Summer has officially arrived in Montana! The weather is warm, and the days are long and sunny clear up until after 9 o’ clock in the evening! I spend most of my days outside with my kids on outings to friends’ homes, the park, the pool, the library or the baseball field. However, I cannot help but daydream of lying on a towel with my toes in the sand, surrounded by an idyllic beach setting!
Clients ask me all the time, “What is the best tropical vacation?” There are many schools of thought out there. Travel Weekly, Forbes and thousands of Insta Travelers have an opinion and so do I! My top picks are based on my ideal type of travel, which I refer to as leisure fun! Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good day of rest and relaxation, but when I travel, I love to experience the food, and learn about the surrounding culture by getting off the beaten path and meeting locals, in addition to seeing the more well-known sights. With that in mind, the following are my Top 10 Tropical Getaway Recommendations.
10. Christiansted, St. Croix
St. Croix is the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands and its unique history and culture is a melting pot of influences from Spain, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, the Knights of Malta, Denmark and the United States. However, the native culture of the Arawak and Carib peoples is still evident today. This island offers a tranquil experience on gorgeous beaches, as well as its charming accommodations. The town is colorful and filled with interesting historical sights and the people are extremely friendly.
9. Riviera Maya, Mexico
“With buzzing towns like Tulum and Playa del Carmen and appealing resorts set along the white-sand coastline, Mexico’s 100-mile-long Riviera Maya has become a travel hot spot.” Riviera Maya has amazing beaches and is home to the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere and the second largest coral reef in the world! Perfect for diving and snorkeling, these turquoise waters are filled with beautiful colorful fish and sea turtles! Another popular activity is to visit the awesome cenotes (natural sink holes filled with water) featuring majestic caves with stalactites and stalagmites. Outside of the beach, explore one of the many jungle archaeological sites dating back to 600 B.C. or simply enjoy the delicious and authentic Mexican cuisine! It’s also worth noting that the Riviera Maya is home to many amazing All-Inclusive resorts that are incredibly affordable!
8. Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Although there are 60 islands that make up the British Virgin Islands, I find that the Virgin Gorda is the most diverse offering the quintessential beach towns with excellent snorkeling and boating, alluring beach side restaurants, bars and hotels, as well as two National Parks. The first National Park is the most photographed in all of the BVI, The Baths National Park. This stunning natural wonder is made up of giant granite boulders strewn throughout a bay of clear water. This place is perfect for snorkeling and exploration! The Gordon Peak National Park offers a distinct contrast to the beach in the form of a semi-rain forest filled with interesting species of flora and fauna.
7. The Exumas, Bahamas
“With sapphire-blue water everywhere, The Exumas are an exotic collection of dream destinations. Footprint-free beaches, ultra-exclusive resorts, and islands fit for celebrities make this tropical paradise an absolute gem. Here, nature outnumbers man, coastlines remain flawless and private homes play host to some of the world’s most famous stars. The Exumas truly are the ultimate escape.” Most people think of Nassau when they think of the Bahamas, however with daily cruise passengers flooding the island, every resort quickly begins to feel crowded and more like a Disneyland experience of lines and wait times. If the gigantic Atlantis resort is still something you feel you need to visit, then simply take a day trip and enjoy a pass at your preferred resort. I assure you, the amazing clear waters of the Exumas and their luxurious accommodations will have you feeling rejuvenated in no time!
6. Palm Beach, Aruba
“The beaches of Aruba are considered to be among the cleanest, widest, and most spectacular in the Caribbean region…Palm Beach, set against a backdrop of Aruba's leading resorts, was voted best family-friendly beach in the world by The Travel Channel and by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the best beaches in the world!” In the day this ocean paradise offers all of the fun in the sun activities, but at night becomes one of the leading nightlife scenes in the world! For a fun change of pace, visit Oranjestad just 20 minutes away from Palm Beach to traverse the capital and largest city in Aruba lined with colorful colonial architecture, as well as fun boutiques and restaurants.
5. Oahu, Hawaii
When most people think of the beach, they think of Hawaii! Oahu is my favorite island to recommend in Hawaii. It is the perfect blend of idyllic beaches, stunning natural wonders and just the right amount of city spaces. “The third largest Hawaiian island is home to the majority of Hawaii’s diverse population, a fusion of East and West cultures rooted in the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian people. It’s this fundamental contrast between the ancient and the modern that makes discovering Oahu — from bustling city life to laidback surf towns — so enjoyable.” Oahu has marvelous beaches, great surfing and just about every water activity you can think of! It also has amazing hotels and resorts right on the beach. Discover their East meets West culinary treats and learn more about their culture in one of their captivating featured Luau’s! You can also hike or go horseback riding along their beautiful green mountainous terrain and treat yourself to a dip in their many jaw dropping waterfalls.
