70 Slices
Medium 9781588439390

The Abacos

Blair Howard Hunter Publishing ePub

The Abacos aren't one destination but a whole family of little islands. Like tossed seashells, they span a 650-square-mile area.

They're in the northeastern end of the Bahamas (so far to the north that they're sometimes nicknamed "The Top of the Bahamas"). They are 106 miles north of Nassau and 175 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida.

The Abacos are the second-largest island group in the Bahamas. The majority of the landforms aren't developed, but you will find many that are inhabited, including Man-O-War Cay, Great Abaco, Elbow Cay, Great Guana Cay, Treasure Cay, Green Turtle Cay, Spanish Cay and Walker Cay.

Great Abaco is on the western side of the island group, separated by the Sea of Abaco from the cays on the east.

The Abacos are a favorite with sailors, yachties and anglers.

Five miles east of Marsh Harbour lies Elbow Cay. The community of Hope Town overlooks the harbor and is filled with pastel-tinted houses built in a New England style. You can't miss the candy striped lighthouse built in 1863. Today it is one of the few manned lighthouses in the Bahamas.

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Medium 9781588436771

Economy

Blair Howard Hunter Publishing ePub

Bermudians enjoy the highest standard of living in the world. Per capita income is extraordinarily high - made even more remarkable by the fact that Bermudians are not required to pay income tax. Unfortunately, the cost of living is high as well. Many Bermudians hold two or more jobs. Almost everything - food, electronics, household goods, clothing - is imported. Property, too, is extremely expensive; a modest two-bedroom home can easily cost a quarter-million dollars or more.

However, it seems that most young Bermudians with a will can and do own their own homes. For instance, during a conversation with one of my taxi drivers - great sources of local information - he explained how it is usually done. His son and daughter-in-law both spent the first several years of their marriage living in a rented apartment and working two jobs each, saving every penny they could spare. Three years later, and with some $60,000 in savings, they were able to purchase a small lot outright. This gave them collateral for a starter loan/mortgage and, still continuing to work two jobs each, they began to build. As the structure began to grow, so did the collateral and they were able to borrow a little more every several months along the way. The structure, a three-bedroom home with a two bedroom apartment attached, was completed in about two years. Still working two jobs each, they were able to move into the house and rent out the apartment. The rental money pays most of the mortgage, which will be paid off in 10 years, and they are now the proud owners of a property worth more than $600,000. Not bad for a couple still in their '30s. And that's the way most Bermudians grow into home ownership. Perhaps there are some lessons to be learned here.

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Resorts

Blair Howard Hunter Publishing ePub

$$$$ Elbow Beach Hotel, PO Box HM 455, Hamilton, HM BX, Bermuda, phone 441-236-3535, 800-223-7934 (USA), fax 441-236-8043, www.mandarinoriental.com. 
ElbowBeach is one of Mandarin Oriental's acclaimed luxury hotels.  The resort sits on 50 acres of beautifully-landscaped gardens, a mere five minutes from the charming town of Hamilton, and overlooks a pristine beach of pink sand and the ocean. 235 luxurious hotel rooms and suites have been cleverly to form the combined resort and cottage colony that has delighted guests for almost 100 years.
 
There are seven restaurants on site offering a full range of cuisine, from casual to very elegant. Particularly noteworthy are The Deep, an exclusive award winning nightclub, and The Veranda, Bermuda's only rum bar in a traditional cigar club style with the added bonus of a terrace overlooking the SouthShore.
 
The new Spa at ElbowBeach is also definitively worth a visit. There are 4 single and 2 couple private treatment suites, each featuring stunning ocean views, a hand-crafted, granite soaking tub, bamboo flooring and river pebble-lined steam shower.
 
