Photos: Caribbean way of life

loading photos...
  1. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of the Barbados Tourism Authority shows Harrismith Beach, Barbados. Sun, surf and sand are the main draws on this tropical Caribbean island. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority shows The Watering Hole rum shop in Barbados. The rum shops on the island are good places to sample local food and drink, watch a game of dominos, or just get to know the friendly and hospitable Bajans. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. St. Lucia

    Developed, beautiful and situated in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia is accessible from Europe and Canada, and reachable -- albeit not as easily -- from the United States. St. Lucia is known as a romantic destination. The island gets plenty of visitors, including wedding parties. (Holger Leue  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. St. Lucia

    Cocoa pods lie on the ground ready to be processed at Fondoux Plantation in Soufriere, St. Lucia. Cocoa is one St. Lucia's main produce alongside the more obvious banana crop. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. St. George's

    The capital of Grenada, St. George's is considered one of the prettiest harbor towns in the Caribbean. Grenada's unique layout includes many finger-like coves, making the island a popular sailing destination. (Richard Cummins  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Cayman Islands

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Stingray City

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. St John's

    In high season, up to five cruise ships visit St John's, Antigua, each day. The boats unload mostly American and European passengers who fan out across the island visiting the casinos and beaches. Antigua is easily accessible, and can offer good values for tourists. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Antigua

    Antigua, located in the Northeastern Caribbean, is a popular tourist spot. While there are high-end, stylish hotels, the island also features a large number of mid-priced options. Visitors will find beach bars, restaurants, casinos and shopping. (Richard I'Anson  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Antigua

    People walk along an area known as Devils Bridge in Indian Town Point, Antigua. Antigua is a wintertime destination for many visitors from the north. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Dominica

    Not as well known as other Caribbean islands, Dominica is green, fertile and mountainous. Visitors will find some opportunites to scuba dive, but watersports are not its main draw. The island does, however, offer a slew of rainforest trails -- great for hiking and sightseeing. (Greg Johnston  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Dominican Republic

    An old church building is seen in La Romana, the third-largest city in the Dominican Republic. (Wayne Walton / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Belize

    Belize gets more than 850,000 visitors each year. The hot spot allows watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling, as well as inland activities like hiking and birding. The Mayan ruins of Altan Ha, pictured, are easily accessible from Caye Caulker. (Andrew Marshall / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. La Tortuga

    A fisherman repairs his nets on Cayo Herradura, off the island of La Tortuga in Venezuela. The country offers visitors a variety of activities to choose from, but remains undervisited -- especially compared to its South American neighbors. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Cuba

    Cuba blends the fantastic attractions associated with other Caribbean destinations with an amazing history. Tourists can stroll white sand beaches, take in the incredible architecture and party into the early-morning hours. (Javier Galeano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. St. Barthelemy

    St. Barthelemy is a vacation spot of stars and millionaires. Trendy, chic and sexy, St. Baarths is safe for tourists, but expensive to visit. About 8,700 people reside on the island. (Mark Mainz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Puerto Rico

    A man climbs to a 40-foot waterfall at the south side of the Caribbean National Rain Forest, commonly called El Yunque, near Naguabo, Puerto Rico. Most visitors hike the well-marked paths in the northern half of the park's rain forest but the trails in the south allow hikers and nature lovers to explore the only tropical forest in the U.S. national forest system. (Herminio Rodriguez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Puerto Rico

    The cupola of San Juan Cemetary as well as colorful homes sit next to the ocean in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The old city is a historic district of seven square blocks made up of ancient buildings and colonial homes, massive stone walls and vast fortifications, sunny parks and cobblestoned streets. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Puerto Rico

    Men play dominos in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a well-preserved colonial city that allows tourists a peek into the past. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Guadeloupe

    Guadeloupe isn't as developed as some other Caribbean islands, but it offers a variety of beaches -- some active with watersports, some secluded. The island also offers beach bars, restaurants, mid-range hotels and other tourist amenities. (Marcel Mochet / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

updated 1/30/2009 9:52:26 AM ET 2009-01-30T14:52:26

BEACH AND FEAST
St. Kitts

Get there: American Airlines has new nonstop service from Miami seven days a week.

Reason to go now: Few Caribbean islands are celebrated for their food, but tiny St. Kitts is one of the exceptions. An outpost of stately sugar plantations and white sands, the isle has landed on the culinary map thanks to the newly opened Beach House, a restaurant in a colonial mansion on Turtle Beach. Executive chef George Reid, a transplant from Anguilla's famed Cap Juluca resort, specializes in Caribbean fare that borrows inventively from French, Spanish, African and Dutch cooking. After you've feasted on his cumin-crusted wild swordfish or lobster gumbo, head to the restaurant's outdoor pavilion to sample from the cigar and rum menu (869/469-5299, stkittsbeachhouse.com, entrées from $14). Later this month, the oceanfront Carambola Beach Club restaurant opens on South Friar's Bay. The place gets its name from the Averrhoa carambola, or star fruit, which is put to punchy use from the starters to the desserts. Nab one of the 12 beach cabanas — they have waiter service and prime sunset views (869/465-9090, carambolabeachclub.com).

