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May 25, 2009

¡Cuba Libre!: Should the Ban on Travel to Cuba be Lifted?

LONELY LAMENT: Guitarist in Trinidad, Cuba (Chris Cheadle/Digital Vision/Getty)

The incoming Obama administration got the presses buzzing with speculation this past April that it was about to reverse the decades-long ban on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens. Turns out the changes fell some way short of early predictions, with only a partial loosening of restrictions on travel and remittances by Cuban-Americans. However, pressure is still being applied by proponents of an end to the outright ban, the only such restriction for U.S. travelers anywhere in the world. Travel website recently entered the fray, launching an online petition that it hopes to use to lobby the new administration to drop the ban, in place now since 1962. You can sign the online petition, plus learn more about travel to Cuba, at

Do you think the travel ban to Cuba should be lifted? Leave your comments below.

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · Travel News

May 22, 2009

Video: Freediving World Record Set at 288 Feet!

In April of 2009 an astounding mark was set at the Vertical Blue freediving competition in the Bahamas. Will Trubridge established a new world record for constant-weight, no-fin freediving at 288 feet. Check out this video of the dive in its eerie, utterly inhuman entirety here:

As Trubridge explains in the YouTube comments, the reason he starts to sink at the 1:20 mark is because, at a depth of around 60 meters, the body becomes negatively buoyant, letting him free fall the rest of the way. But, Trubridge explains, "This obviously works against you in the ascent, as you feel heavy after the turn at the bottom and have to swim all the way back to the surface." He also wears nose plugs and liquid-filled goggles to reduce the degree of equalization needed as he descends.

The deepest I've ever been is 110 feet—and that was with a full scuba tank. This guy, he's just amazing.

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Related Topics: Caribbean Travel · From Around the Web · Outdoor Adventures · Scuba & Snorkeling · Travel Videos

April 17, 2009

Top Ten Places to Live Like a Pirate

AHOY, MATEYS!: The Flying Dutchman at Disney's Castaway Cay (courtesy, Disney)

The office has been abuzz with pirate talk this week after the somewhat surreal events off the coast of Somalia, no doubt pleasing one of our staffers who is one of the world’s biggest pirate-philes judging from his yearly Halloween pirate fest. But beyond all our swashbuckling pirate wit, it got us thinking about where to travel for some good old-fashioned pirate action—without getting in the crosshairs of AK-47-wielding Somali sea bandits (or indeed sharpshooting Navy SEALs). Here are our top ten picks; tell us if you know any other good pirate hideouts in the comments section below.

Continue reading "Top Ten Places to Live Like a Pirate" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Disney Vacation · Family Vacation · Florida Vacation · Top 10 Lists

Top Travel News Stories This Week

By Karen Chen

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Time for a roundup of this week's biggest travel news stories.  I spend tons of time reading blogs, news sites, and Twitter so you don't have to!

- President Obama announced on Monday that he will be allowing Cuban Americans to travel to Cuba, and send gifts and money to the Caribbean nation as often as they like, as long as recipients aren't senior government or Community Party officials. The President described the policy shift as a showing of America's good faith and a step towards leaving behind the attitudes from the Cold War that have tensed relations over the last 50 years.

- As a result of a week of anti-government protests and political turmoil in Bangkok, many governments, including the UK, Australia, and Russia, issued travel warnings against visiting the Thai capital.  As of Thursday, the British Foreign Office has ended its warning against all but essential travel to Bangkok.

- United Airlines joined Southwest and others on Wednesday by imposing stricter rules for "seatmates of size," saying that if a passenger cannot fit into a single seat, buckle their seatbelt with an additional seatbelt extension, or put the seat’s armrest down, the airline will ask that passenger to pay for an extra seat or stay behind.  The rather controversial policy prompted US Airways and Southwest to clarify their policies regarding overweight fliers, emphasizing leniency and willingness to accommodate passengers. 

- President Obama made another important travel announcement, saying on Thursday that he plans to create a high-speed rail system interconnecting many of the country's larger cities. Though a step in the right direction for the environment and cutting foreign oil dependency, Slate magazine takes a hard look at how the proposed rail lines would affect American taxpayers.

- Despite the recent travel warnings made by the U.S. State Department and universities across the country, The Los Angeles Times reports that Mexico's top tourist destinations are up to 26 times safer than similar cities in the U.S.

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Related Topics: Air Travel · Asia Travel · Caribbean Travel · Mexico Travel · Travel News

March 31, 2009

New on the Network: Travel Photos

By Kate Chandler

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Sea anemone in the waters off of Bonaire (Nathan Borchelt) just posted lots of awesome new travel photos on the site. We beefed up our Caribbean inventory (because we know you're all dreaming of sun and sand) with photo galleries of Bonaire Above Ground and Bonaire Under Water. Plus, you can now download screensavers of Bonaire, Grand Cayman, and Grenada.

Also in the spirit of warm, sunny places, we have new photo galleries featuring Kauai, Hawaii; Big Island, Hawaii; and smoking hot lava on Hawaii's Big Island

Our own Nathan Borchelt put together a great photo essay on the Hudson Valley Wine and Food Fest last fall in New York. This gallery is just one more piece of our blown-out guide to New York, where you'll find great trip ideas for the city and upstate.

We also captured the essence of Bangkok, Thailand, in both a photo gallery and a screensaver. If you're looking for something a little more serene, our new Temples of Cambodia screensaver will do the trick.

