You’ve just booked the most amazing vacation to the Caribbean and now you want to plan all the best things to see and do.
Often when you travel to a new destination you end up going to the most well known sites and attractions just like every other tourist. You use the same guide book as everyone else and most likely the concierge will recommend the same places time and time again. And then, when you get there you have to fight for a spot to see the caves or the beach or the cliffs or whatever it is you have come so far to see. Often you end up missing some of the best and most exciting things that the islands have to offer.
Luxury Caribbean Vacations: Off The Beaten Track
At Exceptional Villas we know our client don’t want to be in long queues and tagging along in large groups… we also know that, after all, it’s the hidden gems of every Caribbean Island that make it so unique. We want you to experience breathtakingly beautiful, quiet and relatively unknown places within each island.
Because of our extensive travels throughout the Caribbean and expertise in luxury Caribbean vacations, we know the best things to do off the beaten track in the Caribbean. We have included a selection of our favorite off the beaten track sites and attractions in the Caribbean.
The Caribbean islands are often associated with beautiful beaches, reggae and rum punch, but of course there is so much more to see and explore. There are amazing rain forests, beaches that you can only access by foot or boat, and restaurants that only the locals know about.
This is the first of a series of blogs. We are starting with the Caribbean as a whole and then we will be pleased to tell you in much greater detail all the wonderful off the beaten track spots in all the islands we feature.
So here are some hidden gems and some of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets.
Stush in the Bush, Jamaica
If you really want to taste the love in Jamaica…you need go to Stush in the Bush, located at Zionites Farm on Free Hill. Chris, Lisa and their family have set up this paradise in the beautiful green mountains of Jamaica with the most magnificent views… you are almost touching the clouds!
Chris grows organic seasonal fruits, vegetables and various herbs while Lisa works her magic in the kitchen. It is a magnificent mix of a love of nature and fine dining. It is a true farm to table experience and they best describe it as “Sexy Vegetarianism”.
They also do yoga bunches, kids camp, pizza cooking classes, moonlight fine dining and much more… You won’t want to leave Stush in the Bush! Noreen, one of our dedicated concierges, writes about Stush in the Bush, and other Jamaican dining experiences, in her article Cooking with Love in Jamaica.
Cayman Crystal Caves – The Cayman Islands
Although these Crystal Caves have been here for millions of years visiting the crystal caves has only recently become one of the most popular things to do in Grand Cayman.
In these caves you will find a magical sight of stalactite and stalagmite crystal structures that have formed slowly over time by single drops of water.
Ahoy! Keep an eye out…they say that Pirates used these caves hundreds of years ago for hideouts and legend has it that some of their treasure is buried here…
They offer guided walking tours that take you through the lush tropical forest of the North side of Cayman along with the 3 magnificent caves. This is a wonderful excursion for all ages.
Underwater Plane Wreck – Staniel Cay, Bahamas
Possibly one of the best and least known dive sites in the world, the Underwater Plane Wreckage is located near Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.
The wreckage of this plane crash which offers a wonderful scuba diving site to explore is sitting in just six feet of water. It is located about half a mile away from Staniel Cay Yacht Club, the wreckage is a sanctuary for many tropical fish, coral species and vegetation.
Here you can explore the underwater of the crystal clear Caribbean Sea and encounter many tropical fish. The wreckage is also known for the nurse sharks who like sleep under its wings.
Diving is just one of the many exciting things to do in the Bahamas.
Fish Fry – Bahamas
To get a full appreciation of Bahamian culture, you have to live among the locals. We would recommend you grab a tasty bite to eat at any of the brightly colored stalls at the Fish Fry on Arawak Cay in Nassau. Locals love to go here on Fridays and Saturdays to enjoy great local food such as conch salad, cracked conch, and seafood.
Moon Town – Barbados
Moon Town is situated in the north of Barbados and is the smallest town that can be found anywhere in the world. It is by square footage the most dynamic town with the “most customers worldwide”.
Visitors to Barbados will often have heard of Oistins Fish Fry and party but not many know about Moontown in the Parish of St Lucy. This is where you will find the locals. It is a down to earth, open air restaurant of sorts located on the edge of a cliff. There is an excellent selection of fish which is literally fresh off the boat. It is served right off the grill and onto the plate with a great selection of sides.
Moontown is open every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There is a DJ playing each night and on some of the evenings, you can enjoy karaoke or limbo dancing. Thursdays and Fridays are great value if you are a beer drinker. Banks beer is just $10 for 5 bottles!
St. Elmo in Moontown is the popular spot eating and drinking especially on Fridays and Saturday nights. Their prices are very competitive with the ever popular Oistins.
