Spain – Madrid, Barcelona and Ibiza

Spain is the land of romance and amazing oddities. From bullfights to Gaudi to partying the night away on Ibiza, travelers could easily spend a year exploring Spain.MadridWith a population of over three million, Madrid is a big, modern city in central Spain. The suburbs of Madrid are very modern and not particularly interesting. Make it to the center of the city, however, and you are in for a treat. Small alleys, hidden squares and odd little shops are the norm. In this center, you will find a vibrant public life with outdoor cafes literally overrun with the passionate and interesting people of Madrid. When visiting the city, keep in mind it is very hot in the summer and pretty cold in the winter.BarcelonaOne of my favorite travel destinations, Barcelona is a costal city oozing charm. The city embodies all of the interesting little oddities of Spain with ancient streets where the local hobby is people watching. The city is also the home of best Gaudi architecture in Spain. Gaudi was either a genius or a madman, but there is no denying his architecture is unique. I would describe it as a mix between dripping candles and normal architecture. The big tourist attraction, of course, is the Sagrada Familia church, but better examples can be seen by just walking through neighborhoods. Yep, his work is throughout the city. The only downside to Barcelona is a trend of modernization. While modernization is generally okay, I think it is taking a bit away from the historic charm of Barcelona.IbizaIf you’re looking to sit on the beach all day and party the night away, Ibiza is the hottest spot in Europe. An island off the coast of Spain, Ibiza is the rare tourist spot where monstrous tourist hotels don’t dominate. Instead, you’ll find yourself staying in rented rooms, little hotels and hostels in Ibiza Town. During the days, it’s all about enjoying the beaches. At night, the bars and clubs of the island are world famous and they never really seem to close. Bring plenty of aspirin!If you’re going to visit Spain, you can’t really go wrong. If time is short, Madrid, Barcelona and Ibiza are three spots worth seeing.

North Spain – Santander, Zargoza and Vigo

Madrid and the attractions of southern Spain tend to get all of the attention. In the northern part of the country, Santander, Zargoza and Vigo are hidden gems.SantanderLocated on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Santander is a city going about its business. Squeezed between mountains and the harbor, the city is narrow and long. The central city consists of basic amenities you would expect to see in any city, but its charm lies in the atmosphere. Turn of the century buildings are everywhere and there is a certain charming chaos to the design and layout. Search for some pictures and you’ll see what I mean. If you need a beach day, head to the El Sardinero section of the town to roast in the sun. As with all Spanish cities, Santander has a hopping nightlife scene.ZaragozaZaragoza is a city that seems to have a split personality. Located in the Northeast of Spain, the city is clearly in Spain but has an Italian feel. This is due to the fact that Roman emperors took a liking to the strategic location of the city and built like madmen. You can find ancient Roman structures similar to those in Rome. If you’re debating whether to go to Spain or Italy, a visit to Zaragoza may be your answer.VigoAnd now for something completely different… Vigo is a city located in the far northeast of Spain, just above Portugal and is fairly remote. The city sits on the Atlantic Ocean and offers the usual beach options. A mix of modern concrete structures and historic Spanish architecture, this is one of the less hectic cities in Spain. The real attraction, however, is hiking. Outside of the city, you have an opportunity to hike to vistas overlooking the Atlantic Ocean that offer amazing views. If you’ve got time to burn in Spain, Vigo is worth a visit.Northern Spain is definitely unique when compared to the southern attractions. Less of a tourist mecca and madhouse, it is definitely worth a visit if you have the time.

Montclair, New Jersey Due West of Manhattan

A visit to Montclair, New Jersey reveals a township that appears to have more in common with New York City than do most other communities in the area. Situated only 12 miles due west of Manhattan, Montclair possesses the heart and rhythm of the Big Apple minus the tall buildings, crowds, and pollution. Let’s take a look at what makes Montclair a truly unique New Jersey community.With nearly 40,000 residents within its eight square miles, the township vibrates with activity from top to bottom. Picturesque parks dot the town and they are home to some of the finest events, particularly in warm weather months. Residents and visitors to Montclair look forward to attending popular annual celebrations including: May in Montclair – a month long celebration of the arts; the Presby Memorial Iris Garden – containing thousands of iris plants including some that are unique to the park; Art in the Park; and First Night Montclair. Countless other events sponsored by local organizations including those held by the Woman’s Club, the Montclair Art Museum, the Montclair Historical Society, churches, and retail establishments add to Montclair’s universal appeal.If you are a connoisseur of fine food, Montclair will not disappoint you. On Bellevue Avenue you can find Il Forno, an Italian bakery; the Sushi Hana Japanese Restaurant on North Fullerton; the upscale Twenty Eight Restaurant on Church Street; and numerous bakeries, bagel shops, diners, and sit down restaurants scattered throughout the township.Montclair is home to several civic organizations as well as houses of worship including Montclair Community Church on Watchung Avenue which recently dedicated their new sanctuary.Favorite shops in town include bookstores, clothing emporiums, second hand stores, ethnic boutiques, and much more. Nightclubs including Rascals can be found on Bloomfield Avenue; the 12 Miles West Theatre Company and Luna Stage are two of the more notable performing arts groups that call Montclair their home.Truly, Montclair has something for everyone and easy accessibility makes the township a worthy alternative to a day spent in Manhattan.

