Art, Culture, Books and Travel
The Only Five Caribbean Destinations You Need to Know About in 2014
When it comes to some fun in the sun, the Caribbean is a logical choice. It’s not exactly a long trip from the US, and it offers that relaxed island vibe that’s almost a vacation cliché, although what a beautiful cliché it is. Today we’re going to explore some of the larger, more prominent islands in the region, which have perhaps fallen out of favour as tourist destinations in recent years. Sure, there are always smaller, trendier and more obscure places to vacation, but there are also the original and the best!
1. Puerto Rico (Mona)
Puerto Rico is actually a territory of the United States, and there has been much debate about whether to change its status, making it a proper additional state. This is unlikely to happen, but the islands US connection makes it a popular destination for Americans who don’t have a passport. The capital of San Juan is gorgeous, but not really the most interesting spot in Puerto Rico, and has become less appealing in recent years due to the increasing cost of living. The jewel in the Puerto Rican crown is the smaller island of Mona, 100% of which is a nature preserve. It’s not easy to reach, since you’ll need to charter a boat or look for a private charter that has a free seat, which isn’t easy because only 100 people are allowed on Mona Island at any one time. Make sure you apply for a camping permit well in advance, since you don’t want to miss your chance of spending a night or two on this unique piece of paradise.
Until recent years, Jamaica and its capital Kingston had a fairly negative reputation due to a high crime rate. Thanks to concentrated efforts by civil authorities, the region has been cleaned up significantly and is now a haven for tourists. It’s weird to think that the actual head of state is in fact Queen Elizabeth II, since Jamaica is a British territory, and it’s amusing to think of the Queen walking around, looking for a great place to listen to reggae. Reggae (and the feeling it brings) is why many people flock to Jamaica and Kingston each year, although reggae is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Jamaican music. Sure, it has a bit of a party vibe, but it’s far more relaxed than the intensive party that other islands (such as Ibiza) offer. For Jamaican music that goes beyond reggae and its assorted clichés, check out the live music on offer at the Red Bones Blues Café.
Havana was once a difficult place to get to, due to the frosty US/Cuban relations, although there are still remnants of that hostility, which you’ll notice when you’re unable to use a US issued credit card in Cuba. To fully explore the island nation, using the services of a company that specializes in Cuba tours is a great idea, and their skills will help you to visit parts of the country you might notbe able to find on your own. Havana, the capital city, has much to offer and it’s where most visitors start their Cuban adventure. The old part of town (Old Havana) is an absolute must-see, including a Sunday visit to Callejón de Hammel, a small alleyway in the old town, where you’ll find a selection of sensational rumba bands. Spontaneous dancing often breaks out courtesy of the light footed locals, and while there are many tourists there to watch the show, it always feels natural – a true emotional reaction to the music.
4. Dominican Republic
The island of Hispaniola is home to two separate nations, side by side – the Dominican Republic and Haiti. While both countries have much to offer visitors, the poverty and lack of infrastructure in Haiti means the Dominican Republic is the superior choice. Christopher Columbus landed on the island in 1492 and founded the settlement that later grew to become Santo Domingo, which is still the capital of the Dominican Republic. With a population of just under 3 million people, Santo Domingo has the vibe of a big city, so if you want some island peace, just head to Playa Rincón, which is perhaps the most beautiful beach you’ll ever see. Crystal blue waves break gently onto white sand, and the beach is long enough so that some cherished privacy isn’t difficult to find.
5. Trinidad and Tobago
In 2014, the Football World Cup will put Brazil right in the global spotlight, and the traditional carnivals will be thronged with extra visitors in town to watch some football. For those who love the carnival atmosphere without the oppressive crowds, Trinidad and Tobago is the place to go, since the carnival in Trinidad rivals Rio. The twin island nation has a population of just over 1 million people, and yet offers a vibrant cultural experience, rich in Creole history, particularly in the capital city, Port of Spain. If you want a more relaxed getaway with a little more interaction with nature, then you should probably head to Tobago, which is the smaller and less developed of the two islands.
This is a post by Ashley Williamson. Ashley is a freelance writer interested in topics related to health and fitness. When she is not working she likes to travel and read as much as she can. If you have any question feel free to leave a comment.