Cayman Islands launches solar-powered electric rental cars

solar powered electric carThe Cayman Islands are taking steps to preserve their fragile island ecosystem by launching a fleet of eco-friendly, electric Wheego rental vehicles and installing solar panel charging stations for electric vehicles throughout Grand Cayman.

The new stations, produced by U-Go, generate electricity using pollution-free solar cells, reducing carbon emissions to zero. Over the next year, 12 stations will be installed throughout Grand Cayman, the first in Governor’s Square. The initiative is part of a move toward nationwide Green Globe certification, an industry certification program for sustainable tourism. Members of the Green Globe alliance are recognized for saving energy and water resources, reducing operational costs and contributing positively to their environment and communities.

“We are thrilled to be able to introduce this technology to the Cayman Islands in an effort to further preserve our treasured ecosystem,” said Hon. McKeeva Bush, Premier of the Cayman Islands, in a release. “Our natural environment, including the Mastic Trail, the Blue Iguanas, and our pristine waters, is a source of national pride, which we plan to maintain for years to come. This development is crucial to our success.”

The Coconut Phone: A quirky luxury in Grand Cayman

grand cayman Have you ever been on vacation, laying under a palm tree on a white sandy beach with turquoise waters glistening beneath the sun, and thought about how a tropical cocktail would complement the moment perfectly? For those staying at the Ritz Carlton: Grand Cayman, there’s no need to remove yourself from your comfortable paradise as the hotel offers an amenity that will allow you to order drinks, lunch, and whole lot more right from your lounge chair on Seven Mile Beach: The Coconut Phone.

The Coconut Phone is a complimentary service for guests that allows them to type in and click exactly what they want to eat or drink and have it delivered right to their lounge chair. This sweet piece of technology also relieves the burden of having to bring a smartphone, laptop, or tablet to the beach, as the Coconut Phone is internet-capable and can be used to browse hotel services to make reservations for things like golf outings, the spa, and restaurants. And, since it is iPod Touch equipped, you can also enjoy listening to over 1,000 songs that are already stored on the device, which comes with a waterproof armband. Now, there’s no need to worry about ruining your gadgets at the beach.

For more information, visit the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman website.

Gadling’s favorite destinations for 2011

gadling favorite destinations 2011

We travel a lot, to destinations both well-known and unfamiliar. In our defense, it is our job to travel like mad, to explore the world and then write about our discoveries.

Though most travel writers find something or other of interest in most places we visit, there are always those personal favorites that rise above the rest. This year, we decided to scribble our favorites down for you. Some of these spots we’re tipping for greater coverage in 2011, while others are simply tried-and-true favorites that we can’t stop raving about to our friends and the various publications that allow us to write for them. Over the course of this week, we’ll weigh in on our favorite hotels, airlines, gadgets, apps, and websites.

So, without further ado: Gadling’s favorite destinations for 2011.

Mike Barish. St. Kitts. I genuinely enjoy how locals and visitors frequent the same beach bars and restaurants. During evenings on the strip, I’d recognize staff members from my hotel doing the same thing I was doing: enjoying the ocean breeze with a cocktail and some jerk chicken.

Kraig Becker. Everest Base Camp, Nepal. For adventure travelers, a visit to Everest Base Camp is one of the best treks in the world. The 12-day hike isn’t just about the destination, however, as you walk in the shadow of the Himalaya each day, passing through sleepy mountain villages steeped in Sherpa culture along the way. The scenery, and altitude, is a breathtaking once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Catherine Bodry: Ko Chang, Thailand and Sayulita, Mexico.

Joel Bullock: My favorite new roller coaster of 2010 is Carowinds’ Intimidator. Carowinds is located on the border of North and South Carolina in Charlotte in the heart of NASCAR country. It was only fitting that the park design a racing-themed roller coaster that bears the nickname of racing legend Dale Earnhadt. Intimidator is an exciting ride. It’s the tallest, fastest, and longest roller coaster in the South East.

David Downie: As a general trend, I revisit places that have fallen off the tourist maps, or that have been taken for granted, and delve deeper into favorite destinations such as Paris and Rome, which are infinitely rich and fascinating and satisfying. Cities: Paris (art, culture, walks, museums, food, wine), Rome (art, culture, walks, museums, food, wine), Genoa (food, wine, scenic beauty, history, magically restored architecture), Bologna (food, food, food and atmosphere and architecture), Helsinki (scenic beauty, atmosphere, seafood). Countryside destinations: Burgundy (wine, food, vineyard and mountain scenery), Massif Central (hikes, scenery), Drome-Provencal (ditto, plus truffles and wine), Tuscany (art, culture, museums, wine, food, vineyard and mountain scenery), Italian Riviera (ditto).