Beach locals love: Schools of yellowtail snapper, balahoo, and angelfish surround the reef near Cockleshell Beach, a two-mile-long stretch on the southern coast that's often empty during the week. At the entrance, the new Reggae Beach Bar & Grill serves conch fritters and jumbo coconut shrimp (869/762-5050, reggaebeachbar.com, appetizers from $7).

Place to stay: St. Kitts has blessedly few hotels. A standout is the Ocean Terrace Inn, where each of the 71 rooms has a private balcony overlooking the Caribbean. The one-bedroom suites come with kitchenettes, but there's no need to do your own cooking. The hotel has a West Indian restaurant, a poolside bar and grill, and an oceanfront spot that specializes in lobster and mahimahi cooked over an open flame (800/524-0512, oceanterraceinn.com, from $195 in high season). — Amy Chen

Have a ball: Isabelle Carr has been concocting her JC's Tamarind Balls, a sweet-and-sour snack made from native tamarind fruit, for more than 20 years (City Drug Store, 869/465-2156, $1).

ADVENTURES 'R' US
Cayman Islands

Get there: Cayman Airways has new nonstop flights from Washington, D.C., operating Wednesdays and Saturdays, and just introduced nonstop flights from Chicago on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Reason to go now: The beyond-belief underwater world of the Caymans — made up of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman — keeps expanding. Offshore from the recently opened Lighthouse Point, a condo resort in Grand Cayman's West Bay, divers can investigate a newly accessible 19th-century shipwreck (345/946-5658, lighthouse-point-cayman.com, daily tank rental $5). And come June, another vessel is joining the graveyard off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach: Local authorities plan to sink the USS Kittiwake, a WWII American rescue ship, to create a 250-foot-long reef.

Beach locals love: With its unusually smooth waters, Barker's Beach, on the west side of Grand Cayman, is a favorite, especially among kiteboarders out to test tricks. Ready to join them? For advanced wave riders, Ocean Frontiers gives lessons at Barker's. Beginners can learn the sport (picture balancing on a surfboard as a kite whisks you across the waves) on the even calmer East End Sound. For gondolier wannabes, the company also offers stand-up paddleboarding clinics (800/348-6096, oceanfrontiers.com, lessons from $250).

Place to stay: The oceanfront Little Cayman Beach Resort has a collection of Hobie cats and kayaks — and a fresh new look. In December, all 40 rooms got a makeover: Out went the dated wicker furniture and grandmotherly wallpaper borders; in came maple furniture and granite countertops. Sign on with the dive shop for a scuba trip to the Bloody Bay Wall, breeding grounds of the rare longsnout seahorse (800/327-3835, littlecayman.com, from $175 in high season). — Alison Rohrs

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

The Cayman safari: Grand Cayman is the only place on the planet where the five-foot-long Blue Iguana exists. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program organizes daily outings to catch glimpses of the creature, including a behind-the-scenes tour of an egg-hatching center (345/947-6050, blueiguana.ky, $30).

THE UNTAMED BEAUTY
Martinique

Get there: American Eagle flights to Martinique from San Juan, P.R., now depart at 7:30 p.m. instead of 12:30 p.m., so you no longer have to catch an early plane from the U.S. to make your connection.

Reason to go now: It's called the Isle of Flowers for a reason: Between February and May, lotus, red ginger, and West Indian jasmine bloom across this overseas département of France. You can take in more than 200 species of flora at Le Jardin de Balata, a garden named for the balata gum trees that shade the grounds; it just reopened after months of post–Hurricane Dean replanting (011-596/596-64-48-73, jardindebalata.fr, $8). By March, the island emerges from the rainy season, making that an ideal time to go volcano trekking and bird-spotting on Mount Pelée. Outfitter Le Bureau de la Randonnée leads hikes to the crater, where the red-throated mountain whistler and blue-headed hummingbird nest. Rappelling into Mount Pelée's river gorges was recently banned, but the company can arrange canyoneering trips — you hike, climb and rappel your way through a valley — in the Pitons du Carbet range (011-596/596-55-04-79, bureau-rando-martinique.com, tours from $43).

Beach locals love: While most tourists sink their toes into the white sands of the south, islanders head to the protected cove of Anse Couleuvre, a black-sand beach with the best snorkeling. Wear good walking shoes — you have to hike down a steep hill to get there. Luckily, the palm trees on the quarter-mile-long stretch provide enough shade that you won't need to lug an umbrella.

