Sunday, October 15, 2006

St. Maarten Escape

by Richard Rspad

When you really need a break from life and are looking for sun and fun, St. Maarten is perfect choice. Following is an overview of a St. Maarten escape that will recharge your batteries.

The island of St. Martin is located in the Caribbean Ocean, and has the distinction of owned by two countries: France and the Netherlands. Divided roughly in half, the French side is known as Saint-Martin while the Dutch half is known as Sint Maarten. Collectively, the island is known as St. Maarten/St. Martin, or St. Martins.

The island was divided all the way back in 1648, and has stayed that way ever since. When choosing to visit this island, you have to make a decision whether to stay on the French or Dutch side. Choosing the Dutch side means a fun nightlife with beaches and casinos, so planning a St. Maarten escape is natural for many visitors.

One of the classic spots to plan your St. Maarten escape at is the Caravanseri Beach Resort, located on Burgeaux Bay. This resort definitely shows all that St. Maarten has to offer with three separate freshwater pools, tennis courts, and many different water sports such as snorkeling, diving and fishing. Duty-free shopping and other excursions make this St. Maarten escape a great choice for people looking to experience more of the island, and the newly built Dolphin Casino offers gamblers a place to bet to their heart's content. Three restaurants and bars are also located on the Caravanseri Beach Resort premises making this a full service resort that caters to all of your needs. 75 air conditioned private rooms, all with balcony or patio, make this resort complete.

Another place worth looking at for your St. Maarten escape is the Summit Resort Hotel located on the Simpson Bay Lagoon. This resort is the place if you want seclusion along with an easygoing atmosphere. All of the rooms at the Summit Resort are studio suites, and they are contained within cottages that are placed on footpaths bordered by tropical flowers and scenery. All rooms are air conditioned and include balconies or porches, perfect for those relaxing evenings. This resort is also just a short walk from two of the best beaches on St. Maarten, Cupecoy Beach and Mullet Bay Beach.

Choosing a St. Maarten escape means you will have the unusual combination of European charm and Caribbean hospitality, all in a lush tropical setting. While on the Dutch half of the island, be sure to enjoy some time at the many white sand beaches and bustling casinos, as well as do some affordable duty free shopping.

About the Author
Richard Rspad is with Resort Spa Destinations - reviews and articles on spa resorts.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Playa del Carmen - A True Gem in the Riviera Maya

by Sara Moen

Originally named Xaman-Ha (waters of the north) Playa del Carmen is part of the Mayan World. Located on the crystal blue waters of the Mexican Caribbean, Playa del Carmen is just 40 miles (60 kms.) south of Cancun. Playa, as it is known as to locals, is the perfect spot from which to explore the fascinating sites of The Mayan Riviera. Playa del Carmen is known for its miles of white sandy beaches, phosphorescent Caribbean waters, and its laid back attitude. Playa del Carmen is a place for those in search of a unique visit, vibrant people, amazing Mayan culture, and an overall travel experience that you will never forget. So come and enjoy everything Playa del Carmen and The Riviera Maya has to offer; you will not be disappointed The once quiet seaside village of Playa del Carmen has doubled in population over the past few years, mainly due to foreigners such as Europeans, South Americans, Americans and Canadians who have discovered this little slice of paradise. Playa del Carmen is a place to enjoy amazing beaches, and the famous cenotes by day and trendy eateries, bars, and restaurants by night. The eclectic mix of backpackers, archeological experts, dive junkies, and young hipsters makes Playa del Carmen an incredibly unique and interesting place.

Due to its location, Playa del Carmen, is a veritable hub to outer lying ruins, dive spots, and the concept of "La Ruta Maya". You will not find La Ruta Maya on your travel map or even in your travel guide because it is not a set route but a concept. Originally the Ruta Maya was to be a new idea in traveling: a specific mapped out area connecting major Mayan archaeological sites and nature preserves throughout southern Mexico and some Central American countries. In reality La Ruta Maya has become to include the Mexican states of Chiapas, Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo, all of Belize and Guatemala and parts of Honduras. Now travelers who are hoping to experience these amazing parts of Mexico and Central America flock to Playa del Carmen as their window into the Mayan World. Because of where Playa is located there are bus routes through out Mexico and Central America that originate in the area. So, many people come to the area and use Playa del Carmen as their "home base" while they travel onto Palenque, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, or some other far reaching destination.