Don George. (1) Peru‘s Sacred Valley. I finally made it there this year and was enchanted by scenery, history, culture, people, cuisine. Machu Picchu is of course life-transformingly amazing but the other untouted ruins all around the valley are equally amazing. (2) Kyoto, Japan. The cobbled back quarters of this ancient city are as enchanting now as they were when I first visited 30 years ago. Tiny temples, impromptu shakuhachi concerts, apprentice geisha in full splendor. (3) Aitutaki, Cook Islands. Incredible island scenery, hospitable people, stunning lagoon, peaceful and laid-back lifestyle, thriving dance, carving, and textile arts scene.

Tom Johansmeyer. If you’re a cigar smoker, nothing beats Esteli, Nicaragua. On just about any budget, you can spend a few days down there. Make a few calls in advance, and you’ll have the opportunity to tour tobacco fields and cigar factories. Even if you aren’t a smoker, it’s amazing to see such craftsmanship in action.

Jeremy Kressmann. Hanoi, Vietnam for its great history and architecture, awesome cuisine, and intriguing Cold War sights. Secondly, Laos. The rugged north of the country has great hikes and the buzzing cultural capital of Luang Prabang is totally worthwhile.

Grant Martin. Bogotá. Forget what you’ve heard about kidnappings, drugs and danger, Bogotá is the new cosmopolitan capital of South America. With quaint, brick streets, a buzzing commercial district and a hip, young population, there’s not much to dislike about this place. Get there before the rest of North America figures it out.

Melanie Nayer. Shanghai. The city of old and new hit a turning point when it hosted the World Expo, and set the stage for Shanghai to become one of the most talked about–and visited–cities in the world.

Sean McLachlan. Ethiopia. Friendly people, rugged scenery, historic sites, and great coffee. What more could you want? Beautiful women, good food, adventure travel? Ethiopia has all that too.

Laurel Miller. Ecuador, especially Cotopaxi National Park (see above), because it’s stunningly beautiful, uncrowded, and there are loads of outdoor recreational opportunities. Ecuador is an amazingly diverse country, kind of like a mini-Peru but with very low-key tourism. There’s also great whitewater rafting/kayaking and mountaineering, fascinating indigenous culture, beautiful colonial cities, delicious regional foods, and the people are wonderful. There’s so much more to Ecuador than just the (admittedly spectacular) Galapagos.

Meg Nesterov. Bulgaria is cheap, creative, and easy to explore. Several of my most well-traveled friends already rave about it. Go now before tourism overexposes the country.

Heather Poole. Positano, Italy. It’s just so beautiful and the food is amazing. I’m a flight attendant and I have a four year-old son, as well as a husband who travels over 100,000 miles a year for business. Our life is like a game of tag. So when it comes to vacations all we want to do is relax. I love to be able to sit on a balcony and let the vacation come to me.

McLean Robbins. Telluride. It’s not new, but as ski towns go it feels non-commercial and relatively untouched. You’ll find truly friendly people (and your fair share of under-the-radar celebrities), but also the country’s best extreme skiing. And it looks like heaven when it snows!

Annie Scott. I’m big on Vienna. It’s a magical city that embodies everything I think of when I think of Europe: culture, history, cathedrals and class. I think the Swiss Riviera may be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Lake Geneva looks so pristine you could drink it, and the French influence gives everything from the dining to the shopping that elusive je ne sais quoi. Lastly, I had a marvelous trip this year in Zambia where the wildlife was rampant and the scenery was enchanting and unexpectedly dynamic: sweeping plains, dreamlike riverscapes and incredible trees. The thrill of being immersed in the bush is hard to match.

Alex Robertson Textor. Lima, Peru continues to pop. While the Inca Trail is old hat, Lima is emerging as a major destination on its own. Perhaps most notable is the Peruvian capital’s excellent restaurant scene, which is as disarmingly inexpensive as it is top-notch. I also have to mention green, rustic, jaw-droppingly beautiful Dominica as the Caribbean’s top adventure destination. Dominica has a number of fantastic eco-lodges that showcase the island’s natural beauty wonderfully and are priced reasonably.

