Since St. John is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. citizens can visit without a passport. There are quite a few bargains on both St. Thomas and St. John right now, so it’s a good choice for travelers on a budget. Snorkelers should not miss visiting Trunk Bay, one of the best snorkeling spots in all of the Caribbean for seeing amazing marine life.


Which of these great locations would you recommend for a family with teenagers who like to dive and surf? We have been to Hawaii, Costa Rica and Tahiti. We are looking for a safe, yet different, cultural experience with exotic plants, fish and animals. We would prefer to stay in one villa, as opposed to multiple rooms in a hotel. We don’t mind if it is far away from Southern California. I realize this may be painful financially.
The only ferry from Kusadasi to Greece goes to the Greek island of Samos. It’s a great island and certainly worth a few days. From Samos, there are usually direct ferries to Mykonos and Syros. These are very different islands that have a very different vibe – but both appealing in their own way. From Mykonos there will be direct flights to Western Europe (most likely Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, and London) though not every flight flies every day so requires some planning. Santorini would be another ferry ride from Mykonos. And Crete farther still. So you wouldn’t have time to get to either island.
It’s a tough call. The good news is that whatever you decide, it will feel like the right thing after you’ve done it. You’ll almost certainly say to yourself, “I’m so glad we saw both islands” or “I’m so glad we had 6 full days on Santorini.” In deciding I would ask whether a return trip to Greece is likely or possible in the next couple of years. If so, then spend your 6 days on Santorini and explore that island, then return to Crete at some time in the future for a deserving 7 to 10 days. But if this is a one-time deal for the foreseeable future then do 3 days on Santorini and 3 days in Crete. (Whatever you decide don’t do a day trip to the other island as it’s not worth the time and effort.)
Panama is an underrated destination in Central America, including the San Blas Islands. This is a popular spot for sailing and boat tours, though there are also some resorts in case you’re looking for a more luxurious stay. Generally, the islands are quite rustic and make for a great off-the-grid island getaway. There are tons of beautiful spots for good sailing, diving, and snorkeling.
Another South Pacific island group (see a pattern here?), the Cook Islands are pretty far off the map. OK, not too far, but they are considerably less visited than some of their neighbors. These tiny islands are named after James Cook, the intrepid man who discovered them. With few amenities, this is the best place to find your inner castaway and escape modern life. The islands see similar weather to the rest of the area, with temperatures hot and humid all year round.
Close to this island is a little island that provides excellent snorkeling opportunities. You may even spot a few reef sharks. Bathtub-warm water and fine sand beaches kept me here for over three weeks. It will do the same for you. Visit between November and March for the best weather and the fewest people. May through October sees a harsh monsoon season that shuts the island down. The best way to get there is by boat from Pak Bara.
Hydra is great but it does take a bit of time and effort to get to from the Cyclades. You’ll need to ferry to Athens, then might have to overnight there, then ferry to Hydra. Whereas Naxos, Paros, Milos, Folegandros, etc. would all be one direct ferry from Santorini or Mykonos. If you do go to Hydra then Leto Hotel is a great choice close to the port and shops and restaurants.
Great list Matt! Indeed, there obviously there are some spots on this globe I have to visit. Can confirm the Maldives though. Has changed over time, but then again, the first time they were still “exploring” their “tourist economy” potential. Been there twice now and although definitely more crowded still holds its appeal. Be prepared for culture shock though. If you return to the “civilised world” you will wonder about the rest of the grubby world and catch yourself day dreaming regularly. 😉
We are wanting to hit 3 islands and have narrowed it down to Corfu, Crete, and Santorini. I was feeling pretty good about this but I haven’t seen a lot of hype for Corfu. I was thinking it would be more unique as compared to the other 2 with its proximity to Italy and Turkey and Albania. Am I missing something, do you have any insight you could provide, please?
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