• BOTTOMS UP...SIGNATURE VACATION DRINKS YOU HAVE TO TRY!

    BOTTOMS UP...SIGNATURE VACATION DRINKS YOU HAVE TO TRY!

  • Top 5 Caribbean Spas as Recommended by La Jolla Mom!

    Top 5 Caribbean Spas as Recommended by La Jolla Mom!

  • Must-do adventure vacations for the thrill-seekers in us all!

    Must-do adventure vacations for the thrill-seekers in us all!

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Must-Have Foods of The Caribbean & Mexico

Food. By definition, it’s nourishment that our bodies need in order to live and grow. But we all know, good food is (usually) SO much more than that. And especially when you’re headed on vacation, fabulous food can be the perfect indulgence that can really take your time off to the next level. So grab a pencil and paper (or just bookmark this article) and take notes. From island signatures that are pretty much a requirement to resort restaurant recommendations, we’ve got the low-down on all the must-try foods in the Caribbean & Mexico.

First, a few island flavors if you see on a menu (anywhere while on vacation), you should try: 

Mofongo in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is known for it’s spicy culture and cool vibes. And fitting right in with its distinguished reputation is a signature dish of Puerto Rico--mofongo. This plantain-based dish is relatively simple and easy to make, but a visit to Puerto Rico just wouldn’t be complete without giving it a try.

If you’re feeling ambitious and want try to sample the dish before your vacation, this how-to instructional video will give you step-by-step instructions on how to properly make Puerto Rican mofongo (hint: it’s really easy to make).

Conch Fritters in the Bahamas: 

You probably won’t be surprised when you see a ton of fresh seafood on the menu while on your beach vacation. Naturally you’re near the ocean, so you have access to the colorful, vibrant flavors that can only be found in the sea (for the record, we highly recommend ordering these options, when you have the chance). So when we recommend trying conch when in the Bahamas, that may not be news to you.

Photo credit: istolethetv, flickr

But the staple way to eat this delicious dish is in the form of a fritter (yum!), although you can eat the conch in many different types of ways (salads, ceviches, chowders, etc). If you want to get a true local flavor of this Bahamian food, consider venturing off of your resort to a local hideaway (we like Goldie’s Conch House in Nassau). You’ll have your choice of conch served many ways, but the tried and true way is an order of conch fritters, served with hot sauce and made with finely minced sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc.

And now for a few resort recommendations: 

Secrets The Vine in Cancun, Mexico:

The first on this list comes to us from the hotel zone of Cancun, Mexico. And while, that may not be your initial thought on where to go to eat delicious food in Mexico, we’re prepared to back up our claim. Secrets The Vine, most specifically, makes the top of food favorite list because of all the choices you have here. This 5-star, Unlimited-Luxury® resort is home to eight different restaurants with each exploring a different (and delicious) dining experience. You have everything from poolside grub inspired by Mediterranean flavors at Olio to a whirlwind fine dining experience at Bluewater Grill.

Best Food in Cancun - Secrets The Vine - CheapCaribbean.com

Not to mention, you’re welcome to take advantage of the Sip, Savor & See program, which allows you to dine at all of the sister properties, for a grand total of 25 different dining options.

Seven Stars Resort in Turks & Caicos:

If the ultimate luxury experience is a requirement for your ideal vacation, then Seven Stars Turks & Caicos is THE place for you. A long list of accolades that includes Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Resorts in the Caribbean and Trip Advisor’s Travel Choice Award means the food experience at this boutique 5-star resort is unforgettable.

Best Food in Turks & Caicos - Seven Stars Resort - CheapCaribbean.com

Picture this: You start your day with a mojito from Sand Dollar, the poolside bar. You then take a tip in the heated saltwater pool and catch some sun in a Caribbean lounger. Perhaps you stop off for a round of golf at the nearby Provo Golf & Country Club or hit the waves in a Hobie cat. You then begin your evening with tapas at the open-air bar and follow it up with a thick cut steak or fresh seafood dish from resort restaurant, Seven.

Breathless Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic: 

The final recommendation on our list is not only heavy on the dining options, but it’s packed full of things to do. Think of Breathless Punta Cana as the ultimate Vegas-style resort set right in the beautiful Dominican Republic. The chic, modern experience is perfect for your large group looking to party, but also accommodating to the couple looking for a romantic getaway. Either way, with the Unlimited Luxury® experience, you’ll have everything you need to live it up in the Caribbean.

