What's my recipe for a relaxing stay in either the Caribbean or the Bahamas?
First, I'll start with some of the things that it shouldn't include:
- No gambling
- No glitzy mega resorts
- No wall-to-wall beachfront development
- No raucous hotel or beach parties
- No shopping malls
- No McDonalds or the equivalent
I could go on, but I won't. You get the idea.
Now, you might say that this sounds like a complete snore. Hardly.
Here's what my idea island trip should have:
- A sense of authenticity
- Restaurants and cafes selling local cuisine
- Pristine beaches with few other footprints
- Beaches where the tallest structures are the trees
- Roads that see little traffic
- Beachfront roads that are bikable
- Lots of nature-based activities, including hiking and kayaking
- Hotels and inns where the owners know know your name
- Shops selling artisanal goods
- Clean waters where the fishing is a real draw
- Hidden coves and swaths of sand
This list could get quite lengthy, and, again, you get the idea.
Now you're probably saying that I'd have a hard time finding a place that fits my criteria. Wrong again. I found my island and it's Long Island, one of the Out Islands of The Bahamas. This video slideshow reflects the laid-back vibe I fell in love with on Long Island:
I stayed at the Stella Maris Resort Club and Marina which, though it's plenty popular, is so expansive that I felt, at times, that I could get plenty of solitude if that's what I wanted. My room, #28, was really a two-room suite in a wee pastel cottage that fronted a fresh-water pool shared by just a few other cottages. I lounged by poolside many a morning and never saw a soul. (And, interestingly, the property has an open door policy -- there are no keys because they're not needed. The island has little in the way of crime.)
Though there were plenty of activities available, including tennis, scuba diving, snorkeling as well as van and boat trips to sandy beaches, my favorite activity was taking one of their bicycles and pedaling to a series of secluded sandy coves appropriately named the Love Beaches.
When I wasn't driving down dirt tracts past whitewashed churches to find yet other beaches where I found myself alone, I had plenty of kayaking options, including in Columbus Harbour that's protected and lined with mangroves. I also went hiking up to the island's apex, Columbus Monument, to check out the panoramic views. (Columbus made landing at this harbor and the monument commemorates this.) One of the island's key activities is bone fishing. And I found that Alvin Smith offered the best half-day and day rates, by far. Many of the island women -- such as Jelelah's Straw Crafts -- make tasteful and creative straw handbags of dried palm fronds. The Long Island Museum is a wee space packed with artifacts that document the island's history, including the original settlers, the Lucayan Indians.
This is just a small sampling of the treasures found on Long Island.