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The Beautiful Caribbean

Jamaica man, it doesn't get any better, with Kingston as its capital and biggest city, with the world's biggest natural harbor and some of the most gorgeous waterfalls anywhere. The climate is hot and humid, like Florida, although the higher inland areas are somewhat more temperate. It also is located in the hurricane belt, so the summer probably isn't the best time to go or be there. This is one of the best islands in the Caribbean for different kinds of music, and a culture that is as rich and diverse as is the population. It is famous for many things, including its Red Stripe beer, bamboo rafting trips started by Errol Flynn in the 1950s, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee and the excellent Jamaican jerk spice that has become a favorite flavor all over. The sights, sounds and aromas of this excellent destination will astound you as much as the national bird which just happens to be the doctor bird, or to us, the red-billed streamtail hummingbird, one of the most beautiful and interesting birds in the world. As is the case with the other Caribbean islands, this country is dependent on its tourism trade, although their agriculture and mining is just as important. Also famous for its Jamaican rum, the country is the second biggest exporter of bauxite in the world, as well as many other important exports like coffee, yams, sugar and bananas. Other great cities of destination include Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, Negril and Mandeville, with gorgeous beaches all along the shores, fishing and diving opportunities galore, with a variety of hikes, boat trips, fishing trips, snorkeling or scuba diving, relaxing or sunbathing. The Montego Bay area is filled with the luxurious villas of the rich and famous that have been coming here for many years, beautiful turquoise waters slowly leaching into dark blues and blue skies. Ocho Rios is another favorite, with more white sandy beaches, interesting shops and boutiques, and many cruise ships coming here for a variety of reasons. The smells, sights and sounds of the countryside assail your senses when you get here, and the exotic foods will keep you warm and happy with some of the best rum in the world to keep you just on the edge of exploding in ecstasy. Negril is the biggest resort area on the island, especially since the 1960s, when the hippies came here and started that easy laid back kind of living that still goes on today, with miles of magnificent beaches, stretching as far as the eye can see, as well as marvelous diving and water sports that will keep you more than busy and happy. The adventures will almost be the end of you, but then you smell the deep aromas of the food cooking and head to the nearest restaurant. The cuisine is exceptional and varied, with both international and local culinary delights that will renew your energies and spirits. Since the residents that live here have come from all over the globe, the cuisine is extremely exceptional and varied, with each group adding their own special spices, recipes and cooking techniques to the bountiful foods of this tropical paradise and creating such a melting pot of flavor that you might stay. The national breakfast here is ackee and saltfish, with ackee tasting almost like our scrambled eggs, but they can't be exported since they are really poisonous until ripe. Bammy bread is another favorite that you should try, as well as blue drawers, bulla, bun Christmas cake, coco bread, corn pone, cowcod soup, escovitch, gizzada, grater cake and so many others that it would take pages to convey the plentiful and scrumptious varieties of food that abounds here.

Cayman Islands

The Cayman Islands are located in the western Caribbean, laying south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, a British overseas territory and large offshore financial center for the Caribbean. The islands are the tops of the huge underwater ridge called the Cayman Trench, created by enormous coral heads, with a tropical marine climate having wet rainy and warm summers and dry cooler months during the winter. Water is a major concern, but that doesn't seem to deter the tourists that come here for the magnificent beaches and abundant supplies of fish; as well as having the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. One of the main attractions is the 7 mile beach, with variations of brilliant blue waters, perfectly clear for the excellent scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities that await the visitor, with fantastic coral reefs and magical fish locations; including a marvelous chance to swim with the stingrays. The Mastic Trail is a wonderful chance to explore the island, the 23 acre marine theme park called Boatswain's Beach and home of the Cayman turtle farm; as well as a place for the production for gourmet salt. There are two endemic subspecies of Amazona parrots, and the endangered blue iguana which make for some interesting photo opportunities and marvelous memories for home. In Batabano, on the north sound, the fishermen bring in their daily catch which is a wonderful sight to watch and to get some of the freshest fish in the Caribbean, with lobster, conch and a multitude of fish, with the added chance for visitors to try sport fishing since it is one of the best places in the islands to do it. On the east end are the famous blowholes, that everyone enjoys watching or throwing something in just to see it explode into the air like a geyser. The unique sounds these holes produce is something else, almost like the roar of a lion, but less dangerous. There are a couple of wrecks around for you to dive or to just imagine, with the water constantly inviting you in for a quick or long swim. There are numerous shops and boutiques that will invite you to peruse the marvelous gifts that you need to bring home for family and friends, or to adorn your own abode. There are many areas for ecotours and fantastic hikes, that will soon have you craving some local delicacies that always include fish or other seafood. Since much of the foods have to be imported, meals can be a bit expensive, but by sticking with the local cuisine and the abundant fish or turtle specials, you won't go hungry. Conch here is also a favorite with various ways to prepare it and even better to spice it up. There are many open air or beachside dining opportunities here, with magnificent views and gorgeous weather, with some international chefs coming here to increase the menus or to try their new gourmet delights. Jamaican jerked chicken or English pasties are considered to be two of the best culinary foods, but it all depends on your tastes, and the aromas that will certainly help you decide what to enjoy, and enjoy you will at this marvelous destination in the Caribbean.

