Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Research Sources

My wife and I are often asked what our favorite sources are for researching Caribbean islands. It would be virtually impossible for me to attempt to identify all of the possible resources available. However, I will provide you with a short list of what has worked and what hasn't worked for us.

With no offense to the publishers, editors and contributors... we've come to the conclusion that guidebooks such as those published by Fodor's, Frommer's and Lonely Planet are pretty useless once you select a destination that is not frequently traveled. We got great use from such guides when visiting Disney World in Orlando, Florida, but the information they provide for the leeward and windward islands of the Caribbean is sadly lacking.

An interesting type of resource that may be considered a bit unconventional, are non-fiction books related to travel and life in the Caribbean. Examples of such books that we found to offer an astoundingly accurate representation of life on various islands include "An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude" (Ann Vanderhoof, 1952, Random House, New York) and "A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean" (Melinda Blanchard, 2000, Random House, New York). Although published as entertainment and not necessarily intended as travel guides, books like these helped to provide our family with wonderful insights of the Caribbean most likely not possible without actually visiting each of the islands.

Another type of resource comes from a group of Caribbean travelers who live a life many of us envy. I am referring to cruisers... yachties... modern-day recreational sailors. These are the people who brave the seas to sail from one exotic locale to another. For some, their boats are their year-around homes. For others, their boats offer a respite from the real world for the short time that they are living on-the-hook. We found cruisers to be an invaluable resource for up-to-date information for every island in the Caribbean, no matter how big or small. They divulge many important travel details including local knowledge on lodging, dining, shopping, entertainment, political matters, cultural issues, crime concerns and much more. Start with excellent cruiser guides like those offered by Chris Doyle of Grenada (DoyleGuides.com).

Finally, we suggest that you spend some time browsing the Internet. We purposely did not place this resource first, as the information on the Internet is only as good as the source. Unfortunately, there are just as many (if not more) bad resources on the Internet as there are reputable ones. You can always find someone who has had a bad experience in the Caribbean, but we have learned that the problem often has more to do with the visitor then their accused. One example of a trustworthy source of Caribbean traveler information on the Internet is the Grenada Travel Forum. Here, island natives, ex patriots and frequent visitors offer their advice free for the asking. Similar forums can also be found for other Caribbean destinations.