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8 Top Features to Look For in an All-Inclusive Resort
The days are getting shorter, the skies are getting duller, and the temperature’s dropping. That’s our cue to start thinking about a beach vacation.

Many people are deciding to 'splash out' on their next vacations and really treat themselves to the very best version of their dream trip. 

That’s where your trusted travel advisor can really add value to your vacation.

We recommend dreaming big! Pick the features that appeal most to you, and work with your trusted travel advisor to help match your top features with an ideal destination and design your best beach vacation ever.

Your travel advisor can also help make sure you are fully up-to-date on the current travel requirements for your next sun and sand holiday.

Here’s our list of some of the top requested features of an all-inclusive resort vacation. Which of these features would make your all-inclusive holiday dreams come true?

Swim-Up Bar

For many of us, our first drink at a swim up bar - whether it’s a margarita, a mudslide or a mojito - is the moment we feel 'Ah!' I’m on vacation. It’s one of the most popular features of beach resorts - but not every resort in the tropics has one.

Generally speaking, the more pools a resort has, the more likely it is to have one with a swim-up bar.

Adults-Only Pools and Other Areas

Speaking of pools, if you don’t like your swim time interrupted by pool noodles, splashing and high-decibel shrieks, it’s time to consider an adults-only resort - or at least one with adults-only areas. That could include not only pools, but lounge areas, sections of the beach, bars and restaurants.

That way, kids can be kids and grown ups can get their rest in, too. Or playtime, because sometimes adults like to have grown up fun. And more adult behavior can have its place without having to worry about being improper in front of someone’s kids - or getting a glare from disapproving parents.

Multi-generational Family Time

Some resorts make a concerted effort to cater to all generations, especially those who travel together.

That can come in the form of adult-and kid areas, where everyone, from parents, grandparents, child-free aunts and uncles, and kids, can all have their own versions of a great tropical vacation.

It can also be different types of accommodation, from connecting rooms or suites with separate sleeping quarters but shared living areas, even to private villas.

The Beach

Some sun-lovers enjoy spending their entire holiday at the pool. But for others, they haven’t really been on vacation unless they’re in the sea.

While most resorts have access to waterfront, not all beaches are created equal. Do you want to be on a long strip of a famous beach that goes for miles? Or have access to a smaller, secluded - even private - beach? Must it be a silky, sand beach or are pebbles ok?

Do you need to see the beach from your room’s balcony? Or are you satisfied to have a 10+ minute walk or ride to a distant beach at a very large property?

If the beach is important to you, these are the questions to ask yourself.

On-site Watersports and other Activities

How active a vacation do you want? Do you want to rent jet-skis? Go snorkeling? Play tennis every day? If an active vacation - or lots of time in the water - is your idea of the perfect vacation, your best bet is a resort that already has lots of activities on the property so you have easy access to your favorite activities.

Multiple Included Restaurants

If you’re a foodie, an all-inclusive with just one buffet might not be up to your standards. Fine dining and multiple international cuisines are increasingly available at all-inclusives throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and other short-haul tropical destinations.

Make sure to ask your travel advisor if all the specialty restaurants are included, or what the costs of specialty dining is.

Bonus Question for the Super-Savvy: are there any restaurants with air conditioning? Not everyone soaks in the tropical heat with equal pleasure. Some of us just can’t enjoy dinner in a restaurant that isn’t air-conditioned.

Spa and Wellness


Almost all resorts at least have the facilities to get a massage, but after that, your wellness travel experience varies widely.

Some have extravagant spas with huts on the beach, where your massage is accompanied by the sounds of the waves and the smell of sea breezes.

Others have daily, scenic, included yoga, pilates, and other sessions for physical and spiritual well being. There are also some resorts with spa menus so those committed to returning from vacation even healthier than when they left can embrace health throughout the day.

Work-from-anywhere Services


A trend that started before the pandemic is now here to stay. More and more resorts have created an environment for those who are able to work and travel at the same time.

From enhanced internet, to live-work accommodations and packages, to private rooms where you can book quiet virtual meetings… if you are joining the ranks of digital nomads, there are all-inclusive resorts that you can call 'home' - until you want to move on again!

Treating Yourself to Upgrades


For a really special treat, let your fantasies of beach vacations run wild: private villa with your own splash pool? Overwater bungalow? Butler Service? It’s all available for that unforgettable beach vacation.


#StartYourTrip!


By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip TV




Two New Luxury Brands for the Secluded Turks & Caicos Islands
They are among the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. The forty islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are favored by travelers in the know for their pristine waters, picture-perfect white sand beaches and conch and lobster fisheries that make local dining such a joy.

TCI’s archipelago is strung out along the sea at the tail-end of The Bahamas and before you get to the Dominican Republic.

Bookended by two popular and busy beach destinations, this British Overseas Territory stands out for its quiet seclusion. Only about 30,000 people live on TCI - mainly on Providenciales in the Caicos islands. In fact, fewer than a dozen of the islands are inhabited at all. But possibly because of its primary business as an international banking center, TCI has great air service from Miami, New York, Toronto and London.

So anyone looking for an idyllic island escape can add TCI to their list. Even more now, since two luxury hospitality brands have arrived on the archipelago, boosting its credentials as a luxe beach destination away from the bustle of its bigger neighbors.

Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos

This iconic luxury company has opened its first resort on TCI on renowned Grace Bay in Providenciales. Ritz-Carlton Turks & Caicos joins a small family of Ritz-Carlton ultra-luxury resorts in the Islands, one that includes Aruba, St. Thomas USVI, Puerto Rico and the Cayman Islands.


The latest Ritz-Carlton resort’s design was inspired by the natural wonders of the Turks & Caicos, incorporating the heritage of its earliest Lucayan inhabitants in the use of rich wood, calming ocean themes as well as desert magic, incorporating local cactus and sponges into the property, including the native turk-head cactus that thrives in TCI’s dry climate and gave the islands its name.

Guests are welcomed to nearly 150 ocean view rooms including 23 suites, or a number of three-story penthouse suites with private, rooftop plunge pools and endless views.

