It was not until this year started that I actually started considering adding islands to my itinerary when traveling. Since I am originally from an island (Mauritius), going elsewhere for the beach was out of the question in my family. We always believed we have the best beaches.
That is not true! While beaches in Mauritius are beyond beautiful, there is just something about the island life that makes a vacation different.
Is it the laid-back lifestyle you find among the locals or is it the lush green that you find around you? Perhaps it's that you can explore the place within a few hours or days?
I finally made it to a sunny destination other than Mauritius this year. Back in January, I was in Barbados and I could not help but compare the two. It felt like it was the same place, as a lot of the history is similar and a lot of the roads look the same.
However, after visiting French Polynesia just a few weeks ago, I realized that the "island vibe" brings a whole new meaning to going on a vacation. While most people opt to go for an all-inclusive resort, I find that actually spending time to see the island will allow you to get a true taste of it.
Here are some ways you can make the most out of your trip to an island, wherever it may be that you choose to go:
1. Rent a car! The easiest and best way to get around is with a car. Depending on where you go, you cannot rely on bus schedules to get there (on some islands, that's not even an option). As for taxis, they may either be expensive or hard to find. When we went to Huahine in French Polynesia, they had warned us that there are only 4 taxi drivers for the entire island. In some places, you can also rent a scooter - this would be a cheaper option than getting a car and also convenient if you are traveling solo or with only one other person.
2. Join a tour or book an excursion. Even if you do not book an all-inclusive package for your trip, where all tours are included, that's okay! Day tours are another great option and you can find locals that offer tours or sign up through a local tour agency/company. There are even islands where the tour companies may be willing to pick you up free of charge. This is perfect if you do not have a reliable mode of transportation. Signing up for a tour allows you to see the place from a local's perspective and gives you the opportunity to learn more about the destination (some information you may not even find online). As an added bonus, you can also meet other travelers coming from all over the world. Tour companies may also have access to some spots that you would not otherwise be able to visit with a car. This was the case for some of the 4x4 tours that we did in French Polynesia.
3. Go where the locals go. Whether it's to shop or to eat, by going with local recommendations, you can save a few bucks and even find hidden gems that you wouldn't otherwise know to try. In Barbados, someone took us to Uncle George's. Not only did they bring us to what turned out to be one of my favorite spots to eat on the island, but they also knew exactly what to order to ensure a delicious meal!
Let me know if I missed anything. I would also love to hear your recommendations for some islands I should add to my listl!