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Be American and Take a Vacation

Photo by Anita Ritenour

Fourth of July is one of the first official signs that summer is in full effect. It’s that time of year where kids are out of school, pool parties happen on the regular and everyone’s in good spirits - ready to enjoy the summer.  You’re probably busy making plans to celebrate our great country’s freedom and the last thing on your mind is taking any sort of vacation (that would just be so un-American, right?).

Well, in efforts to keep the patriotism alive after the holiday, we suggest a little R&R time on some of the country’s most stunning beaches. You may be surprised to find out that we’re talking about parts of the Caribbean. Yep, the Caribbean is home to a few U.S. territories that all have beautiful beaches, yet still embrace the essence of the Caribbean. And this Independence Day, we’re all about taking a visit to live out the American dream.

Cheap Vacations - Puerto Rico - CheapCaribbean.com

The first destination on this “Be American and Vacation” list is Puerto Rico. Home to vibrant culture, epic nightlife and stunning beach views; Puerto Rico is a no-brainer for a summer vacation spot. For example, the thrill-seeker can enjoy zip line tours in El Yunque, cave tours at Parque de las Cavernas, or the largest radio telescope in the world at Arecibo Observatory. If beach lounging is more your thing, enjoy beaches like Rincon (great for surfing) or Boquerón Beach, known for it’s incredible scenery & views.

And of course it goes without saying, the nightlife in Puerto Rico is unprecedented. While hot spots are scattered all along the island, the main attractions can be found in San Juan. With plenty of raging bars/clubs that flow into casinos, it’s perfect for the party animal in us all. If you’re still looking to get down, but prefer a little bit of a tamer vibe; be sure to check out Old San Juan. Stop in at Maria’s for her signature cocktail, La Nota or enjoy reggae at La Sombrilla Rosa. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll have a blast in Puerto Rico. Oh – and since you don’t need a passport to get here, it’s the perfect spot for your American vacation adventure.

In terms of where to stay, you can’t go wrong with places like El San Juan Resort & Casino for great nightlife, or Rincon Beach Resort to be within walking distance of killer surf spots.

Cheap Beach Vacations - USVI St. Thomas - CheapCaribbean.com

If the idea of a three vacations in one sounds right up your alley, then the next suggestion on our “Be American and Vacation” list is the United States Virgin Islands. Located not far from the coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the USVI is home to St. John, St. Thomas and St. Croix. You can essentially enjoy three completely different vacation experiences all with short boat rides from island to island.

Each island has something unique to offer. St. John is the greenest island with two-thirds of the island being part of a National Park. It also makes for a great day adventure. St. Thomas is catered more towards the flow of tourists with luxury resorts and plenty of shopping. And then St. Croix is sort of a hidden gem with a mix of everything St. John and St. Thomas have to offer. We recommend a trip to an old sugar plantation while visiting, or an epic scuba diving adventure. Oh and don’t forget to stop in at the Cruzan Rum Distillery for a tour and taste of a signature island spirit.

And of course, this wouldn’t be a beach vacation recommendation without the beaches. The USVI is home to a hefty list of some of the world’s top-rated beaches. Stop in for a dip in Magen’s Bay (St. Thomas) in the Caribbean Sea or see what all the hype is about at Trunk Bay in St. John. Because Trunk Bay is part of the Virgin Islands National Park, the preservation has kept this iconic strip home to pearly white sands, crystal clear waters and complete serenity.

When it comes to accommodations, a few of our choices include Sugar Bay Resort & Spa in St. Thomas or Westin St. John Resort & Villas in St. John.

So as you can see, there are plenty of great vacation spots to jet away to while still enjoying the patriotism that comes with being a part of this great nation. So today – have a safe, wonderful Fourth of July and be sure to celebrate what it means to have a nation of freedom for nearly 238 years (Happy Birthday America!). And once you get the itch to find a sunny spot on a beach, be sure to keep in mind these United States vacation destinations.

Are there any other US beach vacation spots in the Caribbean that didn’t make the list? Let us know your recommendations in the comments below!

