7 Beautiful Caribbean Island Destinations You’ve Never Heard Of

Looking to go on vacation? Dreaming of a warm destination with sandy beaches and bright sunshine? Instead of jetting off to Turks and Caicos or Aruba, check out these breath taking Carribean locations that don’t get nearly enough recognition for their beauty and vacation potential. Each boasting stunning beaches and palm trees swaying lazily in the warm tropical breeze, these islands will steal your heart and provide you with the relaxation and peace you need to rejuvenate after a long few months of work. Don’t forget your sunhat, sandals and bathing suit!

1. Saint Kitts and Nevis

Saint Kitts and Nevis is a two island country in the West Indes. It is the smallest sovereign state in the Western Hemisphere and takes only two hours to drive around the entire country. It is jam packed with history such as the Brimestone Hill Fortress built in the 1400’s and Romney Manor that is now filled with beautiful local souvenirs to bring home to your loved ones. You can stay at the local Timothy’s Beach Resort or play it safe by booking a room at the Marriott.

Photo By: Shutterfly
Photo By: Shutterstock

2. Guadeloupe

Made up of five insanely beautiful islands, Guadeloupe is a French country known for it’s well maintained islands, superior diving conditions and jaw dropping sunsets. It has one of France’s National Parks which is protected by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve and is classified as one of the top ten most beautiful bays in the world. With a combination of Creole and French cuisine, guests are never disappointed with their meals.  With an inter-island boat system, you can visit all five islands and stay at a beautiful hotel or two, like the Hotel Le Bois Joli or La Toubana Hotel.

Photo By: Shutterstock
Photo By: Shutterstock

3. Monserrat

Monserrat is one of the most under rated and unknown locations in the Caribbean for vacationers. Two thirds of the island was completely destroyed by a volcano which erupted from 1995-2004. With the portion of the island that is left, it is stunning, beautiful and filled with culture and life. Hotels are extremely well priced, and if you are curious to learn about the history of the volcano, with the permission of local police, you and a tour guide are able to go see the “Exclusion Zone” where the volcano erupted.

Photo By: Shutterstock
Photos By: Shutterstock

4. Dominica

Not to be mistaken with Dominican Republic, Dominica is a paradise all on it’s own. There is 750 square kilometres of stunning land that is waiting to be explored. Don’t miss Champagne Reef where you can snorkel and see beautiful kinds of fish. It is called the Champagne Reef because the water is bubbly, much like champagne! With Horseback riding on the beach and delicious local food made for you on the spot, Dominica cannot be missed! If your looking for a place to stay, check out the luxurious Rosalie Bay Resort. If you travel in between the months of March and October, you will be able to see baby turtles hatching on the black sand beaches.

Photo By: Shutterstock
Photos By: Shutterstock

5. Martinique

A mountainous and sandy island, Martinique is a French island filled with Bamboo Forests, Waterfalls, once in a life time snorkelling opportunities and so much more. Many of the locals prefer to rent out apartments instead of allowing massive hotels to be built on the beach. Because of this, Martinique helps you experience the Caribbean in a non-commercialized setting that will take your breath away.

Photos By: Shutterstock
Photos By: Shutterstock

6. Anguilla

Anguilla is the luxurious option for those wanting to spend a little extra on their relaxing vacation. Find yourself at a busy beach? Not to worry. Travel 15 minutes down the road and you’ll find yourself the only ones on the next beach. Locals here are extremely kind and welcoming to tourists and want to involve them in their day to day traditions and life. The best way to experience this island is by staying at a luxury resort, hitting up Venus Spa and getting a mixed drink at a local beach bar. This island will truly rejuvenate your body, mind and soul.

Photo By: Shutterstock

 

Photo By: Shutterstock

7. Grenada

Where to begin? Grenada is one stunning location that you will definitely want to put on your bucket list. Grenada is known for it’s vast farms that grown Nutmeg, and you can visit many historic sites that also produce Rum. Don’t forget to go on a jungle adventure to swim under waterfalls and then take a dive into the deep ocean to visit the Underwater Sculpture Park created by locals to assist with growing coral reefs. With a Sandals Resort on site, Grenada has everything you need for a vacation and so much more.

Photo By: Shutterstock
Photos By: Shutterstock

Island Hopping in the Caribbean: 10 Pristine Getaways

For the ultimate paradise experience, head to theses 10 pristine getaways filled with tropical wonders. In a world of underwater coral gardens teeming with marine wildlife and lush tropical rainforests, the islands of the Caribbean are some of the most cherished natural wonders in the world. In fact, vacationers travel from all corners to witness the clear, turquoise waters and scuba dive in the rare marine sanctuaries.

10. Guadaloupe

Set sail for a magical adventure in the tropics of Guadaloupe, a natural paradise filled with unforgettable activities like snorkeling the reefs, swimming with dolphins, and relaxing on white sandy beaches with a bright colored cocktail. With a minimum of tourism infrastructure, the large island is ideal for exploring pristine waterfalls and rivers in Basse-Terre, the mountainous western half and the smaller islands that float nearby in a stunning turquoise hued-sea. Other highlights can be found on the north coast at the Port D’Enfer and Pointe de la Grande Vigie with dramatic cliffs scattered across the dazzling aqua waters. Nature lovers can go on mountain treks through tropical jungles in Basse-Terre on a trail leading to the magnificent Cascade aux Ecrevisses on Route de la Traversee. And for an unforgettable scuba diving excursion, grab your gear and head to the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve, a protected underwater oasis.

Pointe de la Grande Vigie

9. Cuba

With Cuba’s vibrant cultural and history starting with the Spanish influence, get ready to enter a world of café con leches, vintage 1950s cars, and the cherished Buena Vista Social Club. Part of the Greater Antilles, Cuba is a perfect getaway spot for experiencing their distinctive cultural mecca of Havana and discovering some of the most untouched marine ecosystems in the world. For a scuba diving adventure of a lifetime, head to La Costa de las Piratas, an underwater sanctuary of 56 reef sites teeming with marine wildlife. Along the way, make a stop at the beachside town of Varadero to sample some Cuban cigars and drink rum with the sociable locals. All-inclusive hotels line the island’s most popular beach and could be a useful home base for afternoon water excursions.

cuba varadero

8. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

What sets St. Vincent and the Grenadines apart is its dramatic natural beauty and like many islands in the Caribbean, a great way to see the sights is by sailboat. You might recognize the white sandy beaches, waterfalls, and lush rainforests in scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean, which was filmed here. It also is home to Mick Jagger and David Bowie’s private islands outside of St. Vincent. With its jagged mountain terrain and La Soufriere volcano in the north, it’s a haven for eco-tours and nature trekkers. The hike up the 4,000-ft volcano is about a four-hour climb and along the way, you’ll pass through a series of diverse vegetation like tropical rainforests, coconut plantations, and a cloud forest with stunted growth.

