Insider Scoop: Caribbean and Mexico Hotel GMs Tell All
On a Caribbean or Mexican vacation, chances are you'll spend plenty of time maximizing relaxation at your hotel's beach and pool. Once you've had your fill, leave the crowds of tourists behind and dig into your destination's local culture. We've gathered the top 5 locals' picks from the general managers at Paradise by Marriott resorts across both regions. Discover where the locals roam, and experience a destination's lesser-known gems.
Los Cabos, Mexico
Mike Van Der Kroft, General Manager, JW Marriott Los Cabos
San Jose del Cabo Mercado Organico: Bring the kids to this family-friendly outdoor market. The little ones can enjoy jugglers and face-painting while grown-ups shop local and groove to live, local music.
Beach Near El Ganzo: Nestled in a cove near El Ganzo resort, this secret beach is truly a hidden local gem. Van Der Kroft suggests bringing a blanket and your favorite book and settling in for serious rest and relaxation.
Flora's Field Kitchen and Flora Farm: This chic restaurant's meals all feature ingredients sourced from its own farm and butcher shop. Bring your best paparazzi camera; Flora's also happens to be a favorite among visiting celebrities.
Art Walk in San Jose del Cabo: Discover the local culture at this weekly art walk where you'll find artists hawking wares, as well as live music and wine.
Huerta Los Tamarindos: You'll sip the finest mezcals with fruit juice at this farm-to-table restaurant. Aspiring chefs can sign up for on-site cooking classes.
Tom Calame, General Manager, Aruba Marriott Resort
The West Deck: According to Calame, this beach bar and grill is the perfect spot to kick back, relax and sip a cold Balashi beer. Visitors can enjoy the island breezes and snap a selfie with the sea serving as a sparkling backdrop.
De Suikertuin Restaurant: Order the Nasi goreng with chicken saté, fried egg, shrimp crackers and pickled veggies at this cozy Dutch cafe, tucked into the heart of Oranjestad. The restaurant serves breakfast and lunch, and Calame says the cozy atmosphere will make visitors feel right at home.
Malmok Beach: Visit the north coast of Malmok Beach to watch the sunrise, says Calame. The scenic shore is a perfect route for early-morning joggers.
The Hooiberg: Located in the island's center, this looming volcanic formation offers the best panoramic views of the island.
Papiamento Restaurant: This 126-year-old Aruban house-turned-restaurant serves indigenous dishes, like keshi yena, a large ball of cheese stuffed with spiced meat.
La Habichuela Downtown: Known for its Caribbean-style seafood, Mexican cuisine and top-grade beef, this restaurant charms visitors with its setting: a traditional tiki hut.
Xoximilco: At Xoximilco, guests hop aboard a floating "boat bar" for an evening of mariachi music, dancing, traditional cuisine, and yes, tequila.
Teatro de Cancun: Get your arts fix at the Teatro, where you can watch a rotating selection of plays, concerts, dances and orchestra performances.
La Palapa Belga: Water views add to the ambience at this Flemish-French fusion restaurant.
Las de Guanatos: Located on the Plaza de Toros, this hot spot is where locals gather to enjoy live music, 2-for-1 cocktail specials, and baguette sandwiches known as tortas ahogadas.
Edward Reple, General Manager, Curacao Marriott Beach Resort
Plaza Bieu: Located in the heart of Willemstad, the Plaza Bieu is your best bet for enjoying local flavors. Head here between noon and 3 p.m. to try goat dishes, cactus soup, fresh fish and stews.
Sail With Captain Goodlife: Looking for a romantic excursion? Make your way to Santa Cruz beach where you can book an excursion to Lovers Beach with Captain Goodlife.
Otrobanda City Walk: Explore the island's colorful architecture in the historic center of Otrobanda. You'll encounter some 800 UNESCO World Heritage Sites within this tiny neighborhood.
Board Room Beach Bar: Sip a cold cocktail and relax on a swing (yes, a swing!) as you watch the sunset from the waterfront Board Room Beach Bar at the Curacao Marriott.
Fishalicious: This seafood lover's haven is run by a Dutch fisherman and his family, and serves fresh fish flown in regularly from Holland.
Jean-Paul Nel, General Manager, Frenchman's Reef Marriott
Magen's Bay Park: Visit this serene, nature-filled beach park and spend an afternoon laying under a swaying palm tree or swimming in the calm, turquoise water. Bring a picnic and keep a close watch on the sea -- you might just spy sea turtles.
Paradise Point: Take a scenic tram ride up to Paradise Point and snap photos of spectacular panoramic views of the island.
Schnitzel House: Dig into Old World Bavarian food at the popular Schnitzel House. Fill up on traditional German dishes and sip a cold brew from the biergarten.
Grand Cru: Amp your romance up a notch at Grand Cru restaurant. Reserve a table on the deck overlooking the marina and enjoy watching the mega-yachts twinkle in the harbor.
Tap & Still: Bring your appetite to this local's favorite and chow down on burgers, beer and whiskey. Top your meal off with the delicious funnel cake.
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
David Gauna, General Manager, CasaMagna Marriott Puerta Vallarta
Los Arcos de Malecon: Head to the Malecon in the evening to watch the sunset and on Sundays to hear live, local music performances.
Le Kliff Restaurant: You'll experience off-the-beaten-path romance and spectacular Pacific coast views at this cliffside restaurant.
Yelapa Beach: This low-key, secret beach is accessible only by boat. Have the concierge organize a trip for you.
8 Tostadas Restaurant: Enjoy freshly caught local seafood and tangy ceviche at this popular restaurant. The daily special is always a good bet!
Farmers' Market at La Marina: From November to March, visit this bustling market for hand-crafted goods and fresh bites.
Jacques Hamou, General Manager, St. Kitts Marriott Resort
Sandy Bank Bay: Spend a quiet afternoon lounging on the beach at this quiet stretch of shore. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the lack of crowds, restaurants and noise.
Fari Organic Farm: This Rastafarian organic farm is a great pit stop if you need to detox from the night before. The Moringa Green Vibes juice does a body good, according to Hamou.
Farmers' Market: Every Saturday and Bassaterre you'll find the local farmers market, with organic produce and fresh seafood straight from the fishermen's boats.
Vibes Beach Bar: Kick back at Vibes on Frigate Bay and sip a "Ting With a Sting," the locally loved rum-based cocktail.
Mt. Liamuiga Hike: Active travelers will love this scenic mountain hike through lush rainforest.
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Enrique Tasende, General Manager, Grand Cayman Marriott
Island Bike Rides: Tasende suggests renting bicycles from the resort and exploring the island's bicycling trails and low-key streets before heading to a nearby park or beach for a picnic.
The Market: Shop from local farmers, craftsmen and artisans at the Saturday market at The Grounds in the island's Lower Valley.
Watch the Cayman Sunset: Don't miss the spectacular Grand Cayman sunset, says Tasende. The Marriott places funky furniture on the beach every evening for sunset viewing. Guests can settle in and snap a selfie!
Waterfront Urban Diner: This popular, hyper-local hipster restaurant dishes up breakfast all day, as well as burgers and other fare. Don't miss the cinnamon French toast!
Stingray City: This must-do island attraction can be made ultra-exclusive if you have the Marriott's concierge charter a private boat to take you and your family here when the cruise ship crowds aren't there.