Best Food in the Dominican Republic - Breathless Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

But we’re talking about food this week, so shouldn’t we get right down to it? Simply put, you’ll never go hungry. There’s 12 restaurants onsite, all with unique dining experiences. Enjoy a vibrant breakfast buffet with made to order omelets, eggs, pancakes, etc. Have lunch at one of the beachfront grills with anything from burgers to Mediterranean-inspired dishes. And dinner is even better. Start the evening with tapas by the pool and then choose from Silk City, Pan-Asian experience or Kibbeh, the Lebanese cuisine specialty. Oh, and an absolute MUST is dinner at Sofrito, the Latin Criollo experience. It’s a culturally authentic restaurant that will give you a good taste of something new and local to the DR.

While these aren't the ONLY food recommendations you'll want to know for your next Caribbean or Mexico vacation, they are definitely some beneficial ones. But we want to hear from you--tell us your foodie favorites in the comments below!

Brittany Innes is a travel junkie with a passion for food, trying new things and being spontaneous.

 

Stop Being Bored: 5 Picks for the Ultimate Family Vacay

Ah, summer. Who doesn’t idealize those three months as a kid when school is out, you have no responsibilities and you can just run free? I can safely say as school nears its release every year, I’m always just teeny bit jealous of the next few months of nothing that ensues for all the school-aged children. And while us “grown-ups” fondly reminisce of those days, the kids will most likely tell parents they’re battling boredom, and it’s a serious problem. So that’s why a family vacation just might be your saving grace this summer. Here are a few of our top picks for the best ultimate family vacations (complete with hotel recommendations).

Paradise Island, Bahamas

This is first on the list because it’s simply a no-brainer. Paradise Island is home to the mega-resort, Atlantis and is pretty much any child’s dream. From the 141-acre water park called Aquaventure (fully equipped with a 14-acre dolphin wonderland) to the 11 gigantic pools, the water activities here are endless. There are over 20 restaurant options to chose from and a long list of scheduled events for people of all ages. So whether you’re traveling with lots of little ones, a few kiddos of all ages or even traveling as a couple, the experience you’ll have on Paradise Island is unlike anything else.

Best Family Vacation - Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas - CheapCaribbean.com

Resort Pick: There are quite a few different towers that belong to the resort and you can’t go wrong with any of them, honestly. Choose from the Royal, Coral or Beach Towers depending on availability and price.

Budget Friendly Tip: Because Atlantis Paradise Island has SO much to offer its guests; price can fluctuate depending on seasonality. If you’re looking for an option that’s a bit more budget-friendly, but still has some of the amenities, you might consider Comfort Suites Paradise Island. It includes free breakfast and offers free use of all the Atlantis Resort facilities.

Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The family that adventures together has the best time together, right? Okay, that may not be exactly how the saying goes, but there’s definitely some truth to the statement. Regardless, Costa Rica is the perfect vacation spot for a family that wants to see and try new things. You’ll find a mix of monkeys and white sandy beaches at the Manuel Antonio National Park, or you can do an evening at the Arenal Observatory Lodge where you and the kids can catch the nightly show of lava running down from the crater. And of course, the Guanacaste region is infamous its beaches. You’ll be able to spend some quality time with the family lounging in the Costa Rican sun.

Best Family Vacation Destination - Riu Costa Rica - CheapCaribbean.com

Resort Pick: Riu Guanacaste - Although you’ll be busy exploring all of Costa Rica, this resort offers nightly entertainment, kids club options and 24-hour all-inclusive options to keep everyone happy.

Cancun, Mexico

Being that Cancun is one of the original beach vacation destinations, it’s perfect for families. There’s a long list of attractions that tourists any age will love. Although Cancun is a popular tourist destination, the beaches that call this coast home are some of the best. A simple afternoon spent posted up with buckets and shovels building a sandcastle (with cabana service catering to your every need) can be some of the best. But there are also natural adventure parks like Xel Ha or Xcaret; or the Cancun Interactive Aquarium is a big hit. Also, you might consider a day trip to Isla Mujeres for shopping or Cozumel for a different beach. Whatever you decide, Cancun won’t let you down.

