April 17, 2009
A Caribbean Holiday Guide - From Puerto Rico to Belize
Rita Cook READ TIME: 5 MIN.
There is never a bad time to enjoy the warm weather in the Caribbean. Indeed, the feeling of the sun and the sound of the ocean waves just makes a good trip down south even better, no matter what your celebrating. While the Caribbean has a number of prime islands to visit, a few just seem to stand out above the competition. Islands like Puerto Rico, Aruba and even Belize are diverse and tourists are always welcome.
Known for its immaculate diving, Belize has an inland whose Mayan history is worth exploring and full of surprises. For ziplining and tubing there is the one-stop shop at Jaguar Paw where you can sour through the trees in the morning and taking a refreshing excursion through Mayan caves atop a flight in the heat of the afternoon. The highest zip line cable is 80-feet above the ground so you will definitely feel like Tarzan. The tubing is on the Caves Branch River and there are five tunnel caves to be explored, once used by the Mayans.
Be sure and stop in at the Belize Zoo, all the money is donated to rehabilitating the animals and the animals are there after being rescued from dangerous situations. The black jaguar is especially beautiful and definitely not shy.
A tour of the Mayan ruin called Xunantunich (stone maiden) is a step back in town overlooking the Mopan River and once a Mayan ceremonial center. The most important temple at the site is the El Castillo standing 130-feet high. Overall the trip is about half a day of exploring before returning to the hotel for a rest.
Best Place to Stay
Ka'ana Boutique Resort and Spa, Mile 69 Western Highway
San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize, C.A. 501-824-3350
Dutch influence is everywhere, and while some guests might not get past the beach, do take the time to do some exploring. A half-day island tour will take you to some of the island's historical sights, a natural pool, Arikok National Park and even Bushiribana Gold Ruins. The best outfit for this excursion is Sensitive Hikers.
Snorkeling, of course, is a prerequisite in Aruba so enjoy a half day and make sure you get out to the Antilla shipwreck, Arashi Reef and the Malmok shallow reef. Most boats offer equipment and lunch on board so take your towel and sunscreen and have some fun.
Restaurants are pretty amazing in Aruba too, so don't just go for the local catch of the day.
Another must is windsurfing lessons at the Fisherman's Hut located next to the Aruba Marriott. With the constant 15-knot trade winds, Aruba is an excellent place to enjoy both windsurfing and kitesurfing.
A TomCar Island Exploration is another way to see the island and really get an idea of the terrain. Traveling through the most rugged parts Aruba, this ATV meets Jeep is the best way to see the North Coast going through National Park Arikok and getting a glimpse of the beautiful Natural Pool.
Best place to stay
Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, L.G. Smith Boulevard, #101 Palm Beach, Aruba, Dutch Caribbean
A real selling point, you don't need a passport to travel to this locale. With a vast array of things to do, real highlights are the bioluminescent bay kayak excursion, horseback riding and a tour of old San Juan. Of course, you will want to get some relaxation and spa time in as well.
The bioluminescent bay is synonymous with Puerto Rico and something not to be missed. Experienced in the evening, this natural phenomenon will take you through a mangrove archway canal and into what is known as Laguna Grande in two-man kayaks. During the trip the Pyrodium Bahamese organisms produce a natural light under water, which can easily be seen glowing blue when the water is disturbed.
A horseback riding excursion is yet another way to experience the magic of Puerto Rico.
A perfect beach ride or some time on one of the nature trails that abound on the island, the Hacienda Carabali requires no experience taking riders to the foot of the island's rain forest. The horses that are ridden are the Paso Fino horses, known for their fine gait and well-known throughout the island and the Caribbean.
Take a morning or an entire day and tour old San Juan, a 475 year-old neighborhood. The cobblestone streets are reminiscent of days gone by while the colorful colonial buildings and century-old fortresses that overlook the Atlantic Ocean will play with your imagination and fascinate you. El Morro Fort overlooks San Juan Bay and offers a fascinating look at the history of the island.
San Juan is also home to several wonderful museums and art galleries so keep your options open and money in your pocket and don't forget to stop in at the Bacardi Rum Distillery. You not only get a tour of the facility, but also a couple of samples as well.
Best place to stay
San Juan Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino, 1309 Ashford Avenue, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00907
Not far from the airport, but right on Condado Beach, the San Juan Marriott offers not only a spa, but also two pools and a great part of the beach for lounging. The spa offers excellent amenities as well as a fitness room. Hungry? There's the bake shop, the La Visa Restaurant and Ocean Terrace, Ristorante Tuscany, Wan Chai Noodle Bar, the Lobby Lounge and the La Isla Beach Bar and Grill.
Rita Cook lives in both Dallas and Los Angeles and has published over 1000 articles during her career as well as several books. Her specialities include travel, auto writing, entertainment, beauty and fashion. During an earlier incarnation Rita was also an independent film producer as well.