A popular Caribbean getaway and the welcome mat for the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas is a 32-square-mile oasis of lush tropical paradise. St. Thomas’ largest city and the capital of the USVI, Charlotte Amalie, is the most visited cruise port in the Caribbean. Packed with jewelry stores, restaurants, cafes and bars, this downtown area is where the island receives the bulk of its tourism. In addition to the myriad of jewelry stores, some of which are only open when there are cruise ships docked, there are several open-air bazaars selling everything from handmade crafts and island artwork to fresh produce and an endless selection of duty-free products.
Largely mountainous, St. Thomas boasts beautiful panoramic roadside views of the ocean and surrounding island landscape. Peppered throughout the downtown area of Charlotte Amalie are historic Danish-era buildings that blend with the natural scenery to make this island nation a favorite Caribbean getaway. Visitors can take a tram 700 feet above sea level to Paradise Point and have lunch or browse the many quaint shops while taking in the magnificent views. Spend the day at Coral World Ocean Park and get up close and personal with marine life which includes an inside look at a coral reef and a shark petting zoo. Some of the islands’ best snorkeling can be found on Coki Beach, where underwater visibility is over 100 feet. Red Hook, also referred to as the East End, has an active nightlife with a strip of restaurants, bars and clubs and ferry service to the island of St. John. Whatever you decide to do here, let the pleasant malaise of the St. Thomas island lifestyle saturate your soul as your enjoy life at a slower pace.
Between fresh fruit and fresh seafood, the Caribbean flavors of the islands can be found in nearly every beachside restaurant and café on St. Thomas. Agave Terrace in the East End serves up some of the finest island-inspired cuisine with specialties like conch fritters, jerk chicken and Coral Bay crab cakes. For a romantic dining experience in Charlotte Amalie, the Banana Tree Grille offers internationally inspired choices like sugarcane tuna, orange pepper lobster and wine-braised lamb shank. To satisfy the pasta-loving locals and tourists, Romano’s Restaurant, located near Coral World on the North, is owned by New Jersey chef Tony Romano, and specializes in house favorites like four-cheese lasagna, osso buco and house-made desserts.
Cyril E. King Airport (STT) is the international airport of St. Thomas, located in Red Point on the southwest coast. Many travelers reach the island by way of cruise ship, as it’s a popular destination for major cruise lines. Most ships dock at the West Indian Company Dock, two miles from downtown Charlotte Amalie. While on the island, both ferries and taxis are popular means of transportation, but can become very expensive as both services tend to charge per person. For an extended stay, renting a car is a recommended option if you’re looking to explore various parts of the island.
St. Thomas’ tropical climate makes every time of year sun soaked and enjoyable. There is little variation in seasons with average summertime highs of around 90° F (32.2° C) and a little less humidity. Winter average temperatures range from 86° F (30° C) as a high and a low of 72° F (22.2° C). The rainy season tends to occur in mid-late autumn and average over five inches of rainfall per month. Inland temperatures will drop slightly due to an increase in elevation, but the overall climate remains closely the same throughout the entire island.
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This coral-based island chain is located in the beryl-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean, yet all who are familiar with The Bahamas consider it a member of the Caribbean family. In most cases, The Bahamas means sun-soaked relaxation, duty-free shopping, unmatched ecological beauty and an endless supply of conch fritters. Days full of lounging on sugary-white beaches, dolphin encounters and exploring underwater reefs give way to breezy nights spent at Paradise Island casinos, sipping locally made rum drinks or enjoying Bahamian cuisine at an oceanfront restaurant.
The Bahamas consist of three main islands and a handful of Out Islands. Grand Bahama Island, Paradise Island and New Providence Island attract the most tourists year-round, and offer a range of accommodations from super-exclusive resorts to mid-range hotels. Lucayan National Park, on the island of Grand Bahama, is home to all six of the island’s natural ecosystems, including one of the longest underwater caves in the world. The soul of New Providence Island, Nassau is a shopping and entertainment mecca. The high and low-end shops vie for your attention on Bay Street while hawking jewelry, perfume, liquor and souvenirs. This same energy is poured into the discos, bars and nightclubs that pulse along the streets after dark. Connected to New Providence by bridge, Paradise Island is a much smaller island dominated by the sprawling Las Vegas-style resort, Atlantis.
