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Recommendations for off the beaten path in the Caribbean

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Mar 2nd, 2010, 10:24 PM
  #1
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Recommendations for off the beaten path in the Caribbean

My wife and I are taking our first solo vacation after the birth of our son. He is going to be staying with his grandparents in Atlanta for 10 days, which is where we will be flying out of.
We don't have a preference on islands yet, so we are open to suggestions.
Here is what we are looking for:
Relatively short flight from Atlanta (Under 6 or so hours)
Nice relaxing beaches
We ARE NOT interested in all-inclusive/resorts. I can't stress that enough!
Maybe a little bit of local nightlife
Some nice flora and fauna.
We would like to have a small private villa/house
I've been to Jamaica (blah) which I did not like.
We also went to Vieques, which we loved.
Right now I'm eyeballing Turks and Caicos and Antigua. I was initially looking at Nevis or Trinidad and Tabago, but the flights are pretty ridiculous out of ATL.
The dates we have set aside are June 26 - July 4th.

I would really APPRECIATE any suggestions!!!

Thanks!

-bryan
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 04:10 AM
  #2
 
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Neither the Turks and Caicos nor Antigua are off the beaten path, UNLESS you are talking about their sister islands (Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, North Caicos, Salt Cay, etc. in the T&C; or Barbuda, the sister island of Antigua). However, because these islands are so very remote, you will most likely stay in an all-inclusive (albeit small) resort.

When I think "off the beaten path" -- especially in June/July -- I think of the Out Islands of the Bahamas. (Frankly, I constantly think of the Out Islands of the Bahamas, whether appropos or not, but that's another story....) With a very few exceptions, there are no large AI resorts. There are villas, and small, intimate hotels which fit right into the landscape. Some islands have a little more life than others, but all of them are very low key, casual, and welcoming.

There are several island groups from which to choose -- the Abacos, Exumas, Cat Island, Long Island, Eleuthera and Harbour Island, Andros -- each with a slightly different flavor, but united in being surrounded by the most beautiful waters I've ever laid eyes on and stunning beaches. Getting there usually involves flying to a Florida gateway -- mostly Ft. Lauderdale, and some from Miami -- and then making a connection either by an affiliate of a large US carrier (Continental/Gulfstream or American Eagle) or by one of the many small commuter carriers. I've been lucky enough to have visited many of them, and you can read my trip reports on www.islandtime.homestead.com if you are curious to learn more.

Aside from the Bahamas, look again at Nevis, but think about flying to St. Kitts and ferrying over; it's not as hard as you might think, but the payoff is one of the loveliest islands in the Caribbean which has somehow escaped large-scale development. You might also want to consider Grenada.

Good luck planning your trip!
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 06:01 AM
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If you want off the beaten path and liked Vieques, go to Grand Turk. Fly into Provo and then hop over on another short flight. Or perhaps split your trip between the islands. The beaches in Grand Turk are spectacular, and it's a laid-back, very quiet island. True, cruise ships stop there regularly, but they're gone by late afternoon and shouldn't really disrupt your vacation because most passengers stick to the beach at the cruise pier or take excursions (giving you the opportunity for more land-based activities if you are so inclined).

I don't think you'd like Antigua, which is not unlike Jamaica with its emphasis on all-inclusive resorts (or really expensive resorts).

Nevis might also be a possibility, and you don't have to worry about flights there. You fly into St. Kitts and then take a short ferry ride over to Nevis. The plantation inns there are lovely and romantic (and all have beach clubs though most of the actual inns are not on the beach). St. Kitts itself also has a few plantation inns.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 06:28 AM
  #4
 
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T&C's sister islands have no all-inclusives. Pine includes meals, but no drinks, the other sister islands include nothing whatsoever. They may fit well with you for off-the-beaten path. Grand Turk for example, has some villas and Bed and Breakfast type accomodations, with stunning turquoise water beaches, and walkable to local water holes to mingle with tourists and locals. Salt Cay is quirky, but keep in mind it villas are fairly rustic, ex. no tvs or A/C. These sister islands have stunning amazing beaches. Even in Provo, the main island, while Grace Bay has lined up resorts, villas are in neighborhoods with isolated stretches of beaches-which may give you the best of both worlds. You get seclusion, with the option of numerous restaurants with amazing settings to choose from. The beaches are long--some claim Grace Bay is 12 miles, so there are many of secluded places, and a hub of places, so you get the best of all the worlds. One of the beauties of T&C is it's really easy to get away from the main hub and have stunning secluded beaches by day, terrific restaurants by night. They even have excursions where they drop you off on uninhabited cays with every thing you need-on beaches you won't believe how gorgeous they are! When they come back to pick you up-you won't believe how fast the day went all to yourselves. At night, most restaurants can set up a romantic table ON the beach, with tiki torches and tableclothes=what a way to suprise your spouse!

