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Our Next Favorite Island Getaways

Sun seekers crave fresher, trendier and less crowded islands

Caribbean GetawayCaribbean GetawayMore than 250 million people visit the Caribbean each year, and ships gridlocked at many ports of call are a daily occurrence. Who wants to spend their vacation on an island jam packed with taxis going the same duty-free shops, or worse, markets selling the same cheap trinkets?

Want your spot at the beach on St. Thomas or Aruba? Get there early and be prepared for sardine style sunbathing. Fresher beaches that aren't pockmarked with umbrellas is the new luxury.

While much of our frustration with the Caribbean comes from simple over-exposure, some islands are changing things up just enough to bring back the excitement. Have a look at these hot new trends for 2008:

Progreso

A tiny fishing village on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula has picked up where Costa Maya left off after Hurricane Dean leveled it. Carnival is investing heavily in developing its port there, opening the door for other cruise lines and resort goers to sample this off-the-beaten path destination. Besides the openly beautiful beaches, Progreso is close to Chichen Itza and Uxmal.

 

Dominican Republic

There's literally something for everyone here. A beach-lovers dream, Cayo Levantado, mixes busy, lively stretches of beach with intimate and private nooks on the far side of the island. Samana is a breeding spot for humpback whales from January to March. And Casa de Campo offers high-end lux.

 

St. Croix

This close-by island fell off the map in 2001 when crimes against tourists got out of hand. After $18 million dollars in beautification renovations, this US Virgin Island has earned the respect back of Disney.

There are 2 urban centers here, Fredericksted on the west coast and Christiansted in the north, for more relaxed and spread out shopping. It's a historical destination but also a prime locale for snorkeling and diving.

Jamaica

Pushy locals and rampant crimes against tourists have always been a problem here. While Jamaica has never been off the map, a government push to improve the tourism experience gives a new patina to a been-there-done-that destination. And partnerships with cruise lines to build bigger ports of call to accommodate the new behemoth ships may give Jamaica a competitive edge over smaller, less developed islands.

Where will you spend your 2008 Caribbean vacation?

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Keep in mind Jamaica's human rights record before you spend your tourist dollars there. The tide is slowly changing, but the country is notorious for homophobia.

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