Saturday, August 11, 2012

Flip-Side Caribbean

A bird's-eye view of St. John. (Photograph by Adriatica, Flickr)

by Erin Spence

With its picturesque beaches and crystalline water, it’s no wonder the Caribbean is a popular vacation destination. But beyond the mega resorts and cruise ship decks there are rich cultures waiting to be explored.                                                            

The next time you’re in the mood for a tropical getaway, think about taking a trip to one of these lesser-known islands to get a more authentic Caribbean experience.

In the U.S. Virgin Islands… Instead of St. Thomas, try St. John                                                                                                      

St. Thomas may be the place to go for duty-free shopping (perfume or watches, anyone?), but St. John is the true gem of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Just look to the sea to see why. The island has everything from mainstream beaches with all the amenities to secluded spots where you’ll have the sandy stretch all to yourself — or share it with a sleepy donkey. (Donkeys were once a staple of the local economy, used to haul supplies and people, and many of their wild descendants remain). Regardless of your choice, you won’t be disappointed.

But shoppers, have no fear: St. John offers enough boutiques to keep you busy. But development is limited because more than half of the island is protected as a national park, so you’ll get the best of both worlds.

The same goes for foodies. Head over to Vie’s Snack Shack (yes, it’s an actually a shack) for the best chicken and conch fritters you’ve ever tasted. If you’re still craving something sweet, try Colombo’s Smoothies (they’ll add rum for added punch).

Can’t miss pick: Virgin Islands National Park. Exploring this mammoth nature preserve is the best way to get to know St. John Twenty different hiking trails will lead you to coral reefs, sugar-plantation ruins, and more.

Read full article which includes Green Turtle Cay, Bahamas and Bonaire


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