2005-01-20 / Travel

Not Too Early To Start Planning Valentine’s Day

By Roger Petterson

Associated Press Writer

This year, instead of waiting until the last minute and getting the usual flowers or stale box of candy for Valentine’s Day, get started now with plans for a romantic, surprise holiday on Curacao or one of the other islands in the sunny Caribbean.

By the way, you don’t have to wait for Valentine’s Day.

Curacao’s pre-Lenten festival of Karnaval — http://www.karnaval-2005.com/ — celebrated in Louisiana as Mardi Gras, has already started and continues into February.

Check in with the Curacao Tourism Board — http://www.curacao-tourism-. .com/ — for virtual tours of the major beaches and the city of Willemstad. Then click on “Things to Do’’ to read up on the beaches, diving, nightlife, sailing, and even a camp for the kids if this getaway includes them. There are things you need to know, including climate and money, and a directory to accommodations running from big hotels to youth inns.

Curacao.com – http://www.curacao.com/ – has references to bicycle and car rental agencies, along with directories of dive centers and boat tour and charter companies. Look at the top of the page for a link to a short photo tour of sights other than beaches.

About 40 miles west of Curacao, its big sister island of Aruba – http://-www.aruba.com/ – has its own pre-Lent festivities, spelled Carnival, in-cluding the Grand 51st Carnival Parade on Feb. 6. Click on the “Select a Topic’’ menu to pick up information on dining, places to stay, shopping and honeymoons. That menu is also where you want to click on “Things to Do’’ ranging all the way from a butterfly farm and casinos to sailing and diving.

Joining Curacao and Aruba in the Dutch Caribbean is Bonaire — http://-www.infobonaire.com/ — which draws divers to its surrounding reefs, protected as a marine park. If diving and sailing don’t excite you, look under “Act-ivities’’ to learn about touring the island by bicycle, riding horses, or just sitting back and watching the sunset. When you decide to look for places to stay, you’ll need to go to “Accommodations’’ and click on “Choose price range’’ to open a menu of choices.

In case these islands don’t ring your travel bell, you might look elsewhere in the neighborhood. The Caribbean Tourism Organization — http://www.-doitcaribbean.com/ — has information on spots from Anguilla to the Virgin Islands, which you can access by clicking on the “Destination’’ menu or the interactive map. Explore the “Special Deals’’ to see if you can save a buck or two.

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