Best Family Vacation Hotel - Dreams Sands Cancun - CheapCaribbean.com

Resort Pick: Dreams Sands Cancun Resort & Spa – Perhaps you’ll want to mark this down for your fall break vacation, because this BRAND-NEW resort is slated to open on September 1st. If the fact that this state-of-the-art resort is brand new and will be home to a long list of amenities doesn’t sell you, there’s a 650-foot stretch of pristine white beach on one side and the Nichupte Lagoon across the street with lots of fun water activities to enjoy.

Oranjested, Aruba

Aruba is what we’d like to call a cultural trip around the globe. Home to 80 different nationalities and a Euro-Caribbean influence that’s unlike anywhere else, Aruba is a great way to experience it all. The fam can enjoy white sand beaches, mountainous peaks and a dessert-like interior. Oh, and have no fear if you accidently get a little too much sun. Aruba is home to the Aruba Aloe Store. Founded in 1890, the Aruba Aloe Balm NV is a landmark spot where you can purchase an island specialty.

Best Family Vacation Destination - Aruba - CheapCaribbean.com

Resort Pick: Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino – This AAA Four Diamond award-winning resort has a little something for everyone. Kids can hang at the children’s pool, as well as the Kids Club. Mom and dad can take advantage of the Tierra Del Sol Golf & Country Club or have a night out at the Stellaris Casino.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

If there’s one thing you can expect from your family vacation in Punta Cana, it’s family friendly conveniences. That means pretty much every inch of your trip will be accommodating and memorable for your entire group. Some of our favorite things to do in Punta Cana include a beginner surf class at Macao Surf Camp (yes, there are kid-friendly classes), a zip line adventure on the Bavaro Runners tour and, of course, a day trip to Dolphin Island (because who doesn’t love a swim with a friendly dolphin). But don’t worry; when you’re not busy venturing out, Punta Cana is also home to white sand beaches and crystal clear waters so the beach bums of the family will surely enjoy.

Best Family Vacation - Now Larimar Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

Resort PickNow Larimar Punta Cana – 700 yards of pristine beach isn’t the only perk to this Unlimited Luxury® resort. Kids enjoy children’s pools and a ocean trampoline, while parents can take advantage of the spa. Then the whole gang can come together for dinner and some nightly entertainment.

So as the summer trucks along, it's probably in your best interest to plan a family vacation (and keep everyone sane). Let us know your favorite family vacation spots in the comments below!

Brittany Innes is a travel junkie with a passion for food, trying new things and being spontaneous.

Be American and Take a Vacation

Photo by Anita Ritenour

Fourth of July is one of the first official signs that summer is in full effect. It’s that time of year where kids are out of school, pool parties happen on the regular and everyone’s in good spirits - ready to enjoy the summer.  You’re probably busy making plans to celebrate our great country’s freedom and the last thing on your mind is taking any sort of vacation (that would just be so un-American, right?).

Well, in efforts to keep the patriotism alive after the holiday, we suggest a little R&R time on some of the country’s most stunning beaches. You may be surprised to find out that we’re talking about parts of the Caribbean. Yep, the Caribbean is home to a few U.S. territories that all have beautiful beaches, yet still embrace the essence of the Caribbean. And this Independence Day, we’re all about taking a visit to live out the American dream.

Cheap Vacations - Puerto Rico - CheapCaribbean.com

The first destination on this “Be American and Vacation” list is Puerto Rico. Home to vibrant culture, epic nightlife and stunning beach views; Puerto Rico is a no-brainer for a summer vacation spot. For example, the thrill-seeker can enjoy zip line tours in El Yunque, cave tours at Parque de las Cavernas, or the largest radio telescope in the world at Arecibo Observatory. If beach lounging is more your thing, enjoy beaches like Rincon (great for surfing) or Boquerón Beach, known for it’s incredible scenery & views.

And of course it goes without saying, the nightlife in Puerto Rico is unprecedented. While hot spots are scattered all along the island, the main attractions can be found in San Juan. With plenty of raging bars/clubs that flow into casinos, it’s perfect for the party animal in us all. If you’re still looking to get down, but prefer a little bit of a tamer vibe; be sure to check out Old San Juan. Stop in at Maria’s for her signature cocktail, La Nota or enjoy reggae at La Sombrilla Rosa. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll have a blast in Puerto Rico. Oh – and since you don’t need a passport to get here, it’s the perfect spot for your American vacation adventure.

