Mexico

Five Must-Shop Caribbean Stores by JetSetSarah

 

JetSetSarah blogs for CheapCaribbean.com

By: JetSetSarah

Got the retail itch? Step away from the three-for-$20 T-shirts and those dreadful knitted caps with the dreadlocks attached! Savvy shoppers bring home authentic Caribbean goods that look good and/or work well, and evoke happy memories every time you look at them. Here are some of my favorite souvenir-snagging spots.

Irie Life, South Hill, Anguilla 

There are T-shirts and then there are T-shirts. Irie Life sells the latter, and wearing one immediately marks you as one of Anguilla’s coolest customers (even the most stylish locals sport them around town). This store is located in South Hill and housed in a hilltop cottage painted red, green and gold. Expect trendy colors (neon Ts are current bestsellers) and styles (hoodies, burn-out textured stretch cotton), with nary a boxy crew-neck in sight.

Irie Life, Anguilla Shopping from CheapCaribbean.com

Shop Smart: Make no mistake; Anguilla is notoriously pricey. Time your trip for the end of the summer, however, when shops are anxious to move leftover merchandise in advance of the winter high season, and you’ll score great deals.

Gallery of West Indian Art, Montego Bay, Jamaica

When I lived in Mo’Bay, this decades-old store secreted in a residential about 10 minutes’ drive from the city, was my go-to for Jamaican and Caribbean art and craft. Montego Bay’s, The Gallery is most famous for its menagerie of multi-colored “spotties,” hand-carved painted wooden animals stippled with white polka dots. But it is also a great find for handmade small furniture pieces and an impressive collection of colorful Cuban canvases. For more about Gallery of West Indian Art, visit them online.

Shop Smart: Don’t leave without a handmade Christmas tree ornament from the store’s year-round collection.

Olé, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Looking for the perfect Panama hat? Make a beeline for Puerto Rico and milliner Guillermo Jeffs’ tiny boutique on Old San Juan’s bustling Fortaleza Street, where you can browse more than 5,000 of them. Toppers start at a very reasonable $50 and rise to a whopping $4,000 for a hand-woven model that takes about two years to make. Whichever you choose, Guillermo will custom-fit the Panama to your head, employing his decades of experience – and a hat block and blow dryer – to ensure the perfect fit. For more information, visit Olé's Facebook Page.

Jamaica Shopping from CheapCaribbean.com

Shop Smart: Ole offers more than 20 colors of hat ribbon to choose from, so instead of falling back on traditional black, get creative!

Mixik, Tulum, Mexico

I fell in love with the hand-carved wooden angels you see at resorts all over Mexico, so I was thrilled to hit pay dirt at this Tulum shop, which has a vast selection of the charming cherubs. It’s also jam-packed with locally crafted gifts, art and accessories you’ll find impossible to resist (or is that just me?)

Shop Smart: Can’t find what you want at the beachfront store? There’s also a larger location in el pueblo. Store can be reached at: 52-984-871-21-36

Zaka, Soufriere, St. Lucia

Simon Gajadhar used to be a shipwright but has clearly found his (ahem) groove as a wood carver and artist. Visit his fret-worked cottage in Soufriere, St. Lucia and you too will be enchanted by the colorful collection of masks and totems, all carved from recycled wood and old telephone poles. For more information about Zaka, visit their website.

St. Lucia Shopping from CheapCaribbean.com

Shop Smart: While the larger masks will set you back hundreds of dollars, prices for smaller pieces start at a very reasonable $20, so you can bring back something for everyone - even that grumpy woman in Accounting).

 

Jet Set Sarah, Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, is a Caribbean travel expert, award-winning travel journalist, and TV personality. Former executive editor of Caribbean Travel +Life magazine, she ventures to the beach and beyond, sharing the diverse culture, relaxed lifestyle and colorful people of the world’s favorite warm-weather destination. She is also jetsetter-in-chief at JetSetSarah.com, where travel and shopping meet.

 

 

Celebrate Carnival Caribbean Style

It’s time to celebrate! Carnival is in its prime peak in the Caribbean. This means you’ll find lots of parties, parades and celebrations honoring the time leading up to Lent, a holiday that many islands participate in. For all the party animals out there, here’s a few celebrations happening amongst the Caribbean this Carnival season.

Aruba Does Carnival Right

Aruba is one of the choice Caribbean islands that celebrates Carnival all throughout January and the beginning of February. The entire schedule of events includes exciting parades, jump-ups, beautiful costumes and a truly vibrant atmosphere that you can only imagine by experiencing it.