Old Spanish Charm – Valencia, Granada and Seville

Much of Spain has undergone a modernization effort. Fortunately, cities such as Valencia, Granada and Seville retain much of their old world charm.ValenciaSimilar to Barcelona in some ways, Valencia is another must visit city in Spain. Located on the coast of the Mediterranean, the city has retained its old world charm without the modernization mistakes made in Barcelona. The old historic quarter is amazing because much of the architecture reflects Arabic influences arising from the rule of invading forces. Palaces are refurbished and streets tend to be strictly of the cobble stone variety.Perhaps the best way to take in the atmosphere is to grab a seat at an outdoor café, order tapas and just relax. For a big city, Valencia has a pretty nice collection of beaches, so don’t hesitate to grab some rays.GranadaFor many travelers, Granada is the best city in Spain. The prime attraction is the Alhambra, a combination of fortress and palace built and used by the Moorish rulers who controlled Spain. The Alhambra simply has to be seen to be believed. The structure is in excellent shape and is detailed with intricate Moorish architecture and style. The internal structure is one of the most beautiful in the world. In addition to the palace, Granada gives off the air of a “real” Spanish city with cobblestone streets, bullfighting arenas and winding streets. Granada is a good place to just get out and walk.SevilleIf you want to see real Spanish bullfighting, Seville is the place. Whatever your feelings about the sport, the bullfighting ring of Plaza de la Real Maestranza is the finest in Spain and worth a visit. The bullfighting sessions are intense, but you should still visit the structure if you aren’t interested in the actual event.If you want nothing to do with bullfighting, you should still visit Seville to see the Alcazar Gardens. I once got lost in Seville and stumbled upon them. They are extremely green and beautiful with waterways, flowers and foliage everywhere. You can easily spend a relaxing afternoon putting around Alcazar and enjoying gardens that rival any others in Europe in my opinion. The Plaza de Espana is also worth a visit.Spain often has problems mixing the old with the new in city planning. If you prefer the older atmosphere, Valencia, Granada and Seville are good destinations.

France – Bordeaux and St. Tropez

France and Paris, Paris and France. You’ll have a great time exploring Paris, but you’ll miss places like Bordeaux and St. Tropez if you don’t get out of the city.BordeauxBordeaux is both a city and the center of the wine region in France. As a city, Bordeaux is surprisingly bereft of things to see. One can find unique statutes, fountains and the like, but there isn’t really a particular location to mark of on your, “I saw that” list. The city is, however, a good place to relax, drink and eat. For relaxation, you can put around this low key town and take in food at the outdoor cafes in the Place de la Comedie. The specialty food of the region are canellas, which are very good. If you’re with the wine and cheese crowd, Bordeaux is going to seem much more exciting. The surrounding region produces wine by the mega cask loads and you can visit locations such as Chateau Mouton-Rothschild to smell and taste the grapes. Moderation is suggested as you want to avoid the grapes of wrath the next morning!St. TropezSt. Tropez has gone through roughly three stages in its history. Originally, the town was a little fishing village no different than others dotting the coast of France. At some point, however, it became the place to be for artist who had given up on Paris. No less than the painters Matisse, Signac and Seurat lived and worked in the town. Fortunately or unfortunately, those times have passed. While artist still populate the town, St. Tropez is now the hangout of celebrities and the wealthy. While still a beautiful location, the over the top glitz of St. Tropez is a bit much.Once you get out of Paris, your options are wide open when it comes to exploring France. Bordeaux is definitely worth a visit while St. Tropez tends to be a take it or leave it destination. I left it.

