By Nina Gass
Any getaway that involves the ocean, sandy white beaches, and gently swaying palm trees (and the prospect that Johhny Depp may appear in his pirate regalia) is ideal. With so many Caribbean vacation islands to choose from, picking one is is about as hard as closing your eyes and pointing to a map.
To help plan your Caribbean vacation, here are five of the most popular island destinations with a hotel pick, each of which goes above and beyond my criteria — although Mr. Depp has yet to be spotted!
- San Juan, Puerto Rico: Our trip felt a little less foreign since we didn’t have to bring our passports. A great spot for surfing, golfing, and shopping, San Juan also felt so cosmopolitan and old-world at the same time. Our stay at the Ritz-Carlton was beyond phenomenal: How can you beat amenities like a beachfront location, on-site day spa, 24-hour casino and five extraordinary restaurants?
- Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: This was a magical Caribbean vacation because it felt like a real adventure and was far-removed from the tourist flavor of other islands. After exploring caves and mangroves, trying our hand at windsurfing and snorkeling, and having a sunset dinner cruise, Dreams Punta Cana was a great all-inclusive adults-only resort for unwinding.
- Jamaica: This island is so alive with colors, flavors, and personality! My favorite activities were watching a cricket match, taking a horseback trek, and touring a plantation. While there, we stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe All Inclusive for its value, range of activities and enthusiastic service.
- Nassau, Bahamas: It was the first place I tried snorkeling and remains my favorite Caribbean vacation memory; of the numerous places I’ve explored, Nassau still feels like it offers the most abundant ocean life. Our favorite hotel is the Graycliff Hotel & Restaurant. A unique hotel, it has an on-site cigar factory and gourmet restaurant, and feels more like a bed and breakfast than a crowded resort.
- Aruba: A Caribbean vacation on this island can only be described as peaceful, happy, and friendly. Amongst all this peace, we still found some adrenaline-pumping activities, such as a quad racer tour to the coastline and a Harley-Davidson rental to do some solo exploring. Try the Aruba Marriott Resort and Stellaris Casino as it has a kids’ club, casino, and on-site duty-free shopping.
Any one of these Caribbean vacation spots is sure to delight the senses and take you away from the daily grind. Sea air, pristine Caribbean waters, and a drink with an umbrella are some of the best attitude adjusters I’ve ever found. What are you waiting for?
- Save up to 50% on select Caribbean resorts when you book before September 5, 2010.
Nina Gass is a freelance travel and business writer who lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and two boys. An avid traveler and dreamer, Nina makes the most of her international family connections throughout the U.S., Australia, England, and Mexico.