The resort is designed for private and romantic or fun family vacations; the company’s ‘Ritz Kids’ program offers programs for children to explore the island and learn about marine life through arts and crafts.

For grown-ups, there’s an adults-only pool with private cabanas, a private catamaran for marine exploration, a casino; a seaside spa and yoga on the beach; and multiple dining venues that offer both local and global flavors.

Celebrating the island’s natural abundance of conch, the resort marks the end of every day with the sound of this iconic shell and offers guests the chance to sample conch ceviche and other island delicacies.
 
A Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge offers an exclusive sanctuary that offers private check-in, a dedicated Club Concierge, and multiple culinary presentations throughout the day, in addition to dedicated service at the beach.
 
Indoor and outdoor venues are also designed for meeting and events including a 5000 square-foot ballroom and an ‘event lawn and grand promenade’ with the white sands and sparkling waters of Grace Bay in the background that will fulfil any bride’s dreams.
 

The Meridian Club on Pine Cay

The Meridian Club (pictured top) has occupied a spectacular private, 800 acre island off of Providenciales since the 1970’s, when the exclusive, intimate beachside property became the first tourist development in TCI.

What’s new is its recent adoption into the fold of Relais & Chateaux, the elite collection of boutique hotels, resorts, villas and restaurants all committed to the highest standards of hospitality and gourmet cuisine. That designation just formalizes the recognition of The Meridian Club at Pine Cay as one of the region’s leading private island resorts.

Pine Cay is less than a mile wide and only two miles long. Despite its small size, the island has over 9 miles of trails and a breathtaking 2-mile stretch of white sand beach. The ideal place for beach walking, the island is connected to its neighbors, Water Cay and Little Water Cay – you can even walk the beach for 5 miles to the end of Little Water Cay.

Just 13 rooms host 26 guests with nearly the entire 800 acres of island nature and beauty to explore.


Guests choose between private cottages or spacious beachfront rooms – all inclusive of the fine dining that helped secure its inclusion into the collection of Relais & Chateaux properties world wide. Every room opens directly onto the 2-mile beach.

You can imagine why people with milestones to celebrate often book out the island for their party – it may be the private island party of your dreams!

In addition to miles of arid island hiking, guest while away their days swimming in crystal clear waters, joining daily snorkeling trips, kayaking, paddleboarding, days at the spa, yoga classes, boating on a charter or on complimentary Hobie Cat boats, fishing, or just relaxing seaside.
 
It’s the beach getaway you’ve always really wanted.
 

#StartYourTrip


Images courtesy of their respective resorts. Top image: two of the cottages at the Meridian Club



 New, Luxury Water Park Makes a ‘Splash’ in the Bahamas
If you’ve never put the words ‘luxury’ and ‘water park’ together in a sentence before - let alone a vacation - now’s your chance.

Baha Mar is a thousand acres of Bahamian paradise on world-famous Cable Beach near Nassau. The exquisite white sands are home to not one, but three luxury beach resorts: Rosewood, SLS and Grand Hyatt.

Now, in addition to over three dozen restaurants and lounges, convention center, an 18-hole Jack Nicklaus Royal Blue Golf Course, the Caribbean's first and only flagship ESPA spa, more than 30 luxury boutiques and the largest casino in the Caribbean, Baha Mar has debuted another way for visitors to play.

Baha Bay is a $200 million, 15-acre beachfront water park, exclusively available for guests at Baha Mar. It’s just as luxurious as the rest of the resort complex – with aquatic experiences for the young – and the young at heart.

Imagine the days of water-based active fun on Baha Bay’s 24 water slides, a tropical action river, group raft rides, the first ProSlide Dueling Water Coaster and FlyingSAUCER 45 in the Caribbean, what’s being called the “most spectacular wave pool” in the islands, and splash zones “for kids of all ages.”

For some visitors, the ultimate thrills will come trying your luck at the world’s only outdoor casino inside a waterpark.

Then for a change of pace, the Baha Bay Beach Club offers privacy, beachside entertaining, and chilling out. Infinity pools overlook the endless turquoise sea, and full-service private cabanas, daybeds, and poolside lounge areas make an ideal day on the beach also the most relaxing.
 
Baha Bay Beach Club also has a restaurant serving coastal California-inspired bites and drinks. That’s just one of Baha Bay’s breezy, beachside dining experiences. The al fresco Market includes Cleo Grill, Sam's Crispy Chicken, Plant Nation and Chill, the famed Sugar Factory, Umami Burger, and Barracuda food trucks.
 
All that, wrapped up in the warmth of the Bahamian sunshine and hospitality.
 
Now that travel’s reopening, if you’re among the many people planning to ‘splash out’ a bit on your next holiday, Baha Mar and its new aquatic attraction Baha Bay might just go to the top of your ‘beach vacation’ list.  

#StartYourTrip





Change #WorkFromHome to #WorkFromTheBeach with a New, 1-Year Remote Workers Visa for this Island
For a lot of us, #WorkFromHome is the new normal, and many companies say they plan to continue the practice permanently even after the COVID crisis. 
That’s giving a lot of people new freedom to re-structure their lives in a way that brings them more joy than long commutes and office cubicals. 
One Caribbean island is capitalizing on this huge shift in work and lifestyle. Barbados has introduced a ‘Barbados Welcome Stamp’, an invitation for international travelers, including US and Canadian citizens, to relocate and work remotely for a year.
If you dream of an island beach way of life, this 12-month visa gives you the opportunity to move your home office to a paradise island famous for:
·     Making the top ten of a list of Top 100 Destinations around the world;
·     Crane Beach in St.Philip, voted one of the world’s sexiest beaches;
·     Being the first Zagat-rated Caribbean Island, with a reputation as the culinary capital of the Caribbean;
·     The annual Barbados Food & Rum Festival;
·     World-class golf;
·     And cricket!;
·     Being superstar musician Rihanna’s home island, where she maintains ties to her community;
·     Offering visitors picturesque plantation houses and villas, quaint bed and breakfasts and award-winning, five-star resorts to use as a base while they explore the island.
 
