Before my 25th birthday over a year ago I made a promise to myself that I would celebrate the rest of my 20s birthdays in a different country. Traveling is (obviously) one of my favorite activities and what better way to spend my birthday than to use my passport and explore somewhere I've never been before? Last year I went to Montreal with my sister- you can read about my Canada adventures here. This year for my 26th birthday I decided to go to the lovely island of Bermuda with my friend, Jewel. Its been on my list of countries to visit while living on the East Coast so I felt that it would be the perfect fit for my summer birthday celebrations. Bermuda was so beautiful and the warmth of the local residents truly surprised me. Coming from New York where most people just mind their own business and are always in a hurry to get to a destination, I wasn't expecting complete strangers to say hello and good morning to me every day or to offer their help so kindly when we asked for directions. Bermuda isn't as popular a tourist destination as the Caribbean islands so I didn't know too much about it before going and thus felt a little apprehensive in the beginning. But once arriving, I realized that the people on this island watch out for each other and I started to get the feeling that the whole country was one giant community. Such a refreshing change from my fast paced life in the city!
There aren't too many flights going in and out of Bermuda, but direct flights out of NYC are reasonably priced and only about 2 hours making the country the perfect weekend getaway. A huge bonus we discovered once there was that because Bermuda wasn't the huge tourist destination, the beaches weren't overcrowded or loud, traffic was basically nonexistence, and nothing was ever booked up or sold out. We arrived in Bermuda with nothing except our Airbnb booked and we managed to do everything we wanted and eat at popular restaurants with either a last minute reservation or no reservation at all. The only downside to the country is transportation. Tourists aren't allowed to rent cars (hence the lack of traffic) so the main options to get around the island are scooters/motorcycles, public buses, and taxis. We tried to rent a scooter our first day but it was simply too daunting for us to ride around, so we were forced to abide by the public bus schedule which was sparse on the weekends (and also cost $31 for a 2 day pass) as well as the taxi services which were extremely expensive (the starting fare is $5.15 and its $2.75 for every mile). If I were to do the trip over again, I would definitely have shelled out more money and stayed at one of the big resorts (even though I loved my Airbnb host and he did give us free rides to and from the airport) simply because of the convenience of having things to do on site and free shuttles to other locations. Grotto Bay Resort is one that I would highly recommend. We actually spent an entire day using the amenities there and loved the private beach access and impeccable service. One of the highlights of my birthday trip was swimming in a cave on the Grotto Bay grounds! Its so easy to walk past the nondescript opening of Cathedral Cave and miss what it has to offer, but inside will take your breathe away. Its the only cave you can swim in on the island and worth it, despite the cold temperature of the water. I loved it so much I stayed until closing (5pm). If you burn in the sun easily like I do swimming in the cave is the best way to avoid that! Its also a great place to hide if you get caught in one of the sudden rainfalls that occasionally hit Bermuda.
I experienced many firsts on this trip and driving my own motorboat was one of them. It was a lot easier than I expected! It also provided us with the freedom to explore the water and snorkel. We rented our little boat from Blue Hole Water Sports at Grotto Bay Resort for $120 for two hours- one the most reasonable rates I found when compared to other boating shops. It was amazing to be able to go around the cove and explore Tucker's Point, which is usually only accessible by the extremely rich. The only issue we had with the boat rental was that we didn't know how to anchor the boat! For some reason, no matter how many times we tried we just could not get our anchor stuck in the sand. In the end we just turned our boat engine off and floated aimlessly around the cove. Because it was early morning there were no other boats around so this was possible. That being said, I really suggest taking the boat out before others get there so you can have a more peaceful and private experience. And also it can be kind of scary to drive a motorboat around when you know there are swimmers in the water.
I thought the beaches on Bermuda would be packed with people, but because there are so many beaches and not too many tourists, even the most famous Horseshoe Bay Beach wasn't overcrowded which made for a perfect day. Plus, if you're coming to Bermuda to take in the pink sand you won't be disappointed at Horseshoe Bay! The water is as clear as can be and the sand is indeed a pale pink. The beach had a deal for lounger and umbrella rentals- 2 loungers and an umbrella for $40- so its a good idea to take advantage of that to avoid toasting in the strong sun. A perk of coming later in the day is that you can probably take over the chairs and umbrellas of people that are leaving. The beach doesn't have a time limit on how long they can be rented so if you come when people are leaving definitely ask if you can have their umbrella. We had the most perfect day just lying under the sun and playing in the waters. I even caught up on some reading! Elin Hilderbrand's The Perfect Couple was sooo suspenseful and a great beach read. Other beaches recommended to us by locals include Elbow Beach (also known for its pink sand) and John Smiths Bay Beach. I wish we had more time to have checked out both those beaches!
The Royal Dockyards are located at the furthest end of Bermuda and is where all the cruise ships dock so it can be crowded at times, but its worth a trip because most water tours leave from this area. We took Captain Kirk's Glass Bottom Boat and Snorkeling tour on our first day in Bermuda and it was the best way to start off our vacation. Our tour guides were so funny and informative and took us snorkeling in the middle of the ocean. They pointed out the various types of coral reefs (there is apparently a type of reef called the Fire Coral that can actually give you second degree burns if you bring it to the surface), the shipwreck Vixen which we glided over, and different kinds of fish that called the Bermuda waters home (fyi sharks do not call Bermuda home due to the fact that the coral reefs provide a barrier around the island that larger aquatic animals do not penetrate). I even held my first sea cucumber! It can be difficult to reach the Royal Dockyards because of its far location, but if timed right it is possible to catch a ferry or bus from Hamilton. Definitely do not take a taxi as that can run a fare of up to $70!
I've always felt that island life isn't for me because its much too slow paced for my liking (if you can't tell already I prefer activities over just lying around), but being in Bermuda for 4 days made me kind of envious of its residents having the opportunity to reside in such a beautiful country with warm and welcoming neighbors and the most amazing beaches basically at their fingertips. It was so nice to be able to push away all my life worries and any stressful thoughts and just be able to relax for a few days in sunny paradise. On top of that, I truly enjoyed celebrating my 26th birthday in Bermuda. It was the perfect vacation! Reflecting back on my (now) 26 years of life, I continue to feel blessed for everything that I have: my close relationship with my family, my strong network of supportive friends, my job that provides me with financial security, and the opportunities I have to pursue my life passions and travel the world. In the next year of my life, I hope to continue to make a positive difference in the lives of those around me and to keep pursuing those activities that I"m passionate about, including this blog!
Now that I'm 26.... where should I go for my 27th birthday? Taking suggestions!