Things to do in Aruba off cruise ships: Unique port of call day trips

I visited this ABC Island back in 2002 on a Carnival cruise ship and let me tell you: it was my favorite port of call. The mix of cultures was quite a feat. Moreover, its spectacular beaches and eerie desert landscapes took my breath away. And so this week’s Beach Thursday is all about travel tips and unique day trip ideas: things to do in Aruba off cruise ships!

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, Baby Beach

Baby Beach, Aruba by Chris Ford, Flickr

Things to do in Aruba off cruise ships: Unique port of call day trips

Did you know that there are over 92 different nationalities represented on this island? This is quite evident in Aruba’s museums, architecture, and food. However, its natural beauty is just as stunning. Thus, I recommend you delve deeper into Aruban culture and go off-the-beaten-path during your visit by taking one of these unique day trips:

DIY Aruban cuisine foodie tour

No foodie tours available in Aruba? No problem! Rent a car, plot a route, and spend a few hours on this port of call sampling some of the dishes and restaurants below:

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, eat Keshi Yena

A MUST? Trying Aruba’s national dish, Keshi Yena (stuffed cheese shell, typically including chicken, vegetable’s, and raisins as well). Photo by Sonja Stark, Flickr

Take part of one of Aruba’s weekly events

It’s quite surprising the amount of cultural events going on a weekly basis on this Dutch island! So if your cruise ship doesn’t leave until late that night or the next morning, I highly recommend you experience Aruba’s culture through its arts, music, and drinks by attending one of the following:

Tuesday evenings – Bon Bini Festival (USD $5, excluding food and drinks)

Rain or shine, this festival starts around 6:30 PM with some of the food vendors and artisans presenting their crafts at the outdoor courtyard of Fort Zoutman. Then, the big show of musicians, dancers, and other artists takes place between 7 – 8:30 PM. Aruban dancing, foods, drinks: what else do you need?

Bon Bini Festival, things to do in Aruba off cruise ship

Bon Bini Festival show by pizzatrain11, Flickr

Wednesday evenings – Aruba Food and Wine Festival (FREE admission)

What others do on an annual basis, Arubans do on a weekly basis! At least 8 different restaurants present an assortment of tapas or small bites of their best dishes to The Village Mall, located right across the street from the Radisson Resort, between between 6 and 10:30 PM. This is the Caribbean after all, so also expect colorful costumes, dancing, and lively music!

things do in Aruba off cruise ship, eating and drinking

succulent Aruban grouper by Diana Schnuth, Flickr

Thursday evenings – Carubbian Festival (FREE admission)

Yet another weekly event where Aruban food, music, art, and culture convene. Perfect for people watching, sampling cheap street food, listening to great steel drums. Also great for the whole family, as there’s an interesting parade/Carnaval of sorts and even a tent for the kids. From 6 to 10 PM, but most of the action happens around 7:30 – 9:30 PM, at San Nicolas Main Street. Recommended you either hail a cab or take the local bus — parking will be too horrible even for your rental!

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, Carnaval

Aruban Carnaval by fotocastor, Flickr

TIP: Definitely say no to a pre-booked tour here! Why? They charge you an astounding amount (around $64) just to take you there and back, bring you one cheap meal that would have cost you no more than $5 anyway, plus you aren’t able to leave as you please. NOT worth it.

Additionally, make sure you check out the Cas di Cultura (Cultural Center) and see whether there any indigenous performances or special exhibitions during your visit.

DIY Aruban adventure tour

Adventurous at heart? Then rent a car and try to visit some forgotten ruins, national parks, and other hidden gems around the island! Hike the Hooiberg volcanic formation, visit Bushiribana, the stunning Dos Playa (for photography, surfing, bodyboarding!), Seroe Jamanota, National Park Arikok and its secluded Boca Prins beach, etc.

Need more ideas? Check Aruba Tourism’s natural gems list!

