Tag - Bermuda

Bermuda Photo Gallery

Bermuda shorts in every colour of the rainbow at 'Tabs' in Hamilton

Bermuda Photo Gallery

This is a Bermuda Photo Gallery. To read about this destination, please refer to my Bermuda Travel Guide.


All images are copyright! If you wish to purchase any images for commercial use, please contact me via the Contact page.


 


About taste2travel!

Hi! My name is Darren McLean, the owner of taste2travel. I’ve been travelling the world for 33 years and, 209 countries and territories, and – seven continents later, I’m still on the road.

Taste2travel offers travel information for destinations around the world, specialising in those that are remote and seldom visited. I hope you enjoy my content!

Ever since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the idea of travel. I started planning my first overseas trip at the age of 19 and departed Australia soon after my 20th birthday. Many years later, I’m still on the road.

In 2016, I decided to document and share my journeys and photography with a wider audience and so, taste2travel.com was born.

My aim is to create useful, usable travel guides/ reports on destinations I have visited. My reports are very comprehensive and detailed as I believe more information is better than less. They are best suited to those planning a journey to a particular destination.

Many of the destinations featured on my website are far off the regular beaten tourist trail. Often, these countries are hidden gems which remain undiscovered, mostly because they are remote and difficult to reach. I enjoy exploring and showcasing these ‘off-the-radar’ destinations, which will, hopefully, inspire others to plan their own adventure to a far-flung corner of the planet.

I’m also a fan of travel trivia and if you are too, you’ll find plenty of travel quizzes on the site.

Photography has always been a passion and all the photos appearing in these galleries were taken by me.

If you have any questions or queries, please contact me via the contact page.

I hope you this gallery and my website.

Safe travels!

Darren


 

Top 10 Caribbean Island Experiences

Top 10 Caribbean Island Experiences

Welcome to the taste2travel Top 10 Caribbean Experiences feature.

 

Introduction

It’s not all rum and reggae!

Beyond the tourist brochure images of white-sand beaches, palm trees, Bob Marley and rum punches, the 33 countries and territories of the Caribbean offer a wealth of diverse travel experiences.

During the colonial period the French, Spanish, Dutch, British and even the Danish and Swedish took possession of various islands, which has left its mark today. As a result of this Colonial mélange, the islands of the Caribbean offer a diversity of cultures, traditions and ethnic mixes. The cultural highlight on the Irish-settled island of Montserrat is a week-long St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which celebrates the Irish heritage of the island with a combination of Irish and African influences.

Geographically, the islands of the Caribbean have been formed by either volcanic activity or from the movement of tectonic plates, which has exposed ancient, limestone seabed’s. While the volcanic islands offer lush, rugged, mountainous interiors, cascading waterfalls, meandering rivers and black-sand beaches, the limestone islands offer flatter, arid interiors and blindingly white-sand beaches, it’s these beaches which are featured on the covers of tourist brochures.

The French territory of Guadeloupe consists of two (almost joined) islands, one being volcanic in origin and the other being a raised limestone seabed, offering its visitors the opportunity to explore two very different environments in one destination.

This list highlights just ten favourite travel experiences from Cuba to Trinidad, with links to relevant travel guides for further reading.

Experiences

My personal “Top 10 Caribbean Experiences” (listed in no particular order) are:

#1 – Montserrat

A view of the east coast of Montserrat with recent lava flows visible in the background.

A view of the east coast of Montserrat with recent lava flows visible in the background.

Feel like visiting a modern-day Caribbean Pompeii? The volcanic island of Montserrat offers a very different travel experience from the usual sun, sand and beaches.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, tiny Montserrat (a British territory) is slowly dusting itself off after recent volcanic eruptions decimated the southern part of the island, including the capital Plymouth, covering large areas in ash, mud and other volcanic debris. Plymouth remains the capital of Montserrat, making it the only ghost town that serves as the capital of a political territory.

A sweeping view of the lush west coast of Montserrat from the Gingerbread Hill Guest House.

A sweeping view of the lush west coast of Montserrat from the Gingerbread Hill Guest House.

Volcano Tourism

While the Soufrière Hills Volcano is far from dormant, Montserrat is open for tourism and visitors are once again returning to the island that, due to its rich Irish heritage, bills itself as the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean‘.

The buried capital of Plymouth, a modern day Caribbean Pompeii.

The buried capital of Plymouth, a modern-day Caribbean Pompeii.

Whilst the island has a few nice (black sand) beaches, the main draw today is ‘volcano tourism‘, with a highlight of any visit being a tour of the fascinating, abandoned capital of Plymouth, which lies entombed under many metres of volcanic debris, inside a restricted exclusion zone.

Pyroclastic flows and lahars inundated Pyroclastic flows and lahars inundated Plymouth with metres of ash, mud and rock covering the entire city.with ash, mud and huge rocks.

Pyroclastic flows and lahars inundated Plymouth with metres of ash, mud and rock covering the entire city.

I toured the exclusion zone with the knowledgeable and informative Sun Lea, the owner of Montserrat Island Tours. Tours can remain in the abandoned city for one hour and during that time the guide is required to maintain constant radio contact with monitoring staff at the nearby Montserrat Volcano Observatory (MVO).

Another requirement was that, even while walking about, the motor of our vehicle was always to be left running in case the MVO advised that we need to leave the area ASAP. Something very different form the usual Caribbean experience.

Who needs a white-sand beach? Beautiful Woodlands Bay Beach.

Who needs a white-sand beach? Beautiful Woodlands Bay Beach.

Musical Legacy

A photo of Paul and Linda McCartney on Montserrat.

A photo of Paul and Linda McCartney on Montserrat.

If you’re a fan of music (who isn’t?) you might be interested in the musical legacy of Montserrat. For a period of ten years from 1979 – 1989, the island was a magnet for many famous musicians who came to record at the legendary AIR Studios Montserrat, which was created by Sir George Martin – the renown English record producer who signed The Beatles and produced every album they made until they disbanded.

Did you know Dire Straits recorded ‘Brothers in Arms‘ on tiny Montserrat? Who else recorded music on Montserrat? It’s an impressive roll-call of famous musicians, including:

  • Boy George
  • Dire Straits (who recorded ‘Brothers in Arms‘ at the studio)
  • Duran Duran
  • Elton John (who recorded ‘Too Low for Zero‘ at the studio)
  • Eric Clapton
  • Genesis 
  • Jimmy Buffet (who recorded the album ‘Volcano‘ while looking at the then-dormant Soufrière Hills Volcano from the studio)
  • Little River Band
  • Lou Reed
  • Luther Vandross
  • Michael Jackson
  • Paul McCartney (who recorded the hit single ‘Ebony and Ivory‘ with Stevie Wonder at the studio)
  • Sheena Easton
  • Stevie Wonder
  • The Police (who recorded ‘Ghost in the Machine‘ and ‘Synchronicity‘ at the studio)
  • The Rolling Stones 
  • Ultravox

While it’s possible to visit the island on a quick day trip from neighbouring Antigua, it’s definitely worth spending a few days or more.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Montserrat Travel Guide.

#2 – Cayman Islands

Adult Brown Booby, Cayman Brac

Adult Brown Booby, Cayman Brac

The Cayman islands are all about three things: sun, sea and wealth. A British Crown Colony whose economy is based on tourism and offshore banking, the three, raised limestone islands which comprise the territory are exposed summits of the Cayman Ridge. Separating the islands is the 4.8 km (3 mi) deep Cayman Trench – which is home to the deepest point in the Caribbean sea and many incredible dive sites.

The capital and largest city, George Town, is located on the main island of Grand Cayman, which is the port of call for all cruise ships and the destination of choice for 95% of visitors. Two much smaller (and geographically very different) islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, lie a short flight to the east and should not be overlooked.

On approach to Cayman Brac.

On approach to Cayman Brac.

One of the highlights of a visit to Grand Cayman is Stingray City which provides tourists with the opportunity to interact with numerous Atlantic Southern stingrays, who cruise around on a shallow sandbar in the middle of the turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean sea. This is a definite tourist trap but still a worthwhile experience.

Getting friendly with a local at Stingray city.

