6 islands that I just recently returned from!
*Note that this is a rather LONG and informative read, and trust me that you are not gonna want to miss anything - so be sure to BOOKMARK this page!
Find out what my favorite moments were and I'll share helpful hints and tips that'll help you out when you are ready to plan a trip to the islands!
FIRST STOP - The Beautiful Island of Puerto Rico
Hi there & a BIG warm welcome GREETING from San Juan, PR!
*Typically I enjoy taking red-eye flights so that I don't lose any time on my vacation. I sleep on the flight and then I am rearing and ready to go...
But on this particular flight I just wasn't tired, not even in the least!
I tried to sleep - really I did, but it just wasn't happening.
Must've been all the excitement running through my veins! It really doesn't matter how many vacations I take, I still get quite excited about each and every one of them!
Anyhow, once arriving at the first of the 6 islands for the trip we went to pick up our rental (located at the airport directly across from the arrival terminal).
*NOTE that the car insurance rates are higher in San Juan than almost anywhere else that I travel to, and that if you do not have the insurance that you are liable for everything - INCLUDING walking out to your rental and finding a flat tire! Additionally NOTE that most vehicles no longer come with a spare tire.
Which btw is pretty much the same M.O. that I had on my visit 5 years ago when I got that bloody awful SunBURN! Ouch! Click HERE if you missed that one!
It rained on us, downpour after downpour.
We packed our packable rain jackets but conveniently left them in the car! UGH
While I absolutely love the rain, and really don't mind getting wet.
It was just that I had attempted to cover my freshly and professionally styled hair from turning into a FRIZZ bomb! LOL
The remainder of our afternoon and evening was planned in and around the narrow and picturesque streets.
We strolled along the oldest settlement within Puerto Rico, which is located right in the historic colonial section of San Juan.
However my brand new flip flops were a huge FLOP and had rubbed my feet raw.
*You better believe that once I got back home, I quickly these retarded shoes!
To eat I took us back to Cafe Berlin three times!
Once for lunch, then again for dinner, and once again for brunch - I had recalled it being quite yummy which it was and of course it was a big plus that they offer plenty of vegan options!
Click on the link to find the FOODIE FRIDAY feature about this lovely Old Town San Juan dining experience!
That was Day 1
We started out the day again in San Juan, Puerto Rico!
On this day we headed out to the worlds LARGEST radio telescope, but first we went back to Cafe Berlin and had a yummy brunch!
BTW I had made an attempt to visit this famous telescope back in 2009; but it happened to be on Palm Sunday and not until I drove up to the parking lot did I find out that they were CLOSED! UGH
I was so glad to finally check the Arecibo Observatory off of my list and off of Dave's bucket list - this world famous observatory has been on Dave's list since he was a kid!
The drive from San Juan is about 1.5hrs from San Juan and here are a couple of interesting facts about The Arecibo Observatory:
Construction began in mid-1960, with the official opening on November 1, 1963.
The Observatory's 1,000 ft radio telescope is the world's largest single-aperture telescope!
We were heading out on the Carnival Liberty that was going to sea to see the 5 additional Caribbean Islands set for this trip! Click HERE for more!
So, after checking out the very cool scientific site, we had went back to the airport to return our rental and then we made a beeline to the port to board our cruise!
Check out these interesting:
- Puerto Rico is considered a territory of the United States. Its official name is the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
- Puerto Rico is located in the Caribbean Sea, about 1,000 mi east-southeast of Miami, Florida.
- Puerto Rico is approximately 30 miles wide from north to south and about 90 miles from west to east. The land area is about 3,435 square miles. Puerto Rico is comparable to the state of Connecticut.
- Population: 3,620,897 (July 2014 est.)
- Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493, one year after he discovered the Americas. He named it San Juan Bautista, after John the Baptist.
- San Juan is the second oldest European city in the Western Hemisphere. The official name is: Municipio de la Ciudad Capital San Juan Bautista (St. John the Baptist).
- The United States gained Puerto Rico as a territory after the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Treaty of Paris that was signed to end the war allotted the island country to the United States in 1917.
- The population of Puerto Rico is about 3.37 million, most residents are descendants of Spanish and Portuguese, the official languages are Spanish and English.
- Many of the words that Puerto Ricans use for building names, household items and food products originated from the Taino Indians, who lived in Puerto Rico before Christopher Columbus founded the island.
