Getting a sense of place relies on a lot of different sensory elements. It’s not just about the scenery—there’s scents, sounds, textures, and flavors that can transport you back to a favorite destination.
Which brings us to our new Travel Advisor Appreciation Month giveaway: Local Lore.
The ALG Vacations® teams has spent months working closely with 14 of your top favorite destinations to curate one thoughtful, well-considered gift basket for each of them. We’ve encapsulated these places in prize packs full of distinctive items chosen by tourist board and staff members that evoke a personal feeling, memory, or just a general sense.
So where are we vicariously taking you? And what makes those places so popular to travel to? Read on to find out.
Cancun is top of mind for most sun-and-sand lovers for a lot of reasons. It’s easy to get to, especially from the East Coast, with plentiful direct routes to Cancun International Airpot. It’s the gateway to the Mayan world, including Riviera Maya, Tulum, and other jungle resort retreat areas. And its Hotel Zone was the first tourist development of FONATUR, built specifically for vacationer enjoyment.
Don’t miss: Scuba diving from Cozumel in the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second-largest in the world. It’s super easy to hitch a ferry ride to this island, via public access at Playa del Carment or through Xcaret Xailing.
Encompassing nearly 200 miles of Pacific coastline, this region includes Nuevo Vallarta, Sayulita, Punta Mita, and others. Its dramatic Western Sierra Madre mountain range offers an incredible backdrop against the golden beaches most resorts are set on. Just south, there’s Puerto Vallarta, which is actually in a different Mexican state. That’s known for its Malecon, a promenade right along the beach lined with bars, lounges, restaurants, and night clubs … along with contemporary sculptures. And a sub-humid climate with an average temperature of 77°F makes either a failsafe choice any time of year.
Don’t miss: Humpback whales calves in the winter—Banderas Bay is a popular birthing destination for these magnificent creatures. Also, the Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe church, an ornate Renaissance-style landmark that hosts a huge, costume- and parade-filled annual festival every December to commemorate the miracle of the appearance of the Virgin Mary to the peasant Juan Diego in 1531. His imprinted cloak now lies on display in Mexico City.
Used to be that there were three major areas of this destination to explore: modern Cabo San Lucas, folksy San Jose del Cabo, and the resort-strewn Corridor that connects the two of them. However, the perfect desert-dry climate (great hair days every day!) under 340 days of sunshine has increased demand and development. More resort communities are cropping up every year, and we can’t flock to them all fast or soon enough!
Don’t miss: The 23400 District dining collective in San Jose del Cabo, the launch of which we covered right here on TravelBlogue! A strong culinary focus has added even more vibrancy to this charming town, with open-air stalls, food trucks, and special prix fixe menus for the foodies all of us are.
Know as an eco-adventure hot spot, despite the growth of luxurious all-inclusive resorts, Costa Rica still offers a lot of activity in the wild. Bird-spotting in the Monteverdes cloud forest is enchanting, and it’s a phenomenon found only in 1% of the earth’s woodlands. Arenal Volcano is a majestic sight … and site, with lots of natural hot springs scattered within view of it, plus jungle trails for horseback riding and cool rives for rafting. And of course, the surfing is the stuff of legends.
Don’t miss: The many wildlife refuges across the country. There are 58, and some resorts even have animal sanctuaries right on site! These can put you in close contact with sloths, jaguars, and more. Just make sure that you research that it’s a legitimate safe place of protection for the animals and not a for-profit zoo. Here are a few opportunities to interact with cool creatures that have been vetted.
We recently wrote about can’t-miss activities in Jamaica as they gear up for their 60th anniversary celebration, highlighting things like river rafting, bird-watching, mountain hiking, cliff-diving, and shopping. But every one of the six distinct regions of this country have their own specific series of attractions. Across the entire island, though, you can always expect welcomes and smiles as warm as the weather, a laid back attitude, and a lot of art, music, and Jamaican pride.
Don’t miss: Authentically Jamaican experiences, from live reggae shows to real jerk in Boston, Jamaica, where it was crated. Savor famous Blue Mountain coffee right where it’s grown, and don’t be shy about trying fresh seafood by vendors just off the beach or ordering a Red Stripe for refreshment.
When your customers head to Dominican Republic for a fun-filled, high-value vacation, chances are, they’re going to Punta Cana and Bavaro Beach. This region on the easternmost tip of the country is actually also known as La Costa del Coco, or the Coconut Coast, and peppered with as many luxury resorts as it is palm trees. Obviously, water sports lovers flock here, but golfers are found in equal proportion. Its courses are world-class and in no shortage.
Don’t miss: Catching a baseball game here if you can “swing” it. Dominican Republic has contributed more professional players to MLB than any other country in the world, with 65 among them all-stars. Catch early talent playing for Tigres del Licey, Estrellas Orientales, Leones del Escogido, Águilas Cibaeñas, Toros del Este, and Gigantes del Cibao at stadiums across the island.
We wrote about this Dutch island’s European attributes in this recent TravelBlogue story. But on a more general level, people flock to Curacao as a failsafe for its year-round, sunny weather, including throughout hurricane season. As one of the ABC Islands, it’s uniquely outside of the Hurricane Belt, and the most effect you’ll feel from those fall months are refreshing trade winds.
Don’t miss: Intragram-ready photos in the historic city center of Willemstad, including the iconic rainbow-hued waterfront. It’s one of only six Caribbean UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
We’d mentioned Curacao as one of the ABC islands, but Aruba is its even more famous big sister destination. It has the same perfect, temperate weather, cooling breezes, and dependable sunshine, but with a desert-meets-beach vibe—exactly why those unmistakable fofoti trees grow so happily here. But all of the candy-colored city vibes we love in Dutch islands are in full bloom in Orangestad, too, the bustling capital filled with pastel-lined streets and narrow hidden alleys. So as tempting as its luxury beachfronts and beachfront resorts are, it’s well worth exploring beyond them.