Austria Off The Beaten Path – Zell Am See, Innsbruck and Bad Gastein

Mention Austria and everyone thinks of Vienna and Salzburg. In addition to great names, Zell am See, Innsbruck and Bad Gastein are great locations off the beaten path.Zell am SeeZell…am…See. The name just rolls off the tongue, but it pails in comparison to the place. Often described as heaven on earth, Zell am See is a dream location in the mountains of Austria. With towering mountains on one side and a lake on the other, the town looks like something out of a postcard. If you pull up photographs of the town, you’ll swear they have been touched up with a software program. This town is simply that beautiful. In the winter, Zell am See is all about skiing with numerous resorts for glacier skiing. In the summer, one can lounge on a boat on the lake or hit the mountains for hiking, camping and rock climbing. The Krimml Waterfalls are extremely impressive. Zell am See isn’t the cheapest of travel destinations, but it should top the list if money isn’t a concern. The best month to go is December when skiing is good and winter festivals occur in the town.InnsbruckBuilt on the Inn River, Innsbruck was the home to the 1976 Winter Olympics. And for good reason. As with much of Austria, the town is picturesquely set against mountains and ripe with street cafes and surrounding areas that look like something out of the movie Heidi. As the Olympic designation would suggest, the town is a good launching point for hitting the slopes, but there is much more to it. The historic district has the cobblestone atmosphere you’ve come to expect from town in the Alps. In addition to atmosphere, you can visit historic locations such as the tomb of Emperor Maximilian 1.My only gripe with Innsbruck is the boring, modern developments around the core of the town that were brought on by the Olympics. They sort of kill the mood, which brings us to Bad Gastein.Bad GasteinBad Gastein definitely gets a nomination for name of the year. It just sounds like a town where bikers would hang out. Admittedly, it is hard to image Austrian Hells Angels, but you get my drift.Bad Gastein is an old Austrian village without the droll modern fixtures of Innsbruck. Built overlooking a valley, the town has some incredible views. Historically, Bad Gastein is the spa town of Austria with emperors and other VIPs taking in treatment. For atmosphere, the town feels like it hasn’t changed since the 19th century. If you’re looking for old world Austria, this is the place. Make sure to hurry though as the town is supposedly grabbing the attention of developers who are thinking hotels and casinos are a must.If you visit Austria, Vienna and Salzburg are definite destinations. Just make sure you get out to the incredible towns in the mountains.

Family Reunion Tradition Boosts Travel Industry

Family reunions have been a rapidly growing tradition since 1999 and is now accelerating at an enormous pace as technology and travel combine with family interest and genealogy making finding, communicating and meeting family members a fun and exciting pastime.Family reunion planning has become a virtual industry in itself. Family reunion planners like wedding planners are opening up shop on and offliine. These planners are offering more creative ideas to enrich the event. Many families now meet at the nations capital to follow time lines of history, tell stories of family legends and memorialize family surnames.Others want to combine the family gathering with an opportunity to relax and rejuvinate. One family reunion planner remarks. “There is too much work to do planning a family reunion at home! Between cooking and cleaning up the mess you have to plan and supervise activities. Not to mention worrying about a relative driving to their hotel after drinking too much.” That said many have opted to send the family off to an exotic site where all needs are catered to by hospitality staff. “With a Family Reunion Cruise, there is no preparation shopping, no cooking, and no cleaning,” said one family reunion planning committee member.Royal Caribbean International is introducing a new program, Royal Reunions, designed to enhance family and group gatherings. Organized group activities are run by the ship’s cruise staff. Group members compete against each other in reunion themed games.Still family reunion planners have the challenge of making the affair a meaningful enriching experience that draws the family closer. One site, Fimark’s Family Genealogy And Reunions, located at http://family-reunion-planner.fimark.net notes “family reunions are becoming the big event far surpassing Holiday celebrations and July 4th picnics. To that end we see the need to develop products that help them plan and organize local and remote gatherings in ways that draw the family line closer together.”Travel agencies have seen the need to do the same as multigenerational family travel and reunion-type family travel increased from 20 percent in 2000 to 34 percent just one year later.A survey of 400 ASTA and Vacation.com members found that 67 percent reported booking travel accommodations for family reunions within the year since Sept 11 2001, while 64.5 percent reported an increase in requests to book family reunion trips over the past five years. Noticing an increase in family travel, Sonesta launched the “Our Family Invites Your Family” package.From the foregoing the travel industry sees that family oriented packages with traditional family reunion themes offers lucrative returns.

