Video Of The Day: Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

I was recently researching Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. I instantly became charmed by the island and obsessed with the idea of visiting it as soon as possible. But it’s difficult to find footage online featuring the tiny island. Situated 43 miles east of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, the island only encompasses 1.1 square miles. The island’s highest point is only 125 feet. Little Corn Island is a beautiful little dot on the map, populated largely by English-speaking Creole people. This video captures the island so far the best of any I’ve seen, and I have a feeling it still hardly does it justice.

Nicaragua's San Cristobal Volcano Spews Heavy Ash Cloud

Good Winter Travel Season Deals Still Available

Winter Travel Season

Before, during or after winter travel season, the nation’s regions offering ski adventure travel options have something for everyone. The idea of climbing, hiking, camping or trekking through diverse areas had many travelers planning a 2013 winter vacation about this time last year. But those with no plans have options too.

“Put in now for end-of-January trips, but don’t expect deals around Presidents’ Day weekend,” says travel expert Pauline Frommer in a Reuters article.

President’s Day, like many other holidays, is a popular time for leisure travel and a peak booking of snow and cold-related adventures. The best hotel and resort rooms and money-saving packages, offered far in advance to jump-start bookings, are gone. Other discounted promotions will be few but some suggested sources can help.

“Check ski package deals from Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines,” says Frommer. “They both offer good lift ticket and lodging deals – especially if you’re willing to go mid-week instead of weekend.”

Looking to go away from the snow and cold? Land-based resorts, some all-inclusive, are a possible choice along with cruise vacations where unpacking once, we see several destinations on our floating hotel. The winter season brings cruise ships from Europe and around the world to luxuriate in the Caribbean sun. Still, the Caribbean is not the only warm place open for business over the next few months.

“I’ve found some of the best values to be in Central America,” suggests Frommer. “There are fairly decent air fares there. They’ve risen less than other parts of the world. Guatemala and Belize have some good hotel deals and there are some great adventures to be had there.”

Want to find specific ski adventure locations? This video may help:


Photo Of The Day: Puerto Rico Vista

puerto rico vista

This beautiful Puerto Rico vista, snapped by Flickr user trishhartmann, was taken in Guzmán Arriba, Río Grande, toward the eastern end of the Commonwealth territory.

With temperatures dipping and daylight at a premium in the north temperate zone, this image is a reminder of the near-magical appeal of the Caribbean, and the tropics in general over the winter. If you don’t sort of want to jump into this canopy of green now, you surely will by February.

Upload photos of your favorite vistas and vantage points to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. We choose our favorites from the group pool to be Photos of the Day.

[Image: Flickr | trishhartmann]

No Hassle Flying Act To Save Time, Safely, For Some

hassleCutting down on the hassle of flying internationally, the No-Hassle Flying Act of 2012 aims to eliminate excessive security screening of connecting baggage at U.S. airports. Currently, checked baggage on all inbound international flights has to be re-screened before being transferred to connecting U.S. flights. To help with holiday travel, congress has a plan.

“As thousands of Americans travel internationally this holiday season, too many will have to deal with the hassle of rescreening their luggage,” said Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in an ABC News Report. “Requiring luggage to undergo the exact same screening process twice in one trip puts a burden on both our international aviation security system and travelers.”

The No-Hassle Flying Act of 2012 is not a one-size-fits-all move. If signed into law, TSA officials would have the ability to waive re-screening of luggage coming off some international flights, using their discretion.Baggage from some international airports undergoes the same high-level screening procedures used at U.S. airports. Right now, U.S. Customs and Border Protection performs U.S. border inspection and clearance of commercial air passengers at 14 airports in Canada, the Caribbean and Ireland. Baggage that has passed through the security system at those airports would not be required to have an additional screening before being transferred to connecting U.S. flights.

Not happy yet? Either is Dan Dicks of Press For Truth who went to the Buffalo International airport in an attempt to help raise awareness about what he believes are intrusive and invasive TSA procedures, as we see in this video:




[Photo Credit- Flickr user Inha Leex Hale]

Around Cuba’s Bay Of Pigs In A 1929 Ford Model T Convertible

Let’s play a quick word association game. I say “Bay of Pigs,” you tell me what comes to mind.

