How to choose your ideal island destination: Getting started
“What is your favorite island?” Because of my experience in traveling to tropical locations, this is a question I’m often asked.
Others are: “I want to go somewhere in the Caribbean for vacation this year. Where would you suggest?” or “My daughter is getting married. Where should the newlyweds go on their honeymoon?”
All of these questions stimulate a series of other questions. The ideal island destination is not one size fits all! “Different strokes for different folks.” My favorite islands may not be yours, according to a number of factors, including but not limited to your own likes and dislikes, your personality, your activity level, and your travel style.
My goal is to help you discover your ideal island destination (or destinations) by taking a closer look at the following:
Food and Drink
(Click on any photo to start a slideshow of photos in this post.)
Does the idea of an all-inclusive resort appeal, where most things are included up front, including meals, drinks, activities and water sports? Do you prefer a large resort with ties to a hotel chain (like Hilton or Hyatt), or does staying in an intimate island inn fit you best? Perhaps you would choose to rent a condo or villa, where you can eat in, if you’d like, and immerse yourself in island life. The choices are endless.
Do you like to lie on a beautiful beach, sip tropical drinks, and read a good book, or do you consider yourself to be an active vacationer, who stays on the go with water- or land-based activities throughout the day? Or does your activity level lie somewhere in between? What types of activities appeal to you? Sailing? Golf? Snorkeling? Scuba diving? Deep sea fishing? Ziplining? Do you enjoy exploring historic sites like forts and museums, or natural sites such as botanical gardens or rainforests? Is shopping important to you, or can collecting seashells and purchasing handmade jewelry from a beach vendor satisfy your desire for souvenirs?
For some travelers, “it’s all about the beach!” They may rarely touch their toe into the water, but they want to walk along a beautiful beach, picking up a shell or two along with way, or sunbathe on a pristine stretch of sand as they gaze at the multi-hued blues of the sea. No matter what the latest “best beaches” list may include, this, too, is a matter of personal preference. In an upcoming post, I’ll share some of my personal favorites with you, and give you some islands to consider if the beach is high on your priority list.
Island terrain can vary widely, from lush and tropical to flat, scrubby and desert-like, or somewhere in between. We’ll take a look at islands that are volcanic in origin and those that are not, which determines the look of the island, as well as its flora, fauna, and the type of activities that will be available. Scuba divers, for example, usually don’t place a lot of importance on topside beauty if the underwater world is amazing. However, if your idea of a tropical island is lush vegetation and volcanic peaks, you may not want to choose an arid, desert island where cactus and scrub brush are the norm.
Food and Drink
While generalizations can be made about the kind of foods and beverages you’ll find in tropical destinations (lots of fresh fish and seafood and rum-based drinks), some islands have specialties that aren’t found as abundantly elsewhere. Some are known as dining destinations, so if the “foodie” in you places importance on enjoying gourmet meals while on vacation, you’ll want to keep this as a priority. What is your comfort zone when it comes to dining? Do you prefer to have a McDonald’s or KFC nearby, or do you like mingling with the natives and trying all the local delicacies?
Location and Getting There
After you’ve narrowed down tropical destinations to one or two that appeal to you, location is also a consideration. How easy will it be to travel to your island destination, and is that a priority? Are you OK with a long plane flight if you emerge at your “ideal” destination? What things should you consider about airlines/airports, airfare, frequent flier miles, itineraries, booking options, and more? We all want to get there as quickly, directly and economically as possible. So, how should you go about accomplishing that?
The vibe of each island destination often varies according to its history and culture. If its inhabitants have been predominantly under British, French, Dutch, or another country’s rule, the atmosphere and ambiance of the island can reflect that heritage. Some are a delightful mix of several heritages. Some islands (including our own U.S. territories) have become more Americanized; others are anything but. The vibe of an island also has a lot to do with the people who live and work on the island, both in and out of the tourist trade.
Your preferences in all of these areas need to be considered in your evaluation of choosing the ideal island destination for you! Only then can you begin to get a feel for which island experience will come close to your ideal.
The other critical consideration when choosing your ideal island destination is budget. When I’m asked, “Where should I go?” one of the questions I ask in return is, “What is your budget?” While the cost of a vacation doesn’t necessarily match up with how satisfied you’ll be with your trip, a bare-bones bargain vacation will most likely not be your most memorable (at least not in a positive sense).
I’ll be covering each in future blog posts, starting with Accommodations and ending with Budget, to help guide you in your pursuit of the ideal island destination.
So, together, let’s enjoy the pursuit of your ideal island destination!
Coming soon: How to choose your ideal island destination: Accommodations