Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Caribbean Islands
Reload this Page >

Best ISLAND for a relaxing, no hassle anniversary

Best ISLAND for a relaxing, no hassle anniversary

Feb 15th, 2013, 12:35 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
Best ISLAND for a relaxing, no hassle anniversary

Please help me pick a spot for me and my wife's 5 year anniversary. We have 3 young, active boys - who will not be joining us - and my wife wants some serious R & R. Here's an idea of what we want:
We honeymooned in Grenada and loved it (except for a couple of complaints, which I will mention in a moment); however, we are the type to try something new, rather than return to the same island. What we liked about Grenada were the beaches (esp. Grand Anse and La Sagesse), the complete lack of crowds, the mountainous green interior, and the friendly people. What we did not like about Grenada was the remoteness (had a difficult time on the connecting flight and took 2 days to get there), the restaurants (too few and most with good but not great food, though all incredible views), and just generally getting around (a few days we rented a car and had an adventure, a few days we walked TOO much for my wife's liking - this time we really are not looking for adventure OR a lot of walking other than causal strolls).

So, the first requirements are an island with direct flights from the states. No connections in the Caribbean, please. This rules out some of the more remote, exotic locales, but we are willing to trade that this time in return for easy access.

Second, we want easy access to good food. AI would be great for convenience, but we are open to dining out as long as it's easy to find and get to great restaurants. This is where I really need help, as I don't know much about the food on many islands.

Third, a beautiful location (duh, it's the Caribbean). For the wife, that requires beaches that are beautiful, walk-able, and swim-able (calm). I like the same, but also require greenery and interesting topography. It doesn't not have to have mountains, but no flat islands, please. It does not have to have a rain forest, but a little more than just palm trees, please.

Fourth, nice accommodations. As this trip is primary for R&R we may spend a lot of our time at our resort. (My wife specifically wants to "feel pampered".) So, we are looking for a place you really don't want to leave. The quality and quantity of pool(s) is secondary to the rooms, baths, beach, and staff. This is a romantic trip, and the lodging should reflect that. And we do NOT require any bars, or party atmosphere. In fact, the less the better. In Grenada we stayed at the Coyaba Resort and loved it. Something similar would be great. For what we have in mind, I think a resort would be preferable to a private villa.

Firth, a reasonable price. I know this is VERY relative. I'm aiming for $750-1000 for 5 nights lodging. 5 years ago we paid about $1500 for 8 nights in Grenada. This is flexible (rated 5th for a reason). But if the entire island is pricey we might prefer a more reasonably priced island. Also, if the island predominantly uses a different currency please let me know so I can consider the true costs.

Primarily I need help picking the right ISLAND. Any resort recommendations are appreciated, but I feel confident in finding those once I find the right island.

THANK YOU in advance for all help.
bdlindley is offline  
Feb 15th, 2013, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 784
Here is an idea: Caneel Bay on St John. Fly directly from Miami and several other places to St Thomas. Caneel will pick you up and deliver you by their ferry. Seven beaches on property plus all the others you can find. Hiking trails throughout the national park. Short drive or cab ride into Cruz Bay for some pretty darn good restaurants, but a couple of good ones on the property. ;-)
eastenderusvi is online now  
Feb 15th, 2013, 03:51 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,703
Easten, seriously? Cannel Bay at $200 nightly including tax?

You have too many contradictions, so youllvhave to compromise.

Long walkable and swimmable beaches are mostly on the the flat islands. Grenada has an exception with Grand Anse. Most hilly islands have small cove beaches.

The best restaurants are on the more expensive islands, Anguilla, St. Barts, Turks and Caicos, St Martin. St. Martin is probably closest to your budget, but very active, with cruise ships, crowds, nightlife, so doesn't meet your requirements.

Your budget may also limit your choices. Yu didn't say what time of year, that can make a huge difference. At your budget, you're going to have more basic rooms, staff, etc regardless of where you pick. (prices have really gone up in 5 years)

AI and quiet and great food don't go hand and hand. AI caters to masses and therefore why it can offer what bargains it offers. The trade off is active, crowds, etc.

Most islands have direct flights to Caribbean islands. The islands that are quite and not crowded require more time to get to. If willing, connections will get you closer to what you want.