Karen Walrond. As a diver, I love Cayman. Love it. Very touristy, but the diving is beyond anything I’ve seen, and i’ve been diving all over the world. And I’m partial to Grand Riviere in my homeland of Trinidad, which isn’t touristy at all. Between April and June, you can see Giant Leatherback turtles nesting in Grand Riviere.

[Image: Flickr | alepheli]

Five idyllic Caribbean backwaters

Beyond the Caribbean’s all-inclusive resorts, casinos, overpriced restaurants, and huge crowds are a handful of islands that have escaped mass development. These quiet islands, with their tiny populations and scattered tourist facilities, are not headed for mass-tourism overdevelopment anytime soon, and for a range of reasons-in some cases, the absence of an adequate expanse for a large runway; in others, proximity to more developed islands, or local governmental resistance, or even a decently profitable traditional economy that generates more money than tourism. For whatever reason, these backwaters should remain charming and relatively quiet for some time to come. Let your castaway fantasy flag fly.

1. Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Geographically and geologically apart from the rest of the Virgin Islands, Anegada is a limestone-based island with enormous stretches of perfect white-sand beaches. It’s hard to top Anegada’s Loblolly Bay or Cow Wreck beaches for their achievement of ideal beach status. There may be things to do on the island above and beyond lazing on the beach in a rum haze, but you’ll surely never need to discover them. Think Anguilla without the crowds (let alone the celebrities) and you’ve got a good sense of the island. Anegada can be reached by ferry from Tortola or charter plane.

2. Barbuda, Antigua & Barbuda.

Barbuda boasts some of the Caribbean’s best and least-trafficked beaches, a noteworthy frigate bird preserve, a fascinating cave complex, and Lighthouse Bay, one of the Caribbean’s most thrillingly perfect resorts. That the island hasn’t been developed to pieces seems a miracle when one contemplates how many Caribbean islands with less remarkable beaches manage to be vastly more developed. Barbuda can be reached by air and ferry from Antigua-or, if you’re lucky enough to be a guest of Lighthouse Bay, by helicopter.
3. Little Cayman, Cayman Islands.

A far cry from Grand Cayman and its densely-packed Seven Mile Beach district, Little Cayman boasts utter and complete quiet. With fewer than 200 residents, it is a backwater by any standard. Most visitors come to dive or check out the island’s interior nature preserve. The island’s beaches are not the region’s best, although locals will help direct visitors to good swimming and sunning spots. Little Cayman can be reached by air from Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac.

4. Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe.

Mass tourism has never taken off on rum-producing Marie-Galante, a quick flight (or turbulent catamaran ride) from Pointe-à-Pitre. There are a handful of hotels on the island, though it is Marie-Galante’s friendly gîtes, operated by local residents, that really stand out. Activities include countryside exploration, rum distillery visits, and of course the island’s truly extraordinary beaches (see above.) The only downside of this relaxed rural idyll is the formidable mosquito population. Be prepared.

5. Mayreau, St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

Tiny Mayreau is situated halfway down the Grenadines archipelago. The island boasts an extraordinary stretch of beach and a hilltop stone church with phenomenal views. Accommodations are restricted to one upscale resort and a cluster of simple locally-run guest houses. There is no airstrip on Mayreau. The island can be reached by ferry, water taxi, or private boat.

(Image: Flickr/origine1)

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Get warm with a free trip to the Cayman Islands

It’s been a doozy of a winter so far, and there are no signs that the temps are suddenly going to increase. You’ve got a long few months to go before you get warm again….unless you happen to win the Cayman Island’s new contest. The lucky winner will receive a trip for four, including air and hotel, to the tropical Cayman Islands.

The winner and friends will stay at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach, and will receive a free boat and snorkel trip to Stingray City, where they’ll swim with massive stingrays.

To enter, you’ll need to upload your best photo that shows one of your coldest winter moments. Upload it by March 1 and encourage all your friends to vote for you. The ten entries with the most votes will move on to the final judging, and a winner will be announced by March 10. You must be 18 or older and a resident of the US to enter and travel must take place by December 31, 2011.

Of course, for many people, the worst of winter will be over by March 10. So maybe the contest won’t help you escape the cold right away, at least not in the most literal sense. But maybe the thought of a Cayman Islands vacation – especially a free one – will warm your heart just a bit.