Archive for Central America

5 things to do in Dominican republic

The other day when browsing online to decide about my next destinations I ran into an interesting article about the best beaches in the Dominican republic. You all know I am a beach babe but I also love doing other things.

Thinking about the Caribbean made me put up the following list.

 

Dominican republic beach

 

 

5 things to do in Dominican republic:

 

1. Relax

What else could be on top of my list if not relaxing? Isn’t it the main reason why people visit new destinations? To forget about the stress of their daily life? I think so. And where better to chill out than on one of the Dominican republic paradise beaches? I am sure that the Caribbean beaches will take your breath away.

 

2. Adventure sports

The island is filled with adventure sports, and you should not miss them while there. Beach bumming is great but you don’t want to come back home with 5 kilograms more, do you? Then it’s up to you to pick the right adventure for you. You can choose from snorkeling, wind surfing, horse-back riding, surfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paragliding, parasailing, SUP, zipline in Punta Cana or even a more lazy golf. Any activity counts and you will not only burn calories, but also have loads of fun doing so.

 

3. Nature

Many tourists would not think of the Dominican republic as of a destination where you can explore the jungle and learn something about the local flora and fauna. There’s many hiking trails to choose from, such as hiking to the Damajagua waterfalls (get a car/a guide from Puerto Plata and then hike to the 27 pools set among limestone cliffs). If you have more time, also take a tour to the wild Los Haitises National Park. It’s a protected forest sanctuary with small islands located along the coast of in San Lorenzo Bay where you can observe frigate birds, brown pelicans, many reptiles and even petroglyphs in prehistoric caves Taino.

 

4. History

Visiting Santo Domingo, the capital founded in the very late 15th century is a must. Go spend some time strolling around the Ciudad Colonial – the UNESCO World Heritage Site located on the West bank of the Ozama river. You can find more than 300 historical histes here, such as many interesting museums, beautiful churches, palaces and important houses which will give you an insight into the local island history. Las Damas, Las Mercedes and El Conde are three of the most-known streets in Santo Domingo. Pay a visit to the landmarks, e.g. Basilica of Santa Maria del Menor, Fortaleza Ozama, Casa del Cordon, Museo de las Casas Reales and Alcazar de Colon etc.

 

5. Boat tours

What’s a better way to get familiar with the island if not by boat? There’s plenty of boat tours to go on and if you get a chance, take a boat to one of the little islands close by, such as Saona, Beata or Isla Catalina. You can pick a relaxing sailing trip, adventurous snuba diving trip, a fast speedboat, or even a sunset party boat. It all depends just on your mood or on your friends/family who are on the trip with you. Just make sure to have a memorable time 🙂

Turtle Conservation in Montserrat, Caribbean

turtle conservation in Montserrat Caribbean

turtle conservation in Montserrat Caribbean

 

Montserrat is a lush, volcanic island in the Caribbean, situated 27 miles from Antigua and famous for the Soufriere Hills Volcano, which erupted in 1997, destroying the capital, Plymouth. It also has a visiting population of Green, Hawksbill, Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles which come every year, starting around May, to nest on its quiet, black sand beaches. Nesting continues until around the end of September and hatchlings emerge from September through to December. They are an endangered species, but much work is being done in Montserrat to protect the turtles, including monitoring and tagging, and eggs are taken to a hatchery. Only 10% of the hatchlings will survive but the hatchery has meant that there has been a 75% increase in the survival rate of the hatchlings.

John Jeffers has been working with the turtles for over 30 years and received an MBE partly for his work with turtle conservation. Turtle Conservation Montserrat was founded in 2012 by photographer and conservationist, Carolyne Coleby, and tries to find volunteers ready to assist John with this important work. Volunteers go to the beach at night to help count the turtles, monitor arrival and nesting, and collect eggs. They can also help with hatchling release. They are able to get involved with educating the public at the beaches when turtles arrive and in general outreach to educate the public about turtles and how to protect them. British universities have been involved in the turtle research on Montserrat and John Jeffers has been able to advise them and help them create reports which will contribute to the future safety of the species.

On a night with a full moon in the peak of the season, you may be lucky enough to see 20 turtles arriving and nesting on the beach, quite a sight.

Volunteer activity is mainly done at night and early in the morning, which leaves volunteers free to explore the island during the day, visit Plymouth, which has been described as a ‘modern day Pompeii’ and its environs, visit the Montserrat Volcano Observatory for volcano viewing and take part in activities such as diving, snorkelling or hiking in the rainforests of the Centre Hills which have an abundance of wildlife and flora.

The beaches are easily accessible and quiet, often with only one or two other people and it’s possible to kayak or hike to Rendezvous Beach in the north of the island, the only white sand beach which is a beautiful cove surrounded by cliffs with stunning coral reefs and multi-coloured fish. You can get PADI qualified here, we have an extremely experience dive outfit on the island. Boat trips can also be arranged including round the island trips or boat rides to view Plymouth.

turtle conservation in Montserrat Caribbean East Coast

East Coast

 

The volcano is still active, but has been quiet since the last eruption in 2010 and residents are hoping it has fallen asleep again. Montserrat is perfectly safe to visit and offers a fantastic opportunity to view and learn about what it is like to live on a live volcanic island. It is called the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean as it was originally settled by Irish and has a green verdant landscape. It is extremely mountainous and there are many opportunities to hike in the rainforest and mountains, either along set trails or with a guide who can tell you more about the flora and fauna.

