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FLORIDA & CARIBBEAN WI N T E R 20 1 8

113 Fabulous Attractions

POPULAR PORTS Cruise stops offer fun, sun

DINE AND DANCE South Florida art districts entertain

HISTORY LESSON Dominican Republic charms

BEACHES BECKON Bask in beauty of island hot spots Sunset at Sunrise Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


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FLORIDA & THE CARIBBEAN

CONTENTS

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, Miami

INTO THE NIGHT South Florida keeps things lively well after sundown JUSTIN NAMON/RA-HAUS

FLORIDA & THE CARIBBEAN

FLORIDA

FEATURES

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GO WILD Explore natural wonders on Florida’s Gulf Coast

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ISLAND ATTRACTIONS Experience Aruba’s natural beauty and history

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STEEPED IN HISTORY Dominican Republic shows off its cultural charm

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CUBA

HAITI/ DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

ON THE COVER Sunrise Beach in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. | Getty Images

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PUERTO RICO

CURAÇAO

JIMMY VILLALTA

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This is a product of

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Jeanette Barrett-Stokes jbstokes@usatoday.com CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Jerald Council jcouncil@usatoday.com Stingray City, Cayman Islands CAYMAN ISLANDS DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM

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EDITORS

THE REGIONS

UP FRONT BON VOYAGE Advice helps newbie cruisers avoid common mistakes from shore to ship

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MANAGING EDITOR

Michelle Washington mjwashington@usatoday.com

CARIBBEAN

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CARIBBEAN PORTS OF CALL Enjoy these island excursions away from the ship

Amy Sinatra Ayres Tracy Scott Forson Patricia Kime Sara Schwartz Barbranda Lumpkins Walls Debbie Williams ISSUE DESIGNER

Gina Toole Saunders

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14 Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science RA-HAUS

GAME ON! Barbados offers a plethora of sports options

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

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OASIS OPTIONS Lesser-known isles shine on their own

FLORIDA

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FLORIDA PORTS OF CALL Try these popular places to take a cruise break

DESIGNERS

Amira Martin Miranda Pellicano Lisa M. Zilka Diane Bair, Elizabeth Quinn Brown, Sarah Sekula, Susan Shain, Pamela Wright, Stacey Zable ADVERTISING

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BASK IN PARADISE These beaches check all the boxes for sun and fun

VP, ADVERTISING

Patrick Burke | (703) 854-5914 pburke@usatoday.com ACCOUNT DIRECTOR

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ANOTHER ORLANDO The city’s appeal extends beyond theme parks

Justine Madden | (703) 854-5444 jmadden@usatoday.com

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FINANCE BILLING COORDINATOR

Julie Marco

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DANCE, DINE, SHINE Entertain the night away in South Florida’s arts districts

ISSN#0734-7456 A USA TODAY publication, Gannett Co. Inc. USA TODAY, its logo and associated graphics are the trademarks of Gannett Co. Inc. or its affiliates. All rights reserved. Copyright 2017, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Editorial and publication headquarters are at 7950 Jones Branch Dr., McLean, VA 22108, and at 703-854-3400.

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TURTLE TERRITORY Experience these reptiles’ annual nesting ritual

CHILL OUT Take a dip in Florida’s cold freshwater springs

For accuracy questions, call or send an email to accuracy@usatoday.com

Cricket player in Barbados

PRINTED IN THE USA

ANDREA WALKER

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UP FRONT | CRUISES

1 Laughing at the handful of passengers cradling 12-packs of Mountain Dew as they boarded. I later learned it was less about the savings (on-board soft drinks were $3 a pop) and more about the convenience of in-room refreshments. There may not have been a stigma to bringing your own beverages (the cruise line limits each person to 12 cans or bottles for this purpose), but each time we saw the Dew cradlers, we secretly referred to them as “the soda people.”

2 Second-guessing our choice of stateroom, wondering whether it was worth the extra expense to have a window rather than opt for a much cheaper interior room. One peek inside a windowless, claustrophobic cabin was enough to convince me the ocean view was worth its weight in soda.

3 Failing to note various fees. Each time I used my cruise-issued card to pay for a drink, I added a few bucks for a tip without glancing at the receipt. Four days into the cruise, I noticed a 15 percent gratuity had already been automatically added. With that in mind, I carefully examined the final bill and noted it included substantial gratuities for various attendants and servers. Had I not seen that tally, I would have left behind a tip as we departed.

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SMOOTH SAILING Don’t make these rookie mistakes on a cruise By Scott Craven

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HERE’S SOMETHING TO BE said for constantly being within walking distance of free food while traveling. And that something is, “This probably won’t turn out well.” With each trip to the Lido Deck — and there were many visits — I’d snag a burger

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or pizza or handful of cookies without even thinking. Vacation, plus socially acceptable handouts, equals blameless overindulgence. That lack of willpower was just one of several mistakes I made as a rookie cruiser. Believing the greatest service I can provide is warning other first-time cruise-takers, here are the six rookie mistakes committed on a recent seven-day cruise aboard a Carnival ship:

Initially ignoring the warning text from my cellphone provider that I was in very expensive service territory. I switched off my cell signal when my phone sent another reminder, preventing a costly bill. It took a few hours for me to digitally detox (no texts or social media), but soon it felt good to be off the grid.

5 Overpacking. I didn’t wear half the clothes I brought (excluding underwear, falling a bit short). Nor did I need the hiking boots I’d brought for off-ship excursions.

6 It’s worth mentioning the overeating, again. By the fourth day, I’d learned to eat smaller meals in between frequent snacks. Breakfast, for example, was down to one pancake (rather than a stack), one strip of bacon (rather than a pile), and one Danish (rather than as many as the plastic tongs could hold). A daily visit to the gym didn’t hurt. Or help.

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FLORIDA | PORTS

CALLING ALL CRUISERS These ports have plenty for seafarers to do

By Stacey Zable

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HE SUNSHINE STATE IS where you’ll find a number of domestic embarkation/disembarkation ports for pre- and post-cruise fun. We’ve picked three stops with some can’t-miss activities, whether your cruise break is just a few hours, an entire day or longer.

Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science RA-HAUS

MIAMI Look for Miami’s seaport, known as PortMiami, to grow the number of annual passengers from nearly 5 million to 6 million with the opening of Royal Caribbean’s Terminal A in 2018. Get your fill of Cuban culture in Little Havana (miamiandbeaches.com), where you can experience the country’s food, art, history and entertainment. Downtown Miami’s Museum Park is home to the Pérez Art Museum Miami (pamm.org), which exhibits international art of the 20th and 21st centuries, and the brand new Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science (frostscience.org), which boasts a planetarium and aquarium. ▶ miamidade.gov/portmiami/cruise-terminals.asp

Billie Swamp Safari SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA

FORT LAUDERDALE

Kennedy Space Center KENNEDY SPACE CENTER VISITOR COMPLEX

CAPE CANAVERAL

Explore Florida’s Space Coast with a trip to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (kennedyspacecenter.com), where you can “take off into space” on a space shuttle flight simulator and see such treasures

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as the shuttle Atlantis. An airboat tour (twisterairboatrides.com) at Lone Cabbage Fish Camp explores natural Florida with wildlife sightings. You can take a daytrip from the port to Orlando for theme park thrills at Walt Disney World (disneyworld.

com) or Universal Orlando Resort (universalorlando.com). (Cape Canaveral itself can be a port stop, in addition to being an embarkation and disembarkation port.) ▶ portcanaveral.com/cruise; visitspacecoast.com

