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10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic Facts & Information - CheapCaribbean.com

When we think of the beach, we think of the obvious: sandy shores, crystal clear waters, and an oasis to escape to when the tough needs to get going. And although the above statement couldn’t be truer, there’s a whole lot more to that little Caribbean destination you’re busy making plans to visit. So this week, we’re taking a deep dive to learn more about the history & culture of our favorite islands. Let’s start with the Dominican Republic. Here are 11 things you may not know about the DR:

1. The Dominican Republic takes up 18,705 square miles and also has 30,000 square miles in surrounding islands. It’s home to almost 8.5 million people.

Best Caribbean Destination - Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

2. The Dominican Republic is on the island Hispaniola, which splits the DR & Haiti. Hispaniola is the second largest island in the Caribbean, next to Cuba.

3. The capital of the Dominican Republic is Santo Domingo; and it’s the oldest permanent settlement in the Western hemisphere. Christopher Columbus’s brother, Bartholomew Columbus, settled in the city in 1496. His intention was to use the island as a place to launch attacks on America, and Santo Domingo served as the headquarters for Spanish power in the Western hemisphere.

Catedral de Santa Maria La Menor, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - CheapCaribbean.com

4. The oldest cathedral in the Americas can be found here. Catedral de Santa Maria La Menor was built in 1514 and celebrated it’s 500th anniversary this year.

5. The island is home to a long list of signature dishes. Two of the most popular are La Bandera, which is made with meat, rice, and red beans; and Mangú, which are boiled, green plantains mashed and topped with sautéed red onions.

6. Baseball is the country’s national sport and quite a few famous MLB baseball players come from the Dominican Republic.

7. The official beer of the Dominican Republic is Presidente.

Visit Dominican Republic with Cheapcaribbean.com and try a Presidente

8. One of the most common island spirits is called Mamajuana. It’s a combination of rum, red wine, tree bark, spices and herbs.

9. The Dominican Republic is the only place in the world where you can find the blue, semi-precious stone, larimar. It closely resembles turquoise.

10. Next to the beautiful beaches, lush tropics, and vibrant culture, the Dominican Republic is home to 20+ golf courses that boast beautiful views and great courses. Golfers travel from all over the world to play a round here.

Best Golf Courses in the Caribbean - Dominican Republic - CheapCaribbean.com

And there you have it. As you can see, there's plenty to learn and discover in the Dominican Republic. Oh, and make sure to take advantage of our best Dominican Republic deals here.

The Beach Travel Tips That Promise a Near-Perfect Vacation

Marriott Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Beach ResortNo one plans for a vacation to go wrong. But they happen. And often times, there are the root of a small problem that turns into a mighty big problem and just spirals out of control. Well have no fear, travel buddies. We’re here to help. Here are a few not-so-obvious travel tips you’ll want to remember in efforts to have the most perfect vacation EVER.

If traveling abroad, scan your passport and email it to your smartphone or take a picture of it.

Unless you’re heading to Puerto Rico or the USVI, you’ll need a passport. And while the first rule of thumb is to keep up with your passport, you just don’t want to be unprepared. Before you head out, make a copy of your passport (maybe 2). You can either print out the paper or save a picture of it on your smart phone, but its great backup should something happen to your must-have to get home. It’s also a great way to provide identification for things like excursions, hotel check-ins, restaurants, etc., so you don’t have to carry the real thing around with you.

If you’re not traveling out of the country, you can still do this with your driver’s license or ID card.

Call your credit card company BEFORE you leave.

This is one the most common things people forget to do. You’re all excited to jet away to paradise and forget to make this call, you go to swipe your card to buy the most kick-butt souvenir and it’s denied. Not only is this embarrassing, but it’s a hassle. And if you’re like us, it might ensue a level of panic around the fact that your card isn’t working in a foreign country.

Simply call your credit card company or bank a few days before you depart and let them know the dates you’ll be out of the country so they don’t freeze your account because of suspicious activity (AKA trying to use your card in a foreign country).

