I’m an island girl at heart. Friends always say they couldn’t reside on an island full time, but I’m pretty certain I’d do just fine living it up in a secluded Maldivian atoll or kicking it somewhere dreamy in the Caribbean.
Let’s take a look at some of my favorite tropical spots visited. Even though I was flying solo back then, my 2007 jaunt to the Maldives and its network of resorts and islands scattered throughout some of the most gorgeous water you’ll ever see still ranks up there as my top trip of all time. I loved the people, I loved the food, and I loved the ocean life. In fact, the Maldives are responsible for me getting over my fear of the water and diving right in—quite literally.
Not only is the Maldives an amazing spot for dolphin and whale shark sightings, it’s also one of the best places to learn how to dive, which is exactly what I did during my five-night stay there, despite my initial hesitation. Eight years and hundreds of dips later, I’m extremely grateful to the divemasters who challenged my ego by daring me to dive (they said, “what, are you chicken?” which has been known to get me every time).
But there are plenty of islands closer to home that I love nearly as much (not quite … but almost). Take Grand Cayman, for example. Having only previously visited via 3,000-person ship, I had long written it off as “just a touristy cruise port destination”—until I was summoned there for on assignment in Grand Cayman last fall and realized I was wrong. So wrong.
It’s gorgeous, it’s diverse. Service is friendly, and the people genuinely care about the ecosystem, as evidenced by the Legends & Lions lionfish awareness week and course I took during my stay. Most of all, and most importantly, it felt safe.
I was traveling solo but never felt alone because people were so friendly and open. One Swiss man who had emigrated to the Caymans 25 year prior took a seat beside me at the bar on my final night on the isle and bought us a round of drinks. “Have you noticed what makes Cayman so unique?” he pressed.
Thinking it was a trick question, I countered: “What do you think makes it special?”
He took the bait. “There’s no distinguishable cuisine—we’ve got an international blend of foods from all over. There’s no native music, like other islands such as Jamaica has. But by God, it’s one of the safest places you’ll ever visit. No one bothers you, no one tries to peddle cheap tourist trinkets on you, no one wants to harm you.”
And in a single paragraph, he summed up what I’d tried so hard to put my finger on during my week there. He was right. You won’t find anyone soliciting services on Seven Mile Beach—no $5 foot massages, no opportunities to pose with their pet monkey. From the time I climbed into my rental car and took to the left side of the road—full of roundabouts and not always well marked—I never worried that someone was going to run me off the road or that I was going to veer off course.
The roads on Grand Cayman were a breeze to navigate, surprisingly. I didn’t get lost once, even though the maps on my iPhone didn’t work while I was there. I was traveling alone, yet never felt uneasy, not even late at night when returning to my hotel under a cloak of darkness.
I found St. Kitts, which I also visited in 2014, to be similar in feel, though topographically, a very different landscape than the Caymans.
This time, I was with friends, and everywhere we traveled on this 68-square-mile spit of land, people were ready to lend a hand. I never felt like a tourist about to be taken advantage of.
There weren’t shacks peddling airbrush eyesores. There were very few chains of any kind. It felt authentically Caribbean in the best possible way—and it wasn’t crowded in the slightest at that.
After all, if I’m going to leave my life behind for a tropical existence, I want it to look drastically different than my current one.
And for that reason, I think I could go live in any of these places—the Maldives, the Caymans, St. Kitts—if even just for a year or two. (As long as SVV and Ella can come with me, of course.)
I keep telling my husband we will live in Paris someday. Or at least keep an apartment there for frequent vacations. He seems to think I’m kidding…
I think I would be perfectly fine living in Paris full time!
