Photos: Caribbean way of life

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  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
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updated 3/3/2009 10:58:01 AM ET 2009-03-03T15:58:01

Fresh seafood, warm sunshine and wave-kissed beaches. And just a short hop from the U.S. mainland. Why wouldn't you want to visit the Bahamas?

Even at this time of year, that sweater you wear onto the plane can stay in your hotel room. Look for the "Weather" link on the left side of the page at Bahamas Guide for a glance at typical weather on the islands; the average daily high in March is 79 degrees. The site also provides helpful travel basics that include clothing and attire; along with beach wear, consider taking a rain jacket. Next, look under "Planning Your Trip" for an entry on budgeting, with previews of what you might expect to spend. The other sections in "Planning ..." can help you pick an island to visit, arrange your travel and pick a time of year to visit. (It's nice now, but summer is cheaper.)

Bahamas Guide also helps acquaint you with island food, from culinary styles to restaurants, and provides background and a few addresses for diving and fishing.

Stretch your travel budget by checking out "Current Hotels Deals" at the Ministry of Tourism, and then go back up to the top of the page and click on "About the Bahamas." That's where you'll find directories to places to stay on Nassau/Paradise Island, Grand Bahama Island and the Out Islands, along with more "Deals & Packages." And if this trip is important for the two of you, they offer information on honeymoons and weddings. For a little persuasive eye candy, browse through the multimedia gallery, especially the shots of beaches and clear water at the Exuma Cays.

"About ..." is also where the ministry stacks detailed information on things to do on land and on water, from bird watching, gambling and spa visits to sailing, diving and fishing, along with some sparse information on beaches. And look for the shopping section to see if you want to set aside some cash for the island's famous duty-free shops. Then you should go back to the top of the page and read the essential details listed under "Before You Go."

Focus on Nassau/Paradise Island and drill down through "What To Do" until you find "Top 10 Reasons to Visit," running the gamut from beaches and swimming with dolphins to nightclubs and golf courses. And save a couple of minutes for the amateur photos and videos.

The Out Islands have their own charms, ranging from fancy resorts to quiet spots. They include tiny Harbour Island with its famous pink beach and Cat Island with rolling hills and hiking trails.

Grand Bahama has the city of Freeport, and numerous hotels, resorts, shopping and golf courses. And you can always try glass-bottom boat tours, deep-sea fishing and a tour of Ben's Cave in Lucayan National Park.

Thinking of taking the kids? Tell them about pirates. Visit the Bahamas Travel and Culture Guide and look for the link to pirate history, along with sections on history of the islands and the people.

What did other visitors think of the various islands or one hotel over another? Look for "Forums" at the Bahamas chapter of TripAdvisor to read opinions and see where some visitors had "the most phenomenal dinner." Then browse through visitors suggestions for activities including day trips and family pursuits,

Even if you're not old enough to be a member, AARP has useful visitors' information for the islands —  including guides to the island music and Bahamian rum. Take a look at "Travel Tips" for more essentials on etiquette, health, taxes, tipping and health issues.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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