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13 Lesser-Known Caribbean Islands You Should Visit

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With autumn in full swing and winter on deck, it's time for warm-weather seekers to plan their sunny, sand-filled winter getaways. The faraway islands of Fiji or the untouched beaches of Hawaii may sound tempting, but the Caribbean—just an easy direct flight from more than a dozen U.S. airports—are actually home to their own remote, tourist-free destinations. If you’re planning a winter vacation, here are 13 lesser-known Caribbean islands to consider.

1. SAN ANDRÉS, COLOMBIA

EUGENIO CELEDON VIA FLICKR // CC BY-ND 2.0

An island of just 10 square miles, San Andrés has a low number of tourists compared to its popular neighbors like Nicaragua. The island’s downtown is far from impressive—it’s filled with plain buildings and less-than-welcoming duty-free shops—but what San Andrés lacks in colorful buildings, it makes up for with stunning beaches. It’s a stone’s throw from the protected Johnny Cay Natural Regional Park, the Cueva de Morgan hidden cave and the San Luis coast, known for its white-sand beaches and out-of-this-world snorkeling.

How to get there: Avianca and Copa Airlines fly directly to San Andrés from Colombian cities like Barranquilla, Bogotá, and Cartagena.

2. NEVIS, WEST INDIES

Nevis, located in the northern part of the West Indies, is truly a hidden gem. With luxury hotels like the Four Seasons and epic dive sites like Booby High Shoals—which has an impressive population of sea turtles and stingrays—Nevis is the perfect spot for adventurers and loungers alike. In addition to its outdoor offerings, Nevis also has an interesting history—including its claim to fame as the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton.

How to get there: Fly into San Juan, Puerto Rico and catch a quick, direct flight over to Nevis. Alternatively, you can take a ferry from St. Kitts.

3. VIEQUES, PUERTO RICO

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This small island, located off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, is best known for its bioluminescent Mosquito Bay, the brightest in the world. The bay lights up at night from organisms called Pyrodinium bahamense found within its waters. Vieques is home to free-roaming horses (owned by locals) who enjoy the laid-back Caribbean life, as well as the Punta Mulas Lighthouse, the bright blue waters along the Playuela beach, and a number of boat and scuba tours for aquatic adventurers.

How to get there: Puerto Rico has a number of direct flights and ferries into Vieques.

4. GRENADA, EASTERN CARIBBEAN

Known as "Spice Isle," Grenada is an island with a number of nutmeg plantations, including some you can actually tour. But Grenada is more than just spices. It’s the site of an underwater sculpture gallery filled with marine life, the relaxing Grand Anse Beach, and the historic Fort George, which played a large role in the Seven Years War, the French Revolution, and the Grenadian Revolution.

How to get there: Airports in Miami, New York, and Atlanta have flights direct into Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport.

5. CULEBRA, PUERTO RICO

JIRKA MATOUSEK VIA FLICKR // CC BY 2.0

Just off the east coast of Puerto Rico, Culebra is a sleepy, no-frills island with calming sandy beaches, turquoise water, and a consistently quiet vibe. Its remote beaches—including the Flamenco Beach, ranked third best beach by TripAdvisor in 2014—have some of the area’s clearest waters. Activities like scuba diving, snorkeling, and boat tours are also popular for the few tourists who do choose to visit this off-the-beaten-path Caribbean island.

How to get there: San Juan offers direct flights into Culebra, and Fajardo—a one-hour drive from San Juan—provides ferry service over to the island.

6. SABA, LESSER ANTILLES

Saba is not like most beachy Caribbean islands. In fact, it has no beaches at all. The island is filled with lush, green mountain landscapes, including the potentially active—and hike-able—Mount Scenery volcano. The island’s main towns have just under 2000 inhabitants combined, and with little to no crime, Saba has that cozy, small-town feel. In addition to the island’s many nature hikes, visitors can stop by the island’s museums and galleries, including Jo Bean Glass Art Studio and the Harry L. Johnson Museum (a 160-year-old sea captain's cottage), or the island’s capital town (with perhaps the coolest name), The Bottom.

How to get there: St. Maarten’s Juliana Airport has direct, 12-minute flights into Saba. Ferry service is also available from St. Maarten to Saba.

7. MARTINIQUE, LESSER ANTILLES

ARTEFACT 40D VIA FLICKR // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

With mountains of rainforest and miles of tropical beaches, Martinique has a little something for everyone. The island was first sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and has seen its fair share of volcanic activity since. The highest point is the island’s volcano, Mount Pelée, which erupted in 1792, 1851, and twice in 1902. Martinique’s northern region is mostly mountainous, but down south, beaches like Anse Turin and Anse Dufour offer soft, sandy shores where visitors can sit back, relax, and enjoy the waves.

