Sure, anyone can fly to Jamaica, St. Thomas or The Cayman Islands. Okay, not just anyone, but for something really special, try one of these.
Known as the “Island of Spice”, Granada is located northwest of Trinidad and Tobago, and just northeast of Venezuela. Most of us know it as the island America invaded in 1983, but it is known worldwide as the 2nd largest exporter of nutmeg. We all know you need nutmeg for the perfect Pina-colada so that was worth protecting, though the official version was the discovery of Cuban construction and military personnel building a 10,000 ft. runway. That runway will help you arrive unless you take one of the cruise ships that unfortunately dock here. At 133 sq. miles this mountainous (highest peak 840 meters) is blessed with rich soil, numerous rivers and waterfalls with their crown jewel being the 1.9 mile long Grand Anse Beach, considered one of the finest in the world.
Named after a shrine to the Virgin Mary in Italy and located southeast of Puerto Rico in the Leeward Islands, Guadeloupe was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493. That last fact could be argued by the thousands of Arawaks who resided there at the time, but that’s a whole different discussion. Colonized by the French, it is still considered a part of France and 83.3% of their tourists are French, but don’t let that scare you; the people are still quite friendly anyway. At 629 sq. miles, with the highest point of 1467 meters, this Island nation has a sub-tropical climate tempered by trade winds giving it a pleasant climate with moderate humidity. There are beautiful waterfalls to hike to, great festivals and street parties, and most importantly, rum distilleries to visit.
Located south-southeast of Guadeloupe, Dominica is called the “Nature Island of the Caribbean.” Named by Christopher Columbus because he spotted it on a Sunday (Nov 3rd, 1493) we’re just thankful it was a clear day. Dominica has 365 rivers, rainforests and the world’s second largest hot spring- aptly named Boiling Lake. This island paradise is home to the Sisserou Parrot, the Jaco or Red-necked Parrot and the infamous Dreadlocked, Red-Necked American Tourist. Not to make fun of just Dominica because it seems every American who settles in the islands ends up with dreads. This is also a big-time spot for whale-watching with a year round population of Sperm Whales, along with occasional sightings of Killer, Humpback and Great White Tourist Whales. Okay sorry about that last one. I couldn’t help myself.
Just off the northeast coast of Venezuela, Margarita Island is basically two peninsulas, 48miles long and 12 miles at its widest. There are 50 beaches, 106 miles of coastline and a mountain range with the highest peak coming in at 2,493 ft. The island sports a pair of mountains named the Tetas de Maria Guevara which means Breasts of Maria Guevara; they are definitely more creative with names than Columbus was. Direct flights are not available from the U.S. but charters are available, especially next year for the 2014 Caribbean Series, the highest ranking baseball tourney in Latin America. Let’s hope Jimmy Buffet never hears of this place; it’s a natural for one of his Margaritaville tourist bars.
Rumor has it the name came from caulking or sealing seams on wooden boats after all the shipwrecks on the island. I know, even Columbus could have come up with a better one. Just off the coast of Belize, this island is only 5 miles long and less than 1 wide. You’re not here for the land though; it’s the water that’s the attraction. The whole coast of Belize is famous for their diving and snorkeling and Caye Caulker also features many underwater caves to explore. The reef around the island is exposed above the water in some spots and drops to 2-8 ft. deep in others. Known as a center for painters and musicians it comes as quite a surprise that Wikipedia mentions the abundance of Marijuana on the island. Go figure.
Jost Van Dyke
Thought located in the Virgin Islands, this tiny spit of land is mainly known by day-trippers to its famous bars. Accessible from St John’s by ferry and water taxi, (“Follow that boat.” I always want to say that when on a water taxi,) there are no mega-resorts to pick from but numerous villas and cabins to book. There are only a few hundred residents on this 3 sq. mile island and that seems to be pushing it. The highest point on the island comes in at 1054 ft., though some would say the highest level is at the Soggy Dollar Bar, home of the world famous Painkillers. Though there is a road to the Soggy Dollar now, for years the only access and still most popular route is to arrive by boat and swim to the beach bar, hence your dollars get “Soggy.” Hey it may not be creative but it beats naming it after the day of the week you discovered it, Columbus.
by Michael Ryan