Like what you see? View more photo galleries and screensavers now!

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Related Topics: News · Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Hawaii Vacation · Travel Photography

March 19, 2009

Win a Trip to Curacao—and a Chance at an Island-Wide $500,000 Treasure Hunt

Kenepa Grandi Beach DSC_0144
Kenepa Grandi Beach, one of Curacao's literal (and perhaps figurative) treasures (Nathan Borchelt)

In these all-too-real times of economic distress, it’s refreshing when we see a tourism organization introduce a bit of fantasy. Curacao—a small gem of a Caribbean island in the Dutch Antilles, just miles north of South America—launched the Curacao Treasure Hunt contest on March 16, where participants can enter for a chance to win one of 70 free trips to the island, awarded daily through May 23. Sign up, answer a trivia question correctly, and your entry that day is secure. You can try every day, as many times as you want. Win one of those trips, and you could also become one of ten lucky participants in an island-wide treasure hunt this August, with a grand prize of half a million dollars (now that’s what we call “economic stimulus”). 

Continue reading "Win a Trip to Curacao—and a Chance at an Island-Wide $500,000 Treasure Hunt" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Free Stuff

February 19, 2009

Guadeloupe and Martinique Unrest May End Soon: Pack Your Bags?

By Kate Chandler

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The coast at Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe (courtesy, Guadeloupe Islands Tourism Board)

A month-long strike has plunged the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, and now neighboring Martinique, into riotous conditions during the height of tourist season. The strike has been waged by residents struggling against low salaries and the high cost of living. The riots have forced restaurants, hotels, and shops on both islands to close temporarily, and at least 10,000 tourists have canceled vacations to the area, according to the Associated Press.

But relief may be in sight. The French government today conceded to supplement the income of low-wage earners on the islands. It's not yet clear if the local unions have accepted the terms of the offer.

Continue reading "Guadeloupe and Martinique Unrest May End Soon: Pack Your Bags?" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Travel News

June 20, 2008

Top 10 Isolated Caribbean Beaches

By Gary Chandler

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It's the subject of countless postcards: A long stretch of powdery, white sand backed by a thick band of palm trees, and an azure seascape extending to the horizon. There's not a soul in sight—no high-rise hotels, no cruise ship piers, no vendors peddling statuettes and shell necklaces, no mobs of tourists sunburned and giddy on margaritas. Sure, deserted beaches aren't for everyone, as many prefer the energy of a crowded beach, the chance encounters, and impromptu soccer games. But for those of us who can't read Robinson Crusoe without a passing wistfulness, here are ten of the best isolated beaches in the Caribbean, where you can escape the crowds and enjoy that ever-elusive treasure, the perfect beach.

Click on the map above to search an interactive Google Map, or click the links below to read more about each of our selections.

1. Rendezvous Bay, Anguilla
2. North Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands
3. Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
4. Mayreau, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
5. Owen Island, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands
6. Las Galeras, Dominican Republic
7. Harbour Island, Eleuthera, Bahamas
8. Half Moon Bay, Antigua
9. La Sagesse Bay, Grenada
10. St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Map graphic courtesy Google Maps

Don't agree with the destinations on our list? Have your own favorite beach stashes that you're willing to share? Have your say in the comments section below.

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Top 10 Lists

April 17, 2008

Travel Survival Guide: Renting a Car Abroad

By Gary Chandler

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Renting a car can be a great way to explore beyond your hotel grounds, especially in the Caribbean, where a short drive often leads to amazing hidden beaches or that "secret" fish shack only locals know about. And where else are there so many countries that can be circumnavigated in a day? You may have to drive some rough roads—and possibly from the "wrong" side of the street—but the reward is well worth it. Here are a few tips on renting cars abroad:

Don't buy insurance (...because you probably already have it). Buying insurance can easily double your rental car bill. Fortunately, most Visa, MasterCard and AmEx cards include insurance (for free or a small fee) when you use them to rent a car abroad. Expect the rent-a-car guy to do everything to scare you into buying a policy—after all, they earn commissions on insurance, not the actual rental. It once took me two exasperating hours to get a car at the Cancun airport; after haranguing me to buy their insurance, the rep claimed the car wasn't there, the car wasn't washed, the key was bent, the moon was out of alignment, everything... but eventually I got my car and saved a bundle in the process. Be sure to review details of your card's insurance before you leave—some don't cover pickup trucks or rentals longer than 15 days, and most require you to pay damages up front and file a claim once you return home. And remember you have to actually use the credit card on the rental to get the insurance—some rental agencies offer discounts if you pay in cash, but you won't activate your coverage that way. Of course, if your credit card doesn't offer insurance, bite the bullet and buy a policy from the agency.

Continue reading "Travel Survival Guide: Renting a Car Abroad" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel · Travel Tips

February 26, 2008

Carnival in the Dominican Republic

By Gary Chandler

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The Dominican Republic's month-long Carnival celebration climaxes this weekend in Santo Domingo, with a huge parade and street bash. It's a wild scene, with tens of thousands of people crammed on the malecón, dancing, singing, and marching in the main parade and impromptu conga lines. There are dozens of clubs whose members dress up as traditional Carnival characters; the costumes can be extremely elaborate and can take months to create, or thousands of dollars to buy—some groups even have corporate sponsors.

Continue reading "Carnival in the Dominican Republic" »

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Related Topics: Beach Vacation · Caribbean Travel

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