Imagine your dismay if you found yourself on an island that was arid and desert-like instead of the tropical forest you've been dreaming about for years. What if you ended up in a Las Vegas style casino when you thought you were visiting a tropical bungalow? The research you do for your Caribbean visit can affect your decisions and keep you from disappointment.
Your research should help you decide which island is best for you, how you will get to the island(s) you choose and where you will go on said island(s). The Caribbean has something for everyone, and you will find this is true when you begin your research. Going through the decision-making process can be challenging, so use these guidelines to make your search easier.
If your main concern is a particular activity, such as water sports, golf or mountain biking, you may want to use guidebook information or the Web sites of Caribbean-focused Internet travel vendors to search by activity for islands that are right for you.
In the Caribbean, there are even variations between different areas of a single island, and your interests will help point you toward your idyllic vacation spot. More generalized Internet travel brokers do not allow searches by activity and, as a result, you must have an idea of which island you wish to visit before you look for accommodations or airfare.
Consider Caribbean culture. Each island's history, language, cuisine, and overall atmosphere are defined by four prominent cultures: English, French, Spanish and Dutch. While the English and Dutch islanders mostly speak English, fewer will speak English on the French- and Spanish-speaking islands. Consider your feelings on whether you'd enjoy a culturally diverse trip, or if you would you prefer familiarity.
Some islands are not on the beaten path for most tourists and may be more difficult to reach. Major Caribbean tourist destinations generally have large numbers of direct flights and often make tourist traffic easy. However, some of the harder-to-reach islands may be just as popular as the easy-access islands. These are considerations you'll need to make before you ever set foot on that tropical beach.
While avid sailors may point their own crafts into the wind, most visitors arrive to the Caribbean by other routes. Airlines and cruise companies offer several choices for the Caribbean traveler. You will need to determine how you will arrive, when you will arrive and how direct you want your travel to be.
Most islands do not receive direct flights, and many visitors are uneasy riding in small planes between islands. If this is the case, you will likely want to travel to the islands that do have direct flights. Other islands may have only one flight per day and may be unable to accommodate your schedule. If you arrive by cruise ship, keep in mind that most lines do not stay in port for very long and offer a dramatically different experience than an island stay. For more information on cruising the Caribbean, visit our comprehensive Cruise Guide.
Choosing which island to visit is the most difficult decision. Now you need to focus on the particulars of where you'll stay and what activities you're most interested in. If you're motivated by a particular sport or activity, such as golf, tennis, snorkeling, or wind surfing, you may want to ensure the hotel you are staying at offers them. If your hotel does not, you will want to stay in an area where these activities are easily accessible. If touring historic sites tops your agenda, you can plan your vacation in or near restored villas and plantation homes.
Determine the most meaningful part of your Caribbean vacation. Will it be the island, the activities you participate in or the style of the accommodations? Is seeing the wonder of the coral reefs at the top of your list? Then you will want to narrow your destination choices to those islands with nearby reefs and scuba diving or snorkeling companies.
What if you want to avoid traditional tourist destinations, filled with other travelers? Visiting out-of-the-way spots on many islands is easy, while tourist areas outnumber pockets of local flavor on others. If you plan to make your visit from aboard a cruise ship, you will especially need to choose your activities carefully because your time on the island will be even more limited.
Make sure to consider who you plan to travel with. If your first concern is bringing family, look for locations that are child-friendly. Planning a family getaway can be much easier with the help of Caribbean guides written specifically about family travel. These guides are often filled with suggestions of family-oriented hotels and destinations. On the other hand, if you're part of a couple looking for a romantic getaway, you will not want to find yourselves surrounded by a gaggle of screaming tykes swarming the beaches and pools. Many resorts specialize in romance, and you shouldn't have any difficulty selecting a destination that promises solitude and discretion. If you're traveling in a group, make sure to poll everyone on their vacation priorities. At our guide to Caribbean Accommodations you will find information on various types of lodging, including hotels, all-inclusive resorts, camping, and rental properties.
When choosing your Caribbean destination, hotel, flights, cruises, and rental cars, be thorough. With good research, you can be confident that you'll make excellent decisions. It's your vacation, and everything should be just right.
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