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Antigua, Turks, or Exumas?

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Looking to book our next Caribbean vacation. We have been to Aruba, DR, St. Martin, Anguilla, St. Thomas, St. John, Torola, and Nassau. So far, St. John has been our favorite (Anguilla has had the best beaches). We are looking for beautiful beaches and crystal clear turq water. We love to eat out at nice restaurants and shop a little. We are not big on activities as we'd prefer to get a map, rent a car, and explore the island instead. We don't need the mega resort style like in Nassau and Aruba. We prefer more quaint boutique style hotel/cottage/villa and less crowded beaches. I am interested in the Turks and Exumas because of the beaches and shallow clear water, and I am interested in the Antigua/Barbuda because of the mountainous terrain but still beautiful beaches. We like to island hop. We could do 4 days on one island, and 3-4 on another. St. Barts? Any suggestions on an itinerary?

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    All 3 completely different from each other.

    St. John is similar to Antigua, but beaches not quite as nice on Antigua as St. John so probably out. Water not as turquoise as St. john.

    Exumas has the water you crave, but no shops and not the restaurants. So probably out.

    Turks is flat like Anguilla with beautiful beaches like Anguilla, so if you like Anguilla you'll do the same with TCI.

    As for combining, most islands are hard to group, especially for only 1 week. You'll loose travel days and most require backtracking to Puerto Rico or Miami, and maybe overnight.

    Especially with St. Barts! The only islands you can combine with in a short time with St. Barts is Anguilla and St. Martin, which you've been.

    Antigua could be combined with Barbuda. Barbuda gives the beaches you crave.

    Since St. John was your fav, how about Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke combo?

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    Thanks for the information Blamona. Antigua beaches/water appear to be prettier than St. John from the pictures I've seen online. I'd be curious to know what you compare Antigua beaches/water to? I like your VG and JVD idea. We did not like tortola at all (it felt run down) so I sort of have a bad taste in my mind with the BVI's. But I've heard great things about VG and JVD so perhaps we go back to St. John and then spend 3-4 nights on one of these islands. How is the shopping and restaurants on Turks? Sounds like they have the beaches/water I'm looking for. We just love the mountainous terrain when exploring the islands.

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    I would equate Antigua to Tortola.

    I like both, but don't love them.

    VG and JVD have stunning beaches, my opinion but better than St. John. (although I do love St. John) not much shopping though, but the scenery you crave. VG is stunning enough to forget shopping. It's also easy to combine VG with St. John, so you can do both!

    T&C does not have much shopping, a sprinkle of small shopping strips. It does have excellent restaurants with amazing settings, and the best beach in the world. Interior of island is downright ugly, flat dry and scrubby, but the water is so turquoise it glows! There is some exploring, but not mountainous at all, as flat as it gets.

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    I have only been to Antigua, but loved it! We stayed at the Coconut Beach Club which is a very small (38 rooms) AI resort. The cruise ships pass by on their way to port and the beaches are nice and fairly private. The food was pretty good, buffets for breakfast and lunch (including omelet stations and fresh fruits and salads) and sit-down dinners where we were dressed up every evening. It's very simple, but clean and friendly. There was a gigantic hotel (hundreds of rooms) within walking distance (separate beach) with a casino, but they were not open when we were there. They also have a significant discount if you stay more than 7 days... which actually makes 8 nights cheaper than 7!!
    We looked around for our next trip and decided to go back there because we know that we loved it and the price is unbeatable. This time we plan to stay longer and see more of the island... We saw a zip-line last time during our taxi tour and plan to see more of that area!
    It is mostly British folk... there were only 2 American couples when we stayed. But since its so small, the bar is more fun and we all had a great time! No children are allowed except for Christmas Vacation and we saw very few young people. I would guess the average age when we were there was about 40-50.

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    We've been to all three and for what you are seeking, I think a combo of Antigua and Barbuda would be perfect. The waters of Antigua vary depending upon where you are on the island. There are turkoise beaches with white sand in and around Jolly Harbour, Darkwood Beach and Jumby Bay. You can rent a car and bounce around to many beautiful beaches, some with steel blue waters, some with that turkoise, gorgeous water. We've stayed at many resorts there due to their small, boutique style and loved every single one. Galley Bay, Carlisle Bay, Hermitage Bay, Blue Waters and Sandals...the latter I have never returned to since they built it up a few years ago and does not fall into that category of small and intimate.

    The green, rolling hills of Antigua mesmorize me every time I go, the people are gentle and kind and we found some incredible restaurants as well. There is some shopping in St. Johns. There is also a small rainforest area (Fig Tree Drive) with zip lines and although we do not hike, I have read many trip reports from people who have. English Harbour has some nice restaurants and some historic sites as well. The powerboat tour that Adventure Antigua runs is fab and their crew are the best around.

    We loved the Turks and Caicos but for us it is a little too commercialized..but oh those restaurants and oh those beaches are amazing. Beautiful resorts aplenty and all are beachfront with a gorgeous sea to gaze at. My daughter was proposed to on that beach, a special place for us and we will definately return. We also loved St. John staying at Caneel.

    The Out Islands of the Bahamas has gotten my attention lately, returning in three weeks to Abaco and then over to Harbour Island on a puddle jumper for a girlfriend getaway and later on in the summer with my family. No hiking to speak of, mostly water based activites and for us, the waters of the Out Islands are electric blue and take your breath away. Exuma was breathlessly beautiful, never stayed on that particular island but spent many days out on the water with a captain. We puddle jumped over to Harbour Island from Staniel Cay and that was one incredible trip.

    My vote for you would be Antigua and Barbuda.

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