OffMetro senior writer Allison Tibaldi tempts us with 3 destinations under 3 hours from NYC.
If you thought island getaways were nothing but all-inclusive resorts crowded with rowdy sun-seekers, conga lines and mediocre buffets, meet three tropical destinations that will change your preconceived notions. Whether you’re looking for something mellow, elegant or rich with culture, there are great options for a weekend away before baby makes three. The best part for pregnant -- and increasingly uncomfortable -- travelers? Each of these three islands are under three hours from NYC, so you’ll be in paradise in no time. SANIBEL ISLAND, FLORIDA. Surrounded by uncultivated calm. Vibe: A mellow feel makes this the perfect place to bask in nature’s seaside glories. Get there: Sanibel Island takes only minutes to reach via causeway from the Fort Myers airport. Do: In spite of its proximity to the mainland, Sanibel remains untouched by modern tourist traps. There are no high-rise condos or big-box shops. Visitors quickly fall under the spell of Sanibel’s authentic old-time Florida spirit, where towering palm trees are the tallest things around. Shell-collecting is a popular pastime, with a colorful assortment of mollusks and bivalves peppering the island’s beaches. Over half of the island’s land is devoted to the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. You can explore pristine wetlands, mangrove forests and glimpse hundreds of exotic species of migratory birds in this unspoiled oasis. Stay: The low-key West Wind Inn is immersed in nature. You will be lulled to sleep by the ocean’s song as you relax in your comfy room, complete with a handy kitchenette. The staff is genuinely welcoming, but never obtrusive. Image source. BERMUDA. A taste of Great Britain without crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Vibe: Elegant and refined, this island has glorious beaches and warm sunshine. Get there: Only a two-hour flight from JFK or LaGuardia can transport you to another world. Do: Famed for its signature pink-hued sand, Bermuda’s beaches are breathtaking. But it’s the customs and traditions that make a visit here unbeatable. It’s a slice of Britain off the coast of North Carolina, where they drive on the left, play cricket and drink properly made tea at 4 pm. The sense of humor here is drier than a martini, another nod to the island nation’s British roots. This archipelago is home to seven main islands and many smaller ones, all connected by bridges. Visitors are not permitted to rent cars, but scooters are a fun way to get around, plus the efficient bus system works like a charm. If you’re golfers, the island is famed for its championship courses. The trademark cocktail is the potent rum-based Dark and Stormy, but there are delicious non-alcoholic nibbles to tempt you. Sample authentic culinary treats like pepper Jelly and cassava pie, and you’ll be hooked on Bermudian cuisine. Stay: Elbow Beach is a luxury resort featuring 98 elegant guestrooms and suites spread amongst 50 acres of manicured gardens that gently slope down to its pink sand beach. Book a pampering prenatal treatment at the spa for the ultimate indulgence. Image source. NASSAU PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS. Beaches that are beyond beautiful blended with island crafts and culture. Vibe: Local folk are eager to share their culture and stunning turquoise waters with visitors. Get there: The non-stop flight to Nassau takes just over two hours, so you will be submerged in 80-degree water in no time. Do: Miles of powdery white sand that fringe turquoise waters are the hallmark of this friendly island. If you can drag yourself away from Mother Nature’s tropical dream, head to the Nassau Straw Market for a dash of Colonial charm and simultaneous retail therapy. You will find hand-woven straw hats, bags and housewares among the t-shirts and inexpensive souvenirs. Don’t miss experiencing fresh Bahamian seafood, starring the famed conch. Try dinner at the One & Only Ocean Club’s Courtyard Terrace, where the fusion cuisine showcases native flavors. Stay: Located on a secluded strip of Cable Beach, Marley Resort and Spa is owned by Rita Marley, Bob’s widow. This 16-room boutique hotel blends African and Caribbean décor with a classic reggae soundtrack that will have you wanting to sing along. Image source.