But instead of a one-week, 14-day or even month-long vacation, you can live like a ‘Bajan’ for a year.
You could end your work day like this.
The country anticipates this new visa will appeal to individual creatives, digital nomads, entrepreneurs and even whole teams. Your new island lifestyle won’t interfere with your productivity, either. Barbados Tourism says the country has already caught the eye of Millennials, who can enjoy working vacations as it “boasts the fastest fiber internet and mobile services in the Caribbean.
“Our country also offers excellent health care and a high education standard, which we know is critical for those who want to bring their families to the island for a 12-month period.”

Health and Safety in Barbados

Barbados had suspended non-essential travel to the island in response to COVID-19, incurring just over 100 cases among its nearly 300,000 residents. Health and safety guidelines similar to many jurisdictions are in place as the island’s borders have re-opened, including face masks and physical distancing.
Currently, on arrival in Barbados, travellers must present evidence of a negative result of a COVID-19 PCR test, a fill out a questionnaire relating to COVID-19 symptoms and undergo temperature checks.

Streamlined Visa Process

Applications are now open for the 12-month ‘Barbados Welcome Stamp’ visa. And if you fall in love, you can reapply for a renewal. 
The Barbados Welcome Stamp application is a simplified process for remote workers re-locating, requiring minimum paperwork – photos, copies of your passport, birth certificate, proof of relationship of co-applying family members and an entry visa if applicable.
It’s not free, however. Applicants must pay $2000 USD for an individual or $3000 USD per family once they’re approved. Barbados Tourism does point out visa holders will not have to pay income taxes in the country.
You can learn more about the new visa and submit an application at www.Barbadoswelcomestamp.bb.
 
If there are silver linings to the COVID crisis, one must be the innovation resulting from a transformed global business landscape.
 
Barbados’ Prime Minister is quoted as saying, “The sunshine is powerful. The seawater is powerful. They’re both therapeutic in ways that are hard to explain. Why not share it?”

#DreamNowTravelSoon


Images courtesy Barbados Tourism.

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3 New Cruise Line Private Islands
It used to be that private islands were the playgrounds of the ridiculously rich and fabulously famous. Then cruise lines got into the game. Now, cruise lines are competing with each other to build exclusive tropical enclaves in the Caribbean for their guests to experience not just a day on the beach, but create travel memories they can't get anywhere else.

Most of the actual private cruise line islands are small, uninhabited islands ('cays', pronounced 'keys') among the hundreds of islands in the Bahamas, like the very first cruise line private island in the Caribbean, Norwegian's Great Stirrup Cay, Holland America's Half Moon Cay (WATCH VIDEO OF HALF MOON CAY HERE), and Disney's Castaway Cay.



Harvest Caye is a private island off coast of Belize. It's for guests of sister cruise lines Norwegian, Oceania and Regent.


But the term 'private islands' has also expanded to include private cruise line day resorts developed on larger, inhabited islands, like Labadee on Haiti for guests of Royal Caribbean, and Princess Cay on Eleuthera in the Bahamas.

And cruise lines continue to acquire real estate to up the ante on the ultimate resort experience for a day ashore on the beach.

Whether you've never stepped foot on a cruise line private island, or you've got a favorite you cruise to over and over again… check out these new private island destinations you can only reach by cruise ship.

They're all in the Bahamas, but designed by three very different cruise lines, and offer three very different private island experiences. Find your cruise line private island match!


 
The Cruise Line: Virgin Voyages
The Destination: The Beach Club at Bimini, the Bahamas
The Experience: High-Style Island Beach Club/ Music Festival on the Beach

As Sir Richard Branson launches his new, adults-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages, and its first flagship, the Scarlet Lady, he also launches a private island destination just for Virgin Voyages guests.


No, not HIS private island. But The Beach Club on the Bahamian island of Bimini takes its cues from Sir Richard's famously high-living, party-loving, music industry persona. Along with exquisite beach and turquoise water, The Beach Club provides an atmosphere like beach party destinations Ibiza and St. Tropez.


A detox/retox formula starts with beach yoga and meditation to the sounds of the sea earlier in the day, chilling in hammock groves and cabanas, snacking on complimentary, locally-sourced island cuisine and sipping cocktails from 6 bars, playing on the beach and taking part in watersports, leading up to in-demand DJ-led pool and flotilla parties in the evening, and finally winding down late at night with a beach bonfire and acoustic music before a very late night ship departure.

The Cruise Line: MSC Cruises
The Destination: Ocean Cay Marine Reserve, the Bahamas
The Experience: Soft Adventure Meets Nature on the Beach


Only 65 miles off Miami, MSC will also be able to offer late night departures from its new private island (pictured, top).

7 beaches, each with its own atmosphere and experiences, ranging from shallow paddling for small children to water sports. Dining includes food trucks that incorporate local flavors, and multiple bars including one inspired by Hemmingway's famous taste for rum cocktails overlooking the ocean. MSC's Aurea Spa treatments are available on shore at Ocean Cay. And shopping includes vendors of local arts and crafts as well as branded items.


In addition to the usual beach-side water sports, Ocean Cay offers eco-friendly soft adventure experiences like kayak tours and snorkel safaris highlighting the natural beauty of the island and its seas.

Ocean Cay is surrounded by dozens of square miles of protected seas, and that's the point. The development protects the local wildlife and ecosystem, and there are plans for a coral nursery to actively contribute to the region's environment.
 
The Cruise Line: Royal Caribbean
The Destination: Cococay, the Bahamas
The Experience: 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay' / Over-the-top Theme Park on a Beach

Royal Caribbean ships are whirlwind experiences of ice skating rinks, climbing walls, theme park type rides, restaurants and shopping… more than you could hope to ever do in a single week of cruising. Its new concept, 'Perfect Day', is a collection of private islands around the world that take 'thrill and chill' to a new level, beginning in the Bahamas with 'The Perfect Day at CocoCay'.


