Life’s a beach. At least it is in the Caribbean. But venture beyond the beach and you’ll find treasures like festive carnivals, spicy cuisine, nature trails, duty free shopping and a warm, no-worries way of life.
I’ll Drink To That. FollowErnest Hemingway to his two favourite Havana haunts where he declared he liked “My mojito in Le Bodequita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” These literary landmarks capture Cuba’s spirit. And there is plenty of spirit – you could consider Havana the cocktail capital of the world with its famous mojitos, daiquiris, and Cuba libres – rum, coke and lime juice. Indulge in a few cocktails and dishes like mixto (Cuban sandwich), pastalitos (puff pastry) congri (red beans and rice). Soak up Cuban culture, history and colonial architecture in Old Havana (Habana Vieja). You can drink to that.
Credit: Cuba Tourist Board
Carnival! Chase away the Canadian winter with the heat of the Caribbean’s Carnivals. And there is no better time than Carnival time to mingle with the locals. The biggest, best and brightest of them all is Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Parades of carnival bands, floats and elaborate masqueraders fill the streets and public spaces. Junkanoo, is a celebration carried out on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day in the Bahamas. The streets in Nassau are filled with the sound of cowbells and conch shells while different floats parade on by. Join the party.
Credit: Trinidad & Tobago Tourism Development Company
Cruisin’ & Schmoozin’ Try the Caribbean cruise sampler – the cultures, cuisine, beaches and scenery you’ll experience on a Caribbean cruise. There are so many options – from weekend getaways to two-week cruises that call in at up to 10 different islands. Some focus on the Eastern Caribbean islands while others do a mix. Today’s cruises are more specialized – some cruise lines are more focused on luxury and romance, others on families or even specialty cruises for LBGT passengers. Activities galore range from tennis courts, pools, spas, fitness classes, theme nights, games room to amazing excursions from island ports.
Credit: Celebrity Cruises
Decisions, Decisions Will it be a Dutch treat or a French croissant? St. Maarten/St. Martin is an island divided: one part of the island is Dutch (St. Maarten) and the other side is France (St. Martin). This is a hassle-free border. Just walk, cycle or drive between the two islands – no formalities. Try your luck at the Casino Royale or other casinos on the Dutch side. Continue the entertainment in Maho Beach area with dozens of beachside bars, nightclubs and shows. On the French side, water activities include parasailing, diving and snorkeling. Shed your inhibitions at the nudist beaches. Shopping is not just a passion; duty-free goods can make it a real bargain. Known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, the island’s Euro-Caribe and other ethnic cuisines satisfy any palate. Go Dutch or go French. Go to Saint Martin.
Credit: St Maarten Tourist Bureau
Twin Peaks Everyone wants to see the twins – Gros Piton and Petit Piton, two lush volcanic plugs that are a World Heritage Site. Get a guide and hike up Gros Piton, Saint Lucia’s second largest peak at 796 metres. After the five-to-six-hour hike quench your thirst with the country’s favourite beer, Piton of course, in bustling Rodney Bay – the hub for restaurants, bars and shopping. If you’re still looking for fizz, head over to Soufriere where you can view the active geothermal Sulphur Spring. Go green with eco-adventures in the rainforest like nature discovery hikes and treetop ziplining adventures.
Credit: St Lucia Tourist Board
The Beat Goes On Head to Jamaica and get “Jammin’” with the locals to the infectious reggae sounds of Bob Marley & the Wailers. February is Reggae Month but music is a year-round celebration here. Journey to Nine Mile, the birthplace of Marley and pay your respects at the mausoleum where his body lies. Looking for adventure? Head to Dunn’s River Falls, a 182-metre, stair-like cascading waterfall you can climb like steps. Or get your heart pumping on a white water rafting trip. Hungry? Get your taste buds dancing with Jamaica specialties like ackee, salt fish and jerk chicken. Fun never loses a beat in Jamaica.
Credit: Shutterstock/Lisa F Young