We like to offer travel seminars in our office – the better educated you are before you make a decision on a vacation destination, the better chance you will have a great experience! This is a summary of our first one this year.
Starting with the Caribbean, it is easiest to start by looking at a map (see above).
It will be hard to make out all the islands, but starting from Florida, you see the group listed as the Bahamas. As you can see, the Bahamas is a string of islands that cover quite a bit of water mass, and that they aren’t even in the Caribbean, but rather in the Atlantic ocean. Most people go to the islands closest to Florida, Grand Bahama Island is only 90 miles off the Florida coast. If you continue south east of the Bahamas you come to another island group – Turks and Caicos. Between Florida and the Bahamas and the rest of the Caribbean Islands, is the biggest island in the Caribbean – Cuba. Travel to Cuba has been illegal for American tourists since the early 60’s, but tourists from other countries including our neighbor Canada is popular, and I think we will see it open up in the future. You see just the tip of Mexico at Cancun to the west of Cuba, so when we talk about the Caribbean Mexico, that is where we are referring. South of Cuba is the small island group of the Caymans and the larger island of Jamaica. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the second biggest island. Next east is Puerto Rico an American territory, followed closely by US Virgin and British Virgin Islands. From there they are hard to read but there is St Martin (St Marten), Guadalope, St Lucia, Barbados, Antigua and a few others all the way down to Trinidad just off the coast of South America. West of Trinidad and south of Puerto Rico are the ABC islands – Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
So with all these islands, how to pick which one to go to? First of all is cost – the islands closer to Florida are cheaper to get to because they are less flying time. Flying to Jamaica sometimes is $400 or so – flying to St Lucia is usually $800 or more.
Second is what type of island? Almost all Caribbean islands can be divided into Tropical or desert. Tropical islands are lush with vegetation, usually volcanic with mountains. Popular tropical islands are the Virgin Islands, Jamaica and St Lucia.Desert islands have beautiful beaches, palm trees and not much else. They are flat with tumbleweed and cactus. Very popular examples of desert islands are Aruba, Caymans, Turks and Caicos.
Third way to pick an island is what kind of resorts and food choices are there. Some of the most popular for great cuisine are the French islands, St Martin and Martinique. The food is excellent but also very expensive with very few all – inclusive resorts. We find the islands with the most all inclusive choices are the most popular because you know in advance how much you are going to spend on your vacation because your food and beverages are all included. Most also include extras like water sports and possibly an excursion. Tips are also included so you can leave home knowing you don’t have to spend a lot more money on your trip. The islands with the most all inclusive resorts are Jamaica, St Lucia, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and Antigua. Barbados and Aruba have some.
A fourth and very important way to pick an island is by its activities. If you are scuba certified, you certainly would want to go to an island with great scuba like Curacao or Turks and Caicos. Most all islands have snorkeling. Golf? Jamaica has the most. Shopping? St Thomas and St Martin. Want to travel without a passport? Puerto Rico and the US Virgin islands (St Thomas, St John and St Croix) Looking for a lot of activities? Jamaica is big enough to have river tubing, horse back riding, waterfall climbing, zip lines and much more.
Can’t choose? Maybe a cruise is what you are looking for – you get to stop at 3, 4 or more different islands in a week or longer cruise.