Discover the charms of the West Midlands: where city, country and culture collide

Walking through the streets of Coventry, tour guide Roger Bailey is eager to share a story that’s “a thousand years in the making.” The legend goes that Lady Godiva, a key figure in the history of the region, pleaded with her husband to provide a tax break for local residents.


BY: ANN RUPPENSTEIN

“He said no, but she didn’t give up, she came back to him again and again, so many times he got so fed up, he decided to give her an impossible challenge, thinking she wouldn’t do it — ride through the streets of Coventry naked — and if you do this, I’ll lift the taxes,” explains Bailey. “We’re told she cares so much about her people, she decides to do the ride. Out of respect, everybody turned their backs, except for one, who we now call Peeping Tom.”

Although it’s debatable whether or not the incident actually took place due to a lack of official records, depictions of the scene remain today at sites like The Lady Godiva Clock Tower and The Lady Godiva statue.

Found in the West Midlands, which is known as The Heart of England, Coventry offers an eclectic blend of old meets new. The Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed in a fire during the Second World War, is a must-see site. Newly reconstructed in 1962, the outer glass wall purposely reflects the ruins of the old cathedral, symbolizing hope for the future without forgetting the past.

“It’s designed so that you’re looking at the old and the new,”  Bailey says, adding that the building is also home to a boulder from Bethlehem that’s used for baptisms. 

The new cathedral also has Canadian connections with funds raised in Canada going to replace the organ lost during the fire. Those visiting will notice the icon of a Canadian Maple Leaf embedded on the floor of the entryway. Notably, Rachel Mahon, a Canadian, has also taken on the position of Director of Music at the Coventry Cathedral.

The interior of the new building is equally remarkable with massive displays of stained glass windows representing the soul’s journey through life into heaven lining the room and a large tapestry spanning 23 metres tall and 12 metres wide, that’s said to weigh about a tonne, as the backdrop.

While the city features many historical sites like St. Mary’s Guildhall, a well preserved medieval guildhall that provides a glimpse into life 600 years ago, it’s also budding with culture and creativity.

On the modern side, FarGo Village is a creative quarter launched in 2014 that’s loaded with sculptures and street art. It features independent shops, boutiques, art workshops, design studios, a brewery and a rotating selection of food vendors.

“It’s a really affordable way to try out something — it may have even started out as a hobby — to see if it can be something that supports you,” explains manager Holly Hewitt, noting that the concept took off from a handful of businesses to 40 different ventures. “A lot of the businesses have now moved into the bigger units. This month is wellbeing month where we encourage people in the community to come and meet us for a walk. So it’s not just about business, it’s about some wellbeing and a sense of community.”

Owned by Chris Cooper and Ritchie Bee, the onsite Twister Barrel Brewery is a tasty spot to sample a variety of vegan beer. The friends were inspired by the variety of beer available in the international scene, which they thought was missing back home. 

So what exactly makes the beer vegan? Interestingly, Cooper explains that beer often contains Isinglass, which is derived from the dried swim bladders of fish, which the brewery doesn’t use. 

“It’s used to clarify the beer,” he says. “Very, very few people realize it’s used in most beer. The second thing that a lot of breweries use, particularly in dark beers, is lactose because it’s used to get body, used to make it sweet.”

Having consumed over 2,000 Balti dishes to date — and counting — author Andy Munro is well versed in the art of a dish that originated in Birmingham, another buzzing city in the West Midlands. Invented during the 1970s when the city’s Pakistani residents created a fusion dish inspired by traditional Kashmiri recipes but cooked in a way that was more appealing to western tastes (for example with the meat taken off the bone), the resulting Balti helped put Birmingham’s food scene on the map. 

“Balti has to be cooked and served in the same dish,” he notes, adding that the thin, pressed-steel wok called a Balti bowl was also invented in Birmingham.

Located in the Balti Triangle, a triangle-shaped neighbourhood in Birmingham, Munro says only about five authentic Balti houses remain in the area. One of these staples is Shababs, a restaurant where guests have the chance to take part in a cooking demonstration to see how the local favourite dish is made. Cooked over a high flame, the dish is made in under 10 minutes. The end result, as everyone who sampled the dish can attest, is delicious. 

“It became a craze,” Munro shares. “In the ‘80s and ‘90s, I promise you, instead of talking about the weather, people would say ‘what’s your favourite Balti house?”