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, hiking Hooiberg

Hooiberg volcanic formation and Aruba’s semi-arid landscape: STUNNING! (Photo by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, Wiki Commons)

DIY beach hopping tour

This one is for the beach bums and water lovers! Aruba has a myriad of gorgeous beaches, so rent a car and snorkeling gear to hit a couple of them. My favorites include Arashi Beach (swimming), Eagle Beach, Boca Catalina, Baby Beach, Spanish Lagoon (snorkeling and sailing), and Andicuri (surfing).

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, divi tree beach

Aruba’s Divi Tree by Serge Melki, Wiki Commons

More traditional Aruba cruise ship day trips

Some of you prefer a more traditional, guided tour in order to take Aruba’s most popular attractions and sights. If this is you, please know that you do not have to book directly with your cruise ship! Those cruise ship day trips are usually more expensive — plus won’t give you the same experience — as, say, local Aruba tour operators. So check out this list of attractions and tour agencies (most will pick you up right at the port) or pick one that includes some of my favorite spots below!

Culture: Alto Vista Chapel, California Lighthouse, Plaza Daniel Leo, Fort Zoutman and King Willem III Tower.

Nature lovers: The Natural PoolDaimari Beach (horseback riding), Fishermen’s Huts (people watching, kite surfing, windsurfing), and Spanish Lagoon (snorkeling, sailing, fishing).

things to do in Aruba off cruise ship, Lagoon snorkeling

PHOTO by Sonja Stark, Flickr

Got more day trips or things to do in Aruba off cruise ships? Share!

Puerto Rico paradores: PHOTOS + video of my East Coast favorites

Merry Christmas to you all! This week’s Beach Thursday feature are my favorite East Coast Puerto Rico paradores.

Hope you enjoy the beautiful PHOTOS + videos! They are certainly some of my favorite spots in the entire island.

Yabucoa, Puerto Rico paradores

As you already know, a couple of weeks ago I was scouring the island for the best hidden gems and intimate spots as part of my first (official!) #TourBoricua.

Here’s a glimpse of what I found!

Puerto Rico Paradores: Photos + Video of my East Coast Favorites

I spent hours on the Internet looking for special properties in which to celebrate our second-year anniversary. I wanted to surprise him, make it special: none of that cookie-cutter, international hotel chain nonsense.

We were also on a budget!

While our time in a private Rincon beach house was perfect, I couldn’t find “The One” on the east.

That’s when I knew I had to look into Puerto Rican paradores.

Parador Costa Del Mar, Yabucoa Puerto Rico

Simply put, a parador is a local inn that offers an intimate atmosphere and services beyond the typical bed-and-breakfast. They feel cozier; more homey.

Naturally, when I discovered that the family-owned paradores chain Tropical Inns also offered all-inclusive stays, I knew I had to book a room in one of their East Coast properties!

All of them looked enticing though. Which to choose?

OPTION # 1: Parador Costa Del Mar, Yabucoa

First up was Parador Costa Del Mar, a cozy 16-room retreat in the Eastern beach town of Yabucoa.

Hmm…quite off-the-beaten-path.

Few restaurants on that road; more local bars than anything else. The spirit of a romantic spot?

I wasn’t so sure until…

Yabucoa Puerto Rico oceanview parador

THAT view from a room’s balcony. *Gasp.* Ok, I’m sold?! But theeeen:

OPTION # 2: Parador MaunaCaribe, Maunabo

Beachfront. Holy infinity pool. Off-the-beaten-path as well. But over 50 rooms… And quite popular with locals during holidays and weekends.

Not quite the romantic getaway I was looking for. Still though, I’ll keep in mind for my next family reunion!

infinity pool in Puerto Rican parador

MaunaCaribe, a parador Puerto Rico

OPTION # 3: Parador Palmas De Lucia, Yabucoa

Parador Palmas De Lucia was located on the same road as Costa Del Mar. Bigger property though, closer to the beach and walking distance to a local restaurant or two.