The quiet islands that you can really relax and don't have crowds or vendors on the beach are the more expensive islands.

If you want to leave a resort you'll probably need a car.

So you'll have to give up some things.

I sound negative, don't mean too, just stating something will have to give.

The more budget destinations, with scenery, fairly easy to get to I would suggest Mexico. Ty um area would meet your budget. Probably the closest to your requirements. It will have crowds though, and probably vendors on the beach.

Out Islands in Bahamas, especially Eleuthera, would fit most of your requirements. You fly to Nassau, then connect from there. Checkcout Pineapple Fields, fly into Governors Harbour. No scenery per say, but still pretty. tippys there is a terric restaurant. Not much around there, you basically rent a car to explore other scrumptious beaches.

You could also try Grand Turk. Only thing is requires additional flight from Provo the main island (but many flights from States to Provo). Right price range, gorgeous beaches, tiny island. No hills though.

You might want tovalso check out Viesques or Culebra, although requires flight from Puerto Rico (or ferry) but might fit almost all your requirements.
blamona is offline  
Feb 15th, 2013, 05:32 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4,077
My first thought would be Turks & Caicos. It has everything your described except the topography might not meet your expectations. No good AI's there. Definitley rent a car to get around. Might be over your price point. We stayed at the Sibbone. It might be a price fit for you.

Look at the Cocobay Resort in Antigua. Haven't been there, but it seems to tick most of your boxes. Not sure about price. AI's tend to cost more than just regular hotels.

You might look at St. Lucia also. There are some nice boutique hotels and AI's there. Just not sure it will meet your price. It's a full day day to get there. We had 2 connections.

Mexico like Isla Mujeres, Tulum, and Akumal would meet all your requirements including price.

I agree, I don't think there are any destinations that will meet all of your requirements unless you upped your budget significantly and compromised.
KVR is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 02:10 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,410
Can you get to Tobago from the US, maybe you can get to Port of Spain Trinidad then across to Tobago. It's quite mountainous in parts with some gorgeous beaches off the beaten track eg Englishmans Bay, Parletuvier, Castara. It's a super little island, very pretty & you'll find completely deserted beaches. Some of the higher end accommodation is pricey though, eg Villas at Stonehaven. Parletuvier is a stunning beach. Issue will be price, getting there, getting around (it's mountainous) and budget but like most things that require extra effort, it's worth it.

St Lucia will fulfill the requirement for interesting topography, in the south of the island where the Pitons are located. It has swimmable beaches and a good choice of AIs and/or boutique hotels are already mentioned above. The beaches in the south are generally darker sand, which is very beautiful but some don't like it. I have no idea if there are direct flights from any point in the US.

I believe you can fly to Barbados from MIA. There are some very upscale hotels, some are AI and some are not. The beaches on the west coast are calm, clear with light sand, the island has very good restaurants, some quite famous eg Cliffs, Tides. It does not have the topography of St Lucia and is relatively flatish but is an interesting island nonetheless. There are definitely things to see eg plantation houses, caves and taking a tour to the windy east coast.

Antigua is also a good choice, Falmouth Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard is very interesting and a beautiful spot for cocktails, there are some nice AIs eg Cocos Hotel but unsure if that comes into your budget.
Odin is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 06:31 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,936
You've received excellent advice from blamona, KVR and Odin, as usual. I love Caneel Bay but, unfortunately, it won't come close to fitting with your budget.

Antigua has a few isolated resorts that might fit the bill -- the aforementioned Cocobay (it's an AI) and also take a look at Blue Waters.

Another location that might work for you is Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Cane Garden Bay is beautiful and has a few small inns and restaurants. You won't find fine dining here but you will find good food at Rhymer's and Myett's and really all the restaurants/bars dotting the beach. I believe you can meet your budget here. For a nice dining experience you are within 15 minutes of the restaurant at the Sugar Mill Hotel.




Cane Garden is fairly close to Smuggler's Cove, another stunning beach.


Cane Garden and Smuggler's Cove are in or close to the West End where you can get the ferry over to Jost Van Dyke, which has one of prettiest beaches you'll find anywhere. It's a fun day trip. Be sure to have a painkiller at the Sandy Dollar Bar, where they originated.

