• Photo: Kpstorr2 | Dreamstime.com

San Salvador

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus disrupted the lives of the peaceful Lucayan Indians when he landed on the island of Guanahani, which he renamed San Salvador. Apparently he knelt on the beach and claimed the land for Spain. (Skeptics of this story point to a study published in a 1986 National Geographic article in which Samana Cay, 60 miles southeast, is identified as the exact point of the weary explorer's landing.) Three monuments on the island commemorate Columbus's arrival, and the 500th anniversary of the event was officially celebrated here.

The island is 14 miles long—a little longer than Manhattan Island—and about 6 miles wide, with a lake-filled interior. Some of the most dazzling deserted beaches in the country are here, and most visitors come for Club Med's unique blend of fun and activities; others, for the peaceful isolation and the diving. There are more than 50 dive sites and world-renowned offshore fishing and good bonefishing. The friendly locals have a lot to be proud of for their special island and their warmth shows it.

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