Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta
If you use an Android* smartphone, you’re probably already familiar with Moraine Lake, in Banff National Park: It’s one of the operating system’s main background images. Of all the scenic lakes on Earth, there’s no question why Google chose this one. Set at 6,100 feet in the Canadian Rockies, it has brilliant blue water and the stunning Valley of the Ten Peaks for a backdrop. Visitors tempted to try a refreshing swim should dip a finger in first. The lake’s almost tropical hue comes from sediment carried in glacial runoff. Even on the warmest summer day, it’s frigid! pc.gc.ca
Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta
Wherever there’s a museum dinosaur exhibit, chances are good that it contains some of the extraordinary fossils found in central Alberta’s wildly eroded badlands. Today the region’s arid landscape is speckled with cottonwoods and sagebrush, but 75 million years ago it was a subtropical jungle teeming with an exceptional diversity of dinosaur life. More than 35 species have been discovered in the park, and hundreds of specimens unearthed here are on display at major museums around the world. Visitors can even participate in a paleontological dig. albertaparks.ca
Prince Edward Island National Park
Streams run red when it rains in Prince Edward Island, and the fragile crimson cliffs crumble slowly into the North Atlantic. After an especially heavy downpour, the island can appear to be bleeding its iron-rich sandstone away. That steady erosion gives visitors broad pink sand beaches and undulating dunes to explore. The waters off this island province are known to be relatively warm for swimming, but the sand is the real charm of PEI National Park. Take a stroll on one of its beaches at twilight and watch the setting sun paint sky, soil and sand in innumerable hues of red. pc.gc.ca
The Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba
They may look adorable, but polar bears are fierce predators, and safely getting near them in the wild is almost impossible. But tiny Churchill, Manitoba, which is close to one of the world’s largest polar bear populations, offers a unique opportunity to see the charismatic critters in their natural environment. To do that, it uses a little local ingenuity. Back in the late 1970s, Len Smith cobbled together a prototype of the first tundra buggy (there are now 16) in a Churchill workshop. Part jacked-up lunar rover, part customized school bus, this Churchill original has been bringing people and polar bears together ever since. tundrabuggy.com
It’s a tasty egg-and-potato cake—and so easy to make
BY REGINA SCHRAMBLING
The tortilla is ubiquitous on Spain’s Costa del Sol—you can’t have a glass of Solera at a tapas bar without being offered a slice of this omelet-like dish. It’s also good for lunch or dinner, at sherry hour, or as the filling in a bocadillo, the Spanish translation of sandwich.
The classic tortilla comprises potatoes and eggs, but the concept is adaptable—and the dish is fairly easy to prepare. You can add thinly sliced chorizo, or green olives, or strips of piquillo pepper, and even shave in some Manchego cheese.
Traditionally, a tortilla is flipped partway through cooking. Our recipe requires less dexterity: Just slide the skillet into the oven for the final half. Invert the tortilla onto a plate to serve it the way they do in tapas bars, with the lightly browned side on top. (This recipe is adapted from one by the late, great chef Felipe Rojas-Lombardi.)
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Arbequina
3 lb russet or Idaho potatoes, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt
1 large onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz very thinly sliced Spanish chorizo (optional)
8 large eggs
Heat ½ cup oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add potatoes, stir to coat with oil, then cover the pan and cook, turning often with a spatula, until they are half done (10 to 15 min.). Add salt, onion, garlic and chorizo; continue cooking and turning until potatoes are tender but not falling apart, 10 to 15 min. longer. Remove from heat; scrape mixture into a large bowl.
Beat eggs in a second bowl and fold into the potato mixture.
Heat a 10-inch ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium flame, add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil, and heat until pan is almost smoking. Swirl pan to coat bottom and sides with oil. Pour in egg-potato mixture and cook about 1 min. Lower heat to very low and cook 15 min.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Slide pan into oven and cook until eggs are completely set (15 to 20 min.). Serve warm or at room temperature, cut in wedges for a meal or in cubes for tapas (shown).
Serves at least 8.
RCI affiliated resorts on the Costa del Sol include:
Crown Resorts at Club Calahonda 1878
A lovely resort in a quiet community near the sea. Urbanización Sitio de Calahonda, Pueblo Jarales, Mijas-Costa
Crown Resorts at Club Caronte 2965
Situated on a large property with lush gardens.