There's also good snorkeling both at Cane Garden and at Brewer's Bay and there are lots of hiking opportunities all over the island. It's also easy to take a day or half-day snorkeling trip. There's excellent snorkeling and diving in the BVI's and USVI's.

You'll definitely need to rent a car and you'll also need to bring your sense of adventure in driving. Some are afraid to drive there as there are lots of switchbacks in the mountains. We don't mind the driving and just chalk it up to new experiences.

It's about a 45 minute drive from the Tortola airport to Cane Garden Bay or you can fly to St. Thomas and take the ferry to the West End. I don't know if you can get a direct flight to Tortola from the U.S. but you certainly can to St. Thomas.

sharona is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 08:11 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
Thanks to everyone for all the wonderful advice so far. My wife and I are going to research all the suggestions today. I will post more specific feedback afterwards. For now, I would like to make a few, additional clarifications.

(1) Date: Late June 2013. That should help a little on pricing. Of course that's not too far away, but I've seen plenty of sales already in our price range.

(2) Price: The goal is to narrow it down to 3-5 options and then shop them on price until we get a good deal. I've had great success with this in the past. If I can't find the deal I want we can, and will, adjust our budget. I stated the price to give a ballpark. Caneel Bay would be wonderful, but we probably would not commit that much $. We would be happier with a less luxurious option at less money.

(3) Travel: If it takes a *full* day to get there we are not interested on this trip. Grenada turned into a 48 hour trip and we are not risking that again. (Would prob. rule out T&T, but I'll look again.) We only have about 6 days, and do not want to wear ourselves out with travel. We live in the southern US, so there are great places we can access quickly.

(4) I've looked a LOT at VI. I do want to avoid cruise ship alley. How possible is that in St. Anywhere? Also, can someone tell me about pricing. I was under the impression that BVI especially is a more expensive option. T/F?

(5) Mexico: My forum said "Island", but I hear a lot of good advice (above and elsewhere) that Mexico fits the "quick, easy, affordable" category better. I will definitely look into more. Thanks blamona and KVR for the specific recommendations for a-typical locales in Mexico. blamona, what does "Ty um area would meet your budget." Mean. Ty um? Thanks. . . Any more great ideas for Mexico?

(6) Please keep the suggestions coming. They are great. We really appreciate the help.
bdlindley is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 08:20 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
sharona, do you really like the food in BVI? I do not find food with British influence very flavorful and I think that's one reason I didn't enjoy Grenada more. I suspected BVI would be worse. Maybe I'm wrong?

We are not really epicureans. Not looking for 5 star dining. More interested in a wide selection of solid food. A lot has to do with convenience. We just want the whole trip to be as easy as possible, and that definitely includes dining. If the ISLAND has good food heritage AND our accommodations are close to various restaurants (or else has good dining options on site) we will be fine.
bdlindley is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 08:39 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
blamona, you are right, we will have to compromise, of course. Shoot for the moon and hit a star, right? Certainly we will not compromise on easy. 5 nights is short and we need some R&R, so NOthing hard. This isn't the trip for adventure.

The direct flight is prob. a must. Maybe a ferry ride, but no connections outside of the US.

That means less remote and more crowds, but they will be off-season crowds, so we think it will prob. be fine for us.

I didn't say "long walks", just walk-able. Cove beaches are great for us.

I will say vendors are particularly annoying to us. So are resident dogs, by the way. :<)
bdlindley is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 09:02 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 784
Okay, I was seeing an extra 0 on your numbers.;-)

In the USVI, there are very few cruise ships in June- they tend to go to the Med and Alaska in the summer.

To come down in price, what about a studio or 1 bedroom at one of the condo resorts- Sapphire, Elysian, or Secret Harbour or for example.
eastenderusvi is online now  
Feb 16th, 2013, 09:21 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,936
I don't recall any real British food on Tortola. It's mostly Caribbean influenced. I remember a lot of shrimp, jerked chicken, burgers, etc. Here's a sample of Myett's menu:


and here is Rhymer's:


Some of the restaurants on Cane Garden Bay have local musicians in the evening. Dinner, music and a little dancing. What could be better? The nice thing about Cane Garden Bay is if you stay there you are literally within just a few feet of a few good restaurants. As I said, nothing is fancy there but the food is quite good and you don't have to worry about driving. Makes having that second or third painkiller an easier decision! We've been to Tortola twice and didn't find it too expensive. Most of the restaurants are casual and affordable (and still good food) and the lodgings around Cane Garden Bay are definitely affordable.

