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    1.  

      A beginner’s guide to Jamaica

      Jamaica is one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean. Not only does it boast pristine beaches and crystal waters, but it also comes with a side serving of laid-back reggae beats.
      Even more, away from the beaches, visitors will find a sublime mix of hidden waterfalls, banana plantations and soaring mountains. It’s the perfect mix of beach and party, with activities for both families and couples. Here’s everything you need to know about this paradise island.
      Things to do
      Jamaica has two sides. One day you will be relaxing on a quiet beach, and the next you‘ll be soaking up the spirited atmosphere. Jamaica is not short of options, no matter your holiday style. Here’s just a selection of what you can get up to.
      Feel the reggae beat

      Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae. In the capital of Kingston you’ll find the Bob Marley Museum, dedicated to the legendary singer.
      Eat delicious food

      We’ve blogged before about the mouth-watering local dishes available in Jamaica. But we are mentioning it again, as you need to make sure you stop by a beach shack for some jerk chicken.
      Relax on a beach on Negril

      If it’s a relaxing beach that you’re after, we recommend the secluded area of Negril along Jamaica’s west coast. It boasts over four-miles of unspoilt white-sand beach, with protected marine-life minutes from the shore offering perfect diving opportunities.
      Duns River Falls

      This stunning waterfall is terraced by a natural staircase, and is a popular climbing spot. It takes about 1-1.5 hours to climb the natural staircase, though there is a man-made stairway nearby for people unable to climb the uneven surface.
      Get married

      Jamaica is a beautiful island and the perfect backdrop for a romantic wedding. There are many resorts on the island that offer wedding packages, including seven Sandals Resorts. Whether it’s a hotel wedding or a ceremony by a cliffside, the wedding organisers in Jamaica will be able to arrange it for you.
      How to get there (and find your way around)
      There are three airports on Jamaica: Norman Manley International Airport, Sangster International Airport and Ian Fleming International Airport. Direct flights are available from the UK and will take roughly 10 hours. There are also smaller aerodromes in Kingston, Portland, Ocho Rios, the South Coast and Negril if you’re looking to see more than one part of the island. Luxury air-conditioned coaches also run regularly on popular routes.
      Where to stay
      Jamaica has an impressive range of accommodation options. Whether it’s a hotel, guesthouse or luxury villa you’re after, you’ll find it in Jamaica. Plus, some of the biggest hotel names in the world have locations in Jamaica, including Sandals, Hilton, Beaches, Couples and Moon Palace.
      Final tips
      ·         The currency on the island is the Jamaican Dollar (we can exchange this before you go!)
      ·         The weather is at its best between November and March
      ·         British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Jamaica (if they’re staying for under 90 days)

    2.  

      A foodie's guide to Antigua

      Antigua is known for being something of a tropical heaven, full of lush forestry, friendly locals and 365 beaches – one for every day of the year.
      But did you also know that this slice of Caribbean paradise is also a foodie’s haven? As an island built on sugar plantations and rum distilleries, it comes as no surprise that Antigua is full of culinary delights. The unique cuisine of Antigua is Caribbean fare with a European / American twist, and there are so many options to tickle your taste buds.
      Here are just a few of our top picks of the cuisine you need to try.
      Saltfish
      Traditionally eaten at home with your family at the weekend, this salt-cured white fish is normally eaten with onions, peppers, avocado and eggs. This can also include fungi, a cornmeal dish that is an Antiguan staple. Pairing well with the strongly-seasoned fish, this meal is the perfect way to start your day.
      TRY IT YOURSELF: ‘Suga Beez’ in St. Johns is known for its home-style Antiguan cuisine and a friendly welcome. With veggie options available, the locals are certainly living up to their welcoming reputation.
      Conch
      You can’t go to the Caribbean without experiencing the phenomenal seafood! If you are relaxing on an Antiguan beach and spot some spiral shells washed up on the shire, you have discovered conch. Similar to clams, conch meat is used in curries, chowder and many other delights.
      TRY IT YOURSELF: Hemmingway’s Caribbean Café, St Johns is raved about by visitors. Try the conch fritters for a true Antiguan foodie experience.
      Ducana
      The perfect side dish. Ducana consists of sweet potato and coconut. Wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed into a dumpling, ducana really is a flawless balance of spicy and sweet.
      TRY IT YOURSELF: Locals rave about The Quay, St Johns. While this is close to where the cruise ships docks, don’t write this place off as a tourist trap – their ducana is raved about as the best on the island.
      Jerk Chicken
      Although not strictly Antiguan, you cannot visit the Carribbean without sampling some of this classic comfort food. This Jamaican import is coated in spice and slow cooked over a fire for optimum flavour. Sample it yourself to discover just why it is so popular with the locals.
      TRY IT YOURSELF: Indulge your senses at Dennis Cocktail Bar and Restaurant. Eat this delicacy on the beach as the sun goes down for an Antiguan experience like no other.
      Which of these Antiguan cuisines would you like to try first? Let us know in the comments below!

    3.  