Urbanización Riviera del Sol, Calle Libra, Mijas-Costa
Crown Resorts at Club Marbella 2404
In the heart of the Costa del Sol. Urbanización Sitio de Calahonda, Calle Monte Paraíso, Mijas-Costa
Heritage Resorts at Matchroom 1867
Adjacent to the beautiful Mijas golf courses.
Urbanización Mijas Golf, Mijas-Costa
For member reviews and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.
Non-RCI affiliated resorts:
Parador de Málaga Gibralfaro
Camino de Gibralfaro, Málaga; 34-952-221-902; parador.es; doubles from $200* per night
Vincci Selección Posada del Patio 5
7 Pasillo Santa Isabel, Málaga; 34-951-001-020; vinccihoteles.com; doubles from $138 per night
Room Mate Larios
2 Calle de Marqués de Larios, Málaga; 34-952-222-200; room-matehotels.com; doubles from $131 per night
*Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
Published: Fall 2013
Making the most of winter in Western Massachusetts
The swath of the Appalachian Mountains that runs north to south in western Massachusetts has served as an idyllic playground for weekenders from Boston and New York City for more than a century. The Berkshire Hills, as they’re called here, roll lazily southward from Mount Greylock, at the northern end, down through the towns of Pittsfield, Lenox and Great Barrington. It’s no wonder the business tycoons of the Gilded Age chose this area, with its hilltop views, to build grand summer cottages. But while those houses and the region’s many other weekend residences are geared toward summer use, visitors have started to take advantage of all that the area has to offer in winter, from snowshoeing and cross-country skiing to skating on frozen ponds.
BY SKI OR SHOE
The region’s gentle slopes might not provide the face-numbing downhill thrills found in nearby Vermont or New Hampshire, but there’s a surprising number of places to lay tracks on fresh powder. The most notable downhill skiing is at Jiminy Peak, in Hancock, where 9 lifts and 45 trails (including a handful of glade and mogul runs) cover a rather large chunk of mountain. After a morning on the slopes, take a ride on the Mountain Coaster, a 3,600-foot-long raised track through the snowy woods. Strapped into a seated, single-person sled, you can control your own speed, topping out around 25 mph. Finish the day with twilight skiing or wind down with a beer and burger at John Harvard’s Restaurant & Brewery.
Families will find easier runs—and an expansive kid’s program and ski school—at Butternut Basin, just east of Great Barrington. Gradual inclines and plenty of cruising trails provide soft cushioning for beginners; sign the kids up for a half- or full-day group lesson before taking off on your own leisurely run.
Across the heart of this bumpy range, high-elevation forests flatten into long meandering stretches where you’ll find family-run outdoor activity centers, including Canterbury Farm, which offers an alternative to the nearby corporate resorts. Up a gravelly road in Becket, Canterbury sprawls across 176 acres, with 12 miles of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. Owners Linda and Dave Bacon run the wooded trails (hiking is popular in warmer months) as well as a B&B in a 220-year-old farmhouse. Their trail fee is $15 per day; for an additional $15, you can take a moonlight snowshoe tour. A pond at the foot of a hill behind the house serves as an ice skating rink, where they also offer lessons.
Several miles west of Lenox, right on the New York border, Hilltop Orchards is open during the growing season for tours of its winery and cider orchard. In winter, visitors come to glide along the cross-country ski trails or take guided moonlight snowshoe tours, heading out just after dusk for an exhilarating two-hour trek. Snowshoers return to the warmth of the winery for cider and tunes played by a duo of acoustic guitarists by the fireplace. (The tours take place only when the moon is full, so call ahead for details.)
If the winds are howling, you can still connect with nature in the small, state-of-the-art Hopkins Observatory at Williams College, in Williamstown. The country’s oldest observatory, it presents nighttime shows all winter. Get there earlier in the afternoon to visit the neighboring Williams College Museum of Art, where you’ll find rotating exhibitions of contemporary art, before the Observatory’s evening show.
Distance 50 miles
Lenox — Lee — Otis — Great Barrington — Stockbridge
This drive has a good mix of towns with historic houses, steepled churches and village greens. But a favorite section in the fall is Route 183 beside the Housatonic River, where the water reflects the leaves.
