The 3 Best and Worst Locations for Female Solo Travel

There have been many times in my life where the stress of life and long working hours had tired me out to the point where I needed a solo recharge. I didn’t want anyone asking me if I wanted to go eat, or go to a show, I just wanted to be alone to rest and rejuvenate.

Through these experiences of solo travel I’ve found my top and bottom picks for female solo travel. Yes, perhaps some will view this as sexist but I do think, based on my experience that females do have to be a bit smarter about protecting themselves when traveling alone.

Top Rated

1. Chica Brava – an all-girls surf retreat in Nicaragua. Great if you want to challenge yourself to something new, if you want a tranquil environment and if you want to be surrounded by like-minded women in a peaceful atmosphere. The retreat offers yoga, massages and lots of quiet space to read a book, write in a journal or meditate. http://www.chicabrava.com

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2. IMG_0094RIU Palace, Puerto Vallarta. This was the safest I have felt as a solo female traveller. Yes, I was in the confines of a resort but you have to be very careful when selecting what resort to stay at as you’ll read later in my worst solo travel experiences. Why I like this resort is because it’s one connected tower, so you aren’t walking off to a smaller building by yourself late at night. The security guards line the beach and front entrance to the resort at all hours so you will not get any locals wandering off the beach into your hotel. The staff don’t bother you to join in. If they see you relaxing they will offer you a drink and let you be. The spa and gym are fantastic and you can fully rejuvenate while feeling safe here. The food is amazing, every floor of the hotel has an automatic coffee/cappuccino/latte machine on it and every room has a premium bar with wall mounted dispensers. The staff here are wonderful and cater to your every need. The beach feels safe to wander and the guests and staff are great if you ever get lonely.

3. Sayulita, Mexico. Sayulita has this amazing quality in the air that relaxes me instantly when I am there. It offers surf camps, yoga retreats and retreats with no activities, only time to relax. I lived in Puerto Vallarta for several months and Sayulita was always the magical getaway a short bus-ride away that makes you feel like you could live a simple life there forever. If you want a different Mexican experience check out the many retreats available here and select the one best suited to you.

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Avoid

1. Hotel Playa Coco, Cuba. Avoid this place even if there is more than one female. The buildings are spread across the property and there is no lights on the paths to get back to your room. Once it gets dark watch out for guests, locals and staff following you back to your room. There’s no security keeping locals out of the resort. The harassment from staff was atrocious. The bartender in the main lobby stopped serving us drinks for the entire week because we wouldn’t accept his advances. There was no hand soap or toilet paper ever in public areas, so think about what the chefs use? Likely, nothing. The food was deplorable there was nothing to eat and you had hawk eyes on you constantly as a female at this resort. The chefs would leave their stations to come harass us as we picked at fries for dinner, the only thing we could bring ourselves to eat.

2. Club Amigo Guardalavaca, Cuba. Cuba has appeal for solo travel due to the fact that many of its resorts do not have single supplements for solo travelers. This was the scariest solo travel experience of my life. We landed at 10pm and I arrived at my hotel closer to midnight after dropping everyone else off at their hotels. I had to find my room which was once again in a small building far from the lobby on my own in the dark. As I walked back to my room I heard people behind me, I turned and saw a group of locals walking a distance from me, I was certain they were following me. I ran to get to my room and locked the door. Once locked, the knocking started. Knocking and cat calling went on for what felt like hours. I actually fell asleep with the bible in the drawer of the bedroom in my hand praying that I would be ok. Not too long before this trip, 2 female travelers were shot at in their room after a similar experience so I was thinking the worst. I have no idea how I fell asleep that night. When I woke up, I went to the gym to relieve some of the stress of the night before. The “trainer” sat on a bench and watched me workout. After 15 minutes of his uncomfortable stare, I went and found my rep as I knew I needed to change hotels immediately. I didn’t care what I had to pay, just get me out of there! She said she likely couldn’t change my hotel until the following day so I got a security guard to stand outside of my room that night. He must have left at some point as again the knocking and cat calling started. They were turning my doorknob trying to get in while yelling in Spanish. It may not translate into this small blurb, but being alone in Cuba where you came to relax and literally fearing for your life was horrible beyond words.

3. I was moved down the street after 2 days to Hotel Brisas Guardalavaca. Where do I begin with this resort? I decided to get a massage on my first day to finally relax. I only found a lifeguard so I asked him when the masseuse would be back. He told me in one hour. An hour later he came and found me and said he could give me my massage now. I was confused but assumed he had misunderstood my Spanish and that he was the lifeguard and the masseuse (hotel employees can often have more than one job at the smaller resorts) and that he just wasn’t available earlier. What I experienced made me jump off the table and run to the front desk to report him. He was definitely not the masseuse. The hotel did nothing and I spent the rest of the week being stalked by this man. One day I wandered for an hour up the beach to read a book and have a nap and get as far away from him as I could. I woke up to his face leaning over me as his “hola” startled me awake. He said he had found me and brought me a flower. I told him to go away and he did but it didn’t make it any less disturbing. At this point I gave up on my solo relaxing trip, made friends with everyone at the resort and stayed with other people at all times.

