The Caribbean isn't all about five-star resorts. Often, you may want to save a bit of your vacation cash to eat in elegant restaurants or to shop for the perfect gift. But saving money in the Caribbean doesn't have to mean sacrificing comfort. Sometimes it just means going to a cheaper island, such as the Dominican Republic, Saba, or Dominica. There are some unique inns and resorts—Fodor's Choices in fact—where you can sleep for much less and still have a great time.
Hotel Las Ballenas Escondidas. Looking for a truly relaxing and peaceful setting with a private beach? The French couple who run this place have created a small utopia of gardens and thatch-roof bungalows sloping down to the sea. An infinity-edge pool is in the middle of it all. Ballenas Escondidas is 15 minutes east of Santa Barbara de Samaná, nearly halfway to Las Galeras. This means it's essentially in the middle of nowhere. But where the remoteness and the nice pool and restaurant might seem to imply an all-inclusive experience, there are no forced good times here. At night the ocean is the only music you'll hear. By day, a private terrace with two bamboo chairs overlooks the hibiscus, bougainvillea, coconut trees, and colorful pastels of the other bungalows; a few cats roam the grounds. The hotel offers boating excursions directly from its small beach. Note that rooms have ceiling fans but no air-conditioning. Pros: Private, quiet, beautiful. Cons: Remote location, thin sheets and older mattresses, no credit cards. Los Naranjos. 809/495-0888. www.ballenas.free.fr. 12 bungalows. In room: no a/c, no phone, safe, refrigerator, no TV. In-hotel: restaurant,
bar, pool, beachfront, laundry service. No credit cards. BP.
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Bellafonte Chateau de la Mer. Although it lacks the amenities of a large
resort—including a pool—the intimacy and exclusivity of this elegant palazzo-style hotel near Kralendijk more than compensate. An arched passageway opens out to a breathtaking ocean vista complete with a jetty that seems to have jumped out of the pages of a design magazine. Rooms are chic, with teak and stainless-steel accents that create a clean and breezy feeling. Room balconies are large enough to host a cocktail party for 20 and are perfect for private sunbathing, but to truly experience this hotel, an ocean-view room is essential. The hotel offers a year round deal whereby guests who pay for six days get a seventh day free. Pros: Elegantly appointed rooms, diving straight from hotel pier, upper rooms have excellent views. Cons: No restaurant or bar, not close to downtown or shopping. E. E. G. Blvd. 10, Belnem. 599/717-3333. 599/717-8581. www.bellafontebonaire.com. 6 studios, 8 1-bedroom suites, 8 2-bedroom suites. In-room: kitchen (some), Wi-Fi. In-hotel: diving, laundry service. AE, MC, V. EP.
Advice from our Forums: "There was also great snorkeling right in front of the Bellafonte. It was awesome to be able to roll out of bed and into the water!" --ElleD9 (more)
Peach & Quiet. This small seaside inn on the southeast coast is the
sweetest deal we've found on the entire island. Forego the flashy accoutrements of a resort and, instead, claim one of these stylish suites. With no in-room noisemakers and no children around, the only sounds you will hear are the gentle surf and your own conversations. Hands-on British owners Adrian and Margaret Loveridge have been running Peach since 1988; they renovated and refurbished the entire property in 2004. Decor in the spacious suites, arranged in whitewashed Mykonos-inspired buildings, is elegantly spare. Cooled by ceiling fans, each suite also has a large terrace or balcony; bathrooms have showers only. Besides lazing in the freshwater pool and windsurfing at nearby beaches (a five-minute walk), guests enjoy swimming and snorkeling in a natural "rock pool," joining early-morning or late-afternoon walks, and stargazing at night. You're advised to rent a car. Pros: Peace and quiet, adults-only environment, engaging owners, stargazing and nature walks are special treats. Cons: Inn is closed half of the year, remote location requires a rental car. Inch Marlow Main Rd., Inch Marlow, Christ Church. 246/428â€“5682. www.peachandquiet.com. 22 suites In-room: no a/c, no phone, safe, refrigerator, no TV. In-hotel: restaurant, bar, pool, water sports, no elevator, no kids under 16. MC, V. Closed May–Oct. EP.