      10 of the best festivals in Aruba

      Aruba is definitely one of the livelier Caribbean islands, and boasts a constant stream of festivals throughout the year. Whether it’s water sports, gastronomy, music or a colourful Mardi Gras – Aruba doesn’t need much excuse to fill out its streets for a party. If you’re visiting Aruba soon, check to see if any of these lively gems fall during your holiday dates.  
      Aruba Carnival
      Unashamedly loud and colourful, The Aruba Carnival the most vivid event in the entire festival calendar. The most recent one lasted from November 2016 until March 2017 and included several spectacular events including the Jouvert Morning Pajama Parade, Children's Balloon Parade and a Mardi Gras event – before finishing off with Carnival Monday.
      Aruba Fashion Week
      Aruba is well-respected within the Caribbean for its taste in fashion and Aruba Fashion Week is a big event. The next Fashion Week is taking place in December, with 18 designers ready to showcase their newest designs and a trade show with 25 exhibitors signed up already.
      Aruba Food Truck Festival
      Food trucks have been changing the foodie landscape across the world – and Aruba is no exception. Back in April the country held its very first food truck festival, at Plaza Nikki Habibe, with eight different food truck companies in attendance along with four beer tents.
      Aruba Hi-Winds
      Aruba boasts the perfect weather conditions for windsurfing, so it’s no surprise that the largest amateur windsurfing event in the Caribbean takes place here every year. Aruba Hi-Winds attracts over 100 amateur windsurfers from the Caribbean, U.S., Europe, and Latin America, and they go onto compete in various competitions, in different categories, off the shore of Fisherman’s Huts.
      Dande Festival
      This is Aruba’s largest traditional music event and features more than 50 musical acts performing traditional Dande song using authentic Aruban instruments such as the tambu, wiri and raspa. The Dande Festival always typically takes place over the New Year period, and the next one starts in December 2017.
      Love Festival
      The festivals in Aruba are not all about sports or traditional culture – Love Festival brings together some of the best dance acts in the world to party under the sunny skies. The 2017 edition will be held in December and will feature Roger Sanchez, Stefano Noferini, and Dennis Ferrer.
      National Anthem and Flag Day
      On March 18th 1976, the Aruban flag that we now know was officially adopted to the sound of Aruba Dushi Tera (composed by Padu del Caribe, Hubert Booi and Rufo Wever). Every year since, a charming folkloric festival is held at Plaza Betico Croes in Oranjestad, along with a food festival and other cultural events.
      Aruba Wine and Dine Restaurant Week
      The date for the next Wine and Dine Restaurant Week is yet to be set, but it’s one of the biggest food related events on the island. Every year, several restaurants from across the island offer an exclusive Restaurant Week menu with terrific savings. Care is also taken to ensure that these restaurant hit different foodie types – whether you’re after fine-dining or fun family tapas!
      Annual Aruba International Pro Am Golf Tournament
      Golfing is amazing in Aruba, and in late August professional and amateur golfers get together for this two-day, 36-hole tournament featuring gifts, prizes, and special events. It’s held at the Tierra del Sol Golf course in the north of the island, and features a challenging course designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. with a desert layout similar to links courses of the American Southwest.
      Aruba Cup
      Need more golf? In December Aruba will see another golf tournament rock up on its shores. This competition will feature only top golfers as they go head to head for coveted title, and is also held at the Tierra del Sol Golf course. If you stay at the attached accommodation during the Aruba Cup you’ll be treated to Unlimited Golf, daily breakfast, use of the pool, gym, sauna and steam room, complimentary wireless internet access and $35 credit to be used at the Spa.
      What’s your favourite Aruba festival?

    4.  

      A beginner’s guide to Saint Lucia

      Like all Caribbean islands, Saint Lucia is adorned with beautiful white sands that slowly fade into crystal-clear azure waves. Then when you head away from the coast and arrive inland you’ll be greeted by the lush emerald rainforest. There’s no denying that Saint Lucia is a natural wonder (many consider it to be the Caribbean’s most beautiful island) – but is it the right choice for you?
      Things to do
      Saint Lucia’s main draw is its splendid beauty, so it’s no surprise that many of its top activities revolve around its striking landscape. While water sports and beach parties are still a common sight, it is definitely the island of choice for nature enthusiasts. Here are our top four things to do.
      Piton Mountains 
                           
      If you’ve ever looked at a brochure for Saint Lucia, you’ve probably caught a glimpse of these sister peaks popping out over the top of the bright blue shoreline. They have UNESCO World Heritage Status and are Saint Lucia’s must-see spot. You’ll find them framing the edges of Jalousie Bay on the southwest coast of the island. You can admire the leafy peaks from across the water but more adventurous travellers can climb to the peak along the Pitons Trail (it takes approximately 4-5 hours) and will be rewarded with outstanding views of the island.
      Pigeon Island National Park

      Found in Rodney Bay, Pigeon Island is home to beautiful beachy picnic spots and historic military bases. Back in the 1970s a sandy causeway was constructed linking the island to mainland Aruba, so you can even watch the sunset and not worry about catching the last boat home.
      Sulphur Springs

      Journey through the Caribbean’s only drive-through volcano. Inside the volcano, you’ll find pools and hot springs bubbling with sulphur, while outside you can take a dip in the warm hot springs known for their soothing properties. Tour guides are also available and can take you on a historical journey with stories of how the crater was created and learn how the Sulphur Springs forms part of the story of the creation of the entire Caribbean basin.
      Diamond Botanical Gardens & Waterfalls

      This is another place where you can discover the relaxing properties of Saint Lucia’s hot mineral water. The waterfalls originate from an underground thermal spring, and the colourful marks you see on the rocks are caused by minerals. There are mineral baths on site as well as tour guides who can take you on a tour of the garden and explain the medicinal benefits of the plants.
      Where to Stay
      Saint Lucia – like a lot of the Caribbean islands – is well-versed in luxury all-inclusive accommodation. Sandals Resorts has three resorts on the island (Sandals Grande St. Lucian Spa & Beach Resort, Sandals Regency La Toc Golf Resort & Spa and Sandals Halcyon Beach) that are perfectly suited for couples looking for a romantic getaway. Other luxury options also include St. James's Club Morgan Bay, 4* Bay Gardens Beach Resort & Spa and 3* St Lucian Hotel by Rex Resorts.
      When to go
      Like most of the Caribbean islands, Saint Lucia is at its best during our winter and spring months. June through to November is the wet season.
      Money and Visas         
      The official currency of Saint Lucia is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (which we can exchange for you), but the US Dollar is accepted. A visa is not required for British travellers who are on holiday.
      Etc.
      The plugs used in Saint Lucia are the same as the UK English is the official language but you will hear the Patois language being spoken between the locals Check with your GP for an individual assessment but Tetanus and Hepatitis B vaccinations are usually recommended by the NHS.

