Wreck Bar & Grill and Iggies Beach Bar & Grill


Iggies Beach Bar & Grill
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Let the kids play beach volleyball or snorkel in the shallows while you kick back with cocktails at this classic spot at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, an all-inclusive near the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Cruise passengers often throng the place during the day, but don’t let that keep you away. There’s live music and a local vibe every night, plus hammocks on the beach and VooDoo Juice (a rum concoction) served in buckets. Go on a Wednesday for Carnival Night: steel drums, West Indian food at the buffet, and fire-walkers performing on a stage in the sand.
7150 Bolongo; iggiesbeachbar.com 

Wreck Bar & Grill
Grand Cayman 
The favorite road trip on Grand Cayman must be the drive to Rum Point, a remote spit of beach across the sound from George Town. The name probably came from the rum barrels that washed ashore here during buccaneer times. Today Wreck Bar is the heart of the action, and the thing to drink is the Mudslide—a frozen blend of vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlúa. Sip one while you relax at a colorful picnic table on the sand, or get horizontal in a hammock slung under the casuarina trees. Sunday afternoons bring the biggest crowds, including a flotilla of party boats anchored offshore. 
Rum Point Dr.; rumpointclub.com

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Undiscovered Aruba


In a single day, you can sail a tall ship, pet a donkey and sip an eight-ingredient cocktail on this Caribbean island

Some of the most majestic islands in the Caribbean were summarily dismissed by European colonizers. Consider the Dutch trio of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The 16th-century Spanish conquistadors dubbed them Islas Inútiles, or “Useless Islands,” because they lacked gold or silver. But these days, Aruba happens to be an affordable gem for travelers.

A mere 15 miles off the coast of tropical Venezuela, Aruba isn’t your typical Caribbean island. It’s outside the hurricane belt, which means there’s a lower risk of storms. And while this arid island may not have lush vegetation, it makes up for that with soft sand beaches, cheap flights and all-inclusive discount deals.

BEACH GUIDE

The best beaches lie on the south and west coasts, where the water is great for swimming and snorkeling. Instead of touristy Palm Beach, head for tranquil, low-key Arashi Beach (to the north) or Eagle Beach (to the south). The water off the south end of the island at Baby Beach is shallow enough for wade-right-in snorkeling. And locals dig Rodger’s Beach in nearby San Nicolas—its reef-protected waters are relatively unknown to tourists. On the east coast is Dos Playas, where experienced surfers go to find the island’s “juiciest” waves. (In late afternoon, the winds are calmer and the swells rise 4 feet high.) For a taste of Aruba’s famous shipwreck diving, take a 5-hour trip aboard the 80-foot wooden sailboat Mi Dushi. You’ll cruise the coastline and stop to snorkel over shallow reefs and through the wreck of the MS Antilla, a German ship that sank off Arashi Reef during World War II.

GET OUT THERE

Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, is a busy cruise port with glitzy casinos, colossal hotels and upscale malls. (The island is excellent for shoppers: Price tags can run 30% lower than in the United States and the sales tax is a mere 1.5%.) But you don’t want to be stuck indoors the whole time, buying slightly more affordable Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The island’s petite size—just 20 miles long and 6 miles wide—makes it perfect for day trips. Pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, 5 miles east of Oranjestad, to feed and play with rescued donkeys; not native to Aruba, donkeys were originally brought here as part of the island’s 500-year-old transportation system. Or stop by the Aloe Museum & Factory for some after-burn care and education. If you drive up north, you’ll see rugged rock formations and graceful, windswept divi-divi trees. And in the center of the island, you can climb 541-foot Mt. Hooiberg and see Venezuela on a clear day. Aruba even holds an international film festival every June, with events scheduled all around the island.

