Caribbean – The Barefoot Nomad https://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Anguilla Facts: 20 Things You Need to Know About Anguilla https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/anguilla-facts-20-things-you-need-to-know-about-anguilla/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/anguilla-facts-20-things-you-need-to-know-about-anguilla/#comments Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=16146 After spending a few days in Anguilla, I walked away smitten with the island’s sunny beaches, great food, and reputation for amazing reggae vibes, not to mention the ever-present open WiFi signal at every restaurant.

The island’s only a stone’s throw from St. Martaan in the Carribean, and a British overseas territory lined with gorgeous beaches and white sand.

Wondering what Anguilla is best known for? Let’s discover 20 things you need to know about Anguilla.

Anguilla Facts: 20 Things You Need to Know About Anguilla

It’s pronounced Anne-gwilla (rhymes with vanilla).

There are 33 beaches; most are soft white sand, and they’re all beautiful.

Anguilla beach shack

Beach shack on the Caribbean island of Anguilla

Anguilla is a British overseas territory in the Caribbean.

The language is spoken most widely on the island is English.

Only about 14,000 people live here, with a rich history and culture dating back to the Arawaks, who traveled to the island from South America as far back as 3,500 years ago.

Chuck Norris once lived here, in a mansion overlooking the ocean.

There are no shopping malls, cruise ships, casinos, or high rise hotels on the island. Instead, you’ll find locally owned boutiques and shops run by local residents.

It’s small – 16 miles long by three miles wide. That said, you’ll probably still want to get around by car or bike.

There are no private beaches on Anguilla. All beaches are open to the public.

Goats are everywhere on the island. They’re on the hillsides, on the roads (be careful when driving), and even on the front lawns of most resorts.

The capital is called The Valley, and has 600 residents. If you’re looking for cheap eats, you’ll find them at the street market in The Valley.

Vegetarian lunch at Sandy Island Anguilla

Vegetarian lunch on Sandy Island Anguilla

Anguilla has long been a low key vacation spot for celebrities like Liam Neeson, Ellen DeGeneres, Portia di Rossi, and Sandra Bullock. It’s no wonder, in addition to its natural beauty, there’s are plenty of things to do in Anguilla.

There are less than 20 hotels on the island (plus a few Airbnb listings and bed & breakfasts).

Anguilla CuisinArt Resort and Spa

Anguilla CuisinArt Resort

There are no direct international flights to the island, so you’ll need to get an air ticket booking in from Puerto Rico or St. Maarten, or take the 20 minute ferry ride from St. Maarten.

You’ll need a valid passport and onward or return ticket to visit.

You can use both USD and ECD (Eastern Caribbean dollars) almost everywhere.

There’s no public transport, so you’ll need to take a taxi or rent a car, or rely on hotel shuttle transportation.

The beach at Anguilla Great House
Cars drive on the left, and the the speed limit is 30 mph.

Anguilla was named after the Spanish word for eel, because of its eel-like shape.

There’s a $20 USD departure tax whether you leave by plane or boat, and it’s cash only, so make sure you have some on hand!

20 things you need to know about Anguilla

Do you have any other Anguilla interesting facts? Let us know!

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Things to do in Isla Mujeres https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15372 It’s no secret that we love Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Warm blue waters, fantastic beaches, good snorkeling, and a great selection of restaurants all make Isla Mujeres a must see if you’re on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

Located only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres makes a great day trip and an even greater longer mini escape from your Cancun vacation.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned you can drive the entire island on a golf cart, in half a day? We did it the first time a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite family travel highlights.

Beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Likewise, if you find yourself down in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum or even staying on Cozumel, then Isla Mujeres is pretty easy and inexpensive to get to. We’ve done the trip from Playa del Carmen more than a few times now and have enjoyed our trip to Isla Mujeres every single time.

Now, we’ve written about Mexico‘s Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it’s grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don’t find that it’s gotten any busier and it seems there’s just more to do there these days with a lot more places to rent from.

Isla Mujeres

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico

So, without any further ado, here are our things to do in Isla Mujeres.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

Haha, if you read our previous Isla Mujeres post you don’t think I’d miss this one. There are now dozens of golf cart rental companies on Isla Mujeres, and though they do still occasionally run out during the holidays and busiest times of the year, most days you’re fine as long as you arrive before noon.

You can pretty much drive to every place on the island, and if you’re there for multiple days, you can spend lazy afternoons on different beaches every day. You can walk or take a taxi most places on the island, but if you want true freedom, rent a golf cart and enjoy yourself.

Sea birds at Isla Mujeres

Relax on the beaches on Isla Mujeres

Since we just talked about beaches, there are around six semi-official major beaches on Isla Mujeres and a bunch of smaller ones. Some, like Playa Norte, feature bars and beach chairs and on many you can rent SUPs, kayaks, water toys and even snorkeling equipment.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte (North Beach) is by far the most popular and is often rated one of the best in the Caribbean. Playa Norte is just minutes from downtown, and the palm trees and luxurious white sand make Playa Norte muy hermosa. Playa Norte has almost no current, and kids and adults can wade pretty far out and the water will only reach their waist.

Playa Posada, found along the west side isn’t as crowded, however the water isn’t as clear, and Playa Media Luna is a beautiful crescent shaped beach but the water can be rough.

Playa Indios, Playa Paraiso and Playa Lancheros are all more secluded beaches found on the west side facing Cancun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there, and open air restaurants, gift shops and public bathrooms are close by.

kids playing in the sand in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Stay in one of the many lovely hotels in Isla Mujeres

There are lots of hotels to choose from on Isla Mujeres, and they cater to every taste and budget. You can stay on the beach or off, with a family or as a couple, at places like Beloved Hotels, an Adults-Only Boutique All-Inclusive. With swimming pools and all inclusive plans, staying at a hotel in Isla Mujeres can be a great way to start or end a long day seeing the sites.

La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm)

Love sea turtles? So do we, and that’s why we always stop by the Turtle Farm in Isla Mujeres. Since large sea turtles have made Isla Mujeres their breeding ground for generations, the Turtle Farm gathers up the eggs it finds along the beaches and incubates them at the Turtle Farm thereby greatly increasing their chances of survival.

It's turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

It’s turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can see hundreds of turtles in the tanks growing up in the large tanks around the property. There is a great celebration the day they’re released back into the wild.

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

In the main building there is also a small aquarium with sea horses, lobsters, crabs, tropical fish and even an octopus. There are also a few land turtles and family of iguanas who hang out along one side of the building.

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

The Joysxee Floating Bottle Island

If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Isla Mujeres, you can check out the Floating Bottle Island. Created a few years back by Richart Sowa, this floating recycler’s dream is completely built using used plastic water bottles and recycled materials, including a three story house and an outdoor bar. You’ll need to talk to the locals about its current location, since the floating house moves around the island from time to time. There is a small entrance fee.

Punta Sur

Located at the far southern edge of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur features not only the highest elevation in all the Yucatan, but it’s also the easternmost point in all of Mexico. That’s right, the sun hits Punta Sur before anywhere else in Mexico and we’ve heard that it’s a glorious sight.

Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Featuring an ancient Mayan temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, it also boasts a lighthouse and dozens of modern sculptures around the property. Due to some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in all of Mexico, Punta Sur makes a great place to grab a bite to eat while looking out to sea.

Punta Sur Coast

Punta Sur

MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum

Conceived by Jason deCaires Taylor, Isla Mujeres is home to the largest underwater museum on earth. The clear waters off Isla Mujeres make a great place to scuba dive or snorkel while seeing how thousands of underwater sculptures change in time in regards to coral growth and marine interaction. The scope of the project is mind blowing and the combination of art and marine conservation is great to see.

Garrafon Reef Park

The Garrafon Reef Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its all-inclusive packages include a buffet lunch and an open bar. Not only do they feature zip lines over the clear aquamarine waters, you can rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, life jackets and they have plenty of hammocks to lounge on as well as relax in their infinity pool. Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafón de Castilla

The Garrafón de Castilla is right next to the Garrafón Reef Park at the south end of the island, and your entrance fee includes lounge chairs with beach umbrellas, restrooms and shower areas. You can rent snorkel gear and lockers here. They have a small snack bar and a restaurant right on the property.

The Zocalo (Town Square)

Located in the center of town, the Zocalo or Town Square comes alive most evenings as celebrations, dances and events kick up with local Mexican families and tourists alike sharing in the celebrations. You can eat tacos and pastries from the vendors lining the park, as well as pick up souvenirs from local artists. The kids will enjoy the small playground.

Isla Mujeres Mexico pier

Fun on the water in Isla Mujeres

We’ve talked about the beaches, but there is also world class deep sea fishing in the water of Isla Mujeres. From deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish and dorado to spear fishing tuna and barracuda, Isla Mujeres has some of the best sea fishing in the Mexico. Tours and guides can be hired for the day or the week.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon.

Fun under the water on Isla Mujeres

Being surrounded by water means some of the fun things to do in Isla Mujeres occur under the water. You can snorkel and scuba dive all around the island and there are dozens of companies that will take you out on a scuba or snorkel tour to see many types of corral and colorful tropical fish including sailfish from December to June.

From June to September you can swim with giant Whale Sharks and anytime of the year is great to swim in the National Park that’s filled with the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum’s sculptures. Most tours include lunch buffets as well as snorkel gear.

Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Do you have any tips? Let us know!