    5.  

      A foodie’s guide to Jamaica

      When you conjure up an image in your head of Jamaica food probably plays a part. Delicious rums, jerk chicken and reggae flavours are all a central part of Jamaica’s culture – and a large part of its appeal to visitors. Jamaica is definitely more than a just a beach destination and we recommend that all visitors delight their taste buds with some of these spicy Caribbean flavours!
      Jerk Chicken

      While in Jamaica you have to try the jerk chicken! The meat is dry-rubbed with the classic Jerk mixture that consists of allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Chicken is the traditional meat used, but if you prefer something else you can find Jamaican restaurants using the hot spice mix on pork, lamb and seafood.
      Freshly caught seafood

      Seafood is everywhere in Jamaica, and it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what seafood should be at the top of your list (there’s that much of it). Some will argue that Ackee and Saltfish should be first on your foodie list, while others argue that the Escoveitch Fish is the must-eat delicacy.
      Curried Goat

      A dish brought to the island by Jamaica’s Indian population, curried goat is a popular party food and is a speciality at festivals. It is usually made with a mild spice mix so is perfect for holidaymakers who want to try a local delicacy but have a low spice tolerance (the original Indian version is much spicier).
      Local desserts

      If you possess a sweet tooth, Jamaica won’t disappoint and, if you love coconut, you’ll absolutely adore the desserts on offer. Coconut drops, gizzada, and grater cake are all easily-available desserts found on the island that are made with local coconuts. But if coconut isn’t your favourite natural sweetener, you can opt for a bulla (flat, round cake made of molasses, flour, and baking powder) or a Dukunnu (green bananas mixed with cornmeal and sweet spices).
      Blue Mountain coffee

      Blue Mountain coffee is one of the most popular and sought-after coffee brands in the world. So special to Jamaica’s food and drink scene, coffee beans can only be considered Blue Mountain coffee beans if they are harvested from Saint Andrew, Saint Thomas, Portland and Saint Mary parishes in Jamaica.
      Coconut Water

      You’re going to need to wash all this delicious food down with something. For this, we recommend coconut water, which you can across Jamaica. It’s even used as an ingredient in curries.
      What dish will be first on your holiday to Jamaica?

    6.  

      10 photos that showcase how striking Costa Rica is

      Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet - and these beautiful photos certainly prove why many travellers choose Costa Rica for a Central American escape. Just look at that landscape! 
      1. Manuel Antonio National Park Beach

      2. This beautiful Tucan
       
      3. A beach in Playa Conchal 

      4. Play Tarcoles 
       
      5. Monteverde , a town in mountainous northwestern Costa Rica

      6. Manuel Antonio National Park
       
      7. Irazu Volcano
       
      8. Landscape in the Guanacaste region
       
      9.Rio Celeste waterfall
       
      10. Blue Lagoon near Rio Celeste
       

    7.  

      10 fascinating historical sites on St Kitts

      If you’re looking for a holiday destination that effortlessly combines sun, beach and history, then the Caribbean island of St Kitts fits the bill. The 15th Century was when European settlers came ashore to St Kitts , and its location made it a critical land mass during the struggle for the West Indies. The culture that is felt on the island today is a melting pot of historical events and various colonisations over the years – creating a singular island that is brimming with natural treasures. Here’s just some of the best historical sites that you should stop by while on a visit.
      Old Treasury Building and National Museum

      Probably one of the best places to start your historic tour of St Kitts is the National Museum. Located in what is the Old Treasury Building in Basseterre, its historic collection deals with colonial and sugar history, the road to independence, and local lifestyle and traditions.
      Fairview Great House & Botanical Gardens

      Dating back 300 years, the Fairview Great House and Botanical Gardens is a prime example of 18th Century colonial architecture. Built entirely from wood, the original resident was a French military commander and over the years the residence has been used as a hotel before being restored to its former glory just after the millennium.
      Inside, visitors can wander  through the dining room with its sixteen seat mahogany dinner table and antique silver service. In the surrounding area you’ll find the cobbled courtyard, which is home to the original kitchen with its volcanic stone and brick oven – as well as the original bathroom with its large sun-warmed volcanic stone bath. Complete your tour with a stroll into the Botanic Gardens that is home to flowers, tropical fruit trees, – and monkeys!
      Independence Square

      Found in the capital of Basseterre near Porte Zante, Independence Square is the historic administrative, commercial and social hub of the island.  Originally named Pall Mall Square by European settlers, its name was changed following the country’s independence on September 19th, 1983.
      The St. Kitts Scenic Railway Ltd.