Add some days before or after your Fort Lauderdale cruise with special offers designed just for cruisers at sunny.org/cruiseandplay. Choices can include a swamp buggy eco-tour or airboat ride at Billie Swamp Safari at the Seminole Tribe’s Big Cypress Reservation in the Florida Everglades (billieswamp.com). Explore the city that is called the “Venice of America” on a boat trip through its canals and waterways with Riverfront Cruises (riverfrontcruise.com), located on Las Olas Boulevard, a mile-long stretch of stores, cafes, art galleries and people-watching. ▶ porteverglades.net; sunny.org

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FLORIDA | ORLANDO

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Rock Springs Run State Reserve GET UP AND GO KAYAKING

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BEYOND THE THEME PARKS Finding another side of Orlando

By Sarah Sekula T’S NO SECRET that Orlando is a mecca for amusement parks and themed tourist attractions (it’s home to Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, after all), but there are so many more awesome things to do here that have nothing to do with Mickey Mouse. For example, stroll around Thornton Park in downtown Orlando. It’s only about a half hour from the theme parks,

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but it feels like it’s a world away. With its historic bungalows, brick roads and independent restaurants, it easily encourages visitors and locals to linger — no pixie dust needed. “When I first moved to Orlando, I assumed Orlando was nothing but tourists and theme parks,” says Stephanie Patterson, managing editor of Orlando Date Night Guide. “So, it came as a great surprise to me when I began discovering the wealth of outdoorsy experiences in and around the city.

Everyone knows about Universal and Disney, but not everyone knows that you can paddle the Winter Park Chain of Lakes at sunset, or go to a community yoga class at Lake Eola Park every Sunday, or watch an outdoor movie inside of a botanical garden.” Life here is about strolling among hundredyear-old oak groves, gazing at majestic native birds or taking a boat ride past mega mansions and grand landscapes. Here are a few ways to get to know the real Orlando:

ELITE ROAD BIKE RENTALS

PEDAL POWER There’s something so special about seeing a city on two wheels. The good news is renting a bike is super easy with places like Elite Road Bike Rentals (407-900-5783; eliteroad bikerentals.com). You can even arrange for it to be dropped off at your hotel. Ride the rolling hills of Clermont, discover outdoor artwork at Loch Haven Park, make a pit stop in historic Winter Garden for ice cream or craft brews or pedal through the tony town of Winter Park (think lakes, canals and tree canopies).

SNAG VIP STATUS

Rock Springs Run State Reserve GET UP AND GO KAYAKING

SPEND TIME WITH OTTERS Rock Springs Run State Reserve will absolutely steal your heart. And the best way to experience it is in one of Get Up and Go Kayaking’s clear kayaks (407-212-7306; getupandgokayaking.com). “Crystal clear water and beautiful scenery exist outside of the Gulf beaches, and we’ve got a slice of both right here in Central Florida,” says Patterson. “With trees arching over the water and wildlife everywhere you look, playful otters included. There’s nothing like paddling through clear water in a clear kayak and watching a fish swim underneath you or blades of grass moving with the current.”

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For all the comforts of home in the great outdoors, pop over to Wekiva Island (1014 Miami Springs Dr.; Longwood; 407-8621500; wekivaisland.com). “There’s a fun daytime party energy and an exciting calendar of weekly events,” says Patterson. “You can truly make a daycation out of your visit by renting a private, VIP cabana, hanging out at the bar, renting a kayak, or just lounging in the Adirondack chairs.” Sand volleyball or a game of cornhole are also optionsw. Come evening, roast marshmallows at the fire pit.

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FLORIDA | ORLANDO

NIGHTTIME PADDLING The Banana River Lagoon Aquatic Preserve is something special. From June to late September, SoBe Surf & Paddle (635 S. Plumosa St.; Merritt Island; 321-926-6571; sobesurf.com) will get you up-close and personal with a natural phenomenon that only occurs a few places in the world. Via a stand-up paddleboard, you’ll be treated to an underwater fireworks show all created by single-celled organisms called dinoflagellates. They leave a swirl of neon blue, called bioluminescence, as your paddle cuts through the water. Keep your eyes peeled for manatees, Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and jumping mullet, which sometimes land on your board. Manatee tours, paddleboard and surf lessons are offered year-round.

ORLANDO CIRCUS SCHOOL

JOIN THE CIRCUS Perhaps you’d like to master back flips on the trampoline or have a go at the flying trapeze. Well, here’s your chance. The Orlando Circus School (6809 Visitors Circle; 407-734-3311; orlandocircusschool.com) offers Cirque du Soleil-style classes for kids and adults. Classes such as aerial silks, tumbling and choreography are the perfect way to gain flexibility and core strength, but also have a blast at the same time. At the end of the day, one thing is certain: This place will definitely bump your coolness factor up a notch.

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MAKAYLA WHEELER

SCORE SOME SPA TIME Jump-start the day with a yoga session on the hypermanicured lawn of Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney (10100 Dream Tree Blvd.; Lake Buena Vista; fourseasons. com/orlando). Next, take a dip in the adultsonly infinity-edge oasis pool. When hunger strikes, make your way to lunch at PB&G, the resort’s lakeside Southern-inspired restaurant where grilled ahi and crab cakes are to die for. End the day in super slothlike mode with a pampering massage.

FOUR SEASONS PHOTOS

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FLORIDA | NIGHTLIFE

Delray Beach Downtown District

NEIGHBORHOOD NIGHTLIFE

DELRAY BEACH DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

Where to go in South Florida when the sun sets By Stacey Zable

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OUTHERN FLORIDA IS PROBABLY best known for its bountiful beaches, sun and fun, but there’s so much more to explore. Visitors to the southernmost

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portion of the Sunshine State have a choice of districts or neighborhoods designed for dining, shopping and entertainment and made for perusing on foot or via trolley. Here are a few places to visit to ensure you’re making the most of your evening well into the night:

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DELRAY BEACH More than 120 restaurants, nightclubs, bars and lounges make up Delray Beach’s Downtown District (downtowndelraybeach. com). You’ll also find more than 100 boutiques and specialty stores, many of which stay open until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. in the winter months. Start the night off along the 2-mile stretch of sand and water to watch the sunset before walking or taking the free downtown trolley to explore. The high-energy Arts & Entertainment section encompasses Atlantic Avenue from the Intracoastal waterway to Swinton Avenue. Top picks in dining include Cut432 (432 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-272-9898; cut432. com), a modern steakhouse with a menu that includes a raw bar, seafood and other American classics. Combine a neighborhood bistro feel with fine dining and American fare, and you have 32 East (32 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-276-7868; 32east.com). Live music and casual dining can be enjoyed at Johnnie Browns (301 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-243-9911; johnniebrowns.com) and the British pub The Blue Anchor (804 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-2727272; theblueanchor.com).

