The following article was written by me on behalf of Choice Hotels and I was paid to write this post. However, the opinions are entirely my own.
Why should kids in school be the only ones to get a break at this time of year? We can’t think of a reason not to make a break of our own. After the grey and cold of the last few months we should go someplace sunny, fun, and tropical, but not too far away. That sounds like the Caribbean, of course!
Through the years we have had the opportunity to visit many of the islands, so we decided to investigate some new destinations. We began by looking just a few hundred miles south of Miami and found the Cayman Islands, some of the closest to the US.
We discovered an escape where colonial British charm mixes with a laidback tropical personality, making for a quick getaway that leaves the daily grind a million miles away. Days filled with diving, snorkeling, sailing, or simply sunbathing, followed by evenings toasting the sunset and enjoying international cuisine or a BBQ on the beach.
On Grand Cayman, Seven Mile Beach is the place to be for watersports and fun in the sun, as well as after-dark dining options, and the Comfort Suites® Seven Mile Beach hotel is right there. A perfect spot to unwind and let stress drift away by the pool, or better yet, in the whirlpool. Still, we might want to touch base with the real world from time to time, so free WiFi is always appreciated.
Looking a little farther south, we came upon the contrasting styles of Aruba and Curacao. Along with Bonaire, these islands are known as the ABC Islands, and although they sit only a few miles off of the South American coast, they are Dutch territory.
Unlike most Caribbean islands, Aruba and Curacao are quite arid, with cactus being more common than palm trees. This means it is almost always sunny. No April showers here, and that’s just what we’re looking for in a spring break… am I right?
The landscape is often compared to the American Southwest, but that’s not why Aruba is known as the Las Vegas of the Caribbean. Legend has it that this is where Caribbean Stud Poker was first played back in the ‘80s. Now over a dozen casinos line the stretch of beach along the northwest shore of the island and the La Cabana Beach Resort and Casino, an Ascend Hotel Collection® member, sits in the middle of them all.
But the casino doesn’t have the only games at La Cabana, we can choose from tennis, racquetball, basketball, volleyball or squash, and then nurse any sore muscles at the spa or step out the front door onto miles of white sand beach. We might never want to leave the resort, except that there’s wildlife right next door.
The Bubali Bird Sanctuary, a breeding ground for over eighty species of migratory birds, is just a few steps away. If we climb the observation tower for a birds’ eye view (ba dum ching!) we might see herons, egrets, coots, cormorants, and even the rare native Brown-throated Parakeet.
Aruba’s nearby neighbor, Curacao, is every bit as inviting, with a more laid back feel and a definite dash of Holland. The island’s connection to its Dutch heritage is distinctively apparent. Rows of buildings that look straight out of Amsterdam, except for their vibrant tropical pastel paint jobs, line the streets in the capital city of Willemstad.
The town was built around a natural deep water harbor that served as a favorite of pirates and traders for centuries. Willemstad remains the center of activity for Curacao, and the Acoya Hotel Suites & Villas, an Ascend Hotel Collection® member, is right in the heart of it. As much as we love an infinity pool with a poolside restaurant and bar, we are even more excited to find a great home base for exploring.
When the Dutch West India Company arrived in 1634, they built a series of eight forts to fend off the buccaneers as well as foreign powers. The main one, Fort Amsterdam, sits at the mouth of the harbor and is still in use today as the county’s capitol building. Five of the others can be found in various states of repair around the island.
Curacao is also home to two National Parks. They cover most of the north quarter of the island with Christoffel Park featuring historic sites such as three former plantations from the time of the Dutch growers, and the Boca Grandi cave paintings left by the Arawak Indians who originally inhabited these islands.
The adjacent Shete Boka National Park is all about the natural beauty of the sea shore. The name means seven inlets, and these coves are not only picturesque, they are a nesting area for three species of turtles. Nearby Playa Lagun is a perfect place to jump in the crystal clear Caribbean water and see myriads of colorful tropical fish, and maybe some of those turtles grownup.
Now that’s a break that will put the spring back in our step.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
YOUR TURN: Are you ready for a Caribbean getaway?