Things to do in Playa Del Carmen: My adventure-packed photo essay!

Welcome to our Beach Thursday: Yucatán special! I know what you’re probably thinking: “Oh no, not another ‘things to do’ post!” But don’t fret. I am publishing an adventure-packed photo essay of things to do in Playa Del Carmen, based on my own trip and interviews with locals. I promise: you will love every single activity (and picture) 😀

If you have additional questions about a tour or accommodation in Playa Del Carmen, feel free to send me a note or leave a comment below!

thanks to do in Playa Del Carmen, Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza photo I took on my trip to the Yucatán back in 2008

 Things to do in Playa Del Carmen: Day trips

Due to my short Thanksgiving break (Thursday – Monday), I had to be very selective about the places I visited. I wanted a good mix of history, relaxation, and adventure. As I would be more energized the first few days, I decided to visit the lesser-known Maya ruins of Ek Balam and Cobá. However, if you have never visited Chichen Itza, I recommend you go there instead of Cobá on your short Playa Del Carmen vacation.

I booked my tours via Karma Trails, a travel agency that partners with local  tour companies that give back to the Maya communities. I was very happy with this practice! All tours included a short stop at a local Maya village, giving them the opportunity to sell their own crafts without a middleman.

Things to do in Playa Del Carmen, mud bath at Rio Lagartos

That’s not sand – it’s ALL mineral-rich mud!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Rio Lagartos Dead Sea

Me floating on the Rio Lagartos Dead Sea — I mean salt flats

My Ek Balam tour included a great morning spent at Río Lagartos as well. We got to float on the salt flats holding ponds and bathe in mineral-rich mud, which brought back memories of my trip to the Dead Sea in Israel! We also got to see some crocs up close and personal (!), in addition to several other birds and PINK FLAMINGOS! 😀

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Rio Lagartos

I was not comfortable being THAT close to the croc…but I survived it!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, flamingos

Flamingos! You can see many more of them if you visit between May – June by the way 😉

The highlight of the all-day, 13-hour tour was our guide Gianluca though — a funny, knowledgeable polyglot. It was pretty awesome that he had an iPad with many photos, maps, etc. to discuss Maya and Mexican history with us during the rides between sites. We learned not only about the Maya ruins we visited, but also got cultural tidbits from other parts of Mexico. The history buff in me LOVED this.

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Ek Balam

Ek Balam Maya temple carvings: The “mouth of the jaguar”

The second tour, Cobá Mayan Encounter, was action-packed! In the morning, we visited a Maya community, witnessed a Maya shaman perform a ceremony, drifted on a beautiful lake, and rode down several zip lines. We also got to do some rappelling down a cenote + canoeing! Travel bucket list items checked 😀

Playa del Carmen attractions

Me riding the Coba Encounter tour zip line: the best one!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, cenote rappelling

Cenote rappelling! Don’t I look excited?!

In the afternoon, we visited the wonderful Cobá Maya ruins. I decided to rent a bike and it was the best decision I made. We had our tour guide explained the history for the first 20 mins., then we got to explore the site at our own pace for a good 45 min. It was plenty of time to leisurely cycle around the ruins, take some good photos, and even climb the main “pyramid”! By the way, that’s in quotes because apparently, we’re not supposed to call it that way 😉

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Coba Maya complex

One of my favorite structures at the Coba Maya complex. This one was used as an observatory

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Coba climbing

Atop the tallest “pyramid” at Coba. Gorgeous jungle views!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Coba pyramid

The main structure at Coba. Don’t call it a pyramid! 😉

Other great day trips from Playa Del Carmen is the charming town of Valladolid and swimming with turtles in Akumal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to either town on this trip. I’ll definitely have to go back and experience everything else the amazing Riviera Maya and Yucatan have to offer!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Valladolid

Valladolid, Yucatán, Mexico (Photo: Elaine, Flickr)

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal Bay

Photo of Akumal Bay by Carl Hancock. Fun fact: Akumal actually means “place of the turtles” in the Yucatec Maya language! 🙂

Theme parks & reserves: Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Xplor, Sian Ka’an

As I opted to visit 2 Maya sites + adventure tours, I didn’t get to go to any of the theme parks. However, Xel-Ha, Xcaret, Xplor, and Sian Ka’an are highly recommended by several travelers and bloggers. I’m definitely checking them out on my next trip, especially the Xcaret night show (which I could have done one night, but Playa Del Carmen nightlife got me quite distracted!).