 

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico. We've written about Mexico's Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it's grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don't find that it's gotten any busier and it seems there's just more to do there these days with a lot more things to do and see. Isla Mujeres Mexico things to do plus tips secrets and photography. ]]>
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We Review The Phoenix Resort Belize And Tasty Nachos https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/we-review-the-phoenix-resort-belize-and-tasty-nachos/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/we-review-the-phoenix-resort-belize-and-tasty-nachos/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 17:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12920 Sometimes in life you get what you pay for and sometimes, you don’t.

Luckily for us, The Phoenix Resort in the heart of San Pedro, Belize is worth every penny and earns its reputation as one of the best resorts on Ambergis Caye.

Phoenix Belize Luxury Resort in Ambergris Caye Our Review | Belize Resort San Pedro | Luxury resort Belize | Luxury resort San Pedro Ambergris Caye | Luxury resort review Ambergris Caye

We were fortunate enough to stay at The Phoenix Resort for five days and had the opportunity to find out for ourselves what makes the place a Tripadvisor favorite.

Just want to hear the highlights? Look for our quick review on The Phoenix Belize at the end of this post.

A word of caution though, our Phoenix Belize review might make you book a one way flight to the island of Ambergris Caye off the coast of mainland Belize, so continue on at your own risk.

First Impressions of The Phoenix Resort

View of pool and codos outside The Phoenix Belize Resort

Tucked out the way at the north end of Barrier Reef Drive, known as front street to the locals, the unassuming side entrance of The Phoenix Resort leads into a shaded lot full of golf carts, which are the most common mode of transportation on the island of Ambergris Caye. On the left is a playground for kids, and up above is the hotel patio bar with free drinks during happy hour every day from 5 to 6 (local beer and rum only).

There’s also the well reviewed Sol Spa and gym located on the second floor with the resort owned Red Ginger restaurant tucked below next to the main lobby.

The main entrance to The Phoenix Resort is actually located on Pescador Drive, known as middle street to the locals, however the most common entrance is via front street with quicker access to the many restaurants, shops and bars along the beach.

Once you cross through the lobby from the main entrance and exit the rear door you see the saline lap pool and then the beautiful and heated multi-level main pool, with a well stocked pool side bar. There are loungers positioned all around the pool, as well as tables and chairs where you can sit back and enjoy a bite delivered fresh from the Red Ginger restaurant, or sip on a tasty concoction the friendly bar servers whip up.

Poolside loungers with view of the ocean The Phoenix Belize Resort

The ultra-stylish, three-story high buildings that comprise The Phoenix surround the entire pool area. Nearly every one also has an ocean view of the clear blue water. There is no beach at The Phoenix Resort, which is the case for almost all of the hotels on Ambergris Caye. However, there is a short seawall and pathway that runs in front, as well as several long piers nearby you can swim off if you fancy a dip in the ocean.

Note: This area of Belize isn’t known for its beaches, and even if you happen to find one in town the shallow waters, the sea grass don’t make wading in all that appealing. There are a few hotels with beaches on the island, however they’re all just outside the town proper. Most people that want to spend time in the ocean take snorkel tours and there’s some amazing snorkeling fairly close to shore.

That said, the Phoenix Resort is right on the water and the water views are gorgeous. The entire grounds on the resort are well maintained and patrolled 24/7, and there always seems to be someone around if you have any problems, however they’re never obtrusive.

The Rooms at The Phoenix Resort Belize

Each room at The Phoenix Resort Belize is condominium size. You can stay in one, tow or three bedroom suites, and the two and three bedroom suites all include two bathrooms.

king size bed with flowers The Phoenix Belize Resort

Our king bed

Our 1,700 foot, two bedroom suite had a huge en suite with a large jetted tub, a big walk in shower and his and her sinks. There was a nice collection of shampoos and conditioners as well as other toiletries in both bathrooms and super plush towels and robes.

jetted tub in master bath at The Phoenix Belize Resort

There were also flower petals strewn all around our suite when we checked in that made the suite smell wonderful. Turn down service that night took all the flower petals away so that was a nice bonus as well.

The main bathroom had two doors, one from the main hallway and one directly from the second room, with his and her sinks as well as a large shower. As such, the two bedroom suites at The Phoenix would be equally fine for two couples or a family of four. There was also a washer and dryer hidden away in the main bathroom, complete with detergent so that was a bonus.

Two single beds at The Phoenix Belize Resort

The kids bedroom at the Phoenix Belize

The master bedroom had a very comfortable king sized bed and a plush white duvet complete with a variety of soft to firm pillows. There was also a new LCD TV as well as a safe hidden in the oversized closet. The spare bedroom included a pair of comfortable twin beds and another LCD TV as well.

The rooms were all meticulously maintained and we all enjoyed staying at the resort.

The Kitchens at The Phoenix Belize

All the suites at The Phoenix include well appointed kitchens complete with stainless steel appliances, including a fridge, dual sinks, a blender, a stove, an oven as well as a dishwasher. There’s also filtered water from a tap in the kitchen so you can cut down on purchased water bottles while you stay there. The kitchen was well stocked with a Keurig coffeemaker, plates, glasses and cutlery as well as a decent selection of pots and pans.

There were a few spices in the cupboard, as well as salt and pepper but that’s about it. Luckily, there are two grocery stores almost right in front of the hotel, so stocking up on supplies is a quick walk away.

Side note: I was short some butter one morning while making a late brunch and one of the women cleaning noticed my distress (there’s daily cleaning as well as a turn down service at night) and she offered to grab me some butter from the restaurant so I could finish cooking. It was incredibly nice of her and she reminded me that the restaurant could also provide additional pots and pans if I needed them. Many thanks!

living room and kitchen in two bedroom suite at The Phoenix Belize Resort

Living room and kitchen at The Phoenix Belize Resort

As well as the large kitchen area, there was a living room complete with a large screen TV. The living room also had a outdoor patio right off it with another table, chairs and a few loungers for relaxing. We had a few of our meals out on the terrace and it was a great place to eat breakfast before the pool area got busy.

In Room Extras at The Phoenix Belize

When you stay at The Phoenix Belize, they include a lot of extras, including free WiFi which is always important for us. I have to say the Wifi at The Phoenix was pretty good for Ambergris Caye. There were a few spotty areas around the resort but it was reliable in the suite, around the pool and in the bar, which are pretty much the areas we stayed around the most.

A cool bonus when staying at the resort is that it includes an Apple iPad during your stay and a Bose speaker system to pair with. As well, there was a cell phone with $20 worth of service. The cell phone was helpful when meeting up with some friends in town and also calling about a flight off the island. It also came in handy when I called around to get some snorkel tour prices, however the hotel tour prices ended up being comparable so we ended up booking through them instead.

The iPad was great for the kids and it included links to the onsite Red Ginger restaurant for ordering room service. It also had information about the other restaurants the resort owns in San Pedro, namely Wine de Vine and the Blue Water Grill restaurant. As a guest at The Phoenix, you also get 10% off all food at the Red Ginger, as well as their other two restaurants, however there is a small surcharge for room service.

You also get a delicious welcome drink when you check in and there was a small bottle of rum, a bottle of Coke, a bottle of tonic water and a lime waiting in the suite for us when we checked in as well. Needless to say, they didn’t go to waste.

Resort-Wide Extras at The Phoenix Resort

Swingset at The Phoenix Belize Resort

Complimentary Yoga classes

Throughout the week there are complimentary Yoga classes upstairs on the rooftop patio for guests staying at The Phoenix Resort. We didn’t make it to any, however two separate friends we know who’ve stayed in San Pedro raved about how good the instructors at The Phoenix were when they heard we were staying at the hotel.

Complimentary Drinks

Every day from 5 to 6 PM there are complimentary cocktails served upstairs on the roof top patio bar. The free drinks include local rum, local beer and, often wine from their Wine de Vine store. Our favorite beer (and it seems the favorite of everyone on the islands) was the locally made Belikin beer. You can get it in Regular, Light and Stout. We enjoyed Regular the most, however plenty of people love the Stout.

Free Kayaks and Paddle Boards (SUPs)

Free kayaks and paddle boards are included at the resort, however you can’t get them on site. Instead, you need to grab a voucher from the main lobby and walk a few blocks south past Central Park to one of the dive centers near the ferry terminal. It’s a quick walk, however it’s a bit of a pain to have to go first to the lobby, wait for them to call and then walk down there. The good part is that the resort is just about the perfect distance to paddle to before heading back into the wind and coasting back to the dive center to return your paddle board or kayak.

Complimentary Wine Tastings, Chocolate Tastings, and Painting Classes

As well as the free daily cocktail hour, The Phoenix often offers free wine tastings, chocolate tastings and painting classes to its guests as well. These events change every week and you’ll find a copy of the resort activities on the iPad as well as printed in your room. They even offer special painting classes just for kids. You can contact the front desk to find out more info as well as watch the sign by the foot of the stairs to the patio and spa.

Complimentary Bicycles

Though we never got around to using them ourselves, The Phoenix Resort offers free bicycles for their guests. We rented a golf cart for our entire stay on the island, so er either walked or took the golf cart, but we spotted several guests using the bikes on a regular basis. The bikes looked in good shape and San Pedro is the perfect size to get around by bike.

Bouncy Castle

Everyday, at around 3 PM, there is a bouncy castle for the young ones to play on. Ours decided they were too big for it, however if you have young children with you this would be a great way to tire them out everyday. There’s also the

Amenities at The Phoenix Belize

Pools

There are two gorgeous pools at The Phoenix Resort. Both are saline pools and both are heated. The heater in the lap pool was being repaired while we were there so we strategically opted not to use it, however it looked liked a great way to get an early morning workout. The main pool had multi levels and included a shallow end that would be great for smaller kids to wade around in while the parents sample some of the tasty beverages the guys in the pool bar whip up.