Went inside to take a look…

Super family-friendly. Lots of kids. Better suited for a weekend with my baby nephew and close family:

parador in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico

Yabucoa beach from parador Palmas De Lucia

VERDICT: for a romantic retreat, Parador Costa Del Mar it is!

We stayed during the low season, for the long Thanksgiving weekend, and had the property to ourselves.

It was absolutely magical: the unobstructed ocean views from our room’s balcony; the peace of mind knowing our meals were all taken care of (even our afternoon snacks!); unlimited coffee (extremely important); and the silence…!

Puerto Rican food, parador Palmas De Lucia

one of the fabulous meals we had during our stay: the crunchiest, most delicious cassava tostones I’ve ever had, plus delicious red snapper with Creole sauce and veggies

We only heard a few voices by the pool around lunchtime the day we were leaving. Just one more room was booked during our entire stay.

Anyone who has been to Puerto Rico before know this is a luxury.

I still dream about the mornings hearing the ocean come and go; the smell of coffee brewing in our bedroom; the chunks of coconut in their exquisite flan; the kick of their steak’s chimichurri sauce & crispiness of their yuca tostones; opening my eyes and seeing Vieques Island right off my sliding door…

oceanview room, Parador Costa Del Mar

Oh our dear Costa Del Mar: can’t wait to visit you again!

PLEASE NOTE: the lovely Tropical Inns family offered us a 3-day, 2 night stay in exchange of some press…

Little did they know, we would have raved about them anyway! 😉

All opinions set forth are entirely our own though: and honest. We were so impressed with this little piece of heaven, we can’t wait to go back 😀

Check out our full review here.

Have you stayed at a parador? What was your experience like?

Beach Sunrise Time Lapse Video: Sandy Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico

Happy Beach Thursday! I’m in the middle of an exciting project for My Destination Puerto Rico, traveling far and wide throughout my island, looking for hidden gems—particularly, very special accommodation options. I can’t wait to show you the videos! For now, check out my very first beach sunrise time lapse video, filmed at Sandy Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico and other spectacular sky photos below 😉

Beach sunrise time lapse video: Sandy Beach, Rincon, Puerto Rico

My apologies for the BLURRY resolution: if you pay attention to the right, you’ll see a great amount of ocean spray—after almost 2 hours of filming, it saturated the lens! I’ll have to figure out a way to protect it (and by default, protect the quality of the video :P) next time around. Any tips, by the way? 🙂

More beautiful colors after filming our beach sunrise time lapse video

We had a full day of filming ahead of us, so after 2 hours, we had to head back to our beach house to wrap it up. Oh, but how did I regret our decision, after witnessing the following sunrise COLORS in the sky on our walk back!

beach sunrise time lapse video and photos

Purple, yellow, orange: such a beautiful sky

Rincon Puerto Rico sunrise, beach time lapse

kind of hazy from the ocean spray.. but still charming

Rincon beach sunrise, Puerto Rico time lapse video

Like a postcard: but better 🙂

Another tease? Just check out the beautiful beach house we got!

Rincon Beach rental, Puerto Rico West Coast

We are definitely going back to you, Rincon: as your main via aptly describes you, the Road to Happiness <3 Already missing you!

Have you filmed a sunrise time lapse video? Share it with us below!

Luquillo Puerto Rico: Attractions, Sights, Food [Beach Thursday VIDEO]

I’m so freaking excited that I can barely speak into my voice recognition software…BUT! Before we move on to the AMAZING news I got for you, let me warm you up with my latest travel video. I’ve talked a bit about it before, but today we dig deeper into the beautiful beach town of Luquillo Puerto Rico: this week’s Beach Thursday pick!

Luquillo Puerto Rico: attractions, sights, FOOD!

You heard (or watched?) right: my second Chief World Explorer video. Which means? Out of more than 3,000 applications from 99 countries, I made it to the Top 50 [semifinals round!] of Jauntaroo’s Best Job Around the World Competition. And to think that, due to fear and past failures, I almost didn’t apply…WOW! Can you believe this?! Announcement was made on Tuesday and I’m still shaking of excitement!

