Top 5 Things to do in Amsterdam (that aren’t Illegal in Other Countries)

July 22, 2014

Amsterdam Canal TourWhen people think of Amsterdam, all too often what comes to mind are sensationalized vices.  Yet, beyond the red light clichés lies a beautiful European city filled with centuries’ old three and four flats, remnants of a civilization driven by the international trade and the Dutch East India Company, as well a spectacular network of waterways and canals.  Furthermore, Amsterdam has a thriving cultural scene brimful of art and history, making it an ideal destination for your next trip. Here are some of the top things you can do while visiting Amsterdam for a vacation:

6) Take a Canal Tour or Book a River Cruise

Explore Amsterdam via the many waterways that have been so integral to this city’s history and commerce.  Some boats offer loudspeaker tours led be knowledgeable guides who explain Amsterdam’s story through architecture and geography.  Other canal boats are simply for transport.  For the ultimate Amsterdam canal ride experience, consider climbing onboard one of the city’s many cocktail and/or dinner cruises.  Amsterdam is also the departure point for Viking River Cruises’ Grand European Tour, a fifteen-day cruise that goes through Germany and Austria before ending in Budapest (prices vary).

5) Pay Homage at the Anne Frank House & Museum

In the aftermath of WWII, which devastated Holland along with the rest of Europe, Otto Frank returned to the attic where he and his family had hid from the Nazis.  While sorting through the remnants of his family’s belongings, he discovered the diary of his teenage daughter, Anne, who had perished in a concentration camp.  Otto Frank published the diary.  It has since gone down in history as one of the most candid journals ever written, encapsulating the experience of Nazi occupation as seen through the eyes of a fourteen-year-old girl.  Today, the house where Anne and others once hid from the Nazis has been converted into a museum.  It is a permanent reminder of how humanity was affected by the holocaust and a hope that history will cease to repeat itself.  The Anne Frank House opens every day at 9am (euro 9 for adults, 4.50 for teenagers 10-17, children under 10 are free).  There is usually a line around the block, which is why it is a good idea to arrive early.  Perhaps the popularity of this attraction is a testament to the impact of Anne Frank’s story.

4) Eat at the Eet-Café de Valk

Located on the Amstel River across from the Amstelland Fire Department, the Eet-Café de Valk is a great stop for gourmet salads, paninis, and other European fare.  Try the melted Brie cheese panini, or perhaps the fresh green and orange salad topped with caramelized goat cheese and capers.  Sit outside in the café’s outdoor dining area to people watch over a shot of espresso.  Eet-Café de Valk is located at Valkenburgerstraat 8-16, 1011 Amsterdam (prices vary, but most entrees cost around euro 10).  For the ultimate in luxury in the heart of Amsterdam, consider staying at the Hotel De L’Europe.  Within the city center, this hotel is also located on the Amstel River.  It is in close proximity to other great restaurants as well as museums.

3) Stroll through Vondel Park

Named after seventeenth century Dutch author Joost van den Vondel, Vondelpark is one hundred and twenty acres of well-maintained public property located in the heart of Amsterdam.  Having first opened in 1865, Vondelpark has numerous paths, statues, an English garden, a rose garden, a large pond, a playground, and a theater.  An exemplary example of the European city dweller’s need for nature in urban environments, Vondel Park is a great place to walk, bike, or have a picnic.  Be sure to stop at the I-AMSTERDAM pool for your essential tourist photo-op.  Vondelpark is free and open twenty-four hours.Amsterdam Vondel Park

2) Gaze upon masterpieces at the Van Gogh Museum

Not far from Vondel Park is the Van Gogh Museum.  This attraction boasts a vast collection of paintings created by Dutch post-impressionist artist Vincent Van Gogh, who was famous for both his artistic vision and intriguing life story.  Van Gogh originals on display at the museum include “Sunflowers”, “Self Portrait”, and “The Sea at Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer”.  The Van Gogh Museum opens daily at 9am (euro 15 for adults, children under 17 are free), and also displays works by other nineteenth century artists including Émile Bernard and Claude Monet.  For children ages 6-12, ask the front desk about the treasure hunt activity.