Xel-há Park (daily, 8:30 AM – 7 PM): for a close encounter with nature. Lazily float down the river, go snorkeling, SNUBA, walk underwater and even swim with dolphins here.

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, xel-ha

Xel-Ha: beautiful, natural waterpark (Kyla, Flickr)

Xcaret (daily, 8:30 AM – 9:30 PM): archaeological & adventure park, excellent to learn more about Mexican culture. Food is great, too. Dolphin/shark swims & other water activities also available here. Make sure you stay for the night show, check out the wine tasting & try out one of the semi-underground spa treatments!

Xcaret night show, things to do in Playa Del Carmen

Xcaret night show by Steve Oxenham, Flickr

Xplor (Mon – Sat, 9 AM – 5 PM): for the adventurous souls. 14 zip lines (including one through a waterfall and into a cave!), swim in an underground river, and even drive an amphibious vehicle. Enough said!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Xplor

Xplor Zip Line Water Landing by Dtraveller, Flickr

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve: located in Tulum, this  UNESCO World Heritage Site is spectacular. It is a little out of the way, but worth it. Kayaking, fly fishing, and condoning our popular here. I recommend used to spend one night at one of the cabins on-site.

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Sian Ka'an

Gorgeous Sian Ka’an by Ronald Woan

Where to eat in Playa Del Carmen

Coming soon! I still have to look for my notepad with all my restaurant recommendations 😉 I can tell you right now though: Go to Yaxche Mayan Fusion Cuisine Restaurant on 5th Avenue! Have one of the specialty Maya food mixed platters, Maya coffee (a ceremony in itself), and plantain flan for dessert (called pie de platano, with hazelnuts and cajeta, which is goat dulce de leche. TRUST me, you gotta have it).

Playa Del Carmen nightlife

As I told you on a previous post, Playa Del Carmen nightlife is ACE!

things to do in Playa Del Carmen, Coco Bongo

Coco Bongo Playa Del Carmen (Dan, Flickr)

One more thing to do in Playa Del Carmen: Beach massages!

So many Playa Del Carmen beach clubs offer cheap massages by the ocean, giving you tremendous bargaining power. I scored a 70-min. reflexiology massage for USD $18. BLISS! See if you can get one for less and report back 😉

beach massage, things to do in Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen beach massages are great value! Photo: appaIoosa, Flickr

Got more recommendations of things to do in Playa Del Carmen?

Special thanks to Karma Trails for offering a complimentary Cobá Encounter tour. I was not paid for a positive review and all comments on this article are my honest opinion, though.

I’m going back to Mexico! Playa Del Carmen, here I come

As the calendar ticked November, I couldn’t help but remember that I have an exciting trip coming up. Finally, I can break the news to you all 😀 The PR agency of a new chain, called Xperience Hotels Resorts, invited me to experience (“¡valga la redundancia!”) two of their properties in Playa Del Carmen. Yeah, I’m going back to Mexico! 😀

Yucatan Mexico beach

Photo by Jesús Pérez Pacheco, Flickr

I have been to Cancun Mexico before, but that was a disappointment. Beautiful beaches, yes, but incredibly Americanized and overpriced. I will write a post about my bad experience there soon, okay? 😉

Back to the hotel invitation: It was open, but I decided to jump on it right away, as I had not heard back from Tourism Manitoba (been trying to see the polar bears!). So my Thanksgiving plans changed from chilly and snowy to sunny and sultry. And who’s complaining again?

