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For the bluest water and whitest sand?

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Hi all,

My fiancee and I are planning a honeymoon for May 2013 and have decided we will spend 5 days in the Caribbean to relax at the end of a longer trip to South America (Peru and Ecuador). For the 5 days (4 nights), we will have a budget of about US$4,000 for both of us on accommodation, air tickets (out of NY) and other misc items.

We are a couple in our late twenties and consider the following as the most important criteria: 1) uncrowded and romantic beaches with the clearest bluest water and white sand and 2) we also like to explore a bit (either by dinghy or by car) around the island to try different restaurants and hit up different beaches so we prefer not to stay somewhere where we will be stranded at the resort.

Based on all the research and helpful comments from this forum, we have currently narrowed down to the following choices:
1) Anguilla - beautiful white sand and turquoise water, excellent dining scene and also easy to drive around and explore different beaches, luxurious resort (CuisinArt, Cap Juluca)
2) Bahamas Out Islands (Eleuthera, Abacos, Exumas) - beautiful water and white sand as well, but a bit more off the beaten path, very casual atmosphere, can drive around as well as boat around to deserted beaches, dining so so
3) Turks & Caicos - again beautiful water and sand, easy to drive around, a bit more commercialized (especially Grace Bay compared to Anguilla and Out Islands), good dining, luxurious resorts (Somerset, Regent Palms)

Also consider BVI / USVI but thought these are three are more suitable. Just want to see what recommendations you have for us? Many thanks!!

Jason

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    First, let me say your assessments of the pluses and minuses of the destinations you are considering are spot on target. You have a great feel for what each has to offer and I doubt anything I or others say will change your perceptions. Those destinations are what they are and I'm sure you'll find each has their supporters. Of those destinations, I'd choose Anguilla, but that's me. Others will have their favorites.

    I'll also suggest you look at either Caneel Bay on St. John or Little Dix Bay Virgin Gorda - but are terrific places and because they are mountainous and somewhat lush are a stark contrast to the the flat arid islands you are considering.

    Now, the real point of my response is to suggest you look into altering your flight itinerary. I'm not sure why you'd want to fly from Peru/Ecuador to New York and then on to the Caribbean. You might find it easier and less expensive to fly from Peru/Ecuador (sorry you weren't specific as to your South American departure city) to Miami and then on to the Caribbean. Of the destinations on your list only Providenciales (T&C's) is reachable non-stop from one of the NYC area airports. All of the other destinations require at least one connecting flight (either through MIA, SJU or SXM). You could save yourself a lot of time and since MIA is a major hub for flights to the Caribbean for several different airlines you may find you'll save on airfare. Of course, without knowing your actual starting and ending city (cities) or why you want to go to NY there's no way for me to know if such an itinerary would actually work but I thought I mention it anyway. What I'm trying to say is if you are starting out in NY an Itinerary like NY/South America/MIA/Caribbean/NY may take less flight time and be less expensive than an itinerary like NY/South America/NY/Caribbean/NY since the "Caribbean" leg (other than Provo) will involve one or more connecting flights.

    Anyway, I hope I didn't confuse you too much.

    Good luck planning your trip.

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    Congratulations on your upcoming marriage!

    May is a glorious time to visit any of those destinations, and frankly, given your wishes, you won't go wrong with any of them. Your observations about each of them are generally on target. So, given that, let me ask you one question that might make a difference to you: How "rustic" do you want to go?

    Anguilla is the most posh, both in accomodations and dining, with prices to match. T&C is more in the middle, with high-end resorts, but a bit more casual and down-island on the dining. The Out Islands, with the exception of a handful of resorts (e.g. Sandals Emerald Bay on Great Exuma), are generally rustic in terms of resorts and with pretty basic dining.

    I don't mean to put down any of them, because I've visited each multiple times. But as other "regulars" on this site know, I'm a total Out Islands fanatic. I really seek to get away from it all, and nothing does that better than the Out Islands. And, nowhere are the beaches more beautiful and more deserted, with a handful of beach bars in some of the relatively more populous islands (e.g. Abacos). If you see one other person on a beach in some of the Out Islands, it's "crowded." Usually, you are all alone.

    One of the most alluring aspects of the Out Islands for me is the ability to explore, the feeling that you are plotting a never-before-taken course. In the Abacos and Exumas, it's by boat or dinghy (or golf cart, on some of the Abaco cays); on the longer islands (Cat, Long, Eleuthera), it's by car or kayak. You may be bushwhacking on roads (tracks) that haven't seen traffic since the last hurricane.

    Of course, the price for all of that remote-ness is challenges to get to the Out Islands, as well as the rustic nature of lodgings. It may or may not work for you.