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

Postcard worthy beaches perfect for Spring Break

Although Phil, the groundhog, saw his shadow a few weeks ago, signifying there’s six more weeks left of winter, the snow will slowly start to melt and spring will be here before you know it. With all of the sunshine & new growth that come with spring, also comes the time of year perfect for a little getaway. Yes, we’re talking about spring break. It’s the few days of spring that the kids are out of school and you can take off and jet away to somewhere warm and tropical. For this spring break, we recommend picking a destination that’s not only perfect for memory making, but also takes some pretty stellar pictures. See what’s on our list of post-card worthy beaches and start planning the most epic spring break getaway today.

Eagle Beach, Ojahansted, Aruba

Aruba is known for it’s cooling trade winds, friendly people and breathtaking beaches, making it an absolute must for our list of post-card destinations. More specifically, Eagle Beach is known for it’s pristine, white sand & clear turquoise waters. In fact, Trip Advisor recently named Eagle Beach as one of the top ten beaches in the world. Now tell us that isn’t picture perfect?

Eagle Beach, Aruba - Spring Break Vacations - CheapCaribbean.com

Photo by Aruba Tourism Authority

Not only is this beach a sight for sore eyes, but it’s perfect for tennis fans. On the weekends, tennis matches can be found all along the beach. And if you’re in Aruba at the right time of year, you might even be able to witness the hatchings of four species of sea turtle nests that call Eagle Beach home. If you see the beach lined with red and white markers, turtle nests containing as many as 80 eggs are in the process of hatching and making their way to their more permanent home, the ocean. Our pick for the perfect place to rest your head as you venture to Aruba’s iconic beach is Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa. This boutique, all-inclusive experience offers three restaurants, customizable spa treatments at Spa del Sol, among other things, all perfectly placed right on one of the world’s top beaches.

Playa Negra, Vieques Island, Puerto Rico

If one of your spring break requirements is “something different”, Puerto Rico might just be the spot for you. The island is home to plenty of vibrant culture, delicious food, stellar nightlife and of course, unique beaches. For the ultimate family vacation spot, we recommend a stay at Gran Melia Golf Resort. Not only are there two 18-hole, championship golf courses for the avid golfers in your family, there’s an oceanfront lagoon-style pool with swim up bar, five onsite restaurants and a long list of extracurricular activities. This 4.5-star beach resort will surely have something to keep every member of your family entertained.

Gran Melia Golf Resort, Puerto Rico - Spring Break Vacations - CheapCaribbean.com

Now, for the reason this destination makes our postcard worth beaches list: Playa Negra. This black sand beach located on Vieques Island will most certainly make for postcard worthy pictures. The beach gets its black sand from past volcanic activity and a shift in tectonic plates. We recommend a day trip to Vieques Islands to explore it’s other iconic light sanded beaches and then venturing off to Playa Negra for an experience that’ll make your entire trip – and make for some good pictures, of course.

Trunk Bay Beach, St. John., U.S. Virgin Islands

For the adventure seekers on spring break vacation, let us suggest Trunk Bay Beach in St. John. Next to it’s stellar views and clean, clear waters, this spot is known to have some of the most beautiful ocean life. There’s a 225-yard-long Underwater Trail of reefs, made perfect for snorkeling & underwater photography. After lounging under an umbrella on the coral sands, you can take advantage of the water-sport rentals or take a swim in the calm waters of the bay.

Photo Credit: Travel Channel

Photo credit by Travel Channel

After a long day of beaching at Trunk Bay, you’ll want to have a place to call home. Our pick is Westin St. John Resort & Villas. This 5-star resort was recently voted as Best Island Paradise and Best Family Experience by Starwood’s loyalty members. The whole fam can take a dip in the quarter-acre freshwater pool or mom and dad can head over to the golf course while the kids hang at the Westin Kids Club. Enjoy plenty of dining options & even indulge in a spa treatment at the Westin St. John spa. It sounds like your trip to St. John will be packed full of fun things to do and see, all while being surrounding by stunning beauty. Don't forget that you're only a hop, skip and a jump away from the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

With only a few weeks left until spring break season is officially underway, you'll want to get started planning the trip of a lifetime. What do you think of our list? Do you agree? What else would you add to our postcard beaches list? Tell us what you think 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. 

