WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT CUBA: PART TWO

Good weather, idyllic beaches and beautiful sunsets are just a few of the reasons to spend the New Year in vibrant Cuba.

In part two of our Cuba travel guide we highlight some of our favourite places to visit, where to stay and enjoy some relaxation outside of the busy capital Havana.

Museo Hemingway

One of our highlights on our Cuba trip was a tour of American novelist Ernest Hemingway’s villa. Located in San Francisco de Paula – 15km southeast of Havana – the author lived in his home for 20 years before returning to the US in the 1960s during the Fidel Castro revolution. He donated his house to the Cuban people and is now a museum which has remained relatively untouched.

Visitors are not allowed inside the house but there are plenty of open doors and windows to get a glimpse of the interior of the property. Hemingway’s home boasts a swimming pool, a fishing boat and a three-storey tower next to the main house. You’ll be blown away by the views in the heavily wooded grounds.

Jibacoa

If you are looking to spend some time away from the Havana buzz, discover Jibacoa. A perfect place for nature lovers and diving enthusiasts, we stayed at Memories hotel which is located along the northern coast and is in the heart of the beautiful Cuban countryside.

It is an adult-only resort and offers guests plenty of fun activities to take part in. You’ve got mountains, a powder-white beach and an impressive coral reef. The hotel sits on Arroyo Bermejo Beach and sits in 17 acres of lush gardens and is an hours drive away from Havana.

When you’re not sunbathing you can spend your time scuba diving, snorkelling or playing volleyball. Also, if you want a work out we would definitely recommend mountain climbing in their lush forests. If that tires you out be sure to pamper yourself at their in-house spa.

Rum, fun and cigars

When you embark on your Cuban adventure it would not be a perfect trip without enjoying some of their famous rum and cigars. There are plenty of tours where you can visit cigar factories and see first hand how they’re made on the production floor.

You can follow us on Twitter here

Shelley & Michelle xx

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT CUBA: PART ONE

As women who like to travel, Cuba has been one of our dream destinations and recently became a reality for us. Any preconception you may have about this island will most likely be a distant memory once you’ve experienced Cuba.

The country has an infectious vibrancy that is incredibly magnetic no matter which part of the island you visit. We both agree that Cuba is an amazing place that will certainly blow you away. There is so much to see and do in a country seeped in culture.

We both want to give you an insight into some of the best places to visit while staying in Cuba.

Havana

One of the first places we visited was Cuba’s capital…Havana. From the crumbling buildings, to the cobbled streets this city is filled with life. Our best advice would be to take a guided walking tour through Havana. You’ll get to hear the amazing history and discover new things while exploring the old town.

Top recommendations

Take a ride in a classic car – It would not be a trip without taking a classic car ride around Havana. Cuba is home to American cars from the 1930s to the 1950s. They have a wide range of vintage cars to choose from, so definitely take the opportunity to flag one down and take a joyride through the city. You’ll get to have your own personalised tour and get to know the history of this amazing country. We would recommend you negotiate a price and length of time with your driver before taking the trip.

Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón – Far from being eerie Havana’s main cemetery (which is a national monument) is known for it’s striking religious and marble statues. You’ll get to stroll through 57 hectares of elaborate religious designs showing the graves of politicians, artists, writers and revolutionaries.

Tropicana Club – Prepare to be blown away with the bright colours, sultry salsa moves and the Latin sounds at Tropicana. A fabulous Cabaret show located in a lush tropical garden. The show is literally out of this world which features an array of performers. Their costumes are flamboyant adding a level of sauce to their eye-popping dance routines. It is the same venue where famous faces like Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack would hang out when staying in Cuba. You are provided with a bottle of rum at your table as well as mixers. So you can sit back and enjoy a Cuban cigar, enjoy a strong beverage and watch the delights of the show.

Castillo De Los Tres Reyes Del Morro (El Morro)- A fortress which was constructed between 1589 and 1630 to guard the entrance to Havana Bay is the quintessential Cuban landmark. The two castles feature a variety of experiences including a Maritime museum and another museum dedicated to Che Guevera. We would recommend visiting during the evening to attend the famous cañonazo ceremony. This nightly ceremony reenacts an 18th century ritual of sounding a canon to signal the closing of the city walls.  You can sit on the massive walls and watch the sunset, listen to the sea crashing against the fort and get some breathtaking snaps of Old Havana’s skyline.

Look out for our Part II: Why you should visit Cuba.

You can follow us on Twitter here

Shelley & Michelle xx

Our Trip To Jamaica

When planning our trip to Jamaica we were so excited! It’s been years since we last visited plus we’re half Jamaican so it was like going back home. We stayed in the beachfront resort, ClubHotel Riu (here) in Mammee Bay that is located in Ocho Rios.

Jamaica is an island filled with the most amazing foods, drinks, beaches and adventure. The island has plenty to offer, with it’s long sandy beaches, stunning rainforests and amazing waterfalls, Jamaica has something for everyone.

Below are our top things to see and do when visiting Jamaica.

Dunn’s River Falls

Dunn’s River Falls is one of the main attractions to visit in Jamaica. The famous waterfall is located near Ocho Rios and is one of the few waterfalls that enters the sea.

When you arrive you are given water shoes which prevent you from slipping as the rocks are quite slippery when you’re climbing. Dunn’s River falls is 1,000 feet (300m) but fear not! There is help at hand by the friendly park tour guides who are with you every step of the way.

The waters are so refreshing and there is a massive vegetation that shades you from the sun when climbing the waterfall. For that extra security you can decide whether to climb with other tourists in a hand-holding chain which is lead by a guide. Or if you’re like us and just want to go and explore you can do it alone (only if you feel comfortable to do so). The cost for adults is $20USD and $12USD for children.