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    I haven't been there yet, but we are going to honeymoon on Virgin Gorda next May and it looks amazing, as does the nearby island of Anegada. Worth checking out if you want uncrowded and beautiful. Also worth checking out - Culebra, PR. Playa Flamenco was the prettiest beach I've ever been on. http://www.pbase.com/loridenise/culebra

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    Thank you all for the comments!

    RoamsAround - thank you for your idea re flights! I am not sure why it didn't really occur to me previously. I will be flying out either from Lima or Quito and I just did a quick check on flights online and found that I can in fact be saving some time and money if I fly to Miami from S America and onwards to one of the islands and then back to NY!

    I totally agree with Callaloo on the whole "plotting a never-before-taken course" feel of the Out Islands. I personally like the Out Islands best out of the three options, it's relatively cheaper but the beach and water just as nice and less crowded. And the only downside is the rustic accommodation, and given it's our honeymoon, I naturally want to stay somewhere slightly more luxurious.

    To pick your brains a bit more, if going down the route of the Out Islands, which islands would you choose out of Abacos, Eleuthera and Exumas (I am excluding the more remote islands like Cat and Long for simplicity sake given they are a bit harder to get to for the short time frame)? I was leaning towards Exuma staying at the Grand Isle Resort (seems a bit quieter than Sandals Emeralds bay, which is what we want), does anyone have good thing to say about the hotel, and the beach it is on, and whether it is still easy to rent a boat + car to explore around the island?

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    The flat, arid islands have bluer water and whiter sand, and you'll see mountains in Peru and Ecuador. For the reasons you mentioned, do Anguilla. You can get meals and accommodations that are less expensive, or you can splurge.
    Look at Cap (my favorite, but currently in an ownership dispute), CuisinArt, Viceroy (also Frangiapani, Carimar)or Sheriva or other villas.
    Can you go from your South American departure straight to SJU or SXM?

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    Agree w/everything stated before and I'll get my 2 cents in...been to all three and I love the out islands certainly for gorgeous beaches but also the rustic, away from civilization feel. I have been to all three of the out island you mention and I think Grand Isle will suit your needs. It is on the northern end of Great exuma so it may take a little effort to get to some of the fantastic beaches on Little Exuma such as tropic of cancer beach(one of my fav). You may also want to take a peek at Feb point villas which are upscale and more centrally located (downside is they are not on a good beach). Either way I dont think you can go wrong. Exuma is perfect for driving to beaches or renting a boat and exploring the cays. Eleuthera is lovely as well but I cant think of any luxurious hotels...no boating in Eleu but more beaches to explore on the island as well as the possibility to visit harbour island on a day trip.

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    Grand Isle is on a beautiful beach, with additional ones within walking distance, and more within driving distance (the ones on Little Exuma are reachable by car, and you'll feel like you're on another planet). As for rental boats in Great Exuma, the impression I got was that you couldn't take them out of Elizabeth Harbour. That will get you to Stocking Island and the iconic Chat-n-Chill beach bar, but I don't think you can go beyond that.

    If renting a boat is what you want for the Exumas, the better option is the Staniel Cay Yacht Club, which is in the middle of the island chain. The cottages there come with use of a Boston Whaler, and you can explore to your heart's content. But the original cottages are quite basic (though I understand they are being upgraded); I can't speak to the handful of new cottages, but I believe they are a bit nicer.

    In that general area, you might look at Fowl Cay Resort, which seems substantially more luxurious. The villas there also come with the use of a boat. Also nearby is the Sampson Cay Club (also a step up from SCYC), where Whaler rentals are available. Staniel Cay, Fowl Cay and Sampson Cay are all near the famous swimming pigs of Big Major cay. Unfortunately, the only nearby airport is Staniel Cay, which can be a challenge to get to, but if you are going through Ft. Lauderdale (a quick train ride from Miami), you might consider flying with Watermaker's Air to Staniel Cay, and then water-taxi over to Fowl or Sampson.

    Whew! Hope this isn't information overload. Frequent Out Island travel really forces you to become an expert, because anything goes!

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    If you are still undecided about the Bahamas you might want to revisit the idea of Anguilla. It fits what you're looking for and although it's not as easy to reach as Turks & Caicos it's probably easier to reach than the Out Islands. And with so few days for the Caribbean portion of your honeymoon you undoubtedly don't want to spend a large portion of your time reaching your destination. St. Maarten (SXM) has a large airport that accommodates 747's so you might even be able to fly directly there from South America.

    I've stayed at both CuisinArt and Cap Juluca. Both are great. The beach is better at Cap and it won't be as crowded. The chairs/palapas are spaced far apart on the beach for privacy. The restaurants at both resorts are very good.

