For years we had our very own backyard tropical paradise. Life in the Virgin Islands meant warm, sunny days, crystal clear turquoise water, palms swaying in the breeze, and simply stepping out of our backdoor for a lime, coconut, or guava fresh off the tree.
It also meant that we would often hear from family and friends ready to come for a visit after a few months of clouds and cold made it seem like winter might never end up in the states. Who could blame them? There’s no better way to beat the winter blues than a visit to the tropics, and we were happy to play host so they could have a tropical getaway without spending an arm and a leg.
Now that we’re back on the mainland, when the gloom and chill gets us wondering if spring will ever arrive, we can’t help but long for those sun drenched days again. While we may not be able to play the host in our own backyard anymore, we can recommend an affordable alternative that is even better, Choice Hotels.
Believe it or not, even while living in paradise we liked to sneak off for a break now and then, and two of our favorite destinations were the islands of St. Maarten and Puerto Rico. Both were near our home on St. Croix, and both offer unique experiences beyond their beautiful tropical beaches.
Beautiful St. Maarten
We loved St. Maarten because it was like getting two vacations for the price of one, since the island is split into two jurisdictions, French and Dutch. We liked to eat on the French side, with its myriad of choices for gourmet dining, and stay on the Dutch side, with its lively casinos and nightlife alongside incredible white sand beaches.
One of those beaches, Maho Beach, is about the coolest, and craziest, we have ever come across. The sandy strip is famous for up-close encounters with the airplanes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport, because the runway begins only a few feet from the water. We had to see it to believe it.
The rush of watching jumbo jets roaring right above us was beyond intense. It's exhilarating, and sometimes a bit terrifying, to have these monstrous machines pass only a few feet overhead. Our natural inclination was to duck, or dive headlong into the sea, but we braved it out and after a few landings almost got used to it. Almost.
One thing’s for sure, there is no place else like it, and the Alegria, An Ascend Hotel Collection Member is only footsteps away. We could feel right at home in this peaceful refuge with ocean view rooms and a seaside pool, or step out onto any of the more laid back beaches nearby for a more relaxing adventure.
When suppertime rolled around we liked to head over to the French part of the island, especially the village of Grand Case. This little seaside settlement brings a real touch of Europe to the tropics. Step into almost any restaurant for a meal that rivals the best in Paris, and get the bonus of waves caressing the shore just beyond your table.
Talk about dinner and a show!
For a more urban setting, we found a few days in San Juan, Puerto Rico to be another great escape.
A visit to historic Old San Juan is like a trip back in time.
Founded by Ponce de León in 1508, this was the hub of Caribbean activity for centuries. Much of the original town has been preserved along the harbor.
The enduring old city’s narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with eclectic little shops and cafes, but the highlight for us was the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.
This Spanish fortress stands guard over the waterfront, just as it has for almost five-hundred years.
Walking along the remarkably preserved ramparts, it’s easy to imagine magnificent clipper ships sailing in and out of the port with their cargos of gold and silver bound from the New World to Europe.
We could almost hear the thunder of cannons fending off an attack.
Of course San Juan has world class shopping and restaurants too, along with gorgeous beaches.
Choice Hotels has three properties to choose from within the city. Two, Le Consulat An Ascend Hotel Collection Member and the Comfort Inn, are near Old San Juan and another, the Comfort Inn & Suites is beachside in Levittown.
So when the snow flies for the umpteenth time this winter, and we find ourselves missing our old home, we are sure glad to know that making the right Choice for a Caribbean getaway without breaking the bank is only a click away.
David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com
YOUR TURN: Are you ready for a Caribbean getaway?
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