Caribbean

Endless blue skies, endless blue water. The sun and the sand and a drink in my hand. The shade of a lazy palm. Deserted beaches. Warm golden skin, papaya coladas. Coconuts and tiki huts. Sailboats, catamarans. Lush tropical plants perfuming the air. Sea grapes. Parrots and bananaquits. Turtles. Each day stretching out along blindingly white sand beaches.

Is there anywhere more perfect on Earth?

The places dreams and screensavers are made of.

The Caribbean encompasses a much larger variety of destinations that most realize. Click the name of a destination below to visit and start planning your next trip.

Bahamas
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
St. Martin/Sint Maarten
Turks & Caicos
American Virgin Islands (USVI)

Bahamas

Many people who travel here will go to Atlantis, the Disney World of the Bahamas. Or a cruise (perhaps Disney πŸ™‚ ) that stops for a few hours. Not for me. I’m seeking out the more authentic experiences and off-the-tourist path places.

Bahamas includes many, many islands. Nassau is the most well known, while Freeport is a common cruise ship port. Many never travel to or even know about Eleuthera, Exuma and the “Out Islands” where you need a boat, not a resort.

My trip to the Bahamas was unique because it was my honeymoon so it was a splurge. That said, if you are thinking about cruising, check this out first. For a couple it would be pricier, but for a family of 4 or more it is likely comparable.

Think you don’t want to be “stuck” on a boat during your vacation? Not seaworthy? Those were my two biggest concerns when considering this. First, most boats that are of the size you’d hire for cruising the Bahamas are 10x bigger than any resort hotel room. You get a kitchen, probably multiple bathrooms, A/C and 360-degree views with your private plunge pool (the ocean) and sun deck. And as you can see in the picture, a built in clothesline. The water in the Bahamas is pretty shallow around and between islands which makes for smooth sailing. Almost too smooth. I found myself hoping for a little more wind so we could really try those sails out.

Cruise Abaco

My travel companion and I were not capable of captaining our own boat. And who wants that kind of stress? For those who can do it, more power to you. But I had to locate a boat with a captain included.

There are dozens of couples that own sailboats or catamarans in the Bahamas and they make their living by hosting couple and families for vacation. It’s easy to research this online, get reviews, contact real people to ask questions, etc. These people are pros and know how to host you without being overly intrusive…then again, you may make some new best friends. In many cases, one of the hosts is also a chef so if you don’t want to cook, no problem.

I wanted more privacy than that so I eventually found Cruise Abaco. They specialize in “Captain By Day” options where you have someone to orient you, sail you around and ensure you are safely anchored or moored at night, and then they leave.

Abaco is an island just east of Freeport in the Northern Bahamas. There is a small grouping of other islands clustered around it which means you can spend a week and see a different island everyday, yet only travel about 20 miles in any direction.

Cruise Abaco is a family-run business. They were top-notch from my first contact. I knew absolutely nothing about this process so I had tons of questions and they patiently answered them all. So I went for it.

You can consider larger companies like The Moorings. They are experienced and very reputable. But I think Abaco is the only one that offers the Captain By Day option. I checked out a Moorings marina during my trip. The big difference was boat quality. The Moorings is in the business of continuous rental so the boats are a little stripped down, like a rental car. With Cruise Abaco, I rented a boat that a human actually owns. Someone who spent about $250K on a boat and in order to afford it they rent it when they are not on it. Like a timeshare. So the boat was far more customized and luxurious, from the quality of the mattresses and linens, to the teak decking vs. fiberglass, to the decor, to the sound system and appliances. I felt like a millionaire without the stress of having to pay for it.

Unlike a resort vacation where you are eating out every meal, a boat allows you to have groceries and the option to not go out. Any taxi from the airport will take you to a grocery to stock up. See my main Travel page for a “self-catering” grocery list. This is one of the ways you save money as compared to resort prices or the added cost of an all-inclusive. Plus you get to have your favorites or the things that make you feel at home. This also saves you a TON on booze.

Cruise Abaco’s team took care of everything else and even provided a phone that would work to reach them in case of emergency. They checked us in, showed us around and introduced us to our Captain. Then we had one night to just get oriented before setting sail the next day.