Beyond Balti, Birmingham was recently in the spotlight as the host of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which were the most attended edition of the games to take place in the UK and had six times the amount of BBC Sport streams compared to previous years.

Said to have more miles of canals than Venice, Birmingham is also a great destination to explore on the water. However, for those clients who prefer a local watering hole, The Canal House Bar & Restaurant overlooks the water and is frequented by athletes. 

To get a taste of the independent beer scene, head to Birmingham Brewing Co., to sample a variety of brews made in house that are also vegan and gluten-free.

Although many travellers visit Stratford-upon-Avon to get a sense of where William Shakespeare grew up, the charming town offers so much for visitors to explore — including Shakespeare Distillery, an artisan spirit producer named after the town’s most famous inhabitant.

“This is a very old historic town with lots of history,” says tour guide Jan Boggis, while pointing out buildings of significance to the legendary playwright. 

Theatre fans will want to experience shows put on by the Royal Shakespeare Company and visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Shakespeare’s childhood home, to hear tales of his upbringing and family life. During a visit, guests may hear the story of Sonny Venkatrathnam managed to smuggle a copy of Shakespeare’s complete works into Robben Island as a religious book, circulating it among the inmates, including Nelson Mandela, who signed his name next to this passage: “Cowards die many times before their deaths/The valiant never taste of death but once.”

Next year, to mark the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, a collection of 36 plays, Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust will be bringing women characters into the forefront. There are also learning opportunities and special interest courses available. 

The picturesque town is lined with shops, bar and restaurants. Another great vantage point is to soak up the scenery during a boat ride on the Avon. This is also a unique option for clients looking to spend the night on a barge.

A non-stop flight from Vancouver to Miami is finally taking off this winter

The longest U.S.-bound route from Vancouver will soon be serviced by a new schedule of non-stop flights by Air Canada. AC will launch direct non-stop flights between Vancouver (YVR) and Miami (MIA), starting Dec. 17 this year.

This is the longest flight route between Vancouver and any point in the United States, topping even Hawaii from YVR. It has been nearly 18 years since a non-stop service has connected Vancouver to Miami.

It will operate on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and will fly using a Boeing 737 Max 8 on the route. These have 16 business class seats and 153 seats in economy. The direct flight from YVR to MIA will take about five hours and 46 minutes, while the return service will take about six hours and 45 minutes.

According to booking data, Vancouver-Miami had about 56,000 roundtrip point-to-point passengers in 2019, demonstrating the need for Vancouver to Miami airlift in this underserved market, says the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The Bureau says that western Canadian visitors – who have a demonstrated love for outdoor adventure activities – will be keen to visit the Miami Land region.

This is a showcase of Greater Miami’s natural splendour, and includes vast mangrove forests, ocean deep diving, historic nature walks at the Deering Estate, spying on alligators in South Miami-Dade and taking swamp tours.

Others will be just as happy to explore the breathtaking sandy ribbon of South Beach and its chic neighbourhoods, just east of Miami city. And from Miami, visitors can drive to famous Florida attractions like Daytona Beach, Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast, and Orlando, with its many theme park attractions – or alternatively, land and transfer to their cruise ship for a leisurely cruise holiday.

Inside Sardinia’s newest luxury beachfront resort

7Pines Resort Sardinia, a luxury beachfront resort overlooking the archipelago of La Maddalena officially opened in early August.

Offering unparalleled tranquility and laid-back luxury on one of Europe’s most distinctive coastlines, 7Pines Resort Sardinia represents the first hotel in Italy to join the Destination by Hyatt portfolio, as well as the first Hyatt-affiliated hotel in Sardinia. The official opening demonstrates Hyatt’s ongoing commitment to growing its luxury brands in the most sought-after destinations.

The resort is situated in Baja Sardinia on the Costa Smeralda, just 10 minutes from the Porto Cervo neighborhood. The 76-room property is built within centuries-old rock formations with paths that weave through verdant gardens out to the resort’s five secluded and unspoiled beaches, near wild coves and brilliant blue coastline. Thanks to the resort’s on-site yachting services, guests can explore the emerald lagoons and heavenly beaches of the La Maddalena archipelago, which is a 20-minute boat ride away.

Stylish rooms

Piazza Martiri 7 authentically designed the 76 guestrooms with locally crafted features made from natural materials unique to Sardinia and include bespoke weavings, light fixtures and furniture created from the island’s juniper trees. The natural materials echo in the neutral tones of the rooms, immersing visitors to the lush landscape of the resort’s 37-acre (15-hectare) gardens. The Sea Views rooms, the Suite Del Principe, and the 731-foot (68-square meter) Suite Smeralda overlook the resort’s quiet beaches and have direct beach access.

