Spotlight: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres aerial viewCrowded beaches and congested airports, all factors in a typical vacation that makes us a little apprehensive to book that flight and take the time off. What if you could find the ultimate escape, without sacrificing the luxury and service of a resort? Let me offer a suggestion.

Isla Mujeres, an island town a short distance off the northeast coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in the Caribbean Sea, about 13 kilometers (8.1 mi) northeast of Cancun, is a perfect getaway from the stresses of everyday life. There are ferries that transport you to this paradise from the main land, running every 30 min during the day.

Isla Mujeres offers great activities from scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming with whale sharks, shopping, dinning, as well as various locations to visit. There are two marine parks on the southern end of the island, Garrafon and Garrafon de Castilla. There is also a turtle park that is open to the public, where vacationers can take part in releasing the new born sea turtles into the Caribbean Sea once they have reached the health to survive on their own.

Isla Mujeres also offers another attraction that pulls you back in time, the Mayan ruins on the southern cost of the island. This temple, dedicated to the Mayan goddess of the sun and moon and patroness of pregnant women, Ixchel, attracts visitors and offers a taste of the rich history and culture this island get away has to offer.

Castillo Del Candelabro, Beachhouse.com Property ID# 21520

Castillo Del Candelabro, Beachhouse.com Property ID# 21520

One of the most impressive things Isla Mujeres stands to offer is an embrace of luxury felt through the Castillo Del Candelabro, “The House of The Chandelier.” This gorgeous beach vacation rental property is a home away from home, and boasts impeccable furnishings and sumptuous designs throughout the expanse of its 5 bedrooms, and 4 bathrooms. This inspiring home looks out over the Caribbean Sea offering an infinity pool and a guest home that will comfortably suit a group without asking them to sacrifice comfort. Bask in the sun and enjoy the Caribbean breeze as you experience the ultimate feeling of arrival.

Start planning your vacation today!  Contact the owner of Castillo Del Candelabro today – click HERE to submit a rental inquiry.

Top 8 Most Creative Destination Weddings

A growing number of couples are opting out of traditional church weddings in favor of something a bit more extreme. Destination weddings are truly events that will never be forgotten. They allow couples to say “I do” under the most creative situations they can dream up.

Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

Photo: Melanie Bowlen

Take a look at these 8 memorable destination wedding ideas.

  1. Scuba beach wedding—Why not get married with the dolphins and other marine wildlife? A beach wedding lets couples tie the knot about 30 feet from the water. These weddings are popular in Hawaii, California, Florida and other beautiful beach destinations. Of course, if you want to get married underwater, both you and your spouse must be certified divers. Talk about taking the plunge!
  2. Skydiving wedding—If the idea of jumping out of an airplane, exchanging your vows in mid air, and opening your parachute for a (hopefully) smooth landing sounds fun to you, then maybe you should consider a skydiving wedding. This wedding definitely isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s certainly creative and memorable. Daring couples only need apply.
  3. Medieval wedding—Are you and your spouse fans of the Middle Ages? Medieval weddings allow you to embrace your inner renaissance man as you dress in unique period attire and enjoy a medieval feast at your reception. A word of advice: Leave the swords at home.midevil
  4. Hawaiian luau wedding—Do you love the mystical beauty of the Hawaiian culture? Have you always dreamed of having scantily clad men and women dance at your wedding? If so, Hawaiian luaus are an exciting and memorable way to get hitched…. especially because they often take place on the beach at night. If you value your facial hair though, you might want to stay away from the fire breathers.
  5. Photo:  Melanie Bowlen