Perfect Day at CocoCay is a shopping list of record-breaking builds, adrenaline-charged activities, and unexpected firsts: The tallest waterslide in North America. The largest wave pool in the Caribbean. The first overwater cabanas in the Bahamas. The Up, Up and Away helium balloon ride that takes you 450 feet up to the highest viewpoint in the Bahamas. A soaking by 30 water cannons on a shipwrecked galleon, and an 82-foot geyser. A 1,600-foot zip line – ending with the only splash water landing in the region. A freshwater infinity edge pool and bar, spanning a whopping 2,600-plus feet. And a whole host of other dining, drinking, and shopping activities to pack a full day even fuller.




Royal Caribbean believes Perfect Day at CocoCay will live up to its name – and set the scene for more Perfect Day Island Collection destinations in the Caribbean as well as Asia and Australia.
 
These 3 wildly diverse new cruise line private islands prove: there's a perfect new cruise – and a new cruise line private island - just waiting for you to discover.

Start your Trip!


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Indulge Your Love for Luxe in the Dominican Republic

All-inclusive resorts in Puerto Plata and elsewhere on this lush Caribbean island with 1000 miles of coastline put the Dominican Republic on the map for travelers seeking affordable family and couples vacations from winter weather further north. 

But what you may not know is that you can also find experiences that rival deluxe vacations anywhere in the Caribbean. Save or splurge, here's how to add indulgence to your winter holiday in the islands this year.

Lush Lodging

In the Dominican Republic, you can stay in unmatched accommodations that run the gamut from world-renowned boutique hotels to opulent resorts. Punta Cana in the east in particular is home to luxury properties ideal for intimate romantic travel, families and multi-generation travel, and large wedding, vow renewal, or reunion groups, even business conferences.

In addition to stunning beaches and multiple pools, many of these properties offer whirlpools, saunas, and extended wellness programs as well as traditional spa and aesthetic treatments.  Take sunset yoga, healthy cooking, and fitness programs.

And for complete privacy, book a private villa for a secluded, A-list holiday experience.

Gorgeous Golf, Fantastic Fishing and Prestigious Polo

Dominican Republic is a golfer’s dream, with over two dozen meticulously manicured courses set against the backdrop of the country’s most stunning scenery and shoreline. Pete Dye’s seaside “Teeth of the Dog” (below) at the storied Casa de Campo resort put the Dominican Republic on the world golfer’s map.

 

Here you can play courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Tom Fazio, Nick Price, and Robert Trent Jones. Sculpted bunkers and uneven terrain but let the natural contours of the land dictate the courses’ routing. Tropical breezes on the coastal courses add another layer of challenge to even the best player's game

Sports fishermen flock to Dominican Republic’s coasts in pursuit of the blue marlin, one of the largest fish in the world. Hit the water for a tournament or on a charter boat excursion to fish blue marlin, white marlins, mahi-mahi, wahoo, swordfish and tuna in the Caribbean Sea; while blue marlin, wahoo and barracudas can be found in the Atlantic waters off the North Coast.

Dominican Republic is part of the international circuit of the 'Sport of Kings', with polo facilities available at some of the country’s most exclusive resorts in La Romana, Punta Cana and Santo Domingo. Hire horses for your own tournaments, or head to a polo match to enjoy the action as a spectator for a one-of-a-kind vacation experience.

Serious Shopping

Fashionistas and shopping enthusiasts will be on cloud nine in Dominican Republic, where it’s easy to find couture clothing, unique handmade crafts and stunning precious jewelry all within close proximity.

But we love local best.  Indigenous amber or glassy blue larimar (above) jewelry makes the perfect souvenir, and a piece of local larimar or amber jewelry will definitely start a conversation when your friends at home see it.

Make sure to take tours of local coffee, rum, cigar or jewelry manufactures for an opportunity to meet Makers, learn about local culture, and pick up authentic souvenirs.

Delicious Dining and Next-Level Nightlife

Did you know the Dominican Republic was named the Gastronomic Culture Capital of the Caribbean?  The island is one of the few in the Caribbean with extensive, diverse and abundant local agriculture.  Ingredients are fresh and inspiring.  Try the fusion cuisine of innovative chefs who have taken classic international recipes and given them a Dominican twist with local ingredients.

After dinner, find a terrace with a view or a club outside your hotel, especially in the capital of Santo Domingo, where international performers and DJ's make frequent appearances and you can dance the night away to local merengue music. Wine cellars and cigar clubs also offer exclusive tastings sure to please both connoisseurs and novice cigar aficionados and sommeliers.

If you're looking for luxury, maybe it's time to re-define your Dominican Republic vacation experience. 

Start your Trip!

 

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Do You Know Your ABCs? Islands, that is.

They're as far south as you can go in the Caribbean Sea. A stone's throw north of Venezuela, the 'ABC' Islands are blessed with a location outside the Caribbean's hurricane zone… and on the radar of travelers in the know.

Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao were part of what was formerly known as the Netherlands Antilles, and they are still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Colorful Dutch colonial and West Indies heritage, unique climates, landscapes and ecosystems much different from the rest of the Caribbean, and that slightly more remote location, make the ABC Islands a haven for travelers looking for a new kind of island experience.

ARUBA

The closest of the ABC islands to Venezuela, only 15 miles off its coast, Aruba is still only a 2½ hour flight from Miami, and has the most standard 'Caribbean' tourist development.

But instead of the tropical humidity and frequent rain you associate with the Caribbean, Aruba's climate is a dessert-like dream: dry, sunny, and breezy with constant trade winds crossing the flat surface of the island.

Photo Credit

The western and southern coasts are known for their white, sandy beaches, ideal locations for the majority of the island's hotels and resorts. Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, and nearby capital of Oranjestad are home to the island's international restaurants, shopping, casinos, golf and other international travel amenities.

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But make sure to get off Aruba's beaten track. The famous trade winds shape one of the most famous symbols of Aruba: the divi divi tree, bent into fantastical, bonsai shapes.

The arid landscape is also dotted with cactus and aloe vera plants; a tour in Arikok National Park, which covers nearly 1/5th of the island, is a great way to see this unusual Caribbean landscape, as well as caves and archeological remains of original inhabitants, and the dramatic rocky eastern coast of the island.

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Don't miss San/Sint Nicolaas, and up-and-coming 'second city' for all that is young, hip and artistic in Aruba. Public murals painted by artists from around the world, an early fall art festival, and trendy hipster bar and restaurant scene make it worth your while to explore farther afield from the capital.

BONAIRE

The smallest of the ABC Islands, Bonaire is essentially a coral reef pushed out of the sea and surrounded by one of the world's most celebrated coral reef systems. The reefs start from the very shoreline and have made Bonaire a bucket list destination for divers who considered it one of, if not the very best shore diving destinations in the world.

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Bonaire has led the Caribbean in nature conservation and eco-tourism. The entire coastline, from the high-water mark on land to a depth of 200 feet offshore, was designated a marine sanctuary in 1979. It protects the 350 species of fish, 60 species of coral and 4 species of sea turtle in its reefs.

Bonaire's shoreline is dotted with lagoons and inlets that are home to marine birds including one of only four nesting grounds of Caribbean flamingos. Outside of that highly protected area, mangrove forests are popular kayaking and snorkeling destinations for hotel guests and passengers in port from cruise ships.

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Nearby Lac Bay on the windward side of the island is on the map of the world's top wind surfers. With reef protecting the entrance to the bay and consistent trade winds, it's one of the stops of the PWA Windsurfing Freestyle World Cup. In fact, the island's most famous export might be its windsurfers; half of the world's highest-ranked freestyle windsurfers are from Bonaire. So if you have been meaning to take up the sport, this is the place to find both ideal conditions and expert instruction.

In the southern part of the island, Bonaire's unique topography has salt water flowing over low lands, enabling the island to commercially produce salt by evaporating seawater. One of the more unique – and delicious - souvenirs you can find in the Caribbean.

CURACAO

Larger than Aruba or Bonaire, Curacao is also a more commercial center with financial and oil-refining business. It's a popular cruise port and has direct flights from cities on the Eastern seaboard as well as Miami and the Netherlands.

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The capital Willemstad dates from the first half of the 1600's. Its collection of well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, cotton-candy and lacy versions of design typical of Netherlands in the 17th century, is the best example of the style in the Dutch Caribbean and has earned UNESCO World Heritage status.

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In addition to the marvelous pastel-perfect streetscape, the Dutch built forts in the 1600's to protect themselves in the age of piracy and European marine warfare. Six can still be seen today; preserved historic sites, or transformed into hotels, casinos, and even plazas.

The island also has a thrilling geological feature for avid scuba divers: the 'Blue Edge', where the sea shelf drops sharply off only 200 feet from shore.

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Also famously blue, and possibly more famous than the island itself, is its world-famous namesake liqueur. Curacao is the famously peacock blue liqueur that's also a top souvenir of any trip to the island. It's distilled from the island's Laraha fruit, a bitter orange that is the failed result of very early Spanish settlers' attempts to raise Valencia oranges in the dry, poor soil. Although its fruit is almost inedible, the peel is powerfully aromatic. And that trademark blue? It's always just been added color.

With their extraordinary terrain, climate, heritage and lifestyle, the ABC Islands should be on any traveler's list of top Caribbean destinations.

Start your Trip!

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Go Coastal! 5 Beaches you Can't Miss in Maine this Summer

Summer in Maine defines coastal living. Wood-siding summer homes in nautical colors along miles of beaches begging for you to stroll and dig your toes in the sand, examine shells and driftwood, inhale the cool Atlantic breezes, walk the dog among sandy dunes, and of course, enjoy the sea.

Maine is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, and by mid-summer, they've warmed up enough to beckon swimmers off the sand and into the waves. Here are five beaches you just can't miss on a trip to New England.

1. Old Orchard Beach.

Start with this seven-mile strand that has been welcoming visitors for over 170 years. It has the only beachfront amusement park in New England. You can even reach Old Orchard Beach aboard the Amtrak Downeaster, which stops just steps away from the beach. The 500-foot classic pier is a powerhouse of family entertainment with shopping, arcades, dining, nightlife and concerts and even fireworks!

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It's also the point of departure for fishing, whale watching, and birdwatching tours.

2. Scarborough Beach State Park

For those seeking a little more tranquility, Scarborough Beach State Park has waves that attract local surfers and a wide beach that's ideal for families. Scarborough Beach offers some of the best swimming in New England with water temps in the high 60's through out July and August.

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It's also the nesting grounds of endangered Piping Plovers; visitors help protect them by following bans on dogs, bikes and kite flying April through November.

3. Ogunquit Beach

This beach (pictured top) is ranked among the top beaches in the United States, great for swimming, bodysurfing, and searching for shells and driftwood. It's a 3 ½ mile peninsula of sandy beach and grassy dunes; a natural barrier between the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. (There's a footbridge across the river at the midsection of the beach).

You can rent chairs, umbrellas and floats, launch a small boat at the boat ramp, and stroll along Marginal Way, a mile-long cliff walk that extends along the ocean, and pass Marginal Way Lighthouse en route.

4. Goose Rocks Beach

The picturesquely-named beach at Kennebunkport is a wide beach with three miles of soft sand and moderate surf. A barrier reef offshore known as Goose Rocks, visible at low tide, helps protect the soft, white sands of the beach.

This is a perfect spot for you to spread out the beach blankets, chairs and umbrellas for a fun day of sunbathing, relaxing, swimming and combing the shore for sand dollars. An ideal relaxed family day at the beach.

Photo credit

5. Popham Beach

Finally, Popham Beach is a wilder beach in Midcoast Maine. It's part of Popham Beach State Park, one of Maine's rare geologic landforms. The Kennebec and Morse rivers border each end of the long stretch of sandy beach. From the beach, you can see offshore islands, such as Fox and Wood Islands, where you can explore at low tide. You can even get a geologic tour of the beach.

Start your Trip!

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Time To Get Back to the Caribbean! Escape To One of These Unique Beaches

You don't really want to try to tough out this tough winter without a beach escape. And luckily, it's not too late to book a break from winter weather.After the destruction of recent hurricanes, communities have pulled together, and many beach destinations are ready to welcome travelers again. Booking a cruise or a land trip and supporting the local economy is one of the best ways you can help affected destinations that rely on tourism to continue to recover.

