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oct 08 2015

How to Do Grand Cayman Like a Local

This article was written by Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

You’ve soaked up the sun on Seven Mile Beach; swum with the rays at Stingray City; and dived the island’s famous North Wall. So now you think know Grand Cayman. Think again. Beyond George Town’s duty-free shops and the swanky resorts of the Seven Mile strip, there’s a side of this 75-square-mile territory that islanders have been keeping to themselves. Until now. Here are eight fun and unexpected ways to experience Grand Cayman like a local, no snorkel gear required.

Related: Hurricane-Proof Caribbean Vacations

Flip out with the flip flop tree

A flip-flop tree grows in Grand Cayman. And it has more than 2,600 followers on Facebook. Really. So peel yourself off that chaise and hop in a cab to see the (dead) casuarina tree along the South Sound coast road that’s embellished with hundreds of sandals, shoes, sneakers, and thongs nailed to its trunk. The ever-evolving installation was started back in 2008 by two residents who wanted to draw attention to the garbage discarded on the island’s shores by displaying stray sandals they found on the sand. Now islanders are memorializing their own flip-flops on the tree, and the footwear fiesta has reached heights of more than 15 feet and has begun migrating to a neighboring trunk. Bring your worn-out skimmers and add a shoe to the collection. Just remember to dispose of the other foot responsibly.

See the stars—starfish that is

Let the cruise-ship hordes head for Stingray City; Caymanians cruise instead to Starfish Point, on the northeast tip of the island, where, depending on the season and tide, scores of red cushion starfish sit in gin-clear, knee-deep water. They gather here to feed on micro-organisms found on the white-sand seabed, presenting the perfect opportunity for you to snap a photo with the sea stars. Just don’t lift them out of the water; they can’t breathe properly unless submerged. And don’t even think about taking one home as a souvenir—that’ll get you a $500,000 fine or 10 years in the slammer.

Related: Cayman Islands to Build Cruise Port That Could Destroy the Environment

Take the best foodie tour

You’ll never go hungry on an island with more than 200 restaurants. But you might just go broke. Grand Cayman is one of the Caribbean’s priciest destinations (its currency is worth even more than the U.S. dollar) and dining out is no exception. But if you’re in town on a Wednesday night you can save as you savor by joining local foodies on the Flavour Tour at Camana Bay. For just $89 a person you’ll enjoy a tasty four-course progressive dinner (each course served at a different restaurant in the retail village) as well as pre- and post-dinner drinks at West Indies Wine Company. Four not-so-small plates plus six cocktails for less than 100 bucks? Sold.

Relax on a gem of a beach

Stroll the Seven Mile Beach strip on any given day and you’ll see conventioneers escaping air-conditioned conference rooms and well-oiled tourists basking in curtained cabanas. What you won’t see is hotel employees hanging out on their day off. That’s because they’re all soaking up the rays at Smith Cove, a petite beach that’s just 10 minutes’ drive away yet feels a world apart. This South Sound gem has absolutely no “scene,” so you can really relax. Restrooms and a few picnic tables are the only amenities, so bring your own beach chair, umbrella, and refreshments. Visit on a weekday and apart from a few locals, your only company will be a flock of vocal chickens pecking their way across the sugary sands.

Shop like a local

Sure, you can pick up a shot glass, T-shirt, or baseball cap as souvenir but wouldn’t you rather buy something lovingly handcrafted and unique to the islands? The only answer to that question is yes, and the only choice for one-stop local shopping is Pure Art Gallery & Gifts, a South Sound souvenir store that features Caymanian and Caribbean art and craft items. Must-buys include: straw hats and baskets woven from the dried fronds of the national tree, the Silver Thatch palm, and jewelry made from Caymanite, a semi-precious stone only found here.

Explore underwater—at night

Recreational diving got its start in the Cayman Islands, but you don’t have to be a diver or snorkeler to explore its fish- and coral-filled depths. Atlantis Submarines takes adventurers 100 feet below the surface, no breathing apparatus required, and Grand Cayman is the only Caribbean island where you can take a nighttime tour. During 45-minute dives you’ll witness all the ocean’s after-dark attractions, including silvery tarpon, which hunt for prey using the sub’s high-wattage lights. And with excursions timed for pre- and post-dinner hours, you won’t even have to miss a meal.