    Photo: Melanie Bowlen

  6. Roller coaster wedding—Warning: Do not eat before your roller coaster wedding. Even the best destination wedding photographer can’t take a beautiful picture if the wedding party is losing their lunch during the ceremony. Saying “I do” while blazing around a roller coaster, turning upside down, and plunging from hundreds of feet in the air is truly an extreme destination wedding. Beware of whiplash.
  7. Waterfall wedding—One of the most romantic destination weddings a couple can have is at the base of a beautiful waterfall. There’s just something about waterfalls that is magical, right? And they make for gorgeous wedding photos too. The good news is you can even stay on dry ground and just use the waterfall as a backdrop. This is perfect for the couple looking for a unique yet timid destination wedding.waterfall
  8. Volcano wedding—Nothing says “I love you” like hot molten lava and smoke, but many couples have enjoyed volcano weddings. These weddings often take place in the South Pacific, and they usually feature wedding guests dressed in traditional island wear (grass skirts, feathers, etc.). Just make sure the volcano you choose isn’t too active.volcano
  9. Hot air balloon wedding—A wedding in a hot air balloon allows you to peacefully glide over the landscape with the one you love. It’s an extreme wedding destination to be sure, but hot air balloon weddings are much calmer and less dangerous than many of the other ideas in this list.

Have you been to a creative destination wedding? Share your experience in the replies!

Authors Bio: Melanie Bowlen is a creative destination wedding photographer with over 8 years of experience in the wedding and travel industries. She has a true passion for capturing people’s emotions in an artistic way.

Bluefields Bay, Jamaica

Bluefields Bay, Jamaica is a breathtakingly gorgeous and highly secluded vacation spot in Jamaica. It is sixty minutes away from Montego Bay and forty minutes away from Negril. Because of its untouched beauty and exclusivity, it is an idealgetaway spot and it is perfect for hosting weddings, dinner parties, important family events or birthdays, or any special occasion. The spectacular venues that can accommodate up to forty-two people overlook the Caribbean Sea and hosting an event in one of the venues would be a private and memorable occasion.

A must-see sight in the western part of Bluefields Bay is the Paradise Park which is a serene, 1000 acre private estate. Anyone that has been to Paradise Park will bear testimony that its name is an accurate reflection of its nature. The park is mainly a cattle and dairy farm located on a tropical savanna with flourishing, grassy fields and colorful flowering trees and shrubs. You can take a tour at the park which takes about an hour and a half and then explore the paths of the topical forest, swim in the blue waters of the bay, picnic in the park, or just seep in the serene, soothing atmosphere. The park is enjoyable at any time of the year; make sure that you are dressed casually and comfortably.

Bluefields Bay offers a wealth of activities for tourists that include snorkeling, deep-sea fishing, sea kayaking, playing water sports, scuba diving, golfing, horseback riding, going to beaches, and hiking along the beautiful trails of the Bay. There is also a vibrant culture of drinking, dancing and dining that you can explore—over the weekends, you can visit one of the indigenous reggae bars or the lively clubs in Negril and have the opportunity to mingle with the locals of the town. There are also many traditional Jamaican restaurants in Bluefields Bay that are worth visiting. Incidentally, you can eat world-class food cooked by a renowned chef at your own villa! A tour of historical sites would be very interesting because Bluefields Bay has a rich past having been occupied by the English and Scottish colonists. It goes without saying that a trip to Bluefields Bay will be a very enjoyable, relaxing and memorable experience for you.

The Heavenly Seven-Mile Long Community of Boca Grande

Boca Grande is a peaceful seven mile long community in Gasparilla Island, Southwest Florida.  This paradisiacal location is ideal for a get-away-from-it-all location as it offers a tranquilizing alternative to the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Boca Grande does not have any high rises or traffic lights and the mode of transportation for most people is golf carts.  At Boca Grande, you can enjoy the pristine beaches, aquatic activities, fishing, golfing, dining, and shopping.  Luxurious beach vacation homes are very popular among tourists on this island as they capture the true essence of this serene destination!

Boca Grande is widely known for its gorgeous, white sand beaches; that is not surprising because the island has perpetually gorgeous weather averaging 75 degrees.  At the beach, you can enjoy the beautiful view, soak in the sun, people watch, talk a walk, and read.  In addition, you can indulge in more active ventures including swimming, shelling, surfing, and scuba diving.

If you stay at a beach vacation home, you can have access to the beach twenty-four seven!  Not only will you experience ultimate luxury, you will feel as if you are at home away from home.