Grenadines

7. Martinique

With its tropical flowers covering the countryside and lush mountain rainforests in the background, Martinique is a beautiful getaway that inspired the famous landscapes by French artist Paul Gaugin. To see the vibrant natural wonders up close, head to the Carbet Mountains on a scenic drive through the interior rainforest. The drive starts at Route de la Trace that follows an old path laid by the Jesuit priests in the 1700s. Scuba diving excursions are also popular, especially the graveyard of sunken ships off Saint-Pierre and the caves and tunnels off Rocher du Diamant. For the novice diver, a good place to get your fins wet are in the shallow coral gardens near Cap Enrage, a underwater habitat filled with tropical fish and sea turtles. The Main Hull, a sunken Canadian barge, is also an ideal spot for the beginner wreck diver.

Martinique

6. St. Lucia

When it comes to tropical island getaways, you can expect all the standards of paradise in St. Lucia, a small island in the Windwards and neighboring Martinique and St. Vincent. Get swept away in a natural wonderland filled with turquoise waters teeming with fish and corals, tropical rainforests, and unspoiled, white sand beaches. A good place to get into the island spirit is at Discovery, a high-end resort in the popular Marigot Bay. Flanked by lush, green hills, the bay is considered one of the most beautiful in the Caribbean and has been the setting of several films, including Firepower (1979) and Dr. Dolittle (1967). For stunning bay views and lounging poolside with cocktails, Discovery suites are nestled high in the hills overlooking the bustling marina. From here, you can take excursions to nearby coral sites for an afternoon of snorkeling.

St. Lucia

5. Barbados

With its beautiful beaches, clear turquoise waters and natural wonders abounding, the tiny island of Barbados encourages exploration, particularly along the coastline of Bathsheba, which is known for its massive rock formations and boulders scattered along the shore. Another popular eco-destination is Harrison’s Cave near St. Thomas, a spectacular labyrinth of hidden waterfalls and underground rivers. On the west coast, you’ll find pristine sandy beaches that are ideal for sunbathing under coconut and palm trees swaying in the breeze and with a coast lined with luxury resort hotels in the distance. The island is also full of colonial relics like St. Nicholas Abbey, a grand stone mansion built on a sugar plantation in the mid-17th century.

Harrison’s Cave

4. Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire

Just outside the Atlantic hurricane belt are the Dutch isles of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire, which are protected from storms by their strategic southern Caribbean location. In Aruba, you’ll find a mix of lively street scenes at the action-packed casinos and resorts lining the coast. Close by is the Arikok National Park, a change of pace with its natural tranquility and thriving wildlife. Meanwhile, over in Bonaire, the flamingo colony in southern Pekelmeer enjoys protected seclusion in between trips from Venezuela for nesting obligations. The isle also has several protected marine sanctuaries, making it one of the top scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean.

Bonaire, flamingo

3. Anguilla

Standing out among the beautiful islands of the French Antilles is Anquilla, a modern resort island that is cherished by vacationers for its bright turquoise waters that glow from the surrounding ancient coral base. All around the island you’ll find cays and coral reef sites for unforgettable scuba diving and snorkeling excursions. Back on the mainland are some of the Caribbean’s most luxurious resorts like the swanky Carimar Beach Club on Meads Bay Beach or Cap Jula lining the west end of the coastline. The flatlands of the interior are also ideal for a horseback ride through the tropics and the horse handlers at Seaside Stables are always ready to help you saddle up for a romantic sunset trail ride in paradise.

Anguilla

2. Virgin Islands

The jewel of the Virgin Islands is St. John and the Virgin Islands National Park is the major highlight, a tropical Eden filled with pristine natural beaches, verdant hillsides, and reef patches in Caneel Bay. The great thing about tiny islands is that you’re never far from a strip of coastline that invites afternoons of swimming and snorkeling year round. Day sailing is also a favorite activity and a great way to explore the waters and inlets surrounding the islands. Boats leave daily from Cruz Bay and venture out to offshore cays and snorkeling meccas. Back on the mainland are excellent wooded hiking trails like Reef Bay Trail and Lind Point Trail, which have impressive views of Cruz Bay.

Virgin Islands

1. Trinidad and Tobago

Situated in the southernmost part of the Caribbean chain, the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago is a fascinating getaway with its diverse natural habitats and thriving tourism infrastructure. The shorelines range from wild, hilly terrain carpeted with verdant foliage to calm, sandy beaches that encourage blissful seaside afternoons and tranquil sunset strolls. Tobago’s central forest preserve is also full of wildlife and exotic plants in the oldest protect rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. More lush rainforests dominate the northern landscape of Trinidad next door while peaceful waters lap onto the serene shorelines on the east coast.

Tobago

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

The Best Places to Travel in January

It’s January. The holiday season has passed. The snow is piling ever higher and a wicked wind blows out of the north, bringing with it polar vortexes and wind chill factors enough to freeze your face in a matter of minutes. The nights are long and the days are frigid, even if they are sunny. You need to escape…but where? Try one of these 8 locations on for size, traveler, and get your bags packed for some nicer weather.

8. Belize

Mexico is the giant of Central American tourism, offering both cheap resort tourism for snowbirds and spring breakers, offering up opportunities to explore jungles, ancient Aztec ruins and contemporary Mayan culture, but Belize has many of the same qualities, but with fewer tourists. Lying along the Caribbean Sea, Belize is quite a bit smaller than the neighboring countries of Mexico and Guatemala, both in terms of area and population. In recent years, Belize has become a popular alternative for those looking to escape the droves of tourists in Mexico. Although Belize can cost a little more, it offers opportunities for travelers to explore extensive coral reefs, jungle and wildlife reserves and Mayan ruins. Belize is home to the largest cave system in Central America, if you’re up for some subterranean adventure. January averages temperatures of 24°C (75°F) and is part of the dry season, meaning you can expect sunshine.

Belize 2

7. Costa Rica

Costa Rica has been something of an anomaly in Central America; it has been democratically stable whereas other countries have faced upheaval and dictatorships, and Costa Rica has been pushing a green agenda to take care of its natural resources. The country aims to become carbon-neutral by 2021 and has even been named the greenest country in the world. For that reason, Costa Rica has become Latin America’s go-to for ecotourism, with a special focus on green tourism. Costa Rica’s most famous natural landscape is the cloud forests, tropical rainforests formed in the heights of the Cordillera mountains that traverse the country, and it’s marine ecosystems as the country is bordered by both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The country comprises less than 1% of the world’s landmass, but contains 5% of its biodiversity. January is dry season and average temperatures are about 27°C.

