When you return from a trip to some place new, there’s that inevitable greeting, how was it? Friends and family are naturally curious for details and stories from your getaway. They want to travel vicariously by understanding what you felt, smelled, ate, heard—how your senses interacted with this foreign place and space. That was certainly the case when I got back from AFAR Experiences Bermuda at the end of April, and when I think about my time there, three words come through loud and clear.

Surprising. Sure, you may be familiar with Bermuda shorts and the Bermuda triangle, but what do you really know about this island? In my case, there were so many unexpected, revelatory moments about its history and culture that I was in a slight state of perpetual surprise at my ignorance—but also ridiculously giddy as I realized I was in for a very enriching experience.

 

First off, Bermuda is a British Overseas Territory with a governor appointed by the monarch (yes, none other than Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth). It has a small but very diverse population and a lovely accent that sounds part British, West Indian, and North American. In fact, it’s an Atlantic island (not in the Caribbean Sea) and much closer to North America than to the rest of the Caribbean. So close that it's only a 90-minute flight from New York City. Yes, Manhattanites, you could get to Bermuda quicker than getting to the Hamptons. Now isn't that a pleasant surprise?

Colorful. Bermuda counts 181 islands, so beautiful beaches and coastlines are just about everywhere you look. The combination of the glistening turquoise water, the lush green palm trees, the pink sand beaches, and the rainbow-hued homes and shops will give even the most jaded traveler a pick-me-up. It may also lead to a full memory card, as it's nearly impossible not to want to capture as many of these scenes.

 For an Insta-worthy afternoon, walk along Front Street in Hamilton, taking in the shops and storefronts in vibrant pinks and yellows. And make a point to step off the main strip for a slight detour to Reade Street.

 If you have a little more time, hop in a cab or, better yet, catch the ferry to to St George's, my personal favorite (check timetables for ferry season). This historic town and UNESCO World Heritage site is even more vivid, with attractive architecture and cobblestone streets that will have you charmed.

Haunted. It may not be in the Caribbean, but it turns out Bermuda still has a history of pirates that dates back some 400 years. Unfamiliar with the sounds coming from the island (later discovered to be pigs and birds) and suffering through stormy weather, these pirates spread tales of witchcraft. As a result, Bermuda came to be widely known as Devil’s Island. A present-day trip here wouldn’t be complete without experiencing haunted Bermuda, either in the form of a ghost tour or a dinner at a landmark like 18th-century Verdmont House.