Place to stay: French-inspired hôtels de charme (cozy family-run establishments) have been sprouting up on Martinique in the past few years. One such spot is the nine-room on the northwest coast. Owners André Givogre and Maryse Imbert quit their jobs at a casino and a bank in France, respectively, to take over the art deco inn. Guests wake up to fresh-baked croissants topped with homemade mango jam (011-596/596-78-68-45, hotel-villastpierre.com, from $150 in high season). Another hideaway, the Hotel Cap Macabou, is a five-minute walk from the powdery beach on the southeast shore that shares its name. Designed to resemble a plantation, the hotel has 44 rooms and two West Indian restaurants (011-596/596-74-24-24, capmacabou.com, from $190 in high season). — Amy Chen

Stir crazy: Island bartenders mix cocktails using swizzle sticks whittled from bois lélé tree twigs, which mysteriously smell like maple syrup. Although souvenir shops hawk plastic replicas, the craft market in Fort-de-France sells the real thing for about $2 each.

CALLING ALL FAMILIES
Turks & Caicos

Get there: Delta is now offering a second Saturday morning flight from Atlanta.
US Airways has new weekend service from Boston and Charlotte, N.C., and new flights from Philadelphia on Saturdays and Sundays.

Reason to go now: This blue-green cluster of 40 isles and cays — only eight of which are inhabited — has come of age, thanks to a judicious balance of wide-open spaces and development (Providenciales and Grand Turk are where most of the action is). Après beach, hit Conch World, a just-opened theme park on Grand Turk, where the island's biggest export, the conch, takes center stage. Visitors meander from a model farm to a movie about you-guessed-it to a pond where kids can meet Sally and Jerry, two snails known to come out of their shells (649/946-1228, conchworld.com/go, from $7.50). After dark, don't miss the light show in the bays off Providenciales. It's courtesy of the glowworm, a firefly-like sea creature that flashes when the moon is full to attract mates. Three to five nights a month, Silver Deep leads boat excursions to the glowworms' hideaway (649/946-5612, silverdeep.com, from $47).

Beach locals love: Insiders and visitors both agree: Grace Bay on Providenciales is the loveliest. Although resorts line its shores, plenty of real estate is given over to Princess Alexandra National Park, a 6,532-acre protected area with underwater grasslands that harbor sea turtles. Be on the lookout for JoJo, the resident wild dolphin.

Place to stay: Spread out at Ocean Club West, a condo resort on Providenciales. Its rentals range from studios to three-bedroom units with screened-in balconies and kitchens. And just beyond your quarters, there are two freshwater pools, tennis courts, and a spa for mom (649/946-5880, oceanclubresorts.com, from $260 in high season). — Ellise Pierce

We'll drink to that: Stanford Handfield free dives for conch shells and then turns his finds into funky souvenirs, such as soda glasses. Look for his goods at TCI Shell Man on Grand Turk (649/241-6414, from $4).

HONEYMOON FAVORITE
St. Lucia

Get there: American Airlines has new nonstop weekday flights from JFK in New York.
Air Canada has added four nonstop flights from Toronto, as well as new nonstop Monday service from Montreal.

Reason to go now: In the past few years, a handful of intimate villa resorts have opened on St. Lucia's secluded western coast. The latest to debut is Ti Kaye Village Resort, with 33 beach cottages and a cliffside spa that uses island ingredients and caters to couples. You don't have to be guests to book treatments — perhaps an ylang-ylang massage or a papaya scrub? — in bungalows with side-by-side massage tables and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the ocean (758/456-8101, tikaye.com, treatments from $75, rooms from $280 in high season). Want to take in the island? The International Pony Club has a riding tour for two that progresses from the mountains to the fishing village of Gros Islet to a Danielle Steel–worthy gallop along Cas-en-Bas Beach (758/452-8139, internationalponyclub.net, from $65 per person).

Beach locals love: All of St. Lucia's sands are public, but there's one quiet spot residents try to keep secret: Smuggler's Cove, a half-mile stretch surrounded by black volcanic cliffs. Beauty aside, the beach is next door to the Cap Maison Resort & Spa; waiters from the bar take towel-side drink orders from anyone sunbathing in the vicinity.

Place to stay: St. Lucia is pricey, particularly in peak season. A great value is the Marina Outpost Villa, which opened last fall with four guesthouses on a peak above Rodney Bay. The red-and-yellow chalets have two-bedroom suites with four-poster beds and balconies that face the sea. The resort's hibiscus and bougainvillea bushes attract purple-throated carib hummingbirds and yellow-breasted bananaquits — the inspiration for the villas' eye-opening palette (800/263-4202, oasismarigot.com, from $270 in high season). — Alison Rohrs

Love potion: The island has its own aphrodisiac, a juicy pear-like fruit known as the pomme d'amour, or love apple. Dasheene, an open-air restaurant in the hills of Soufrière, serves a delicious pomme d'amour daiquiri (866/290-0978, $8).

Copyright © 2012 Newsweek Budget Travel, Inc.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments