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Caribbean vacation ideas - Caribbean Odyssey
Lush Caribbean Hot Spots You Must Visit

words and photos by Tom Wuckovich

A 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.

Over 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.

The 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 and description.

The 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."


Gabled, 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.

Curaçao 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.

St. Lucia

The 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.

St. 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.

There 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.

Palm Island, Grenadines

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.

There 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."

Caldwell 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.


I 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 name…Mustique…it has a certain mystique!

There 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.

10 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 "Serious Fun."

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.

6. 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.

9. 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!

10. 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.

For more information on visiting the Caribbean, visit: