Live Like the Locals: Best Places to Explore on Vacation

Your vacation is booked, your bags are packed and you’re ready for some fun. But now what? Other than relaxing by the pool and taking in the beach, what are some other things you should add to your itinerary? And what if you’re looking for things that will allow you to experience the area like the locals do? Well good news, this week we’re encouraging you to channel your inner explorer and try some of our favorite off-the-beaten path things to do.

Best Beaches for Exploring

Shanshy Beach – Port Antonio, Jamaica

Jamaica is known for some of the Caribbean’s most iconic beaches, including Seven Mile Beach and Frenchman’s Bay; but this beach is one of the best to see the island just like the locals do. Located just west of Port Antonio, Shanshy Beach Complex boasts clean, white sands & shallow, blue waters, all perfect for an afternoon at the beach.

Best Beach - Shanshy Beach, Jamaica - Cheap Caribbean

Make the trip to Shanshy Beach and you’ll have the opportunity to really experience Jamaica as if you lived there. The beach is divided into two parts. The first part is home to the colorful canoes and grass huts of the island’s fishermen. The second part is where you’ll want to spend your time. It’s a pure white sandy beach that’s got warm, shallow waters leading out to a deep, dark blue bay. There’s even a bar and restaurant for when you want to cool down with a Jamaican Rum Punch and some authentic island grub.

Bioluminescent Beach – Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

How about embarking on a night venture that’s sure to promise some great stories for back home? This adventure begins with a ferry ride from the main island to the Bioluminescent Beach on Vieques Island, off the coast of Puerto Rico. At the Bioluminescent Beach, the water glows a fluorescent green & blue at night, making it an experience unlike any other.

Bio Bay - Puerto Rico -

Often called Bio Bay, tiny ocean plankton called dinoflagellates live here and emit a glow-like illumination when the water is gently disturbed. While this occurs anytime the water is physically disturbed, it’s best witnessed at night and when the moon isn't full. So plan in advance by looking at the moon calendar to book your trip here. You can kayak into the bay and experience the beautiful electric blue light that comes from these microscopic creatures for yourself.

Best Day Trip

Saona Island – Dominican Republic

Put on your suit, grab some sunscreen and venture out to explore one of the Dominican Republic’s must-see beaches and islands. Part of the Del Este National Park, Saona Island is off the southeast tip of the DR and home to 14 miles of long preserved sands and crystal clear, blue-green waters.

Best Beach Day Trip - Saona Island, DR -

The best way to experience this island is usually by hopping on a catamaran tour that provides you with everything you need along the way– delicious food, bottomless drinks and a whole day filled with activities. Most of the boats you can take here include stops along the way to snorkel or parasail and a tour guide & captain to narrate the whole day. Once you actually arrive at Saona Island, you can spend the day lounging on the sugary white sands and swimming in the bluest of waters, before hopping back on your boat and heading home.

Best Places to Experience Local Flavor

Casa Bacardi Rum Distillery – Cantaño, Puerto Rico 

We’ve all probably heard of the very popular Bacardi brand of spirits and a trip to Puerto Rico wouldn’t be complete without tasting this iconic rum, fresh from where it’s made. To truly live like the Puerto Ricans do, you’ll want to venture to the Casa Bacardi rum distillery to learn all about this island’s signature spirit (not to mention taste it in it’s freshest form).

A tour of this facility will begin by transporting you to Santiago de Cuba on February 4th, 1862 where Don Facundo Bacardi Masso made the first taste of Bacardi rum. The tour will take you on a physical journey through the rum making process, as well as walk you through the history of this iconic premium rum brand. Don’t worry, the day will end with a final stop at the executive bar where you’ll have the opportunity to taste some Bacardi signatures, such as the Cuba Libre.

Kinta Mexican Bistro – Cozumel, Mexico

If you consider yourself a foodie and are always on the quest for the flavors that are signature to the destination you’re in, we recommend Kinta Mexican Bistro in Cozumel, Mexico. This upscale hotspot is owned by chef Kris Wallenta and boasts local Yucatecan cuisine that changes based on what’s the freshest and in season.