Elevated cuisine

7Pines Resort Sardinia’s three restaurants take guests on a journey of discovery through the finest local flavors and ingredients. The hotel’s main restaurant, Capogiro, offers seasonal dishes with the freshest produce that has been grown and caught locally. In the Cone Club, a day-to-night concept with a full-service beach bar, restaurant, bar and club, famed chef Tohru Nakamura collaborates with the best local producers for a truly Sardinian casual dining experience, complimented by mixologist Philip Bischoff’s signature cocktail menu. At Spazio, the poolside restaurant, guests find daytime refreshments and informal lunch options, while the Beach Bar delivers drinks directly to their cabana. The Terrace Bar promises incomparable sunset views – aperitif or exotic cocktail in hand.

 

For more information on the hotel, click here!

Four of the best ways to experience autumn in Japan

While the spring and its famous cherry blossoms might seem like the obvious time to visit Japan, the fall offers just as much colour, celebration, and natural beauty. Starting with the mid-autumn moon in September and reaching into early December, fall in Japan brings temperate weather perfect for exploring the outdoors, stunning natural displays of autumn leaves and fields of flowers, a bounty of ingredients being harvested before making their way onto plates and into treats, and festivals to celebrate it all. Below are four unique ways to experience Japan in autumn.

See the foliage change

With vivid reds, oranges and yellows, Japan’s forests and parks put on a stunning fall display as leaves change colour. The autumn colours, known as koyo, start in September in the north and move down the country until they reach their peak in November. Visitors from across Japan and around the world embark on their own momijigari – a pilgrimage to seek out and admire the beauty of the maple, ginkgo, rowan and larch trees as they change colour. National parks offer guided walks and hikes to see the colour, but for a more leisurely option, take a gondola like the Shinhotaka Ropeway – Japan’s only two-storey gondola.

City parks such as Tokyo’s Rikugien Garden, and temples including Kiyomizudera Temple in Kyoto offer urban options for catching Mother Nature’s show.  Japan’s trees are not the only natural phenomenon ablaze with colour in the fall. From early to mid-October, entire fields blossom with pink cosmos flowers such as at Tonami Yumenotaira and Hitachi Seaside Park. The latter is also a great place to see the fiery Kochia bushes (also known as summer cypress) with their bright red, pom pom-like mounds. Swaying golden pampas grass is another colourful addition to Japan’s autumn tableau. Drive or hike the Handa Plateau, or take a guided trek through the 38-hectare Soni Highland to glimpse fields of this fluffy grass, which was traditionally used to thatch homes and buildings.

View the moon

The harvest moon is celebrated in many Asian countries, and in Japan the cultural practice of viewing the mid-autumn moon is known as otsukimi. Traditionally, these moon-viewing parties were to give thanks for a healthy harvest, and make special offerings in the hopes of securing bountiful harvests in the future. Held on the fifteenth night of the eighth month of the lunar calendar (September 10 in 2022), an open view of the moon is a must – some castles and temples even have special moon-viewing platforms. Foods associated with the festival include tsukimi-dango (chewy rice dumplings that represent the moon, health and happiness), and seasonal produce such as edamame, chestnuts and pumpkin. Those visiting Japan over the harvest moon can join in celebrations at places such as Daikakuji Temple in Kyoto, Himeji Castle (the “White Heron Castle) in Hyogo, or Tokyo Skytree

Celebrate harvest season

While otsukimi might be the most important celebration around Japan’s harvest, there are plenty of other ways to give thanks for the country’s agricultural and natural bounties – both by enjoying some of the seasonal specialties, and attending festivals across the country. Autumnal flavours can take over the menu in the fall—you’ll find that chestnuts, sweet potatoes, grapes, persimmons and matsutake (pine) mushrooms all feature heavily, whether you’re enjoying a multi-course kaiseki menu or delicate wagashi sweets. Get your hands dirty and pick your own persimmons, figs, nashi pears, and Japanese mandarins in Fukuoka, or even choose a farmstay for a few nights to get a real sense of Japan’s fall harvest. 