      The St. Kitts Scenic Railway Ltd. is one of the few remaining operational rail tracks in the Caribbean. Originally it was built in the early 20th Century to modernise the sugar industry, but today it is one of the most scenic ways to admire St Kitts organic landscape. 
      Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

      Constructed intermittently over 104 years between the 1690s and 1790s, Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park stands at 800 feet high with steep and precipitous slopes that are prominently built from rock  and held together by hand-made limestone cement. Its location provided the British military with an unbeatable lookout over Sandy Point and the neighbouring Caribbean islands – and the view remains as spectacular today as it was back then.   Brimstone Hill has been awarded the UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance.
      Old Road Town

      It was here in 1624 that Sir Thomas Warner (along with his family and 14 of his friends) began the first permanent British settlement of the Leeward Islands. The Warner Family Estate was the original capital of St Kitts, and rather than sugar cane it was actually tobacco that has been the supporting industry for the settlement during its inception.
      Romney Manor

      The Romney Manor has changed many hands over the years and as a result has an invigorating history. The grounds themselves are believed to have been the site where Tegereman, the Carib Indian Chief, built his village. When the Manor was built, the original owner was a young settler named Sam Jefferson II – rumoured to have been the great-great-great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson, one of the American Founding Fathers. Then in the early 17th Century, the building was renamed Romney Manor, and became the first estate in St Kitts to emancipate its slaves.  On site sits a 350-year-old saman tree, which Is  one of the island’s unique wedding locations.
      Wingfield River and Water Works

      Former sugar plantations are not hard to come by in St Kitts, but Wingfield was the one of the very few to use water to power its operations. Among the ruins you’ll find the distinctive aqueduct - a unique architectural feature on the island and found only at Wingfield Estate Yard. The estate is only a three minute walk from Romney Manor and it’s from here that adventurous travellers can zip-line through the St Kitts forest.
      Spooner's Ginnery

      The only surviving cotton ginnery on the island, there is archival evidence to suggest that the property belonged to the French Captain Paul De Brissac. The property changed hands to John Spooner in 1720 and was in the family for 100 years before an unstable period of ownership. It was in 1876 that Solomon Wade purchased the property and turned into the cotton ginnery. These days the property is owned by the St Kitts Government and is a major example of an historic agro-industrial complex.
      La Guerite Reservoir

      Most historical sites in St Kitts have Aglo names hinting at the British colonisation of the island. However, the French also have a long history in St Kitts, which includes the sharing of the island by both the British and the French, albeit for a very short time. The La Guerite Reservoir still serves the town of Basseterre but has become a historic landmark for its architectural entrance. The wall at the entrance is part of the original building and believed to be built around 1869.
       

    8.  

      A beginner’s guide to Cancun

       If the word ‘beach’ is the first thing that pops to mind when thinking of your ideal holiday, then Cancun needs to be on your to-visit list. While it is home to everything that is associated with a well-known tourist city, the thing that makes it stand out from the rest is its impeccable world-class beach front.
      Peaked your interest? Here’s some basic information you’ll need when visiting Cancun for the first time.
      The main attractions
      We have established that Cancun offers one of the best coastlines in the world. But Cancun does have more to discover than just turquoise Caribbean waters (if you can be torn away from a day relaxing on the warm sand).
      22-kilometre beach

      Beach-bums make up the largest percentage of holiday personalities in Cancun. Thankfully there’s enough room for everyone and Cancun’s beachy shoreline doesn’t suffer from the cramped feeling that many other beach-cites are overwhelmed with. That’s not to say that the temperament of the beach doesn’t alter as you walk further along – if you’re after seclusion head to the north, but if you’re after bustling waves, stroll along to the eastern side.
      Night-time entertainment

      Cancun literally does offer every type of nightlife imaginable. Choose to party into the early hours with world-renowned nightclubs, or spend the night being awed by the classical talent at the ballet.
      Tulum

      Another holiday personality you’ll find in Cancun is the history buff. Mexico is renowned for its historical connotations, and the coastal site of Tulum is only a day-trip away. Located along the coast on a 90-minute drive, the ruins are perched on 40-foot cliffs and are one of the best preserved examples of Mayan history in Mexico.
      Contoy Island

      If you’re looking for something off the beaten path with a side-serving of seclusion, this near-by island is our top pick. Only a certain number of visitors are allowed on the island each day, making it a unique addition to any Cancun holiday.
      Hotel and accommodation
      Like most of the Caribbean, Cancun is a haven for all-inclusive resorts. However, each resort still has its own unique offerings and personal touches. If you’re after somewhere lively we would recommend the Hard Rock Hotel Cancun; if you’re looking for an elegant adults-only hotel then check out Secrets the Vine Cancun; if you’re after a spa-break kick up your feet at the Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa; or if you’re seeking family-friendly activities you and your family should consider the Moon Palace Golf Resort.
      Language and culture
      The official language in Mexico is Spanish. However, English is widely spoken in the hotels and tourist-friendly attractions. The currency is the Mexican Peso, but you'll find most places will accept US Dollars.
      Getting there
      Cancun is home to its own dedicated airport, and is one of the biggest airports in Latin America. British holidaymakers can fly directly from Glasgow and London Gatwick with Thomas Cook and British Airways.
      When to go
      Like all Central American destinations, Cancun has near-perfect weather from December through to April. The weather in other months is still sunny and many holidaymakers opt for the summer months.

    9.  

      10 reasons why you should choose Aruba as your next Caribbean holiday

      Did you know that Aruba has one of the highest number of repeat visitors in Caribbean?
      Anyone who has ever walked across its white sandy beaches or hiked along its rugged coast can attest to its irresistible appeal. Friendly locals, a compact main city, beautiful weather and a bowl of cultures are just a few reasons why people return year-on-year. If you’ve not yet experienced Aruba for yourself, here’s our top 10 reasons why you should choose definitely stop by the next time you’re in the Caribbean.
      1. The weather

       
      Aruba is one of the most southern islands of the Caribbean islands, making it one of the sunniest. It’s also just below the hurricane belt and receives less rainfall per year - and doesn’t have much of an off-season. But before you assume Aruba is uncomfortably warm – there’s a reliable gentle wind blowing in from the Atlantic to cool everyone down.
      2.  The colourful reefs and fascinating shipwrecks