The Out Islands of The Bahamas, including Abacos, Cat Island, Bimini, Exuma and Harbor Island, are the smaller, quieter islands where many tourists go to seek the tranquil solitude of a genuine island getaway. These islands are not only ideal for relaxation and rejuvenation, but also boast some of the most spectacular and unspoiled gems of nature in the Caribbean.
Though a variety of international cuisine can be found on the islands, there are certain native dishes that are unique to The Bahamas. With a bounty of fresh seafood coming into restaurants daily, conch, land crab, crawfish, grouper and red snapper are favorites among locals and tourists alike. For a truly Bahamian experience on Nassau’s Cable Beach, check out Café Johnny Canoe for blackened grouper and guava cocktails. For an eclectic and creative menu serving everything from Cuban-style sea bass to New Zealand lamb, try the Ferry House on Grand Bahama Island. An upscale choice serving gourmet versions of local specialties on New Providence Island is Dune, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The two largest airports in The Bahamas are Lynden Pindling International (NAS), located in the nation’s capital of Nassau on New Providence Island, and Grand Bahama International (FPO) in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Both serve international flights as well the local carrier, Bahamasair, that takes visitors to and from neighboring islands. From the airport there are shuttles, buses and taxis available to transport travelers. Taxis are accessible in all populated areas of the islands, as well as jitney buses that cost 75 cents each way, and make several stops along Grand Bahama and Paradise Island. The Bahamas is also the most popular port of call for cruise ships in the Caribbean. Nassau and Freeport are well served by cruise ships, and always garner a stead influx of day-tripping visitors.
With a tropical marine climate, The Bahamas enjoys seasonably warm and pleasant weather year-round. There are two seasons — summer, which from May through September and averages in the low to mid-80s°F, and winter, which lasts from October through April and usually never drops below 60°F. The rainy season shows up in the late summer months, with an occasional tropical storm or hurricane touching down from late June through November. The summer months can be fairly humid, and therefore the peak season to visit is during the winter (mid-December to mid-April). When traveling in the off-season, rates can be slashed from 20 to 60 percent.
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The people of St. John Island are always eager to share the history of their communities and culture. Everywhere you look throughout this beautiful island you’ll get a glimpse of the islands history and a feel for the people. The Annaberg Sugar Plantation boasts the rich history of the island’s agriculture and also plays host to many exhibitions throughout the year as well as concerts and arts and crafts fairs.
Self-guided tours can be taken through the Annaberg Historic Trail, where visitors will pass through several restored ruins as well as plantation grounds. Along the Reff Bay Trail in the Virgin Islands National Park, Petroglyphs can be seen that were created by the Arawak Indians. Other tours are available throughout the island that will acquaint the island’s visitors with the ancient folklore associated with St. John as well as the amazing wildlife of the island.
If the arts is what you’re after stop by the Elaine Lone Sprauve Library and Museum for a fun filled, educated visit. The library and museum is located near Cruz Bay in a restored plantation greathouse. Guests will be impressed by the photographs and newspapers that display the fascinating details of the island’s history. Work done by local artists such as paintings and drawings can also be seen hanging on the walls throughout the museum.
If digging in the dirt is something you love to do, volunteer at the Cinnamon Bay archaeological dig where you’ll be helping to uncover 500 years of the Taino Indians ceremonial activity. You’ll also uncover Danish plantation ruins. Vacationers to the island are always welcome and are encouraged to not only visit the site, but to join in the digging as well.
There are several beautiful beaches, bay areas and plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment options that can be found throughout this Caribbean island as well.
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Barbados is located at the Caribbean’s Lesser Antilles, in the western North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Windward Islands and the Caribbean Sea, outside of the principal Atlantic hurricane belt. The island nation encompasses 166 square miles, measuring 21 miles long and 14 miles wide. Barbados has a well-developed, mixed economy, and a moderately high standard of living. The island is classified by the World Bank as being in its 66 top global high-income economies. Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, the economy has diversified into manufacturing, tourism, and offshore finance and information services. The island has seen a construction boom, with the development and redevelopment of hotels, office complexes, and homes.
Barbados is also one of the Caribbean’s leading tourist destinations and is the most developed island in the region. It offers everything from inexpensive guest houses to five-star luxury hotels and resorts, many of which line the island’s abundant beaches. The Boatyard is among the most popular of the many accessible beaches around the island.