In terms of where to stay, you can’t go wrong with places like El San Juan Resort & Casino for great nightlife, or Rincon Beach Resort to be within walking distance of killer surf spots.

Cheap Beach Vacations - USVI St. Thomas - CheapCaribbean.com

If the idea of a three vacations in one sounds right up your alley, then the next suggestion on our “Be American and Vacation” list is the United States Virgin Islands. Located not far from the coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the USVI is home to St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix. You can essentially enjoy three completely different vacation experiences all with short boat rides from island to island.

Each island has something unique to offer. St. John is the greenest island with two-thirds of the island being part of a National Park. It also makes for a great day adventure. St. Thomas is catered more towards the flow of tourists with luxury resorts and plenty of shopping. And then St. Croix is sort of a hidden gem with a mix of everything St. John and St. Thomas have to offer. We recommend a trip to an old sugar plantation while visiting, or an epic scuba diving adventure. Oh and don’t forget to stop in at the Cruzan Rum Distillery for a tour and taste of a signature island spirit.

And of course, this wouldn’t be a beach vacation recommendation without the beaches. The USVI is home to a hefty list of some of the world’s top-rated beaches. Stop in for a dip in Magen’s Bay (St. Thomas) in the Caribbean Sea or see what all the hype is about at Trunk Bay in St. John. Because Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, the preservation has kept this iconic strip home to pearly white sands, crystal clear waters and complete serenity.

When it comes to accommodations, a few of our choices include Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas or Westin St. John Resort & Villas in St. John.

So as you can see, there are plenty of great vacation spots to jet away to while still enjoying the patriotism that comes with being a part of this great nation. So today – have a safe, wonderful Fourth of July and be sure to celebrate what it means to have a nation of freedom for nearly 238 years (Happy Birthday America!). And once you get the itch to find a sunny spot on a beach, be sure to keep in mind these United States vacation destinations.

Are there any other US beach vacation spots in the Caribbean that didn’t make the list? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!

Brittany Innes is a travel junkie with a passion for food, trying new things and being spontaneous. 

How to Throw a Killer Beach-Themed Bash at Home

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Experiencing beach withdraws upon returning from your best beach vacay yet? Or, maybe you’ve booked your ocean getaway but it’s still a month away. Well, we’ve got just the solution! Party it up beach-style! Here is our easy guide to help you with the planning process.

Grilling

  1. Decide on your budget. There are ways to get around even the tightest of budgets, but the first step in planning your beach bash is deciding on a budget you're comfortable spending. Divide it into three categories (four if you plan on providing party favors): venue, food/drink and decorations.
  2. Create your guest list. Write down everyone you would ideally like to attend your event. Tip: A good rule of thumb is to expect 80% of your guest list.
  3. Select your venue. Now that you have an idea of the number of guests, it’s time to begin researching venues. If your budget is exceptionally tight, you may prefer to host it at home. For those with a little extra cash in their budget, we recommend a clubhouse, neighborhood pool, rec center, or even a beachy restaurant or bar.
  4. Send invites. Make sure to include date, time, location, contact info and dress code. If you plan on providing food options, requesting guests to RSVP is a good way to estimate how much you’ll need.

Tip: we recommend asking guests to bring their own beach towel.

  1. Plan your menu. Grab your shopping list and add your favs such as, popsicles, any fruits - especially watermelon & pineapple, hamburgers, hotdogs, any seafood, meat and veggies for kabobs, chips, Goldfish Crackers and Swedish Fish.
Photo Credit: Chickabug Blog

Photo Credit: Chickabug Blog

  1. Get decked out. Hit up your favorite party and dollar stores for fun beachy decor like pails and small shovels – great for your chips & Goldfish presentation, beach balls, flower leis, bug-repellent candles if outdoors, neon sunglasses, seashells, sand, drink umbrellas, etc. The list is endless!
  2. Plan fun games. For a beach-themed kid party, we recommend treasure hunts, sandcastle building contests, paddle ball, limbo, coconut bowling and musical beach towels. For adults we’ve got ladder golf, cornhole, Twister (hint: combine oversized white beach towels and draw colored circles to create a larger board for more to play), beach volleyball and limbo.