Related: Crazy Cool Night Activities at Hotels Around the World

Take a cooking class

Maybe it’s raining. Maybe you’re sunburned. Or maybe you just love air-conditioning. Either way, here’s an indoor idea: Take a cooking class at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman’s culinary studio (launching this month), where resort chefs lead one- to two-hour classes that range from traditional island cuisine to macaron-making and tutorials on carving a cake in the shape of your favorite designer handbag. Kids from four to 12-years-old can get in on the foodie fun at Bon Vivant, a cookware showroom at Camana Bay, where little ones join hour-long cooking demos and leave with a recipe and their own culinary creations.

Have a Funday Sunday

On Sundays Caymanian boaters (and their friends) navigate north to Rum Point, the island’s quintessential Funday spot. There, the day is well spent anchored off the famous Wreck Bar & Grill. Take a dip in the warm waters; swim ashore for a Mudslide (the vodka-, Kahlua- and Bailey’s-laced Mudslide invented here back in the ‘70s); and get to know the locals as you stand in the shallows and chat over a frosty Caybrew beer (or three). See your hotel’s tour desk for boat rental info or hop one of Cayman Luxury Charters’ yachts.

WATCH: Going Full Local in Puerto Rico

oct 08 2015

Save on Winter Travel With These Credit Cards

Be here when the polar vortex returns! A trip to Mexico's Riviera Maya and other brag-worthy winter travel destinations can be more affordable when you use the right credit card, earning rewards points, statement credits, and getting the best exchange rate on foreign currency.

(Whitney Tressel)

Savvy travelers are booking holiday and winter travel now to lock in good deals. With some of the year’s busiest travel dates coming up around the holidays and winter break, our friends at CardHub have delivered another great report: Best Travel Credit Cards for Winter 2015-16. While lower fuel prices, a strong dollar, and more reasonable airfares are already making this an great time to save money on travel, this new report makes it clear that careful shopping for the right credit card can nab you as much as an extra $625 in savings.

oct 07 2015

Act Now To Save Big On Your Next Ski Trip

A white-out in Colorado is a great thing for skiers that love tooling through feet of fresh powder
(Whitney Tressel)

Skiing and snowboarding have always been sports that reward those who plan ahead. The best deals on ski gear can always be found before the season starts, away from the mountains, and not at the base lodge during snow day. Not only that, fresh tracks are always found by those who wake up early enough to catch the first lift.

oct 06 2015

Chile Will Protect the Ocean Surrounding Easter Island

(Courtesy anoldent/Flickr)

We are thrilled that Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, announced yesterday at the Our Ocean conference that her nation will create a huge marine park around Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island.

Pending approval by the island’s indigenous people, a 243,630-square-mile area in the Pacific would be off-limits for fishing. The British government is also planning a marine park, of 322,000 square miles, around the Pitcairn Islands, which are Easter Island’s closest neighbors. Protecting this vast area from illegal industrial fishing is a major ecological step forward for the world’s oceans. Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin group, spoke for many of us when he blogged on Monday: “This wonderful action will protect treasures off the shores of this remote island, as well as the brilliant biodiversity that feeds the local Rapa Nui people, and helps them continue their centuries-old cultural traditions.”

oct 05 2015

'Hacker Fares': An Easy Way to Save Big

(Courtesy kalaloch/myBudgetTravel)

The name sounds vaguely naughty: “hacker fare.” But, trust me, scoring one of these bargain airfares doesn’t mean you have to be a tech whiz or an aspiring thief: Hacker fares are simply airfares that combine a one-way ticket on one airline with a return ticket on a different airline, potentially saving you a bundle.

oct 02 2015

Ready for a Room With a View?

The windows in an Avalon Waterways Panorama Suite are 11 feet wide and 7 feet high, affording unparalleled views on a river cruise.

(Courtesy Avalon Waterways)

We’ve always loved E.M. Forster’s great “travel romance” A Room With a View (not to mention the beautiful film adaptation), in which a young Englishwoman’s life is forever changed when she agrees to swap hotel rooms with a fascinating young Englishman in Florence in order to have, yes, a room with a view. We love the way that expression can mean, quite literally, a window that affords gorgeous scenery, but also the way those words can sum up a transformative travel experience.

oct 02 2015

How U.S. Theme Parks Are Gearing Up For Halloween

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando

Are you brave enough to visit Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando?

(Courtesy 3viajeros/Flickr)

It's never too early to start planning for Halloween. We've got the inside scoop on Halloween events happening this year at Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, and Six Flags theme parks.