Help me make it to the TOP 5: vote by clicking ‘LIKE’ on my video here!

My Luquillo Puerto Rico video might even make it to Puerto Rican TV and the island’s leading newspaper, which is why I couldn’t come here to blog about this amazing accomplishment until today 😉 Yah, I’ve been busy hustling!

I would GREATLY appreciate it if you take me one step closer into fulfilling my dream career: to volunteer and travel around the world, all while getting paid for it. And filming amazing videos. While being all crazy and fun and energetic in front of the camera. Tweeting pinning Facebooking. The works!

Don’t leave yet though: I got some more Beach Thursday content before I ttyl 😉

Luquillo Puerto Rico photos + bonus video

Luquillo Puerto Rico Balneario La Montserrate

Balneario La Montserrate

Luquillo Puerto Rico St. Joseph's church altar

Intricate altar at St. Joseph’s church (photo by j.lowrydoyle, Flickr)

La Parrilla Luquillo kiosk

Probably the nicest kiosk/restaurant in Luquillo: La Parilla (photo by Joe Shlabotnik, Flickr)

Have you been to Puerto Rico? VOTE for my Luquillo video here!

Puerto Rico beaches: refreshing from the heatwaves! [Beach Thursday photos]

When there’s a heatwave in New York, you know things must be worst down in the Caribbean. And so, it’s been stifling here! I’ve been going to quite a bit of Puerto Rico beaches to refresh from the heat and humidity. Hope you enjoy the photos I’ve snapped for Beach Thursday 😀

Some were taken with a smartphone while inside a plastic back (lol), so I apologize for the quality in advance!

Puerto Rico beaches, Carolina Beach Thursday

Welcome to Puerto Rico Beach Thursday!

Puerto Rico beach photos: Playa Pal Pueblo, Carolina

When driving to Balneario de Carolina, right before you start seeing the gates, you’ll find a dinghy sign saying “Playas Pal Pueblo” and entrance to a small parking lot: this is it! In contrast to its popular neighbor, Playa Pal Pueblo didn’t feel crowded—a rare commodity to find on beaches near San Juan.

Puerto Rico beach photos, Carolina beach Thursday

Playa Pal Pueblo coastline, right by the Courtyard Marriott in Carolina

Puerto Rico beaches, Carolina beach Thursday

Doesn’t that water make you want to run right in?

My favorite thing about this Puerto Rican beach, though? There’s a small campsite among palm fronds and vegetation, right by its entrance. Its residents are actually peaceful protesters of further development of the Carolina coastline, fighting to keep beaches free for Puerto Ricans to enjoy. Very picturesque protest may I say myself:

Puerto Rico beach photos, beach campsite

See the tents on the left and right?

Puerto Rico beaches, Carolina Playa Pal Pueblo

LOVE this photo and entrance!

Puerto Rico beach photos: Playa Escondida, Fajardo

I’ve already written about the many things to do in Fajardo, including how to get to the “Governor’s Reserve Beach.” Well, you’ll be happy to hear that Playa Escondida is on the way! It’s the very first glimpse of coast you see after your long 30-40 minute hike. So, totally possible to visit both Fajardo beaches on the same day. If you decide to keep walking along the coast until you see the Cove with the Governor’s house, though, beware the cops. ENJOY! 😀

Puerto Rico beach photos, Playa Escondida Fajardo

We apologize for the ugly picture: it was cloudy, not a sunny day!

Puerto Rico beaches, Playa Escondida

Now THIS one makes some justice to this gorgeous beach

Puerto Rico beach photos, Puerto Rican girl bikini

My apologies for ruining it: I had not taken a photo of myself that trip…

Puerto Rico beach photos: Isla Verde, Carolina

THE most popular beach by San Juan, where most of the beachfront hotels are located. Perfect for windsurfing, kite surfing, parasailing, and people watching. You may also rent kayaks and kite surfing lessons. Oh, and lastly but most importantly, lots of palm trees to find shade under!