Best Restaurant in Mexico - Kinta Mexican Bistro -

It’s also known for it’s cool, air-conditioned dining room and romantic outdoor garden, perfect for all occasions. If you can catch this on the menu, we recommend a freshly picked mint mojito, savory black bean soup and a spicy chile relleno stuffed with vegetable ratatouille and Chihuahua cheese, among other items.

While we don’t oppose letting the time pass with hours spent under a beach palapa and a friendly cabana server bringing you ice cold drinks, we’re also big fans of getting out and experiencing the vibrant culture that’s home to the Caribbean & Mexico. Now that you know ours, we’d love to know – what are you favorite places for exploring?

Excursions & Tours to Make the Most of Your Vacay

National Tourism Week is May 4th through the 12th. That means it’s time to pull out your camera, slap on a fanny pack and start exploring all the great tourism spots in the Caribbean & Mexico (okay, maybe without the fanny pack). Check out some of the excursions & tours we’d consider a must when on your next beach vacation.

Go Down Below: Cancun's Underwater Museum

If you travel to the Caribbean & Mexico looking for the best diving and snorkeling spots, this excursion was made for you. Located in Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico, the Cancun Underwater Museum is a diver’s absolute must.

Cancun Underwater Museum Excursion from

Photo Credit: Coventur DMC

The project was founded by Jaime Gonzalez Cano of The National Marine Park, Roberto Diaz of The Cancun Nautical Association and English artist, Jason deCaries Taylor in 2009. It’s currently home to more than 400 permanent sculptures in depths ranging from 9 to 20 feet. Called “The Silent Evolution,” artist Taylor aimed to offer a cultural view of how the Mayan people evolved throughout the years. These sculptures were also designed in efforts to become artificial reefs. They are all made to boost the local ecosystem, provide shelter to the marine creatures and create areas for corals to flourish.

So while staying at one of the many fabulous all-inclusive resorts in Cancun, be sure to make the trip below and see this ocean wonder.

Go Kukoo in Aruba: Kukoo Kunkuk Pub Krawl

You’ll find another one of our favorite tours in Aruba. Kukoo Kunkuk tours are perfect for the partier in us all. After a day spent lounging at one of the many luxury Aruba resorts, the Kukoo Kunuku bus will pick you up for an evening of unforgettable memories.

Kukoo Kunkuk tours in Aruba from

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Chose from a signature Aruban dinner at a local residence and bar tour to follow on the Kukoo Kunuku Dinner & Barhopping tour or go straight for the bars on the Kukoo Kunuku Pub Krawl. Both tours offer free drinks or drink specials at a series of three or four bars. So whether you’re celebrating a special occasion like a birthday or bachelor party, or just want to go out on the town, a night out with Kukoo Kunuku will be one for the record books.

Mingle with the Stingrays: Stringray City, Grand Cayman

The next activity we’d recommend can be found in Grand Cayman. Not only are the Cayman Islands known for their white sandy beaches and top-rated resorts, but you also have the opportunity to swim amongst string rays at Stingray City. Stingray City is in the shallow waters of Grand Cayman’s North Sound and is surrounded by a barrier reef, perfect for snorkeling.

The Stingray City sandbar is home to dozens of tame southern stingrays. The stingrays began gathering near the Grand Cayman shore in the late 80s, as fishermen used to clean their fish on the shallow sand bars. The stingrays would approach these shallow waters to eat the leftover fish and sooner than later, stingrays began to associate the sound of the fishermen’s boat motor with food.

Stringray City in Grand Cayman from

As you wade in the 3-ft-deep Caribbean ocean, enjoy feeding and petting these stunning animals as they swim amongst their natural habitat. Depending on the type of excursion you’re looking to do, you can also venture out to the barrier reef for some eventful snorkeling or diving.

