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!


Best viewpoints in Barbados!

Barbados has some fantastic natural landscapes, and there is no better way to see the island in all its glory than by visiting some of its most stunning viewpoints. No matter where your luxury villa rental is located, you are sure to have one of these viewpoints nearby. As the majority of them are quite remote, they are easiest to get to if you have a hire car, so you can include them in a day trip exploring the island.

Animal Flower Cave

Located in the upper part of the island, the Animal Flower Cave offers stunning views of the wide expanse that is the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll feel on top of the world standing on the cliff edge that looks down into a foaming natural pool. You can enjoy a meal at the cliff top restaurant or take a guided tour of the caves below.

Bathsheba


This is one of the most other worldly of all the views in Barbados. Stunning boulders fill the area which are actually rock formations that have broken away from ancient coral, and add to the unique landscape. It is a must see for anyone renting a house in Barbados.

Cherry Tree Hill

Even the name of this viewpoint sounds attractive. The steep climb up the hill will be well worth when you reach the top, it as you will be rewarded with stunning views of the whole of the east coast of Barbados. The road that leads up to the hill is lined with mahogany and offers some beautiful photo opportunities.

Ragged Point Lighthouse

If you want to see the beauty of a Caribbean sunset, then Ragged Point Lighthouse is the place to be. With the sea stretching out in front of you, and the Barbados countryside all around, it should definitely be on your list of scenic viewpoints to visit on a day trip from your Barbados villa.


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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Havana’s ‘Golden Mile’

While there are many wonderful locations to rent a house in Havana, many long to stay as close as possible to the Golden Mile, right in the heart of the city’s historic centre. The Golden Mile is located at the Paseo del Prado end of the Obispo, a busy pedestrianised street that’s a true hub of activity. 

The Golden Mile is where you’ll find some of Havana’s best restaurants, most lively bars, and even the Tourist Information Office, which can be useful if you can’t remember how to get back to your Havana accommodation. It’s arguably one of the best preserved parts of the Old Town.

When you picture Havana in your head, you picture the Golden Mile. This is a place of old, cobbled streets that feel uneven underfoot, it’s a place of colonial architecture of days gone by, and it’s a place where the  Havana holiday home waits to welcome visitors to Cuba.

Street musicians fill the Golden Mile with soft music, and flower sellers add a touch of colour and vibrancy. Cuba is very much a country where old meets new, and that’s exactly what you get when you stroll along the Golden Mile.

But the Old Town isn’t just about the Golden Mile. In fact, there are many reasons to rent a villa in Cuba in this part of Havana. Not only are you near the city’s cultural district by the Paseo del Prado, which features a number of museums, but you’re also just a stone’s throw from the grand El Capitolio building.

Although there are some travellers who enjoy staying close to The Malecón, others prefer being close to the Obispo, and the Golden Mile. However, whatever location in Havana you choose, it’s hard to go wrong. The city is such a fascinating place, with something new to see around every corner!

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Dominican Republic festival guide

A holiday in the Dominican Republic wouldn’t be the same without witnessing at least one of the many annual festivals and celebrations. The ‘Fuestas Patronales’ range from crazy street parties complete with costumes and dancing to complex religious ceremonies.

The festivals are a great way to experience the cultural influences that help make the country so unique. The seemingly never-ending celebrations will certainly keep you busy. After a crazy day, a villa with private pool in the Dominican Republic will be exactly what you are looking for.

Here are some of the best festivals that the country has to offer.

Carnaval de Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo Carnival

If you have a vacation rental in the Dominican Republic in the Santo Domingo area, you shouldn’t miss the annual carnival celebrating, which, takes place in February. It is the biggest annual celebration in the whole country, with a street party taking place every Sunday of the month. The festivities culminate in a huge 24-hour party along the sea front, complete with processions, music, floats, and more!

Cabarete Sand Castle Festival

Also taking place in February, Cabarete is transformed into a giant sand sculpture park for 10 days! The work is of amazing quality with sculptures of all shapes and sizes and of varying themes.

Cabarete Sand Castle Festival

Semana Santa

You will have to be in your Dominican Republic villa in April to experience this Catholic Easter celebration. Fused with Afro-Dominican Vodu celebrations, these two festivals make April a very interesting time to travel to the country. The inhabitants of the town of Cabral dress as devils and ‘mock’ those that are passing by. Although this may not be the best idea of a festival to some, it is a great example of the fusion of two different cultures in the Dominican Republic.

Festival de Merengue

This festival takes place in Malecon in July and August, and is a music lover’s dream. The music is pumping all night and when you get tired, there are many food and drink tents where you can enjoy some delicious Dominican fare.

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Swimming in Havana, Cuba

When you’re on holiday in Cuba and the Caribbean sun is blazing down, there’s one great way to cool off: take a swim! But where are the best places to swim in Havana? Here are a few great options.

Your Villa with a Private Pool in Havana

If you love swimming but hate crowds, why not treat yourself to a luxury villa with a pool in Havana? Wake up and enjoy an invigorating swim before breakfast on the patio, or cool off in the pool at the end of a busy day sightseeing.

Hotels

If you’ve opted for a villa in Havana without a pool or a downtown apartment, don’t worry! Many of the big resort hotels in the city offer day passes for non-hotel guests which provide access to many of the building’s facilities, including swimming pools and gymnasiums. Day passes can be very inexpensive, which makes them a good choice.

Public Swimming Pools

Although these are few and far between, there is one olympic-sized swimming pool in Havana which is open to the public between competition events. Located on Avenida Monumental, Complejo de Piscinas Baraguá is famous for hosting events during the 1991 Pan-American Games.