4 Things to Do this Summer in the Caribbean & Mexico

Where to go? What to do? These are all natural questions to ask when you’re busy planning your vacation itinerary. The good news is summertime in the Caribbean & Mexico is packed full of festivals, celebrations and plenty of fun things to do. If you’re heading to the beach this summer, be sure to pencil in some of these must-dos.

St. John’s Carnival Festival 2013: June 1st – July 4th

If you’re heading to any of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the next few weeks, St. John, more specifically, you’ll be there for the island’s largest celebration. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Come and Explore the Cultural Scene for Festival 2013,” which means you can expect lots of events centered around St. John’s culture and history.

The whole calendar includes activities featuring traditional food and music, among other things. Also, there’s a legend of West African inspired mocko jumbies, which were shape-changing ghost-like figures that traditionally appeared at night and scared those who were out late and being mischievous. People dressed up as mocko jumbies parade around the events on stilts and elaborate costumes, and are a signature of St. John’s festival. All of this is cumulated at the conclusion of the festival on July 4th with one final parade and, of course, a massive firework show.

Things to do in St. John from CheapCaribbean.com

See the beautiful costumes, taste the delicious food and experience the spirit that encompasses St. John with a schedule of events here.

Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival: August 1st – August 5th 

Jamaica is known for many things, reggae music being one of them. Upon its origination in the 1960s in Jamaica, reggae is a music style with influences of traditional African, ska and Rastafari.  And the first week of August in Ocho Rios is a festival to celebrate this true Jamaican style and most specifically this year “Woman in Film.”

Originating in 2008, the Jamaica International Reggae Film Festival is an opportunity to come together and celebrate the reggae style that is home to Jamaica. In the past, several of the films shown at the festival have received awards and honors from film festivals all over the world. And this year the Festival will include a larger emphasis on reggae music with a plethora of live performances and the addition of new Music Video Awards. The event will take place at Island Village in Ocho Rios, which is also home to great shopping and entertainment. It sounds like this week in Jamaica, among others, is one you won’t want to miss.

La Fiesta de Playa, Cancun: August 11th – August 13th 

If you’re look to party on the beach like the name of the festival means, it looks like Cancun is the place for you during this week in August. This celebration takes place in the middle of Cancun’s hotel zone and offers plenty of ways to let loose, such as parties, DJs, fashion shows, concerts, competitions, traditional Mexico food and plenty of other cultural events. This party has been rumored to be so legendary, it’s often called “The Biggest Beach Party in the World.”

Cancun Hotel Zone Beach Party from CheapCaribbean.com

And after three days of beach parties you can only dream about, you can hop over to Isla Mujeres on August 17th to take part in their Founding Day festivities. This day marks the day in 1854 when the first settlement was founded on the island and is often times celebrated with a mass dive off the coast of the island, as well as parades, a pageant, live music and dancing. Spending this week in August in Mexico will give you an accurate representation of how these people party and possibly inspire you to bring some of the fun home with you.

Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival – August 30th – August 31st

And if a-list celebrity, star-studded events are more of your thing, we suggest the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival, a two day festival that takes place at the end of August. Just recently announced, Usher and Marc Anthony will be headlining this event celebrating jazz music.

Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival from CheapCaribbean.com

There’s a full roster of iconic music acts including The Roots, Diana Ross, Luis Miguel, Toto, Erykah Badu and Sonny Rollings, just to name a few. There’s no denying that this event sounds like one of the best beach music festivals all summer long. With picturesque beaches and even better tunes, we almost consider this event the perfect way to wrap up your summer travels.

If you’d like to WIN your way to Curacao for this festival, don’t forget to enter our Tweet to Win promotion running through June 25th. Make sure you’re following us on Twitter to get all the info.

The Caribbean’s Most Exotic Beaches Made Just for You

Shut down the computer. Turn off the cell phone. Put that out-of-office reply on your email. It’s time to get away. And not just on a typical vacation…how about a trip to one of the Caribbean’s most secluded, exotic beaches? This week, we’re all about destinations that offer complete privacy and utter relaxation…and not to mention some of the most stunning views in the world.

Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are made of a series of small islands. The largest of these islands, Grand Cayman is a top choice if you’ve got your sights on a mesmerizing view. On the west side of Grand Cayman is the world-famous Seven Mile Beach. This beach is a crescent-shaped natural wonder that lends itself to calm, crystal clear waters and pure silk sand. It’s also one of the lesser-populated beaches in the Caribbean, making it the perfect place to jet away to for that private, serene vacation you’re seeking.

