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What Not to Do in the Caribbean

SmarterTravel

Making the most of your Caribbean vacation means knowing where to find the hidden gems. It also means knowing what to skip and why. So we asked the Caribbean travel specialists on Wendy’s WOW List to share their tips for avoiding mistakes—what’s overrated, overpriced, or just not a smart move—in the Caribbean.

Hitting the Beach? Don’t Choose the Wrong Islands

If beach bliss is your #1 goal, steer clear of Dominica, Saba, and Montserrat. They have plenty of charms, but are not known for their beaches.

Instead: The islands most famous for their beaches are what I call “the coral islands”: The Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas (Eleuthera, Harbour Island, and the Exumas are among the best), Anguilla, and the British Virgin Island Anegada. These are all basically flat and scrubby, with the quintessential powdery white sand and crystal-clear water that the Caribbean is known for. — Terry McCabe, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for the Caribbean

Planning to Scuba Dive? Don’t Get Stuck with the Cruise Crowds

Cozumel and Grand Cayman can get overrun with passengers from the giant cruise ships that call there. The only way to avoid the cruise crowds is to dive at off-peak times or to go with a dive operator who knows the secret spots.

Instead: In Cozumel, Palancar Reef is about an hour’s boat ride from town, each way. If you stay at the Iberostar Cozumel you will be able to sleep in, then have a cup of coffee while others are “commuting,” saving you two hours per two tank! — Meg Austin, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Scuba Diving in the Caribbean

  • Read Meg’s Insider’s Guide to Scuba Diving in the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
  • For a dive trip better than you thought possible—especially with those dive operators who know the secret spots—reach out to Meg to book your vacation.
  • Renting on St. Barts? Don’t Book a Cook

    St. Barts has some of the best rental villas in the Caribbean, as well as some of the best restaurants. So don’t spend your money on a private chef the way you might if you’re renting on, say, Jamaica or Barbados.

    Instead: Splurge on an in-villa massage. A number of villas have rooms or nooks designated specifically for spa treatments. In the late afternoon, getting a rubdown in a shady poolside cabana is the ultimate indulgence. — Peg Walsh, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for St. Barts Villas

    Shopping in Bermuda? Don’t Waste Time in Hamilton’s Generic Shops

    Shopping in Hamilton, once a highlight, is no more. Although the storefronts nicely reflect the architecture of Bermuda, their merchandise decidedly does not; most is what you’ll find in the United States.

    Instead: One exception is the Island Shop, with its colorfully hand-painted housewares. Owner Barbara Finsness has even brought back the “Bermuda bag”—a small purse with wooden handles that’s a relic of the past. — Vicky McGlynn, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Bermuda

    Staying on St. Martin? Don’t Convert Your U.S. Dollars

    A rookie mistake when going to Sint Maarten/St. Martin is to change your money to euros or guilders.

    Instead: Keep your U.S. dollars, as they are accepted throughout the island, on both the French and Dutch sides. Sint Maarten/St. Martin is a great locale for a vacation rental—take it from Wendy—and you can stock your kitchen with delicious local foods: St. Martin has the Caribbean’s best grocery stores—they rival high-end stateside chains, with organic produce and huge international sections. Between these and the stands all over the island selling ultra-fresh seafood, no matter where you’re based, you can bring delicious raw ingredients back to the house to craft into a gourmet meal. — Marilyn Pulito, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Sint Maarten/St. Martin Villas

    Looking to Experience the Best of the Riviera Maya? Skip the Famous Xel-Ha

    Xel-Ha bills itself as a “natural aquarium” for ecotourists to swim and snorkel in, but it has nothing to do with the appreciation of nature. All of the coral in the lagoon is dead, and there are virtually no fish; it’s basically now a giant swimming pool stuffed with tourists and surrounded by tacky gift shops, restaurants, and bars.

    Instead: Take the ferry to Cozumel on a day when no cruise ships are in port. (Have your concierge call the “Capitania de Puerto” to check: 52-987-872-2409). The boat trip—about $15 for adults, $10 for kids—gives you incredible views of the coast, the Caribbean, and the reefs around Cozumel. Once ashore, head to Pescaderia San Carlos for some tasty ceviche. — Zach Rabinor, Wendy’s Trusted Travel Expert for Mexico

    —Irene Huhulea

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    This story originally appeared under the headline What Not to Do in the Caribbean at WendyPerrin.com.

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