Destinations

The Best Sandals Resort in Jamaica

Which is the best Sandals resort in Jamaica?

That was the seemingly simple question we set out to answer when we first began to research the review article you are currently reading.

Sandals, as you may know, is a chain of all-inclusive beach resorts with properties in a handful of Caribbean countries including St. Lucia, the Bahamas, Grenada and Antigua. The country with more Sandals resorts than any other — there are seven altogether — is Jamaica.

But which of those seven Sandals should I choose for my vacation? you might be asking.

With that specific question in mind — and with a skeptical view of Sandals in general — Spot Cool Stuff visited all our their all-inclusive resorts on during our last trip to Jamaica. Here’s what we found:

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Plane Spotting, Caribbean-Style

Ah, to be on a beach in the Caribbean. The sun. The sand. The clear blue waters. The roar of airplanes. The smell of engine fuel. The danger of jet blasts.

There can be a fine line between a travel experience that’s cool and one that is perilous. At Mahó beach, on the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten’s, that line is about 12 meters wide. That’s the distance between the vacationers on the beach and the start of the main runway at Princess Juliana International Airport.

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Guten Tag, Treehouse Hotel

This being Germany, every treehouse includes a beer-filled mini bar

Ever since we published our selection of places that resemble a Dr. Seuss illustration we’ve regretted leaving certain hotels off our list. Like this one: the funky, arboreal Baumhaus Hotel in Neißeaue, Germany.

Baumhaus is a sort of woodsy-themed adventure park with eight different treehouses that can be rented for the night. Each treehouse is multistoried, each is perched 8 to 10 meters (26 to 33 feet) above the ground and accommodates 4 to 6 people. Rates include breakfast and use of the adventure park grounds. This being Germany, every treehouse also includes a beer-filled mini bar.

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5 In-America-Only Cultural Travel Activities

A joke we overheard in a coffee shop in Italy:

Question: What’s the difference between yogurt and the United States of America?

Answer: Yogurt has culture.

Okay, maybe that’s a little funny. The problem is, it isn’t true. The United States is full of culture. It isn’t as gourmet as, say, Italy. Nor is it as old as China or as enveloping as India, or as snobby as France. But it most certainly is there. American culture is diverse, interesting, and, we’d argue, it’s one of the most fun national cultures on the planet.

Want proof? Below is our recommendation for five distinctly American cultural experiences that you are unlikely to find written up in any guidebook.

Note: For this post we only considered experiences that are available across the country. Anything that’s exclusive to a specific ethnic group or region — attending Burning Man in Nevada or eating gumbo in New Orleans or getting yelled at by a taxi driver in New York City, for instance — was disqualified. We also nixed holiday events, like the 4th of July American Independence Day.

While this post was written with non-American travelers in mind, those from the United States may also gain some travel tips by reading on . . .

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Nantucket’s Historic, Modern Bed and Breakfast

Next to the reception desk of The Veranda House on Nantucket Island there’s a large photo from the 1880s of the bed and breakfast. It shows well-heeled guests hanging out on the namesake verandas, admiring the view of the historic town center and the waters of the Nantucket Sound beyond.

Since that photo was taken the fashions have changed. The quality of photographs has greatly improved. But guests today still hang out on those same verandas. They still enjoy the view of the town and the water. They are still drawn to the iconic lodgings by its history. The Veranda House, after all, was built in 1684 — by the time the photo was taken it had already earned its place as one of the island’s historic icons!

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See, Swim With Penguins
(Not in Antarctica)

Every day around dusk the world’s smallest penguins waddle up on a stretch of coast near Oamaru, New Zealand

Is it possible to dislike penguins? There’s something universally adorable about them. Maybe it’s their waddling. Or their tuxedo outfits. Or how they are portrayed in popular culture, as in the wonderful March of the Penguins documentary.

Most penguin stories, including March, take place in Antarctica. However there are several other places on the planet to see wild penguins. At a few of those you can hop in the water and swim along side these friendly, feathered creatures. Here’s a look at our favorite:

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Oslo’s Wildest Hotel Room

A sandy floor, a full size tree trunk, a profusion of green plants and a posse of endangered species — in cuddly toy form. The WWF room at Scandic Vulkan hotel in Oslo is wild! The only thing missing are the calls of rainforest birds. Although, if you are after a good night’s sleep, that’s is probably for the best.

Designed in partnership with WWF Norway, to raise awareness of environmental issues among hotel guests, the room also features recycling bins (yes, you’ll have to sort out your paper from your plastic waste), second-hand furniture, organic toiletries and long-life bulbs, among other energy-saving devices.

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Summer Camps Where Adults Can Be Kids Again

Summer camp.

For adults of a certain age, those two words can evoke powerful memories of innocence and coming-of-age.

Perhaps those memories are of sleeping in cabins or learning archery. Perhaps they are memories of canoeing rivers, roasting marshmallows, participating in camp talent shows or playing games of capture the flag.

Perhaps summer camp is where you had your first kiss. Perhaps that kiss happened while you were sitting on a huge tree trunk that had fallen across a creek — you know, the one that’s behind the arts and crafts cabin — where perhaps Bridget Aubrey agreed to meet you after the camp dance and where she totally kissed you back but then told Hannah Laguna that she didn’t really like you, after which maybe Hannah told that to Damian Simmons who for some unknown reason felt compelled to share what he heard with everyone in your cabin, all of whom made you worried that you were a bad kisser and left you feeling desperate to avoid Bridget for the rest of your life. Um, you know, hypothetically speaking.

At Spot Cool Stuff, we were reminiscing about summer camps when a question popped in our heads: Are there camps where adults can relive, at least in part, the kid-like experience of being away at summer camp?

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