Skip Summer, Go in WinterEverybody loves Bermuda in the summer; perfect sunny weather lures big crowds from April through September. But don’t rule out a winter visit! Temps are cooler, yes, hovering in the 60s from November to March. But a comfortable, mild climate prevails, the crowds are a lot thinner and the rates can be half off summer’s highs. For the 2014-2015 winter season, an island-wide promotion is giving visitors a free night’s stay for 3- to 5-night bookings. One tip: schedule some activities, like water sports, ahead of time since many companies operate reduced hours, or close, during the winter.
Book Summer, Forget the HurricaneHurricane season in Bermuda is June through November, although a hurricane hitting this island is considered rare. Either way, if you do want to visit in summer, don’t let fears of a storm stop you. Members of the Bermuda Hotel Association – popular properties like the Coco Reef Resort, Grotto Bay Beach Club and both of Fairmont’s AAA 4-Diamond resorts – guarantee stays. You’re allowed cancellations with no penalties if a hurricane is predicted within 200 miles of Bermuda, and within three days. If a property is damaged and closed for repairs, guests are invited back for a complimentary stay within one year of the hotel reopening.
Skip the Boutique, Shop for CraftsLocated in the Cooperage building at the Royal Naval Dockyard, the Bermuda Crafts Market is more than just a place to shop. This is an artistic haven, home to a mix of local artists who have called the market home for years. Hunt through jewelry, sea glass art, cedar-made wares, quilts and ceramics. This is a great spot to shop for Christmas ornaments and pick up a few rum cakes.
Skip the Wine, Sip the RumFine dining reigns supreme in Bermuda, so a glass of fine wine is often a must. But you’ll quickly learn that rum runs rampant here. Ingredients are generally imported and a handful of distilleries, including Bacardi, craft a variety of fine rum. The Dark n’ Stormy is a trademark – a proprietary cocktail by Gosling’s of Bermuda made with Black Seal rum and ginger beer. But rum inspires a bevy of other must-try sippers, too, like the Shrub, made with rum and sour oranges, the Rum Swizzle, which blends rum with apricot brandy and honey, and the Milk Punch, with black rum, milk and lemons. May I have another?
Skip the Beach, Visit the JungleTom Moore’s Jungle, named for the Irish poet who fell in love with Bermuda in the early 1800s, is worth a break from the sand. “I suggest hiking through the undisturbed paths lined with thick hedges of wild trees and berries into the heart of the jungle, until you reach the crystal-clear aqua lagoon,” says Carlita Lodge, a Bermuda native who’s the marketing and communications manager at the Fairmont Southampton. “If you continue hiking, you'll reach a series of caves where you can take a dip amongst stalactites and stalagmites. Tom Moore's Jungle is very close to the better-known attraction, Crystal Caves, so stop at the jungle on the way there.” She recommends Hidden Gems Bermuda for an insightful guided tour of the jungle and the nearby Swizzle Inn for a post-jungle cocktail.
After the Jungle, Visit the GardenLocated in Paget Parish, the Bermuda Botanical Gardens is 35 acres of flowers and tropical trees. The bounty here also includes an aviary, several glass greenhouses and even an aromatic garden for blind visitors. Admission is free and a 90-minute tour of the grounds, offered on select days, is free, too. This is a great spot for a picnic.
Skip the Pool, Swim the CovesSouth Shore, located where Southampton and Warwick Parishes converge, offers an intimate alternative to the hotel pool. The beaches here link a series of secluded coves, ideal for swimming and, in some cases, pretty private sunbathing; Jobsons Cover is popular with families for its calm and shallow waters. A tip: it can be rocky maneuvering between coves so pack footwear accordingly. Walk the trails along the cliffs above for sweeping ocean views.
Not a Diver, Not a ProblemAvid divers flock here for good reason: more than 300 shipwrecks, dating back almost 500 years, await in the ocean waters around Bermuda. But what if you’re not a certified diver? Hartley’s Undersea Adventures is a longstanding family operation, and helmet diving is specialty. No experience required – just put on the specialty helmet and walk amid a fascinating array of underwater life. The company has been using the same reef for years – a spot about two miles off shore in eight to 10 feet of water. They claim to know many of the fish who live there intimately: many have names and some can even be held. Trips take three to four hours.
Skip the Fairway, Play MiniNo doubt, Bermuda is a golf mecca; there are more golf courses per square mile here than anywhere else in the world. But at Bermuda Fun Golf, you don’t have to swing like a pro to enjoy the sport. Set on an acre of sprawling oceanfront property at Royal Naval Dockyard, this mini golf course features 18 holes inspired by many of the world’s legendary courses, like Pebble Beach in California and St. Andrews in Scotland.
Gabe Saglie is senior editor for Travelzoo, which features a ton of Bermuda deals and tips here.