Need some Caribbean resort/island help

Feb 4th, 2005, 08:19 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 77
Need some Caribbean resort/island help

Thank you in advance for the advice and information I will receive from this.

I've searched through most of the posts in this section. Some are very old and things might have changed since they posted their information. I apologize if I repeat a previously asked question.

Family of 3, (one being a teenager), looking in to our family vacation/25th anniversary trip for this July.
We've looked at Hawaii and Mexico. A friend suggested we would love the Caribbean. Don't know a lot about it so we're researching and asking.
So, where to start? We love calm water beaches. Nice sandy beaches. I'm sure they are abundant down there.
We have been told to go All-Inclusive and told not to go A-I. Obviously, depends on what we want to spend. Does going A-I actually save you money? Let's say we go to Aruba (I love the looks of that Island), are the prices at the resturants real high to warrant going A-I?
We've seen the high priced A-I's, where can we find out about the low or moderate priced A-I's that are highly recommended by the seasoned travelers on this site? Perhaps a hidden jewel we would so love.

Now, safety. Is there an island down there we should avoid? The places on Jamaica look great but read something on another site where the traveler said they feared ever leaving the hotel grounds. Is that kind of thing normal or was it just their own fears?

Here is what we're hoping to find: a nice resort on a beautiful, sandy beach (I know, who isn't looking for that), a place where we can relax one day and play on the beach, or hang out at the pool to a place where we could go walk around town the next or perhaps take a drive on a moped or in a rental car and see some sights.
We're not scuba divers but we'd like to try snorkling. Not big on excursions or tour. Wife and I have always wanted to try para-sailing. Basically, a nice resort with a great beach is what we're after.

Now, the packages we've been quoted for Hawaii and Mexico ran about $3500 (air and room) for the three of us. We would go higher (or lower..LOL) if we found the perfect spot for us.
I did a search of resorts in the Caribbean and basically got all the high priced one's. Where can we find one's that, maybe, don't advertise much but are better than these high priced one's? As I mentioned aboved, the hidden jewels?
Has anyone done both A-I and then the next time gone non-A-I? Did you see a difference one way or the other? (savings)
Islands: I love the looks of Aruba. Some say St. Kitts, some say Jamaica,'s exhausting reading about all of them. That's why I'm covering everything in just one post.

So, hope I've covered everything here. Questions? Please ask. I'm sure I've left something out that I meant to post.
If anyone prefers to do this privately, I'll gladly give out my email address. Just let me know.

Professionals are welcome to help also.

Thank you again and have a great weekend everyone.
Melmg is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 09:37 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 67
Loaded question when it comes all-inclusive vs non. My take is it is necessary in some locations where safety is an issue; where you do not have a choice of great restaurants; if you want to know your expenses up front; if you have kids that like to 'graze' thru food and drinks all day; or if you enjoy having quite a few drinks per day.

That said I would also recommend Aruba. It is one of the safest destinations I've ever been, beautiful white beaches; great restaurants; easy to get around and have found the people of Aruba to be extremely friendly and helpful.

July is low season so rates will be easier on the purse. We visit Aruba at least once if not twice a year and I highly suggest you check out Travel Unlimited at as they specialize in Aruba and have always found their rates and service to be excellent. Many of their packages include full buffet breakfast daily; some you can add on 'drinks' only packages. In Aruba we prefer not to do AI as there are so many wonderful restaurants and we enjoy trying them all and of course revisiting our favorites.

FYI..if your teenager is under 18, they can stay free at the Tamarijn (which is an all-inclusive resort and in July you'll get lots of families). If you pay $20 per person extra each day you then get to use the amenities including restaurants at their sister resort Divi.

The Tam is located in the low rise area and sometimes you may get a little bit of wave action as opposed to the high-rise area Palm Beach where the water is extremely calm.

Food prices are not any more expensive then eating out nicely at home (NJ); it's the drinks that really add to the price of a meal and we are not big drinkers. And there are also plenty of inexpensive fast food places. If you choose to go AI you can still go out to 1 or 2 nice dinners if you want.

There is a public bus that stops in front of all the hotels and for something like $2 you can go into town.

