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From the international bestseller, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, with more than 3 million copies in print, Patricia Schultz singles out the 53 places in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda to see before you die. Here’s tiny, glorious, undeveloped Culebra. Decadent Old Havana. St. Barth’s, exclusive “Provence” of the Caribbean. Destinations for nature lovers—the Asa Wright Centre on Trinidad and Tobago, the Virgin Island National Park in St. John’s, the dazzling bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques. A foodie’s guide to St. Martin, a sailor’s guide to the Abacos, a golfer’s guide to the Dominican Republic, a trekker’s guide to Saba, a hedonist’s guide to Negril. On and off the beaten track, each island offers a particular piece of paradise.
About this title: Workman Shorts is a new line of bite-size, subject-specific e-books curated from a library of trusted books and authors.
A special corner of the world for me is the inspiration behind this e-book. The Caribbean was the site of one of my first great adventures, anywhere. I traveled solo at the innocent age of 15 to the Dominican Republic, a region I thought was all about white sandy beaches and flashy megaresorts. Visiting a friend from high school whose family lived in Santo Domingo, I found myself swept up in an exotic world of merengue and salsa, guava picked from backyard trees, and big families who loved to laugh, dance, and live life with gusto … on very little means. That trip opened up my world to the culture of a beautiful island and a history that is one of the richest in the Caribbean—until then, Columbus had only been a somewhat mythological name in a history book.
I have visited many of the islands since, most recently the lush, volcanic island of St. Lucia and flat-as-a-pancake Anguilla, whose beaches took my breath away. Each island always amazes me with its individuality, the result of its own particular mélange of history, people, topography, and beauty, both on land and offshore. This means you can return time and again and know that every Caribbean adventure will be unique. Spanish heritage permeates the UNESCO-protected colonial heart of Santo Domingo and decadently romantic Old Havana, while Barbados and Bermuda are British through and through (think cricket games and jolly good high tea). For a whiff of the Netherlands, Dutch architecture is a highlight of Curaçao, though painted in tropical hues to remind you where you are.
Green-clad Saba is like a gumdrop that disappears right down into the water, where the diving is known as some of the world’s best. Dominica has earned a reputation as the ecotourist’s island of choice, whereas those in search of celebrity sightings and a quasi–French Riviera ambience book months in advance for Christmas holidays in St. Barths and Mustique. There’s tiny, gloriously undeveloped Culebra and its sister island Vieques off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico. And don’t forget Jamaica, whose size and breadth promise a host of possibilities—from biking through the coffee plantations in the dense Blue Mountains to reggae festivals to sunset-filled evenings at Rick’s Café in Negril.
A lot of development means there’s no lack of options for filling your days. Untouched and pristine means there’s a good chance that the only footprints on the sugary white beach you discover will be your own. That idyllic island where they filmed Pirates of the Caribbean? That wasn’t Hollywood’s imagination—that was in the Tobago Cays.
Where cuisine is concerned, islands like Martinique, Guadeloupe, and St. Martin are steeped in French influence. Meanwhile, a gourmand moment can be found at any island’s beach shack where the lobster is pulled out of the water just minutes before you sit down and the mango ice cream comes homemade from that morning’s pick. Toast the day’s end with an ice-cold beer brewed down the road or a lovely rum concoction—and watch for the sunset’s green flash.
If the world is too much with you, all you may want is a postcard-perfect beach, where the rustle of palm fronds overhead and the impossibly blue palette of the waters lapping at your toes is enough to make you turn off your BlackBerry and drop off the map for just a while. For that there is an embarrassment of choices—visit them all and cast your vote.
33 Spectacular Beaches
Anguilla is a flat, scrubby island that’s light on interior scenery, but take a look at its confectionery 12-mile perimeter: These are some of the most picture-perfect white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters you’ll find anywhere. Some of the finest of its 33 beaches are anchored by a number of special hotels with celebrated in-house restaurants, making the island an unrivaled choice for an indulgent stay-put vacation. Venture beyond your hotel grounds to explore the island and you’ll find friendly towns undisturbed by cruise ships, casinos, strip malls, or franchises.
Sensual, romantic Cap Juluca was an early and important property, attracting Hollywood moguls and financiers to Anguilla with whitewashed Moorish turrets, arches, and domes on Maunday’s Beach, a magical, mile-long crescent of sugary white sand overlooked by all 98 luxurious suites. It manages Anguilla’s first and only golf course, an 18-hole links-style creation by Greg Norman. The only place guests wear anything more elaborate than a swimsuit and a suntan is in its celebrated Pimm’s Restaurant, whose menu features Eurobbean cuisine—think Anguillan lobster bisque drizzled with spiced Cognac or green peppercorn–marinated swordfish.
Just a few beaches east on Rendezvous Bay, CuisinArt Resort & Spa is another whitewashed Mediterranean vision on a long stretch of perfect beach (some say it’s the island’s most perfect). Lie back in a beach chair and enjoy the dreamy views of the rugged volcanic slopes of St. Martin. Food and wine are a major draw; Santorini’s famous johnnycakes and grilled tuna filet are served with herbs and vegetables grown on CuisinArt’s hydroponic farm. The two-story Venus Spa is one of the biggest and most lavish in the Caribbean.
Stroll down the beach to the Dune Preserve, a fantastical beach bar owned by local reggae legend Bankie Banx, who sometimes performs, especially during the monthly full-moon parties and the four-day music festival in March called Moonsplash.
On the island’s northern side, the bluff-top Malliouhana Hotel & Spa on Meads Bay was the first luxury hotel on the island when it opened in 1984, and it wears its age beautifully. It still offers attentive, hands-on involvement by the gracious British owners and staff and a highly regarded spa. Nonguests are welcome to dine at the island’s most refined restaurant, which offers classic French dishes with an island accent, as well as one of the most extensive wine lists in the Caribbean. A boutique alternative is the small Mediterranean-style Anacaona Hotel, just paces from Meads Beach. Save an evening for nearby Blanchard’s, a trailblazer in Anguilla’s impressive food scene where choices like chunky lobster cakes or warm lemon-buttermilk pound cake with homemade vanilla bean ice cream explain its popularity.
Shoal Bay might be the beauty pageant winner of Anguilla’s can’t-go-wrong beaches, a 2-mile strip on the northeast coast known for food shacks such as Uncle Ernie’s, famous for grilled chicken, ribs, and special cole slaw, and Gwen’s, another rib specialist, with hammocks in a shady palm grove and a reggae colada–fueled Sunday afternoon jump-up. Or play castaway on Gorgeous Scilly Cay, a popular beach-shack restaurant on its own coral-sand islet. It can really get wound up on weekends with crowds and live music; on weekdays it’s more like a Robinson Crusoe fantasy. The alfresco feast of simple grilled Anguilla lobster marinated in a curry-based sauce is legendary, so reserve ahead.
VISITOR INFO:. CAP JULUCA: Tel 888-858-5822 or 264-497-6666; . Cost: from $495 (off-peak), from $995 (peak); dinner $75. When: closed Sept–Oct. CUISINART RESORT & SPA: Tel 800-943-3210 or 264-498-2000; Cost: from $440 (off-peak), from $815 (peak); dinner, $75. When: closed Sept–Oct. MALLIOUHANA HOTEL & SPA: Tel 800-835-0796 or 264-497-6111; . Cost: from $430 (off-peak), from $860 (peak); dinner $80. When: closed Sept–Oct. ANACAONA HOTEL: Tel 877-647-4736 or 264-497-6827; . Cost: from $150 (off-peak), from $250 (peak). BLANCHARD’S: Tel 264-497-6100; . Cost: $70. GORGEOUS SCILLY CAY: Tel 264-497-5123; . Cost: lobster lunch $75. BEST TIMES: Nov–Apr for weather; Mar for Moonsplash Music Festival; May for Anguilla Regatta; Nov for Tranquility Jazz Festival.
