different species of fish. Abandoned oil platforms have turned into artificial reefs and make for a unique experience also. For those that just want to have a fun day, a snorkeling tour can be arranged. Also, a day trip to the nearby Amotape Hills National Park provides the opportunity to do some river rafting and hiking. Mancora, known for being a popular beach and surf destination, has been likened to some of the popular Thailand beaches before they became overcrowded with tourists.

Mancora, Peru

5. Guatemala

When you sit back and hear other divers talk about where they got certified you may hear of a tropical beach paradise, but you can have a different story. Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is off the beaten path for tourists and is one of the best kept secrets among travelers. Surrounded by colorful Mayan villages the lake is located in the highlands and is the deepest lake in Central America. Formed by volcanic eruptions the region is part of the “Ring of Fire” around the Pacific Ocean. ATI Divers run courses at the lake where you can dive among volcanic formations such as cliffs and overhangs. When you’re not diving you can experience the non-commercialized area of authentic Mayan villages where the women still wear traditional dress. Take a couple of day tours while you are there and you will have a story to tell about where you got dive certified.

Lake Atitian, Guatamala

4. India

India has a coastline of over 7,000 km so the chances of finding a good dive instructor are pretty good. One of the best places to learn to dive and also have a great vacation is the Andaman Islands located in the Bay of Bengal between India and Myanmar. Dive India offer courses from open water to instructor training. Diving among pristine reefs while also offering dives to locations far off the beaten path, Dive India is a good choice to learn to scuba dive. During your down time you can learn a little about the history of the area. A popular destination is the Cellular Jail in Port Blair. The jail was built by colonial British and used to house political prisoners during the era. You can also take an island hopping tour, or just enjoy the many beaches.

scuba 1

3. Philippines

The Philippines is comprised of over 7,000 islands so you might think they have a few places to learn to dive and you would be right. With all of the places and options, the prices for learning how to dive have a wide range. One of the cheapest places is also one of the best places. Dumaguete is located in the province of Negros Oriental, the largest city in the province. Liquid Dumaguete is a 5-star PADI resort that not only offers courses, but runs a resort on location. Why Dumaguete for diving? The reason is that it’s close to APO Island which is probably the most famous and best diving sites in the region. Hard corals, schools of fish, sea turtles and an abundance of other sea life are encountered. Other popular dive site destinations are also available. The other reason Dumaguete is a great location is when you’re not diving the city awaits with all the hospitality of the Filipino people.

Learning to Dive in the Philipphines

2. Thailand

Thailand, the home of crystal clear blue water, white sand beaches and wild parties. Thailand is also the home to some of the best diving in Asia. Located on Koh Tao Island you will find the Crystal Dive Resort one of only a few 5-star PADI certified dive shops in the region. From beginner courses, refresher courses and specialized training, Crystal Dive Resort offers everything you need to get certified. With 16 dive sites around the island you can experience all types of diving. You may want to take a day dive to Shark Island where you could spot reef and leopard sharks. Don’t want to encounter a shark? You might want to try the area around the Japanese Gardens where there is little current and a fairly shallow reef populated with various tropical fish. Being an island, the majority of activities revolve around diving, hanging out on the beach or fishing, but there is always the nightlife. After spending the day diving you might want to  take a plunge into the famous Thai nightlife.

Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com
Soren Egeberg Photography / Shutterstock.com

1. Australia

Australia is home to the Great Barrier Reef, the largest living thing on earth. Selected as a World Heritage Site and visible from outer space the Great Barrier Reef is undoubtedly the most famous dive spot in the world. Where better to earn your PADI certification and also have the chance to see and experience such a wonder? From 30 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises to the more than 1500 species of fish, this is why Australia is our number one pick.  Various sea turtles and coral species make for what has to be the most memorable dive of a lifetime. Pro Dive in Cairns is a 5-star PADI dive center and has been in operation since 1983. Pro Dive offers all the classes needed to get certified and for the more experienced, they have extended dive tours. Using their state of the art dive vessels that have Wi-Fi on board and comfortable quarters you can have an extended trip of three to seven days and hit all the great dive spots. Cairns is considered the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef but with its tropical climate and laid back atmosphere also makes for a great vacation destination.