Playa Del Carmen Aqualuna hotel patio

Boutique Hotel Aqualuna (Tripadvisor)

As a great bonus, the PR agency will also hook me up with a local tour agency and throw one complimentary day trip. I still don’t have all the details, but I built my itinerary anyway!

This will be a partial media trip, so I’m still expected to cover some of the expenses. Meals, airfare, and some tours will be on my tab. Still, this was the perfect excuse to escape my current student debt misery and do something fun with my discretionary income for once.

My Playa Del Carmen itinerary:

Thursday Nov 22nd arrival: Chill at the Aqualuna Hotel in Playa. Dinner at the hotel in order to review it. Maybe do Xcaret at night?

Friday Nov 23rd: Tour Ek Balam-Río Lagartos (13 hrs approx.). Nightlife in Playa later in the evening Definitely check out the Yaxche Restaurant on Quinta Avenida. Heard they have amazing Mayan cuisine and coffee!

Overnight Aqualuna Hotel.

Start video at 0:15 sec. mark:

Saturday Nov 24th: Day trip to Valladolid and Coba! Travel bucket list item: Swim in a CENOTE. Do ruins early morning 2-3 hrs, then spend rest of afternoon at the village. Back to Playa for party party. Or maybe try to see the Akumal turtles around 9 PM? Or both? PERFECT!

Overnight Hacienda Paradise Hotel.

Sunday, Nov 25th: Checkout from hotel and check-in cool-ass hostel or meet up with Couchsurfing host. Underwater museum tour at 11:30 AM. Afternoon spent swimming with turtles back in Akumal.

Overnight in either Playa or Akumal.

Monday, Nov 26th: Early flight back to USA 🙁

Playa Del Carmen beach, Quintana Roo

Photo by Carlos Guevara, Flickr

Umm, yah, my flight is already booked. Unfortunately, my love couldn’t join me, and the other friend I invited hasn’t confirmed yet. But I wouldn’t mind going to Playa Del Carmen solo. I’m sure I’ll have a heck of a lot of fun!

One of my nights isn’t covered (I extended my stay, duh), so I’m still debating which hostel (or Couchsurfer!) to choose.

Any suggestions are welcome!

Playa Del Carmen port on Quinta Avenida

Playa Del Carmen port on Quinta Avenida (Photo: Tripadvisor)

Now Mr. Movember, please hurry the heck up so I can get to Playa. Mkay?

*thinks of Mexican parties and what they will be like*

Have you been to Playa Del Carmen? Which sights I shouldn’t miss?

Hostel cooking simple recipes: Salmon with honey citrus marmalade

I am very happy to introduce you my dear friend and excellent cook Mr. Joshua Snore, our first regular contributor! His new series will transport you through hostel cooking simple recipes, in order to not only stretch your budget, but also your palate!

The hostel recipes Josh will be featuring are very easy to make, budget-friendly, adventurous, and delicious. You will be surprised at how fast you’ll become a nomadic chef. Whether you want to make your travels more authentic and affordable or impress that cute blonde you saw at the dorms last night ( 😉 :D) — follow Josh & yours truly on our weekly Hostel Cooking series!

hostel cooking simple recipes, salmon marmalade

The finished product: Salmon with honey citrus marmalade over fresh spinach

In order to also celebrate Beach Thursday in style, I decided to feature one of Josh’s signature seafood dishes: A Miami-Caribbean fusion!

Hostel cooking simple recipe: Seafood

Salmon with honey citrus marmalade

Ingredients

  • 6oz salmon filet
  • 1 pinch rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch thyme (chopped)
  • 1 dash sea salt
  • dash black pepper
  • dash red pepper
  • dash orange zest
  • dash lemon zest
  • 1/2 lemon (squeezed)
  • 1/2 juice orange (squeezed)
  • 1oz olive oil
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon Raw honey (for the marmalade - from here on)
  • 1/2 lemon (squeezed)
  • 2 oranges (squeezed)
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pinch rosemary (chopped)
  • 1 pinch thyme (chopped)
  • salt (to taste)
  • pepper (to taste)
  • 1 dash red pepper
  • 1oz olive oil
  • fresh spinach or salad

