We all know that February 14th marks a special occasion for couples worldwide. The day of love, hugs and all the romanticism of the world is sure something that should be celebrated and who would blame it! If flowers, romantic diners and gifts are one side of the coin, then a great exotic getaway with your loved one is probably the whole bank! Book your valentine’s holidays in Cancun and explore the Mayan ruins with your significant other or walk along the 7-mile beach in Jamaica holding hands -it’s all up to you and how you plan on showing your love. Choosing a destination to visit for valentine’s holidays however could be a daunting task, bearing in mind the multitude of options. Since we are amongst the undecided lot, we have decided to look at some of the most popular exotic destinations where the sun always shines and the picture perfect beaches are as indulging as ever, in order to help you decide on which is more appropriate.
The beauty of the Caribbean islands – on top of simply beautiful surroundings and brilliant weather – is its diversity. There are at least 28 island countries in the Caribbean spread across more than 7,000 islands. But, how do you figure out which one is the perfect one for you? Why do home birds go to St Kitts and resort-hunters head for Dominican Republic? We’ve got the lowdown on the Caribbean Islands so it’s easy to answer the question: Which Caribbean Island should I visit?
Cuba’s exotic rhythms and history give a sense of adventure to sun holidays in the Caribbean. Easily one of the most exciting islands, it is also the least changed or commercialised. Beaches are palm-lined, with white sand and sparkling water. Locals are friendly and are happy to help, rum flows freely and the island pulses to an internal rhythm like nowhere else. Great for: anyone who wants holidays with a sense of adventure.
1. Beers, booze and more beer! Our 10 kick ass European party cities got lots of love this year.
Image via @ Ze Warren
2. Looking good in a bikini is always a top priority! Get swimwear ready with our Bikini Files Guide: The Ultimate Bikini Diet Plan.
3. Test your knowledge of the best Ibiza Superclubs! They’re all there, Privilege and Space to Ibiza Rocks. Which one will you visit this year?
Image via @ Bombman
Christmas time around the world is celebrated according to local traditions and every family has their own little quirks. For many though, what makes it really special is the Christmas Food! When families take their seats for Christmas dinner, they feast their eyes on a variety of mouthwatering favourites. In our house it includes Spiced beef! Every house is different though, so we’ve taken a look at some Christmas food favourites from all over the world… Share yours in comments below!
1. Germany – Roast goose with red cabbage. Simple, but carefully arranged (as always!) the Christmas table in Germany combines the meat with vegetables and of course potatoes, a Germans’ favourite!
Who doesn’t like holidays with a little luxury now and then? Eh… nobody, right?! So, we’ve got the best ideas for swim-up bars. These are more like little slices of luxury (mostly in the Caribbean) where you don’t even need to get out of the pool to enjoy a cocktail or a beer. Could you imagine anything more luxurious? Us neither, that’s why we’ve found the 10 best swim-up bars anywhere. Ever! Enjoy.
1. Catalonia Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
2. Room Mate Grace, New York City
3. Hotel Punta Islita, Costa Rica
4. The Westin Resort & Spa, Los Cabos
5. Riu Ocho Rios, Jamaica
6. ClubHotel Riu Negril, Jamaica
7. Dreams La Romana, Domincan Republic
8. Hyatt Regency Aruba Resort and Casino
9. Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa, Cancun
All images via @ oyster.com
10. Omni Cancun Hotel & Villas
Hotels, in particular 5-stars, are made to satisfy every customer’s needs and tastes. But, it’s fair to say, some of them are taking that task a little too seriously. Here are the 10 weirdest hotel services we’ve heard of… This is of course open to change!
1. Automatic Swimsuit Vendor
For the forgetful amongst us, the Standard Spa Miami Beach has its own beach vendor in case you’ve left your itsy-bitsy-teenie-weeny back home in Blighty.
2. Goldfish for hire
Probably a handy thing to have around if you’re feeling lonely, one Cheshire hotel offers guest their own pet fish for the duration of their stay. For £5 ‘Happy’ the goldfish can come and stay in your room.