Costa Rica

6. Aruba

Just 29 kilometers north of the coast of Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea, lies the island-nation of Aruba. Aruba is an interesting island: it forms part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and its citizens are Dutch. Aruba’s climate has helped its tourism industry as the island lies outside Hurricane Alley and experiences a dry climate, producing reliably warm, sunny weather year-round. The interior of the island features hilly terrain and desert-like scrublands dotted with cacti, while the south and western shores have white, sandy beaches that are relatively sheltered from the ocean. Although Aruba doesn’t celebrate its National Day until March, January 25 is the celebration of the birthday of Betico Croes, a proponent of Aruban independence and considered by some to be the “father” of Aruba as an independent state.

Aruba

5. Cyprus

Want to get further afield and go trans-Atlantic for January? Check out Cyprus. Located south of Turkey, Cyprus has the warmest winters—and indeed, the warmest climate—in the Mediterranean European Union. Snow is only possible in the Troodos mountains, while most coastal locations experience pleasant 16–17°C weather throughout January. It may not be beach weather, exactly, but it is certainly warmer than some climates—and with almost 200 sunshine hours for the month on average, Cyprus can be a reprieve from the long, dark nights of more northern locations. Cyprus has a rich history, stretching from Greek to Byzantine to Ottoman empires, and many traditions to explore. Music, art and cuisine are all integral experiences for visitors. Not looking to escape winter? The Troodos mountains provide a great skiing experience, an excellent alternative to the busy Alps of western Europe.

Cyprus

4. Grenada

The island of Grenada and six smaller islands, located at the southern end of the chain known as the Grenadines, form the country of Grenada. Another southern Caribbean destination, Grenada is known as the “Island of Spice,” because it is one of the world’s largest exporters of nutmeg and mace. The island is cooled by the trade winds during the dry season. Beach tourism is centered on the capital of St. George in the southwest, while Saint David and Saint John parishes have witnessed the growth of eco-conscious tourism in recent years. Grenada has many idyllic beaches along its coasts, the Grand Anse Beach in St. George, a 3-kilometer long strip of white, sandy beach, is considered one of the finest in the world. Another major natural attraction is the island’s abundance of waterfalls, including the Annandale Falls, Mt. Carmel and Seven Sisters.
Grand Anse Beach

3. Canary Islands

Although part of Spain, the Canary Islands have a much different climate than most of the country. Temperatures average about 20°C on most of the islands in the chain, and January generally sees relatively little precipitation. Santa Cruz is the wettest island at this time of year, receiving, on average, about 1.25 inches of rainfall. The Canary Islands have plenty to recommend them aside from sunshine and warm temperatures. La Palma is home to cloud forests, similar to the forests of Costa Rica. Most of the islands, including Tenerife and Gran Canaria, feature black sand beaches. Tenerife’s nightlife at Playa de las Americas is legendary. Tourism is a well-developed industry and the island’s function almost like a Caribbean getaway for most of Europe. Perhaps the best part is that getting here won’t cost much more than flying to some Caribbean destinations.

Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com
Alexander Tihonov / Shutterstock.com

2. Barbados

This island in the Lesser Antilles has earned itself a reputation as a more exclusive and chi-chi getaway in the southern Caribbean. This is somewhat true: trips to Barbados are usually more pricey compared to places like Mexico and Dominican Republic. The dry season runs from December to May, and gentle breezes keep the island’s temperatures more moderate than some of its neighbors. The western and south shores are popular for beach tourism, while surfers would do well to visit the Atlantic coast, where tumbling waves make for ideal surfing conditions. The country’s coral reefs provide ample opportunity for diving and snorkeling. Another popular activity is shopping, as there are several shopping districts in the south of the island, many of them offering duty-free shopping. Golf and helicopter rides are also popular tourist activities.

Bridgetown Barbados

1. Curacao

About 65 kilometers north of the Venezuelan coast, you’ll find the island of Curacao. Along with Saint Maarten and Aruba, the island is part of the Dutch Caribbean and forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Until 2010, it was known as the “island territory of Curacao,” one of five such territories in the former Netherlands Antilles. The island has a tropical Savannah climate and January marks the start of the dry season. The temperature hovers around 25°C and less than two inches of rain falls during the month. Curacao has been less reliant on tourism than other Caribbean islands, although it is popular with divers and snorkelers. Many coral reefs can be reached without a boat and the island’s southern coast features calm waters and numerous small beaches. If you’re looking for a less-frequented getaway, skip Aruba and spring for Curacao.

Curacao

 

8 Things to See and Do in St. Lucia

St. Lucia, with its varied topography, provides some stunning visuals. This Caribbean island is covered with lush tropical rainforests, possesses miles of white sand beaches, and has a coast line that ushers up volcanoes and volcanic rock masses that rise up into the sky. Altogether, the vistas create an awareness of the variability of nature. This small island has lots to offer in terms of activities, accommodation and points of interest.

8. The Pitons

No trip to St. Lucia would be complete without taking in the iconic Piton Mountains that shoot up from St. Lucia’s west coast. The towering Piton Mountains are the most photographed landmark on the island, and with good reason. Le Gros Piton and Le Petit Piton rise 798 and 743 meters, respectively and provide a stunning contrast in color, with their dark outlines cast against the green waters of the Caribbean Sea below. They are dark because they have been formed from lava and rock. These two twin peaks are connected via a ridgeway (they are actually located about four kilometers from each other). These volcanic spires are covered in lush tropical rainforests. For the adventurous, the Pitons can be climbed, but an ascent up this steep pitch is arduous and takes several hours in both directions. It is recommended that you hire a local guide. This land mass and some of the water area surrounding it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Pitons st lucia

7. Reduit Beach

On the western outskirts of Gros Islet, located along the shores of Rodney Bay, Reduit Beach is one of the most famous in St. Lucia. Many consider this to be one of the best on the island. Miles of white sand wrap around Rodney Bay, and provide for great swimming and watersports (equipment is available for rental at various spots up and down the beach). This beach is bordered by lush green vegetation, so shade is available if the sun is too strong. You won’t go hungry during your stay here. The beach is lined with restaurants and snack vendors. There are also picnic areas. Several of the better known hotels in St. Lucia are located within walking distance of Reduit Beach, so the beach is very popular with tourists.

Photo by: Dokodemo Door
Photo by: Dokodemo Door

6. Anse Chastenet

This expansive resort is one of the most famous on the island. Set amongst 600 acres of lush tropical vegetation that include not one but two white sand beaches.  Anse Chastenet is all about immersing yourself in the beauty afforded by the surrounding ecosystem, with fragrant flora and fauna, as well as an assortment of wildlife. There are traditional rooms and suites as well as rooms that are fashioned to connect with the stunning views, with wrap around balconies.  The hotel is set against two bays, which are actually a marine reserve that protects miles of vibrant coral reefs, where tropical fish are abundant and offers great snorkeling. This is also one of the best spots on the island to take in the full picturesque view of both of the Piton Mountains. Depending on whether or not you seek an active holiday, or something more sedate there is lots to do onsite, with a full service spa, yoga, tennis, scuba diving, snorkeling and sea kayaking.  It’s very popular with honeymooners, who in particular enjoy romantic candlelit dinners in their treehouse restaurants.

