Friday, June 13, 2008

Natasha - British Virgin Islands

Climbing on the ferry from St.John to head over to Little Dix Bay Resort in the British Virgin Islands, my husband and I couldn't imagine a more beautiful place than Caneel Bay. Well, we sure did find it when we arrived to Virgin Gorda! Rosewood Resorts did it again with an amazing setting on the Little Dix Bay. Our room's balcony overlooked the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean. All we wanted to do was head out and walk along the water, and we were thrilled to have another four nights in paradise. We stopped to have a light casual lunch and a Mojito at the Beach Grill before we went for a swim. I, of course, loved taking a dip showing off my Malibu Strings bikinis. You could walk into the bay for a hundred yards before your feet could no longer touch bottom.

In the evening, we made reservations at the Sugar Mill and had a romantic dinner on the bay. The Caribbean food was incredible and the wine list offered excellent choices...just the way we like it. After dinner, there was always festive music playing at the Pavilion Bar. Every evening my husband enjoyed a Cuban cigar along with our night cap sitting outside enjoying the warm trade winds. It was a beautiful walk back along the bay to our room, and somehow we couldn't help ourselves but skinny dip under the moonlight! What a great way to cool off before heating up again!

The resort offers many excursions during the day. No trip to Virgin Gorda is complete without a visit to The Baths which are located only five minutes from the property. The rocks sit directly on the water and each climb through the formations bring you to incredible views of the clear blue water.

Our favorite excursion, however, was a trip to a private island. A twenty minute trip by boat will drop you off at a nearby uninhabited island. For four hours you can swim, enjoy the sun, and sip cold beers from the ice chest they send you with. It did feel like we were a million miles away, and for a while we hoped our ride back would forget about us. Malibu Strings, or any bikini, were definitely not required on this beach, but I brought them along anyway to take plenty of pictures to remember our unforgettable trip to Virgin Gorda!

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Laurie G. - Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

This is my fourth visit to Playa Del Carmen since 2000. We love Mexico and the Mexican people. They are very welcoming and friendly and always make you feel special. These RIU Palace resorts are some of the best in the Caribbean and are usually a first choice for us no matter the country or island. The food, service, rooms, grounds, and staff are all amazing and at a very appropriate price.

Unfortunately I was a bit disappointed with the beach this time. Apparently the 2006 hurricane and erosion have greatly diminished this beach. While the beach and overall area are still quite nice, you no longer can stroll down the flat sand beach like you can at other Caribbean locations. A beach walk today is more of an adventure, more like an obstacle course. There are huge sandbags (see those whale like humps in these photos) that are placed all along the beach in front of the hotels to affect the erosion. Not sure the sand bags are working and they are not my favorite part of the beach. Some hotels are being affected by the erosion more than others.

I did find some sandbags useful to lean against however.

There is still a great area of undeveloped beach beyond the hotels. It was quite a walk from our resort in terms of distance and challenge. It was an adventure; we walked up and down the sandbags, through shallow water in front of some hotels, and encountered some sandbag staircases. The journey was only half the fun because when we got past the hotels the beach was pristine. It was a perfect setting for taking some pictures.

The best part was the wedding party that had the same good idea. We didn’t even notice them until the groomsmen started whistling at me (at least the groom didn’t whistle, I think). Who would have thought I could wear Malibu Strings to a wedding!?
Once we finished our photo shooting the walk back to our hotel took us right past the rest of the wedding reception. We had quite a few laughs imagining the groomsmen’s stories. I hope the bride has a good sense of humor!

Later during the vacation we decided to do a photo shoot out in front of our hotel. The beach wasn’t too crowded for some reason; maybe it was the extra strong breeze that day or the time of day. We took our pictures relatively early and enjoyed the beach for the rest of the day. Well I guess the pool bartenders weren’t too busy and had a good view of the beach. I got some nice compliments and more smiles as we came off the beach for happy hour. This one bartender was my biggest fan, even out of my bikini. I never waited long for a drink for the rest of the week.

The resort is fun even off the beach. It is beautifully landscaped and has lots of birds and small lizards that are fun to watch while lounging at the pool or sitting on a bench taking in the surroundings. The birds make great sounds, quite different than any bird sounds I’m accustomed to which adds the tropical paradise ambiance.

One of my favorite things in Mexico is Mariachi. The music and the outfits are awesome. Everyone is having a better time when there is a Mariachi band around.

The resort also brings the shopping to you. A few nights a week they invite local craftsmen to set up within the resort and sell everything from jewelry, to art work, handicrafts, clothing, cigars, etc. It adds a nice energy to the evening after a tough day playing on the beach. The resort also hosts specialty drinks on different nights, like Tequila shots. I’ll stick to something a little lighter and send in my husband for this one.