The island offers much to see and do beyond the beachfront: Broad Street in Bridgetown, the island’s capital city, is home to several large department stores and duty-free. Sunbury Plantation House, which dates from 1660, features historic antiques, including carriages and farm implements. St. Nicholas Abbey is another historic home and part of new Slave Route Project, a heritage tourism initiative of the Ministry of Tourism. St. Nicholas was erected in 1650 and is one of the only three houses of Jacobean architecture still standing in the Western Hemisphere. The Abbey features Dutch gables and finials of coral stone.
Barbados’ premier festival, Crop Over, is a traditional celebration of the end of the sugar season. The festival lasts for five weeks and features markets, carnival shows, calypso concerts and colorful parades. Other special events include Holders Season, which is held in March and internationally renowned for opera, theater and music performances. The Barbados Jazz Festival has live performances seven nights in a row, each held at a different island venue.
Arlington House Museum, formerly Barbados’ first modern hospital, is located on Queen Street in the historic town of Speightstown. The 18th-century, three-story “Single House” is now restored and features an interactive museum chronicling Speightstown’s history as a port and hub connecting three continents. Duffers can tee off at one of three golf courses, including the Green Monkey, at the rebuilt Sandy Lane resort. Barbados has an active sports scene with professional horse racing, cricket (the national sport), tennis, squash and polo.
Air transportation to and from Barbados is widely available from major U.S. gateways, and there are several inter and intra-island air transportation providers. Barbados is among the cruise industry’s premier Caribbean ports, with homeport and port-of-call cruises available throughout the year.
The most popular dishes are flying fish (a Barbados icon also found on the island’s currency), “cutters,” a local sandwich made using salt bread, and pepperpot, a pork stew in a spicy dark brown sauce. Barbados’ Mount Gay brand rum is among the world’s oldest and indeed the beverage was created in Barbados.
Barbados offers extensive, reasonably priced taxi service. Drivers do not use meters and, as is the case anywhere, it’s best to negotiate the price before you proceed. Driving is on the left. The bus system is extensive, cheap, and fast. Blue-colored public buses are run by the Barbados Transport Board.
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The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, features 1,000 miles of sugary white-sand beaches shaded by coconut palms. But its not just a beach destination, as it offers mountainous regions including the Caribbean’s highest mountain, Pico Duarte, and other natural wonders including Lake Enriquillo, the Caribbean’s largest lake and lowest elevation. Quisqueya, as Dominicans often call their country, also features great biological diversity.
Santo Domingo, on the country’s south coast, is the capital and the oldest city in the Americas, founded in 1496. The city’s cobbled streets feature the continent’s first cathedral, hospital, chapel and university. Otherwise, Santo Domingo is a modern city divided into two parts by the Ozama River. The western side is more developed, than the eastern part, known as “Santo Domingo Oriental.” Santo Domingo’s most important tourist destination is the Zona Colonial or Colonial Zone, on the Ozama’s western bank facing the Caribbean Sea.
To Zona Colonial’s west lies Gazcue, one of Santo Domingo’s oldest neighborhoods, filled with old Victorian houses and tree-lined streets. At the city’s waterfront “El Malecon,” a lengthy sea-side strip, borders the Caribbean Sea and attracts many tourists to its hotels, casinos, palm-lined boulevards and monuments. Santo Domingo’s attractions also include the cave complex the Three Eyes of Water, featuring three turquoise lagoons on different levels. Around the Gazcue area travelers will find the Palacio Nacional (seat of the Dominican government), the National Theater, the Museums in the Plaza de la Cultura, and the Palace of Fine Arts. Oriental Santo Domingo offers its own monuments and tourist spots, including the Lighthouse, where the explorer’s remains are buried, the open caves of the Parque Nacional Los Tres Ojos, and the National Aquarium.
Santo Domingo’s economic and commercial heart is the area known as the “Poligono Central,” at the nexus of 27 de Febrero, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and Maximo Gomez avenues. Many of the city’s most affluent neighborhoods surround Santo Domingo’s two main parks, the Parque Mirador Sur in the South and the Jardin Botanico in the North. South coast vacation areas include Boca Chica, environmentally forward Bayahibe – whose national park contains 200 ancient caves – La Romana, with features the 7,000-acre luxury resort Casa de Campo. The Altos de Chavon Cultural Center, a reconstructed 15th century village that also hosts concerts in a 5,000-seat Grecian amphitheater, is located within the resort.