Great Barrier Reef

7 Vacations that will Appeal to Teens

Traveling with children presents challenges, no matter what stage of the game you’re at. Traveling with little ones means preparing for anything by packing nearly everything you own; traveling with teens means trying to find cool experiences and activities that will give them the right balance of independence and convince them to put their phones down. Oh, yeah and that aren’t totally lame.

7. Hotel Del Coronado- San Diego, California

This beachfront resort near San Diego has something for everyone in your family, including your teen. Teens can take advantage of surfing and paddleboard lessons, or rent a bike and explore the area. Every weekend in the summer, there is a teen pool party at one of the pools, open to teens 13 to 17 years old (sorry, no parents allowed!), complete with games, a DJ and snacks. There are also teen Dive-in movies, so they can watch some of their PG-13 faves under the stars or while floating on a pool noodle.

meunierd / Shutterstock.com
meunierd / Shutterstock.com

6. Lapa Rios Eco Lodge- Puerto Jimenez, Costa Rica

If your teen loves to give Mother Earth a hug, taking a vacation at an eco-lodge surrounded by flora, fauna and lots of wildlife may be just the ticket. Lapa Rios is located right in the midst of the rainforest on their 930 acre reserve. Daily activities include guided nature hikes, and ecological educational experiences. Nearby, visitors can arrange for boat tours in the mangroves, dolphin and whale watching, surfing or kayaking.

Photo by: Lapa Rios
Photo by: Lapa Rios

5. Lake George- Glens Falls, New York

Does your teen prefer shopping, the beach or screaming on a roller coaster? Why not do all three? Scenic Lake George, located in the Adirondacks, is jam-packed with action and activity. It’s the kind of town where a stroll down main street means running into something else to do. There are loads of cool restaurants, mini-golf, haunted house attractions and much more. Hit the Six Flags Amusement Park for the day- and don’t forget your bathing suit for the waterpark. Unwind for the day on Lake George’s Million Dollar Public Beach, which provides some million dollar views of the surrounding mountains. There is also great shopping in Lake George for your teen who covets name brands, with an extensive network of outlets.

Lake George, NY

4. Hawks Cay Resort- Duck Key, Florida

Located in Duck Key, about mid-way down the Florida Keys, Hawks Cay is a sprawling resort on a key unto itself, with plenty to keep your teen entertained. At the center of the resort is a man-made lagoon, with plenty of water activities like snorkeling, paddle boarding, windsurfing and kayaking. A highlight for sporty teens is the Indies club that has basketball courts, putting greens, volleyball court and a full-size soccer and football field. There is a “Teens Night Out.” from 9 pm to 11 pm nightly, where teens can hang out and play in the games room.

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com
Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock.com

3. Royal Caribbean, Oasis of the Seas- Bahamas Islands, Caribbean

Cruises are a good choice for teens because of the wide variety of activities that are going on at any given moment. And if choice of activity is key to a teen’s enjoyment of their vacation, than Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas fleet is “the” spot. There is a skating rink, zip lining, rock climbing, surf simulator, arcade, mini golf, 3D movie lounge, teen lounge and disco. And that’s not including all the things they can do once in port! Try cruising more low key, but still vibrant excursions like the Bahamas. This way the trip doesn’t require as much planning as further international expeditions, but still involves some great cultural indulgences and adventurous ports for the kids and adults to explore.

Ozphotoguy / Shutterstock.com
Ozphotoguy / Shutterstock.com

2. Jay Peak- Jay, Vermont

Jay Peak’s village at the base of their mountain is an excellent spot for teens. The village is fairly self-contained. Being able to have this kind of pedestrian atmosphere is great for parents (they can know where their kids are) and teens can enjoy some of that independence that they crave while in a controlled environment. In the winter, there is skiing, obviously, along with a host of other winter outdoor activities. Available year-round is the indoor waterpark, the Pump House, which offers a number of different raft water slides, a surfing simulator, and a slide with a huge vertical drop. There is nothing lazy about their lazy river. Attached to the waterpark is an arcade. Onsite in the village is the Ice Haus, where there is skating available year-round, complete with skate rentals, if you forgot yours at home.