EAT LIKE A LOCAL

For an authentic taste of the island, leave the resort area and head south to San Nicolas and Charlie’s Bar, one of Aruba’s oldest institutions. The walls are hung with random posters, license plates and fishing gear; the signature drink is the Aruba Ariba cocktail, a delicious mix of vodka, rum, Grand Marnier, crème de banana and coecoei (a local agave liqueur), plus pineapple, cranberry and orange juice. If you’re staying for dinner, order mahi mahi, shrimp scampi or steak. Or head to nearby Savaneta, where you can sit with your feet in the sand at Old Man and the Sea. There’s more beachfront dining at Flying Fishbone. Feast on skewered shrimp or grilled Caribbean lobster tail while you watch the sun set over the water.

 

 

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Family Holiday Fun in Mazatlan


What better way to connect with family than to spend a week together in Mazatlan, on Mexico's west coast, and with the Christmas holiday as an added attraction. With El Cid El Moro Beach Resort as our base, three generations enjoyed an all-inclusive vacation, which made sure our grandsons never went hungry! The beach itself provided sunny days of swimming, ping-pong, water sports, and parasailing for a perfect view of the city, the coast line and the nearby islands. Shops and restaurants, within easy walking distance, made life easy for the older generation. One day we all boarded a catamaran and sailed to Deer Island, passing sea lions that lazed on the rocks, oblivious to our squeals of delight. We swam, snorkeled, rode the giant banana, kayaked, and picnicked on the beach until the magnificent sunset told us it was time to return to reality.

Christmas Eve is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. We traveled by local bus to Juarez Street in the heart of the city. Over 100 stalls at the outdoor market provided souvenirs, tee shirts, leather goods, pottery, and every food imaginable from goat to chicken feet (not legs)! The Mexicans shop there every day, but for us it was an unusual treat. Nearby the cathedral shone with its majestic spirals and stained glass windows. Christmas carols pealed from outdoor speakers and decorated Christmas trees reminded us of the holiday. A cantina lodged in the park somehow seemed out of place until we remembered where we were!

We slept with our balcony door open to hear the breaking waves and see the gorgeous sunrises. We were up at dawn every day, as we did not want to miss a thing: kids, parents, and grandparents alike.

-Karen I. from Greenwood, SC

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Divine Girls Trip!


Upon opening the door to our room, my friends gasped at the sight of our accommodations! I had booked an Extra Vacations Getaway, requesting at least three bedrooms. The suite had this and so much more. Puerto Vallarta, our huge and beautiful suite, the balcony right over the beach, and the resort being an all-inclusive was an experience out of this world. I took five of my best friends and they were in total awe of the accommodations and location we were treated to through my RCI subscribing membership. It's still one of my favorite trips.

-Dixie R. from Dalzell, IL

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Great Family Fun in Puerto Vallarta!


We book all of our vacations through RCI and each one gets better than the next! We never did an all-inclusive, but decided to try Club Velas Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta one April. Everything about it was wonderful and far exceeded our expectations. The people in Puerta Vallarta are wonderful hosts! We ate, rode the dolphins, took an island tour and enjoyed the culture of Mexico. Thank you RCI for making it so easy for us to find a perfect vacation for our family of four!

-Patricia C. from Wilton, CT

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Once In A Lifetime


My boyfriend of three years and I decided to take a spontaneous vacation in July. We were in our early 20's and living together for a little less than a year. We found a fantastic deal and booked a trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Our excitement was palpable.

As a young couple in love, off we went to Cancun International Airport on our first trip to Mexico, to an all-inclusive resort and to a beach not on the US eastern coast. We were thrilled to just be away together in such a lovely place.

After settling into a room, squeezing in a little pool time, and enjoying a delicious dinner at the buffet, we decided to take a walk on the beach. Hand-in-hand we went as we took a seat on two loungers under a tiki hut. The stars twinkled above us on this dark night, the ocean lapped the sand, and we enjoyed the silence that surrounded us in this peaceful moment.