      Coral reefs lie just off the coast of Aruba and are only twenty feet under the water. But it’s not just coral reefs - divers will also come across several fascinating shipwrecks, including the SS Antilla which is the largest intact shipwreck in the Caribbean. It’s no wonder Aruba was named one of the best wreck diving destinations in the Caribbean by Scuba Diving Magazine.                
      3. The largest nature preserve in the Caribbean

      Nearly 20% of Aruba is protected by the Arikok National Park. Covering 7907 acres this park is home to numerous hiking trails that cover different types of terrain from gold mines to gentle hills. The park is also the perfect ecosystem for some of Aruba’s indigenous wildlife – such as the Aruban burrowing owl (Shoco), Aruban rattlesnake, Aruban whiptail lizard, and the Aruban parakeet (Prikishi).
      4. Water sports

      Arubians know how to make the most of their pristine beaches and warm waters. Andicuri and Dos Playa beaches are both very popular with surfers. On top of that, the local weather lends a hand to windsurfers - including the pros as the Hi-Winds Windsurfing Pro-Am Grand Prix World Cup that takes place every June.
      5. The romantic setting

      The stunning sunsets and pristine beaches make for an exceptional backdrop to the perfect wedding, honeymoon, anniversary or proposal. Also boasting several luxury resorts, Aruba is definitely one to consider if you are looking for a holiday with your special someone.
      6.  Choose from a variety of hotels

      The Caribbean has a reputation as a heaven for those who prefer an all-inclusive holiday. However, Aruba has a wide mix of hotel types to match all budgets and preferences. Self-catering, half-board, full-board and all-inclusive are all found across the island.
      7.  The fusion cuisine

      Aruba is home to a culturally diverse population that has created an eclectic culinary scene. There are 250 restaurants that call the island home – with flavours ranging from Japanese, Italian, Caribbean and Colombian. The island also has a yearly local restaurant month in October.
      8.    Perfect holiday snaps

      The glowing white sands, colourful reefs and striking hillsides make for impressive travel photography. Or even just a beautifully idyllic Instagram feed or Snapchat story.
      9.    Friendly locals

      If you’re having difficulty finding your way to a local landmark, stop and ask someone – Arubians are more than happy to help. It’s also a very safe place to travel.
      10.   Easy to get to

      Aruba is a popular port for many Caribbean and South American cruises, and flights run from several USA airports, such as New York and Atlanta. Plus, the island is home to modern roads and infrastructure so finding your way around isn’t difficult.

    10.  

      7 reasons Hard Rock Hotels is peak rock star luxury

      We all want to feel like royalty while we’re on holiday - but there’s royalty, and then there’s rock royalty. The latter is exactly the feeling guests experience while staying at Hard Rock Hotels. With a plethora of glitzy amenities – and a special package aptly named Rock Royalty - Hard Rock has spared no expense in creating the ultimate VIP rock star experience. From rentable Fender guitars to world-class golf courses, this is the place where the general population holiday like the rock star elite.
      Rent a Fender guitar for your room
      The days of air-guitaring to your favourite track are now behind you. Rock out in your suite with a classic Fender guitar that you can rent for your holiday.
      Carefully curated playlists
      Ensure the background music in your suite is exactly to your tastes by choosing from a range of carefully curated playlists. The staff at Hard Rock breathe music and know how to create a creative playlist for every mood, whether it’s something romantic or something to get ready to.
      Rock Royalty Personal Assistant
      You’re not true rock royalty until you have your own personal assistant. Guests who book a Rock Royalty Room will have their own personal assistant from 7am until 11pm. Other features of the offer include VIP check-in, priority reservation and complimentary tickets.
      VIP access to events
      Many of the Hard Rock Hotels have become recognised as nightlife hotspots within their own right. People who aren’t even guests flock towards the hotels to enjoy the buzz. But it’s only hotel guests who receive VIP access to their nightclubs and lounges.
      A music-centric spa
      Music runs through the veins of Hard Rock Hotels – all the way into the spa. Unwind with music inspired spa treatments, including a message table that gently pulsates in time to the bass.
      World class 18-hole golf course
      After rocking out at night, wake yourself up the next morning with a game of golf. The Punta Cana Resort boasts an exclusive 18-hole golf course. It was designed by legendary golf champion Jack Nicklaus and offers a rock n roll twist on the traditional game with guitar flagsticks.
      All-inclusive facilities
      The best part of the Hard Rock experience is that you never have to open your wallet during your holiday. All-inclusive really means all-inclusive with Limitless Resort Credit that can be used for spa treatments, golfing, wine tasting, or entrance to the famous nightclub (and more). Rock stars don’t pay for anything, and neither do you.

    11.  

      10 things to do on St Kitts and Nevis

      It’s true that good things come in small packages. St. Kitts & Nevis, the two-island nation in the Eastern Caribbean, is one of the smallest states in the Americas but offers the perfect holiday package.
      St. Kitts, the larger of the two islands, offers historical landmarks, a lush rainforest and unique beach nightlife. It is also where the charming capital, Basseterre, is located. Nevis on the other hand is an untouched paradise, its single volcanic peak rising above endless beaches, clear waters and nature trails. Each island offers its own distinctive list of things to do, creating a melting ***** of activities. Here are our top picks on how to spend a holiday in St. Kitts & Nevis.
      1. Zip line through the rainforest

      St. Kitts is home to a vast lush rainforest and, while hiking routes are available, the island’s zip-line experience offers a chance to see the rainforest from an entirely different angle.  There are five zip-lines with some of the highest and longest offering thrill-seekers a panoramic view of the rainforest, neighbouring islands and historical sites as they soar at speeds of up to 80km/hr.
      2. Stroll through the Botanic Gardens