And even if your favorite winter beach isn't quite ready for visitors again, that's a great motivation to discover a new beach this year. Here are some of our favorite under-the-radar beaches to try in your quest for sun and sand this winter.

1. Crane Beach, BarbadosCrane Beach was originally a harbor, is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with its dramatic cliffs and surrounding vegetation. If you think 'Crane' beach means it's best for birdwatchers, you're wrong: it refers to the large crane that once sat on the top of the cliff loading and unloading ships in the harbor. The waves in this area make the Crane beach a great spot for body surfing and boogie boarding, and the famous hotel (said to be the oldest in the islands) perching above the beach is a gem of Caribbean hospitality. (Photo Credit)

2. Trunk Bay, St. John, US Virgin IslandsThis white sand beach has been a showpiece of the US National Park Service since it was donated by a Rockefeller family member to the Virgin Islands National Park. A one-of-a-kind, 650-foot underwater snorkeling trail provides terrific viewing of colorful fish and corals, including the rare, indigo-blue tunicates – in less than 20′ of water, perfect for every member of the family.

3. Eagle Beach, ArubaAruba is as far south as you can go in the Caribbean before you hit South America, and its uniquely dry, sunny, almost dessert-like environment, so different from elsewhere in the Caribbean, is worth a few more minutes in the air. Wide and white, Eagle Beach (above photo credit) is home to two of the most photographed and renowned divi divi trees in Aruba (pictured top, credit) with their trademark silhouette shaped by the constant, refreshing trade winds. Low rise resorts line the beach, which is also a famous turtle nesting and hatching site.

4. Mosquito Bioluminscent Bay, Puerto RicoThis might be the only beach in the Caribbean best seen at night! Tiny micro-organisms, up to 160,000 of them in every liter of water - give off a supernatural, blue-white glow year round. It's the most luminous bioluminescent display in the world - and makes this the beach experience on Puerto Rico's Vieques island unforgettable! Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, interrupting the bioluminescent bay's ecosystem. For weeks after the hurricanes, the bay was dark. But happily, the water is starting to glow again as the water chemistry recovers. Don't miss the opportunity for the nighttime kayak of a lifetime.

5. Horseshoe Bay, BermudaThis is the most famous beach in Bermuda, and one of the top-rated in the world. A very popular tourist spot, it lies on the main island's south (Atlantic) coast, shaped in, you guessed it, a horseshoe. Fringed by limestone rocks, the pink sand and turquoise water are mirrored by the British Caribbean island's pastel architecture. (Photo Credit)

Don't miss an island escape from the winter weather. Discover a new favorite beach in the Caribbean. Start your Trip!Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Go Island Hopping in the South Pacific

The very word 'Tahiti' evokes the mystique of one of the most remote and romantic island destinations in the world.

An island hopping escape to even a few of the 118 islands and atolls in this South Pacific paradise is not only the ultimate escape from northern winters, it's the trip of a lifetime. Picture your arrival, welcomed by Tahitian music and fragrant Tiare flowers… and use these highlights of some of the key islands to start planning your island hopping fantasy escape:They call the island of Tahiti 'The Queen of the Pacific'. It's the largest and most populated island, and is the starting point for travelers, who fly into the capital city Papeete. Don't miss Marae Arahurahu, an ancient Tahitian outdoor temple, or, in the centre of town, the market with tropical produce and fresh local fish and Tahitian arts and crafts, including the biggest selection of pareus (sarongs) in the country. Outside the city, Tahiti boasts spectacular scenery: lush green peaks tower over cascading waterfalls and rippling pools in the interior, and black- and white-sand beaches and turquoise lagoons at the sea.

Photos: Chris McLennan

Moorea is a mere 11 miles across the Sea of the Moon from Tahiti. If that doesn't already sound like a fairytale, consider Moorea's nickname: 'The Magical Island'. It is even said to be the inspiration for the mythical island of Bali Hai. You've seen it in the movies, from Mutiny on the Bounty to Love Affair. But film can never do full justice to the dramatic beauty of the island. Make sure you go to Belvedere Lookout, with its breathtaking views of Moorea’s twin bays, Cook’s and Opunohu. Look on Moorea's hillsides for its signature produce, pineapples, and visit a local distillery to sample exotic liqueurs from pineapple, mango, coconut, vanilla and other Tahitian flavors.

Here's another magical nickname: the 'Garden of Eden'. Huahine is 110 miles northwest of Tahiti, and actually consists of two islands joined by a bridge. Its main town, Maeva, means 'welcome' in Tahitian! Drive into the hills for spectacular views over white-sand beaches and brilliant turquoise lagoons, and visit restored Tahitian marae (temples), centuries-old stone fish traps, and plantations of melons, vanilla, coffee, taro, mango, and flowers. Do you surf? There are world-class waves at Avamoa Pass, and the world’s largest outrigger canoe race begins here each October.

Bora Bora is a tiny island with a big reputation. 'The Romantic Island' has been called the most beautiful island in the world. It's only 18 miles around, circled by a necklace of coral. Lush mountains provide a dramatic backdrop for the indescribable turquoise, lapis and aquamarine of the famous, sheltered lagoon. Bora Bora is home to world-class resorts and quaint continental restaurants, where celebrity A-listers vacation in luxurious seclusion.

The Tuamotu Atolls are the largest of the Polynesian archipelagos, Tahiti’s 'Strand of Pearls' with 76 islands and atolls spread over more than 7500 square miles. Four of these atolls – Rangiroa, Manihi, Tikehau, Fakarava – offer world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, shark feeding and deep-sea fishing. In addition, the ecosystem in the Fakarava atoll is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. And Manihi is 'the Pearl Island', the site of the first of many pearl farms that have made Tahiti famous for prized, cultivated black pearls.

Start your Trip! 

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Saying 'I Do' Off-the-Beaten Path in Treasure Beach, Jamaica

With its famous tropical beaches, music and lifestyle, no wonder Jamaica is a favourite Caribbean island for destination weddings.  Most couples who travel to Jamaica to celebrate their special day at one of the remarkable all-inclusive resorts.

But some couples may want to venture off the beaten path to the southwest part of the island, where farming and fishing and a more authentic Jamaican way of life provide a different destination wedding experience far away from tourist crowds.

