Some 700 islands, islets and reefs decorate the Caribbean, or West Indies, with undoubtedly some of the most alluring beaches known to man. Islands such as Aruba, Anguilla, St Bart’s and Turks & Caicos seduce beach lovers with vast blankets of buttermilk sand, whilst the more eastern likes of Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and St Lucia, are home to darker, volcanic sunning spots. Along with the sun-block, you’ll also need to pack a sense of adventure – just a few highlights include forest zip-lining, mountain biking, horseback riding and of course hiking. Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Lucia and aforementioned Dominica set the pace, with many trails exposing flamboyant flora and fauna and rewarding with heart-stopping vistas from often-lofty peaks.
It is beneath the water that the Caribbean really comes into its own though; unsurprising given the warmth and clarity of the ocean, which ensures idyllic snorkelling conditions. Mingle with the shoals of exotic fish, putting on their own dazzling light show, or even swim among old wreck sites. On shore, a kaleidoscope of colours lie in wait; be it the electric blue sheen of the crystal clear ocean, bright yellows from a parrot flitting from tree-to-tree, or a burnt-orange sunset drooling down the early-evening sky into the horizon.
Once you have bid a traditional ‘Orevwa’ to the sun, it’s already time to embrace the night. A hard day of sun-drenched exertions is perfectly complemented by the music and dance of the natives. Clap, swing and sway along to the infectious beats and rhythms of Carnival, Calypso, Salsa and Reggae, or just sit back with a refreshing rum punch. The food too is delicious, and will further spice up proceedings.
The Caribbean’s continuously stirred melting pot of culture plays an integral part to its charm. From French Creole to African, British to Asian, influences are aplenty and create unique identities for each island. Barbados sheds a familiar British vibe, while Fidel Castro’s legacy resonates in Cuba, where classic American cars still pound the streets and cigar smoke delicately tints the air.
If you haven’t dissolved into a puddle of pleasure, you’ll make it home with a wistful sigh and smile, but most of all a renewed intention – to revisit the magic of the Caribbean.