This week’s travel dream: Island getaways around the world

The ‘real’ Barbados; Surin Islands: A diver’s paradise; The culture of Curacao; The tiny isle of Taprobane

The ‘real’ Barbados

The west coast of Barbados has long been known as the “Platinum Coast” for its glistening shores and “preferred credit cards,” said Danielle Pergament in The New York Times. But the more rugged east coast is the “real Barbados.” With its “acres of sugar cane fields, thick, verdant forests, and trees full of wild monkeys,” this half of the island often seems like “a whole other world.” The main town of Bathsheba could have been a “playground of mythical creatures—enormous limestone boulders are casually strewn in the shallows, as though giants were playing catch and paused for a break.” Sculpted by centuries of Atlantic winds, the eastern shore’s stupefying seascapes make it enticing for surfers. The island’s massive waves come courtesy of nearly 3,000 miles of open ocean, “undisturbed by sandbars, reefs, or land.”


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Surin Islands: A diver’s paradise

The Surin Islands are known in dive slang as “wicked,” said Ryan Bradley in National Geographic Adventure. Which is to say, the small archipelago 35 miles off the Thai mainland boasts “one of the best reefs in all of Southeast Asia.” Spattered amid the Andaman Sea, the five “low-slung isles” are far off the international tourism trail. A short speedboat ride from Kuraburi, the Surins have been a national park for nearly three decades, which protects them from the overfishing and development now ruining so many of the world’s reef ecosystems. The islands are undeveloped, except for a “dozen small thatched huts” and a tiny visitor’s center that looks out onto an “emerald bay from within a dense tropical jungle.” It’s the warm water, teeming with “healthy corals” and colorful aquatic life, that’s the draw. Follow schools of dottybacks and damselfish, watch young barracudas prowl the water, and glimpse the shadows of blacktip reef sharks skimming the seafloor.


The culture of Curacao

Over the past 500 years, Curacao has “evolved into a cultural melting pot,” said Larry Bleiberg in Coastal Living. “Part Old Country, part New World,” the island about 40 miles north of Venezuela was initially a Dutch colony. European settlers and former African slaves arrived here first, and over the last few centuries, newcomers from more than 50 nations have followed their lead. Today, Curacao possesses a “charming blend of European and Caribbean history, culture, and architecture” while giving off an “unexpected international vibe” for a Caribbean island. Overhear locals chatting in Dutch during a stroll down the cobblestone streets of Willemstad, the colorful capital and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Stop in Mikvé Israel-Emanuel, the oldest functioning synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, where the floor is covered in sand to signify the ancient Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt. Dine on crepes filled with seafood ragout at Bistro le Clochard, a French-Swiss restaurant offering just one of Curacao’s many “flavors of the globe.”


The tiny isle of Taprobane

Set foot on Taprobane and feel like a “trespasser on Robinson Crusoe’s island,” said Pico Iyer in the Financial Times. Sitting in the languorously warm Indian Ocean, Taprobane is Sri Lanka’s only privately owned island. Poking through the jungly palms, the island is accessible only by fording through the surf on foot, on elephant, or hoisted in a sedan chair. Its only residence is a five-suite, “neo-Palladian pleasure-dome” with “verandas in every direction, radiating out from a 30-foot-high central space,” that let the sounds and smells of the sea waft into every room. The “octagonal fantasy” is surrounded by lush tropical gardens fragrant with frangipanis and fuchsias, hibiscus and bougainvillea, heliconia and bromeliads. Taprobane fulfills the dream of holing up on a desert island, “running away from the world we know, and living among the elements, surrounded on every side by ocean.”


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