Always have an extra change of clothes in your carry-on.

Not an “OMG, my vacation’s ruined” tip, but this is a solid idea - for a few reasons. 1) What if (god forbid) something happens to your luggage? It gets delayed and has to get delivered to you, or worse, gets lost. Trying to enjoy your vacation in the same set of clothes just doesn’t sound like fun. 2) You’re headed to the beach! Depending on when you arrive, check-in may not be until a few hours after you arrive, which is okay and happens quite often. But if you’ve got a bathing suit and some sandals in your bag, you don’t have to wait for check-in to officially begin your vacation. Suit up and head out to that big beautiful beach, beach-goer! Throw something small and light into your carry-on and you’ll be set no matter the circumstances.

Extra tip (because we like you): when you’re packing, rolling up vs. folding your clothes can save you SO much space. It’ll give you room for that extra pair of shoes you just HAVE to have.

Bring your own beach towels (if you have the space).

We don’t make this suggestion because you’ll need your own beach towel. Nearly every resort will offer you a surplus of beach towels. But if you’ve got the room in your luggage, throw an extra one of your own in there, preferably bright-colored. Why, you ask? It’s a great way to spot your beach spot from a far distance. When everyone is using the same color towel, it may be hard to find your spot as you’re walking up from an afternoon dip in the ocean. It’ll help you remember where your stuff is AND provide a great way to see it from a far distance should you want to keep an eye on your area while splashing in the waves.

Vacations are meant to be pain-free and relaxing, so making sure you're prepared should definitely be a priority. Oh, and don't forget to make sure you've got the latest and greatest in essential beach travel gadgets. We're curious as to what things you swear by. Tell us your favorite travel tips in the comments below!

Brittany Innes is the try-anything-once spontaneous type with a knack for exploring new places and embracing her inner food-lover. She's also a big fan of college football and instagramming everything she eats, as she eats it (she's that girl).

Summer Lovin’ Falls into Fall

3 days and counting. This weekend marks the last official week of summer. On Tuesday, autumn will be here and it’ll be time to start thinking about all the things that come during the colder months – the leaves change, the days get shorter, and of course, the holidays will be here before you know it. We don’t bring up the holidays to intimidate you—we just want to make sure you’re prepared. So what’s our suggestion for the holidays this year? The beach, of course!

But this isn’t a typical “OMG…you HAVE to go to the beach” blog.  We’re proposing turning the holiday season into a special occasion for you and your honey. So often it’s easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of it all (yes, even in mid-September). So why not surprise your sweetheart with a beach vacation that’s meant for just the two of you?

For the spontaneous couple:

If there happens to be something called an anniversary that falls during the months of September to December, or you just like to pack a bag and go; the surprise travel trend everyone is talking about might just be perfect for you. CheapCaribbean.com’s Seas the Deal package lets you pick your destination, we’ll pick a resort for you (a top quality one that we keep a secret until just a few days before you travel), and you’ll save tons of dinero. It really is a great option for someone looking to save some dough but also keep the lady happy (and hopefully surprised).

Surprise Travel Trend - Seas The Deal - CheapCaribbean.comBest part: there’s even an adult-only resort option so you won’t have to worry about any children prancing around while you’re trying to enjoy your romantic (and spontaneous) rendezvous.

For the couple who works too hard:

Okay, what couple doesn’t work hard? Life gets crazy and juggling work and family can be very overwhelming. If you and your one-and-only are pretty much stretched to max, some quality time at Zoetry Villa Rolani Isla Mujeres is calling your name.

