Tips for Trips, Vacation Planning

When is the Best Time to go to the Caribbean?

seashel
Collecting shells, Turks and Caicos

When you think of the Caribbean you think abundant sunshine, clear skies, and the perfect temperature. While it may be like that most of the time, there are times of the year that may not appeal to you. Do you enjoy crowds or no crowds? Do you like it to be hot or cooler? Do you absolutely need to get away in those winter months? Or do you want a great price on the hotel and flight? These are all questions you need to ask yourself prior to booking. Just like life you cannot have it all. Below, I will let you know when it’s the perfect time for you to go!

For me, I do not like crowds, I like it hot (so I won’t freeze when getting out of the ocean), I would prefer to get away in the winter months but not necessary (crazy, harsh Chicago winters), and I also like a good deal. Therefore the best time for me to go is end of winter season, before/after spring break, or middle of May-June for a better deal, plus its hot :). How did I come up with that? Keep reading!

Lets break it down.

$$$ will equal most expensive and $ will equal least expensive.

High Season: $$$

High season typically runs from mid December-mid April. Here you will find larger crowds and you will pay top dollar because of the high demand to escape the unforgiving winter. But, just because it is the Caribbean doesn’t mean they do not get affected by chilly winter temperatures. There is about a 10 degree temperature difference between Northern Caribbean spots and the Southern Caribbean. For example, in the Bahamas the average high could be 70 degrees while in Trinidad and Tobago the average will be 79 degrees.   Reservations for this time should be made well in advance. If you are the type of person who does not mind crowded places and doesn’t mind spending more money just to get away from the winter temps up north then this would be the time for you to go. I have gone on vacation during January and it is so very nice to get away from the cold winters of Chicago but that higher price to pay is not always nice.

To Summarize:

♦Milder temps

♦More expensive

♦Get to escape the cold winter

♦Rain is rare

boats
Sunset on St.John

 

Shoulder Season: $$

Shoulder season starts mid April-May and also can include late October-November. There is less demand for hotels so you can expect to find a good deal. Shoulder season does not include Easter and spring break times, it revolves around it. What is also great about this season is it provides ideal conditions for snorkeling and diving. This is a time when water is calm, visibility is best, and marine life is active. Think of October and November like summer break for the locals and because of that some shops, restaurants, and resorts may be closed. Temperatures are almost perfect, little rainfall, and less crowds. I tend to head down to the Caribbean during this time and each time has been pleasant with no complaints. Although one time, out of the 10 years of traveling to the Caribbean, our last two days were straight rain 😦 but considering it only happened once I will have to consider it a fluke. I still love my islands!

To Summarize:

♦Great temperatures

♦Best time for snorkeling and diving

♦Good deals

♦Less crowded

♦Some resorts, shops, and restaurants close during October and November

st martin
No crowds!

 

Low Season: $$

Low season is June-August. During this time you can expect less crowds, can get a better deal on prices, and temperatures are in the mid-high 80’s with an average low in the 70s. This is a great time if you want a quiet and relaxed vacation. June is considered the rainiest month of the year. Nassau, Bahamas comes in first for highest total rainfall in the month of June at 8.6 inches of rain, followed by Havana, Cuba at 7.2 inches, and third place goes to Lamentin, Martinique with 6.7 inches of rain. Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao win for the least amount of rainfall during June, all with totals less then 1 inch.

To Summarize:

♦Better deal for hotels

♦Hotter temps

♦Less crowded

♦June is rainy season

key-west-81664_640
Yikes!

 

Hurricane Season:

Expect to find LOW prices during this time. I am sure can guess why. Hurricane season is technically June-November. But August is when to really see less than ideal weather. Also, September and October is usually the peak time for hurricanes. But not all Hurricanes treat the Caribbean the same. You want to know something interesting? Hurricanes do not like the equator and therefore tend to stay away from it. That is good news for the southeastern Caribbean! What is even better Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, and Barbados are rarely affected by hurricanes. Alright! What is not so good is the southwestern and northeastern tend to have the most.

To summarize:

♦Will find best prices on hotels

♦Expect lots of humidity

♦Seas can be rough

♦Not crowded

I hope you have found your ideal time you would like to travel to the Caribbean. Let me know how it goes! If you have any other comments or suggestions on when the best time to go is, I would love to hear from you!

Happy Traveling!

