Category: Greater Antilles

Road Town, Tortola BVI

British Virgin Islands

What put the British Virgin Islands on your destination radar? The tropical climate offers year-round highs in the 80s with plenty of sunshine and a moderating breeze! Picturesque beaches encircle the island, so one is always nearby. World-class sailing and diving are top things to do in the Virgin Islands. You’ll have the opportunity to mingle with visitors from around the world in a relaxed atmosphere.

All of these are great reasons for considering a vacation to the British Virgin Islands, aka the BVI.

The BVI are east of Puerto Rico and north of the US Virgin Islands. Made up of 60 Caribbean islands, the British Virgin Islands are an overseas territory of the UK. The dreary history of slavery is the backdrop to a majority population with African-Caribbean heritage. English is the national language, and a local dialect is also spoken.

Life is a Breeze in the British Virgin Islands

Temperatures average in the 80s (upper 20s C) with light winds to cool your shoulders, fill your sail and waft the intoxicating sea air to wherever you are. Tourism is one of the pillars of the economy along with financial services. Here’s a bit more about the culture of the BVI:

Road Town, Tortola BVI
Road Town, Tortola BVI
  • British Virgin Islands Cuisine: Caribbean dishes featuring seafood and vegetables are most common, but the people here have diverse tastes that include other meats and vegetarian recipes too. BVI restaurants serve up dishes ranging from American to Continental to British to Asian. After a delicious meal, you can sample locally distilled rum.
  • BVI Music: African and European music have collided in the British Virgin Islands to create a unique sound known as fungi – and we’re not talking mushrooms. Many other genres can be heard in the clubs and music venues of the BVI too.
  • BVI Sports: Sailing in the British Virgin Islands is the favorite sport, and relatively calm waters and consistent breezes are ideal. Festivals, especially the Spring Regatta, blend sailing with the atmosphere of Carnival.

Things to Do in the British Virgin Islands

This overview of activities in the British Virgin Islands will help you prepare to make the most of your time vacation. The four largest islands offer most of the action. They are Tortola, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda and Anegada.

  • Take the Plunge: Snorkeling and scuba diving are huge attractions in the British Virgin Islands. There are many outfitters competing for your business. If you need diving instruction, it is available from certified PADI scuba pros. Diving establishments offer snorkeling guides too.
  • Tour by Boat: A seat is waiting for you on a range of watercraft from a catamaran to motorized yacht. Make new friends during the adventure, or charter a boat for just yourself and family or friends.
  • Take Pictures of Birds & Beasts You’ve Never Seen Before: There are 171 species of birds in the BVI. Some found there in winter might drop by your backyard in summer. However, many tropical species add variety. Wildlife parks allow you to observe other critters you might not see anywhere else.
Tortola, BVI
Tortola, BVI
  • Trek the Hills of the BVI: Favorite hikes take you to Virgin Gorda Peak, Biras Creek and to the Trail of Palms, which a recent traveler from Scotland said provided, “A wonderful vista of Virgin Gorda.”
  • Troll for Trophy Fish:  One seasoned angler of many seas called it, “The best fishing trip we’ve ever experienced.” The blue marlin is a treasured gamefish, but there are cooters, white marlin and other species ready to give you a tussle. The best part is that many of the local restaurants will cook your fish for you the same day! Fly fishing is offered by some outfitters too.
  • Take it Easy – Take it Very Easy: Life is unhurried in the BVI. The best Virgin Island beaches for chilling include Apple Bay, Cam Bay, Little Jost Van Dyke and The Baths. Spas pamper and resorts render outstanding service with a sunny smile. When your highest priority is to get out of the grind and lose the stress, the BVI is a smart choice.

Who Should Consider Visiting the British Virgin Islands?

Family on the Beach
Enjoying the surf

If you enjoy being where the action is, rather than a smaller destination that feels out of the loop, then the BVI will satisfy. All the best the Caribbean has to offer is yours to enjoy in the British Virgin Islands.