There are other good, affordable dining choices in the West End. Soper's Hole is located there and it's a big marina. There's a Pusser's Landing Restaurant along with a few other restaurants like the Jolly Roger. All good. Lots of seafood and chicken.



I can't speak for blamona but I think the "Ty um" was supposed to be Tulum.

I've been to Mexico as well as many of the other places mentioned above. It's true that Mexico is very easy to reach from the U.S. Lots of direct flights into Cancun. You can also have a high quality, low cost vacation there (although one of the more expensive places we've stayed was in Cabo!) I like Mexico just fine. It most certainly has its' charms and advantages and lots of things to see and do. But I love the Caribbean. It's a completely different vibe and culture from what you'll find in Mexico. If you're looking for more of an islands feel then go to the Caribbean. And you can easily vacation in Tortola for about the same price as what we've paid in Mexico.

P.S. We just took our first trip to Grenada in November. LOVED it. We'll definitely go back. It wasn't too bad of a trip for us. Just one change in Miami and I think there's a direct flight on certain days from New York. We'll look into that for the next time (we're in Boston).
sharona is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 10:03 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,936
Okay, just to confuse you further, in case Tortola is too hard to reach I think you can find what you're looking for on the French side of St. Martin. It's lovely and many parts are tranquil and it has some of the best food in the Caribbean. Take a look at the first part of Callaloo's Trip Report.


Lots of walkable restaurants from where Callaloo stayed, Le Petit Hotel.

And also this recent Trip Report from vickiebypass:


Mont Vernon, where vickiebypass stayed, is on a very busy beach but it's actually quiet on the north end where she stayed. And the beach is almost 2 miles long so great for long walks in the morning before the crowds show up. There are lots of lunch choices here and a few dinner spots in the little Orient Village. There are also quite a few affordable hotels in the Orient Village area. My brother and his wife stayed at one of those hotels a couple of years ago and they didn't even rent a car. They were content to spend all their time in that immediate area.

St. Martin definitely has more of a French feel than a Caribbean feel, however. So if you're looking for Caribbean culture then I'd head to my first suggestion of Tortola. But SXM has lots of direct flights from the U.S. and you indicated that's your number 1 priority.
sharona is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 03:12 PM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 3,703
Ty lum should read Tulum, Mexico, silly iPad correction!
blamona is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 05:44 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4,077
IMPO, Mexico has the most lux AI resorts at the best prices out there. We love Mexico and have been going almost every year since 2000. We just returned from Cabo San Lucas this past December. Though the water and beaches cannot compare to the Caribbean side of Mexico, the food was wonderful. Better than any vacation we have taken to date to any Caribbean Island or Mexico.

Here is a list of AI's in Tulum:

Akumal Beach Resort
Catalonia Royal Tulum
Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
Grand Bahia Principe Akumal
Grand Bahia Principe Coba
Grand Bahia Principe Tulum
Grand Sirenis Mayan Beach
Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya
Luxury Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an
Oasis Tulum
The Explorean Kohunlich

The Akumal Beach Hotel has a reef right off thier beach. Swimming with the turtles is a highlight there. Several tour groups take people to swim at the beach.

The Sian Ka'an Biosphere has some of the best snorkling in the area. The multiple hurricanes over the years in that area didn't seem to hit that far out. Very nice healthy reefs and tons of fish.

There is so much to see and do that area. The Tulum Riuns are quite popular as well as Chichen Itza, Coba, centoes, Xel-Ha and Xcaret eco parks.

Isla Mujeres is a small Island off of Cancun. You would fly into Cancun and then take a short ferry to Isla Mujeres. Really the ferry is no big deal unlike getting from St. Thomas to St. John. The Island is very small and quaint with a nice beach. Most people rent golfcarts to get around. You can go around the Island in a golf cart in about 30 minutes. On the main strip by the beach there are several restaurants and beach bars. Food was good and inexpensive. No need to go AI there.