1) Rent a Bike

Amsterdam is known hands down as the best bicycle city in the world.  Thanks to an intricate network of well-maintained bike paths, complete with their very own traffic signals, it is easy to get around this city on two wheels.  Amsterdam is an ideal place to rent a bicycle and go exploring (bike rentals are typically euro 9.50-13.50 for 24 hours, and many bike shops offer organized tours).  Don’t forget to ask the rental shop for a map of the city and keep in mind that Amsterdam’s layout resembles a sun, with roads and canals that extend outward like rays of light.  It is incredible to observe local Dutch cyclists carrying extraordinary cargos via their bicycles.  I saw one man biking with an impressive ¾ double bass strapped to his back!  The moment it starts raining, watch as dozens of passing cyclists pop open their umbrellas without even stopping, like a parade of Holland’s celebrated tulips blooming across the glistening bike paths.

As you can see, while on an Amsterdam vacation there are certainly some great things that you can do. Make sure you call us when you’re ready to book your trip so we can help you plan it.

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Best Beaches in the Riviera Maya

July 17, 2014

Riviera Maya BeachesIf you’re planning a vacation of a lifetime to Mexico’s stunning Riviera Maya, one of the reasons why is because you want to visit an amazing beach destination. The Riviera Maya has always been known as one of the best spots in Mexico to take a beach vacation and is the reason why thousands flock here each year. For info on which beaches to visit while on your trip, we’ve listed 4 of the top ones that you should checkout.

1. Playa Paraiso Beach, Tulum

If you’re looking to escape the crowds head to Tulum where you’ll find Playa Paraiso Beach, a quiet picture perfect beach that is well known for it’s powder soft white sand. Playa Paraiso Beach is an ideal choice for families as it is sheltered from the elements and boasts shallow, calm water that is ideal for water activities such as windsurfing, sailing and snorkeling. It also has a watersports kiosk where you can rent a variety of equipment. Playa Paraiso Beach is also home to a snack bar where you can pick up both non alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. Playa Paraiso Beach, is located a short taxi ride from the bulk of Tulum’s resorts and is located within walking distance of some of a variety of Mayan ruins.

2. Akumal Beach, Akumal

If you’re a keen snorkeler or diver head, you will want to head to Akumal Beach. At Akumai Beach, you’ll find an abundance of coral that attracts a variety of sea life including sea turtles, stingrays and colorful schools of fish. If you plan on renting a locker or snorkel equipment, make sure to get to Akumal Beach before midday as it can get busy with the chance of them running out of lockers and equipment. Akumal Beach is also home to the Centro Ecological Center, where you can learn all about coastal ecosystems and sea turtle conservation. Many of Akumal’s top rated resorts such as the Akumal Beach Resort and the Hotel Akumal Caribe Resort back directly on to Akumal Beach.

3. Playa Del Carmen Beach

If you’re looking for a beach that offers miles of pristine white sand and is home to a myriad of four and five star resorts than look no further than Playa Del Carmen Beach! This beach is a hub of activity and offers a variety sports such as beach soccer and volleyball, kiteboarding, stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, jet-skiing and parasailing. If you’re feeling hungry, head to Pavo Real by the Sea, a popular restaurant which specializes in serving Caribbean and French fare and boasts a plethora of outdoor tables that overlook the beach itself.

4. Xphu-ha Beach, Puerto Aventuras

Xphu-ha Beach boasts luxuriously warm turquoise water and soft white sand which makes it the perfect beach to spend a day sunbathing and swimming. The easiest way to visit Xphu-ha beach is to purchase a shuttle transfer from your resort to the beach itself. Although there is an entrance fee to access Xphu-ha Beach, your entry fee entitles you to access the Xphu-ha Beach Club where you’ll find complimentary beach chairs and activities such as beach volleyball. It may also be worth noting that if you opt to grab a bite to eat at Xphu-ha Beach Club, your entry fee will be reimbursed.