Ah! I’m so jealous…the Maldives are near the top of my bucket list, for sure! 🙂
It’s just a wee bit hard to reach from Nashville, heh 😉
Bora Bora…it’s unreal how beautiful it is. It’s the only place I’ve been that looks even better than the best professional photos ever taken of it. There are so many faraway tropical places I want to visit (the Maldives for one, and the Cook Islands, Fiji, other Tahitian islands) but I don’t know if I will ever make it there because when I finally save up enough money for that extravagant kind of vacation I think I will just want to go back to Bora Bora. Grand Cayman is definitely on my travel list, because I love sting rays!
I’ve never been! I absolutely loved the Cook Islands, but I’ve yet to visit the rest of Polynesia and it’s all definitely the tip-top of my bucket list.
I’m going to write about the sting rays in Cayman next month, but I will tell you: It was way different than I was expecting!
Oh my goodness! I would LOVE to go to the Maldives some day! I am so jealous of all of your adventures dear! Such pretty pictures too I might add! 🙂
Thank you! You’re too sweet!
This is one of my favorite questions: Where would you live if money were no object? I would have a REALLY hard time deciding, I think. But I’d love to spend some dedicated time in China or New Zealand, or even South Africa or Iceland.
So, you know, basically anywhere. 🙂
I could also do any of those (except China). I think NZ and Australia, specifically, would be SO fun to live in for a year and just explore those two countries exclusively. So much to see!
I am still kicking myself for not hopping over to the Maldives when I was in Sri Lanka last year. I was SO CLOSE!!
Yeah, but you really need a week or so there and I bet you had an awesome time in Sri Lanka so you’ll just have to go back again someday 😉
I love the Cayman Islands! The sting rays, beaches and rum cake are quite unforgettable. And you’re right about the safety on the island. The people are friendly and I never met a hustler anywhere during my stay.
If I have to choose an island to stay, I would choose Phuket, Thailand. It’s full of tourist, along with activities, restaurants, shows and shops. But you can also find peace and quiet a hop, skip and a jump away. I love the gorgeous beaches, the spectacular scenery, the delicious food and the Thai traditional massage.
I’ve still never been to anywhere in Thailand, believe or not! Doubly crazy as it’s got some of the best diving in the world. One day…
You need to go. The landscape of Phang Nga Bay is incredibly beautiful. Didn’t dive but kayaking around the limestone caves was a lot of fun.
Wow, the pics are really astonishing! The islands have their own charm and beauty. Surrounded only by water and azure.
Thank you, Izy! I’d love to go back now, almost 10 years later, with a better camera and more developed eye 😉
those are all lovely locations, but I’m a little biased, I loved going back home to the Big Island after traveling to many far flung places around the world. It is just the right pace and lifestyle for me.
I mean, who wouldn’t? There are few places in the world I love as much as Hawaii (any of the islands)!
Very Very Beautiful nature
The island looks amazing and sounds like a place that I could visit, but I wouldn’t be living there anytime soon I’m afraid. I like the cold LOL!
If money and location were of no object…well, to be honest, I’m already living in my dream
location – Berlin, Germany! However, at a push I’d live in Berlin for 6 months of the year (including the winter. I told you so!), 3 months in Italy and 3 months in Asia (Hong Kong & Bali being my favourite places). 🙂
I’m glad there are some people who love the cold so they don’t crowd the islands for the rest of us 😉 Personally, though, I love everything about Berlin and can see myself living there, too!
I’m with you on being able to reside on an island full time – especially a tropical one with crystal clear waters. It’s amazing how relaxed being beside the sea can make you xo
I really would be fine reading my Kindle all day every day underneath the sun! I could never get bored living that kind of relaxed lifestyle =)
I could live in the Maldives for a year for sure! We went to Kanahura a few years ago and thought it was the most beautiful place we have ever seen!
I had to look up Kanahura, and now I’m pretty sure I could also live there for a year, no questions asked 😉
That scene of cayman island looks exactly like the perfect place to have fun with a loved one as you take photos as you enjoy the beach experience. The sight of those pics makes anyone want to visit next time they are going on holiday with loved ones. If anyone looking for an amazing destination to enjoy yourself then you need not to find anymore as you already have a perfect option. Dont waste time looking for more.
