Change of latitude: Bermuda

    On a volcanic spit of land in the shape of a hook, lies a veritable paradise, once inhabited only by wild pigs. While it is true that nearly 10 boats go missing each year in the Bermuda triangle and that there are hundreds of shipwrecks — some within wading distance of the shore — the serenity of the weather betrays none of this mysterious foreboding.

    Photo courtesy of Samantha Haskins
    Paradise Found:

    Bermuda is a small island, only 22 square miles in its entirety. The best course of travel on the island is either to take the bus for one Bermudan dollar each way or to rent a scooter. The thrill of riding through the jungle-like greenery, punctuated by the sight of wild chickens and genial residents, is astonishing. The weather is always temperate, and while Bermuda is not in fact a tropical island (it is off the Atlantic seaboard, due east of the coast of Virginia), it receives the benefits of clement breezes and constant temperature.

    The island’s history is a rich and a sad one as it approaches the 500th anniversary of its discovery. The best time to visit is in the summer, when it makes a fair alternative to the expense and mind-melting heat of the tropics. Encrusted with thousands of caves, sunken ships and pink-sand beaches, Bermuda lacks neither scenery nor places to see. Diving and snorkeling are two of the greatest diversions, especially if you would like to see the submerged ships — but leave time for spelunking, hiking, barhopping and sea tours, as well.

    Perhaps the most affable detail about Bermuda is that the American and Bermudan dollars are interchangeable. The exchange rate is 1:1 and they accept both types of currency everywhere, so you probably will receive change half in Bermudan money and half in American. Food is decidedly more expensive, so be prepared to spend. The food has a very heavy British influence, as the island was once a province of Great Britain: Expect curry dishes, fried foods and fish. (The best fish to be found on the island is tilapia.) The Swizzle Inn has fantastic cuisine and by night turns into the Swagger Out. The walls are decorated with bar jokes and wisdoms, with one room reserved for guests to write on the walls. They provide several colored markers with which to make your own mark, should you feel so inclined.

    The nightlife is marginal, but if you are determined, it is quite easy to create your own fun. The legal drinking age in Bermuda is 18, so visitors who are underage can experience the bar scene a few years ahead of their time. Beware the Dark and Stormy, a rather toxic concoction of what tastes like a mixture of rum and paint thinner and is the most famous drink on the island. Most hotels house their own bar, and if you are centrally located, there are many others that are equally accessible.

    Lodging can be expensive, so the best idea is to book your tickets and your room together through an online travel agent such as Travelocity or Orbitz. Try to peruse as many options as possible to find the cheapest one. The Grotto Beach Hotel is at once lovely and amiably staffed. Its view is breathtaking: The ocean is steps away from the rooms and the sands on this side of the island are stark white. There are two shipwrecks close enough to swim out to and touch with your fingertips, if the eeriness of them doesn’t drive you away first. The accommodations are nice, and most of the hotels have a beachfront.

    It is rare to be far from the airport, considering that traversing the entire island from end to end is a shorter distance than a typical drive across San Diego. Customs coming in and out of Bermuda are far more pleasant that those in the United States, and it is also handy that a passport is unnecessary. If you choose to go Bermuda, all you need is a birth certificate and a valid ID.

    Overall, if you are planning a tropical vacation, Bermuda is a fine, classy choice. If you are looking for a drink-all-night-till-you-puke-in-the-street spot, Bermuda is probably not for you, and you should probably go to Cancun. However, for those looking for something a little more sedate, much cleaner, safer and entirely more breathtaking, this little island has as much to offer above the sea as below it. Immerse yourself in this paradise and you will not regret a single moment — and be sure to drink as much ginger beer as you can, or you’ll miss it after you leave.

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