Amenities include nightly entertainment, five championship tennis courts (two lighted for night play), tennis pro and shop. Golf can be arranged at nearby courses. Water sports, boating and game fishing can be arranged by the hotel staff.
 
 
$$$ Grotto Bay Beach Hotel, 11 Blue Hole Hill, Hamilton Parish, CR 04, Bermuda, phone 441-293-8333, 800-582-3190 (USA), 800-463-0851 (Canada), fax 441-293-2306, www.grottobay.com, EP, BP, MAP.
 
GrottoBay is a special favorite of mine. Over the years I've spent many an enjoyable and relaxing stay at this beautiful resort hotel at the eastern end of the island. The resort sits on 21-lush acres of tropical beach front in Hamilton Parish, only a couple of miles from the airport and about 10 minutes from St. Georges.
 
The views from the guest rooms are spectacular. The pastel shades of the hotel's guest units are flanked by the glistening waters of CastleHarbour and the great causeway that leads across it to
The resort's tiny private beach has two secluded coves within an enclosed bay. There's a deep water dock, freshwater pool with swim-up bar and an out-door hot tub. Two 500,000 year-old underground grottos on the property deserve special mention, especially as you are permitted to take a dip amidst the stalactites: a unique aquatic experience to the not so faint-hearted traveler.
 
201 well-appointed rooms are situated in 11, three-storey coral colored lodges, featuring native Bermudian architecture.  The majority of buildings are close to the water's edge, but some require a bit of a hike up a hill. Be sure to ask about the location when reserving a room, especially if you have trouble walking. The best rooms are, of course, those on the lower levels, overlooking the sound. Those on the upper levels offer views of the complex and CastleHarbour beyond and are no less inspiring. All have been refurbished and redecorated and are only a little less luxurious than those of the great resort hotels on the SouthShore. The ground floor rooms are wheelchair accessible (check availability when booking).
 
The restaurants there are three on site cater to most tastes. Easy, informal dining can be found at the Palm Court which has recently undergone major redecoration and renovation. Stately palms, terra cotta tiles and trade wind motifs deliver a tropical atmosphere for casual dining. The menu is island inspired. The Palm Court also features an elegant bar ready to serve a full range of exotic cocktails. The newly renovated Hibiscus Room offers an elegant dining experience amidst soft hues of coral, beige and crisp white echoing tropical sophistication of Bermuda. The menu, which changes daily, includes fine European cuisine with Bermudian flavor. The dress code is smart casual. Jacket and tie are optional. The Bayside Bar & Grill is situated by the pool and is only steps from the sea. Quick foods like hamburgers, hot-dogs, sandwiches and salads are on the menu, as are a savory Island BBQ on Monday evenings and a fresh Seafood Soiree on Thursdays (seasonal and weather permitting).
 
This is a great resort for families with children, especially young ones. If there is a down-side to GrottoBay (and I don't think there is) some might say it is the small beach, and it definitively can become crowded at times. The large pools, patios and lawns, where you can seek all the sunshine you want, more than make up for the lack of sand and surf. I recommend you take advantage of the MAP dining plan. It costs only $58 per person per day and is an excellent value, even with the added 15% gratuity.
 
The hotel has four all-weather tennis courts, a resident tennis pro, a pro shop, and offers water-skiing, snorkeling and parasailing from its own dock. There is a premium 5 Star PADI Dive facility Triangle Diving (www.trianglediving.com) - on site, offering certification courses, advanced courses and daily dives from a boat that is stationed at the resort. Golf can be arranged on any of three nearby courses. Scooter rentals and bus stop are right outside the hotel.
 
 
$$$$ The Fairmont Hamilton Princess, PO Box HM 837, Hamilton, HM CX, Bermuda, 441-295-3000, 800-441-1414 (USA & Canada), fax 441-296-7171, www.fairmont.com/hamilton. EP, BP, MAP.
 
Another great favorite of mine, this luxury resort hotel, fondly referred to by Bermudians as The Pink Palace," is a true gem situated right on the picturesque natural harbor of Hamilton, a perfect location for business executives and shop-oholics alike.  Built in the old world splendor that is Bermuda, the Hamilton Princess was inspired by Princess Louise, the daughter of Queen Victoria. It's a symbol of all that Bermudians hold dear genuine hospitality and timeless quality.
 