    Driving is not difficult and it's easy to drive around the island to different beaches and restaurants. Anguilla has some of the best dining in the Caribbean so you won't have any trouble finding good food. It's also easy to take the ferry for a day trip to St. Martin. Great shopping there and a totally different vibe.

    Good luck with your decision and congratulations on your upcoming marriage. Come back with any questions. There are a couple of regular posters here who often travel to Anguilla.

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    I have discussed more with my fiancee and I think we both want to go on some excursions and tours to visit the different cays since we are relatively more active and adventurous people. In this light, we have preferences on TCI and Exuma over Anguilla, where there are more opportunities to visit the outlying cays and explore.

    I found this blog on Exuma and it has such beautiful pictures of Exuma with those sand bars that make me want to go:
    http://mullenexumaadventures.blogspot.hk/2008_04_01_archive.html

    On Exuma, my questions are where do people usually get dinner's? I understand there are probably fewer restaurants and dining options on Great Exuma compared to TCI, and most joints recommended (Chat n Chill, Santana's, Big D etc) are all by the beach which make them more suitable for lunches than dinners. Are there any good recommendations for dinners (or if people usually just cook in their villa)?

    And also does anyone know if it's easy to get to Sandy Cay near Little Exuma. Can we do a day trip to Tropic of Cancer beach, followed by lunch at Santana's and then a short boat ride to visit Sandy Cay?

    Thanks!!

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    Ok, so I'm definitely biased here (please don't hold it against me), but my family and I have had the pleasure of living here in the Turks & Caicos Islands for 4 years now. What a dreamy place to live (and for my sons... to grow up). So, we get to enjoy many of the delights of Grace Bay every week. Water excursions are readily available to many of the deserted islands and cays, or you can even rent your own skiff. Also, there are loads of amazing dining opportunities, lots of accommodations options, some of the world's most beautiful beaches (I'm always able to count at least seven shades of turquoise), snorkeling, parasailing, scuba-diving, or just chillin' like a villin' on the beach. Hope this is helpful, but I think Turks & Caicos should be on your list.

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    We have traveled to The Out Islands twice, the first time our family of four stayed at Dolphin Beach Resort on Great Guana Cay in the Abacos. We rented a boat and explored several other islands. We also spent a lot of time next door at Nipper's Beach Bar! It was truly an awesome, affordable vacation. Very simple..a cabin, beach, golf cart, beach bar next door. They also had a pool which we never used. Last Christmas we stayed at The Crow's Nest on Staniel Cay in the Exumas. Everything was really expensive here and again we rented a boat and had lots of unforgettable experiences...Sampsons, Big Major, Fowl for dinner, Rachel's Bubble Bath also snorkeled Thunderball Grotto.

    My husband and I chartered a catamaran for a week last November and sailed through the BVI's.....Norman's, Virgin Gorda, Scrub Island, Tortola ....Anegada was our favorite...lobster dinner at Potter's on the beach ... indescribable. We rented The Great House villa in the Sandy Ground Estates on Jost Van Dyke for another seven days to top off a truly amazing vacation. I can not say enough great things about this villa...the view, the private beach, the pool, comes with a little boat, Saga the groundskeeper, the owner is great. There are plenty of great restaurants and bars on this island and I would be glad to give more details if you were to choose Jost. We loved it so much that I am in the process of planning a return trip for November this year and this time we are taking our two teenagers.

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    Ie69, you sound really adventurous :) me and my husband both are scared of going on boat by ourselves :)

    Anyway, I posted a thread couple of days ago regarding our spring break vacation with 2 kids ages 10 & 7. Would you suggest this villa ? Can you give me a link ? Do you think they will have enough to do here ?

    Sounds really exciting.

    How do we get to this place from NYC ?

