Caribbean

Playas del Este- Havana’s beautiful beaches

While most people travel to Havana to spend their time exploring the beautiful old city, just east of all the glorious old architecture is a series of white-sand beaches, known as the Playas del Este.On a recent trip, we decided to stay in the beach area and have the best of both worlds as our resort provided a free shuttle into Old Havana.The string of beaches stretches 24 kms along the north coast.  While the beaches here are a gorgeous white sand, palm tree-lined, turquoise water heaven, the accompanying resorts aren’t exactly luxurious. Many of them have a worn down appearance as most are over 50 years old, but for those wishing to spend their time in the city or enjoying the beaches, they are just fine.

Hotel Atlantico from the water

Our resort was located on Playa Santa Maria del Mar, one of the most popular beaches, where many of the international resorts are located.

Weekends can get very busy with locals heading out to relax and parking lots soon fill up with vintage cars and mopeds.

The crystal clear turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and snorkelling to check out a variety of fish.

But the best part was the incredible sunsets!

Getting there:  The beach area is about 20 kms away from Old Havana.

You can take the Habana Bus Tour tourist bus Line 3, which runs from Old Havana to the beaches at Cojímar, Bacuranao and Santa Maria del Mar daily from 9am-6pm for 5 CUC.

A taxi will cost around 15 CUC each way. Be sure to set the price before leaving.

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Havana- Classic meets Colourful

I just can’t get enough of the classic cars and colourful, and sometimes crumbling, architecture found in Havana. Even the gloomy, grey day seemed a little brighter with all the colours!

So here’s a gallery of some of my favourites!

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Taking a break from Cristal: Havana Craft Beer

fullsizeoutput_7eaSeeking out new craft breweries in foreign cities seems to have become a normal part of my travels these days, and Havana didn’t disappoint.

On a recent trip, we found two craft breweries to check out.fullsizeoutput_7fbThe first one, Factoria Plaza Vieja, is located in a bright yellow building in the corner of Plaza Vieja, one of the four major plazas in Old Havana.

 

Here they serve three different beers: Clara, Oscura and Negra.  You have a choice between a 500ml glass or a 3L tower to enjoy your beer in. A 500ml glass of beer costs 2CUC and the tower costs 12CUC.

As it’s located in one of the major plazas, this brewery is a popular spot for tourists. They have a food menu with a variety of options to enjoy along with your beer. fullsizeoutput_7fa

fullsizeoutput_8d1The second brewery we hit was Cerveceria Antiguo Almacén de la Madera y El Tabaco.  This one is located down by the water in an old tobacco factory, near the Mecardo de Artesania San José, a great market for crafts and souvenirs.  This brewery is huge and has lots of seating both inside and out on the patio.  fullsizeoutput_8d9Again, there were three different beers: light, medium and dark, and you had a choice of a 500ml glass or a tower. Pricing was the same.fullsizeoutput_8dc

While it wasn’t like a typical North American craft brewery, it was a nice break from Cristal and Bucanero and a great way to try a new brew!

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Beach Bum Birthday

Every year on January 12th,  I struggle a little (and sometimes more than a little…) with the fact that I’m getting another year older.  I know the saying goes, “Do not regret growing older, it’s a privilege denied to many.”  This I totally agree with. It’s not the getting older part that bothers me, it’s the fact that with every year that goes by I feel like I’m running out of time to do all the things I want to do.  (This list is massive to begin with and seems to grow by the day….)

Most of the time, I can push this feeling away and just continue to cross things off my life “to-do” list.  But then January comes around again- a new year and only 11 days until I get older. As that feeling becomes more overwhelming, I start looking for ways to slow the rising panic. Travel tends to be my remedy for all life’s stresses and birthday trips definitely ease the panicky state.

While any kind of trip is great, the beach always has a calming effect on me. So, I decided to take a short getaway to Montego Bay, Jamaica to spend my day on the beach with sun, sand and slushy drinks.

This year, I learned that birthdays are definitely better on the beach and when the sky paints you a stunningly colourful sunset, you can almost forget you are now a year older.

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Snorkeling the Reefs in Cozumel, Mexico

If you’re only going to do one thing while in Cozumel, Mexico, let it be snorkeling.  This island, a short ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, has some incredible reefs to get out and explore.  On a recent visit, I set out hoping to find some sea turtles on the famous Palancar and Colombia reefs.

Check out the video to see all the incredible creatures I found in the warm waters off the coast of Cozumel.

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Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Looking for a change of pace from Cancun’s busy strip? Then, Playa del Carmen is the place to be!  While it’s no longer the small fishing village is was until the 1980s, Playa (as the locals call it) is still definitely more laid back than nearby Cancun.  Less than an hour from Cancun’s International airport, and only a ferry ride from Cozumel, Playa has become a busy vacation hot spot.

The clear turquoise waters and white sand beach, is filled with beach volleyball, sunbathers and beach bars, along with numerous hotels and resorts.

Just up from the beach is  Quinta Avenida or 5th Aveunue,  Playa’s main drag.  This street is a see-and-be-seen spot.  Spread along the avenue are mutli-coloured shops, restuarants, bars, cafes, hotels and nightclubs.  While strolling along here you almost feel like you could be somewhere in Europe- but with tastier Mexican dishes!

Looking for the less touristy side of Playa del Carmen?  All you need to do is head a few blocks away from 5th Avenue.  Suddenly, the delicious homemade tacos drop from 80 pesos or more down to 10 pesos, the beer to 15 pesos and the crowds of people almost disappear.

 

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Gorgeous St. Lucia

Recently I spent a week at Smuggler’s Cove in St. Lucia where my best friend got married. After performing my maid of honour duties, I got a chance to see some of what this beautiful island has to offer. From sailing and snorkelling to shopping and sulphur spring mud baths- this island has something for everyone!

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