Photo by: Hanumanix via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: Hanumanix via Wikimedia Commons

1. Beaches Resorts- Providenciales, Turks and Caicos & Negril and Ocho Rios, Jamaica

All-inclusive resorts are often a good choice of teens, and the Beaches family of resorts are particularly good. They have games rooms with a good selection of games and organized activities. There are arcades, music and a great tagline: “Teens do whatever they want; your parents paid the bill, so from here on out, everything’s included”.

Photo by: Britt Reints via Flickr
Photo by: Britt Reints via Flickr

10 Private Islands You Can Own Today

Owning your own private island is the ultimate dream for many people. Lucky for them, it no longer has to be just a dream. If you happen to have a few million sitting around in the bank it is actually quite easy to buy an island. Don’t despair if you don’t have quite a million dollars though, there are actually some affordable islands for sale across the globe. What are you waiting for? Empty out the bank account and go buy one of these 10 private islands that are for sale right now!

10. Pink Pearl Island -Nicaragua

If you have ever wanted to own an island and make money doing it, Pink Pearl Island may be for you. Located just 3 miles off Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast, the area is known for its excellent diving and sport fishing. The island is currently operating as a tourism business but can be turned into your own private residence easily. It features a cylinder main house, three cabanas, a fisherman style shack and a bar/restaurant. The best part about this island may just be the absence of mosquitoes and sand flies. Throw in a heart shaped swimming pool with a fresh water pump, stunning ocean views, a pier to dock your boat and its own well to supply water and you have yourself a pretty amazing slice of paradise. Did we happen to mention that the owners of this island are also throwing in their 25 foot, 150 horsepower speedboat in?

Photo by: Islands
Photo by: Islands

9. Mccaffrey Island -Oregon, USA

If you would prefer to purchase an island a little closer to home, Mccaffrey Island may be just what you are looking for. Listed at $1.25 million this island comes complete with a gorgeous five bedroom house, sandy beach and its own well. It is located on the Yaquina River only 6 miles by boat to the open ocean. The island features apple trees which the deer frequently visit, a covered deck, complete with a fire pit and the most gorgeous scenery and sunsets. The island was truly built to be enjoyed by people who love nature and are looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but with the conveniences making it feel like home.

Yaquina River

8. Nukudrau Island -Fiji

This island is located in the largest bay in the Southern Hemisphere, Natewa Bay and surrounded by crystal clear waters of the South Pacific. It is an undeveloped island currently separated into 25 individual lots, letting buyers decide whether to keep the island to themselves or develop into a resort. What surrounds this island is simply magical; amazing snorkeling, diving, fishing and a resident pod of dolphins that will delight you. This blank canvas allows your imagination to run wild and if you have big enough pockets, you could build your dream home. The seven peaks that rise up out of the sea on this island are the perfect spot to build on. The island is a total of 46 acres and the price unfortunately is not listed, so if you are serious about owning this island it is best to contact the seller.

Fiji Island

7. Pate Island -Ontario, Canada

All you will need to bring to this island is your groceries as the home; all its furnishing and appliances are being sold along with the island. Located on Georgian Bay in Ontario this island is 4.5 acres and offers some of the best sunset views in the whole country. The house is a three bedroom, two bathroom cottage style, complete with a stone fireplace, open concept kitchen and cedar wraparound porch. The far end of the island boasts a sheltered harbor that features a boathouse and ‘U” shaped docking pier. All the docks lead to deep clean water and the scenery surrounding this island makes it easy to understand why people love the area. The price tag is currently at $1.3 million and once you see this island, you will understand why.

