Joanne’s Top 5 Beaches

ashley-whitlatch-ueyN0Qfz3zc-unsplash

Are you dreaming of a beach vacation?  Imagine warm sun, a light breeze and the sound of the ocean meeting the shore.  When it comes to breathtaking beaches, Joanne has sure seen some perfect ones.   Here are her top 5 sandy spots and a few hotel suggestions for each.

Palm Beach, Aruba

Joanne Aruba 2018

This two-mile long stretch of powder white sand is home to water sports, palm trees, casinos, hotels, beach bars and so much more.  The water is calm and it’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Want to stay right on Palm Beach?  Plan your next vacation to the RIU Palace Aruba, Barcelo Aruba or the Ritz Carlton Aruba.

 

Pigeon Island Beach, Saint Lucia

belinda-fewings-7FtozRxK52k-unsplash

Pigeon Island was once a true island but has now been connected to the Northern part of Saint Lucia by a causeway.  This island is now a national landmark full of history and beauty.

If you’re considering a stay in Saint Lucia ask your travel agent about Sandals Grande St Lucian, Royalton Saint Lucia or Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa.

Dickenson Bay Beach, Antigua

Dickenson Bay Beach Antigua Facebook

This bay is located on the Northwestern coast of Antigua.  This super popular beach has shallow, calm waters and white sand and is a great spot to visit a restaurant, do some water sports or even stay.

To stay at Dickenson Bay you’ll want to book Sandals Grande Antigua, Blue Waters Hotel & Beach Resort or Rex Halcyon Cove.

 Maroma Beach, Mexico

Joanne Maroma

Located in the Riviera Maya this is one of the easiest beaches on Joanne’s list to access.  Known for it’s white sand and crystal clear waters this is one of the top beaches in Mexico.

Staying in Maroma could mean choosing the ultimate luxury of over water bungalows at the El Dorado Maroma by Karisma, indulging at the Secrets Maroma or enjoying the Catalonia Playa Maroma.

Bavaro Beach, Punta Cana

melisa-popanicic-VGzsMSAKARg-unsplash

If you are headed to Punta Cana there’s a good chance you’ll be staying on Bavaro Beach.   This 10km shoreline is known for it’s white sand and turquoise waters and has many hotels and resorts to choose from.

Some awesome resorts you may want to check out on Bavaro Beach are the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana, Barcelo Bavaro Palace or Majestic Mirage Punta Cana.

Although travelling is not currently recommended we know that we will travel again in the future.  If any of these beaches caught your eye and you want to learn more about them and the vacation options near them, Joanne would love to chat with you.  You can reach her at joanne@uniglobeyxe.com.


Want to see more photos from Joanne and the rest of our team’s travels?  Check out our Instagram @uniglobeyxe.

#RIUParty – Pool Parties : The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

After spending a week at the lovely RIU Santa Fe in sunny Los Cabos, Mexico I have had my share of experiences with the popular RIU Pool Parties. These themed parties happen four times per week at RIU’s Cabo resorts and in Punta Cana. You get the Neon Party, Jungle Party, White Party and Pink Party. Two are from 7pm – 11pm and the other two are from 2pm – 7pm.

The Jungle Party started out super quiet
But it got lively pretty quickly!

The good: these parties are FUN. We attended the Jungle party as a group and stayed much longer than anticipated. Dancing in the foam pool was a lot more fun than any other foam party I’ve ever been to for some reason. The theming was excellent. Plus this party features performances from Coco Bongo which are always fun to watch and a nice sample for anyone interested in going to Coco Bongo. I also popped into the white party with a few of our group members which featured music from the 70s, 80s and 90s. It was outstanding and genuinely a party I would like to attend again some day. I can really imagine vacationing at a RIU resort that features these parties with a group of my best friends and having the time of our lives. This would be a great option for a stag or stagette trip! It was wonderful to see people of all generations enjoying these pool parties too. Everyone deserves to let loose and have a little fun once in a while.

Coco Bongo performance on the stage

With the exception of the end of the week party that fell over Spring Break it didn’t feel too crowded either. There was room to dance however you like to dance in the foam pool, the swim up pool or off to the sides where you don’t even have to get wet.

Some of the 98Cool group living it up in the foam pool

The bad: for whatever reason, the number of people who became drunk beyond reason seemed really high. I don’t believe that the bartenders were necessarily over serving, I think this may have been an issue caused by RIU’s signature in-room liquor dispensers. These people were sloppy and made what could be a super fun party into a bit of a joke. The resort was ready for them with plenty of security guards in the party and wheel chairs just outside. Although these “party poopers” were an annoyance they were, for the most part, handled efficiently.

The wheelchairs ready and waiting…

The ugly: We arrived at the resort the evening of the Neon Party. At first observation it looked super fun and I’m sure that it was. However, our group was given rooms in buildings 7 and 8. Both are just steps from the party location. Since our flight had left Saskatoon early that morning most of us were looking forward to a good nights sleep. This wasn’t an option for many in our group as the party raged on and then the party-goers made their way to their rooms hooting and hollering in the halls for a few more hours. Not only could we hear the music, it was rattling our patio doors! This was not an ideal way to start our vacation and I strongly suggest requesting rooms far from the location of the party if you value your sleep or are travelling with children that you want to keep on a bedtime schedule. This may, unfortunately, mean choosing not to have an ocean view room at this hotel.

Another great thing about the pool parties is if they are something that you are not interested in, you’ll have the rest of the resort “to yourself” since so many people attend the pool parties.

98Cool’s Gregger and his wife Ang got fully into the Jungle theme
Just a few from our group hanging out on the side of the party, people watching and having a blast.

If you do go, my advice is to just jump in and have fun. You are sure to have an amazing time. But also bring some tips. The staff working the pool party are working extremely hard and certainly deserve a little extra thank you. (I saw one man bussing tables IN the pool fully clothed.)

I’ll be back RIU Pool Parties. I promise.


Interested in booking a trip to the RIU Santa Fe or the Dominican Republic to take advantage of this amazing all inclusive feature? Reach out to our team!

98Cool Goes To Cabo – Part Two

Here we are on the plane; our week of fun in the sun has ended.

The whole group looking fancy for our farewell dinner

I can honestly say that the bonding, laughs, friendly competitions and fun had on this trip was so much more than I ever anticipated. Since everyone was from around Saskatoon it seemed that each person was somehow connected with the next. As we learned more about each other we found out that some members of the group happen to be excellent singers while others dance to the beat of their own drum. Games of cribbage and bingo were played by the pools. We all danced together on the catamaran and at the Jungle Party. Many meals were shared whether as just a few or in big groups. It was so heartwarming to be a part of these new bonds; knowing that an idea of putting together a group of strangers was a huge success.

Conversations around meeting up as a group back home are heating up. We’ll see if it ends up being a karaoke meet up at Crackers, a summer bbq, crashing my Destination Wedding or maybe we’ll just all have to wait until next winter’s group getaway. Whenever we all see each other again, I know I can’t wait!


Birthday Buddies

Interested in planning a group getaway of your own? Our team of experienced agents would love to help you find the perfect location, get you a competitive quote and make the arrangements as carefree as possible. Reach out to us!

https://www.uniglobecarefreetravel.com/meet-the-team

Karen’s Cabo Adventure – Part 3

Is a trip to Cabo right for you? There are a few things to take into consideration before a trip here.

First off it is not as hot as some other Mexican destinations I have been to. I would say it is more like a typical summer day in Saskatchewan. To me this is perfect, hot but not too hot.

83970111_10163297515445508_1410451630620409856_n

The other thing to consider is the type of vacation you would like, quiet and relaxing or do you need an addition of night life. There are two very different sides and towns. One being San Jose Del Cabo and the other Cabo San Lucas. We started at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in San Jose Del Cabo. This is the quieter area. Very luxurious and relaxing but not as much to do in the evening.  Once we moved to the Riu Palace Baja California in Cabo San Lucas you could very easily notice the difference. There are activities everywhere you look with evening entertainment and wild pool parties.

I need a little of both, quiet relaxation and exciting nightlife in my vacations.  So being able to spend some time on both sides made this a perfect trip for me!


Think a trip to Cabo is right for you?  Reach out to me to start planning! Call me at 306-934-3400 or email karen@uniglobeyxe.com.

 

Karen’s Cabo Adventure – Part 2

Here we are at the wonderful Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos and I have found a resort that is so well suited for me that I just do not want to leave.

