Comparing the Islands We’ve Been To

A while back, I shared why we prefer Sandals Resorts when we travel to the Caribbean. I thought it might be helpful to touch on the pros and cons of the various islands we have visited around the world.

1992 – Cayman Brac (Divi Tiara Dive Resort – destroyed by a hurricane several years later)

  • British territory – very clean, low crime rate, friendly locals
  • Caters to divers – Divers were gone all day & went to bed early. It was almost like having our own private resort.
  • Island very rocky with scrub brush.
  • Very little to do besides lounging, snorkeling, diving or fishing.
  • Easy access to snorkeling on the pink sand island of Little Cayman

2003 – Kauai, Hawaii (Marriott Beach Resort)

  • US state – no passport needed or having to exchange currency. Also clean with low crime rate.
  • Lush and tropical
  • A lot of things to do off the resort like hiking, shopping, golf, helicopter rides, kayaking, and touring coffee or sugar plantations. Also an easy day trip to Pearl Harbor, which was completely worth it.
  • Lengthy flights and drastic time change from the east coast.
  • The resorts are very family oriented and touristy.
  • Seafood is pretty limited to fish. Shrimp and lobster hard to come by.
  • Water is clear and not near as salty.

2008 & 2011 – Bahamas (Sandals Royal Bahamian & a cruise ship stop)

  • Absolutely gorgeous crystal blue water.
  • Not overly lush but not rocky and scraggly either.
  • Locals are a bit pushy sometimes, especially when haggling over prices.
  • Easy-to-use public buses.
  • Low daytime crime rate. We were advised to stay on the resort after dark.
  • Very popular with European tourist.
  • Easy to get to from the east coast.
  • A lot of snorkeling, swimming with dolphins, stingrays or pigs, glass bottom boat tours, sunset cruises, large resorts with casinos & shows like the Atlantis.

2012 – Jamaica (Sandals Montego Bay Resort & Royal Caribbean Resort)

  • Very rocky with a lot of scrub brush.
  • The water isn’t as clear for snorkeling.
  • A lot poverty and crime.
  • Safe on the resorts and on resort tours but friends were mugged when they ventured into town on their own.
  • But on the other hand, some of the nicest people we’ve ever met.
  • The nicer resorts are a lot further away from the airport. The resorts right by the airport have a lot of jet noise during the day.

2015 – Bermuda (cruise ship port)

  • British territory – very clean, low crime rate & friendly locals
  • The most upscale island I’ve been to so far.
  • Easy to get around on buses, rented mopeds or the boat taxis.
  • A lot of historical forts and ruins to explore.
  • Gorgeous pink sand Horseshoe Bay
  • In the middle of the Atlantic, so chillier than the Caribbean or Hawaii.
  • Amazing snorkeling of the shipwrecks of the Bermuda Triangle. (Water temp only 68-70° in May)

2016 – St. Lucia (Sandals La Toc Resort)

  • Very lush jungle mountainous island.
  • A lot further south and very hot & humid even in April, even though they said it was unusual for that time of year.
  • Long flights with no return options that didn’t include an overnight in Atlanta. (But at least you are still in the same time zone, which helps.)
  • It’s an hour bus trip on winding mountain roads to & from the airport.
  • Some poverty & crime issues downtown in the city. Villages seemed a lot more friendly and honest.
  • Good snorkeling and water clarity.
  • Friendly locals on the resort. Some pushier, ruder ones in town.
  • A fairly large island which offers more things to do, like catamaran cruises to the Pitons, zip lining or hiking the jungles & mountains, plantation tours, rum factory tours, tall ship cruises etc.

We still haven’t found our “absolute perfect island,” but we are willing to keep looking!!

 

Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts

We have had the privilege of traveling to several beach resorts over the years. We’ve tried privately-owned properties, hotel chain locations and Sandals Resorts. We are totally sold on Sandals All-Inclusive Resorts. We have been to their properties in The Bahamas, Jamaica and St. Lucia. All were impressive.

Regency La Toc, St. Lucia

Here are a few of the reasons we feel they are superior to other options we have tried.

They are “couples only” resorts. We have found this fact to be extremely important. While celebrating our 11th anniversary in Kauai, we had a family with several loud, obnoxious kids ruin our leisure time by the pool and a meal or two. Please note, this is also different than “adults only” properties. We’ve heard horror stories of single adults turning resorts into giant frat parties or swingers clubs. At each Sandals we have visited, there has been a quieter, more relaxing pool area, as well as a pool that offers games like water volleyball, trivia or “name that tune.”

Royal Bahamian, Bahamas

They are indeed, all-inclusive. Each property have several restaurants and bars to choose from throughout the day. You can partake of breakfast on your room’s terrace overlooking the ocean, enjoy burgers on the beach at lunch, cozy up to the swim-up bar for some afternoon refreshment, dine at an exclusive French restaurant for dinner, mosey over to the Italian bistro for dessert and sip a hand-delivered nightcap by the fire pit under the stars. All without adding a single cent to your bill.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

Even things like paddle boarding and snorkeling are included. (Spa services, scuba diving and privately catered dinners are extra, but all are totally optional.) Except for small purchase like souvenirs and extra suntan lotion, we never pay for more than what our original package included.

Royal Caribbean, Jamaica

The service is fantastic! Everyone is extremely polite, friendly and accommodating. They are at your beckon call if you need them or they will leave you alone if that’s what you prefer. Unless you have a room with a butler, there is no tipping allowed. Period. No matter how much someone has been inconvenienced to attend to a problem (fixing a mess plumbing issues, carrying luggage up a really steep hill, etc.) they all refuse any kind of gratuity.

Regency La Toc, St. Lucia

The more you go, the more you save! They offer a loyalties program that earns you discounts on future visits or free add ons like a sunset catamaran cruise.

Yes, I’ll admit it. My favorite part is being waited on hand-and-foot all week!