In addition to annually updated shows like Bill & Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure, this year the parks are home to The Walking Dead: The Living and the Dead, a terrifying attraction inspired by season four of the hit zombie t.v. show, The Walking Dead. Additional creepy maze attractions at Universal Studios Hollywood include Insidious, Michael Myers' Halloween, This Is the End, Crimson Peak, and Alien v. Predator. Still not scared? Try the Survive the Purge Terror Tram, a terrifying tram ride through Universal's Backlot. Universal Orlando will feature many of the same attractions (in haunted house form rather than being giant mazes) as well as haunted houses like Freddy vs. Jason, Insidious, The Purge, An American Werewolf in London, 25 Years of Monsters & Mayhem, Run: Blood Sweat and Fears, Body Collectors: Recollections, and Asylum in Wonderland: 3D.

Universal Studios Hollywood

oct 01 2015

8 Reasons To Try Traveling Solo

A solo traveler takes a photo of herself on the beach in Playa Grande, Costa Rica
(Courtesy Sam Hauser)

According to an article by The New York Times, 24 percent of people traveled solo on their last vacation, up from last year's 15 percent. More and more people, of all different ages and backgrounds, whether single or in relationships, are saying yes to adventure and letting nothing stand in their way. 

sep 30 2015

Be Prepared for Hurricane Season in the Caribbean

(Courtesy spurdog/myBudgetTravel)

So far, the 2015 hurricane season (which runs through November) has been pretty mild, but with warnings about Hurricane Joaquin heading toward the Bahamas, we’re turning our attention to what steps travelers can take to prepare for the worst. If you’re headed for a hurricane-prone island this fall, Budget Travel suggests the following precautions:

sep 30 2015

Fall Weekend Getaways Your Kids Will Love, Too


Take the kids to Colonial Williamsburg this fall. They'll love it!

(Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

This article was written by Hallie Lavine and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

Now that school’s back in session you can breathe a sigh of relief—and contemplate how to keep the rug rats entertained over long weekends and mini breaks. We’re here to help. These are 10 awesome autumn excursions guaranteed to be educational and fun (for the whole family!).

Historical Boston

Even if your kid detests history class, he or she will be enthralled by the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile, red brick road that takes you past historic churches, burial grounds, and even Paul Revere’s house so you can learn the story of the American Revolution and beyond. You can explore on your own, or you can take a 90 minute tour led by 18th century costumed guides. (For the easily bored, there’s a Pirates and Patriots version and also a Pub Crawl version.) Tickets are just $12 for adults, $6.50 for children. Once that’s over, it’s a quick walk to the Boston Tea Party Museum, a floating museum that has live actors and interactive exhibits (including allowing your little ones to toss tea into the harbor). Tickets are $25 for adults, $15 for children. If your kids are yearning for more historical re-enactments, drive an hour out of the city for an overnight getaway at Sturbridge Village, an 1830s New England living history museum. Tickets are $24 for adults, $10 for kids. Otherwise, consider the whale watch at the New England Aquarium. You’ll have to shell out a tad more dough at $49 for adults, $33 for children ages 3-11. Or check out the many interactive exhibits at the Boston Children’s Museum. It’s $16 for all ages. 

Related: Get Your Kids Ready for School: Amazing Educational Trips

Family space camp

Does your little guy pretend to be Buzz Lightyear? Consider booking the whole family at U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. You’ll go on simulated mission training and operations, learn how rockets are constructed, and get a crash course in on-site space history. One highlight: the 1/6th gravity chair, which simulates walking on the Moon, and the Manned Maneuvering Unit, which simulates astronaut spacewalks outside the shuttle. The jaunt will cost you $449 per person for three days, $499 per person for four days, with meals and lodging included.

Colonial Williamsburg

There’s no shortage of educational opportunities at this living history museum and historic district, which includes Revolutionary War reenactments, hands on opportunities at brick-making and digging for artifacts, and even dressing up as soldiers or undercover Colonial spies. You can easily spend two days here, then head over to historic Jamestown, which recreates life in the 1607 settlement, or visit one of the three plantations. Seven-day ticket pass for all is $89 for adults and $41 for kids. Balance it out with a day at nearby theme park Busch Gardens, where your littles can participate in the Animal Ambassador program and learn about the lives of critters ranging from eagles to wolves and foxes.  

Sleepover at the Smithsonian

Bring your sleeping bag and flashlight and head over to one of three Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian museums—American History Museum, National History Museum, or the National Portrait Gallery—for an evening of entertainment that includes a nocturnal tour, craft activities, and various educational games. At night’s end, you “camp out” in the museum. The cost? $135 per person for kids ages 8-12. The next day, check out the National Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and the National Zoo, where you can say hi to three world famous pandas and stop by the Kid’s Farm, where children can groom donkeys, goats, alpacas, and hogs.