Antigua

Although there are many more interesting and exciting island destinations, Antigua is fast becoming one of the newest and brightest stars in the Caribbean, with magnificent beaches and brilliant blue waters rolling up on the white sandy beaches that glisten in the sun like mirages in the stark deserts of the mainland's. There are still quiet and serene bays and hidden coves where the romance of the moment and your companion will flow like the waters of the sea, there are also outstanding golf courses and tennis courts to keep you busy when you aren't in the ocean diving for coral or wrecks, but always intent on the beautiful and exotic fish and colors that abound in the waters. Hiking is still growing in this island, although the emphasis has been on the beauty of the beaches, but now the government is realizing that many visitors want to see the island beauty and smell the pungent aromas of the earth in an exotic location that is filled with mystery and the unknown. The weather here is perfect, with the friendliness and warmth of the islanders infectious and homey. There are great nightclubs where you can dance the night away, sail boarding, snorkeling in the hidden bays and coves, walking along palm tree lined beaches and balmy breezes feeling ever so wonderful on your skin and blowing through your hair, as the salt air permeates your mind and brings you back to the moment and that special person that is beside you. English Harbor on the southeastern coast is famous for its protected harbor, and a wonderfully restored British colonial naval station called Nelson's Dockyard is a great place to visit and learn a bit about the island's history, and today are also famous for the yachts that come here for the world class regatta during Antigua Sailing Week in the end of April and start of May. Their main source of income is the tourists that visit and almost everything is catered towards making their visiting guests feel at home and at ease. Some of the outstanding foods grown here include the famous black pineapple, sweet potatoes, corn, mangos, tobacco, cotton, guava and chilies which certainly help for that excellent meal you will need after spending the day in the water, swimming, fishing, diving or just relaxing on the gorgeous beaches. The island was named by Christopher Columbus, and was the site of Lord Horatio Nelson in the early 18th century, using it as a base to chase down pirates and to keep the power of Britain afloat, and keep those darn Americans from coming here to trade; which made him quite unpopular with the natives. Because of the history of the island, there are many historical attractions and sights, with marvelous old buildings and structures. The local cuisine does have Euro-American dishes, but the food of this island paradise is also very good and quite tasty. There are many restaurants that belong to hotels and won't cater to visitors if they aren't staying in their resorts, but the local places are just as good if not better when wanting to try out the local cuisine with its rich flavors of the Caribbean and the many diverse nationalities that have created many marvelous dishes. The island's own fruits and vegetables also give your meal a special significance, with those black pineapples that are extra sweet, the green figs or bananas, breadfruit, goat water, BBQ chicken, roast suckling pig, mangoes, papayas, melons, oranges, grapefruits, soursop, coconuts, bananas, cockles, and christophene. Salted codfish is one of the island's staples, usually served with tomato sauce, as is saltfish, and other fresh catches from the sea, that are served blackened, and include shrimp, spiny lobster, red snapper, mahi mahi, shark, conch and octopus. Other local delicacies include ducana, a grated sweet potato mixed with coconut, sugar and spices steamed in a banana leaf; pepperpot stew is a mix of salted beef and pork with squash, pumpkin, okra, spinach, aubergine and cornmeal dumplings; fungi is a cornmeal and okra pudding; souse is pork marinated in lime juice, onions, hot and sweet peppers and spices and callaloo, a spinach soup flavored with cloves or crab. It is a meal fit for any visitor or their own special tastes, with that Antigua home grown flavor.

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