Dining PHOTOS PROVIDED BY DELRAY BEACH DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

Delray Beach Downtown District Atlantic Avenue

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Shopping

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FLORIDA | NIGHTLIFE

Wild Sea Oyste Bar and Grille PHOTOS PROVIDED BY GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE CONVENTION & VISITORS BUREAU

FORT LAUDERDALE’S RIVERWALK ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT

Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District (riverwalkae. com) lies along the New River and is where you’ll find plenty of performances, galleries and museums. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (201 SW Fifth Ave.; 954-462-0222; browardcenter.org) offers Broadway shows, classical music, operas, ballets, concerts and other events. Step back in time and into a 1920s speakeasy at Stache (109 S.W. Second Ave.; 954-449-1044; stacheftl.com). It features a cocktail lounge, coffee bar, nightclub and concert hall with live music and DJs. For fine dining, take the Sun Trolley (suntrolley.com) or a 10- to 15-minute walk to Las Olas Boulevard, which is connected to the Riverwalk’s 22-block brick-paved walkway that follows the New River. Seafood lovers should head for the Wild Sea Oyster Bar and Grille (in the historic Riverside Hotel, 620 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954467-2555; wildsealasolas.com) or Grill 401 (401 E. Las Olas Blvd.; 954-767-0222; grille401.com), which serves fare that redefines New American fusion cuisine, including seafood, steaks, craft cocktails and sangria.

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The Broward Center for the Performing Arts

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FLORIDA | NIGHTLIFE

Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts

WEST PALM BEACH ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT Downtown West Palm Beach is home to the A&E District (downtownwpb.com/ae-district) and its more than 20 cultural institutions. An ideal way to make the most of this neighborhood is to enjoy a performance before or after dining at a downtown restaurant, which can easily be reached on foot or by hopping on the free trolley (visitwpb.com) that travels through the area. Theater company Palm Beach Dramaworks (201 Clematis St.; 561-514-4042; palmbeachdramaworks.org) offers plays, musicals and a cabaret series. The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (701 Okeechobee Blvd.; 561-832-7469; kravis.org) presents a Broadway series, classical music performances, ballets and operas. Options for dining and nightlife excitement are only a short walk from the Palm Beach Dramaworks or a trolley ride from the Kravis Center. Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar (224 Clematis St.; 561-650-1001; roccostacos.com/westpalmbeach) offers casual Mexican food and a bar open until 2 a.m. The Alchemist Gastropub & Bar (223 Clematis St.; 561-355-0691; thealchemistgastropub.com) features steaks, burgers and more, plus an extensive wine list, craft beers, cocktails and live music.

Mignonette

The Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts RAYMOND F. KRAVIS CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS

Miami’s A+E District JUSTIN NAMON; BILL WISSER; THE ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT

MIAMI’S ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT

Rocco’s Tacos

The Arts + Entertainment (A+E) District (aedistrictmiami.com), bounded by 12th Street, 19th Terrace and Biscayne Boulevard to the east and North Miami Avenue to the west, is home to bars, restaurants, coffee shops, music venues and an array of special events. Adjacent to the Wynwood Arts District and Downtown, A+E includes the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts (1300 Biscayne Blvd.; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org) for those who want to add cultural exploration to their plans. Rooftop Unplugged at the Filling Station Lofts (1657 N. Miami Ave.; 305-901-5900; fillingstationlofts.com) is a recurring concert series at the Loft pool deck (RSVP required). A top choice for seafood is Mignonette (210 NE 18th St.; 305-374-4635; mignonettemiami.com). The Corner (1035 N. Miami Ave.; 305-961-7887; thecornermiami.com), featuring a light menu, craft cocktails and jazz, stays open until 8 a.m. on the weekends for those who wish to pull an all-nighter.

WEST PALM BEACH DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY

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FLORIDA | OUTDOORS

Blowing Rocks Preserve

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE Florida’s Gulf Coast is a trove of natural treasures By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

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S THAT WHAT I think it is?” our friend, Paul, asked as a critter darted across our path on Pine Island, about 30 minutes from Fort Myers. Yep, it was a southern bobcat. Unusual, for

sure, but it’s definitely proof that there’s plenty of wild still lurking on Florida’s Gulf Coast. If you’re looking for a taste of Old Florida — the way it was before becoming a theme park mecca, allow us to reveal some of the wonderful, hidden wild places on the Gulf Coast.

RALPH PACE

ROCK OUT Catch some rays, enjoy a beach walk and learn a bit about the Sunshine State’s intricate geological history at Blowing Rocks Preserve (574 S. Beach Rd., Hobe Sound; 561-744-6668; nature.org). One part beach, one part time machine, this singular strand’s most unique feature is its Anastasia limestone shoreline. Eroded over time by the ceaseless surf, each low tide brings with it the chance to see the stone and its many layers up-close. Atop the beach, the texture morphs from smooth and sea-worn to something more reminiscent of Hades, and come high tide, the water-bored holes provide an escape route for the waves — thus the name Blowing Rocks. Designated as a sanctuary in the late 1960s, the preserve is managed by the Nature Conservancy, and it has thrived in the decades since as a safe haven for a host of protected plants and animals.

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FLORIDA | OUTDOORS

Cayo Costa State Park

COMMUNE WITH MANATEES “Tell everyone you had a great time ... on North Captiva!” the park ranger quipped. But, we weren’t on that Lee County island. Instead, we were enjoying Cayo Costa, an island state park near Fort Myers (4 nautical miles west of Pine

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Island; 941-964-0375; floridastate parks.org/park/Cayo-Costa). This skinny beach islet is only reachable by boat, which is why it remains a pristine paradise of sea oats, sand and seashells. No wonder the ranger wanted us to keep it a secret. There’s tent camping on Cayo

Costa, but you’ll have to bring everything you need with you (no camp stores here). You’ll fall asleep to the sounds of waves of the Gulf (ahh!). At daybreak, paddle through a canopy of mangroves to a manatee hole. (You’ll spot one by looking for its snout in the water.)

THE BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL; GETTY IMAGES

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FLORIDA | OUTDOORS

Bird-watching at Emerson Point Preserve BRADENTON AREA CONVENTION AND VISITORS BUREAU

A SHADY SECRET Sarasota and Bradenton share an international airport (code SRQ) and access to a surprising number of outdoor beauty spots. More than 30,000 acres of conservation lands are open to the public in Manatee County alone, says Charlie Hunsicker of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department. “Local heritage tourism experiences range from interpretive activities at early Native American settlements to exploring natural land restoration activities,” he says. When in-the-know locals want a real, no-cost nature escape, they sneak off to Emerson Point Preserve (5801 17th St. W., Palmetto; 941-721-6885; mymanatee.org), located at the tip of Snead Island in Palmetto. This 365-acre peninsula juts into the confluence of the Manatee River and the Terra Ceia Bay. Hiking trails snake through shaded corridors and past the ancient Portavant Mound, the largest Native American temple mound in the Tampa Bay area. Some folks bring fishing gear, while most are happy to enjoy a picnic and simply soak up the glories of nature. It is wild — and free.

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Kayaking in Boca Ciega Park VISIT ST. PETERSBURG/CLEARWATER

EXPLORE MANGROVE TUNNELS

Take the ferry (or a kayak or bring your own boat) to Caladesi Island State Park and leave your cares behind. One of the few remaining undisturbed barrier islands in the state, Caladesi Island (1 Causeway Blvd., Dunedin; 727-469-5918; visitstpeteclear

water.com) is ringed with a shell-strewn beach so lovely it was named best beach in the U.S. in 2008 by Dr. Beach, a professor and director of the Laboratory for Coastal Research at Florida International University, and is consistently ranked among the top 10. But the beach is just part of the story. Rent a kayak and explore 3.5 miles

of lush mangrove canals and seagrass flats. Be ready to duck as you paddle through tunnels of mangroves where fish, invertebrates and bird life thrive. The canoe trail eventually exits the eerie world of mangroves, revealing dazzling views of St. Joseph Sound and the Intracoastal Waterway.