    Kush

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    Probably not enough to do for small kids on Jost. There is The Bubbly Pool which you can hike to. The villa also comes with kayaks and lots of other water toys so we took the kayaks from our dock in Diamond Cay to Foxy's Taboo pulled them up on the beach, took the short hike to the Bubbly Pool, then had lunch at Foxy's and drinks of course. It's mainly about the beach and beach bars on this little island. The beach at Sandy Ground is very private we had it all to ourselves the week we were there, actually none of the other house were even rented in Sandy Ground. You have about a 5 minute hike once you get off the main road to reach this villa and a little longer hike for some of the others. Yes, it was very adventurous and the bugs could be bad on the hike at night on the way back from dinner but once you got to the villa it was all worth it and they actually had a built in bug repellent system that misted automatically but we never knew it was there except for the absence of bugs. VRBO #321707. This is the first I have spoken on any forums about any of my travels but I think more people are finding out about this villa on Jost because it is really staying booked and now I can't stay again when my kids are out of school...oh well my fault for being so last minute. I almost forgot...this home also has its own aviary which the kids would love. I sat in the shade and watched the birds for hours...there is also a little swing down one of the paths in the garden. I am telling you there was so much to this villa we didn't even see it all. We even found out our last day there that there was a third bedroom below us which was very nice...there are actually five bedrooms in three different buildings. They usually only rent three ..the other two are for the owners children...the boys bedroom has a train track that runs around the top of the room and an aquarium. I am sure they would open this room up for you if you have a little boy if you ask ahead of time. Saga is the groundskeeper and he would check in on us and even cracked a fresh coconut for us one morning for breakfast. There are lots of fresh fruit trees including a lime tree on the grounds. I am giving away all of the surprises...we didn't know any of this when we got there and I cried for the first 10 minutes we were there while Saga was trying to show us around because I was so HAPPY and overwhelmed with all of the beauty.

    The Pink House Villas are right on the beach in White Bay on Jost and would might be better suited for small children. VRBO #119185 I have not stayed here, again they are always booked when we want to go.

    You can go out to dive or snorkel with JVD scuba or you can rent a dinghy for $100 a day and go to Sandy Spit or Sandy Cay. The Great House villa looks out over Sandy Spit and it is just a little piece of sandy heaven. My husband and I took the little boat that came with the house over there one day and had the whole island to ourselves for a few hours. We never made it to Sandy Cay...just too easy to lay on the beach with a drink...plus we had already been on a boat for 7 days. The locals told us you could hike a little on Sandy Cay but both of these "little destinations" are very close to shore and really easy to navigate. If you stay on Jost really need to take a ferry or hire someone to take you to The Baths on Virgin Gorda for a day to climb, swim, snorkel...kids will love it!

    Besides the above mentioned excursions there is not a lot for kids but the island, the food, the drinks are spectacular ...especially for an adult couple that likes to have fun and if you want to be social and meet new people you just take a taxi ( yes there is a taxi service!), boat, rental car or your own two feet and head into White Bay, Great Harbour, or Little Harbour.

    The Exumas was really amazing but it was all about the boating even though we had the best house on the highest elevation of the whole island, but if you are afraid to boat then you will miss a lot of this area's charm. We hired Captain Wayde to take us snorkeling and we gathered conch and he came back to The Crow's Nest and cooked us an amazing dinner while we sipped tropical drinks and jammed out to The Barefoot Man! Sorry I am going on and on but I am finally getting some of these memories out! For us the Bahamas was a little of a bummer both times because the water was pretty chilly and yes, we had shorties on. Both times we went in December so as much as we loved The Out Islands unless we can go in the summer months we will probably choose other destinations because we love to snorkel.

    The trip I am planning now is going to be during the week of Thanksgiving and we are looking at chartering the yacht "Tara Vana." We are in the process of taking scuba lessons and hopefully we will all be certified and will be able to dive. This is the best way to travel because you get to see so many different things, but it is expensive.

    I know how hard it is to try and plan the perfect family vacation. I always spend hours researching and reading forums. I wish you the best of luck and will be glad to answer any questions.

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    All these posts are mentioning all my favorites! Nice choices!

    Being new to these islands, I peso ally would choose TCI. It's luxurious and relaxing, easy to get to, easy stay, with enough cays and other islands to explore.

    It makes a great start, then save the others mentioned when you get more and more experienced.

    All these choices have stunning gorgeous white sand turquoise water beaches.

    Out Islands take some adventures. You do have to boat to get to some of the best strands. It's not easy to island hop. Even by car can require some large distances. Restaurants are okay. Most places are a little more rustic. It is what makes it charming and you fall in love. But I do feel with a little more travelcexperience you enjoy them more.

    Anguilla is one of my favorites too. It is a little expensive and harder to reach than TCI.

    BVIs are also amazing. Gorgeous scenery. Gorgeous beaches. A little more rustic. Need a boat or use ferry systems to explore. (much more fun by sail boat excursions)

    I've been to Peru. AMAZING. But after Peru, I still choose TCI for you. You can have private dinners surrounded by tiki torches set up on the beach. You can have an excursion company set up a private transfer to an uninhabited cay with food, drinks umbrellas and chairs for the day. The luxury and the ease of travel will help you relax. (from Peru you have to fly through Miami anyway, you can connect from there. Then it's a direct flight to either JFK on jetblue or ewr on united). Trust me, after the adventure of Peru, you'll want the ease of TCI.

    Plus bonus, TCI has the most beautiful turquoise water of them all!

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