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Monthly Archives: July 2013

A Girl’s Packing Checklist for Cancun

July 31st, 2013 | By admin | Posted in All Inclusive Travel, Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

There's nothing worse than being under prepared on a luxury vacation with the ladies, but overpacking is just as burdensome. Wondering what to bring on your all inclusive trip to Mexico? From beach lounging to hiking & partying into the wee hours, you'll need a range of versatile items. By following this list, you'll be ready for anything – just be sure to leave room in your suitcase for a few souvenirs to bring back.

If you're planning to spend a lot of time basking on the sand & wading in the crystal clear waters, one swimsuit isn't going to cut it. Bring a backup so you can rotate them throughout the trip & be sure to pack a sundress or a cover up to toss on when you want to head off the beach to grab some lunch. As far as footwear goes, you'll need a pair of supportive sandals that are appropriate for trekking around town with your girlfriends. You'll also want to include a pair of fearless heels & a dressier ensemble to don when you're galavanting to the city's hottest bars & clubs. Temperatures fall after dark, meaning you'll want to have a cardigan or a light shrug for your nighttime adventures.

Beach basics
You won't want your favorite handbag to get damaged by the sun & sand, so be sure to bring a straw or canvas tote that will fit all your beach essentials. It can also be helpful to bring a hat to shade your face & cover your scalp from the strong Mexican sun. However, even the widest brim isn't enough protection, so be sure to pack sunscreen that's at least SPF 30.

Many all inclusive resorts provide soaps, shampoo, conditioner, lotion & other bath products for their guests. Check ahead of time, & if these toiletries aren't provided or you want to bring your own, make sure to place them in a Ziploc bag in case they burst open in your suitcase. As humidity is high in Cancun, it's not worth it to pack a bevy of hair products – but USA Today advised that you will definitely need an anti-frizz serum to keep strands under control. Since you're also exposing your hair to a lot of sun & possibly saltwater, conditioner is also key for keeping tresses touchable.

Don't forget to bring a camera & a journal to record all of your memorable experiences. You might want to share them with fellow Beach Bums later on! 

3 Reasons to Take a Family Vacation to Cancun

July 30th, 2013 | By admin | Posted in Family Vacations | Leave a comment

Family vacations are about bonding, but it can be difficult to get closer when kids range in ages & interests. Luckily, Cancun provides a variety of exciting activities that are sure to keep everyone entertained. Regardless of age, the whole family is bound to appreciate the white sandy beaches & crystalline water. Still, there's much more to Cancun than the brilliant beaches & vivacious nightlife – including a bevy of activities that will bring everyone closer than before. These are just a few of the must-do excursions:

There are a number of water parks that are suitable for kids as well as adults, so choosing the right one depends on the thrill level you're looking for. Xel-Há is an eco-friendly snorkel park where visitors can become one with nature. Can't decide between snorkeling & scuba diving? Try Snuba, a combination of the two. Non-swimmers can also observe the colorful Caribbean aquatic life on a Sea Trek. By donning the special helmet, you can breathe safely & comfortably under water. You can even encounter sting-rays or endangered manatees while learning about their biology & behaviors. A ride on the 23-foot-high zip-bike offers a whole new perspective on the surrounding landscapes, including grottos, caves & the jungle. After all the excitement, stop for a hammock massage at the Xel-Há spa, which fuses aromatherapy & physiotherapy with ancient Mayan wisdom.

Xcaret is an archeological theme park that offers everything from swimming with sea creatures to live musical performances. The park has even recently developed a new adventure specifically for younger visitors to interact with small nurse sharks & sting rays in a safe atmosphere. Feel the wind & spray on your face during "Adrenalina," a high-speed swift boat ride through the cerulean Caribbean waters. There's more beyond the typical attractions & activities, though – a tour of the spectacular Vino de México Wine Cellar is led by an expert sommelier for an education on more than 500 years of Mexican wine's history, along with a tasting.

Interactive Aquarium
Get up close & personal with marine life at this unique, hands-on aquarium. Don diving gear & descend into a two-story tank to observe blunt-nosed bull sharks & black tip sharks from inside a cage – or if you're feeling less gutsy, swim with the dolphins or feed the sea turtles. Little ones can get involved at the touch tank, where they're able to hold rays, sea stars & more. Those who are looking to gain a stronger understanding of these friendly creatures can even test out being a trainer for a day. After working up an appetite, take advantage of the variety of on-site eateries, including an open-air Thai restaurant & an Indian option. You can also nosh on ceviche & sip on a margarita at Jugo de Limón​ Marisquería Mexicana while overlooking the lagoon.

More adventures
While there's plenty to do within Cancun, your family will get a lot more insight into the rich cultural history of Mexico by taking a trip outside the city. To find out more about ancient cultures, a tour to Chichen Itza, the most famous Mayan ruin, is a great option & only a two to three hour drive away. You could also opt to go to Tulum, where you'll find one of the only surviving images of Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of fertility & medicine. Just don't forget to bring a bathing suit – after scoping out the carvings & columns, the whole family will want to take a swim at the stunning beaches. You can even combine a trip to Tulum with a stop at Xel-Há, which is nearby.