Puerto Rico beaches, Palm tree

this photo has NOT been edited in ANY way!

Puerto Rico beach photos, ocean view

What about them ocean views?

Puerto Rico beach photos: Balneario La Montserrate, Luquillo

So crowded on weekends, so popular: yet, one of the cleanest, safest beaches in the entire island. My advice? Go on a weekday and enjoy its reef-protected waters, palm tree forest, and surrounding mountain views. Truly spectacular (and BLUE FLAG beach, by the way):

beach Thursday, Luquillo Beach

Clearly, I went on a weekend…!

Balneario La Montserrate, Puerto Rico beaches

Love the colorful lifeguard posts

Puerto Rico beaches, Luquillo water

got cloudy, so not the best shot of the amazing water 🙁

Puerto Rico beach photos: Playa Ultimo Trolley, San Juan

One of the windiest beaches by San Juan, perfect for bodyboarding and kite surfing. Locals refer to it as “the kite beach” as well. Lack of shade though, as the few baby palm trees are taken early in the morning. So pack plenty of sunblock!

Playa Ultimo Trolley, beach Thursday

I felt stylish that beach day 😉

Have you been to these Puerto Rico beaches? Any favorites?

Noche de San Juan history: Beach Thursday special!

What does Noche de San Juan history has to do with Beach Thursday, some of you may ask? Well, all of it! Through a fun photo essay, I’ll describe this exciting beach festival. And while it is also celebrated in Portugal, I’ll focus on Spain and Puerto Rico today. Good way to warm up before I go to freeze my butt in Canada this Saturday! 😉

Noche de San Juan history, Portugal beach

Bonfires as seen from a beach in Medeira, Portugal by zyberchema, Flickr

Noche de San Juan history

The original Christian holiday honors John the Baptist on June 24th. However, its eve (Noche de Fuego) is an adaptation of an earlier pagan festival, which paid tribute to the sun. FIRE and water take center stage, symbolizing the cleansing of sins.

In short, Noche de San Juan is a celebration of the shortest night of the year, used as an opportunity to “start anew” (+ party). And while the summer solstice is actually closer to June 21st, the church wanted to celebrate it by St. John’s holiday (night of June 23rd). So it stuck!

Noche de San Juan history, Night of Fire

Giant Noche de San Juan bonfire in Spain by Lumiago, Flickr

Whether we’re talking about it in Spain or Puerto Rico, the origins are the same. Conquistadors got here, traditions were passed on, you know the deal. When it comes to practice, though? Somewhat different!

Noche de San Juan customs, traditions, and superstitions

Naturally, Noche de San Juan customs and traditions aren’t the same in Spain and Puerto Rico anymore. While Spaniards focus more on fire rituals, Puerto Ricans simply like to have a great beach concert and splash into the ocean. Here are some examples:

– It’s believed that as soon as the sun comes up the morning of June 24, the waters of fountains and rivers are full of special powers to cure and protect people. Additionally, whoever bathes in the dew of that night will be protected for the rest of the year (only in Spain).

Noche de San Juan history, Puerto Rico beach

The party starts early! Ocean Park beach, Puerto Rico by Amber Porter

– Going backwards (naked!) into the ocean, while looking at the moon, will give the bather special powers on Noche de San Juan (in Spain). OR you can simply jump backwards into the ocean, even if wearing a bathing suit, 7 times after midnight of June 24th for good luck (in Puerto Rico).

– Singles who look through the window of their home after midnight of June 24 will see the love of their life walk by (either Spain or Puerto Rico).

– A scary-looking ragdoll is burned by the ocean, while making a variety of petitions and promises (only in some coastal towns, Andalucia, and the Canary Islands).