At Treasure Beach, guests are welcomed into a relaxed atmosphere where community and sustainability are the focus.  It's a different approach to travel that includes local food, farm-to-table dining events, and visitors integrating with the local residents.

If your idea of a dream wedding is a secluded beach at sunset, Treasure Beach can make that dream come true.  Charming local resorts like Jake's and the Sunset Resort and Villas provide wedding planners to help all the details come together, and also the small beach community atmosphere you and your guests will never forget.

Here are the top 10 things for couples and their guests to do while visiting Treasure Beach:

Eat and Drink:

1. The Pelican Bar: This place looks like it belongs in a movie set: a thatched hut on stilts built on a submerged sandbar 1km out to sea. Getting there is half the fun.  You have to hire a local boat captain as your taxi to what may be the most memorable place you'll ever have a drink. Chill with a Red Stripe or rum punch, watch dolphins in the surf, even take a dip yourself.  

2. Smurfs Cafe: The kitschy and fabulous experience you need to feel like a true 'local'. Smurfs Café is an unlikely combination of breeze block construction and Smurf décor that's open all hours serving some of the best breakfasts, can't-miss stove-roasted Blue Mountain coffee and divine key lime pie.

3. Jakes resort's hip, open-sided wooden restaurant that also serves diners on the patio poolside breakfast, lunch and dinner using farm and daily catch-fresh ingredients.  The menu changes with the harvest or the catch and offers modern twists on Jamaican recipes. 

4. The resort also has another, more chill and traditional restaurant, Jack Sprats, where the dishes stay more traditional and you can chill with locals playing dominos.

5. Eggy's Bar: Looking for the perfect drink overlooking the perfect sunset? Eggy's Bar is off the main road by Frenchman’s Bay and the spot locals themselves gather to drink Red Stripe and watch the sun set.

SHOP:

6. Treasure Beach Women's Group will set you up with all the gifts and souvenirs you need, from crafts made from calabash shells and other local materials, batiks, coffee. This shop can also save the day if you forget or misplace swimwear, sandals and other beach necessities.

PLAY AND EXPLORE

7. Beaches:

Frenchman's Beach: This is the most centrally located beach of the community, with the landmark buttonwood tree you see in photos.  The place to find woodcarvers selling their wares, local boat captains arranging trips to the Pelican Bar or Black River and a place to watch the sunsets. 

Jack Spratt Beach: West of Jake’s Place, this is the safest beach for swimming, where brightly painted wooden fishing boats are pulled up on the sand, and local fishers ply their nets.

Great Bay Beach: The least developed area of Treasure Beach,  where the beach and a patchwork of fields provide a rural atmosphere.  The main business here is still the local fishermen's co-op.

Old Wharf Beach: Privacy comes at a price, so it takes some effort to reach the most private beach in the area.

8. Treasure Beach Sports Park:  One of the centers of community life, with tennis courts, soccer pitches and – most uniquely to North Americans – a cricket oval.  Jake's resort has posters and information about upcoming events.

9. Bamboo Avenue:  A stunning, two and a half mile stretch of the main road in the parish lined with giant bamboo that arch over the road and form a green, shaded tunnel.  It was established by owners of an estate to provide shade for travelers and prevent erosion, and remains the longest bamboo road archway of its kind in Jamaica.

10. Black River: The second longest river in Jamaica is home to an incredible wealth of wildlife including over 100 species of wetland birds and the endangered American Alligator.  River fishermen and professional guides offer tours.  Take some time away from the beach to explore one of Jamaica's most colourful ecosystems.

Start your Trip!

 

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Planning a Destination Wedding in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, on the Pacific coast, is one of Mexico's top resort destinations. 

In town, in the ocean, or in forest, there's plenty to entertain visitors.  Boardwalks in town are worth a stroll to see sculptors and artisans at work.  On the water, active visitors enjoy snorkeling, diving and kayaking, and less active guests can to get on boats to spot whales and dolphins.  Thrill seekers head to the jungle for zip lining and bungee jumping adventures.

With something for every travel style, it's no surprise that this town on the Pacific coast of Mexico is also one of the country's top destinations for weddings, honeymoons, and vow renewals. With a gorgeous ocean bay and mountain views, an outdoor ceremony is guaranteed stunning photos.

If you're considering celebrating your milestone in Puerto Vallarta, here are some of the things you should know:

Paperwork:

Couples must provide valid passports and an original and copy of birth certificates annotated and translated by an authorized translator certified in Spanish. Death and divorce decrees are required if applicable. ** Check with a wedding specialist to confirm up to date requirements.

Ceremony Options:

  • Civil ceremony: In Mexico, as in many other countries, you aren't legally married unless you have a civil ceremony at the Mexican equivalent of the Registrar General's Office.  You need to plan ahead – at least four months before your planned wedding date -  and the result will be a legally registered marriage.
  • Spiritual wedding: Spiritual weddings can take place in any of the breathtaking locations in Puerto Vallarta, and officiated by a person of the couple's choice.  Some couples legally get married before at home, or have both civil and spiritual ceremonies in Mexico, and some prefer to share a spiritual wedding in this beautiful destination without the legality of a marriage license.
  • A church ceremony is one option for a location for a spiritual wedding especially for those who won't feel truly married without a religious blessing, but remember, only civil ceremonies are registered legal marriages in Mexico.