Hike to Colombier – St Barts
Without access roads, it makes it a little more challenging to reach, but it is well worth it; the calm and transparent waters of this beach will take your breath away. Also, try and go early in the morning when it is not as hot as it makes it a little easier. Read more in our St Barts Travel Guide.
Fort Karl Sunsets – St Barts
This is a wonderful spot that not everyone knows about. It is located just above Shell beach and has a great view of Gustavia Harbor. It is a short hike up concrete stairs and it really is a must if you love watching the sunset.
Sandy Island – Anguilla
Loterie Farm – St Martin
I only recently found nature reserve and sanctuary and it is a place I will recommend to everyone. It is a private nature reserve where you can wine, dine, hike and climb. It has so much to offer and it is great for families, couples, groups. The zip lining is very popular with guests and the food is amazing; especially the tapas.
Sage Mountain National Park – Tortola, BVI
The Sage Mountain National Park was a gift from the Rockefellers to the government of the British Virgin Islands. The National Park cloaks a ridge running east to west along the spine of Tortola. Almost the entire park is 305 meters above sea level, and 523 meter Mount Sage is the highest peak in all the Virgin Islands.
Anegada Island – BVI
Anegada is surrounded by a maze of coral reef that extends for many kilometers off shore. It creates ideal opportunities for reef and bonefishing. There are more wrecks off Anegada than anywhere else in the Caribbean and they now host amazing marine life, offering some of the best diving sites in the world.
Caneel Bay Kayak, Hike & Snorkel Tour – USVI
Kayak, hike and snorkel in Caneel Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed National Park. During this 3 or 5 hour tour on St John, you will follow your adventure guide to trek down forest trails on Turtle Point, paddle a kayak in the bay’s serene waters and snorkel through beds of sea grass inhabited by the local sea turtles. Along the way, enjoy informative commentary about the history, ecology and natural resources of this unique ecological zone. This tour shows you the beauty of St. John.
Mona Island – Puerto Rico
Mona Island off Puerto Rico’s west coast and offers hiking among mangrove forests, a network of caves and 20 or more endangered species. The “Galapagos of the Puerto Rico” is unlike other hiking areas anywhere on the main island. Hikers commonly see giant iguanas cross their paths or sea turtles in the shallows along the coast. More than 78 rare or endangered plants grow in the area.
Scenic National Railway Tour – St Kitts
St. Kitts Scenic Railway offers visitors a journey through time on one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Built between 1912 and 1926 to deliver sugar cane from the fields to the sugar mill in the capital city of Basseterre, the railway now provides a fascinating way to see the entire nation from the comfort of luxurious rail cars built specifically for touring the island of St. Kitts.
Turtle tours – Nevis
For more than 10 years, Nevis’ Lemmy Pemberton has been working to save the nesting sea turtle population on Nevis. Thanks in part to the Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Four Seasons Resort(home to some of our finest villas in Nevis), his efforts have begun to pay off. Every week, you can join Lemmy and his band of turtle-conservationists for a night time “turtle walk” on Pinney’s beach. You may just meet a nesting leatherback turtle!!
Local fish fry and live music – Turks and Caicos
This very local event takes place every Thursday evening 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm in Bight Children’s Park in Provo, close by to the Gansevoort Resort. As the sun goes down you will have a wonderful evening full of local food, local entertainment, great live music and local vendors. Visitors will fill up on some of the best fresh food and drink on the island and you can take in some local culture as well. The night ends with the local dance and entertainment of the Junkanoo Band, this night out should not be missed.
There’s so much more to these islands and you read about them at my comprehensive Turks and Caicos travel guide.
Spices Cooking Studio – St Lucia
Spice Cooking Studio is a gorgeous cooking school that is located in Cap Estate at the northern end of the island of St. Lucia. Guests learn special and unique St Luican creole dishes and learn lots about the native foods and fruits; it’s a really great way to learn some of St Lucia’s culture also.
The cooking classes are held in a specially designed professional home-style kitchen which accommodates small groups of 4-10 persons. It’s the perfect setting for an enjoyable experience for anyone, from beginner to the most experienced home cooks and the best part is you get to eat all your creations after! Many of the guests staying at our St.Lucia villas have reported thoroughly enjoying this experience.
C & C Wine Bar – Antigua
A local and fun place for Wine Lovers. Its a casual but sophisticated Wine Bar in Antigua and is the home for exciting wines from South Africa.
It’s situated in vibrant Redcliffe Quay and is a great place to enjoy the ambiance of St. John’s. The food is delicious also and on Saturday nights the place comes alive with really fun and lively karaoke session enjoyed by tourists and locals alike!