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Advice from our Forums: "Owners are more than helpful scheduling your cab ventures (used the same man each time we've been there). Very reliable and affordable. Even packed a snack for us since we left before breakfast!" --BeachGirl247 (more)
Fort Young Hotel. Sitting on the edge of a cliff just to the south of Roseau, on the site of a former 18th-century-era French fort, this hotel is probably the most cosmopolitan establishment on the island. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. Ample-size rooms have balconies with either a limited or full ocean view. Newly remodeled bathrooms have granite vanities. The spacious lobby is quite inviting, and an attached boardwalk has a variety of shops, including a few duty-free ones. The Waterfront Restaurant is one of the island's most upscale and has a romantic atmosphere. Pros: Cosmopolitan vibe, friendly staff. Cons: Can get crowded during the Friday-night happy hour. Victoria St., Box 519, Roseau. 767/448-5000. www.fortyounghotel.com. 70 rooms, 3 suites. In-room: Ethernet (some), Wi-Fi. In-hotel: 3 restaurants, bars, pool, spa. AE, MC, V. EP.
Rockhouse Hotel. With a spectacular cliff-side location like that of the Caves—but without the high price tag—the small and trendy Rockhouse delivers both resort comforts and funky style. Rooms and villas are built from rough-hewn timber, thatch, and stone and are filled with furniture that echoes the nature theme. Although double the price of a regular room, villas ($$$), which have outdoor showers and private sundecks above the cliffs, are worth the splurge. Studios have outdoor showers but are otherwise like the regular rooms, which seem pleasantly rustic. You can ask for a TV–but only to watch videos. To be honest, you're far better off enjoying the sunsets, for which Negril is known. There's a thatch-roof Jamaican restaurant, a spa, yoga, kayaking, and a cliff-top infinity pool and bar. Pros: Excellent dining, unique accommodations, beautiful pool area. Cons: No beach, may be too quiet for some visitors, traditional rooms are not nearly as nice as the villas. West End Rd., Box 3024. 876/957-4373. www.rockhousehotel.com. 14 rooms, 20 villas. In-room: safe, no TV. In-hotel: restaurant, bars, pool, water sports, no elevator, no kids under 12. AE, MC, V. EP.
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Advice from our Forums: "A beautiful property; lots of places to get in and out of the water; good restaurant and poolside grill. We stayed in premium villa #1, which I think might be the worst of the high-priced spreads (too close to the road, not a particularly good view from the patio, and not well-situated to catch the breeze). You would do well to ask for #3 or #4 if you are staying in their best rooms." --BaltoTraveler (more)
Mary Lee's by the Sea. This meandering cluster of apartments sits on quiet grounds full of brightly colored flowers. It's home to Mary Lee Alvarez, and she'll make you feel like it's yours as well. Most units have ocean views; in the others you'll catch a glimpse of the mangroves by the shore as well as of the cactus growing in the nearby Bosque Estatal de Guánica. Each of the one-, two-, and three-bedroom units is decorated in bright colors. Each is different, but most have terraces hung with hammocks and outfitted with barbecue grills. You can rent kayaks to drift along the coast or hop a boat bound for Gilligan's Island. Pros: Truly feels like a home away from home, warm and friendly owner, near pristine beaches and forests. Cons: Weekly maid service unless more is requested, no nightlife options. Rte. 333, Km 6.7, Guánica. Box 394, Guánica. 787/821-3600. www.maryleesbythesea.com. 10 apartments. In-room: no phone, kitchen (some), no TV. In-hotel: laundry facilities, laundry service, some pets allowed. MC, V. EP.