Map showing all the islands of the Bahamas
The R S Cape, Cruise Abaco
Click to visit Cruise Abaco’s website
Why not try hiring a boat instead of staying at a resort?
Sunset from the marina, Marsh Harbour
The Abaco Parrot and Friends

Day 1 – Marsh Harbour

For our first morning I had arranged for a half-day bird tour with a guide recommended by Cruise Abaco. Reginald from Lucayan Nature Tours picked us up at the dock and we spend a perfect morning in search of the Abaco Parrot. Ran across an organic farm along the way and stocked up on fresh vegetables and fruits for the week. We saw lots of new birds, including the elusive Abaco Parrot who made us wait until our last stop and then showed up with all his friends. If birding is not your thing, use this time to check out Marsh Harbour or just set sail earlier.

Time to set sail!!

What a moment, sitting on the bow with nothing but immaculate turquoise waters ahead. Simply magical. I felt like a queen.

Man-O-War Cay

This beautiful island is known for its wooden boat building families. Got out, strolled around and just settled in. Go to Albury’s Sail Shop. They hand-make and sell items made from old sails – ladies, they have the cutest tote beach bags – had to have not one, but two. Had a delicious meal at the open-air Dock n Dine, probably the best restaurant meal of the trip (plaintain crusted Mahi Mahi and some sort of calamari stir-fry served on cast iron). Managed to squeeze in an ice cream before taking the dinghy back for the night. Note: Man-O-War is a dry island. You can BYOB, so do that.

The Dinghy

Time to introduce you to the most fun part of being a luxury boat owner for a week. The dinghy! Your boat is too big to dock on these small islands not to mention what a pain it is. Your dinghy is your golf cart on water. Takes a little getting used to, but really anyone can do it.

Totes inside Albury’s Sail Shop
Albury’s Sail Shop
Man-O-War Cay

Next Stop – Great Guana

Sailed to Great Guana and did the obligatory stop at Nipper’s, your typical Caribbean beach shack. Good for a cold beer and sandwich if you must, but this was one I’d skip next time. Snorkeled directly off the beach for a while, then cleaned up and went for dinner to Orchid Bay Yacht Club. This island just didn’t draw us in, so we called our Captain and had him come move us to the next stop πŸ™‚ That’s the luxury of being a boat owner.

Next Stop – Little Harbour

“And there’s that one particular harbor, sheltered from the wind, where the children play on the shore each day and all are safe within.”

Jimmy buffet

One of my favorite stops for sure. A petite little harbour with water so clear you could see straight to the bottom. Turtles everywhere. Get your snorkel, jump off your boat and go play.

When you get hungry, take the dinghy in to Pete’s Pub. Another quintessential Caribbean beach shack but this time really good. Take your time, have another Red Stripe. Visit the gallery next door where a family has been making bronze sculptures for 3 generations. You can see the foundry and watch the process from start to finish.

I won’t lie, the mosquitos were ferocious in the harbour that night so we closed up the windows, retreated to our private paradise and made dinner onboard.

Next Stop – Hope Town

This is a bigger port and a good place to fuel up and restock on food and booze. You’ll easily spend a whole day here seeing the sights.

Climb the lighthouse when the skies are clear because you’ll get some great aerial shots from the top. After that just stroll the town and peck in and out of the shops. Take advantage of dry land.

Hope Town Bahamas

Tried to get a little fancy for dinner and went to Firefly Barn Grill. Super cool location (they came to get us in their golf cart – I love island life). It was almost a total disaster due to nonexistent service but a young manager stepped in and saved the night. I’d research the reviews before heading here again.

Pete’s Pub, Little Harbour
The Old Man and the Sea, Pete’s Pub & Gallery
Little Harbour, Bahamas
Hope Town Lighthouse
Hope Town Bahamas
Halfway up Elbow Reef Lighthouse
Views from the top of Elbow Reef Lighthouse
Snorkeling at Lubber’s Landing

Last Stop – Nowhere

For the last night, we had the Captain anchor us offshore where their were no island lights and no other boats around. We took the Dinghy in to have dinner at Abaco Inn which is actually on Hope Town and it was lovely. A catamaran has a net up front that is like a trampoline hovering over the water. Throw a blanket on that, bring your pillows and spend the night under the stars.