There have been four major eras of Carnival in Aruba, with the first starting in 1921. This era was marked by debutante balls and costumed parties that took place at specific social clubs. The second era lasted 11 years through 1954 and was marked by the Lago Oil refinery success. This time period saw the introduction of carnival queen elections and the first parades were hold by Aruba’s oldest social club, the Tivoli social club. During the third era through 1965 is where the first island-wide public carnival took place. This also signifies the introduction of the island’s two grand parades seen each year. The fourth and current era has established a large majority of the tradition you’ll see at Carnival in Aruba. In 1966, when the era began, The Stichting Arubaanse Carnaval committee was founded at exactly 11:11 a.m. of the 11th day of the 11th month. This day has been named Fools Day.

Carnival Celebrations in Aruba from Cheapcaribbean.com

The Grand Parade in San Nicolas showcases the Carnival Queen, as well as the colorful, traditional parade floats. Photo credit from VisitAruba.com

With a colorful January full of parties, costumes and celebrations Aruba’s Carnival begins to unwind during February. The final Carnival parade takes place on Sunday, February 10th. This year marks the 59th Grand Parade and will include traditional, extravagant costumes and floats celebrating a successful Carnival season. There will also be an appearance by the elected Carnival Queen. And what’s the best way to reward the island’s successful Carnival season and allow people to prepare for Lent that starts on Ash Wednesday? Carnival Monday, also known as Burnout Monday, is a national holiday recognizing a national day of rest.

Cozumel is one of Mexico’s biggest Carnival celebrations. The week leading up to Fat Tuesday is full of parties, celebrations and a series of parades with a Final Grand Carnival Parade down the Seafront Downtown. On Wednesday, February 6th the Grand Opening and Coronation of Carnival King and Queen will take place. This weekend will bring costume and dance competitions, as well as a Second Grand Carnival Parade. There’s even a costume contest for children and pets!

Cozumel Carnival Celebrations 2013 from Cheapcaribbean.com

Children, parents and even the pets get all dressed up in the festive Carnival attire. A friendly competition has emerged awarding the best costumes awards! Photo credit: CARNAVAL COZUMEL

If you ever want to plan a trip to experience all the rich culture and festivities of Carnival in Cozumel, you’ll want to make sure to attend one of the three Carnival Balls. Each ball is on a different night and features a concert or costume competition, with the final ball occurring on the evening of Fat Tuesday. Mexico’s version of Mardi Gras happens on the Cozumel seafront, offering iconic beach views the whole time. The Wednesday after Fat Tuesday there’s an award ceremony to acknowledge outstanding carnival participants. And after the final award is given marks the monumental burning of Juan Carnaval. Fires are started to burn the revelry associated with Carnival and begin the preparation for Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Let’s Party All Year Long

Carnival is celebrated at all different times throughout the year. And don’t worry, if you weren’t able to catch one of these festivities, there are plenty of other opportunities to celebrate. Jamaica has just begun their 25th annual Bacchanal Festival, which lasts all the way through April. With a Le Masqurade theme, there’s a series of parties all throughout February, March and April you won't want to miss.

St. Thomas’ Carnival attraction takes place throughout the month of April as well. It's a month long of dazzling pageants and talent shows that take place to name royalty over the festival. You can expect traditional music, food and a rich representation of this island’s vibrant culture.

Each parade has performers that perform different routines in traditional, vibrant costumes. Photo Credit by Virgin Islands Carnival

These are just a few of the celebrations that are to come this year. No matter when you’re looking to party, there’s a Caribbean or Mexico destination with a celebration with your name on it.

See What Life has to Offer Underneath the Water

A lot of times when we imagine jetting away to a Caribbean island, we think of beautiful beach views, ice-cold beverages and lots of R&R. And while this all sounds like a perfect way to spend your time off, there’s plenty of other activities to explore, including some under the water. The Caribbean and Mexico are home to some of the most beautiful beaches and some even more stunning sea life. Here are a few of the best Caribbean & Mexico snorkeling resorts, where you can discover the wonders of the sea with your very own eyes.

Snorkeling's Best Kept Secret: Riviera Maya

The first ‘Snorkeler's Paradise’ we’d recommend is in Riviera Maya. Located just outside of Cancun, Riviera Maya is an ideal Mexican destination to embark on an underwater adventure but also still enjoy everything an all-inclusive resort has to offer. One of our favorites here is 5-star, all-inclusive Valentin Imperial Maya. This large resort is located on Playa del Secreto, or “The Secret Beach,” making it a perfect hiding place to catch some beautiful snorkeling views as well.