So there you have it, four of the Riviera Maya’s most popular beaches. If you’re wanting to plan a Riviera Maya vacation, make sure you give us a call so we can help you plan it.

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Oktoberfest is Coming: Another Great Reason to Visit Germany

July 14, 2014

Germany OktoberfestRoller coasters, beer, and plenty of wiener schnitzel – few diversions compliment one another so completely as these amusements do at the traditional Bavarian festival known as Oktoberfest.  Having won the World Cup in 2014, you can bet that this year’s Oktoberfest in Germany might be the most exciting celebration yet.

A two hundred year old Bavarian tradition, Oktoberfest actually begins in September and lasts through the first week of October.  Every year, millions of visitors flock to this festival, which is hosted by the city of Munich.  They come dressed in lederhosen and dirndl, the traditional dress of Germany’s Bavarian region, ready to drink beer and enjoy the amusements.

Only German beer that is considered Reinhetsgebot, meaning that it conforms to the “Bavarian Purity Law”, is served at the Oktoberfest fairgrounds.  Reinhetsgebot beers are only allowed to use three ingredients: water, barley, and hops.  Oktoberfest’s beer is also required to be a minimum six percent alcohol by volume.  Beers served at Oktoberfest include Augustiner-Bräu, Hacker-Pschorr-Bräu, Löwenbräu, Paulaner, Spatenbräu, and Staatiiches Hofbräu-München.Oktoberfest

The Oktoberfest fairgrounds are filled with dozens of colorful beer tents and gardens, decorated with eye-catching ribbons and tapestries, where you can enjoy your beverages to the sound of live brass bands.  The festival also features plenty of carnival rides and other amusements, transforming Oktoberfest into a family affair.  From loop-dee-loop roller coasters to a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round, Oktoberfest offers something fun for everyone.  Children and adults of all ages can appreciate the giant heart-shaped cookies known as Oktoberfestherzen, and not to be missed are the pretzels, sauerkraut, bratwurst, and wiener schnitzel.

To sum it all up, Oktoberfest is blast, and you can bet that Oktoberfest 2014 will be extra festive as Germany celebrates its recent World Cup victory.  Now is a great time to make that journey to Munich and cross Oktoberfest off of your bucket list.  While staying in Munich, consider checking in to the luxurious Rocco Forte The Charles Hotel.  With 160 rooms, exceptional views, and a sun terrace, this oasis of tranquility is located next to Munich’s Old Botanical Gardens, near the Old Town and busy shopping streets.  Another nice place to stay is a family-run hotel called the Hotel Torbräu.  Built in 1490, this hotel is located in the center of Old Munich.  It offers ninety historic rooms combined with the modernity of free wireless Internet.

Oktoberfest GermanyWhen you’re ready to take a break from the festivities of Oktoberfest, be sure to check out Munich’s spectacular English Gardens.  Join some Munich city tours that include excursions to the Marienplatz and Isartor Tower.  There are also historical tours available, which explore the secrets of Munich’s dark past as it is hidden within the city’s art and architecture.

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Tips to Help you Plan your Vacation to Aruba

July 7, 2014

Aruba VacationIf you are looking for a beach getaway and are interested in the Caribbean but are unsure which island to visit, one to consider is Aruba. Aruba has always been known as a great vacation destination in the Caribbean where you can find some of the best luxury all inclusive resorts as well as amazing nightlife to enjoy. If you would like to get to know a little more about taking an Aruba vacation, here are some highlights of when is the best time to visit, places you can stay, activities you can do and places you can dine at.

When to visit:

The best time to take a trip to Aruba if you are looking for the best deal is between April to August as the weather is a little warmer and the prices are significantly lower as compared to the peak season, which runs from January to March. Unlike some of it’s neighbors, due to it’s location, hurricanes are a rare occurrence, so there’s no need to plan around hurricane season.


1. The Playa Linda Beach Resort is a luxurious five star resort that backs on to one of Aruba’s most popular beaches, Palm Beach. Palm Beach boasts six miles of powder soft, white sand and turquoise blue water. The Playa Linda Beach Resort is also conveniently located within walking distance of a variety of bars, restaurants and upscale shopping malls. On site amenities include a spacious lagoon style pool, which boasts it’s own waterfall as well as a spa and a bistro.