4. Gros Islet, St. Lucia
St. Lucia is a tropical playground with an ocean of water sports, including certified diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kayaking and much more! The beaches are beautiful, and the accommodations are even more enticing many offering All Inclusive service. It has long been the #1 Honeymoon Destination according to US News and Travel and Leisure. It’s lush green and unspoiled terrain leave a mark on all its visitors. Be sure to try their excellent cuisine. “With such a rich history of cultures, from Amerindians to Africans to the French and British, it's no wonder St. Lucia has an enormous melting pot of cuisines. Of course, as an island, fresh seafood plays a central role, with everything from conch to mahi-mahi prepared in a myriad of ways.” You’ll find St. Lucians to be friendly and hospitable people that will only add to your Caribbean experience!
3. Guanacaste, Costa Rica
“As one of the most popular provinces in Costa Rica, Guanacaste has gained a name for itself as a tropical paradise with a pristine shoreline, beautiful mountain ranges and a number of volcanoes.” This tropical paradise is home to many enchanting beaches, as well as diverse and exotic flora and fauna, including puma, jaguars, sloths and tapirs. It has two National Parks that make for perfect hiking expeditions and in between the months of March-May and July-October you could spot sea turtles lumbering up the beach to nest! Their unique accommodations are composed of sprawling resorts promoting overall health of mind and body, as well as smaller Eco sustainable boutique properties set among the lush landscape of the rain forest, boasting with Costa Rican charm!
2. Negril, Jamaica
Negril’s renowned seven-mile beach offers sand as soft and white as fine powdered sugar and picturesque flat turquoise waters. “The fact that Negril is still underdeveloped remains a significant factor in its undoubted charm.” The beautiful beaches and majestic cliffs entice you to walk, swim, play and relax. Negril also offers some of the best All Inclusive resorts that enhance your vacation with the extensive amenities and service! Here you can spend your days in the warm sun lounging beach side and your nights dancing barefoot in the moonlight to the rhythm of local reggae. “Jamaica is intense in its beauty and its people will leave a lasting impression. Come discover the country of rum, reggae and Bob Marley. Of sun-drenched beaches and warm tropical breezes.”
1. Bora Bora, French Polynesia
The ultimate tropical paradise is hands down Bora Bora! Who has not dreamed of staying in one of the amazing over the water bungalows overlooking the glittering sea? Bora Bora is the stuff dreams are made of! Its irresistible waters surrounded by lush mountains create the perfect backdrop to the ideal island vacation! Their local town offers a glimpse into the unique, authentic Tahitian culture. Their music, dance, clothing and pearl jewelry are exquisite! Although food can be pricey, be sure to try an inexpensive local meal from the grocery store or better yet a roulette (small roadside snacks served out of a tiny truck). This exotic vacation will be sure to leave everlasting memories and plenty of envious Instagram pics!
 “How to Travel to the Riviera Maya.” Travel Leisure, www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/beach-vacations/how-to-travel-to-the-riviera-maya.
 “Activities on The Exumas.” The Official Site of The Bahamas, www.bahamas.com/islands/exumas/popular-activities?page=1.
 “Aruba Beaches - White Sand, Arashi, Eagle Beach, Palm Beach, Baby Beach.” Www.visitaruba.com, www.visitaruba.com/things-to-do/aruba-beaches/.
 “Oahu.” Go Hawaii, 28 May 2019, www.gohawaii.com/islands/oahu.
 “Everything You Need to Know For Your Trip to St. Lucia.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, travel.usnews.com/St_Lucia/.
 “Guanacaste, Costa Rica: Beaches, Surfing & Fun.” Go Visit Costa Rica, www.govisitcostarica.com/region/guanacaste/guanacaste.asp.
 “Negril.com.” Official Website of Negril Jamaica, negril.com/.
 “Negril.com.” Official Website of Negril Jamaica, negril.com/.
For some great tips on what to wear and how to pack for this perfect Tropical Getaway, check out my very talented sister-in-laws' blog, Hay Bales & High Heels for awesome ideas!
Judy Yirsa is owner and lead travel consultant at St. Christopher Mission Travel, specializing in Multi-Generational Family vacations, as well as Catholic Pilgrimages.