At Boca Grande, you can also go for boating and sailing by tour or on your own.  Boating and sailing are enjoyable activities and you encounter some exotic species like dolphins, white pelicans, and ospreys.  Boca Grande is a haven for people that like to fish because Southwest Florida is globally acclaimed for its fishing.  In fact, fishing is an integral part of the culture of Gasparilla Island. The waters of Southwest Florida are replete with game and food fish.  Tarpoon in the spring is a key fishing season and between August and November, offshore fishing is excellent for grouper, snapper, and kingfish while inshore fishing is great for snook and redfish.  Nevertheless, recreational fishing is an exciting sport in Boca Grande throughout the year by means of your own boat, a rental boat, or one of the many local fishing guides.

Along with the aquatic activities and beaches, Boca Grande offers scenic beauty, great restaurants, unique shops, theatres, and art galleries.  One of the most special aspects of Boca Grande is that it seeks to protect its distinct atmosphere and its quality of life.  The art galleries have works of local artists that have admirably captured the spirit of Boca Grande.

All the restaurants in this community have a unique style and they all specialize in fresh, local seafood.  Moreover, the restaurants offer a vast variety of international cuisines with mouthwatering flavors and upscale ambiances.

Boca Grande has served as a backdrop in many movies including Denzel Washington’s Out of Time and the movie based on Carl Hiaasen’s book Hoot.

During your vacation at Boca Grande, you can also visit some of the beautiful islands that are very close to it including North Captiva, Cayo Costa, Cabbage Key, and Useppa Island - all are all beautiful, exciting and excluive.

Boca Grande is a community that is ideal for an unwinding, relaxing vacation. A trip to Boca Grande is a memorable one that will keep you coming back for more!

Manzanillo – Que Bonita!

Manzanillo, Mexico is a wonderful destination located in the state of Colima. It is a coastal city on the Pacific side with the busiest port in Mexico. However, despite its commercial importance, it has retained its tranquil laid-back Mexican charm.

The port of Manzanillo is made up of two separate bays, divided by the Peninsula of Santiago. On the left is the Bay of Santiago, followed by a smaller notched-out area, known as Playa Audiencia and on the right-hand side, is the Bay of Manzanillo. Both bays are more than five miles long and offer a variety of water sports activities.

Manzanillo is replete with pristine, breathtaking beaches that are undeniably the most beautiful on the western coast of Mexico. Manzanillo is a perfect vacation spot for people that want to get-away-from-it-all and immerse themselves in the best of Mexican beauty and natural charms.  The best way to experience the local way of life is to rent a beach house!

In the north side of Manzanillo, the tourist zone offers exclusive gift shops, cultural stores, travel agencies, tour operators, authentic restaurants and beautiful beaches including Playa de Oro, Playa L’Recif, and La Boquita. In addition, the renowned seafood in Manzanillo is scrumptious and fresh due to the vast fishing culture of the city. Start out your delicious seafood lunch with a shrimp cocktail or fresh oysters and clams caught that morning by the local fishermen. You can also choose from a varied menu of seafood for the main course, such as shrimp, filet of dorado, red snapper, or lobster. While enjoying the delicious food in the vibrant town of Manzanillo, you can have the strolling musicians play you a few Mariachi tunes.

There is a vast variety of activities for vacationers that include playing water sports, fishing, golfing, and enjoying the nightlife. Surfing, scuba diving, swimming, banana boat rides, and snorkeling are very popular in this town and Manzanillo also has two of the top golf courses in Mexico. The city is known as the “sailfish capital of the world” with year-round excursions available for sport fishing.

Tours are available of the city and of the historic state of Colima. It’s a great place to shop too—there are stores ranging from upscale to local vendors that you can bargain with for hammocks, toys and authentic jewelry.

Manzanillo is a cultural, relaxing and enjoyable place to visit for vacationers. It is undeniably a must-see for vacationers planning a trip to Mexico.

The Heavenly Island of Provo

The breathtakingly gorgeous Turks and Caicos Islands are a British Overseas Territory located in the West Indies.  The islands are widely known for their gorgeous beaches, natural beauty, and pristine coral reefs. 