♥Jillian

 

 

 

 

dream destination

Dream Destination: Tulum, Mexico

Good morning travelers! I hope this post will help you get through this Monday. In this post I will go over some of the really unique places to stay in Tulum, Mexico. Have you ever been to Tulum? It seems enchanting with the ruins, cenotes, turquoise waters, and eco resorts.

So you want to stay in a treehouse… on the beach?? YES please!

Before we get there, have you ever heard of an Eco Resort? Well, an Eco-Resort by definition is as follows: a tourist resort whose facilities are intended to have a minimal impact on the local environment. Many eco resorts try to conserve the natural environment while improving life of the local people. That means they promote recycling, energy and water conservation, and create economic opportunities for the community. There are many variations of eco resorts. For example, some have no electric what-so-ever while some have air conditioner but only at night.

By being at an eco resort it is also important to be an eco-tourist. That means while hiking remember to pick up your own trash, stay on designated trails so you do not disturb fragile ecosystems, learn about the area you are visiting before you get there, leave wild animals in peace, and shop from local businesses. I would say these are simple and easy to do so be a good person and do the right thing :).

For more info about EcoTourism click → here!

Now for the fun part! Let’s discover some awesome, exciting, and unique places in Tulum! The three resorts I have listed below are not your typical resorts in Mexico where they have huge pools, crowds of people, and all the luxuries of the modern world.  Instead, you get to be in a more intimate setting, closer to nature, and you get to stay in distinctive lodging. To get to Tulum, most would fly into Cancun and its about a 2 hour drive from there. Read on to discover if an eco resort is something you would give a try!

Papaya Playa Project

332bdcaf92f621166b30c4d4aeb518ac
Maya Oceanfront Cabana

If you want rustic yet sophisticated, the jungle, and the beach then go to Papaya Playa Project. All of their rooms are built with local materials and construction techniques. You can choose to stay in villas, beach houses or a treehouse! Prices range from $160/night and up (depending on when you go). Most of the lodging has its own plunge pool and air conditioning, but wifi is only in the beach houses. I think a great deal is the Maya Oceanfront Cabana for $225 a night. You get oceanfront, your own terrace, and air conditioning. If you want to spend $1,000/night then you can stay in the exceptional treehouse! Its really cool though. To learn more about the Papaya Playa Project check out their website here.

ppp_treehouse_07-970x647-c
Treehouse!
73720606
Private Casita Oceanfront

*All pictures are from the Papaya Playa Project website

Azulik

1f736aad_z
Candlelight only

Azulik: An eco-lux resort, where premises are lit only by candlelight and adults can for a relax in the natural and magical ambiance. It is a place where you get reconnected to what matters to you most. What attracted me to this place was the abundance of hammocks, the rustic treehouse look, and the colorful interiors. The 9 wooden crafted villas are made from native materials and each is different but all come with private mosaic bathtub, a bed with mosquito net, private terrace, and will fit 2 adults. Sorry, no air conditioning but you will get great ocean breezes. For those looking for honeymoon ideas check out the honeymoon villa (so cool!)

azulik
Honeymoon Villa
134798764_x
Look at that view!

Now, lets talk money. Prices are $400 and up depending on when you go. Try to book at least 2-3 months in advance. A 50 min deep tissue massage will cost around $140 and a 60 min group yoga class will cost around $15. Lastly, there are three remarkable restaurants at the resort but prices were not available online. For more information on this magical resort check the website here!

Mi Amor Colibri Boutique Hotel and Spa

77482288
Mi Amor. Picture from Booking.com

You can consider this hotel to be a boutique, luxury small hotel (total 18 rooms). Prices are around $370 and up. I am attracted its low key sophistication and I love its interior design. It has wifi but no TV’s but who cares when you have the beautiful ocean at your doorstep. You can kite board, check out the ruins, scuba dive, or take cooking classes. Breakfast entrees run around $8, cocktails are about $13, and beers are $3-$7. Dinner entrees and pasta cost anywhere from $13-$25. I would say prices are not too bad but I guess that depends on what you like to eat and drink.

47739280
Sunset at Mi Amor. Picture from Booking.com

If Mi Amor does not appeal to you the Colibri hotel group has 4 other options to choose from and they look just as incredible as this one. To look at the website for Mi Amor click here and to check out the other hotels of the Colibri group just scroll to the bottom of the website and they are listed there. If Colibri hotels are not your thing and you want to check out other small luxury hotels click here.

mi-amor
Mi Amor, part of Colibri Boutique Hotels. Picture from Trip Advisor.

