Fun in Fort Lauderdale


This seaside Florida town has moved far beyond its former spring-break-hotspot heyday.

When in Fort Lauderdale, it never takes long before you hear a reference to the city’s once apt (and recently reinterpreted) motto: “Where the Boys Are.” That 1960 movie about a gaggle of Midwestern college girls who came to Florida’s Gold Coast for unfettered fun inspired countless spring break pilgrimages to Fort Lauderdale.

 

Winter months see fewer visitors, even though temperatures hover around 75 degrees. A recent spate of luxury hotel openings has transformed a once-uninspired beach town into one of South Florida’s most sophisticated destinations.

 

These days, a more fitting mantra for Fort Lauderdale’s sun-spackled stretch of endless waterways (more than 300 navigable miles in total) would be “Where the Boats Are.” With 100 marinas and boatyards and more than 40,000 resident yachts, it makes sense that the city has also been dubbed the Venice of America. Wherever you find a perch along the waterfront, a wake will surely roll your way.

 

WATERY WAYS

The best way to get your feet wet is to hop on the Water Taxi, which plies the Intracoastal Waterway and New River, making 13 stops from the Galleria Mall and Las Olas Boulevard to the Convention Center. The most impressive stretch of the Intracoastal is known as Millionaire’s Row, showcasing manicured properties with lavish mansions and yachts moored out front.

 

Ride the Water Taxi to the end of the line and get off at Riverwalk, which hosts the Urban Market every Saturday, selling everything from handmade soaps to Peruvian street food. The waterfront esplanade runs alongside several downtown highlights, including the Museum of Discovery & Science, home to an IMAX theater and the largest living Atlantic coral reef in a museum, and the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, displaying works by American Impressionists and visiting Latin American artists.

 

The Jungle Queen offers several fun family outings to explore the area’s waterways, with the requisite touch of kitsch that makes it a local institution. Every evening, the two-story riverboat leaves the Bahia Mar Beach Resort on a tour of the river and canals, ending at a private riverside location where a buffet and alligator show are on the menu. It’s a sit-back-and-soak-it-all-in kind of affair, with the captain providing commentary along the way.

 

PEDALING AND DOG-PADDLING

For something less sedentary, rent a beach cruiser bike from Fun Rentals for a few hours to explore the 2 miles of promenade along the ocean. The showers every few blocks make a cool-off swim in the ocean all the more appealing.

 

Another prime place to take a dip is the W Fort Lauderdale hotel, where Sunday pool parties, open to the public, draw hipsters to what’s arguably Florida’s sexiest pool (in the hotel’s lobby, you can peer through portholes cut into the ceiling above for views into the pool).

 

Pedaling back south, turn west at the Las Olas Bridge to access the Finger Islands—narrow residential streets with names like Isle of Venice and Fiesta Way. Here, canals that were dredged in the 1920s are lined with a patchwork of old Florida bungalows (disappearing fast) alongside enormous Spanish Mediterranean mansions.

 

Take a break at Colee Hammock Park, just off Las Olas Boulevard, where kids kick soccer balls and families picnic and strum guitars under banyan trees and rustling palms.

 

SHOPPING THE BOULEVARD

The city’s most sociable street, Las Olas Boulevard, is lined with establishments that range from diners and trendy restaurants to needlepoint shops and European couture. Seek out shops like Blue, the outpost of Key West jewelry designer David Symons. His organic pieces are displayed alongside eclectic beach finery such as colorful sarongs from Kenya. During the 1970s, the owner of Moda Mario dressed the stars of Miami Vice. Nowadays, the real-life yacht set stop by for prêt-à-porter European clothing and hard-to-find brands for men and women. Celebrity of Las Olas is a sure bet for swimwear, with an ever-present sale rack of good buys. And follow the scent of molten chocolate to Kilwin’s, an ice cream and candy shop whose peanut-brittle waffle cones take the cake.

 

If you’re visiting on a Sunday, be sure to hit the Gourmet Farmers Market. Residents catch up on neighborhood news while browsing the handful of tented stalls. Though the range of products is small, the quality is high: The guacamole guy pounds his dips to order, with a mortar and pestle used by the indigenous people of Colombia. From Argentinean empanadas filled with ham and cheese to ceramics from Provence, the items for sale here are as diverse as Fort Lauderdale’s residents.

 

Tony Kantorski pulls his red pickup truck alongside the market every week. In the back are coolers holding grouper filets, Key West pink shrimp and a Florida favorite: stone crab claws that he’ll crack open for you with the back of his ice scoop and serve with a spot of lemony mustard sauce. You’ll get about 6 big claws for $10, a bargain compared to restaurant prices. It’s a high-life indulgence served in laid-back Florida fashion—much like Fort Lauderdale itself these days.