      One of the youngest attractions on Nevis, the Botanic Gardens, was created to preserve flora from across the world.  With the Nevis Peak visible in the distance, this is a beautiful area of the island blooming with various gardens such as roses and vines, cactuses, fruit trees, orchids and a tropical rain forest conservatory, built to emulate the conservatory at Kew Gardens in England. This is also a popular location for wedding ceremonies.
      3. Dine on authentic Caribbean cuisine
      St. Kitts & Nevis is one of the best islands to get stuck into some authentic Caribbean cuisine. Conch Fritters, Johnny Cakes, stewed saltfish and goat water are just some of the delicacies available. If you’re visiting the islands in July, you’ll also be able to immerse yourself in the St. Kitts & Nevis Restaurant Week, where participating restaurants and bars offer special set menus that introduce visitors to local dishes.
      4. Play a round of golf on two world-class courses

      St. Kitts  & Nevis is home to two sun-drenched 18-hole championship golf resorts. On St. Kitts, the Royal St. Kitts uniquely allows golfers to play two full holes on the Caribbean Sea and three complete holes on the Atlantic Ocean while on Nevis,  the beautiful Robert Trent Jones II at the Four Seasons Resort, offers a  challenging course with  stunning views of its sister island.
      5. Tour the historic capitals

      Basseterre in St. Kitts and Charlestown in Nevis are quaint harbour towns and a hub for nearby islands. In Basseterre, start in Independence Square and move onto the National Museum, taking in the surrounding colonial architecture and the Circus, modelled after London's own Piccadilly Circus. Afterwards browse the many shops, colourful markets, galleries, bars and restaurants.
      6. Scuba dive through shipwrecks

      The islands of St. Kitts & Nevis are stunning, but the surrounding turquoise waters are home to more striking beauty. Book yourself a snorkelling or scuba diving session to swim through the colourful reefs, shipwrecks and volcanic vents. Seafood lovers can also dive with a chef who will help you catch a lobster, and prepare an exciting local dish. Herbert’s Beach on Nevis and White House Bay on St. Kitts are both popular spots.
      7. Take in the views in St. Kitts

      Two popular attractions in St. Kitts offer a fascinating way to take in stunning views as well get an insight into the island’s history. Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located 800ft above sea level, and commands astounding views of the island itself as well as neighbouring Montserrat, Saba, St. Martin, Nevis and St. Barts.
      For a novel way to see St. Kitts, hop on board the St. Kitts Scenic or ‘Sugar’ Railway, for a 30-mile journey offering views of spectacular landscapes and the Atlantic & Caribbean coastlines as the train passes through lush vegetation and colourful villages and towns.
      8. Take in the heritage trail on Nevis

      A trip to Nevis is not complete without taking in the island’s historic sites or magnificent former plantation houses, now operating as luxury hotels. Fort Charles, the largest fort built to protect Charlestown, is a great place to start followed by St. John’s Figtree Anglican Church, home of the marriage certificate of Frances (Fanny) Nisbet and Horatio Nelson. In the same area, is Montpelier Plantation Inn, where the young Horatio Nelson tied the knot with his bride and Saddle Hill Fortress which served as Nelson’s lookout to watch for enemy ships. Finally, don’t miss the ruins of Cottle Church, built in 1824 by its owner for all people, regardless of colour to worship together.
      9. Lime at a beach bar

      “Liming” – relaxing – at a beach bar is a popular pastime in both islands. From Frigate Bay on St. Kitts to Pinney’s Beach on Nevis, there is a choice of 'liming spots' where delicious food is complemented by signature cocktails, preferably made with the local rum. In St. Kitts, head for The Strip where beach bars offer a variety of local dishes and fresh fish, with several offering night-time entertainment in the form of karaoke, DJs and even fire-eating. Notable bars include Shiggidy Shack, Boozies, The Dock and Vibes. For somewhere quieter, head for the Lime Beach Bar in Nevis or Sunshine's Beach Bar & Grill for the infamous ‘Killer Bee’.
      10. Relax on a beach

      Like all Caribbean islands, St. Kitts & Nevis is not short of white sands and tropical waters.   Both islands are home to small secluded beaches accessible usually by car – but with the bonus of enjoying the beach to themselves.  Nevis’s famous Pinney’s Beach, runs for three miles outside the capital and is a relaxing beach to kick back on with a plethora of water-based activities from water safaris to sailing.  On St. Kitts, visitors can spend a full day at Reggae Beach at Cockleshell Bay on the southeastern peninsular, a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach which also features a wealth of watersports and is home to the Reggae Beach Bar.  For an off-the-beaten track experience, the silver sand beaches in the north of the island are also worth a visit.
      If you haven’t thought of St. Kitts & Nevis as an option for your Caribbean holiday, you are missing out.  Both islands offer visitors an authentic island experience touring historical landmarks, exploring nature or simply enjoying the sun, charm and relaxing vibes of these two sister islands.

    12.  