Directions

Step 1
PREPARATION: Wash and pat dry the salmon fillet. To season it, rub the olive oil, minced garlic, salt, and pepper on both sides. Sprinkle the dash of red pepper on filet, along with the orange zest, lemon zest, chopped rosemary and thyme as well. To top it off, pour the squeezed juices of the 1/2 lemon and 1/2 orange. Let the fillet sit for about 15 min., while you prep the marmalade.
Step 2
MARMALADE: Pour olive oil on frying pan. Brown the minced garlic slightly over low heat. Add the rest of the marmalade ingredients and bring to simmer. One simmering, allowed the marmalade to reduce, until it achieves desired thickness.
Step 3
SALMON: Pour olive oil on pan once again, browning the minced garlic slightly over low. Just before it starts browning, quickly turn the heat up too high. Place the salmon fillet (with skin down) and sear it. Then, turn heat down to medium and flip the fillet, cooking it for 3 min. Flip over again and add marmalade on top.
Step 4
Serve over fresh spinach or salad. VOILA!

hostel cooking, Florida beach

from Florida with love: Stay tuned for more simple recipes from Joshua via the Hostel Cooking travel series! (Photo: aoskilinn)

Any Hostel Cooking simple recipes you would like us to feature?

Best beaches near Rome — and how to get there (photo essay)

Wait…ruins and beaches? People forget how close The Colosseum is to the coast. Even when visiting in the summer, unsuspecting travelers skip the beaches around the ancient city entirely, driving or flying to farther towns for their Italian beach holidays. This week’s Beach Thursday photo essay features the best beaches near Rome and how to get there!

See more Italian beaches: Best beaches in Sicily

best beaches near Rome, Fregene

Peter Casier, Flickr

Best beaches near Rome (in no particular order!)

Ostia

Did you know that Ostia Antica is actually Pompeii’s less-obnoxious sister? Only 30-40 min. away from the city, Ostia is not only considered the capital’s beach, but it is also a lesser-known point of interest. A worthy day trip from Rome whether you are looking for more interesting ruins and/or a beach escape. I recommend you hit the ruins early in the day, then refresh at the beach after lunch.

How to get there: Take the train (Metro Line B) toward Piramide station. Once there, go up the stairs in order to take the ROMA-LIDO train all the way to the end (C. Colombo Station). If you wish to see the ruins, get off at Ostia Antica station instead. [Source: Lonely Planet]

Extra tip: Since Ostia is quite close to Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport, it might be a good place to spend your last day or afternoon in Italy.

best Beaches near Rome, Ostia

Ostia Beach (•• Federì ••, Flickr)

Anzio and Nettuno

Want a plate of seafood with that beach trip? Only 57 km south of Rome, Anzio is a fabulous fishing port. You may also take a ferry to the Pontine islands of Ponza, Palmarola, and Ventotene in the summer.

How to get there: Take the Roma-Nettuno train from Termini. Once at the station, it is only a 10-15 min. walk to the sea 😀

Extra tip: Make sure you take the express train in order to get to the beach in an hour. You may also get there by bus, but beware: If you are only in Rome for a few days, you don’t want to take a 3-hour bus ride (each way!).

best Beaches near Rome, Anzio

“Near San Felice Circeo, between Anzio and Terracina” (Alessandra Kocman, Flickr)

Sperlonga

Visiting Sperlonga is like taking a day trip to the Greek islands. Picturesque white-washed buildings make this a lovely little city. It has two different centers: A pedestrian-only one by the old town (lots of steps, gorgeous views from here!) and a second one open to traffic, leading to the beach. Blue-flagged for meeting high standards of cleanliness and water quality, Sperlonga is without a doubt the most beautiful beach near Rome.

How to get there: Take the train Roma-Napoli via Formia and get off at Fondi-Sperlonga. Once there, take the hourly bus (in the summer; every other hour in the winter) from the train station to the center. Total travel time is about 1.5-2 hours.