- Borikén – original name of the island given by the Taino natives. Today the name Borinquen is widely used. Puerto Ricans proudly call themselves boricuas which carries pride and love for their island.
- San Felipe del Morro is a 16th-century citadel commonly known as El Morro which dates to 1540. Rising 140 feet above the sea, its 18-foot-thick wall proved a formidable defense. Today El Morro is a National Historic Site administered by the National Park Service.
- Built in 1634, Castillo de San Cristíbal (San Cristíbal Fort) is El Morro’s partner in the defense of San Juan. It’s a World Heritage and National Historic Site, administered by the U.S. National Park Service.
- One of the world’s most favorite mixed drinks, the Piña Colada, was born in Puerto Rico, but the identity of the bartender who first mixed up the iconic rum-based cocktail remains a point of contention.
- The Arecibo radio telescope is the world's largest telescope. The dish measures a thousand feet in diameter and spans about 20 acres, and is also the most sensitive radio telescope in the world.
- Puerto Rico is home to more bioluminescent bays then anywhere in the world.
BTW Dave really loved Puerto Rico - so I guess we'll be back again. There are after all so many more things to see and do!
This day was all about exploring the US Virgin Island of St. Thomas!
It was my first visit to the US Virgin Islands and
I was totally stoked...
I luv exploring new territory!
The things that were on our list for the day were:
Sky Ride to Paradise Point
and taking a two-hour orientation tour of the island, with stops at some of the island's highlights and exciting views of the island itself, such as:
The 16th and 17th century structures and remains include Blackbeard's Castle, Fort Christian and Bluebeard’s Castle - all of which we will be able to see on the tour!
This beach is rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world by National Geographic!
It was freakin gorgeous!!!
I'm so glad that I stick to my guns and follow through with my plans!
Which meant leaving the cruise ship hours earlier than the masses and then arriving at the beach when it was still nice, fairly unpopulated, and not baking in the hot sun!
The sand was oh so soft and as fine as powdered sugar, the water was in a word PERFECT!
Now, you've gotta check out all the cars and the driving in St Thomas and on the other USVI, it might have you taking a second look, because as you might already recall they drive on the left side of the street HOWEVER the drivers side is also on the left side of the vehicle, because it is USVI and their vehicles come from the U.S. (unlike in other countries who drive on the left side of the road, whose vehicles come from UK imports). Kinda weird!
We rode along the crest on "Skyline Drive," where we were be treated to vistas of Charlotte Amalietown harbor as well as Hassel and Water Islands which are off to the south; the Atlantic Ocean, Magens Bay and Inner and Outer Brass and Hans Lollick islands to the north; and the chain of cays leading to St. John and the British Virgins to the east. Islands for as far as the eye could see!
The very informative tour was spent at 3 main stops -
Pilgrims Terrace - overlooking Havensight, Charlotte Amalie, Bluebeard and Blackbeard's castles!
Drakes Seat (now a bench, overlooking Magens Bay)
And Mountain Top - where the Banana Daiquiri was created. "It's 5p somewhere!"
In addition to the several picturesque sights in between, it was almost perfect - it was just soooo darn HOT out.
Charlotte Amalie, founded in 1666 as Taphus (meaning "beer houses" or "beer halls").
In 1691, the town was renamed to Amalienborg (in English Charlotte Amalie) after Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Kassel (1650–1714), queen consort to King Christian V of Denmark.
Sweet Life Restaurant and tried a very yummy local Sorrel "tea" Drink...
Mmm that was good!
After that we spent our afternoon shopping...
It was certainly rather hot out, but anytime that cooling Caribbean Breeze blew it was just so very delicious!
One St Thomas local shared his motto with us - "We are one people"
While only 32 square miles in size, St. Thomas has a million miles worth of things to do.
You can go shopping and sailing, snorkeling and sightseeing, diving and dining.
Enjoy the island’s world-renowned golf course, picture-perfect beaches and spectacular nightlife.
Take the Skyride 700 feet above the city or climb the famous 99 Steps of Charlotte Amalie for an incomparable view of the Caribbean.
And if you’re interested in culture and history, don’t miss seeing the second-oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, the 1680-built Fort Christian or the childhood home of Camille Pissarro, one of the best-known French Impressionists. (partial credit visitusvi.com)
- Size: 31 square miles, 13 miles long and 4 miles wide
- Located 1,100 miles south of Miami
- St. Thomas, capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands
- Charlotte Amalie is the capital of the U.S. Virgin Islands and is located in St. Thomas.
