As a four-decade Certified Travel Agent, international airline employee, researcher, writer, teacher, and photographer, travel, whether for pleasure or business purposes, has always been a significant and an integral part of my life. Some 400 trips to every portion of the globe, by means of road, rail, sea, and air, entailed destinations both mundane and exotic. This article focuses on those in the Caribbean.
Significant, multiple-mode travel to it, often on more than one occasion, covered 18 islands.
Antigua, through St. John’s, entailed a road tour of Shirley Heights, Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, and the Blockhouse ruins.
Aruba, with its colorful capital and cruise port of Oranjestad, included sights, such as Oranjestad. The Parliament, Queen Wilhelmina Park, Queen Beatrix International Airport, Santa Cruz, the Agnochi Catashi rock formations, the Ayo rock formations, the Natural Bridge, the Aruba Aloe Factory and Museum, and the high-rise hotels on Palm Beach and the low-rise ones on Eagle Beach.
Barbados, with its Bridgetown capital, entailed sightseeing of many of its parishes and included such attractions as Santa Cruz, the Barbados Wildlife Reserve, and the Barbados Concorde Experience, itself near Grantley Adams International Airport.
Bonaire, served by Kralendijk, entailed attractions, such as Gotomeer, Seru Largu, and Washington Slagbaai National Park. Located in northwest Bonaire, it is a 14,830-acre nature sanctuary which was originally inhabited by native South Americans and was the location of the island’s two largest plantations during the Colonial Period, growing divi-divi trees and aloe and producing charcoal. Accessed by both a 15- and a 22-mile route, the park featured considerable topographical diversity, including desert areas, white and black sand beaches, caverns, flamingo-frequented salt flats, reefs, coral-filled bays, and pink ponds. A visitor’s center and museum were located at its entrance.
Curacao, with colorful Dutch architecture painting its Willemstad streets, entailed sights, such as the Waterfront, which dated from 1634, the Plaza Pier, Fort Amsterdam, the Queen Emma: pontoon Bridge, the Wilhelmina Drawbridge, the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, and the Jewish Museum.
Journeys beyond Willemstad entailed the Curacao Liqueur Factory; Fort Nassau; the Boca Tabla Grotto; the Knip Plantation House; Knip Bay, which was one of the island’s most beautiful beaches where the pure sugary sand met the turquoise Caribbean Sea; and general scenes enjoyed from its “cunucu,” which was the Papiamento word for “country.”
Dominica, lush and velvety green, was marked by its famous Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a 17,000-acre ecological area located on the island’s south side. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the only one in the Eastern Caribbean, it featured one of the world’s last oceanic rain forests. It was accessed by narrow, ascending, potholed roads and featured crater lakes, grotto-fed waterfalls, fresh water lakes, and the three peaks of Morne Trois Pitons. Mist frequently rose over the dark-green growth of this primordial rain forest. An aerial tram afforded spectacular views of this Switzerland-reminiscent location.
Other visited areas included Trafalgar Falls and Laudat Village.
Grand Cayman signified George Town, Hell, Seven Mile Beach, and West Bay.
Grenada, the spice island, was indicative of St. George’s, Fort Frederick, Annandale Falls, Grand Etang National Park, and the Douglaston Spice Estate.
The famous Casa de Campos was symbolic of the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola.
Jamaica, with its lush, mountainous interior, suggested images of mainland forests, and its sights included Dunn’s River Falls, Mountain Valley, the beaches of Montego Bay, and Ocho Rios. A plantation jitney tour and bamboo rafting on the Martha Brae River were highlights.
Puerto Rico was characterized by San Juan, Playa de Luquillo, the El Yunque Rain Forest, and Isla Verde. Old San Juan was home to the San Juan National Historic Site, with buildings that dated from the 16th century, including the San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal fortresses and the old city walls.
St. Barthelemy entailed coverage of Gustava, the capital and seaport, the Den Rock Hotel, the island’s first, Morne Vitet, the island’s highest peak at 281 meters, Anse de Grand Cul de Sac, Anse de Marigot, Loreint Beach, St. Jean Beach, and Turtle Island, the meeting point of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
St. Croix, with its Danish heritage, included visits to its two main cities, Christiansted and Frederiksted. Fort Christiansvaern was among Christiansted’s National Historic Site’s Danish colonial buildings. The West St. George Village Botanical Gardens occupied an old sugar plantation. And a boat cruise to Buck Island Reef Monument, a small, uninhabited, 176-acre island 1.5 miles north of the northeast coast of St. Croix, offered scuba diving opportunities.
St. John, the smallest of the US Virgin Islands, was accessed by an inter-island ferry from St. Thomas and entailed a tour of its Virgin Islands National Park, which occupied most of the island. Its beaches, including Trunk Bay, backed by forests, and Francis Bay, whose calm waters were home to sea turtles, were fringed by coral reefs. Annaberg Plantation was once the location of an 18th-century sugar plantation and trails through the tropical forest led to the ruins of Reef Bay Sugar Mill.
St. Lucia, in the Eastern Caribbean, was an island nation whose pair of dramatically tapered mountains, the Pitons, marked its west coast, which itself was home to volcanic beaches, reef-diving sites, luxury resorts, ad fishing villages. Rainforest interior trails often ended at waterfalls like the 15-meter-high Toraille, which poured over a cliff into a garden.
From Castires, its cruise port, exploration encompassed St. Mark’s, 18th-century merchant house built in 1942, which had used the original structure’s 1920 foundation; Caribelle Batik; Marigot Bay; the Roseau Valley banana plantation; Anse La Raye; and La Sikwi Sugarmill, which included a guided tour and the tasting of St. Lucia-indigenous foods: fried green bananas, breadfruit, sugar cane, grapefruit, yellow bananas, and banana ketchup.
St. Maarten/St. Martin was marked by its main cities, Marigot in French St. Martin and Philipsburg in Dutch St. Maarten.
St. Thomas’s sightseeing attractions included Skyline Drive, a view from its Mountain Top, Charlette Amalie, Fort Christian, and an ascent up its Paradise Point Tramway. But a particular highlight was a parasailing flight over its bay.
Harnessed to a parachute and airborne-launched from the stern of a speedboat, the parasail instantaneously surrendered to aerodynamic forces and become airborne, the world receding and miniaturizing in seconds until even the boat’s engine sound faded to silence. Left suspended 600 feet above St. Thomas Harbor and the now-tiny, 91,000-ton Constellation cruise ship with my feet dangling into oblivion, I was left with the surreal perspective of the island below; the fierce winds which filled my chute and singularly kept me aloft; and my thoughts.
Trinidad was marked by its capital, Port-of-Spain.