Noche de San Juan customs and traditions, Canary Islands

Playa Jardín, Canary Islands by Carmen Fuentes

Noche de San Juan: modern celebrations

While the previous Noche de San Juan customs and traditions are kept by some, most youngsters simply go to the beach to party the night of June 23rd. To give you a taste of what this holiday is like nowadays in both Spain and Puerto Rico, here are some videos of the respective celebrations:

Noche de San Juan in Spain, also known as The Night of Fire:

Noche de San Juan in Puerto Rico’s capital:

I’m excited to be celebrating Noche de San Juan in Puerto Rico this year. PLUS my birthday is that same week (June 25) 😉 Mr. B and I have rented a studio by the beach, so will sure be taking great photos of the party by Ocean Park beach! Can’t wait for next month 😀

Yay for the good times and bye-bye to the gloomy days (I hope…!).

Noche de San Juan history, beach fireworks

Playa de Las Canteras, Las Palmas by JUAN RAMON RODRIGUEZ SOSA

Did you know about Noche de San Juan history? Have you celebrated it?

Puerto Rico Beach Thursday: Cueva del Indio Arecibo photos

Welcome to another edition of Beach Thursday! As I’m back to my beautiful island, this week I’m featuring one of Puerto Rico’s hidden gems: Cueva del Indio Arecibo. I had the pleasure to go to this cave, grottoes, and lovely beach yesterday, as part of a day trip to the northern coast. It was a mix of hiking, climbing, swimming, and even some Taino Indian petroglyphs! Definitely a great day under the sun 🙂

Cueva del Indio Arecibo photos, beach panorama

Gorgeous panorama from Cueva del Indio, Arecibo

How to get to Cueva del Indio Arecibo

The municipality of Arecibo is located about 80 km west of San Juan, so you must either rent a vehicle or book a day trip with a local operator in order to reach it. I was lucky enough to be going with a friend of mine and her date, who used to be an adventure tour guide. Which means?! Going off-the-beaten-path!

How to get to Cueva del Indio Arecibo map

Arecibo, Puerto Rico map by Wiki Commons

Once you reach Arecibo, Cueva del Indio is located at St 681 Km 8.0 (Carretera 681 in Spanish). GPS should be able to get you there—and you’ll know you’re at the right place as soon as you see the sign and a business called El Coayuco. There, you pay USD $2 for parking and simply follow the signs to walk toward the cave.

Cueva del Indio Arecibo photos: petroglyphs, grottoes & a beach!

The beginning of the dirt path is full of branches and even palm trees. However, it soon turns into sharp rocks, so be sure you wear sturdy walking shoes!

how to get to Cueva del Indio, Arecibo

On the left: the panorama from above and Cueva del Indio beach. To the right? Path down the petroglyphs cave, cove, and grotto

Once you reach those big rock steps, you may turn left to enjoy the beautiful lookout and even walk down to Playa Cueva del Indio (the beach). Alternatively, you may go right to take the stairs down to the petroglyphs cave and/or walk a little further to look into the beautiful grottoes, cove, and crashing Atlantic Ocean.

Cueva del Indio path, how to get there

Rock steps leading toward the cove and Atlantic Ocean

Cueva del Indio cave entrance

Stairs leading to the petroglyphs cave. Stunning! And higher than it looks…

Of course, I recommend you go both ways 😉 We went to the grottoes and petroglyphs cave first, just so we could wrap up the day by enjoying the panorama and relaxing at Playa Cueva del Indio.

photos Cueva del Indio Arecibo petroglyphs

Taino Indian petroglyphs all over the cave! It is still uncertain how old they are

Cueva del Indio ocean cove, Arecibo

Gorgeous ocean cove by Cueva del Indio cave

Extra travel tips for Cueva del Indio

– The waters can be rough! For this reason, make sure you look for the 2 mini pools (protected by the reef) once you hike down to the beach. There, you can refresh out of harm’s way.

Arecibo Beach Cueva del Indio

The waves weren’t that big yesterday, but still a gorgeous view!

