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10 Tropical Summer Paradises

Though we’re finally getting some sunny weather here in Canada, there are still plenty of good reasons to head to the tropics this summer beyond low season bargains. From natural wonders to cultural events and festivities, here are ten top summer draws.

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Cancun's Whale Sharks

Cancun’s Whale Sharks

These amazing sea creatures, neither whales nor sharks, are the world’s biggest fish and can grow to be the size of a school bus. Though typically solitary travellers, they congregate en masse close to Cancun each August to feast on the abundant plankton found there. Snorkelling or diving alongside these awesome creatures can be the thrill of a lifetime, and experienced tour operators like Solo Buceo can ensure you do so safely. Spots to stay include JW Marriott Cancun and CasaMagna Marriott for families and groups, or Secrets Capri Riviera Cancun for those seeking an adult-only all-inclusive.

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Anguilla Summer Festival

Anguilla Summer Festival

From August 3rd to August 10th, the entire island of Anguilla will be aglow with music, road marches, parades, pageants and boat races, all part of their annual Summer Festival. This charming little island is well-loved by celebrities seeking an escape to a laid-back private paradise year-round, so you never know who you might run into at one of their ultra-luxurious resorts, like CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa. For something more budget conscious, Anguilla Great House Beach Resort is an intimate, family-friendly spot.


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Aruba's Hi-Winds Competition

Aruba’s Hi-Winds Competition

Aruba’s constant trade winds make it ideal for windsurfing and kite boarding, and the annual Aruba Hi-Winds Competition shows off the best of the best. This year it takes place July 2nd to July 8th, with the addition of new events like SUP (Stand-Up Paddleboarding) and mountain bike racing. Many resorts participate in Aruba’s One Happy Family summer promotion like the Aruba Marriott, which also provides a ringside seat for the Hi-Winds galas. The Divi Group also offers summer specials, while Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts are adult-only escapes where sea turtles nesting can be spotted each summer.


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Reggae SumFest in Jamaica

Reggae SumFest in Jamaica

Montego Bay (or “MoBay”, as the locals call it) is where thousands gather each summer on beautiful Cornwall Beach for a week-long musical blow-out. Of course, reggae – the musical birthright of this island – is the focus of this fest, but dancehall artists are also featured and international music icons flock to headline. Special SumFest packages are available at Secrets Wild Orchid and Secrets St. James where past visiting VIP performers have stayed, including Niki Minaj, Drake and Ne-Yo. The Reggae Sumfest is celebrating its 21st birthday this year – even more reason to head down for July 21st to 27th!

(Photo: Thinkstock)

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Trinidad's Leatherback Sea Turtles

Trinidad’s Leatherback Sea Turtles

There are two small stretches of sand in Trinidad about 4 hours from Port of Spain – Matura Beach and Grand Riviere – that now attract more nesting leatherback turtles than just about anywhere else in the world. Thanks to efforts by protection groups like Nature Seekers and Turtle Village Trust, these endangered creatures are now returning in droves from May through June. There are a few small eco-resorts for extended turtle-spotting stays in the region, or you can stay in the city at full-service upscale hotels like Hyatt Regency Trinidad and have them arrange guided outings for you.

(Photo: Susan Campbell)

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Barbados' Crop Over Summer Festival

Barbados’ Crop Over Summer Festival

Barbados is once one of the world’s largest suppliers of sugar, so historically, a celebration that marked the end of the sugarcane harvest was held. Today, the Crop Over Summer Festival has become the island’s most jubilant party with parades, bands, colourful costumes and events that attract thousands, running from July 1st to August 5th this year. Visitors can also “Jump-In” to the Grand Parade through Divi Southwinds Beach Resort‘s “party package”, which includes costumes, transportation, food, drink, and a private tent.


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Curacao's North Sea Jazz Festival

Curacao’s North Sea Jazz Festival

Going into its fourth year, Curacao‘s two-day North Sea Jazz Festival is an annual summer event that’s not to be missed. Running August 30th and 31st, the week leading up to it also showcases top local talent with smaller concerts happening throughout the island. Last year, headliners included megawatt stars like Alicia Keyes, while this year’s fest will see Diana Ross, Usher, and Marc Anthony joining a stellar line-up of jazz, soul, hip-hop and R&B entertainers. For families and groups, Sunscape Curacao‘s all-inclusive resort has a great beach and its own house reef, while for intimate luxury boutique-seekers, Sandton Kura Hulanda is the perfect choice.

(Photo: Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival)

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The Abacos' Five Town Regatta

The Abacos’ Five Town Regatta

It’s a sailor’s life for all during the ten days of regatta fun in The Bahamas‘ Abacos Islands. Parties abound on land and at sea while competitors race island-to-island from July 3rd to July 11th, coinciding with Bahamian Independence celebrations. Going into its 38th year, this festive maritime gala attracts visitors from all over the world to the region dubbed “The Sailing Capital of the World.” Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina in the main town is a popular central hub for sailors and non-sailors alike.

(Photo: Abaco Beach Resort)

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Whale-Spotting in Dominica

Whale-Spotting in Dominica

Dominica, called the “Nature Isle of the Caribbean”, is indeed an eco-trekkers dream and the only place where sperm whales reside all year-round. And with loads of local whale watching operators, you’ll have no trouble finding them. The summer Dive Festival, which takes place from July 5th to 14th, is another great way to explore the island’s abundant underwater treasures. You won’t find any big chain resorts on Dominica, but small boutique and eco-friendly accommodations like Rosalie Bay Resort are set up to host in style. If that’s not enough to convince you, their black sand beach attracts three kinds of sea turtles – leatherbacks, green, and hawksbill – to nest in the summer months.

(Photo: Rosalie Bay Resort)

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Carnival in St. Lucia

Carnival in St. Lucia

Though many Caribbean islands celebrate Carnival around Easter, St. Lucia has been holding theirs in the summer for the past decade. Colourful parades and jubilant partying attract visitors to the St. Lucian Carnival on this lush island famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the “Pitons”. Events kick off at the end of May and run right through to final parades in July. Visitors can take advantage of carnival specials at resorts on the island. Bay Gardens Resort is a top choice for families or large groups, while boutique hotel Cap Maison makes for an intimate, luxe cliff-side spot. Couples-only? All-inclusive Rendezvous is an ideal adult-exclusive choice.