A Nautical Kentucky Derby and Stellar Beaches
In 1784, a young Horatio Nelson arrived in Antigua, the premier Caribbean naval base for the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. He’d still recognize the restored dockyard, now a national park bearing his name and one of few British Georgian–style naval dockyards left in the world. Antigua remains one of the most British of the Caribbean isles and reveres its rapport with the sea. Every April some 200 boats from 25 countries descend on this otherwise quiet outpost for Antigua Sailing Week, one of the top regattas in the world.
The Admiral’s Inn, a Georgian brick building dating back to 1788, is the unofficial headquarters for the Sailing Week hubbub and the architectural centerpiece of the Dockyard. Known as the Ads, it’s the island’s most interesting historic hotel, with 13 rooms, and wears the ambience of an old ship. The well-tanned yachting crowd comes here to cool off in the shady terrace bar/restaurant, their carefully tended pleasure and racing yachts bobbing nearby. For a quiet retreat from the sailing scene, a loyal clientele repairs to the time-honored Curtain Bluff resort, flanked by two perfect beaches in one of the prettiest spots in Antigua. Guests are lulled to sleep at night by the pounding surf on the windward side, while the lagoon-smooth leeward beach serves as the launching place for the hotel’s host of water activities. Tennis buffs come to participate in the prestigious Antigua Tennis Week held here every May.
The newest and chicest hotel on Antigua, Carlisle Bay, swept the island scene into the 21st century: Its sleek and soothing suites overlook a lovely crescent of white and golden sand backed by rolling hills, with not a neighboring hotel in sight. Guests rarely leave the grounds, with everything you could want available—kids club, water sports, spa, yoga pavilion, tennis, fabulous food—and all offered with restrained good taste.
The largest of the Leeward Islands, Antigua is rightly known for its abundant beaches (365 of them)—and the snorkeling that goes with them. The most popular are Dickenson Bay in the northwest, a wide strip of powder-fine sand with blissfully calm turquoise waters, and Half-Moon Bay, which stretches for a sandy mile on the eastern coast. The most fashionable, however, and only five minutes from the Dockyard, is Pigeon Point.
Wherever you are (the island is only 14 miles long and 11 miles wide), it’s never very far to Shirley Heights, the highest point in Antigua (where the remains of General Shirley’s 17th-century fort still stand), for a sunset party on Sunday nights.
Antigua’s sister island to the north, flat and rocky Barbuda, is a bird-watcher’s paradise, best known for a rookery of frigate birds some 5,000 strong, outnumbering the local human population threefold. With seemingly endless stretches of white and pink sand beaches, Barbuda can bring tears to the eyes of true beach aficionados.
VISITOR INFO:. NELSON’S DOCKYARD: Tel 268-460-1379; . ADMIRAL’S INN: Tel 268-460-1027; . Cost: from $120 (off-peak), from $170 (peak). When: closed late Aug–Oct 20. CURTAIN BLUFF: Tel 888-289-9898 or 268-484-0000; . Cost: from $645 (off-peak), from $995 (peak), all-inclusive. When: closed Aug–late Oct. CARLISLE BAY: Tel 866-502-2855 or 268-484-0002; Cost: from $555 (off-peak), from $920 (peak). When: closed late Aug–mid-Oct. BEST TIMES: Nov–Apr for weather; Apr for Classic Yacht Regatta and Sailing Week; Aug for Summer Carnival; Dec for Yacht Show.
A Mini-Archipelago Lures Boaters, Diners, and Anglers
SAILING THE ABACOS
The Abacos, The Bahamas
Among the most affluent of the Out Islands, the Abacos are known as “the sailing capital of the world.” Although that’s a title it might share with the British Virgin Islands and the Grenadines, the Abacos promise a fine collection of 25 cays off the eastern coast of the long, thin, boomerang-shaped Great Abaco island. Some are uninhabited, while others are home to small resorts and inviting settlements that date to the American Revolution, when Loyalists from the Carolinas resettled here. Sail your way from one cay to the next, dropping anchor for a little snorkeling, swimming, excellent fishing, diving, or island exploration. With the exception of Eleuthera’s Harbour Island, you’ll find more 18th-century charm here than anywhere else in the Bahamas.