Georgian Bay

6. Pumpkin Key -Florida, USA

If you want to go all out and spend a hundred million dollars; this would be the island to buy. Pumpkin Key is located in the Florida Keys and just a short boat ride away from Key Largo or helicopter ride to Miami. This private island is a total of 26 acres and includes one main house, a dock masters cabin and two caretaker cottages. It also happens to have tennis courts and golf cart paths throughout. This island is surrounded with ocean that is teeming with marine life such as dolphins, sport fish and lobsters. World renowned snorkeling, scuba diving and sport fishing is just outside the doors. Buying this island also means access to Ocean Reef, a private and prestigious club that offers dining, shopping and its own private airstrip.

Key Largo

5. Mowgli Island -British Columbia, Canada

If you aren’t keen about hurricane season, tropical weather and too much sunshine; there is still an island for you. Located within the Southern Gulf Islands sits Mowgli Island; a nine acre gem that will quickly get snatched up. This island features sandy beaches, an ‘L’ shaped dock for year round mooring of vessels and an incredible house. The house features four impressive bedrooms and a separate bunkhouse for guests, as well as 1,000 square feet of deck that surrounds the house. It is nestled right into the trees and features many windows allowing for the most natural light to shine through. A pier extends into the water and many different shorelines can be explored. Impressive scenery, an award winning house and a beautiful country; what more could you ask for.

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

4. Temple Island -Queensland, Australia

Coming in just shy of a million dollars, this property was reduced for quick sale and is expected to be swiped any day now. Situated about two miles off the coast of Queensland, this island offers everything you need. A private airstrip making it easy to get to, a four bedroom home set on top the highest vantage point on the island and white sand beaches. Temple Island is home to sea turtles during nesting season, plenty of orchids, rainforest and a slew of oyster whales. They will even throw in the 1986 Range Rover that is on the island; although we cannot be sure if it still works or not. One of the best deals in Australia is Temple Island coming in at $850,000. Scoop this island up before it’s too late.

Queensland Shore

3. Isla Paloma -Panama

For just $400,000 dollars you can be the owner of the quarter acre Isla Paloma, located just off the northern shore of Panama. The island is located in calm waters, surrounded by barrier islands and comes complete with a house already on it. It features a white sandy beach, and is surrounded by a shallow lagoon. Views are of the mountains, oceans and incredible sunsets. The house is completely furnished and features two bedrooms plus a loft and is move-in ready. Did we mention this island also features a party shack, boathouse and swim dock. It  also boasts that it is spider and snake free due to its size and proximity to other islands. The only things you will find here are colorful exotic birds and a couple of local geckos. The only question here is why hasn’t someone snatched up this amazing island already?

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

2. Jewel Caye -Belize

This 2+ acre private island is currently on the market for $3.15 million. This pristine islands sits smack down in the midst of the azure waters of the Cockney Range Area. It is home to two master houses, one on each side of the island and each over 2,000 square feet. Both have lofts and tons of balcony space; perfect for family and friends. Two more duplexes and a total of three homes for crew are also located on this island. But that is not all. Along with plenty of space for visitors this island is home to a 120 foot pier that stretches out over the water and opens up to the main kitchen, bar and convening area. Step off the ladder into the clear waters that are loaded with visible coral, a snorkeler’s paradise. The island is also equipped with WiFi, satellite TV and electrical systems powered by solar panels. This island truly leaves no stone unturned.

Photo by: Private Islands Inc.
Photo by: Private Islands Inc.

1. Johnny’s Cay -Bahamas

This island paradise is 4.46 acres and can be yours for the price of just $5.95 million. It is also located just a seven minute boat ride away from all the conveniences of Hope Town. There are two houses already on this island, a main house that boasts an open concept layout with high ceilings, large windows and two bedrooms alongside a guest house with an extra two bedrooms for visitors. Two white sandy beaches provide ample room to stretch out and relax and enjoy the calm, deep and protected waters. A man built marina is already on-site, perfect for parking your boat. Ocean views, water sports and a private island to yourself, what more could anyone need.

