U.S. citizens don’t need a passport to explore this trio of Caribbean islands (St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix). While the 133-square-mile chain has history in spades — Christopher Columbus touched down in 1493 — 2017 marks a banner year as the USVI celebrates its Centennial, with special events (festivals, parades and presumably lots of rum cake) continuing throughout the year. Also historic, Caneel Bay, the 60-year-old, 170-acre escape in St. John’s Virgin Islands National Park founded by environmentalist and preservationist Laurance Rockefeller, just celebrated its diamond anniversary. The property is bringing back the original beauty of its pared-down, 1950s-inspired Scandinavian style.
If the glitzy excess gets too much, escape to Fokos taverna for superfood salads and lamb chops, or Kiki's, an off-grid grill-shack overlooking Agios Sostis bay, where even Naomi Campbell has to queue for a table. Or cruise over to the tiny island of Delos, an archaeological sanctuary that once thronged with 30,000 sun worshippers (the temple is dedicated to Apollo, the Greek god of light).
Zakynthos, or Zante, has shrugged off its reputation as a destination for lads on tour (as long as you avoid Lagana and the built-up south coast) by rebranding itself as Greece's greenest island. It's not just the emerald hills sliding into the electric blue Ionian: much of the south coast is a nature reserve where endangered loggerhead turtles hatch in the sand. The turtle beaches are off limits, but there are countless coves in every hue of green and blue. Favourites are tiny Xigia, with its bubbling underwater springs, and craggy Porto Limnionas, with sunbeds wedged between the rocks and palm-frond umbrellas positioned between the pine trees. Skinari is the starting point for boat trips to the most famous landmarks, the Blue Caves and Shipwreck Beach, where a rusting liner leans into the chalky cliffs. From Keri, you can cast away for Marathonisi island, another turtle sanctuary.
The Greek islands have beautiful weather in the months just before and after peak season. It’s a great time to see the islands, save money, avoid the crowds, and still have great weather (though not as hot as July and August). If you want to see the super-popular islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Corfu, and Crete without the tourists then this is a great time to visit.