While we won’t argue that there’s not much better than lounging on a white sandy beach with a beautiful view, we also suggest getting out an exploring the fascinating areas that make up the Caribbean & Mexico. No matter where you’re headed on vacation, there’s always a long list of things to do and places to see. So it’s official…you have our permission to unleash your inner tourist and start exploring.

Share your favorite things to do and places to see while on vacation in the comments below.

Must-Do Adventure Vacations for the Thrill-Seeker in Us All

No matter if you're a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie or just a tourist who likes to experience it all while on vacation, there are plenty of action-packed adventures that can take place in the Caribbean & Mexico. Here are a few of our favorite vacations to try if you're on the hunt for a thrill:

Jamaica is known for it's rich culture, beautiful beaches and plenty of one-of-a-kind excursions you can't find on any other Caribbean island. Pick a top-of-the-line resort and you can spend your days exploring this invigorating island and your nights with five-star service, food and fun. We recommend Grand Bahia Principe for the best of both worlds.

Jamaica Adventure Vacations from

Bounce between beachfront relaxation and running off to your next island exclusive excursion at Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica

You can leave your worries behind and step onto the beautiful shores of Runaway Bay, where the all-suite Grand Bahia Principe Jamaica offers all-inclusive access to a lake-style, beachfront pool with 2 swim-up bars for their popular dirty banana cocktails. The kids can hang at Principito for face painting and video games while you take advantage of the many onsite adventures, like kayaking, windsurfing or a ride on the catamaran.

If you're looking for an adventure that's fame-worthy, make sure to plan your trip to Port Antonio to explore The Blue Lagoon (yes, like the movie). While we can't guarantee you'll meet Brooke Shields, who made this location famous in the film, we can offer an enchanting, natural swimming hole with deep blue water, mixed with a fresh water spring, unlike any other swimming hole in the Caribbean. And don't forget that the legend tells the lagoon as bottomless with a resident dragon who lurks in these waters.

Another adrenaline junkie's vacation dream is Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the epitome of adventure and exploration. Toggling between iconic beach views and an Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica should be on every adventurer's bucket list. We've gone as far to plan out this Costa Rican adventure for you with our Liberia Guanacaste Costa Rica Adventure. This tour is a preplanned resort package that takes you through the city of Liberia, the Arenal Volcano, the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Tamarindo Beach.

Costa Rica Adventure Vacations from

See all the natural wonders of Costa Rica is seven short days - an adventurer's dream!

Each day on this adventure you'll experience something different including a city tour of Liberia, Arenal Volcano exploration, a trip to Cano Negro Wildfire Refuge, time to wander the Monteverde Cloud Forest and sun bathing on the beach in Guanacaste. Don't worry, top notch accommodations are provided the entire time so you'll be able to unwind after your days spent exploring this miraculous destination.

If you're looking for adventure in Mexico, we'd suggest Riviera Maya. Known for its stunning beaches and private seclusion in the lush greens of the region, Riviera Maya is a vacation spot with a little bit of everything to offer. Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa is a top pick of ours when planning your Riviera Maya exploration.

Adventure Vacations in Riviera Maya from

Enjoy the hotel's seclusion as you plan your next Mexican excursion at Dreams Tulum Resort

We're big fans of Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa because you're minutes from the Mayan ruins and sites of Tulum, while still experiencing Unlimited-Luxury® that comes standard at this hotel. When you're not busy exploring the ancient, stone temples and pyramids of this historic Mexican city, you can enjoy this family-friendly resort set on two miles of white beach lined with palms and mangrove trees. There's also a great Explorer's Club, perfect for kids ages 3-12, which will let Mom and Dad sneak off to the pool fully equipped with swim and walk-up bars. You'll want to plan a stay here to see why this historic city in Mexico was voted #18 as the "Best Destination in the Caribbean and Mexico for TripAdvisor's "Traveler's Choice Awards."

The Caribbean & Mexico are home to some of the most astounding wonders of the world. For more recommendations on thrill-seeking vacations, check out some more of our favs here. Be sure to share your favorite adventures with us too! Happy exploring!