      3 places to admire Costa Rica's natural beauty

      There are some parts of the world where you can just tell Mother Nature was having a good day when she created them. Costa Rica is one of these places. With rainforests, pristine beaches, beautiful blue waters, volcanoes, hot springs and exotic wildlife, it is a destination for travellers who like to experience nature at its finest. There's a lot of natural beauty to admire while in Costa Rica and you'll find it around every corner, but the following three places are just a notch above the rest and will take your breath away.
      Tortuguero National Park

      If you need any proof that Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean coast is a must-see, it's that it remains one of the most visited national parks in Costa Rica despite only being accessible by boat or plane. There must be something beautiful lying within its grounds that encourages visitors to make the journey. It's probably a lot to do with the extensive biodiversity that exists within the park: beaches, rainforests, swamps and lagoons are all natural wonders you can find here.
      Arenal Volcano & Tabacón Hot Springs

      There are seven historically active volcanoes recorded in Costa Rica, with Arenal Volcano in the west being the youngest and most active. The national park it is located in is also home to Chato – a volcano whose crater contains a lagoon. The nearby natural Tabacon Hot Springs also come extremely recommended by travellers.
      Manuel Antonio National Park

      Over on Costa Rica's Pacific Coast is a national park that has been listed as one of the most beautiful in the world by Forbes magazine. The first thing that draws you in is the sandy white beaches that dip into water containing stunning coral reefs and 12 small isles. The park is located within a tropical forest and evergreen plants border the beach so visitors don't have to walk far to explore the eclectic biodiversity. Keen hikers can also head off on one of the official hiking trails.

    13.  

      10 items to pack for your Caribbean holiday

      So, you’ve booked your ticket to one of the gorgeous islands of the Caribbean . Right now your mind will probably be on what water sport you want to try and which rum-based cocktail you’ll be ordering at the bar.
      However, we’re here to bring your mind back to something important: what to pack. Packing for a Caribbean holiday is not like packing for other hot destinations as there is some culture uniqueness to the islands.
      In order to make sure none of our customers take part in any Caribbean travel faux-pas, we’ve listed below ten travel essentials all holidaymakers should take with them to these beautiful islands.
      A modest bathing suit
      With miles of sandy beaches you’re likely to spend a lot of your time in your swimsuit. However, parts of the Caribbean have a conservative nature so remember to pack swimwear that leaves plenty to the imagination. And pack multiples: the humidity means it takes longer for swimwear to dry.
      A bottle opener
      Lying on the beach is thirsty work and you’ll need a refreshment. However, a lot of drinks sold on the beach are in glass bottles. Keep a bottle opener in your beach bag so you won’t be caught off guard.
      A small umbrella
      While holiday brochures always show the Caribbean with a shining sun and blue skies, it does still rain. Sometimes daily. Pack a small umbrella and a thin waterproof jacket.
      Bug repellent
      It doesn’t necessarily need said that warmer climates come with more bugs. Take a mini-bottle of bug-repellent in your carry-on ready for when you arrive and a larger bottle in your suitcase. Then carry a bottle with you everywhere and top-up regularly.
      Your anti-sunburn kit
      We’ll bet the reason you’ve chosen the Caribbean for your next holiday is the plethora of sunshine. But with sunshine comes the risk of sun damage. Remember to pack all you need to protect your skin including sun cream, after-sun, lip balm with SPF, a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses.
      24 hours’ worth of clothing in your hand luggage
      It’s always advised when travelling long haul to pack enough clothes for the unlikely event that your case will go missing. However, if heading to the Caribbean ensure to pack what you can in your hand luggage. Airports are a bit slower in the Caribbean so remember to pack your swimsuit so you can relax by the pool while your case is chased up.
      Snorkelling gear
      While you’ll be able to rent snorkelling gear on the Caribbean islands, it is recommended you pack your own. It will be cheaper and won't have been used by other travellers.
      Underwater camera
      You want to be able to take the perfect #snorkelingselfie, right?
      Breathable clothes
      The Caribbean has a humid atmosphere. Avoid synthetic fabrics in favour of lightweight and breathable fibres such as cotton and linen. They will also take up less room in your luggage.
      Small amounts of extra cash
      Even though most Caribbean resorts are all inclusive, small charges might occur. These extra charges could be for an excursion you hadn't pre-planned for, buying something you forgot in your case, or charges at the airport. American Dollars are widely accepted in the Caribbean so remember to exchange your pounds and bring some dollars with you.

    14.  

      Sun, Sea and a Sandals Holiday

      Our Digital Marketing Executive Jenni Goulden and her partner have just returned from a week’s holiday at Sandals Barbados. Here’s what they have to say!

      What are your first thoughts of Barbados? Blue skies, crystal clear beaches and luxury hotels? I’m happy to say that Sandals Barbados ticks all those boxes.
      Upon arrival at the new resort, which opened in January this year, we received the warmest of welcomes. Staff gathered as we came off our private transfer bus to sing their ‘Welcome to Sandals’ song. This was a great start to our holiday, as it made us feel at home, which ties in nicely to the Sandals motto - ‘a home away from home’.
      We were then taken to the Club Sandals lounge, where we were greeted with a glass of champagne and met the concierge team, who showed us around the resort and to our room.
      Sandals Barbados has 280 rooms which range from beachfront suites serviced by butlers to new-to-the-brand swim-up suites spaced along a river pool. We were lucky enough to have an ocean view which was stunning. The room included a mahogany four-poster beds, a private bar which was re-stocked every day, and deep soaking tubs both inside bathrooms and outdoors on terraces.

      In the resort, there are 11 restaurants, among them a steakhouse, Japanese grill, French brasserie and Sandals’ first Indian restaurant. The variety of restaurants in the resort meant that there was something for everyone.
      Schooners, which offered local, fresh fish, is situated looking over the beach, making it a great location for a romantic meal. The lobster tail is highly recommended! The following evening we booked to try Kimonos, the teppanyaki restaurant. This was my first teppanyaki experience and it was incredible! The chef was seriously well-trained and highly entertaining.

      After much hype regarding Sandals’ first ever Indian restaurant, this was a must-try and we were not disappointed. The variety of dishes on the menu was great, staff were happy to help with any questions regarding the meal and the decor was beautiful. Very traditional. The rogan josh curry is recommended for anyone who enjoys a little spice in their curry.