No AI's in Barbuda either. Anegada in the British Virgin Islands is also off the beaten path, but harder to get too.

Virgin Gorda is easy to get too-stunningly beautiful, I consider it off the beaten path, yet easy to go meet locals and tourists. They have stunning beaches that you'll have mostly to yourself, and the views are amazing. Really nice villas to stay in too. VG is hilly, so it may have the scenery you crave.

Out Islands in Bahamas are another terrific suggestion. Harbour Island is stunning, gorgeous beach (one of the tops in the world) yet you can easily walk around (or rent a golf cart) to get around the stunning little town. You can even day trip to Eleuthera and Spanish Wells fairly easily from there.

Abacos has many villas and is off-the beaten path. On Sundays, everyone boats in to Guana Cay for pig roasts, basically becomes your nightlife! Exumas has pretty much the same-additionally, Exumas you can hang out with locals at Club Peace and Plenty every night, very cool "watering hole". Staniel Cay is secluded, yet can get lively at night when all the boaters meet at the Yacht Club. Exumas has extra stunning water, and is fun to explore by boat every day, each beach is prettier than the last.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 06:45 AM
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I would also consider Harbour Island off of Eleuthera. It's a very small island with a lot of character and a beautiful pink sand beach and turquoise waters. You get around this small island - I think it's around 3 miles by 1/2 mile -- in a golf cart or bicycle. Nice restaurants but doesn't feel commercial.

I'm a big fan of the Out Islands. If you liked Vieques (we did, too), you would like the Abacos. Very laid back, lots of vacation rentals, gorgeous beaches and nice people. Many choices on where to stay such as Hopetown. Rent a whaler and boat over to Great Guana Cay where everyone goes to have a rum punch at Nipper's Sunday Pig roast on Great Guana Cay.

Cat Island is another favorite as is Great Exuma. Exuma was a picture postcard of deserted white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Boating around the safe, harbor waters to different spots such as the stunning Tropic of Cancer beach made it a fun and relaxing getaway. So many beaches all to yourselves. Then you can enjoy a goombay smash at the famous Chat-N-Chill accessible only by boat.

www.chatnchill.com/photo.html

I haven't been to Grand Turk and heard good things about it. I have been to North Caicos and it is very quiet island. Nothing much to do there yet but bask in the sun and grab a cold beer at the local market. Things are changing there as word is out so I don't know how much long it will be a quiet little island.

We just returned from the Dominican Republic and had a fantastic trip. It's a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Puerto Plata. Cabarete, on the north side, is known for it's kite boarding and surfing and it has many beachfront cafes and bars along the horseshoe-shaped beach. It was a big surprise on how fun it was and the people were so nice. Island is very lush with very tall palm trees, rolling hills of green and the nicest locals. You can horseback ride from the beach to the hills, go down rock water slides in the forest or just hang out at the beach.

We're not fans of AIs either and you couldn't be further away from them than in the Abacos and Out Islands.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 07:33 AM
  #6
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Any thoughts on Roatan?

OK, so we've considered Bimini in the past, but it sounds like other Out Islands might be more of our speed. What's the best way to get to islands like Abacos, Harbour Island and Eleuthera?

We are flying in from Denver, dropping our son off with his grandparents then heading out.

Thanks again for all your help!
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 07:36 AM
  #7
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One more quick question. How easy is it to get from one Out Island to the next. I'm all about going down there with no lodging, finding an island we like and figuring it out then. I've done it in the past in Cen. America and it's worked out great.

Thanks again
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 07:51 AM
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kablam0r: most out island flights are either thru Ft. Lauderdale Fla, or Nassau. It's extremely hard to Out Island hop, requires backtracking or private charters.

You can do Harbour Island/Eleuthera/Spanish Wells, or there are many little islands in groupings, for ex. Abacos has many little cays, Exumas has the same.

Again, I like to combine multiple islands, and travel extensively, but it's almost impossible in the Out Islands without backtracking, and maybe even spending nights when you do.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 08:01 AM
  #9
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I did find some reasonable flight out Miami to ELH. Where would you recommend us flying into? Maybe spend half the trip based on one island and then the next half on another?
thanks so much!
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 08:15 AM
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It's easy to get around the Abacos without air travel. The cays are close enough together you can visit a different cay every day by your whaler. We stayed on Treasure Cay and visited Green Turtle and Great Guana Cay and it was a great trip.