- Charlotte Amalie is the largest historical town in the United States.
- The U.S. Virgin Islands is the only location in the United States where you drive on the left side of the road.
- St. Thomas is a nicknamed Rock City
- St. Thomas has more than 40 pristine white sand beaches with turquoise waters.
- In St. Thomas you will find Beracha Veshalom Vegmiluth Hasidim. This is one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere!
- The time zone of the Virgin Islands is Atlantic Standard time, which is one hour later than Eastern Standard time.
- Population in St Thomas is approximately 60,000 people
- Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 during his second New World voyage, but deemed it too boring for an extended stay and continued on to what is now Puerto Rico.
- Denmark purchased the islands in 1733, bringing St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas under Danish rule.
- The United States bought the Virgin islands from Denmark in 1917.
- The Virgin Islands (St Thomas, St . Croix, and St John) was bought from Denmark for $25 million in gold.
It was time to check out BARBADOS!!
I was first timer here as well and it was yet another island that was new for me go out there and explore!
Let me start off by telling you that before getting to the island that I read somewhere that the island was like a mini England - so being that I've never been before, that was the image that I expected...let me clarify something for you right here and now....Barbardos is NOTHING like England. NOTHING. Who on earth came up with that?!
We opted to tour and sightsee the East Coast of Barbados.
Seeing Cherry Tree Hill, where we had a panoramic view of the highlands of the Scotland District; Morgan Lewis Windmill, the last sugar windmill to operate on Barbados; Cattle Wash, known for its curative climate; Bathsheba, with its gigantic boulders and waves breaking upon them; and St. John's Parish Church, where we will enjoy a wonderful view of the entire East Coast.
But they were camera shy and too fast for my picture taking ways.
While on the tour we learned a few things:
One thing won't find here on the island are any Starbucks or many other U.S. Franchises; in fact the one and only McDonald's that was here only lasted 6 months!
- Famed for the Sugarcane plantations, landscape paintings and cricket matches (the game - not the insect).
- Until the 1980's the island was producing 130,000 tons of sugar for export per year.
- Keep in mind that the island is 166 square miles and that was 60% of the island being used to sugar cane (which was originally brought over from the Dutch).
- There are 1,600 Rum shoppes = bars & 1,600 churches in Barbados
- Barbados is built on coral stone, and is called 'The Rock' and this is the main reason why the drinking water is so pure on this island.
NOTE: When behind the wheel that if you splash anybody from perhaps driving into a puddle, and they take your registration, you will be prosecuted!
Also take note that there is an important dress code in Barbados - it is ILLEGAL to wear ANY military type clothing, camouflage shirts, pants, backpacks etc.. This dress code is enforced and any violations may result in actions from the local Police. - Good thing I left my camos at home!
NOTE: Carlisle Bay is also a marine park with 25 shipwrecks hidden below its surface!
With it's white sand and turquoise water, this beach was a real slice of paradise and the waters were definitely a favorite of Dave's!
We spent a few hours at the white sanded, Aqua watered Copacabana beach, Dave enjoyed wading in the water, while I enjoyed staying the shade and the cooling sea breeze.
I'm not much of a fan of hanging out in the water, baking in the sun, surrounded by a bunch of weirdos and risking having something unknown brush up against my skin. Heck No!
I'd much rather people watch and grab a couple of laughs!
Once we were on our way back to the port we passed through the capital of the island, Bridgetown for a few photo opps.
- Barbados has the third oldest parliament in the world, with uninterrupted parliamentary governance since 1639.
- Bridgetown is the capital and the largest city in Barbados.
- Barbados is 21 miles long and a smile (14 miles) wide!
- Population: Approximately 285,000
- The name 'Barbados' is derived from the Bearded Fig Trees once found in abundance on the island.
- Barbados has pure drinking water and was the first Caribbean island to have piped water.
- Currency is the Barbados Dollar
- An island in the Atlantic about 300 mi north of Venezuela
- Has always flown only the British Flag, until achieving its independence in 1966.
- The highest point in Barbados is 1,100 feet. This doesn’t even compare to the tallest building in the world which is 2,700 feet high!
- In Barbados you drive on the left side of the road.
