Tag Archives: beach

The DR: the best budget vacation

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Originally written for and published by Texas Lifestyle Magazine 🙂

Need a beach getaway that won’t break your bank? The Dominican Republic is the place for you. Mexico is overplayed—not to mention, right next door—us Texans basically consider Mexico as part of our home state, am I right? The DR is cheaper and just as beautiful, if not more. Plus, it’s an entirely new country to explore!

Groupon and Travelocity are ready to book your tropical vacation to Punta Cana—both sites are filled with various DR resort specials. There are so many to choose from—all right on the sandy shore with all-inclusive meals and drinks. What’s not to love?

We stayed at Breathless Resort and Spa, which besides being all-inclusive, is also adults only. That was a nice twist for me—not having any kids around at all. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. But after teaching ninth graders all day, it’s a welcome change to not have a single child in sight (splashing water on you from the pool, kicking sand on you at the beach).

Picture walking a few feet from your comfortable, spacious hotel room to one of the many pools and soaking up the sun for a few hours, sipping a piña colada (that the waitress keeps refilling) until it’s time to transition to the gentle waves of the ocean. You’ve already had a complimentary room service breakfast (because, obviously, you were too lazy to walk to the buffet), but you still grab a snack from the beachside bar. Later, you shower and get ready for a delicious dinner at one of the many on-site restaurants. You go to the hotel’s nightly show (we saw a couple dance performances, a hypnosis show, a lingerie show, and a Great Gatsby musical). After a couple days of this blissful routine, you decide it’s time to leave the peaceful bubble and sightsee. The DR is gorgeous—the countryside, the coasts, the culture—for such a small island, there’s so much to experience!

Zip-lining, fishing, four-wheeling, speed-boating, horseback riding, hiking, swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, adventuring through a cave—you name it, The DR’s got it. There’s even an excursion that’s literally just a day of massages and floating in the middle of the sea on giant, padded beds (yeah, I definitely almost booked that one). Your resort will help you book whatever your heart desires—whether you want something a little more physical and active, or just a Dr. Fish pedicure (tons of tiny garra rufa fish nibble on your dead skin—don’t knock it until you try it).

All of this said, however, don’t expect a 5-star European hotel experience. The DR, although stunning, is still a struggling third world country. The people are excited to make money from your tourism—so expect the usual haggling over jewelry, t-shirts, and other souvenirs. Plus, while out and about on the island, it’s always a good idea to travel with a tour group of some sort. Close by to the sparkling blue waters is poverty and crime, not unlike some of the most striking spots in the U.S. The DR is very similar to the nearby country of Jamaica—beautiful, affordable, but not problem-free. It’s just always good to be aware and safe—no matter where you travel.

Again, next time you’re planning a holiday, consider Punta Cana. I barely scratched the surface of The Dominican Republic, but I loved everything I saw. It combined my need to relax in a serene, stress-free environment with my need to see a completely unique place on this earth. Sip a mai tai, reapply sunscreen, and forget your worries.

 

 

 

About the author: Alysha Kaye is a high school English teacher in Kyle, TX and recent author—her debut novel The Waiting Room is available on Amazon and at BookPeople. When she’s not wrangling 9th graders, she’s blogging, reading, or exploring Austin.

For more, follow her on Twitter @alyshakaye7 or check out her website: http://www.alyshakaye.com

Sandfest

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Sandcastles pretty much never stop being cool, am I right?

At least that’s what I was raised to believe—I didn’t say building your own sandcastle; I just said sandcastles. This obvious fact is proven by Port Aransas, TX—a seemingly unremarkable Texas beach. I mean sure, the Gulf of Mexico provides somewhat…shall we say murky waters and its coast is anything but “powder white sand”…but Port A has its own charms! Sandfest is one of those charms.

Every April, sand sculptors from all over travel to “that tiny beach next to Corpus Christi” and they create pure magic. Masterpieces like these:

Sand Wars?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used to go every year as a kid, and honestly, I have had more fun the older I get. Obviously, now I can combine drinking with sunbathing, which is a major upgrade. But also, I think that the art is more meaningful now. At this age, I feel like I can fully appreciate the sculptures. Don’t get me wrong—kids are just as enchanted. But I remember seeing them and just being blown away that there was a castle in front of me, ten times my size, made completely of sand. Whereas, this year, I found myself in all kinds of psychological debates (in my own head…hmmm…normal?) about the possible messages. Such an English teacher. But seriously, ponder over these for a while:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, I still bought a toe ring from Ring Around the Toesies. Don’t judge me, I like foot bling.