Vamos a La Playa, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh

In 1655 England seized Jamaica from Spain- it would appear that now, some 350 years later, the Spanish are back en force. Over the last couple of years the Spanish tour operators and hotel companies have been grabbing headlines with large-scale projects all over the island. And they’ve been welcomed with open arms. Despite Jamaica’s strong position with U.S. and Canadian travelers, Europe has been less consistent in recent decades. Spain has made a major commitment to the island and there’s hope that this will lead to the reopening of other European markets.Jamaica has benefited from positive trends within the travel industry that have in-effect anointed the Caribbean a “safe haven” in an otherwise troubled world. In addition, Jamaica’s infrastructure including its major airports and new highways, that have improved access to remote parts of the island, have encouraged investment. To keep up the momentum, the Jamaican Tourist Board launched a new ad campaign with the tagline, “Once You Go, You Know”, focusing on the extraordinary diversity, culture and charms of the island – and designed to maintain that growth of the tourism industry.Jamaica’s tourism officials estimate that overseas investment will add more than 5,000 rooms to the island’s inventory by 2007. In 2004, Spain’s RIU group opened more than 800 rooms between two properties in Negril, and they have plans for a further 850 in Ocho Rios in 2005. Sandals Whitehouse on the south coast, with 80 suites among its 360 rooms, welcomed its first guests in February. The Sunset Resort Group will launch Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort (formerly Renaissance Jamaica Grande) with 720 rooms, while Negril Cabins is open under the new name Sunset at the Palms Resort & Spa. Country Country in Negril, acquired by the owners of the Coyaba Resort, adds six rooms to the existing 14 this winter with another 50 expected by 2006; while a new SuperClubs hotel, Rooms on the Beach (formerly Club Jamaica) opens in November with 104 rooms and suites. Other major projects underway or in the works include:Rose Hall ExpansionIn 2004 Prime Minister P J Patterson broke ground for a US$850 million hotel project in the Rose Hall area of St James, just beyond the Wyndham. It is a joint venture between Rose Hall Developments Limited and Iberostar, a Spanish hotel chain that presently operates in the Dominican Republic, United States, Spain, Greece and Turkey. According to chairman of the Iberostar Group, Miguel Fluxa, his company will be constructing three hotels over a five-year period, resulting in 950 new rooms at Rose Hall. These properties will cater mainly to Europeans. Iberostar will spend US$200 million in the first phase, to construct a 350-room hotel that is scheduled to be on the market and ready for business in winter 2006. The hotel will feature, among other things a swim-up bar, a theatre bar and cigar bar. Rose Hall Developments and the Resort Properties Group announced plans in mid- February 2005 for The Palmyra Resort & Spa at Rose Hall, located next to the Ritz- Carlton on 16 acres of pristine waterfront. The Palmyra will stretch along one-half mile of Caribbean ocean and includes 26 villas and 504 one-, twoand three-bedroom condominium units. “This is the last of the great beachfront properties,” said Robert T. Trotta, moving force behind the Resort Properties Group. “The Palmyra presents the perfect occasion to create a sustainable, luxury community that celebrates the island’s resources through architecture, amenities and experience. We’re pleased to offer a ground floor real estate opportunity in a culturallyunmatched seaside haven.” Groundbreaking for the first phase of development, consisting of two condo buildings, the Palmyra E’SPA, infinity pool and beach is set for spring 2005, with the project reaching completion in late 2006. Also under construction are the ‘Shoppes at Rose Hall’, an upscale shopping, dining and entertainment complex.Trelawny DevelopmentThe most ambitious project underway in Jamaica is the US$1.2 billion Harmony Cove development located between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay. This 1,400-acre beachfront property will include three major luxury hotels, three themed boutique resorts, two golf courses, more than 200 exclusive residential homes (manors and villas), upwards of 200,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space, as well as a world-class, 300-slip marina and private airstrip at Braco. Rumours have even circulated that Donald Trump, is looking to secure a licence from the Government to operate a casino in Harmony Cove. Other projects in Trelawny parish include, AM Resorts four hotels that will create 1,700 rooms and Grupo Pinero’s three new hotels totaling 1,800 rooms in nearby St. Anne.I love LuceaPrime Minister P J Patterson announced in 2004 that plans are well advanced for the acquisition of a property on the eastern side of the Lucea harbour in Hanover for the construction of a 1,500-room fivestar hotel by yet another Spanish hotel chain. Patterson also confirmed that design work for the construction of the Lucea Shipping Pier was progressing satisfactorily, and that negotiations were taking place for the acquisition of a parcel of land to facilitate the development; this would include a cruise ship facility. “I am sure that the development of this part of Hanover between the harbour and the hotel makes progress for Lucea and its environs irreversible,” said the prime minister.**for more information visit http://www.jam-boree.com/, Jamaica’s visitor website, the complete source for travel and tourism information featuring hand-picked deals on vacation packages, hotels, villas, flights and car rentals**