Extra tip: Do not rent a car and drive around the city in the high season — it’s unlikely you’ll find a parking spot!

best beaches near Rome, Sperlonga

Sperlonga beach (Alessia, Flickr)

Santa Marinella

Location location location — that’s Santa Marinella. Often quite crowded on weekends, it is not my top choice for beaches near Rome. However, I must admit that it is the most convenient. A stretch of its coast has free access, allowing you to bring your own towel (or chair) and enjoy. Alternatively, you may rent a cabana from one of the resorts and dine at one of the many seafood restaurants. It is a place you go to be social and/or people watch!

How to get there: From Rome Termini, take train on Roma-Pisa line toward Santa Marinella. The ride takes approximately 45 minutes.

Extra tip: This goes without saying, but I’ll tell you anyway. If you are seeking for a speck of solitude on the coast, Santa Marinella is not the right day trip from Rome for you.

best Beaches near Rome, Santa Marinella

Not the best beach near Rome, but the most accessible: Santa Marinella (pandemia,Flickr)

Did I leave out any of the best beaches near Rome? Comment below!

Best Sicily beaches: Spectacular scenery, turquoise waters (photos)

Unfortunately for us in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is coming to an end and autumn is falling upon us. However, beaches are always on my mind. Today’s Beach Thursday photo essay will focus on the best Sicily beaches. Yes, another beautifully subjective list by yours truly. Next week: the best of beaches around Rome + how to get there. Enjoy!

best Sicily beaches, Castellammare del Golfo

Castellammare del Golfo (Photo: fazen, Flickr)

Best Beaches in Sicily

Perfect for those wanting to squeeze adventure into their beach holiday. Hike volcanoes, natural reserves, and even go diving & paragliding. Rumor has it that the best beaches in Sicily are found on the west coast of the island. Do I agree? Absolutely. Conveniently, the most spectacular scenery and beaches are clustered together:

San Vito Lo Capo

best Sicily beaches, San Vito Lo Capo

San Vito Lo Capo, arguably the best beach in Sicily, is located in a valley, sandwiched by gorgeous mountains (salvatore ciambra, Flickr)

Favignana, Egadi islands (off Sicily’s west coast)

best Sicily beaches, Favignana

The Egadi islands are located off Sicily’s western coast (Sicilia Mare, Flickr)

Eraclea Minoa

best Sicily beaches, Eraclea Minoa

Expansive coast awaits at Eraclea Minoa (valben, Flickr)

Riserva Naturale Orientata and Scopello

best Sicily beaches, Scopello

Scopello, Sicily: Stunning (Vincenzo Giordano, Flickr)

For diving, you may hit nearby Ustica or Scopello. Be warned, though — while the underwater world in Scopello is gorgeous, the rocks on the beach can be cutting. Appropriate footwear is recommended.

Best beaches in Sicily, honorable mentions: Vendicari Reserve, Gardini-Naxos, Castellammare del Golfo, Sampieri, Modica, Cefalu, and Pozzallo.

best beaches in Sicily, Pozzallo

Pozzallo beach (Jacques Zammit, Flickr)

Hope you enjoyed traveling through the best beaches in Sicily! The rest of the series, including other parts of Italy such as Rome, Puglia, Venice, and Tuscany vicinity, will be published next month as Beach Thursday editions.

San Vito Lo Capo landscape, best Sicily beaches

Another one for San Vito Lo Capo: My absolute favorite! (salvatore ciambra)

Have you visited the best Sicily beaches? Which ones?

Vieques Best Beaches: A Puerto Rican weighs in (video and photos)

It’s Beach Thursday and today I decided to finally talk about Vieques best beaches. Following up on my press trip to Puerto Rico this month, I’ll describe some of my favorite spots and how they’ve changed since I visited La Isla Nena 3 years ago. Old favorites have gone down, while new favorites have emerged. Read about which are Vieques best beaches and why from a local perspective.