Once we arrived back in Marsh Harbour we had some time to kill so we checked out the village. Found a gem of a seafood shack called Conky Joe’s where a small child cracked my fresh conch open which then was turned into a conch fritter. Also had my last conch curry at Curly Tails, another gem in a marina nearby (where you can get a closer look at the Moorings boats and realize how lucky you were to be with Cruise Abaco!)

Next Stop -Lubber’s Landing

Unbelievable snorkeling. Saw eagle rays, sharks and lots of turtles besides the fish. To this day, some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever done. When you get tired, have the Captain drop you off at Tahiti Beach. It’s not really an island, just the pristine beach you came for. It has dry beach, but there is ample space in the ankle deep water where you can stay cool while catching the rays. Picnic time. Nap time.

Tahiti Beach

It was a trip of a lifetime, and worth splurging for. I encourage you to take that step and try this for your Bahamas vacation. Bahamas was totally destroyed from recent hurricanes, but they are slowly coming back better than ever. As of this writing in 2020 I am happy to report that Cruise Abaco is back up and running and ready to help you make this a dream come true.

St. Maarten/Saint Martin

This island is unusual because it is actually two different territories – one French and one Dutch. The island literally changes languages on each side. This island is a common port for cruise ships to depart, which is how I ended up here.

Phillipsburg, St. Maarten

The dutch side of St. Maarten is very touristy. This is where the cruise ships leave from. There is a great souvenir market to browse while waiting to board your ship, lots of deals to be made on last-minute swim cover ups and hats.

You probably had to spend one night on the island prior to your cruise…and the cruise company will likely steer you to Phillipsburg so that you’re not late for boarding the next day. I chose to venture further afield and visit the opposite side of the island – the French side.

Saint Martin – Marigot

Marigot will always hold a special place in my heart because it was my first real Caribbean experience. I taxied from the airport in Phillipsburg and stayed at Grand Case Beach Club – perfect start to the trip! They had a gorgeous, private strip of beach. Great little restaurant serving tropical drinks and fresh seafood.

I only had one night, so I walked into the main town. So charming! Really nice quality souvenir shops, with handmade jewelry, bags and clothes as well as several art galleries. Lots of restaurants to choose from, but you can be sure the fish is super fresh.

Upon recommendation of the hotel manager, I ate at a restaurant that brings the catch of the day to your table and explains the preparations. I had the choice of parrotfish, trunk fish or trigger fish. Got all three.

It was my first night and I was already in love with the Caribbean.

Tomorrow, back to Phillipsburg to board the ship. Continue on below to my overview of the British Virgin Islands.

British Virgin Islands

Paradise On Earth

If you are looking for the ultimate in tropical beach vacations, this is it. Many places on my travel list offer pristine beaches and lazy palms, but might also be birding destinations, jungle or adventure vacations. The British Virgin Islands is, IMO, the ideal for a total sun and sand destination.

The BVI has a few larger islands, which would be possible choices if you want to actually stay on an island. Some are just day trip destinations with a fish shack or two, others totally uninhabited.

Getting There

Most people visit these islands by boat. Either a cruise ship or hiring a private boat with a captain. On my first trip, I sailed with Windstar which I can’t recommend highly enough. If you want to stay on land, you’ll likely fly into Road Town on Tortola. From there you can take ferries or small prop planes to other islands. NOTE: Coordinating arrival and connecting to other islands can be a challenge, not to mention expensive. Check with your planned hotel or boat captain for help. Sometimes flying through places like St. Maarten or Puerto Rico are the best bet.

Windstar Cruises – Wind Surf
Click to visit to Windstar’s page
Sport platform off the back of Wind Surf

Windstar Cruises

I’m not a huge fan of cruises because I don’t like crowds, I want great food (ideally local) when I travel and I like off-the-beaten path places. Windstar Cruises caters to that type of traveler. BVI itineraries are their specialty, although you’ll find them on the Mediterranean coast and in Tahiti.