I realize these places would be great for a romantic getaway.  I wonder if romance is on my mind?? Or perhaps the stresses of city living have inspired my desire to experience the all encompassing nature that Tulum can provide. All in all, my suggestion would be to stay in a less expensive hotel for half your trip then stay in one of these unique places for a night or two. Or stay the whole time. YOLO!

Let me know if you have been to these places or know of any other unique and rustic eco resorts! Have a great day adventurers!

♥Jillian

Island Away

The Island Away from the Island: Virgin Islands

It’s finally Saturday, hooray! Here is a little reading you can do before you venture out for the weekend!

When you say you are going to the Virgin Islands it is most likely going to be the main islands like St.Thomas/St. John/St. Croix. But did you know that the total area of the USVI is 133 sq miles and consists of 50 smaller islands and cays! So there you go, there are plenty of other smaller islands you can visit as well! Many are way less populated than the main islands and can provide a more intimate atmosphere. Below I have a list of some islands to visit and/or stay when you are visiting St.Thomas.

img_1421

Buck Island (National Reef)

An uninhabited island 176 acre island and 1.5 miles north of St. Croix. It is currently a National Reef Monument. You can get here through private charter tours. It is a great snorkel spot! Check here for more information on how to get here.

Thatch Cay

If you are the adventure seeker check out this small uninhabited, private island. Its about a half mile from St. Thomas. You can kayak here if you are adventurous enough, otherwise you can take a private charter. You can also cliff jump and snorkel here. It is also for sale for the small price $30 million 😉

Dog Island 

This island is part of the BVI and consists of other islets: Little Seal Dog Island, East Seal Dog Island, West Dog Island, and George Dog Island. all is located northwest of Virgin Gorda and 6 miles north east of Tortola. It got its name by the sailors who anchored there and heard barking and thought there must be dogs on the island. The noise was actually from monk seals (which are now extinct). The island is great for scuba divers and snorkelers.

Water Island

Water Island became the fourth US Virgin Island in 1996. Its a 10 minute ferry ride form Charlotte Amalie. There are underground tunnels from WWII that you can tour! There are no hotels but there are villas and homes to rent or even a boat to stay on! I Think it would be cool to stay on that boat 😉 Here is a link for the ferry schedule to Water Island.

Saba Island 

Saba Island, not to be confused with Saba in the Lesser Antilles, is a US Virgin Island located 2.6 miles west of Water Island. It is a steep 200 ft. island with a beach on its northern side. This is a rocky island but there are plenty of ship wrecks and is a great place for snorkelers and scuba divers.

Hans Lollik Island

This undeveloped 510 acre island is for sale!!! Who has 29 million dollars!? Not me! This beautiful island is a spectacular site to see before it get developed. Pristine beaches and no crowds, sounds good to me. You can get here by a charter boat such as the Blue Tang Yacht Charters. You can visit there website here.

 

img_0633
Captivated by St. John

For more information on Island hopping and ferry schedules in the Virgin Islands check this website ⇒ http://www.vinow.com/travel/

Or if you would like to do a private charter with Blue Tang Yacht Charters, click ⇒ here.

Feel free to leave me any suggestions or comments below! Have an awesome weekend island lovers!

♥Jillian

Fun facts

7 facts about Mardi Gras and Carnival

Good evening Caribbean lovers and happy Mardi Gras!

Hope everyone is enjoying some festivities. I already had my paczki today! For those that do not know, a paczki is a Polish tradition and it is basically a jelly filled doughnut that you eat on Fat Tuesday. Yum! We know that New Orleans is probably hoppin’ right now and some Caribbean islands have been enjoying Carnival celebrations since Feast of the Epiphany which was January 6th. People have been asking me if there is a difference between Mardi Gras and Carnival? The answer is no. Carnival always starts on the Feast of the Epiphany and goes till Lent while Mardi Gras is basically a single concluding day of Carnival. Enough about the history lets get to some fun facts!

♥Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday.

12781495105_8337927dbb_o-0-0
Photo from Eater.com, Traditional Paczki

♥Mardi Gras celebrations originated by the Italian Catholics in Europe. It then Spread to the Spanish and French who, as they settled on islands like Trinidad, Dominica, Haiti, and Martinique, they brought the celebrations there and since then it transformed into the Carnival celebrations we see today.