Providenciales, or Provo, is the urban center of Turks and Caicos and it is also the most popular island.  Interestingly, only about forty years ago, Provo did not have a single wheeled vehicle and today it is one of the most popular vacation destinations among tourists.  The gorgeous beaches, beautiful landscape, and tranquilizing atmosphere of the city will make you fall in love.

Provo is a paradisiacal island that is ideal for families and couples trying to get away from it all.  Provo has gorgeous, white sandy beaches with dazzling turquoise waters, and miles of coral reefs making it the ultimate diving destination.  Flamingo Divers offers diving with small groups of eight people of any experience level and it provides an exciting and memorable diving experience!  The most popular 12 mile stretch of the beach is located on Grace Bay and is surrounded by a barrier reef

At the beach, you can indulge in a host of enjoyable activities including parasailing, scuba diving, surfing, sailing, kite-surfing, kayaking, snorkeling, and waterskiing. 

Provo is a haven for golfers as it has one of the top ten golf courses of the Caribbean. 

The island also has the world’s only Conch farm; the mollusks with their beautiful pink shells take five years to grow.  The Conch farm offers tours during the winter; it is most definitely a must-see, unique attraction of the island. 

Another popular place of interest in Provo is The Hole located on the way to Long Bay Beach.  It is a breathtaking, bottomless pit that has ultimate natural beauty.  According to some, the pit is connected to the sea via underground tunnels.  The Hole is usually admired from the topside; you have to see this fascinating location on your visit!  

Historic points of interest in Provo include Cheshire Hill and Sapodilla Bay.  Cheshire Hall is a 200 year old building that consists of ruins of a prosperous cotton plantation.  The building ruins have been conserved and they offer beautiful views of the island providing a captivating contrast of the old Provo and the modern Provo. 

"The Hole" in ProvidencialesSapodilla Bay is a heavenly spot with white sand beaches and clear blue waters; there is a hill that overlooks Sapodilla Bay where you can observe historic stones engraved by shipwrecked sailors

Provo offers a luxurious and diverse dining experience.  The island has a wide variety of restaurants with distinct ambiances and cuisines.  A lot of restaurants have mouthwatering specials every day of the week!

During your stay at Provo, you must visit the island’s only live casino called Casablanca Casino.  The Casino is an exciting place with live gaming tables, a lounge, and a bar

At Provo Island, you are bound to have a magical vacation. Provo is a heavenly island that will leave you with memories of a lifetime!

Party with Brazil’s own Morro de Sao Paulo!

Morro de Sao Paulo (St. Paul’s Hill) is just about as good as it gets when it comes to a laid back vacation destination.  And while the island is not far from easy-to-get-to locations like Salvador, the small town has no cars and a much slower-paced lifestyle despite its popular nightlife.

The village of Morro de Sao Paulo is known for its grand festas. Hotels, pousadas, and restaurants that line the sandy path of Rua Caminho das Praias or Beach Road.  Stop in any of the restaurants and try the fresh local cuisine or a raska – Brazil’s favorite cocktail made from local tropical fruits, sugar, crushed ice and a splash of vodka.  Each restaurant will have their own take on the drink so try a few and find your favorite!

The Northeast coast of Brazil is famous for its beaches and Morro de Sao Paulo has arguably the best…so good that the beaches have no names as the natural beauty speaks for itself.  Merely named ‘first’, ‘second’, ‘third’ and ‘fourth’ each beach has its perks.

Summer homes that have long been located on First Beach now serve as pousadas or “inns” for surfers and other vacationers visiting from all over the globe during Brazil’s winter (America’s summer) months.  This is the best time to visit as the population of the town nearly doubles during the Brazilian summer – North American winter.

First Beach’s offers the most consistent waves to surf on, crystal-clear waters and is also home to most of the seaside restaurants.  Note:  Like everything else, Brazil likes their food spicy!  If you’re not a fan, make sure you order it mild!   This beach is also where you will find the tirolesa, or zipline, that runs from a lighthouse up on one of the morros, or hills, down to the beach – definitely something to try!