On 183, visit the Berkshire Mountain Bakery. It supplies loaves to gourmet restaurants throughout western Massachusetts and Connecticut. Farther along, visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, whose collection includes the artist’s famous Saturday Evening Post covers.
Work off breakfast with a climb at Monument Mountain (zip down Route 7, between Stockbridge and Great Barrington). When Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne did this 3-mile hike in 1850, they had time to hash out some plot points of what would become Moby-Dick. The views, as Melville discovered, are that inspiring.
Route: From Lenox town center, Rte. 183 N to Rte. 7 S.; mi. to Rte. 20 E; 11 mi. to Rte. 8 S; 5.5 mi. to Rte. 23 W; 16 mi. to Rte. 7 N; 1 mi. to Rte. 183 N; 14 mi. to Lenox.
Great photos don’t just happen, they’re planned. A pro tells you how
WRITTEN BY BOB KRIST
What is it that keeps the still photograph vital in the age of YouTube? Critic Susan Sontag speculated that “photographs may be more memorable than moving images because they are a neat slice of time, not a flow.” The trick for us photographers is to capture a slice of time that’s compelling enough to stand out from the flow of the everyday.
Whatever you call this—the “decisive moment” or “privileged moment”—many of the best photographs have it. (Think of Joe Rosenthal’s shot of soldiers raising the flag at Iwo Jima.) But decisive moments aren’t only big historic events. They can be the small, funny, subtle or outrageous slices of life that we observe in our travels. With practice, you can train yourself to recognize these moments and to capture them with your camera.
Projecting the present
To capture a moment, you have to see it coming. One way to recognize situations that may develop into moments is through some serious people watching. See the mother cooing to her baby in the carriage? At one point, she’ll pick up the kid for a hug and snap, you’ve got your moment. That dog chasing the Frisbee®? Eventually, it’ll sail into the air for a dramatic catch, and if you’ve been following the action through your viewfinder, bingo, you’ve got it. Occasionally you might wait for something that never happens, but you’ll soon get better at spotting situations with “moment” potential.
Choose a backdrop
Anticipating a moment can start with a picturesque background: a mural, a row of trees in fall colors, a curve in a mountain trail. By themselves, such scenes may not make great pictures, but once a game of pickup basketball starts in front of the mural, or two joggers run down the line of trees, or a hiker appears on the trail—suddenly, you’ve got a moment. In cases like these, persistence pays off; you might have to return a few times to catch your perfect photo.
So fair a foul day
Don’t put away the camera when the weather turns ugly. Whenever the rain starts pelting down, I’m out with my camera—I know that these conditions can transform the mundane into the magical. A rainbow soaring, a shaft of sunlight penetrating the clouds, or a bolt of lightning streaking across the frame can make my day.
I am a camera
Portraits and people pictures can also have a sense of moment—usually thanks to a gesture. By “gesture” I don’t necessarily mean a hand movement, but an action—a facial expression, a certain posture—that gives insight into the subject’s mood or character. Try interacting with your subjects so they have something to react to, such as posing instructions or a wisecrack. As you do it, keep your camera up to your eye to capture their unguarded response. (You’ll need a good working knowledge of your camera, so you don’t lose that fleeting expression by having to fiddle with the controls.) Talking with a camera glued to your eye may seem awkward, but you and your subject will soon get used to it.
Frames per moment
Once you start capturing moments with the camera, you’ll find yourself taking tons of pictures—and probably getting more misses than hits. But you won’t regret shooting a few more frames when you see the results.
Distance 47 miles
North Adams — Mohawk Trail — Savoy
The Mohawk Trail is one of the busiest Berkshires routes, but the autumn panoramas, especially from the West Summit, make it worth the traffic. And here’s a secret: The loop back, beginning with Route 8A, is equally pretty and little visited. Begin and end in North Adams, a left-for-dead factory town that is reviving itself through such efforts as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. MASS MoCA’s 120,000 square feet of gallery space, in an old factory building, is almost as interesting as the art.
Near the end of the loop, stop in Adams for a walk on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, an old rail bed that’s now a paved pedestrian and bike way. The trail starts at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, on Hoosac Street. For a taste of the old North Adams, grab a dog at Jack’s Hot Dog Stand, a family-owned hole-in-the-wall that goes back to 1917.
