Caribbean Jaunt: First Thoughts and Impressions

Grand Cayman Marriott

If you follow me regularly, then you’ll know that I spent the last 10 days or so jaunting around the Caribbean, visiting four different islands and exploring the Marriott Resorts found on them. Marriott was my partner on this adventure, and the goal was to discover what is cool and different not just about the hotel properties, but the islands they call home. I’ll be writing a lot more about my trip, but I wanted to offer some quick impressions.

The Caribbean is diverse

This wasn’t my first experience in the Caribbean, but adding another four islands to my list did help me gather a more robust picture of the region. Advertisements like to paint the many islands that make up the Caribbean with one, broad brush, but that’s not only blatantly false, it’s unfair to the individual islands.

I visited St. Thomas, Grand Cayman, Curacao and Aruba. While there were some similarities, their differences were more pronounced and it is those differences that make each island worthy of separate trips and adventures. All have beaches, yes; all have palm trees and beautiful vistas; also true. But that’s where the similarities end. Aruba also has desert terrain, cacti and giant boulders strewn along the north shore. Curacao has a rich and colorful history, evident when you explore the capital, Willemstad. Grand Cayman has some of the most amazing off-shore snorkeling I’ve ever seen with waters as blue as the sky and St. Thomas is a lush, tropical, hilly island that I found mesmerizing. So it’s not really fair to say you’ve seen all of the Caribbean unless you’ve really seen the Caribbean.

More than just lounge chairs

Many people head down to the Caribbean to spend time next to the beach, umbrella drink in hand–and that’s fine! I have the attention span of a gnat though so I was really happy to discover that each island I visited had a lot to offer in addition to the required pools and beaches.

I enjoyed everything I did, but I of course had some favorites. The best adventure activity I did was on St. Thomas, the water jet pack. Imagine James Bond goes on vacation and the jet pack is born. Within minutes of strapping on the pack I was easily navigating the device and walking on water.

Cultural activities are also very important to me when I travel and I was lucky enough to join the walking tour of a Curacaoan architect in Willemstad. Every Thursday night he leads a usually packed group around the Otrobanda part of town sharing the history, architecture and culture of the island. That experience alone transformed my experience on Curacao and I think is an important tour for anyone who loves history to take.

Less is more

Getting around the Caribbean isn’t always easy. I was working on a special project and my schedule was not normal. But a few days ago a friend asked for advice on her own Caribbean trip and while helping her, it really proved to me that the Caribbean is meant to be explored slowly. Sure, there are some islands where it is easy to travel between. St. Thomas and St. John are just a ferry ride away and Curacao and Aruba are separated by a 15 minute plane ride. But those are the exceptions and not the rules. Overall, I think it’s best to choose one island, hang out and explore it to its fullest. Spend some time on the beach, but also get out and explore the towns around the islands. The history on most Caribbean islands is long, thanks to the early Spanish explorers, so don’t be afraid to get out, look beyond the outlet stores and discover the real Caribbean spirit.

This is just a brief introduction to my trip. I have a lot more to say, but in the meantime let me know if you have any questions!

I was in the Caribbean on a project with Marriott Hotels and Resorts of Mexico and the Caribbean for which I was compensated for my time, but as always all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

3 thoughts on “Caribbean Jaunt: First Thoughts and Impressions”

  1. I hear on exploring slowly! We’re headed to the Dominican Republic during the holiday season (skipping on the resort though) and already I can tell our 10 day adventure won’t be enough! The Caribbean seems like a part of the world where only the surface is seen yet which means it must be a gold mine of adventures! Looking forward to reading more!

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