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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.

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.

Must-Have Foods of The Caribbean & Mexico

Food. By definition, it’s nourishment that our bodies need in order to live and grow. But we all know, good food is (usually) SO much more than that. And especially when you’re headed on vacation, fabulous food can be the perfect indulgence that can really take your time off to the next level. So grab a pencil and paper (or just bookmark this article) and take notes. From island signatures that are pretty much a requirement to resort restaurant recommendations, we’ve got the low-down on all the must-try foods in the Caribbean & Mexico.

First, a few island flavors if you see on a menu (anywhere while on vacation), you should try: 

Mofongo in Puerto Rico:

Puerto Rico is known for it’s spicy culture and cool vibes. And fitting right in with its distinguished reputation is a signature dish of Puerto Rico--mofongo. This plantain-based dish is relatively simple and easy to make, but a visit to Puerto Rico just wouldn’t be complete without giving it a try.

If you’re feeling ambitious and want try to sample the dish before your vacation, this how-to instructional video will give you step-by-step instructions on how to properly make Puerto Rican mofongo (hint: it’s really easy to make).

Conch Fritters in the Bahamas: 

You probably won’t be surprised when you see a ton of fresh seafood on the menu while on your beach vacation. Naturally you’re near the ocean, so you have access to the colorful, vibrant flavors that can only be found in the sea (for the record, we highly recommend ordering these options, when you have the chance). So when we recommend trying conch when in the Bahamas, that may not be news to you.

Photo credit: istolethetv, flickr

But the staple way to eat this delicious dish is in the form of a fritter (yum!), although you can eat the conch in many different types of ways (salads, ceviches, chowders, etc). If you want to get a true local flavor of this Bahamian food, consider venturing off of your resort to a local hideaway (we like Goldie’s Conch House in Nassau). You’ll have your choice of conch served many ways, but the tried and true way is an order of conch fritters, served with hot sauce and made with finely minced sweet peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc.

And now for a few resort recommendations: 

Secrets The Vine in Cancun, Mexico:

The first on this list comes to us from the hotel zone of Cancun, Mexico. And while, that may not be your initial thought on where to go to eat delicious food in Mexico, we’re prepared to back up our claim. Secrets The Vine, most specifically, makes the top of food favorite list because of all the choices you have here. This 5-star, Unlimited-Luxury® resort is home to eight different restaurants with each exploring a different (and delicious) dining experience. You have everything from poolside grub inspired by Mediterranean flavors at Olio to a whirlwind fine dining experience at Bluewater Grill.

Best Food in Cancun - Secrets The Vine - CheapCaribbean.com

Not to mention, you’re welcome to take advantage of the Sip, Savor & See program, which allows you to dine at all of the sister properties, for a grand total of 25 different dining options.

Seven Stars Resort in Turks & Caicos:

If the ultimate luxury experience is a requirement for your ideal vacation, then Seven Stars Turks & Caicos is THE place for you. A long list of accolades that includes Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List, Trip Advisor’s Top 10 Resorts in the Caribbean and Trip Advisor’s Travel Choice Award means the food experience at this boutique 5-star resort is unforgettable.

Best Food in Turks & Caicos - Seven Stars Resort - CheapCaribbean.com

Picture this: You start your day with a mojito from Sand Dollar, the poolside bar. You then take a tip in the heated saltwater pool and catch some sun in a Caribbean lounger. Perhaps you stop off for a round of golf at the nearby Provo Golf & Country Club or hit the waves in a Hobie cat. You then begin your evening with tapas at the open-air bar and follow it up with a thick cut steak or fresh seafood dish from resort restaurant, Seven.

Breathless Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic: 

The final recommendation on our list is not only heavy on the dining options, but it’s packed full of things to do. Think of Breathless Punta Cana as the ultimate Vegas-style resort set right in the beautiful Dominican Republic. The chic, modern experience is perfect for your large group looking to party, but also accommodating to the couple looking for a romantic getaway. Either way, with the Unlimited Luxury® experience, you’ll have everything you need to live it up in the Caribbean.

Best Food in the Dominican Republic - Breathless Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

But we’re talking about food this week, so shouldn’t we get right down to it? Simply put, you’ll never go hungry. There’s 12 restaurants onsite, all with unique dining experiences. Enjoy a vibrant breakfast buffet with made to order omelets, eggs, pancakes, etc. Have lunch at one of the beachfront grills with anything from burgers to Mediterranean-inspired dishes. And dinner is even better. Start the evening with tapas by the pool and then choose from Silk City, Pan-Asian experience or Kibbeh, the Lebanese cuisine specialty. Oh, and an absolute MUST is dinner at Sofrito, the Latin Criollo experience. It’s a culturally authentic restaurant that will give you a good taste of something new and local to the DR.

While these aren't the ONLY food recommendations you'll want to know for your next Caribbean or Mexico vacation, they are definitely some beneficial ones. But we want to hear from you--tell us your foodie favorites in the comments below!

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

 

5 Events You’ll Want to Attend This Summer at the Beach

Take a look around you. The grass is starting to look alive; the sun is starting to shine a little bit brighter and the summer season is quickly approaching. Doesn’t it feel wonderful? With school wrapping up, it’s time to solidify your plans for the summer. Maybe you’re one of the ones who’s all packed and ready for your summer vacation. Perhaps you’re still doing some shopping and deciding on the perfect beach for you. Regardless, you’ll want to know what’s going down in the Caribbean & Mexico this summer. These five events are sure to make your beach vacay the best yet.

