As soon as I think of travel, it’s not long before my mind drifts to white sand beaches, azure blue water, and palm trees in tropical locales. When most people think of paradise, chances are they’re thinking of tropical islands is far-flung corners of the world. Lounging with a good book, drinking from coconuts, soaking up the rays. Does it get any better than that?
Travel here is now easier than ever thanks to recent renovations at both international airports. One of Grand Cayman’s first hotel openings in years, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa opened in November, with 266 design-centric guest rooms along a 500-foot coral sand stretch of Seven Mile Beach. At the grass-and-teak filled, flip-flop friendly Margaritaville Beach Resort, which will open in early 2017 with 286 guest rooms, kids can cruise down the two-story waterslide and you’ve got a License to Chill at the bar with the same name.
The other groups are best tackled individually. For example, the Ionians have no ferry connections to the rest of the Greek islands; the same story with the Sporades and the Argo-Saronics. The NE Aegean islands do have a link to the Dodecanese and the Cyclades but are probably best left for another trip once you have got the feel of the rhythm of the Greek islands.
Ferries are not really cheap any more – certainly not like they used to be – but the vessel fleet is better, safer and faster than in previous years so the cost is justified. You can get exceptionally cheap deals on longer-haul routes if you are prepared to forego a booked seat: €14 v €40 on a run to a mid-distant island, but it’s probably wise to consider taking fast catamarans to get to core islands (Mykonos, Santorini, Paros etc.) and even then, go the extra 10/15% for Business or even VIP class for the extra comfort. On longer hauls it can be cheaper to fly if you seek out flights online and book beforehand.
Hey, sailors: In May, the 35th annual America’s Cup heads to the pink-sand beaches of the Great Sound, a prime time for racing enthusiasts. The event’s official hotel partner, The Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, transformed its “pink palace” with new guests suites, exhale spa, a state-of-the-art marina and three new restaurants including celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson’s new venue, Marcus’. The upcoming Ritz-Carlton Reserve hotel and branded residences plan to open a mega-yacht marina in time for the race, but keep this island on your long-term radar: Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones break ground on the redevelopment of the famed Ariel Sands resort in 2017.
As a starter to explore ferry services, go to the Ferryhopper.com and punch in your route searches. Note: air travel between islands is not generally good. Air travel is normally only feasible between Athens (or other mainland destinations) and the island in question. Some exceptions do exist – Rhodes Kastellorizo, Kos-Leros-Astypalaia, Thessaloniki-Limnos-Ikaria etc. but again you will need bookings weeks in advance.
The largest of the Bahama islands, Andros is also the least populated, offering the chance to own a piece of your own island without the high price tag. Here, locals make waterproof straw baskets, batik and other crafts, and visitors will also find mesmerizing blue holes, excellent bonefishing and diving. The island is home to the world’s oldest dive shop, the second largest coral reef in the Western hemisphere, and is covered with vast areas of wetlands that create channels perfect for bonefishing. Many visitors come to experience this “Bonefishing Capital of the World,” by staying at Bair’s Lodge, a plantation-style lodge situated between Deep and Middle Creek on the south end of the island offering a beachfront paradise with a picture-perfect white sand beach, swaying palms, fire pit and access to a flats skiff. The tidal paths found on this part of Andros provides water pathways to access the famous west side while offering protection from the winds, and creating a fertile, bait-rich environment that bonefish prefer.
Remote and unspoiled Crooked Island has little in the way of tourist facilities, but it does boast gorgeous beaches, bat caves and flamingos, and also serves as a turtle nesting spot. One of the four islands that form an atoll hugging the striking shallow waters of the Bight of Acklins, it hasn’t much changed since Columbus sailed down the leeward side through the narrow Crooked Island Passage. There are miles of untouched, white powdery sands, coral gardens, limestone caves and cliffs, remnants of slave and cotton plantations, ancient churches, fortifications and mangrove-lined waterways.