Helpful Links

British Virgin Islands Tourism Board: http://www.bvi.gov.vg/departments/bvi-tourist-board

British Virgin Island History: https://www.iexplore.com/articles/travel-guides/caribbean/british-virgin-islands/history-and-culture

The Dominican Republic Beaches

The Dominican Republic

The DR is the #1 tourist destination in the Caribbean! Visitors arrive to enjoy fantastic weather when it’s cold back home, play golf any time of the year, hike exciting trails to breathtaking views, tour historic sites, smoke premium cigars made in Dominican factories and stay in world class resorts. What’s not to like?

The Dominican Republic comprises two-thirds the island of Hispaniola which Columbus landed on in 1492 and claimed for Spain. As something of a gateway to the Caribbean, this land in the Greater Antilles was ruled by Spain for centuries, leaving a profound legacy. The 20th C. was politically turbulent until 1978 when the DR became an independent country with a representative democracy. A Spanish dialect known as Dominican Spanish with native words blended in is the primary language.

Life is Full of Zest in the Dominican Republic

The history of the DR has been exciting, if at times difficult and tragic. The 20th Century was challenging, including a few devastating hurricanes. The mood now is that the tough times are over, so let’s celebrate and enjoy the good things in life! The merengue music you’ll hear captures the feeling beautifully.  Here’s what else you’ll enjoy in the DR.

Beachgoers Dominican Republic

  • Food in the Dominican Republic: The cuisine is primarily Spanish with additional influences from Africa and the original inhabitants, the Taíno people. Popular foods include fried meat and cheese, eggs, rice, roasted meat (beef, pork, chicken) or fish, beans, salad greens, rice with less use of dairy or vegetables. Fried and baked sweets are popular for dessert.
  • Music in the Dominican Republic: Merengue was born in the DR along with the dances that sprang from it. Other genres either birthed or popular here include bachata, palo and salsa. Clubs, lounges and music venues are found throughout the capital of Santo Domingo, Santiago, Ramona and other large towns.
  • Sports in the Dominican Republic: If you follow professional baseball in the US, then you know how huge a sport baseball is here. A remarkable number of Dominican players (Ortiz, Pujols, Alou, Cano, Bautista, Ramirez) have risen to become stars.

Things to Do in the Dominican Republic

The top activities in the Dominican Republic include the following:

  • Swim and Dive: The brilliant blue waters surrounding the DR provide ideal habitat for fish and other sea life, and a recent diver said, “there are great opportunities for beginners like my nephew and pros like me.” There are many Dominican Republic snorkeling and scuba diving outfitters to equip you and guide your dive.
  • See Stogies Rolled & Sample a Few: The Dominican Republic is home to many of the best-known cigar manufacturers in the world. Arturo Fuente, Ashton, CAO, Diamond Crown, Davidoff, Romeo y Julieta, Macanudo, La Flor Dominicana, Montecristo, La Gloria Cubana and many more brands are made here. Factory tours are offered in La Romana, Santiago, Punta Cana and other major cities.
  • Stripe Lush Fairways During a Round of Golf: Golfing in the Dominican Republic can be enjoyed any day of the year to fit any budget. Bring your clubs or rent them, pick up a few locally made cigars, and you’re good to go.Golf Tortuga Bay Hotel Punta Cana
  • Shop on Any Budget: From malls to fashionable boutiques to side street bodegas, the DR delivers any shopping experience you want. It’s a great way to spend the occasional rainy morning or beat the heat on a warm afternoon.
  • Soak Up the Caribbean Sun: Dozens of great beaches are found in several locations such as Punta Cana, the home of Bavaro Beach and Macao Beach, Las Terrenas with Playa Bonita and Samana Province and Playa Rincon, called “stunningly beautiful” in a recent review.
  • Sip Locally Distilled Rum or Brewed Beer: Both beverages are favorites here, and there is plenty of variety to sample. Try Presidente Black, Bohemia Light or Cerveza Soberana beers and Mutasalem Gran Reservea or Vizcaya VXOP Cask 21 rum for starters.
  • Sail or Motor the Caribbean: Boat tours take you out to where the tranquil sounds of the sea, a few gulls and your group’s laughter are all you’ll hear. Combine a boat tour with fishing or diving for extra fun.
  • See Historic Sights: Sightseeing in the Dominican Republic is a good choice for those who enjoy history, architecture and art. The Museum of the Royal House in Santo Domingo is, according to a visitor from France, “an intriguing museum with a fantastic courtyard.”