If you’re looking for excitement, head down to Second Beach – the party beach!  Bring your camera for a perfect photo op as you wind down Second Beach’s staircase – it offers amazing views of several of the island’s beaches and the sparkling ocean.  Brazilian “Luaus” take place along the beach every Saturday and nightly during the weeks leading up to Brazil’s Carnaval festival.  Since the parties often last into the morning, steer clear of Second Beach if this isn’t your scene. 

However, Second Beach is more than a party – one of Brazil’s most famous cultural arts, Capoeira, is preformed here every evening.  With the setting sun as the backdrop for this acrobatic martial art, you will not want to miss this!  Ask around for performance locations or simply follow the crowd!

Attention divers – on Third Beach you’ll find more pousadas and restaurants and less crowds as the beaches tend to get progressively quieter.  You’ll also find Caita Island, a large barrier reef just off of the shore (with up to 15 meter visibility!).  Rent a a kayak, snorkeling gear or dive gear and head out – the island is right off the beach!

Fourth Beach is the largest of Morro de Sao Paulo’s and is another reef beach.  It is the quietest of the four beaches making it the perfect place to laze under a palm tree, watch for jumping dolphins in the ocean and listen to the sound of the waves while sipping a roska.  Snorkelers and divers will find an assortment of coral and some of the brightest colored fish in all of Brazil. 

With 4 amazing beaches to choose from, a rich marine life, a variety of water and beach sports to partake in and local “must see’s” such as the Old Fort Ruins and Morro Lighthouse, make Morro de Sao Paulo your next south-of-the-boarder vacation!

Life’s a Beach in St. Croix!

St. Croix is a beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea and a county of the US Virgin Islands.  St. Croix, the largest of the Virgin Islands, has two different towns to explore – Christiansted and Frederiksted.  Each town is distinct and scenic, and carries all the offerings of a lively destination.  The gorgeous beaches, sunny weather, vibrant culture, and exceptional beauty contribute to making St. Croix a popular tourist hotspot!

St. Croix is known for its breathtaking beaches.  Due to the wide variety and uniqueness of the beaches, the term “life is a beach” particularly rings true in St. Croix.  The island is surrounded by many distinguished beaches which are globally ranked.  Some of the beaches include the Hibiscus Beach, Turtle Beach on Buck Island, Cane Bay Beach, and Coakley Bay Beach.  Hibiscus Beach is ideal for snorkeling; Turtle Beach, which is accessible by one of the ubiquitous charter sail boats on the island, was declared a national monument by President Kennedy because of its indescribable beauty; Cane Bay Beach has clear waters, beautiful views, snorkeling, and diving on the reefs; and Coakley Bay Beach is a gorgeous and secluded beach.  

Scuba diving is an extremely popular activity at St. Croix as the island has more than 50 beautiful diving sites to choose from.  St. Croix is considered “undiscovered” to some extent, hence, there are a lot of hidden treasures waiting to be unveiled in this island.  St. Croix is known in the Caribbean for its eco – tourism opportunities – you can explore an untouched environment from the mountain peak all the way down to the coral reef!  In addition, the Caribbean island is a paradise for golf-lovers with three scenic, award-winning courses to choose from.

The culture of the city is portrayed in its colorful flora and fauna, the authentic arts and crafts, the music, and the nightlife.  St. Croix’s stunning plant life decorate hillsides and roads and add a dimension to the culture of the island.  The beautiful plants are used for many practical and medicinal purposes in the island.  St. Croix art is displayed in many different forms including painting, sculpture, pottery, crafts, photography, and woodwork.  Each form captures the essence of St. Croix in a unique manner and depicts the island’s sea, sunset, sunrise, plants, and culture.  You can enjoy St. Croix’s nightlife at buzzing beach bars, bistros, or balcony cafes while you can dance the night away to reggae, rock or jazz tunes. 

St. Croix has excellent dining – there are many restaurants that serve excellent food, and have beautiful balcony views.  Mouthwatering, fresh seafood is a specialty of the island and you cannot go wrong with a clawless Caribbean lobster.  Calypso Daiquiri made with Cruzan Rum or mango salsa flavored drinks are very popular in the island. 

