|(Melisa Las Americas, Varadero, Cuba)
With the colder weather creeping up on us, many are starting to daydream about their winter getaways down to the Caribbean. My friend Mira travels often to the Caribbean so I have asked her to compile a list of her top five resort cities and some several resorts that she has been to. Mira is an avid traveler and I trust her selection in resorts. She has also provided a couple of suggestions on what to do off the resort for those of you who like to make day trips as well. Be sure to check out her pictures on Instagram by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post. I hope you will enjoy!
We stayed at Sol Rio de Luna Y Mares/we visited Paradisus Rio de Oro. Loved this area! We stayed in Guardalavaca and our hotel was on the most amazing natural beach in Cuba called Playa Esmeralda, simply a stunning beach. Personally I prefer this beach over the Varadero beach. It is a smaller natural beach and on one end toward Paradisus hotel there is a huge coral reef where you can easily spend a whole day snorkeling. On the other side it is a swimmer’s paradise with small waves set in the beautiful white sand. Just adorable.
The hotels are set in beautiful botancial surroundings with many flowers and pretty botanical parks.Be careful when you pick this area to vacation if you love beaches and swimming as some of the beaches in Holguin are not as picturesque as Playa Esmeralda, as they have stones and seaweed, so if you want to experience the best beach pick Luna de Mares if you are on a budget, and Paradisus Rio de Oro for a bit of luxury.
Did you know? If you want to swim with dolphins, Holguin is the place highly recommended to do so. Bahia de Naranjo Nature Park is beautiful and here the dolphins live in their natural environment and they come and go as they please. It is a really nice excursion and I highly recommend it when visiting this area.
Melia Las Americas and Melia Varadero, Varadero Cuba
Beach lovers’ top destination, blue water white sands stretching over 13-mile-long peninsula, make Varadero the most touristy part of Cuba. You can rent a scooter or use a hop-on-hop-off bus to navigate from the hotel zone to Varadero City. Be sure to visit the lovely Xanadu Mansion that is now the Club House of the Varadero Golf Club. It has been refurbished to respect its original construction from 1930. You can visit the roof top bar and have one of the best views of Varadero beach and indulge your taste buds with one of the best Mojitos in this area.
Very close to Varadero beach is also Josone Park. This is a lovely park with restaurants all around, my favourite being La Grutta, which is set in a natural cave. I tasted the most amazing lobster here and I totally recommend venturing out of the hotels zone and checking out this place. Also, if you are a pizza lover, check out Don Alex restaurant in Varadero. Here we stumbled across pizza that tasted as amazing as stone baked pizza we had in Italy. Don’t be afraid to venture out from your resort, as Cuba is really is safe, and Cuban people are friendly and amazing.
Did you know? A short distance from the Hotel Zone in Varadero there is a possibility to see an outdoor Cabaret called Tropicana. It is highly recommended and it is one of the highlights when visiting Cuba. The show set up is lovely, set in a jungle like stage, and the show is a really unique and fun way to spend an evening. You will feel like you have gone back in time to the 1950s.
Punta Cana is a really popular tropical vacation in the middle of winter. Most of the tourists you meet in Punta Cana will likely be from somewhere in Canada, looking to cut their long winter down by at least a week. Punta Cana is a safe bet when travelling in the winter months as temperatures here are usually a few degrees warmer than in Cuba and Mexico.
All hotels located on Bavaro Beach Punta Cana are really amazing. Bavaro beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean. White sand, amazing warm water, tall royal palm trees, all make up for the beautiful beach.
Most people prefer Punta Cana when visiting the Dominican Republic, as it is the best location, with the most beautiful beaches. Other locations people rave about within the Dominican Republic are Sosua and La Romana for more romantic couple vacations, and Puerto Plata. But if you are a beach lover, I would recommend going to Punta Cana. There are also a variety of water activities that are offered in Punta Cana, and of the cool experiences we had was swimming with sharks and stringrays.
Riu Cancun, Cancun, Mexico
From the places we’ve been to, Mexico is definitely my favourite spot. The Cancun Riviera is in the shape of the number 7, with more tranquil water and sandy beaches on top of the 7, and more waves and wind toward the back of the number 7.
The Cancun Riviera is man-made, but the setting is so amazing, you will not feel that at all. If you love tropical vacations, you will absolutely adore Cancun. The color of the sea is so blue, and I know this sounds funny, but the Caribbean Sea in Mexico truly has this specific turquoise blue color that is really a sight for the eyes.
For young and the young at heart, Cancun has it all. You can read a book in a quiet spot on the beach, you can party all night and sleep all day, you can snorkel, dive, suntan, eat. You can immerse in the culture and history. You can go to water parks. There is such a wide spectrum of activities to pick from and choose.
You will notice that the service is much faster and the standard of hotel amenities is more in sync with North American standards. It is difficult to recommend what to do when vacationing in Cancun as there are so many options, and interesting things to see, but I will try to highlight some of favourites:
Visit the ruins of Chichen Itza, developed between 750 and 900 AD. Admire the ruins, and see the Mayan pyramid. Learn about Mayas and their ancient culture. The Mayan pyramids and ruins are truly magnificent even when visiting in hot weather, you will feel the eerie presence in the air as if someone is watching you. I would suggest to visit this on a gloomy day, as this area is open and the sun is really strong. Don’t forget your hat, sunscreen, water, and camera.
These are cool natural water pools within caves. It is an amazing place as it offers natural air-conditioning and they are really unique to take a dip in and visit. There is a big Centone close to Chichen Itza ruins, so this excursion can be combined as a welcome refreshment after a hot day of sightseening.
Visit Coco Bongo one night as it is so much fun, and it is a huge nightclub with a cool show typical of Cancun.
If traveling with kids, there is an option to embark on the Pirates of the Caribbean adventure boats. These board from the hotel zone every evening, but I would recommend booking in advance as this is a quite popular activity, and gets sold out quickly.
For a romantic evening, try the sunset dinner cruise. We did this and were really happy with the overall experience and the quality of the service.
Other Recommendations in Cancun
If you can, visit Xel-Ha. It is a natural aquarium park considered the largest aquarium in the world. It is really cool for snorkeling, as it has a mix of sea water with soft water.
Another great ecological park to visit is called Xcaret Mexico. When visiting this park, make sure you stay until the end in order to be able to view the Mayan Mexican culture show, which is amazing to see.
Also plan to visit Isla Mujeres, a small island that is charming but difficult to walk on foot to see all the attractions, so renting a golf cart is money well spent. To get to the island, you can catch a ferry from Cancun.
You can also do some shopping, as there are lots of markets and shopping malls. The most popular in the hotel zone is La Isla Mall.