Bahamas vs. Virgin Islands

Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 10:34 AM
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Bahamas vs. Virgin Islands

Hi everyone! I'm hoping to get some recommendations about our trip to the Caribbean next winter.

We're looking to go shortly after New Year's, and after a lot of research, we'd narrowed down our search to the Bahamas and St. Thomas/St. John. We're so torn on which island to visit. This would be our first ever Caribbean trip, and while the Bahamas seem to be less expensive, I found some information about it being a more "high crime" area, as in pick pocketers and drug dealers on the beaches (not sure if these are true or not). St. Thomas/St. John is a little more pricey, but it's been hard to find anything negative written about them!

Basically, we're going for 6 nights, looking to stay around $1500 for two, just for air and hotels (there's wiggle room there, though), and just RELAX. We want something within walking distance to a beach, and also easy transportation to a downtown area so that we don't have to rent a car. We're not looking for more than good restaurants, beach life, maybe some shopping and some water activities. That's about it.

So, where should we go? If it's not Bahamas or St. Thomas/John, what's your suggestion? Thank you!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 11:04 AM
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If you are planning to go in January, and you're hoping for warm weather, the Bahamas are going to be too chilly.

Should you ever decide to go the Bahamas, remember that there are 700 islands. New Providence (Nassau) is more congested and if any of the Bahamas are "high crime", it would be there. However, the Out Islands -- the other 600+ islands -- are about as low crime and laid back as things get in the West Indies.

In terms of your price range, I'll let others chime in. Depending on where you are flying from, unless you have a package, your airfare is likely to eat up much of your budget in January.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 11:40 AM
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Thanks, Callaloo!

Yeah, we're fully expecting the airfares to be slightly higher than expected, but that budget is really just a goal at this point. We're scouring deals online.

I'd love other opinions as well!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 12:47 PM
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The world's view of The Bahamas is Nassau and quite frankly it is bloody awful. Once you get past the gates of the mega resorts, you find little local culture or welcome with drugs and crime openly on show. It's all about going to a resort hotel and sitting on their beach.

The Out Islands are a whole different proposition - many of the islands are the amongst the most beautful places on earth but getting a good mix of your :

beaches
restaurants
water sports
shopping

is not easy. Out of ten many islands such as The Exumas, Abacos, Andros etc rate as 11s for water sports and beaches but in many cases the shops/restaurants are anything but world class.

I would say that $1500 for flights and room is a very tight budget. Where are you based?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 12:50 PM
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We were approached to buy drugs as soon as we walked onto the public beach off of the atlantis property. I was with my daughters who were about 11/12 at the time. I said no thanks and the guy went away.. Now, we had no problems at the Atlantis and like callalool says above, there are many islands in the bahamas. The Nassau, Freeport areas will be cheap, but will have more crime. It will also be cooler than the Virgin Islands. for your first visit to an island, I would say go to the Virgin Islands, they are prettier.
If you want to stay on St. Thomas, there is a Marriott there, and you can boat over to St. John. There is also a Wyndam that offers an all inclusive plan. I would check into these chain hotels and see if you can get a deal. On St. John, there is a Westin.
The resorts, Caneel Bay and the Ritz will be pricey. But you never know. Many of the hotels are slashing prices because of the economy. We went to the Fairmont in Bermuda last summer for a ridiculous price because of the price. So, good luck.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 12:57 PM
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Thanks, all!

I'm based in Chicago, and would fly out of O'Hare or Midway airports.

In the Bahamas, we were looking into the Freeport area, which is maybe why I was hearing about the crime situation.

In St. Thomas, we were looking at the Best Western Emerald Beach because all the rooms have a balcony overlooking the water, and the price was pretty reasonable!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 02:07 PM
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Freeport will be cool in January. Last April it was barely 75 degrees. I would not go to Freeport again. We did enjoy the Unexso Dolphin Encounter though. But that was it. Tourism is down, deserted, creepy feeling, the food was bad. I have also been to Virgin Islands. Although I can't say how it will be in January, we went in March, I would recommend Virgin Islands or Aruba if you can swing it. I just came back from Aruba and it was wonderful. The weather will be at least 85 dgrees there in January. Good Luck in your planning, from Carol, also from Chicago.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 02:23 PM
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Aruba will be warmer in January! I agree!!! Aruba also has a variety of hotels to choose from. Aruba is more arid and won't be as pretty as St. John, but it will also have less chance of rain. Food is excellent
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 04:48 PM
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I agree with the above posts. Based upon the time of year you want to go, I'd say definitely go with the Virgin Islands. We were in Long Island, Bahamas last February (one of the southernmost out islands) and it was a high of 75 and windy. You'll find warmer weather in the Virgin Islands that time of year. $1500 in high season for air and stay is a really really tight budget though. Maybe you could look into renting a villa? They're usually less expensive than hotels. Good luck!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2010, 05:30 PM
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Have you considered the Riviera Maya area of Mexico? It would be much more doable on your budget and the weather would be fine then, I think. I agree the Bahamas would be cold. Both the Bahamas and the VI's are expensive destinations in our experience. The time of the year you are looking to go is much higher than after mid April (we are leaving in a week for the BVI's - it is less after that time but still pretty high for most places). I hope you will get some good tips and have a nice trip!
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Old Apr 3rd, 2010, 03:55 AM
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No contest during that time of year. St. John. If you wantthe most pristine beaches, low crime, a little shopping, great restaurants tons of water activities, a national park with views, trails and facilities. Do not even think of staying on St Thomas. It is crowded and has higher crime than St John. The Emerald Beach resort is nice. it is literally right next to the airport though. It does have a good beach and is clean and reasonable.

A nice clean, reasonablly priced place to stay is coconut coast villas. Check them out a www.coconutcoast.com They are close to everything but are off the beaten path in a quiet family neighborhood. Ocean front with grill, hot tub and pool. St John has 22 sandy pristine beaches.
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Old Apr 3rd, 2010, 09:55 AM
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Concordia Eco tents in St John is perfect for those on a budget. Million dollar view!!
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Old Apr 5th, 2010, 08:21 PM
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These are great suggestions, everyone. Thank you, thank you! We'll definitely take all of them into consideration
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Old Apr 6th, 2010, 04:02 AM
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I would definitely take St. Thomas/St. John over the Bahamas - particularly because (as others have said), the Bahamas are going to be chilly at that time of year (think Miami). That said, I am not a fan of St. Thomas - I would consider basing on St. John or the BVI, and if the island-hopping aspects of that area aren't important to you, think about St Croix, 40 miles south and a much bigger island without as much of a tourist vibe.
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Old Apr 13th, 2010, 01:26 PM
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I would definitely go to the Virgin Islands over the Bahamas. I have been to areas of both places, so I can tell you firsthand. My boyfriend and I actually had a wonderful trip to USVI and BVI last July and we can't wait to go back. St. John is fabulous and you can definitely find affordable accomodations. Go to VRBO.com for an alternative to staying at a resort or hotel. They offer vacation rental homes, equipped with everything you will need (and you can cook your own meals if you want to save a little money.)I wouldn't waste my time on St. Thomas. It is very commercial, and your balcony view will most likely be obstructed by cruise ships. I would suggest taking the ferry to Tortola, BVI if you want a taste of another carribbean island. The ferry is reasonably priced, but you will need a passport to travel to the British Virgin Islands. The Bahamas are nice if you are going to one of the "Out Islands" but not Freeport and definitely not Nassau. January in the Bahamas is very windy and not very warm. Water conditions will be rough.
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