3. Sex Toys
The Drake Hotel in Toronto, Canada is one of a growing number that offers a list of sensual toys. It has a ‘pleasure menu’ where you can take your pick of locally supplied playthings.
4. Social Media Butler
If you fancy switching off, but still want to share your envy-inducing instagram pics, tweets and status updates then the Lowes Madison Hotel in Washington has what you need with its social media butler.
5. Soundtrack concierge
If you’ve ever had an earworm, or a song that you just need to hear right now, or just need some in-room party music suggestions, why not take up the offer of a soundtrack concierge who’ll develop a playlist just for you?
6. Celeb for a day
The Geejam Hotel in Jamaica offers a recording studio where guests can sing to the top of their lungs and release their inner popstar. Working with the studio’s engineers you’ll find out about the process of recording your very own CD.
7. Dog surfing lessons
California’s Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa offers doggie surfing lessons for man’s best friend. Instructors from the surfing academy bring little Rover or Rex to catch their first waves without wiping out.
8. Vibe Manager
If you’re not partying quite hard enough, then head for the Ritz-Cartlon on Palm Beach, Miami which offers a personalised party manager. Your evening escort is on hand to create playlists, offer a cigar or knock up a cocktail for your delectation.
9. Fairy service
Not content with regular concierge servics, the Barnsley Gardens Resort in Atlanta, Georigea, offers a special service of a fairy godmother, who offers to fulfill dreams and wishes. For customised evenings with your significant other, ‘Love Spells’ or over the top proposals the Fiary is on hand to help you.
10. Sleep concierge
A growing number of hotels are drawing customers in with the promise of a good night’s sleep. A sleep concierge assess sleeping habits, recommends pillows, offers a bedtime snack of can organise a relaxing massage to help you drift off.
If there’s a beach bar or cocktail that you’ve been raving about, share it with us in the comments section below! Enjoy our tips for the best summer cocktails and where you can enjoy them.
1. Tiki Beach Cocktail & Music Bar, Benidorm Busy AND fantastic and slap, bang on the boulevard of the Levante Beach in Benidorm. Have a cool and sophisticated Sangria on its sunny terrace and soak up as much Spanish sunshine as you can.
Image via @ Bastien
2. Azul Lounge, Tulum, Mexico Tequila, lime and a beautiful view. Where else to enjoy this lovely summer drink than in Riviera Maya’s own Azul Lounge in Tulum.
Margarita via @ mnapoleon
3. Daiquiri Palace, Magaluf Enjoy a delicious Daiquiri in a variety of flavours in the Daiquiri Palace in legendary Magaluf to get ahead for a brilliant night out in some of its famous clubs.
Image via @ The Hungry Australian
4. Blue Marlin, Ibiza This could just be the best Mojito of your life, (apart from actually visiting Cuba) on this amazing beach bar on Cala Jonda. It comes with a pretty decent sunset too.
Image via @ Wikicommons
5. Little Ochie, Manchester, Jamaica Perfect if you fancy indulging in some great seafood, this ramshackle little bar offers a true taste of local life, with plenty of great fish on the side. Enjoy some epic food with a Big Bamboo or a Dirty Banana.
Image via @ David Berkowitz
6. Cavalieri Hotel, Corfu Climb up to the top floor of this town-house styled hotel and get a look in at the exceptional roof garden, where delicious cocktails are served. Try a sophisticated Barbecue Bourbon Bloody Mary with a view of the Old Fortress.
Image via @ kthread
7. Lighthouse Beach Bar, Paphos Situated along Lighthouse Beach in Paphos, the Lighthouse Beach Bar is the best place to chill out with a mouthwatering Zombie cocktail.
Image via @ Stewart
8. Hula Hula Beach Bar, Hvar, Croatia Enjoy a pina colada in the footsteps of Beyonce and Jay-Z, apparently they’ve been seen stopping at the Hula Hula Bar and indulging in a drink or two. If it’s good enough for them…
Pina Colada via @ Advencap
Music-lovers, this one’s for you. Combining travel and music makes for one perfect holiday in our eyes; check out some of these incredible musical holidays, famous for their firm musical roots:
Nicknamed ‘Music City USA’, Nashville is the epicentre of country and western. Visitors to the Deep South can attend a live recording of Grand Ole Opry (a country music and variety show) at Ryman Auditorium, one of Nashville’s most significant music venues, or head to the Hall of Fame, an educational museum, dedicated to country music’s extensive history.