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FLORIDA | WILDLIFE

TURTLE POWER

Florida beaches are a mecca for spawning endangered species

Sea turtles nest on Florida beaches, usually at nighttime, in the spring and fall. THE (FORT MYERS, FLA.) NEWS-PRESS

By Sarah Sekula

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isit Siesta Key on Florida’s Gulf Coast between May and October and you’re likely to see more than sun worshipers on the beaches. This time of year is when mama sea turtles make their way to Sarasota County for nesting season. They arrive quietly in the wee hours, so chances are, you will never even notice them. That said, it may come as a surprise that Sarasota County has the highest density of turtle nests on the Gulf Coast, hosting up to 6,000 nests a year, and the east coast of Florida shelters as many as 40,000. Even more impressive, Florida’s nesting beaches help protect the largest aggregation of loggerheads in the world. Seeing hatchlings emerge from a nest is

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an amazing experience. The sand begins to move up and down like bubbles in a pot of boiling water. Tiny heads and flippers break the surface by the dozens, and quite suddenly, there are loads of babies bumbling about, each no bigger than a child’s palm. Within a few minutes to a few hours, one tenacious hatchling starts trucking it to the sea. The rest follow. “You can’t even count them all as they pour from the nest and make their way to the ocean without a care in the world, just the instinct to follow the light,” says Kristen Mazzarella, a biologist with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium in Sarasota. “They traverse over lots of obstacles — from seaweed to holes in the sand — and just keep going until they hit the water. It sometimes takes them a moment to realize

“We do not encourage people to be on the beach at night due to the disturbance they can cause to mother turtles, nests and hatchlings.” — Kristen Mazzarella, senior biologist, Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium

that they need to switch to swimming, but after a few tosses by the waves, they swim out and have the whole ocean to explore.” Turtle hatchings are an event few get to witness. But Mazzarella’s odds are better than the average beachgoer’s. For starters, during Sarasota County’s turtle nesting season, she walks the beach five days a week, eyes peeled for turtle tracks. As the senior biologist of Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation

and Research Program, part of her job is to monitor nesting turtles along the county’s 35 miles of coastline. This may have you thinking, well, how do I score my own turtle time? The answer is: This can be tricky, and it is crucial to follow the rules to avoid heavy fines and make sure the turtles are not disturbed. CO N T I N U E D

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FLORIDA | WILDLIFE

IF YOU GO

There are plenty of permitted turtle walks across the Sunshine State, and if you’re lucky, you may see turtles nesting or hatchlings scrambling to the sea. Book your tour early because they tend to fill up quickly. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission website (myfwc. com/education/wildlife/ sea-turtle/where-to-view) has a list of public-permitted turtle watches.

Beachgoers catch a rare sighting of a nesting turtle heading to the sea.

WAYS TO HELP

ANDREW WEST/THE (FORT MYERS, FLA.) NEWS-PRESS; GETTY IMAGES; DAVID ALBERS/THE (FORT MYERS, FLA.) NEWS-PRESS

“We do not encourage people to be on the beach at night due to the disturbance they can cause to mother turtles, nests and hatchlings,” Mazzarella says. “Even the best-intentioned people can accidentally startle a mother turtle they can’t see in the distance, or disorient a hatchling with the light from their cellphone.” Instead, sign up for a turtle walk, so you can tag along with a scientist. Longboat Key Turtle Watch and Mote offer Saturday morning walks in the summer. There also are loads of other opportunities across the Sunshine State for public-permitted walks during the nesting and hatching season.

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Or go a step further, and become a citizen scientist by applying for a marine turtle permit to help conduct nesting surveys and participate in educational programs.

FOLLOW THE RULES

When it comes to turtle viewing, experts stress that you should never use lights on a beach at night, as they can disrupt nesting turtles and disorient hatchlings trying to make a beeline to the water. Any distractions could result in them getting plucked up by a predator or simply tiring out. They need all of their energy to get to the sea so they can feed for the first time.

Sadly, only about one in 1,000 turtles makes it to adulthood. Hatchlings, which emerge about two months after eggs are laid, are bite-size snacks for crabs, birds and fish. Other hazards include ocean debris, artificial lighting and oil spills. All five Florida species of sea turtles — green, leatherback, loggerhead, hawksbill and Kemp’s ridley — are considered endangered or threatened. This means it’s illegal to harm, harass or kill any sea turtles, their eggs or hatchlings. “We share this world with them and should keep protecting them for our future generations to enjoy,” says Mazzarella.

▶ Join a beach cleanup or lead your own. ▶ Don’t leave fishing line on the beach. ▶ Never feed sea turtles. ▶ Adopt a sea turtle through the Sea Turtle Conservancy (conserveturtles.org). ▶ Turn off the lights. Light from a vehicle, cellphone or other source can confuse sea turtles during mating season. ▶ Report hatchlings going away from the sea to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 888-404-3922. — Sarah Sekula

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FLORIDA | COLD SPRINGS

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GINNIE SPRINGS, HIGH SPRINGS

Fancy a cocktail with your float? Then steer your rental car north to Ginnie Springs. Unlike others listed here, it’s private, which means alcohol is allowed. The seven springs at the property are all connected by the Santa Fe River. You can travel via tube, drink in hand, or you can rent canoes, kayaks or stand-up paddleboards. It’s also a popular spot for scuba diving, thanks to its extensive cave system and incredible visibility. Cost: $14.02 per adult; $3.73 per child ages 6-12 ▶ 7300 NE Ginnie Springs Road; 386-454–7188; ginniespringsoutdoors.com

COOL DIVES PETE PONTONE

Forget the crowded beaches — cold springs are where Florida’s locals go By Susan Shain

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“B

ECAUSE IT’S LIKE SWIMMING in a water bottle.” That was my boyfriend’s reply when I asked why we were going to a cold spring instead of a sandy beach. A recent transplant to Florida, I knew about its theme parks and swamps but had never heard of its cold springs. Until I started cavorting with locals, that is. Florida has approximately 1,000 natural cold springs — more than any other state — that discharge 19 billion gallons of fresh water each day. And the water does look like it could be sold in stores: it’s crystal clear and a cool

68 to 70 degrees year-round. Add in the fact that many springs are surrounded by lush vegetation and are home to abundant wildlife, and visiting them quickly became my favorite way to absorb the state’s natural beauty. “Florida’s springs are unique ecosystems that are connected to the Floridan aquifer, which supplies most of the state’s drinking water,” says Heather Obara, associate director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute. “Visit one of Florida’s majestic springs and you will fall in love instantly.” “The Floridan aquifer provides 90 percent of the state’s drinking water,” says

Chris Anastasiou, chief environmental scientist for the Southwest Florida Water Management District. “Rain keeps it recharged with cool, clear freshwater, then underground pressure forces it to the surface. … Florida’s springs are the windows into our collective soul.” “Florida is home to some of the most beautiful springs in the world,” says Noah Valenstein, Florida Department of Environmental Protection secretary. “(We remain) committed to protecting these iconic treasures.” Whether you want to kayak, see manatees or just relax, one of these six spots might fit the bill:

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FLORIDA | COLD SPRINGS

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3 TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL SPRINGS VISIT