The Wind Surf is only 324-passengers – tiny by cruise standards where boats normally have 3000-5000 passengers. It also has real sails so when weather permits, they actual sail! The rooms were lovely, food excellent and service outstanding. There are several restaurants to choose from, a few bars and 24-hr room service. TIP: All but a very few rooms have windows. Book a room and then check with the cruise line about 2 weeks before your sail date. Request an upgrade to a suite – if they are not sold, they will negotiate with you. A suite is 2 rooms connected – that means 2 bathrooms!! It’s always nice to get a little extra space though you won’t spend much time in your cabin.

Because Windstar has very small cruise ships, they can access ports that the big cruise lines can’t. Which means less junk souvenirs and more authentic experiences.

TIP: My one tip for cruising, especially in the Caribbean, is to buy some liquor on shore and smuggle it in with your luggage. Juices and sodas are free on cruises, so you can easily mix drinks in your room and save a ton of money. Also, bring a collapsible thermos so you can have your daiquiri on shore excursions too.

Soper’s Hole, Tortola-Pusser’s Landing

At my first stop, I decided to skip the excursions because I was determined to get some sun. Had a cab take me on my first island ride – always wild and bumpy and slightly terrifying – to Cay Garden Bay Beach. Cute local spot with young boys catching fish off the beach, frigate birds in the air and a perfect fish shack with cold beer. TIP: Pusser’s Rum – the original Royal Navy Rum – is made and sold at the docks so grab a bottle before you re-board.

Catamaran trip on No Fear to snorkel with turtles

Jost Van Dyke

This is a gorgeous island, relatively large and has several marinas and small resorts. Known for Foxy’s, the bar that invented the Pain Killer.

My excursion from Jose Van Dyke was a catamaran sailing trip to snorkel with sea turtles. Absolutely spectacular!

TIP: If you are worried about sea sickness, consult a physician about options. I swear by anti-vert (Meclizine) because 1/2 a pill every few hours does not leave you drowsy and after the first 2 days you adjust and need nothing. I won’t tell you about my scopolamine patch experience. Just don’t do it.

Another popular spot on Jost is the Soggy Dollar Bar. I didn’t make it there on this trip but did on a later trip to St. John, USVI (see USVI below). The Soggy Dollar is an overpriced, overcrowded beach bar. The beach it is on is a huge party with lots of other bars and boats everywhere (so hard to swim). If you are looking for a party, this is your spot.

Virgin Gorda

Another gorgeous island. Your excursion here will be to The Baths, a rock formation that is slowly getting eroded but creates a gorgeous maze of caverns to explore.

View from open-air taxi on the way to The Baths
The Baths, Virgin Gorda

Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda

This is a typical Caribbean refueling spot for boaters. Has a nice general store (got a really cute Christmas ornament here!) with supplies. You can wander the boardwalk and you’ll find small beach areas with chairs here and there…nap time!

Prickly Pear Island

Just across the bay from Bitter End is Prickly Pear Island – great beach spot. Windstar parks the boat right off this beach and throws a bbq party on this stop.

Basseterre, St. Kitts

This is a good retail therapy stop. A fun marketplace awaits you on the docks with some actual authentic crafts and good deals. They supposedly have a fort where they make clothing here and I tried to hire cab to take me there but he obviously didn’t know – switched cabs and went to remote Banana Bay beach which turned out to be fabulous. It was facing the island of Nevis.

This beach had restaurants, public bathrooms and ample Rastafarians. They mostly left us alone, though they were offering aloe massages which was somewhat tempting. Not sure how this happened, but I got lunch service right under my thatched tiki umbrella – I just asked for the “fish of the day”. About an hour later, my lunch arrived complete with white linen napkin and silverware on a china dinner plate. It was a huge fish steak, coconut and raisin slaw, roasted local pumpkin and traditional peas and rice. Delish!!!

Make sure you arrange for return transportation when using local taxis. Get the driver’s name and number and confirm if you have phone service. They are 90% reliable…wouldn’t be a big deal if you are not on cruise ship timelines, but missing departure is a bad idea. TIP: Cash in king in the Caribbean. Always have cash on hand for tipping, renting beach chairs, getting a cab or paying a Rastafarian to let monkeys climb all over you.