Paddle ball

  1. Setup the day of event. Grab your decorations, food and games and strategically arrange each at party venue

Tip: If you plan to play music, leave room for dancing space. Yep, our beach tunes playlist is just that good!

  1. Last minute checklist:
    1. Grab last-minute items, such as ice, cups, plates, napkins and silverware
    2. Identify designated grill master
    3. Music - Did you create a custom playlist for your beach partay? Check out our Beach Tunes Playlist for ideas. Or better yet, just push play at the start of the event! Beach Tunes Playlist
    4. Create schedule of events to ensure party runs smoothly and to lessen downtime.
  2. Have a blast!

We love a good beach party and want to know how yours turns out. So, please tweet us your beach bash pics or post them on Facebook. Also share any additional tips and suggestions in the comments below. Good luck planning your next rockin’ beach-party!

Christina Hohman is Manager of Social Media at CheapCaribbean.com. She enjoys playing soccer, patio hopping on sunny days and putting her toes in the sand.

Travel Tips: What to Expect at the Airport

Cheap Flights to the Caribbean - CheapCaribbean.com

Congratulations! You’ve just booked your first trip to the Caribbean. While you’re probably overly excited at the moment, you may also be wondering, “What happens next?”

Air travel can be tricky, especially if it’s your first time on a plane. You probably have a ton of questions about what goes down in an airport, but you may not be sure of where to look for answers. It’s ALWAYS better to be prepared, so we’ve gathered up a step-by-step list of what to expect at an airport.

  1. Pack Carefully - learn everything you need to know about packing for air travel (links to Packing for Air Travel article) before you head out to the airport.
  2. Timing Is Key – you won’t know where anything is, so give yourself plenty of time to make it from the airport parking lot, through long check-in and security lines, and to your gate on time. Nothing feels worse than missing your first flight.
  3. Keep Your Documentation On Hand – you’re going to be asked to present your passport and boarding pass multiple times, so you’ll need to find a way to keep them handy without risking losing them (a neck pouch usually does the trick).
  4. Head to the Check-In Desk – there are signs that guide you from the entry to your airline’s check-in area. But in case you need more detailed instructions of how to get to the check-in desk, feel free to ask attendants for help.
  5. Go Through Security – there’ll be plenty of signs to guide you along the process. Once you get to the screening machines, you’ll need to take your shoes and jacket off and place them in a plastic bin along with the plastic bags in which you’re carrying your 3-ounce liquids. If you have a laptop, you’ll need to place it in a bin by itself, outside of any case or carrying bag. Then you’ll place the bins on a conveyor belt so that they can be screened. An attendant will then ask you to step through the metal detector and once you’re cleared, you can pick your belongings up at the other end of the conveyor belt. There’ll be tables where you can place your bins if you need some time to get your shoes back on and put everything back where it belongs.
  6. Find Your Gate – look for your gate number on your boarding pass. If you can’t find it, just look for the electronic displays and find your flight and gate number there. Once you know your gate number, just follow the signs to get to your gate’s waiting area and then take a seat. Depending on how early you got to the airport, you might have to wait a while.
  7. Keep An Ear Out – important messages, like flight delays, will be announced over the PA system. Make sure you listen to what’s being said while you wait for your flight.
  8. Know Your Seat Number – once your flight is ready to board, a gate attendant will begin to call for boarding. Airlines usually board by row, so you’ll have to wait until your row is called. Once you’re in the plane, find your seat by checking the numbers above the rows.
  9. Know Where Your Carry-Ons Go – carry-on luggage can go in two places; large bags go in the overhead compartment and smaller bags go under the seat in front of you. Don’t close the overhead compartments, a flight attendant will come around and do that for you.
  10. Collect Your Checked Bags – once you land, exit the plane and follow signs leading you to baggage claim. Your flight number and departure city will be listed on electronic displays. Wait at the conveyor belt until you’ve collected your bags. If one is missing, talk to the airport staff.

Is there anything else you'd add to this list? Let us know in the comments below!

Roberto Jaimes is a Texas A&M graduate and a Web Content Editor at CheapCaribbean.com. Roberto can do a thing or two in Adobe Creative Suite and spends his free time watching/playing soccer and exploring Mexico and the Caribbean.