The two outer islands are much quieter, with Cayman Brac being a favourite nesting site for sea birds such as the Brown Booby.

The Cayman Trench passes close to the island, providing amazing scuba diving which can be arranged through Reef Divers, who operate out of the Cayman Brac Beach Resort and offer full-service ‘valet‘ diving.

What exactly is ‘valet‘ diving? Prior to entering the water, you sit yourself down on a bench at the back of the dive boat and relax while the crew fit you with all your equipment. Once done, you stand, step forward and plunge into the beautiful, crystal-clear water for which Cayman Brac is famous.

Starfish at Starfish Point.

Starfish at Starfish Point.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Cayman Islands Travel Guide.

#3 – Dominica

The view from Scotts Head of the narrow isthmus that separates the fierce Atlantic and the calm Caribbean.

The view from Scott’s Head of the narrow isthmus that separates the fierce Atlantic and the calm Caribbean.

Known as the “Nature Island,” volcanic Dominica lies at the top of the Windward Islands, south of Guadeloupe and north of Martinique. Although a short boat ride away, Dominica is a world away from its more modern, developed French neighbours.

Kalinago culture is alive and thriving on Dominica.

Kalinago culture is alive and thriving on Dominica.

The island is still home to a sizeable population of indigenous people, the Kalinago, who’ve lived on the island since the 13th century.

Trafalgar falls: Offers the option of hot water (left) or cold water (right) bathing.

Trafalgar falls: Offers the option of hot water (left) or cold water (right) bathing.

Although Dominica is in the Caribbean, it is not considered a resort island and if you’re looking for all-inclusive resorts on sandy beaches this island is not for you. What the island does offer is spectacular, rugged nature. Where else can you swim in a warm-water waterfall which is adjacent to a cold-water waterfall?

For those who like snorkelling, Champagne Reef is not to be missed. Located south of the capital of Roseau, the warm, crystal clear water of the reef is infused with streams of bubbles which emanate from an underwater spring. It’s like snorkelling in a giant bottle of San Pellegrino. Magic!

Wotten Waven hot springs

At the end of a long day of hiking, what better way to relax than in one of the many hot sulphur spring baths in the mountainside village of Wotten Waven.

Hurricane Maria

In September of 2017, Dominica was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The island is slowly rebuilding and the government is keen to see tourists return. Lonely Planet recently published an update detailing which islands are ready for tourists post-hurricanes. Most guest houses and hotels are now operational and most sights are open.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Dominica Travel Guide.

#4 – Bonaire

Most of the coastline of Bonaire is rocky with a reef running along the entire shoreline

When your plane pulls up outside the small terminal building of Bonaire’s Flamingo International Airport (which is painted ‘Flamingo pink’) you’ll know you’ve landed somewhere special. Part of the ‘ABC islands’, tiny and quiet Bonaire is a municipality of the Netherlands, located 48-km east of Curaçao and 140-km east of Aruba.

Sunset on Bonaire.

Sunset on Bonaire.

The island bills itself as a ‘Diver’s Paradise’ and with a colourful, onshore reef running the entire length of its protected leeward coast, the island lives up to its name. Due to the onshore reef, there are no sandy beaches on Bonaire with the nearest beach being on neighbouring Curaçao.

Caribbean Flamingo on Bonaire’s lake Gotomeer.

Caribbean Flamingo on Bonaire’s lake Gotomeer.

While the island is famous for its reef, the arid interior provides several attractions. Bonaire is famed for its Caribbean Flamingos which are drawn to the brackish salt water of the island’s lagoons. The best place to observe these graceful creatures is at Lake Gotomeer, which contains a healthy supply of brine shrimp, the main diet of Flamingos.


Did you know:

Flamingos are born with grey feathers, which gradually turn pink because of a natural pink dye called canthaxanthin that they obtain from their diet of brine shrimp.


 

Salt Mine on Bonaire

Looming on the horizon south of the capital, are a series of white hills which are part of the Cargill salt mining operation. Salt mining has always been an important industry on the island. Fort Oranje was built by the Dutch in 1639 to defend the harbour, from which the main export was salt. The capital (Kralendijk) then developed around the fort.

Cactus Vodka!

Cactus vodka from the Cadushy distillery.

Cactus vodka from the Cadushy distillery.

There are many cacti on Bonaire and one local company – The Cadushy Distillery – has figured a way to distil the spiny Kadushi Cactus into a less-than-spiny vodka, creating the world’s first cactus vodka.

The Kadushi cactus.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Bonaire Travel Guide.

#5 – Trinidad & Tobago

Male Purple Honeycreeper at Asa Wright nature reserve

Trinidad and Tobago (TT) is a two-island country offering the visitor two completely different destinations in one and, due to the diversity of its fauna, flora and people, one of the more interesting destinations in the Caribbean.

The national bird of Trinidad & Tobago, the Scarlet Ibis, at Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

The national bird of Trinidad & Tobago, the Scarlet Ibis, at Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

Trinidad

Nowhere is this diversity more obvious than on the main island of Trinidad, which has not always been a Caribbean island. Located just 11 km from the coast of Venezuela, Trinidad was once joined to the South American mainland and sits on the same continental shelf.

A close up view of a sleeping Tree Boa in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

A close up view of a sleeping Tree Boa in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.

Due to its geological history, the geography, fauna, flora and climate of Trinidad are completely indistinguishable from neighbouring Venezuela. From Howler and Capuchin monkeys to ocelots and tree boa’s, Trinidad is home to a rich variety of ‘mainland’ wildlife which can be found in the jungles of South America but not on any other Caribbean island.

Female white-necked Jacobin hummingbird at Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Female white-necked Jacobin hummingbird at Asa Wright Nature Centre.

Trinidad offers some of the best bird watching in the Caribbean, with two highlights being the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, where thousands of Scarlet Ibis roost at sunset and the Asa Wright Nature Centre. Located in the Northern mountains, the centre is one of the top bird-watching spots in the Caribbean with 159 different species having been recorded.

White-necked Jacobin hummingbird at Asa Wright nature centre.

White-necked Jacobin hummingbird at Asa Wright nature centre.

Tobago

Pigeon Point beach, Tobago

A short flight (or ferry ride) from Trinidad, neighbouring Tobago is much quieter and more relaxed than its bustling neighbour. The island is known for its laid-back tempo, it’s many fine beaches, rain-forest, excellent snorkelling and diving and so is a popular tourist destination.

North coast of Tobago

For more on this destination, please refer to my Trinidad & Tobago Travel Guide.

#6 – Saba

Artwork at Saba airport, which is ranked as one of the world's most dangerous airports.

Artwork at Saba airport, which is ranked as one of the world’s most dangerous airports.

Along with Bonaire and neighbouring St. Eustatius (Statia), this volcanic island of 1,991 souls is part of the Caribbean Netherlands. At 887 metres (2,910 ft), the summit of Saba – Mount Scenery – is the highest point within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Sand-less Saba is completely unique! A rugged volcanic peak which rises steeply out of the Caribbean sea, all the major infrastructure on the island was hand-built by defiant locals after they were advised by Dutch and Swiss engineers that infrastructure couldn’t be built on the impossibly steep slopes of the island.

The main settlement on Saba, Windwardside, with Mount Scenery in the background.

The main settlement on Saba, Windwardside, with Mount Scenery in the background.

The one road on the island, known as “The Road”, is a 16 km ribbon of hand‐laid stone which bisects the entire island.

After engineers advised a road couldn’t be built, one local resident took a basic engineering course then starting laying out a route across the island. It took 20 years for locals to hand-cut and lay the stone with the road opening in 1958.

At about the same time, Dutch engineers also advised there was no area on Saba level enough to construct a runway.

Again, they would be proved wrong by the defiant locals. In 1959, regional aviator, Remy de Haenen performed an aerial survey of the island and identified “Flat Point” as a suitable area for a runway.

Within weeks, the locals had cleared and graded the area in preparation for a landing. De Haenen made the first landing of an aircraft on the island on February 9, 1959 with nearly the entire population of the island in attendance.

No room for pilot error at perilous Saba airport. "The Road" snakes its way from the airport across the island to Fort Bay.