Photo by: Anse Chastenet
Photo by: Anse Chastenet

5. Castries

Castries is the capital of St. Lucia, and is its largest city, housing the bulk of the population. It’s popular with tourists on day trips and is a frequent port for cruise ships. The harbor was actually constructed within an extinct volcano.  Just south of Castries is Morne Fortune, which was one of the major battlegrounds where the French and British fought for control of St. Lucia. At the site today are the remains of Fort Charlotte, a military cemetery, and a museum; it’s also currently home to the Governor General.  Morne Fortune also provides one of the most panoramic views of Castries and surrounding areas.  Another hot spot in Castries is Derek Walcott Square (St. Lucian-born Walcott won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930).

ATGImages / Shutterstock.com
ATGImages / Shutterstock.com

4. Castries Market

Open for business since 1894, the Castries open air market is prime for people watching (and also getting a little shopping in at the same time). Located underneath a vibrant orange roof, the market has hundreds of vendors. Local producers sell spices, mangoes, cucumbers, fresh fish and meat, as well as a host of native Caribbean fruits and vegetables. Local women are dressed in traditional St. Lucian attire.  There are food vendors selling authentic dishes. There is an entire section with hand glazed pottery and woven gifts. Travelers take note: this market is hopping every day of the week- except Sunday, when it is closed.

Styve Reineck / Shutterstock.com
Styve Reineck / Shutterstock.com

3. Marigot Bay

Marigot Bay is located just south of Castries and is a popular home base for travelers wanting to visit various points on the island, because of its proximity to Soufriere and Rodney Bay. This area is small, with a handful of hotels and restaurants.  Boutique shopping is close by in the Marina Village. Close to Marigot Bay is the popular beach Anse Cochon, where shallow reefs make for great swimming and snorkeling (turtles, squid and octopus are often viewed). Marigot Bay may look familiar; it’s been the setting for films over the years- including the original Dr. Doolittle, starring Rex Harrison.

Marigot Bay st lucia

2. Sulphur Springs

Just south of Soufriere, Sulphur Springs is known as the world’s only “drive-in volcano”. Visitors can literally drive in to the crater of the Soufriere Volcano, with boiling water and mud on either side of the roadway. This volcano is dormant, with the last eruption having taken place in the late 18th century.  You can walk fairly close to the pools, with observation platforms taking you precariously close to the edge. Downstream is a series of hot spring pools, where guests can immerse themselves in hot spring and mud baths, which reportedly have therapeutic quality.

Sulpher Springs St Lucia

1. Pigeon Island National Park

St. Lucia’s first national park is a great place to explore- in part because of its beauty and in part because of its rich history.  Joined to the mainland by a causeway, this former island was apparently used as a hideout for St. Lucia’s first French settler, Jambe de Bois (Wooden Leg), who would lie in wait to pounce on and robe passing Spanish ships in the 16th century. There are artifacts, ruins, garrisons and barracks to explore and wander through, a nod to its military roots in the 18th century… For sun seekers, there are beaches with calm water to play in.

"Pigeon Island" by Mjr74 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.
Pigeon Island” by Mjr74Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

15 Underrated Destinations in North America & Caribbean

Let’s face it, some famous places are so famous, it’s impossible to enjoy them anymore. They have become time consuming forced marches through hordes of tourists that kill the charm or grace of even the greatest destinations. As a result, we’ve compiled a list of the most underrated destinations where travelers don’t have to worry about getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of tourist traffic and can take a moment to enjoy the scene. We’ve even likely named a few you’ve never heard of! Although, you better act quick because there are warnings to heed as some of these places are beginning to grow. The New York Times recently noted that the lovely, uncluttered island country of St. Vincent built a $250 million dollar airport with non-stop flights to cities on both sides of the Atlantic. And the largely untouched Yellowstone National Park is even breaking ground and building hotels! On the reverse end of all this construction, a positive trend is emerging, especially among young travelers, it involves an interest in sustainable tourism, away from the destructive environmental footprints of tourist culprits like huge cruise ships. So here is the list of places that deserve more lovin’, respect and interest than they’re getting.

15. Tulsa, Oklahoma

Beautifully set on the banks of the Arkansas River in the foothills of the Ozarks, Tulsa was the Oil Capital of the World after they hit the first gusher in 1901. The subject of many country songs, the old oil capital has now diversified into technology sectors. It has two highly regarded art museums, plus professional opera and ballet companies. Whether by luck or design, Tulsa’s impressive enclave of Art Deco buildings remained intact and oil money went to renovations and additions. They’re building a whole new waterfront with more museums to come including the Route 66 Experience in honor of the city’s legendary status of the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous highways.

Ffooter / Shutterstock.com
Ffooter / Shutterstock.com

14. Saint Kitts Island, Caribbean

­With its neighbor and sidekick Nevis known as the decadent playground of the idle rich, St. Kitts is looking to go up market from its usual cruise ship fare, as well at the price of some of its informality and unspoiled assets. Entrepreneurs with big plans for huge marinas, big name hotel chains and golf course builders are all passing through the new private jet terminal. A development called Kittitian Hill calls itself an innovative exercise in sustainable living with menus ‘foraged’ from land and sea. They claim Irie Fields is the world’s first edible golf course. ‘Instead of the usual shrubs and trees, you’ll find organic crops and trees bursting with fresh fruit. Smart water management and an abundance of crops will all serve to reduce the course’s environmental impact’. Built on a former marijuana farm, Irie is also an island word for being at peace. Obviously named by someone who has never golfed. But intriguing nonetheless.

St. Kitts

13. Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico

Taos hasn’t rated in the big time ski resort list, but it’s staking its claim. Its underdevelopment has been one of its many charms, but now previously inaccessible expert runs are being opened up, the most notable being Kachina Peak with an elevation of 12,500 feet. Snowmaking capacity has been enhanced. The base village is in the process of upgrades, though cranky traditionalists might call them downgrades. The town itself has maybe 7,000 permanent residents. It is a completely charming place with an artists’ colony and a strong native presence. The simple southwestern food is propelled to great heights by local green chili sauce and access to fresh Pacific seafood not far away. In between skiing seasons, it is a wonderful place for strenuous hiking and sightseeing. The great British author D.H. Lawrence spent some time here in the 1920’s, a testament to the presence of sights and sensibilities that stir the soul. The Times advises ‘visit while it’s still manageable’. Julia Roberts bought a spread here. Consider yourself warned.