How to get there: Miami offers direct flights into Martinique, and ferry service is also available from Guadeloupe.

8. ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

While St. Croix may be a large island, many portions of it still have a small-town feel. St. Croix visitors can tour—and taste—at the Cruzan Rum Distillery, an award-winning rum distillery located on the island’s west end. Those looking for a little R&R under the sun can hit up Protestant Cay, a small, sandy oasis with beach-side bars and restaurants. The island’s Buck Island Reef National Monument also boasts some fascinating snorkeling, with an 18,800-acre coral reef system off the coast.

How to get there: Numerous airlines including U.S. Airways, American Airlines, and JetBlue fly into St. Croix, and most connect to the island through Puerto Rico.

9. ANEGADA, BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS

ALAN WOLF VIA FLICKR // CC BY-ND 2.0

Anegada is a coral island in the British Virgin Islands chain, filled with secluded beaches, vast wildlife like the rare rock iguana, and some of the Caribbean’s best fishing. Right off the island, snorkelers and scuba divers can explore some impressive sea life at Horseshoe Reef, as well as eerie shipwrecks at Wreck Alley.

How to get there: Anegada is accessible with flights from St. Thomas, San Juan, and Tortola.

10. CANOUAN, GRENADINES ISLANDS

Canouan is far from a budget getaway—it’s where the rich and famous go to escape. Canouan is the site of the four-star Tamarind Beach Hotel, the Pink Sands Club, and Canouan Estate, which includes an 18-hole golf course, fine dining, and high-end spas. Beyond the glitz and glam, Canouan is also surrounded by one of the Caribbean’s largest coral reefs, with some charming, white-sand beaches along the island’s perimeter.

How to get there: Flights are available from Barbados, Puerto Rico, and St. Vincent. Ferry service is also available from Kingstown.

11. CAT ISLAND, THE BAHAMAS

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Virtually untouched by tourists, Cat Island boasts all the essentials for a perfect remote island getaway: hidden coves, untouched caves, shark dives, nature trails, and the highest point in the Bahamas, Mount Alvernia. Cat Island’s history is visible throughout the 48-mile stretch of land, which has remains of cotton plantations, slave huts, and Arawak Indian caves that visitors can explore. The island also has a number of secluded private and public beaches, all offering that iconic Bahamas-blue water and soft white sand.

How to get there: Cat Island is accessible by flight or ferry from Nassau.

12. MONTSERRAT, LESSER ANTILLES

Montserrat is best known for its volcano adventures, which include tours along the beautiful coastline, and much eerier views of the deserted capital town of Plymouth, which was destroyed when the island’s Soufrière Hills volcano erupted in 1995. Montserrat is more mountainous than it is beachy, but it does have one small, sandy beach at Rendezvous Bay. The island also has a cultural museum, an observation deck for viewing the volcano, and a number of scenic hiking trails.

How to get there: Nearby Antigua offers flights, ferries, and chartered helicopters to Montserrat.

13. CAYMAN BRAC, CAYMAN ISLANDS

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The Caribbean doesn’t get much quieter than Cayman Brac. Situated just south of Cuba, Cayman Brac is home to hidden caves, peaceful hiking trails, unbeatable diving and—best of all—very few tourists. The interior of the island features "The Bluff," a limestone outcrop that stands tall along the length of the island, which provides an abundance of caves and hidden pathways for visitors to explore. The island is also home to more than 200 bird species, including the red-footed booby, the brown booby, and the Cayman Brac parrot.

How to get there: Cayman Brac is a 30-minute plane ride from Grand Cayman.

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10 Things You Might Not Know About Chinese New Year
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Some celebrants call it the Spring Festival, a stretch of time that signals the progression of the lunisolar Chinese calendar; others know it as the Chinese New Year. For a 15-day period beginning February 16, China will welcome the Year of the Dog, one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac table.

Sound unfamiliar? No need to worry: Check out 10 facts about how one-sixth of the world's total population rings in the new year.

1. THE HOLIDAY WAS ORIGINALLY MEANT TO SCARE OFF A MONSTER.

Nian at Chinese New Year
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As legend would have it, many of the trademarks of the Chinese New Year are rooted in an ancient fear of Nian, a ferocious monster who would wait until the first day of the year to terrorize villagers. Acting on the advice of a wise old sage, the townspeople used loud noises from drums, fireworks, and the color red to scare him off—all remain components of the celebration today.

2. A LOT OF FAMILIES USE IT AS MOTIVATION TO CLEAN THE HOUSE.

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While the methods of honoring the Chinese New Year have varied over the years, it originally began as an opportunity for households to cleanse their quarters of "huiqi," or the breaths of those that lingered in the area. Families performed meticulous cleaning rituals to honor deities that they believed would pay them visits. The holiday is still used as a time to get cleaning supplies out, although the work is supposed to be done before it officially begins.