The island is a festive place that celebrates events with a lot of zest.  The Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a memorable event with parades of colorful displays of floats, and costumed characters.  The St. Croix Food and Wine Experience in April is a weeklong event that features the well-known people of St. Croix’s food and beverage industry. 

You can experience fine dining, wine tasting, and spot a few celebrities as well! St. Croix is a beautiful and exciting destination that promises a memorable vacation!

Isla de Roatan, Honduras – A Divers Dream

Roatan is a scuba diviers paradise.  Located off of the North Coast of Honduras, Roatan is one of the three Bay Islands and is quickly becoming a premier scuba diving destination.  Often called the Caribbean’s best-kept secret, the island boasts diverse and unique reef systems, friendly people, and is a unique culture full of authentic Caribbean charm…after all, it was once inhabited by pirates!

The three Islas de la Bahia – Roatan, Utila and Guanaja – lie along the southern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-longest coral reef in the world.  Beneath the clear turquoise waters is a trove of unbelievable riches: vibrant coral formations, enormous sponges, a wide variety of colorful fish as well as manta rays, sea turtles and whale sharks.  Yet prices remain remarkably low, (the Bay Islands are said to be the cheapest place in the world to get your PADI dive certificate!) making the Bay Islands a great place to learn scuba diving – and if you learn here, chances are, you’ll be hooked for life!  And don’t worry – if you’re like myself, who gets claustrophobic at the thought of being at the bottom of the ocean with only an air tank to keep you alive, the snorkeling in Roatan is pretty amazing too!

If you’ve never been to Roatan, you can plan on using your US dollars rather than the local lempiras as US currency is accapted, even welcomed, nearly everywhere.  Do keep an eye out for favorable conversion rates and cash in if and when it makes sense.  Also, expect to see a heavy military presence.  There is almost guaranteed to be an AK-47 wielding guard at the enterence to most establsihments – they keep a low profile and it is the general consensus that Honduras is safer for locals and tourists alike since the new government has implemented this military presence.

Regardless of your skill – or lack of – Roatan has everything for your diving vacation:  wreck diving, wall diving, scuba lessons, certification courses, and fun day or night dives.  The island has a wide variety of diving resorts, in addition to small hotels and independent diving operators offering outstanding diving opportunities at varying and competitive prices.

“Mary’s Place” is perhaps one of the most popular dive sites off of Roatan – the dive starts at a permanent mooring buoy on the reef shelf, along a vertical crevice that drops from 40′, with a huge section of the wall broken away from the main section to form a wide slit.  Smaller crevices invite exploration among bouquets of Rope and Tube Sponges, deepwater seafans and Black Coral.  A sand shelf drops from 140′ to 200′, offering a magnificent underwater view.

If you’ve never been wreck diving, “El Aguila” is an amazing sight – a 210′ cargo boat perfectly sunk in 100 feet of water on a sandy bottom full of Deep Garden Eels.  Divers can descend onto open large compartments where you can surprise a number of fish in their homes!  The wreck runs alongside a wall where many choose to finish off their dive among the shallow water tropical fish.

If you’re not into diving, Roatan is big enough to keep you busy, with botanical gardens, butterfly and iguana farms, canopy tours, and winding dirt roads leading to small villages and isolated bays.  And if you just want to relax, head to Roatan’s West End and West Bay,- the beaches there look like they could be right off of a brochure.  Picture clear turquoise water, powdery white sand and coconut palms.

Hello, my name is Belize!

Traveling through Belize you will see the sign, “No Shirt, No Shoes…No Problem!” nearly everywhere you go. This relaxed approach to life is only part of what is attracting more and more visitors to Belize each year.

Caye Caulker Island, BelizeLocated between Mexico to the north, Guatemala to the west and south and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Belize is a country of contrasts.  Belize may be the only country in Central America where English is the official language, but Belize has a diverse society, composed of many cultures and speaking many languages and, culturally, Belize considers itself to be both Caribbean and Central American.

