Caribbean Island Recommendation - Food & Scuba IMP! Mid January
My wife and I live in NY and are planning a 4 day trip to a Caribbean island during mid-January. There are so many good islands that it has been hard for us to decide, so looking for recommendations based on our below preferences (this is our first trip to Caribbean).
1. Good "Scuba dive" experience
2. Beaches - We want to spend time relaxing, so not looking something crowded.
3. Last but definitely not the least - "Food" I love food and would like to experience some authentic sea food.
Thanks in advance for any help possible.
A and V
Can't speak to scuba, but for food and beaches you will be hard pressed to find a better island than the French side of St. Martin. The snorkeling is great so I have to figure the scuba is halfway decent. Note - AVOID THE DUTCH SIDE unless you like all the touristy stuff and crowds and not being totally sure what strip mall you are in. The French side beaches are spectacular+ and the food in Grand Case is excellent. Even the beach food is good, where the beach is big enough to have a restaurant (Friar's Bay!). Orient Beach is the enormous commercialized and crowded beach which has some commendable things about it, but with all of the other beaches on the island you can easily dodge crowds and have a very, very, peaceful experience in paradise.
I recommend my favorite place, Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman has some of the best diving in the Caribbean. The water is crystal clear and undisturbed. Seven Mile Beach is beautiful and generally uncrowded except for the few areas where there are facilities for cruise ship passengers. There is an excellent range of restaurants from Eric Ripert's Blue at the Ritz Carlton to beach shacks where you can have island food.
I also recommend the Caymans. Grand Cayman has the Northwall dive and Stingray for both shallow diving and sandbar snorkeling. At the far tip of GC is supposed to be serious dives but have not been there. Cayman Brac is supposed to be for diehard divers. I don't recall much about the food so I'm no help. There was one place, The Lighthouse, that had great views but meh food and was a bit if a drive away from Seven Mile Beach and the downtown area. There's the restaurant, sorry, can't recall the name that has all outdoor seating, a great bar scene and tarpon feeding. It's touristy but the atmosphere at night is great and quite beautiful by the water.
Like BigGeorge said, the water is pristine, the currents are pretty smooth.
Instead of Grand Cayman, which I think can be a bit of a zoo, take a look at Little Cayman, specifically Pirate's Point. I think the diving is better (can't beat the Little Cayman wall) and the food at Pirate's Point is about the best I've ever had at a resort.
You might also consider the area around Akumal, about an hour south of Cancun. Some good dive shops, reefs aren't super exciting but I always see a lot of variety there, one of my favorite restaurants is right in town, and you're close to Tulum which has quite a large selection of decent restaurants. Great beaches, too.