View of Nevis Island from Banana Bay beach
My local lunch on Banana Bay beach
Banana Bay Beach

Isle des Saintes – Les Saintes, Guadaloupe

This is by far my favorite Caribbean island. That’s the beauty of cruising…I’d never have discovered this tiny 8-square mile French Indies gem if not for this Windstar itinerary. Now I dream of going back someday and just making this my home base….just a tiny spot, so unique in that it is totally French – no one speaks English.

I had a jambon et fromage baguette (traditional French sandwich of ham, cheese and butter) upon arrival while browsing the shops at the dock. Hiked up to the fort which was great exercise. Then hired a taxi to get back down in an effort to save time. Spent several hours on crescent-shaped La Plage de la Pompierre watching goats frollick on the beach, lounging under textbook-perfect lazy palms and swimming in the shallow bay.

I took a glass-bottom kayak tour here – skip it – stay on the beach or linger in a waterfront cafe. TIP: Cruises must offer multiple excursions at every port. They are supporting the island’s economy which secures their welcome. That doesn’t mean the activities are worthwhile. It’s ok to save the money and make your own excursion.

La Plage Pompierre, Isle de Saintes
J-boat Regatta at St. Barthelemy
The masts of the J-boats lit up for after-parties

Gustavia, St. Barthelemy

St. Barts, as it is known, is the Caribbean playground of the rich. Glitzy and glamourous, very expensive. I wandered the waterfront shops but felt very underdressed in my bikini and cover-up. You’ll do better to put on actual clothes here, but you’ll still be a peasant.

I had met a girl from Australia before I boarded my boat. We had shared a cab and she told me she was here to “jump on” a boat for a regatta.

I’ve never seen anything like this. These are obviously ridiculously expensive racing boats crewed by people that live in a whole different world. I watched, amazed, as they backed each ship into a marina after the regatta as easily as you can back your car into a parking spot at Walmart.

As the sun began to set, each boat seemed to be having a very exclusive party. Models and beautiful people came from every direction, dressed like they were out for a night in Miami, and boarded the boats where waiters handed out champagne and hors d’ouevres.

For me, I just took advantage of the excellent cuisine and at three different meals during my time in port. The most memorable meal of my trip was my last – an incredible lobster pasta and my first-ever glass of rose. I became a rose addict long before rose was cool. It is also typical for restaurants here to give you a complimentary shot of vanilla rum after dinner πŸ™‚

My incredible lobster pasta at Bagatelle overlooking Gustavia harbor, St. Barts

Turks & Caicos Islands

While most people that travel to Turks & Caicos will stay on the main island (Providenciales), I chose to visit almost uninhabited Middle Caicos. The goal was a totally unplugged beach vacation with nothing but books and beach. Middle Caicos only has 200 residents, the very occasional fish shack and really only one resort with accommodations. Exactly what I was looking for.

I traveled in February 2015 and 2017. The islands were hit hard by hurricanes since then, and Middle Caicos was essentially cut off for some time. They are back up and running but updated research of more recent traveler reviews is advised so that you know what to expect.

Now let’s begin our journey….

Getting There

Getting there is a highlight of the trip. To get to far flung destinations in remote places, you must work a little harder. Your reward is arriving and feeling like you’ve got the place to yourself because you probably do.

Fly into Providenciales airport on the main island. When you get your bags and taxi, have the taxi driver take you to the grocery store (this is totally normal in the Caribbean). There are essentially no stores on Middle Caicos so you will need to bring the essentials for the duration of your trip. Yes, you can get milk, bread, eggs and beer on the island but you’ll pay twice as much and may have to go to four different “stores” to find all four items. You’ll be able to eat out a few times but don’t count on that for every meal or you’ll starve. You’ll be in a house with a full kitchen and since the whole point of this destination is to be cut off from the main grid, you’ll want to be self sufficient.

TIP: See my basic grocery list for self-catering vacations on the main travel page. You can download that in advance.

The ferry to Middle Caicos

After you get your groceries, your taxi will deposit you at the ferry landing. Check websites in advance for schedules so you can plan to knock out the grocery trip and make the first possible ferry. Don’t waste any precious beach time! That said, you’re on island time now so be patient. Nothing happens in a hurry here.