BLUE SPRING STATE PARK, ORANGE CITY When I polled friends on which spring was their favorite, Blue Spring came up again and again. The likely reason: From midNovember through March, several hundred manatees live here, migrating from rivers and coastal areas to the spring’s relatively warm waters. Although you won’t be able to get in the water until they’ve left for the season, you can observe them from wooden boardwalks around the park. Make a weekend out of it by camping ($24 per night) or staying in one of the park’s six two-bedroom cabins ($95 per night). Cost: $6 per vehicle ▶ 2100 W. French Ave.; 386-775-3663; floridastateparks.org/park/ Blue-Spring

▶ Arrive early. Many springs fill up — especially on weekends and holidays — and when they reach capacity, no one else is allowed in. So arrive as early as you can: The springs in state parks are open from 8 a.m. to sunset, every day of the year. ▶ Bring a picnic. The food selection at most springs is limited to snacks and drinks. So if you have dietary restrictions or want something healthier, stock up at Publix or a farm stand en route. Exceptions include Silver Springs and Ginnie Springs, which both have restaurants on-site. ▶ Don’t forget sunblock and a hat. No matter the time of year, Florida’s sun is unforgiving. If you plan on swimming, bring towels and extra layers — and, for extra points, a snorkeling mask, flippers and pool noodles. FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

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SILVER SPRINGS STATE PARK, OCALA

VISIT FLORIDA

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WEEKI WACHEE SPRINGS STATE PARK, SPRING HILL If you want both natural beauty and classic Florida kitsch, make your way to Weeki Wachee. This park is most famous for a live mermaid show that’s been running since 1947. It’s my favorite spring for a different reason, though — the serene kayaking route along the adjoining river. After renting a boat from a private outfitter like Weeki Wachee Kayaking, you can enjoy a few hours of downstream paddling. On your journey, you’ll find rope swings and tree jumps, and, in winter, maybe even some manatees. Cost: $13 per adult; $8 per child ages 6-12 ▶ 6131 Commercial Way; 352-592-5656; floridastateparks.org/park/Weeki-Wachee

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A true old Florida attraction, visitors have been coming to Silver Springs for centuries. The park still offers the glass-bottom boat rides that made it famous — you could spot fish, turtles or even an alligator. Tours run every day, every half hour and cost $11 per person. Don’t be surprised if you get déjà vu when visiting; this spring was the setting for numerous movies and TV shows, including six Tarzan films and Creature From the Black Lagoon. Cost: $8 per vehicle ▶ 1425 NE 58th Ave.; 352-236-7148; floridastateparks. org/park/SilverSprings

RAINBOW SPRINGS STATE PARK, DUNNELLON

JUKIE FLETCHER/VISIT FLORIDA

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ALEXANDER SPRINGS RECREATION AREA, ALTOONA One of my most laid-back camping trips ever was to Alexander Springs in the southern end of the Ocala National Forest. The water, sparkling shades of tropical blue, abuts a small beach and picnic area. The campground is particularly nice: 67 shady and private spots with grills, picnic tables and fire pits. If you get bored of all that relaxing, you can walk one of the many nearby forest paths or bring a mountain bike (there aren’t rentals nearby) and ride the 22-mile Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail. Cost: $5.50 per person ▶ 49525 County Road 445; 352-669-3522; fs.usda. gov/recarea/ocala/recarea/?recid=32209

At this fourth-largest spring in the state, archaeological evidence suggests people have been visiting for 10,000 years. Continue the tradition by grabbing your snorkel and exploring its massive swimming area. Or, if you don’t want to get wet, rent a canoe or kayak, walk the nature trail past gardens and man-made waterfalls, and enjoy a picnic at one of the covered pavilions. The holidays are also a great time to visit; not only does Santa pay a visit, but half a million lights turn the park into a winter wonderland. Cost: $2 per person ▶ 19158 SW 81st Place Rd.; 352-465-8555; floridastateparks.org/ park/Rainbow-Springs

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CARIBBEAN | PORTS

PORTS OF PLEASURE Caribbean locales offer cruisers fun and sun

By Stacey Zable

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he Caribbean offers dozens of ports of call to discover on a large selection of cruise lines. These top picks provide plenty of choices to while away the time off the ship when it comes to beautiful beaches, crystal-clear waters, and historical and cultural attractions.

Stingray City WILL BURRARD-LUCAS

GEORGE TOWN, GRAND CAYMAN, CAYMAN ISLANDS Be sure to plan for duty-free shopping in the capital city George Town as part of your exploration of Grand Cayman. Popular excursions include a boat ride to Stingray City (stingraycitycayman islands.com), a shallow sandbar off Grand Cayman where you can literally swim in the clear waters with friendly southern stingrays. Check out Seven Mile Beach (caymanislands.ky/ activities/beaches.aspx), the island’s white sand beach just shy of the length of its name. And Pedro St. James (pedrostjames.ky), an 18th-century restored Great House, is among the area’s cultural treasures; it is also considered the birthplace of democracy in the Cayman Islands. ▶ caymanport.com; caymanislands.ky

Dolphinaris

DOLPHINARIS PARKS

COZUMEL, MEXICO

Mundo Bizarro CURACAO TOURISM BOARD

WILLEMSTAD, CURAÇAO Be sure to venture through the up-and-coming Pietermaai District (pietermaaidistrict.com), a neighborhood chock-full of whimsical street paintings, music venues and eclectic restaurants.

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Visit the funky, Cuban-inspired Mundo Bizarro (mundobizarrocuracao.com); its plates are as artfully decorated as its dining rooms. Willemstad’s historic areas, inner city and harbor — awash in color, culture and personality — are best explored on

foot. Don’t miss the floating market, where vendors hawk tropical fruits and handmade crafts alongside rustic wooden ships that sail from nearby Venezuela. ▶ curacao.com/en/ — Alexis Korman

Get in the water and swim with dolphins at Dolphinaris (dolphinaris.com/cozumel), roughly a five-minute ride from the cruise port area. Spend time snorkeling, kayaking or paddleboarding and enjoy an included lunch. For outdoor and cultural activities combined, check out Chankanaab Beach Adventure Park (cozumelparks.com/eng/chankanaab. cfm). Relax under a palapa, take in a sea lion show or explore a botanical garden and Mayan archaeological replicas. There’s a full day of adventure at the magnificent Mayan ruins of Tulum (rivieramaya.com/en/ tulum-2). ▶ cozumel.travel/en

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CARIBBEAN | ARUBA

Conchi natural pool

ATTRACTIVE ARUBA Sites offer peek at this multifaceted island’s nature, history and allure

By Liliana Erasmus HE ISLAND OF ARUBA is a pebble in the sea, but there are myriad reasons why people are drawn here. Picturesque beaches with unaltered whites and blues, amazing rock formations, mysterious

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caves, and natural pools and bridges are just a few. Visitors can discover the island’s culture, history and natural beauty while enjoying a vacation on the beach, in a museum, at the national park or under the sea. These locations, identified as tops by USA TODAY 10Best readers, will get your journey started:

JIMMY VILLALTA

NATURAL POOL This tranquil pool the locals call Conchi (bowl) or Cura di Tortuga is the hidden gem of Arikok National Park. The rocky, volcanic environment of one of Aruba’s most secluded areas makes the site inaccessible by car, but intrepid travelers can take in breathtaking views until they reach the endpoint by 4x4 vehicles, horseback or foot. The calm and crystal-clear water is a soothing contrast to the rugged coastal surroundings and perfect for swimming and snorkeling after the intense trip to get there. ▶ aruba.com/things-to-do/ natural-pool