4f533ba2405aa90d06cb0ed0a481c575
Photo from Bajantube.com, Carnival Celebrations

♥Mobile, Alabama held the first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States.

take-a-day-trip-to-mobile-alabama_16001321_800860182_0_0_14003290_500

♥In St. Thomas, USVI, the festival features “mocko jumbies” or festive stilt walkers. Mocko Jumbie is considered a spirit, protector, or seeker. They are viewed as symbols of the islands history, culture, and heritage.

a987441f6611698a3fce48e7a5e8a8c3
Mocko Jumbies!

♥Trinidad holds the worlds largest Carnival celebrations which usually begin 8 months in advance! Wow!

going-to-the-trinidad-carnival

♥A genre of music that is played frequently during Carnival is called rapso which is a combo of calypso and rap.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

♥The Mardi Gras colors are purple (for justice), green (for faith), and gold (for power).

carnival
Here is my Mardi Gras mask!

 

What did you do for Mardi Gras? Any tips on where to go for Carnival next year? I would love to go one time! Let me know! Thanks my friends!

-Jillian

dream destination

Dream Destination: Exumas

The Exumas are located 35 miles southeast of Nassau and only 40 min from Florida! They are part of an archipelago of 365 cays and islands in the Bahamas. That means, in a year, you can visit one cay/island a day!

Why is this a dream destination? Imagine crystal clear, warm ocean water (my favorite), a place where nature outnumbers people, and swimming pigs! That’s correct.  Pigs that swim in the Caribbean are a real thing. So, would you want to swim with pigs? Whenever I ask that question, I get a mixed response. If your willing to give it a try, then you will be in for a unique island adventure. The swimming pigs are located on Big Major’s Cay. No one quite knows how they got there, but who cares.  It is amazing! For more information on the Exumas check out the Bahamas official website here!

Before you book your trip watch this award winning short film called “When Pigs Swim” directed by Charlie Smith and produced by GIV Bahamas Inc. 🙂

I would love to hear stories of anyone who has been there or has plans to go. Let me know! Have a great monday!

swimming-pigs-group
Swimming pigs on Exuma

 

 

 

Fun facts

Caribbean Islands and the Saints

How did the Caribbean Islands get their names? Most of the Islands were named by Christopher Columbus as he sailed past them in 1493.  Read on to discover the fascinating facts behind their names.

St. Kitts

Some say St. Kitts was named after Christopher Columbus himself and Kitts was sort of a nickname for Christopher. Others say he named it after the patron saint of travelers, which is St. Christopher. That is why before it was St. Kitts it was named St. Christopher. How interesting!

Check out this cute St. Christopher pendant necklace on Etsy!

96e30ec40f0bce1f2d7f5d8c92ce19ad
St. Kitts

St. Barts

The original settlers were the Arawak Indians and they named this island “Ouanalao” because of all the iguanas on the island. Once Christopher Columbus saw it he gave it the name, that we hear of today, St. Barthelemy or St. Barts. He named it this after his brother, Bartolomeo. Although, I do not know how much of a “saint” his brother was but maybe Christopher thought so? 😉

e388e248bd1b75194b60baa01b44119f
St. Barts

Virgin Islands

The Virgin Islands, my favorite of the Caribbean islands, was named by Christopher Columbus after St. Ursula and the 11,000 virgins. Basically Ursula went on a European pilgrimage before she was to be married and she and her virgin companions were murdered by the Huns. Very sad. St. Croix was named after the Holy Cross, St. John was named after St. John the Apostle, and  St. Thomas was named after Thomas, one of Jesus’s 12 apostles.

6d8172551d6fa989695caf74b152112b
St. John USVI

St. Lucia

St. Lucia is famous for its picturesque Piton mountains. It was named after St. Lucy of Syracuse by the French. She was a rich woman who sold all of her stuff because she wasn’t materialistic. However, her pagan husband got upset and sent her to be dealt with by the governor. St. Lucia was then martyred during the Diocletianic Persecution. Fun Fact: It is the only island named after a woman!

st-lucia-sugar-beach
The Pitons, St. Lucia

Sint Maarten/Saint Martin 

Named by Columbus, one side of this island is Dutch and one side is French. The island was named after Martin of Tours. It is said that it was the feast day (November 11th) of this saint when Columbus spotted the island. Martin of Tours was a solider turned monk who actually volunteered to stand unarmed on the front line of battle rather than fight. He was a type of freedom fighter and he is the patron saint of soldiers! Interesting man!