Jamaica’s True Colors: Red, Green and Golf

Jamaica is blessed with all the qualities of a world-class golf destination. In addition to excellent year-round weather, the topography, lush vegetation and scenic beauty of our tropical island also encourages creative golf course designs by imaginative golf course architects. Jamaica is also famous for its caddies: lively, entertaining, experienced, dedicated – with an uncanny ability to track down wayward shots and to read the breaks on even the trickiest greens. We invite you to play our courses for yourself for an unforgettable golfing experience:Montego Bay is the island’s golf capital boasting five championship golf courses, premium hotel accommodations, an international airport served by several major airlines, beaches and other recreational, shopping and entertainment facilities.SuperClubs IronshoreThe former Ironshore Golf & Country Club is a links-style, par-72 course. Once referred to as Jamaica’s gem in the rough, it’s a demanding course with plenty of doglegs and bunkers to challenge your A-game. Since January 2000, SuperClubs has been polishing that gem. A beautifully decorated new clubhouse was built and a massive course renovation completed. The greens are in their best condition in 20 years, locals say. The 6,570-yard layout delivers what is expected – an entertaining golf experience, with several water encounters and a number of interesting blind shots. Fairways are separated by tall, frilly Australian pines, as well as flowering hibiscus and bough.Half MoonDesigned by the renowned Robert Trent Jones Sr., the course opened in 1961 and since has firmly established itself as one of prized courses that the Caribbean has to offer. Measuring a massive, 7,119 yards from the back tees, it has been selected as host venue for several professional and amateur tournaments, including the Jamaican Open and the Dunhill Cup. The course boasts some of the trademark Jones features, including runway tees and use of the land’s movement or the ‘figure eight’ routing that cleverly changes angles just enough to cause bewilderment on the windy days. The greens also demand special attention: while they are very playable, their shape and contour often force the better golfer to work the ball to get their approaches close to tucked pins, while leaving an opening for the novice player to run the ball in.Cinnamon HillOne instinctively marvels at the parcel of land on which Robert von Hagge-designed Cinnamon Hill GC (formerly Three Palms), at the Wyndham Rose Hall. On an island blessed with lushness and topographical character, and short on acreage, the layout moves from an open, windswept front nine into the lower elevations of the Blue Mountains on the back nine, where dense foliage traps the fairways of the incoming holes. Boasting interesting, serene, descriptive and sometimes downright intimidating names each hole has its own intriguing characteristics and is sure to leave behind a memorable experience. The surrounding scenery at #15 “Mountain Falls” is so striking, that a scene was shot here for the James Bond film Live and Let Die. The course is built on what was once a 400-acre plantation, and remnants of the area’s history, including aqueducts, gravestones, and ruins of historic homes, offer a crumbling reminder of a land that once breathed a life of its own, long before golf.White WitchLocals are quick to say that Annie Palmer still haunts the Rose Hall Great House and the estate- including the course built there on the grounds. The White Witch Course, designed by the team of Robert Von Hagge, Rick Baril and Mike Smelek, opened in August 2000 as the centerpiece of the new Ritz Carlton Rose Hall Resort. Instead of traditional tropical terrain, the layout is mountainous and rugged. The 6,718-yard course sticks to the high ground where there are cool breezes and ocean views on 16 holes. This elevated route can be intimidating, with its carries over jungle-like terrain, but the course intertwines with the mountains and provides golfers with some of the best views of the coastline.TryallTryall’s 18-hole, Ralph Plummer-designed championship course has played host to such prestigious international events as the Johnnie Walker World Championship, last won by Fred Couples in 1995. With holes that kiss the shoreline and flirt with the edges of jungle ravines, it is probably the most celebrated golf course in the Caribbean. The course stretches 6,772 yards from the ocean-side up into forested hills, past coconut groves, and back down to the sea along a route lined with flowering plants and magnificent trees. The signature par-three 4th hole incorporates the natural challenges of the Caribbean Sea and the Flint River, while the memorable par-four 7th hole provides a dramatic tee-shot through the stone pillars of the historic aqueduct that feeds the adjacent waterwheel. Tryall’s homeowners, many associated with the club for generations, have preserved the atmosphere of charming gentility that has been “modernized out” of many other historic properties.Negril HillsNestled in the hills minutes away from Negril’s famous seven-mile white-sand beach, golf enthusiasts will find this relaxed resort’s hidden gem- the Negril Hills Golf Club. Famous for its elevated tees and greens, undulating fairways and emerald ponds, this layout promises an enjoyable round that’s a perfect break from Negril’s sand and sea. Built in 1993 by Robert Simmons, this 18-hole course spans 6,333 yards, cut into Negril’s low, rolling hills. This topography makes for fast play, with snaking fairways and mildly sloping greens. It also reveals fleeting views of Negril’s distant golden sands and calm seas. Along the fairways, coconut and other tropical trees dance in the soft sea breezes wafting in from the coast. This course is characterized by water hazards, boasting nine ponds that all come into play. Marshlands and sandtraps also lurk throughout the course, waiting to claim wayward balls.Runaway Bay GCThe par 72 course was designed by Major John Harris from Britain and opened in 1960. From the Blue Tees, the course measures a long 6,870 yards with a slope rating of 124. The combination of the wind gusting up to 35 miles per hour, long rolling fairways with large flat greens and breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, guarantee that golfers can expect an exhilarating experience whether they are beginners or accomplished players. The PGA-quality golf course has hosted many an international event including the MatchPlay games between the United Kingdom and the West Indies, the Jamaica Open and the World Cup of Golf Super-qualifier tournaments.Sandals Ocho RiosFormerly known as Upton Golf Club, the Sandals Golf & Country Club was established in 1951 as a 9 hole course located 700 feet above sea level in Upton, a few miles east of Ocho Rios. The original 9-hole layout which, designed by P.K. Saunders, was expanded in the early 1960s to 18 holes. In June 1992, Sandals Resorts purchased the property and set about creating one of the most elite golf courses in Jamaica. The greens were rebuilt with Tifdwarf Bermuda grass and the fairways resurfaced with Bermuda grass. Although comparatively short- 6311 yards, par 71 from the Blue Tees, the course makes for a challenging 128 slope.ManchesterCarved into the rolling hills near Mandeville more than a century ago, the Manchester Country Club is Jamaica’s and the Caribbean’s oldest golf course. Boasting 140 years of history, it is easily the most unique in Jamaica with it’s nine greens and 18 tee locations. Founded as a Country Club in 1865 and soon after the Scots invented the game of golf, a golf course was built on the site. It is situated in the middle of the town of Mandeville, the capital of Manchester and has one of the most breath-taking scenic wonders, provided by the course’s 2201 foot elevation. Although it is a private members club, it is open to the public and is one of Mandeville’s main tourist attractions.CaymanasLocated 9 miles outside Kingston, Caymanas GC rests in the foothills of St. Catherine and overlooks the parish’s verdant cane fields, stretching all the way to Kingston Harbour. Designed by well-known Canadian architect, Howard Watson, in the 1950s, the course’s hilly environment is brilliantly incorporated in the layout. Several of the 18 tee boxes are elevated while the fairways undulate in accordance to the topography of the craggy limestone hills. Stately Cotton and Guango trees line the fairways and guard the greens throughout the course’s 6,844 yards, creating daunting natural hazards. Strategically placed bunkers and ponds also make for more challenging play. The Club, which hosted several Caribbean Championships, including the Jamaican Open, the Jamaica Classic and Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf, is sloped at 123 from the Blue Tees and measures 6,844 yards.Constant SpringLocated in the heart of one of Kingston’s nicest residential areas, Constant Spring was built in 1920 by Scottish architect Stanley Thompson, a mentor of Robert Trent Jones, making it one of Jamaica’s oldest golf courses. It is a tight, short course with a breathtaking view at the 13th tee, and the challenge of driving to a narrow plateau of fairway beyond a steep valley. It has hosted all of the island’s top players, many of the socially elite and more than a few concerts during its long