Beaches

The nearest beach to Havana that offers clean and safe swimming opportunities is Playa Santa Maria, which can be reached from your Havana accommodation in about 25 minutes by local bus or taxi. Playa Guanabo is another beach neighbourhood that can be reached on foot from some of our Havana villas!

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Havana Cathedral: Unusually Baroque

Standing tall right in the heart of Old Havana, the Havana Cathedral is a building that can be seen from almost anywhere. Take a glimpse out of the window of your Havana apartment and you may be able to sneak a quick peek at the grand, looming bell towers.

The Havana Cathedral is one of the most visited attractions in the city, especially by visitors enjoying a holiday in Cuba. Why is it such a popular place to visit? Some people come here for the culture, some come here to appreciate the art works, and others come for the unusual, eye-catching architecture.

Baroque Architecture

There’s really no hard and fast rule to determine what is — and what isn’t — considered to be baroque. In fact, in many cases ‘baroque’ can be applied to practically anything that appears to be overly detailed. However, in terms of architecture at least, it is typically agreed that baroque architecture is symmetrical. Take a look at any major baroque building in the world — the Trevi Fountain, Peterhof Palace — and they all have one thing in common: they’re symmetrical. Bizarrely, Havana Cathedral is very different.

When you look at Havana Cathedral, you’ll notice that the right tower is considerably wider than the left; so much so that it really does catch the eye. Is this the only baroque building in the world to feature an asymmetrical façade? It’s unknown but what we can say is that this is probably one of the most striking differences, and it does help to make Havana Cathedral even more of a must-see attraction.

Cuban Architecture

During your holiday in Cuba, why not make time to see some other great pieces of architecture, too? From theatres to museum buildings, and perhaps even your own villa in Havana, there are a lot of little gems nestled within the city. Perhaps one of the most interesting is the baroque Gran Teatro de la Habana which does, of course, appear to be symmetrical, really highlighting the peculiarity of Havana Cathedral.


La Arboleda: A natural retreat near Havana

There are lots of ways to take a holiday in Cuba, from enjoying the hustle and bustle of Cuba’s most famous city, Havana, or experiencing a true Caribbean island vacation by visiting Cayo Coco. Alternatively, you could also take some time to explore the country’s lush green parklands, one of which is Matanzas’ La Arboleda.

Matanzas is well known for being a place of natural beauty. Often referred to as the ‘Venice of Cuba’, Matanzas is a top choice for travellers who want to spend a day or two in a Cuban city that runs at a slightly slower pace than Havana, and has a more open, spacious, and back-to-basics feel.

What is La Arboleda?

Located in the bayside city of Matanzas, La Arboleda is a natural paradise; a sort of national park complete with river walks, local attractions, and arguably one of the best restaurants in all of Cuba. Although this isn’t a popular location for filming in Cuba, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Jurassic Park was filmed here, as La Arboleda appears to be from a forgotten time; very raw, rustic, and wild.

What to Do in La Arboleda

Although it’s a decent trek from your Havana villa, it’s easy to fill a day — or even more — at this place. You can rent a boat to take a trip down the river, visit the miniature zoo where you can hold an osprey, or even take a jeep safari, which takes you into the most rural depths of Matanzas.

Visiting Matanzas

Matanzas is located about 1.5 hours by car from most Havana accommodations, so the trip can easily be made by hire car, or even by local taxi. In addition to La Arboleda, there’s plenty to do here, including the mysterious Bellamar caves, the historic Sauto Theatre, and the utterly stunning La Vigia plaza.


Best breakfast cafés in Cabarete, Dominican Republic

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and Cabarete has some of the best cafés in the Dominican Republic. So when you’re ready to leave your vacation rental, make sure you check out these tasty breakfast locations!

Vagamundo Coffee & Waffles

What goes better with coffee than waffles? At Vagamundo Coffee & Waffles, you get just that! This coffee shop serves cups of locally grown coffee and has specially-trained baristas. If you don’t want coffee, you can order a delicious tea or locally sourced fruit drink with a side of their gourmet waffles! For a healthier alternative, try their smoothie bowls. They also work for a worthy cause as a non-profit organization that supports underprivileged youth of the Dominican Republic and other island areas.

The Chocolate Bar

Who says you can’t have chocolate for breakfast? The Chocolate Bar offers hot chocolate, coffee, tea, frappes, ice cream, juice and smoothies. For breakfast, you might want to try a steaming cup of hot chocolate and one of their breakfast plates: fresh fruit, pancakes, eggs, croissants, or even their big breakfast platter.

The Honey Company

If honey is your thing, you’ll love what The Honey Company offers. They are an artisanal apiary whose honey is real, raw, and chemical-free. Their number one recommended food is their Greek yogurt, with their Eggs Benedict at a close second. They also serve coffee, juice, smoothies, waffles, and French toast. The Honey Company offers a relaxing atmosphere by the beach for your healthy, tasty morning.

Cabarete Coffee Company

Another great coffee option, the Cabarete Coffee Company offers delicious shade-grown coffee beans and organic cocoa. They even allow you to tour their coffee and cocoa trees during the day if you’re curious! On their menu, they serve breakfast all day long from waffles to breakfast sandwiches and croissants.

Belgium Bakery

Finally, if you’re craving baked goods, check out the Belgium Bakery. They offer pastries like the Napoleon, éclair, croissant, and chocolate mousse. Pair with one of their coffees and you have yourself the perfect European-style breakfast!

When you get hungry and are ready to leave your vacation villa in the Dominican Republic, go check them out!

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