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Help me pick spot for late January beach vaca with good snorkeling!

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Help me pick spot for late January beach vaca with good snorkeling!

Old Oct 10th, 2012, 10:51 AM
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Help me pick spot for late January beach vaca with good snorkeling!

The more I research, the more confused I am! Any thoughts will be MUCH appreciated!

Planning a mid-to-late January trip somwhere warm...snorkeling and nice beaches are a must! Started researching Belize and Roatan but am a little put off by reports that January is rainy in those locations and Belize's beaches are not the nicest. Looks like the ABC islands will be warmest but we've already done Curacao, Bonaire seems to lack beaches and I have read conflicting reports about snorkeling in Aruba. Last year we visited St. John and enjoyed the snorkeling but not the Christmas winds so we are not sure if we should consider a BVI destination like Virgin Gorda. Would like to visit the Bahamas, Cozumel or T&C but these spots are too far north, not sure if the water or the night temps will be warm enough for us. We have already been to Barbados, Jamaica, St. Martin and parts of PR (not Vieques, very interested in this) but not sure if PR will be warm enough in Jan. We are interested in St. Lucia but have read that the snorkeling is only good near the Pitons. Should I look at Antigua? There are conflicting reports about the snorkeling. Dominica looks great but too hard/long of a flight from Boston.

Does anyone have any thoughts? What am I missing? We don't need fancy, just looking for peace and quiet on our vacation.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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I thought Aruba had decent snorkeling though not from the resort area. You'll need to take a boat trip out to the wreck or go to Baby Beach, De Palm Island or the Mangel Haltos. I liked it better than Curacao. Except we did the scuba dive at the Aqaurium and it was so awesome.

Cozumel water temps will be fine in Janauary. We go to Mexico almost every December and the ocean is fine, the pools are a little too cold for me. Our last trip in 2009, I didn't think the snorekling was as good as prior trips. The best snorkeling we've done in that area was outside of Tulum at the Ka'an Sian Biosphere. The multiple hurricanes and tropical storms over the years has not damaged that area.

My number one favorite Island to snorkel is Grand Cayman. Crystal clear water and an abundance of fish. Take one of the tours that do 2 snorkel stops and then Sting Ray City. Also snorkel the Wreck of Cali off of 7 Mile Beach. Rent a care and get one of the snorkel maps and hit all the off shore spots.

If your interested I have tons of underwater snorkel pics from various destinations on our pic site.

http://community.webshots.com/user/kvrlvn
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 12:22 PM
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Anywhere in the Caribbean will be subject to "Christmas Winds" in mi-to-late January. The thing is you can never predict if those "winds" will be strong or just light breezes at any given time or in any specific area of the Caribbean. One week it could be "windy" in the BVI's and relatively calm around islands as little as 50 miles away. Sometimes it's windy one day and dead calm the very next day. What you get during your trip is going to be up to Mother Nature so there's no way to make any set predictions. I have a home in the Caribbean and can tell you that we rarely have times when sustained winds are strong enough to disrupt/curtail anyone's vacation plans.

Likewise with predicting "warmth" - generally speaking any island from Puerto Rico and south will have day-time temps in the low to mid-80's F. The further south you go average temperatures will e slightly warmer but, on average, not by more than 3 to 5 degrees F.

Since snorkeling is your main goal, you should concentrate your search to those islands that have good to very good snorkeling and let the weather take care of itself. Now, you have to define what you mean by good snorkeling. By that do are you seeking good "walk-in snorkeling" or would you be content having to take a boat to access the best spots.

If you want very good walk-in snorkeling look at Bonaire (but you are correct it doesn't have the nicest beaches), the USVI's (especially St. John) and the BVI's (especially Virgin Gorda) . For boat access snorkeling, any of the USVI's, BVI's and Grenadines will give you all the snorkeling you could ever want (and you'll find some decent walk-in snorkeling too). Barbuda has some good snorkeling and fabulous beaches but it is very sparsely populated - go there only if you truly want "to get away from it all".

Antigua has only a limited amount of walk-in snorkeling and, at least for me, the boat access snorkeling was just OK.

If I were you, I'd seriously look at Virgin Gorda, it's about as perfect for what you want as you'll find anywhere.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 12:25 PM
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Oh Boy! I always seem to forget about Grand Cayman when it comes to snorkeling. KVR is right - great snorkeling there.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 12:58 PM
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Thanks to you both. I am dying to visit the Grenadines but the airfare per person is over $1K. Sounds like perhaps I am overanalyzing the water/air temperature...coming from freezing cold Boston, I really want to be WARM on my vaca! In St. John last January, we wished the ocean water was just a little warmer, even though we enjoyed every minute.

RoamsAround, we enjoy off the beach snorkeling but are okay with taking a few boat excusions to get our fix.

