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
- Read Terry’s Insider’s Guide to the Caribbean Islands.
- If you want a four- or five-star resort vacation with V.I.P. benefits, reach out to Terry to book it.
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
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
- Read Peg’s Insider’s Guide to St. Barts Villa Vacations.
- For the ultimate villa vacation, reach out to Peg to arrange it.
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
- Read Vicky’s Insider’s Guide to Bermuda.
- For a Bermuda getaway orchestrated by a true island insider, reach out to Vicky.
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
- Read Marilyn’s Insider’s Guide to St. Martin/St. Maarten Villa Vacations.
- To take advantage of her selection of homes and local clout, reach out to Marilyn.
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
- Read Zach’s Insider’s Guide to the Riviera Maya.
- Reach out to him to book a Mexico vacation dreamier than you ever thought possible.
You Might Also Like:
- 5 Caribbean Destinations You’ve Never Visited
- The Biggest Celebrations in the Caribbean
- 5 Pricey Destinations That Will Be Cheaper in 2015