Hope I've answered most of your questions!!
sara1274 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 09:38 AM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 675
Hi Melmg, you will probably be inundated with information that will make your head spin. There are lots of fellow Fodorites to help you on your quest but my first suggestion would be to check out Barbados - specifically Coral Sands resort. Great location and beach, easy to tour the island from and, although I have never stayed there I have seen it and it gets rave reviews here and on trip advisor. Get Lois' tip sheet from this board for further details on Barbados. I don't believe it has any meal plans though which you might find a drawback. Definitely worth considering though. Barbados is a very friendly, safe island to visit with lots of options for exploring. Happy anniversary!
starfish1 is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 09:58 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 77
Thank you Sara and Star for your great info. I'm looking them over right now. The Tam is well priced. Compared to the other, well known places, that is.

I know I will be swamped with info but it's worth it. Everyone on here has always been so great when we've needed help.
Melmg is offline  
Feb 4th, 2005, 10:11 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 67're very welcome!
sara1274 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 03:24 PM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 236
Hi Melmg - I see you mentioned St. Kitts, which is where we're headed in 3 weeks. While I haven't been there yet to speak from experience, I can tell you what led us to choose that island...much of which matches your interests.

We wanted a place with nice beaches - and while St. Kitts isn't necessarily known for that b/c it is a volcanic island, it reportedly does have some decent beaches. We've also heard it is very safe, with a great deal to do & explore....from hikes in the rainforest and near the volcano, to old plantations & history, to beaches & snorkeling.

And, though the island is yet relatively undiscovered to major commercial development (another plus for us), there is a brand new Marriott resort on the island that generally gets great reviews from those who've stayed there (although others feel it is out of place on this quiet island)- and in July it goes for as low as $110/nt (less if you do priceline). This might be a good option for you, especially travelling with a teenager, because you could all hang out at the resort & do a variety of different things.

Anyway, I'll report back after we return at the beginning of march, but we are spending some time at the Marriott (and Timothy Beach Resort, another smaller option) so I can tell more then!

happymz is offline  
Feb 6th, 2005, 05:01 PM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45
Just returned from St. Kitts(see report)and thought it was nice but not great as far as beaches,snorkeling, hotel choices, activities, shopping etc.

Stayed in Negril,Jamaica a couple years ago--beach was great, would recommend an AI for convenience, but would be aware of the safety and Hassel issues here..not the best choice in my opinion

Also stayed in Aruba a couple years ago and think that this is the best of your choices--many nice hotels on palm beach which is one of the finest in the caribbean, many restaurants ranging from mcdonalds to argentian steakhouses (elgaucho is a must)so I would not do AI here, nice shopping, very safe and comfortable setting on beaches and in town, many activities including your parasailing, cheap bus services to and from the main town etc--
Also remember to consider weather when making your choice. July is technically in hurricane season(june-nov). Aruba is out of the hurricane belt but may be mighty hot and is sometimes windy.
katethetraveler is offline  
Feb 7th, 2005, 04:29 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 12,980
Hi Melmg.
Aruba is a great island. We had a great time at the Marriott. It is large resort hotel. All inclusive is not the way to go here. The restaurants are good and I did not think they were that expensive at all. The Marriott, Hyatt and Radisson are the nicest hotels in my opinion. Aruba has beautiful white sandy beaches with the turquiose water. It is a very safe island with clean drinking water right from the tap. Hawaii is a great destination. (I don't know where you are coming from)From the east and only staying a week, I would recommend the Aruba trip(or caribbean). There are people on this board who love Jamaica and swear that it is the best. If safety and being hassled on the beach is something you are concerned about, than don't go to Jamaica. (This is just my opinion folks!)I also think Bermuda is a lovely and pretty island with a very cute town. It would be high season there. I would recommend Bermuda as a wonderful destination. We have enjoyed going there many times with and without kids. We have stayed at the Reefs (small hotel) and the South Hampton Princess (large hotel) both are good. The Wyndam is renovating and old hotel and it might be worth looking into. Elbow Beach is also anice resort. Have fun choosing!
girlonthego is offline  
Feb 8th, 2005, 10:07 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 59
We've stayed in two different all inclusive resorts in Playa Del Carmen Mexico that alst two years. The best by far was the Iberostar Quetzal. Check out their web site. This is a beatiful, safe area with plenty of freedom to roam and a great beach at the resort. Plenty to do in Playa Del Carmen whic is a 2-3 minute safe cab ride for about 2 US dollars. Great resort and much less expensive than Aruba, which is alo nice.
jchoats is offline  

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