Who knows? On your family vacation in Mexico, you might even re-connect with your own inner-child.

Cocktailing in Tamarindo, Costa Rica

July 30th, 2013 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

One of the most exciting aspects of adult vacations is exploring the nightlife in a new place. Tamarindo, while formerly a sleepy beach town in Costa Rica's Guanacaste province, has developed a bustling scene with the emergence of new bars & clubs. The atmosphere after dark has a multicultural flair & carefree party vibe & on any night, you could be mingling with a diverse mix of international jetsetters, locals & others from nearby the communities of Playa Grande, Flamingo, Playa Del Coco or Santa Cruz. On weekends, the main drag has the festival feel of Mardi Gras. But the best part is there's never a dull moment in Tamarindo, as there's something happening every night of the week. After observing the Guanacaste wildlife by day on your luxury vacation, discover the wildlife by night at these hotspots:

Yucca Bar
The typical clientele at Yucca Bar, which is just several blocks inland from the Tamarindo Diria, is local surfers stopping in after a day of riding the waves. Local cover bands provide the soundtrack on most nights, but the open mic nights are a great opportunity to listen to up-and-coming talent. There's often a long line, so go early to beat the crowds.

Aqua Discoteque
The only real nightclub in Tamarindo, Aqua Discoteque is known for its strong drinks, high energy & spectacular staff. Sip on a tropical cocktail from the terrace balcony with ocean views, lounge under the sparkling chandeliers or dance the night away to the DJs' progressive electronic tunes on the enormous dance floor. Monday nights are ladies night, meaning women drink for free from 10 p.m. to midnight, & Saturday night patrons pay one reasonable cover charge to drink at no additional cost for two hours.

Crazy Monkey Bar
Featured on the show "Wild on E! Costa Rica," Crazy Monkey Bar's name is aptly fitting. This open-air bar, which is located on the hills above Tamarindo, hosts live music events, fashion shows & a ladies night on Fridays & live DJs through out the week, so no evening here is alike. The bar tends to get crowded when bands are performing, but it's worth putting up with the mayhem.

Insider Tip: Swing by for drink deals at the daily happy hour between 5 p.m. & 7 p.m.

If you're looking for some rasta recreation, head to this local reggae bar, which always has an eclectic mix of locals & tourists. The open structure & relaxed Caribbean vibe offer the perfect ambience for unwinding after an activity-packed day of tours & sightseeing.

El Garito
Though a smaller space than some of the other venues, El Garito is still a popular spot for a top-notch mojito & some of the best partying in the area, likely due the ownership under the duo DJ Zeke & DJ Mauricio de Sostoa. Groove to hip-hop on Friday nights or stop by on a Saturday for beer specials. Just don't expect traditional tunes here – the music varies from divergent house to punk rock.

For a more low-key environment, head to Sharky's Sports Bar & Grill, which has been a favorite local watering hole for many years. Sizable flat-screen TVs line the walls & consistently display major sporting events & concerts. It's an ideal spot for hockey fans, too, as it's the only sports bar featuring NHL games. If you're just chilling, nurse a local craft brew & nosh on some of the pub-style grub. Otherwise, check out Karaoke on Tuesday nights for some guaranteed absurdity.

After partying in Tamarindo, your expectations for a good time might be raised to a whole new level.

Keep Guys & Gals Happy at the Fairmont Orchid

July 29th, 2013 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

One of the main problems that arises on couples' luxury vacations is conflicting tastes & interests. While the ladies likely want to build up a tan, pamper themselves with a mani/pedi & indulge in some shopping, the guys might be more interested in a round of golf or trying a new water sport. Fortunately, there's something for everyone at the Fairmont Orchid on the Kohala Coast of Hawaii. Set on one of the Big Island's pristine white sandy beaches, this luxury resort is an epicenter of both relaxation & lively activities, with an oceanfront swimming pool, outdoor spa, world-class tennis courts, canoes, a 36-hole golf course & a variety of restaurants & lounges.

Beach time
You'll want to head to the secluded beach on the first day of your luxury vacation to lounge in the cabanas or on the comfy chairs, where Hui Holokai Beach Club ambassadors will wait on you hand & foot with towels & ice water. Stop by Brown's Deli for some island beach snacks, like Hawaiian chili pepper water or chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. You might even find new companions in the native Hawaiian green sea turtles that laze on the shoreline each afternoon. If lying around isn't your thing, paddle an outrigger canoe into the Pacific or learn to weave your own coconut leaf basket with the Orchid Beachboys. Then, savor a refreshing tropical drink just steps from the surf at the Kahakai Bar.

