Drinking Coconuts & Kissing Stingrays: A Day in Grand Cayman

Grand Cayman is a Caribbean paradise known for fabulous beaches, incredible underwater reefs, and of course, snorkeling with stingrays!  If you're like me and can't think of a better way to spend your day than surrounded by a bunch of tropical fish in crystal-clear aqua-blue water, I think you've found your next travel destination.

Snorkeling with stingrays? in the wild? I know. I thought this sounded crazy too. But Grand Cayman is famous for Stingray City: a beautiful shallow sand bar a few miles out from the Northwest corner of the island that fills with stingrays every day, drawing in tour boats of snorkelers eager to interact with the friendly rays.  

It's said that the rays began gathering here decades ago when fishermen, returning from a fishing excursion, would navigate behind the reef into the sound - a calm, shallow area off the island, where they'd clean their fish and throw the guts and leftovers overboard, giving the local stingrays a feast!!! Over time, like the pavlov rays they were, the stingrays associated the sound of a boat engine with the act of getting food. And, so, stingray city was born. Today, the tour boats do the feeding of the rays and the snorkelers get the opportunity to swim with (and touch!) the rays.
Join a tour for the day (only around $45/person) and they'll give you all the snorkel gear and safety information you need to feel comfortable swimming with the rays. It's an unbeatable experience, and one you'll never forget. 

They say that if you kiss a stingray you'll have good luck for years to come. It's a silly superstition of course, but I like it. Here you are face-to-face with a wild stingray in the open ocean, usually something to be feared, something that can hurt you, even kill you, and instead of running away from it, you kiss it. because what better way to have luck go your way than to face a challenge head first, and with a little love. 
So, yes, I KISSED a sting ray in Grand Cayman.

On our same snorkel trip, we had the opportunity to go to a nearby coral reef and swim for an hour or so. The reef was unbelievable. the colors, the lively coral, were unlike anything I've seen before. I also got to play with my new gopro under water which was such a blast. 

When you're done snorkeling with your new friends, check out arguably one of the most popular and famous beaches in the Caribbean- Seven Mile Beach. 
Seven miles of white sand and aqua water? Yes please. 
JetsetChristina wearing Kiini Bikini

Thinking about moving down here and selling coconuts from my tiki hut.. thoughts?


The Best Places to Travel in 2016

How many of you put "travel more" on your resolutions this year? I'm willing to bet that most of us are yearning for a year full of adventure and travel, full of new experiences. We resolve to visit new places (a friend of mine's new resolution is to go to a new country every year), we resolve to step out of our comfort zone (another awesome friend of mine is quitting her job to travel Southeast Asia for the Spring), we resolve to make time, and put aside money, for the reward of travel. We resolve to prioritize new experiences over the drudgery of the everyday. We resolve that THIS is finally the year we get out there and see the world. I'm writing this list because I truly think this should be the year, that we should all quit putting off our bucket lists and start planning our best adventures yet.
There is something about travel that compels us all to it. Sometimes, it's the thrill of the unknown. In other cases, it's a need to to relax. For some, it's a cultural experience, filled with absorbing a new place, for others, it's a physical experience, like hiking a mountain or kayaking through new oceans, for some, it's a chance to let loose, and for others, a chance to bond with loved ones. Travel has something for everyone, but in order to fully experience it, you have to step out of your comfort zone. I think John Steinbeck put it best when he said, "people don't take trips... trips take people." So here's to having our breath taken away by new places in 2016! These are my very favorite spots this year.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

If there is a heaven on earth, the reflecting desert of the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia is most certainly it. This divine destination is high on my list of places I need to see, as soon as possible. Bolivia has one of the most beautiful, most unique landscapes in the world. Traveling throughout the country you will see everything from hot pink lagoons filled with flamingos, sparkling lakes, active and inactive volcanoes, enormous deadly geysers, surreal rock formations and the world's largest salt desert. People are flocking to Bolivia because not only is it one of the most beautiful countries on earth, it's budget-friendly, and boasts a a culture as vibrant and lively as it's landscape. There is even a largely undiscovered wine country that rivals its global wine-producing counterparts in Argentina and Chile. So, just know, if I go missing, you can find me here, a glass of Bolivian malbec in hand.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires and its tango-dancing, empanada-frying, soccer-celebrating, malbec-drinking culture have had me compelled to experience it for years. Not to mention access to the absolutely unbelievable Iguazu Falls, which make Niagara Falls look like child's play... And the beautiful mountainous Patagonia, which makes my precious Tahoe look utterly forgettable. Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world, and Buenos Aires is its bustling European-like gate to enter the beautiful South American gem. BA, along with Patagonia and the Iguazu Falls (pictured below), are high up on my list this year.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston has been ranked Travel & Leisure's Best City in North America for 3 years running by its readers, and there are no doubts why. If you're looking for Southern charm, beautiful homes, a gorgeous coast, and a whole lotta biscuits, Charleston is your place.  The best times to visit Charleston are Spring and Fall, when the weather is warm but not too hot, allowing for lots of outdoor activities (like riding your bike on the sand of the beach or golfing on Kiawah island). For all of my Charleston restaurant recs, hotel tips, and more see my separate post here.  Charleston is one of my very favorite cities and I am dying to get back there this year.

