Island Travel Minus the Passport!

St. Thomas

Our last talk initiated us into the island culture by way of the U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. Now before we head down and discover the rest of the West Indies as I promised, I wanted to glance over the remaining U.S. Virgin Islands for those who want to see a more organic side of the islands still without having to obtain a passport. About 40 miles north of St. Croix are the remaining U.S. Virgin Island territories of St. Thomas and St. John. These two islands offer a more laid back attitude than the hectic nightlife of St. Croix. Being someone who’s traveling experiences began visiting U.S. National Parks, I wanted to give a shotgun tour of the more natural side of the U.S. Caribbean territories.

Before I put a machete in your hand, we’ll venture onto St. Thomas in order to get used to the tropical jungle, but with the hotel or hostile still nearby. St. Thomas is the larger of the two islands and has more natural beauty than its commercial counterparts. The island is surrounded by outlying tiny islands that give you a break from some of the harsh waves and deep waters of the larger Caribbean isles. You will most likely arrive by a charter flight near the port town of Charlotte Amalie. This former Danish territory was purchased in 1917 by the United States, giving a far different feel and decor from the French culture seen on St. Croix. Being surrounded by Puerto Rico, St. Croix and St John also blocks the wind that your continental traveler may not be used to in the Caribbean. After having a bite and looking around, find one of the many capes on the northern or southern parts of the island. Here you can have a cocktail and enjoy one of my favorite phenomenon; watching the sun rise on your right, and set on your left. (Or vice-versa) After witnessing this, I promise you will have the curiosity and primal energy to tackle our next stop:

Concordia Eco Tents St. John

If you’ve already left St. Croix for more esoteric waters, you’ll be able to enjoy the last stop on our tour of the Virgin Islands. Because you are a savvy and curious traveler you’ll be able to navigate these shallow waters with little stress and even greater rewards. Head down to St. Thomas Harbor and ask around Charlotte Amalie for a ride to St. John. There are many ways to attack this. If you prefer to leave the logistics during a vacation to someone else, go into a local hotel resort and ask the concierge. They will find you a cheap safe charter boat with a bar and all the amenities of the typical local tour boat. They will also be able to book you a room on St. John for when you arrive. If you find this too pampering just go down to the docks and pick a private boat that looks safe and tenured. Make sure you bargain with your captain, and then finalize whether he is taking you to St. John for the day, leaving you there, picking you up in a week, etc. The boat ride is short and beautiful, pick your captains brain for local knowledge and prepare for bliss.

Now that you’ve made it, here is your reward. The U.S. Virgin Islands National Park and the famous Coral Bay. The park takes up almost the entire island of St. John. This island overlooking the water is stripped of all but a few hotel resorts and gives you peace and quiet almost anywhere you choose to explore. Local guides are kind and will show you through the jungle if you want to hike to the top. Here you can see the outlying islands from altitude including the neighboring British Virgin Islands. If that’s too much effort on a vacation head to Coral Bay. The beauty of this preserved natural harbor gives you the spoils of the islands without hundreds of boats blocking your view. If you’ve made it this far, I trust you will enjoy the local music and outdoor shanty bars while you discover how we do national parks West Indies style. Safe Travels!

A Connoisseur’s Note on Wanderlust Travel

Netherland Antilles

Grown tired of spending the first 12 hours of your vacation stuck in airport terminals and airplanes? Traditional bloggers would argue the time spent crossing the Atlantic is worth seeing Paris. Personally, I’ve grown tired of trying to enjoy my morning baguette without being trampled by a herd of drunken American collegiate students. With more young Americans having the confidence to visit the Rhone, or Greece, or spots once believed to be secret gems, I’ve investigated alternatives to visiting the tourist flooded cities of Western Europe. Is there no solution?! It’s a shame there are not more places of wonder and paradise near the continental United States. Would you believe me if I told you it was possible to visit London, Barcelona and Amsterdam by taking a non-stop 3 and a half to 5 hour flight? In our own backyard there is a chain of islands that not only brings you the sandy beaches and the crystal clear water, but the culture, food and architecture of Western and Southern Europe.

Welcome to the Caribbean Lesser Antilles! O.k. so I admit you may have been expecting something a little more exiting than your typical Carnival Cruise to the Bahamas. But who said cruise, and who said Bahamas? I’m talking about real culture in the lesser smaller islands of the Caribbean. YOU are the savvy tasteful traveler so I have found you something more fulfilling than over-priced beach resorts serving burgers shipped from the U.S. My time chasing music and exotic foods in the Caribbean brought me farther and farther away from Miami, to places so far down the chain, I could see Venezuela from my beach towel. I found the Bahamas to be too full of crowded beaches and once again, drunken college students. I tried Jamaica, but giving you a crash course on how to not get robbed away from your hostile didn’t seem too exiting either. As I headed south, I found cultures and people that made me feel welcomed as a connoisseur and not a tourist.

St. Croix Heritage

We’ll start with the closest and tamest for you skeptics. The U.S. Virgin Island of St. Croix. Now here do we not only have sandy beaches, great weather, but everyone speaks English. It’s the first of the Lesser Antilles just 50 miles east of Puerto Rico. After going to St. Croix I felt the Jamaican Reggae music was a poor mans version of what the good people of St. Croix had going on. Here in this small paradise are fewer tourists than the larger island, good food, music, and resorts for the pampered all the way to the rugged. It is truly the best of both worlds, where English customs and currency are valid, but French cuisine, art, architecture and leisure make you feel a million miles from the red white and blue. Because it was once a French colony the culture is very rich, and the taste of Paris can be seen at every town on the island. Not only is it convenient in terms of how close it is from Atlanta, New York or Los Angles airports, but it’s a U.S. Territory. What does this mean? No passport, no problem! If you’ve been worrying about taking your friend or even your children abroad but the hassles of obtaining your passports have killed your drive, no worries. If you have a driver’s license, you can fly to the Caribbean and enjoy yourself with no hassle and no currency exchange needed.

This wonderful island was a blast, I found myself forgetting what time it was and not caring what kind of cuisine it was. Truly a personal release and retreat full of rich food music and culture. Check in frequently to follow me down the island chain to the Dutch territories full of the free spirit of Amsterdam and the French Territories where royalty used to vacation. And after we’ve covered all the islands you get to choose from in the Lesser Antilles, I’ll show you how to survive and have a good time in the enigma of Cuba that will soon be letting connoisseurs like you in! Safe Travels