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CARIBBEAN | ARUBA

Alto Vista Chapel

JIMMY VILLALTA

DONKEY SANCTUARY ARUBA Whether it’s those big gentle eyes or the amusing noises they make, donkeys have a certain something that many people find completely endearing. Donkey Sanctuary Aruba takes in injured and sick wild donkeys, providing care and a permanent home. This is a great place to spend a couple hours. The donkeys love visitors, especially those with handfuls of carrots or apples. ▶ http://arubandonkey.org/

CADO DE LANNOY

NATIONAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL MUSEUM OF ARUBA

GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK

ALTO VISTA CHAPEL

Established more than 250 years ago by the Indians and the Spanish, Alto Vista is often called the Pilgrim’s Church, but is known officially as Our Lady of Alto Vista. The chapel was the island’s first Roman Catholic church, built in 1750 and reconstructed in 1953. As the name Alto Vista (high view) suggests, the chapel is set on a cliff overlooking the moving Caribbean Sea. A small, winding road leads to the chapel — the white crosses along the way mark the Stations of the Cross. ▶ aruba.com/things-to-do/churches-aruba

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The newly restored National Archaeological Museum of Aruba, which moved into one of the island’s most historic landmarks downtown in 2009, offers a fascinating glimpse at the life of Aruba’s first inhabitants. The permanent exhibition provides an interactive experience and includes an exciting collection of farm tools, Indian artifacts, pottery, glass and art. Reconstructed environments, multimedia and hands-on activities are among ways to explore Aruba’s many archaeological treasures. ▶ aruba.com/things-to-do/archaeologicalmuseum

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CARIBBEAN | ARUBA

AYO ROCK FORMATIONS

Located to the northeast of Hooiberg, Ayo Rock Formations is just a couple of minutes away from Casibari — another popular but more crowded spot to explore the island’s collection of massive diorite boulders. This natural preserve features some of the oldest Indian drawings, and modern pathways have been constructed to help visitors better explore this ancient site while strolling through towering rocks and Aruba’s diverse native flora and fauna. ▶ aruba.com/ things-to-do/ rock-formations STUDIO BARCELONA/ISTOCK/GETTY IMAGES

ARIKOK NATIONAL PARK

The Arikok National Park encompasses roughly 20 percent of the entire island and is dedicated to the conservation of Aruba’s natural environment, and cultural and historical heritage. Tour companies offer excursions through the park, but exploring on your own is also an option. The ruins of a goldmining operation, caves, ancient Indian drawings, cacti, indigenous aloe, and many tropical birds and lizards are among the treasures. ▶ arubanational park.org

LILIANA ERASMUS

FORT ZOUTMAN HISTORICAL MUSEUM AND WILLEM III TOWER

LYDIA SCHRANDT

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Constructed in 1798 as a means of defense against pirates, this old Dutch fortress now houses the Historical Museum of Aruba. The fort’s restoration took place in 1974, and in 1983, the tower was finished, allowing Aruba to have a historic museum of its own. The exhibition offers displays chronicling the island’s early history from ancient Caquetio Indian artifacts through Spanish and Dutch colonialism. The Willem III Tower was built in 1868 and added to the fort with Aruba’s first public clock. It served as a lighthouse, equipped with a spire and petrol lamp. ▶ aruba.com/things-to-do/fort-zoutmanhistorical-museum

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CARIBBEAN | DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

CULTURAL CHARM Dominican Republic offers more than sand and surf

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MINISTRY OF TOURISM

By Elizabeth Quinn Brown

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T WAS THE COASTS of the Dominican Republic that welcomed Christopher Columbus and the Old World to the Americas in 1492. And more than 500 years later, this island nation, a new world that boasts a culture beyond its attractive and enchanted beaches and world-class resorts, continues to beckon. The

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Dominican Republic melds the past with the present in an enticing assortment of attractions, ranging from ecotourism treasures to historic monuments. “Dominican Republic’s culture has been influenced by a fascinating history — from Christopher Columbus’ voyage, to the Spanish, Taino and African influences — that is still a big part of our present-day island and our

products,” says Magaly Toribio, marketing adviser for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism. “(And) while Dominican Republic is well-known for its white-sand beaches and crystal-blue waters, more people are learning about our incredible ecotourism offerings.” Here is just a sampling of what the Spanishspeaking side of Hispaniola has to offer:

CATEDRAL PRIMADA DE AMÉRICA The Ciudad Colonial (or Colonial City), located in the capital of Santo Domingo, is the oldest town in the Americas. Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1492, and in 1496, his brother, Bartholomew, established Santo Domingo. The Catedral Primada de América, or the First Cathedral in the Americas (formally the Catedral Santa María de la Encarnación), beats at the heart of what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman Catholic basilica, constructed from 1514 to 1540, reflects ornate Spanish architecture, featuring 14 chapels and colonial-era paintings. ▶ Calle Arzobispo Meriño, Parque Colon; 809-682-3848; whc.unesco. org/en/list/526

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CARIBBEAN | DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MINISTRY OF TOURISM

CUEVA DE LAS MARAVILLAS The Cueva de las Maravillas (Cave of Wonders) is an ecotourism destination located about 80 feet beneath the earth. This buried treasure, discovered in 1926, boasts stalactites and stalagmites, as well as about 500 examples of Taino Indian art. These ancient works include pictures of the Tainos, and the area’s animals, including bats and iguanas. ▶ Carretera La Romana, San Pedro de Macorís; 809-951-9009; cuevadelasmaravillas.com

CASA DE CAMPO RESORT & VILLAS

ALTOS DE CHAVÓN This attraction, at Casa de Campo Resort & Villas, is a re-creation of a Mediterranean center from the 1500s. Altos de Chavón’s streets are lined with art studios, restaurants, an archeology-focused museum and the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus. A 5,000-seat amphitheater is a world-class destination that has, since 1982, welcomed musicians including Andrea Bocelli and Elton John. “Altos de Chavón is one of the many distinctive wonders to discover in this amazing destination. This stunning resort, together with the Altos de Chavón School of Design, allows us to make anyone who visits feel at home and experience the rich cultural and historical aspects of the region,” says Andrés Pichardo Rosenberg, president of Casa de Campo Resort & Villas. ▶ La Romana; 866-860-5472; casadecampo.com.do/ altos-de-chavon DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MINISTRY OF TOURISM

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CASA DE CAMPO RESORT & VILLAS

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CARIBBEAN | DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MINISTRY OF TOURISM

JARDÍN BOTÁNICO NACIONAL

This wonder is well-known as the premier garden in the Caribbean — a paradise for those with a passion for horticulture. The National Botanical Garden blooms with an assortment of warm-weather flowers, such as bromeliads and orchids, and plants, including succulents and palms. The attraction also boasts an ecology-focused museum with exhibitions about the nation and its flora. The park, introduced in 1976, was named for the Dominican botanist Rafael Moscoso. ▶ Avenida República de Colombia, Santo Domingo; 809-385-2611; jbn.gob.do

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MUSEO DE LAS BALLENAS Samaná, an enclave on the Dominican Republic’s northern coast, is an excellent choice for whale watchers. The Museo de las Ballenas, or Whale Museum, is a small center dedicated to the largest mammals on Earth and includes a 40-foot whale skeleton. According to Magaly Toribio, marketing adviser for the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism, whale watching in Samaná is one of the most popular ecoactivities in the country and a must-do when visiting. “From January to March each winter, 3,000 to 5,000 humpback whales migrate from the northern coast of Maine to the warm waters of Samaná with the intentions to mate and give birth,” she says. ▶ Avenida La Marina, Tiro al Blanco, Samaná; 809-538–2042; godominican republic.com DOMINICAN REPUBLIC MINISTRY OF TOURISM

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CARIBBEAN | BARBADOS

Garrison Savannah racetrack

By Adrienne Jordan Photography by Andrea Walker

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ARBADOS OFFERS BEAUTIFUL BEACHES, picturesque sunsets and friendly locals, but for those who also want an adrenaline rush on vacation, there’s no shortage of options. In fact, 2017 was deemed Barbados’ “Year of Sports,” with special attention given to activities and events held year-round. And there’s something for everyone. Travelers can take their pick of sports — including golf, cricket, skateboarding, horse racing and diving — to experience part of island life in Barbados.