Best Snorkeling Beaches in Mexico & Caribbean from Cheapcaribbean.com

It’s been rumored that there is a very active sea turtle life here. In fact, there’s a good chance you can catch a mother turtle harvesting her eggs somewhere along the half-mile stretch of stunning beach.

The great thing about the location of this resort is it makes for quick, easy access to Cozumel, which also boosts some unforgettable snorkeling and adventure. When you aren’t busy wearing out your goggles and mask, be sure to take advantage of all the amenities this resort offers. There are eight full restaurants, all sampling different cuisines from all over the world and nine bars with all types of concoctions and beverages that will leave you thirsty for more.  And during the day, bounce between the three different pools, Jacuzzi and even get a round of sand volleyball going. This secluded resort is the perfect place to lay your head after a long day of thrill seeking mixed with a little relaxation.

Luxury and Snorkeling Combined: Grand Cayman Island

If you’re interested in understated luxury paired with the best Caribbean snorkeling, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is an absolute must.  Grand Cayman Island sits on Seven Mile Beach, which is infamous for its breathtaking scenery, as well as underwater views. Reefs like Cemetery Reef surround this island, where schools of Sergeant Majors surround the swimmers or Cheeseburger Reef, where 10 feet of water is home to plenty of friendly fish and iconic coral. And don’t underestimate the beaches on the Marriott shore…these current-free waters are home to parrotfish, yellowtail damsels and other colorful species just waiting to show off for snorkelers.

Best Snorkeling Beaches in Caribbean & Mexico, Grand Cayman Island from Cheapcaribbean.com

The crystal clear waters of Seven Mile Beach will practically be summoning you into diving underwater and seeing what colorful sea life accompanies these beaches.

Not only will you find colorful coral and playful sea creatures, this resort is home to 303 guests rooms and 4 deluxe suites that are the most spacious on the island. A recent renovation now allows for guests to take advantage of an all-inclusive option, fully equipped with four different restaurants and unlimited cocktails. When you’re not busy taking in the views on the iconic Seven Mile Beach, take a dip in the free form pool and hot tub that stretches 85 feet along the beach. With a resort that’s focused on luxury AND located on some of the best snorkeling waters in the world, your vacation and underwater adventure is calling…and we suggest picking up that call.

One Stop Shop for Snorkeling and Fun: Cancun 

For those of you that have been to Cancun, you know that this destination is never lacking in its imperial beaches, saucy nightlife and a wide selection of resorts that are sure not to disappoint. Named one of the “Top 20 Resorts in Mexico,” by Travel +Leisure, Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa is one of our favorites if you’re looking for quality time with some of earth’s friendliest creatures.

Best Snorkeling Beaches in Caribbean & Mexico, Cancun from Cheapcaribbean.com

The onsite lagoon makes it easier than ever to spend some quality time with Mother Nature's creatures of the sea.

Dreams Cancun Resort & Spa is the only area resort offering beaches on three sides and a chance to swim with dolphins right on the hotel grounds. You can even book a room with a view of the dolphin pool. The private saltwater lagoon, unique to Dreams Cancun, is filled with sea turtles and tropical fish. There are also dolphins at Delphinus Dreams Cancun complex, making it easy to take a dip with these fun, friendly creatures. This Dreams resort is the ultimate family vacation with an Explorer’s Club for the kids, private beach, freshwater pool and a ton of all-inclusive dining and drinking options. Look no further if your idea of the ultimate family vacation has everything you need all in one place.

No matter if you spend so much time in the water you almost consider yourself an honorary member of the sea, or just like to spend a little bit of time seeing what's beneath the surface, these destination hot spots and resorts are the ideal way to see it all. If you're dying for more recommendations on snorkeling spots or looking for more insights as your gearing up for your next vacation, check out all of our vacation articles here.

Ooh La Luxe, Luxury Resort Deals You Can’t Pass Up

When we are shopping for vacations we’re often looking for the package that’s going to give us the most for our money. No surprise there. In fact, all our favorite vacation packages this week highlight luxury but are still slim on your budget. Take a peek and see what you think.

Boutique Luxury on a Budget

Los Cabos is an area that’s packed full of high-end, luxury resorts, including this Condé Nast Traveler pick as one of the “Top Ten Mexico Hotels.” Pueblo Bonito Pacifica is a boutique spa resort that is the perfect spot for the adult only vacation you’re planning. This trendy hotel offers tranquil views and ultimate relaxation. Couples and singles both enjoy the all-inclusive beachfront luxe life here.

