Vieques has plenty of hidden spots to drop anchor and chill out.
Vieques has plenty of hidden spots to drop anchor and chill out.
Amanda Wilson

And the Winners Are . . .

Sunday, March 4, 2007

What a generous group of readers. For weeks we've been soliciting, on our weekly chat and our daily blog, their opinions on Caribbean islands, and only one expressed a selfish secrecy.

"I don't want to add my [favorite] island to the list because I'm afraid people will start going there, and I like it isolated," wrote Arlene, whose last name is unknown, though someone out there might recognize her.

Well, her reluctance is understandable. But thanks to the sharers among us, we have a few new tips. Though we do not suggest this is by any means a scientific sampling, we found the comments enlightening.

* Most popular island: St. John. Judging from the number of times this U.S. Virgin Island was mentioned, it's clear that making two-thirds of an island a protected national park is a popular idea. It has the added advantage of being a U.S. territory -- no passport needed.

Readers say it's a great place for beachgoing, water sports, families and just getting away from it all. Two recommend renting a private home as a pricey but great option, and if that's not appealing, try the Caneel Bay resort (equally posh).

"I have to agree with the nomination of St. John for nature," chimed in one reader. "We had a fabulous time hiking the trails, many of which lead to world-class beaches." On the bargain side, others said that the Cinnamon Bay campground on St. John, where tents are erected on platforms, "is one of the best deals in the Caribbean."

Yet another reader, who loves the "beautiful, quiet beaches all around the island" and the stunning views around most turns, warned that "you should watch out for chickens, donkeys, cows and goats."

Though no one urges you go to St. John for gourmet fare, two people mentioned the great burgers at a restaurant called Skinny Legs. One had a great meal at Asolare, but wasn't sure if it was the food or the view that made the experience great. Yet another recommended Tage for "an incredible meal, wonderful wine list, great atmosphere."

ยท Easiest island: Puerto Rico. Also within the no-passport-needed zone for Americans, this U.S. commonwealth got quite a few thumbs up, and only partly because of how "easy and relatively inexpensive it is to fly there."

"It's never the same vacation twice," wrote a repeat visitor, who touts "the beaches, the rain forest, the people, the variety of restaurants." You can get by with only English, but if you're going to drink a lot of cerveza, the reader warns, the word "baño" (bathroom) comes in handy.

"The beaches are amazing, the rain forest is incredible, and the waterfall is a perfect way to cap off a day of hiking," another reader wrote. "Especially grand is the little hut halfway up the mountain [in the rain forest El Yunque] that serves delicious fresh fruit juices and seafood patties."

Although another reader criticized the lack of public facilities at the beaches in Puerto Rico, he extolled its natural beauty, booming night life, great shopping, well-preserved historical sites and "delicious big and small restaurants everywhere."

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