Photo by: Kevin Muncie via Flickr
Photo by: Kevin Muncie via Flickr

12. Quebec City, Quebec

They have a brand spanking new arena and a down payment on a National Hockey League franchise to renew their bitter rivalry with Montreal which goes far beyond the ice. So visitors will just have to make do with the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s impeccably preserved 17th century Old Town, gourmet French and Quebecois cooking, alongside some fabulous skiing at Mont Ste Anne and kite-flying on the Plains of Abraham. The Marche de Vieux Port is a foodie flash mob every weekend. Visit Notre Dame de la Victoire, a church built to celebrate an audacious victory over the British in 1642. Have a drink at the bar in the old Chateau Frontenac and enjoy the sumptuous views of the lower St. Lawrence and the Ile d’Orleans. The Winter Carnival is the best and biggest on the continent and the summer music festival is worth a detour as well. The list goes on and on with more enchantment at every turn.

Quebec City

11. The Catskills, New York

As recently as 2012, travel media were writing the Catskill’s obituary. For half of the 20th century, the Catskills were called The Jewish Alps. The Borscht Belt referred to the food, the clientele and a whole genre of comedy. Superstars like Woody Allen, Joan Rivers and Mel Brooks honed their skills at the legendary Grossinger’s Hotel, entertaining the Jewish clientele who flocked to the resort when many others denied them entry. Now the resurrection is underway with chic boutique hotels, snappy restaurants with uber-style—it has decider Vogue Magazine’s blessing of the Phoenicia Diner and Woodstock Way’s luxurious cabins.

The CatSkills, NY

10. San José del Cabo, Mexico

San José is the more mature, refined sibling of Cabo (Cape) San Lucas. The beaches and ocean is the same, just the people on them are perhaps a bit older and a good deal less hung over. It is joining the ever-growing trend to having more environmentally responsible tourism with Flora Farms, a resort with an organic garden in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains. Try the Farm Julep made with fresh watermelon juice. There is also a level of sophistication to engage the mind as well as the liver. Smart boutique hotels, good restaurants and art galleries showcasing Mexico’s best. This place offers a satisfying all-round vacation with a different far more satisfying version of the all inclusive.

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

9. San Antonio, Texas

There is so much to see and do in America’s seventh-largest city, San Antonio. With over 20 million people visiting every year the tourist economy is booming. People flock to this city not only to remember Battle of the Alamo­, though they do that too, this famed battle site completely overshadows the city’s other UNESCO World Heritage Site, the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park with the ruins of four Spanish mission churches dating from the early to mid-nineteenth century. The River Walk is a must and recently grew 500% in length to a full 15 miles. It is celebrated in the country’s musical heart. The legendary blues player Robert Johnson recorded here. It is the “Guitar Town”, home of the great singer-songwriter Steve Earle and Lyle Lovett who sings of his love for his ‘San Antonio Girl”.

f11photo / Shutterstock.com
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

8. New Orleans, Louisiana

The year of 2015 is a somber milestone for New Orleans. A decade has passed since the devastation of Katrina. There will be memorials in honor of the victims, but also much pride to show how far the city and its people have bounced back. There are extra helpings of gumbo and jazz at the beautiful brand new venue of the People’s Health New Orleans Jazz Market which was built in dedication to the city’s greatest achievement: the creation of jazz. The South Market has got the resto/condo/boutique treatment, but the city’s unmistakable personality endures. In this time of reflection, go a little more native, beyond the cuisine clichés, a little couche-couche for breakfast, or try some comfort food like rice and beans and the aperitif called the official Cocktail of New Orleans, the Sazerac, named for the cognac that is its base.

Photo by: Bill Staney via Flickr
Photo by: Bill Staney via Flickr

7. Squamish, British Columbia

The city calls itself “where the oceans meet the mountains”. There is no outdoor adventure activity that can’t be found here – mountain biking, kayaking, white water rafting, wind and kite surfing. It is an acclaimed destination for rock-climbing on the 2000 foot Stawamus Chief mountain which towers 600m (almost 2000 ft) above Squamish, as the 2nd tallest hunk of freestanding granite in the world, after the Rock of Gibraltar. But the most recent addition to attract some of the millions who flock to nearby Whistler is the Sea to Sky Gondola that takes visitors up 3000 feet in 10 minutes to a separate network of high alpine trails to hike and snowshoe. The Gondolas website promises “breathtaking views of the mountains and ocean below”. That is a gross understatement. Each year Squamish plays host to one of North America’s largest convocations of bald eagles who hang out in Squamish during the winter.

Stawamus Chief Mountain

6. Campeche, México

Campeche has everything. It’s a UNESCO World heritage Site. Nearby Mayan ruins perhaps 3000 years old and jungle biosphere that is also declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Well preserved Spanish colonial architectures from the 17th century on, some of which have been turned into charming hotels. Not to mention the great seafood! Yet it remains relatively well-know bypassed perhaps for Yucatan’s hyper-popular beaches. The ruins of Calakmul, including the imposing five pyramids lie under the forest canopy teeming with monkeys and toucans. The Times seductively promises visitors “can experience a solitude unthinkable at tourist-clogged Maya sites like Chichén Itzá”.

Campeche Mexico

5. Cleveland, Ohio

Wait let me get my glasses. I thought it said Cleveland. It’s actually true! It’s no longer the ‘Mistake by the Lake’. The city has reconnected to the waterfront with the renovation of the warehouse district, The Gordon Square Arts district has a gaggle of spiffed up theaters – the stage kind. Waterfront warehouses are being transformed and the glassy geometric new home to the Museum of Contemporary Art is the height of sophistication. One wouldn’t expect the iconic symbol of Rust Belt decline to have miles of hiking and biking trails, but it does. And don’t forget the Hall of Fame. Go Cavs.

Cleveland Flats

4. Miami, Florida

South Beach has become the ultimate in North American chic. Loads of celebs, designer hotels and elegant restaurants. It is now larger and if at all possible, becoming more chic. They have hired Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas, two of the world’s greatest living architects, both winners of the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel Prize of architecture, so this will be something to see. Designer giant Tommy Hilfiger bought the historic Art Deco gem, the Raleigh Hotel which has been famous since it opened in 1940. Did you hear that? It was the sound of a lot of coin being dropped. When future archaeologists find the ruins, they will think it the Versailles of Florida Panhandle, the center of a society dedicated to above all, conspicuous over consumption.

Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com
Fotoluminate LLC / Shutterstock.com

3. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Caribbean

It is everything you could want in a Caribbean getaway. Superlatives like ‘idyllic’ and ‘unspoiled’ are often used. Divers love the coral reefs and Saint Margaret beach is one of the nicest on the planet. There’s not that much to actually do on the tiny country’s 32 islands, unless you’re one of the one per cent who have private islands and hidden mansions. There’s not that much riveting history, architecture of culture really, except for the one that preaches of blissful relaxation in an impossibly beautiful setting. However, they did shell out a quarter of a billion dollars for a new airport with nonstop flights to and from North America and Europe. Might be good to see it before everyone else does.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park is the oldest National Park in the United States dating back to 1872. A 500 room lodge is being modernized. A few ‘sustainable’ lodges are opening making the home of Old Faithful a more welcome destination to spend more time in. It is staggering to know that most of the world’s geysers are here. Within the confines of the duty to protect and preserve this treasure, the Park Service is partnering with local nonprofits to responsibly open up the venerable park for both accommodation and exploration. There are new hiking and biking trails. You can take your own snowmobile tour for the first time in over a decade. And veteran visitors swear it is even more spectacular in winter.