You’re right! Maybe next time I actually need to take my husband with me there 😉
wow! I wanna be there too. 🙂
Maldives truly is an awesome and unique place. Too bad it wont be there for ever. I really wanna go there.
Get there now then before it sinks!
I am totally a beach bum at heart. These photos are incredible and make me want to hop on a plane. Thanks for posting!
Birds of a feather! Save a seat for me on that plane!
Nice one.. Indonesia might suitable for you if you love islands! 🙂
I’d love to go there sometime. What’s your favorite Indo island?
Beautiful! It’s amazing how diverse the caribbean islands are topographically. I’ve only been to Puerto Rico and the DR and would love to visit some of the ones you mentioned in this post.
And of course I’d also love to visit the Maldives! From what I’ve seen in photos, it doesn’t look like you can get much closer to paradise…
And I’d love to visit Puerto Rico! (A return trip to DR I could do without.) Right now I’m writing from Aruba, and this is another island that surprised me…in a good way! It’s more built up that many of its neighbors, but I like the vibe all the same.
There is definitely something about islands that promotes a sense of “home” to me.
People are friendlier, thanks to tourism numbers food is global and the ocean is a perfect way to kill some time.
Exactly! It’s a much more relaxed, less opportunistic way of life, one that I could get used to.
Beautifully narrated and pictures taken nicely. Your urge for islands testify your opening remarks (which I liked by the way) “I’m an island girl at heart.”
Thank you, Naeem! =)
I am an island girl, too! And a beach with no soliciting? Count me in!!
They’re far too rare, aren’t they?
Some of the most beautiful scenes on Earth are found on Islands. So when you say that Cayman is gorgeous, I completely conquer with you. Personally I have been to the Bahamas and Jamaica and I can assure you that they are very beautiful. I look forward to travel to more Islands as times passes by.
I’m going back to the Bahamas in October for a wedding and couldn’t be more stoked! Which islands have you fallen in love with there?
What a beautiful island! I haven’t learned how to dive because I’m afraid of the deep sea but looking at your pictures… looks intriguing to learn
I’m still afraid of the sea! There’s something about it that’s so ominous. The key for me is diving in places with great visibility; as a recreational diver, you only go to 100 feet and in spots with good vis, you can easily see the surface. That’s all I need to feel comfortable =)
I learnt to scuba in the Maldives. It’s a gorgeous part of the world and I’ve considered myself an island girl ever since!
Yes, me too! I am dying to get back there nearly a decade later now that I’m an experienced diver =) Have you returned?
Great!!!… I never miss this place, surely will visit with my girlfriend but before that would like to know the best travel time for this island?
I hope she will like it very much. 🙂
If you really are an island girl, Sardinia – where I am from – would be your kind of place! Gorgeous beaches? We have them! Clear, clean and blue waters? Check. Incredible nature, beautiful cities, unique archeological sites, delicious food and wine, ancient culture? Check, check, check!
Ok, sorry I promise I am not trying to sell anything at all. I would actually love to go to the Maldives but I am lucky I got to be born in Sardinia as there really is no better place on earth during the summer!
I’ve always wanted to go to Sardinia! I spent a couple weeks in Corsica in 2006 on a project and was gutted I was so close yet didn’t have time to hop on over there. Then last year, we went to Sicily for 10 days for my husband’s birthday. One day, though, I promise I’ll make it to your lovely isle =)
This place is amazing. Mountains are contiguous to ocean that seems like a cozy place which build together and expose the beauty. I am sure that tourist can be complacent to visit this place. But you will feel fresh whenever you see the sunset on the western corner and be amazed with delicious foods.
Wow.. What a beautiful places.. really if i will get a chance to go Maldive. really i must visit these awesome places. really nice stuff.. i enjoyed and i loved to watch these types of traveling places.. really thanks for posting
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Personally, I’d say the Maldives! The water is just unsurpassed.