Reserve a car in advance with Al’s Rental Car – click here to visit his site

The guys at the dock will load all your bags and groceries – have a couple dollars tip for them when they unload on the other side. No worries – they’ve done this before and have canvas bags to keep everything dry.

The ferry ride is an incredibly gorgeous 30 minute cruise, first across the shallow tidal flats of North Caicos. The water is so pristine and transluscent that you can see the bottom almost the whole way. As you approach Middle Caicos you’ll spend a few minute crossing a choppier area but before you know it the ferry slows down and cruises into the dock.

Have a rental car reserved in advance. You could just taxi to the resort but I can’t imagine not having a car here as you would be totally stuck if you needed or wanted to go out. Have proper expectations – this is a remote island in the Caribbean so you will not be getting a brand new car πŸ™‚ Caribbean rental cars are one of the charms I love about traveling there.

You’ll now take a 30 minute drive to your destination. Don’t be in a hurry. Stop at the Flamingo Pond along the way (Al will give you a map, but there’s only really one road on the island).

NOTE: You drive on the left side of the road in Turks. Another reason to go slow until you get used to it.

Your drive will take you over a low, flat dirt road. Slow down and enjoy…you’re almost there.

Dragon Cay Resort – Click here to visit their website

Dragon Cay Resort (formerly Blue Horizon Resort)

As far as I know this is the only place to stay on Middle Caicos. It was designed as a “subdivision” of vacation homes, varying in size, and privately owned that the management company maintains and rents out when the owners are not using them.

I was with a group so we rented Stargazer, a 3 bedroom house. It was awesome. Way more than you needed, ridiculously cheap at the time. It sits up on a little hill surrounded by sea grapes with a perfect unobstructed view of the Atlantic (Yes, you are on the Atlantic side of the island but the water is as turquoise as the Caribbean).

There are only a handful of homes on the site – this is the largest. Most are smaller 1 bedroom or studio villas made for couples or small families.

Stargazer at Dragon Cay Resort
Mudjin Harbor restaurant at Dragon Cay Resort

Stargazer has its own private path cutting through the sea grapes which leads to a small sun deck overlooking the beach.

The “neighborhood” has a dirt/gravel road connecting the homes and leading to the main office and restaurant. The restaurant has great lunch and dinner options but is not open every day and has limited hours. You’ll need to tell them which nights you plan to eat there. Lunch is more flexible as they do get occasional tour groups on day trips from Providenciales. It is a bit pricey, but considering the remoteness of your location and what it takes to maintain a nice restaurant like this, its to be expected.

Things To Do

This can be a totally do-nothing trip, but surprisingly there is much to do.

Beach

The beach is stunning and you’ll have it to yourself. Even if every home has guests, you’re talking about maybe 30 people sharing a massive strip of beach. Exactly why you are here. The houses all have chairs provided, and usually coolers so you can tote your cold drinks with you. The beach closer to the restaurant is a little easier to swim in, and day guests usually linger there. The long strip direct on the Atlantic down by Stargazer is usually deserted.

Images from the walking trail on Dragon Cay Resort property

The property has a walking trail that starts at the restaurant and leads up over the rocks, cutting between the dry brush on the cliff and heading north along the coast. Definitely do this during your stay. You can go for quite a ways, I think nearly 2 miles, and end up at a spot with a water hole (a rock that has eroded so when the ocean waves come in it shoots a huge spray of water up in the air-very cool). I recommend a hiking type shoe (I word hard-toed Keens which were perfect) as the path is often over jagged rock terrain. It also cuts down to the beach several times and includes a rock cave.

Water Conservation

As with most Caribbean destinations, water is not an unlimited resource. On Middle Caicos you will have running water but it is not drinkable. Buy some bottled water. The resort provided large jugs of water for drinking too.

The majority of the water you are using to shower and wash dishes is collected in a cistern outside the house when it rains, which is rare. The resort has water brought in to keep enough for daily life, but use it sparingly. If you need a 20 minute hot shower daily, this is not the place for you. Learn to conserve and treat water like the precious resource it is.

Snorkeling

The resort can hook you up with someone to take you snorkeling. My group took a short boat ride starting somewhere south of the resort. It was a coral formation in about 30 feet of water – really nice, a little chilly so I was glad I had my shorty wet suit but everyone else went without and snorkeled for about 30 minutes before getting too cold.