st-martin-st-maarten
St. Martin

St. Vincent

This island was named after the St. Vincent. It was also on his feast day (January 22nd) that Columbus discovered this island. He was captured by pirates (oh my!) and was sold into slavery and was a slave for 2 years! He prayed to God that if he would be freed he would devote his life to the poor. Fittingly,  St. Vincent did become dedicated to the poor and is the patron saint of the poor.

photo-canouan-grenadines-islands-35416-xl
St. Vincent

Sint Eustatius

Yet again, Columbus named this Dutch island. Want to hear something interesting, you know the logo on a Jaegermeister bottle? Well that cross and stag on the bottle is the emblem of Saint Eustace, in which the island is named after! He is the patron saint of Hunters. The Emblem refers to a time when he was out hunting and he saw a glowing crucifix between a deers antlers. Because of this he later converted to Christianity. Unfortunately. after disobeying the emperor he and his family were roasted alive inside of a bronze bull. Yikes!

 

liq_jag1

Pictures From Past Adventures

img_1342
The Baths, BVI
img_1387
Sailing on St. Martin

 

 

Fun facts, health

The Coconut

Cocos Nucifera, also known as the coconut, is more then an iconic staple of tropical life. The coconut palm is considered the tree of life. That is because every part of the tree can be used and by everything I mean the trunk, palms, husks, fiber, fruit, oil, sap, leaves, milk, and meat.  I am awe inspired by this infamous nut because I learned of how resilient  the coconut is. The coconut can float hundreds of miles in the ocean during a hurricane and will finally beach itself in one piece and make a coconut palm tree! Amazing!

That resiliency showcases itself in all the extraordinary ways the coconut is good for your health as well. I suppose the coconut being the main source of food and medicine for Pacific Islanders is one of the reasons they are among the longest living and healthiest humans in the world.

Here are 5 fun facts about the coconut:

  1. The coconut palm is the national tree of the Maldives and its on their coat of arms.
  2. A young coconut has a lot of water in them, which can be used as a refreshing drink.
  3. The coconut is considered a drupe not a nut. Other drupes are peaches, cherries, and plums.
  4. Coconut oil has many many benefits such as prevents heart disease, reduces inflammation, cancer prevention, moisturizes skin and hair, boosts the immune system, improves memory and brain function, and many more. Check out here for more health benefits.
  5. The top three producers of coconuts are the Philippines, India, and Indonesia.

An easy way I try to get the wonderful benefits of coconut oil is by using it for my cooking oil, baking with it, and I put a tablespoon of it into my green tea in the morning. Yum! Try it!

coconut2
Sounds about right 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Fun facts

Margarita Day

“Margarita: its more than just a girls name.”

That was the tagline to the first importer of Jose Cuervo in the United States, which was in 1945. Many people have claimed they invented the margarita but I like the story of a woman in 1938 who told the bartender that she was allergic to all hard liquors except tequila and poof! the margarita was born!  Febuary 22nd, which is today, is national margarita day. Who knew!? Margaritas are known for their salty, sweet, and sour combination. I enjoy the classic margarita: tequila, lime, and triple sec. But Margaritas come in many different flavor combinations now. What is your favorite? For my Chicagoans, where can you get the best margaritas? While you think, here are 5 fun facts about margaritas:

  1. Margarita means daisy in Spanish
  2. The worlds largest margarita was made is Las Vegas (not surprised)
  3. The salt is important because it dampens the bitterness of the liquor
  4. The first margarita machine was invented by a high school drop-out in 1971.
  5. All tequila must be made by the blue agave plant.

For more information on random national days, check out http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/calendar-at-a-glance/

img_1263
BOGO MARGARITAS, ST.MARTIN 😉
Tips for Trips

Nonstop flights: Chicago to Caribbean

249949_558504916653_2771280_n
Crystal clear waters in Cayman Islands

Chicago to…?

O’hare international airport (ORD) is a major airport, so I think we Chicagoans are pretty lucky because we have access to most Caribbean islands. But not all those flight are non-stop. Here is a list of the nonstop flights from Chicago to the Caribbean islands.

These 6 locations offer nonstop flights year round! (order:shortest to longest)

1.Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands (4hrs)

2. Montego Bay, Jamaica (4hrs)

3. Nassau, Bahamas (4hrs)

4. San Juan, Puerto Rico (5hrs)

5. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (5hrs)

6. Aruba (5hrs)

You are able to get non stop flights to St. Thomas, Sint Maarten, and Turks and Caicos but it is only during the winter season. Plan accordingly!