      Butch’s Chophouse was the next restaurant we ate in. Named after Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart, the chairman of Sandals, it is the pinnacle of the already high standard of food at the resort. It serves incredible salads, crab cakes with jalapeño tartare sauce and baked oysters followed by a wide variety of the greatest steaks around, especially the Wagyu. You can take a choice of four sauces to accompany the steaks, ranging from a cabernet reduction to 5 peppercorn sauce. Or have them all, as this is Sandals! After all this food, we even attempted dessert, which was no let down on the rest of the meal. We were so impressed with Butch’s that we went back for the second time for our last night!
      The Bayside restaurant offered French cuisine. Situated looking over the beach and the beautifully lit pool, we were offered a wide selection of French food ranging from snails and pate to chateaubriand. Again, all this food was incredible and the staff were always so friendly. The Bayside restaurant was also home to the buffet breakfast and buffet lunch. The buffet breakfast was not like any other hotel I have been to – choices included fresh fruit, an egg station where you can get omelettes, a pancake station ( a favourite of mine!) and other delicious culinary delights. The buffet lunch was also amazing. Fresh salads, fish, assorted meats which were cooked to your liking and a Panini station. If you didn’t want a buffet breakfast, Portofino’s offered table service. Here you could have eggs benedict, steak and eggs and fresh fruit. The Mariner Seaside Bar and Grill and Dino’s pizzeria were also great options for lunch!

      Along with the great restaurant choices, there was also a good range of pools. The European themed pool, which was our main sunbathing area, featured cabanas with chandeliers and sofas. This was the quietest of the three pools. The main pool was located at the front of the hotel, overlooking the beach. This was where a lot of the entertainment happened: beach volleyball, games, quizzes and music. There was also a pool bar, which was ideal when you wanted to cool off! The third pool was the lagoon, the largest lagoon pool in the Barbados.

      Unlike other luxury hotels, Sandals is a true all-inclusive. We were served top-notch liquor, had access to 11 restaurants and water sports were included. We wanted to try out the water sports, so we went on the complimentary snorkelling trip. This was just off Carlisle Bay where we snorkelled in crystal clear water, saw brightly coloured fish and visited two shipwrecks. Flippers, mask and snorkel were all provided by Sandals. This was an amazing experience and was only a short drive from the hotel. We also went paddle boarding and kayaking which were great fun. The water was so calm in the morning, which made paddle boarding a lot easier! Kayaking was wonderful and you could go out and explore along the coastline. 

      The resort is stunning, but I would also encourage you to explore the island. The Sandals concierge team helped us book a private taxi to take us to Harrison Caves and The Mount Gay Rum distillery. Harrison Caves was hugely impressive with lots of history and nature. We were taken down to the subterranean environment on a tramway, where we saw a mile of impressive caves, stalagmites and stalactites. At the Mount Gay Rum distillery, be prepared for copious amounts of rum! We learnt how rum is made, bottled and the history of the oldest rum distillery in the world. 
      Our stay at Sandals Barbados was one of the best holidays we have been on and I would highly recommend anyone who is looking for first class luxury to visit this hotel. I will definitely be back!

    15.  

      Barrhead Travel and Jamaican Tourist Board

      Barrhead Travel and the Jamaican Tourist Board brought the style, culture and colour of Jamaica to Glasgow on 2nd July, when Jamaica House 2014 opened at 29 in Glasgow ahead of the Commonwealth Games - with a little help from Jamaica's own Levi Roots. Bringing some Caribbean sunshine to a rainy Glasgow, Reggae Reggae sauce founder Levi declared Jamaica House 2014 officially open with a ***** chicken cookery demonstration, and spoke of his Scottish heritage, and the links between Jamaica and Scotland.
      "Jamaica's had a romance with Scotland forever and I relish my Scottishness", Levi said. "Not a lot of people know my real name is Keith Graham, a Scottish name. About 90% of people in Jamaica have Scottish surnames, as so many of Scots came to Jamaica from Scotland in years gone by. We're very proud of our Scottish inheritance."
      'Food is Jamaica's gift to the world.'
      Levi adds "Jamaicans and Scots rise above everyone else where passion is concerned - it's what we do best. I‘ve always said that Jamaica is the largest small country in the world, because of that passion.“
      As he cooked his ***** chicken recipe on 29’s terrace barbeque using his own Reggae Reggae sauce, he talked about Jamaica's relationship with food, and how to make the perfect ***** sauce.
      "Food is Jamaica's gift to the world. When cooking ***** chicken, I always use Scotch Bonnet peppers, as it's not true ***** without it! The recipe I use was passed down to me from my Grandmother, so it's connected to me."
      Authentic ***** seasoning
      Levi offered his advice for cooks wanting an authentic ***** culinary experience. "Of course, we need the Scotch Bonnet. We Jamaican always use garlic, ginger, spring onion, lime and some cinnamon or nutmeg. Top it off with a little white wine vinegar or olive oil and some black pepper and you've got some delicious, authentic *****."
      For those of us who would rather stay at home and watch Jamaica take on the rest of the Commonwealth, why not try Levi's quick and easy recipe for Reggae Reggae chicken wrap whilst watching their superstar athletes compete at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games? Delicious yet easy to make, it’s ideal for busy Games-watchers who want to see as much of the sporting action as possible.
      Amazing deals to this wonderful island
      Of course, if you want to try the real article there's nowhere better to do it than in Jamaica itself and Barrhead Travel has some amazing deals to this wonderful island. Prices from £795 per person all inclusive. We've all sorts of added value offers too. Visit our Caribbean section to discover more now.
      Contact us for more information on the perfect holiday to Jamaica.

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