Julio Iglesias Concert, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana: June 7th

Spanish musician and songwriter, Julio Iglesias is taking on the Hard Rock in Punta Cana next week and it’s going to be a blast. Julio Iglesias is one of the best selling Latin music artists with nearly 80 albums and over 300 million records sold worldwide in 14 different languages. He’ll be in Punta Cana at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Fillmore Ballroom and will be serving up some of his classics. Concertgoers will enjoy the iconic performance of Iglesias, as well as be able to take advantage of the casino that calls Hard Rock home, among the long list of other amenities this 4.5-star resort has.

Julio Iglesias Concert - Hard Rock Hotel Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

Tickets range in price from $95 USD to $260 USD and can be purchased here.

Crop Over Festival, Barbados: All Summer Long

What could be better than a celebration around sugar? Barbados kicks off the Crop Over Festival in the beginning of June and has parties all summer long to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest, one of Barbados most prominent crops. Dating back as far as the 1780’s, the summer months in Barbados are usually ones for the record books. You can find a full calendar of events for June, July and August here. Just a few of the events include Bridgetown Market, a huge carnival-like show called Cohobblopot and Calypso, the festival competition that hands out titles like “Party Monarch” and “Sweet Soca Monarch.” There’s even a ceremony to crown a Queen & King of the Crop, or the most productive cane cutters of the season. Barbados is known to be happenin’ all summer long with lots of parties you definitely don’t want to miss out on.

July 4th Celebration, Breathless Punta Cana: July 4th

If you’re like us, soaking up some serious rays on the beaches of Punta Cana sounds like the perfect way to spend your long weekend on July 4th. But if you worry that a beach vacation might not be the best display of patriotism, don’t worry – Breathless Punta Cana is having a full-on celebration. Being that it’s the first Fourth of July for Breathless you can expect a full day and night of activities.

DJ Rhiannon 4th of July - Breathless Punta Cana - CheapCaribbean.com

The morning starts off with tennis, paddle & beach volleyball tournaments, followed by an afternoon parade and pool party fully equipped with a kick-A DJ. As the sun sets, get ready for the party to get even hotter. Enjoy all sorts of traditional American food (hamburgers, hot dogs, barbeque…you get the picture) and prepare yourself as DJ Rhiannon takes the stage after an epic firework show at 11pm. As you can see, your Independence Day at Breathless Punta Cana will be perhaps your best one yet.

Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica: July 13th – July 19th 

Reggae Sumfest - Jamaica - CheapCaribbean.com

If sweet jams and stunning Jamaica sunsets are your thing, then the Reggae Sumfest is probably a must for you. This is perhaps one of the most well-known music festivals in the Caribbean and occurs mid-summer every year. It’s essentially a week of good music and good vibes. Each year the line-up seems to get bigger and better. This year performers include Future, Tessanne Chin and Sean Paul. The headliners are Jason Derulo and Wiz Khalifa. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to truly experience Jamaica.

Tickets to all of the events of the festival can be purchased here. The official resorts of the event include Secrets Resorts & Iberostar Hotels (both we highly recommend).

La Fiesta de Playa, Cancun: August

La Fiesta de Playa - Cancun - CheapCaribbean.com

Another event you’ll find us at this summer is in Cancun. It’s exactly what the name of the event reads – Beach Party. On the beaches of Cancun every August, there’s basically a big ol’ party. The 12 miles that stretch on the coast of Punta Cancun to Punta Nizuc host a long list of activities that include: fashion shows, volleyball tournaments, beach dance parties, concerts, etc. All the hotels located on this stretch of beach organize themed parties and party well into the night. La Fiesta de Playa is one of our favorite times in Cancun and we hope to see you all there. Get all the information on La Fiesta de Playa here.

So as you can see, the summer is full of fun in the Caribbean and Mexico. It’s almost necessary that you attend one of these phenom events. Which one are you dying to go to? Is there anything we missed? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! 

Brittany Innes is Manager of Social Media at CheapCaribbean.com. She's a travel junkie with a passion for trying new things and being spontaneous. 

Jump on the Travel Trend & Seas the Deal

Ever had the urge to go to the airport, pick a destination and just go? Yeah, us too. Being spontaneous is one of our favorite things about traveling. Taking a trip to a new place and embarking on a new adventure isn’t just fun while you’re doing it, it makes for some great stories & memories to share when you get back home.

That’s why you’ve probably seen the trend of “mystery travel” popping up. The year of 2014 is said to bring about a lot of great travel trends and this will most definitely be one of them. And here at CheapCaribbean.com, we’ve made it easy & a little less risky for you to jump on the bandwagon. Instead of offering a package that’s a complete mystery, we’re encouraging you to “seas” the day and pick a vacation package where your destination is a sure thing, but the resort is revealed a few days before you travel.

Surprise Travel Trend - Seas the Deal - CheapCaribbean.com

Don’t worry, the resort you’ll be staying at is guaranteed to be a 5, 4.5 or 4-star property that’s an all-inclusive paradise. With CheapCaribbean.com’s Seas the Deal offer, we’ll pick one of our best resorts in destinations like Cancun, Punta Cana, Los Cabos, among others and get you all the deets seven days before you depart.

seasbeaches

Read more about what to expect and how to jump in on the hottest travel trend of 2014 here. Get ready for a little spontaneous adventure and book this hot vacation deal quick...it won't last long!

Brittany Innes is Manager of Social Media at CheapCaribbean.com. She's a travel junkie with a passion for trying new things and being spontaneous.