Many local cultural traditions centre around the importance of a good harvest, and you’ll find plenty of regional festivals during the fall. Coinciding with otsukimi, the Koina Tiger Dance is a performance lit by the moonlight, telling the tale of a hero who comes across a tiger and is able to overpower it and bring it home alive. The Takayama Autumn Festival is one of the best known regional fall festivals, with tens of thousands of visitors coming to see the ornate floats, some of which are topped with marionettes that perform traditional dances. Another is the Kōyama Yabusame Festival in mid-October, which started as a ritual to pray for a good harvest and security, and showcases traditional Japanese horseback archery.

Enjoy birdwatching

Home to some exceptionally rare and beautiful species, Japan is a birdwatching havenwith 160 designated “Important Bird Areas”. Fall’s cooler weather heralds the annual migration of a number of birds, making for a spectacular sight whether you’re a casual bird-spotter, or someone who never travels without their binoculars. Starting in October, Izumi City is the migration ground for 10,000 cranes arriving from Siberia – the largest flock in the country, and quite a sight as they soar together at dawn each morning. Tobishima Island is another migration ground, with 300 species of birds visiting as they journey south for the winter. Between late September and late October, rare wild birds such as the Japanese bush warbler and the blue-and-white flycatcher stop by the island. However, for Siberian swans heading south, Lake Hyoko in Niigata Prefecture is their final destination. From October through March, thousands of mute swans, tundra swans and whooper swans call the protected lake habitat home, where they’re also joined by other migrating waterfowl.

This luxury resort in Fiji has a series of stargazing events led by NASA experts

Nanuku Resort Fiji is taking its guests on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure as part of its “Journey to the Stars” program.

The destination luxury resort is set to present an extended series of events which will coincide with the new moon cycle of October 2022.

From Oct. 22 through Oct. 31, guests of the resort can explore deep space and the Moon from the shores of the South Pacific, one of the best stargazing destinations in the world.

The stellar line-up of activities and events for all ages to enjoy and to learn about our universe are set to be led by NASA experts, including special guests from NASA SSERVI (Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute).

In addition to the programming at Nanuku Resort, special guests from NASA will visit three local schools and share educational experiences with those students. Resort guests are also welcomed to join the NASA and hotel team for these special visits and connect with the local community.

Dreamy experiences

While staying at Nanuku Resort Fiji in October an array of “Journey Through the Stars” events will take place, including:

  • Dark Sky Star Party – Explore the stars, planets, Moon and deep space using advanced NASA telescopes
  • Daytime Star Party – View our favorite star, the Sun, using a NASA solarscope that actually allows you to witness explosions as they occur on the surface of the sun
  • Create a Star Map – Learn how Fijians have navigated the waters for thousands of years using the stars and make your own star map; you’ll also learn how they have used the moon as guidance for agricultural purposes
  • Touch a Space Rock – Learn about meteorites and asteroids and even touch a piece of the moon and Mars
  • Travel Across the Solar System – Take a journey across the solar system with an astronomer using real-time data and video
  • A Day in the Life of an Astronaut – Have lunch with a guest astronaut to learn what it takes to be an astronaut and what space travel is really like
  • NASA is Everywhere you Look – Learn about the many technologies used in everyday life that were invented by NASA and how you can access their technology to bring your wildest ideas to life
  • Art and Space – Get creative with a NASA artist who will lead multiple hands-on art activities, from painting the stars and moon and drawing the lush tropical plants of Fiji to making a model of the solar system
  • Mission Impossible – Learn about current and upcoming space projects and missions, and how NASA is achieving the seemingly impossible every day
  • Moon Massage – Enjoy the healing properties of the Moon during a night-massage, complete with Moon Water

For more on the Journey to the Stars, click here.  

Notably, Fiji Airways recently announced it will fly direct from Nadi to Vancouver this fall. Beginning Nov. 25, Fiji Airways is launching service to and from Vancouver twice a week on Mondays and Fridays. The destination will be the 20th direct international service provided by Fiji Airways.

When commercial flights commence in November, Fiji Airways will offer a limited number of seats at an introductory return fare of $599, direct from Vancouver to Nadi.

Additionally, these same passengers, when making their bookings can choose to fly to the airline’s four major destinations in Australia and three major destinations in New Zealand, at no extra cost.

If November is too long to wait, passengers in Vancouver will also have the chance to book a one-off promotional direct flight to Nadi on Aug. 9 at a discounted price of $599 with a return flight via Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Go to www.fijiairways.com for more.

A view from the water of a town of colourful buildings are built along the steep incline of a cliff.