Route: From North Adams, Rte. 2 (the Mohawk Trail) E 18 mi.; Rte. 8A S 10 mi.; Rte. 116 W 12 mi.; Rte. 8 N 7 mi. to North Adams.
Distance 40 miles
Williamstown — North Adams — Mount Greylock
Begin and end in Williamstown, home of Williams College, one of the nation’s best undergraduate schools and certainly one of the prettiest on a fall day. Round out your cultural quotient at the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute (“The Clark”), known for its outstanding collection of French impressionists, Old Masters and American artists. The Chef’s Hat restaurant, also in Williamstown, serves lunch, but it’s better for breakfast if you’re craving turnip muffins.
The highlight of this route is the Mount Greylock Scenic Byway, whose hairpin turns will bring you to the highest point in Massachusetts, from which you can see five states and every gradation of fall color. Each Columbus Day, hundreds of hikers do the Mount Greylock Ramble, a tough climb to the 3,491-foot summit—which is why most people drive it.
Route: From Williamstown, Rte. 2 E 5 mi. At Rte. 8 S, turn right almost immediately onto Mt. Greylock Scenic Byway: follow it 18 mi. Rte. 7 N 17 mi. to Williamstown. Alternatively, Rte. 7 S 11 mi. to Lenox.
Stay tuned to the RCI blog for all four drives that show off the best views of Berkshires fall foliage.
Leaves are not the only autumn attraction in the Berkshires, of course. Hiking trails and highways follow routes first walked by Native Americans. Towns look, not coincidentally, as if they were the settings for paintings by Norman Rockwell . And travelers find sustenance at the tables of some of the most elegant country inns in America. Yet trumping all the man-made entertainments is the beauty of the landscape, a rolling terrain of wooded hills and valleys ablaze with vivid shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.
Regular visitors to the Berkshires, which are only a few hours’ drive from either Boston or New York City, will already have their favorite highways and backroads. But for first-timers we’ve mapped out four routes that show off many of the area’s natural attractions.
Drive 1; Distance 47 miles
Great Barrington — South Egremont — Bash Bish Falls — New York Rte. 22 North — West Stockbridge
Bash Bish Falls, in the extreme southwest corner of Massachusetts, is the state’s highest waterfall, and the walk to it is a leaf-carpeted stroll. But the real point of this loop is to witness the contrast between Berkshires past and present. A hundred years ago, much of the forest here was farmland, which regenerated itself as farmers either went to work in the nearby factories (now themselves abandoned) or moved to the Midwest, which has more easily tilled soil. You can see how sharp the contrast is during the drive north on Route 22, in New York State, through open farm country, the Berkshires visible just to the east.
Route: From Great Barrington, 4 mi. on Rte. 41 S to Mt. Washington Rd., on right, just past split with Rte. 23. Follow signs 10 mi. to trailhead at Bash Bish Falls. From Bash Bish Falls, Rte. 344 2 mi. west to Rte. 22 N, in Copake Falls, NY; 18 mi. to Rte. 102 E; 3 mi. on Rte. 102 E to Rte. 41 S; 10 mi. to Great Barrington.
The hills of western Massachusetts are alive with music, cutting-edge art, theater and dance.
As you drive the winding roads through a dappled landscape of maple, red oak, beech and birch trees, past quintessential New England villages, you might not realize that this corner of western Massachusetts is home to more than 65 cultural institutions. Yet, tucked among the green hills are preeminent museums, galleries and theaters whose exhibitions and performances will satisfy any lover of the arts, serious or casual.
MUSIC AMONG THE TREES
The hills are literally alive with music at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Located between Stockbridge township and Lenox, the estate’s 500-plus acres of lawns and gardens provide a perfect backdrop for classical music, as well as occasional pop and jazz concerts. Most performances take place either at the Koussevitzky Music Shed, an open auditorium that seats 5,000, or at the 1,200-seat Seiji Ozawa Hall. The seats sell out quickly, so it’s best to reserve in advance. For a more spur-of-the-moment outing, bring folding chairs (you can rent some there, too) or just a blanket, and picnic on the lawn outside either hall—tickets are almost always available. The air smells of fresh-cut grass, and as the sun sets in the hills and the music swells, there’s nothing more magical.