Caribbean Vacations Cayman Islands from Cheapcaribbean.com

For some of the best views and quietest places to lounge on your vacation, Grand Cayman Island is the perfect exotic beach to runaway to.

One of our top picks for accommodations on Grand Cayman Island is Grand Cayman Beach Suites. Located on the famous sparkling white sand of Seven Mile Beach, this hotel resort is the perfect compliment to a trip full of serenity and a fresh mind. There are two spectacular pools, even one with a swim-up bar. We also recommend a stop at the 12-person, deluxe European boutique spa and indulge in a treatment that will leave you feeling rested and rejuvenated.

Grand Cayman Islands Caribbean Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

Bounce between the powdery white sand and the pool with the swim-up bar for a vacation day well spent.

Make sure to stop in at Hemingways Restaurant located on site of this resort. It was recently voted in the “Top 3 Restaurants in the Caribbean,” by Wine Spectator and will prove to be an iconic memory of your trip.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks & Caicos

Another place in the Caribbean that’s quick to be named as one of the most exotic spots in the Caribbean is Turks & Caicos. And while there’s a good chance any part of this island will promise picture perfect views, our favorite is Grace Bay Beach. This area is home to a ton of top-of-the-line resorts that are all tucked perfectly on the shores of this beautiful beach, making it the ideal place to stay on your Turks & Caicos vacation.

Turks & Caicos Caribbean Vacation from Cheapcaribbean.com

Grab a refreshing cocktail and spend some quality time with the bluest beach you've ever seen at Grace Bay Beach.

Seven Stars Resort is just the place to stay if you’re looking to experience this iconic beach for yourself.  This 5-star resort sits right on TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Award top-rated beach. Yes, we’re talking about the infamous Grace Bay Beach. Embrace a vacation full of romance and relaxation at this picture perfect Turks & Caicos resort.

Turks & Caicos Caribbean Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

Surround yourself with beautiful views at this iconic Turks & Caicos resorts.

Start your vacation off right - grab a mojito from Sand Dollar, the poolside bar and take a dip in the heated saltwater pool or relax in a Caribbean lounger. You can also fill your days with a round of golf at the nearby Provo Golf & Country Club or hit the waves in a Hobie cat. When its time for a bite, stop at Seven for a thick cut steak or fresh seafood. If you’re looking a night out you can check out the downtown Provo nightlife that’s just right outside your hotel door.

St. John, USVI

Caribbean Travel + Life names St. John the “emerald jewel of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” which is one of the many reasons we add St. John to our list of must-see exotic beaches. Although this is a rather small island, St. John is home to 31 of the most beautiful beaches in the world and definitely an island you’ll want to add to your bucket list. Stop off at Trunk Bay to snorkel through the underwater trail or visit Cinnamon Bay’s prehistoric archaeological site and not to mention, iconic views you’ll never forget.

St. John, USVI Caribbean Vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

Your vacation to St. John should be spent exploring all of the critically acclaimed beaches on this island.

Being that St. John is the perfect destination to take to the whole family to, we’d suggest a family vacation to the Westin St. John Resort & Villas. This resort sits right on the edge of Cruz Bay, which offers aqua-clear tranquil waters, perfect for a trip with the kids to test out the snorkeling gear in the shallow waters. Don’t worry, if you’re looking for a little adult time, the kids can gladly hang out at the Westin Kids Club with plenty of fun activities that might keep the kiddos from wanting to leave.

St. John, USVI Caribbean vacations from Cheapcaribbean.com

The Westin St. John has everything you'll need to make your family vacation complete.

Be sure to take advantage of the quarter-acre, freshwater pool fully equipped with a underwater-light show and two Jacuzzis, perfect for lounging. And when you’re hungry, the family can grab a bite at Snorkel’s Bar or Beach Café for lunch and give Cruz Bay Prime a try for an elegant, delicious dinner that will accompany your ideal vacation.

A vacation is something that you’ll remember forever. So why not make the trip that will leave you with memories on some of the most beautiful, exotic beaches in the world? It’s time to cross this off your bucket list.