Don’t miss: Carnival. They do it up big here, beginning as early as November as it ramps up to an incredible crescendo toward January and February (depending on when Lent falls). The final event is the Burning of King Momo, but before that spectacle are weeks and weeks of parades, events, music, parties, and more.
Try finding any kind of heist movie that doesn’t mention banking in the Cayman Islands—we’ll wait. This British Overseas Territory is a notorious tax haven, adding another element to its appeal to the well-heeled. However, that’s the least of its attractions. Its three islands are just as famed for their beach resorts, scuba diving and snorkeling sites, deep-sea fishing, and novel attractions like Stingray City for interactive swims—a favorite excursion among the cruise-goers that stop at this frequent port.
Don’t miss: The 200-year-old Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman. This hike takes you through a native mangrove swamp, a woodland area that dates back 2 million years, and even a very light stramble. Otherwise, it’s only 2.3 miles each way and considered a beginner’s hike. It’s free to go on your own (and to park), but guided hikes are also available through Cayman Islands National Trust.
A total of 700 islands make up the once British islands of the Bahamas, but only 30 of them are populated with people. Across all of them, you’ll find more wildlife than humans, making it a dream destination for animal-lovers, both on land, in sea, and airborne. No wonder, then, that Atlantis, Paradise Island and its open-air marine habitats and rescue centers is located there. However, to see these amazing creatures in their natural habitat, the Andros Barrier Reef is where you want to go.
Don’t miss: Swimming with the pigs in Big Major Cay in Exuma. This is the only ethical location to do so, which is important to note as a responsible traveler. In other locations, they were brought in for touristic purposes and may not be treated humanely behind the scenes. Just please don’t bring your own food to feed them—you don’t want to harm the pigs accidentally by feeding them food that can make them sick, which has happened before, or making them .
A leading destination for honeymooners, Saint Lucia is immediately recognizable for its Pitons—two volcanic rises on the southwestern coast that have been granted UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. You can stay at elevation for dramatic views in sumptuous resorts, but if beach access is a priority, there are plenty of properties lining the shorefronts as well. Make sure to reserve some time to go off-site. You’ll be rewarded with abandoned sugar plantations, the French-founded Old Town of Soufriere, and pristine forest reserves for plenty of peace.
Don’t miss: Club-hopping in Rodney Bay Village, the island’s main nightlife district, or street party in Gros Islet if you’re lucky enough to be there on a Friday. Starting at sunset, the residents here turn the narrow streets into an amazing, dynamic hot spot for music, crafts, and dancing.
St. Martin/St. Maarten
Half Dutch, half French, and all Caribbean, this Leeward Island has a lot to offer. You don’t need a passport to cross the border between St. Maarten and St. Martin, so definitely don’t limit your explorations to only half of the island! It’s a cruise ship darling, which means lots of duty-free shopping in Philipsburg, and old-school casinos. This is also where you’ll find accessible nightlife. However, for great dining, make sure to go to Marigot, the stylish French capital. Beaches here, like Grand Case and Orient Bay, are quieter and beautiful.
Don’t miss: Actually, this is a do-miss, technically! The beach at Maho Bay on the Dutch side is scenic and novel for the low-flying planes as they land on the infamously short-runwayed airport, and foolhardy tourists find it amusing to walk on over to the airport and cling to the fence as jets take off from there. This is actually very dangerous for obvious reasons, from debris in your eyes to getting knocked down. Best to enjoy the novelty from the safety of your beach chair!
America’s most paradisical state, the Islands of Aloha are a bucket list destination for many. But why keep it on the bucket list when travel there is passport-free, the primary language spoken is English, and the currency the USD? There are eight major islands and several atolls and smaller islets—137 in total—but most travelers go to Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Lanai, and the Big Island. While romance lovers love Maui and adventure-seekers steer right for Kauai, Oahu is much more than just the most accessible direct hub. It’s the most populated, home to the capital of Honolulu, and its Waikiki Beach and North Shore are rightfully famous.
Don’t miss: Visiting another island! Island-hopping is easy and it’s not very expensive to fly to another. Those flights are sometimes even included in day-trip rates, such as lava field volcano tours in the Big Island from Oahu! Plus, for longer stays, you can easily get multi-stop and sister brand hotel rates by bundling more than one island into one package and staying within the resort brand family.
It may sound like an exotic island and it may look like an exotic island, but Puerto Rico is as domestic as they come. Although it’s not a state (yet), this destination is a U.S. territory, which means you can leave your passport at home! Whichever beachfront resort you choose for a stay, make sure you spend some time in Old San Juan, a historic city center that’s as charming as it is bustling. Eat as much as possible there—the cuisine is fantastic—and dance it off in districts like Santurce.
Don’t miss: Kayaking in a bioluminescent bay. It’s a must-do adventure here, and an attraction available in only five bodies of water in the world. Puerto Rico has three of them: Mosquito Bay, Laguna Grande, and La Parguera. The only other two places you can see this natural phenomenon is Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica and Halong Bay all the way in Vietnam.
How to Win a Local Lore Basket
- Receive a base entry with any agent-level booking made in the month of May
- Get a bonus entry when you protect your client’s investment (and your commission!) by adding Travel Protection Plus
- Add an Amstar transfer for yet another bonus entry, or just simply book with a brand that already includes them (such as Travel Impressions or Apple Vacations)
- Keep booking for a greater chance to win while sitting tight for the winner announcements by 7/1/22!
This isn’t our only giveaway! Learn more about our New for You Giveaway for Travel Advisor Appreciation Month and the 12 prize stays here! These are just some of the latest components of our Ask a Travel Advisor campaign.