The amazing archeological sites sprinkled through out the region such as Tulum, Coba, Ek Balam, and Chichen Nitza are major attractions to people coming to visit the area. Bringing archeologist's, graduate students, and self proclaimed archeological buffs from all over the world. Visiting one, or several, of the ruin sites is a MUST DO when visiting the area. The area is so rich in history and culture it would be a real shame to miss out on learning a bit about where you are. In addition to amazing archeological sites, there are multiple natural wonders scattered through out the Riviera Maya. For example the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve near Tulum. Sian Kaan is an ecotourism and educational center, and it serves as a model for sustainable development in sensitive tropical ecosystems. They offer tours and accommodations which in turn fund their research. So if you want to check it out, it is worth looking into and it is an incredible project to support.

There is also Xel-Ha and Xcaret, ecotourism theme parks both of which are located between Playa del Carmen, and Tulum. They offer both fun in the sun, and wildlife conservation which in turn is a great combination. Crococun is a Park and Regional Zoo located north of Playa del Carmen. Originally designed to farm crocodiles to create a sustainable resource it is now a conservationist park. The kids are sure to love it with its crazy monkeys, beautiful parrots, rare Mayan dogs, local deer, and of course tons of crocodiles! Another must see while in the area is Aktun Chen where you will have a chance to learn about local flora and fauna, and our famous cenote system, with a specialized guide.

There are countless attractions both large and small through out the area that will appeal to all levels of travelers and visitors. Long before Playa del Carmen became a hotspot vacation destination the area was known around the world to dive aficionados as a truly top notch location for under water exploration. They discovered years ago that under the watchful eyes of the ancient Maya in the warm Caribbean waters off the Yucatan Peninsula exists a truly amazing underwater world: where divers can explore the reefs of the Riviera Maya swimming with turtles and schools of Tarpon. They drift along the coral covered walls of famous Cozumel Island named by Jacques Cousteau as one of the best dive spots in the world. And they discover the incredible serenity of daylight cavern diving in the famous Mexican Cenotes - the worlds largest fresh water system formed over tens of thousands of years ago. So if you are certified dive "junkie" or if you want to join the onslaught of underwater explorers we suggest you contact some of the best divers in the area. If diving isn't your thing, and you would prefer to float on top of the water looking down, there are countless snorkel spots that are truly exceptional.

Akumal is a great snorkel spot with the amazing Yal Kul Lagoon , and Half Moon Bay , both of which have had countless sea turtle sightings. Yal Kul Lagoon is a mixed water lagoon, with sweet water from the underground river system, and an inlet from the Caribbean allowing the sea water to mix with the sweet water. This creates a kind of shimmery oil effect that is rare to see, and in turn creates an eclectic variety of underwater creatures, and coral to check out. Half Moon Bay is located off of La Buena Vida, a perfect place to grab a bite, enjoy a happy hour libation, or lounge on the beach as you intermittently snorkel the reef in search of the famous Akumal turtles. In addition to these two amazing snorkel locations any dive shop, hotel, or tour company offers snorkeling excursions to more remote areas. One worth checking out is the Ocean Adventure Tour , which offers high speed F1 ocean transport, cenote exploration, snorkeling, local fare, and cocktails. It is a great way to enjoy an afternoon enabling you to experience a multitude of activities in a cool laid back way.

Fat Cat Catamaran Tour is another great way to check out the area, based out of Puerto Aventuras, Fat Cat offers a fun version of a "booze cruise". With the tunes blasting, the beer flowing, and a brand new 50 foot luxury catamaran how can you go wrong? You can lounge on deck, kick back under the shaded area, take a turn on the boom net, and snorkel in hard to reach destinations. Not to mention the unbelievable beaches you will get to visit! For those of you who like to go motorized, one of the longest running tours in the area, ATV Explorer , is a total blast. Located in the jungle just West of the beach a few minutes south of Playa del Carmen, ATV Explorer offers a great introduction to the area. Blasting through the jungle on your own ATV you will see a Mayan ruin, experience local fauna and flora (keep you eyes peeled for the crazy monkeys on Monkey Loop), and dive into one of the freshest, deepest cenotes in the area. As you can see there are countless things to do and see while visiting Playa del Carmen and The Rivera Maya. From remote cave dives, to amazing archeological sights, not to mention the bright blue Caribbean and white sandy beaches, you are sure to take home memories that will last you a life time!

