Caribbean open for vis­i­tors Most ma­jor des­ti­na­tions un­touched by hur­ri­canes

Toronto Sun - - TRAVEL - JIM BY­ERS

Yes, sev­eral is­lands were dam­aged by hur­ri­canes over the past cou­ple of months. And Cana­dian air­lines have pretty much shut down win­ter ser­vice to bat­tered St. Maarten. Puerto Rico is still in bad shape, as is Bar­buda, Do­minica and parts of other is­lands. But there was lit­tle or no dam­age to most ma­jor Caribbean is­lands, in­clud­ing An­tigua, The Ba­hamas, Bar­ba­dos, Cay­man Is­lands, Ja­maica, St. Lu­cia and more.

In places that were hit, re­cov­ery is pro­ceed­ing and many ho­tels and re­sorts have al­ready re­opened. That in­cludes An­guilla, Cuba and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, which suf­fered only min­i­mal dam­age.

So, if you’re think­ing about a win­ter trip, you can feel com­fort­able book­ing flights to many of the great des­ti­na­tions Cana­di­ans have grown to love. Not only will you have a fine va­ca­tion, but you’ll be do­ing a world of good for folks who rely on tourism to feed their fam­i­lies.

Speak­ing at a Caribbean Tourism Or­ga­ni­za­tion meet­ing in Toronto on Nov. 13, CTO sec­re­tary-gen­eral Hugh Ri­ley told jour­nal­ists the Caribbean is more de­pen­dent on tourism than any re­gion on the planet.

“The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean,” he said.

Here is an up­date on a few places:

AN­TIGUA

While sis­ter is­land Bar­buda was heav­ily dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Irma, An­tigua was spared. The is­land’s tourism folks like to boast they have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year.

Her­mitage Bay is one of the best re­sorts in the Caribbean, with awe­some suites, pri­vate plunge pools and ocean views. The view of English Har­bour from Shirley Heights might be the best vista in the Caribbean. See vis­i­tan­tiguabar­buda.com.

ST. LU­CIA

This ro­man­tic and beau­ti­ful is­land was spared by the re­cent hur­ri­canes and is op­er­at­ing at full steam. There are new, over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows at the San­dals re­sort on the north side of the is­land. New de­vel­op­ments on the south end, near the in­ter­na­tional air­port, are com­ing from both Fair­mont and Ritz Carl­ton. The tourism bureau’s web­site is ad­ver­tis­ing deals for up to 65% off. See stlu­cia.org.

ST. VIN­CENT AND THE GRE­NADINES

Air Canada has started di­rect flights from Toronto to this un­spoiled is­land chain south of St. Lu­cia.

St. Vin­cent — the main is­land — is steep and rugged on the wind­ward side, but has farms and sandy beaches on the lee­ward side. Head to Wallilabou Bay to see where they filmed parts of the orig­i­nal Pi­rates of the Caribbean. And don’t miss the mag­nif­i­cent wa­ter­falls, in­clud­ing Dark View Falls.

In all, 32 is­lands and cays make up the coun­try. Young Is­land Re­sort is a won­der­ful spot on a tiny isle just min­utes from the main­land by boat. Bequia is low-key and feels like a throw­back to a sim­pler time. Mayreau is even qui­eter but has mag­nif­i­cent beaches. The stretch of sand at Saltwhis­tle Bay is one of the pret­ti­est on the planet. Mus­tique is known as a re­treat for the rich and fa­mous, in­clud­ing Mick Jag­ger, Prince Wil­liam and Canada’s own Bryan Adams. See dis­cov­ersvg.com.

AN­GUILLA

This is­land just north of St. Maarten was bat­tered and bruised by Hur­ri­cane Irma but some places are op­er­at­ing as nor­mal, in­clud­ing Shoal Bay Vil­las on Shoal Bay East — a long, mag­nif­i­cent beach with a se­ries of fun beach bars and ca­sual restau­rants.

The lux­ury Zemi Beach Re­sort and the Four Sea­sons likely won’t re-open un­til some­time in the new year. Ditto for Cuisi­nart Re­sort, a lovely spot on a gor­geous beach on the south side of the is­land. The high­lyrated Frangi­pani Re­sort will re-open some­time next month. The Reef An­guilla is tak­ing reser­va­tions now and plans to re-open April 10. See ivis­i­tan­guilla.com.

JA­MAICA

One of the re­gion’s top des­ti­na­tions, Ja­maica wasn’t in the path of the hur­ri­canes, so you’ll find things pretty much the same.

Ne­gril has warm, shal­low wa­ter and won­der­ful sun­sets. The Ja­maica Inn near Ocho Rios has colour­ful, low-rise units around a grassy square, plus a ter­rific beach and a tran­quil spa. San­dals Royal Caribbean has fan­tas­tic rooms and over­wa­ter bun­ga­lows. For some­thing truly unique, check out the unique units at Great Huts, in­clud­ing tree-house rooms next to a beau­ti­ful bay. See vis­it­ja­maica.com.

DO­MINI­CAN REPUB­LIC

The DR was largely spared this past hur­ri­cane sea­son. It’s one of the top win­ter des­ti­na­tions for Cana­di­ans, with ev­ery­thing from in­ex­pen­sive, all-in­clu­sive spots to su­per-lux­ury re­sorts.

Cap Cana and Punta Cana have mar­vel­lous beaches on the east­ern tip of the is­land, with easy air­port ac­cess. The Gan­sevoort Playa Im­bert is a sen­sa­tional spot near So­sua. Don’t miss Playa Rin­con in the Sa­mana area, where there are stun­ning beaches. See godo­mini­can­re­pub­lic.com.

THE BA­HAMAS

This chain of 700 is­lands was vir­tu­ally un­af­fected by the big storms. Long Is­land is a heav­enly slice of land with some beau­ti­ful beaches and a lower-than-low-key at­mos­phere. The lo­cals are won­der­ful, and there’s spec­tac­u­lar div­ing. Cape Santa Maria Beach Re­sort is a nice re­sort on a great beach. See ba­hamas.com.

JIM BY­ERS PHOTO

De­spite a dev­as­tat­ing hur­ri­cane sea­son, it’s busi­ness as usual for most of the ma­jor Caribbean des­ti­na­tions this win­ter. Oth­ers, such as An­guilla, are in re­cov­ery mode. Only a few is­lands are not yet ready for vis­i­tors.

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