I said to my boyfriend, "What a perfect place, what a perfect dinner, what a perfect night." At that moment he replied "It's the perfect time for me to ask you to marry me." I stared in awe as he got down on one knee and opened up a box showing my sparkling engagement ring. I smiled and cried tears of joy as I replied "Yes!” We shared an emotional and happy moment under the romantic sky.

As it turns out, he had done an impressive job asking my parents for their permission, receiving the delivery of the ring, and getting through the airports' security and customs departments. I was excited, beaming, and still in shock when we went to the lobby. We celebrated with champagne as we watched the live Mexican band play along with couples and children dancing about...

We immediately got moved to an oceanfront room and spent the rest of our vacation in bliss as we relaxed, got massaged, sunbathed, dined, drank, danced, and laughed together. During our remaining days, we frequently visited Jack and José who shared in our happiness as a newly engaged couple and new timeshare owners. This was a very special vacation for us and I will never forget the once in a lifetime memories that were created at Ocean Maya Royale.

-Erin D. from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

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Royal Sunset, Cancun


This resort is located right on the most beautiful white sand beach imaginable. The resort was all-inclusive optional when we were there. That was great because we ate at various restaurants in Cancun and took two day trips. The resort itself is located within walking distance of major restaurants and the city bus stops right outside.

 

This resort is located right on the most beautiful white sand beach imaginable. The resort was all-inclusive optional when we were there. That was great because we ate at various restaurants in Cancun and took two day trips. The resort itself is located within walking distance of major restaurants and the city bus stops right outside.

 

- Roy S. from Bowmanville, ON
 

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Fun in Cancun


My husband and I have been owners since 1998 at the Palace Resorts in Cancun and have had many wonderful vacations there with family and friends. We have primarily stayed at the Moon Palace. You can hop a complimentary bus to any of the other Palace Resorts and enjoy all of the same all-inclusive benefits. We have enjoyed deep sea excursions, catching many varieties of fish. Trips to the Mayan Ruins were a treat to behold. Inexpensive bus service is available on the strip to uptown and shopping. Snorkeling trips were enjoyed. Beautiful turquoise water, plenty of sun and fun!

 

- Carolyn P. from Monmouth Beach, NJ

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Cancun Vacation


We have timeshare accommodations in Cozumel which we hadn't been to in several years. We wanted to get back to Mexico this year and thought we'd give Cancun a shot. We always thought Cancun would be too wild for our taste, but we were wrong and pleasantly surprised! We stayed at a beautiful all-inclusive resort on the ocean and it was fantastic. There were no bugs, the beach was perfect, the activities were lots of fun, and the people were terrific! It was safe and clean and friendly and we'd go back in a second! I can't speak for the rest of the country, but the Yucatan Peninsula area is fantastic.

 

- The Driscoll's from Bath, ME

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Thinking of visiting the Dominican Republic? Try Punta Cana!


German R. - RCI and Caribbean NewsIf you are looking for a great Caribbean destination that has a lot to offer, Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic is the place to be! Tourists from all over the world – including US, Canada, France, Chile, Spain, Germany, Italy and China – visit this amazing hot spot every year. And I can assure you that once your plane lands in Punta Cana, you will immediately start to feel the vibe of this Caribbean paradise. There is even a local band playing live music in the airport!

When you start planning your vacation to Punta Cana, think about the type of resort you would like to stay in. Personally, I like resorts that offer an all inclusive (AI) plan. It’s convenient and I don’t have to worry about continually spending money while I’m there since everything is paid for upfront. Usually the AI plans include: meals, snacks, drinks, activities such as exercise classes, access to tennis courts and/or golf courses and guided hikes, and entertainment like shows, dancing and live music.

If you do go outside an AI plan, Punta Cana offers a wide selection of nice restaurants and dining options that range from local food to high international cuisine.

And I can’t forget to tell you about the beaches! Punta Cana is home to beautiful white sand beaches with blue turquoise water. It’s breathtaking. Beaches I suggest to visit are: Uvero Alto, Arena Gorda, Macao, Cabeza de Toro and El Cortecito. You won’t be disappointed!