Looking out over the ocean at the infinity pool The Phoenix Belize Resort

Looking out over the ocean at the infinity pool

Unlike some of the huge resorts in Mexico, there are no “Activity Coordinators” or music being pumped out around the pool, making it a chill and pleasant place to hang out. The only time it ever seemed to get busier was around 3 or 4 when most people got back from taking tours or checking out the town. We had the pool to ourselves quite a few times, especially before lunch.

Infinity pool and loungers The Phoenix Belize Resort

As well as the pool bar, open most days from 10-5, there are plush pool towels and off resort (for snorkeling or other tours) towels available on the corner of the pool bar, and special lounge chair towels for the loungers. You can order food off the menu from the Red Ginger and it will be served to you pool side as well.

lap pool The Phoenix Belize Resort

lap pool

Sol Spa

Guests at The Phoenix Belize can enjoy the amenities of the onsite Sol Spa. The Sol Spa offers sport, therapeutic and deep tissue massages as well as a variety of scrubs and body treatments. They also do mani/pedis, facials and more. The massages can be had poolside, in your room or in one of their lovely spa treatment rooms. We didn’t have a massage, but one of the other guests raved about it while we were down by the pool one day so it sounded nice.

Fitness Center

Next to Sol Spa is the fitness center at The Phoenix. It contains all the usual assortment of treadmills, elliptical machines, a universal weight machine as well as some free weights. They also offer complimentary passes to a nearby, more fully stocked gym if you want more variety in your workout.

Red Ginger Restaurant

The onsite, resort owned, Red Ginger restaurant is a well reviewed restaurant and a great addition to the hotel. You can eat in, order from the menu poolside, or have them deliver your food right to your room. We only ate in the restaurant once, but we did get nachos and sandwiches every day we were there. The nachos were heavenly and were a great poolside treat between lunch a dinner.

Red Ginger inside The Phoenix Belize Resort

Red Ginger Restaurant

The Red Ginger has daily specials and a brunch menu on Saturdays and Sundays. Guests get 10% off all their food at the Red Ginger, however there is a $5 BZD fee ($2.50 USD) for room service. You can check out the Red Ginger menu here. Just remember that the prices on the menu are in Belizean Dollars which is usually at half the US dollar (so divide by 2 to get USD price).

Blue Water Grill and Wine de Vine

Though neither of these places are located at the hotel, they’re all part of the same family and guests staying at The Phoenix Resort get 10% off their food and drink at both restaurants. The Blue Water Grill, a few blocks south down front street right on the beach, is known for its great seafood and ambiance and the Wine de Vine store is one of the best places on the island to buy local and imported wines. They also sell some really tasty looking platters in their meat and cheese deli section.

You can check out the Blue Water Grill’s menu here and Wine de Vine’s page is here. Note that prices are also in BZD so divide by 2 to get USD pricing.

Business Center

The Phoenix offers a small business center, complete with a few computers and printing facilities. They also include a small library of books, DVDs and board games you can borrow while you’re staying at the hotel.

Activity Planner for Offsite Activities

Though not really an amenity, the activity planner who works at the front desk is great at setting up any offsite activities you might want to do on Ambergris Caye or even on mainland Belize. They can help you set up everything from snorkeling the amazing Hol Chan Reserve and Shark Ray Alley to diving in the world famous Blue Hole. They can also get you a good deal on golf cart rentals, fishing trips, catamaran tours and jet ski rentals.

There are also a ton of things to see and do off the island like day trip excursions to the mainland to check out ancient Mayan ruins, go cave tubing, ziplining, jungle trekking and so forth. You can usually set up these activities once you get to Belize, however, depending on the season, it might be better to arrange them in advance.

A Quick Review of The Phoenix Resort Belize

What we loved

nachos by the ocean The Phoenix Belize Resort

The Phoenix Resort is right in heart of San Pedro and that makes it easy to check out the nearby bars and restaurants. The rooms are bright, spacious, cheerful and clean and their nachos were so good we ordered some every day we spent there. We also loved lounging by the pools and the free daily happy hour up in the little patio bar.

Micki’s note: The kids and I loved the warm, ocean side pools so much that we spent every morning playing in the pool, and eating nachos for lunch. Pure heaven.

What could have been better

The free kayaks and stand up paddle boards they offer require a voucher from the front desk and are stored a few blocks away from the hotel with another company. On the positive side, they are included free. There’s also no beach at The Phoenix, however all the beaches are public in Belize and there is a small beach a few doors down you can use. You can also swim from the end of the nearby pier if you love swimming in the ocean as much as I do.

Final Impressions of The Phoenix Resort Belize

Mom and daughter at the Phoenix Belize Resort infinity pool

Mom and daughter at the infinity pool

To say we enjoyed our stay at The Phoenix Resort on Ambergris Caye would be an understatement. From the moment we walked into our bright, spacious suite we knew we were going to be comfortable there. They included pretty much everything we needed as well as a few that surprised us. The included iPad and cell phone were especially nice while we were there.

From a tasty welcome drink while checking in to a free ride to the airport on the way out, we felt we were in good hands while we were there. We especially loved that the people at The Phoenix Resort were happy to help us in any way but stayed out of the way once we were settled in. That’s exactly what we love about a place. Well, that and tasty nachos…

About The Phoenix Belize

You can find more Phoenix Belize reviews on Tripadvisor or visit the Phoenix Belize website. You can also find the Phoenix on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Check lastest prices.

Want to check out their restaurants? You’ll find them here (prices in BZD): Red Ginger, Blue Water Grill, Wine de Vine

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23 Moments You’ll Experience At Victoria House on Ambergris Caye https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/23-moments-youll-experience-at-victoria-house-on-ambergris-caye/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/central-america/23-moments-youll-experience-at-victoria-house-on-ambergris-caye/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 09:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12940 I’m sitting at the beach bar at the Victoria House in Belize, enthusiastically attacking the best Greek salad I’ve had in years, and staring out at the impossibly crystal clear turquoise ocean.

Just out of my hearing, the kids are tearing up and down the white sand like two happy puppies. Later, we’re all heading out for an afternoon boat trip to Shark Ray Alley to snorkel with nurse sharks and stingrays.

Yes, this is what luxury is like on Ambergris Caye.

23 Moments You’ll Experience At a Luxury Resort in Ambergris Caye Belize | Victoria House on Ambergris Caye | San Pedro Luxury Resort | Belize Luxury Resort | Ambergris Caye Luxury Hotel | Belize Resort | Belize Luxury Hotels

Victoria House awards and more

I should have expected something special here at Victoria House in Ambergris Caye, Belize. After all, this San Pedro resort has a swath of awards longer than my arm, including multiple TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Awards, Condé Nast Johansens Awards for Excellence, 2012 Travel + Leisure Magazine Top 500 Hotels and Resorts in the World, and a 2013 Fodor’s Choice Award of Distinction. Not too shabby at all. You can check out the Victoria House reviews for yourself on Booking.com and TripAdvisor. Check prices here.

If you ever have a chance to check out a luxury hotel on Ambergris Caye in Belize, don’t hesitate for a second. Grab your passport, your wallet, a swimsuit and your sense of adventure. If you do, there will come a moment when you’ll totally understand what I’m writing about today.

Here are some of the amazing moments you’ll experience.

Frolicking barefoot by the ocean

Hands down, the relaxed, Caribbean vibe on Ambergris Caye is my favorite part of the island. It’s all about sunny beach days, playing in the water, reading great books, and letting all of your at-home responsibilities and worries slip away.

Girl running down the dock at Victoria House Belize

Finding the most gorgeous places to catch up on work or relax with a book

Hands down, the thatched roof palapa by the infinity pool at Victoria House was one of my all time favorite places to catch up on writing blog posts, surfing the net or catching up on reading.

Laptop under a thatched umbrella at Victoria House Belize

You’ll feel like you’re among old friends

It’s hard not to feel welcome here. We were greeted with ice cold fruit drinks when we stepped into the lobby, and every single person I met greeted me with a warm smile.

Friendly Staff at Victoria House Belize

Eating snacks by the ocean

There’s something wonderful about sitting by the ocean for lunch. Admiral Nelson’s Bar at the Victoria House serves up some of the tastiest homemade snacks and lunches I’d had in a long time. Try the Greek salad. To. Die. For.

My favorite greek salad at Victoria House Belize

Homemade nacho chips and black bean dip Victoria House Belize

Blooming onion snacks Victoria House Belize

Admiral Nelsons Bar Victoria House Belize

Sinking into your luxury bed

We were lucky enough to stay in one of Victoria House’s villas, with a gorgeous king size bed. There’s not much more inviting than crisp white sheets on a luxurious bed at the end of a long day of swimming, exploring the town of San Pedro, and then enjoying delicious food.

Victoria House Ambergris Caye King Size Bed

Dangling your feet in the ocean-side pool

There are two pools at Victoria House; one lovely infinity pool toward the back of the property, and an ocean side pool. It’s perfect for splashing around in and watching the ocean. The kids loved to sit on the loungers here and dangle their feet in the water. When we were there, the pool wasn’t being heated so we only went swimming in it once.