2. The Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, which overlooks Eagle Beach is an all inclusive boutique resort that offers a variety of eco friendly rooms and suites that boasts an ocean view or a view of the resort’s lush tropical garden. The Manchebo Resort offers a variety of beachside yoga and Pilates classes and hosts yoga retreats throughout the year. On site amenities include a bistro, a steakhouse, a pool and a spa.

Aruba Activities:

1. Beach Tennis

Aruba is known as the birthplace of beach tennis. If you’re interested in learning how to play, head to the Aruba Beach Tennis Clubhouse located at the Tropicana Resort in Eagle Beach, where you can sign up for a professional beach tennis lesson.

2. ATV Tours

Both De Palm Tours and Watapana Tours offer off road ATV tours off Aruba’s rugged northeast coast. If you sign up for a ATV tour you’ll get the chance to visit the Bushiribana Gold Mill and the Alto Vista Chapel, which is perched on a cliff overlooking the sea.

3. Parasailing

Visit the friendly para sailing vendors on Palm Beach, for unparalleled views of Aruba’s stunning coastline. Each ride lasts 15 minutes.

Dining in Aruba:

1. The Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill

The Bugaloe Beach Bar & Grill is located at the end of a pier and offers 360 degree views of Eagle Beach. It also boasts 25 different cocktails, gourmet burgers, succulent seafood dishes and live music every night. If you’re a keen dancer book a table on Wednesday night, which is salsa night.

2. The Blue Lobster Restaurant

The Blue Lobster Restaurant specializes in creole and seafood dishes and is one of the highest rated restaurants in Aruba. If you visit, make sure to sample one of the Blue Lobster Restaurant’s signature lobster dishes.

As you can see, Aruba has a lot to offer you for your vacation! When you are ready to book, make sure you give us a call so we can help you.

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Seven Places to Go in Puerto Rico

June 30, 2014

Carolina Puerto RicoIf you are interested in visiting a great destination with amazing beaches and a lot of different things to do, one spot you should consider is Puerto Rico. While vacationing in Puerto Rico, these are seven places that you should consider going to.

 7) Carolina

Located along the Northeast coast of Puerto Rico’s “big island” is a less urban oasis called Carolina. It is a fantastic ride down route 187 along the sandy Caribbean coast and through lush tropical forests.  Along this road, find numerous bars and restaurants where you can relax with cold Medalla beers and hot Puerto Rican empanadas. These are Puerto Rican fried pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, seafood, or vegetables. Carolina is a great place to mingle with friendly locals and learn more about Puerto Rican food and culture. There are several resorts that straddle between Carolina and San Juan including the Ritz-Carlton, San Juan Water Beach Club Resort, as well as the San Juan Hotel Casino.

 6) El Yunque Rainforest

Not too far inland from Carolina is El Yunque National Forest. El Yunque is special because it is the only tropical rain-forest included within the United State’s National Forest System. It is a great place to go hiking and observe species of flora and fauna that do not exist in other US states or territories.  For example, species unique to Puerto Rico include the coqui frogs, which are named for the onomatopoeia sound of their croaking.  There are plenty of tours that go to El Yunque Rainforest. If you’d like to stay nearby, consider the St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Las Casitas Village, Gran Melia, or else the Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa.

