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I'm clueless when it comes to the Caribbean and would love some advice

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Mar 2nd, 2005, 12:54 PM
  #1
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I'm clueless when it comes to the Caribbean and would love some advice

First of all, I will apologize if my questions are the same ones that are posted constantly. I tried to research some of the past posts before I posted. I usually frequent the Europe board so this is the first time I have ever posted, or even ventured, to this neck of the woods.

My husband and I are in the midst of planning a trip in September/early October of this year. This is to be a short 4/5 night getaway. We were considering Europe but unfortunately airfare that time of year is pretty expensive so we are considering other options. We would probably be flying out of Chicago (because its cheaper) but St. Louis would be preferred.

We are considering the Caribbean but are thoroughly confused. First of all, we are not really "beach" people. By that I mean that, although we love the atmosphere and beauty of coasts and beaches, we are not really into laying on the beach for hours on end. A few hours is fine but we would get bored after too long. We both love culture, history, hiking and beautiful landscapes. We were hoping to find an island that is relatively untouristy or off the cruiseship path and that has some local flavor. We want to have enough to do to not get bored because we are hoping to mix relaxation with exploration. I am also looking for an island that has cute cottages or inns. I don't really want to stay in a highrise or a chain hotel or resort. Is there a place out there for us or am I looking in the wrong place? I was looking into Grenada or the Grenadines, both of which look stunning. Are either of these good choices?

I'm also concerned about hurricane season. I know that one cannot know or assume what the future will bring, but I'm assuming this is something we should be concerned about? We are also considering possibly Costa Rica for this reason.

Thank you so much for any advice or suggestions!

Tracy
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 01:41 PM
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I actually started thinking Grenada before I even read that you were considering it. I think that it would meet your requirements nicely, but with two caveats:

- Remember that Grenada was devastated by Hurricane Ivan last fall. I understand that recovery is proceeding quickly, but it's not the same island it was a year ago. Visit www.grenadaexplorer.com to get the latest.

- You are indeed traveling during hurricane season. While Grenada is generally considered south of the "Hurricane Belt," as we saw last year, this does not guarantee anything (though it improves your odds significantly). Get trip interruption insurance to protect yourself.

There is soooo much to do in Grenada beyond the beach: rain forest hikes, waterfalls to explore, rum distilleries, nutmeg plantations, etc. And you should have no trouble finding the sort of accomodations you seek, since no hotel may be taller than the palm trees. Give us a sense of your budget so that appropriate suggestions might be made: you could have the sort of place you seek anywhere from pretty inexpensive (Coral Cove, Mariposa), to mid-range (True Blue, Blue Horizon) to high-end (La Luna, Belair Plantation, Spice Island Inn). Each one of these places is unique and special.

If you are interested in Costa Rica, you might also look into Belize. Belize is not as well-traveled as Costa Rica, and has Mayan ruins, jungles as well as the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 02:19 PM
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Thank you so much for your reply! I greatly appreciate it. Our budget is about $2000 to $2500 (although preferably more towards the $2000 side, since we are taking a two week Europe vacation this May) for a four night stay including airfare. I found flights to Grenada from Chicago on Air Jamaica for under $800 for both of us, which seems like a really good deal. This would leave over $1100 for lodging (4 nights), food and activities. Would this be doable?

And thank you for the tip on Belize. I honestly never thought about it but we love ruins so I will definitely look into it.

Thanks!
Tracy
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 02:21 PM
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I forgot to mention that we don't usually like to spend too much for hotels because we really don't spend much time in them other than to sleep so we would prefer to keep it at $150 or under a night if possible.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 02:34 PM
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I would think St. Lucia is a good option, but four nights is pretty quick. It has everything you are looking for. You are really describing Costa Rica I am afraid. Have you been there? I know that the best tourist areas are not on the caribbean side. But, if you fly on a charter directly into Liberia airport you could manage a 4 night trip.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 03:30 PM
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Although they are great choices, I feel 4 nights is too little time from Chicago to all the above mentioned. You are going to lose 2 complete days in travel, which gives you 2 days to be there. Costa Rica or Belize might work for you, you can also try Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, although not on a beach.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 03:44 PM
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Based on what you said you are looking for, and your price range, check into Caribbean Mexico.

If you like culture, history and hiking, there are some of the most amazing ruins all concentrated in an area close to easy-to-get-to and checp Cancun.

You can stay in Playa del Carmen or Puerto Morelos or Akumal and be close to all three major ruins in the area - Chichen Itza, Tulum and Coba - and still be able to take day trips to lots of interesting sights in the area.