Relaxing in the pool facing the ocean at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Lounging on the private dock

We found the private dock at Victoria House to be one of the prettiest spots on the island and that’s saying a lot on an island that’s surrounded by clear aquamarine water, white sand, and dotted with charming, colorful houses.

At the entrance of the dock, there’s a dive shop with free stand up paddle boards (SUP) and kayaks for use by guests. At the end of the pier there’s a small palapa for shade and lots of room to sit down if you want to relax and stare out at the ocean or dive into the clear water.

Victoria house dock Ambergris Caye

Blissing out at the Spa

The Spa at Victoria House.

I can’t even begin to tell you.

There’s a pages long menu of spa treatments and services, all designed to pamper and relax you. The Spa at Victoria House itself is a brand new 3,500 square foot colonial building set among coconut palms, bougainvillea, and gentle ocean breezes.

Charles and I both opted for a couples traditional relaxation massage. It was flawless, relaxing, and one of the best spa experiences we’ve ever had.

Tea at the spa Victoria House Belize

Spa massage beds Victoria House Belize

Spa entrance Victoria House Belize

Dining by candlelight

The beautiful Palmilla Restaurant comes with a considerable price tag, but it’s well worth it. If I were a professional food writer, I’d be throwing around words like “scrumptious” and “mouth watering” to describe my nightly vegetarian pasta courses and Charles’ chicken selections. The Palmilla Restaurant at Victoria House has a nice air conditioned dining room with plenty of seating, plus an outdoor patio. It’s open to the public as well if you happen to be staying somewhere else in San Pedro and want an upscale meal.

 

Delicious pasta at Restaurant Palmilla at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Tasty chicken at Palmilla Restaurant Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Eating freshly made pastries every morning

The Palmilla restaurant is also where you’ll eat your complimentary breakfast in the mornings, complete with fresh juices and home made baking. Be sure to try the delicious, fresh-baked muffins or the home made granola. They were delish!

Restaurant Palmilla Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Walking along the ocean boardwalk

Victoria House, like most of the hotels on the island, has an ocean side boardwalk instead of a traditional beach area. The waterfront at Victoria House is also enormous, making a walk along the ocean boardwalk here extra special.

Beach and palm trees at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Diving off the pier into the clear blue ocean

Since there’s no sloping beach to get in the water, the best way to get wet is to jump off the pier that juts out into the ocean or when taking out one of the free paddle boards or kayaks.

Lounging by your villa

We were lucky enough to stay in one of Victoria House’s huge two bedroom private villas. As such we could just sit and watch the world pass us by from 2 great vantage points.

Outside of our villa at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Enjoying the ample luxury in your suite

Our huge, 2 bedroom villa came with fresh flowers, a fully appointed kitchen, two bathrooms, and even an extra, private, outdoor shower for both bedrooms! Don’t worry, there are also traditional indoor showers, if you prefer to soap up in privacy.

There were also new flatscreen TVs with good English cable service in every room however you won’t find a phone anywhere in your suite. Somewhat charmingly, when we requested a wakeup call, we got a wake up knock at our door instead!

Villa kitchen at Victoria House Ambergris Caye Villa at Victoria House Belize

Waking to the sound of ocean waves

Though the ocean is fairly calm around San Pedro, you can still here the water lapping against the shore some mornings and there’s usually a nice breeze blowing in off the water.

By the beach Flowers at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Playing games by the ocean

The kids loved hanging out on the wide swath of sand beside the ocean. We lounged in the hammocks, and played beanbag toss or ladder golf for hours.

Playing in the hammock at Victoria House Belize

Admiring the expansive, groomed grounds

I’m not sure how large the grounds are at Victoria House, but they must run into several acres, at least, and they’re perfectly, meticulously, manicured. There’s not a lovely tropic flower, or verdant green tree out of place.

Sinking your toes in the white sand

The sand at the Victoria House resort in Belize is bright white and easy on the feet. There are also loungers and chairs strewn about in the sand and under the many palm trees that line the water giving everyone staying at the resort plenty of space from the other guests.

Loungers by the ocean Victoria House San Pedro Belize

Enjoying the exclusive toiletries

One of my very favorite things in a luxury hotel are the toiletries. You’ll find Victoria House’s very own spa line of shampoo, conditioner and body lotion here, made with Mayan bee honey. They’re as perfect as they look.

Luxurious toiletries at Victoria House Ambergris Caye

Savoring delectable desserts

Molten chocolate lava cake cooked to order.

Creme brule.

Homemade ice cream.

Need we go on? Absolutely heaven.

Savoring desserts bananas with chocolate lava cake Victoria House Belize

Gazing over the infinity pool

With pool side loungers, and plenty of chairs and tables, the infinity pool is the perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s also gets great Wifi.

Working out in the air conditioned exercise room

Tucked away in the spa building, the exercise room is the perfect place to get in a workout in air-conditioned comfort.

Exercise room Victoria House Belize

Soaking up the sunset

Ambergris Caye has some of the most beautiful sunsets in the world. The ocean side pool at Victoria house is the perfect place to unwind, cocktail in hand, at the end of a busy day.

Sunset by the pool Victoria House Belize

What you need to know

Victoria House Beach Resort is a luxury resort on the Island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. There are 42 rooms, including private pool villas, luxurious suites, staterooms, and casitas.

The resort is a few minutes just outside of the main town of San Pedro to the south, so you’ll either need to take taxis (which can become expensive) or rent a golf cart for your stay, which is the main mode of transportation on the island. They also provide free bike rentals which can be an option depending where you’re biking to.

We rented a golf cart during our stay, and had a blast scooting around the island. You can rent independently, or Victoria House can arrange a rental for you. You can also arrange tours to nearby attractions like Mayan ruins, Shark Ray Alley, cave tubing and more through Victoria House.

The Spa at Victoria House

There are over 30 treatments, massages and facials available at the Spa at Victoria House.

Dining

There are two restaurants on site: the more casual Admiral Nelson’s Bar, and the elegant Restaurant Palmilla.

Want to know more?

You can find out more on the Victoria house website. You can also find Victoria House on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Want to book a room?

Check prices here. You can book a room through the Victoria House Resort directly, or through Booking.com or compare prices on TripAdvisor.

Location: San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Our stay at Victoria House was complimentary, but that doesn’t mean they forced us to lounge by the pool, enjoy some amazing meals or have one of the best spa experiences we’ve ever had. As such, all thoughts and opinions shared in this post are entirely our own.

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Better Than Home, A Review of Athens Gate Resort in Belize https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/better-than-home-a-review-of-athens-gate-resort-in-belize/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/better-than-home-a-review-of-athens-gate-resort-in-belize/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 14:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12939

Dreaming of an ocean getaway, but hate the crowds? Athens Gate Resort in Belize might be what you’re after.

Located just a few miles south of San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye, this TripAdvisor favorite boutique beach resort is a quiet place with a ton of hidden gems. We recently had the chance to stay and review Athens Gate Resort Belize for ourselves and, to be honest, we had a great time.

For one, this unassuming boutique hotel features huge suites with some of the most well stocked kitchens I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Featuring a dishwasher and all stainless steel appliances, when you factor in it also included a full washer and dryer, roughing it in Belize takes on a whole new meaning.

Secondly, Athen’s Gate is outside the hustle and bustle of busy San Pedro, however when you rent a golf cart to get around and tour the island (like everyone who stays in San Pedro does) you’re only a few minutes from great restaurants and the best bakery we found on the island (The Baker – try their cinnamon buns!).

Since Athen’s Gate is located on the south side of town, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of crossing the island’s only toll bridge ($5 BZD each way) which can get annoying after a few trips or hearing the constant beat of San Pedro’s late night beach bars if you stay at a place in town.

The staff of Athens Gate Belize

As great as the hotel is, the best part of Athens Gate Resort could very well be the staff. Glen, William, Dennis and E. make you feel like you’re at home, and go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need during your stay.

Glen even drove Micki to the airport when a family emergency called her away, and we didn’t have time to get a taxi. Thanks again Glen!

Outside of that, if you need a ride, they’ll call you a taxi. Want to rent a golf cart? They’ll have one delivered right to you for cheaper than renting in town. Thinking of taking a snorkeling or dive tour? They’ll get you picked up off their own pier and you’ll have one of the best snorkeling trips of your life.

Belize has the second largest barrier reef in the world and both Shark Ray Alley (which is a quick boat ride from Athens Gate Resort) and Mexico Rocks have amazing marine life. At Shark Ray Alley, you can swim in shallow water with harmless nurse sharks as well as huge sting rays. Mexico Rocks has more colorful fish and friendly sea turtles, but it’s a little farther north of the island.

Amenities at Athens Gate Belize

One of the nicest things about Athens Gate Belize is that they actually have a real beach, which is rare in Ambergris Caye. If you enjoy sitting on the sand with your toes in the water, or watching your young ones frolic on the beach, at Athens Gate you can.

Kids will also enjoy the nice pool, complete with free pool toys like noodles and loungers.

Like the rest of the island, they also have a long pier to get you out of the seagrass and there’s decent snorkeling right off the dock. Since all beaches in Belize are public, you can also walk a few docks down to the right to enjoy some great snorkeling there as well. If you don’t have a snorkel or fins, just talk to one of the guys and they’ll set you up with some free of charge.

Grabbing a beer while sitting on the dock over the clear water and watching as the sun sets over the island might very well be the highlight of your year. For those that crave margaritas by the pool, William is your man and he can whip you up some delicious cocktails that will leave you wondering why you don’t live on Ambergris Caye permanently.