Photo by: Joao Carlos Medau via Flickr
Photo by: Joao Carlos Medau via Flickr

The Best All-inclusive Caribbean Resorts for Kids

Planning a vacation to the Caribbean with the kids is always an adventure. With so many resorts out there promising the “perfect family getaway” it is often hard to sort out what is most important when looking at the vacations. Our choices below stand out in many factors including fabulous kid’s clubs, great beaches, accommodating rooms and suites, water parks and family concierge services. Although not all of the following choices have every single thing on our list; they all excel in brilliance when it comes to the kids enjoying the vacation just as much as you; the parents. Don’t worry we didn’t forget about you; with fabulous spas, trustworthy nannies and cell phones to keep in touch we have taken the worry away. Read on to discover our top choices for the best all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean for kids.

12. Franklyn D. Resort & Spa, Runaway Bay Jamaica

You won’t find luxurious suites, fine dining or an insanely large property to explore here; instead you will find a home away from home complete with a personal nanny for your entire stay. Welcome to the Franklyn D. Resort & Spa where the friendly atmosphere and staff are enough to make you want to come back. Along with the incredible nanny service that provides each family with a personal nanny or two which is included in your room price, this resort offers a great kids club, plenty of dining options and shallow water beaches for the whole family to enjoy.

Numerous water sports, bicycle rentals, shopping tours, glass bottom boat tours, snorkelling and much more is all included at this resort. Entertainment at night is always family friendly and you can count on the staff remembering your name all week long. Rooms include separate living quarters and kitchenettes that are stocked with crackers, cheese, sodas, juice and fruit that are replenished at no extra price. Discover why this resort is often ranked number one with families.

Photo by: Franklyn D. Resort
Photo by: Franklyn D. Resort

11. Azul Beach Hotel, Mexico

Our next kid-friendly all inclusive resort happens to be in Mexico’s mega resort district of Cancun but has more of a boutique hotel feel to it. The Azul Beach Hotel only has 148 rooms and manages to offer a wide variety of choice for families. From a traditional swim up room to a family suite with a separate bedroom to a fisher price theme room which includes toys and special invitations to activities; this resort can please anyone.

If you happen to forget a piece of baby equipment; have no fear as this resort has anything to loan you that you might need. Looking for amazing restaurants that are kid friendly? Look no further than the all-lobster menu for parents and the enticing kids menu to go with it. With plenty of choices you will never hear the little ones complain. With a separate kids club and teen area you can relax and know they are having fun. A breathtaking beach, a safe and clean environment and a quiet and relaxing resort is the perfect spot to spend your all inclusive vacation; perfect for both the kids and parents.

Photo by: Azul Beach by Karisma
Photo by: Azul Beach by Karisma

10. Dreams Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

A luxury resort where both kids and parents can let go of their worries and indulge in as much relaxation and fun as they crave; sums up our thoughts on Dreams Resort & Spa Punta Cana. Kids ages 3-12 will love the Explorer’s Club with its pirate ship waterslide, indoor game room, movies on the beach, splash fountain and weekly camping adventure. Your teens will enjoy their own space located right in the heart of the sports area of the resort with activities such as bonfires, snack bars, disco nights, batting cages and euro-bungee. Dining options are plentiful with burgers, seafood and pizza being the most popular among families. Or indulge in the 24-hour room service while the kids swim in the pool right outside the room.

Friendly, attentive and amazing are words often used to describe ALL the staff at this resort. From the energetic leaders in the kids clubs to the housekeeping staff that keep the rooms and grounds spotless; don’t be surprised to find yourself engaging in many conversations with them throughout your stay. Dreams Spa & Resort in Punta Cana delivers exceptional service, a beautiful atmosphere and enough activities and fun to keep the kids entertained for weeks.

dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock.com
dean bertoncelj / Shutterstock.com

9. Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, St. Lucia

Nestled in between the two emerald green volcanic peaks, in the rolling hills of St Lucia sits one of our top all inclusive resorts for kids. Sugar Beach not only boats a beautiful private beach but also a large grotto pool and private plunge pools. The Sugar Club offers younger kids the chance to explore the coves, mini-putt, learn about marine biology and much more with excellent supervision. The teen’s club ensures that the older ones never get bored with zip line excursions, windsurfing, sailing and snorkelling.

