Fulfill your New Year's resolution by booking an island vacation
The ball has dropped; you’ve welcomed in the New Year, and probably made a few promises to yourself for the coming months. Maybe it’s to shape up, help others, or just get out and experience something new. With those resolves fresh in your mind, check out these unique Caribbean experiences that take you beyond the beach chair and provide a chance to fulfill some of those promises. Here are six ways to make those resolutions come to life.
Rebuild and Restore
Most everyone resolves to start a new diet and exercise program on January one, but most such plans soon fall apart. One of the best ways to jump start a new you is with a trip to the island of St. Lucia, and a stay at the Body Holiday Resort, which isn’t your usual Caribbean all-inclusive. The focus at this upscale beachfront retreat is health and wellness, but with plenty of play time as well. Guests have full run of an expansive spa and wellness center, with daily treatments and a variety of classes and activities included in the daily rate. Join a morning yoga session, discover qigong energy work, or learn the health benefits of an Ayurvedic lifestyle. Ready for some fun? Then sign up for a scuba or sailing class, join a group bike ride, get some tennis or golf coaching or sign up for a fencing class. Meals and libations can be as healthful as you desire, but there are also plenty of guilty pleasures if you are ready to reward yourself.
If you’re up for an eco-lodge adventure, but still want some creature comforts, this is the place. The Pacuare Lodge sits in a rainforest overlooking the Pacuare River, and guests arrive either by four-wheel drive vehicle or on the river as part of a multi-day rafting tour. Jungle paths lead from the central lodge to a collection of unique palm thatched villas and suites, each offering a unique personality. Some perch along the banks of the river, others rise into the treetops, or sit atop a ridgeline, providing sweeping views. Interiors combine rustic elements such as cane ceilings and rich hardwood floors with luxurious furnishings and premium beddings and linens. Pacuare’s kitchen team crafts an innovative menu from farm-to-table ingredients, and guests can take in the views while dining on an elevated terrace, or schedule a private dinner at a table on the riverbank. Guests can participate in a variety of adventures and experiences ranging from nature hikes and cultural experiences to high-energy canopy zip line tours, canyoning excursions and whitewater runs.
Puerto Rico continues to rebound from the devastation of hurricane Maria. By the beginning of 2018, more than two-thirds of the islands hotels were once again open for business, and regular air service was restored. But at the same time, many areas of the island are still in the process of rebuilding. This creates a unique opportunity for what is being called voluntourism— combining an island vacation with some time spent helping the people of Puerto Rico rebuild their island. One property that has gotten fully behind this trend is the Serafina Beach Hotel, which is located in the heart of the vibrant Condado District, directly on stylish Ashford Avenue, and is the island’s newest lifestyle- boutique hotel. Beginning in March, guests of this upscale beachfront resort can participate in a range of rebuilding efforts, from cleaning up local parks and historic sites, to helping distribute medical and food supplies.
Connect With Nature
If you are ready to go beyond the usual two-hour day hike and really get into some Caribbean back country, book a three-day excursion into the Central Mountain Range of the Dominican Republic. Known as the Caribbean Alps, these peaks rise to heights of almost 10,000 feet, and are a realm of cloud forests, unique rock formations, and hundreds of beautiful rivers and waterfalls. Explora Ecotours provides a three-day guided exploration of the mountains that includes the forests of the Valle Nuevo National Park, the endemic plant and animal life of the Ebano Verde Scientific Preserve, and the Aguas Blancas Waterfall, which is one of the highest in the Caribbean. For more adventure, participants can spend extra days in the town of Jarabacoa, which is the epicenter of the island’s ecotourism industry.
Find Your Bliss
Just down the beach from the world-class resorts of Paradise Island is the Sivananda Yoga Retreat. Sitting on five acres of tropical gardens, this waterfront property is more than just another place to practice your sun salutations; it is an ashram established in 1967 by Swami Vishnudevananda that now serves as a spiritual community and study center. The ashram provides an immersion into the yogic lifestyle, with daily schedules that include meditation, yogic breathing practices, yoga postures, and learning. A core staff of residents and long term students make their home in the ashram, which also welcomes guests who come for stays of a few days or a couple of weeks. Housing options range from self pitched tents and dormitories to cabana like cabins and luxurious beachfront suites. The ashram’s kitchen serves healthful meals, which are included with accommodations. When not engaged in spiritual awakening and physical rejuvenation, guests can also find relaxation and recreation on the white sands of Paradise Beach.
Learn a Language
Forget apps and recordings, the best way to learn a new language is to immerse yourself in the culture and day-to-day life of the country. That’s the idea behind immersive programs such as the Spanish language program at Meztli. Participants can spend anywhere from a week to more than a month engaged in daily sessions with native Spanish speaking instructors, and engage in a range of immersive cultural and recreational activities, all designed to make learning the language fun and natural. And best of all, Meztli is located in the heart of the trendy coastal town of Tulum, and close to the white sand beaches of Mexico’s Riviera Maya. The school is within walking distance of hostels, hotels, vacation rentals, restaurants, Internet cafes, and a variety of shops. For the full 24/7 immersion experience, participants can opt for a stay with a local family, where they will enjoy home cooking and a chance to practice their new found language skills in a real world setting.