Water activities at Athens Gate Belize

While staying at Athens Gate Belize we also enjoyed grabbing one of their free kayaks or stand up paddleboards and cruising around the quiet bay. Unlike a lot of the resorts, where you need to sign a few things or walk to a specific pier far from the resort, at Athens Gate you just need to grab a board or a kayak and go.

Out past the piers, the water is so clear and blue that you can see everything from fish to lobster to turtles just below the water. There are even huge conch shells within grabbing distance of the dock. Glen also told me that if you wait long enough, you’ll see giant eagle rays leaping out of the ocean.

For me, one of my all time, on the water highlights happened while I was staying at Athen’s Gate. As I paddled my stand up paddle board back to shore one extremely calm evening, a giant ray crisscrossed under my SUP. I followed it for a good 30 or 40 feet as it zoomed around. The water was so clear it was like it was hovering in air.

A true boutique hotel

Whether you’re staying on the first floor or the fourth, each lavishly appointed suite has amazing views over the clear aquamarine waters for which Belize is famous for.

With only a dozen suites, Athens Gate Belize is definitely a boutique hotel, and the only thing missing for some would be an on site restaurant. Of course, the kitchen was so well stocked with everything from a Ninja blender to a cupboard full of spices, the kids and I decided to get some baking done. It’s not that often that you get a full oven at a hotel and we made blueberry muffins for breakfast one morning and crepes the next. It was awesome!

For those that don’t want to cook, there are well reviewed restaurants within a block and a half (the well reviewed Black Orchid Restaurant is one of them) and San Pedro proper has dozens of great restaurants from seafood to pasta. For us, it was a nice break from a traditional sleep only hotel, and in addition to getting some baking done, it gave us a chance to make some of our favorite meals like pasta and Mexican.

If you want to cook for yourself there are a few decent supermarkets in town and a little store just down the lane. Since Belize is officially an English country, shopping for food is really easy.

The suites themselves are large and clean and well furnished. The king sized bed in our room was heavenly to sleep on. Our two bedroom suite also had twin beds for the kids, as well as their own TV and bathroom which was a nice bonus. However we had trouble keeping Jordan out of the large jetted tub in our private bathroom.

Cole enjoyed the new 60 inch TV in the large living room, while I loved having a dedicated work desk to get some work done. We all enjoyed the fact we could watch YouTube and Netflix at the same time via the free in-room WiFi.

Final thoughts on Athens Gate Belize

So, to recap, if you’re looking for a spacious home away from home along a quiet beach just outside of a touristy town with some amazing snorkeling, diving and paddleboarding directly on your doorstep, then Athens Gate Resort on Ambergris Caye island in Belize might be just what you’re looking for.

Tell them we sent you! If you see a ray while paddling, take a picture and send it to me because the only thing I regretted about my stay there was not having a camera with me the day I saw one.

Thanks again to Glen and his team for such an awesome stay.

Things to note about Athens Gate Belize

  • There is no elevator, so if you’re on the 4th floor there is a bit of a climb. The view is worth it!
  • There is no restaurant on site, however there are several nearby.
  • The resort is a bit out of town, so if you don’t have a golf cart rental you’re looking at long walks or taxis. Golf cart rentals are much cheaper by the week than daily.
  • There is a larger sister resort a few doors down called Pelican Reef that also has a restaurant on site.
  • Tiny sand flies (no-see-ums) can be bad on the beach around dusk and dawn everywhere on Ambergris Caye, especially when there’s no wind. This is true everywhere on the island, so bring bug spray or stay off the sand around dusk.
  • The rooms are some of cleanest we’ve ever experienced. There’s daily cleaning and they’ll even do your dishes if you forget a few in the sink. Thank you Gloria, Gladys and Janna!
  • This place is perfect for families that like to cook for themselves or those looking to get away from the crowds of San Pedro, but it’s still close enough that amazing restaurants and fun nightlife are just around the next bend in the road.

Want to know more?

You can find out more on Athens Gate’s official website, or check out their reviews on TripAdvisor.

How to get here

Most visitors get to Ambergris Caye by flying into Belize City, and then either taking a commuter flight (a bit pricier and incredibly scenic) or an hour long ferry (cheaper) to Ambergris Caye.

We wouldn’t advise spending any time in Belize City itself. We’ve heard plenty of first hand reports of Belize City crime, so if you need to overnight in the city be careful to stay in a good hotel, in a good area, and heed cautions not to go out at night or down side street. It may also be a wise precaution to avoid walking around, especially overnight, and take a taxi wherever you need to go.

Athens Gate kindly hosted us, but our opinions are all our own.

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A Review of Ocean Blue and Sand Resort in Punta Cana https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/a-review-of-ocean-blue-and-sand-resort-in-punta-cana/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/a-review-of-ocean-blue-and-sand-resort-in-punta-cana/#comments Sat, 10 Dec 2016 05:31:21 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12699 When you think of the ocean, what typically comes to mind? For me it’s blue water and white sands.

So it’s appropriate when I say Ocean Blue and Sand Resort in Punta Cana is aptly named. I’m also being honest when I say that I wanted to stay a lot longer.

ocean-blue-and-sand-resort

When you ask anyone who’s stayed at the Ocean Blue and Sand Beach Resort in the Dominican Republic what they enjoyed most on their holiday, the answer is invariably the people. It’s always about the people. Whether you’re talking about the staff or the other vacationers, one thing is universal: good people equal good times.

In short, that’s what my recent stay at Ocean Blue and Sand Beach Resort near Punta Cana came down to. The staff were some of the nicest, happiest people I’ve ever met, and everyone walked around with a smile on their faces and a song on their lips.

Check latest prices here.

Check reviews on TripAdvisor.

Now, I’ve been to bigger resorts and, truth be told, I’ve stayed in fancier hotels, however my stay at Ocean Blue and Sand Resort was one of the best in recent memory.

Sure, it might have something to do with the amazing meals I ate while I was there.

food-sample-at-ocean-blue-and-sand-dominican-republic

It might also have something to do with the people I met and the tasty cocktails I drank while at the resort.

champagne-toast

It might even have been due to the amazing body massage I received at the onsite Despacio Spa Centre.

despacio-spa

Perhaps it was just that my Privilege suite was clean, spacious and comfortable.

ocean-blue-and-sand-bathroom

It’s probably simply due to the fact that every night, when my head finally hit my pillow after a long day of experiencing what the resort had to offer, I was comfortable and content and had some of the best sleeps I’ve had in years.

ocean-blue-and-sand-privilege-room

Choosing the right hotel

Check reviews on TripAdvisor.

I don’t usually write about hotel stays, however when you enjoy a place enough, it deserves to be mentioned.

As most all-inclusive vacationers can tell you, choosing the right hotel can often make or break a vacation. This is especially true when you spend the majority of your vacation time on the resort. Everyone can get by for a few days in uncomfortable surroundings, however when you stay someplace for a week or two, you need decent food and drink, a variety of entertainment and comfortable surroundings.

The Ocean Blue and Sand Resort has comfort and entertainment in spades. I can honestly say that during my time there, I was never bored. Whether I was walking the miles and miles of beautiful white sand beaches that flanked the hotel, or eating at one of the eight specialty onsite restaurants, I never grew tired of what the hotel offered.

beautiful-skies-at-ocean-blue-and-sand-dominican-republic

Activities at Ocean Sand and Blue Resort

During the day there was the beach, two huge pools, the PADI diving center Dive It! complete with free water activities, two swim up bars, multiple water themed events and parties, a fitness center, unlimited drinks, and a great main buffet with foods catering to every diet and taste.

ocean-blue-and-sand-dive-centre

ocean-blue-and-sand-diving-boat

For the older kids, there’s the lively (and free) bowling center complete with pool tables and electronic games upstairs. Hands down, this was one of the nicest indoor play zones I’ve ever encountered on a resort anywhere. The building is chock full of table games including air hockey, Foosball, ping pong, a giant chess board and Nintendo Wiis.

ocean-blue-and-sand-bowling-center-games

ocean-blue-and-sand-bowling-center-upstairs

ocean-blue-and-sand-bowling-lanes

Outside, there’s also the on-beach climbing wall, two huge pools as well as a kiddie pool, plus the tennis courts and archery lanes.

ocean-blue-and-sand-beach-chairs

For those times when you need some adult time, the Ocean Blue and Sand Hotel has an amazing Kids Club called the Daisy Club for children ages 4 to 12 while the Teens Club is for ages 13 to 17. The Daisy Club building by the water was one of the prettiest little buildings I’ve ever seen complete with beds for nap time, row upon row of arts and crafts as well as a built in kitchen.

ocean-blue-and-sand-daisy-club

ocean-blue-and-sand-daisy-club-2

For coffee aficionados, there’s Mike’s Coffee Shop. This on site cafe deserves praise solely for the outstanding decor, never mind the tasty coffees, teas and snacks you can get that rival most upscale cafe’s. The fact that it’s all included in your stay makes it a great addition to an already great resort.

ocean-blue-and-sand-mikes-cafe

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Despacio Spa Centre

The Despacio Spa Centre was a definite highlight during my stay there and the spa manager, Rosie, is one of the nicest people on the entire property. Not only did she make us feel relaxed and pampered but she also knows her beauty products.

ocean-blue-and-sand-despacio-spa-centre

The upscale Babor beauty line the spa caters to women, but also has a decent men’s line as well.