My friend Brian spent many hours digging a hole that my friend Pete would later ecstatically build a campfire in. Johanna was over the moon about Winton’s, the local candy shop known for their “Good”. Stephen even checked out our condo’s gym (Sandcastle Condominiums are right on the beach and pretty dang awesome). Some people preferred lounging by the pool and hot tub; others just sat on our balcony and relaxed. My mom and her friends were there too—getting sunburned and sipping vanilla rum.

It was an amazing trip. So start planning now for next April—hotel rooms fill up fast! And next time you’re building a sandcastle, try not to feel too inferior.

Yeah, Mon!

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You know you’re officially old when you opt out of going to the Ochos Rios Margaritaville with college boys and instead head up to your room, piña colada in hand, to read and pass out by 11 pm.

Ah, Jamaica. I’ve never had so much fun doing so little. Let me tell you, I didn’t get hit on ONCE. My younger self would’ve thought a vacation without vacation romance would be no vacation at all. Pft, who needs a man when you’re at an all-inclusive resort, sipping on rum from morning til night?

Don’t get me wrong, we swam with dolphins and climbed Dunn’s River Falls, but we spent the majority of our spring break working on our tan, our appetite, and our alcohol tolerance. I gained about six pounds and three shades of brown.

Jennifer, my co-teacher/co-captain/co-pilot/co-whatever else you can think of, DID get hit on. Hard. I literally thought they were going to kidnap her (and by they, I mean every Jamaican man in sight). The man driving us to the airport grabbed her arm and said, “I don’t want you to go. Stay here with me.” I thought I was going to have to go all BACK OFF SHE’S MINE on his ass. But most of the men just smiled and winked at her, gaping at her curvy figure. Our tour guides at Dunn’s nicknamed her Shakira (I definitely called her that for the rest of the trip). Then they’d glance at me and occasionally offer to sell me weed.

Conclusion: Jamaica is amazing. Side note: I do not recommend going “off the beaten tourist path”…as amazing of a country as it is, it’s still extremely impoverished and therefore, well, just scary in parts.

I dedicate the rest of this blog to random highlights that I typed in a note on my phone. Feel free to stop reading here.

-Jennifer hadn’t been on a plane in ages and was also a little sleep deprived. She rambled on and on when we were landing…it went something like this: “I feel like we’re floating. You know how when it speeds up and then it stops? Now I feel like we’re on a bungee rope. This would be a lot harder to park than my truck.”

-We witnessed a random drunk man stand on top of the hotel’s fake waterfall and throw his flip-flops into the pool below. He wound up walking downstairs to retrieve them and I said, “Excuse me, why do you hate your shoes?” He slurred that he just did it to do it, considered jumping in the pool to get his flops, then said, “Fuck it,” and stumbled back inside, barefoot.

-We went out on a small sailboat one day and the driver kept repeating over and over, “I’m going to get you ladies so wet.” Yeah…awkward.

-There was a snake in the ocean one morning! Freaked us out. The workers said, “No problem, mon, they don’t bite. They’ll just wrap around you.” Cool.

-We had an omelet man who we absolutely adored. As in, the same man made us a gourmet omelet every single morning. My breakfasts will never be the same.

-Jennifer was too lazy to keep walking back to the bar, so she would usually show up with four drinks in her hand. Then she discovered what a Hummingbird was, and all hell broke loose. Crazy lady. She would also frequently order in interesting fashions like this: “Can you just make me something blue? I want something blue.”

 

Conclusion #2: Jamaica is the most affordable paradise I’ve ever been to. Highly recommend! And all-inclusive is definitely the way to go. I can’t even explain how awesome it feels to walk up to a bar, order a beer (Red Stripe, mon!), and not have to even think about presenting an ID or money OR tip—tips aren’t allowed! They win coolest accents, yummiest jerk chicken, and most rum-filled island.