Bob Marley Mausoleum

When visiting Jamaica the home of Reggae you have to visit Nine Mile which is the birthplace and final resting place of Bob Marley. We travelled in the Zion bus which was filled with pictures of the reggae legend and a hilarious tour guide explaining the history of Jamaica, Bob Marley and his family.

Located deep in the St Anne countryside this is the place which influenced a lot of Bob Marley’s songs. The tour is conducted by Rastafarian guides who are so relaxed and friendly. They even sing for you with a steel pan band playing alongside them.

There are two tombs in the Mausoleum where Bob Marley is buried alongside his half-brother Anthony Booker. The second tomb is where Bob Marley’s mother Codella Booker is buried. No one is aloud to film or take pictures inside the tomb area, but what we can say is that it is peaceful, there are candles and it’s the most beautiful resting place. We visited Bob Marley’s bedroom! It’s amazing knowing we were standing so close to the bed Bob Marley slept in! We finished the tour in a room full of portraits and pictures of Bob Marley. The museum included guitars, awards and historical artefacts. The tour costs around $25 for adults and $12 for children aged 4-12.

The Blue Lagoon

A stunning location with deep blue waters and lush greenery, the Blue Lagoon which is located east of Port Antonio is an absolute beauty. The waters are literally turquoise blue!

Before we got into the waters for a swim the guide said that the water is that calm and refreshing it will make you look at least 10 years younger! With that said they had to drag us out! Lol. As you enter the boat and take in the scenery you have a tour guide who talks about the history of the Lagoon, celebrities that have visited and the movies the Lagoon has appeared in.

Rafting on the Rio Grande River

The Rio Grande is one of the largest rivers in Jamaica that runs through the rainforests of the island.

There are Bamboo Rafts which you have to yourselves. The scenery is so beautiful, calm and relaxing. There are friendly raft captains to each raft. Our raft captain was so nice! He even let us have a go rafting down the river (which is much harder than it looks). You’re using so much of your upper body strength! We even jumped in and had a little swim. It’s also very romantic so anyone planning on proposing to their partner in Jamaica. This trip is the way to do it. Prices start from around $78.

You can follow Shelley on Instagram here

You can follow Michelle on Twitter  here

Shelley & Michelle xx

Sea Sand Sunsets And Smiles Travel Guide: Our Trip to Aruba

We travelled to one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean….Aruba ‘One Happy Island’ and had a week relaxing and exploring in paradise. The sea is crystal clear and made up of different shades of blue. You could literally bathe in the sea all day. But don’t be mistaken…Aruba has so much to offer, from stunning beaches, to rugged landscapes and tasty authentic cuisine. We can certainly say that Aruba was the perfect getaway for the sister duo!

Where We Stayed

We stayed at the all-inclusive resort, The Hotel Riu Palace Antillas (here) that is located directly on Palm Beach. It is an adults-only hotel that boasts a gym, spa, casino, swimming pools, nightclub and a variety of restaurants and shops. All hotel guests also have access to their sister hotel, The Hotel Riu Palace Aruba situated next door which is more family friendly (here). This was not our first time staying in one of the Riu hotels but this particular hotel is definitely top of the list! The staff were friendly and we felt very looked after. There was so much to do within the resort there was never a dull moment!

Things To Do

Aruba is the perfect destination whether your a couple or on a single girls/boys trip and has something to offer everyone. From submarine tours, to horse back riding on the beach to deep sea fishing you can be as busy or chill as you desire.

One of our favourite trips has to be the Baby Beach Safari tour. You have your own personal tour guide (shout out to Sherman!) who takes you in his jeep on the bumpiest off-road adventure through the Arikok National Park of Aruba. You drive through what looks like a desert land, made up of lava formations, quartz rocks and fossilised coral at full speed. So buckle up and be prepared for windswept hair, dust and a crazy ride. Perfect for any thrill seekers!

Our first stop was the east coast of Aruba to the California Lighthouse, followed by a pit stop at the Natural Bridge, then headed onto the donkey sanctuary (where Shelley fed the donkeys), onto the Fontein Caves and ended our day at Baby Beach that is located in the south east of the island where you can clearly see the coast of Venezula across the waters which was very cool to see.

Natural Bridge
California Lighthouse
Shelley feeding at The Donkey Sanctuary
Fontein Caves

We also recommend other ways to spend your time on the island from taking a cruise across the sea in time for the sunset on a catamaran, watersports and going on the karaoke party bus (which is a lot of fun).

 Food we ate

We ate so much delicious foods on the islands, from fresh fish to tasty soups, with our favourite dish of the menu being steak and lobster. The combination of the two foods work so well together!

Also, you have to try the cream of conch soup, finished with two stuffed pastry’s. A very tasty, Aruban dish that should be finished with the famous Aruban rum punch. This was certainly our favourite cocktail on the island.

Aruba is an expensive place and is certainly an island that appeals to honeymooners and retired people. However, it is still a great place to experience no matter your age as there is so much on offer, including the incredible scenery.

We would certainly suggest having a budget so if you are renting an apartment and eating out daily you will probably have a daily spend of 130 USD. If you are staying at an all-inclusive resort (like we did) your daily budget will be a lot less. So bear that in mind.

Daily activities such as the Baby Beach tour will cost around 110 USD, water sports vary from 20 USD up to 85 USD and sailing on a catamaran is around 65USD.

Aruba is also known for their designer shops located in Oranjestad, so if you want to fit in some shopping, make sure you have enough spending money to splash out a little bit.

You can follow Shelley on Instagram here

You can follow Michelle on Twitter  here

Shelley & Michelle xx