ART ON THE EDGE
For something more contemporary and experimental, head up the road about 30 miles to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest center for contemporary visual and performing arts in the country. Housed in the former Sprague Electric Co. plant in North Adams, the 13-acre MASS MoCA “campus” (as it’s called) includes enormous galleries with changing art exhibitions, a bookstore, shops and restaurants.MASS MoCA’s performing arts schedule includes music, theater, dance, film and cabaret.
Since MASS MoCA opened its doors in the late 1980s, Boston and New York artists have flocked to North Adams, setting up studios and lofts in nearby industrial buildings. Hudsons displays artworks along with antiques, Persian rugs and collectibles. A weekend gallery at the Eclipse Mill, a former textile mill that’s home to potters, painters, musicians and other artists, shows works by residents.
Williamstown, 5 miles west of North Adams, is always abuzz with creative activity. This small town near the border of Vermont and New York is home to Williams College, and has a world-class theater festival and two influential art institutions. The Williams College Museum of Art holds a collection of more than 13,000 works that span the history of art. Theater lovers shouldn’t miss the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which presents new plays and reinterprets the classics, as well as hosting late-night cabarets and other special programs and events.
If you just can’t get enough live theater, you’ll find that the Berkshires are brimming with other superb performances. Shakespeare & Co. has been showcasing the Bard in Lenox for 33 seasons. In Stockbridge, ditch your car and walk to a show at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. One of the country’s oldest professional regional theaters, it offers a mix of revivals, classics and premieres. The Main Stage was originally designed as a casino by Stanford White in 1888; the Unicorn Theatre sits in the Mellon family’s former barn.
Close to the center of Stockbridge, stone pillars mark the entrance to the 36-acre estate of the Norman Rockwell Museum. A New Yorker by birth, the famed illustrator is most often associated with this corner of the Berkshires. It’s here that he spent his last 25 years, mining the local populace as models for his depictions of small-town American life. The museum houses the world’s largest collection of Rockwell’s art, presented in changing exhibits that offer something new each visit.
Dance lovers flock to Becket for Jacob’s Pillow, America’s longest-running dance festival. There are ticketed shows and many more free performances available, plus talks, rehearsal observations, tours and events. During the free Inside/Out series, emerging dance companies perform on an outdoor stage, set among the trees. The performances, only 35 minutes each, are held Wednesday through Saturday at 6:15 p.m.—and all are welcome. In fact, that’s true of almost every event in the Berkshires. On July 4, Jacob’s Pillow offers a free day of performances, art and music. Experienced dancers can even join a master class (registration required).
In 2012, the former Jalousie Plantation emerged from a multimillion-dollar facelift as the Viceroy chain’s swanky Sugar Beach. Much had changed, but the view of the Pitons from the resort’s Bayside Bar remained blissfully the same. Adirondack-style chairs occupy a deck shaded by almond trees on Anse des Pitons, the only white-sand beach on St. Lucia’s southwest side (full disclosure: the sand was imported to replace the black sand for aesthetics). Enjoy the view while you linger over the bar's Caribbean Sorrel cocktail (below) and make a toast to the good life, distilled.
Val des Pitons, Soufrière; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
Paradise Island, Bahamas
Ditch the crowds at the sprawling Atlantis resort for something classier. Dune, at the nearby One & Only Ocean Club, sits atop a dune beside Cabbage Beach, which is one of the nicest in Nassau. While the French-Asian menu is amazing (no surprise; the chef is Jean-Georges Vongerichten), you can feast almost as well on the view from your table on the deck. “The setting is so magnificent that everything else pales in comparison,” says Mark Jordan, a photographer from Rancho Santa Margarita, CA. Take it in while sipping a Dune Cocktail—a riff on Nassau’s famous Sky Juice, made with gin, Cointreau, curaçao and coconut milk.
1 Casino Dr., Paradise Island, Nassau; oneandonlyresorts.com
Try these delicacies next time you’re in the islands
Bold spices, fresh seafood, rice and tropical fruits are common ingredients throughout this balmy region. Each country has its own particular specialties—often a fusion of French, African and Spanish culinary styles. Here are a few of the best Caribbean treats and national dishes to sample on your next trip.
