Can you help me pick an island?

Old Oct 11th, 2013, 04:34 AM
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Can you help me pick an island?

The more research I do, the more confused I get. Our dream trip is St. Barth, but... it's so expensive and hard to get there. We have 6 nights (leaving our kids for the first time), flying from Denver (only nonstops are to Jamaica and DR). We've been to Jamaica and I love the topography there, but want somewhere safer for exploring and friendly people. We like snorkeling, islands that have hills or mountains, gorgeous Caribbean water, a little live music (calypso, etc), good food, not into chain restaurants and some shopping would be nice but not a priority. Went to Barbados when I was 19 (now 41) and loved the live music there. Loved the beaches on Turks & Caicos but the island is a little flat for my taste. St. Lucia is gorgeous but the beaches aren't the best. Considering Antigua, Barbados, Anguilla....
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 05:04 AM
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Also, considering St. Martin/St. Barths combo.... 3 nights on each.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 06:10 AM
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"We like snorkeling, islands that have hills or mountains, gorgeous Caribbean water, a little live music (calypso, etc), good food, not into chain restaurants and some shopping would be nice but not a priority."

Check out St John.....
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 06:24 AM
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If T&C's were too flat for you then skip Anguilla - it's just as flat and arid - also very little snorkeling on that island and no real shopping other than a few "trinket and t-shirt shops".

If you want good to very good snorkeling skip Antigua, St. Martin and St. Barth's - snorkeling on those islands is below average at best.

Agree with Bassguy - given you list of want's St. John has everything you are seeking and if you don't find enough shopping on that island to suit your needs it's a short ferry ride to St. Thomas where there's hundreds of shops.

Also look at Virgin Gorda it has everything on your list except good shopping - for that you'd have to go to Tortola (makes a nice day trip).
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 06:52 AM
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No real snorkeling in Anguilla/St Barts/St Martin either.

Sounds like St John Virgin Islands will work for you. They have villas in all prices. Gorgeous hilly island, awesome snorkeling, white sand bright turquoise water beaches.

You fly into St. Thomas, then it's just a 20 minute ferry.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:28 AM
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Thanks for all the replies! St. John does sound appealing. My friend went recently and her only complaint was that it lacked "local culture". How are the restaurants and nightlife there? We enjoy a little live music and good food. Any opinions on the snorkeling in Barbados?
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:33 AM
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Also, on St. John what hotels would you recommend? I like a resort feel... 4 or 5 star hotels. But we don't want to spend over $500 a night.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:41 AM
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What time of year? Makes a tremendous difference in price.

Snorkeling just okay in Barbados. Snorkeling is great at Caymans, Virgin Islands, Bonaire (beaches just okay) and TCI. (Then of course Belize, Mexico and Roatan Honduras)

As another PS, 4-5 star hotels in Caribbean, especially depending on your time of year, will be more than 4-5 star hotels in the States.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:52 AM
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Looking at January or February... I know, the expensive time. My husband works in the hotel industry... one reason I'm considering Barbados is the good deal we would get at the Hilton there. We also get a great deal at Half Moon Resort in Jamaica... we've stayed there twice now and it's a lovely place, but I was hoping to go somewhere different this time.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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What is TCI?
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 10:29 AM
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TCI = Turks & Caicos Islands - most people use that when referring to the island of Providenciales where 95% of the resorts in the island chain are located.

You are not going to get a 5-star resort on any Caribbean island in January/February for $500/night. And 4-star at that price is going to be stretching it a bit at that price.

Set your sights a bit lower as far as room category is concerned.

On St. John, look at Gallows Point Resort or Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel - they will probably be in your price range. You can check the Westin (the #2 resort on the island) but at that time of year it's probably above your budget. Caneel Bay Resort is the top rated resort on the island is is well over your budget.
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 02:32 PM
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St John fits your criteria perfectly.

We just went in March. Had a great time. Rented a jeep and hopped from beach to beach. We snorkeled, ate great food, drank at beach side bars (which often have live music in the evenings). Its safe and beautiful! We stayed at Gallows Point which is within easy walking distance of Cruz Bay and has beautiful views of the bay & ocean. The units are individually owned, but the place is run like a hotel with a concierge, pool, hotel restaurant, etc. Your other option is Caneel Bay Resort or Westin. Caneel Bay is probably out of your price range and the Westin has mixed reviews here.

Good luck!
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Old Oct 11th, 2013, 07:44 PM
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I am making myself crazy trying to decide. Now I'm strongly considering St. John based on all your recommendations, but I'm struggling with the lack of hotel options there. I'm considering postponing our trip until April for lower hotel rates. I do like staying at upscale resorts with all the amenities. St. John sounds gorgeous but so does St. Barths. I love Europe (especially France), so I'm drawn to its European style. I keep looking at Hotel Christopher and they offer reasonable packages starting in April. I am not good at decisions! At least I eliminated one option: Anguilla... the beaches sound gorgeous, but lack of snorkeling combined with flat terrain and little shopping did it for me.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 01:13 AM
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If you love Europe why not consider Martinique or Guadeloupe? Guadeloupe has 2 sides, one which is dark sand, mountainous with very good diving and the other part of the island is flat (but not Anguilla flat) dry with beautiful beaches. Martinique is just gorgeous, north has dark sand and the old capital St Pierre which was destroyed during a volcanic eruption, the south has the picture postcard beaches eg Les Salines. Neither island will have the upscale resorts of St Barths, neither are as chic but they are much more beautiful.

http://www.capest.com/en/home.html# although on the Atlantic side, there are swimmable beaches

http://www.toubana.com/galerie_photos.php?lang=en
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 05:42 AM
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Sorry, but we can't make the decision for you - It's YOUR vacation. In over 30 years of travel through the Caribbean the one thing I've learned is THERE'S NO SINGLE ISLAND THAT HAS IT ALL. You are going to have to make some compromise and remember, there's nothing wrong with compromise.