There are more locations I could add to each list but these are the top and bottom 3.

My final advice for solo female travellers is this:

  • Avoid Cuba.
  • Only stay in hotels that have a single tower, are 5 star and have great reviews. You want the best and safest environment if staying alone.
  • Look for retreats. They are built for people, often solo travelers, who are looking to relax and rejuvenate so when you do feel like some interaction you are surrounded by like-minded people and when you don’t a quiet and safe paradise is what you will experience.
  • Never choose cost savings over safety. I went for the resorts that didn’t have a single supplement, don’t make my mistake. Pay more and stay safe.

What it’s like to Work in the Caribbean

Every time I went on vacation I looked at the entertainers and wanted to be them! I would always ask how they got their job and what it was like. It looked like a dream to me. Live on the beach, meet new guests every week and play games and sports all day.

I was told about an agency, Get Up & Go Global a few years before I started actually looking into moving South. When my life got stagnant and I felt it was time for a change, I emailed the company and 10 days later I was off! They sent me job postings for different hotels and places in Mexico and I accepted one of the first ones they sent in Puerto Vallarta.

Life as an entertainer is fun! If you don’t speak Spanish very well you’re going to want to move there for North America’s winter so your guests are mostly English speaking. I moved there during our summer which was a challenge, but forced me to learn Spanish, and fast! I spent all day asking my colleagues “Como se dice … en espanol?” or “how do you say …. In Spanish?”.

I lived in a motel up the street from the hotel I worked at with all of the other entertainers. It was a perfect place with a pool. My roommate was from the States and we hit it off. We had to be at the hotel for 7am each morning where we could eat breakfast from the main buffet. Breakfast was followed by a team meeting assigning us to our activities for the day.

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A standard day for me was yoga at 8am, beach volleyball at 9,  bicycle tour to the dolphins at 10, water polo at 11, water aerobics at 12, dance practice at 1, lunch at some point in and around there (either at the staff lunch room which was breakfast leftovers covered in heavy mayonnaise or with a guest at one of the hotel restaurants), water polo or a crazy game at 3 (drinking contests or pool races guests vs staff and I was one of the only girls, so that always got interesting!), beach volleyball at 4 and rock climbing at 5. We had a break from 5-7 when I would almost always do a workout in my room. We went back to the hotel for 7 where we could have dinner from the main buffet and then we had to promote the evening show. We walked around the buffet in costume telling people IMG_9281where and when the show was and then danced in the first show at 8:30. We would do a second show at 10:00. After the show we had an activity in the lobby like karaoke or casino night and then certain nights of the week we would have to accompany guests to the hotel disco.

On nights when we didn’t have to go to the disco, and even after some nights when we did, we would take guests out downtown. This is where we made a bit of money as the clubs paid commission. This part of the job is male dominated and it’s hard to take the lead as a female so I usually just joined for the party and made a small portion of the commission. We still entered and drank for free all night and I was happy with that! This was my life 6 days a week. On my day off I’d take my laundry to the laundromat by biking for 30 minutes each way with a garbage bag full of dirty clothes on my lap. I’d go to the beach, attempt to surf, go for an authentic Mexican meal or have drinks with friends!

I made $2.10/hour and had to ask guests to leave me shampoo and toiletries as I couldn’t afford much out there. Yet I lived without a care in the world. I was so happy every single day. I woke up to the sun shining, played and was active every day with new people every week. I had so much more energy being that active then I ever do sitting at a desk all day. I met people I’m still in touch with today, 7 years later. I learned a new language, I danced in shows and I am not a trained dancer and I enjoyed everything life had to offer that had nothing to do with material possessions. I miss all of that!

At home in Toronto I was more on the superficial side, always wanting the nicest clothes, bags, shoes and car. In Mexico I got to simply be me. I stripped away the layers of insecurity and materialism and the feeling that I needed to impress or keep up with others and I basked in the joy that my soul felt. I found love, laughter and a never-ending wonder in Mexico and I left a piece of my heart there.

I’d never do it again, I don’t think my 30 year old body could handle those hours but I will never regret doing it and I would recommend it to anyone who’s young and looking for an adventure!

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Feeling as free & happy as can be with my friend and fellow entertainer, Carlo