Lush Caribbean Hot Spots You Must Visit
and photos by Tom
light misting rain was gently falling, layering the lush vegetation of St. Lucia
with a glistening crystal glaze made even more brilliant in the warmth of the
Caribbean sun. A rainbow arc out of the heavens reached down like a streak of
colored lightning, melting into one of the majestic Pitons, gargantuan twin volcanic
peaks that distinguish St. Lucia from its Windward Islands neighbors. It was a
sight I'd never seen before, but it remains with me even now, though I witnessed
the event more than 10 years ago.
the 25 years that I have been traveling to the Caribbean, I have accumulated many
memorable experiences that have enriched my life and made travel so rewarding.
I've been asked on more than one occasion what my favorite island is, and that
is indeed, a difficult question. When pressed, I can probably narrow it down to
a few, but really, there's not one I wouldn't go back to visit. Here are five
islands that should still very much be labeled "paradise."
Nevis and its larger "sister" island of St. Kitts are perfect examples
of the "true" Caribbean character-unhurried, quaint, friendly, beautiful,
lush and uncomplicated. Nevis is a mere 36 square miles, of volcanic origin and
dominated by Nevis Peak, a mountain whose 3,200-foot crown is almost always shrouded
by a white collar of clouds. The range is surrounded by dense rainforests flush
with monkeys, tropical birds and colorful flora.
stunning scenery is complemented by the crystalline sea that hugs its occasional
rugged coastline. The waters are a snorkeling and diving heaven, dotted with reefs,
shipwrecks and underwater nurseries that harbor fish and mollusks of every size
capital of Charlestown is small, with charming buildings that enhance its 18th-century
flavor. There are other historic structures: weathered sugar factories and windmills;
the remains of forts and beautifully restored plantation inns, like the Hermitage,
that all add to the island's glamour and prompt some to call Nevis the "Queen
of the Caribees."
European-style rowhouses colored in deliciously vibrant hues of gold, pink, peach
and mustard, and set against the bluest of Caribbean sky is the most notable first
impression about this island in the Netherlands Antilles near Venezuela. European
settlers may have built the structures, but surely Fisher-Price painted them.
They are impossible to resist photographing and make any rank amateur photographer
look good. The sight of them makes you feel immediately that you are definitely
in the Caribbean.
is also an island that really hasn't changed much over the years, and somehow,
that's comforting. I've visited three times in eight years, and for the most part,
the most inviting sights have not lost their luster. When I returned last year,
I had the pleasure of touring the new Museum Kura Hulanda in the capital of Wilemstad,
a museum devoted to a thorough examination of the trans-Atlantic slave trade brought
to the Caribbean in the 17th to 19th centuries, as well as other non-Western cultures.
The museum is packed with artifacts from West Africa, but without question, the
most compelling exhibit is the re-created hold of a slave ship that demonstrates
the appalling conditions under which slaves were transported to the New World.
On a more upbeat note, the Underwater Park, an awesome 12-mile stretch of protected
coral and coastline, is said to be one of the most romantic places on earth.
twin peaks of the Pitons are St. Lucia's most famous landmark. Standing at the
entrance to Soufrière Bay, the mountains resemble giant doors that open
to island treasures yearning to be discovered. The Pitons soar 2,000 feet up from
the sea, surrounded by a verdant rainforest where wild orchids, giant ferns and
birds of paradise flourish.
Lucia was affectionately called "The Helen of the Caribbean" because
so many nations desired to possess it. Go ashore at Soufrière Bay and tour
the town established by the French in 1746. One place not to miss is the unusual
marketplace, decorated with colorful murals and gingerbread trim. The sulfur pits
dot the landscape near the volcano, and you can drive through the still-active
Qualibout Crater before continuing on the mountain road to explore the rainforest.
are many interesting and picturesque bays and coves in St. Lucia, including Marigot
Bay, where the original Dr. Dolittle film was shot. Castries is St. Lucia's bustling
capital and home to several historical sights, like the La Toc Battery, as well
as unusual and beautiful architecture. At Bagshaws, you can observe the art of
silkscreening. To meet the people up close and personal, venture to Gros Islet,
a tiny fishing village that comes alive every Friday night when it stages a "jump-up,"
a mini-carnival that features soca and reggae music.