No room for pilot error at perilous Saba airport. “The Road” snakes its way from the airport across the island to Fort Bay.

One of the World’s Most Dangerous Airports

Saba Airport is ranked as one of the most dangerous airports in the world, and boasts the shortest commercial runway at 400-m in length.

Arriving and departing by plane is one of the highlights of a visit to the island – it’s both dramatic and scary. At the end of the runway are cliffs that plunge into the sea and on one side of the airport is a towering mountain, all of which present plenty of challenges for the pilots of Winair – the only airline to fly to Saba.

All flights to this tricky airport are flown by the most experienced of Winair pilots from neighbouring St. Martin and utilise special STOL (Short Take-off / Landing) aircraft.

Upon landing, the pilot jams on the breaks the instant the wheels hit the tarmac. Upon take-off, you only start climbing once you have flown off the end of the runway – a bit like a young bird being pushed out of the nest for the first time – you just have to fly!

If it all sounds too scary, you have the more sedate option of arriving by ferry from St. Martin.

A strict building code on the island ensures all buildings are painted white, with green trim and red roofs.

A strict building code on the island ensures all buildings are painted white, with green trim and red roofs.

The main settlement of Saba is the picturesque village of Windwardside, which is located high up on the slopes of Mount Scenery at 400 metres.

The population of Windwardside is an eclectic mix of recently arrived expats (many of whom have introduced a creative flair to the island) and descendants of European migrants.

Less eclectic are the strict building codes which ensures all structures on the island sport the same white, green and red colour scheme.

Hiking trail on Saba.

Hiking trail on Saba.

While the only beach on the island consists of a tiny man-made strip of sand (adjacent to the airport), the real attractions of Saba are the extensive network of hiking trails and the incredible Scuba diving.

The only beach on Saba is man-made.

The only beach on Saba is man-made.

Saba is known for its unique pinnacle dive sites, created when magma pushed up through the seafloor creating underwater towers of rock which soar up to around 26-m beneath the surface.

Due to the unique underwater seascapes, diving on Saba is a unique experience. I chose to dive with Sea Saba, who I would recommend.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Saba Travel Guide

#7 – Jamaica

Jamaica Travel Guide: Rasta rafting guide

Rasta rafting guide

Jamaica is as smooth as its rums and as spicy as its Jerk – a rewarding destination for those willing to pull themselves away from the legendary beaches and venture off the beaten track.

There is much more to Jamaica than Bob Marley, quintessential tropical beaches and sunsets. The third largest island in the Caribbean (after Cuba and Hispaniola), offers an abundance of culture from Reggae music to Rastafarians, a unique cuisine in the form of ‘Jerk’, lush tropical rain forests, misty blue mountains, superb coffee, hidden waterfalls, meandering rivers, famous dark rums and so much more.

Beaches

Of the many beaches on the island, my favourite is Seven Mile beach at Negril. As the name suggests, this is a long stretch of powdery-white sand with a variety of accommodation options strung along the main road.

Seven Mile Beach, Negril.

Seven Mile Beach, Negril.

Blue Mountains

Away from the coast, the rugged, lush-green, verdant interior is home to many spectacular sights, including the famed Blue Mountains.

Located between Kingston to the south and Port Antonio to the north, and deriving their name from the azure haze which hangs over them, the Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range in Jamaica and include some of the highest peaks in the Caribbean. The highest point is Blue Mountain Peak, at 2256-m.

Blue Mountains, home to Jamaica’s famous coffee farms

Today, the mountains are renowned as being the place where the famous Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee is cultivated.

Coffee plants were first introduced to Jamaica by a former British governor in 1728. Their cultivation started in a field near a parish in Kingston before eventually being extended into the Blue mountains where they flourished.

I travelled through the mountains in my rental car, which allowed me to stop at various cafes along the main road, where I could sample the most amazing, freshly brewed coffee.

Roasting coffee in the Blue Mountains

Waterfalls

The incredible refreshing - Dunn's river falls.

The incredible refreshing – Dunn’s river falls.

Mountainous Jamaica is home to many wonderful waterfalls, all of which provide a refreshing escape from the heat and humidity. One of the more famous is Dunn’s River falls which are located a short drive from the north coast city of Ocho Rios.

The falls are fed by spring water, which is rich with calcium carbonate. This deposits travertine, which is a form of limestone. The falls are described as a ‘living phenomenon’ because the travertine is continuously rebuilt by the sediments in the spring water.

The falls are 55-m high and cascade gently over limestone for 180-m before emptying onto a beautiful sandy beach and into the Caribbean sea. The falls is one of the very few travertine waterfalls in the world that empties directly into the sea.

Rio Grande

Rafting the Rio Grande.

Rafting the Rio Grande.

Another highlight of my trip to Jamaica was my raft trip down the Rio Grande. Located on the north coast in the parish of Portland, the Rio Grande was named when the Spanish occupied Jamaica in the 15th and 16th centuries. One of the largest rivers in Jamaica, it is today a popular destination for rafting.

The river is fed by rainwater flowing down from the Blue Mountains. The bamboo rafts, which today carry paying tourists, were originally used to transport produce, especially bananas, from the interior of the island.

The ‘rafting for fun’ craze was started by Hollywood star, Errol Flynn, who made Port Antonio his home and wanted something fun to do when his friends visited. My rafting guide was a 70-year old Rasta dude who was as cool as the flowing river water.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Jamaica Travel Guide.

#8 – Dominican Republic

Vendors on the beach at Boca Chica

Discovered by Columbus on his first voyage to the Americas. Home to the oldest continuously inhabited city in the Americas and today the most popular tourist destination in the Caribbean region, the Dominican Republic is a dream destination.

There is good reason the masses flock to the Dominican Republic (DR). The country is a unique destination, offering an abundance of history, culture, charming colonial cities, white-sand beaches, excellent diving and snorkelling, unspoilt nature, soaring mountain ranges (including the highest peak in the Caribbean) and a friendly and welcoming population.

Add to this a stable political environment, good infrastructure, reliable and modern transportation options, affordable prices and a booming economy. It’s easy to see why the country is the preferred choice for so many visitors. There is something for everyone in the DR – no matter your interest or budget.

A true colonial relic - the Convent of the Dominican Order in Santo Domingo.

A true colonial relic – the Convent of the Dominican Order in Santo Domingo.

Santo Domingo

Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic, was founded in 1496 by Bartholomew Columbus (the younger brother of Christopher Columbus), and has the distinction of being the oldest continuously inhabited European city in the Americas. 

Interior of the first Cathedral built in the Americas - Catedral Primada de América.

Interior of the first Cathedral built in the Americas – Catedral Primada de América.

The old town, known as the ‘Zona Colonial‘, has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site and is a charming place to base yourself, with lots of cool and breezy, renovated colonial relics providing pleasant accommodation options and a respite from the constant heat and humidity.

The narrow streets of the old town are home to many ‘firsts’ in the Americas; the ‘first road’, the ‘first hospital’, the ‘first cathedral’, the ‘first convent’ and so on. If you enjoy immersing yourself in history and culture, Santo Domingo is an engaging destination.

Built by Bartholomew Columbus as his residence - Alcazar de Colon, Santo Domingo.

Built by Bartholomew Columbus as his residence – Alcazar de Colon, Santo Domingo.

The dining and entertainment scene in the old town is one of the best in the Caribbean and is constantly evolving, with new restaurants and bars opening on a regular basis. With all this activity, there’s much to keep the visitor occupied and when you need to take a break, beautiful white-sand beaches are a short taxi ride away.

Beaches

Broad-billed Tody in the 'Indigenous Eyes National Park', Punta Cana.

Broad-billed Tody in the ‘Indigenous Eyes National Park’, Punta Cana.

Without a doubt, the most popular tourist destination in the Dominican Republic is Punta Cana. Located at the easternmost tip of the Dominican Republic and blessed with 32 kilometres of fine white-sand beaches, Punta Cana is the #1 tourist playground with flights arriving at its busy airport from throughout Europe, North and South America.