Perhaps I will look more closely at Virgin Gorda. My hesitation with Grand Cayman and Aruba are commercialization...we are really low key people and enjoy rustic destinations. We like bar hopping and walking on long beaches, relaxing and reading, enjoying local food and snorkeling. We also enjoy renting a car and spending some time exploring off the beaten path places... Are Grand Cayman and Aruba as "Americanized" as some say it is? I am sure we would enjoy both - I have never met an island I didn't like!
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 03:16 PM
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We're returning to Bonaire for a second, and longer, trip the first part of December. We really enjoyed being able to snorkel on our own, very easy.

Not much for beaches, but, we don't spend a whole lot of time lounging anyway. For that the beaches at Lac Bay are fine. The water is clear, the sand is soft, lounger rentals are cheap, I think US$5.00.

Only a short drive from Kralendijk. It's so easy to get around, no issues with traffic.

Most surprising to us was the variety of really good restaurants. For such a small island, we were very happy.

I've always read that you need to head south of 17 degrees latitude to guarantee warm weather in the US winters.

We live in Belize in January, it can be a bit chilly, but, the water is warm enough to swim and snorkel.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 03:26 PM
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Grand Cayman is not as "Americanized" as Aruba. Just avoid Georgetown when the cruise ships are in.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 04:23 PM
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Hi!

KVR is sooooo right about running away from town when the cruise ships are in port. It was embarassing to be a cruise ship passenger when 8 or so ships are in port and I love cruises.

Grand Cayman is awesome for snorkeling. Have you looked at Turks & Caicos?

Have a great day!
Julia
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 04:40 PM
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Thanks for the input everyone! Can anyone recommend a decent, well-priced ($200 night or less - is this possible?) hotel on or near Grand Cayman's seven-mile beach? Is food on Grand Cayman as expensive as everyone says? Will we be able to find local, Caribbean food that is reasonably priced?

I would LOVE to go to Turks & Caicos, heard the snorkeling is good there but I am nervous that the water might be chilly in January since it's farther north? I know that Mother Nature is unpredictable but... Thoughts?

Jean H - Thanks for the info about Bonaire. As much as we love snorkeling, we also like to spend time lounging and walking on the beach. Not sure we can do that in Bonaire.
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Old Oct 10th, 2012, 04:58 PM
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The least expensive decent hotel on Seven Mile Beach is the Comfort Suites. It is not exactly on the beach, a short path leads to the beach. Sunshine Suites is also decent, but it is across a busy street from the beach. The other decent hotels on Seven Mile Beach will definitely be over your budget

Restaurants can be expensive, that is why many people rent condos. Some people go to the supermarkets where they have take-out food available just like the US supermarkets.A meal at a lower end restaurant may cost US$20 but a meal at a mid-priced restaurant mid -priced restaurant may cost $50 to$ 75 per person. Check caymangoodtaste.com to see the prices at the different restaurants. Remember that the prices on the website are in CI$ not US$.
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Old Oct 11th, 2012, 04:51 AM
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I go to Turks and Caicos every January. When compared to caymans, water is probably 2-3 degrees warmer in caymans.

It feels a little chilly when first going in, but you get use to it. I equate it to the first time in June I go to Virginia Beach. Or the first week a swimming pool is open for tue season. The water feels chilly when you first go in, but you get use to it.

It's not like "bathwater" in the summer. You can rent short wet Shiite if that helps.

But, January is expensive in Turks and Caicos, you might be hard pressed to find something in that price range. You could check out Sibonne, although it books fast. Air is also slot more than what you get for caymans.

Once you're there, food is extremely expensive.
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Old Oct 12th, 2012, 05:02 AM
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We have been to Turks and Caicos in January and while the water was somewhat chilly I did not find it any colder than other destinations at that time of year or elese I just did not remember it correctly. Once in the water you do get use to it. My husband likes to dive and he did say once that Grand Cayman was one of the best. We did do walk off the beach snorkeling at T&C. I guess they still have that there as it was about 10 years ago we were there. Aruba is ok for snorkelling, but there are starbucks and dunkin doughnuts and I feel that is what is meant by "americanized." I cannot do w/o that coffee henceforth Aruba is my fav bar none. The restaurants are great, the people are so warm, friendly and welcoming, and I always feel safe, and I hate to leave! But if snorkeling is a key point then perhaps Grand cayman would be a good choice or T&C. As said you can go to baby beach and see some great fish. We usually do this--my husband always brings the snorkeling gear to Aruba.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 01:20 PM
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Thanks for the comments and feedback everyone. We are weighing all the ideas and have narrowed it down to Grand Cayman and to complicate matters, Grenada, even though it seems there is little snorkeling in Grenada (from what I have read). Can anyone comment on snorkeling in Grenada? We are attracted to hilly lush islands and found a decent package there.
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Old Oct 14th, 2012, 03:31 PM
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Grenades snorkeling is nonexistent if that's your thing.

Hilly islands with great snorkeling are St. John and Vorgin Gorda. Tobago Cays are good too, but the Grenadines are probably out of your budget.

Mexico can get hilly.......

TCI and Caymans are flat.
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