Cozumel would be a good choice also. It's also a seperate Island off of the Playa del Carmen area. However, you can fly directly to Cozumel. A ferry is provided to get to Playa is you want to go over there for a day trip. The Iberostar, Occidential, Sabor, and Secrets are good AI's. However, they are located a little far from the town of San Miguel, so if you want to go into town for addtional dining or shopping, the taxi fares can add up unless the hotel offers a shuttle.

If you are interested I have all of our vacation pictures posted on Shutterfly. You might find a locale to your liking:


Hit "all" so you can just scroll down.
KVR is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 03:17 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,410
>>>I do not find food with British influence very flavorful and I think that's one reason I didn't enjoy Grenada more.<<< There is no British influence on the menu at the Coyaba. It is a Caribbean and international menu. Did they give you roast beef and yorkshire pudding?

Topography is not coming out as important as you first indicated. If you are even considering Mexico, then I would not look at Tortola or Tobago or anywhere like that. One is the Caribbean and the other is a Latin American country that has a Caribbean coast (& some islands). From the convenience factor and price, I'm sure it cannot be beaten, personally such mass tourism destinations have never appealed. It's the same from Europe too, people go to Mexico by the bucketload, because they can get there cheaply and get the most value.
Odin is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 03:57 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4,077
Another thought, how about Puerto Rico? No AI's there, but it would tick most of your boxes. Southwest Airlines started flying there this year from many states. We found direct flights from Houston. We are considering it for our trip this year and adding on a Southern Caribbean cruise to "catch" some of those Islands that are too hard to get to and too expensive for a land vacation. We found several options for air and hotel for 6 nights around $2,000. Almost less expensive than just getting air to board a cruise, which is crazy.

Did anyone mention Jamaica? It will have the AI hotels, topgraphy and price that you described plus it's convenient to get to from most states. We loved the Jewell Dunn's River in Ocho Rios. Also, look at the Iberostar, Secrets, Couples and Sandals resorts. All with have the pampering your wife would like.

Just for clarification, there are several areas of Mexico that are not considered "mass tourism", which is basically the areas that I mentioned above. Also, the topography on the Caribbean side of Mexico is quite lush with a few jungle areas. If you view my pictures that is evident. It may be best to actually visit the destination before making snap inaccuarate judgements to others. However, I do agree that most people can get to Mexico and stay at really nice lux AI resorts for about half of what can be found in most of the Caribbean, which I don't see anything wrong with and just one of the reasons why we keep returning.
KVR is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 09:46 AM
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 481
St John seems to fit most of your requirements, and with a little effort, you might be able to come pretty close to finding a condo for $200 a night via VRBO.

Great restaurants, incredible uncrowded beaches, safe traveling around island, and an easy ferry ride from St Thomas which is an easy airport to reach from the states.
Bassguy66 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2013, 09:11 PM
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
Sandals Whitehouse remote south Jamaica -

P. Rico --- far east part of the island - the beaches are so beautiful there , that is where the islanders go to vacation!
kcdancerkc is offline  
Mar 6th, 2013, 11:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 9
Well we still have not made a decision, despite all the excellent recommendations here.

I agree with the general narrative of the thread - that Mexico would better fit our budget, but less fit my original shopping list. (BTW, Puerto Rico is not an option for us, so we can eliminate that one.)

KVR has been very helpful with Mexico. One negative is I've been previously and like variety (though that was Cancun, not Tulum). One MAJOR plus with Mexico is we can fly to Cancun in half the time and 2/3 the cost of many islands. The ease of access is a big draw.

I have also appreciated sharona and others advice re: the Virgin Islands. I've looked there a lot, just haven't found anything to pull the trigger on, yet - primarily due to budget.
bdlindley is offline  
Mar 6th, 2013, 12:51 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 4,077
The various regions of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico are very different. To me, Cancun is great, but it is nothing like the Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Akumel, or Riveria Maya areas nor like the Island of Cozumel. Choosing one of those areas outside of Cancun would feel like traveling to a whole new destination.

The same with Jamaica. Montego Bay, Negril and Ocho Rios are all very different. You really have to stay in all 3 of the areas to get the overall feeling of the entire Jamaica.

One destination but different locations will make it feel like a new vacation.
KVR is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:59 AM.