Cheapside Market!

If you are looking for a truly local shopping experience in Barbados, then look no further than the many town markets that can be found all over the island. No matter where your Barbados villa is located, there is sure to be a market nearby. In these markets you will find locals selling everything from fresh, exotic fruits to homemade, authentic gifts that you will struggle to find anywhere else.

What’s more, it can be great fun talking to and haggling with the stall owners as they try to convince you to purchase some of their wares.

Cheapside market is likely to be one of the most popular markets in Barbados. It is an area that the government has designated to local artisans to display and sell their produce, as well as plenty of fresh local foods. The market is located in a large open building in Bridgetown, and is filled with rows and rows of market vendors selling jewellery, crafts, meat, vegetables and more. It is also a great place to look for your next clothing purchase thanks to the vintage stalls upstairs.

As the name of the market suggests, everything is very reasonably priced, so you are sure to bag a bargain. The majority of the stall owners will be willing to haggle, and are more likely to slash their prices if you want to buy in bulk.

The best time to visit the market is on the Saturday, when the area really seems to come to life with colour and people. This tends to be when the locals come out to do their shopping, so you’ll get a real sense of the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Just opposite the market is an area that is known as Temple Yard, which is dedicated to local artisans who are not only selling their wares, but they also create them. Expect to see leather goods, foods, carvings, art and more, and makes a great spot to grab a bite to eat after a long day shopping.

It is an excellent place for you to witness Barbadian culture at its finest, and is also the ideal spot to find and buy a unique and genuine souvenir to take back to your villa in Barbados.


The Natural Wonder of Shete Boka National Park!

Curacao is not all just about the stunning beaches, great shopping and warm weather. There are also some great places to get a true sense of nature’s power. If you have hired a car, then be sure to take the drive from your Aruba accommodation, up to the northern most point of the island to Shete Boka National Park.
If you enjoy escaping off the beaten track and out into the countryside, then Shete Boka is for you. The landscape is sparse and volcanic, and you are likely to hear the roar of the sea before you see it.
The name Shete Boka literally translates as ‘seven inlets’, which is named for a series of coves carved directly out of the limestone cliffs along the 10km coastline. You are able to walk and drive between coves, with the starting point being the impressive Boka Tabla, where unpredictable waves crash into the hidden cave below.
A second inlet worth stopping at is Boka Pistol, which is a very narrow inlet where every time the sea rolls in, you can witness the startling explosion of waves that follow.
Three species of turtle nest in the area, making it a very protected piece of land. Visitors are able to stroll comfortably along the well-marked trial that hugs the coastline and take in the incredible views of the sea. You are also likely to see some of the area’s most common inhabitants, the green iguanas.
Two of the most popular hiking trails include:
Boka Pistol Trail- This is a one hour walk that will lead you through the area of Boka Brown, which is a known area where sea turtles come on land to lay their eggs. Boka Pistol is a landmark where the waves roll through cracks in the rock, causing an explosion like gun fire.
Boka Wandomi Trail- Again, this one hour walk will take you through the rolling lava hills of Curacao, down to Boka Wandomi. The limestone bluffs create a natural bridge which is a real sight to behold.
After a long day of hiking, a cocktail back at you Aruba villa will be very well deserved!


The Cuban Daquiri!

There are a huge range of cocktails that have found their way into the world thanks to the taste of the Cubans. The first cocktail that comes to mind when you think of the country is likely to be the Cuba Libra, simply made using the finest local rum, coke and lime. However, this is not the cocktail that is most associated with the country’s capital, that role falls to the classic daiquiri which can be enjoyed both in your Cuba accommodation, and outside of it.

Cuban rum wasn’t always as popular as it is today, in fact, it wasn’t until 1862 when different production methods were used that people really started to sit up and take note of this drink. It was at this time that Havana became one of the richest counties in the Americas.

History claims that the birth of the daiquiri came about when the American mining engineer named Jennings Cox, migrated to Cuba. Legend says that he was entertaining guests but run out of gin, and as a replacement he decided to use Bacardi, mixing it with lime juice, sugar, water and ice, naming the condition a daquiri.

Although this seems to be the story relating to the birth of the drink, the Royal Navy were drinking a very similar mix way back in 1740. Plus, there were various other similar drinks being made all over the country, all that was needed was something sweet, something sour and of course, the rum.