Yellowstone National Park

1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

No seriously. It’s a different way to build a city into a popular destination. Sure, there are famous things to see. The Liberty Bell, the Rocky statue on the Library steps.  But there’s not much of the ‘biggest this-’ or ‘oldest that-’. It’s more about creating a very engaging urban space. It’s a very livable, people-friendly functional urban space with European overtones. Which is saying a lot for a city whose previous contributions to American culture were cheese steaks and the most notorious sports fans in the country. There are free yoga classes on the Race Street Pier in the home of hockey’s Broad Street Bullies. Fairmount Park is the largest city park in the United States, bigger even than Central Park, and very runner/rollerblader/cycler friendly. It must be said pockets of shameful poverty remain. But cities in the world without a regrettable blemish are rare. A civilized city to savor.

Philadelphia Pennsylvania

8 Tips for Traveling During Hurricane Season

Just because hurricane season is in full swing doesn’t mean that you need to shy away from some tropical destinations that are more frequently hit by hurricanes. It does, however, mean that you need to travel a little more wisely, take precautions and use good travel sense.

1. ‘Tis the Season

Officially, hurricane season extends from the beginning of June to the end of November in the Atlantic and from mid-May to the end of November in the Eastern Pacific. Historically, the season ramps up from mid-August until October, with most of the major storms hitting through the month of September.

Hurricane Season

2. Proactive Travel

Maybe you’re traveling for business, or are taking advantage of discounted travel prices during Hurricane season for a holiday. If you are traveling to a coastal area, or an area that is known to be struck by hurricanes, be proactive. U.S. nationals can subscribe to STEP (Smart Traveler Enrolment Program) which will get you in touch with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate to make them aware of your presence in the area. Canadians should register in the Registration of Canadians Abroad. What this will do is provide your family with an avenue through which to contact you in the case of a weather emergency, as well as put you quickly in touch with agency help should you need to evacuate or require other assistance prior to or during a hurricane. Registration in these programs will subscribe you to text and email weather alerts. Getting a Red Cross app on your smartphone will link you into weather alerts as well.

Check the Weather

3. Travel Insurance

Admittedly, traveling during hurricane season carries with it certain additional risks, and travel insurance is a good way of mitigating some of the financial risks. Before you go, make sure your insurance covers trip interruption and trip cancellation. Usually, a comprehensive plan is the best way to go, but make sure you read the fine print around weather, acts of nature and catastrophic events. Also, make sure you’ve got medical coverage- either through your health care plan or through additional travel insurance. Don’t wait until you are traveling and the weather forecast is gloomy. You most likely won’t be able to get coverage at that point.

Travel Insurance

4. The Smart Carry-On

Travel delays are a common headache for any traveler, but if you’re traveling during a season where weather can be more forceful and more unpredictable, the likelihood of flight delays and losing your luggage increases. Reduce this stress by packing a quality carry-on with all of the necessities you might need for a couple of days to enjoy your vacation or to attend your meetings.

Carry On Travel Bag

5. Consider your Destination

You can score some sweet travel deals during hurricane season, but make an informed decision through a little background research. There are areas that are frequently hit, and those that are vulnerable with a chance of very stormy weather. If you’re heading to the Caribbean, for instance, statistically the islands in the southern part are less affected. Don’t overlook the impact of an indirect hit from a hurricane either. Even if you are inland, you may still be subjected to heavy rain and high winds, which sort of puts a literal damper on your day at the amusement park or golf course.

Typing

6. Refunds?

Check with your hotel before you go on what their hurricane policies are. Some offer refunds, but most hotels will offer guests a credit or a discount to come back and stay at a later date. Airlines typically will allow you to change your flight plans without penalty. If you get stuck at an airport between connections, ask hotels for a discount; they will often comply under these circumstances. Cruise ships are a little different, because their itineraries are a little more dynamic and they are often able to steer themselves around storms.

american money

7. Extra packing

In addition to your usual packing, you’d be well-advised to pack a few extra items: a travel first aid kit, a battery operated radio and a flashlight for starters. With your travel documents, compile the necessary numbers and contact info you’ll need to get help and process claims, like agency phone numbers, government contacts and insurance policy numbers.

Extra Packing

8. When you Arrive

Make sure you know what their hurricane procedures are, in case any bad weather comes your way. Familiarize yourself with evacuation routes and policies and inquire about any other necessary details from hotel staff that you might need during your stay. Getting caught in a weather emergency can be stressful, but having a detailed plan ahead of time can help reduce the panic.

Talk to Hotel Staff

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 Things to See and Do in Honduras

Honduras has long since been known for its violence and tends not to be at the top of people’s vacation destinations but not everywhere in this wonderful country is dangerous. By taking a little extra precaution and staying away from the bigger cities, visitors can explore the breathtaking landscapes, swim in stunningly clear waters and be privy to exceptional wildlife. From raging white water rafting to serene lakes with hundreds of species of birds to turquoise waters teeming with marine life; there is truly an experience for everyone here. Discover 10 of our favorite things to see and do in the country of Honduras.

10. Visit Parque Nacional Cusuco

It may be the hardest place to reach on this list but the scenery and wildlife in the Parque Nacional Cusuco is worth all the trouble it takes you to get there. Local guides can be hired at the visitor’s center and it is recommended you do so, as they have a wealth of information about the forest and wildlife. There are five different hiking trails that lead from the visitor’s center, two of which lead to waterfalls and swimming holes. The wildlife in the park includes parrots, toucans, and a large population of quetzals; famed to be the loveliest of all tropical birds which are on the brink of extinction. Hikes will also take you to the famous midget cloud forest and introduce you to a variety of frogs and reptiles. Camping is possible right at the visitor’s center and provides early morning wildlife sightings, which are often the best.

Photo by: Joe Townsend
Photo by: Joe Townsend via Flickr

9. Bird at Lago de Yojoa

It is the largest natural lake in Honduras, largely underdeveloped, ringed by tropical forest and over 400 species of birds call this lake and the surrounding area home. Lake tours are the most popular way to see the hundreds of species of birds where experienced guides can take you to the best vantage points. The tranquil waters make it an ideal place to fish or sail, while drinking in the dramatic scenery that surrounds you. Although it is largely still a well-kept secret, there are a number of impressive hotels that have popped up along the lake to stay at. One of the favorite places to stay here is the microbrewery that produces four or five new beers each week. Other activities other than birding include hiking in the mountains, tubing, zip lining and visiting the butterfly farm. Lake Yojoa, Honudras

8. Whitewater raft down the Rio Cangrejal

If you feel like a thrilling adventure, white water rafting down one of the most challenging rivers in Central America is sure to get your heart pumping. From September to January is the best time to raft this river and visitors should expect to raft up to 20 miles of rapids that range from Class 2 to Class 6. Huge drop offs that come out of nowhere, narrow dark passages and mazes of boulders are just normal on this adventure. Count on being surrounded by wildlife including howler monkeys, bright colorful butterflies, jumping fish and many species of birds. Many companies offer half-day shorter trips for less experienced paddlers but still count on it being an exciting ride. Water levels can fluctuate heavily throughout the year so make sure to do your research before you go.