Scriber, a local guide, was described by the Guardian newspaper as ‘the Dr Doolittle of Montserrat’ as he is able to call down the Oriole, the national bird, with his calls! Mappie, from the National Trust, is able to tell you all about the medicinal qualities of the forest plants. Both guides are extremely knowledgeable and can tell you all about the forest and its inhabitants.

Montserrat is also home to Air Studios, George Martin’s former recording studios, where many famous names came to record. The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder and Dire Straits are but a few of the musicians who recorded here. The studio was closed after Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989, but it is still possible to visit it and George Martin and his family maintain a home on island at Olveston House, which for most of the year is open to the public as a restaurant and bar. Linda McCartney’s photographs adorn the walls, as do Gold Disks, and the grounds are a peaceful place to take a stroll or you can sit by the pool with a drink.

Liming’, or shooting the breeze with your friends over a rum or beer is a popular activity at the many rumshops on the island. People’s Place at the top of Fogarthy Hill is a popular spot, with great views of the island and Centre Hills, and John, who is a very convivial host, offers a great lunchtime menu of local dishes and drinks. Next door, the Hilltop Coffeeshop is a great place to stop for a coffee, cake and watch videos about the volcanic eruptions. The owners have many tales to tell. There is a laid back atmosphere on Montserrat and the people are extremely friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Christmas and St Patrick’s (Montserrat was originally an Irish island under British rule) are the main times for Festival here, but these both fall outside the turtle season. However, if you are not able to get involved in turtle conservation, it’s worth visiting the Festivals. St Patrick’s, in particular, is a lot of fun and involves a week long list of events. Salem, the town where the main festivities are held these days, has a sign ‘Salem, Fun and Revelry’ on the outskirts.

Woodlands Beach one of the turtle nesting sites

Woodlands Beach one of the turtle nesting sites

Montserrat really is a unique destination, offering great opportunities for nature lovers and photographers and the annual arrival of the turtles is a very special experience. So, come and join us!

Soufriere Hills Volcano

Soufriere Hills Volcano

For more information, check out Turtle Conservation Montserrat  or call +1664 4967673.

The Most Beautiful Places in Cuba

Cuba’s beautiful architecture and gorgeous scenery are often ignored on on the global tourist market due to its turbulent political history. However, with trade negotiations with the US now in full swing, many are flocking to this Caribbean island to to explore its more unique points before any ‘Americanization’.

If you haven’t been, you’re missing out on checking out the manmade and natural beauty of this sunny island, from salsa serenades and baroque architecture in Havana to the mountains of Pinar del Rió. Book your trip out with Cuba Holidays to start exploring.

 

Cuba 2

Viñales Valley, Pinar del Río

Cuba’s National Park is undeniably one of the most gorgeous spots in the country, a nature lover’s’ paradise and one of many UNESCO World Heritage sites. The best way to explore the tobacco plantations and world famous mogotes mountains is hiking – and there are plenty of routes for experienced ramblers and softer terrain for newbies. Hunt around for your chance to learn to climb the mogotes with local teachers (though make sure you have travel insurance!), or rent a bicycle for a speedier way to enjoy the stunning scenery and flat terrain. The fun doesn’t stop at the top of the park either – water babies can go caving or swim in a waterfall for a more unique view of the area.

 

Baracoa

A municipality on the Eastern tip of Cuba, Baracoa is a picture perfect tropical paradise. The black beaches are warm and inviting, frequented by locals as well as tourists for a quick dip during the hotter hours of the day, with lovely views as expected from a Caribbean beach. Behind the beach is a hikers’ dream, Yunque mountain: with its steep sides and flat top, it’s a challenging walk up but made bearable thanks to the shade from the beautiful green forest. Its flat top is totally worth the trip for the incredible view below, and there are plenty of freshwater pools and waterfalls to relax in on your way up and down.

 

Habana Vieja

A trip to Cuba without taking in the sights and smells of Old Havana is a trip wasted. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982, this part of town is famous for its stunning baroque and neoclassical architecture housing all sorts of museums, restaurants, and salsa bars. Enjoy a fresh cuba libré while you dance the night away, brush up on history at the military fortresses, check out the ornate Spanish-style cathedral, or head straight up to the Camera Obscura to catch a breathtaking panoramic view of the whole city.

Also check out my post about 41 reasons to visit Cuba 🙂

 

Cuba 3

Island Hopping in the Caribbean

I always wondered what one of my biggest travel dreams was. The famous Machu Picchu built by the Incas, cold Antarctica, white-sand beaches of Australia or the Caribbean? All these destinations are high on my bucket list, that’s for sure.

 

If you have been following me for a while now on my main blog, then you might know already that I am more of a beach and spa person than anything else. I truly love islands, there’s always so many cool things to do there and then you can relax in between all the those moments when you are trying to stay active! No matter how many times I try to think about, one of the best paradise beach destinations to me is definitely the Caribbean.