A look at the most popular places to travel from Canada

According to new research from First in Service Travel LTD (F1S), Italy, France and Greece are the top international destinations Canadian advisors are booking and recommending.

“With all the pent-up demand for travel, coupled with the Canadian dollar’s stronger performance against the euro over the past year, it’s no surprise that Europe is performing so well,” explained Fernando Gonzalez, chief executive officer for F1S, one of North America’s largest independent travel agencies. “Italy has once again claimed its place among the world’s premier destinations, thanks to its stunning scenery, exquisite culture and history, epicurean delights, and extraordinary people.”

Findings from the recent survey had F1S travel advisors name the top three international destination they were booking for 2022. Among international destinations, 72.7% of the advisors named Italy as one of their top destinations, followed by France (45.5%) and Greece (27.3).

“Italy is always a winner,” added F1S advisor Willa Griffin. Advisor Waldo Wohl concurred, offering a simple explanation that “Italy is always Italy.”

Gonzalez indicated that the biggest surprise internationally for the year is the popularity of Greece. “Whether it’s the culture of ancient cities like Athens or the allure of the islands, Greece has really taken off over the past couple years. It was able to take hold during the pandemic and has maintained its strong forward momentum this year,” he said.

F1S advisor Marisa Wise added that she is booking “lots of Santorini. Its views and food are amazing. Also, Greek island cruising is super popular.”

First in Service advisors in Canada were also asked which “under the radar” destinations they are booking most internationally. Colombia and Portugal were tied for first place, with 27.3% of advisors recommending each. 

“Travel to the United States and cruising have both been on the rebound,” Gonzalez added. “Additionally, we will soon issue the trends we are seeing specifically for domestic travel within Canada.”

F1S advisor George Alexandrou is among those recommending Colombia because “it has a great mix of culture, adventure and direct flights.” Meanwhile, Portugal is recommended by F1S advisor Christina Gula, who said, “Portugal is a beautiful country with lots to offer. Great scenery, food and culture.”

Most popular travel picks

Each surveyed advisor was also asked to name the single most popular international destination they are specifically booking for Canadian clients on each continent and other major regions globally.

The top picks were:

  • Africa: South Africa
  • Asia: Thailand
  • Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific: Australia
  • Caribbean: St. Barths
  • Central America: Costa Rica
  • Europe: Italy
  • Middle East: Israel
  • North America: United States
  • South America: Colombia

Willa Griffin, who helps lead the agency in Canada, pointed out that they’ve seen a major uptick in last minute bookings with borders reopening.

“I think it’s been a combination of pent up demand and the feeling that the world might close down again,” Griffin shared. “Personally, I feel like things will regulate themselves again very soon. This spring and summer were all about having the freedom to travel again. Moving forward, I think people will again start to plan ahead, maybe not like they used but will want to ensure that they get what they want from their travel dollars. I am already seeing very limited availability for festive which to me is a very good sign.”

 

Insights and tips from travel expert Mark Wolters of Wolters World

Where to travel this summer if you want to avoid the crowds

Avid traveller Mark Wolters — who has been to 70 countries to date and counting — shares his adventures and honest travel advice on his popular YouTube channel, Wolters World, to 893K subscribers.

The Illinois-based professor, who is on the road five to six months out of the year, caught up with OFFSHORE to share some advice on where travellers can go to beat the crowds in Europe.

“With revenge travel still in full effect, even with all of the airport and airline issues, it is hard to find a tourist destination that is not crowded this summer,” says Wolters, who is on team carry on only. “We have spent the entire summer traveling around Europe and there are a few things we have noticed that may help you get a respite from the tourist hordes.”

Tip #1: Secondary destinations

“First off, main tourist destinations like Paris, London, and the Amalfi Coast in Europe are completely packed, however the secondary destinations have not been as full,” he shares. “Instead of the Amalfi Coast in Italy, go to Puglia and Southern Italy and explore Bari, Matera, Alberobello, and Polignano a Mare.

Tip #2: Heritage towns

“Puglia is a popular summer destination for Italian tourists. In Bari you can see the grandmothers making pasta in the street, visit St. Nicholas’ Basilica, yes that St. Nicholas, and party the night away with the locals. Even though there are still a lot of tourists visiting Puglia in the summer, you will notice significantly more elbow room wandering the UNESCO World Heritage towns of Alberobello with their Trulli homes that look like a colony on Mars and Matera (which is in Basilicata) with their sassi or caves carved out of the rocks, than you will on the Amalfi Coast.”

