The Caribbean is one of my family’s favorite destinations. Not just for the region’s spectacular palm-tree lined sands, conducive to lounging in the sun and lapping up the latest mystery novels, but for all the adventures and experiences we’ve shared on these islands.
At five-years-old, my daughter Alissa on her first snorkel outing put her face in the water then shot up immediately, yelling “There’s fish in there.” Amazed, she kicked and floated as we pulled her along Trunk Bay’s underwater trail, pointing out the angelfish, triggerfish and schools of other rainbow-colored beauties that inhabit the seas of the Virgin Islands National Park, St. John. Unlike competitive sports, snorkeling, as well as diving, can be shared by a 12-year-old, her 20-something sibling and their grandmother.
The dazzling reefs and water sports continue to delight us. At the Windsurf Place, Lac Bay, on Bonaire’s southeastern coast, my son Matt and I learned to spread our wings, Caribbean style. While it’s not such a feat for athletic Matt, it is for me. Since Lac Bay’s sheltered waters are relatively shallow and the breezes most often blow toward shore, I didn’t fear drowning. Instead I could follow my instructor. Within fifteen minutes Matt and I happily shouted to each other, “Hey, look at me, I’m windsurfing!’
The reefs and watersports lure vacationers as do the beautiful beaches. But the Caribbean also has mountains, music, culture and art. On a mountain hike in Nevis, we learned to name wild sage plants, cinnamon trees, mountain morning glories, heliconia flowers and thick growths of acacia.
In Puerto Rico’s “El Yunque,” officially the Caribbean National Forest, my husband, and I racedto the top of a hillside lookout tower for a sweeping view of the 28,000-acres of greenery.
A family of foodies, we like Anguilla for its diversity of very good restaurants. Blanchard’s lobster with black bean sauce as well as Mallouihana’s crayfish and vegetable ravioli are favorites of ours. For simpler fare we crave Jamaica’s jerk chicken.
In Jamaica when we rented a villa, we invited a local band of aged but expert musicians to play for us. We danced under the stars on the patio to “Day-O” and a slew of Calypso and Bob Marley Reggae tunes.
In Curaçao, a highlight for my artist daughter and I was meeting Hortence Brouwn, a local sculptor whose work adorns island hotels and museums. We fell in love with Brouwn’s “Blue Lady,” a proud, big-assed woman, painted blue. We splurged and shipped her home. The Blue Lady sits proudly in our living room, reminding us of our many Caribbean idylls.
After all, long after the vacation ends, the memories remain and the bonds created, hopefully, last a long time.