One last thing…if you are a golfer, you’ll be happy to know that Punta Cana is considered one of the hottest golf destinations in the Caribbean. There are more than 12 golf courses. I’d recommend Punta Espada, Las Iguanas, La Cana and Punta Blanca.

If you visit Punta Cana, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Make sure to come back to the RCI Blog this week to read about how much RCI subscribing members have enjoyed Punta Cana as well.

Depending on resort and season, all-inclusive fees may cover meals, drinks, tours, transportation, resort activities, resort amenities, services and facilities. Resorts with mandatory all-inclusive fees require the fees to be prepaid at or before check-in. A Member may not be able to purchase food or drink at a resort if he or she chooses not to pay an optional all-inclusive fee. Fees, terms and conditions of packages covered by an all-inclusive fee are determined solely by the resort and are subject to change at any time.

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Playa del Carmen 2009


This was our first trip to the Cancun area and our 2nd experience with an all-inclusive resort (Grand Velas-we are owners). We took this side trip knowing we just wanted to relax. The customer service was phenomenal and the grounds were spectacular. The ocean pools were awesome. Every staff member, and I mean EVERY staff member, stopped what they were doing and greeted you with a smile and "hello" as you approached them. Doors were opened, prompt service was provided and the restaurants (which of course were included) were out of this world. Since I don't own a laptop computer and there were roaming phone charges to the U.S., the free access to the business center to communicate with my family was very important to me. If you are looking for top notch service and pampering...this is the place to go! Grand Velas also has a Puerto Vallarta resort which we've stayed at the year before...same top quality service!

- Margo D. from Midlothian, VA
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Family Friendly Holidays in Playa del Carmen & Riviera Maya


Jorge H. - Latin America Travel TipsLast week on the RCI Blog, we talked about Ixtapa and Nuevo Vallarta – two of the places that were included on TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice 2011 list for the Top 10 Family Vacations in the Caribbean and Mexico. This week, I’ll be telling you about Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya…two more destinations that are fantastic for family traveling.

When I visited Playa del Carmen, I stayed at BlueBay Grand Esmeralda, an all inclusive resort with excellent food, drinks and service. Besides the great resort in Playa del Carmen, one of the most amazing things about this place is the Mayan civilization. Chichen Itza – a large archaeological site – is a pyramid shaped structure that was constructed over 1000 years ago. To be honest, I couldn’t even begin to explain how the Mayan civilization built it! Another can’t-miss place for Mayan ruins is Tulum, where ancient ruins are right on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. It is gorgeous and you can even get some of the best views of the turquoise blue waters there.

Riviera Maya is another attraction-packed destination in Mexico. One of my favorite things to see is Cenotes, an underground river system that the Maya thought to be sacred. If you and the family are looking for something to do other than visit ancient ruins, head over to La Quinta Avenida, which is the main street that runs parallel to the ocean and provides 2 miles of shopping and restaurants.

Whether your family and you are looking for a vacation filled with tourist attractions, relaxation or shopping and dining (or all!), these destinations are the places to go! This week on the RCI Blog, we’ll be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who have taken trips to Playa del Carmen or Riviera Maya. And if you missed last week’s blog on Ixtapa and Nuevo Vallarta, you can check it out here.

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Ixtapa - Two Weeks


We managed to exchange for two weeks to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo--our favorite place in Mexico. Stayed in Zihuatanejo for the first week at Raintree's Villa Vera Puerto Mío Zihuatanejo and loved it so much we contacted RCI to see if we could change our second week and stay. Needless to say, nothing was available. Went to the Pacifica for the second week and had a wonderful time--discovered that it is an outstanding all-inclusive - one of the best we've stayed at even in the Caribbean!! It all worked out wonderfully in the end!

