The Caribbean islands are known for a few good things: glorious beaches, coastal cuisine, sweeping views, historic sites and endless sunshine. And if these are not enough to get you there, the Caribbean reigns supreme when it comes to colorful cocktails. Whatever color cocktail you desire, there’s one that will make you forget all your cares.
Plan your short getaway to one of these top Caribbean islands. These islands are only a short flight away from your hometown:
Barbados has 70 miles of brown, pink and white beaches. The weather is perfect year-round, averaging around 80 degrees and the humidity is only between 57 to 74 percent.
Bridgetown is the capital city, and the island has 11 parishes. Each parish is unique and has its attractions. The west coast is lauded as Barbados’ best for swimming, water sports, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. Known as the Platinum Beach, the west coast is home to many exclusive resorts including the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Cobbler’s Cove Hotel and Sugar Cane Club Hotel & Spa. The historic Holetown is located on the West Coast. I stayed at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, a beachfront property on Platinum Beach.
Other notable beaches are Crane Beach with its pink sand beach, turquoise water, and rugged cliffs. The east coast beaches, located on the Atlantic coastline is suitable for surfing. Expect strong waves, unexplored areas, strong undercurrents and rugged beaches on the east coast.
Three must-dos when in Barbados other than enjoying the beaches are:
1. Eat and drink at Oistins Fish Fry on Friday.
2. Visit St. Nicholas Abbey, the island’s oldest surviving sugar plantation with a 350-year-old Jacobean mansion.
3. Try rum punch, Barbados’ cocktail.
2. Puerto Rico
Going to Puerto Rico is hassle-free for Americans. It’s considered a domestic trip. You don’t need to bring your passport, and there’s no waiting in line to get your passport stamped. Just carry your driver’s license and your luggage, that’s it!
Puerto Rico has been a U.S. territory since 1898. It still retains its Caribbean vibe, has excellent beaches, rich history, best coffee and fantastic food. San Juan, the largest city in the island, has the busiest airport in the Caribbean. Other than San Juan’s Luis Munoz Marin International Airport, you can choose to fly in Rafael Hernandez Airpot in Aguadilla (BON) or Mercedita Airport in Ponce (PSE).
There are seven regions in Puerto Rico, and the island is only 30 miles long and 90 miles wide. Depending on what your interest is, Puerto Rico has it all. I stayed at two locations during my short visit. Two nights at Hotel El Convento in Old San Juan and one night at Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, a historic beach hotel in Condado. I recommend La Concha Hotel, located next to Condado Vanderbilt for the beach and lower rate.
Condado beach is suitable for scuba diving, sea kayaking, snorkeling, and surfing.
Three must-dos when in Puerto Rico other than enjoying the beaches are:
1. Take a food and history walking tour in Old San Juan with Flavors of San Juan.
2. Try mofongo (Puerto Rican traditional dish of plantains and meat) and Mallorca (sweet fluffy buns) with café con leche.
3. Drink pina colada, a favorite cocktail in Puerto Rico.
3. St. Martin
Saint Martin is ruled by two countries – Dutch and French. The French side (northern part) is called Saint Martin, and the Dutch side (southern) is known as Sint Maarten. This picturesque island is home to the world-famous Princess Juliana Airport and 37 most excellent beaches. There’s a beach for swimming, snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, paddle boarding and kite surfing.
Check out Hotel L’Esplanade if you prefer a relaxing stay in the countryside of St. Martin (French-side). It’s a 24-room family-owned boutique hotel with a pool bar and spa. For a hotel by the beach, go to Sonesta Great Bay Beach Resort in St. Maarten (Dutch-side).
Although St. Martin is only 37 square miles, it has more than 400 restaurants. Guests are free to travel between both sides – the French and Dutch sides.
Three must-dos when in St. Martin other than enjoying the beaches are:
1. Visit Maho Beach to see planes take off from Princess Juliana Airport. Do practice safety precautions and bring earplugs.
2. Drive to Pic Paradis for the best views of St. Martin.
3. Drink guavaberry colada, St. Martin’s favorite drink.
4. St. Kitts
St Kitts has a population of about 40,000 people and a land area of just 69 square miles. Basseterre is the capital city and the international airport is located just minutes from there. The island has 11 beaches.
For the family-friendly beach, I suggest staying at the Marriott St. Kitts on Frigate Bay. It is a 26-acre property with extensive kid-friendly programs, a golden sand beach, and an 18-hole championship golf course. I spent my time at Park Hyatt Resort on Banana Bay. This quiet part of the island is ideal for anyone looking to get away from it all. It has on-site restaurants, infinity pools, and a golden sand beach.
Three must-dos when in St. Kitts other than enjoying the beaches are:
1. Explore Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and a well preserved historical fortification in the Americas.
2. Take the ferry or water taxi to Nevis, St. Kitts’ sister island for an island tour.
3. Try Spicy Island Cocktail, a favorite cocktail in St. Kitts and Nevis.
5. The Dominican Republic
The Dominican Republic shares half of the Hispaniola, the second largest island in the Caribbean. With over 10 million people, the Dominican Republic (DR) is one of the most populous destinations in the Caribbean. To get away from it all, I suggest choosing a non-inclusive resort.
Puerto Plata and Punta Cana are popular beach destinations in the DR. For a dose of history, visit Santo Domingo, the capital city and Santiago, the second largest city in the DR. Santo Domingo’s Zona Colonial houses some of the oldest colonial buildings in the Americas. Santiago boasts of the best cigar factories outside of Cuba.
I chose Puerto Plata for a short getaway in the DR. I recommend staying at Casa Colonial Beach and Spa Resort in Playa Dorada if you prefer a quiet place. For an all-inclusive option, try Sunscape Puerto Plata, located next door to Casa Colonial.
Three must-dos when in the Dominican Republic other than enjoying the beaches are:
1. Visit Zona Colonial in Santa Domingo.
2. Take a day trip to Cabarete and learn or watch kite surfing.
3. Try Santo Libre, a favorite cocktail in the DR.