Blue Beach (La Chiva): Once upon a time…

I’m starting with Blue Beach because this has been an all-time favorite spot of mine. In fact, it claimed the # 1 spot in my Vieques Best Beaches list. All I used to think about was a mix of sheer turquoise and glistening prisms on the water, clear blue skies, and powdery sand between my toes. Best of all? Solitude. A place to reflect. A place to love.

Unfortunately, that is not the Blue Beach of today. Seems like many others, seeking for the same type of paradise, found themselves at Blue Beach. While its beauty will never vanish (unless people start acting like pigs), it is not the tucked-away cove I once loved. It is now quite popular with tourists and locals alike. With them, Blue Beach’s magic has disappeared in my eyes. Why do I mention it, then? Because it is not a crowded mess yet, I would still go back in a heartbeat. However, only if I want to bathe at a beautiful spot. That’s it. It is not a place to marvel at something special anymore.

No facilities available. Easy access, so bringing a small cooler shouldn’t be a problem here.

La Chiva, Vieques best beaches

Deserted Blue Beach? Not anymore (Tony, Flickr)

Garcia Beach: My new favorite

Oh, how lucky we were to have been told about this spot! It is so hard to get to, especially after a storm, that many people give up halfway through the muddy path. Thanks to a mix of luck and stubbornness, we got to enjoy one of Vieques best beaches.

Those seeking for adventure, yet thrive in relaxation after a great workout will truly love Playuela, also known as Garcia Beach. The trek is fun and once you finally get to the beach, it is the beauty. In fact, it reminds me a lot of how Blue Beach used to be. There were only 2 other couples there when we arrived, yet all of them left within 30 min. The water can get a little wavy, but that was fun for us. We drank and we swam; we played and we taped. Honestly, it is hard for me to put into words how beautiful the spot is. How much I enjoyed even the getting-there part. You just got to see it. Special thanks to our host José from Acacia Guesthouse for telling us about and letting us borrow his little piece of paradise!

No facilities in the vicinity. Also, bringing a cooler can prove to be a challenge, so simply take some goodies in a small backpack for the day and you’re set.

Playuela beach path, Vieques Best Beaches

Once you get through this…

…you finally get to this:

Playuela Vieques Best Beaches

You’re here! Welcome to Playuela, aka Garcia Beach, Vieques

Secret Beach: New discovery

Another pleasant surprise was Secret Beach, also known as Pata Prieta. Again, another wonderful recommendation by our fabulous host José. While there’s nothing secret about this spot, it didn’t feel terribly crowded. Also, the water is “como un plato” — Puerto Rican slang for describing a sea so calm that it resembles a plate. Better yet? It is so easy to get to. I would highly recommend Pata Prieta Beach to families with kids and anyone seeking to calm, inviting place to lounge at. Also, there’s a reef nearby, so if you snorkel, bring your own equipment.

A piece of advice, though? Checkout the photo below. Look at the furthest point of the coast look closely. See the people? They tend to conglomerate by the entrance of the cove. Walk along the shore for a couple of minutes and you’ll feel like you’ve arrived to a different beach (as the photo attests)! Watch the video below the photo for more information.

While Pata Prieta beach is very accessible, there are no facilities nearby either. Thus, bringing a cooler with your own food and drinks is a must.

Pata Prieta, Vieques best Beaches

Secret Beach by Sandcastlematt, Flickr

Red Beach: Honorable mention

If you are looking for a good parking lot, picnic tables, and other creature comforts I recommend Red Beach. Most widely known as Playa Caracas, it is far too crowded for my liking, but some people are into that. It is another great family beach with calm, beautiful waters. Thus, it is an honorable mention on this week’s Vieques Best Beaches list.