The prime launch pad is Great Abaco’s Marsh Harbour, considered to be one of the easiest harbors to enter and equipped with several full-service marinas—this is the place to rent a boat, with or without a crew. Before setting off on your yacht crawl, stop by the Jib Room for conch burgers and their signature Bilge Burner drink. The popular harbor-view spot really jumps with music and dancing on the two nights it serves dinner— barbecued baby-back pork ribs on Wednesdays, and juicy New York strip steaks on Saturdays.
There are beautiful beaches and harbors aplenty, but some are not to be missed. Elbow Cay is best known for its 120-foot-tall, peppermint-striped lighthouse built in 1838 in the charming 18th-century village of Hope Town.
Hotels in the Abacos tend to be small and casual. Elbow Cay’s Abaco Inn draws return guests to its cheerful island-style rooms nestled among sand dunes and coconut palms, just steps away from two beaches and offering the best dining in the Abacos. Perched at the crest of a sandy ridge with views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Sea of Abaco, the restaurant has a reputation for the best seafood around (try the grilled wahoo or crispy, pan-fried coconut grouper). Leave room for the desserts by Miss Belle, a fourth-generation Hope Town Bahamian whose fresh-squeezed key lime, coconut, and chocolate silk pies are a local legend. At the very tip of Elbow Cay is Tahiti Beach, a gorgeous curve of sand whose utterly placid, clear turquoise waters are so remote you’ll have to get there by foot, bike, or golf cart if you don’t have a boat.
With pastel clapboard homes and white picket fences, Man-O-War Cay takes you back in time. Residents are justly proud of their 200-year history of shipbuilding, and continue to craft their famous fiberglass boats today. Great Guana, the longest of the Abaco cays, stretches nearly 7 miles tip to tip but has just 100 full-time residents. Its endless beach, alluringly deserted and with grassy dunes, runs the entire length of the island and is one of the loveliest in the Bahamas. It’s home to Nippers, one of the best (and most family-friendly) beach bars around. A multilevel structure perched high on a 40-foot dune, it offers snorkelers and divers easy access to the outstanding Great Abaco Barrier Reef Beach, which starts less than 50 feet from shore. Adults indulge in frozen Nipper Trippers—a frozen concoction of five rums and two juices—while kids can splash about in small swimming pools. Sunday is an all-day party disguised as a pig roast.
Some of the best fishing grounds border Treasure Cay. It’s also the place to be if it’s golf you’re after. Treasure Cay Hotel Resort & Marina has a Dick Wilson–designed 18-hole course that is one of the best in the Bahamas. The property is just steps from the surprisingly uncrowded Treasure Cay Beach, a 3.5-mile-long stretch of incredibly powdery sand that is perfect for swimming. On Green Turtle Cay, New Plymouth is another historic village with palm trees, settled in 1783 when Loyalists fled America to find a new home. Now it’s best known for Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar—a shack, really—hung with Junkanoo masks and home of the Famous Goombay Smash. The top-secret recipe is believed to contain coconut rum, dirty rum, apricot brandy, and pineapple juice. Get one to go and amble over to Coco Bay beach, shaded by casurina pines and, amazingly, almost always empty.
The fishing in the Abacos is so renowned that the peak and off-peak seasons are reversed to accommodate avid anglers. They find yellowtail and grouper on the reefs, marlin and tuna in the deeps, and fast, canny bonefish in the Marls, 400 square miles of lush mangrove islands and sandy cays on the western side of Great Abaco.
VISITOR INFO:. HOW: The Moorings can set you up with a boat. Tel 888-952-8420 or 242-367-4000; . JIB ROOM: Tel 242-367-2700; . Cost: dinner $25. ABACO INN: Tel 800-468-8799 or 242-366-0133; . Cost: from $160; dinner $50. When: closed mid-Aug–mid-Oct. NIPPERS: Tel 242-365-5143; . Cost: lunch $15. TREASURE CAY HOTEL RESORT & MARINA: Tel 800-327-1584 or 954-525-7711; . Cost:
- On Sale
- Jan 15, 2011
- Page Count
- 299 pages
- Workman Publishing Company