Outdoor dining is a treat coming from New England and the dining area is beautiful. Having breakfast and dinner outside really enhances the vacation.

Hope you enjoy my perspective on Mexico Playa Del Carmen. Now go get you Malibu Strings and get out on vacation!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Laurie G. - More St Martin...

Here is French Marigot in St Martin viewed from the water. It is a beautiful place to walk, dine, or shop. The people a quite friendly and the café scene is alive and well. You can see and tour the old fort that guards the city. As much as I love the beaches and beach bar/restaurants this small Caribbean city deserves a visit. Stroll along the waterfront and café-hop down the main street. The city is quite lively most nights with locals and tourists alike. The shopping bazaar can be a lot of fun too. There are multiple marinas at Marigot and some quite impressive yachts to say the least. One of the marinas is hidden from view by buildings and set quite deep into the tiny capital. This amazing protected marina is surrounded by restaurants and a few shops. It is an amazing place to dine and stroll among the yachts which are backed right up to the dock; you are one step form going onto any of them. There are luxury yachts, fishing charters, and tour boats all beautifully lined up in this small marina. The outdoor bar/restaurant patios are usually full and lively. La Belle Époque seems to attract the most locals and once you try their pizza you too will know why.

Not every yachts stays within the confines of the marina. We had this lovely boat anchored offshore from our hotel and would see it at Orient beach during the days. My husband figured they liked my Malibu Strings bikinis so much that they had figured out how to follow us. At night this boat became a floating disco and from the sounds of things much fun was being had for the better part of the night. Funny how quite the yacht would be in the morning though ;^>

One morning we went to our deck for breakfast and saw this catamaran. My husband joked it was the dinghy from the yacht coming to fetch me for the day. That or some late night reveler was going to have serious explaining to do! Lucky for him this sign post cluster just up the beach might point him in the right direction. Who knew the Taj Mahal was so nearby?

As you can see everyone loves the beach at sunset to relax, enjoy the cooling of the day, and enjoy such memorable views.

This beach has a beautiful view of Anguilla and has calm waters all day long. It is just a short walk from Grand Case and the location of Sunset Café. Not to be confused with the Sunset Bar, the café is a quiet location and a wonderful spot to wind down and sip a quiet romantic drink without the crowds.

Another great place to visit is Pine Island. It is a short 500 yard boat ride leaving and is a paradise within St Martin’s paradise. Amazingly calm water with a great view back to St Martin. Two beaches and two amazing restaurants make for a great day trip (bring cash, they have no credit card machines). You can stand at the tip of this little island and look down both rows of umbrellas at the same time, this little island actually comes to a point is shallow water. Avoid the weekend unless you really want to meet the locals (and their children).

A good reason to rent a car is to drive up above Orient Beach for this view! This isn’t the only great vantage point either; you’ll be blown away at the heights on this island and the views that come with such amazing peaks. You can see Pinel Island in the right side picture with some boats anchored in front.

Another really nice aspect of St Martin is how many beaches have bars, restaurants, and beach chair/umbrella service. Too bad it the sea was too rough to spend the beach day here at Baie Rouge, this place looked fun and is highly recommended some of the other Malibu Strings girls!

No matter which way you look at St Martin, it’s all about the Beach!

…from Sunset Beach Bars, to big screen football outdoors, to heartwarming sunsets!

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Laurie G. - St. Martin Fun

St Martin is a great place to vacation in the Caribbean and have a reasonable European experience at the same time. Legendary beaches of course and beaches where even your Malibu Strings might have you overdressed. And while Orient Beach is known for clothing optional you'll find the whole island, French or Dutch side, is quite open to skimpy swimwear. The nice thing is the attitude - enjoy the beach, the sun, the water, wear what you want or not and don't worry about it. A lot less staring occurs here than anywhere else we've been. That is until and if the cruise ship tour bus shows up, then just smile, wave and send some lucky gawker home with the best vacation photos he's ever taken (and possibly and angry/jealous wife?). Then enjoy your sunset on the beach while he's heading back to his cruise ship.

If you like good food and great dining, this is the place. We all know the French can cook; no doubt about it. Now take that culinary skill, influence it with local flavors, preserve that French flair for presentation, relax the atmosphere to island level while maintaining the French sophistication and you are going to have some of the best dining experiences of your life.

Not all the dining is so fancy. Outdoor barbeques are common, casual, cheap, and delicious.

Our favorite area for dining is Grand Case. A one way street lined with restaurants of all styles and price ranges. Restaurants on one side have dining rooms overlooking the beach; the other side tries to make up for lack of beach view with customer service and perhaps a few Euros cheaper.