New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz, which kind of makes it the birthplace of music itself. Visit in spring, around the end of April to early May, for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, (aka the Jazz Fest), which is one of the biggest jazz festivals in the world and also features a variety of other music types that were influenced by jazz, including indigenous Louisiana music, such as Zydeco. However, you don’t need to visit in spring to enjoy great jazz in New Orleans – from street musicians and funeral bands to all of those huge bars off of Bourbon Street; music is a central part of life in The Big Easy.
Feeling blue? Head to Memphis. Home to Elvis, the blues and Aretha franklin, Memphis and rock ‘n’ roll are synonymous. Beale Street is the most famous and most musical street in Memphis, and it is where you will find most of the live music venues. You should also stop by Sun Studio, the site where Elvis recorded his very first song (‘That’s Alright Mama’) in 1954.
Jamaica conjures up images of beaches, rum and of course, reggae. Bob Marley was born in Jamaica’s Nile Mile and fans can visit the Museum of Bob Marley in Kingston for a walk through the reggae king’s life. In the ‘40s, Errol Flynn, the Hollywood bad boy, declared Jamaica ‘more beautiful than any woman I have ever known’ and today it’s no different. Palm-fringed beaches, coconut cocktails, the uplifting sounds of reggae and crystal blue seas make Jamaica a paradise that’s not just for reggae-lovers.
Although punk primarily has its roots in the political and economic, London’s angry, rebellious, opinionated (and unemployed) late ‘70s youth surely deserve some of the title. London is not only where punk music began, but also where punk fashion emerged, and from one shop in particular – SEX – the Camden store owned by Malcolm McClaren and Vivienne Westwood. This in turn bred the Sex Pistols, pioneers of the punk movement. Their fans included an outrageous bunch of young punks known as the Bromley Contingent, who formed a large portion of the London Punk scene, including The Clash, The Slits, Siouxsie Sioux, Generation X and X-Ray Spex. And thus, punk was born. Today, you can still see the dregs of the movement, sitting on a bridge at Camden lock, spitting at any passer-by who so much as glances at them, let alone takes their picture.
Everyone loves Motown, it’s hard not to. And in that same breath, it’s hard not to love Detroit. Home to both the highly successful music label and the music that it produced, Detroit exported a large majority of the gospel-inspired R&B singers and groups that populated the radio waves in the 1960s, cutting their records on the Motown label. The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, and Stevie Wonder forever link Detroit to this very popular musical style. Check out the Motown Museum if you’re ever in town.
Jamaica was once the perfect base for pirates. 300 years before it became known for all inclusive, perfect white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters, it was the top choice for a pirate hideaway. The scurvy dogs travelled throughout the Caribbean plundering the new world’s treasure ships and stowing their bounty away. Enjoy our guide to the Pirate Route Jamaica.
Image via @ Nicolas Raymond
If you aarrrre (sorry!) a fan of International Talk Like A Pirate Day, you might be familiar with Jamaica’s history of plundering and scavenging. For everyone else that’s loved Pirates of the Caribbean, wants to hoist the holly roger or simply have a holiday with a little extra spice, we’ve got the ultimate road trip for wannabe marauders.
Port Royal As you enter Port Royal you’re greeted with an old sign that says: ‘Where the Buccaneers Drank their Beer.’ That’s the kind of place we want to visit. Port Royal has a trusty Pirate legacy; it was invaded by the undead forces of the infamous Jolly Roger and used as a base by Henry Morgan a Welshman who became known as one of the most successful and ruthless pirates around. It’s also said to have been frequented by the famous swashbuckler Jack Sparrow and Jamaica has made claims as the birthplace of Blackbeard, (but so has Bristol in the UK and Carolina in the US.)