ocean-blue-and-sand-babor-despacio-spa-centre

While I was staying at the Ocean Blue and Sand Resort I had the good fortune of witnessing two weddings on the property. Both looked amazing and the staff seemed to be going out of their way to make their day extra special, with lots of bridal parties making use of the spa the day of the wedding.

ocean-blue-and-sand-white-veranda

The food at Ocean Blue and Sand Resort

Even though I was a Privilege member, I often chose to have lunch in the central buffet, the El Carey & La Tortuga. With a huge revolving menu, you could go two weeks without eating the same thing twic,e and the food was always fresh and tasty.

ocean-blue-and-sand-buffet

A few of the highlights were a fresh fruit and veggie smoothie bar where you choose your own fruit & veggie concoction, as well as a vegetarian and gluten free zone featuring healthier eats.

ocean-blue-and-sand-smoothie-bar

The buffet also includes a pasta bar complete with chef, an omelette bar in the mornings and for dessert there are tons of choices as well as three rotating flavors of ice cream.

ocean-blue-and-sand-dessert-buffet

While I was in Punta Cana, I also had the opportunity to sample most of the resort’s specialty restaurants. The majority of the specialty restaurants are near the entrance of the resort and the area is always happening, especially at night.

ocean-blue-and-sand-main-strip

One of the best meals we had was at the french restaurant, the Blue Moon Restaurant (Note: this is the only formal restaurant on the resort with a dress code for men requiring pants and closed toe footwear). I ordered the filet mignon and it was delicious while many at our table enjoyed the seafood special.

ocean-blue-and-sand-blue-moon-restaurant

For a fun meal, the Sensai Restaurant was a hit with all of us. This Japanese styled restaurant had four chefs, one in each corner, and their antics and skill at flipping things had everyone laughing and cheering them on. The warm saki they served had a nice light taste and the food was delicious.

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The first night we arrived, we ate at the Italian restaurant, Il Mascherati Di Venezia. The restaurant had a nice decor, the servers were super nice and it had some great dessert options, however the highlight of the night was probably the flaming sambuca display.

We never had the time to sample the fare at Margarita (Mexican food), Route 66 (a la carte American style) or the El Bodegon Steak House, however judging from the quality of the other restaurants, I’m sure they would be delicious as well.

ocean-blue-and-sand-margarita-restaurant

ocean-blue-and-sand-specialty-restaurants

In the evenings, there were the entertaining nightly shows, the lounge, the ultra late night Wave Disco Bar, the piano bar, the Ocean Tower Casino or the always happening main lobby to relax in. Most nights, after the nightly show, a group of the entertainers would make their way to the huge lobby and dance with anyone brave enough to get off their lounger. It generally made for an entertaining evening.

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For late night eats, the all night Over Time Sports Bar was a great place to grab a plate of fries and a drink and had the bar had big screen TVs playing sporting events from around the world.

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The people at Ocean Blue and Sand Resort

As great as the room, food and activities were at the Ocean Blue and Sand Resort, it was the people working there that made my stay memorable. I can honestly say I don’t remember the last time I saw so many happy workers in one place.

Everyone had a smile on their face and the waiters, bartenders and staff were always quick to laugh and sing while catering to our every need. It was refreshing to see and made staying at the resort a true joy.

We also got to see familiar faces in the restaurants as most of the servers switched locations from time to time, and they were always quick to remember us and even quicker to make us laugh.

ocean-blue-and-sand-pool-at-night

Privilege

For an extra fee, guests can upgrade to be part of Privilege. As part of the Privilege group, I was given a few more options like a nicer room, access to the Privilege Lounge and Privilege restaurant as well as private beach beds and 24 hour a la carte room service.

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It also gave me discounts on spa services and rentals, private check ins and check outs, turn down service and reservations with priority seating in all specialty restaurants.

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Notes

There are a few things of note that make the Ocean Blue and Sand Resort especially appealing to families. Besides for the great Daisy Club and Teens Club, unlike most places on the island, the resort allows five guests per room. The Teen Club is open from 10 am to midnight and the bowling lanes are 10 pin.

Standard rooms include room service from 11 to 11, while Privilege offers 24 hour room service and turn down service.

Due to some large storms this past fall, the once gorgeous beach took some damage, however they were already being repaired while we were there and I’m told they’re almost back to what they once were.

ocean-blue-and-sand-champagne-beach

In case of an emergency, the resort has a medical center on site that’s open from 8 am to 8 pm with 24 hour emergency services.

There’s also free WiFi available throughout the resort and there are no reservations needed at any of the restaurants, however you can reserve if you’re Privilege class. If you want, you can eat at the same specialty restaurant every night of your stay, however there can be lines, especially at both the Sensai restaurant, where they put on a show while you eat (approx 45 minutes) and the French restaurant due to its upscale appeal.

Special thanks to Virgilio and Rosie as well as Elsie for inviting me to come down and for expertly choosing some delicious wines to go with all our meals.

Between the hotel, the staff and all the people I met while there, this was definitely a holiday to remember!

Want to stay at Ocean Blue and Sand Resort in Punta Cana?

Check latest prices on Booking.com or check availability directly with the hotel here.

 Check reviews on TripAdvisor.

ocean-blue-and-sand-charles-on-the-beach

Ocean Blue and Sand Resort in Punta Cana a Review

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Beyond the Beautiful Beaches: History and Culture in Anguilla https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/beyond-the-beautiful-beaches-history-and-culture-in-anguilla/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/beyond-the-beautiful-beaches-history-and-culture-in-anguilla/#comments Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=10944 After walking any of Anguilla’s stunning Caribbean beaches, most visitors probably can’t imagine the island’s history stretching further back than the mixing of the first perfect rum cocktail in the 1960s. If you look past the stunning beaches and catchy reggae beats, Anguilla’s history is a fascinating one of pirates, British colonization, and an ancient Amerindian Arawak society.

Anguilla Catholic Church

Anguilla’s 18th Century Catholic Church, built with stones quarried from the island.

Life on Anguilla

Today, Anguillans are a close knit and self-sufficient bunch. There are only about 14,000 people on the island, with a significant number descended from slaves transported from Africa, and growing numbers of expats from the Dominican Republic, St Kitts, the United States and the UK.

Anguilla’s an island where everyone seems to know everyone else. Our guide, Aclan, spent a good portion of his time greeting friends, from shouting a cheerful “Happy birthday” to the man in front of us at one of the island’s six stoplights, to asking about the health and well-being of the numerous cousins, friends, and siblings of every clerk, waiter and bus driver we encounter on our trip.

Anguilla Aclan offering up a coconut fresh from the tree

Warm hospitality in Anguilla

This warmth and family connection extends everywhere on the island. Colville Petty OBE, Anguilla’s Heritage Museum curator, proudly displays dog-eared photos of Anguillan’s who’ve reached their 100th birthday. “We treasure them”, he says about the centenarians, reverently.

Colville has been pivotal to a modern revival of research into Anguilla’s history. Over the years, he’s personally, and painstakingly, stocked the Heritage Museum with items from four millennium of Anguilla’s history. The eclectic and fascinating collection includes chronicles of a visit from the Queen in 1964, hurricanes that have blasted the region, and pottery from ancient Anarak tribes.

Coleville Petty OBE, Heritage Collection Museum Anguilla

Colville Petty OBE, at the Heritage Collection Museum Anguilla

Pirates

Like any self-respecting Caribbean island, Anguilla’s history is marked with tales and rumors of swashbuckling pirates visiting its shores. Despite the skepticism of archaeologists, some people still believe pirate William Kidd buried his treasure on Anguilla.

Big Spring National Park’s petroglyphs

Long before the pirates, Anguilla’s first known residents were the Arawaks, who traveled to the island from South America as far back as 3,500 years ago. The Arawaks’ deep religious beliefs were centered around the sun, moon and two sacred caverns, believed to be where mankind originated. There’s still evidence of their time on the island for visitors who are keen enough to look.

The sacred cavern at Fountain Cavern National Park near Shoal Bay plunges almost 100 feet into the earth, and shows evidence of sacred bowls, petroglyphs, and a stalagmite carved in the likeness of Jocahu, the Arawak’s Supreme Deity. You can still find faded petroglyphs known as Spirit Eyes inside the Arawak’s second sacred cavern at the Big Spring collapsed cave.

Slavery

In the mid-1600s, African slaves we brought over to Anguilla by British colonists. In Anguilla, sparse rainfall and poor soil made sugar plantations less profitable than on other islands. When slavery ended with emancipation in 1834, most European plantation owners moved away, unable to make a living on the dry land. Their lands were taken over or bought by ex-slaves, and Anguilla became a culture of independent fishermen and small farmers. Wallblake House, a heritage plantation house, is intact to this day.

Anguilla Wallblake House

Wallblake House

Revolution

Today, Anguilla is a British overseas colony. The island was first colonized by the English in 1650, and coming years brought ultimately unsuccessful attacks from neighboring islands, repeated invasions by the French, and an attack by a coalition of the French and Irish. By the 1800s, Anguilla was forced into a federation with Saint Kitts and Nevis, which lasted in many forms until 1967. That year a referendum saw a vote of 1,813 votes for secession, and five against, from Anguillans who wanted to be free of political subservience to Saint Kitts.

In 1969, the British landed 100 British paratroopers in red berets, along with police and the 2nd battalion on Anguilla, meeting with no resistance. In the end, Anguilla was allowed to secede from Saint Kitts and Nevis, becoming a separate overseas territory.