HORSE RACING

History and sports meet at the Garrison Savannah, near the capital of Bridgetown. The winter racing season takes place from October to December, when you can take in the excitement of the jockeys racing beautiful horses at speeds up to 30 mph. The Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, one of the biggest sporting events on the island, is held in March.

Bushy Park racetrack

GAME CHANGERS Head to Barbados for sun, fun and sports

RACING

To get your blood pumping, head to the Bushy Park racetrack in the parish of St. Philip: a 2.2 km FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) grade 3 Formula One track and a 1.2 km CIK (Commission Internationale de Karting) grade A Supercart course. Founder and Barbadian (or Bajan) Ralph “Bizzy” Williams was drinking rum in his CO N T I N U E D

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CARIBBEAN | BARBADOS house one day and decided to create a racetrack. It was built in 1971; renovations began in 2013, and in 2014, it was reopened to become the most developed track in the Caribbean. The island’s first circuit event was the 2014 Top Gear Festival featuring the Global Rallycross Championship.

THE DETAILS When to go With a tropical climate yearround, Barbados is a great place to visit any time.

“If a tourist wants to watch a (cricket) match, they can come from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. to the Dover sports complex.”

Currency 2 Barbadian dollars to 1 U.S. dollar

Flying there Grantley Adams International Airport (BGI) is the solo airport in Barbados. Airlines include: JetBlue, American Airlines, British Airways, Air Canada and Caribbean Airlines.

— Georgie Thomas, Dover Cricket Club

International racers such as David Coulthard, Pascal Wehrlein and Jamie Whincup have competed on the track. “There is a lot more technical cornering aspect of this track compared to the speed of U.S. tracks,” says Amy Willis, operations manager of Bushy Park. Another year-round attraction at Bushy Park is gokarting. Children as young as 5 can take part. (The go-karts have shutdown transponders attached so operators can remotely stop any kart on track if needed.) Kids can also get their racing driver’s license at age 5 and zoom at speeds up to 20 mph.

Getting around You can rent a car (but remember motorists drive on the other side of the road), hire a driver or take the bus.

CRICKET

Cricket was introduced on the island in the 1700s during colonization and today is played at all levels, with top regional matches held from January through March. “The second division plays from May until November, and if a tourist wants to watch a match, they can come from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. to the Dover sports complex,” says Georgie Thomas, Dover Cricket Club’s secretary treasurer.

Cricket at Dover sports complex

 Grab a bite The classic French, Bajan and Thai cuisine at Juma’s Restaurant pair perfectly with ocean-front dining. 246-432-0232; jumasrestaurant.com

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CARIBBEAN | BARBADOS

The F Spot

DIVING

Golfing at the Barbados Golf Club

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Dubbed the “shipwreck capital of the Caribbean,” Barbados offers amazing diving attractions. Reefers and Wreckers, a familyowned dive shop located in the north part of the island called Speightstown, frequently hosts guests for morning excursions. Aboard a small sailboat, divers descend onto Bright Ledge Reef, where a plethora of giant barrel sponges, puffer fish, barracuda, mackerels and other tropical fish meander through corals. Divers can also explore Pamir, a ship sunk in the 1980s for recreational purposes and reef creation. The wreck makes for a suitable beginners’ dive

because of its multitude of wide windows and crevices for explorers to swim through. Reefers and Wreckers also offers courses, which range from openwater to divemaster, from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

SKATEBOARDING

For those thrill-seeking types who like to get their roll on, skateboarding competitions take place throughout the year. The main competition, the One Movement Invitational (onemovementcontest.com), occurs in March and August and will take place at Dover Beach, the island’s original skate park. The only DIY park, the

F Spot, was demolished in May, but plans for an official skate park are in the works.

GOLF

Catch the sunrise during a game of early morning golf. Barbados has five courses, including the Barbados Golf Club. Because the island was cleared of many of its fig trees for development, the club offers a chance to see one of the magnificent trees overlooking a 130-foot pond on the 15th hole. “We built the hole around the prized fig tree because it is the best tree we have,” says club director Roddy Carr, who helped build the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course in 1971.

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CARIBBEAN | HIDEAWAYS

Nevis Peak

SEMI-SECRET CARIBBEAN Tried-and-true (and less famous) island escapes By Diane Bair and Pamela Wright

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T. LUCIA AND ST. BARTS? Bring ’em on! Who’s to argue with the allure of these West Indies island all-stars? But then there are the islands that don’t get the buzz or the honeymooners. Check out our array of worthy substitutes. After all, there are 7,000 individual islands in the Caribbean, and they all offer unique experiences designed just for you. So, get cracking, coconut!

CHRIS JACKSON/GETTY IMAGES

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Pinney’s Beach, Nevis

GRENADA

GRENADA ST. GEORGE’S

Ultra-chic St. Barts is a darling of the foodie set, serving up a soupçon of French flair at even the most casual beachside eateries. This year, spice it up at Grenada. Arriving on this Windward Island is like entering a spice shop; the aroma of nutmeg and cinnamon assails your nostrils. More spices grow per square kilometer on Grenada than anyplace else in the world. Visit a spice plantation, take a culinary tour of local farms and gardens such as Jessamine Eden botanical garden or Hyde Park Tropical Garden, and sample local specialties like “oil down,” (It’s better than it sounds!) an aromatic stew made of meat or seafood, vegetables, spices and coconut milk. And of course, you’ll have a meal or two at Rhodes Restaurant, helmed by celebrity chef Gary Rhodes. ▶ puregrenada.com

Jessamine Eden botanical garden

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ST. KITTS BASSETERRE

NEVIS

NEVIS Get a taste of old-time Caribbean ways in this time-stilled sister of more well-known St. Kitts. Its singular attractions

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include historic plantation manors where you can dine and sleep, wild monkeys, gorgeous Pinney’s Beach, beachfront Sunshines Beach Bar & Grill and charming Charlestown. Located beneath towering Mount Nevis, the Botanical Gardens of Nevis feature nearly 8 acres of gardens, natural lagoons, sparkling fountains and a Rainforest Conservatory in the form of a giant Mayan temple. There’s even an art and antiques gallery where visitors can pick up some souvenirs. ▶ nevisisland.com