Image via @ rickpilot_2000
Kingston Head back towards Kingston on your road trip and take a trip to Bob Marley’s former home. Not pirate related, but a must see when you’re in the Jamaica. Further along, about 18 miles on the highway, you’ll find the old capital Spanish Town. The English pirate, Calico Jack who operated throughout the Caribbean in the ‘golden age of piracy’ was hanged here after his capture in Negril Bay, alongside his two female crew, Mary Read and Anne Bonny. These ladies made the crew by disguising themselves as men. This worked until Read started to develop feelings for Jack himself.
Negril Bay Follow the road around and you’ll find the scene of a great pirate raid. This is where Calico Jack was enjoying a rum fuelled party when Captain Barnet was dispatched to capture him. No doubt his senses were a little dulled and he was caught. Calico Jack was executed and his body was displayed in an iron frame as a warning to other pirates.
Image via @ Thomas Huxley
Montego Bay The second city of Jamaica is a good place to get the kids involved in a little pirate fun. From there you can hop on a replica galleon, where you’ll be treated to hearty dinner to set you up for an enemy raid. Pirates armed with swords and pistols will jump on deck and a fiery battle will take place!
Ocho Rios A perfect place to finish your pirate road trip. Apart from a simply stunning drive, Ocho Rios is where you’ll find the legendary pirate Henry Morgan’s hideaway. It is said Morgan directed his attacks from behind thick walls. It’s also where the location of British playwright Noel Coward’s estate Firefly. It’s said the room where Coward wrote his compositions – “the room with a view” overlooks a gun slit, “pirate cabin” that hid Morgan from view. Today, Coward’s grave side stands near a secret tunnel that Morgan used to escape to sea.
Jamaica via @ Abir
ClubHotel Riu Ocho Rios: Seriously, this is one fabulous Jamaica hotel. Right on the beach of Mammee Bay in Ocho Rios, the ClubHotel is surrounded by woodlands and waterfalls. It offers the perfect mix of total relaxation and endless activities. The hotel is very close to Dolphin Cove, where a guide will take you to swim with dolphins (or even sharks!) and the Dunn’s River Fall, one of the most beautiful in the world is perfect for a day trip.
Best on a budget
Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort & Spa, Ocho Rios: Diving, waterfalls, plunge pools, powder soft sandy beaches, is that your idea of a good time? Then the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa is just the ticket. This all inclusive 730 room palace has plenty of restaurants, bars, kids club and boutiques, all in the beautiful, Caribbean surrounds that Jamaica is famous for.
Jamaica via @ Rod Senna
Great huts: If you’re feeling a little adventurous about your holiday, how about a night away in a hut or a tree house? Yes, we did say hut, but don’t let that put you off. These Great Huts are off the beaten track luxury accommodations, with stunning cliff side views and hammocks everywhere. Choose from the different amazing structures on offer, you can even stay in the Queen of Sheba hut! We’re sure it’s fit for a queen.
Gran Bahia Principe Jamaica: A Victorian style hotel, right on the beach, you can go from bed to beach in just seconds. Here it’s all about complete relaxation in the sunshine. The 840 room hotel has a spa, excellent restaurants and on top of the white, sandy beach there are three interlinked pools to swim in, countless loungers, beach umbrellas and towel service. Everything is looked after at the Gran Bahia Principe.
Jamaica Beach via @ Deveni
Honeymooners take note
The Sandals Montego Bay: is surrounded by a tropical setting and right on a white sand beach, offering a slice of heaven for your holidays. Here, guests can experience the true Caribbean spirit and chill out all day long, tasting mouthwatering cocktails.
Perfect for kids
Breezes Trelawny Resort & Spa, Falmouth: This gorgeous hotel is really a sight for sore eyes. With four (count ‘em!) swimming pools to choose from, two water slides and that absolutely perfect, white sand and stunning blue waters that Jamaica is famous for, it’s a hotel that’s really close to our hearts. It’s just a couple of miles from the centre of Falmouth where you’ll find a mix of history and shopping, restaurants and bars. You couldn’t ask for more!