Tulum, Mexico
Tulum is blowing up in the travel circles!!! I can't tell you the amount of times people have asked me about Tulum in the past year. What used to be an unheard-of beachy suburb of Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, is now a top travel spot for beachcombers from all over the world. Why? Tulum is no-frills Mexico. Think Cabo or Puerto Vallarta 25 years ago. There are hotels, sure, and lots of great authentic restaurants. But there are not resorts, huge hotel chains, and the build-up that has happened in other areas of Mexico. Even the travelers here have a more laid back vibe. Not to mention ancient mayan ruins and an incredible natural eco-water park that you have to see to believe called Xel-Ha.  If you're looking for a hammock-laying, margarita-sipping getaway, Tulum is the place to go. 

Grand Cayman is high up on my list this year because I am craving snorkeling, sunshine, and some stingrays. Grand Cayman, nestled among unbelievably aqua-blue waters and seven mile stretches of white sand beaches, has been a caribbean hot-spot for decades. But why I love it is the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Sting Ray City, a sand bar filled with (friendly) wild stingrays that you can snorkel with and touch... I'll be going back here in February and I. just. can't. wait. 

Lagos, Portugal
Portugal is hot right now. And, if you need proof, just look at these pictures. Portugal, which used to be considered Spain's younger and poorer brother, is now becoming a destination in its own right. With the beauty of the city of Lisbon, to the gorgeous sunny coast, Portugal has it all. I personally am putting Lagos at the top of my list this year.

With approximately 1,200 islands, sparkling azure water, a beautiful wine country and picturesque medieval villages full of history and charm, Croatia is pretty tough to beat for 2016 travel.  I recommend the island of Hvar, the medieval city of Dubrovnik, and the stunningly beautiful Krka National Park. This was my favorite trip of 2015 which you can read all about here

Hawaii is always one of my go-to destinations, and I usually get there once a year, but this year, I am all about Kauai. After first visiting this unbelievably beautiful isle just a couple years ago, it’s lush mountains, stunning waterfalls, and unbelievable sunsets, have become stuck in my mind. I mean. Come on. This isn’t even fair to the other islands

What are your must-see destinations for 2016?! 
Happy new year! I have a feeling this is going to be the best travel year yet. 


The 10 Best Gifts for the Jetsetter in Your Life

The holidays are here!!! And I, for one, could not be more excited. I've spent the past week decorating the tree, watching National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, listening to christmas music nonstop, and of course, baking lots of cookies. Baking might be my favorite activity (after traveling), followed closely by another favorite holiday pastime... shopping. Is there anything better than picking out the perfect present for your loved ones? It's the season of giving, and I'm here to help. Here are my top holiday gifts for people who love to wanderlust.

Pictured: passport case, bon voyage pillow, suitcase, scarf, tote, and sunglasses 

1. Bric's Luggage

I am absolutely obsessed with this new luggage brand. The quality is unbeatable and these pieces of luggage will last a lifetime. Not to mention they are beautiful and so, so classy.

Buy here: Bric's Life Bellagio 30" Spinner
Bric's Bellagio 18" Boarding Duffle with Handle Sleeve (Cream)
Bric's Luggage Life Pelle New 4 Wheels Pilot, Cognac

2. Bon Voyage Throw Pillow

Because how cute is this? Retails for $100 and it's on sale on Amazon for $17.50!
Buy here: Bon Voyage Pillow

3. A great passport cover

Every traveler needs a great passport cover.  This is one of my favorite gifts to give around the holidays.  Here are some of my favorites:

Kate Spade Leather Passport Holder Blue Hydrangea

Kate Spade New York Passport Holder Rose Gold
Fossil Passport Case, Air Blue

4. The perfect leather tote

 I recently was gifted a beautiful monogrammed leather tote and I have to say it is one of the best gifts I've eve received. These totes are good for the busy girl who is always on the go.