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Advice from our Forums: "Mary Lee's is a very special place, a labor of love that Mary Lee herself has created on a wonderful stretch of coastline. It's got a great vibe. It's right on the water, although it's not a nice sandy beach." --tripster (more)
St. Maarten / St. Martin
The Horny Toad. This lovely guesthouse is widely considered the best on this side of the island. Its virtues are many: the stupendous view of Simpson Bay, the clean and comfortable rooms, the creative decor. But the one thing that keeps patrons coming back year after year is the hospitality of owner Betty Vaughn (ask her how the inn got its name). Treating guests like long-lost relatives, she is so welcoming that you simply can't resist her charms. Book early, because the Toad fills up fast. All rooms but one have air-conditioning. Pros: Cozy rooms, friendly vibe, beautiful beach is usually deserted. Cons: Rooms are very basic, need a car to get around. 2 Vlaun Dr., Simpson Bay. 599/545-4323 or 800/417-9361. www.thehornytoadguesthouse.com. 8 rooms. In-room: no a/c (some), kitchen, no TV. In-hotel: beachfront, no elevator, laundry service, public Internet, public Wi-Fi, no kids under 7. AE, D, MC, V. EP.
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Advice from our Forums: "I love the Horny Toad. It is comprised of apartments with full kitchens and its own beach. The best part is the owner Betty Vaughn (though she is not there year round). You need a car to get around but you can walk to the market and a wonderful bakery." --tyedye33 (more)
Turks & Caicos Islands
Osprey Beach Hotel. Grand Turk veteran hotelier Jenny Smith has transformed this two-story oceanfront hotel with her artistic touches. Palms, frangipani, and deep green azaleas frame it like a painting. Inside, evocative island watercolors, painted by her longtime friend, Nashville artist Tupper Saussay, thread through the property. Vaulted ceilings and Indonesian four-poster beds are the highlight of upstairs Suites 51, 52, and 53. Downstairs you can enjoy beach access through your own garden. On the opposite side of Duke Street, the newly built suites have phones, TVs, and Wi-Fi service. Pros: Renovated in 2007, best hotel on Grand Turk, walking distance to Front Street, restaurants, and excursions. Con: Three-night minimum. Duke St., Cockburn Town. 649/946-2666. www.ospreybeachhotel.com. 11 rooms, 16 suites. In-room: dialup (some), Wi-Fi (some), kitchen (some). In-hotel: restaurant, bar, pool, beachfront, water sports, no elevator, laundry service, some pets allowed. AE, MC, V. 3-night minimum. EP.
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Advice from our Forums: "Osprey is probably one of the nicest places to stay in GT, but be warned, there is not much nightlife, if any at all." --blamona (more)
United States Virgin Islands
Villa Santana. Built by exiled General Antonio López Santa Anna of Mexico, this 1857 landmark provides a panoramic view of the harbor and plenty of West Indian charm, which will make you feel as if you're living in a charming slice of Virgin Islands history. Each of the rooms is unique and lovely. Our two favorites are La Mansion, a former library that is now an elegant villa with a large living area crowned by cathedral ceilings, full kitchen, two baths, and four-poster bed; and El Establo, a three-bedroom house with a full kitchen and laundry facilities that is rented by the week. Modern amenities aren't lacking; you can even sit by the pool with your laptop and indulge in wireless Internet access. Pros: Historic charm, plenty of privacy. Cons: Not on a beach, no restaurant, need a car to get around. 2D Denmark Hill. 340/776-131. www.villasantana.com. 6 rooms. In-room: no a/c (some), no phone, kitchen (some), no TV (some), Wi-Fi. In-hotel: pool, no elevator. AE, MC, V. EP.
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Statia Lodge. Look out from your cottage patio and just beyond the water from the island's nicest digs, and you'll enjoy drop-dead gorgeous views of Nevis on the horizon. Do an about-face and the Quill volcano looms. Each airy yet cozy cottage has attractive teakwood furnishings, tiled floors, ceiling fans, and louver-like walls and French doors, plus a patio with an outdoor kitchenette with tables and chairs. The wood accented bathrooms each have corner showers. Rates include use of either a scooter or, for a bit extra, a car. There's no restaurant, nor TVs or phones–just serenity, as well as a bar that sits alongside the attractive, L-shape swimming pool. Cribs are available for small children. Pros: The best views and most modern accommodations on the island. Cons: No restaurant, not near the water or town (which is why the car or scooter is necessary), not handicap-acessible.White Wall. 599/318-1900. www.statialodge.com. 8 1-bedroom cottages, 2 2-bedroom cottages. In-room: kitchen, no TV. In-hotel: bar, pool, no elevator. MC, V. EP.