 5) Bacardi Distillery

Both rum fans and history buffs can enjoy the Bacardi Distillery, located just south across the bay from Old San Juan. The distillery offers free tours, along with free samples, that give visitors a chance to learn more about Bacardi Rum’s history, distillation process, quality control and varieties. Did we mention that the tour serves free Bacardi? There are also more in depth tours available that include transportation from your hotel. To get to the Bacardi Distillery on your own, there is a ferry from San Juan connecting to tourist shuttles, which means getting to the distillery (or perhaps more importantly, getting back) is incredibly easy. The drinking age in Puerto Rico is 18 and over.Bacardi Factory Puerto Rico

 4) El Morro

Located at the head of the Old San Juan’s peninsula, where it once strategically guarded the bay, is the World Heritage Site known as El Morro.  This sixteenth century landmark is said to be the oldest surviving European fort in North America. Explore the inside of El Morro Castillo, which houses a museum as well as antique cannons and weaponry.  Climb various levels of this citadel to terraces and windows that allow visitors to appreciate breathtaking views of both the sea and San Juan. The exterior grounds around El Morro are also worth exploring, boasting an expansive lawn leading up to the fort, which is situated next to a historic seaside cemetery.  To be close to El Morro and other Old San Juan attractions, there are many choices for accommodation for your Puerto Rico vacation. These include the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, the Verdanza Hotel, the San Juan Condado Plaza, the Caribe Hilton San Juan, or the San Juan Marriott Resort.

3) North Beaches

Puerto Rico is an island of gorgeous beaches. Locals like to boast that nowhere on the entire big island would it take more than an hour’s drive to reach the ocean. The best way to explore the beaches of Puerto Rico is to rent a car and hug the coastline. There are roads along the Northern coast of the island, west of San Juan and not too far from the Arecibo Observatory, that open to miles of white sand beaches entirely void of crowds. Stretches of narrow, one-lane highways, such as Puerto Rico’s route 681, can lead to solitary havens of tropical paradise.  Keep in mind, while Puerto Rico is known for having the best roads in the Caribbean, some of the back roads are not as well maintained. However, taking the roads less traveled will be well worth the reward of discovering your own secluded beaches.

 2) Cabo Rojo

On the Southwestern most point of Puerto Rico is a stunning destination called Cabo Rojo. It can only be reached by route 301, which turns into a long dirt road as it winds through the Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge. Most visit Cabo Rojo to lounge around the Playa Sucia, a white sand beach that wraps like a horseshoe around a pristine, sparkling, aqua marine bay. These waters are shallow and great for swimming, especially with children.  Cabo Rojo means “cape red” in Spanish, and is named after the red colored pools that are found just steps inland from the beach. Hike up to the Los Morillos Lighthouse at the top of a small mountain and find an incredible vantage point. Facing north, you can see the crystal blue ocean in contrast to the brackish red pools. Look to the south and find yourself at the precipice of towering cliffs dropping down to the ocean. Notice the dryer, more arid climate of Puerto Rico’s southwestern region in contrast to the northeast’s tropic humidity.Culebra Puerto Rico

 1) Culebra

The island of Culebra, a word that means “snake” in Spanish, might be one of the most beautiful and fun destinations on earth. You can reach Culebra by taking a ferry from the big island, and on a good day, there is a good chance of spotting a few rainbows at sea. Consider staying at El Conquistado Resort Golden Door Spa, which is near the ferry in the town of Fajardo.  Culebra is an active traveler’s island fantasy come to life. Surf’s up at Brava Beach, or go camping and hiking at the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. Wake up to the beauty of Flamenco Bay, a great place to swim in warm, gentle currents and relax beneath the swaying palm tress. Relish in the gorgeous white sand and the crystal clear waters. During the day, rest on the sand and soak up some sun. At night, if you’re lucky, you may find yourself surrounded by the glowing, shimmering, phosphorescent algae that light up the surface like fireflies of the sea. Best of all, the snorkeling on Culebra is superb, most notably at the spectacular Tamarindo and Melores beaches.  Encounter underwater wildlife including various species of fish, sea turtles, and large manta rays. When in need of more civilized recreation, head to Culebra’s port town for shopping, karaoke, as well as live salsa music and dancing. Last but not least, no trip to Culebra is complete without a meal at Zaco’s Tacos, one of the greatest taco joints in all of Puerto Rico.

Note: Since this territory is part of The United States, Puerto Rican resorts do not offer all-inclusive packages. On the plus side, there’s no need to worry about changing your money because Puerto Rico uses the US dollar. Best of all, passports are not required for US citizens to visit Puerto Rico.

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