history.The Jamaica Golf Association, comprised of individual golfing members and golf clubs islandwide, is at the forefront of the drive to develop the game of golf for a better Jamaica.David Leadbetter Golf Academy – Half MoonThe Academy combines the finest golf instruction available on one of Jamaica’s most challenging courses. Created by one of the masters in the art of teaching the golf swing, David Leadbetter has a unique ability to communicate and a profound dedication to the game. He is known for rebuilding Nick Faldo’s fabled swing and has worked with Ernie Els, Greg Norman and Nick Price, and has developed an exclusive group of teaching professionals to give “tour-proven” advice to ambitious golfers at all stages of development.Cable & Wireless National Golf AcademyKingston’s bustling business and entertainment hub, New Kingston, is also fast becoming the capital city’s recreational sporting center thanks in part to the addition of Cable and Wireless’ National Golf Academy. Located on lands with a view of New Kingston’s towering buildings and the distant Blue Mountains, the National Golf Academy is the island’s first public driving range and putting green. Spanning an impressive 240 yards, the driving range plays like a real golf course with undulating fairways, 6 manicured greens and well-placed holes, bunkers and ponds. From the Academy’s 23 bays you may practice your swing and drive, or on the adjacent putting green, you can hone you short game skills.**for more information visit http://www.jam-boree.com/, Jamaica’s visitor website, the complete source for travel and tourism information featuring hand-picked deals on vacation packages, hotels, villas, flights and car rentals**