83844653_1407380989424201_2222540357571182592_n

To start with the staff are so amazing. Everywhere we go we are greeted with a hand over the heart but it is not just a gesture that they are trained to do, they really mean it. Everywhere we look someone is going above and beyond to be kind or to make our holiday better. The food is amazing. I had a risotto at the Italian restaurant that I never wanted to end. Have you ever had a meal like that? That every bite is a little piece of heaven? There are so many great places to go for peace and quiet or to socialize – it’s up to you. Although I am loving it, this may not be a property for everyone as it is a little quieter. But it is a perfect place to take all of the stress away and unwind.

Stay tuned as I continue to explore all that San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas have to offer.

Jamie’s Ixtapa Island Excursion

Prior to travelling to Ixtapa, we had several people recommend Ixtapa Island as a good excursions for families.  We tend to stick close to the resorts with the kids when we travel as they are quite happy enjoying the pools and activities that the all inclusive resorts have to offer.  However, by mid week away, we thought the kids would be up for a change of scenery and started looking at option for a trip out to Ixtapa Island.  There were 13 of us all together, 6 adults, 7 kids aged 4-11.

Option1:  We discussed the excursion with our Westjet Vacations rep.  The cost was going to be $28USD per child and $40USD per adult (reduced from $45 USD if we paid cash and because we were a group).  For my family of 5, that would be just over $200 CDN.

Option 2:  Online booking is an option, but when checking Viator and Expedia they were a similar price of around $200 CDN for my family of 5.

Option 3:  We could go on our own.  The $200 CDN included transportation from our hotel to the water taxi, Roundtrip ferry/water taxi to the Island, lunch, one drink and reserved chairs.  We were pretty sure we could do this on our own for quite a bit less and Ixtapa is a pretty quiet place that we were comfortable exploring on our own.  The Taxi (15 minute drive) to the Ferry was $160 Pesos each way.  The Ferry (10 minutes each way) roundtrip was $50 pesos per person.  The restaurants will give you chairs/loungers/palapas for free if you are ordering food and drinks from them.  We were there for about 5 hours and lunch and a drink worked out to be roughly $200 – $250 pesos per person.  This was about $125 CDN for our family of 5 – almost half price of taking the tour.

It was very easy to manage on our own.  Taxi’s are plentiful, as are the water taxis.  There are several restaurants on the three main beaches and this way we were able to choose when we left and when we returned and we were more on our own schedule, which worked well for us.  We went to Varadero Beach, which was great for little guys wanting to swim.  It was very shallow and calm and the not quite as hot as the snorkeling beach as the sun took a bit longer to come around to that side.  From Varadero Beach, you can walk about 500 feet, through the restaurant to the snorkeling beach.  This beach wasn’t good for little guys to swim, but had tons of fish and great snorkeling for the older ones.  The location was good here, being able to easily go back and forth.  They had an outdoor shower and bathroom facilities and the food and drinks were good.  We were at the Lili Cipriani restaurant.

Coconut Shrimp

We really enjoyed our time at Ixtapa Island and being able to swim in the ocean as the shore break was quite rough on the main beach of Ixtapa and made it hard for kids (and some adults) to go in swimming.  I would definitely recommend spending a day of your vacation on Ixtapa Island.

Ixtapa Island fun

Ixtapa Island Beach

Sunscape Dorado Pacifico: The importance of setting your vacation expectations

My family and I were looking for a good value vacation over the Christmas and New Year school holidays.  Our goals were:

*Something family friendly

*Must accommodate a family of 5 (easier said than done)

*Good flight times

*A reasonable budget (again easier said than done during peak holiday times)

*My husband also insisted that it must have a kids waterpark

My mission was clear, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to find something that fit all of our needs.  I will be the first to admit I am quite spoiled when it comes to hotels.  I have stayed at some of the nicest resorts and my expectations are quite high.  I knew I may have to lower my expectations a bit for this holiday.

After looking at options for a few weeks, I came across a great price with Westjet Vacations to Ixtapa, staying at the Sunscape Dorado Pacifico.  I hadn’t been to Ixtapa before and I love trying something new, so that was one point in favour.  The price was right, it accommodated a family of 5 in guaranteed connecting rooms and the hotel had a newer waterpark for kids.  It seemed to check off all of our boxes.  The only thing I wasn’t sure of, was whether it would meet my higher standards.

I have stayed at a few Secrets resorts in the past, which are part of the AM resort chain that also owns the Sunscape Resorts.  Where Secrets are their higher end, adults only resorts; Sunscape is their family friendly, good value brand.  There was some peace of mind, being familiar with the AM chain and the quality they bring.  We decided to give it a try and talked a few friends and family into joining us.