You can't go wrong either way and every restaurant has their menu posted outside so you can stroll the street looking for that perfect mixture of ambiance and menu selection.

Plenty of restaurants will even give you a 1 Dollar to 1 Euro exchange if you pay cash, don’t be afraid to ask.

Beyond the beaches, St Martin has huge pitons that rise right up out of the ocean. The largest is Pic Paradis at 1,492 feet high. I haven’t yet taken in the view from the top but enjoy just looking up from the beach at what we call mountains where I come from.

Having a car in St Martin is well worth the expense and let’s you visit multiple beaches, dine on the French side one night, the Dutch side the next, or just take a drive and explore the island. The island is easy to navigate with just a tourist map. One beach we recently discovered for ourselves is named Le Galion Bay.

It has the calmest water, a beach restaurant, and chairs/umbrellas for rent. It’s also a learning place for windsurfing and kite boarding due to the calm water caused by the reef at the bay inlet where the reef stops the waves but lets the strong Caribbean trade winds flow through. It’s easy to spend the day watching kite boarders soar through the air across such calm water.

à tout à l'heure …

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Laurie G. - Dominican Republic - Punta Cana

One of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean and some of the kindest people are found in the Domican Republic. The beach is huge so you can walk for close to an hour in either direction. Great exercise, people watching, and opportunity to survey the other resorts. One really nice feature is that resorts do not exceed the height of the beach palms so your view is water on one side and palms on the other. You feel like you are on an undeveloped beach despite the fact that there are so many great hotels all along the beach.

There is an old barge wreck just off shore which makes for a nice backdrop for taking pictures or providing a destination for taking a sailboat ride. And is the wind picks up, the waves crashing the barge can be amazing to watch from the comfort of your beach chair.

My favorite resorts are the Riu chain, with the Riu Palace Punta Cana at the top of my list. The food, the grounds, the lobby, the staff, the rooms are all first rate yet still well priced.

The swimming pools are beautiful and have great views of the main grounds of the resort. There is even an infinity pool to finish off the day watching the sunset. The beach faces east so sundown on the beach isn't fully sundown at the pool. Of course the pool swim up bar! Friendly people and beautiful locale make Puta Cana the perfect spot for a relaxing vacation. Toss a bunch of Malibu Strings bikinis in your bag and get going! See you there.

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Stacie - St. Martin

My husband and I have traveled to St. Martin five or six times now. The island is owned half by the French and the other half by the Dutch, so the island has two distinct personalities. The French side has a more European flavor with fine restaurants, boutiques, pristine topless and clothing optional beaches. But be prepared to pay the price. The French side uses the Euro, and the current exchange rate is 1 Euro = 1.47 us$. The Dutch side is more Americanized with lots of bars, fast food, more conservative beaches and a more outgoing nightlife. The Dutch Guilder is at a fixed rate with the US dollar so there is no devaluation.

We always stay at Le Flamboyant Hotel, on the French side at Baie Nettle. The hotel is located on Simpson Lagoon, the largest natural lagoon in the Caribbean. It is not necessary to speak French but it is helpful to have some knowledge of the language. Most of the French people we meet enjoy trying to help us speak their language better. A three minute drive from the hotel is Baie Rouge, one of our favorite beaches. This beach is very long and offers soft sand, blue surf and two local restaurants. All of the beaches on the French side are topless and a few (Baie Rouge & Orient) are clothing optional.

Just over the border on the Dutch side is our other favorite beach, Cupecoy. This is the only clothing optional beach on the Dutch side. Johnny and Danny offer drinks and cook the best barbeque chicken and ribs on the island.

After sunning in the mornings we usually head over to the Sunset Beach Bar. This unique beach bar is located at the end of the Queen Juliana Airport (SXM). 747’s and other jumbo jets pass just 50-75 feet over your head! Photographers flock to this bar to capture photos like none other in the world.

Since there are so many great restaurants in St. Martin, all-inclusive hotel packages are not recommended. Marigot (capital of the French side) has a beautiful marina with plenty of wonderful water-side dining and shopping. Grand Case is renowned for its fine French restaurants. Simpson Bay on the Dutch side offers a more relaxed, causal international dining experience. Our favorite is Bavaria, an authentic German restaurant; be sure to get the potato soup!

If you ever get tired of St. Martin, trips to Anguilla, St. Barts or Saba are only a 1-2 hour boat ride away.

Thanks for all the great emails when I post photos on Malibu Strings. I hope to have my new website up very soon. Until next time…

Malibu Stacie

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