When it comes to selecting where to go in the Caribbean, it’s often a matter of taste, activities and preferences. While many of the exotic destinations are diverse in their culture, they all share a common bond – a plethora of beautiful beaches.
St. John’s, Antiqua
With as many beaches as there are days in the year (365 to be exact), St. John’s is filled with coral reefs and charming Colonial architecture. There is plenty of culture to soak in for a full day on this picturesque British Caribbean capital, beginning with a tour of St. John’s Cathedral and the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda for a quick primer of the island’s history. If nature calls, walk the nature trail to Shirley Heights.
Shutterbugs will not want to miss the Photographic Tour of Antiqua with professional photographer Marc Hubbard. Along with stops to St. John’s, the diverse journey takes you to the tropical countryside, small island villages, Long Bay Beach, a fort built in 1739 and Devil’s Bridge complete with blowholes and a spouting surf. Other highlights include a visit to Betty’s Hope Sugar Plantation which was the first one of its kind on the island. Originating in 1674, it is representative of the island’s hundreds of years of sugar production.
While St. Barts is the land of all things chic and rivals the French Riviera when it comes to luxury shopping, exquisite dining and a haven for supersize yacht owners and jet-setters, it also offers windsurfing, sailing, sunning on isolated beaches and breathtaking scenery at every turn. And expect the occasional celebrity sighting or two!
A St. Barts Island Overview tour takes you through the tropical landscape with views of the ocean from windswept cliffs just waiting to be photographed. The trip begins with a look at the island’s most popular beach, Le Col de la Tourmente and on to breathtaking views of the valley and ocean at Grand Fond (once the cattle center of St. Barts). A peek at the oceanfront house that once belonged to the noted Russian ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev along with a stop at the famous La Cave wine shop in Marigot which stocks over 30,000 bottles of wine is next. The Petit-Cul de Sac and Grand Cul de Sac also offers views of a large lagoon, luxury resorts and notable as the yearly host for the 24-hour windsurfing regatta.
Cosmopolitan and chic, Martinique is known as the island of “never ending summer” thanks to average temps in the low 80’s. Popular as a destination for Francophiles, the French-Creole island features idyllic beachscapes and rainforests ideal for hiking, cathedrals, 17th-century architecture, culture and some of the best world-class French restaurants in the Caribbean.
The Saint-Pierre & Rum Distillery tour features a visit to the idyllic village of Balata, a drive through the rainforest and a stop to the Chateau Depaz Estate. Here you can see the blue-cane filled fields that comprise the production of Depaz rum. A drive through the coastal village of Saint-Pierre offers a glimpse of the Mount Pelée volcano. If you are into lush gardens and interiors, a tour of the Historic Clement’s Plantation & Balata Garden is in order. The plantation house is a historic home filled with period furnishings, surrounded by sugar cane fields and has hosted guests such as former US President George Bush and France’s President Francois Mitterrand. The Balata Tropical Gardens offer unique tropical species such as torch gingers and parakeet flowers along with an amazing abundance of orchids and hibiscus.
Known as the world’s smallest area divided by two nations – French and Dutch – St. Maarten is an island of contrasts of heritage and influence. Composed of 37 stunning beaches, it is both a place of European sophistication and island play. The Dutch capital of Phillipsburg boasts boutiques, jewelry stores and indigenous eateries (lobster sandwiches remain supreme) while Marigot, the French capital, features the island’s best dining in Grand Case along with unique cuisine and architecture and more laidback than its Dutch counterpart. And the island is a survivor, having been ravaged by hurricanes in the past two decades.
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