All this tourism has had a negative impact on the one key asset, the beach, with almost all beach-side land walled-off by large, private resorts who restrict access to their paying guests. For those staying away from the beach, the only access points are a few crowded and congested public lane-ways.

Natural springs in the ‘Indigenous Eyes National Park’, Punta Cana

One non-beach highlight in Punta Cana is the Indigenous Eyes National Park. This is a private forest reserve operated by the Punta Cana Ecological Foundation.

The reserve features walking trails, which lead you through the forest, past twelve crystal-clear, freshwater lagoons. Five of the lagoons are open to visitors for swimming, a great way to cool off on a hot day.

The lagoons are home to fish and turtles and the trails provide good bird watching opportunities and will eventually lead you onto the beach.

Stormy skies over the beach at Las Terrenas

My preferred beach experience can be found at the much quieter Las Terrenas, which is located on the north-east coast, a 3.5 hour drive north of Punta Cana.

Beach at Las Terrenas.

Beach at Las Terrenas.

Las Terrenas is nestled among green hills and started life as a quiet fishing village, however it was only a matter of time before developers would exploit its fine white sand beaches.

Today the beaches are lined with hotels, restaurants and bars but there are far fewer tourists here than Punta Cana and beach access is not restricted.

Mountains

Baiguate Waterfall, Jarabacoa

Baiguate Waterfall, Jarabacoa

While the focus of Dominican tourist brochures are the many fine beaches, the mountainous interior of the country also warrants investigation.

A centre for tourism, with lots of accommodation options, is the mountain town of Jarabacoa (525 metres above sea level) which is located a two-hour drive north-west of Santo Domingo, via an excellent highway.

The pleasant countryside around Jarabacoa is full of hiking trails which follow the course of various rivers and provide access to a number of waterfalls. For those hikers with lots of energy and enthusiasm, nearby Pico Duarte (3,087m) is the highest mountain in the Caribbean.

With an average daily temperature of 22 degrees (Celsius), the climate in Jarabacoa is cooler and less humid than the low lands, which allows local farmers to grow lots of amazing produce, including the juiciest and sweetest of strawberries.

Rio Jemenez, Jarabacoa

Rio Jemenez, Jarabacoa

For more on this destination, please refer to my Dominican Republic Travel Guide.

#9 – Cuba

Cuba is an enchanting destination! A country with a long and complex history and fascinating culture, the largest island in the Caribbean, which is home to the region’s largest population.

Once a favoured hedonistic destination for American celebrities and socialites, Cuba had a reputation as an exotic and permissive playground.

In the early 20th century, Cuba’s ideal tropical beaches attracted the American masses who could purchase cheap package tours from Florida, which included round-trip tickets from Miami, hotel, food and entertainment.

The island also attracted famous celebrities such as Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway (who loved Cuba so much he relocated to Havana).

A propaganda painting in Havana's 'Museum of the Revolution', celebrates the overthrow of former President Batista by Fidel Castro.

A propaganda painting in Havana’s ‘Museum of the Revolution’, celebrates the overthrow of former President Batista by Fidel Castro.

The party ended in 1959 when a young Fidel Castro, having overthrown the corrupt President, Fulgencio Batista, came to power, installed a communist government and promptly destroyed all symbols of the hedonistic past, including most tourist infrastructure. This effectively ended tourism in Cuba with visitor numbers plummeting from 350,000 visitor’s in 1957 to 4,000 in 1961.

School children in Havana.

School children in Havana.

Today, the country is once again open to tourism and, in 2016, it attracted a record four million tourists, many of them arriving on cruise ships, carrying US passports.

Cruise ship arrivals increased from 24 in 2012 to 139 in 2015. The Ministry of tourism has forecast more exponential growth in the coming years, all thanks to an increase in visitors from the United States.

Despite the setbacks from the current US administration, the floodgates have been opened and American tourists are once again flocking to this Caribbean jewel.

Havana

The old town in Havana is a treasure trove of Colonial architecture,

The old town in Havana is a treasure trove of Colonial architecture,

Havana is the throbbing heart of Cuba. It’s the capital city, largest city (population: 2.1 million), main aviation and maritime hub and leading commercial centre.

At its heart lies the charming Habana Vieja, the old town and the place of most interest to tourists. Within the walls of the old town, the party never stops, with Salsa music echoing from bars where you can dance 24×7 and where it’s socially acceptable to drink Mojito’s (the national drink) anytime of day.

A Florist in the old town of Havana.

A Florist in the old town of Havana.

With a history stretching back 500 years, the old town is a treasure trove of Colonial architecture and, after 50 years of neglect, is slowly, and carefully, being renovated. Walking the streets of the enchanting old town, you can feel the history around you – it’s a powerful place.

There are lots of classic beauties to be found on the streets of Havana.

There are lots of classic beauties to be found on the streets of Havana.

The old town is comprised of numerous grand squares, which can best be described as jewels of colonial architecture.

Lining the squares are cathedrals, old mansions which have been converted into museum’s and galleries, shop’s, restaurant’s, cafe’s, bar’s, and always – music.

The music never stops in the old town, there’s always a band playing somewhere and there are lots of venues where you can dance salsa through the night.

Outside Havana

The colourful old town of Trinidad.

The colourful old town of Trinidad.

Cuba is a largely urban country, and offers many other resplendent colonial cities such as Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Ciego De Avila, Camagüey, Holguín and Santiago de Cuba.

Parque José Martí in Cienfuegos.

Parque José Martí in Cienfuegos.

Of these, my top pick would be Cienfuegos which was founded by French settlers escaping the revolution in neighbouring Haiti. The French established themselves as agricultural barons and used their wealth to construct fantastic mansions in the neoclassical style, which today makes Cienfuegos a pleasure to explore.

A classic American car parked outside Teatro Terry in downtown Cienfuegos.

A classic American car parked outside Teatro Terry in downtown Cienfuegos.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Cuba Travel Guide.

#10 – Bermuda

Bermuda Travel Guide: White Tailed Tropic bird

Native to Bermuda – the White Tailed Tropic bird is locally known as the Long-tail.

Okay! Bermuda is not part of the Caribbean but it is an island nation in the Atlantic and located a mere 1463 km (909 miles) north-east of the Bahamas – its nearest Caribbean neighbour.

Although, in geographical terms, it’s not part of the Caribbean region, in many other respects, Bermuda has a distinctly Caribbean soul, so I’m including it in my Caribbean ‘Top 10’.

Storm approaching Horseshoe Bay Beach.

Storm approaching Horseshoe Bay Beach.

Although a British territory, approximately 60% of the population traces its heritage to the West Indies with the Caribbean connection evident in everything from the local music, cuisine and culture to the Caribbean lilt of Bermudian voices.

Despite being located well north of the Tropic of Cancer, Bermuda is kept warmer than usual thanks to the Gulf Stream. It’s all like the Caribbean – just a little to the north!

Bermuda Blues

The beaches on Bermuda can only be described as gorgeous, offering translucent waters, pink-sand and rivalling anything found in the Caribbean. The surrounding reef offers a plethora of diving and snorkelling opportunities and the rich, carefully preserved history is engaging.

Today a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

Today a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

St. Georges town was Bermuda’s first English settlement and served as the capital of Bermuda for its first 200 years. The colourful, mostly pedestrian, town is beautifully renovated and offers a wealth of sights for visitors to explore.

The colourful, calm, traffic-free, streets of St. Georges are a pleasure to explore.

The colourful, calm, traffic-free, streets of St. Georges are a pleasure to explore.

Bermuda Shorts

How to wear Bermuda Shorts
Source: “Tabs” – Authentic Bermuda Shorts

If you’re still struggling to find a reason to visit Bermuda then you simply must go as there is no other place on the planet where you can buy yourself a pair of genuine Bermuda shorts. Winston Churchill once famously quipped “The short-pant is a terrible fashion choice, unless it is from Bermuda.”

Bermuda shorts in every colour of the rainbow at 'Tabs' in Hamilton

Bermuda shorts in every colour of the rainbow at ‘Tabs’ in Hamilton

Local men wear their shorts (always with matching knee-length socks) as a matter of pride. They are perfectly acceptable attire for any occasion, including business meetings and weddings!