Jamaica’s Underwater Wonders

Over the years many songwriters have referred to the beauty of this green pearl in the string of Caribbean islands, and today it is known throughout the world for its lush vegetation, reggae music, rum and coffee. One of the most overlooked attractions is, however, that part of the island that lies below the surface of the ocean that surrounds it.Divers typically do not think of Jamaica as a prime diving destination, except for those who have explored its reefs and have found it to be the best destination of all. Where else can you do a breathtaking wall dive in the morning, enjoy the sea life on a shallow reef at noon, and have plenty of time left in the afternoon to go river rafting, horseback riding, play golf, visit a great house or indulge in any manner of activities.Jamaica as one of the largest islands in the Caribbean has many excellent diving and snorkeling sites: shallow and deep, reefs and walls, wrecks and caverns, home to all manner of sea life: spectacular coral, exotic sponges, spiny lobsters, moray eels, sea turtles and multitudes of colorful fish, big and small. Below we have selected by region some of the unique diving opportunities available to you based on your level of experience.All dives offered by commercial operators in Jamaica are guided dives. The dive guides must have, according to regulations, at least a dive master certificate from an internationally recognized association and be licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board. Although this limits your freedom to dive wherever you like, this regulation increases the safety and fun of diving in an unfamiliar area.The dive classifications employed below were assigned based on the following principles: Novice divers: Persons who are recently certified, or who have done only a limited number of dives with considerable gaps in between; this could include divers with as many as 20 dives. Dives in this category will tend to be less than 60 ft (18 m) or will not require advanced diving skills. Intermediate divers: Persons who have been diving on a regular basis but lack further training beyond certification, also those with advanced training who have not been diving for the past several months. The environment of this category of dive necessitates greater experience. Advanced divers: Persons with training beyond the open water diver certification that have been diving regularly in the last several months. This requirement will apply to most sites deeper than 80 ft (24 m) because those dives require a mastery of buoyancy and a thorough knowledge of the dive tables. These dives may also be accessible to the less experienced diver after a couple of refresher dives.MONTEGO BAY Rose Hall Reef Depth: 20-45 ft (7-14 m) Class: Novice Named for the famous great house that overlooks the sea just a couple of miles east of Montego Bay, this shallow reef is teaming with marine life. At this location you’ll discover “Fairy Castle”, a massive colony of pillar coral, and “Fairy Bridge”, a coral formation that connects two sections of reef over a sandy “river”. The reef forms an intricate system of tunnels that are home to squirrelfish, goatfish, porcupinefish, bar jacks and grunts.The Spanish Anchor Depth: 50-90 ft (15-28 m) Class: Intermediate Located on the west side of the marine park, the shallow reef drops to a sandy bottom at 50 ft. The site derives its name from the large anchor, undated but of Spanish origin, that rests on the sandy bottom. Within the reef wall one can explore tunnels and caverns with abundant sponge colonies. Sightings of eagle rays are quite common here, and in the deeper water large mutton snappers- and sometimes a docile nurse sharkmay pass by.Widowmaker’s Cave Depth: 40-80 ft (12-24 m) Class: Advanced A deep dive along a wall with a vertical, narrow crack which forms the entrance to Widowmaker’s Cave. Inside the tunnel leading to the cave, there is wire coral with, in the beam of your dive light, red polyps, and the walls are covered with multicolored sponges. On this dive you’ll likely encounter schools of silvery blue bogas, glassy sweepers, schoolmaster snappers, balloonfish, trumpetfish, hamlets, wrasses and parrotfish.NEGRIL The Throne Room Depth: 40-70 ft (12-21 m) Class: Novice The entrance to the Throne Room, a fairly wide but low cavern, is a crack in the reef about 25 feet long and 8 feet wide. The walls on the inside are covered with colorful sponges and on the bottom near to the exit you can see a large orange elephant ear sponge for which the site is named. Ceros, cruising along over the sandy bottom, are a common sight, as are small groups of yellow tail snapper.The Caves Depth: 40-70 ft (12-21 m) Class: Intermediate This site is named for the two caverns, one small and one slightly larger, with a narrow tunnel connecting the two. You can find a variety of sponges here along with soft gorgonians. On the sand flat you will see the usual occupants: furry sea cucumbers, stingrays, jacks and some lane snappers.Kingfish Point Depth: 80-90 ft (24-27 m) Class: Advanced