3. IT WILL PROMPT BILLIONS OF TRIPS.

Man waiting for a train.
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Because the Chinese New Year places emphasis on family ties, hundreds of millions of people will use the Lunar period to make the trip home. Accounting for cars, trains, planes, and other methods of transport, the holiday is estimated to prompt nearly three billion trips over the 15-day timeframe.

4. IT INVOLVES A LOT OF SUPERSTITIONS.

Colorful pills and medications
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While not all revelers subscribe to embedded beliefs about what not to do during the Chinese New Year, others try their best to observe some very particular prohibitions. Visiting a hospital or taking medicine is believed to invite ill health; lending or borrowing money will promote debt; crying children can bring about bad luck.

5. SOME PEOPLE RENT BOYFRIENDS OR GIRLFRIENDS TO SOOTHE PARENTS.

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In China, it's sometimes frowned upon to remain single as you enter your thirties. When singles return home to visit their parents, some will opt to hire a person to pose as their significant other in order to make it appear like they're in a relationship and avoid parental scolding. Rent-a-boyfriends or girlfriends can get an average of $145 a day.

6. RED ENVELOPES ARE EVERYWHERE.

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An often-observed tradition during Spring Festival is to give gifts of red envelopes containing money. (The color red symbolizes energy and fortune.) New bills are expected; old, wrinkled cash is a sign of laziness. People sometimes walk around with cash-stuffed envelopes in case they run into someone they need to give a gift to. If someone offers you an envelope, it's best to accept it with both hands and open it in private.

7. IT CAN CREATE RECORD LEVELS OF SMOG.

fireworks over Beijing's Forbidden City
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Fireworks are a staple of Spring Festival in China, but there's more danger associated with the tradition than explosive mishaps. Cities like Beijing can experience a 15-fold increase in particulate pollution. In 2016, Shanghai banned the lighting of fireworks within the metropolitan area.

8. BLACK CLOTHES ARE A BAD OMEN.

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So are white clothes. In China, both black and white apparel is traditionally associated with mourning and are to be avoided during the Lunar month. The red, colorful clothes favored for the holiday symbolize good fortune.

9. IT LEADS TO PLANES BEING STUFFED FULL OF CHERRIES.

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Cherries are such a popular food during the Festival that suppliers need to go to extremes in order to meet demand—last year Singapore Airlines flew four chartered jets to Southeast and North Asian areas. More than 300 tons were being delivered in time for the festivities.

10. PANDA EXPRESS IS HOPING IT'LL CATCH ON IN THE STATES.

Box of takeout Chinese food from Panda Express
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Although their Chinese food menu runs more along the lines of Americanized fare, the franchise Panda Express is still hoping the U.S. will get more involved in the festival. The chain is promoting the holiday in its locations by running ad spots and giving away a red envelope containing a gift: a coupon for free food. Aside from a boost in business, Panda Express hopes to raise awareness about the popular holiday in North America.

A version of this story originally ran in 2017.

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For the First Time, You Can Spend the Night on New York's Governors Island This Summer
Michael Vadon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Michael Vadon, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Soon, you'll be able to camp out on a 172-acre historical island without straying too far from the conveniences of a slightly bigger island: Manhattan.

This summer, visitors will be able to sleep under the stars on Governors Island in New York City's harbor for the first time, Lonely Planet reports. Collective Retreats will offer a glamping package that includes luxury tents, farm-to-table dining, and activities, which may include live music, culinary classes, wellness sessions, thought leadership seminars, or yoga.

Located a 10-minute ferry ride from the southern end of Manhattan, Governors Island served as a military base beginning in 1755, and was used most recently by the United States Coast Guard from 1966 until 1996. That year, it was designated as a historical district, and by 2006, the island had opened to the public as a car-free green space. These days, visitors can wander among 19th-century buildings, lounge in a hammock on a grassy lawn, tour two historical forts, rent bikes, and see public art.

Collective Retreats offers a premium tent starting at $150 per night. Or, you can spring for a luxury tent at $500 per night. That rate gets you a private bath with full-flush toilets and rain-style hot showers, complimentary breakfast and s'mores, and personal concierge services. Plus, your tent is stocked with a supply of filtered water, a mini library of travel and fiction books, Pendleton blankets, a chandelier, and outlets for your tech stuff. On select nights, you can take advantage of discounted rates and book a night in a premium tent for $75.

The glampsite can accommodate about 100 overnight guests total, and stays are available from May to October, when Governors Island closes for the season. To get to the island, all you need to do is catch a ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn: rides are even free on Saturdays and Sundays until 11:30 a.m.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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