Although it may have been an American that gave this classic drink its name, it was a Cuban who perfected it. The bartender of ‘La Florida’, named Constantino Ribalaigua, discovered that the best way to serve a daquiri was mixing it with ice before straining it into a cold glass. Hemingway was a regular at this particular bar, and definitely enjoyed a good daquiri or two, so it is definitely worth a venture out of your Cuban vacation rental to visit.

Today, the frozen version of the drink has all but pushed out that of the original, but it can still be found if you ask for a ‘daquiri natural’, perfect to be enjoyed in your Cuban private villa with a pool.


Celebrity spotting in the Dominican Republic

There is a valid reason why so many tourists flee to the Dominican Republic every year. In addition to the golden beaches and sunny weather, there is also an abundance of things to do and see. As such, it is hardly surprising that many celebrities are also attracted to the Caribbean shores of the Dominican Republic.

Casa Q in Puerto Plata

The country’s proximity the United States has helped create a constant stream of celebs arriving throughout the years. Being just a short 1.5-hour flight from Florida, and 3.5 hours from New York, it is easily accessible.

The main attraction for celebs seems to be that it offers an ideal escape from their hectic everyday lives. They enjoy a villa with a private pool in the Dominican Republic just as much as the rest of us do.

Stars seem to count on the fact that they won’t be mobbed by reporters and photographers the minute that they step off the plane, and the many ultra-lavish, exclusive hideaways ensure that they will get this sort of privacy. Even real estate has been catching the eyes of many celebs, from seafront villas in the Dominican Republic to country estates, this Caribbean island has become a playground for the rich and famous in recent years.

Luxurious villa views

Singers like Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Shakira have all come to see what the Dominican Republic has to offer. Actors such as Vanessa Williams, Vin Diesel, Angelina Jolie, Matt Dillon, Mimi Rogers, Marcia Gray, and many more have also been spotted walking along the island’s beaches and streets.

Additionally, even politicians and royalty seem to enjoy the Caribbean way of life, with former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush frequently jumping on a plane to the island, and the King of Morocco is known to have thrown a lavish party on the island.

If you want to live a life like the rich and famous, rent a house in the Dominican Republic and enjoy the high life for a few weeks!


Cuban cooking classes

Cuban food is varied, fresh, and plentiful, full of strong flavours and natural produce. Although there is a huge range of restaurants and bars around the country where from you could sample some Cuban delicacies, there is nothing better than being able to cook it yourself in the comfort of your accommodation in Cuba.

In many of the main cities and towns, you will find local markets that stock all the ingredients that you will need for Cuban dishes, the majority of which would have been grown in the immediate area.

One of the best ways to learn how to cook Cuban style is to take a cooking class. Although you will find classes no matter where your Cuba villa rental is located, the hub of cooking class activity seems to be Havana. There are countless tour operators that offer this as an excursion, and it is easy to find one that meets your preferences.

Taking a class is great way to learn about the daily life of a Cuban, that starts first thing in the morning with a trip to the local market. In Havana, these markets are names mercados, and it is where Cuban people purchase their fruit, vegetables, and meat. Once you have purchased everything you need for the dishes that you will be cooking, your tour guide will take you back to the kitchen to begin your culinary adventure.

There are a range of Cuban dishes that you can try your hand at making, the most common of which include:

  • Ropa Vieja – This is a Cuban-style shredded beef dish that is often served with rice and accented with olives and capers.
  • Chicken Stew – This is not chicken stew that most people know; it draws flavours from the alcaparrado and contains a mix of pimento-stuffed olives as well as capers and sweet raisins.
  • Fish with Escabeche Sauce – Made with lots of garlic, sliced yellow onion, bell pepper, and bay leaves, this dish is a Cuban favourite.

Once you know how to cook some of these amazing dishes, you will never have to leave your vacation rental in the Caribbean again!

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Urban farming in Cuba

Many people choose to rent a villa in Cuba so that they can experience how it feels to step back in time. It is not uncommon to see decades-old cars driving down the street and buildings rich in history, dating to the 1950s. Cuban agriculture is another factor that seems to have stood the test of time.