GRENADA TOURISM AUTHORITY

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CARIBBEAN | HIDEAWAYS

MARTINIQUE

BONAIRE

FORT-DE-FRANCE

KRALENDIJK

MARTINIQUE

BONAIRE

Enamored of the Gallic flair and cosmopolitan vibe of St. Martin’s French side? Martinique, one of the most glamorous outposts in the Lesser Antilles, is more accessible than ever, thanks to an increasing number of non-stop flights on Norwegian Air and American Airlines. Dense rainforests, unspoiled beaches, botanical gardens, plus the looming semi-active Mount Pelée volcano provide plenty of Instagram fodder. Visiting Francophiles will fall hard for Martinique’s sophisticated side: its gourmet cuisine, French shopping labels, museums and cool places to stay (including Le Domaine des Bulles, an eco-lodge with bubble-shaped rooms). Before you go, it would be helpful — though not mandatory — to brush up on your French, the island’s official language. ▶ us.martinique.org

Of the three Dutch ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, this one gets the least notice. Bonaire has wisely kept its tourism scene low-key, thereby preserving its natural treasures. Scuba divers love it because it affords shore entry into pristine waters filled with rich marine life and easy access to dive sites. Windsurfers and snorkelers like Sorobon Beach for its warm shallow waters and steady trade winds. History geeks shouldn’t miss the petroglyph caves, slave huts and salt pans, and the old town Rincon. The island’s Washington Slagbaai National Park affords the opportunity for hiking, biking, rock climbing and rappelling. Some 400 caves and more than 200 species of birds, including flocks of pink flamingoes, add to the enjoyment. ▶ tourismbonaire.com

Le Marin, Martinique GETTY IMAGES

MONTSERRAT

PLYMOUTH

MONTSERRAT Finally, if you’re ready to move beyond beach bumming and rum punch, have we got the island for you: mysterious Montserrat. Reachable via flight or ferry ride from Antigua, this British Overseas Territory is best known for two things: the still-active Soufrière Hills volcano, which nearly obliterated the island in 1995 (more than half of Montserrat remains off-limits as a result), and AIR Montserrat, a once-famous recording studio started

Montserrat beach

by late Beatles producer Sir George Martin. Sting and Eric Clapton once laid down tracks there but severe damage from a 1989 hurricane, and later the volcanic eruption, shuttered the studio. These days, Martin’s estate operates a guest house on the island, Olveston House. Other Montserrat “musts” include the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, a tour of the buried-in-ash former capital city of Plymouth and dancing to the 1982 soca hit Hot, Hot, Hot at a beach bar. The song’s creator, Arrow, was born on Montserrat. When to go? St. Patrick’s Day week. In a nod to Irish settlers who called Montserrat home in the 17th century, the island hosts an epic celebration — just another surprising element of this intriguing locale. ▶ visitmontserrat.com

Ship loading marker and slave huts, Bonaire

DEREK GALON

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CARIBBEAN | BEACHES

NEVIS The best beaches on the sister island across the channel from St. Kitts are on the northern and western shores. Three miles long and covering the distance between the capital city of Charlestown and the Sea Bridge Ferry Dock, Pinney’s Beach on the Caribbean side of the island is the one most photographed for travel brochures, showing off its beguiling blue waters and sand the color of saffron. For tranquil tides, Herbert’s Beach is where the Atlantic Ocean starts on the windward side and where marine life is spectacular in the many undisturbed reefs. ▶ nevisisland.com

Dickenson Bay, Antigua THINKSTOCK

ANTIGUA

Lovers Beach, Nevis

BEACH BESTS

NEVIS TOURISM AUTHORITY

A guide to the Caribbean’s hottest hidden gems By Melanie Reffes

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VEN IF YOU’VE BEEN there and done that, chilling on a Caribbean beach never gets old. Whether you like snorkeling, swimming

and sunbathing, people-watching on party beaches or the sand less traveled, our island-by-island guide can point you to several of the finest sandy swaths under the sun. Here are some of the best places to go to get your beach fix:

Dickenson Bay, on the north coast, is the island’s most popular beach, where a slew of hotels, water sports kiosks and watering holes keep the beach busy, even on a cloudy day. On the southwest corner, a trio of sandy stretches — Ffryes Bay, Darkwood Beach and Crab Hill — come with white sand, small hotels and groovy beach bars where “liming” (hanging out) with the locals is the real deal. Often deserted, Half Moon Bay, east of English Harbour, is a palm-tree lined spit of smooth sand. Protected from the Atlantic winds by a reef, the 1-mile stretch is popular with windsurfers who head out beyond the reef. To the south, Runaway Bay is a much quieter wide strip of powdery sand and just as nice for an afternoon siesta or a day with the kids. Busy on the weekends and when a cruise ship is in port, Pigeon Point at Falmouth Harbour is the main attraction on the south coast. With calm shallow water, the beach is the go-to for local families who stop by on the weekends with picnic baskets and snorkeling gear. ▶ visitantiguabarbuda.com

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CARIBBEAN | BEACHES

Paradise Beach, Bahamas

CURAÇAO On the northwest coast, Cas Abao is what beach connoisseurs like to call full-service: The sand is soft; the water is shallow; rafts invite sunbathers; bartenders serve cocktails at the Daiquiri Bar and a masseuse sets up shop under a shady gazebo. Perfect for families, you’ll find a water trampoline, beach chairs, kayaks and banana boats. On the west side, Knip Beach is the most popular of the Westpunt beaches, with a shallow reef just a short swim from shore. Other Westpunt beaches worthy of a sunny afternoon include Playa Porto Mari, with a doublereef that is eye candy for divers and snorkelers, and Playa Lagun, framed by rugged cliffs where the adventurous entertain onlookers as they plunge into the water below. Way off the grid, it doesn’t get more secluded than Klein Curaçao, 8 miles from the southeast coast. Hop a small boat to the big volcanic rock to dive, take a dip in the cool water and dig into a picnic on the beach. ▶ curacao.com/en Knip Beach, Curaçao

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JAMAICA

NASSAU PARADISE ISLAND PROMOTION BOARD

THE BAHAMAS If you’re looking for a great beach, you’re in business in the Bahamas. Although the Out Islands like Exuma and Abaco are circled by some of the most magnificent sandy swaths in the Caribbean, Nassau and Paradise Island also invite with endless stretches. A few minutes from downtown Nassau, Paradise Beach on Paradise Island, aka Cabbage Beach, lives up to its name with manicured white sand and soothing water that hosts the impressive Lost Blue Hole dive site. When Baha Mar Beach Resort opens next year with more than 2,000 rooms, Cable Beach on the resort strip will get buzzier than it is now. The spunky beach is 3 miles west of downtown Nassau, and tourists in search of fine white sand and gem-toned blue water arrive early to snag a spot. ▶ nassauparadiseisland.com

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On the south coast away from the big resorts in Montego Bay, Treasure Beach is a collection of smaller spots with names like Jack Sprat and Calabash Bay that are more popular with the local artsy community than they are with tourists. Stretching for 6 miles, the beaches host colorful ragtag fishing boats and dive bars stocked with coolers of Red Stripe beer. For a party vibe, head to Negril where you’ll find Seven Mile Beach, the island’s longest strip. Coming in closer to 6 miles, the boho beach is a true original that gets crowded with sun-seekers, aloe masseuses, hair-braiders and vendors hawking everything from icy beer and jerk chicken to reggae CDs and snorkel gear. Another good-time beach is Doctor’s Cave in Montego Bay, where you’ll find plenty of family-friendly conveniences like beach umbrellas, boat tours, showers and a seaside food court. On the beach bucket list, Laughing Waters in Ocho Rios is the beach made famous in the first James Bond thriller Dr. No and the hands-down go-to for shallow water, rock pools and bowing palms. ▶ visitjamaica.com

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