By: Daniel Otero
Starting with Cuba, the Island nation is opening up after more than half-a-century of closure and before it becomes too touristy, the time is now to go down and take a look.
Birth place of contemporary salsa dancing, one great hangout for nightlife is Club Tropicana, Havana.
The capital itself holds some unique history, impressive Spanish forts and two places to get away from the hustle and bustle are Pinar del Rio: for great food, cigars and to learn about the ancient-Arawak Indians. The other is Baracoa, for the joys of friendly people and great rums to blend in a Cuba Libre or some of Hemingway’s famous mojito drinks.
After, there’s the Dominican Republic, home of the famous ‘mangú’, a mash-styled plantain dish that’s consumed with salt, pepper, vinegar and onions; and what better way to chase it down with a Presidente beer.
Best spot to pick for a stay is along the white-sandy beaches of Juan Dolio.
Another place easy to fall in love with whether it’s for the food, people or nature is Jamaica, ‘yeah man’!
Avoid Kingston and jump right into Ocho Ríos. The pleasure for me here was the fun, enlightening. I’d later become enthralled while having emotional orgasms over its Johnny Cakes and believe it or not, Jamaica is noted as the second best cuisine in the world. Rasta culture and love are just waiting for ya!
Salsa dancing was invented in Cuba, but it was the Puerto Ricans who perfected it! Other than dancing, Puerto Rico has a culture that dates back 500 years.
San Juan is its gorgeous capital, beautifully painted in pastel colors. However, after San Juan and couple of piña coladas, it’s better to head over the Luis A. Ferré Expressway in route towards Guánica. The latter is the true Puerto Rico in friendliness, charm and food. Remember to give a good salute while sipping down a Bacardi rum and coke.
Later, it’s easy to hop into the ambiance of St. Thomas. Fun facts, it is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands and it holds to the reputation of blending in excellently three cultures: Afro-Caribbean, Dutch and U.S.
Arriving in Charlotte Amalie, the funicular is prepared for the visitor to just go up and enjoy the vista at 360 degrees on top of the Island.
It’s also a grand place for shopping, honeymooners are always welcome.
There’s the ‘secret’ of Blackbeard’s Castle.
Then after, there’s Coki Beach for those whom are snorkelers/scuba-divers; just get into a bathing suit and you’ll see what I mean…
St. Kitts, nicknamed “Sugar City” holds to the sweet smells of rice and fried bananas. It’s also part of Empire’s (U.K.) Commonwealth system. Further, the Island holds a UNESCO World Heritage, the Brimstone Hill Fortress and it was sadly a conduit to bring in slaves for the next 20 decades (17th to 19th Centuries). Today, it’s a pleasure paradise of calypso music.
Other smaller Islands, but as formidable to the taste in love, music, sport and for foodies is Guadeloupe.
Once landing in Basse-Terre, it feels like a ‘petit’ France.
A land of marvelous sugarcane fields and on tour it’s good to taste the local molasses, marmalades, spices and spirits just waiting for the traveler.
Aruba is dearest to my heart. Oranjestad is always a constant reminder of the Netherlands, but even better in brightly-sunny pastel colors. Here there’s a sunken ship from WWII, the Antilla Wreck around 60 feet of water.
Continuing with the ABC’s of the Dutch Caribbean, Bonaire was always closest to my heart. It only focuses on three things: party, eating and scuba-diving. From Dutch to Indonesian influences, the place just holds it together in those beautiful dusks and dawns. The Island itself has 140 dive sites; after all it’s known as “Diver’s Paradise”.
Curacao is another one of those to never forget. Willemstad still holds one of the best ceviches to taste outside of Peru.
Here’re 10 destinations off the beaten track. Whatever you choose, have fun in the sun, dance, swim and like with all memories, you’ll always want to look back!