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Need help planning an anniversary beach trip-want AI

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My husband and I are planning an anniversary trip for 3/31/13. We have not traveled many places outside of the US, but we would like to visit some place tropical with beautiful beaches, really really good food, attentive wait staff, some water activities, maybe a spa treatment or two, but are really interested in a laid back atmosphere for relaxing. We are 40's and would like to go for 4 nights and to keep it around $3000 total (flights included)

In my searches I have looked at the Live AQUA AI resort in Cancun, The Royal Playa del Carmen, a few Jamaican AI resorts (Couples and a few others), and I was last looking at Turks and Caicos although they did not seem to have many AI resorts. Now I'm just overwhelmed and confused...

Any recommendations?

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    These all sound like good options, so you will likely have a wonderful trip wherever you decide.

    The Live Aqua is supposed to be really nice - Travel and Leisure Mag ranks it #1 resort in Mexico. It has great beaches (although can get windy), and is close by to other things along the Cancun hotel zone so you can explore restaurants outside the hotel as well. (e.g., Elefanta across the street is an indian restaurant with a beautiful setting where you get to sit right on the water)

    T&C has some nice places too - but not sure if they're all inclusive - I know beaches resort is, but it's a huge sprawling resort so may be a bit too big and not very romantic.

    Haven't been to Jamaica but I can weigh in on Mex vs T&C: I'm leaning slightly towards mexico because I think it's got more infrastructure to ease your life on the trip and offer more options. But, that is at the cost of being a more touristy destination - here's some more color on that:

    1.Mex vs. T&C:
    - Mex is more touristy - more people around you, but also more shopping, more restaurant and entertainment options, etc. (actually Cancun can at times feel like it was plucked out of the US with all the tourists from the US and some of the malls and restaurants around)
    - Mex has better and more diverse food options in general than T&C. T&C food, except for the delicious lobsters, is not very varied, and the restaurants are good but not amazing. I think it comes with the territory when it's a small island that has to import a lot of its food. In Mexico (Cancun esp) you can find really good food and a lot of different cuisines.
    - T&C beaches are better IMHO than Mexico - far calmer and shallower than Mexico - some of them are less than waist deep for quite some distance- so it's easier to go in the water. Also the water color is amazing. There's some not too bad snorkeling you could do from some of the beaches in Grace bay (in Provo). For really good snorkeling/diving, you'd have to get on a boat in both Mexico or T&C. (Exception is salt caye in T&C where you can find great snorkeling/diving off the beaches, but it's harder to get to, more expensive, and more remote). That said, Cancun has some beautiful beaches by the resorts, and even if the water is deeper and with more waves, you can just jump in the pool and look out towards the ocean.
    - Mex offers more land-based daytrip options if you're interested - you can easily see Mayan ruins, swim in the cenotes (caves filled with water), and more. In T&C there's fewer options - but you could take a daytrip around Provo to see more beaches, or get a driver to take you to North and Middle Caicos which have some practically deserted beaches, and some large caves worth exploring by foot.

    2. Cancun vs. Playa - another decision, I'm leaning more towards Cancun for the better beaches.
    - Cancun is more of a mega-resort place, where people tend to spend 90% of the time inside the resort. Playa (the downtown area where the royal is) has many smaller resorts, and they are close to the downtown area and "quinta avenida" pedestrian walkway with all the shops and restaurants.
    - The beaches in Playa are not as nice as in Cancun - they have lots of seaweed at times, and don't feel as clean.
    - There are several AI resorts just north of playa (the riviera maya), where beaches are nicer and cleaner than the ones close to downtown. However these are often large resorts where you would likely stay in them the entire stay because they are secluded, and would be limited to their restaurants/activities, etc.

    Hope that helps somewhat... :)

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    Congrats on your Anniversary! Sorry you are having trouble. Sound like you need a good travel agent to help you weigh all the pro's and cons. Mine is excellent ;) Just FYI Just 4U Travel in Wichita KS. Personally I have been to all the places you mentioned, oops except for Live Aqua it is pretty new, it is also in heart of Cancun hotel zone which really doesnt sound like your cup of tea from the post here.
    LOVE LOVE Couples in Jamaica, Swept Away is my favorite, been to all 4 of Couples resorts as well. Jamaica in general has more of a laid back feeling than Cancun. I am in KS, so Mexico, Central American and Jamaica are our only flights I go these places the most. I know there is a Beaches Resorts in T & C that is all inclusive, pretty sure there isnt anything else AI in Turks. Good Luck with your trip.

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