You can fly into MHH (Marsh Harbor) or TCB (Treasure Cay). Your lodging choices are Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Great Guana Cay or Hopetown.

For Great Exuma you fly into GHB (Governor's Harbour). You can stay on the island of Great Exuma or across a small harbor on Stocking Island. Either are nice and both put you in the boating area for all the great beaches. We stayed on Stocking Island and it had it's own great beach and you can kayak or boat to Chat-n-Chill.

How many actual beach days will you have? Does 10 days include travel days? If, so, that can take more than 2 days from your trip because of connections. I don't care to pack and unpack within a weeks time for a beach trip but we all travel differently. It takes us a day and a half each way so we overnight in FLL.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 08:40 AM
  #11
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One of the flights we are looking at have us arriving in ELH at 1pm on the 26th and departing on the 4th at 1pm. So it's really only 9 days including travel.

Thanks!
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 08:41 AM
  #12
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This might sound naive, but what's a Whaler?
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 09:23 AM
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With Eleuthera, I'd split the week with Harbour Island.

What i meant by island hopping in Out Islands:

really hard to combine say, Eleuthera and Exumas, or Abacos and Exumas. What you do find is that these are grouping of islands.

So if you go to Abacos, to can hop around Treasure Cay, Guana Cay, Elbow Cay, Man-Of-War, all in the Abacos.

Exumas has tons of little cays like this too-Stocking Island, Moriah Cay, Crab Cay.

With Eleuthera, you can combine it with Harbour Island.

Now if you don't mind basing your trip out of Nassau, you can combine it-as long as you don't mind coming back in between.

Personally, in 1 week, you don't have much time to do 2 seperate Out Island "groupings." Each group (for ex. Abacos) has plenty of little islands to explore and keep you busy.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 09:35 AM
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A whaler is a boat that you rent to boat around the cays or around Great Exuma. It really opens the door to exploring the beaches and cays.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 09:46 AM
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This may point you in the right direction. We came on Monday after two weeks. If you hate AI, Hopetown is the best place on earth.

If you have never boated the Sea of Abaco is the safest and cheapest lace on Earth to rent boats. it doesn't even have the tides of the protected waters around GA/SC/NC.

Hopetown specialises in house rentals and many have dock for the rental boats. You could do a lot worse than

http://www.elbowcayrentals.com/scrip...?file=seatosea

It is 7 minutes walk from Hopetown and there are windward and leeside beaches. So even if you have 35 mph winds you are only 5 minutes walk from a flat clam beach.

The wildlife is amongst the best outside the Great Barrier Reef and the connecting flights are cheapish.

DO NOT think of Nassau when you think of the Bahamas. The Out Islands are on another planet when compared to Nassau which in in our experience is just plain (posh) tacky.

Hopetown is the sort of place where drssing up for evening meals consists of actually putting a T shirt on. It sin't scruffy there are multi millionaire by the baot load it's just very laid back. 95% of the people will greet you on the street. It's as if the last 50 years never happened.

We love it!

http://www.fodors.com/community/cari...the-abacos.cfm
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 01:02 PM
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I've had this little place bookmarked for a while so can't say firsthand what it's like because we haven't been.... yet. It does get good reviews and definitely seems to be off the beaten path on Andros, Bahamas. http://www.smallhope.com/Lodge.html
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 01:56 PM
  #17
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So The Abacos or Eleuthera? My ADD is really kicking in! Both of those destinations have reasonable prices and flight times from Atlanta.
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 03:52 PM
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Just another idea for you... St, Lucia is a direct flight from Atlanta and here's the link to my trip report. We stayed in a very nice apartment which would be perfect for 2.

http://www.fodors.com/community/cari...a-295173-2.cfm
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Mar 3rd, 2010, 04:20 PM
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>>So The Abacos or Eleuthera? <<

My vote is for The Abacos. I think it's a great introduction to the Out Islands. Also, you mentioned you really enjoyed Vieques and I feel they are similar in that they are low-key, no frills types of places in the Abacos. Laid back and very beautiful and enjoyable.

Plus, you can rent a boat to venture to other cays and enjoy being on that gorgeous, turquoise water.
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Mar 4th, 2010, 03:18 PM
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That settles it! Any recommendations on lodging and rentals while we are in the Abacos?
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