Spa Without Walls
Guys & girls alike can unwind at the award-winning Spa Without Walls, which allows visitors to take in the soothing ocean sounds, tropical breezes & Hawaiian floral scents in eight private outdoor waterfall huts, six oceanside huts or indoor treatment rooms, a steam room & dry sauna. Refresh with a hiwahiwa body treatment, which includes a volcanic mud foot wrap to draw out tension & an energy massage with organic fruit & flower oils. Experience unparalleled luxury with the kahinu massage, which uses nourishing warm coconut oil on the neck, scalp, shoulders, hands & feet for a deeply relaxing experience. If you need to soothe a burn, try the healing sun soother treatment, which eases the pain with cooling & hydrating lavender mist, aloe & tea tree gel. The sunset spa special is a worthy splurge & includes an oceanfront couples massage, soothing foot wrap & delectable cocktail for two.

There is a wide array of dining options to satisfy any taste, diet or craving. For a memorable evening, head to the award-winning Brown's Beach House, which serves up innovative Hawaiian-inspired cuisine from locally grown ingredients & freshly caught seafood. Nightly entertainment by resident soloists provide the perfect soundtrack to romantic shoreline sunsets. Alternatively, head to Norio's Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar for some of the best sushi on the island. If you don't feel like leaving your room, the resort offers romantic in-room gourmet dinners for two. After your meal, head to the Luana Lounge for some live music & an aperitif while gazing out from the terrace.

Sports & shopping
Start the day right with a daily seaside yoga class, then take part in some friendly competition with a night game at the 10-court tennis center. Vacationers of all skill levels can also enjoy a round of golf at The Fairmont's courses, but the rugged South Golf Course is built on prehistoric Kaniku lava flow & is particularly challenging. Adventure-seekers that want more exciting activities will want to take a trip into Kona for some snorkeling or parasailing.

You don't even need to leave the grounds for a little retail therapy. The resort's own Fairmont Store sells specialty designer clothing for both men & women, including Tommy Bahama, Betsy Johnson & Three Dots. Still, some of the best shopping in Hawaii is at Mauna Lani, which is just a quick walk or complimentary shuttle ride away.

There's no reason to compromise: Luxury travel to this paradise is guaranteed to keep everyone entertained.

Delve Into the Rich Art & History of Antigua

July 26th, 2013 | By admin | Posted in Luxury Vacation Travel | Leave a comment

In Antigua, it seems as if art is all around you – in each thread of the brilliant fabrics worn by locals, every petal of the tropical orchids & all of the pristine white-sand beaches. Still, amidst all the color in the island's rich palette, there are also a variety of museums & galleries to visit on your next luxury vacation. At these sites, you can observe different eras in history while gaining a new perspective on the stunning landscapes.

Antigua & Barbuda Museum
A visit to Antigua isn't complete without trekking to this museum, which is housed in the original 1750 Court of Justice, one of the oldest standing buildings in St. John. Architect Peter Harrison built the structure from yellow freestone that was quarried from off-shore islands surrounding Antigua. The museum was established with a goal of preserving the island's history & heritage, & the various exhibitions showcase momentous events, such as the Colonial Era, the advent of the Amerindians & the emancipation of the slaves. History buffs will delight in observing an array of vestiges from old shipwrecks, military fortifications & a wealth of information on Antiguan war veterans, sugar factories & trade unionism. Feast your eyes on a life-size replica of an Arawak dwelling & even the bat of Sir Viv Richards, one of the greatest cricket players of all time.

Harmony Hall
The openings for monthly exhibitions at Harmony Hall, which typically happen on the first Sunday from November to April, are just as much a social event as they are a cultural learning experience. Mix & mingle at this intimate gallery with respected local artists & collectors while sipping on complimentary cocktails. Since there's a wide range of price tags on works here, you might be able to afford a meaningful memento, which the gallery will ship anywhere in the world. Annual highlights include the Antigua Artist's Exhibition & the Craft Fair in November. The sugar mill tower around which Harmony Hall is built has been converted into a bar, & provides patrons with one of the island's best panoramic views, including one of Nonsuch Bay. After surveying the artwork, stop by the adjoining Harmony Hall Restaurant, where chefs serve up mouth-watering Mediterranean-style cuisine.

Art at the Ridge
Based in the beautiful Sugar Ridge Village opposite Jolly Harbour, this is one of the island's newest spots to explore the art of Antigua & was voted one of The Culture Trip's Top 10 Art Galleries in the Caribbean. With works on display by artists both on the island & abroad, you'll find everything from hand-painted "shakers" (seed pods from the flamboyant tree, pottery, sculptures, naturally made soaps & jams made from locally grown fruit. You can also pick up a book on the art, history & culture of Antigua at the craft gift shop. Art at the Ridge prides itself on keeping prices the same as when the works were bought directly from the artist or artisan at their own studio, meaning regardless of your budget, you can likely purchase a piece of your own.

Betty's Hope
Built in 1674 & located in the limestone district of quaint rural Antigua, Betty's Hope was the island's first sugar plantation. Now, two stone windmills & a distillery remain on the site along with a visitor's center, which contains early estate plans, pictures, maps & artifacts. Surrounded by captivating vistas & a rolling landscape to the distant ocean, travelers can take an informative tour for historical insights into the significance that sugar plantations had in Antigua's economy.

Whether you're an art or history aficionado or still new to these realms, there's plenty for Beach Bums to see & learn on their next luxury vacation to this culturally rich island.

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