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adrostant Jul 9th, 2009 08:23 AM

caribbean island hopping?
 
so i live in austin texas and would love to go island hopping in the caribbean for 5-10 days. Dont really have a time frame. Just need some input on where I should start, what islands would be best to visit, how long would it take and about how much. I have family in Trinidad and was wondering if I should start there or somewhere like st. maarten? Thanks

RoamsAround Jul 9th, 2009 09:22 AM

First off, perhaos a little geography lesson might help. The caribbean encompasses a vast area and contrary to what it looks like on a map many of the islands are not very close together. Add to that there are only two viable ways to get between islands (by boat or by plane) and you'l soon see why there are limitations. Practically speaking boats (and by this I mean ferries) can only travel at around 10 to 15 mph and they usually confine their trips to waters protected by nearby islannds. Crossing open ocean can be very rough. Flying, on the other hand, is expensive and while the flight time is often short you spend can spend two to three times that waiting around the airport.

Really, if you want to island hop during a 5 to 10 day vacation you have to choose an area where the islands you wish to visit are in close proximity to one another. You should probably limit yourself to no more than 2 islands for a 5 to 7 day trip or 3 islands if you plan on staying between 7 and 10 days otherwise you'll be spending the bulk of your trip travelling.

For instance, you can easily visit the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands during one visit as they are in close proximity to each other and they are linked by a series of ferries. Similarly, you can easily travel by ferry between St. Vincent & the majority of the Grenadines. If you go to St. Martin you can easily reach St. Barths and Anguilla by ferry. I wouldn't consider Trinadad since the only island you can get to easily would be Tobago.

You'll notice I didn't suggest flying between islands as that is often impractical due to the expense (it is not cheap to fly between islands) and the time you'll spend waiting in airports, etc. Also, flight schedules may be such that you you won't have very much "time on island" before your next planned flight.

I'd suggest you consider chartering a sailboat (with captain and cook) and do a 7 to 10 sail around the British Virgin Isands. You'll be able to more around at your own pace spending a day or two at each anchorage or even visit a different island every day. You'll only have to unpack and re-pack your clothes once, you'll have comfortable accomodations and all your meals and drink and the cost will be about the same as staying in an upscale resort. It's a great way to "island hop". Do a google search for "Yacht Charters, British Virgin Islands" and you'll find tons of information.

doug_stallings Jul 9th, 2009 09:52 AM

Island-hopping in the Caribbean isn't that easy. You can easily move between the various Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. You can move easily between the Grenadines, Grenada, and St. Vincent. You can move easily between the islands surrounding St. Maarten (Anguilla, St. Barst, Saba, St. Eustatius). You can move between Trinidad and Tobago. You can easily fly between Barbados and St. Lucia. And Antigua is a hub for Liat, making some island-hopping possible, albeit very expensive. Those are your choices. If it were me, I'd choose St. Maarten, but if you want to visit family, perhaps Trinidad would be the place.

Callaloo Jul 9th, 2009 12:58 PM

Good points above.

One more idea, depending on what you mean by "island-hopping." If you visit one of the Out Island groups of the Bahamas where there are numerous small islands in close proximity (in particular, the Abacos and the Exumas), you'll find that island-hopping is one of the principal means of exploration.

In the Abacos, for example, if you are not doing a sailing charter, many visitors rent small powerboats (20-22 feet) to explore the cays. The navigation is fairly straightforward, though some basic boating expertise is a good idea. Aside from that, there is a good ferry system that goes on both scheduled runs and sometimes on demand (I have "chartered" an Albury ferry from Marsh Harbour to Hopetown in the past for $50/trip).

If you're interested in the Exumas, a stay at Staniel Cay Yacht Club includes personal use of a Boston Whaler (including fuel, which is no small thing). There are many, many small cays in close proximity, as well as the famous Thunderball grotto. (I haven't done this trip yet, but it's in the works.)

Small hops, but "island hopping" nonetheless.

nonstop Jul 9th, 2009 06:19 PM

LIAT used to do the Liat Air Pass which was ulimited travel for a fixed amount. I don't know if they still have or not. If it were me, I would get on a plane and hit a different island everyday--then you could decide which one(s) you want to go back to and spend time.

albee622 Jul 10th, 2009 05:23 AM

Island hopping is definately doable in the Out Islands of the Bahamas. We just got back from a fabulous and unique vacation, staying at the Staniel Cay Yacht Club...we hired a captain and went out to the most beautiful cay's, beaches, grotto's, marina's, sand bars, caves......resorts are scattered about and it was a true "island hopping" experience.

Of course the way to do it is on a beautiful yacht, with a captain and crew...cruising up and down the exuma's.....would be a heavenly vacation....saw many doing it and it is definately the way to go. We loved SC and would return in a heartbeat...its the outlet to adventure, having it as a home base, crusing around the cays all day......wonderful. A few days at Staniel, then another few at Fowl or Sampson Cay woud be ideal. Took some info from a great guy who was a Captain on a yacht taking his clients all over the out islands...leaves from Ft. Lauderdale. Great Exuma is also an option (by plane)! There are private charter planes that can shuffle you to one or two islands during your stay. Met fantastic people both visitors and locals and would return in a heartbeat! The SCYC can give you more info on local charters.

Regards,
Albee

blamona Jul 12th, 2009 09:49 AM

I would group the best island hopings in groups--these are the groups where you have easy access going to multiple islands without losing travel days, back tracking, and in only 10 days, you should stick to a group.

My favorite is Anguilla/St. Martin/ St. Barth/ Saba. Totally different personalities to each island, different landscapes, easy access between them.

Virgin Islands-you can day sail to multple ones in the VI. Do not miss St. John, Virgin Gorda and Jost Van Dyke.

Aruba/Curacao/Bonaire.

The Abacos (Out Islands in Bahamas) gives many little cays to hop around.

Exumas (Out Islands in Bahamas) same as Abacos.

From Nassau you can do Paradise Island/Harbour Island/Eleuthera, even throw in Northern Exumas day trip, all in the Bahamas.

St. Vincent and Grenadines, you can hop around the Grenadines. It's also p[ossible if you use Barbados as a base, to day trip some Grenadines, and from Barbados access to St. Lucia.

Antigua and Barbuda can be combined.

Trinidad and Tobago can be combined.

From Grenada, you can also day trip to Grenadines (does require some planning though) and to Cariacou and Sandy Island.

Turks and Caicos has 8 different inhabited Islands to hop around, with Providenciales/North and Middle Caicos/Grand Turk and Salt Cay.

You could also do any cruise that stops at different islands every day=that may be your best bet.

You can combine Puerto Rico with numerous other islands, as Puerto Rico is a major hub for Caribbean, but I would pick just 1 other island. Or stay in Puerto Rico, combine it with Viesques and Culebra.

But with 10 days, I'd really stick to a "grouping" above.


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