- “Pride and Industry” is the Motto of Barbados
- You’ll notice that many houses in Barbados are half-painted – this is done in order to pay a lower land tax bill. If only half-painted, the building is said to be under-construction and too incomplete to pay full tax.
- It is believed that the grapefruit was created in Barbados sometime in the 1700’s. It was exported to Florida in the 1800’s and then spread to the rest of the world.
- Barbados is the 3rd most developed country in the Western Hemisphere after the US and Canada.
St Lucia was such a joy! We had a most fabulous time visiting and touring this island.
To tell you the truth, I actually knew from the moment our ship pulled near the volcanic island and we pulled our curtains open to the amazing view off of our balcony that I was a big BIG fan!
DID YOU KNOW: In a period of 150 years the island of St Lucia was ruled back and forth by the French and the English (7 times each). They finally gained their independence on Feb 22 1979.
Being in St Lucia one thing we noticed was the difference in the color of the sand on the island.
When in the south we found grey sand because of the volcano and to the north was the famous white sand.
We continued our visit of the Windward islands and decided to do a tour with a mix of must-see attractions and cultural experiences of the island, including a visit to the Roseau Valley Banana Plantation - the largest banana plantation in St. Lucia, where we will be given some insight into the cultivation and production of this crop.
These unique cone shaped volcanic peaks have even been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and happen to be St. Lucia's most famous landmark!
While on tour we were able to sample some of the locally made banana ketchup and banana BBQ sauce - finger licking good!
We had some creole bread which dang good and I really wish I had more of...
I had some Tamarind juice which was rather tasty, Dave had tried the Passion Fruit juice which he enjoyed (but mine was better!)
We even sucked on some sweet sugar cane.
*How do I end up at all of these sulphur/volcanic hot spots in a year???
I think I'm in need a pair of nose plugs for my poor abused sniffer!
- St Lucia was first colonized successfully by the French who signed a treaty with the native Carib people in 1660.
- Christopher Columbus did not, in fact, discover this island. While it is true that the island was along the route this world-famous explorer sailed, it is not credited to him. It was not until 1550 that Francois le Clerc made his settlement at Pigeon Island.
- St. Lucia is really 2 islands in one! Pigeon island (former island) was joined to the mainland in the 1970's when a sandy causeway was constructed.
- St Lucia is a volcanic island which is more mountainous than many other Caribbean islands, with the highest point being Mount Gimie, at 3,120 ft above sea level
- Castries is the Capital.
- Approximate population is 181,000
- Gained independence from Britain in 1979.
- The official language is English, others used are Saint Lucian Creole French or Patois.
- The national dish of Saint Lucia is Green Banana and Saltfish.
- Located north/northeast of the island of Saint Vincent, northwest of Barbados and south of Martinique. It covers a land area of 238.23 sq mi.
- St Lucia is the second largest of the Windward Islands located in the eastern Caribbean Sea.
- It used to be known as the Island of the Iguanas by the earliest settlers, the Amerindian Arawak and Carib people.
- Despite a population of only 176,000, Saint Lucians have won two Nobel Prizes: Arthur Lewis (economics) and Derek Walcott (literature).
- Only the Faroe Islands (one Nobel among 49,000 people) has a higher rate of Nobel Prizes.
- St. Lucia is home to one of the most remarkable distilleries, Roseau Valley, which is famous for producing more than 21 types of rum to sample or purchase. Located on Rodney Bay, it has stood in this location for decades.
On this day we had yet another new island for me to explore & one that is often regarded as the jewel of the Caribbean - St. Kitts in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.
First off I'll tell you that the landscape looked nothing like any of the pictures that I had seen, where the island appeared to have rolling hills and almost a similar topography to that of St. Thomas - well it doesn't and I don't know why there haven't been more pictures published showing off the high volcanic backdrop and rainforest that dramatically rise straight out of the Caribbean Sea.
It was quite a lovely surprise and reminded me quite a bit of the Hawaiian islands (which are definite favorites of mine).
It was love at first sight!
- A Botanical Gardens that was filled with beautiful and brightly colored flora that was a treat for the senses, as well as the soul.
Located at Romney Manor - the Historical Ruins of former tobacco and sugar plantation (once owned by Sam Jefferson, great great grandfather of Thomas Jefferson). Caribelle Batik is also at Romney Manor, quite an enchanting Caribbean Hideaway.
