Pipe Dreaming Saturday: The Seychelles and the Caribbean

Chances are, when you close your eyes and imagine the perfect beach, you’re thinking of a stretch of sand in the Seychelles. An island chain about 300 miles off the eastern coast of

Anse Source d'Argent beach, on laid-back La Digue.
Anse Source d’Argent beach, on laid-back La Digue. Photo courtesy of lonelyplanet.com.

Africa, the Seychelles consist mainly of granite islands (the world’s oldest) and coral atolls in the western Indian Ocean. And the thing people come for is the abundance of spectacularly picture-perfect shores- often untouched and uncrowded (only 16 out of the total 115 islands have accommodations). Visitors begin their exploration of the islands on Mahé, the largest in the chain and home to Victoria, the country’s tiny capital. Praslin, the Seychelles’ second largest island, is home to a valley of pristine vegetation- believed to be the setting for the Garden of Eden. On La Digue, the only modes of transport are bicycle or ox cart- a testament to the slow way of life on the island. Around the islands, reefs teem with life to please any diver or snorkeler. And of course beaches like Anse Lazio and Anse Intendance epitomize the famous white sands, crystalline seas, and naturally sculpted boulders that have catapulted the Seychelles onto every beach bum’s bucket list.

Of course, if you think 50+ hours of flying and an uncountable number of boat transfers all for a heaping price tag (you’d be sleeping either in a primitive beach shack or at an ultra-luxury resort) aren’t quite worth it for a beach, look no further than the Caribbean islands. Just a 2 hour flight or cruise from Florida or the Gulf Coast and around a 4 hour flight from the northeast, you’re looking at a much closer (and much cheaper) trip down to our sunny southern neighbors.

Gros and Petit Pitons fringe the spectacular Soufriere Bay in St. Lucia. Photo courtesy of trailfinders.com

These islands are scattered across the Caribbean Sea like jewels adorning a cobalt crown, and offer something for literally everyone. Dive into the famous Blue Hole off the coast of Belize (home to the world’s second largest barrier reef second only to its Australian relative); ride horses on the beach in the Bahamas; wander through cobblestone streets in Willemstad, a city resembling Amsterdam, on the island of Curaçao; sail past mountainous coasts in Haiti; or hike the Pitons above idyllic Soufriere Bay in St. Lucia. And there’s still so much more. With most islands having airports, plenty of hotel options, and the possibility (and ease) of taking a cruise to your favorite islands, you can have your beach vacation and take it too- for a lot less than flying to the other side of the world.

Whether you trek out to the exotically wonderful Seychelles or mosey on down to the accessible beauty of the dynamic Caribbean, remember that the beach is an art which our lovely planet has certainly perfected: there’s truly an island for everyone.

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