 Best Resort for Couples - Zoetry Villa Rolani ISla Mujeres - CheapCaribbean.comLet us set the scene: You arrive in Cancun. You jump in a car that takes you to a dock where a private, deluxe yacht awaits. A staff member who assists you as you board your yacht to the private island that Zoetry Villa Rolandi Isla Mujeres calls home greets you. You arrive and officially toast to the start of your vacation with a welcome bottle of tequila or rum. Once you’ve settled in, you grab a bite at Casa Rolandi (an organic-, vegetarian-, and gluten-free-friendly restaurant) and then head to one of two pools & Jacuzzi combos. Oh, and we can’t forget to include: you’ll have access to a complimentary wellness consultation and the Kimberly Art & Gem Gallery.

This 35-suite, boutique hotel experience is exactly what someone who’s craving complete mental and physical euphoria needs. What are you waiting for?

For the honeymooners:

Specializing in the honeymoon experience, Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana is just what you and your new bride envision when planning this special vacation. Located right on the white shores of Bavaro Beach, your days will be spent with ample beach/pool time with bottomless (should you chose that they don’t stop) cocktails being delivered right to you. And since you’re on an once-in-a-lifetime type of vacation, a customized couples spa treatment at the 17,000-sq-ft Secrets Spa by Pevonia would be a GREAT way to truly unwind after all the crazy wedding planning you both had to do.

Best Resort for Honeymoons - Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

Evenings at Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana can include dinner at any of the six on-site restaurants or try a taste at the sister resort, Now Larimar Punta Cana with the Sip, Savor, & See option. The perfect end to a perfect day might include a nightcap on the beach and retiring to your swim-up suite. Sounds pretty perfect, huh?

For the overall “couple” experience:

Don’t sound shocked when we tell you that if you’re looking for a romantic getaway that really offers it all, we’ll suggest Couples Sans Souci in Jamaica. The name literally spells it out for you. This 4.5-sun rated resort is centered on maximizing the vacation experience solely for couples. In fact, those are the only other guests you’ll find at the hotel.

Best Resort for Couples - Couples Sans Souci - CheapCaribbean.com

You can choose to include in your trip itinerary deep tissue massages in one of the secluded cliff-side Hide Away Spa huts with a gorgeous view of the ocean. Or stroll hand-in-hand as you follow a new path each day, and you just might happen upon one of the hidden hammocks or a mineral hot tub. Don’t forget to check out Sunset Beach, not only for the 'au naturel' sunbathing, but also for the spectacular nightly sunsets. There’s a reason why Travel + Leisure just named Couples Sans Souci as the number one spa hotel in the Caribbean, and you’ve got to get there to experience it for yourself, don’t you think?

If we haven't convinced you that you're in desperate need of a romantic getaway, here are a few more recommendations to draw inspiration from. Tell us where you're headed this holiday season in the comments below!

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

Football Frenzy at Home? Girls Getaway at the Beach!

Something’s different. No longer can you and your one-and-only spend weekends brunching on a patio, fixing up the house, or doing anything fun, really. Because football. Your main man is all like “Can’t do that, the game is on.” And it’s important we let you know – this is just the beginning. The next few months will be a constant struggle of you trying to sit down and actually watch a game you don’t have much interest in just so you can spend time together and making plans with all your other girlfriends who are in the same boat.

Two words. Girls weekend. Why not leave the guys at home, as you and your closest girlfriends jet away for some serious R&R time on a beach far away from home? Sounds like a dream, huh? Oh, and if there’s a conference or rivalry game on that weekend, it’s probably for the best that you’re far, far away. Here’s where the girls and us are heading this winter:

Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa

Think Las Vegas meets the beach. Breathless Punta Cana Resort & Spa is the place you’re picturing when planning your girls getaway. Its vibrant, chic, and modern experience is custom tailored for large groups of people looking for a good time. Days will be filled reigniting the summer tan that’s quickly faded with a strict schedule of beach and pool time. Advice: make sure to stop by the swim-up bar for a premium cocktail that comes standard as part of your Unlimited-Luxury® experience.