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Cozumel – Island of Swallows


Josef W.Walking down the stone streets of Playa del Carmen, past the numerous vendors and quaint shops, the ferry to Cozumel slowly comes into view. It looks sleek, fast and modern sitting atop the crystal clear blue water of the ocean. As we wait in line with mild trepidation to board, we watch the families play along the pristine white sand beach, bathed in the warm sunlight. Boarding the ship is quite a breeze once the gate opens and we are soon under way heading to Cozumel. As Cozumel slowly comes into focus, small droplets of ocean water cool us off during our complimentary sun tan on the 30 minute ferry ride. Arriving in Cozumel proves to be as easy as boarding was and we are soon on our way to the resort.

One of the first things that we noticed about Cozumel was that it feels like mainland Mexico, yet feels very different as well. There were numerous places to rent scooters on the side of the road, offering adventurous travelers the opportunity to explore the island on their own. They seem to be quite the popular mode of transportation to get around for the tourists and locals alike. We quickly leave the town limits of San Miguel de Cozumel, the capital, and drive along the highway towards our vacation destination. The resort staff is quickly at our service with towels and fresh drinks upon our arrival. We are quickly checked in and on our way to explore the resort. Having the ocean right outside our door along with a convenient ocean-side bar made this stay quite the treat.

The island seems to move at a slower pace than the mainland which makes everything more relaxing. We managed to spend some time exploring the local shops and dining at a quaint restaurant in the heart of San Miguel. The locals are eager to show you their items for sale and are quite friendly.  The food was amazing in both taste and presentation. We truly enjoyed spending a nice evening exploring this charming city. Don’t forget to also spend some time snorkeling at the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, located off the coast of Cozumel. Make Cozumel your next vacation destination and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Mexico!

We hope you enjoyed all of the great photos shared by RCI subscribing members. Be sure to check back with us next week!

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Cozumel – Adventure and Relaxation in One


Kristina W.Walking through the small streets of Playa Del Carmen, the excitement was building. We were heading towards the ferry terminal that would lead to our Cozumel journey. The process of using the ferry as transportation was quite simple and enjoyable. It was a beautiful sight to see the island coming into view as we felt the calm waves of the ocean rocking the ferry. Upon arrival on Cozumel, transportation to the resort was easy. The island of Cozumel is not an overwhelming size as it is roughly 30 miles long and 10 miles wide. There is one main road that circles the island, so if you choose to rent a car it is pretty easy to navigate.

Once you get settled in, be sure to check out the amazing water sport activities, like snorkeling. The largest reef in the Western Hemisphere, the Mesoamerica Reef, can be explored while staying in Cozumel. The ocean is crystal clear which makes for some fantastic sightings such as tropical fish and turtles.

Back on the island, the town of San Miguel offers many unique shopping prospects. While we were visiting, we enjoyed a night out in Cozumel with a phenomenal dinner at a local restaurant. Additionally, Cozumel provides many choices for spa treatments. Whether you are looking for a relaxing vacation, or an exciting getaway full of adventure, Cozumel offers the perfect trip for any family.

We’re continuing to share RCI subscribing members’ Cozumel photos. Stay tuned, there’s more to come!

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Winter is Right Around the Corner!


Dave TWith temperatures beginning to fall and the holiday season right around the corner, it is time to break out the heavy coats and embrace the season. As winter is knocking at the door and Jack Frost is nipping and your nose, I can’t help but think of all the things I love about this time of year. The first snowfall, sipping hot chocolate by the fire, freshly baked cookies, there are too many to name.

While it can be hard to step away from all the distractions and running around that are associated with the season, I find winter to be the perfect time to escape and explore my adventurous side. A snow filled vacation is an awesome opportunity to take part in these activities or even try new ones! Some of my favorite activities include skiing, ice-skating and snow tubing. And after I’m done with the day’s activities there is nothing better than relaxing at a beautiful snow covered resort in a warm outdoor hot tub or in front of a roaring fire.

Some may beg to differ, but winter is my favorite time of year. Whether it’s cruising down the slopes or curling up by the fire with a good book, it doesn’t get much better in my opinion. Check back to the RCI Blog for great stories and photos from RCI subscribing members who also share my love for this time of year!

 

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Our resort in Connelles, France.


Our resort in Connelles, France.

Our resort in Connelles, France.

-John H. from Suffolk, VA

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Home is never far away…


My husband and I booked a Mediterranean cruise in February. The first day we arrived we met another couple from our home town at the safety meeting. Neither couple knew the other would be on the cruise. We ended up spending most of our time on the cruise and all of the shore excursions together and had a great time! The best part of meeting up with them was that we had booked at an RCI affiliated resort in the south of Spain for the next week after the cruise and they had done the same. We were not in the same resort, but just a short bus ride away! We spent another enjoyable week exploring with them.