Related: Tuck in Your Favorite Animals at These Zoo Sleepovers

Digging for dinosaur bones

The casino capital of the world also gives a great glimpse of what life was like when dinosaurs roamed the earth. The Las Vegas Natural History Museum boasts a prehistoric life gallery of critters who once roamed the Nevada deserts, including a 35-foot-long Tyrannosaurus Rex that lowers its head and roars, a Triceratops, Ankylosaur, and the giant marine reptile, ichthyosaur. The Nevada state museum offers a Dino summer special through September 20, which features an animatronic Tyrannosaurus rex and Triceratops, a Jurassic Park-style jeep journey through a virtual dinosaur world, and the opportunity to dig up life-sized dinosaur bones. Then hop in a car and drive either to Red Rock Canyon for a hike to check out fossilized Dinosaur tracks, or to Tule Springs to see Ice Age fossil beds—both are less than 20 miles away. Finish up with a visit to the Historical Techatticup Mine, the oldest, richest and most famous gold mine in Southern Nevada and a 45 minute drive from Vegas. ($12.50 for adults, $7.50 for kids.)

Related: Dino Digs, Museums, and More: 10 Places to Get Your Paleo On

Maritime adventures

Head straight to sea with tickets to San Diego’s USS Midway Museum ($20 adults, $10 kids), a floating city that allows you to walk in the footsteps of 225,000 Midway sailors who served our country. Highlights include over 60 interactive exhibits, like playing on flight simulators and climbing aboard aircraft. Then head on over to the Maritime Museum ($16 adults, $8 children) which includes kid-friendly, seafaring-inspired exhibits. It has one of the world’s biggest collection of historic ships, including the world’s oldest active ship the Star of India, as well as educational excursions such as whale watching. Other non-nautical city highlights: animatronic dinosaurs at TheNAT San Diego Natural History Museum, hands-on science exhibits at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Air & Space Museum, where kids can dress up as astronauts.

Connor Prairie

This interactive history park in Indiana ($16 adults, $11 kids) is a recreated 19th-century village on 200 acres. Among its highlights: an autumn headless Horseman ride, Civil War re-enactments, classes in blacksmithing, hearth cooking, and an “Indian camp” where you can recreate living like as Native Americas did 200 years ago. Once you’ve had your fill, drive to the Indiana Transportation Museum and take a spin on one of the vintage railroad trains, or the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis.

Corning Museum of Glass

A perfect East Coast weekend getaway, this museum, located in Corning, New York, in the Finger Lake region upstate, allows your kids to explore 3,500 years of glassmaking history while watching glass come to life during hot-glass demos. They’ll then make their own glass creations from ornaments to night lights. Cost: $18 for kids and adults. Afterwards, since you’re right in the neighborhood, you can pop into the Norman Rockwell Museum, or, if your kids are tuckered out, wake them back up with an invigorating hike on the Haunted History Trail or an apple-tasting tour.

Fun with sea turtles

Nesting season for sea turtles in Florida is May through October, so if you’re planning a trip to the Sunshine State this fall, your kids will love some close-up encounters with these critters. The Little Loggerhead Package at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa includes a visit to see the sea turtles at Loggerhead Marinelife Center, while adventurous kids over age 10 can search for turtles and other marine life with the Beginners Dive Package. Acqualina Resort and Spa in Miami offers Acquamarine, a complimentary, marine biology-inspired program for kids which also includes a sea-turtle-based outreach program during the summer and early fall. But if you’re planning a Florida trip after sea turtle season, don’t fret: Acqualina offers its sea learning program all year round, while other hotels such as the Ritz Carlton in Naples has a Nature’s Wonders camp, led by a professional conservationist and featuring 11 aquariums with sharks, crabs, turtles, and eels, as well as a kid-sized lab with microscopes for budding marine biologists. All these programs are stimulating enough that you won’t feel guilty about taking some alone time to lounge poolside.

Safari at Grand Teton National Park

You don’t have to schlep your entire crew to Africa to give your kids the educational experience of a safari. Instead, book a morning or all-day trip through the nonprofit Wildlife Expeditions in Jackson, Wyoming, which offers an introduction to the wildlife of Grand Teton National Park, part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Trained biologists will point out the best viewing spots for Park critters such as elk, moose, big horn sheep, bison, mule deer, foxes, and eagles (You may even be able to see wolves hunting during the winter months!) and give your kids a crash course in ecology and animal behavior. Then, explore on your own with your kids through the park’s Junior Ranger program, where you learn about the natural world of the park on an easy 2-mile hike with a ranger. Resorts like Hotel Terra also offer in-house naturalists who can also organize smaller wildlife safaris or take your family on a nighttime stargazing tour.

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