BAHAMAS: Cracked conch
Conch (pronounced konk) is a Bahamian staple. This firm shellfish is prepared in a variety of ways, from raw sushi-style to fritters to rich chowder. But seek out cracked conch—the meat is scored, marinated in lime juice, dipped in beaten egg, rolled in flour seasoned with fresh thyme and pepper, and then fried till it’s golden. You can find this crispy delight at beachside stands as well as upscale restaurants in Nassau—it’s a dish that knows no boundaries.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Mofongo
This garlicky mixture is one of the most popular dishes in the D.R. Of African origin by way of Puerto Rico, mofongo sometimes includes crab and shrimp, but the main ingredients are mashed fried green plantains, chicharrón (fried pork rind) and bacon. Just don’t confuse mofongo with mondongo—a local stew—unless you’re in the mood to sample tripe (stomach lining).
GUADELOUPE: Pork Colombo
In the Caribbean, “Colombo” is often used to describe curried meat or seafood; the name comes from the city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The curry powder, made of toasted cumin, cloves, fenugreek and mustard seeds, dates back to the Sri Lankans who were brought here in the 16th century to work the sugarcane plantations. Today, this tasty curry made from easily found ingredients—tender pork, zucchini, potatoes, green mango and garlic—is eaten all over Guadeloupe.
JAMAICA: Ackee and codfish
It seems most everyone loves jerk chicken, but there’s a lesser-known breakfast dish found here that many tourists never try. Ackee and codfish features Jamaica’s national fruit, a relative of the lychee. Boiled ackee fruit is combined with tomatoes and onions and served as a sauce over sautéed fresh cod. Light and nutritious, this dish is a great way to kick off a relaxing beach day or adventures in Montego Bay.
PUERTO RICO: Pernil and arroz con gandules
From the Cayman Islands to Trinidad, you’ll find the Caribbean standby of pigeon peas and rice. It’s especially good in Puerto Rico, where it’s seasoned with smoked ham and sofrito (an aromatic purée of cilantro, peppers, tomatoes and garlic) and paired with pernil (pork shoulder, roasted till it’s falling off the bone).
When you visit Cabarete Beach, you can’t miss the kiteboarders. You could join them … or not!
Kiteboarding could be described as an extreme water sport. Its disasters tend to be so spectacular—say, being yanked from the surf by a gust of wind and deposited on top of a thatch-roofed beach bar—that participants have coined a term: kitemares. But the potential for serious mishap hasn’t kept it from becoming a popular sport in Cabarete, Dominican Republic. Steady winds that blow at a perfect angle to the beach make the place one of the best kiteboarding locations in the world. (The same conditions also suit kiteboarding’s slightly less adrenaline-laced cousin, windsurfing.) As a result, Cabarete’s beaches are often mobbed with people whose acrobatic athleticism can easily make you feel older than you already are.
THE SUNNY SIDE
But for you laid-back visitors, Cabarete has a secret. Even in the best months for kiteboarding and windsurfing—which means all months except May and October through December—those winds seldom kick in until early afternoon. Kiteboarders and windsurfers tend to be a party-late crowd, so when there’s no incentive to be on the water, they sleep in. That leaves morning beach time to a less athletic set.
To get the most out of your ante meridiem time on the beach, step onto the sand near Kahuna, Onno’s or one of the many other bars along Cabarete Beach proper. In the morning light, the bedraggled scene in the bars will probably resemble those partiers from the previous evening. But someone will already be there on the beach, trying to rent you a lounge chair, sell you a souvenir hat or braid your hair. The beach is wide here, the sand white and the swimming good. But if you feel like getting some kinks out, walk west about 25 minutes, along Bozo Beach, where you may want to pause for a pickup volleyball game with some early players, and down to Kite Beach. By 10 a.m. the Kite Club Café can serve you the hearty Calin’s breakfast (scrambled eggs, fruit, yogurt, toast and salsa) or get you started on fish tacos.
NOW YOU TRY IT
Later in the day, the breezes will pick up and you can watch the kiteboarders dart like dragonflies across the sparkling water. If that isn’t enough excitement, try kiteboarding yourself. Two good places to learn are Kite Club Cabarete, right on Kite Beach (3-day beginner course, $535*; kiteclubcabarete.com), and Laurel Eastman Kiteboarding, about halfway down Bozo Beach (2-hour lesson, $132; laureleastman.com). Just remember, they’re called kitemares for a reason.
*Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.
Iggies Beach Bar & Grill
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Let the kids play beach volleyball or snorkel in the shallows while you kick back with cocktails at this classic spot at the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort, an all-inclusive near the capital, Charlotte Amalie. Cruise passengers often throng the place during the day, but don’t let that keep you away. There’s live music and a local vibe every night, plus hammocks on the beach and VooDoo Juice (a rum concoction) served in buckets. Go on a Wednesday for Carnival Night: steel drums, West Indian food at the buffet, and fire-walkers performing on a stage in the sand.
7150 Bolongo; iggiesbeachbar.com
Wreck Bar & Grill
The favorite road trip on Grand Cayman must be the drive to Rum Point, a remote spit of beach across the sound from George Town. The name probably came from the rum barrels that washed ashore here during buccaneer times. Today Wreck Bar is the heart of the action, and the thing to drink is the Mudslide—a frozen blend of vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream and Kahlúa. Sip one while you relax at a colorful picnic table on the sand, or get horizontal in a hammock slung under the casuarina trees. Sunday afternoons bring the biggest crowds, including a flotilla of party boats anchored offshore.
Rum Point Dr.; rumpointclub.com
These three islands may be culturally related, but in the Lesser Antilles they couldn’t be more different.
You may not have even noticed, but the Dutch islands group formerly known as the Netherland Antilles is no more. These once included Saba, St. Maarten and St. Eustatius in the Leeward Islands, as well as three outcroppings just off the coast of Venezuela—Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, known as the ABC islands. Aruba went first, declaring independence in 1986. And as recently as 2011, the remaining islands made their decisions: whether to stay in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or secede and be independent. Curaçao and St. Maarten went their own way, while Saba, St. Eustatius and Bonaire stayed tied to the motherland.
Any time is a good time to check out the Lesser Antilles. The weather stays in the upper 80s most of the year, with trade winds providing welcome breezes. And each island offers something different, whether you’re in search of beaches, diving and snorkeling, or a little culture in a UNESCO World Heritage site.
A IS FOR AMAZING BEACHES
Aruba is known the world over for its sugary sand, and rightly so. The island is ringed with it. The resort area on the northwest shore has beautiful strands, but they’re often crowded. Just to the south lies Eagle Beach, a pristine stretch with far fewer people. For dinner, try Marina Pirata, a seafood restaurant near the south end, with tables out over the water. Beneath your feet, hundreds of fish swirl in the lights of the dock.
B IS FOR BEST DIVING
Aruba’s little sister, Bonaire, is just a puddle-jumper flight away, but you’ll feel as if you’ve entered another world—a much quieter one, with far fewer crowds. You might notice that the rental cars available at the airport are mostly small pickups, perfect for lugging scuba gear. Divers come from all over the world to explore the protected waters off Bonaire. An ideal spot is 1,000 Steps, a sliver of a beach just yards from amazing coral reefs that teem with fish. Afterwards, watch the sun set at Karel’s Beach Bar, a sweet little spot where Dutch expats and locals gather, on the main drag in the tiny capital, Kralendijk.
C IS FOR CULTURE
The cosmopolitan city of Willemstad, in Curaçao, is yet another world away. Here you can explore 17th-century cobblestone streets that wind up from the harbor in the Otrobanda neighborhood. The classic view of Willemstad is from Queen Emma, a pedestrian bridge that connects Otrobanda with Punda, across the harbor. Right by the water in Punda is the famous Handelskade, a waterfront row of shops that looks straight out of Holland, except for the cheery pastel hues. Speaking of cheery hues, Curaçao is famous for its blue (and green and orange) liqueur of the same name. Take a free tour of the factory where the spirits are crafted at Chobolobo Mansion. You’ll be surprised to find that the main ingredient is an unappetizing-looking brown-skinned citrus fruit. A bottle of Curaçao makes a great souvenir—a little bit of island color you can enjoy back home.