Visiting Anguilla

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Anguilla is the kind of island where you can go for a dip in the ocean, and come out and find you have the entire white sand beach to yourself. If you’re looking for more information on accommodation, food, and activities, check out our article on what to do, see and eat in Anguilla.

Anguilla has no high rise hotels, but does offer some lovely boutique hotels like the Anacoana, and Anguilla Great House. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of luxury available at the Viceroy  and CuisinArt. Airbnb has a good selection of private and affordable options in (use our link to get a $28 airbnb credit).

If you’re in Anguilla, you can pick up a map for the free self-guided Anguilla Heritage Tour trail map at the Anguilla Tourist Office.

Want more?

Fodor’s Caribbean 2016 (Full-color Travel Guide)

Packed with gorgeous photos, in typical Fodor’s fashion, this guide gives practical, helpful advice on Anguilla and other Caribbean destinations.

Fodor's Caribbean 2016

Fodor’s In Focus St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barth & Anguilla

“Fodor’s correspondents highlight the best of the islands, including stunning beaches, charming capitals, and great dining at resorts and beyond. Our local experts vet every recommendation to ensure you make the most of your time, whether it’s your first trip or your fifth.”

Fodor's In Focus St. Maarten/St. Martin, St. Barth & Anguilla

Spanish Gold: Captain Woodes Rogers and the Pirates of the Caribbean

“Who were the real pirates of the Caribbean and where did they come from? And how were they tamed? David Cordingly’s latest book reveals the true story to have been at least as fascinating and gripping as the legends.”

Spanish Gold Captain Woodes Rogers and the Pirates of the Caribbean

Lonely Planet Discover Caribbean Islands

“Lonely Planet Discover Caribbean Islands is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Swim below the waters with darting fish, wander along the sand and stop at a lazy beach bar, or hike into emerald wilderness; all with your trusted travel companion.” Includes over 85 local maps.
Lonely Planet Discover Caribbean Islands

Where is Anguilla?

Anguilla is located in the Eastern Caribbean, and is neighbors to St. Maarten. Most people fly into St. Maarten and take a 20 minute ferry that runs daily from St. Maarten to Anguilla.

History and Culture in Anguilla

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What to Do, See and Eat in Anguilla https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/what-to-do-see-and-eat-in-anguilla/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/caribbean/what-to-do-see-and-eat-in-anguilla/#comments Tue, 29 Dec 2015 18:00:00 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=10848 Anguilla Travel Tips

The Caribbean island of Anguilla is all about barefoot, relaxed chic, with a thriving local music scene, and a reputation for great food. There are no high rise hotels, casinos, cruise ships or even shopping malls on the island.

I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time on Anguilla, and I’d be hard pressed to find prettier beaches anywhere. It’s the kind of island where you can go for a dip in the ocean, and come out and find you have the entire white sand beach to yourself.

I’m passing on my best tips for what to do, see and eat in Anguilla, plus some recommendations on where to stay, whether you’re splurging on luxury or on a budget.

For a laid-back island, Anguilla is remarkably well Wi-Fi connected. Every hotel and restaurant we visited had an open, accessible Wi-Fi connection.

Things to do in Anguilla – What to see

Sandy Island

A visit to Sandy Island is my top recommendation if you’re visiting Anguilla. Sandy Island is a small off-shore cay, a short five minute boat ride from the Island. From a distance, it looks like a picture-perfect version of a deserted tropical island. Up close, it’s every bit as pretty, but with a top-notch restaurant that serves fresh grilled lobster, chicken or crayfish, paired with tasty rum punches and cushy lounge chairs.

Anguilla Sandy Island

The Beaches

Most islands would be lucky to have just one beach as pretty as those on Anguilla, but Anguilla has 33 postcard perfect white sand beaches. The beaches on the island are uncrowded, public, and unspoiled by development. You won’t find crowds of shoulder-to-shoulder sun seekers here, even on the most popular beaches.

If you’re looking for the postcard-perfect Caribbean beach, head over to stunning Shoal Bay, where colorful beach bars are perched beside the blinding white sands.

Big Spring National Park’s petroglyphs

Anguilla’s original Arawak residents created petroglyphs known as Spirit Eyes inside the Big Spring collapsed cave. The cave was closed for renovations when I was there. You can also view petroglyphs at Fountain Cavern National Park near Shoal Bay.

Heritage Museum Collection

Anguilla’s Heritage Museum may well be the best little museum I’ve seen. It’s the life’s work of founder founder Colville Petty OBE, and is packed with items from Anguilla’s history that have been carefully, and personally, curated by Colville himself. Well worth a stop.

East End Pond

If you’re interested in bird watching, this shallow 13 acre pond is the place to go. It’s a protected area that’s managed by the Anguilla National Trust.

Anguilla’s historic Catholic Church

Anguilla’s charming 18th Century Catholic Church is well worth a peek. It was built with stones quarried from the island, and it’s located in The Valley.

Anguilla Catholic Church

What to do in Anguilla

Snorkeling and SCUBA

Snorkeling in Anguilla is as easy as getting some gear from your hotel or a local dive shop and slipping offshore. Shoal Bay East, Crocus Bay, Sandy Island, Prickly Pear and Little Bay are some of the most popular sites.

I love snorkeling. LOVE snorkeling. So when I got the chance to go snorkeling in Little Bay, I jumped at the chance.

Little Bay is a quiet cove, filled with clear clear aquamarine water and rock faces pocketed with caves, and ubiquitous Anguilla goats tucked among the shade of the bush. It’s the kind of place where you can imagine pirates living happily in seclusion.

Anguilla Little Bay underwater with little fish

You can also SCUBA dive in Anguilla, with P.A.D.I. certification available. One interesting site (though trips are limited) is the Stoney Bay Marine Park, where the El Buen Consejo ship sunk in 1772. You can still see cannons, anchors and other remainders of the shipwreck.

Drive around the island

Because Anguilla’s so small (16 miles long by three miles wide), it’s easy to drive in an afternoon. Just watch out for the cute goats that populate the island. The highest point on the island is just 213 ft, and there are only six stoplights, so it’s a pretty easy drive.

You can rent a car through your hotel, or through a hotel booking site. Cars drive on the left, and the the speed limit is 30 mph.

If you don’t feel like driving, you’ll need to hire a taxi for the afternoon, because there’s no public transport on the island. If you’re feeling ambitious, many resorts offer bicycles for their guest’s use, and Anguilla’s mostly flat terrain is perfect for bike riding.

If you’re feeling like some activity, there’s a lot to do, from horse riding to tennis, golf or boat racing. Seaside Stables offers horseback riding. Most resorts offer tennis, or you can play at the Anguilla Tennis Academy (ATA). Boat racing is an integral part of Anguilla’s culture, with the ultimate race being the Champion of Champion race held in August.

If you’re in the mood for golf, check out the CusinArt Resort Golf Course (formerly called Temenos), an 18 hole course designed by Greg Norman with stunning views over the Caribbean.

Spas

If the tranquil island vibe and turquoise Caribbean water aren’t relaxing enough, there are plenty of opportunities to indulge. Your resort will easily be able to arrange for a masseuse or yoga class, or you can visit one of the island’s spas. Check out Malakh Day Spa on Shoal Bay East, Spa Rituals at Cap Juluca, Venus Spa at CuisinArt Resort or indulge in the two-story Spa at the luxurious Viceroy.

Nightlife

Anguilla’s a pretty laid back place, so it may not be the place for you if you want to party all night long on your vacation. That said, there are a few fun spots on the island.

The Pumphouse

If you’re looking for a little reggae fun (after all, Anguilla is the birthplace to Reggae legend Bankie Banx), make sure to check out The Pumphouse. It’s a true local vibe, with great music and good bar food. Check out reviews on TripAdvisor.

Johnno’s Place

More of a restaurant than a nightclub, Johnno’s is a casual place to relax, listing to some good music, and take in the beachfront views. Reviews on TripAdvisor. Elvis’ beach bar is another fun, casual haunt that gets great reviews.

You can also check out Ripples (a beach pub), SandBar (more upscale), and Sammy’s BBQ Bar, with a true local vibe and energy-infused live music and dancing.

If you’re looking for some more fun in Anguilla, check out Viator’s local tours.

Book now on Viator

Where to Eat in Anguilla

Anguilla’s well known for good food, as well as a relaxed vibe and white-sand Caribbean beaches. There are dozens of restaurants in Anguilla, ranging from freshly cooked street food at The Strip in the Valley to high end cuisine. If you’re looking for a guide with lots of yummy food photos, check out Travel with Bender’s Five Best Places To Eat in Anguilla.

Scilly Cay

Stand on the Island Harbor dock, wave your arms, and the folks from Scilly Cay will dispatch a motorboat to ferry you out to their restaurant bar, perched alone on a sandy cay. It’s a simple menu with fresh grilled chicken, lobster, or crayfish, but the view and experience are unique.

Sandy Island

I can’t say enough good things about this rustic restaurant on an offshore cay. We came to the beautiful Sandy Island just to explore the island, with a barbecue lunch included. Turns out, as Robinson Crusoe perfect as the island was, I would have easily gone just for the lunch.

Everyone at my table raved about their roasted chicken and lobster. I chowed down happily on all of the sides, from a creamy, fresh curried pasta salad, to fresh garden salad, and perfectly cooked rice. Highly recommended.

Vegetarian lunch at Sandy Island Anguilla

Vegetarian lunch on Sandy Island Anguilla

VEYA Restaurant

VEYA is the kind of restaurant that you want to keep coming back to again and again. The food’s delicious, and the ambiance is perfectly casual-luxurious, where you feel perfectly pampered and perfectly at ease.