We even got to watch an Authentic Batik demonstration & do a bit of shopping.
What a wonderful and relaxing time it was.
There was a perfect ocean breeze and the sound of the lightly crashing waves, as I gazed from my shoreside lounge only feet from the water.
This was paradise!
And to top it off I even opted to get a wonderful Aloe Vera Reflexology massage from 'the Doc' on the beach!
It was like nothing I've ever experienced & I highly recommend it!
- Formally named St. Christopher.
- When Christopher Columbus discovered the island, he named it after his patron saint, St. Christopher. Later it was shortened to St. Kitts, his nickname. It was considered the mother colony of the West Indies.
- St. Kitts and Nevis is located in the Caribbean Sea, about one-third of the way from Puerto Rico to Trinidad and Tobago.
- St. Kitts is part of a two-island nation of St. Kitts & Nevis - Official Name: Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Capitals: Basseterre (Saint Kitts), Charlestown (Nevis)
- The current population is estimated to be approximatly 49,898 people
- Total Size: 100.66 sq mi. (Size Comparison: 1.5 times the size of Washington, DC)
- In 2007, St. Kitts and Nevis became the smallest nation to host the Cricket World Cup.
- In 1623 Englishman Thomas Warner landed at St. Kitts and claimed it as the first British territory in the West Indies.
- In 1672, the French settled on St. Kitts.
- In 1782, the islands came under permanent British control after a crucial British victory over the French at Brimstone Hill.
- St. Kitts attained full independence as a single nation in 1983.
- It was once known as the Gibraltar of the West Indies.
- The National flower is the Flamboyant.
- The face of the $10 USD Bill - Alexander Hamilton was born on Nevis.
On the last day of our cruise we got to check out St. Maarten.
Opting to check out the Top 10 Highlights of the island..
We got to see some of the island's most famous sights which included checking out both sides of the island and seeing the beautiful beaches, Plane Spotting at Maho Beach (Dave was really looking forward to seeing this), the famous Orient Beach, and somehow we still had time for shopping!
Our first stop was at the French/Dutch border.
We were able to be in 2 countries at the same time with one foot being in St. Maarten and the other in Sint Martin!!
On our way to Maho Beach, we took a break and enjoyed the beauty of Dreams Beach - which was like a Dream and which we really loved and could've spent the entire day at!
The rest of our afternoon was spent trying to watch the mind blowing plane spotting at Maho, since the St. Maarten airport lies just at the edge of the water and beach and it seems like the planes are landing right on the sand and if you reach up that you can touch them!
Well our visit to Maho wasn't quite all that...the tide was high and none of the planes that had come in were big enough to give us the experience that we were hoping for. Sorry Dave.
But we did still have plenty of time to check out Phillipsburg, and to do some more shopping! Have you figured out that I love shopping yet?! LOL
Here's a few more things about St. Maarten that might interest you:
- The official languages are Dutch, French and English but there are over 152 nationalities on the island.
- St. Martin — or St. Maarten if you're on the Dutch side — easily breeds allegiance. The two sides have different governments, languages, cuisines, currencies and general dispositions. They have different electrical currents from different companies, which explains why blackouts are routine only on the Dutch side.
- Saint Martin uses the euro as its currency, while Sint Maarten uses the Netherlands Antillean guilder.
- Dutch side has 16 sq mi and 14 casinos
- French side has 21 sq mi and no casinos
- The smallest land mass in the World to be shared between two countries.
- The island is lies east of Puerto Rico and a few miles south of Anguilla.
- The island is 9.3 miles in length and 8 miles at its widest with its highest point on the island is Pic Paradis (Paradise Peak) on the French Side at 1,392 ft
- Tap water on the island comes from desalinated seawater and is drinkable.
- The island of St. Martin is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean
- There is no physical barrier between the two countries St. Martin and St. Maarten
- The island of St. Martin was known as 'Oualichi' Land of Women
- The island of St. Martin is also known as 'Soualiga' Land of Salt
- Capital Cities: St. Martin: Marigot / Sint Maarten: Philipsburg
- Estimated Population (entire island) 52,000
This was without any efforts of doing so and even with attempting to stay in shade as much as possible.
But even so coming home I was a bit of a crispy critter!
And that about does it folks!
I sure hope that you enjoyed your virtual visit and that you have gained some knowledge about the islands which might even help you plan your next trip.
It sure was fun for me :) See you soon!