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Help me narrow down island for 20th anniversary trip


Aug 14th, 2016, 06:56 AM
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Help me narrow down island for 20th anniversary trip

Hello everyone. I'm planning a 4-5 night trip in late November/early December of this year to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. This will be the first "proper" vacation we've ever taken without our kids, and I want it to be as close to "perfect" - for us - that it can be. I've been driving myself a little nuts trying to narrow it down by spending hours on these forums, tripadvisor, oyster.com, historical weather sites, etc. and I'm hoping you can help by providing your first hand experience and knowledge. Thanks a million in advance as this post long.


*we can travel from any of the NYC airports, or Philadelphia, most likely at the end of Nov/early Dec
*due to the short trip duration, ideally the flight would be nonstop and the journey to our hotel would not require much additional time in the way of ferries, taxis etc. but I'm willing to consider it for the "right" place
*number one requirement is an amazing beach...I'm dreaming of stunning, calm, clear, turquoise water with fine sand beaches, fringed with palm trees...beach service or a nearby beach bar would not hurt
*we do not care about shopping, casinos, water sports, nightlife, kids activities - we are here for grown up R&R - but the option to do a little exploring, i.e. check out other beaches or local sights for an afternoon would be good
*do not require 5 star lodging, but it must be very clean, private, comfortable and a little luxury (ocean view from the room, a nicer bathroom) would make this celebration trip special
*lodging budget ideally under $600/night

My real dream is to explore the BVIs but that will have to wait until we can getaway for longer. Based on cost, relative ease of travel and what appears to "tick the boxes", I've focused on:
*Antigua-I found an amazingly priced, nonstop flight from NYC-however I'm having trouble settling on a resort that fits the budget and above criteria. Galley Bay looks interesting, for example, but I've read lots about rough seas/red flags, and tired rooms which has me concerned. The best resorts are out of budget and I can't settle on one in the next tier down.
*Harbour Island, Bahamas-I fell in love with the description of "the Nantucket of the Caribbean". I know this requires a little more complex journey and the weather can be iffy this time of year, but I do love what I've seen and read about. We've looked at Rock House and Dunmore, but many others look very nice too.
*Grand Cayman-can't find a nonstop for our dates, but it's still relatively easy to get to. My impression though is that this is a very family friendly island, i.e. one that we could come back to with the family. It also feels a bit built up despite Seven Mile Beach being one of the best. That said, the Ritz is within budget and I've had my eye on the new Kimpton which opens just weeks before our planned arrival. Good idea or awful idea to go to a just-opened resort?
*Anguilla-I fully realize this is harder to get to, needing to stop at SXM first, but the beaches and food options seem spectacular. And I'm having trouble finding nonstops to SXM on our dates. Many resorts have options in the price range, though. Even Cap Juluca.

These are on the maybe list, would love perspective as maybe I have it wrong:
*Dominican Republic- easy to get to, plenty of resorts (some adults only) to choose from, some ultra luxury, plenty within budget. For some reason I am hesitant but can't put my finger on why.
*Turks and Caicos-easy nonstop flight, jaw dropping beach, but this seems like a family oriented island unless you are staying 5 star, in which case we can't afford it!
*Aruba-nice beach and nonstop flight, otherwise I've been underwhelmed by what I've seen. I know many people who love it.

We are not interested in Mexico, Puerto Rico, St Thomas. We've been to St Lucia twice and would like to try something new.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this far and helping out this confused beach dreamer! I really need to pull the trigger and book something soon.
markj72 is offline  
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Aug 14th, 2016, 09:44 AM
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My daughter and her boyfriend (mid 30s) went to Turks & Caicos for a friend's wedding last year (Early May 2015). They didn't stay at the big resort where the wedding was, but at a smaller place just down the beach. They rented a scooter and had fun exploring, very much enjoyed the wedding although the food, they felt, was not as good as the small independent places recommended by their hotel. I think, depending on where you stay, you can get an AI experience like any you would find on any of the islands, or a more relaxed (and less expensive) but still high-quality stay at a smaller independent guesthouse on the same lovely beach. From her photos, it did not look particularly "family" filled - more couples and grown-ups.

I'll check with her to find out where they stayed...it really was gorgeous and romantic.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 09:57 AM
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Oh - and we have been to Anguilla (twice as a daytrip when we were staying on SXM) - Actually I think there would be some nice options in SXM on the French side (best food)...but your options regarding flights are, as you say, limited.