 

To be honest, I have not visited as many Caribbean islands as I would like to. Not yet. But I am so planning on spending at least half a year island hopping in the Caribbean as soon as I get a chance. Probably the best way to explore all the lush tropical islands with idyllic beaches would be a cruise, don’t you think? And after my first week cruise around the Mediterranean sea back in 2013, I am all about cruising now. If you haven’t been on a cruise yet, check out my article about what to expect on a cruise.

 

But just to give you my modest opinion, I can mention 3 of my very favorite islands in the Caribbean in no particular order (I could not pick as they are all incredibly awesome!)

 

A-cruise-ship-in-Port-Zante-on-St.-Kitts

1. Isla Mujeres

I fell in love with Isla Mujeres – the so called Women’s island already during my first time in Mexico back in 2011. After spending a month traveling around the Yucatan peninsula, Isla Mujeres very quickly became one of my favorite places. Snorkeling in the underwater museum, hundreds iguanas or the Southernmost tip of Mexico? They all belong to top 10 things to do in Isla Mujeres.

2. Isla Contoy

Just 30 miles North from Isla Mujeres you will find Isla Contoy, a bird and beach paradise. The island has a limited number of tourists allowed per day so you will be able to find a small part of the beach just for yourself. In addition, 152 species of birds reside on the island which was claimed a National Park in 1998 also for that reason.

 

3. St. Kitts and Nevis

St. Kitts and Nevis islands surprised me the most out of all the Caribbean islands I’ve been to. And of course, in a positive way. There is a huge difference between the two islands, but both St. Kitts and Nevis could be called one paradise. Up to old sugar cane plantations rebuilt into hotels, cheeky monkeys, fresh tasty fish with rice and beans, and not so high yet beautiful mountains? Then St. Kitts and Nevis are a place to go!

the-view-of-South-East-Peninsula-with-North-Friars-Bay-on-the-left

 

4. Aruba

One of the last Caribbean islands I’ve personally visited was Aruba in October 2014 and I was so amazed. The beach on the tiny Dutch island at the Divi All Inclusive hotel I stayed at was perfect, with crystal clear turquoise water and the best sunsets ever! Aruba is also a perfect getaway for adventure seakers. You will have so much fun on a jeep tour around the island, I promise! Just remember to bring a good mood and a smile with you. And get ready for a lot of bumps and dust 😀

Tips for Border Crossing in Latin America

As enjoyable as it is to trek through a continent or travel about different countries in a region, the actual act of traveling can often be a bit knackering. Hours spent in the air, in a vehicle, in a boat, on a train, and on foot are a necessity of travel, particularly when visiting multiple destinations, coupled with time waiting to cross borders, and you may have a travel nightmare on your hands. Of course every area differs when it comes to borders, and, naturally, some countries are much more efficient than others, but there’s something extra perplexing about crossing the border when traveling through Latin America. Although crossing borders in Central and South America can be confusing and intimidating, it doesn’t have to put a damper on your excursion. Here are a few tips for safely crossing the border in Latin America.

 

Bring along Plenty of U.S. Currency

Many borders in Central and South America charge visitors border crossing fees. Most borders don’t have set fees, so, depending on the day and the mood of the border official, you could pay anywhere from $2 USD to $7 USD to cross. Some countries, such as Nicaragua, charge both an entrance and exit fee, and other nations, like Costa Rica, have no entrance fee, however, you are required to pay $26 to leave. In addition, you must make sure you have exact change to pay border fees. Most borders, especially in Central America, prefer payment in USD, so it’s best to carry plenty of American one dollar bills.

Don’t Let Language Barriers Hold You Up at the Border

Border crossings in Latin America can be a little scary, particularly if you aren’t proficient in Spanish. If you’re traveling in a large group with a local, Spanish-speaking tour guide, it’s less of a hassle, but you must still be alert and aware of what’s going on around you as many borders give you receipts upon entering which you must show when you exit the country or risk paying an exorbitant exit fee. While some of the border officials can seem somewhat intimidating, most are pretty accommodating, though there are some corrupt border officials who may try to extort extra money out of you, however, if you fluently speak the language or are traveling with those who do, you are less likely to be targeted by nefarious border officers.

Stay Vigilant and Observant

Crossing some borders in Latin America are simple and can be comparable to going through customs at an airport, while others can be more chaotic and require you to be more forceful when moving through the border. Locals are quick to jump in front of tourists and other non-locals in line, so you must remain watchful. Also keep in mind that some borders have longer lines than others and the lengths often depend on where and when you enter the country. When I crossed the border into Costa Rica, for instance, it took over an hour to enter the country. Luckily, I remembered to keep critical items like bottled water, sunglasses, and natural oils (used as sunscreen) within reach, which is ideal when traveling across borders. If you normally wear glasses or don’t have prescription sunglasses, you should try wearing disposable contact lenses.

No matter when you plan your Latin America sojourn, be sure to plan ahead and be prepared for anything that may arise.

 

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