Bermuda shorts come in a variety of colours, with red (same colour as the flag) being especially popular.

Bermuda shorts come in a variety of colours, with red (same colour as the flag) being especially popular.

For more on this destination, please refer to my Bermuda Travel Guide.

 


That’s the end of my Top 10 Caribbean Island Experiences. I Hope it’s provided some inspiration for your next trip.  

Safe travels!

Darren


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Further Reading

Other travel reports from the Caribbean region include:

Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences Top 10 Caribbean Experiences

Bermuda Travel Guide

Bermuda Travel Guide: A White-tailed Tropicbird or Longtail, landing at it nest.

Bermuda Travel Guide

Welcome to the taste2travel Bermuda Travel Guide!

Date Visited: July 2017

Introduction

Exploring Bermuda has been on my bucket list for some time, so when I found a cheap flight from New York City I snapped it up. I then turned to booking.com to book my accommodation and saw the few hotels on the island were charging upwards of $600 per night. Ouch! Where were the cheap guest houses and hostels? I turned to Airbnb.com and found a wonderful, comfortable room in a family home for less than $100 per night – a real bargain for this island.

Warwick beach on the south coast.

Warwick beach on the south coast.

Bermuda is one very expensive travel destination – a real challenge for those travelling on a budget. This British Overseas Territory doesn’t market itself as a budget-friendly destination, the island is all about 5-star resorts, fine dining restaurants and expensive boutique shopping – a destination for the well-heeled.

Today a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

Today a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

I originally planned to visit during June of 2017 but the already high prices were in the stratosphere thanks to Bermuda being the venue for the Americas Cup. I arrived two weeks after the cup and found retailers in town were still selling surplus clothing (from the cup) at full retail prices – there are never any bargains on this island.

South Coast beach.

South Coast beach.

Despite the scary prices, there are ways to keep costs down – such as eating in local cafes (where you can get a meal for around $12), or by shopping in supermarkets and self-catering.

If you choose to eat in tourist/ ex-pat restaurants, you should always be prepared for ‘sticker shock‘ when you receive the bill. In one cafe I paid $20 for a sandwich, which then came close to $30 once the gratuity and my drink was added.


Stormy Skies Over St. Georges


 

At the North Rock Brewing company, a small glass of one of their fine craft beers cost me $13.80 – that left a nasty aftertaste! I met a vacationing American family who had dinner one evening in a hotel restaurant. During their dinner the servers kept pouring water, which the family thought was house water. In the end they had a charge on their bill of $130 for water. You can read more about the high cost of living here.

South Coast beach

Typical South Coast beach

If you can live with the high costs then Bermuda is a beautiful, engaging and rewarding destination and one not to be missed. On this well-ordered island, there is something for everyone – from a pristine environment, lots of history, a rich culture and so much more.

Then there are the wonderful Bermudans – friendly, welcoming and always hospitable. Despite the budget-busting costs, Bermuda is a veritable paradise, one which I enjoyed and hope to return to again one day.

Bermuda Shorts

“The short-pant is a terrible fashion choice, unless it is from Bermuda.”

So said Winston Churchill after a visit to Bermuda in the 1940’s.

Bermuda shorts in every colour of the rainbow at 'Tabs' in Hamilton.

Bermuda shorts in every colour of the rainbow at ‘Tabs’ in Hamilton.

Bermuda shorts were originally designed by the British Army for wear in tropical and desert climates. During WWII, there was a shortage of clothing in Bermuda. At the time, the General Managers of two local banks (who were concerned that their male employees would not have suitable clothing to wear) arranged for a local tailor to make two pairs of formal shorts (modelled on the shorts of the British military), for each of their male employees.

This was the beginning of Bermuda shorts as acceptable business attire in Bermuda. Since their inception, local designers have improved the design of the shorts, using better materials and brighter colours.

Bermuda shorts on sale at Tabs in Hamilton.

Bermuda shorts on sale at Tabs in Hamilton.

One thing I noticed while on the island is how popular the shorts are with local businessmen and government employees. Bermudans wear their shorts for all occasions – including weddings.

"How to wear your Bermuda Shorts"

“How to wear your Bermuda Shorts” by Tabs of Hamilton
Source: “Tabs” – Authentic Bermuda Shorts

Men on Bermuda wear their Bermuda shorts in a variety of bright colours, always with long (knee-length) woollen socks – often in the same colour as their shorts. The look is completed with formal (black/ brown) shoes, a freshly ironed dress shirt with tie and a navy blue jacket.

Bermuda shorts come in a variety of colours, with 'Bermuda red' (same colour as the flag) being especially popular.

Bermuda shorts come in a variety of colours, with ‘Bermuda red’ (same colour as the flag) being especially popular.

Bermuda Triangle

Boundaries of the fictitious Bermuda Triangle. Source: Wikipedia

Boundaries of the fictitious Bermuda Triangle.
Source: Wikipedia

A travel guide about Bermuda wouldn’t be complete without mention of the Bermuda Triangle. Since the 1950’s, writers have written fictional stories about ships and aircraft mysteriously disappearing in the vicinity of the triangle. The boundaries of the triangle were defined in a pulp fiction publication – Argosy  – in 1964.

The area defined by the triangle is one of the busiest shipping lanes on the planet and while ships have become wrecked/ disappeared, there is no evidence to suggest that paranormal activity was responsible for any of these misfortunes. Either way, the story of the triangle has sold lots of books over the decades and (today) lots of tacky ‘I went to Bermuda and survived the Bermuda Triangle..’ souvenirs.

Heather Nova

Heather Nova in concert.

Heather Nova in concert.

It would be amiss of me not to make mention of one of my favourite musicians, who happens to be a native of Bermuda – Heather Nova. I first saw Heather in concert in Zurich, Switzerland in 2009.

The concert was a magical experience – from her enchanting, mystical voice, to the meaningful lyrics of each of her carefully composed songs.

Heather was touring Europe while I was visiting Bermuda so no chance of seeing her perform at home. If you ever have the chance to attend one of her concerts (she is often touring Europe) I would recommend you do so, but be warned, there is a magical quality about her music and she will put you under her spell.

Location

Bermuda is an extinct, isolated volcano, located atop a seamount, far from anywhere, in the middle of the North Atlantic ocean. The closest landmass is Cape Hatteras (North Carolina), on the east coast of the United States – approximately 1,070 km (665 mi) to the north-east.

"Bermuda Blues".

“Bermuda Blues”.

At different periods in history, the seamount has been completely submerged which has allowed marine organisms to form a limestone cap which covers the entire island and provides the white/ pink powdery sand beaches and turquoise water for which Bermuda is famous.

History

The Bermudan flag flying alongside the Union Jack.

The Bermudan flag flying alongside the Union Jack.

Unlike its Caribbean neighbours to the south, remote and isolated Bermuda was never settled by indigenous Indians from the Americas. The island remained undiscovered until 1505 when Spanish navigator Juan de Bermudez passed by, while sailing back to Spain from a provisioning voyage to Hispaniola (present day Dominican Republic/ Haiti).

The island was named after Bermudez who returned again in 1515 dropping off some pigs who could be used as food by anyone unlucky enough to be wrecked on the isolated outpost.

Martello Tower in St. Georges parish, part of line of defensive forts built by the British.

Martello Tower in St. Georges parish, part of line of defensive forts built by the British.

Bermuda continued to remain off the radar until 1609, when an English provisioning ship – the Sea Venture (captained by Sir George Somers) – would be deliberately ship wrecked on its reef.

The ship was en-route to the new English colony of Jamestown, Virginia when it became caught in a fierce storm and was blown off course. When the reefs of Bermuda were spotted days later, the ship was deliberately run aground in order to save all survivors and allow them to salvage parts from the ship.

The survivors spent ten months on Bermuda, where they found plenty of food – including a thriving pig population. During this time, they were able to use tools and parts from the Sea Venture to build two new ships – Perseverance and Deliverance – one of which they filled with food stores sourced from the island.

When the two new vessels were complete, most of the survivors set sail, completing their journey to Jamestown. Upon arrival they found a starving colony, which they were able to save using the supplies from Bermuda. Had this not happened, England’s new colony of ‘America’ would most likely have failed.