With a personalized butler to help you unpack all your bags and be of service throughout your vacation; there is simply nothing to worry about here. Kid’s menus, room service and menus that include pizza and hamburgers assure you won’t hear any complaints from the little ones in your family. Breathtaking spas for mom and dad while the children have the time of their lives in the kids clubs; it’s no wonder so many families choose Sugar Beach as their vacation destination.

Photo by: Sugar Beach by Viceroy
Photo by: Sugar Beach by Viceroy

8. Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda, Mexico

Tucked into a hidden private bay lies an oasis for families. The Paradisus Playa Del Carmen La Esmeralda in Mexico offers a luxury vacation for kids and parents alike. Swim up suites, exclusive family activities such as swimming and classes, camping, and themed night parties are just some of the reasons this resort is considered to be so family-friendly.

Stay in a two bedroom suite for extra privacy or take advantage of the family concierge experience in which luxury is taken to a new level with special treats such as a personal tour of the resort and a private pool. Kids will love the kids club which is open until 10pm and loaded with activities and excursions that are anything but boring offering crafts, treasure hunts, sports and campfires at night. Restaurants that open at 6am, bottled water in excess throughout the resort and superior customer service are small touches that will have you coming back year after year. Come discover this kid-friendly all inclusive paradise in Mexico.

Photo by: Melia Paradisus
Photo by: Melia Paradisus

7. Beaches, Turks and Caicos

If a 45,000 square foot water park coupled with a kids program that takes the tiniest newborns all the way up to teens isn’t enough to convince you that Beaches in Turks and Caicos is one of the best all-inclusive resorts for kids than read on. Watch as your kids slide down the waterslides or enjoy a soda at the swim up soda bar in Pirate Island Water Park. Let your tweens and teens have the independence they crave at the nightclub specifically designed with them in mind, or watch as they have a go at learning how to scratch vinyl records at the DJ academy.

Your younger ones will love the Sesame Street characters that can be found around the resort, as well as the train that runs through the resort. Stay in luxury at your choice of accommodation and dine at one of many restaurants designed with kids in mind. Enjoy the six pools, 2 kiddie pools, unlimited scuba diving and water sports, 2 huge waterslides and the excellent service Beaches is known for.

Photo by: Beaches, Turks and Caicos
Photo by: Beaches, Turks and Caicos

6. Coconut Bay Beach Resort and Spa, St. Lucia

Divided into two resorts; one for adults-only and one for families this is the perfect all-inclusive vacation. Families will want to book the Splash wing of the resort which offers colourful ocean facing rooms, a large water park, lazy river and paintball facility.  Toddlers will love the mini water park with water cannons, overflowing buckets and fountain sprayers. For the older kids watch and play along as they shoot down the waterslides or drift under waterfalls through the lazy river.

The Kidz Klub at this resort goes above and beyond in terms of fun. Besides a zip line, rock wall and pirate ship; kids are encouraged to take part in the animal rescue program and learn about St. Lucia through a variety of fun and educational activities. Mom and Dad are given complimentary local cell phones to keep in touch during the day. Family suites are available with connecting internal doors so multiple families or families with older kids can stay connected; yet have their own space. With many great restaurants to choose from, kayak and paddleboard lessons on site and beautiful beachfront to explore; it’s no wonder this resort is so popular with families.

Photo by: Coconut Bay Resort
Photo by: Coconut Bay Resort

5. Hard Rock Hotel, Dominican Republic

One of the largest resorts on this list, the Hard Rock Hotel in Punta Cana is also extremely kid-friendly. Family pools rocking age appropriate tunes and kids pools offering some pretty sweet waterslides are just the beginning. Possibly the best resort on the list for toddlers as it is known for its “Little Big Club”. Characters including Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina the Ballerina and Thomas the Tank Engine are all present and interactive here. Let the kids take part in helping them to prepare for their live shows or schedule to have breakfast with your little one’s favourite character. Play mini-golf with the family, hit the arcade or tackle the 5-meter climbing wall together.

