BY JANET STEINBERG
While Jimmy Buffett fans around the world mourn the loss of the man who lived his life like a song, and brought so much fun to so many Parrot Heads, his Margaritaville spirit and joie de vivre will never end. One of my cruises to the Southern Caribbean and Lesser Antilles began, and ended, with beautiful beaches on 3 islands that showcased the unspoiled beauty of nature and a variety of surprising treasures. However, in between, it was always “5 o’clock somewhere” My one “somewhere” on this itinerary included Margaritaville on Grand Turk, a tiny island (population under 5000) situated some 575-miles southeast of Miami.
GRAND TURK: First stop…Cockburn Town, the capital city and government center of the Turks and Caicos chain of islands. At first glance, a walk down historic Duke and Front Streets revealed a bunch of old buildings, many in need of paint and repair. On closer inspection, I was immersed in the history of the islands as I strolled along streets lined with 18th century buildings constructed from local limestone and timber salvaged from ships.
Many believe that Grand Turk, a mere 7-miles long and 1-mile wide, was the first landfall of Columbus in the New World. My time spent in Cockburn Town revealed no shops…no fancy restaurants…no glitz…just a glimpse at what I felt the real Caribbean once looked like.
At the opposite end of the island, several miles, and several centuries, from Cockburn Town is a mega-million dollar Cruise Center that opened in 2006. Situated on what was once a U.S. Air Force base, it has a spectacular beach, a free-form pool with swim-up bar, shopping, dining, and… you guessed it…a world-class Margaritaville where Parrot Heads can get “wasted away again” on 52 different flavors of margaritas.
DOMINICA: Mid-way between my trio of island ports, that showcase the unspoiled beauty of nature and a variety of surprising treasures, is the island of Dominica (pronounced dah muh NEE kuh). Dominica is a 290 square mile island that lies between Martinique and Guadeloupe. One does not go to Dominica, called “The Nature Island of the Caribbean”, for beaching. The reason for going to Dominica is to enjoy the beauty of nature. The island, some 29-miles long and 16-miles wide, is a wild one with towering mountains, dramatic waterfalls, and a luxuriant rain forest. It is also home to the remaining descendants of the original Caribs who settled the island sometime around 1000 AD.
Adventurous tourists can choose the excitement of exhilarating river tubing on the largest and longest of Dominica’s 365 rivers. Those who opt for the breathtaking journey down the Layou River feel a rush of excitement as they cascade downward and maneuver through the challenging rapids. Or they can ride on Dominica’s Rainforest Aerial Tram that glides them over the treetops, while admiring the verdure of the forest.
The less-adventurous tourist can take a mini-van ride to the World Heritage Trois Piton National Park, home of the Emerald Pool. The winding path to the small pool, fed by a cascade of water plunging off a fern-encrusted cliff, was my introduction to the rain forest. It has been said that if Columbus were to return to the Caribbean today, Domenica would be the only island he would still recognize.
ARUBA: Bon bini: Welcome to Aruba. Wherever you wander in Aruba, you’ll find beaches…beaches that are secluded, sexy, windswept, or historic. As to where you choose to throw your towel down, that’s another story. As the saying goes: “you pays your money and you takes your choice”.
Palm Beach, the world-renowned stretch of sand located in front of the high-rise resorts, offers excellent swimming in very calm shallow water. The Fisherman’s Huts, where you can rent surfboards, kite-boards, and kayaks, is located just north of Palm Beach.Eagle Beach, located south of Palm Beach is a 2-mile area of pure white sand. The long and lovely beaches are perfect for walking, sunning and water sports. There is also a shaded picnic area. Arashi Beach and Boca Catalina in Malmok, just south of the lighthouse near the northwestern tip of Aruba, are both perfect for snorkeling. The shallow waters and tiny bays are home to a plethora of fish and corals. The perfect beach for families with small children is the kid-friendly Baby Beach, located near the village of Seroe Colorado. The waters are warm and shallow, and closed off from a deep, choppy area by a rock barrier. Within walking distance from Baby Beach is Rodger’s Beach where the pounding sea is conducive to open-air napping or surfing, whatever is your thing.
If you think the sun shines brightly on Aruban beaches, wait until you stroll the streets of Oranjestad. You ‘ain’t’ seen nothing yet. You’ll practically be blinded by a golden glow…but it’s not from the sun. Dazzling rays of light stream out from the windows of the jewelry shops that line Main Street as far as the eye can see. A veritable pirate’s treasure of gold, diamonds and gemstones, offers a mind-boggling choice of jewelry that is practically irresistible. Believe it or not, I resisted!
Janet Steinberg, winner of 55 national Travel Writing Awards, resides in Cincinnati but calls the world her home.
Photo Credits: Janet Steinberg