A tunnel underneath Fort St. Catherine, which is located in the parish of St. Georges.

A tunnel underneath Fort St. Catherine, which is located in the parish of St. Georges.

When Somers departed Bermuda for Virginia, he left two volunteers on the Island to maintain Britain’s territorial claim. As a result, Bermuda has been continuously inhabited as a British territory since the wrecking of the Sea Venture in 1609, and claims its origin from that date, and not the official settlement of 1612.

Initially the island was run as a company, with land divided up between shareholders. Tobacco was the only agricultural crop grown but wasn’t profitable due to the small size of landholdings. Due to the lack of agriculture, slavery was not as important to Bermuda as it was on the ‘plantation’ islands in the Caribbean.

The streets of historic St. Georges are lined with beautifully renovated stone buildings all of which are topped with white limestone-slab roofs.

The streets of historic St. Georges are lined with beautifully renovated stone buildings all of which are topped with white limestone-slab roofs.

With almost no natural resources, Bermudans would eventually turn their attention to other sources of income. For centuries, Bermudan salt traders would spend six months of each year in the Turk & Caicos islands (click to read my TCI Travel Guide) where they harvested salt, which was then transported and sold in America.

Due to the Bermudan presence on the islands, Britain claimed TCI as a territory – a claim which continues today. Following territorial disputes with the Bahamas over the TCI, and a change in salt markets, the Bermuda salt trade ended.

A painting of a Bermudian Sloop.

A painting of a Bermudian Sloop.

In the 17th century, the islanders gave up on agriculture and instead turned their attention to the sea and everything maritime. For years, Bermuda Cedar had been used for ship building and the island had become famous for its shipyards.

Design refinements led to the development of the famous ‘Bermuda Sloop‘ which sailed faster than any other boat at the time. These speedy sloops were perfect for pirates and privateers and Bermudian merchant vessels turned to privateering at every opportunity during the 18th century – preying on the shipping of Spain, France and other nations.

During the American War of independence, Bermudian sympathisers sold sloops to American rebels through third-country ports. It’s said these sloops greatly aided the American war effort, allowing the Americans to defeat the British.

The massive Bermuda Floating Dockyard being transported from London to Bermuda.

The massive Bermuda Floating Dockyard being transported from London to Bermuda.

After the war, Britain (who had lost control of all it’s ports on the US east coast) turned it’s attention to fortifying Bermuda and creating a strategic regional Naval Dockyard on the island, the centre piece of which was the world’s 2nd largest floating dockyard, which was constructed on the River Thames (London) over a period of three years then towed across the Atlantic to Bermuda in 1869. Today you can view the semi-submerged rusty remains of the dockyard in the mouth of Spanish Point.

Since WWII, Bermuda has positioned itself as a centre for Offshore Banking – the main industry on the island – with tourism being second. The official currency of the island is the Bermudan Dollar, which is pegged to the US dollar. Businesses on the island accept payment in both currencies.

The Bermuda Blue Bird is featured on the Bermuda $2 bank note.

The Bermuda Blue Bird is featured on the Bermuda $2 bank note.

Architecture

Shops in St. Georges town with their white 'rainwater catchment' limestone rooftops.

Shops in St. Georges town with their white ‘rainwater catchment’ limestone rooftops.

As I flew into Bermuda, I couldn’t help but notice all the blindingly white rooftops reflecting the dazzling tropical sunlight. White rooftops are a unique architectural feature of the island, with every type of building sporting the same white pointy cap.

The reason for this is a very practical one – besides the fact that it also looks very pretty. On an island which lacks rivers or any other fresh water source, rainwater is the only source of fresh water and all rooftops are required (by law) to serve as rainwater catchments.

Painting at the Masterworks Art Gallery showing workers constructing a Bermudan rooftop.

Painting at the Masterworks Art Gallery showing workers constructing a Bermudan rooftop.

Roofs are constructed using limestone slabs (a natural filter), which step down to a trough which then directs water into underground holding tanks. All homes are painted in pretty pastel colours with thick stone walls designed to withstand hurricane-strength winds.


Bermuda Architecture

 


Sights

A map of Bermuda showing the different Parishes.

A map of Bermuda showing the different Parishes.

For a small island, Bermuda packs in a lot of sights – from historical towns, museums, galleries, gardens, old forts, stunning beaches, diving, snorkeling, sailing, hiking, bird watching and so much more. After ten days of zipping around on my scooter I still hadn’t covered everything.

Included here is a brief overview of sights from the most northern parish (St. Georges) to the most southern (Sandy’s):

St. Georges Parish

Today, a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

Today, a UNESCO world Heritage site, St. Georges served as the capital of Bermuda for the first 200 years.

The UNESCO World Heritage listed St. Georges town was Bermuda’s first English settlement and served as the capital of Bermuda for its first 200 years. The town today is pleasantly renovated and offers a wealth of sights for visitors to explore:

  • St. Peters Church – the oldest Anglican church in the New World, which includes a segregated Slave Graveyard.
  • Somers Garden – where the heart of George Somers is buried.
  • Tucker House Museum – once home to Henry Tucker (former president of the Governors Council), this museum provides a view of life in a typical home from the 1700’s
Colourful St. Georges, the former capital of Bermuda.

Colourful St. Georges, the former capital of Bermuda.

  • Kings Square – the main square which includes the historic town hall.
  • Bermuda National Trust Museum – housed in the former Globe Hotel, this museum highlights Bermuda’s role in the American Civil War.
  • World Heritage Centre – Located on the waterfront, this renovated, former warehouse provides an overview of the history of St. Georges.

Apart from sightseeing, the town offers lots of boutique shopping, restaurants and cafes.

The Unfinished Church in St. Georges.

The Unfinished Church in St. Georges.

The Unfinished Church

Located on a hill overlooking St. George’s Town, construction of the Gothic-style Unfinished Church was commenced in 1874 but never completed due to lack of funds and disagreements between local parishioners. The site is administered by the Bermuda National Trust who have closed the grounds due to structural deterioration causing risks to visitors. You can walk around the perimeter fence from where you can take photos. The church is located on the aptly named Church Folly Lane.

Fort St. Catherine

Fort St. Catherine.

View of Catherine’s Beach from Fort St. Catherine.

Located over the hill from St. Georges town is beautiful St. Catherine’s Bay and Fort St. Catherine. The impressive fort is surrounded by a dry moat and accessed by a drawbridge and contains a large number of tunnels, towers and ramparts.

Today, the fort houses a museum, which is one of the more interesting on the island. It was just offshore from the fort that the Sea Venture was wrecked in 1609. The entire crew came ashore where the Fort St. Catherine now stands. Further along the north coast are several smaller forts which you can visit.

St. Catherine’s Bay

The Rainbow Parrot-fish is the largest herbivorous fish in the Atlantic with males reaching 1.2 metres.

The Rainbow Parrot-fish is the largest herbivorous fish in the Atlantic with males reaching 1.2 metres.
Source: www.arkive.org

The protected cove at St. Catherine’s Bay is ideal for swimming and offers good snorkeling. On the other side of the fort is the small, protected Achilles Bay. The bay offers good snorkeling and it’s here you have a chance of spotting the giant Rainbow Parrot fish. Further along the coast is the much more developed (and busier) Tobacco Bay.

Hamilton Parish

Crystal Cave

 Fantasy Cave, Bermuda.

The main chamber of Fantasy Cave.

The Crystal Cave complex is comprised of two caves (tickets sold separately) – Crystal Cave and Fantasy Cave. The caves were discovered in 1905 by two 12-year-old boys searching for a lost cricket ball and have been a tourist attraction ever since.

Native to Bermuda, the White-tailed Tropicbird or Longtail, seen here on the north coast of Hamilton parish.

Native to Bermuda, the White-tailed Tropicbird or Longtail, seen here on the north coast of Hamilton parish.

A great place to photograph the Longtail birds is along the north coast of Hamilton Parish – just to the north of Flatts village. This part of the coast is comprised of small cliffs where the birds have their nests.

Flatts Village

The colourful and very picturesque 'Flatts Village'.