Among the elephant ear sponges and yellow tube sponges, you may find Spanish hogfish, smooth and bandtail puffers, and of course the everpresent damselfish. Golden crinoids are tucked in between star and brain coral, and in the surrounding sandy area sand tilefish hover near their burrows. Kingfish, the Jamaican name for ceros, can be seen passing by. These silvery fish are generally solitary and are seen on reefs and drop-offs near deep water.RUNAWAY BAY Reggae Queen Depth: 50-60 ft (15-18 m) Class: Novice The “Reggae Queen”, a 100-ft tugboat with a wooden hull, was sunk here in early 1993. The wreck lies upright in the sand in between two reef reas. Hovering over the wreck is a large school of blue chromis, bogas and creole wrasse. Southern stingrays have also been reported cruising the adjacent areas. In the reef you can see clusters of yellow tube sponges and green rope sponges covered with tiny zoanthids.Pocket’s Reef Depth: 90-120 ft (27-36 m) Class: Advanced A wall at 80 ft dropping down to over 200 ft adorned with clusters of bright azure vase sponges, elephant ear sponges and large red sea fans. Large schools of fish go back and forth, and ceros and bar jacks pass overhead. Rainbow jacks are seen regularly and sometimes you may encounter an ocean triggerfish. A shallower reef plateau at 50 ft is home to grunts, goatfish and blackbar soldierfish.OCHO RIOS Jacks Hall Depth: 30-50 ft (9-15 m) Class: Novice This medium-profile reef has finger coral, brain coral, star coral, an occasional elkhorn coral on the shallower end, and a variety of sponges. Drifting with the current you pass over a section of reef, followed by a sand chute, another reef section and another sand gully and so on. Nurse sharks frequent the area and can often be found napping in the sand.Top of the Mountain Depth: 60-80 ft (18-24 m) Class: Intermediate Near Dunn’s River Falls, a massive underwater mountain plateau rises up from the sandy ocean floor to 60 ft below the surface. The top of the reef is covered with many different species of soft gorgonians and small coral heads, consisting of sea rods, sea plumes, sea fans, brain coral, star coral, and clusters of smooth flower coral. Look out for golden hamlets that frequent this area and the rare yellowcheck wrasse. Hiding in the coral heads are glasseye snappers, graysbys, and squirrelfish.Snorkeling opportunities abound in Jamaica for guided tours to areas reachable only by boat or solo, shore entry reef exploration. Be sure to employ guides licensed by the Jamaica Tourist Board or if you have the experience to venture out on your own be sure to seek local advice on the currents and other potential hazards.Excerpted with permission from the book “Diving and Snorkeling Guide to Jamaica” by Hannie and Theo Smit. This book is out of print but copies are available for purchase at the Montego Bay Marine Park visitor centre at Pier 1.Montego Bay Marine Park Covering an area from the airport to the Great River west of Montego Bay, officially opened in 1992, mooring buoys and boundary markers are maintained, rangers patrol the area and spear fishing is banned from the park. Training programs exist to assist displaced fisherman in learning new skills and finding alternative employment. A zoning plan addresses the impact of various user groups on the park. Also, an extensive public education program seeks to make Montego Bay citizens more aware of the importance of preserving the marine environment. The effect of destructive environmental practices on land, which influences to a great extent the health of the reefs, is emphasized. For more information, call (876) 952-5619 or visit the head office and visitor centre, located at Pier 1. http://www.mbmp.orgFriends of the Sea Determined to halt the destruction of the marine environment in the areas of Discovery Bay, Runaway Bay and Ocho Rios this group of concerned citizens seeks to increase public awareness of this problem through education, water-quality monitoring and various conservation initiatives. For more information about their activities, you can write to: Friends of the Sea, P.O. Box 327, St. Anne’s Bay.Negril Environmental Protection Area Covering over 80 square miles and including the Negril Marine Park and the Great Morass, as well as rain and limestone forests, cliffs, caves and blue holes. The marine park includes demarcation of recreational, fishing and replenishment zones with over 150 marker and reef mooring buoys, and the program incorporates educational projects and mariculture projects as well as an alternative to destructive fishing and farming practices, and a unique reef restoration program using mineral accretion to create artificial reefs. These efforts are financed by user fees, ecotourism activities, souvenir sales, donations and environmental levies. For more information, call (809) 957-4472.**for more information visit http://www.jam-boree.com/, Jamaica’s visitor website, the complete source for travel and tourism information featuring hand-picked deals on vacation packages, hotels, villas, flights and car rentals**