Geographically Belize has a lot for travelers to take in as well.  The Caribbean coast is lined with a coral reef and some 450 islets and islands known locally as Cayes.  In total they comprise about 270 square miles of land and form the 200 mile long Belize Barrier Reef, the second longest in the world after the Great Barrier Reef.  Three of the four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere are also located off the coast of Belize.

And, because over 40 of Belize’s mass is a protected national park, wildlife sanctuary or marine reserve, there is no shortage of wildlife.  Sharks, coral fish, dolphins and turtles troll the waters, and over 570 species of birds, including toucans, fly the skies.

Caye Caulker – one of the tiny islands off of the Belize coast – is a great place to observe the culture of Belize, while staying within a budget.  In fact, this island has been a stop for backpackers and college travelers for decades!  Many of the residents of Caye Caulker are fishermen, making the island a great place to get fresh spiny lobster and snapper.  There are no cars on Caye Caulker but there are plenty of beaches, friendly locals and delicious food.

Another must see while in Belize is Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, named after the cashew trees that inhabit the village.  For $8 you get access to the community that is actually home to 900 locals, of Creole descent, who have been farming and fishing the area for generations.  If you make it there in the morning, you’ll also get to see the amazing variety of birds that inhabit the area and make this one of the top birding destinations in the world.

After you’ve conquered Belize by land, venture seaward and see Belize’s Hol Chanand the Great Blue Hole.  Hol Chan, also known as “Shark-Ray Alley,” is an split in the reef where nurse sharks and sting rays among other marine life, make their home.  Besides being a prime destination for dive excursions, Hol Chan is also a marine reserve.

First made famous by Jacques Cousteau, the Great Blue Hole is a large underwater sinkhole that can be seen from space!  The world’s largest feature of its kind, the Hole  attracts divers looking to catch a glimpse of the nurse sharks, Caribbean reef sharks and Blacktip sharks that live in the area.  Dive trips to the Great Blue Hole are usually full-day trips, including a dive in the Blue Hole and two other dives in nearby reefs.

Whatever attracts you to Belize, the warmth of the local culture will make you feel you’ve found a second home.  Actually, many visitors have made it their second home – and when the owners are away, why not take advantage of the great deals to be had by renting a vacation house rather than paying a nightly rate for a hotel?

Endless Ways to Have Fun in Cancun

Cancun, a coastal city on the Yucatan Peninsula, is the most popular vacation spot in Mexico.  The city attracts four million tourists every year and an average of 190 flights daily! Anyone is bound to have a great time in Cancun because there is something for everyone in this exciting city.

Vacationers can enjoy the stunning white-sand beaches, play water-sports, eat exquisite food, enjoy the buzzing nightlife, shop, and observe the rich culture and history of the city.  Cancun’s has a superb tropical climate that is characterized by mild weather year-round makes it even more attractive for tourists.

While you are visiting Cancun, explore the many and varying beaches.  The beaches on the north side, including Playa Las Perlas, Playa Linda, and Playa Tortugas, have serene waters that are ideal for surfing, sailing, underwater diving, boat trips, and swimming.  To the east are more beautiful beaches, including Playa Marlín, Playa Ballenas, and San Miguelito, which generally have stronger currents and produce giant waves. 

Whether you are a diver or a snorkeler, the clear water of Cancun is home to a variety of beautiful fish.  Scuba diving is extremely popular in Cancun because the city has clear, shallow waters and a superb coral reef.  The most popular and exciting reefs to dive are Banderas, Chitales, and El Bajito and San Toribio, San Miguel, and Aristos for the experienced divers.  Cancun has many diving centers, including Scuba Cancun, Cancun Scuba Diving, and Manta Divers, that offer safe dives for everyone.

Parasailing is also a popular activity at the beaches and perhaps the best way to view the coastline – the rider is strapped into a colorful parachute and, once airborne, is led over the sand and surf behind a speed boat.  Sailing and windsurfing is offered as well.  The small boats provide enthralling rides especially in a brisk breeze.

Enjoy deep sea fishing and have the opportunity to fish Barracuda, Gruper, Red Snapper, and Sailfish on an air-conditioned yacht!  All of these activities are readily available and easy to find – simply step out of your vacation rental and see where the day takes you!