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica Hotel in Los Cabos from Cheapcaribbean.com

Pueblo Bonito Pacifica serves up beautiful Pacific Ocean views as well as pure relaxation and tranquility.

Spend your days lounging on a Bali bed on the beach or making friends with the bartender at the swim up bar at one of the two beachfront pools. You’ll also want to check out the daily scheduled activities, such as wine or tequila tastings, which make for a great way to give some new drinks a try. Don’t forget to schedule a customized spa treatment at Armonia Spa. We recommend the couples spa day with massages in the private couples suite, equipped with champagne and strawberries.

As the evening approaches, you’ll have to decide between one of the four signature restaurants home to this 5-star resort. Fresh local ingredients fill the menu at Siempre where chocolate fettuccine with lobster and salmon ravioli leave guests raving. There are also five bars, all with a different atmosphere, perfect for any mood you’re in. End the night by heading off to your Ocean View Suite, which comes equipped with your own butler and will prepare your room so you’ll have no trouble drifting off after a jam packed day. The best part of this whole vacation is the exclusive rates you’ll find for this winter and spring. With three night deals starting at $769 and even a $50 spa credit, this is an ultimate luxury getaway you won’t want to pass up.

Luxury Comes Alive

Cancun is home to tons of resorts and no matter what your occasion is, you can usually find a top-notch resort perfect for you. The occasion for this vacation is luxury, luxury and more luxury. And that’s just what you’ll find at Live Aqua Cancun. This resort was named “The Best Resort in Mexico” by Caribbean Travel + Life and is a beach enthusiast’s dream. Perfectly placed in Cancun’s hotel zone, all the hotel rooms at this resort have a patio that offers an ocean and pool view. Meaning you’ll wake up to crystal clear waters and beautiful Cancun sun that reminds you paradise really does exist. Not to mention, Live Aqua’s 371 rooms all offer Egyptian-cotton sheets and aromatherapy kits that might even make it hard to open the shades and get out of the beach.

Best Luxury Resort Live Aqua Cancun from Cheapcaribbean.com

Live Aqua Cancun is a luxe paradise that offers endless amenities to leave you feeling spoiled rotten.

Start your day off by reserving a private cabana and ordering a cocktail from the pool concierge and staff. You can bounce between the gorgeous infinity pools or the private swim up bar pool. Also, make sure to take advantage of the full staff and service on the beach. When it comes to dining options, choose from one of the four restaurants including MB, where celebrity chef, Guillermo Gomez prepares Latin-inspired dishes that are sure to leave you satisfied. End your evening with a stop at Ergos Bar where a DJ spins late into the night and cocktails are always flowing. And one final detail we’re sure not to leave out…for a short time only, Live Aqua Cancun four night deals start at just $879.

Jamaican Luxury, Come One, Come All

Jamaica is the epitome of the ideal Caribbean destination. Perfectly placed on a Caribbean shore with warm sun and an even warmer culture, this is a vacation that you can’t turn down. Don’t worry, Jamaica isn’t slacking on high-end, luxury resorts that fulfill your Caribbean vacation dreams either. Jewel Dunn’s River is a great luxury option that will send you home feeling pampered and relaxed, two necessities when returning from vacation.

During the day, spend some quality time on the resort’s private beach on Mammee Bay, fully equipped with lounge chairs and cabanas. Or wander back to the Jewel Dunn’s River Resort to take advantage of the Sunken Treasure swim-up bar and pool concierge service. Yep, that’s right someone will greet you at your poolside lounger to offer fresh fruit, ice-cold face towels or a mist of cool water. If a poolside concierge service doesn’t spell out luxury, then we don’t know what does.

Best Luxury Resorts in Jamaica, Jewel Dunn's River from Cheapcaribbean.com

Jewel Dunn's River is Jamaica's top pick for an adult only vacation that won't sacrifice budget or luxury.

When it comes to food, try one of the six outstanding dining options. We're big fans of the  Mediterranean fare at Moonstone by Dominic or the teppanyaki-style options at Jade Samurai, just to name a few. Jewel Dunn's River also has six different bars to sample all the local Jamaican drinks from. And the actual resort is located right in the heart of adventure with daily tours to Ocho Rios and quick cab rides to Montego Bay for some nightlife options. And of course, the best part of this vacation is three night deals start at $659, all-inclusive. Sounds a steal you can't pass up, right? That's what we thought too.