How to get to Playa Cueva del Indio

One of the safe pools to bathe at Playa Cueva del Indio

For some interesting photographs, lookout for the cute zebra fish at one of the pools and the blue iguanas wandering around Playa Cueva del Indio!

Playa Cueva del Indio Arecibo photos, blue iguana

blue iguana!

For more Playa Cueva del Indio photos, check out LatinAbroad’s Facebook page.

What’s your favorite beach cove? Mine is Cueva del Indio for sure! 🙂

Canary Islands beaches: photos from Grand Canaria

It’s Beach Thursday! Today we are going back to Europe to visit some Canary Islands beaches. Specifically, we will learn more about the hot spots of Gran Canaria, where 40% of the Canaries’ population resides. Enjoy!

Canary Islands beaches, Las Canteras


Canary Islands beaches: Gran Canaria

I don’t know what intrigues me the most: the fact that one of its beaches is known as Europe’s nudist capital, the few dangers that you may encounter during your visit or that its most popular beach is called Puerto Rico (yup, just like the Caribbean island). Gran Canaria is definitely a destination for the adventurous, open-minded traveler.

Puerto Rico Resort

Of course I had to start with Gran Canaria’s most popular beach. Puerto Rico is the center of a popular resort area, sprinkled with several hotels and bars. As expected, it is quite crowded and not everyone’s piece of cake.

Canary Islands beaches, Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria by Gran Canaria Go, Flickr

Amadores Beach

Just like out of a Caribbean brochure, it is hard to believe that Amadores is a man-made beach. Literally made from scratch, it is a 15 min. walk (or 3-min. cab drive) from wildly-crowded Puerto Rico resort.

Canary Islands beaches, Amadores Gran Canaria

Amadores Beach by Sergio Carriedo, Flickr

Maspalomas Beach

The biggest beach in Gran Canaria also happens to be Europe’s nudist capital. However, the only nudist zone is located at its center, so you may still visit one of the island’s most popular beaches without having to strip down. LGBT travelers: there’s also a special area designated with a Pride flag. Personally, I love this beach because of its spectacular sand dunes.

Canary Islands beaches, Maspalomas

Gorgeous sand dunes of Maspalomas Beach by Pedro Szekely, Flickr

Playa de Las Canteras

Want to go snorkeling? Coral sandstone barrier reef La Barra is right off this beach. As a bonus, it breaks incoming waves, making this spot perfect for families as well. Make sure you also spend some time by the paseo marítimo, the red-brick boardwalk that hugs the beach with several restaurants, bars, and shops. It is another popular spot in Gran Canaria, so definitely not for those who are seeking peace and quiet 😉

Canary Islands beaches, Playa de Las Canteras

Playa de Las Canteras, Las Palmas by JUAN RAMON RODRIGUEZ SOSA

Guigui Beach

Speaking of peace and quiet, if you seek isolation and relaxation, Gui Gui is your beach. While it may be reached by boat from the Puerto Rico resort or by water taxi from Puerto de Las Nieves. Adventurous souls might want to take the 3-hour hike from its closest road, though!

Canary Islands beaches, Guigui beach valley

Valley leading to Gui Gui beach by Vijay Sikanda, Flickr


Want to hang out with the locals? Head over to Guayedra. Located on the gorgeous West Coast, getting there is just half the fun. Go on a weekday to mingle with Canarians hailing from Agaete, Galdar and Guia. Otherwise, go on a weekday and chances are you will have this slice of heaven all to yourself.

Please note though: this is a black sand beach with many pebbles, plus you may find the odd group of nudists from time to time. Bonus though? You may take a mud bath here! One of the most unique Gran Canaria beaches of the island IMO.

Canary Islands beaches, Guayedra

Guayedra Beach, Gran Canaria north coast by Ramon Sanchez Bruhn, Flickr

Have you visited any Canary Islands beaches? Which is your favorite?