About the Author
Sara Moen is a travel journalist and the editor of Playa Maya News located in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, updated daily with local news, tours, real estate and hotels in Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bermuda Vacations Defy Convention

by Caitlin Moore

Bermuda has the sound of a place nestled in the Caribbean with all the other fun-loving tropical islands, but in fact it exists in a realm of its own. You might be surprised to realize that it's actually located east of the States in the Atlantic Ocean, closer to North Carolina than to Florida. This doesn't mean it's cold and blustery, though; quite the opposite. Bermuda is a lush, lovely collection of islands that will satisfy your vacation cravings by transporting you to an unexpected and dreamlike atmosphere, far different than what you're used to.

The Gulf Stream lovingly warms Bermuda with gentle caresses, but the islands never become too hot to handle. Average summer temperatures float between 75 and 85 degrees, while winter is filled with pleasant 70 degree days. And, for hurricane-phobes, take note that while tropical storms do happen every few years, they are far less prevalent than in the Caribbean. That's just one more reason for heading off in a whole new direction.

Seventy five miles of coastline that surround rolling hills, interesting rock formations, and lots of space for replenishing one's energy supply characterize this sprawling archipelago. For some reason nature decided that this would be a good place to allow lava to cool and limestone to push up towards the sun, and what was born was a splendid sight to see. Not that it makes a big difference, but rather than being simply an island, Bermuda is a string of 181 distinct bodies of land. Some are larger islets and some are merely jutting rocks, but they combine to make a geologically unique and visually interesting vacation spot.

Explore the terrain while you're here, keeping your eyes open for the famous tree frogs that sing their songs and add a little extra color to the landscape. Endangered sea turtles and over 350 types of birds also make Bermuda their home, sometimes blending in, sometimes standing out, but always there if you take the time to look. Over the years, colonists and settlers have crafted a virtual paradise of plants and flowers, so in terms of natural wonders and beauty, there's plenty here to please your senses.

Of course, what's an island vacation without a thorough investigation of the beach scene? Bermuda is blessed with another extraordinary quality in the form of its coastal environment. You won't find regular-old sand here, instead it's something utterly pleasing, precious, and pink. Thanks to the coral reefs that surround the islands, the minute particles that go on to make up the sand have a decidedly rosy hue. Thus, the beaches are distinctively desirable and different, shifting your perceptions yet again. Just when you think you have this place figured out, it drops another surprise.

Most of the blushing beaches are public, welcome, and easily accessible. From South Shore Park to Horseshoe Bay, a coastal trail will lead you on your way as you traverse and enjoy the surroundings. If you stick around for a sunset, you'll be even more dazzled by the colorful splashes of brilliance everywhere you look, from land to sparkling sea.

Once you've gotten your bearings and realized the beauty of Bermuda, it'll be time to have a little fun. From fishing to parasailing, kayaking to sailing, the ocean will become your playground for as many hours a day as you please. On dry land, you'll be tempted to golf on a world-class course, zip around on a moped, go for a morning hike, schedule a spa session, learn to play cricket, and much more. After a few days of staying active yet relaxed, busy yet pampered, you'll realize that you've never felt better. A permanent move to Bermuda probably isn't in the cards, but don't despair. Take full advantage of this experience while you're here, and take notes so that your next trip can be even better.

Your first trip to Bermuda deserves all the trimmings, so instead of staying in a traditional hotel, think about the possibility of a vacation rental. A stone's throw away from the beach and all the activities of the town will provide convenience on a grand scale, and the plentiful amenities within the walls of your charming cottage, condo, or villa will complete the picture of perfection. From kitchen supplies to internet access, extra towels to a friendly lanai, all that you could ever imagine will be within reach should you decide to treat yourself to a lodging experience that matches the delights of Bermuda itself.

Go online to start researching Bermuda Vacation Rentals as well as the activities, sights and sounds that will fill your upcoming getaway, and prepare to discover a whole new range of relaxing and engaging opportunities.

About the Author is a comprehensive marketplace for vacation rentals of all shape and size.