In 1991, the country’s economy seemed to collapse overnight due to the collapse of its trade partner, the Soviet Union. During this period, Cuba lost its source of affordable agricultural tools and machinery. Lacking this modern equipment, Cuba suddenly had to abandon their former industrial agriculture and make the switch to urban farming. No longer were farmers using chemicals and machinery that required fuel; instead they were forced to transition back to traditional methods such as using machetes, composting worms, and oxen-drawn plows. If you have a Cuba holiday rental in the countryside, you will see some of these methods at work.

Along with farmers, individuals have also begun to utilise any land that they own to grow their own produce and raise animals. During the worst years of the financial crisis, residents could even purchase baby chicks from the government, take them home, and raise them in their backyards.

Although much of the country’s economy has bounced back, it seems like the farming sector has changed for the better, and now there are thousands of urban farms across Cuba.

No matter where you rent a house in Cuba, It is likely that you will see many local homes with windowsills lined with crops, and livestock wondering around in front yards. Local markets burst with fresh, organic produce that you can purchase to cook your own delicious Cuban meals in the comfort of your Cuba accommodation.

If you are interested in this aspect of the country’s history and want to learn more about urban agriculture, there are specially arranged tours available wherein visitors can interact with local farmers to gain a unique insight into their individual histories and methods, a side to Cuban that many people miss out on.

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Five lunch stops in Puerto Plata

When you’re lounging at your Dominican Republic vacation rental, soaking up the sun and enjoying a relaxing holiday, it’s easy to rely on your kitchen’s contents for a sustainable meal. But if you’re craving some authentic Dominican food or simply want the dishes you would find in your own home town, it’s best to hop in your rental car and drive to the town of Puerto Plata for the widest culinary variety. Here are five great places for you to grab some lunch in Puerto Plata!

Views from Big Lee’s Beach Bar.

Big Lee’s Beach Bar

If you’re seeking traditional American fare, try Big Lee’s Beach Bar! It is run by an American from Chicago who retired in Puerto Plata seven years ago. You can enjoy a beach view while you eat, not to mention the relaxed and playful atmosphere that always surrounds the beach area. Try their specialty of beer-battered fish and chips, featuring their freshly-made French fries.

Kaffe

Looking for indoor/outdoor seating in a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere? Look no further than Kaffe. They have a beautiful outdoor area, half uncovered and open to the warm Caribbean sun, the other half covered by a patio. From the lush, tropical vegetation to the quaint, antiquated furnishings, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience. They serve Caribbean-style cuisine, with some International influences as well.

Green Jack Restaurant

Sleek, modern and beautiful are the best words to describe the Green Jack Restaurant. With fantastically decorated indoor and outdoor seating, you can enjoy a cool lunch inside, or check out the ocean breezes outside, surrounded by lush greenery. The food is mainly Caribbean-style but the menu also has vegetarian and vegan-friendly options. It is part of the Playa Dorada complex with friendly waitstaff, unique food, and delicious drinks.

Playa Dorada.

Sebastian

Craving Italian on your island adventure? Check out Sebastian! Their covered patio seating area is brightly colored, clean, and fresh. You’ll get cool breezes with a beach vibe, though not on the beach. There is a full bar, amazing Italian cuisine, and delicious desserts.

Los Charros y Los Pinches Chaparros

Mexican and Latin food are all the rage at the Los Charros y Los Pinches Chaparros restaurant. Their beautiful, clean interior offers a full bar and delicious dishes for everyone to enjoy!

With your palate satiated, head back to your vacation villa in the Dominican Republic for a long, satisfying siesta.

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Whale-watching in the Dominican Republic

People from all over the globe rent a vacation villa in the Dominican Republic in the hopes of spotting the beautiful humpback whales during their mating season, which falls between mid-December and the end of March. A boat trip out to witness these magnificent animals is one of the most popular excursions that the country offers.

For the best chance to see a whale, arrange to rent a villa in the Dominican Republic in Samana Bay and the Silver Bank, in the northwest region of the country. Each year more than 2,000 humpbacks come to these waters to mate due to the warmer temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. A recent study has shown that all populations in the Atlantic come from Iceland, Greenland, Canada and North America, to these waters, so it is likely that you will be able to spot a few whales during your visit.

It is no wonder that some many people rent a house in the Dominican Republic at this time of year as the show is an impressive one. A fairly common sighting is a 40-ton male who jumps out of the water to win the female’s attraction, or sings a long and monotonous song that the other whales can hear up to 30 kilometres away.

