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Sip on something awesome: Coffee in the Caribbean

 

“Our culture runs on coffee and gasoline, the first often tasting like the second.” -Edward Abbey

While Americans have enjoyed coffee from airtight tins since the early 1900s, many have not experienced the joy of truly fresh coffee. In 1907, 97% of the world’s coffee came from Brazil, but today many countries, from Ethiopia to Hawaii export these delicious and highly coveted beans. If you’re looking for the best cuppa Joe, here’s what you need to know

 
coffee being poured into mug
 
Costa Rica

Costa Rican coffee is known for having a full and rich body with bright acidity and a clean, crisp taste. Costa Rica uses an Arabica bean which is grown at higher altitudes and harvested in winter between December and February. The aroma profile is an intense and fragrant coffee smell with hints of brown sugar, while the flavor leans more toward citrus, tropical fruit, and apricots. The high quality brews these beans create means Costa Rican coffee has gotten a reputation as some of the best in Central/South American and has led to its introduction into Starbucks’ “reserve” program.


 
beans in coffee cup
 
Jamaica

Jamaica produces multiple types of coffee, but the most well-known is its Blue Mountain variety. Grown in the region of the same name north of Kingston and south of Port Maria at an elevation of between 3,000-5,500 feet, this coffee has virtually no bitterness, despite the fact that it has an excellently full body and a vibrant, yet smooth, acidity. This brew is also very complex with an unusually sweet flavor that teeters on chocolaty and an aroma filled with sweet herbal and floral notes with nutty undertones. One of the more notable facts about Jamaican coffee cultivation is that nearly all of Jamaica’s coffee plants are direct descendants of the plants the French brought to Martinique in 1723.
 


hands holding coffee in mug
 
Honduras

Historically coffee in Honduras was fairly standard and unremarkable, but in recent years has been receiving more acclaim. Grown at an elevation of between 3,600-5,400 feet, this bean exhibits a round, medium body with a soft acidity and a vanilla/hazelnut aroma. Like the coffee of the nearby Costa Rica, the harvest time in Honduras is from November to April. While the country was slow to take to coffee production, it has been a primary cash crop (along with bananas) since the early 2000s.
 
coffee with flower drizzle

Guatemala

Known as a “true Central American coffee”, Guatemalan coffee has a full body, rich cocoa-like flavor, and a toffee-esque flavor. The beans here are washed and sun dried and give off citrusy, floral notes when brewed. One of the truly unique properties of Guatemalan coffee is its ability to retain its flavor, even through dark and even espresso roasts. Guatemala’s location between the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, consistent climate (it averages 72F year-round!), and volcanic soil makes this an ideal spot for cultivation.
 
coffee in white cup
 
While you can buy these varieties of coffee (and many, many) more at your local grocery store or online, experts will tell you to consult a local coffee roaster to obtain green coffee beans which can then be roasted to your specification right before you pick them up. You will then want to leave the beans whole until you are ready to brew a cup and ground coffee goes stale much faster than whole beans. Enjoy!

tropical view, bath, jamaica, montego bay

Bathe Away Your Winter Blues

If the cold of winter has your skin looking sandier than your favorite beach, get yourself in a Caribbean state of mind with this piña colada DIY bath scrub!

 

cane sugar scrub for bath

 

Tropi-colada Scrub

 

½ cup liquid coconut oil
1 cup pure cane sugar
½ tsp Pineapple extract
½ tsp Coconut extract

To make the bath scrub put all ingredients in an airtight container and mix well. To use, gently scrub onto skin and rinse off. For a complete tropical spa experience, listen to our Vacation Vibes playlist while you bathe!

Helpful Hints:
Coconut oil becomes solid below 76℉, so warm it up if you need to!
If you don’t have pure cane sugar you can use white sugar or salt, but if dry skin is a concern stick with sugar
Use additional extract in tropical recipes such as Piña Colada Fudge, Pineapple Pound Cake or to boost flavor in savory dishes such as Hawaiian Meatballs or Coconut Shrimp.

trees on a lake half fall half spring colors

Similar, but Not the Same: All About Twin Countries

They say some of the greatest things come in pairs. Mickey and Minnie, Lucy and Ethel, peanut butter and jelly– you get the idea. Since two seems to be better than one, maybe that’s why these countries have teamed up, but with that twinning reputation comes a loss of individuality. If you tell someone you’re vacationing in Trinidad and Tobago, are you going to two islands? One? Will they know? Do you? Here are some things you may not know about these dual countries.

