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.