Best Girls Getaway - Breathless Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

The best part of the day comes when nighttime approaches. Start the night with dinner at one of six restaurants. Grab another fun concoction and head over to the open-air nightclub to do some mingling, or make friends with Lady Luck at the resort casino. Oh, and the best part? This resort is adults-only so it’s fully equipped for your group of ladies as you party it up in the Caribbean.

Zoetry Casa del Mar Los Cabos

Best Girls Getaways - Zoetry Casa del Mar Los Cabos - CheapCaribbean.com

If your idea of getting away would include a sunrise yoga session on the beach, a customized spa package, and gourmet (and health conscious) dining options cooked to order, then Zoetry Casa del Mar Los Cabos is exactly where you need to be. This beach haven focuses on health and wellness. Amenities such as heated swimming pools, bubbly Jacuzzis, on-site nutrition expert to verse you on the perfect Los Cabos food experience for you, and customized spa treatments are just a few of the things that await for you and the girls at this resort haven.

Iberostar Playa Mita

Would you believe us if we told you this option is actually budget-friendly AND five stars? We know. It’s hard to believe. But Iberostar Playa Mita is tucked perfectly in Riviera Nayarit and opened barely a year ago. It’s what we call a “mega-resort,” so the options are endless. This is where you need to head if you’re rolling deep and want to keep lots of different ladies happy.

Best Girls Getaways - Iberostar Playa Mita - CheapCaribbean.com

In terms of why it’s one of our recommendations for a good girls getaway comes from the five restaurants, nine bars, adults-only pools, signature spa treatments, nightly entertainment, and resort disco (among other things) that call this resort home. Not to mention Riviera Nayarit has been referred to as “Mexico’s secret jewel,” so it just seems fitting a group of girls would fit right in here.

San Juan Water and Beach Club

For the ladies who pride themselves on being trendsetters and staying ahead of it all, you’ll want to schedule a weekend at San Juan Water and Beach Club stat. Located in the Isla Verde area of San Juan (an exceptionally hip and upscale part of town), this boutique hotel just underwent a $2.5m renovation. That means you can expect a long list of hip things to do and fresh amenities to enjoy.

Best Girls Getaways - San Juan Water and Beach Club - CheapCaribbean.com

Perhaps one of our favorite perks is the pool and sundeck that’s located on the rooftop and overlooks the white sandy shores of San Juan beaches. You can stop for a cocktail at pool bar, Mist, then venture to over-sized lounging beds where you and the girls can truly unwind. When the sunsets, grab dinner at one of 2 restaurants and head to Mist Lounge (with rooftop access), where you can dance the night away as the DJ bangs out some sweet jamz. Also, there’s often a chance for a celebrity sighting, so keep your eyes peeled and if you see anyone noteworthy, play it cool and mingle away.

Not that you need a ton of convincing, but if a weekend with the BFFs at one of these beaches doesn’t sound like perfection; well, we just may not know you anymore. Where are you and your girls headed this season? Celebrating anything special? Tell us in the comments below!

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

10 Excursions We’d Do All At Once, If We Could

We keep saying this, but…vacations are the best. Seriously, though. Yes, we’re fully aware that this isn’t the first time we’ve proclaimed how amazingly amazing it is to jet off to a nice, quiet beach somewhere and get away. So let’s imagine that this vacation we always speak of is booked and you’re ready to go (hopefully this is a reality and not a dream), and talk about some of our favorite excursions to do when exploring a beach destination, shall we?

Note: If we had superhuman powers and could do all of these 10 excursions on vacation, we would. But we want to give you options, so here are a few of our favorite excursions for some of our most popular destinations.

Punta Cana Excursions

Best Punta Cana Excursions - Reef Explorer - CheapCaribbean.comThis half-day excursion allows you to do just what the name says – explore. The Reef Explorer trip includes a stingray encounter (so close you can give these friendly creatures a hug), a swim session with nurse sharks, and a snorkel adventure around the reef. Drinks and snacks are provided, as well as a morning or afternoon of sea adventures.

