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Dreaming of Islands: Patches of paradise await your visit

Ranch & Coast Travel Editor Elizabeth Hansen shares her favorite paradise destinations

Reefs Club condos at Bermuda’s The Reefs Resort & Club enjoy an infinity pool that appears to spill into the ocean
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“A tropical island is where I want to be, with crystal clear water and a majestic palm tree” ~ Jennifer Bates, jenniferwritespoems.com  

Something magical happens when I step off a plane onto a tropical island. Suddenly, my shoulders relax and I realize I’m smiling for no apparent reason. Is it the soft breeze? The lyrical voices in the low-tech terminal? Or is it knowing that lush gardens, pristine beaches, and lazy days are close at hand? Whatever the reason, I am glad to see that some of my favorite retreats are once again welcoming travelers from the U.S. Having said that, this status is subject to change, so be sure to check the State Department and CDC websites before booking flights and arranging lodging. Some countries require arriving passengers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within a certain time prior to departure, and some require a period of quarantine upon arrival. travel.state.gov, cdc.gov

French Polynesia

Comprised of more than a hundred islands, this country stretches over a wide swath of the South Pacific. Air Tahiti Nui, the national carrier, and other airlines fly to Papeete on the island of Tahiti, but savvy travelers pivot quickly and head out to more mellow isles.  

My favorite of these is Huahine because it isn’t as touristy as better-known Bora Bora and Moorea. My husband and I stayed in a deep overwater bungalow at the Royal Huahine Hotel and enjoyed snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing on our private deck. A short boat ride connects guests with “town,” where we were lucky and stumbled upon a colorful flower-filled festival.

Bermuda

Located off the North Carolina coast, Bermuda is best known for its pink sand beaches, houses painted in pastel colors, and plethora of golf courses. It’s also a great place for sailing, wreck diving, and snorkeling. The island was settled in 1609 by a shipwrecked English sea captain on his way to Virginia and continues to be a distinctive blend of British and American culture. 

At The Reefs Resort & Club, afternoon tea is a daily ritual that captures the essence of Bermuda. We also loved our luxurious two-bedroom Reefs Club condo with a hot tub on the ocean-view balcony and access to an exclusive infinity pool. As luck would have it, our unit was very conveniently close to the sublime La Serena Spa. 

Maldives

The Republic of Maldives consists of 1,200 low-lying isles stretched over 500 miles of the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka and India are 400+ miles to the northeast. The country’s 130 resorts are mostly distributed one per island. Pristine white beaches and overwater abodes are de rigueur, and many lodgings come with private butlers and chefs and pools in all sizes and shapes — one resort even has an undersea bedroom with glass walls. 

We stayed at the Como Cocoa Island, where 34 overwater villas resemble dhoni boats, the gently curving wooden vessels used by local fishermen. Each morning, we enjoyed breakfast on our private terrace and then slipped into the water and swam out to the reef teeming with exotic sea life. Afternoons were spent in the thatched-roof Como Shambhala Retreat wellness center, and on our deck savoring the quiet and privacy provided by the remote location. 

Waiting…waiting…

While the world is slowly opening to travelers from the U.S., I’m dreaming about the islands I have yet to visit. 

One of these is Guernsey, in the English Channel near the French coast. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I loved this historical novel, which is set during WWII when the German army occupied the English Channel Islands. 

I also have long been curious about tiny Lord Howe Island, which is off the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Very few Aussies have been there, but I want to go because it’s home to very rare flora, birds, and marine life, and is one of the few islands on the UNESCO World Heritage List. 

And the Azores — these islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean were on their way to becoming the next hot destination when COVID-19 came on the scene. Friends and family who have been there rave about the hiking trails, fishing villages, and volcanic lakes.

No, these aren’t tropical islands, but I’m sure I’ll still feel something magical when I step off the plane.

Featured Photo Guests in the Reefs Club condos at Bermuda’s The Reefs Resort & Club enjoy an infinity pool that appears to spill into the ocean
Image Credits Shipwreck: Photo courtesy of Bermuda Tourism Authority Underwater: Photo courtesy of Reefs Resort & Club Azores archipelago : Photo by Urs Baumann All Other Photography courtesy of Adams / Hansen Stock Photos

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