Highlight: They have conch here and it is LEGAL to grab one and take it with you.

Our boat captain was Adolphus, a born-and-raised Middle Caicos native. He had a couple of fishing poles so the boys were able to catch dinner on the way back.

A Word On Conch

This plea is similar to my plea about octopus on the Greece page. If you’ve had conch and think it is tasteless and rubbery, its because you’ve only had conch that was caught, frozen, shipped and thawed and then probably fried.

Make sure to try some conch here that is prepared properly (fried and sauteed). It’s simple but lovely when done right. We marinated our fresh catch in lemon juice, topped with a few thin hot pepper slices and enjoyed it as ceviche.

Conch Bar Caves

You’ll need to arrange a guide for this as well. I think you can go in without, but the caves are deceiving and I can see how you could get lost or turned around.

Conch Bar Caves is the largest non-submerged cave system in the Bahamas/Turk & Caicos island chain and is a national park. Worth a short visit. Fair warning – caves have bats.

Conch Bar Village

Since you have a car, a little island exploration is a must. The Conch Bar Caves are location near the village of Conch Bar. Have someone direct you to Daniel’s. Its a sweet little fish shack (more than a shack actually – check out his stove) where you can grab a little fried conch, peas and rice and locally made yeast bread plus a cold Turk’s Head Lager. There was a precious gift shop there with locally made crafts and I bought some great souvenirs. TIP: Cash is king.

We had just missed a major island festival – the annual Valentine’s Day sailboat regatta.

Whenver I hear the word “regatta” I think of my trip to St. Barthelemy and the J-boat regatta I came across there. This is not that πŸ™‚ Middle Caicos has a model sailboat regatta – I’d missed it by just a day. If you go in February which is an ideal time for a winter warmer from the U.S., try to catch this festival.

Daniel’s, Middle Caicos

Indian Cave

Similar to the Conch Bar Caves, but its located just off the main road and is free. No guide needed, just a place to wander for 30 minutes or so. Its a large single gallery cave with many openings and skylights. Its essentially a sink-hole. Keep an eye out for barn owls, herons and blue crabs.

North Caicos

On my second trip, I took a long drive and headed north to North Caicos. There is a low landbridge that connects the two islands. I was half just exploring but was curious to see if there were other accommodations around. Didn’t find anything that would top Dragon Cay! It was an enjoyable afternoon drive and stayed for dinner at Last Chance Bar & Grill.

Kayaking

Dragon Cay provides kayaks for guests for a small fee. I highly recommend taking advantage. I paddled around a tidal flat in and out of the mangroves in mostly ankle deep water. Found deserted beaches and did a little fly fishing. The kayaking is very tidal dependent – you have to time it right but the resort will help you.

Bird Watching

No trip is complete without birding!

There is not a formal tour to take, so make your own. Start with the flamingo pond on the way to the resort. Keep your eyes open to the unique species coming and going from the sea grapes around your house. I saw hawks carrying their fresh catch, smooth billed anis and a kestrel who feasted daily on dead branch near our porch.

Bring a headlamp and wander down the beach paths at night. Walk slowly, quietly. I discovered a yellow crowned night heron and a baby blue heron. If you’ve got a good eye, they have the Antillean nighthawk. I saw an occasional hummingbird dotting in and out of the sea grapes too – the most common in this area is the Bahamas woodstar.

Stargazing

There is a reason that the house was called “Stargazer”. One of my best memories of Middle Caicos was siting out on the deck, or better yet on the beach, and looking skyward. I’ve never seen a place with more stars. Because there is virtually no ambient light at night due to the complete isolation of the location, you’ll be able to see stars like never before. Carpets of them, galaxies. Don’t miss this.

Time to head back to reality. The ferry ride back to Providenciales gives you time to reflect on how lucky you are to have just experienced this wonderful place.

TIP: You’ll have plenty of time waiting for your plane to check out Gilly’s at the airport. It’s on the second level and has an outdoor sun deck and tiki bar where you can get your last conch fix in – I recommend the curried conch plate and a fried conch sandwich (and a couple more cold Turk’s Head Lagers to wash it down).