As a vegetarian, I often feel that I get dishes seem to be an afterthought on most menus. Not at VEYA, where the personable and talented chef Carrie Bogar gives the vegetarian dishes get as much attention as any other. I ordered a risotto primavera with local vegetables, basil goat cheese, and white truffle oil.

We splurged on dessert, and loved the Key Lime Pie in a jar, and trio of coconut, ginger and vanilla creme brulees.

Make sure you try the complimentary rolls. The night we were there, the rolls were lightly fried, and honestly some of the best I’ve tasted in a long time.

If I lived on Anguilla, this is where I’d want to eat every night. I gave a bite to my dinner companions, and they raved about it, and raved about their dishes as well. Highly recommended.

Smokey at the Cove

Smokey at the Cove is casual, relaxed, and welcoming, with fresh, tasty food. I loved my mixed garden salad, and the lightly fried onion rings were delicious. The other folks at my table had the fried seafood and raved about it. I ordered a wrap with coriander (expecting it to be cold, which is common in North America). It came hot and grilled, and was quite good nonetheless. Beach chairs and umbrellas are free if you eat here.

Mango Seaside Grill

Mango is a romantic spot overlooking the ocean with candlelight at night and listening to the ocean outside. I ordered the one vegetarian entree option, fresh veggies with noodles (Asian style, not Italian), and the others at the table raved about the fresh seafood.

Straw Hat Restaurant

At Straw Hat, the rolls come in a cute straw hat container, and you can buy hats at the front entrance. There’s a new chef, and they were still updating the online menus when we ate there. The food was carefully prepared and tasty, with innovative dishes like beet ravioli (for vegetarians like me).

The Strip in the Valley

If you’re looking for budget food options, check out food stalls at The Strip in the Valley. You can get anything here from freshly grilled seafood to johnny cakes (delicious fried dough) to fresh local coconut. You’ll find more options here on the weekends, but some stalls are open weekdays at all

If you’re yearning for cheap eats and bit of local color, check out Hungry’s. It’s an old UPS-style van, painted with flowers, which serves sandwiches, stews and wraps. I didn’t get a chance to eat there, but it gets good buzz, and you can fill up for about $10. It’s almost always parked near the Post Office in the Valley.

Where to Stay in Anguilla

Budget

While budget accommodations in Anguilla are still far from rock-bottom prices, you can still score a great stay for around $150 a night per couple.

Blue Waters Apartments

Blue Waters is a family-owned place that gets rave reviews from past guests. As a result, it books out almost a year in advance, so plan early if you want to stay here. Prices are affordable and it’s right on the beach.
Cost: Starting at $160 (1 bedroom suite)

Anguilla Great House

Anguilla Great House is a great budget option. Painted in shades of blue and yellow pastels, the rooms are a good size, and some come with a small fridge. There’s a definite chill vibe here, and it’s a great place to get away from it all. Restaurant food is good, but I found the to-go pastries delicious but on the small side.
Cost: $200 (double).

The beach at Anguilla Great House

 

Anacaona Boutique Hotel

I only stayed one night at Anacaona, but loved the two pools and inviting bar and restaurant. Rooms are good value for Anguilla, and the hotel’s right on the beach with a large garden.
Cost: $170 and up (double)

Anacaona pool and lounge

Anacaona pool and lounge

CuisinArt

CuisinArt is well known as one of Anguilla’s luxury resorts. It’s a great family vibe, with a lovely long pool, with plenty of shallow areas for kids, which leads down to the ocean.
Cost: $700 and up (double)

Viceroy

The Viceroy is Anguilla’s luxury hotel. There’s a funky dark beach theme, with quirky art scattered around the property. The infinity pool has a stunning view of the turquoise Caribbean Sea, and rooms are expansive, spotless, and stylish.
Cost: $500

Want to learn more?

You can find official the Anguilla tourist board on their website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Travel Photo: St Martin’s Rural Charm https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-st-martins-rural-charm/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-photos/travel-photo-st-martins-rural-charm/#comments Tue, 17 Feb 2015 18:51:38 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=2073 Goats on St Martin

Goats on St Martin

In the northeast Caribbean, the island of St Martin is a mixture of sophisticated restaurants, stunning beaches and rural charm. The island is divided between two nations, with the more populous Southern part owned by the Netherlands (Sint Maarten) and the larger, less populous North owned by France (Saint Martin).

The Dutch side of the island is well known for buzzing nightlife, guavaberry drinks, casinos and gorgeous beaches. The quieter French side is home to exquisite, but moderately priced, restaurants, nude beaches and duty free shopping.

The dual nationality of the island makes for some great cultural diversity, especially when coupled with the island’s Caribbean roots, and the fact that a local dialect of English is the most common language. Because of the diversity of the island, you’ll see the name spelled many different ways, including St Martaan, St Maartan, St Martin, St Marten and St Maarten.

However you choose to spell it, the best way to get a feel for St Martin is to rent a car and spend a day touring the island. It’s an easy day trip all around the island, and you’ll get a real feel for the great diversity of culture, and the wonderful beaches. Goats, chickens and cows roam the island at will, and are part of the charm of St Martaan. We snapped this picture at the Simpson Bay Lagoon, just outside of Marigot.

Travel Tip: Make sure you stop to watch a plane land at the Princess Juliana International Airport. Airplanes coming in for a landing make an alarmingly close buzz over the heads of beach goers at Maho Beach. It truly has to be seen to be believed.

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Hanging out in Old Havana https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/hanging-out-in-old-havana/ https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/travel-blogs/hanging-out-in-old-havana/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 16:02:59 +0000 https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=9451 If you want to step back in time to 50 years ago, there’s no place better than Havana, Cuba. With Havana’s plethora of 1950’s classic cars still driving the roads and its old school thinking, you’d figure you just stepped off a trolley back to a simpler way of life.

I’ll be honest, it’s been a few years since we checked out Hemingway’s old haunts, but one of the beautiful things about Cuba is that they’re not big on change.

In Old Havana, Cuba back in 2007, when Cole was just a baby.  We may have changed a bit, but Havana hasn't.

In Old Havana, Cuba back in 2007, when Cole was just a baby. We may have changed a bit, but Havana hasn’t.

For people who like the classics, Havana is a great place to be. With its vibrant colonial buildings and romantic atmosphere, it’s not hard to see why the Caribbean’s largest and most lively city is loved by Habaneros (inhabitants of Habana) and tourists alike.

For over 500 years, Havana has been the center of attention in the Caribbean. From swashbuckling pirates, to a rampant slave trade, to mafia-run gambling joints, to the center of a revolution, Havana has grown, prospered and claimed a few things for its own.

Photo by ilkerender

Photo by ilkerender

The city is not only rich in history and architecture, but also has more monuments than you can count and a Latin culture that’s thriving.

For those who love the good things in life, Havana is the home of salsa and mambo music, Cuban cigars and Cuban rum. At night, the city comes alive with music and laughter that isn’t only infectious, but warms the soul and makes you forget the days worries.

Hit hard by the Socialist reforms of the late 50’s and the trade embargo from the US, Havana has seen hard times, however it keeps on trucking. One thing you won’t see in Havana are oversized resorts or Disney-like amusement parks.

Photo by David A.

Colorful people and colorful walls in Havana – Photo by David Steele

Havana likes to keep it real and the whole city shares that vibe. It’s a busy place only because the people are living their lives the only way they know how, by working hard and taking the time to enjoy some of the best things in life: Good friends, good music and good rum.

Whether you’re flying to Havana as part of a holiday to enjoy the white powdered beaches of nearby Veradero or coming to the city for the sole reason to have a daiquiri or mojito at Hemingways favorite watering holes like the beautiful Hotel Ambos Mundos, you’ll find plenty to do in town.

Hotel Los Mundos Havana

Hemingway’s old haunt at the Hotel Los Mundos in Havana

One of the best areas in Havana to check out is Habana Vieja (Old Havana) with its UNESCO World Heritage status and old baroque and neoclassical buildings. Its narrow winding roads made it one of the most heavily fortified cities in all the Americas and as you walk its cobble stoned streets you can feel the history surround you.

Some of the best sites in Old Havana are:

  • The Plaza Vieja (Old Square) with its long history of bullfights, executions and fiestas.
  • Castillo del Morro (El Morro Castle), a picturesque fortress that guarded Havana Bay from pirates like Sir Francis Drake.
  • Catedral de San Cristóbal (Havana Cathedral), a big and beautiful cathedral built in the 1700’s in the center of Old Havana.
  • Plaza de Armas, the main touristic square popular for it military ceremonies and past military events that took place there.
  • La Cabaña, an impressive fortress on the east side of Havana Bay with its historical nightly (9 pm) firing of the guns.
  • El Capitolio (National Capitol Building), designed after the Pantheon in Paris and home to the third largest indoor statue in the world, the 55 foot tall Statue of the Republic.
Statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Plaza de Armas, Havana, Cuba

Statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, Plaza de Armas, Havana, Cuba

The most popular avenue in the city, especially at night, is The Malecón. The long esplanade is a great place to catch a sunset and go for a long walk along the water. It’s also one of the most romantic walks in the city with its monuments, statues and well placed lights. During the day, the The Malecon’s old seawall is also popular with local fisherman trying to catch the evening meal.

A windy day on the Malecón. Photo by by neiljs.

A windy day on the Malecon. Photo by by neiljs.

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