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According to the popular 1960 beach movie, Fort Lauderdale is “where the boys are.” The city’s reputation as America’s Spring Break capital, however, has been replaced with the more favorable image of a prime family tourist destination, attracting more than 10 million visitors annually. The most popular beach resort in Florida is even more rightly famed as the “Yachting Capital of the World,” with more than 40,000 registered crafts calling its waters home. The city also prides itself on being the “Venice of America” with more than 300 miles of navigable waterways. Fort Lauderdale boasts world-class theaters, museums, sightseeing, and shopping.
Historians still contend over which European adventurer first spied the largest island in the former Netherlands Antilles. Some historians claim the honor for Alonzo de Ojeda; other historians champion Amerigo Vespucci. Little does it matter; today’s travelers are content to bask beneath sunny skies cooled by the trade winds. Lying some 40 miles off Venezuela, Curaçao boasts a landscape that is dramatic, stark, and volcanic. In contrast, Willemstad, the capital, seems a cozy Dutch haven with its neat row houses. And while those gabled and tiled roofs illustrate the island’s heritage, the bright, pastel houses speak pure Caribbean. Islanders themselves reflect this same colorful contrast: over 50 different nationalities have come to call Curaçao their home.
Dutch influence still lingers on this balmy Caribbean island, part of the former Netherlands Antilles until its independence in 1986. Aruba is a contrast: the island’s arid interior is dotted with cactus and windswept divi-divi trees while secluded coves and sandy beaches make up its coast. Aruba’s long and colorful heritage is reflected in its dialect. Called Papiamento, it is a tongue that combines elements of Spanish, French, Portuguese, Dutch, African and English.
Bonaire is without a doubt a “diver’s paradise.” Its license plates even state the same. But there is much more to this small Dutch country of 15,000 residents. “Bon Bini,” as you will hear the friendly locals say, means “welcome to the island of Bonaire.” Bonaire is located off the coast of Venezuela and has for years been known as a world-class diving and snorkeling destination. Diving and snorkeling are still the predominant activities, but today there is also a variety of other activities to enjoy such as kayaking, bird watching, and other eco-tours. Because of the hot and arid weather, Bonaire has been a major producer of sea salt. Do not miss the “white mountains” waiting to be shipped out and the salt flats where the salt is evaporated from the Caribbean Sea, which also happens to be home to another icon of Bonaire-the pink flamingo. Explore the Dutch architecture of the capital Kralendijk, enjoy the pristine coral reefs, or tour the scenic countryside. Whatever you decide to do in Bonaire, you are sure to have a fantastic time.
Barbados is one of the few Caribbean islands solely colonized by one nation. It’s no wonder Bajans describe their country as being “more English than England sheself,” surnames like Worthing and Hastings abound. But look around and you know you’re not in England: rich and fertile tropical fields meet a glistening, azure sea. The soft pastels of old chattel houses blend with the vibrant reds, oranges, and greens of roadside fruit stands. In short, Barbados exudes a charm all its own. Perhaps it is due to Bajan culture, that celebrated blend of English tradition and the African heritage brought to the island by slaves imported to work the sugar plantations. The potent brew which results flavors every aspect of island life, from music, dance and art, to religion, language and food.
Lying between Guadeloupe and Martinique is the island of Dominica–an unspoiled Caribbean paradise. The vibrant, rich rainforest is home to rare birds, including Sisserou and Jacquot parrots. Streams tumble down mountain slopes and thread fertile valleys on their short route to the sea. Dominica is also home to the last Carib Indians. When Columbus made landfall on his second voyage of discovery, this fierce tribe managed to keep the explorer at bay. And while the island proved a lure for both British and French planters, Dominica somehow managed to escape the trammels of civilization. This former British possession, independent since 1978, today lures visitors from around the world with its unspoiled beauty. As the islanders fondly say, “Apres Bondi, c’est la terre” (After God, it is the land). Tours may travel narrow, winding roads.
St. Maarten offers a delightful case of split personality. Legend has it that a Frenchman and a Dutchman divided ownership of the island through a walk-off: Standing back to back, the two headed in opposite directions, walking around the island until they met. Perhaps the Dutchman paused for a refreshing brew. At any rate, the French ended up claiming 21 square miles of the island to 16 square miles for the Dutch. This lively tale says much about St. Maarten’s easygoing ways. No formal boundary exists between the Dutch and French sides of the island; a simple welcome sign tells you when you cross from one country to the other. But the differences are as noticeable as the spelling of the island’s name. The French spell it St. Martin. And it’s this split personality that lends so much to the island’s charms, including an international reputation for the finest cuisine in the Caribbean.
The oldest city under the American flag, San Juan vibrates to a lively salsa beat. There’s an unmistakable zest in the air here. Perhaps it’s the stunning natural setting: the verdant peaks, tropical forests, and gleaming white-sand beaches. Or maybe it’s Puerto Rico’s mix of cultures, the blend and occasional clash of four centuries of Spanish heritage overlaid with a century spent as America’s only Commonwealth. Whatever the reason, San Juan is one of the most enticing ports in the Caribbean, and it only gets lovelier with age.
A leading global city, New York exerts a powerful influence over worldwide commerce, finance, culture and fashion, and entertainment. The city consists of five boroughs and an intricate patchwork of neighborhoods. Some of these include Lower Manhattan and the New York Stock Exchange, Battery Park and South Street Seaport, Chinatown, trendy SoHo and Greenwich Village, along with Little Italy, the flat Iron District and Gramercy Park. Famous Central Park covers 843 acres of paths, ponds, lakes and green space within the asphalt jungle. Many districts and landmarks have become well-known to outsiders. Nearly 170 languages are spoken in the city and over 35% of its population was born outside the United States.
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