- Anita M. from Milford, DE
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Cozumel, Mexico


My trip to Cozumel was the trip of a lifetime. We fell in love with the people, culture, and wonderful sites. It had been on a list of "things to do" for me since I can remember. Growing up around "The Black Water River" you can imagine that clear blue water was something that you had to see to believe was real. We arrived on a Saturday and immediately, even while the plane was still in the air, saw the amazing water. Cozumel is situated on the second largest coral reef in the world. Australia being the first. It is amazing to see the many shades of blue and aqua depending on the shallowness of the reef. Awestruck we made it to the all-inclusive resort and still were not disappointed. We were immediately greeted by some of the friendliest people we have ever met...The food was amazing. The service was amazing. They offered activities throughout the day and tours that were taken care of for you. The first day we did a glass bottom snorkel tour...Another tour was of the Mayan Ruins...We also did the Atlantis Submarine tour which was an old navy sub....

- Amy O. from Franklin, VA
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Jamaica July 2009


Staying at the all-inclusive Royal Decamoran Montego Beach was great! All water sports were free and it was all you can drink! I gained 10 pounds! We went to a place called Glistening Waters where the water glowed at night. It was a great trip.

- Nancy F. from Carlsbad, CA
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Tradewinds Catamaran Cruise


Traded for an all inclusive one-week trip on a catamaran sailing around the British Virgin Islands. A once in a lifetime adventure.

Traded for an all inclusive one-week trip on a catamaran sailing around the British Virgin Islands. A once in a lifetime adventure.

- Janet G. from Innisfil, Ontario
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Mazatlan


We stayed at the Royal Villas and loved every minute! It was all inclusive with really great food at all times. Some days at the pool, my kids would order up to three large pepperoni pizzas with no issues, then order room service for dinner or go downstairs for the seafood platter. Ask for the breaded shrimp! The omelet station was wonderful as were the pancakes. My daughter dropped her fork and three servers instantly handed her another one. The drinks were strong and plentiful. Our beds were pillow soft! Pool slide was enjoyed by the children. Nice glass elevator. Easy check in and check out. No timeshare hassle. The malecon was wonderful. The statues in the water and the tower at sunset were unreal. Beautiful fountain too. Carlos'n Charlie's was fun and loud, danced on the tables. One of the best trips ever!

- Ginger R. from Dalton, GA
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El Cid


Mazatlan's El Cid is an all-inclusive resort. It provided us with a most relaxing and beautiful vacation.

Mazatlan's El Cid is an all-inclusive resort. It provided us with a most relaxing and beautiful vacation.

- Mike B. from Tyler, TX
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Club Velas Vallarta


My husband and I went to this all-inclusive resort in Mexico and absolutely fell in love with Puerto Vallarta. Right on the Pacific Ocean, it is breathtakingly lovely, had fabulous tours, excellent cuisine, amazing rooms & service, and was just one of the best vacations we've taking with RCI. We'd love to go back!

My husband and I went to this all-inclusive resort in Mexico and absolutely fell in love with Puerto Vallarta. Right on the Pacific Ocean, it is breathtakingly lovely, had fabulous tours, excellent cuisine, amazing rooms & service, and was just one of the best vacations we've taking with RCI. We'd love to go back!

- Melanie K. from Buda, TX
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Puerto Vallarta


A very memorable trip to Puerto Vallarta March 2005. We booked a three bedroom at Velas Vallarta and we were going to travel with another family and our kids. We all flew from different places to Puerto Vallarta and arrived to find out we had rented the three bedroom that was on the top floor and when we walked in we ALL screamed. It was absolutely beautiful and we even had our own 900 SF deck and pool. The screaming from the girls was from excitement that we could be so lucky. The unit was perfect and we had the best time at the resort. We still talk about it all the time. It was also an all inclusive and so we took advantage of having room service so we could enjoy the huge three bedroom and deck. It was a fantastic vacation!!

- Kathleen B. from Portland, OR
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