There are 410 elegant and beautiful guest rooms and suites of varying sizes and decor, many with private balcony, overlooking the turquoise waters of the harbor dotted with colorful sailboats and sleek yachts. The resort also offers a new Fairmont Gold floor,' which essentially is a hotel within a hotel that features private check-in and concierge, as well as special amenities, such as a private salon with honor bar, cocktail hour canaps, and complimentary breakfast.
 
The resort features a number of different restaurants that will satisfy even the most sophisticated palate. The meals prepared at Harley's are cooked to perfection and it's no surprise that this restaurant won the Best of Bermuda Gold Award in hotel dining. For travelers looking for a particularly romantic interlude, a candlelight dinner prepared by your very own butler on your private balcony would surely turn into a memory to cherish for a very long time. Afternoon tea, the true British kind and the best in Bermuda, I might add, at the Heritage Court is an event that should not be missed by anyone visiting the island. From the British silver tea sets and Belgian fine china to Italian fine woven linens, everything about the afternoon tea spells elegance and luxury. Heritage Court offers a large selection of fine rums and cigars available for smoking on the terrace.
 
The facilities at this resort include a fitness center and an outdoor freshwater as well as an outdoor saltwater pool. There is complimentary ferry service to its sister hotel, the Southampton Princess, which offers a private beach club, a golf course, 11 all-weather tennis courts (including seven lighted courts), fishing and water sports at the deep-water dock, and a full range of nightly entertainment.

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Medium 9781588439406

Turks & Caicos Islands

Blair Howard Hunter Publishing ePub

Mention these islands to almost anyone and you're likely to receive, at the very least, a couple of raised eyebrows and a query: "Who? What? Where?"

Very few casual travelers have heard of the tiny group of islands that lie just to the south and east of the Bahamas, and just to the north of the island of Hispaniola (Haiti and The Dominican Republic) on the upper reaches of the Caribbean. But gradually the word is getting out. These little islands are a rare undiscovered, unspoiled paradise.

The Turks and Caicos comprise two groups. A half-dozen small islands to the south and east of the Bahamian archipelago make up the Turks, of which Grand Turk and Salt Cay are the ports of entry. To the west and north are the larger islands of the Caicos group, for which Providenciales (locally known as Provo) is the port of entry, and the islands' center of tourism.

Those who claim to know these things assert that it was in these islands that Christopher Columbus first made landfall, not on San Salvador in the Bahamas. Several prominent historians have made the case for Grand Turk. What is known is that Columbus's flag ship, Santa Maria, sank in local waters just to the south of the island group on Christmas night, 1492.

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Cat Island

Blair Howard Hunter Publishing ePub

Cat Island is a favorite diving destination.

Cat Island is home of the highest peak in the Bahamas - all 206 feet of it! Mount Alvernia isn't exactly high enough to cause nosebleeds, but it does lend an interesting summit to this large island, the sixth-largest in the Bahamas.

Cat Island is 325 miles southeast of Miami.

TIP

Cat Island is not at all the same as private Cat Cay, located in the Biminis. Don't confuse the two!

"Cat"

Two theories account for the island's name:

A) Wild cats that supposedly were descended from cats left by Spanish colonists, or

B) Captain Arthur Catt, a British sea captain (sometimes termed a pirate).

GREENWOOD BEACH RESORT

Cat Island Dive Centre

Port Howe

ph. /fax 242/342-3053

Reservations: ph.  800/688-4752

Inexpensive

www.greenwoodbeachresort.com

A favorite with divers, this 20-room resort is located on eight miles of beach. All rooms have private baths. We recommend this resort for active travelers. Guests can borrow bikes and explore the island, take a snorkel tour or go scuba diving. The resort offers an excellent restaurant.

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