December 29, 2015

Escape to RIU®-topia in Aruba!

Winter’s cold evokes thoughts of sipping cocktails under swaying palm trees on white-sand beaches. In cold temperatures, Canadians make a convincing case for needing a warm escape to RIU®-topia in Aruba!

With a new influx of service-oriented resorts, savvy Canadian travellers are not just enjoying low-maintenance winter escapes; they are discovering a whole new vacation experience. The newly renovated RIU Palace Aruba and RIU Palace Antillas (adults-only) have raised the bar on the all-inclusive holiday by introducing more amenities, inviting designs and an ever-expanding roster of activities, so all you have to do is grab your flip-flops and head for the heat!

Bathed in warm turquoise waters on the powdery-white sands of Aruba’s legendary Palm Beach, the RIU properties are steps away from picturesque piers, beach bars, restaurants, shops and casinos for you to explore. Though I warn you, guests seeking effortless indulgence may find it difficult to pull themselves away from this stunning oasis that recently underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment project.   

The RIU Palace Aruba and RIU Palace Antillas offer a variety of beautifully appointed rooms and buffet style and à la carte dining venues to satisfy every palate. When it comes to matters of relaxation, pamper yourself with a treatment at the Renova Spa; it’s the perfect remedy for destressing! Afterwards, disappear beneath an umbrella with a cocktail to take in the inspiring views, especially captivating aboard a sunset cruise. 

Leisure time is time well spent at this Palm Beach oasis. The RIU offers a treasure trove of water sports and daily activities such as wind surfing, golf, diving and hiking. Aruba’s dive sites lie along the protected western and southern coasts, a short distance from the hotel and can be booked through Scuba Caribe located in the hotel.
Nexus Tours offers a number of exciting excursions like shopping in the capital, Oranjestaad, swimming in a natural pool known as Cura di Tortuga, and exploring the island’s natural gems on a Jeep Safari adventure that ends on the sheltered lagoon of Baby Beach.
Whatever your preference, experience RIU®-topia and make this your best vacation yet!
Book your stay through RIU or Signature Vacations.   

November 20, 2015

St. Vincent and the Grenadines - Paradise Found!

Ever since watching the megahit, Pirates of the Caribbean, I rate the beauty of an island on a scale of “1 to Pirates of the Caribbean 10!” Unforgettably beautiful, the movies’ swoon worthy beach scenes had every movie goer longing to find paradise, and after my recent visit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines - also featured in one of the films - I can now declare paradise found!

Dotting the Lesser Antilles, St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a collection of 32 spectacular islands and cays that scatter the Southern Caribbean Sea towards Grenada. Laid-back and relatively unknown, much of its appeal is its seclusion, something not every Caribbean island can offer.     

This is a destination for those seeking a real taste of the Caribbean, a place where sky-blue waters gently lap upon crowd-free swaths of white-sand lined with swaying palm trees and breathtaking seascapes. This is sheer paradise as it was meant to be enjoyed.

On the beautiful island of St. Vincent, the largest in the Grenadines, I drove along winding roads, past fishing villages, isolated coves and sweeping expanses until I arrived at the 5-star Buccament Bay Resort. In part, what makes this all-inclusive community so desirable is its setting, cradled between the emerald mountainous peaks of St. Vincent’s striking interior and the pristine beaches on the island’s southwest coast.

My gorgeous villa was beautifully decorated, and featured a private sitting area that opened onto an outdoor deck with a private plunge pool. Sitting atop a white-sand beach with sparkling turquoise waters is the outdoor double infinity pool, my favourite place to disappear beneath an umbrella with a good book. Poolside or beachside, the view is inspiring, especially at dusk. The picturesque ‘Bat Cave’ and shipwreck located on one of the property’s secluded coves reminded me of a scene straight out of the hit TV show, Gilligan’s Island. 

On the big island of St. Vincent, where the scent of passion fruit seduced me, lush green mountains, tropical rainforest, remote inlets, fishing villages and sweeping expanses left me speechless. One of my favourite views was at the residence of Prime Minister, Dr. Honourable Ralph Gonsalves, who entertained us with tales of his good friends, Comandante Fidel Castro and former President Hugo Chávez, during a breakfast meeting to the discuss the opening of the new Argyle International airport that will offer nonstop jet service from North America, Central and South America, and Europe to SVG.

St. Vincent's dramatic backdrop provides plenty to do. Climb through vibrant rainforest, bamboo groves and cloud forest to reach the top of St. Vincent's majestic La Soufriere Volcano. Afterwards, visit the towering Dark View Falls that cascade into two pools that are wonderful for bathing. Stroll through the oldest botanical gardens in the Western Hemisphere with an array of tropical plants, flowers and trees. In Kingstown, walk along the capital's cobblestone streets lined with colonial buildings and bustling with colourful markets, overlooked by Fort Charlotte where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city and surrounding islands.

With 32 islands and cays that make up St. Vincent and the Grenadines, there is no shortage of unforgettable escapes. Some of the more famous islands include Young Island, Bequia, Mustique (where aristocrats, royalty and rock stars vacation), Canouan, Mayreau, The Tobago Cays, Union Island, Palm Island and Petit St. Vincent, characterised by white-sand beaches and sapphire waters. The islands - some of which are uninhabited - are accessible by boat or flight which I discovered to be an unforgettable way to take in the picturesque view of yachts and sailboats bobbing in a sea of blue.

One of the trip’s highlights was snorkelling and swimming with sea turtles in the Tobago Cays followed by an overnight stay on the 135-acre Palm Island Resort. This under the radar gem provided the ultimate private island escape nestled amidst five white sand beaches and postcard-perfect views that literally took my breath away.  

My accommodations were free from television and phones, offering the utmost in relaxation and featured a king-size bed, peaked-ceilings, and a large verandah and hammock where I sat and watched the sunset. If you’re looking for the ultimate in seclusion, I suggest booking the private 2 bedroom villa that comes with its own beach and pool.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines is not your typical vacation destination. It’s surprisingly untouched by the hordes of mass tourism that have changed the face of many Caribbean islands. This is a tropical paradise in a secluded end of the Caribbean is where you can unplug and literally get away from it all, and in this day and age, there is no greater luxury.

Read about my hotel experience at Buccament Bay Resort and Palm Island Resort in the Winter Issue of Travel Professional out now!

Images by Travelista73.