The Island Hopper

by - 10:45:00 AM

Island hopping and backpacking offer romantic adventure and excitement when traveling, and I prefer striking out on my own to discover how the natives really live instead of following the suggested itineraries of travel agents and tour guides. I do make a point of staying in one good hotel in each location because I want to experience everything travel has to offer without limiting myself to one point of view.

Islands offer secluded beaches, indigenous communities, camping sites, communion with nature, and ecotourism for people who respect the environment. Five of my favorite backpacking adventures took place at the following locations.

1. Samoa offers many natural resources for backpackers, and I heartily recommend the cheap beach fales or thatch bungalows located throughout the country and operated by local villages. I enjoyed hiking all over the island, and the lovely mountains and beautiful waterfalls offer stunning, unspoiled adventures for both male and female travelers.

Samoa has a very low crime rate, but I recommend dressing conservatively for women. Samoan men prove sexually provocative, but you only need to express your intentions clearly and resist taking offense over good-natured flirting.

2. I really like the remote wildernesses of Fiji, but I did have several rough encounters with overly aggressive men in the more populated areas of the main South Pacific island. Natives in remote areas prove difficult to engage in conversation, and the main island has a high crime rate that targets traditional tourists, but backpackers often avoid these problems by minding their business and engaging natives only when necessary or clearly encouraged. I did meet one family who offered excellent advice on surfing, snorkeling and diving, but I would recommend exercising caution on the main island. The northern islands feature budget resorts, camping sites on the beach, and spectacular scenery.

3. I found Nantucket surprisingly charming and far less developed than I expected. The island, immortalized by Herman Melville in “Moby Dick,” once served as a base for whalers, pirates and ship captains, but the time of salty sea dogs has passed into history. Unlike many East Coast islands, Nantucket offers quaint traditions, fewer crowds, and charming cobblestone streets.

I really enjoyed my stay in local Nantucket Hotels, which also follow the island's tradition of discouraging overt commercialism. Bike paths, running trails, and skating parks offer visitors plenty of room to play without traffic, and the beaches and rolling hills bring the Scottish coast to mind. Simple local festivals, art shows, historic lighthouses, and haze-free stargazing helped make my time on Nantucket extremely enjoyable.

4. Langkawi, Malaysia offers some of the lowest accommodation, entertainment and dining costs of any island I ever visited. The small island offers big advantages for island hoppers including a long beach, plenty of hostels and bars friendly to backpackers, delicious foods, and cheap scooter rentals. You have so many choices of rooms, dorms, huts, and bungalows that you never need to make reservations and can find hundreds of rooms as cheap as five dollars for singles.

5. Martha's Vineyard offers protected hiking for dog lovers and friendly trail systems for backpackers. I really savored the offshore hiking, protected forests, walking along the dramatic bluffs with incredible views of the sandy beaches and ocean.

You will need to walk a good distance to reach the most scenic areas, but the eight sanctuaries for backpackers and dog walkers make the area perfect for naturalists. I loved my vacation there and probably lost 10 pounds while hiking over the 2,100 protected acres.

Backpacking and island hopping offer unique ways to enjoy nature and interact with indigenous people all over the world. Travelers save money, learn more about the natives, and can always refresh by staying one or more nights in traditional hotels.

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