Very easy to get around, many very nice places for less than $150 per night, lots of dining choices, and super friendly people.
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Mar 2nd, 2005, 06:26 PM
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tracy - i agree totally with diana. cr is a fabulous place but will eat up your whole trip on the plane. as will most of the islands south of hurricane season area.
costa maya area of mexico should be just about perfect to meet all your interests and your budget. the further south you get the easier access to ruins is, the fewest people, and the most local culture.
so perhaps now you are off to the mexico boards ???
have a great trip
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 04:27 AM
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I guess I glossed over the 4/5 nights part of your post. That might not be enough time for you to do Grenada justice -- check those flight times (when I last went down, on American Airlines, we didn't get to our hotel until after 9 p.m., after leaving home early in the morning; I don't know Air Jamiaca's schedules, but my impression was that there were lots of stops and you don't get in until late in the day). But if you're willing to just whet your appetite, it might be worth it anyway. There are easier places to get to where you could have more time on the island.

If you are still interested, I would consider one of these three places to stay (within your budget): Mariposa, the Flamboyant, or True Blue. I haven't stayed at any of these myself, but have seen them and they all have good reputations. In terms of central location, Flamboyant is right on Grand Anse Beach with easy access to the "action" (such as it is), and Mariposa is just a little further south, on Morne Rouge (my favorite beach on the island). True Blue is on True Blue Bay, at the south end of the island in the Prickly Bay area -- a rental car would be advisable here, or else you'll be cabbing everywhere.

In terms of other expenses, food runs the gamut from pricey stuff to down-home, inexpensive local food. (At Flamboyant and Mariposa, you could get a room with kitchen facilities and are walking distance from a good supermarket). For a quick trip, it is well worth investing in a full-day island overview tour with one of the many reputable tour companies. I can't think of much else that you would spend money on (other than a rental car).
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 06:39 AM
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Thank you all for your replies. I greatly appreciate it. I know we won't have a whole lot of time but we would be getting up early to sightsee. I believe the flight arrived around 1:00 or 2:00 and left after noon so we would have partial days on top of two whole days. Besides, were used to it...we flew all the way to Rome in December for 3 nights!! Short, sure, but Rome is a wonderful city and worth it (plus it was our second time there so we had less to see)!

Thank you for the advice on Mexico. I was in Mexico once, several years ago, around the Cozumel area and wasn't too impressed. Of course, it was a cruise excursion so probably not the best way to see the area. I am trying to get away from real touristy areas so I am not too interested in Cancun, although some other areas in Mexico may interest me.

Thanks again!
Tracy
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 06:55 AM
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A day on vacation is much better than a day at work. Mexico does sound like what you are looking for. Enjoy.
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 09:23 AM
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Did you consider Barbados??? There are tours to explore there and its a very friendily island also.
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 12:03 PM
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I'd say go for Grenada! If you're adventurous enough to go to Rome for 3 nights, Grenada for 4 will be a cinch.
In addition to the other suggestions for accommodation, I'd also suggest taking a look at www.lasagesse.com, La Sagesse Nature Center. The rooms are all very reasonable and you've got hiking right there on site. And you've got to love a place that features a pooch on a surfboard in the water as one of their promotional photographs!
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Mar 3rd, 2005, 12:23 PM
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I really appreciate all your replies. Callaloo, I am getting ready to research your hotel suggestions. And ejcrowe, the link sent me to such a lovely hotel! And your right...can't go wrong with a doggie on a surf board...that left me with a huge smile. Makes me wish I could bring my mutt along for the journey, but alas I think he is going to have to stay at grandmas!

Again, I really appreciate all the helpful replies. So many of the islands, Barbados included, look lovely. I don't know how some of you decide where to visit! It seem as though Grenada may fit the bill for us this time, and we would be happy to contribute to some of the much-needed tourists dollars after the hurricane devistation.

Thanks much!
Tracy
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Oct 4th, 2005, 11:04 AM
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I'm topping this post because the OP described exactly what my husband and I are looking for (much better than I have in other posts). I am interested to know what Tracy and her husband ended up choosing!

Thanks!
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Oct 4th, 2005, 12:46 PM
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I missed this the first time around. Sounds like the OP or Tarheels might enjoy Saba, as well.

http://www.sabatourism.com/
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Oct 4th, 2005, 07:43 PM
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hi just thought i pop back in and say that cancun/cozumel are definetly not what i was suggesting. more like south of playa del carmen... i'm sure you'll find someplace fun where ever you go as you sound like very flexible travelers.
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Oct 5th, 2005, 08:05 AM
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I guess the OP dosen't frequent the board anymore. That's a shame! But perhaps this will be a helpful thread for others in a similar situation.
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Oct 6th, 2005, 02:55 PM
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Hello! Thank you to those of you who were thoughtful enough to respond to my post again! Your right...I don't frequent this board much, but I just happened to click on my name to look for a post and found this one was brought back up.

My husband and I had previously decided on Grenada but decided that it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to visit right after another hurricane hit this summer, so we postponed the idea. I will say that while researching airfare prices I found a flight to Paris for November that was cheaper than most flights to the Caribbean ($330 r/t from St. Louis to Paris) so I jumped on it! We leave November 3rd. However, we are still considering a trip to the Caribbean in the near future, and I will go back to this post for some ideas.

Thanks again!
Tracy
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