-Janice W. from Whitehorse, YT, Canada

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Something for Everyone in Mazatlan


Chad K

Mazatlan’s economy is based on two primary industries: tourism and fishing. Visitors flock to the city to enjoy its beach front resorts and hotels, which have most of their rooms featuring westward views, showcasing sights of the beaches, the ocean, and stunning sunsets. Fishing in the area is primarily for shrimp and tuna, meaning that local restaurants have the freshest ingredients for entrees with those favorites.

Beyond the beaches, tourists often are drawn to Mazatlan for two main features: the famous Malecon and Old Town.

Mazatlan’s Malecon is a promenade that hugs the coastline for many miles. Guests can traverse the Malecon in open air taxis that usually feature friendly and informative drivers who will point out the sights that you won’t want to miss. These include gazebos, photo locations, bars amd clubs, shops, monuments, and street vendors.  There is a fun and safe buzz about the Malecon in the evenings, and these open air taxis are a great way to fully enjoy the action.

Old Town Mazatlan is a major draw for tourists, featuring the famous Cathedral and the Plaza Machado. The Plaza was built in 1837 and features strong French and Spanish influences. Guests that enjoy outdoor dining at Pedro y Lola often comment that the architecture above and around them reminds them of places such as New Orleans or Paris. Street vendors and artists showcase their wares on the plaza, usually at very cheap prices. The Mazatlan Cathedral faces the Plaza Principal in Old Town. Built in 1875, it features high, twin towers, a dramatic interior, and beautiful statues.

Add in world class golf, beautiful weather, sunset cruises, various children’s activities and you’ll see there is something for everyone in Mazatlan.

For the next two weeks we will be sharing stories and photos from RCI subscribing members that have also visited Mazatlan. Be sure to check back soon!

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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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Stunning sunsets nightly


Stunning sunsets nightly

Just one of many beautiful sunsets as seen from our balcony or hanging in the pool at Pueblo Bonito Resort in Mazatlan.

-Laurie M. from Pleasant Hill, CA

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Mazatlan


What a great visit. I did my first Karaoke ever at the resort. Mazatlan is a great town. Be sure to go to town and purchase some fresh shrimp at the market.

-Leela V. from Stockbridge, MI

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Paradise in Mazatlan


This resort was romantic and beautiful. We stayed at the Pueblo Bonito Resort at Emerald Bay. We have stayed and visited every city either by plane or cruise ship in Mexico and none compare to our 10 day stay at Emerald Bay. It was low season and everything was not crowded. We loved the lightning and thunderstorms, enjoyed walking the grounds in the rain, and had the best steak and shrimp we've ever tasted. We enjoyed the shuttle into town to visit the sister hotel. We would highly recommend the Emerald Bay to celebrate any special occasion. This was our 24th wedding anniversary and we plan to celebrate again at Emerald Bay.

-Isaiah W. from Los Angeles, CA

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Balcony View


Balcony View

We stayed here in March. It was a great resort and as you can see we had a fantastic view of the resort's pool facilities from our balcony! Plenty to do in this area and the day trips we took were also amazing.

-Patti F. from Appleton, WI

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Pueblo Bonito Resort in Mazatlan


Pueblo Bonito Resort in Mazatlan

View from our balcony.

-Eda B. from Encinotas, CA

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Glorious Sunset in Mazatlan


Glorious Sunset in Mazatlan

View of the sunset over the Pacific Ocean from our room at Pueblo Bonito Resort in Mazatlan, Mexico.

-David S. from Valley Center, CA

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Tranquility at the Pool


Tranquility at the Pool

Early morning poolside view at the Grand Velas resort in Puerto Vallarta. What a way to spend the day!

-Cara P. from Eau Claire, WI

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Deep Sea Fishing in Puerto Vallarta


One of my favorite vacations through RCI was a deep sea fishing excursion in Puerto Vallarta. At 5:00 am we departed from the marina, started fishing around 6:30 am and by 9:30 am I had a good bite. I caught a 320-pound black marlin, which took me over an hour to land. When we got back to the dock, the fisherman cut off the main meat and rest was donated to the locals. We then took the marlin to the resort chefs where they prepared it for 40 people. The staff at Club Velas Vallarta was excellent. It is a vacation I will never forget.

-Allan D.

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Sunset in Puerto Vallarta


Sunset in Puerto Vallarta

Absolutely amazing resort in Puerto Vallarta. Definitely going back here! Loved it!

-Joanne S. from Nanaimo, BC, Canada

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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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Most Beautiful Sunset


Most Beautiful Sunset

This photo was taken on the resort's beach and was one of the most beautiful and romantic sunsets we have ever seen.

-Paul W. from Arena, WI

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