Michael Kors Jet Set Travel Tote

Mark & Graham Elisabetta Tote (this is the one that I own!)
Tote Bag, Pearlized Silver 
BCBG Paris Tote Black

5. A 2016 Travel Calendar!

Shameless plug here but I created a beautiful travel calendar full of landscape photos that I've taken of beautiful scenery all over the world! It would make the perfect accessory to any jetsetter's office or home. 
Buy at my store here

6. A Gold Compass Necklace

How perfect is this necklace for anyone that loves to travel? Dogeared makes some great (and affordable) jewelry, and they are always some of my favorite gifts to give and receive. My best friend in the whole world got this necklace for me before I studied abroad, and to this day it was one of the most thoughtful, meaningful gifts I've ever received. 

7. A great bottle of California wine

I love to give people who love to travel a little taste of my home in California. Whether they've been to Napa Valley before, and are missing it, or whether they just dream of winetasting there,  Napa is a great place to start when it comes to Christmas gifts...  Your friends and family will think you got it straight from the winery - but you can actually easily order one of my very favorite wines- Grgich Hills- online on Amazon!
2012 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Chardonnay 
2012 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
2011 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Zinfandel 
2013 Grgich Hills Estate Napa Valley Fumé Blanc 

8. A travel set of their favorite beauty products

I love the Jack Black "Power Trip" set for stuffing my boyfriend's stocking. It has everything they need for their Dopp Kit in a cute little power-trip pack.
Jack Black Power Trip Travel Set

9. An ideal-for-airplane-travel infinity scarf

It keeps you warm at high altitude and makes any airport outfit look great. These are my go-to when traveling on long flights.
Womens Thick Ribbed Knit Winter Infinity Scarf 
Plush Women's Plaid Infinity Scarf, Black/Red
Wrapables Lightweight Silky Soft Infinity Scarf, Turquoise 

10. A giftcard to their favorite airline!

Because what traveler doesn't want an excuse to take a trip somewhere!?
Southwest Airlines Gift Card $100
Hyatt $100 Gift Card

Happy shopping (and jetsetting!!) xoxo,
Shop Now on Amazon

Crazy about Croatia

With approximately 1,200 islands, sparkling azure water, and picturesque medieval villages full of history and charm, it's no wonder Croatia is on every traveler's bucket list
The stunning view from the fortress of Hvar

In fact, Croatia was recently named as the Mediterranean's fastest growing tourist destination, as more and more people each year flock to its pristine national parks, beautiful beaches, and the medieval Old Town of Dubrovnik. The immense popularity of HBO's hit TV series, Game of Thrones, has boosted this country's tourism as well, as the show highlights the majestic beauty of old town Dubrovnik, the shooting location for Game Of Thrones's King's Landing. 

So, if this country mixes the historical charm of Italy with the beautiful beaches of Greece, why is it the world is just starting to hear about this gem on the Dalmatian Coast? 

Well, here's a quick crash course in Croatian history: After a rich history dating as far back as 11 B.C. (as part of the Roman Empire), Croatia became its own kingdom in 925 A.D., after which it went through many mergers and acquisitions, ending in 1918, after the end of World War I and the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, resulting in Croatia joining Serbia in the forming of Yugoslavia. 
Yugoslavia, however, began to fall apart in uprising and civil war resulting from the country's adoption of communism in the mid to late 20th Century. With a weak economy, cracks in the Yugoslav system began to grow, and Yugoslavia became severely divided. 

When Croatia finally declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, Serbs living in Croatia declared their own independence from Croatia, making civil war inevitable. The war that followed lasted until 1995 and was a territorial battle among Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians - characterized as the bloodiest and most horrific event in Europe since WWII. Today, almost 2 decades later, the strength of this country is seen in its miraculous ability to bounce back from this dark period of its history. Most of the Croatian coastline remained amazingly untouched during the war, and the aged, multicolor brick roofs seen in the seaside towns tell a beautiful story of having survived centuries of invading powers. In Dubrovnik, however, the noticeably brighter orange roofs tell a different story, having been replaced after the Dubrovnik bombings in 1991. Today, the country's history just adds to its allure, and the war damage is completely unseen, leaving behind stunning coastlines, charming towns, and a wonderfully unique european culture. 