I vividly recall my first time ashore on this
idyllic getaway about mid-way down the Grenadines chain. It nestles between the
larger islands of St. Vincent to the north and Grenada to the south. I had arrived
by a Moorings sailboat, along with five friends, and we were attracted to this
tiny jewel largely because of the pearl white beaches and numerous palm trees
scattered over its flat landscape.
is no town here, and there probably never will be, and life centers around the
Palm Island Resort, the creation of John and Mary Caldwell, who sailed from Australia
to the Caribbean in the early 1960s, eventually signing a 198-year lease for the
island, then called "Prune Island."
changed that by planting thousands of palms, à la Johnny Appleseed, then
built the resort that the two jointly owned until 1998, when Caldwell died and
Antigua Resorts bought the property and spent nearly $4 million in renovations.
There are about 45 cottages at the resort and a maximum of 80 guests. It was the
perfect place to kick back then, and still is. We lolled on the beach, sipping
the infamous rum punches called "Sunset" because, it is said, just one
and you'll never see the sun set! Though we were only there for the day, it was
my passion to return, and I did, several times, finding each time more delightful,
more spectacular than the last.
have never stayed on Mustique, but rather arrived on several occasions by charter
yacht, anchoring in Britannia Bay about mid-point down the 1400-acre private enclave
that is located about 18 miles south of St. Vincent and in the Grenadines chain.
The island is an exclusive retreat for the rich and famous, with noted celebrities
such as Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger counted among the villa residents. Most
of the luxury villas were converted from original sugar or cotton plantations,
and are couched among the hillsides above the beaches. The only property that
is classified as a hotel is the elegantly appointed Cotton House, with just 20
guestrooms. For me, even a brief visit made an impression. Perhaps it's also the
it has a certain mystique!
is one tiny town a few hundred yards inland from Britannia Bay, with a couple
of brightly colored boutiques and not much else. The best spot is Basil's Bar,
right on the beach. It's the quintessential island hangout, with a great menu
of local West Indian dishes and to die for homemade ice cream! Friday nights there
is usually a "jump up," and rumors are Jagger has attended on more than
one occasion when he was "on island," as have other celebrities.
Things You Should Do In The Caribbean
1. Plan your vacation
to St. Maarten during the Heineken Regatta, scheduled the first weekend in March.
Parties, sailboat races and live entertainment make it live up to its motto of
2. Charter a Moorings yacht and sail the islands,
especially a "one-way" sail, where you can have time to stay at each
island as long as you want. Get a fully crewed yacht with some friends.
3. Jump off the top deck of the Willie T. Pirate Pub anchored in the Bight at
Norman Island, reportedly the setting for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
4. Climb the 250 steps leading to abandoned Fort Duvernette located
behind Young Island Resort in the Grenadines. On a clear day, you can see the
entire Grenadines chain.
5. Catch Foxy at Foxy's Tamarind Bar on Jost
Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. This local entertainer will have you laughing
uproariously at his made-up songs, jokes and political commentary.
Grab a cheeseburger at Le Select in St. Barth's, and if you're lucky, Jimmy Buffet
may drop in and sing his hit "Cheeseburger in Paradise," purportedly
written after he sampled the ones at Le Select.
7. Snorkel the Tobago
Cays, a cluster of four uninhabited islands protected by Horsehoe Reef and accessible
only by yacht or day sailer from Union Island or St. Vincent. Absolutely the best
snorkeling in the Caribbean.
8. Tour the fort on Brimstone Hill in St.
Kitts. Built by the British in the 1800s, it was finally captured by the French
after a siege that lasted almost a year. It is beautifully restored and the view
is among the best anywhere.
While French St. Martin has some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, your
palate will be amazed at the barbecue being cooked roadside on makeshift grills
in many areas along Grand Case. Do yourself a favor and try it!
Go ahead, have your hair braided and beaded. Even though this "look"
began with the movie 10 back in the early 1970s, it's still a popular diversion
for visitors. You'll be lucky not to be approached on any Caribbean beach by locals
who specialize in this hairstyle.
more information on visiting the Caribbean, visit: http://www.doitcaribbean.com/