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 - CheapCaribbean.com

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 - CheapCaribbean.com

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 - CheapCaribbean.com

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?

2 Responses to "Live Like the Locals: Best Places to Explore on Vacation"

  • Curaçao Party Guide
    August 12, 2013 - 8:50 pm

    We would add “The Best Beach for a Party”: Kokomo Beach in Curaçao.
    They have a monthly Full Moon Party which is most likely the biggest monthly dance event in the Caribbean.

  • Jerome Tucker
    September 30, 2013 - 1:43 am

    Oh my! I really love all these places. I think these are all incredible when we talk about vacation spots. Saona Island – Dominican Republic is one of my best interests. Oh I love to visit this fabulous beach so soon. This is indeed perfect for unwinding and relaxation. Thanks for sharing all these fantastic ideas.

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