Your next decision is: where to celebrate?  We've picked 5 top Destination Wedding, Vow Renewal, and Honeymoon resorts in Puerto Vallarta to get you started:

  • Palladium Vallarta Resort & Spa is in a magnificent setting, surrounded by lush vegetation and with a private, 300m beach front extending on the Mexican Ocean.  The resort was uniquely built to integrate into the natural surroundings and reduce impact on the local vegetation and wildlife.  Combined with its Mexican design, the resort offers all the refinements of an international all-inclusive resort with a local authenticity.  You and your guests will be able to choose between the family-friendly, all-inclusive experience, and the Royal Suites Punta Mita, an adult only exclusive hotel for those guests who want to enjoy privacy and tranquility with luxury services. Options for the location of your dream wedding ceremony range from a religious ceremony in a charming, colonial Chapel, to a clifftop terrace wedding overlooking the Caribbean.
  • The Riu Vallarta is a low-rise, all inclusive property in Riviera Nayarit on Playa de Flamingos beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Amenities for your guests include 4 restaurants, 5 bars including a swim up bar in one of its 2 pools with jacuzzis, plus a children's pool, gym and sauna.  Your group can also enjoy the spa, outdoor activities and assorted water sports, with horse riding, cycling and golf nearby for the entire wedding party and guest list. There's an on site wedding coordinator who lets you enjoy a tropical vacation while making sure your special occasion runs smoothly,  and their wedding packages offer religious, civil/legal, as well as spiritual/ symbolic exchanging of vows.
  • The Riu Jalisco is also located on Flamingos Beach in the Riviera Nayarit, about 9 minutes from Puerto Vallarta.  This property has undergone a $12 million renovation, including updated décor in its 700 rooms - designed with families in mind to ensure multi-generation families attending  your special day will all have an ideal travel experience – as well as at its five Mexican and int'l restaurants, six bars, pools and Jacuzzis, a kids pool and play area, gym, steam, sun terrace and spa.   This is also an all-inclusive resort.Like the Riu Vallarta, on site wedding coordinators take the pressure off organizing local details, and the resort offers a range of ceremony options for every style of wedding.
  • Getting married at the Friendly Vallarta Beach Resort and Spa means you'll have the services of a professional event planner and a team of wedding specialists who focus on making sure your special day is enjoyable and memorable for you and your guests.  There are 5 spaces available to host your ceremony, able to accommodate up to 600 attendees.  Venues range from elegant ballrooms to a more rustic beach setting for the celebration or reception.  Catering and dining includes not just private banquets on the beach or canapés and cocktails, but also a multi-course tasting menu option.This property provides options for both civil and spiritual ceremonies.
  • The Crown Paradise Club Puerto Vallarta is a beach front resort designed with multi-generational family travel in mind, including an infinity pool, two zip lines, a central pool, and a kids area with a water park with a pirate ship, castle, 9 water slides, an outdoor area for family games.   This all-inclusive property offers a la carte specialty restaurants for dinners, snack bars and bars, and rooms that can accommodate two adults and three small children, offering a children’s sleeping area with a bunk bed, a nest bed and its own TV.  Resort activities also include gym sessions, tennis, spinning, yoga, and spa treatments. The top choice by brides for their wedding ceremony is the picture-perfect rustic wooden beach terrace with a grass roof gazebo for the wedding party.

Thinking of getting married in Puerto Vallarta?  Contact us to start your trip!

 

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A 'Treasure' of Authentic, Sustainable Jamaica at Treasure Beach

Many visitors traveling to Jamaica never see the island outside their all-inclusive resorts. But if you're an adventurous traveler who's willing to brave a few potholes driving on winding country roads, you'll find a 'treasure' of old Jamaica in the South West part of the Caribbean island.

Treasure Beach is a village on the coast in the agricultural heartland of Jamaica where farmers and fishermen are said to outnumber tourists 50-1. The region supplies the country with more produce than any other parish. Are you an early riser? The rhythm of daily life in Treasure Beach starts with the first catch coming in with the dawn, and sunset sees fishing rods on the beach.

Farming and fishing are the cornerstones of the Treasure Beach community. The local 'scene' that puts Treasure Beach on the map revolves around Jake's. The resort founders call their travel experience 'community tourism': where visitors and locals come together for arts, culture, outdoor and sporting activities that include weekly outdoor movies, cricket matches, live music and DJ's, monthly full-moon, farm- to-table-dinners in the fields, a yoga deck over the sea, and activities that focus on sustainability and world class festivals

Don't Miss These Events in Treasure Beach, Jamaica:

Fitness: Jake's Off Road Triathlon has been rated one of the top 5 international triathlons, and raises funds for the community. It welcomes both elite and amateur competitors who love to travel and maintain a healthy, athletic lifestyle. The annual spring event brings competitors and Treasure Beach's landscape together during a 300M coastal swim, a 25K off-road hill cycle, and a 7K run along country trails.

Outdoors: Hook 'n' Line Fishing Tournament isn't your standard fishing competition. In a sporting version of local concierge programs, this three-day tournament pairs local fishermen with visitors - very helpful for non-local participants, since teams compete using traditional fishing techniques!

Culture: The Calabash International Literary Festival is a free, three-day, biennial (in even years) event that taps into a global 'book tourism' trend. A crowd, that ranges from backpackers, hipsters, Rastafarians, international intellectuals and government ministers, celebrates the tropical destination as much as the global and Jamaican literary stars it features. Readings under breezy awnings, the festival's signature 'open mic' audience participation, and daily concerts round out the literary travel experience.

Want to discover the treasures of Treasure Beach, Jamaica? Contact us to start your trip!

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Nature at its best! Discover the hidden beauty of Hundred Islands in Pangasinan, Philippines

The Philippines has 7,107 islands and, as much as you'd like to see all of these beauties, a weekend won't be enough--not even a year! But, if you want to hit roughly a hundred in a weekend, you might want to see Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos, Pangasinan.

There are 123 islands in Hundred Islands National Park, which covers 1,844 hectares. Some islands look like little lumps of land, others have caves in tact. Bigger ones like the Governor's Island has a viewing deck and a small house that can be rented. These islands are said to be two million years old with only 10 caves having been already explored. A famous island is the Marcos Island where you can jump off a 70-foot drop to the sea. Underneath it is the Imelda Cave. To explore the Hundred Islands National Park, all you need to do is head over to Don Gonzalo Montemayor Wharf where you can rent an outrigger for your island hopping tour. If you want to stay out of the radar, another jump off point is Bolo Beach in Barangay Pandan.

Although known for its islands, the Hundred Islands National Park also boasts of its exceptional swimming areas. Snorkeling is a must-do here with the national park's beautiful coral reefs. So don't forget your bathing suit and snorkeling gear when you go here!

Would you like to see the Hundred Islands National Park? Book an island hopping tour with your travel agent today!