Mass tourism can turn a lovely island paradise into a tourist trap. Large cruise ships docking for a day in a small island with a downtown section not more than three blocks long can cause this. Today, mass-market cruise ships carry from 1,900 to 3,500 passengers. All it takes is for an island government in the Caribbean, for instance, to construct a dock that will facilitate these vessels and before you know it there are two ships in port at the same time depositing some 5,000 tourists for the day. This is great for the local shop owners and sightseeing companies, but how good is it if you flew to the island for rest and relaxation and there are 5,000 tourists roaming around town and on the roads?
This is the case for so many Caribbean islands now. You just may be better off as a passenger on one of the cruise ships seeing several islands during a cruise rather than being stuck in one place for a vacation. However, many islands maintain their popularity with tourists who choose to stay in the four and five star resorts and hotels that maintain large private grounds with just about everything right on the property so you never have to go into town unless to choose to. Let’s talk about some of those islands that I can recommend for a stay-put vacation.
We will discuss the Caribbean first since it is the most popular island area for Americans to vacation in, particularly during winter months. The list will not be in a first to last choice selection since all have their pluses for wonderful vacations. Virgin Gorda is small with a semi-desert landscape and not a lot of hotels. There is lots of coastline and the island is very quiet. Little Dix Bay is the place to stay.
One of the more tropical islands, looking a bit like Tahiti, is Saint Lucia. Try the Sandals resort, which is all-inclusive.
Here are some islands that almost never advertise and have a set following: Anguilla, Bahamas for the beaches, restaurants and resorts; Saba makes you think of what the Caribbean was like years ago; and St. Kitts and Nevis for friendly locals and breathtaking views. Nevis is the quieter of the two.
The Cayman Islands are some of the most scenic and are also premiere diving sites. Eden Rock on Grand Cayman and Captain Heith Tibbetts Wreck of Cayman Brac are particular favorites and beginners should not attempt either. Some of the best hotel deals are available on these islands right now. The beaches are white with clear waters.
One of my personal favorites is Barbados because there is something more to do than just sit around the beach and sun. There is an interesting town, Bridgetown, with some fascinating restaurants, horse racing, nightclubs, buzzing streets and wonderful beaches. Large, deluxe resorts are also here. This is especially popular with the British as there are direct flights from London to Barbados. Some of the biggest names in show business have homes here. Many years ago I was shopping in Bridgetown and saw Claudette Colbert picking up some items in a store. I asked the clerk after she departed if that indeed was her and she said yes and that she had a lovely home right on the beach just out of town. A couple of the Beatles have had homes here also.
Don’t pass up Bottom Bay and Soup Bowl.
The U.S. Virgin Islands are popular with many. They are easy to fly to and have very fine luxury resorts. St. Johns is my personal favorite with some of the most beautiful tropical bays in the region. I don’t recommend St. Thomas because at times there can be more than eight cruise ships docked at one time.
The Turks and Caicos offer some of the most stunning white beaches of the Caribbean – one of these can be found on Grace Bay. It makes a wonderful getaway for those who seek maximum comfort in a tropical setting. Be aware the prices are high for adventurous travelers and honeymooners.
Puerto Rico is easy to fly to, is an American possession and feels foreign. The population speaks Spanish and some English. The main city is San Juan with its old and newer sections. You’ll find many high-rise condos and hotels that can resemble Miami, but you will experience fine, plentiful beaches like Mosquito Bay and Carolina Beach. The city buzzes at night so you will never be bored. Shopping is good in old town. Do so when not many cruise ships are in port. You might stay at the Caribe Hilton because of its location in the city in a beautiful setting.
Jamaica has long been a go-to for lively Caribbean culture and adventure activities, and relatively cheap airfare and hotel rates are part of the allure. The many all-inclusive resorts appeal to honeymooners and young families. You can also go hiking on very interesting and lush trails and climb up Dunn’s River Falls. This is a very tropical isle loaded with much beauty.
Dominica is a little island that few people have ventured to, and is perfect for the ecotourist on a budget. You can spend a few days exploring the waterfalls and nature trails of Morne Trois Pitons National Park. It has beautiful beaches and ideal swimming conditions.
Puerto Plata is in the Dominican Republic along with the more recently developed Punta Cana. Here you will find many condos and up-scale resorts. Rates can be all over the place so start checking early for your vacation.
Santo Domingo is also here and the capital city. It is perfect for busy nightlife and interesting restaurants.
St. Barts is a member of the French Caribbean family and offers ample scenery to enjoy as you soak up the sun on perfect beaches. It is expensive as it is one of the picks for the money set and Hollywood’s celebrities. It is possible to get a “deal” here but you have to do your shopping.
Many people think of Bermuda as in the Caribbean. However, it is in the Atlantic, southeast of New York. It offers good vacation weather in most months of the year except winter. However, the East Coast people do go there during winter because it is much warmer than New York State. Being two hours flying time from the Big Apple, Bermuda does have wonderful pink resorts, great beaches and a British atmosphere since it belongs to Britain.
Golfing is also good here. I personally like Bermuda very much.
If you really want to get away from it all, consider Saba in the Caribbean. Here are mountains, beaches, hotels, swimming in clear water and few tourists. It was used as Skull Island in the film King Kong. You are away from almost everything, so don’t expect lively nightlife. You might think you are on another planet at times. The island is actually Dutch. Wild waves are all about. Not for me, but perhaps you might check into it, it may be of interest to you.
Away from the Caribbean you might consider the most beautiful islands of French Polynesia: Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea. Bora Bora is probably the most photographed because of the massive turquoise lagoon in a cobalt ocean. It remains not over ridden by tourism because of its remoteness and related high costs. The Bora Bora Lagoon Resort is one of the more popular resorts. This is perfect for a stay-put vacation. From the States you can fly from Los Angeles direct to Papette, Tahiti and change planes for the short flight to Bora Bora. It will take about 10 hours to get to your destination. The flight from L.A. to Tahiti is eight hours and the other two hours is changing planes and flying to Bora Bora. Frankly, I think the best bet for seeing the area is to book passage on the deluxe cruise ship Paul Gauguin for a 7-day cruise through French Polynesia. The ship holds only 350 passengers and gives you a chance to sample the leading islands of the area in high style. You must see these islands once in your lifetime. Perhaps the most beautiful set of islands on earth.