Aruba Donkey Sanctuary!

Donkeys have a long-standing history with the island of Aruba. Locally known as ‘burico’, up until recently, these gentle creatures served the people of Aruba in a number of ways. They used to be the primary form of transportation, while also working with farmers and tradesmen. Although many were kept by owners, some also ran free in the Aruba countryside. At the end of the 20th century, there were over 1400 donkeys living on the island.

Learn more about the tradition of `burico` while enjoying your time at your Aruba vacation rental.

As the use of technology grew and Aruba become more developed, cars and machinery began to replace the humble donkey. As people no longer had any use for then, many were lost or killed, and by the 1970s, there were only around 20 donkeys left.

In 1997, ‘Stichting Salba Nos Burico’ was established, which translates as ‘Foundation Save Our Donkeys’, and quickly became a place where injured or displaced donkeys could go and live in safety.

Today, the burico of Aruba have over 40,000 square metres to roam freely, near Arikok National Park and Mount Jamanota. Annually, 26,000 visitors come to the visit the donkeys that live in the sanctuary to not only fawn over the creatures, but also make the most of Aruba’s countryside. Many love to be petted, and all love to be fed, making it a great day trip from your luxury villa rental in Aruba.

Local businesses are also keen to help the project, making generous, regular donations of money, transportation and resources, or simply buying products from the gift shop.

There is no admission fee for visiting the sanctuary, although of course donations are greatly appreciated, and allows for continual care of the gentle creatures. If you are feeling up for it, you can even hep with the daily chores that go with caring for the donkeys before heading back to your accommodation in Aruba.

The future of Arubian Donkeys is still uncertain, but one thing is for sure, the Donkey population on the island is making a fast turn around, thanks mostly to the work of the volunteers at the Donkey Sanctuary.


The Holiday Season is Nearly Here in Aruba!

You may picture the holiday season to be cold and snowy, but many people choose to enjoy the Christmas seasons on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Aruba holidays are celebrated with music, events and great food, and it is a great place to rent a villa in Aruba!

Christmas Trees

Every single year, real pine trees are imported down from North America for businesses and individuals to purchase. There will certainly be something strange about driving along in the sun and seeing pop up Christmas tree shops, but the locals would not be without them at this time of year.

House of Lights

Although many families will decorate their homes with lights, the main ‘House of Lights’ is located in Seroe Preto, and is a sight to behold! You could even dress your Aruba accommodation up to match.

Gaita Music

Although Gaitas originate in Venezula, people in Aruba have customised this holiday tradition to make it their own, and Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without it. Popular bands will play at restaurants and bars, and will likely also play on the radio so you can dance along in one of our Aruba vacation rentals. The distinctive sound is often made from instruments such as the maracas, cuatro, charrasca and tambura.

Street Decorations

The first sign that the holiday season is approaching in Aruba is when the streets themselves start to become festive. The roads come to life with lights, garlands, poinsettia and more. In the town of Oranjestad you will likely see life-sized figures from the nativity, while roundabouts also undergo a complete festive makeover. Every year, local businesses are assigned a roundabout to decorate, which can turn slightly competitive!

Shopping

Downtown Oranjestad is a popular shopping location around the Christmas period thanks to the range of stores to choose from. Many shops are open late on select nights over this period, with Main Street, Renaissance Mall, Renaissance Marketplace and Royal Plaza Mall all being great places to start.

Food

Like in most countries, food plays a huge part of the Christmas festivities. Many restaurants will put together special holiday menus. A popular Aruban holiday dish is the ayaca, which consists of corn dough filled with pork, chicken or beef wrapped in plantain leaf and boiled. Why not try making one in your own kitchen in your Aruba holiday rental?
There is always some festival taking place on the island, meaning it is a great place to visit all year round.


St Nicholas Abbey!

When in renting a villa in Barbados, a visit to St Nicholas Abbey is a must. Located in the parish of St Peter, the abbey was built back in 1658, and is now only one of three Jacobean mansions in the whole of the Western Hemisphere.
A trip to the mansion offers a full day out. The great house is the main attraction, built by Benjamin Berringer it is one of the finest historic sites on the island. Characterised by elaborate multi-curved gables, decorative chimneys, Tudor arches and casement windows, it is an architectural wonder. Guest can get a full tour of the property for a more in-depth view of its history, which includes antiques and artefacts that span the home’s 350-year history.
The rum distillery is another popular attraction. By embracing its longstanding traditions, the plantation aims to preserve its history while still creating a sustainable legacy for future generations. You are able to explore the steam mill and run distillery, which are currently in full operation to produce the finest St Nicholas Abbey Rum, which among other products, can be purchased at the gift shop and taken back to your Barbados accommodation.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Abbey offers rum experience tours, where guests have access to a guided tour of the Great House, a personal tour of the Factory, Steam Mill and Distillery. The best bit is, you will be invited to try a range of Nicholas Abbey Rums!
The grounds are also well worth a look, all of which are beautifully landscaped with tropical flora, with the natural gullies filled with Mahogany and Silk Cotton trees. Cherry Tree Hill is located to the northeast of the Greta House, and offers stunning views of the island’s rugged east coast. Overall, the estate of St Nicholas Abbey spans over 400 acres of undulating sugar cane fields, forests and gardens.
During opening hours, you can enjoy lunch and a drink at the Terrace Café, which overlooks the plantation and other tropical plants. So make sure you put this on your list of attractions when looking into villas in Barbados.


Catching the ferry in Havana

What’s the best way to get from your villa in Havana to Casablanca or Regla? While it’s possible to jump in a taxi and head through the Havana Tunnel, we think there’s an even better way: taking the ferry!

There are two main ferry routes in Havana, both leaving from the Havana Port near to the city’s famous artisan craft market. One travels north up to Casablanca, near the Che Guevara Museum, while the other travels southeast to Regla, ending up at the stunning Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Regla church.

Havana – Casablanca

The ferry to Casablanca leaves every 20 minutes or so. Casablanca tends to be quieter than nearby Havana, but a little livelier than Regla, and it’s often busiest in the mornings and evenings when visitors are either setting off for their day trip on the Hershey train or arriving back at the end of the day.

Havana – Regla

The ferry to Regla also departs approximately every 20 minutes. Regla itself is quiet and has a very local vibe; there are very few tourists here and, being quite a poor neighbourhood, there are not many vehicles on the roads. While there’s not a great deal to do here, photographers love Regla for its architecture and graffiti.

Practicalities

Havana is a very safe place to visit, and a part of that is because of a strong police presence. When you take the ferry in Havana, it is normal for bag searches to take place. To make this process quicker and less stressful, it is recommended that you leave any non-essential items back at your Havana holiday rental.

Remember that the ferries to both Casablanca and Regla depart from the same terminal, so make sure you join the correct queue! If you’re staying in a casa particular in Havana, your host may be able to help you out with some directions, but if not don’t be afraid to ask for help — Cubans are very friendly! 

Other Ferry Routes 

Now that taking a holiday in Cuba is easier thanks to fewer travel restrictions between Cuba and the United States, there has been a lot of talk about the introduction of a number of low-cost, high-speed ferries to the island. If plans continues, services are expected to begin running from both Key West and Port Everglades. 


Visiting Havana with children

When thoughts of Cuba arise, a wandering mind can picture many things: a place with great villas in Havana, a place with a gorgeous coastline, and a place with amazing weather. It’s not often thought of as being a top family holiday destination, but Havana actually has lots to offer families, especially those with young children!

Where to Stay

In searching for accommodation, consider a casa particular in Havana that’s child-friendly. More like a B&B than a hotel, a casa particular in Havana is your home away from home, with all the amenities you’d expect to find in a house. This can make your vacation seem a little easier if you’re travelling with very young children. Some hosts even prepare home-cooked meals for an additional fee, so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat.

What to Do

One of the best ways for families to spend a day in Havana is to visit the National Aquarium of Cuba, which is an education and research facility with turtles, dolphins, and lots of other sea life. Alternatively, visit Old Havana/Havana Vieja on a weekend when there are salsa dancers performing in streets. If your kids love chocolate, stop in at the Chocolate Museum to see how the candy is made (and you can even enjoy a big glass of liquid chocolate in the cafe!). Wherever you go, be sure to get there using a ‘cocotaxi’, a coconut-shaped, rickshaw-style taxi that the kids will love — and it’s cheaper than a real taxi!

