By: Matt Meltzer
You feel that? Yeah, that’s the first bone-chilling cold of winter sneaking up on you, and unless you are unfortunate enough to live in Florida, the next four-to-six months are going to consist of layered clothes, ice scrapers, and long power-walks at the mall.
But not all is lost. Just to the southeast of this great nation sits the Caribbean Sea, and in it dozens of tiny islands with gorgeous beaches on which you can relax while refreshing your phone weather to see exactly how cold it is back home. The problem, though? A LOT of other people are gonna be there, too. And who wants that?
So to really get away, you need to need to find the awesome, under-the-radar spots that either nobody knows about or, for whatever reason, visits. These destinations might not be the most famous in the Caribbean, but it’d be hard to argue against any of them being among the best.
The most underrated of the underrated, sure, but people forget a mere 60 years ago this country was one of the most glamorous vacation destinations IN THE WORLD. And guess what: Haiti’s still got the same white sand, palm trees, and turquoise waters of the rest of the Caribbean. Between the beaches at Jardin sur Mer. B and destination surfing at Pistons Beach in Jacmel (or further north at LaPointe), you could almost call Haiti the Hawaii of the Atlantic.
Beyond the natural draw of the “Pearl of the Antilles,” Haiti boasts Afro-Caribbean art and music that you won’t find on the other islands. And the recent opening of the Marriott Port-au-Prince and an impressive collection of fine boutique hotels in the capital city indicate that Haiti is poised for a return to glory — so you should probably go before it gets too expensive.
Credit: Flickr/Mike’s Birds
Briland (Harbour Island), Bahamas
When the cruise ships dock and floods Freeport and Nassau with sunburned Midwesterners, where do the Bahamians go to escape? Harbour Island (or Briland as the locals call it) and its 3.5 miles of packed pink sand beaches considered some of the best in the Bahamas.
Beyond the beaches, though, Briland is special because it’s managed to build luxury resorts, hotels, and enough bars and restaurants to keep visitors from getting bored, but didn’t ruin the place with overdevelopment (cough*Bimini*cough). There’s even a club — Gusty’s — with a sand dance floor. Inside. And while Briland might be hard to reach during your six-hour port call, it’s definitely worth a separate trip.
Typical conversation when you get back from Dominica:
“So how was the Dominican Republic?”
“I went to Dominica.”
“Right, so did you see Sammy Sosa?”
“No, no Dominica. You know what, never mind — let’s just order.”
First off, this island in the lesser Antilles is pronounced “Dominique-uh,” and it has absolutely nothing to do with the country that produces half of Major League Baseball. It’s known as “the nature island of the Caribbean” and rocks some amazing black sand beaches. It’s also a perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts, as Morne Tois Pitons National Park boasts some of the highest mountains in the Caribbean and trails that run through thick jungle and outlet at the picturesque Victoria and Trafalgar Waterfalls. The park’s also home to Boiling Lake, which as the name might imply, actually reaches boiling temps in the middle.
And finally, across the island is Champagne Reef, a reef set on hot springs where the bubbles create a sensation of scuba diving in champagne. Take THAT, Kim K.
Santa Catalina, Providencia, and San Andrés, Colombia
The geography here might be a little confusing since these islands are actually closer to Nicaragua and Panama than they are to Colombia. In fact, as they’re in the Caribbean Sea, they’re obviously NOWHERE near Colombia. Then again, the Jets and Giants play in New Jersey, so whatever.
That said, you’ll forget all about stuff like “geography” when you visit this archipelago known collectively as the Seaflower Biosphere Reserve. At some points, the water is so shallow between islands that you can actually walk through the Caribbean to get from one to the other. And with multiple beachside bars, this makes for one of the coolest bar crawls in the world.
If drinking in the water isn’t your top vacation priority, the islands are fairly undeveloped and offer some of the best snorkeling and shallow-water diving around. And the hikes on volcanic Providencia provide photo ops that will guarantee you lose friends on Instagram.
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