Samana

Samana became a sanctuary for the protection of the whales in 1986, and is considered one of the best places in the world for humpback whale-watching. As mammals, the whales have to come up to the surface fairly regularly to breathe, and can be on the surface for up to 20 minutes. During their long trip to the Samana Bay area, the whales do not feed, and even while spending the winter on the shores of the Dominican Republic, they still go without eating. In this time, many will lose up to one-fifth of their original weight.

Samana

The whales need warmer waters because when they are born, they only have a very thin layer of fat, which makes it hard to withstand the cold waters. To form this protective layer, the young will consume approximately 200 litres of breast milk a day.

Safety

Due to the increased popularity of whale-watching in the area, The Dominican government enforces strict whale protection laws and guidelines to ensure the protection of these incredible creatures. It can be an amazing experience for anyone renting a villa in the Dominican Republic, but their protection comes first, and tour companies will not do anything that could potentially harm these creatures.

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Celebrate Easter in the Dominican Republic

Easter in the Dominican Republic is one of the of the most celebrated holidays of the year. The majority of people who live on the island are Catholic, so it is considered a time of both reflection and significance. Whenever Easter falls, it is a lovely time to rent a vacation villa in the Dominican Republic and take part in the festivities.

Easter week is also known as Semana Santa and is the perfect time to sample some traditional foods of the area. Habichuelas (sweet cream of beans) is a delicious dessert typical of this time of year, and it is one of the most loved and distinctive treats of the country. No matter where your Dominican Republic vacation rental is located, you are sure to find somewhere that serves this delicious dessert.

Habichuelas con dulce

Good Friday is often referred to as the calm before the storm. Many of the locals retire to their homes to spend time with friends and family. Loud music is frowned upon and if possible, motorsports are also limited. The sales of alcohol near beaches and public spaces is prohibited as part of religious tradition.

On the north coast, it is best to book a Dominican Republic vacation villa well in advance as accommodations fill up fairly quickly. Roads and beaches can be packed with people enjoying the season’s sunshine. As the weekend continues, expect picnics and music and a celebratory atmosphere as at night, with stages set up on the beach and music blasting until the early hours of the morning.

Church Convento de los Dominicos, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Many local churches take part in a religious theatre piece to commemorate the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Cool off from the heat and excitement by retiring in your Dominican Republic villa with a private pool. Additionally in cities like Santo Domingo, it is not unusual to find many streets scattered with inflatable pools!

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Top 4 beaches in the Dominican Republic

When imaging an ideal vacation spot, the Dominican Republic fits the bill as a relaxing getaway where you can unwind from your normal life. The paradisal beaches of the Dominican Republic offer myriad opportunities for such repose, including the top four that are listed below.

1. Bavaro Beach
White sands, crystal clear water, and gorgeous palm trees are just a taste of what Bavaro Beach offers! Grab your beach chair, towel, or rent one of the many lounge chairs available. You can even find tropical umbrellas for your lounging needs! There are miles of beach with plenty of watersports, restaurants, bars, and resorts to satisfy every need.

Bavaro Beach

2. Macao Beach
If you prefer a quieter, more secluded experience, you’ll love Macao Beach with its cliffs, white sands, clear waters, and tropical foilage. Although there are fewer restaurants, it also means there will be fewer people around, so if you want to escape the world and relax in a private-feeling beach, Macao is a magnificent choice.

3. Playa Bonita
Playa Bonita offers a unique experience. Though it still has the beautiful sands and clear water typical of the Dominican Republic, you’ll also find beautiful tropical nature with walking paths, green areas to sit and sun yourself, old trees sea-logged on the sand, and coral reefs that are perfect for snorkeling! This beach is also more isolated than some of the other choices because it sits on the edge of town, therefore giving you a quiet, relaxing time away from the world.

Playa Rincón

4. Playa Rincón
Mountains in the background, turquoise waters, rocks scattered here and there, white sands, and luscious tropical plant life make this beach a gorgeous stop on your tour of island beaches. Playa Rincon connects to the nearby Caño Frío (a river) which offers a secondary environment for you to enjoy.

When you’ve explored these four amazing beaches, you’ll be ready to return to your rental villa in the Dominican Republic to continue the tranquility.

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