 
Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua und Barbuda - panoramio - georama (30)
georama [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A sovereign state in the Americas, Antigua and Barbuda lay between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles southeast of the US Virgin Islands. The country is comprised of Antigua, the largest island, Barbuda, the second largest island, and other small islands with a permanent population of around 82,000 with about 80,000 of people residing in Antigua. As a member of the English Commonwealth, English is the official language, however, the Barbudan accent is slightly different than the Antiguan.

In Fall 2017 Hurricane Irma destroyed or damaged 95% of the buildings on Barbuda and all inhabitants were evacuated to Antigua.

Famous for: Antigua Black Pineapples–known to be the sweetest around. These fruits have a more golden color than what Americans are typically used to and a richer, more complex flavor profile.

 
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Sarajevo twilight
BloodSaric at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After the fall of the former Yugoslavian republic in the late 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina, known informally as just Bosnia, was formed. While the name implies a two-in-one country system, Bosnia and Herzegovina is, in fact, one country covering one piece of land. Residents of this country will refer to themselves as Bosnians if they are visiting another country, although someone from the Herzegovina region would probably identify themselves as Herzegovian (Hercegovac) if you are in Bosnia. This is a little like how a person from Alabama would identify themselves as from the United States when not in the US, but as from “the South” when they are. These two regions (Bosnia and Herezgovina) also have different cultural elements, but the biggest difference is in climate with Bosnia having more mountains and getting some snow, whereas Herzegovina has a Mediterranean climate and gets more sunshine.

Famous for: Coffee. Coffee is the backbone of the Bosnian’s social life and while it may resemble Turkish coffee to an outsider, locals will insist they are completely different.

 
Saint Kitts and Nevis

view from st.kitts and nevis, citizenship by investment

Another dual island country, St Kitts & Nevis lies directly west of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean Sea. Home to the first British and French colonies in the Caribbean and officially known as Saint Christopher and Nevis, St Kitts and Nevis are only about two miles apart, separated by a shallow channel called “The Narrows”. The country has gone through a lot of political changes throughout its history, at one time including modern-day Anguilla as a dependency and having multiple governments, but has been unified (and without Anguilla) since the 1980s.

Famous for: Citizen by investment program. If you’re looking to acquire citizenship in another country, and a passport that allows visa-free travel to 130 countries, St. Kitts & Nevis is a great place to be. With an investment of $400,000USD in a designated real estate purchase or a $250,000USD donation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (a local charity) and some paperwork, you and your descendants are able to obtain full citizenship rights.

 
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

water view, sea, svg, st vincent and the grenadines

Known simply as St Vincent, this small nation of islands is spread over 150 square miles in the Caribbean and is comprised of the largest island, St. Vincent, and 32 islands and cays that make up the Grenadines, nine of which are inhabited. The country has been fought over and claimed by both the French and British (most recently) with full independence being granted in 1979 while retaining its status as a Commonwealth.

Famous for: Beaches. Celebrities and royalty flock to the island of Mustique (one of the islands of the Grenadines), while Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was shot on other islands in the chain due to the quiet and privacy. Also of note is that 95% of the beaches on St Vincent have black sand while most of the Grenadines contain white sand.

 
Sao Tome and Principe

sao tome and principe sea jungle view
www.afrotourism.com

This Portuguese-speaking country, located off the west coast of Africa about 150 miles from Gabon gained peaceful independence in 1975 and continues to be one of Africa’s more stable and democratic countries. Sao Tome is the larger of the two islands and is about 30 miles long by 20 miles wide, while Principe, laying about 90 miles north, is just 53 square miles. Discovered by Portugal and granted use by the Crown around 1470, the country is essentially one nation because of its remote location and shared history.

Famous for: Africa’s second smallest nation, Sao Tome and Principe were once the global center of cocoa production, but the country is having a renaissance as the Galapagos of Africa. There are many species of birds and other animals that can only be found here and a responsible eco-tourism industry is beginning to take shape. Principe is also where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was experimentally demonstrated during the total solar eclipse in 1919.

