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FINDING YOUR OWN TEMPTATION ISLAND
by Paris Permenter & John Bigley
Looking for a destination where the two of you can tempt each other without the distractions of tours, shopping, cities, and too many other travelers?
In the Caribbean, you'll find many small islands where the emphasis can be on the two of you. When you're ready to take a break from activity, sprinkled through the islands are some hideaways that beg travelers to kick off their shoes, toss on some sunscreen, then grab a book and a buddy.
Many islands even have a special word for this lack of activity: limin', a way to enjoy life at a destination where the livin' is easy.
TURKS AND CAICOS
"The number one activity here is to do nothing," says Tom Lewis, general manager of Ocean Club, a low-rise resort tucked on a quiet stretch of sand on the island of Providenciales. And why not? Folks don't come to the remote Turks and Caicos islands, located east of the Bahamas, to enjoy duty-free shopping, glitzy nightlife, or days of sightseeing tours. They come for the beach, the sun, and the clear-as-white-rum waters that surround these quiet islands.
Providenciales, better known as simply Provo, boasts the largest portion of the Turks and Caicos population but it is still open and unsettled. This sickle-shaped island is dotted with scrubby growth, short palms and climbing sea grapes. Chalky limestone roads wind across the flat island, connecting settlements like Blue Hills and The Bight.
But the traveler to Provo will soon realize that its desert terrain is just a backdrop to the beaches and clear waters that are the main attractions. On some parts of the island the beaches stretch for miles, dotted only with the footprints of iguanas or shorebirds. You won't find beach vendors or hagglers on these shores, just a few tourists and locals enjoying snorkeling or a swim in the gentle surf. High rises are forbidden, with resorts built no taller than three stories.
And, if you're lucky, you may just get the chance to meet Provo's most treasured resident: JoJo. This wild dolphin has been sighted for 12 years along the island's north coast, the only case ever documented of prolonged interaction between an individual wild dolphin and humans. Often spotted swimming along the north shore or near boats, JoJo is protected and the government has declared him a national treasure.
Locals say it's a destination for the "newly wed and the nearly dead." Tobago may not be as well known as its political partner Trinidad, but in the world of travelers looking for peace and quiet it's the leader. Like city and country cousins, Trinidad and Tobago each have their own unique personalities. While Trinidad bustles with activity, tiny Tobago is a favorite with those looking to get away from it all. It's treasured by the world's birders and also scuba divers, who seek out giant manta rays near the village of Speyside. But most of all, it's a place where travelers enjoy life that moves to a Caribbean beat. Goats graze in every field; coconut palm-lined beaches offer quiet getaways; luxury resorts pamper guests with everything from dining to spa experiences.
On Tobago, nightlife is unique and laid back. Once a week the island parties at "Sunday School," held every Sunday in the community of Buccoo Village. This open-air street party doesn't get cranked up until near midnight, so come prepared to stay up late and enjoy the pulsating sounds of calypso and soca.
If you plan to spend most of your time looking for that secluded strip of sand where you never see another set of footprints, then Little Cayman should be your destination. It's little changed from a century ago, a perfect place to get away from it all and spend your day on a bicycle peddling empty roads, snorkeling in pristine waters, or looking for that perfect beach.
Just 80 miles northeast of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman is worlds apart in terms of atmosphere. Appropriate to its name, this isle spans only 11 miles in length and two miles at its widest point. Boasting none of the glitz of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman does greet guests with all the basic comforts, including several small lodges and condominiums with air-conditioning, satellite television, and telephone service.
With just over 100 permanent residents, the island's largest population is that of birds and iguanas. Over 2,000 Little Cayman Rock Iguanas inhabit the island, so many that "Iguana Crossing" and "Iguana Right of Way" signs are posted throughout the island to protect the five-foot long lizards.
Little Cayman's chief draw is its ecotourism: diving, fishing, and bird watching. The late Phillipe Cousteau called the island's Bloody Bay Wall one of the best dives of his life; today it's still a favorite with divers.
Imagine a country inn where rooms brim with antiques and are cooled by a gentle breeze off a wide porch. You ease into a wicker chair, sip an icy drink, and enjoy a view unbroken by roads, electrical lines, or even fellow travelers.
This is Nevis (pronounced NEE-vis), an island that offers all the country comforts and bed-and-breakfast luxury you might look for in a New England getaway. Here, however, palms replace pines and color comes, not from scarlet leaves, but from azure seas, beaches in shades of both black and white, and verdant forests that engulf the island.
Nevis (along with St. Kitts, its partner in this two-island nation) boasts one of the Caribbean's largest concentrations of plantation homes. The islands were once dotted with sugar plantations and greathouses, but today these stately manses have been transformed into elegant bed-and-breakfast inns especially popular with European vacationers and with Americans looking to experience a slice of the Caribbean "the way it used to be." Don't look for reggae lessons, limbo contests or mixology classes at these properties; instead, expect a sophisticated atmosphere similar to a fine country inn where the emphasis lies, not on providing fun for its guests, but in pointing the way for independent travelers to make their own discoveries.
Columbus first named this island because of the ever-present cloud that circled Mount Nevis, giving it almost a snow-capped look. Today the cloud still lingers over the mountain peak. Home to only 9,000 residents, this country cousin has a charming atmosphere all its own, plus a good share of plantation houses where guests can enjoy a look back at Caribbean history.
Husband and wife team Paris Permenter and John Bigley have authored over 20 guidebooks and also edit the FREE Lovetripper.com , a romantic travel magazine featuring worldwide destinations.
Copyright Paris Permenter and John Bigley