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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.

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.

Don’t Fry Day & National Sunscreen Day: 8 Sun-Safe Tips

If you’re like us, your summer is full of barbecues, beach days and outdoor activities. What’s not on the list is missing out on any of the fun due to a painful sunburn - ouch! Here are our tips for staying healthy and looking gorgeous in the sun.

1. Apply an SPF 15 to SPF 50 sunscreen 15 minutes BEFORE you step out in the sun. Look for a sunscreen that is waterproof and provides UVA and UVB rays coverage. (American Academy of Dermatology)

2. We can't say it enough. Reapply. Reapply. Reapply! Set an alarm or reminder to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or immediately after swimming. (American Academy of Dermatology)

Reapply Sunscreen every 2 hours or immediately after swimming.

3.  Don’t let cloudy or overcast days fool you. It’s important to protect your skin from UV rays every time you go outside.

4.  Did you check your sunscreen’s expiration date? Stay safe by tossing last year’s bottles and purchasing new. If your sunscreen doesn’t have an expiration date and it’s older than a year, it’s safe to assume it’s expired. It’s also important to note sunscreen lifespan is shortened by exposure to high temperatures. (CDC)

5.  Use fashionable summer accessories to help minimize sun exposure to your face. Big hats and stylish sunglasses are an easy way to protect your skin and look hot doing it!

6.  Don’t forget your lips. Moisturize and protect your lips from harmful rays with a lip-protection balm at least every hour.

7.  Seek shade, especially from 10am to 2pm. Want some fresh air and R&R without sun exposure? Try lounging on the beach under an umbrella with a popular summer read. This sounds like the perfect day to us! (FDA)

8.  Don’t skip on H20! We all know your skins best friend is water. Freeze bottles and pack your cooler full when heading out for a day in the sun.

Heading to the beach or an outdoor cookout this weekend? Remember these tips and tweet us or post a picture on Instagram of you protecting your skin using the #SunscreenSelfie hashtag for a chance to win a FREE getaway! You may also enter here.

#SunscreenSelfie

We wish everyone a sun-safe Memorial Weekend!

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.

Save the Date: #CheapCaribbean Best Beaches Twitter Party, May 21st, 1-2pm CST

Mark your calendars, CheapCaribbean.com is hosting its first ever Twitter Party! This Tuesday from 1-2pm CST, join us and special guests, Matt Long, @LandLopers from LandLopers, Kara Williams, @KaraSW from The Vacation Gals and Katie Dillion, @LaJollaMom from La Jolla Mom on Twitter, as we discuss the best beaches in the Caribbean & Mexico. We'd love to hear your favorite vacation spots and what you love about the beach, as we'll be sharing insider tips on all of our favorite beaches and all the reasons why we love them.

Use the hashtag #CheapCaribbean to join in on the fun!

Use the hashtag #CheapCaribbean to jump in on the conversation!

Here's how to jump in on the fun:

  • On Tuesday, May 21st at from 1-2pm CST, log onto to Twitter and make sure you're following us at @cheapcaribbean.
  • Jump in on the conversation by answering our questions & tweeting your thoughts about the best beaches, using the hashtag #CheapCaribbean.
  • Three lucky partygoers will win the ultimate beach bum package valued at over $300! To be eligible, participants must follow @CheapCaribbean on Twitter and tweet using the #CheapCaribbean hashtag at least one time during the party. Winners will be selected at random.
Prize package includes Ray Bans, iPod Shuffle, beach bag, oversized beach towel and other beach accessories.

Prize package includes Ray Bans, iPod Shuffle, beach bag, oversized beach towel and other beach accessories.

 

Be sure to follow Matt Long at @LandLoper Kara Williams at @KaraSW and Katie Dillion at @LaJollaMom, as they share their travel insights with us. We're excited to hear what you have to say and we'll see you there! Happy Tweeting!

 

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.