 
Trinidad and Tobago

trinidad and tobago bay view

The southernmost nation in the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago is situated on the continental shelf of South America and is only 11 miles from Venezuela at its closest point. Trinidad was a Spanish colony from the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 until it changed hands to the British in 1797. During this same time, Tobago was transferred among the Spanish, British, French, Dutch, and Courlander colonizers more times than any other island in the Caribbean. In 1802 control of both islands was given to Britain who unified the country in 1889. This twin island nation has two distinct personalities! Trinidad is more tourist-focused, while Tobago is more industrial. Tobago is renowned for its sparkling, sandy beaches, while Trinidad provides world-class opportunities for eco-tourism and turtle watching. Trinidad is where the party and nightlife happens, Tobago is where you go to relax. Travellers say when it comes to twin islands, these two are definitely fraternal!

Famous for: A nation this diverse has many claims to fame, from the world’s hottest pepper to the world’s largest deposit of asphalt, to it’s Carnival celebration, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth”. This two-day festival typically takes place in February or early March and consistently ranks as one of the top ten Carnival celebrations in the world.

 
With travel (usually) inexpensive between the two regions, twin countries are a great way to get high value for your money when on vacation. You get twice the adventure, twice the fun, and double to explore with two countries in one!

montego bay, jamaica, sea, beachfront, paradise

Tropical Tunes and Vacation Vibes

After one of the most impressive awful bouts of cold temps the US has seen in recent history, things are finally starting to warm up a bit. If you’re wanting to heat things up more, we’ve created a tropical playlist filled with vacation vibes to really turn up the heat…no matter what the temperature is.


 
Ready for a real mental getaway? We’ve got you covered with a slideshow of our favorite (for sale!) tropical paradises!
 

bahamas, beach, sand, sun, paradise, tropicalturks and caicos, beach, tropical, island, paradisebahamas, beach, paradise, sea, turquoise, beautifulst vincent, grenadines, land, beach, paradise, beachbeach, grenada, caribbean, sea, beach, paradisest martin, land, beach, sea, paradise, dreambritish virgin islands, bvi, beach, water, sea, tropicalmontego bay, jamaica, sea, beachfront, paradisefiji, tivi island, island, beach, paradisebeach, fiji, sunset, view, water

 

Want to see some real tropical paradises? Check out these properties!

plan, vacation, map, wanderlust,trip,planning,travel

Central American & Caribbean Vacation Spots for 2018

While all-inclusive mega resorts have their time and place, sometimes you want your trips to be a little farther off the tourist path. Whether you’re looking for a less-than-conventional vacation spot, a location for a vacation or retirement home, or are considering an expatriate lifestyle these are some of the best places to check out in 2018.

Belize

While the beachy Ambergris Caye gets all the attention — and a lot of tourism — the Cayo District, home to the capital city of Belmopan, is where an adventure vacation awaits you. This jungle-covered landscape is home to many eco-activities and adventures and dotted with Mayan ruins. San Ignacio, a town with a population of nearly 18,000 serves as the perfect point to launch your trip as all roads and activities branch out from this hub. Here you can find waterfalls, cave exploring expeditions, Mayan ruins and so much more!
Must Try Activity: Explore the hidden depths and crystal clear waters at Actun Tunichil Muknal, a natural wonder featured in National Geographic. From here you can swim into a mysterious cave known as Xibalba, which the ancient Mayans considered to be a portal to the underworld. You’ll have to hike, climb, and possibly even swim, but the history and beauty can’t be beaten.

Costa Rica

If your ideal vacation involves fewer beaches and more jungles, you need to check out El Castillo in the Alajuela province. Getting there can be quite the trip as it’s about a 2.5 hour trek by car or bus through Costa Rican jungle roads, but once you make it, you’ll know the trip was worth it.
Must Try Activity: There are a ton of great things to do using El Castillo as a jumping off point, but visiting the hot springs of the Arenal Volcano tops the list. While there are numerous hot springs in the area, those looking for a more intimate and natural experience will enjoy Eco Termales Fortuna, where the number guests is limited per day.
Coming in close behind are the Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park and the Sky Adventures Arenal Park (both offer a great view, neither are for those who are afraid of heights!) and the Arenal Ecozoo.

Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago

Scarborough, the capital of the island of Tobago lays outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean. The population of around 17,000 gives off the smalltown vibes while having a deep-sea port allows for an influx of cruise tourists and a nearby rainforest preserve will make you believe you are in a much more remote locale. English is the official language of the island which makes it easy for Americans to travel around, although tourists should be aware that prices can be quoted in either USD or Trinidad & Tobago (TT) dollars, so make sure to ask which one your purchase is in!
Must Try Activity: Take a glass bottom boat out to Nylon Pool. It’s a shallow area in the middle of the ocean that you can bathe in! The “sand” is actually pulverized coral (so exfoliating!) and people who bathe here are said to return looking 10 years younger! Along the way there are beautiful, tropical fish to see and is very inexpensive with many tours under $10 USD. Other notable attractions include Argyle Falls, a three-tiered waterfall that has natural rock tubs (great for relaxing!) and swimmable areas and Fort King George, a military outpost from the 1700s with gorgeous sunset views.

Trinidad, Trinidad & Tobago

Gasparillo, a small town near Upper Santa Cruz in the San Juan/Laventille region (not to be confused with the town of about 16,000 on the southeastern side of Trinidad), located 5 miles (8 km) from the capital city of Port of Spain.
Must Try Activity: Spend your day lounging on the nearby Maracas Beach, the best place for sun, sand, and surf on the island of Trinidad. When you get hungry, head over to Richard’s Shark and Bake where they sell deep fried shark sandwiches with all the fixings. There are other shark and bake shops, but this is the local favorite!

Jamaica

Jamaica is known for beautiful, turquoise beaches, but almost as well known as the beauty are the hustlers and vendors that crowd the tourist areas trying to vend their goods. Looking for a more unadulterated paradise experience? Set up camp in the town of Green Island, located in the Hanover Parish on the northwestern side of the island.
Must Try Activity: Half Moon Beach is a private beach with a small entrance fee and provides the peace and serenity vacationers are looking for while having an onsite bar and restaurant for those whose version of paradise still includes a well-cooked meal. The beach also offers a nearby healthy reef for snorkeling and a bamboo rafting tour–the only of its kind on the open sea! Other fun vacation activities nearby include the Crocodile Reserve and Bird Sanctuary as well as the Kool Runnings Adventure Park, a theme park based off the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.

outdoor kitchen with overhang and ceiling fans in tropical setting

Breakfast with a View

Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahamas, come on pretty mama–it’s time for breakfast! They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but breakfast with a view is the ultimate way to start your day off right. If you can’t enjoy an authentic Caribbean spread in Jamaica, Montserrat, or The Bahamas, the next best thing might be a tropical breakfast spread!

Agua Frescas
tropical agua fresca beach breakfast drink
Agua Fresca, literally Refreshing Water in Spanish, are simply unfiltered fresh juices. These tasty beverages can be easily made with any type of fruit, although seedless varieties work well. Popular in Mexico and throughout the Caribbean, Agua Fresca makes a great way to start your breakfast time.

Ingredients:

  • Approximately 1 cup peeled fruit (seedless work best– pineapple, mango, papaya, and watermelon are favorites!)
  • 1 cup water (more or less, adjust to desired consistency)
  • 1/2 lime, squeezed
  • 1 tsp – 1 tbsp sugar, honey, or agave — to taste

Place all ingredient and blend until smooth. If using fruit with seeds (or you really don’t like pulp), strain before serving. Serve cold, without ice.

Tropical Smoothie Bowl

breakfast smoothie bowl with berries and dragonfruit

When you live in a tropical climate, smoothies are year-round fare. While the traditional American breakfast calls for eggs, meat, and potatoes, a tropical breakfast needs to be light and refreshing. After all, you don’t want to be too full when the temps start rising! A smoothie bowl makes a great, light breakfast to start your day off right!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp- 1tbsp sugar, agave, or honey (to taste)
  • Fresh berries/fruit/granola/nuts (to top)

Blend the strawberries, coconut milk, and sweetener until smooth. Top with desired ingredients and enjoy!

Bonus: Feeling especially tropical? Try adding Pitaya (Dragonfruit) to your smoothie bowl. This fruit is indigenous to the Americas and has a soft texture and sweet strawberry-kiwi taste!