This year do your vacation right. Since budget won't a problem with these spectacular deals, it's easy to get everything you were hoping for on your getaway. You work hard and you deserve to have it all. But you'll want to grab one of the deals quick...who knows how long they'll stick around. Happy Vacation Planning!

Fun for the Whole Family!

There are many types of vacations people can take. Some prefer adventure; some prefer ultimate romance, while others want to make a vacation a family event. The Caribbean and Mexico are perfect places to plan a fun-filled family vacation. If you're looking to bring the whole crew, check out some of these family friendly suggestions.

The Bahamas: Paradise for Everyone

The islands that make up the Bahamas each have their own unique flavor but still all offer a sense of Caribbean life and culture - a great combo when bringing everyone along. Specifically, Paradise Island has all the amenities a family would want or need. A great budget-friendly option for accommodations on Paradise Island is Comfort Suits Paradise Island.

Paradise Island Bahamas Family Fun Vacation from Cheapcaribbean.com

Comfort Suites Paradise Island doesn't sacrifice amenities but still is easy on the pocketbook.

Not only will you find a pool lagoon tucked in the tropical paradise that is Paradise Island, a swim up bar to satisfy the adults thirst, dining options and free breakfast buffet, but children 12 and under stay free. Yep, you read that correctly. If your family has kiddos under the age of 12, they can stay here at no charge. Another great feature to this resort is its easy access to Atlantis, the mega resort on this island. At Comfort Suites Paradise Island, you get free access to the lagoons, lazy-river, pools, casino, waterslides and beach of Atlantis. And don't forget Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park with a kids' water-play fort. This Bahamian dream brings all the adventure your family is looking for but keeps your wallet under wraps - sounds like a perfect family vacation to us!

Cancun's Classic Family Getaway

Cancun is known for its crystal clear beaches and fun atmosphere. This destination became one of the first Mexican tourist locales years ago, meaning Cancun has what it takes to build the perfect family friendly getaway. With a long list of excursions and tons of resorts plucked onto the coast, Cancun is sure not to disappoint. A great family inspired resort here is the Oasis Cancun.

Oasis Cancun Family Vacations from CheapCaribbean.com

Hang with the kiddos at the free-form resort pool. Be sure to swim over to the waterfalls and have a ball.

Oasis Cancun is one of Cancun's first all-inclusive resorts and offers 959 air-conditioned guestrooms in different buildings shaped like Mayan pyramids. This grand resort has something for everyone. With a resort style pool, three swim up bars and a resort marina equipped with paddleboats and kayaks, your days here will be filled with fun in the sun. In the evening, check out one of the live shows or venture to the Up and Down Disco. There's even a nine-hole, par-3 golf course if you're up for a friendly game of golf. There's also easy access to some of Cancun's most splendid excursions, like the Mayan pyramids at Chicen Itza or take a fun zip lining tour. Bottom line is the Oasis Cancun is a Cancun classic well equipped to offer your entire family a vacation they'll never forget.

Dominican Republic: A Fresh Take on Family Fun

The Dominican Republic has always been a beautiful Caribbean destination, but in recent years has gained more popularity as a tourist destination. The main parts of this destination have silky sandy beaches and great all-inclusive resorts, making it a great choice when planning the next family vacation. One of our family vacay picks for the Dominican Republic is Riu Palace Punta Cana.

Punta Cana Dominican Republic Family Vacation from Cheapcaribbean.com

Let the kids hang out in the pool while you swim up to the bar for a quick cocktail.

Located on Arena Gorda beach, Riu Palace Punta Cana has a whole lot of resort to offer. You'll be 150 ft. from the beach with full all-inclusive access to some of the other Riu resorts in this complex, which packs multiple vacations in one. Lounge in a beach recliner while the kids play in the children's pool and poolside drink service accommodates your every need. If you're in the hunt for a little alone time for you and your significant other, let the kiddos hang out at Riu Palace Punta Cana's supervised kid's club, while you take advantage relaxing spa. Don't worry, there's a playground, tennis court and complimentary scuba lesson to satisfy all your vacation urges. And remember...with access to other Riu resorts in the complex you take advantage of their bars and late night hangouts if you're out on a date night.

Gone are the days of having to stress about what will everyone do on the next vacation. No need to question if there will be something that everyone will enjoy. By picking one of these family friendly resorts, you can truly unwind and let everyone have a little bit of fun. After all, family vacations can account for some of the best memories. Start planning yours now!