The colourful and very picturesque ‘Flatts Village’.

Beautiful Flatts Village is located in a small inlet and is home to the Bermuda Zoo and Aquarium. It’s also home to the Village Pantry – a great place for breakfast and coffee (see ‘Eating Out‘ below).

Smiths Parish

Spittal Pond Nature Reserve

A Jamaican Anole at the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.

A Jamaican Anole at the Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.

Located on the south coast of Smiths Parish, Spittal Pond Nature Reserve is the largest reserve on the island and is a great place to see the fauna of Bermuda. The reserve stretches along south shore and features an 8-acre Spittal Pond, a large brackish pond (home to Egrets, Herons etc), surrounded by marsh and woodland areas.
A recent introduction to Bermuda, the Yellow-crowned night heron at Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.

A recent introduction to Bermuda, the Yellow-crowned night heron, at Spittal Pond Nature Reserve.

Devonshire Parish

Arborteum

A Jamaican Anole at the Arborteum.

A Jamaican Anole at the Arborteum.

One sight worth visiting in Devonshire Parish is the Arborteum. Once British army property, this national park covers 22 acres of trees, shrubs, meadows and forest. If you wish to photograph the Bermuda Eastern Blue Bird, you’ll find them here.

The star of the $2 bank note, the Bermuda Eastern Blue Bird, at the Arborteum.

The star of the $2 bank note, the Bermuda Eastern Blue Bird, at the Arborteum.

Pembroke Parish

Hamilton – the bustling capital of Bermuda. 

Bermuda Travel Guide: Front street, the main street in downtown Hamilton.

Front street, the main street in downtown Hamilton.

Capital of the island since 1815, Hamilton is a small, vibrant and a friendly city. It’s the heart and commercial hub of the island. Front Street runs along the waterfront and is the life and soul of the city. It’s here you’ll find shops, bars, cafes and restaurants.

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Hamilton.

The Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity in Hamilton.

Away from the waterfront,  you’ll find the Bermuda Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity, City Hall and Bermuda Art Gallery.

The Cenotaph and the Cabinet Building in Hamilton.

The Cenotaph and the Cabinet Building in Hamilton.

 

The Sessions House houses the chambers for Bermuda's House of Assembly & the Supreme Court.

The Sessions House houses the chambers for Bermuda’s House of Assembly & the Supreme Court.

Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute

Artwork at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

Artwork at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

Located on the outskirts of Hamilton is the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute (BUEI), whose aim is to enhance understanding (through interactive exhibits) of the ocean including its diverse marine life, corals etc. The museum also includes information on Bermuda ship wrecks, including treasure found from diving expeditions.

Masterworks Art Gallery

Artwork at the Masterworks Art Gallery.

Artwork at the Masterworks Art Gallery.

Located inside the Bermuda Botanical Garden, Masterworks Art Gallery is a non-profit organization dedicated to art made in and inspired by Bermuda. The gallery displays some 1400 masterpiece collections including paintings, photographs, drawings and maps. The gallery cafe is a wonderful place for lunch.

Warwick Parish

Warwick Long Bay Beach

A view of Warwick Long Bay beach on the south coast.

A view of Warwick Long Bay beach on the south coast.

Located on a quiet stretch of the south coast, Warwick Long Bay Beach is a fabulous, beautiful half-mile stretch of pink sand. The pink hue is caused by the crushed shells of a microscopic organism called foraminifera. 

Storm clouds over Warwick Beach, one of the finer beaches on the south coast of Bermuda.

Storm clouds over Warwick Beach, one of the finer beaches on the south coast of Bermuda.

The turquoise water is ideal for swimming and there are plenty of quiet little coves either side of the main beach.

Southhampton Parish

Horseshoe Bay Beach

Storm approaching Horseshoe Bay Beach

Storm approaching Horseshoe Bay Beach.

Ranked in 2016 by Conde Nast Traveller as one Top 20 beaches in the world – stunning Horseshoe Bay Beach features a curved stretch of pink sand against the blue waters of the Atlantic.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on Bermuda and was one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron.

Gibbs Hill Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on Bermuda and was one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron.

Perched high on a hill, overlooking everything in Southhampton Parish, is the Gibbs Hill Lighthouse – the tallest lighthouse on Bermuda and was one of the first lighthouses in the world to be made of cast-iron. For the most panoramic view of Bermuda, you can climb the 185 steps to the top outdoor viewing platform.

Sandy’s Parish

Royal Naval Dockyard

View of the Royal Naval Dockyard precinct from the Bermuda National Museum.

View of the Royal Naval Dockyard precinct from the Bermuda National Museum.

The Royal Naval Dockyard was once used as a British navy base but today plays hosts to cruise ships and hoards of cruise ship passengers.

The historic area around the dockyard is home to the National Museum of Bermuda and the Clock-tower Shopping mall, where you’ll find lots of tacky souvenir shops housed inside an impressive British Navy warehouse, restaurants and cafes.

National Museum of Bermuda

Set in the old Commissioners House, the National Museum of Bermuda provides a comprehensive history of the Island.

Set in the old Commissioners House, the National Museum of Bermuda provides a comprehensive history of the Island.

The best museum on the island, the National Museum of Bermuda is housed inside an old fortress – The Keep – and provides a comprehensive history of the island and it’s culture.

The centre-piece of the museum is the Old Commissioners House, the oldest cast iron house in the world, which was built in 1820 in the Georgian style.

The former State Dining Room inside the Old Commissioners House.

The former State Dining Room inside the Old Commissioners House.

The house contains two floors of exhibits, including a photographic exhibit of the Long-tail bird by former Bermuda resident (and famous Australian TV producer) Reg Grundy.

Somerset Bridge

Somerset Bridge - The world's smallest drawbridge.

Somerset Bridge – The world’s smallest drawbridge.

Also in Sandy’s Parish, built in 1860, the quirky Somerset Bridge is the world’s smallest drawbridge.

A taxi crossing Somerset Bridge.

A taxi crossing Somerset Bridge.

The bridge is made up of two halves with an 18-inch wide piece of timber placed between the spans to bridge the gap between the two. This piece of timber can be opened (by hand) to allow the mast of a small sailing boat to pass through.

Scuba Diving

While it looks ideal, Bermuda is surrounded by a treacherous fringing reef which has claimed many ships in the past.

While it looks ideal, Bermuda is surrounded by a treacherous fringing reef which has claimed many ships in the past.

The fringing reef which surrounds Bermuda has claimed many ships over the centuries – all of which has created a diving playground. I did a two-tank dive with Dive Bermuda who have their shop at the Grotto Bay Resort in Hamilton Parish.

The dives cost just under $200 which included all equipment, boat transfers and as much water as you care to drink. Food is not provided on the (half-day) trip so if you get peckish between dives you should bring something along.

Our two dives were at the wreck of the Cristobal Colon (very fragmented/ dispersed wreck) and then North Rock, both a 50 minute boat ride from the island on the north-west side of the seamount. 

Accommodation

In a word – expensive! Most hotels on the island are upscale resorts/ hotels catering to tourists with deep pockets. There are no budget hotels or hostels. If you are on a budget it’s best to look at options on either Couchsurfing.com or Airbnb.com

Eating out

There are a variety of restaurants on the island catering for all budgets. Most places which serve mainly tourists/ ex-pats charge high prices and additionally add a 17% gratuity to the bill. You can avoid all of this by eating in local cafes.

Local Restaurants

Of the local ‘cheapies’, my favourites include:

  • Rotisserie Grill (South road in Smith’s Parish) – Always popular, this restaurant offers roast chicken meals with mashed potato and salads for under $15. Homemade desserts are also available.
  • Pizza House Restaurant (several branches on the island) – makes a mean pizza and roast/ fried chicken meals with salads and vegetables.
  • The Spot Restaurant (Cedar Avenue in downtown Hamilton) – cooking here is hit and miss but its hard to beat their prices. One of the cheapest places in the heart of Hamilton.

Tourist Restaurants/ Bars

The most interesting bar on Bermuda has to be the Swizzle Inn, where the legendary national cocktail was created.

The most interesting bar on Bermuda has to be the Swizzle Inn, where the legendary national cocktail was created.