Red Beach, Vieques best beaches

Red Beach, Vieques best beaches (angelaortizmusic, Flickr)

Another piece of advice: I recommend you visit Red Beach instead of Sun Bay if you’re looking for facilities. Unless you want to camp, Sun Bay is not that nice by Vieques standards. I mean, if you only visit Sun Bay, you might as well have stayed in the mainland and enjoy San Juan’s nicer beaches. Just just being an honest local here…

Sun Bay, Vieques Best Beaches

Sun Bay after a rainy day

And Part 1 of a local’s Vieques Best Beaches list comes to a close! For more of the best of the best of Vieques though, check out the special article I wrote for My Destination Puerto Rico here.

Have your own Vieques Best Beaches list? Which are your favorites?

Cabo Rojo beaches: chillaxing Beach Thursday photo essay!

I’m flying to Colorado for TBEX tomorrow. Holy molly. Even though I’m a TBEX first timer this year, my preparation and hard work have been intense. So intense, so much I have put on the line that I am as anxious as ever. In fact, I woke up several times last night shaking a little–shaking!! That has never happened to me! So, even though I was planning to write another TBEX-related blog post, today I decided to say screw it. That’s right: I’ll just post some beach photos on this Beach Thursday, dang it! My chosen spots? Cabo Rojo beaches!

Cabo Rojo beaches map

Cabo Rojo beaches map (Wikipedia)

Growing up in Puerto Rico (lived there the first 18 years of my life), I always loved Cabo Rojo. Located on the southernmost, westernmost tip of the main island, Cabo Rojo beaches are some of the most beautiful gateways to the Caribbean Sea. Best thing of all?  No matter what type of traveler you are, there’s at least one Cabo Rojo beach that is perfect for you.

Cabo Rojo beaches for foodies / water sports: Joyuda

Foodies need apply: Joyuda is known to have the very best seafood on the West Coast (Porta del Sol region). Additionally, for the water lover like me, Joyuda beaches are top-notch. Great for kayaking and snorkeling. Sunbathing is a given–the majority of Puerto Rico beaches are graced with soft, gorgeous sands 😉

Facilities: Many restaurants just steps away, yet almost total isolation guaranteed on weekdays!

Cabo Rojo beaches, Joyuda

I love my palm-fringed beaches! (Photo: CaboRojoPR.com)

Cabo Rojo party beach central: El Combate

Like to party + would love to mingle with the locals even more? Combate is it! Go in the summer and it is very likely that you will find a fun, loud, and awesome music festival (or a beach party of some sort, typically organized by Puerto Rican TV and radio stations). some quiet time may be had at Combate beach, though. Show up in the morning of a weekday in the spring, for instance, and you’ll see the difference 😉 All that being said, this is a great spot to catch a beautiful sunset anytime.

Facilities: free parking, free entrance, close to local mini markets and eateries

Cabo Rojo beaches, El Combate

El Combate on a quiet day (Photo: Tripadvisor)

Cabo Rojo beach for nature lovers: La Playuela (Playa Sucia)

This one is for the photographers and nature lovers: La Playuela has been named the most scenic beach on the entire island several locations. Bird-watching, cliffs, natural bridges, hidden caves/coves, and even a lighthouse; photo ops abound! Fun fact? One of its names (Playa Sucia) actually means “dirty beach” in Spanish — oh the irony!

Facilities: No hotels, no services–escape from it all!

Cabo Rojo beaches, Playa Sucia La Playuela

La Playuela, aka Playa Sucia, panorama (Photo: Oscalito, Flickr)

Faro Playa Sucia, Cabo Rojo lighthouse

Remember to keep walking down the path for even more spectacular cliff views at the Faro (light house in Spanish)! Photo: Tripadvisor

There are many, many more Cabo Rojo beaches. Unfortunately though, we’ll have to discover them on a different day 😉 Enjoy these for now!

Have you been to Puerto Rico Did you know about Cabo Rojo beaches?

Siesta Key beach FL photos: The best USA beach? Maybe…

For Beach Thursday this week, I decided to feature Siesta Key beach FL, which has been voted as the best beach in the USA.