Prior to travelling, I carefully looked through reviews, the hotel website, other social media posts and blogs about this resort.  I wanted to be well prepared and go with realistic expectations of food, service, facilities, etc.  I always find it’s good to arrive with realistic/lower expectations and be pleasantly surprised.  I was expecting a family friendly property with ok food, service and rooms and I’m happy to report my expectations were exceeded in most areas.  Here is more information on the good, the bad and the ugly for the Sunscape Dorado Pacifico.

The Good:

*The rooms were very clean and the views of the ocean were amazing.  The extra space we had with two connecting rooms was very welcome for a family of 5.  We had 2 double beds in one room, 1 king in the other, 2 balconies and 2 full bathrooms.  The housekeepers work very hard here and are deserving of some extra tips!

*The entire hotel was very well maintained and very clean.  The public bathrooms were kept cleaner at the Sunscape than some other 5 star hotels I have stayed at.  This is important to anyone with little kids who touch everything!

*The beach in front of the hotel is very long.  The Sunscape is in the middle and you can easily walk 20-30 minutes in either direction on a flat, wide beach with nice sand.

*The kids waterpark was very functional with lots of little slides and spray features.  The kids loved it – all the kids (aged 4-11).

*The food pleasantly surprised me.  Where it might be lacking in the number of options available, there was always food we enjoyed and some meals I would even rate as very good.  All of us loved the food truck with burgers, hot dogs, nachos and pizza.  It was a great option for lunch or late afternoon snacks and very easy and relaxed.  They had three outdoor buffet/entertainment nights (80’s band one night, Mexican Fiesta night, Carnival night).  The first two had very good Buffet options and lots for the kids to choose from as well.  We skipped the Mexican A la Carte as it was rarely open and had no kids menu.  The Italian a la carte is adults only, so also got a miss.  We tried the Bluewater Grill for dinner twice.  The first time it was exceptional in both food and service, the second time was just ok, but still enjoyable.

*Smaller hotel and never any waits at the buffet and no reservations needed at any of the restaurants

*The gym was small, but clean and had good equipment

*Complimentary bicycle tours twice a day

*The staff overall were excellent.  We needed our safe opened and our connecting doors unlocked and maintenance was very quick to come up.  We needed a doctor called for my daughter, who had an ear infection, and the doctor was in our room in less than an hour thanks to the hotel operator.  The restaurant staff was very good.

 

The bad:

*The service around the pool for drinks was spotty.  The servers that were there were good, but there were not enough of them.  We often had to go to the bar to get our own drinks.

*The waterpark was only open 11am-6pm.  It would have been nice if it opened by 10am.  We were usually in the pool by 9 or 930am.

*The rooms could use a refresh with newer beds and patio furniture.

*The rooms were showing wear – some rust spots on the mirrors and nicks in the furniture, etc

*Front desk staff were a bit slow and never seemed to have English daily activity schedules printed.  There was always a wait to talk to someone.

*The main buffet is small.  There were always options that we liked and the ladies cooking up eggs and French toast and pancakes in the mornings were great, but it was a very small selection for a buffet.

*The food at the Carnival buffet night with entertainment was a miss.  Of the three events they had, the food this night wasn’t anywhere near as good as the other two nights…take a pass and go to the a la cartes that night.

*The kids club could use more activities for the older kids.  It was good for the younger ones, but the 9 and 11 year old had very little that appealed to them at the kids club and the teen club is only for 13 and older (video games and other options there for teenagers).  There was a trampoline clinic and a rock climbing wall, but there was never any staff working at those activities.

00261013-FBD5-44FE-8EF3-22DAA87ADFD5

The ugly:

*The pillows were terrible and very lumpy.  If you are a picky pillow person, you should bring your own.

*The resort at night was very loud.  While it was nice to have live music options in the lobby and at the outdoor Starlight Lounge, the music was VERY loud and went until around 12am-2am, depending on the night.  If anyone is a light sleeper, you would definitely want to bring ear plugs.  Even with all the doors closed and the A/C on, it felt like the entertainment was right outside your door.

Overall, the Sunscape Dorado Pacifico is a very good value, family friendly resort and if you go with those expectations, I think you will enjoy your stay very much.  We did and we would definitely consider returning in the future.


Ready to start planning your own vacation?  Reach out to our team here in Saskatoon!

SUTHERLAND
306-955-1449

CIRCLE DRIVE
306-934-3400

https://www.uniglobecarefreetravel.com/