Chichen Itza is another must-see for vacationers of Cancun – it is one of the modern wonders of the world and rightly so…its exceptional architectural beauty is bound to leave you in awe!

El Mexicano Restaurant features a live Folkloric Show, a mariachi band, and a folkloric ballet every night, in addition to delicious food and an exceptional ambiance.  The Ballet Folklorico de Cancun at the Cancun Convention Center has a fantastic dinner show and features music and dances from all parts of Mexico.

Cancun’s buzzing nightlife has been entertaining the masses for years!  Missed out on your spring break or just looking for a repeat performance?  The Cancun Party-Hopper Tour offers an exciting evening!  Skip the lines and be treated like a VIP during this tour – enjoy the lively atmosphere and dance the night away!

Cancun has it all!  Historical wonders, adventurous activities, cultural dining and crafts, and a nightlife to be reckoned with!  It is one of the most exciting cities for a vacation as you will never run out of things to do!  Visit Cancun and have the time of your life!

Swim with the fishes – or sharks, or manatees…

I’m not talking about the creepy kind of swimming with the fishes that you hear about in old mob movies where some poor guy’s feet have just been coated in cement and he’s about to be offed and tossed overboard.  Eeew. 

No - I’m talking about the whole “one-with-nature” kind.  You know…where you get to swim along side whale sharks, or interact with dolphins, or even where you can watch a group of sharks feed.  Maybe this sounds weird to some people, but I’ve always loved animals, especially sea animals.  My favorite show used to be Flipper, I have an adopted manatee named after me, and I only eat dolphin-safe tuna.

Known as the “cow of the sea,” manatees are large, gray mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two flippers and their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. Manatees are gentle herbivores and live in the warm shallow waters off of the coast of Florida during the winter, but are known to travel to Alabama, Georgia and South Carolinain the summer.  Manatees are slow-moving by nature and surface throughout the day making them vulnerable to boat propellers.  Many operations that offer manatee tours donate a portion of their proceeds to wildlife preservation organizations that help to protect these peaceful creatures – these are the only ones you should support as there are other business who add to the problem, rather than trying to educate about manatee preservation and protect against further harm to the species.  You can also adopt a manatee or donate money to help research, education, and conservation programs that promote protective legislation.

I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures of divers swimming next to sharks that look about as big as a school bus, and thought to yourself, “um, hasn’t this guy seen Jaws?!”  Well lucky for him, though these enormous creatures (they can grow upto 40 feet in length!) are sharks, they are only whale sharksand prefer plankton over people anyday.  They can be found off of the coast of the Philippines, Honduras, Indonesia, Madagascar and off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninnsula.  Isla Holbox, in Mexico’s Riviera Maya region, sees these gentle giants migrate through their waters each year from May to September.

A different type of shark encounter entirely, many outfits in the Bahamas offer opportunities for vacationers to defy their basic human instincts and swim with some of the world’s fiercest predators in their natural environment.  Shark dives and feeds can be found in almost every area of the Bahamas (West End, Grand Bahama is rumored to be the best location) and each offers a different experience seeing different species of shark.  Caribbean Reef Sharks are most commonly seen, however, lucky divers may also spot Hammerheads, Tiger sharks, Bull sharks, Silky sharks and Lemon sharks.  Most underwater shark experiences have divers done chain mail (protective shark suit) and orient themselves with their backs against a reef while they, or a guide, feed the sharks.

Vacationers who want to swim with dolphins should look for opportunities where the dolphins are wild and free in their natural habitat, rather than with dolphins that are in captivity for the sole purpose of pulling tourists around all day.  Hawaiihosts many of these dives, with their first priority being to respect and protect the wildlife.  Dolphins are some of the most inquisitive, intelligent and playful animals in the world and will often approach swimmers and divers on their own – Sunlight on Waterin Kona, Hawaii boasts a 98% success rate of finding dolphins on their excursions!  It is not uncommon for divers to get a bonus and also see Humpback whales, Manta Rays and sea turtles.  Dolphins have been said to have a spiritual connection to humans, making this an experience that any vacationer will not soon forget.