So, you're into history, beautiful sparkling blue water and medieval architecture mixed with some wine country and delicious food? Let's plan your next trip. 

Where should I go?
Dubrovnik is a must see. Jutting out on a chunk of Dalmatian coastline, the city walls of Dubrovnik are nothing short of spectacular. The bad news? Dubrovnik is no longer anyone's best-kept-secret, as the Old Town is gridlocked with tourists during the summer. The good news? Travel in the spring or fall to miss the tourists, or simply walk the city walls first thing in the morning (they open at 8am), when you can beat the crowds.

Wow, wow, wow was all any of us could think about this place, which ended up impressing us so much that we all unanimously called it the best destination we visited this summer. Hvar is a beachy town, with gorgeous islands a 5 minute water taxi ride away. But beaches aren't the only thing this town has to offer. Have you seen the view from the fortress?? If you're going to Croatia, do not miss out on Hvar.

Fortress-ing high above Hvar
Alert the masses. Add it to your travel list. Tell everyone you know.... I found heaven on earth. Palmizana island, a short water taxi away from Hvar port, is a yachter's paradise. Palmizana not only has picture-perfect seaside beach chairs lining it's unbelievably turquoise blue water, but also delicious fresh mediterranean eateries and Veuve-Cliquot-branded VIP lounges scattering the island... Boom. You're Beyonce on the beach.

The Most Beautiful Waterfalls You'll Ever See: 
Krka National Park or Plitvice Lakes National Park
Thanks to a jagged coastline and mountains rich with rivers, waterfalls thrive in this beautiful country.  Plitvice Lakes National Park in particular is world-famous for it's pinterest-worthy waterfalls, making it indisputably one of the top attractions in the country. Krka is just as wanderlust-worthy with its stunning falls. Take your pick, you can't go wrong.  

Arena Pula
Into history? You can't miss this one. The Arena in Pula, Croatia is the only remaining Roman amphitheater to have four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders entirely preserved. It was constrcuted in 27 BC-68 AD and is among the six largest surviving Roman arenas in the world. It is also the most popular (and arguably most beautiful) ancient monument in Croatia.

Things to do in Dubrovnik

Walk the city walls
Have you ever seen views like this anywhere else in the world? The old town of Dubrovnik is something out of a storybook, and walking the walls you are presented with gorgeous views of both the town and the Adriatic. The walk takes about 1.5 hours and you won't want to forget your camera. 

Have dinner in the square
You've never seen a weekday night like they do in Dubrovnik. With masses of locals eating (late!) dinners in the square of old town, it's hard not to wish our society was a little less work obsessed and a little more on-permanent-vacation like the Croatians are. It is so much fun to people watch, as the square is clearly THE place to be at night. The food is delicious and fresh pretty much anywhere, so just walk around, pick a good spot, and enjoy the lively atmosphere. 

Have a Drink... On the Rocks
Cafe Buza, continuously ranked as one of the most scenic bars in the world, is hard to find, but well worth it for the best sunset view in town. The best way to get there is to go behind the Church of St. Blaise and to keep walking past Hemingway bar, past the Cathedral, then pick a little side street and walk towards the wall facing the Adriatic sea and Italy. When you hit the wall keep walking along it until you reach a door. At this point, you can go left or right, and either way will take you to one of the two Buza bars- slightly different spots, I preferred the one further down, so keep going after you see the first spot. Great views either way. 

Go to Wine Country
Peljesac peninsula is the place where some of Croatia's finest wines are cultivated and there are many tour companies who will take you there on a day, or weekend trip to visit many family-owned Croatian wineries. It is about 1 hour outside of Dubrovnik. Fun fact: one of my very favorite wineries in Napa, Grgich Hills, is made by the famous winemaker Mike Grgich, who hails from Croatia. 

See the City from Above on the Cable Car
There is a cable car, a short 10 minute walk from the old town, that will take you straight up the hillside to a beautiful vantage point overlooking the entire city. Highly recommend doing this.

Kayak around Dubrovnik
This was one of my favorite things we did while in Dubrovnik, as the water is just gorgeous and the coastline so amazing. Take a tour or rent your own Kayak, either way, you'll love your day on the Adriatic. 

Have any of you been to Croatia? What are your must-sees? I would love to hear about it in the comments! 

Follow along my travels on instagram @jetsetchristina