UK beaches: The surprisingly-beautiful British coastlines

For Beach Thursday this week, I wanted to do something different. I asked myself, what is one of the least-likely beach destinations for globetrotters to pick? That’s when UK beaches came to mind.

best UK beaches Porthcurno

Porthcurno Beach located in…the UNITED KINGDOM?! Keep reading to learn more! (Simon Clayson, Flickr)

I always knew the British coastlines are wildly beautiful. I had seen snapshots of its jagged cliffs over azure waters on National Geographic and the Discovery Channel.

However, I never imagined long sandy British beaches.

I always thought that UK beaches were either full of pebbles, too small to lounge in or would be too cold to enjoy them at all anyway. But boy, was I wrong! Whether you are around Edinburgh or London, just park and fly (or drive!) to one of these spots.

Best UK beaches: My picks

Bournemouth Beach, Dorset

Yes, it is in every brochure — but justifiably so. Bournemouth Beach, a mere 2-hour drive from London, busts any myth stating that a British beach holiday is an oxymoron. Golden soft sand (a good 7 miles of it), clean waters, a pier and promenade full of places to eat and drink make it the best UK beach holiday destination. Thanks to its artificial reef, you can even go surfing here. Parking is expensive though, so plan accordingly.

top UK beaches Bournemouth

Popular Bournemouth Beach (Jeremy Tarling, Flickr)

Green Bay Beach, Porthcurno, Cornwall

In my opinion, the best UK beaches are Green Bay Beach and Porthcurno. They are simply too gorgeous for words. Their water can be as crystalline as any Caribbean beach (!), the sand is fine and soft, the rock pools and stream that goes down the beach are perfect for small children.

best UK beaches Cornwall

Porthcurno beach from Minack Theater. WOW! (drgillybean, Flickr)

A must do when visiting the area is to go see a play in the spectacular rock-hewn, open-air Minnack Theatre! I was flabbergasted after finding out that Porthcurno didn’t make it to the Best Beaches in the United Kingdom Tripadvisor list. Maybe that’s a good thing? 😉

best UK beaches Minack Theater

Minack Theatre: what a stunning place for a play! (Liz Smith, Flickr)

Sinclair’s Bay, Caithness, Scotland

A Scottish beach that doesn’t even have a proper attraction page on Tripadvisor. Whales, porpoises, and 16th-century castles make the mostly-deserted Sinclair’s Bay a unique beach destination in the UK. Located in Caithness, its 4-mile coastline is ethereal. Another wonderful hidden gem! Photos can’t do it justice.

top UK beaches Sinclair

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe by Stefan Klaas, Flickr

Gwithian & Porthgwidden Beach, St. Ives, Cornwall

And here I thought the only St. Ives was in Switzerland. Anyway…! Gwithian & Porthgwidden are other Cornwall spots that will impress even the most discerning beachcombers.

Gwithian really has it all: bug free, great seafood (at a great price), rock pools, and sand dunes. The beach is also great for windsurfing. The best part? Visit around November in order to see a seal sanctuary, located in a cove past Godrevy light house. A traveler once reported seeing over 130 seals at once!

What about Porthgwidden Beach?

Top UK beaches Porthgwidden Cornwall

This is Porthgwidden. Um yeah…exactly. (Photo: Richardo York)

Great Bay, St Martin’s, Isles of Scilly

To really get away from it all, head to Great Bay in the Isles of Scilly. A 20 minute walk from the dock, this UK beach is only reachable by foot. For this reason, it is never crowded. The best thing to do while in St Martin’s, by the way? Snorkeling with the seals. Now that’s another one for my travel bucket list!

best UK beaches Great Bay Isles of Scilly

Little Bay, Great Bay, Isles of Scilly by David Edwards, Flickr

For more UK beaches that didn’t make my list (but still come highly recommended), please visit the official Visit Britain site here.

top UK beaches Minack Theater

Minack Theater again! (Simon Clayson, Flickr)

What are your fave UK beaches? Would you visit the UK for them?