Fidel Castro? Communism? Failed CIA missions?

When I think of the Bay of Pigs, I think of crystal clear water stretching out as far as the eye can see. I think of black sand beaches and snorkel rentals. I think of a beautifully restored 1929 Ford Model T convertible, driven by a young man in a woven straw hat.

When my boyfriend and I traveled to Cuba last summer, we had few plans apart from exploring the cobblestoned streets of Havana. But after a few days in the capital, we felt the urge to escape. I wanted more culture and history; my boyfriend wanted nature and the beach.

We compromised with a trip to the Bahia de Cochinos on the southern coast of Cuba, better known to Americans as the Bay of Pigs. Guidebooks promised great snorkeling and scuba diving; I was more intrigued by the bay’s storied past.

%Gallery-172730%The Bay of Pigs leapt to notoriety after an unsuccessful American CIA mission to invade Cuba in April 1961. Upon landing, the U.S.-trained troops were handily defeated by Fidel Castro’s forces in a matter of days. It was a turning point in the Cold War, proving the fallibility of the United States while reinforcing the strength of the Castro’s Communist regime.

Today, it’s hard to imagine the Bay of Pigs embroiled in anything but epic mosquito swarms. The bay holds the swampy Parque Nacional Ciénaga de Zapata to the west, the black sand Playa Larga in the center and the rocky Playa Giron to the east. We arrived via taxi from nearby Cienfuegos and stayed at the Casa Enrique Rivas Fente in Playa Larga, one of a handful of privately owned casas particulares that dot the sandy strip. The rooms were basic but clean, and meal offerings included fresh grilled lobster and squid. Since we arrived on a Saturday night, we were welcomed by a private chanteur, who played Cuban music for a troupe of Ukrainian salsa dancers staying at the casa next door.

Between mojitos, we asked our host for the best way to explore the peninsula. We had in mind bicycles, or perhaps a CUC$2 motorbike ride from stop to stop. Instead, our host recommended a taxi service run by her son. “This is the best way,” she assured us, a hint of mischief in her eye. We balked at the CUC$35 fee, but given the remote nature of the guesthouse and region, we had little choice.

The next morning, we arose to breakfast and the sight of a perfectly preserved 1929 Ford Model T convertible parked in the driveway. This would be our ride for the day, our host informed us. Budget concerns aside, it was difficult to protest.

We hit the road, bound for the Cueva de los Peces, an inland freshwater swimming hole formed from a flooded cave. The water is refreshing but deep, stretching 230 feet into the ground. Nearby is a stand where you can rent scuba and snorkeling gear, and across the road is a rocky bluff looking out onto pristine white-sand snorkeling ground. Beach chairs are available for hire, but the real draw is the water, with its clear visibility, bright coral and sprightly tropical fish. Our driver staked out a spot by the snorkel stand and traded car tips with his friends while we enjoyed the sea.

After working up an appetite from the ocean air, we continued to Punta de Perdiz, a popular spot on Playa Giron with an on-site restaurant and cabanas. A serving of arroz con pollo and a Cristal beer hit the spot. The cabanas at Punta de Perdiz were slightly more conducive to lounging and reading, so we alternated baking in the sun with more dips in the water.

At one point, I staked out a spot on a bluff and looked out onto the sea. I tried to imagine undercover sea craft entering the bay and helicopters dropping paratroopers into the jungle. I thought about America’s contentious relationship with Cuba, about the outdated judgments many still hold toward Cuba and about our trip thus far. There’s a widespread belief that once foreigners are freely able to visit and invest in Cuba, the island will become a wasteland of gringo tourists and McDonald’s. With travel restrictions continuing to loosen, it will require a serious commitment to sustainable tourism and development to ensure that Cuba can benefit from increased development, without losing what makes it so special.

A few hours later, we hopped into the Model T and headed back to reality, impressions of the bay forever changed.

[Photo Credit: Jessica Marati]