I think you already know this but if you "like staying at upscale resorts with all the amenities" and you have a limited budget then your only real option is to postpone your trip until Low Season (which in 2014 will begin after Easter Week at most resorts). That way you'll get the most "bang for your buck".

Maybe this will help! You've seem to narrow your choice to St. John and St. Barth's - both very nice islands but there will be tradeoff with each. You'll have to decide what's more important to you:

Of the two, St. John will give you access to the better snorkeling and St. Barth's will have more sophisticated shopping. So choice one: Will you be doing more snorkeling or shopping? I'm guessing with a limited budget your shopping is going to be mostly "browsing" rather than actual "buying". If so, then you'll be equally happy browsing shops on either island. So that's one BIG + for St. John.

While St. John has plenty of good places to dine St. Barth's will have more and better restaurants (some among the best in the Caribbean) so if you are "real foodies" St. Barth's should be high on your list. But remember, along with those great restaurants comes a higher food budget so factor that into your decision. So, as far as restaurants are concerned St. Barth's gets the BIG +.

So here it is in a nutshell:

St. John: Very good to excellent snorkeling, good restaurants(you won't go hungry) and some shopping (mostly souvenirs, t-shirts and trinkets).

St. Barth's: Very good to excellent restaurants, limited snorkeling and some of the best and most sophisticated shopping in the Caribbean.

Good luck.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 06:04 AM
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Okay, I'm about to burst your bubble on Hotel Christopher St. Barts. The 495 prices you see in April (which is peak season) is in EUROs! On todays market that means around $700 US dollars. Add taxes, etc (usually close to 24%) makes it $868 US $ per night.

No way you get St. Barts at the height of peak season for under $500!!!! This is Spring Breaks for Canada and US, so all places fill up.

Actually can't get that calaber hotel for $500 any time of year there. Prices again, are in Euros, you have to exchange them to dollars (and this changes daily, the exchange market)

You definitely have champagne tastes!

You won't get that type of resort at under $500 anywhere in the Caribbean.

And to add to St. Barts, 2 meals daily will average about $200. Very expensive, but very worth it, as it has amazing restaurants. Expensive shopping too (think Rodeo Drive prices)

Really no snorkeling at all. (but the people watching and ambience is great)

It's a very chic island.

St. John is much more laid back. Great snorkeling. The Westin (is it still a Westin?) is much more affordable (after April, more like June - November) There are casual shopping places, and you can always ferry to St. Thomas for great shopping for the day.

Sorry I had to burst your bubble, but I bet you didn't realize the prices were in Euros, not dollars. Huge difference (almost like time and a half)

If you found luxury at those standards any time of year in Caribbean, snatch it up fast, cause it doesn't usually happen!

So you might decide back to Barbados Hilton, although no real snorkeling there either. But there's good shopping!
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 06:12 AM
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I am with RoamsAround- You can't always get what you want... You have to give up the direct flight fantasy. Connect in Miami or San Juan. I love the VI- lots to do, boat trips, great beaches, sailing, etc. But St Bart's is sublime. You can save by splitting entrees, getting a baguette and cheese for lunch on the beach, etc.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 06:46 AM
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Ok, I'm making some progress. Eliminated Barbados... a great island but the snorkeling sounds pretty weak. I was there 20+ yrs ago but I was more interested in partying than snorkeling back then. Thank you for all the helpful feedback... I really appreciate it! Martinique and Guadeloupe both sound tempting, but at this point I need to keep narrowing my options. My 4yr old and 1 yr old don't leave me a lot of time for doing research. But I sure enjoy daydreaming about this trip at around 5pm when they both typically have their meltdowns. I'm leaning towards St. John over St. Barths because of the snorkeling, costs, and the "chic" description of St. Barths... I don't feel like trying to look "chic" on my beach vacation. Most of all, I want beautiful scenery and relaxation.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 06:57 AM
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Blamona: No bubble burst. I did realize that was euro and did the conversion. But I thought it was inclusive of taxes and fees as most hotels are when charging in Euros (at least that was my experience in Europe... is it different in St. Barths?) It seemed reasonable for St. Barths and I was willing to stretch a bit. And the packages include some extras like daily $100 credit to use at restaurant or spa, so I figured that into the equation. Yes, my tastes are little expensive on the hotel front... My husband works for a hotel company and we've been able to stay at some lovely 4 & 5 star hotels.
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Old Oct 12th, 2013, 12:53 PM
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I don't mean to sound condescending but you've mentioned a couple times that your husband works for a hotel company (possibly Hilton) and you've benefited from that relationship by getting preferred rates at high end hotels. You've also mentioned that the resorts you've looked at on the islands that have been suggested to you are above your budget even in "Low Season".

I'm sorry but as the other contributors and I have mentioned you are simply not going to find 4 or 5 star accommodations for 3-star prices anywhere in the Caribbean UNLESS you stay at a resort where you can avail yourself of a preferred rate resulting from your husband's affiliation.

So, if you are not willing to set your sights a little lower as far as accommodations are concerned why don't you look at resorts/hotels that are affiliated with your husband's employer and choose one of those. The location may not offer everything on your wish list but it will probably be within your budget price wise.

If your husband's affiliation is with the Hilton Hotel Chain they have some 10 different resorts in the Caribbean, perhaps you'll enjoy staying at one of those properties even though you might not get everything on your wish list.

I hope you find a place for your vacation that fits your budget and ticks off enough of your boxes to make for a memorable vacation.
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