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Exumas or Virgin Islands?

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Planning a first time to Carribbean this October with wife, 7 & 8 year olds. Want to do a 5 or 6 night private sail charter to explore islands, remote beaches, and great snorkeling. We originally wanted to do Atlantis + Exuma sail, but now want just sail and boutique island resort so looking into Virgin Islands. I grew up in warm turquoise water & white sand in FL, so definitely need that. Any suggestions on a better first Caribbean experience? Like the idea of the beach bars and occasional action on shore, not sure we can get that at Exumas, but pigs, friendly sharks, sunken plane, and grottos sounds like a lot of fun. Are VI's comparable? Any other suggestion that are easy and affordable to get to?

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    First things first: October is hurricane season. Not the peak of it, but things are still pretty unstable in the region that time of year. So be prepared with appropriate trip delay/interruption insurance as well as expectations.

    The good news is that October is also off-season, so there are some bargains to be had, and the islands will be less crowded than other times of year.

    The Virgin Islands, especially the British Virgin Islands, are a playground for sailors. Laid back, beautiful beaches (and beach bars), restaurants, dive spots, snorkeling, etc. etc. Lots of choices for crewed boats, as well as small hotels and inns. I did my first sailing vacation there on a crewed Moorings boat, and the rest is history, at least for me (visit the BVI forum on www.traveltalkonline.com to get the real lowdown on where to stay and whom to sail with).

    The Exumas are much more remote, with fewer options for crewed charter boats, but it's an absolute paradise for beach lovers. Clearly, too, you know about some of the quirkier entertainment (the pigs are the funniest thing!). But the islands are flat and scrubby, unlike the BVI, which are lush and green. Ironically, even though the Bahamas are much closer to the US, you might find it easier and cheaper to fly to the Virgin Islands.

    I spent 4 months last winter sailing around the Bahamas on my own boat, and spent most of that time in the Exumas. Heaven on earth for a sailor. But you might think about the Abacos, which are a bit easier and more convenient for a newbie with budget as a consideration. Not as secluded as the Exumas, but with plenty of charm and many more choices for charters and small hotels.

    Check out my blog if you want to know more (www.sabrecalypso.wordpress.com), or feel free to ask more questions.

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    I love both--

    First timers though, much better off in Virgins

    Exumas are many uninhabited or private islands, so I find staying put and day sailing an easier experience. While not impossible, it's harder to rent a boat and sail.

    My opinion (I've not sailed them overnights, I stayed put and day traveled) is Exumas are all in a row, so more open waters on both sides, Virgins are almost in a circle, so you get some protection that way (although can still get rough)

    I love Exumas, but find it more off the beaten path, not as good for first time. Even staying on land! (don't get me wrong, Exumas are one of my favorite destinations on earth!)

    Of course, I trust Callaloo completely on this, as has much experience!

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