Of the tourist restaurants, the Swizzle Inn is a local institution, which was responsible for developing the national cocktail – the Rum Swizzle. For those who are thirsty, the good news is – there are two branches on the island – one in the north at Baileys Bay (the original pub – located across the road from the Crystal Cave) and one in the south on the South Shore Road.

Apart from great cocktails, the food menu is very good with blackboards dinner specials every evening and trivia and other activities during the week – plus you can leave a permanent mark on the island by adding your scrawl to the walls.

A Guinness promotional poster at Flanagan's Irish Bar in Hamilton

A Guinness promotional poster at Flanagan’s Irish Bar in Hamilton

Located on Front street in downtown Hamilton, Flanagan’s Irish Bar is popular with tourists and locals for its extensive food and drinks menu. A great way to soak up the ambiance of Hamilton is to have dinner on the balcony overlooking the harbour.

If you are looking for dinner or drinks in St. Georges, I would highly recommend the waterfront Wahoo’s Bistro & Patio. The menu at Wahoo’s combines local and European influences from the Austrian-born head chef (and joint owner) Alfred Konard. The fish here is especially good.

Cocktails

The national drink of Bermuda is the Rum Swizzle, which was developed by the folks at the Swizzle Inn but is sold all over the island.

How to prepare a Rum Swizzle:

The national cocktail of Bermuda, the 'Rum Swizzle', which was created at the Swizzle Inn.

The national cocktail of Bermuda, the ‘Rum Swizzle’, which was created at the Swizzle Inn.

Ingredients (makes 6):

  • 4 oz Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
  • 4 oz Gosling’s Gold Rum
  • 5 oz Pineapple Juice
  • 5 oz Orange Juice
  • ¾ oz Grenadine or 2 oz Bermuda Falernum
  • 6 Dashes of Angostura Bitters

Method: 

  • Into a pitcher ⅓ full of crushed ice – add Gosling’s Black Seal Rum, Gosling’s Gold Rum, pineapple juice, orange juice, Grenadine or Bermuda Falernum and Angostura bitters.
  • Churn vigorously until a frothing appears or mix in a cocktail shaker.
  • Strain into a martini glass.

Another favourite cocktail is the simple but tasty Dark ‘N’ Stormy – made with dark rum (the ‘dark’) and ginger beer (the ‘stormy’) served over ice and garnished with a slice of lime.

An island staple - the Dark 'n' Stormy cocktail.

An island staple – the Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail.

Cafes

As with every other destination, I was on a mission during my 10 days to find the best coffee on Bermuda. Finding a good coffee is not easy but after an exhaustive search, I can say the best coffee is served at the Devils Isle Cafe in downtown Hamilton. The cafe is open from early morning, which is a good thing since their breakfast offering is also one of the best on the island.

If you’re anywhere near the Flatts village, you’ll be happy to know the folks from Devils Isle Cafe are also responsible for the Village Pantry. I was staying up the road, so I started most days with breakfast here and would recommend the Avocado Crush (like guacamole on toast) with a poached egg added on top.

The best coffee in St. Georges is served at the CV Cafe in downtown St. Georges.

 

Visa Requirements

Bermuda Passport Stamp.

Bermuda Passport Stamp.

Despite being a British Overseas Territory, Bermuda maintains it’s own visa policy. All flight and cruise ship arrivals into Bermuda are from just three countries – United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. All visitors to Bermuda must have a return ticket and the right to re-enter one of those three countries. You can check your requirements here.

Getting There

By Air

Around 1/3 of tourists (235,000 in 2015) to Bermuda fly into LF Wade International Airport – the only airport on the island. The airport is located in the northern parish of St. Georges and (due to the fact that most flights are between the US and Bermuda) offers US immigration/ customs pre-clearance, which means US-bound passengers clear Customs & immigration in Bermuda so flights arriving in the US from Bermuda are thus treated as domestic flights. At the time of my visit a new, bigger terminal was being constructed.

The following airlines provide flights to the island:

  • Air Canada – Flight to Toronto–Pearson
  • American Airlines – Flights to Miami, New York–JFK, Philadelphia
  • British Airways – Flight to London-Gatwick
  • Delta Air Lines – Flights to Atlanta, Boston, New York–JFK
  • JetBlue Airways – Flights to Boston, New York–JFK
  • WestJet – Flight to Toronto–Pearson

By Sea

Carnival Cruise Ship, Bermuda

Most tourists to Bermuda arrive on a cruise ship from the United States.

Around 2/3 of tourists (385,000 in 2015) to Bermuda arrive on cruise ships, with most being American tourists on ships from the east coast of the US. All ships berth at either the Royal Naval Dockyard (2 berths) or, for smaller ships in downtown Hamilton (2 berths).

The two berths at Royal Naval Dockyard, Kings Wharf and Heritage Wharf, occupy the same long pier, and is where most cruise ship passengers will find themselves.

The other two berths are located in downtown Hamilton, alongside Front street but due to overcrowding in town (when ships are docked), authorities allow few ships to berth in the capital.

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship, docked at the Royal Naval dockyard.

A Norwegian Cruise Line ship, docked at the Royal Naval dockyard.

Bermuda is a sailing paradise and attracts yachts from around the world, hence a small number of visitors (less than 1%) arrive by private yacht.

Getting Around

Ferry

A map showing the four different Bermuda Ferry Routes.

A map showing the four different Bermuda Ferry Routes.
Source: http://www.bermudaforvisitors.com

There are four ferry routes operating in Bermuda – a Blue, Pink, Green and Orange route. While I was exploring the island on my scooter, I always looked to incorporate a ferry trip into my journey.

Ferry journeys save a lot of time as distances across the water are considerably shorter than those on land where roads are narrow, windy and long.

Passengers pay $5 a ticket and you are able to take your bike or scooter on-board for an extra $5. The ferry journey from Hamilton to Royal Navy Dockyard is 20 minutes, versus the road journey of almost an hour.

Bus

Bermuda bus routes

Bermuda bus routes
Source: https://www.bermudayp.com

Government-operated pink (inspired by the colour of the pink sand beaches) public buses provide comprehensive coverage across the entire island on 11 different routes from the main terminal in Hamilton.

Fares are very reasonable, buses run frequently (i.e. until 7-pm) and service is very good. Since there is no car hire on Bermuda and taxi’s can be expensive, bus is a good transport option for visitors who do not want to hire a scooter.

Taxi

Taxi’s are available for hire, but like everything else on Bermuda, they’re not cheap. A taxi from one end of the island (St. Georges) to the other (Royal Navy Dockyard) will cost around $78.

Car

Renault Twizy's at the Hamilton Princess Hotel.

Renault Twizy’s at the Hamilton Princess Hotel.

There is no car rental on Bermuda, however a small fleet of electric Renault Twizy’s are now available for rent from Current Vehicles, located in the car park at the front of the Hamilton Princess hotel in downtown Hamilton. 

The Twizy is an over-sized shopping trolley, able to carry two (smallish) passengers, with the second passenger tucked tightly in behind the driver. The cars were originally bought onto the island as support vehicles for the America’s Cup (June 2017).

An interior view of the cosy Renault Twizy.

An interior view of the cosy Renault Twizy.

Scooter

A scooter is the best way to explore an island where rental cars are banned.

A scooter is the best way to explore an island where rental cars are banned.

In the absence of car rental options (and apart from the recently introduced Twizy’s), scooter is the only rental option for those who wish to explore the island independently.

There are various scooter rental companies around Bermuda, all of whom seem to charge similar (i.e. high) rates. Prices start at $55 per day and reduce on a sliding scale, so the longer you hire the cheaper it becomes. I rented my bike through (and would recommend) Oleander Cycles – my ten day rental averaged out at $30 per day.

All companies will drop-off and pick-up their scooters from anywhere on the island and they require all drivers to do a short driving test before they will agree to rent you a scooter – they will not rent you a scooter if you appear to be less-than-confident on two wheels.

 


That’s the end of my Bermuda Travel Guide.

Safe Travels!

Darren


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Further Reading

Other travel reports from the Caribbean region include:

Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide Bermuda Travel Guide