Best Punta Cana Excursions - Speed Boat Tour - CheapCaribbean.com

Experience the life that James Bond lives on a daily basis with this speedboat adventure. You’ll hop on a speedboat and power through the Bavaro’s coastline and finish out the afternoon with a snorkel break to see what the action’s like below the surface.

Cancun Excursions

Best Cancun Excursions - Jungle Maya Tour - CheapCaribbean.com

Cancun & Riviera Maya are surrounded by tons of lush jungle and mystical water systems, which is why this Jungle Maya excursion is a crowd-favorite. Explore the longest underground river in the world before rappelling into a cenote (also known as an natural swimming hole formed by the collapse of porous limestone bedrock), and even finish you day off with a zip line through the Mayan jungle.

Best Cancun Excursions - Ferrari 360 Track Excursion - CheapCaribbean.com

Okay, speed demons and luxury car lovers—how does spending the day behind the wheel of a Ferrari 360 sound? Head to the track and wait for your instructor to give you the green light, and then put the pedal to the metal. You’ll get 5 laps on the 1.6 miles of track to experience the finesse and strength of this world-class vehicle. Oh, and some serious bragging rights when you get home.

Best Cancun Excursions - Swim With Whale Sharks - CheapCaribbean.com

The Whale Shark excursion is perfect for the self-proclaimed ocean explorer. If you’re dying to experience, firsthand, what it’s like to swim amongst some of the ocean’s most incredible creatures, a swim with whale sharks is a must. A marine biologist will take you out in small groups and allow you to swim alongside these incredible animals, with plenty of barrier reef snorkeling/diving to end the day.

Costa Rica Excursions

Best Costa Rica Excursions - Arenal Volcano - Cheap Caribbean

This makes the list because it simply sounds like a dream. Anyone who’s been to Costa Rica will tell you to plan a trip to the Arenal Volcano to experience the presence of an active volcano. With this excursion, you’ll get to do just that. But better yet—wrap up the day with a soak in the therapeutic waters of the hot springs, after a delicious meal, of course.

Best Costa Rica Excursion - Canopy Tour - CheapCaribbean.com

Costa Rica really does have it all—beaches, volcanoes, jungles, etc. So you should definitely make plans to see them all, and the Canopy Tour excursion allows you to do that. You’ll start off at the treetops of the Arenal Volcano, where you’ll zip line through 12 different platforms of the lush rain forest. Boasting powerful views and a fun time, consider this a Costa Rican must.

Jamaica Excursions

Best Jamaica Excursions - Black River Safari - CheapCaribbean.com

We’re proclaiming the Black River Safari, Appleton Rum Estate & Y.S. Falls excursion a triple threat. You’ll begin with a road trip through the fishing villages and small towns of Jamaica as you explore Jamaica’s longest river. And then continue on to Y.S. Falls where you can swim in the cool waters. Finish the day with a visit to Appleton Estate Rum Factory where you’ll tour the distillery and taste some authentic Jamaica rum. Say hello to your day of vacation perfection.

Dunn's River Falls - Best Jamaica Excursion - CheapCaribbean.com

Perhaps one of Jamaica’s most well-known tourist attractions is Dunn’s River Falls. There’s plenty to explore here with rock formations, fresh water streams, and a surplus of waterfalls. This excursion promises you a guide that can explain it all to you and lead you to the ultimate experience.

Best Jamaica Excursion - Negril Sunset Tour - CheapCaribbean.com

Closing out our top 10-excursion list, the Negril Beach and Sunset Tour is a great way to really get on island time and experience it all like a true Jamaican. Negril is known for having some of the most stunning sunsets, and after lounging on the beach during the day and grabbing drinks at Margaritaville, you’ll get to experience one for yourself. Close the day at Rick’s Café with a view of this iconic sunset (so beautiful you might just have trouble putting it into words). Recommendation: take lots of photos or else no one will believe the beauty you experienced.

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