Finding the Perfect Caribbean Island
There are literally thousands of islands in the Caribbean Sea. The vast majority of Caribbean islands are small and uninhabited (think Gilligan without the Professor or Mary Anne, or the Skipper, or the Howells). Others are inhabited but very under-developed. A well-known minority are somewhere between well-developed and, depending on your taste, over-developed (meaning that while they have all the amenities and conveniences of home – they also have the fast food places, chain stores and traffic to match).
Most of the islands are near to or part of the Island-countries of the Caribbean (the Bahamas have over 500 alone), but several continental countries also contribute lesser known islands to the Caribbean. In addition to the United States, they are:
- Costa Rica,
- Panama, and
If you are an Island in the Caribbean, are you a Caribbean Island?
Interestingly, the islands belonging to these Central and South American countries are not on most vacation travelers’ radar. In fact, they are often not included in travel and vacation website lists of Caribbean islands. For this and other reasons, they are not yet “spoiled”, and they afford, relative to the discovered Caribbean, fantastic value in a tropical island vacation. This holds true not only for the islands themselves, but also for the waters around them. This part of the Caribbean is home to the world’s second largest barrier reef. It is quite literally a paradise for divers and snorkelers. And, thankfully, the local governments, fishing industry and dive shops are all working hard to keep the marine environment unspoiled and affordable, too.
Eighteen months ago, my wife and I were looking for a spring vacation that was “less traveled”. We wanted to find a destination with that perfect balance between unspoiled and overdeveloped. With four children between the ages of 13 and 7, we wanted some of the conveniences of home without feeling like we were still there. We wanted to experience the Caribbean, but we wanted (needed) it to be a vacation for us – not just for the kids. In short, we needed to find an undiscovered Caribbean island… that was partially discovered. After a few months of searching, we found Roatan and rented a beautiful Caribbean villa there for a week in March of 2011.
Our Roatan vacation was perfect.
Roatan is the property of Honduras and lies not far off that country’s cozyturtlerv northern coast. It is an island on the cusp – teetering on the edge of discovery and development, while working hard to remain unspoiled. Roatan is no longer without stable electricity, or high-speed internet. It has been “found” by a couple of the cruise ship companies. There is an international airport on the island with direct, non-stop flights from the US. There are many beautiful villas for rent, and a couple of higher-end resorts. There is even a breathtaking, new, Pete Dye-designed championship golf course. At the same time, there are no chain stores, no McDonald’s or Starbucks (this last one hurts a little), and the many locally-owned restaurants, shops and bars are authentic, eclectic and definitely on island time. A single, paved road links the island’s neighborhoods and communities.
Today, Roatan is a wonderful mix of unspoiled Caribbean with reasonable levels of modernization and development, all at an affordable price. How long will it last? It is hard to say. Sometimes these locations sit on the cusp for several years, but the word is definitely out.
- Frommer’s recently highlighted Roatan in their Undiscovered Caribbean Islands: Insiders’ Guide.
- The HGTV show House Hunters International has now featured Roatan in a handful of episodes over the past three years.
- Islands Magazine listed Roatan as one of the Best Islands to Retire On.
So, not surprisingly, tourism interest and vacation traffic have been steadily increasing.
Whether you’re a family with kids (like us), or a group of friends looking to get away for a week, if you’re thinking about visiting someplace just a little off the beaten path – come to Roatan. It’s the perfect Caribbean island and the first step in finding that perfect Caribbean Villa for your next vacation.