Punta Cana/Bavaro is located on Santo Domingo’s eastern tip and features 21 miles of white-sand beaches and more than 30 all-inclusive resort properties. The majority of tourist attractions are located on the northern Atlantic coast; resorts within the 40-mile zone incorporate Puerto Plata, Sosua and Cabarete. Playa Dorada and Samana, a breeding ground for humpback whales, are located in the north.
The north coast also features a wide array of natural environments, including dense jungles, waterfalls, mountains and golden-sand beaches. Visitors can find multiple active pursuits, including diving, snorkeling, whitewater rafting, tubing, cascading, surfing, windsurfing, kiteboarding, bird-watching, rock climbing, caving, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking and sandboarding.
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Bermuda is a self-governing British overseas territory located in the Atlantic Ocean north of the Caribbean. The island offers a unique blend of colonial history and island heritage, which has given birth to colorful local legends and rich traditions. Bermuda is Britain’s oldest colony, and the English influence is apparent in Bermuda’s government, educational and legal institutions. More subtle but no less significant are the island’s Afro-influences–found in Bermuda’s cuisine, dance and music, including calypso and the rhythm of the Gombeys.
Bermuda is divided into nine parishes, with nearly all offering some tourism attractions. St. George’s Parish encompasses the area around the historic town of St. George. Hamilton Parish features Crystal Caves and the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo. Smith’s Parish is home to the Spittle Pond Nature Preserve and the Devil’s Hole Aquarium.
Pembroke Parish includes the capital city of Hamilton, while Paget Parish offers numerous resorts, plus Elbow Beach and the Bermuda Botanical Gardens. Vacationers will find golf, horseback riding and the island’s best cliffs in Warwick Parish. Bermuda’s best beaches and the historic Gibbs Hill Lighthouse are found in Southampton Parish, while Sandys Parish features the Royal Naval Dockyard fortress and shops, Gilbert Nature Reserve and several fine beaches.
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Saint Lucia is an island country in the eastern Caribbean Sea on the boundary with the Atlantic Ocean. Part of the Lesser Antilles, it is located north/northeast of the islands of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique, and covers a land area of 238 square miles.
Saint Lucia is a volcanic island, with more mountains than most other Caribbean islands. The highest point is Mount Gimie at 3,120 feet above sea level. Two other mountains, the Pitons, form the island’s most famous landmark. They are located between Soufrière and Choiseul on the island’s western side. Saint Lucia is one of the few islands in the world that boasts a drive-in volcano.
Castries is the capital city of Saint Lucia is, home to about one third of the population lives. Major towns include Gros Islet, Soufrière and Vieux Fort. The island climate is tropical, moderated by northeast trade winds, with a dry season from December to May and a wet season from June to November.
Saint Lucia is popular due to its tropical weather, lush scenery, and its numerous beaches and resorts. Tourist attractions include Sulphur Springs(at Soufrière). The hot springs complex features a pool that the hot water runs through, so visitors should bring their swimming trunks. The twin mountain peaks “The Pitons” are a world heritage site, and climbing the Gros Piton is an achievable goal for most people. The trailhead begins at about 600 feet above sea level and requires about two hours of moderate-to-strenuous hiking to reach the summit of about 2,600 feet above sea level. A further hour and one-half is needed to descend. Guides are required and entrance costs $30 US. Taxis or local buses can be used to reach the trail head. There are also several other official hiking routes on the island. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ website has links to information about hiking routes.
Most tourists visit Saint Lucia as part of a cruise, usually aboard one of the major cruise lines. Most of their time tends to be spent in Castries, although Soufriere, Marigot Bayand Gros Isletare popular spots with visitors. Visits by cruise ships over the years have led to a duty free mall (at dockside, Point Seraphine, Castries) with jewelry, souvenirs, art, liquor/rums and other offerings typical for cruise shoppers. Travelers will also find lower, “duty-Free” prices available across the island in strip malls and resorts.
Local cuisine is prepared across St. Lucia; ask a local for a recommendation and you will be sure to be directed somewhere nearby. Many rum shacks in rural towns also prepare food if given advanced notice. Fish, veggie, chicken and goat meals are very common and usually come with a number of sides including salad, plantain, breadfruit, macaroni, and rice prepared a number of different ways. For a quick snack, barbeques with chicken and pork can be found in any community on a Friday night.
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