White and light coloured buildings with terracotta-coloured roofs fill a coastal town. A cathedral towers amongst the buildings and a large boat is at sail in the bay. It is a nearly cloudless day with lots of light reflecting off the trees and the buildings.

Discover Portugal’s nine charming islands of the Azores

Part of Portugal, but roughly 1,400 kilometres west from the capital city of Lisbon, the Azores are one of two archipelagos (the other is Madeira) that are composed of nine volcanic islands, strewn throughout the North Atlantic Ocean. Flores and Corvo can be found in the west; Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial are located in the centre; and Sao Miguel and Santa Maria lie to the east.

Unlike mainland Portugal, the Azores are characterized by a cooler climate, where in the summer months, the average high is 24 degrees. But those slightly milder temperatures, combined with limitless dramatic landscapes, breathtaking beaches, and delicious dishes to explore, make the Azores one of the best parts of Portugal to visit year round.

Getting there

SATA Azores Airlines connects Canadians to the natural beauty of the Portuguese island of São Miguel with five-times weekly non-stop service from Toronto to Ponta Delgada. Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel Island, is the capital and biggest island in the Azores archipelago.

The summer schedule includes twice weekly service from Toronto to Teceira Island. Azores Airlines is the only carrier that will connect Montreal to Terceira with once-weekly non-stop service from June 15 to Sept 14, 2022. Terceira, located in the central group of the archipelago, is home to the Azores’ oldest city, Angra do Heroismo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s steeped in history.

Connections across North America are available with codeshare partner WestJet Airlines and interline partner Porter Airlines.  Convenient connections are available to other Azorean islands, Madeira and mainland Europe; Lisbon, Porto, Paris, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Barcelona, and Cape Verde. Those travelling between North America and Europe can book a stopover in the Azores for up to seven days at no additional charge. The stopover can be booked on the island of São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands, or Terceira. 

For the most current information on restrictions and mandatory procedures for entry into the autonomous region of the Azores visit https://www.azoresairlines.pt/en/mandatory-procedures-for-entry-to-destinations

 

A person swings from a rope above a sunken lake or quarry. The clear pool of water is surrounded by rock walls and climbing roots and vines.

See a new side of the Mexican Caribbean

How to explore like a local on your next trip


Home to some of the best beaches, gastronomy, and culture in the world, the Mexican Caribbean is a popular destination for Canadian travellers. In recent years, a multitude of new tourist attractions and luxury boutique hotels have opened in the region. However, the destination is also home to untapped local experiences, which offer a new side of the Mexican Caribbean for travellers to explore. 

Known for its status as a leading entertainment hub, Cancun’s allure extends to its restaurants, too. The centre of the city is home to the iconic El Parque de Las Palapas, an open-air park just a short walk from Tulum Ave. where diners can taste Mexican and regional dishes, like their famous marquesitas. A few steps away is La Ruta Nader, a street lined with restaurants ranging from Italian to more traditional Mexican food. 

Riviera Maya hosts an endless array of unique experiences for visitors, however select places that are frequented by locals remain off the beaten path. One such local favourite is Xpu-Ha beach, home to Serenity Beach Club. For another beach club experience, the latest trend in Tulum is cenote clubs like Buuts’Ha’ – this space offers food, music, and activities inside some of the region’s most stunning cenotes. 

Cozumel island is bursting with hidden gems, like the Benito Juarez Municipal Market. For over 30 years, this public market has sold fresh produce, regional treats, handmade tortillas and artisan souvenirs. The market is adorned by a large central mural displaying symbols of the island, like endemic wildlife, local garments, important historical figures, and more. Even more murals in Cozumel can be found at Cozumel Sea Walls, by the non-profit PangeaSeed Foundation. This urban ‘artivist’ project is a collection of 36 murals by contemporary artists from 12 countries, each looking to raise awareness of marine preservation through art. 

Visitors can also walk the charming neighbourhood of El Cedral to experience authentic Cozumel island life. Once a worship ground for Mayan gods, today El Cedral is the site of the annual Día de la Santa Cruz festival held each spring, which celebrates the 21 founding families that established Cozumel after the Caste War in 1848. Cool down with a visit to Chempita Cenote, a cave located in Quintana Roo, which is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. 

Art lovers can head to the State Congress in the Quintana Roo capital city of Chetumal for breathtaking murals. Walking along the boardwalk watching the sunset overlooking the Bay of Chetumal while eating a machacado is also a must in the area.