Island Hopping: Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico

Monday 23 November to Tuesday 1 December 2015

All year I wanted to do a break that involved island hopping with ferries, and this was it. A slight flight delay leaving St Maarten on Monday 23 November 2015, meant missing the 1pm ferry to my first virgin island and getting one a few hours later to Virgin Gorda. But the ferry ‘terminal’ was a nice place to hang out. I stayed on several islands during the next 7 days across the British, USA Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Would have ideally done a sailing tour but all were 7 days. And usually in a group where u rent the entire boat. Instead I relied on ferries and renting cars.

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Virgin Gorda: my first and favourite. Grabbed a rental car, nice hotel overlooking one of the many bays and Richard Branson’s private island, exploring the baths area, hiking the 2nd highest peak of all the islands, walking through a spider web, friendly locals, good food, and simple to get around.

Tortola: the capital of the British VI’s and therefore more suburban, again I rented a car as easiest way to get to the places I wanted to see, nicer beaches, expensive hotels for what you get but I was booking at very last minute. With 2 nights, I did want to day trip to some of the smaller islands but ferries not so frequent from road town, probably better to have stayed near west end.

St John: arriving on thanksgiving meant most hotels booked or wanting a minimum 3 nights. About ten minutes before getting a taxi to west end ferry terminal I phoned a place and got a room for 1 night at low season rates (high season kicked in thanksgiving) so I was relieved with that. I was slightly worried and stressed but still glad I was going with the flow and booking as I went. The ferries between the usvi are so much nicer than bvi. The difference is so obvious, u immediately feel in America with USA customs, flags, beer and accents. The room was perfect for what I needed, thanksgiving dinner below average but I still looooove turkey, and the majority of the island is forested national park. The taxi ride to cinnamon bay beach was a fear for my life as the driver sped in the rain along winding roads while me and another guy held on in the back of what appeared to be a safari vehicle without seat belts or side panels. The driver was super rude, reckless and gave a bad impression for this island but I do like its quietness and some of the bays beyond the main town would be worth exploring on a return visit.

St Thomas: I ferried the short distance to red hook and then taxi’d to my hotel closer to the capital. The most populated island of the USVI it is clean and residential. I used Marriott points to stay in an iconic hotel with incredible views. The service here was brilliant and refreshing after staying in simple hotels for the last several nights. I did not explore much of this island beyond the hotel complex which was huge.

Puerto Rico: no ferries here from usvi so I had to book a flight. 3 nights here, and a much larger island. But after reading my Caribbean guide book I was happy to centre my activities around San Juan city. I was surprised to see all the USA stores and brands. I realise this is a USA territory but it felt like being in Miami. And with black Friday specials, I took advantage and did some shopping. The old town was great to explore with many forts satisfying my fascination for these historical structures. If I were to stay in old town I would stay at El Convento with incredible tapas, sangria and history. I stayed at another Marriott which is comical to me and friends who know my previous avoidance of this brand due to it being a general terrorist target for bombings. But I’m a sucker for a good points program, especially when I’ve achieved gold status and get upgrades without asking, treated with the respect I deserve and here I even got a 25% discount for finding a cheaper online deal with the Marriott price match guarantee. Winning. The weather was wet and windy so fortunately I had my beach fix elsewhere. The Spanish speaking had me wishing I had learned this bloody language by now. Thank god for Google translate app.

The last day of break was all travel back to Suriname. Awake at 3 am, in the Paramaribo hotel at 1030 pm. The flight connections are ridiculously bad to get back to Suriname. But hey, after a sedate and enjoyable break I was too relaxed to care.

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