Where to Eat

Food in Havana is remarkably child-friendly. In fact, there are quite a number of Italian restaurants in the area, so there is always a good supply of pizzas and pastas for the little ones. Otherwise, roast meats tend to dominate the menus, and you can’t miss out on an authentic Cuban sandwich with ham and cheese. If your kids are particularly fussy, speak to the host of your casa particular in Havana who may be happy to whip up some kid-friendly cuisine to satisfy your little ones’ tummies.


Cuba’s vibrant mix of cultures

We’ve already taken a quick look at Havana influences outside of Cuba; the famous ‘Little Havana’ neighbourhood of Miami, for example, and the mouthwatering Cuban sandwich, but how have other countries, and other cultures, influenced Cuba? What sort of influences will you see when you rent a villa in Cuba? For a nation that was essentially closed off for many years, it’s more diverse than you’d think!
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Opt for a Dominican Republic vacation rental and you’ll see very definite Spanish influences, from the language to the unit of currency: the Peso. Visit Tortola, and you’ll find rows and rows of British-style fish and chip shops. The Residents of St Thomas celebrate American Thanksgiving, while Dutch croquettes are on the menu in Curaçao. Things aren’t quite as straightforward with Cuba.

Although colonised by the Spanish in the 15th century, Cuba retained a heavily indigenous population, and was famous for its rather unusual foreign policy under Castro, which saw strong bonds form between Cuba and many African and South American countries. This history has helped Cuba become what it is today: a very diverse and colourful island that’s a true blend of customs, convention, and folklore.

There is a lot of multicultural influences in everything from the Cuban food (see if you can spot a few Chinese aspects!) to the music, but some influences are much more obvious than others. No holiday in Cuba would be complete without a photograph of the classic, brightly coloured American cars lining the roadsides, for example, while the Havana Cathedral is a prime example of Tuscan Baroque architecture.

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Once upon a time, the Spanish-styled Danzón would have been declared the national musical genre, but today many younger people would claim it’s the Caribbean Reggaeton. Similarly, the national sport is officially American baseball, and yet European soccer really seems to be taking over. There really is nowhere else in the world with such a unique blend, and you can enjoy it all from your Cuba villa.


Escape the noise at Cuba’s private beach resorts

When you mention Cuba to beach lovers, the first resort that springs to mind is Varadero. With 20 kilometres of white silky sand, it is home to some of the best all-inclusive hotels on the island. But what if sitting on the same beach with hundreds of other holidaymakers just isn’t your thing? This guide will give you an insight into the locations of the most tranquil and picturesque beaches outside of your Cuba accommodation.

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Cayo Coco

Cayo Coco is located on the outlying island of Jardines del Rey. The island can be accessed by boat, and although it does have many hotel resorts, there are plenty of opportunities to find a sunny spot all for yourself. Cayo Coco is known for its coral reefs and beautiful, soft white sand. It’s a great area for snorkelling, and you may even be lucky enough to see rare bird life such as the white ibis and one of the largest pink flamingo colonies in all of the Americas.

Guardalavaca

Situated on the north shore of the island, this picture-perfect stretch of beach is laid-back, sprinkled with palm trees, and home to the inviting, clear, turquoise warm waters of the Caribbean. It’s the ideal place to relax, swim, dive, and view dolphins in their natural habitat.

Cayo Largo del Sur

A small mangrove covered island, Cayo Largo del Sur seems a world away from the cities of Havana, Trinidad, and Santiago. You can access the island by boat from your Havana villa rental. The abundant coral reefs are a sight to behold and the beach and mangroves are home to fascinating wildlife such as the iguana. Don’t be surprised if one casually strolls by while you are sitting on the beach!

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Playa Ancon

One of the finest beaches on the south coast of Cuba is just a short drive from the UNESCO World Heritage city of Trinidad. It has calm, fresh azure waters and a lush tropical backdrop.

Varadero

Even though this resort is one of the most highly populated in Cuba, it’s still worth a mention due to the fact that there are 20 kilometres of beaches stretching along the coastline. Whether you wish to explore the cool caves or outlying cays, you are sure to find a secluded spot where you can live out your beach paradise dream.

 

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