British Virgin Islands
The shack first appeared in the 1970s, assembled from driftwood, corrugated iron and other flotsam and jetsam. Bomba himself still hangs out with visitors, and his shack, on Tortola’s West End, still looks like “a crazy fort someone built on the beach,” says Julie Johnson of Enumclaw, WA. The décor is dominated by a steady stream of guest-donated underthings, and the full-moon parties are legendary. During the day, watch the surfers in Cappoons Bay while you nurse a rum punch.
Cappoons Bay, West End, Tortola; 284-495-4148; no website
Da Conch Shack
Turks & Caicos
The sound track at this shack on Blue Hills Beach is pop tunes set to a reggae beat with a backup of hammers hitting conch shells. The snail-like creatures are harvested just offshore and served here as salad, fritters, chowder and curry. Locals might try to talk you into eating a “conch worm,” which they swear is a fertility-booster (it’s actually the noodle-like spine; don’t believe it when they say it’s something else). The best way to get it down is with a Conch Knocker, a rum drink with a “secret ingredient.” Blue Hills Rd., Providenciales; daconchshack.com
In a single day, you can sail a tall ship, pet a donkey and sip an eight-ingredient cocktail on this Caribbean island
Some of the most majestic islands in the Caribbean were summarily dismissed by European colonizers. Consider the Dutch trio of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao. The 16th-century Spanish conquistadors dubbed them Islas Inútiles, or “Useless Islands,” because they lacked gold or silver. But these days, Aruba happens to be an affordable gem for travelers.
A mere 15 miles off the coast of tropical Venezuela, Aruba isn’t your typical Caribbean island. It’s outside the hurricane belt, which means there’s a lower risk of storms. And while this arid island may not have lush vegetation, it makes up for that with soft sand beaches, cheap flights and all-inclusive discount deals.
The best beaches lie on the south and west coasts, where the water is great for swimming and snorkeling. Instead of touristy Palm Beach, head for tranquil, low-key Arashi Beach (to the north) or Eagle Beach (to the south). The water off the south end of the island at Baby Beach is shallow enough for wade-right-in snorkeling. And locals dig Rodger’s Beach in nearby San Nicolas—its reef-protected waters are relatively unknown to tourists. On the east coast is Dos Playas, where experienced surfers go to find the island’s “juiciest” waves. (In late afternoon, the winds are calmer and the swells rise 4 feet high.) For a taste of Aruba’s famous shipwreck diving, take a 5-hour trip aboard the 80-foot wooden sailboat Mi Dushi. You’ll cruise the coastline and stop to snorkel over shallow reefs and through the wreck of the MS Antilla, a German ship that sank off Arashi Reef during World War II.
GET OUT THERE
Aruba’s capital, Oranjestad, is a busy cruise port with glitzy casinos, colossal hotels and upscale malls. (The island is excellent for shoppers: Price tags can run 30% lower than in the United States and the sales tax is a mere 1.5%.) But you don’t want to be stuck indoors the whole time, buying slightly more affordable Louis Vuitton and Gucci. The island’s petite size—just 20 miles long and 6 miles wide—makes it perfect for day trips. Pay a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary Aruba, 5 miles east of Oranjestad, to feed and play with rescued donkeys; not native to Aruba, donkeys were originally brought here as part of the island’s 500-year-old transportation system. Or stop by the Aloe Museum & Factory for some after-burn care and education. If you drive up north, you’ll see rugged rock formations and graceful, windswept divi-divi trees. And in the center of the island, you can climb 541-foot Mt. Hooiberg and see Venezuela on a clear day. Aruba even holds an international film festival every June, with events scheduled all around the island.
EAT LIKE A LOCAL
For an authentic taste of the island, leave the resort area and head south to San Nicolas and Charlie’s Bar, one of Aruba’s oldest institutions. The walls are hung with random posters, license plates and fishing gear; the signature drink is the Aruba Ariba cocktail, a delicious mix of vodka, rum, Grand Marnier, crème de banana and coecoei (a local agave liqueur), plus pineapple, cranberry and orange juice. If you’re staying for dinner, order mahi mahi, shrimp scampi or steak. Or head to nearby Savaneta, where you can sit with your feet in the sand at Old Man and the Sea. There’s more beachfront dining at Flying Fishbone. Feast on skewered shrimp or grilled Caribbean lobster tail while you watch the sun set over the water.