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!


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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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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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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The Havana International Book Fair

If you love to read, then you’ll love the Havana International Book Fair, which takes place every February at the city’s San Carlos de la Cabaña fortress. The event has been a Havana staple since 1982 and is now so big that it has become an unofficial national holiday in Cuba. Festivities are held in many venues throughout the Old Town, including the Cuba Pavilion and the Dulce María Loynaz Center. The event celebrates Cuban literature, encourages literacy, and acknowledges international literary works.

February is a great time to rent a house or apartment in Cuba, even if you’re not much of a bookworm. During the event, there’s an unmistakable party atmosphere and a very lively environment, including street food stalls, carnival rides that are great for the kids, and live bands around every corner. Each year’s festival is different, with a different celebrated literary icon and a focus on literature from a different nation, so you can return year after year and never get bored!

Nearly half a million people travel from all over the world to attend the event in Cuba’s capital, so be sure to book your Havana accommodation early! If you do miss the festivities in Havana, don’t worry. The International Book Fair goes ‘on the road’ and travels all over the country, ending in Santiago de Cuba in April. The event’s finale is often a little less busy, so you may find some great accommodation in Cuba in this area during April.

If you do attend the fair in Santiago de Cuba, there are a few sights and attractions you can’t miss: the San Pedro de la Roca UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Turquino National Park, and the Bacardi Museum.


Must-try foods from the Dominican Republic

If you’re heading to the Dominican Republic for your next vacation, there are a lot of traditional foods that you are sure to love! Vacations are about taking a break from what you normally do at home, so treat yourself to restaurant-quality meals and time with family and friends around a dinner table. What are the foods that are traditional to the Dominican Republic, and what restaurants should you check out to try them?

Goat

Goat is actually a very popular meat in the Caribbean and is usually served stewed. If you want to try it, check out El Meson De La Cava and Restaurant Vizcaya.

Ceviche

Ceviche is a seafood dish typically served cold with fish, lime, lemon, onion, and chili pepper. There are a lot of restaurants in the Dominican Republic that serve a delicious ceviche, including (but not limited to) Pat’e Palo European Brasserie and Muelle 47 Seafood Culture.

Croquetas

Don’t be alarmed, croquetas are simply croquettes in Spanish, which are fried foods dipped in breadcrumbs. This can be anything from cheese to potatoes, to meats and even seafood. If you want to try croquetas for yourself, check out Pura Tasca and Jalao.

 

Paella

You’ve probably heard of paella as it’s mentioned on nearly every Spanish and Mexican menu. It’s a Valencian rice dish that has made its way around the world, including the Dominican Republic. It can be served in many ways with different meats and vegetables, so just choose the one that looks best to you. Two restaurants that serve some of the best paellas on the island are Cafeteria Restaurant Manolo and Don Pepe Restaurante.

Mofongo

Mofongo consists of fried plantains and can be served with a lot of different foods like rice, vegetables, meats, and it can even be served as a dessert. Each restaurant does something different, but you’ll find mofongo in nearly every restaurant in the Dominican Republic, including Adrian Tropical and El Conuco!


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.

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