Unwind in your 2 or 3-bedroom family suite where touches such as kid’s bath products, child-sized bathrobes and an Xbox 360 with a variety of games will not go unnoticed.   From exotic restaurants to 24-hour included room service we promise you will not go hungry and the kids will love it as they dash into the restaurants and the service staff know their names. Small extraordinary details and impeccable amenities makes this resort a must visit.

Punta Cana Dominican Republic

4.  Club Med’s Ixtapa resort, Mexico

Club Med is famous for its amazing resorts and it is no surprise to us that Club Med Ixtapa Resort makes this list. Catering to babies as young as 4 months all the way up to teenagers; the four separate programs really stand out as innovative and amazing. A restaurant dedicated to babies and their parents, a children’s only restaurant with activities throughout, a room dedicated to all of your baby’s needs as well as golf, Zumba, tennis, a teen spa, nature program, pajama club and children-only cooking program… Club Med Ixtapa offers all of the above and most of them at no extra charge!

We suggest splurging and booking one of the deluxe family rooms in the Iguana building. The most central location with adjoining comfortable rooms and a balcony overlooking the beautiful scenery sets the stage for a perfect vacation. From flying trapeze and circus school to tennis lessons, kayaking and beach volleyball the activities are endless for both kids and parents. With every restaurant being kid-friendly, high chairs available and exquisite menus; the resort truly has it all. If you are looking for the perfect place to relax, soak up the sun and give your kids the vacation of a lifetime; look no further than Club Med Ixtapa.

Photo by: Club Med Ixtapa Pacific
Photo by: Club Med Ixtapa Pacific

3. Beaches Negril Resort and Spa, Jamaica

Located on the famous 7-mile Beach sits an all-inclusive resort that practically screams kid-friendly. The first thing we must mention is the amazing water park that’s built right onto the beach. Pirate Island is loaded with water slides, kid-friendly pools, swim up soda bars, an ice-cream bar, shooting water fountains, a lazy river and so much more. Kid’s camps that operate from 9am-9pm are available for babies all the way to teens. With age appropriate activities including but not limited to treasure hunts, sandcastle building, snorkelling, sailing, swimming, pizza making and glass bottom boat rides; your kids will be begging go back each day. The teen’s program is quite exceptional and offers unique activities such as pizza bars, water sports, soda bars and a teen’s only nightclub.

From beachfront suites to family concierge suites you won’t find your family squished into a typical hotel room at this resort. From eating dinner on the beach to classic barbeque to exotic flavours; the food at Beaches won’t disappoint and certainly offers something for everyone. Discover the silky white sand, the turquoise waters and a resort that caters to families with kids of all ages.

Negril Jamaica

2. The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real Resort, Dominican Republic

A private beach, family concierge services, a pool with slides for the kids, an outstanding kids club and with more than half of the rooms being family suites; this resort is clearly made for families. We highly recommend booking the family concierge experience as it will make your vacation seamless. From the V.I.P check in to the luxurious family suites to the personal concierge who will remain in contact with you during your entire stay; you won’t have a worry in the world.

Your personal attendant will book your dinner reservations, take you to the your private beach area or children’s pool, be available to you 24/7 through the free mobile phones provided and leave special surprises for your kids throughout your stay. Mini bathrobes, slippers and personalized hats and t-shirts are just a bonus for the kids. Let them eat at the kids lounge and buffet, scale the climbing wall at Adventure Park and enjoy the nightly children’s magic shows, discos or movie nights. This large resort is filled with so many activities your kids won’t know what to choose first; but whatever they choose know that this vacation is one they will not forget.

Photo by: The Reserve Melia
Photo by: The Reserve Melia

1. Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

Though not really a true all-inclusive resort we couldn’t leave the famed Atlantis Resort off of this list. With its mythical and enchanting adventures coupled with the exotic experiences you won’t find anywhere else; Atlantis is a dream come true for any kid, or kid at heart. Home to one of the largest water-themed attractions in the world where you can take thrilling rides down water slides, race through the river filled with rapids, swim in one of 11 swimming pools or visit the kids water play fort.

