Tag Archives: Caribbean

Puerto Rico: Passport-free Caribbean

Looking for a getaway that doesn’t require a passport?  Consider Puerto Rico, a tropical island in the Caribbean that offers beaches, fine dining, rainforests, and good old-fashioned relaxing!

The road system is as advanced as those you’ll find in the States (nope, the cobblestone roads in Old San Juan are not typical across the island!). Roads are clearly marked, and the main roads that cross the mountains were safe and well maintained. Spanish is the main language, but everyone has English classes in school. Resort employees speak perfect English, and if you wander outside the resorts, the person you are talking to understands you, even if they are too shy to admit it.

This island is pretty big so don’t underestimate how long it takes to get around. There’s a main mountain chain that runs the length of the island, and the drive thru the mountains can add a bit to your drive time.

Standard of living is high compared to most other Caribbean islands, and pretty close to what you’ll find in many US States. Water filtration meets the same US standards. Puerto Ricans are US citizens. Everywhere I went folks were chatty and delightful, and many were well traveled in the States or lived there for a period of time.

You can find some excellent dining venues in Puerto Rico, ranging from regional specialties to international dishes. Everything I tasted was fresh and delicious, and the resorts are all justly proud of their restaurants. At dinner, the pace is slower and more typical of Europe.

If nightlife is important, stick with San Juan. Here you’ll find the trendier clubs, and some of the best chefs. Fusion cuisine is popular (such as Puerto Rican and Asian). Many of the San Juan resorts offer casinos, and most have a trendy club or two onsite.

Renting a car is easy, and is recommended if you’re visiting the southern or western areas of the island, if you’re planning a multi-destination itinerary, or if you’d like to explore the island on your own. The resorts in the San Juan area generally charge for parking. Away from the San Juan area, some resorts can be pretty far from shops, other restaurants, and the sights.

There’s a lot to see and explore on this island. There are numerous golf courses, and diving is well established. There’s the rain forest in the east, and the dry forest in the west, as well as caves and hikes for the more adventurous. In general, it is a fun island to explore and get to know the history, culture, and people.

Beaches in Puerto Rico are pretty, but don’t quite measure up to Negril or Cancun. The north side of the island is the Atlantic, while the south side is the Caribbean. Sand quality ranges from golden to brown to gray. The better beaches are to be found along the east coast, which is actually Atlantic & the Caribbean, and the best beaches are on Puerto Rico’s islands off the east coast (such as Vieques).

The all-inclusive concept hasn’t caught on in Puerto Rico, but you’ll want the flexibility to explore things on your own here.  Some resorts offer free breakfast promotions; check with us for current specials.

American Airlines offers daily nonstop service between DFW and San Juan.  Most major carriers also offer service from DFW to San Juan with one or more connections

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200

El Dorado Royale Resort, Riviera Maya Mexico

Looking for a long weekend escape to recharge your batteries? I can recommend the El Dorado Royale Spa Resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya for your next break. As an adults-only resort, you’ll find a peaceful, laid back setting. No screaming kids in the pool, no social director toting a bullhorn. It’s a wonderful resort choice for a couple on a romantic retreat, or for girlfriends on a spa getaway. Relax in a palapa beach bed with your favorite novel, while enjoying the cool Caribbean breeze and a frosty drink concoction. How does that sound to you?

In-suite Jacuzzis, pillow top mattresses, and 24 hour room service comes standard with all accommodations. This resort has been rated as one of Conde Nast Traveler’s Top 100 Hotels in the World. For an upgrade consider the swim-up junior suites which steps from the patio into the lazy river, or the Casita Suite with a private outdoor shower and hacienda-style expanded room design.

Dining here is about the best you’ll find in an all-inclusive resort, with no buffet lines in sight. So go ahead and linger over dinner, the menu is creative and the service is proficient. Try sushi and Pacific Rim delights at Kampai, or perhaps fondue at LaFondue. Or for an intimate setting you can enjoy a beachfront candlelight dinner (at additional charge). The 20,000 sq. ft. Casitas Spa and the Spa Royale offer an extensive selection of treatments, saunas and steam rooms. Non-motorized water sports such as kayaks, snorkel gear, and paddle boats are included at no charge. Other water sports are available for a fee, including scuba, deep sea fishing, and wave runners.

Dallas residents consider Cancun and Riviera Maya to be their “local” beaches. With flight times of around two hours and the resort location 20 minutes from the airport it’s an easy trip for a three night getaway. Meals, snacks, room service, beverages, and non-motorized water sports are included. Spa treatments and offsite tours are additional cost.

Property features 664 units in 10 categories.

Riviera Maya: Mexico’s Caribbean Jewel

Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, Riviera Maya sits on Mexico’s Caribbean coast just south of Cancun.  This resort area has been growing rapidly in the last decade and has become on of Dallas’ favorite beach destinations.  The resort area spans along 60 miles of beautiful white sandy beach, where jungle meets the azure blue sea.

There are resorts here to fit most budgets and expectations.  There are adult-only resorts that appeal to the honeymoon and anniversary clientelle, as well as those that are family friendly.  Most the resorts in the area are all-inclusive, which means that your meals, snacks, and beverages as well as some activities at the resort are included as part of your resort stay.  This makes for a very convenient and hassle-free vacation.  Sand, sea and unlimited frozen drinks.  How can you beat that?

Riviera Maya resorts are more laid back than those in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.  In Riviera Maya the resorts are sitting on acres, compared to the resorts in the Hotel Zone sitting on lots. Plus these resorts have plenty of activities and entertainment to keep you busy.  If you decide to wander, downtown Playa del Carmen is an easy taxi ride, and offers some shopping and a bit of nightlife to boot.

For daytime fun, head over to the archaeological-natural park named Xcaret.  The highlight activity here is  tubing down an underground river (called a cenote).  The caves are awesome, and the water is refreshingly cold!  Allow extra time to wander the park.

For the active client, there are several golf courses in the Riviera Maya area, with reasonable green fees.  Stay onsite at the Iberostar Paraiso Resort complex or the Moon Palace Resort if you’d like to focus on golf.  Scuba and snorkeling in the Riviera Maya area is exceptional.  Consider snorkeling from your resort, or sign up for a boat excursion for snorkeling or diving on the Great Meso-American Barrier Reef.

Getting to Riviera Maya from Dallas is a snap.  The flight from Dallas to Cancun is only about 2 1/2 hours, and American and Sun Country offer several nonstop flight options daily.  Book your package with transfers already included, which will save from the extra hassle and cost of a taxi ride.  From the airport, your resort is ten minutes to eighty minutes’ drive south.  And don’t forget, air travel to Mexico requires a passport.

~Cindy Grant, Travel Consultant, ReconnectTravel.com 972-625-6200