Those things to do in the Dominican Republic will get you started. Touristy venues like zip lines, adventure parks, zoos and casino gambling are here in abundance too.

Who Should Consider Visiting the Dominican Republic?

Dominican Republic Tourists

If you’re looking for a tropical vacation accompanied by sun and surf, but want the amenities larger destinations offer, then the Dominican Republic makes great sense. The accommodations, transportation and services are top-notch, and you can still get out into the exotic wild to satisfy your craving for nature.

Helpful Links

Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism: http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/meetings-incentives-conventions-events/ministry-of-tourism/  

History and Government: http://www.infoplease.com/country/dominican-republic.html

Beautiful Haiti

Haiti

Tourism is slowly making a comeback in this nation on the lovely Island of Hispaniola it shares with the Dominican Republic. Following decades of political strife and the devastating earthquake of 2010, Haiti is back on the radar for many who are looking for a warm, relaxed place to unwind and have a blast.

Known as the Pearl of the Caribbean, Haiti is the region’s most mountainous land, and that adds to its beauty. Read more

Atlantis Bahamas

The Bahamas

You won’t be in this nation of islands long before you’re affirming its well-known motto, “It’s Better in the Bahamas!” Its proximity to Florida, easy access by sea or air, wealth of recreation opportunities, world class accommodations and, of course, the postcard-worthy beaches attract a steady stream of visitors, especially during the winter months in the US and Europe.

High temperatures from November into May average in the mid-70s to low-80s, and a breeze is usually blowing to keep you cool, even on sun-drenched beaches. The summer months are the rainiest and hottest, creating a tropical feel some find a bit oppressive. Read more

Jamaica Sunset

Jamaica

The gorgeous land of Jamaica is nearly synonymous with the laid-back vibe that awaits vacationers in the Caribbean. Located south of Cuba and west of Hispaniola, Jamaica attracts visitors and immigrants from all over the world with its beauty, climate and easy-going people.

Kingston might be the most dynamic city in all the Caribbean. The population is eclectic, and the atmosphere is cosmopolitan. There, you’ll enjoy world-class music, coffee, rum, seafood and other treats alongside an easy blend of locals and guests.

English is the official language of this independent nation, and most of the people speak an Afro-English creole dialect too. Black Jamaicans with African or mixed heritage are the majority. Smaller populations of Asians from China and the East Indies, Europeans, Cubans, Latin Americans and other Caribbean islands are here too. Read more

Grand Cayman

Cayman Islands

The cliché, “there’s something for everyone” meets reality in the Cayman Islands. The largest of the three islands, Grand Cayman, is a smart, dynamic blend of cultures from around the world. The restaurants are varied and world class, and Seven Mile Beach is legendary for its beauty and vibe.

Cayman Brac is beloved by outdoor enthusiasts for its wild splendor and breathtaking vistas from the rocky hills. Finally, Little Cayman is where to go when you want to leave it all behind and find solitude or test your mettle diving from Bloody Bay Wall.

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San Juan Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

There are many reasons that Puerto Rico is one of the most visited islands in the Caribbean. The weather is wonderful much of the year, the beaches are long and pretty, nightlife is dynamic, the variety of restaurants is delectable and you won’t lack for fun things to do in Puerto Rico.

One of the largest Caribbean islands, this territory of the US is home to 4 million people of with a rich diversity in heritage. Those of European descent make up 75% of the population with African American accounting for 12%. Spanish and English are the primary languages.

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Cuban Hotel and Car

Cuba

With news of an end to the US Embargo of Cuba, this fascinating island nation is once again on the radar for Americans looking for a gorgeous getaway in the middle of winter.

A trip to Cuba is like taking a step back in time since the nation hasn’t progressed the way other Caribbean countries have. That’s part of the allure, however, and the beaches are as beautiful, the people as friendly and the handmade cigars as aromatic as they were in the 1940s and ‘50s when Cuba was a premier vacation destination from the US.

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