Siesta beach FL, number 1 USA beach sign

Siesta Key beach FL: Number 1 USA beach sign

I went there last month for the first time and visited both the North and South beaches (one side had small waves; the other side had pretty big ones!). I found it interesting that the quality of the sand varies as you walk along the coast for several miles (which I did and regretted later). You see, sunburn and tons of bird poop on my back are not my exact definitions of fun. But according to Jodi (Legal Nomads), bird poop is great for luck, so I guess the rest of 2012 is all done for me! Lol 😛 So, that being said, I would rather go to the beaches on the North (of Siesta Key beach coast), which also happen to be a little less crowded. Now, let’s get to the nice Siesta Key Beach FL pictures shall we? 😉

Siesta Key beach FL water

What do you think of the water? This was on North side

Siesta beach FL, Aviator sunglasses shot

I’m a sucker for Aviator sunglasses shots…!

Siesta Key beach FL Aviators shot

Aaaand that’s why I’m posting another one

Being from the Caribbean, one thing triumphs all when I travel:

It is hard for a beach to impress me.

As such, Siesta Key FL did not make it to my Top 10 Best Beaches list. I do admit though: It is one of the most beautiful beaches I have visited in the USA.

Siesta Beach, Siesta Key FL

Photo: aoskilinn, Flickr

Siesta beach FL ride

We hitched a free ride in this! Took us straight to where we parked, which was pretty dang far may I emphasize. So yah, parking is a biotch at Siesta Key beach FL!

Sieta beach FL cart signs

Signs on roof of our free cart ride to one of the furthest parking lots

Naturally, it is crowded and not for everyone. However, if you enjoy crystal-clear water and ultra-fine white sands, Siesta Key beach FL will sure please. For better atmosphere though, I would give my vote to Honeymoon Island beaches instead. Honeymoon Island, by the way, is also located in Florida and its beaches are not nearly as crowded as Siesta Key’s. Yet, they are just as beautiful–if not more so! I’ll talk more about them on next week’s Beach Thursday post 😉 Gotta boot now and prep for TBEX next week!

Siesta Key beach FL 069 bikini

Is it weird that I think it’s funny this photo of me at Siesta Key beach FL is # 69 in my photo album…?

Siesta Key beach FL couple

Me and my gringuito (sorry boys!)

Have you been to Siesta Key Beach FL? What’s your favorite USA beach?

Blue Beach, Vieques, Puerto Rico: Beach Thursday photos

This week’s Beach Thursday spotlight is on Blue Beach, Vieques, Puerto Rico. This is my favorite islet of the archipelago and my top activity there is to rent a 4×4 vehicle and go beach hopping. At the rental center, you are provided a map with the location of dozens of unspoiled, isolated specks of the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the few places in the Caribbean that you can truly enjoy without throves of tourists.

Blue Beach, Vieques

1) Entering Blue Beach

Bahia de la Chiva, Blue Beach, Vieques

2) You and the coconuts

Why I love Blue Beach, Vieques

Of the extensive list of beaches in La Isla Nena, I picked Blue Beach, Vieques because from the few spots I visited on my last trip, this was my favorite. Also known as La Chiva, the water is an incredible light turquoise hue, almost blinding you with tiny rainbow-like specks when the strong Caribbean sun reflects on it. Moreover, we had the beach all to ourselves!

me at Blue Beach, Vieques

me at Blue Beach, Vieques

La Chiva, Vieques water

Getting lost in the reflections

La Chiva, Vieques

5) “La Chiva” – Blue Beach, Vieques

When to go

Date of visit will definitely impact your odds of finding another soul or two at any hidden Vieques beach. Thus, I recommend a weekday beach hopping tour to better enjoy the scenery and nature for what they are. By the way, you should also add Red Beach to your itinerary. It seems like Blue Beach’s pretty sister, doesn’t it? 😉

Caracas, Red Beach, Vieques

6) Caracas, Red Beach, Vieques

Have you been to Vieques? What’s your favorite beach?

Flickr photo credits: 1) David Sanchez * 2) sciascia * 5) tony * 6) Kaytee Riek