By Lena Katz
My blog post about couples-friendly Caribbean spots (Spice up Valentine’s Day with a Caribbean vacation) sparked the snappy comeback, “What about places for singles to go and avoid all those canoodling twosomes?” Great question!! Here are some of my destination recommendations for singles, solo fliers, group travelers and anyone else not packing his-n-hers matching beach outfits for their next Caribbean vacation.
Destination 1: ABC Islands
“I just want to make it clear that Carnival is a crazy fun time on the island, with TONS of people, lots of sun and loud music,” cautions a recent note from the Curacao tourism ambassador. Apparently there’s a worry that the carnival, which overlaps with Valentine’s Day, might be too much of a party for sensitive types to handle.
So, lovebirds and quiet types, you’ve been duly forewarned. Singles and fun-seekers, I think Curacao’s your spot for a Caribbean vacation. Carnival is the island’s biggest party of the year; everybody takes to the street and dances/sings/celebrates all day and night. The festivities actually start in the last week of January, but the “Grand Parade” is Valentine’s Day. Perfect timing!
Aruba also celebrates its Grand Carnival Parade over Valentine’s Day weekend — not so much of a coincidence, as it’s Curacao’s more populous sister in the Dutch-governed ABC island chain. Aruba is known year-round for its nightlife, casinos and shopping.
St. Maarten/St. Martin
I think this half-Dutch, half-French island is one of the most hoppin’ spots for a Caribbean vacation, and visitors tend to be slightly more sophisticated, “dressed” and Euro-influenced than on other islands. It’s packed with lounges, casinos and nightclubs, and many hotels have shuttle service so guests can get to/from the nightlife without stressing transportation.
This colorful little Latin-Caribbean vacation destination specializes in experiential travel — ranging from educational tourism to barrier reef diving. Immersive, specialized vacations like these tend to draw people with specific interests besides smooching with their significant other on Valentine’s Day. In fact, Belize has done a lot lately around the manly-man vacation, offering packages tailored around macho bonding activities like golf, survival training and fly fishing. Happily, most of these activities are located strategically near a comfy dive bar, whether in Belize City, Ambergris Caye’s busy beach town of San Pedro, or the quiet villages of the south coast.
Having traveled solo in Costa Rica recently, I can personally attest that it’s a lot of fun no matter what your relationship status. One friend recommended it as a Valentine’s Day destination after meeting his fiance there … another is going there this year to escape mushy Valentine couples after her own recent breakup. The Caribbean side is funky and hippied-out with lots of expats and cheap guest houses, but most of the recognizable hotels are on the Pacific Coast.
Bay Islands, Honduras
Further afield than Costa Rica/Caribbean and appealing for that very reason, Honduras’ Bay Islands are an interesting blend of beaches and jungle, scuba and Mayan ruins, rugged eco-adventures and all-night parties. Roatan is the best-known, and offers the gamut of sporty adventures: zip lining, surfing, hiking, horseback riding. Utila is all about its scuba diving. At the nearby Copan Ruinas, activities include a daytrip to a coffee plantation, a crash-course in Spanish, and cultural immersion with Mayan ruins as a backdrop.
Want rum and rowdy parties and beach bikini volleyball and 24/7 mischief? Go with one of the crowd-oriented all-inclusive resorts dotted throughout Mexico, the Caribbean and Latin America. My picks are Club Med in the Dominican Republic, Breezes in the Bahamas or Brazil, rainforest-enveloped Paradisus Playa Conchal, or the family-friendly Coconut Bay Resort in St. Lucia. These picks also offer photo-perfect beach locations, action-packed days, parties and entertainment each night, and all your meals, drinks and tips included upfront — no nickel and diming.
Lena Katz is the author of SUN: California and SIP: California, part of the Travel Temptations series published by Globe Pequot Press.