Barna Tanko / Shutterstock.com
Barna Tanko / Shutterstock.com

7. Dive the Waters of Roatan

Thick green forests, white sandy beaches and sparkling blue waters await visitors to Roatan. Unknown to many, this island is a hotspot for divers and snorkelers. The entire island is surrounded by a shallow reef, making it perfect for both beginners and experienced divers. It features thousands of marine animals, many drop offs and canyons, and the Caribbean’s largest variety of coral and sponges. It is easy to get your dive certification here for beginners as native English speaking instructors tend to flock to this island. If diving isn’t your thing, snorkeling is excellent anywhere around the water. For dolphin lovers, head over to Anthony’s Key Resort where you can play and swim with well trained dolphins. Plenty of accommodation choices, marine rich waters and white sandy beaches set the stage for the perfect island getaway. Diving Roatan, Honduras

6. Explore Pico Bonito National Park

It is one of Honduras best known National Parks and features abundant wildlife that enthrall and excite visitors. The landscape here is diverse, ranging from a low tropical rain forest to a high elevation cloud forest to extremely dry forests on the backside of the park. What this means for visitors is a wealth of animals, waterfalls and breathtaking views. The Lodge at El Pino is the most protected area of the entire park, as this privately owned area employs security to ensure laws are followed and that no hunting occurs. This small luxury eco-lodge is on 400 acres with private trails, lookout towers, roaring rivers and the most wildlife in one place. Here visitors are encouraged to hike through the rain forest with a guide, white water raft down the rivers, boat through a manatee reserve and snorkel the clear waters. This is truly a gem not to be missed.

Photo by: Denis Fournier via Flickr
Photo by: Denis Fournier via Flickr

5. Shop at Mercado Guamilito

Get your bargaining skills ready before heading out to shop at Mercado Guamilito, one of the best places to shop in Honduras where everything you could ever want can be found at rock bottom prices. Handicrafts are the specialty at this market including paintings, pottery, hammocks, wood carvings and leather goods, just to name a few. Open year round the market is made up of hundreds of stalls including delicious local food and exotic flowers for sale. Bargaining is a way of life in this country and it pays to work on your skills before heading here as most vendors will try and charge foreigners a higher price. A little Spanish, polite manners and a big smile will go a long way with these locals. Leather is a popular commodity here and expect to pay significantly less than you would at home. Make sure you take the time to explore the whole market, including the food for an authentic Honduras experience.

Street Market

4. Escape to Cayos Cochinos

This group of two small islands and 11 smaller coral cays boast some of the best diving, snorkeling and beaches in all of Honduras. Many visitors choose to escape to Cayos Cochinos as it is located just a short boat trip away from La Ceiba, Nueva Armenia, or Sambo Creek, making it the perfect one day getaway. Large white sandy beaches coupled with sparkling turquoise waters is what you will find here at this exquisite protected nature reserve. There are several companies that offer daily snorkel or dive trips and many that offer multi-day trips with lodging in one of the few hotels. Sea kayaking, snorkeling, soaking up the sun, visits to the tiny villages and a step back in time is what awaits you here. If you are looking for the ultimate relaxation and don’t mind the lack of amenities (electricity and running water are non-existent in many places); the Cayos Cochinos is the perfect getaway.

Photo by: fabulousfabs via Flickr
Photo by: fabulousfabs via Flickr

3. Visit the Copan Ruins

Copan was once one of the great centers of Mayan civilization nearly a thousand years ago and today the beautiful remains have some of the most impressive pre-Columbian art. The ruins are located just outside the modern yet charming town of Copan Ruinas; and can be reached by foot or bus. Visitors should expect extremely extensive ruins with some of the most well preserved hieroglyphics. Along with the ruins is an excellent museum that features Mayan artifacts and a reconstructed temple. Included in your admission is access to Las Sepulturas, ruins that are believed to be the remains of the “Beverly Hills” of Copan. This is where the upper class of Copan lived and their houses were built and decorated accordingly so, this is still evident in the carvings and details found on the ruins. Tombs and burial sites are also found here and it pays to take along a guide who can explain the history and what has been found. Copan, Honduras

2. Dive at Utila

The island of Utila is known all over the backpacking world as the cheapest and best place to learn how to dive in all of Latin America. It also happens to be home to plenty of whale sharks year round, but especially plentiful in the months of March and April. The island itself is tiny and a little rough around the edges, with the entire population living in one settlement. But what visitors come here for are the reefs and the incredible diving. Whale sharks are the world’s largest fish and around Utila tend to be about 20-35 feet and weigh around 20 tons. They tend to travel by themselves as opposed to in a pod but many singular whale sharks are found at one time around the island. The warm waters and clear visibility along with colorful reefs, turtles, dolphins, schools of fish and rays make this the perfect destination to get underwater. Whale Sharks -Honduras

1. Visit the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve

This amazing reserve encompasses over 5,200 square kilometers of tropical rain forest, complete with over 39 species of mammal, 377 species of bird and 126 reptiles and amphibians, as well as over 2,000 indigenous people. Visiting here is like stepping into another world and getting here can be tricky as there are no roads that lead directly here so you must either take a flight, boat or join with a tour. What visitors can expect is dugout canoe trips up the river, spotting of rare and endangered wildlife and amazing hikes through the jungle. Stay with a local family, use the local tour operators and see how eco-tourism works at its best. This reserve also happens to be home to the site of Ciudad Blanca (White City), one of the most important archaeological sites of Mayan civilization. Unfortunately visitors are not granted access to this site yet as it was just discovered and is heavily guarded.

Photo by: Rainforest Alliance
Photo by: Rainforest Alliance

The 10 Best Scuba Diving Locations in the World

There is no better way to explore the underwater world of marine animals, shipwrecks, fascinating coral towers, limestone formations and schools of colorful fish than scuba diving. Whether you are a beginner or an expert with decades of experience, the amazing underwater world you can discover around the planet is absolutely mind-blowing. From hammerhead sharks to manta rays to ancient cenotes; these 10 locations around the world are the best of the best.

10. Cozumel, Mexico

Divers will certainly have their choice of dive operators on this island as there are more than 100 offering everything from deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, and underwater photography dives. This world-class diving site offers everything from swim throughs to tunnels to walls of coral to cenotes to sharks to rays. It is best to dive here in the summer when the water temperature is warmer and the hotel prices are cheaper. Cozumel is also known for its incredible visibility and deep dives. Divers can expect up to 100 feet of visibility. There are plenty of dives both for the beginner and advanced but visitors should be aware that the current can be especially strong in some sites and diving experience is recommend for these. With the 600-mile long Maya Reef that stretches from Cozumel to Central America, and boasts an abundance of colorful fish and coral, it is easy to see why Cozumel is a premier diving spot.

Cozumel, Mexico

9. Hawaii, U.S.A

This Pacific paradise attracts divers from all over the world, both beginners and experienced. The remoteness of Hawaii means fewer fish species than waters like the Caribbean, but offers the chance to discover marine life found nowhere else on earth. One of the most popular dives in the world occurs off the island of Kona, the manta ray night dive. Divers descend into the darkness while giant manta rays swim overhead, most describe it is as truly magical. Diving off Lana’I is popular amongst those looking to discover new fish and rare invertebrates while Moloka’i offers divers the chance to catch a glimpse of the rare Hawaiian monk seal and hammerhead sharks. Kaua’i is home to an abundance of collapsed lava tubes and huge green sea turtles that aren’t afraid to get their pictures taken. Divers who are in the water from December to April may be able to hear the song of the humpback whales as they migrate through these waters.

Kauai Sea Turtle

8. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

The Great Barrier Reef is so large that one can actually see it from space and has been known over the years for being one of the world’s most premier diving spots. It stretches 1,430 miles along Australia’s northeastern coast and offers over 4,000 separate reefs, cays and islands. It could truly take more than a lifetime to explore this entire reef which features over 1,500 species of fish and shipwrecks. It is the world’s largest and healthiest coral reef system that teams with biodiversity and an array of species you won’t find anywhere else. Divers here will come face to face with large sea turtles, reef sharks, sea snakes, barracudas and dolphins. The size and variety of this reef makes it perfect for any type of diver and visitors won’t be hard pressed to find an operator in one of the many seaside towns.

Great Barrier Reef

7. The French Polynesian Islands

It has long been known as a destination for honeymooners and other species of lovebirds, but besides the gorgeous white sand beaches over the water bungalows and framed palm trees lays a world to discover under the water. There are over 118 islands and atolls throughout this vast area and with 11 of them offering diving centers; it is easy to be overwhelmed with choices on where to dive. Fortunately there is an array of varied dives, from the shallow lagoons for beginners to the drop-offs and passes for the advanced divers. Moorea Island is also known as ‘Shark World’ and is famous for its hand-fed shark and stingray dives. The atoll Rangiroa is also known for both its calm lagoon that teems with marine life and it’s thrilling passes that feature sharks, big fish species and turtles. These waters explode with colorful coral, fish, sharks and other marine species that proudly show themselves off. No matter where you dive, this promises to be unforgettable.

Diving French Polynesia

6. Roatan and The Bay Islands, Honduras

This popular diving spot has been attracting divers for decades as it feature amazing shipwrecks and endless colorful coral. It is here that the world’s second largest barrier reef is located and divers will be privy to swimming with eagle rays, schools of colorful fish and the all mighty whale sharks. Utila is where divers will head if they want to swim with these majestic creatures and it is one of the only places year round that the whale sharks can be seen. This destination is inclusive for all levels of divers and whether you are just getting your feet wet, or you have been diving for years, there is an experience here for you unlike anywhere else in the world.

Whale Sharks -Honduras

5. Malaysia

It is blessed with some of the richest waters and diving here offers experiences unlike any other in the world. Sipadan, the little island off the east coast of Borneo is what most divers come to experience. It lies in one of the richest marine habitats in the world and boasts an extremely high number of turtles, grey and whitetip reef sharks, and large schools of bumphead parrotfish, barracuda and trevally. Layang-Layang is another reason to dive in these waters as this little speck of an atoll is fringed by some of the best coral fields in the world along with its huge schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks. Where you want to dive and what you want to see will determine the best time of year to visit these waters as different seasons bring different water conditions.

Diving in Sipadan

4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

It is where Charles Darwin came up with his theory of evolution, a place where countless mammals, reptiles and birds thrive and its waters are some of the most pristine areas left to dive in this world. These waters work best for experienced divers as currents are strong and conditions are often choppy. The tiny Darwin Island is an excellent choice for divers as the waters are full of fur seals, sea lions, whales, marine turtles, marine iguanas and schools of sharks. Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos is home to penguins that shoot by you, sea lions, sea turtles, and a challenging underwater volcano that is swarming with Galapagos sharks, along with schools of hammerheads and barracudas. July to November is when divers choose to head here as the sharks tend to be the most active and plentiful. These waters deserve at least two weeks to explore and promise to surprise you at every twist and turn.

Diving Galapgos Islands

3. Turks and Caicos

It boasts some of the clearest water in the world and with so many islands that are uninhabited; it makes for a perfect place to escape the crowds of the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is not only known for its brilliant turquoise water but also for its incredible wall diving. It is here you will dive into the world’s third largest coral reef system and find drops that plunge hundreds of feet into the deep. The Columbus Passage, a 35-kilometer channel that separates the Turks Islands from the Caicos Islands is a water highway for migrating fish, rays, turtles, dolphins and Humpback whales from January through March. With incredibly calm waters and an abundance of marine life, every dive here promises to be thrilling.

Turks and Caicos

2. Belize

Belize is most widely known for its famous dive spot the Blue Hole, an underwater sinkhole that descends over 400 feet. To dive the Blue Hole it is recommend that you are an experienced diver and you are well prepared for this magical experience. The Blue Hole doesn’t teem with colorful fish or coral; in fact the only marine life you might see deep in the depths of this hole is a hammerhead or reef shark. Instead you will dive into an ancient geographical phenomena complete with an array of limestone formations and bizarre stalactites. If you want colorful fish and coral, Belize offers plenty of that along the reef and is home to many species of sharks, rays, barracudas and many species of fish. Belize is known as a destination for the more adventurous divers and you will certainly benefit if you have some experience under your belt before you travel to this country.

Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com
Pete Niesen / Shutterstock.com

1. The Red Sea, Egypt

For many people, Egypt is known for its incredible above the water attractions and although one should not discount the ancient monuments and pyramids, it is below the water that is the real jewel of the country. Divers here are privy to hundreds of miles of coral, millions of fish, warm water, great visibility, sheltered reefs, walls, coral gardens and wrecks. This destination is also known for having an excellent availability of instructors which makes the Red Sea a perfect spot for learning how to dive. Drift dives are quite common in the Red Sea due to currents as are night dives amongst towering coral and schools of fish. Whale sharks, moray eels, barracudas and tuna are all spotted throughout these waters. The warm water temperature year round makes diving here at anytime an unforgettable experience.

Diving Red Sea, Egypt