Take the older kids for an adventure and snorkel the coral reef in search of stunning tropical fish, or feed the stingrays in the lagoon or perhaps you are brave enough to come face to face with sharks. Let the younger ones enjoy the action packed adventure camps where theater, outdoor play and marine life interactions are just a handful of the amazing activities to choose from. From affordable hotel rooms to luxurious suites, to elegant restaurants and beachside bars you can customize your vacation to meet any and all of your needs. Check out the dining packages which we suggest adding on as kids under 11 will eat free with you. An incredible experience in an unbelievable paradise; Atlantis is one place you’ll never forget.

Raul Rosa / Shutterstock.com
Raul Rosa / Shutterstock.com

Top 10 Destinations for a Caribbean Wedding

One of the best ways to have a perfect wedding is to make it a destination wedding. This allows the guests to enjoy a beautiful vacation along with the wedding, and it allows the bride and groom to get a head start on their honeymoon. There are many wonderful wedding destinations around the world, but there is no region that is more perfect for a wedding than the Caribbean. Here is a look at the top ten destinations to have a Caribbean wedding.

1. Antigua

Antigua is one of the most beautiful tropical islands in the world. For those looking to have an upper-crust wedding, this is the place to do it. It is home to some of the highest-end resorts in the Caribbean as well as many yacht clubs. There is room here for every price level, though. There are 365 beaches for visitors to choose from on Antigua, so the perfect beach wedding is a possibility for everyone who wants to get married here.

Caribbean Wedding - Antigua

2. Jamaica

Jamaica is set up for tourists, and it, consequently, has a huge range of resorts for beautiful, tropical weddings. The fabulous energy of the island will ensure that the wedding turns into a success.

Jamaica

3. The Bahamas

This is a Caribbean wedding spot that every couple can be happy with. With more than 700 islands for them to choose from, it will be possible for every couple to find the wedding spot of their dreams in the Bahamas.

Caribbean Wedding - The Bahamas

4. Barbados

Visitors will find Barbados to be one of the most welcoming islands in the Caribbean. That makes it the perfect place to host a wedding. There are also lots of wonderful honeymoon resorts located on the island, which means the couple can have their nuptials and get started on the honeymoon without delay.

Caribbean Wedding - Barbados

5. Grenada

The white and black sands of Grenada make the perfect setting for a beach wedding with barefoot guests sporting huge smiles on their faces. Grenada is a paradise full of beautiful beaches, amazing scuba diving locations and a completely unspoiled landscape. The island offers one of the best getaways in the world, and couples will start their marriage off in an amazing way when they are wed in Grenada.

Caribbean Weddings - Grenada

6. Aruba

Aruba has something to offer for every style of wedding. It is home to some of the fanciest resorts in the Caribbean, but they are located in one small area of the island. That means couples looking for a secluded beach wedding will have lots of places to choose from on the island.

Caribbean Weddings - Aruba

7. Puerto Rico

The island has fabulous beaches, great food and lots of resorts to make planning a wedding easy. This convenient location makes it easy for guests to come to this destination as well, which is a definite bonus.

Caribbean Weddings - Puerto Rico

8. Trinidad and Tobago

This is one of the most popular destinations for weddings in the Caribbean. It has quite a wedding industry built up and it is perhaps the easiest place legally to get married in the region. This country offers the best of both worlds. There are fancy resorts and an amazing nightlife, but there are also many secluded natural wonders to enjoy as well.

Caribbean Weddings - Trinidad and Tobago

9. Dominican Republic

Like Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic makes for a convenient destination for wedding guests to make the trip. It is also full of lots of great resorts and beautiful beaches to hold a wedding. The island offers many charms for honeymooners as well, including some fantastic beaches, warm people and fabulous parties.

Caribbean Weddings - Dominican Republic

10. St. Lucia

The island of St. Lucia is home to some of the most extravagant resorts in the Caribbean, and they love to cater to weddings. They have everything necessary to create the perfect storybook wedding that both the couple and the guests will remember for the rest of their lives. Just remember that this extravagance does not come cheap.

St. Lucia