My favorite go-to Caribbean beach before retirement was Negril, Jamaica. Never stayed in an AI, our hang out, due to their lovely restaurant, was Charela Inn, even on one trip when we werent staying there! There is a lot to be said about a place where you can just stroll down the beach to a restaurant or music venue. It's been about 15 years since we've been there, however, so a lot could have changed. More recently, we've enjoyed beach time in Belize and (not Caribbean but Pacific Coast) Costa RIca.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 10:08 AM
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I'd go with your gut feeling about the DR. I've been to the Dominican Republic only twice but it's not real high on my list. Especially the Punta Cana area which seems to be where people go for the AI experience and never leave their resorts.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 10:43 AM
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Anguilla is where you want to be. Check out flights into AXA, which will require a stop in San Juan. You can fly into SXM and do the boat (really not that hard and you can grab a cocktail at the dock), but last time I went, the flight into AXA was cheaper and faster. It seems like a lot of steps, but none of them is hard and being there is totally worth it.

If your budget allows Cap Juluca, just book it (as long as you confirm that you are getting an updated room) - the beach is one of the best in the world and the beach service is beyond attentive. Alternatives include Malliouhana and Frangiapani. Viceroy, while at the same price point, does not have the vibe you are looking for.

If you can get away for 5 rather than 4 nights, you will be glad you did. Feel free to ask additional questions.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 05:03 PM
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uhoh_busted thanks, I'd love to hear where your daughter stayed in Turks & Caicos. It's so hard to ignore the quick, nonstop, relatively inexpensive flight from my neck of the woods to there. Plus, Grace Bay!
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Aug 14th, 2016, 05:04 PM
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suze, thanks. I think this is officially coming off the list.
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Aug 14th, 2016, 05:06 PM
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Andrew304, Anguilla and CJ have been on the bucket list for a long time. If I can find good flights we might go this way. Thanks!
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Aug 15th, 2016, 09:43 AM
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I just think there are more interesting places (with the disclaimer I've only been to Puerto Plata once and Sosua once, and years ago at that. What I know about Punta Cana is only from reading travel forums, posts, trip reports, travel articles).
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Aug 16th, 2016, 05:24 AM
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Punta Cana actually has beautiful beaches and many very nice resorts. I agree if you want to do exploring off the resort it might not be the place for you. If you just want to relax on a beautiful beach, don't be so quick to take Punta Cana off your list.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 08:02 AM
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Late November/early December is when school is in session. You aren't going to find many kids no matter where you go including family friendly Turks and Caicos. Ever accommodation is high end. My advice is to go for an oceanfront 1-bedroom at Le Vele (all units are oceanfront). It is quiet (no restaurant on site, you don't want one either, you want to hit the unreal food found at independent places), lovely, clean and a perfect spot for a couple. Good luck!
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Aug 18th, 2016, 02:23 PM
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Check out an air and hotel package on Jetblue to Turks and Caicos.

Look for SEVEN STARS, which hits most of the things on your wishlist.

It's got gorgeous oceanfront rooms, great location, beach service, very central

location for most of Provo's restaurants. Also restaurants, spa, and health club

on site.

You might get lucky and find a very good deal for that time of year.

If it's too pricey also look at THE SANDS, or OCEAN CLUB WEST, though

these are not in the same category as SEVEN STARS.

Lastly, if you don't mind renting a car and having no restaurant on site,

check out THE VENETIAN, at the quiet end of Grace Bay. We stay there almost

every January with extended family, and it is a spectacular smaller apartment/

hotel complex where some mornings, I've had the entire beach in front of

the hotel to myself!!

Good luck!
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Aug 20th, 2016, 05:54 AM
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It sounds like T&C might be the "one" for your wish lists. DR is not a place I would return to spent a week there years ago and agree it is only for people who do not want to leave resort. Food was just ok.

I have a friend who just booked the Rio in Aruba jr.suite oceanfront for under $500 a night. It is All inclusive cause they like to drink and do breakfast in the a.m. and will do restaurants at night. Too many wonderful restaurants in Aruba to do a/I but you are not interested in Aruba. I love Aruba own a timeshare and it just my cup of tea. I have been to T&C but way too quiet for my taste.
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Aug 26th, 2016, 08:50 AM
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I think agree with Turks and Caicos fitting the bill. As I was reading your post the Beach House https://www.beachhousetci.com/ came to mind. It's a small quiet spot with great service right on the beach - and a beach bar/service steps from the beach itself. It is also within your budget.
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Aug 27th, 2016, 09:13 AM
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I second Turks & Caicos, it has the most beautiful beaches in the world. Its a trip you'll never forget!
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