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yellow_oleander Dec 5th, 2012 06:24 PM

Off-the-Beaten-Path "Perfect" Beach+Culture+Adventure+Nightlife Island
We're a young(ish) couple on a budget (~$1000-1500) looking to vacation in the Caribbean for the first time. We will be flying out of NYC in late December/January.

We want:

-to be nowhere near an all-inclusive resort...ideally, we want to stay in a cheap homey place run by friendly, low-key people and inhabited by the same. We can cook and wouldn't mind trying on our hand at it on vacation.

-empty (or semi-empty) beaches good for swimming, reading in the sand & snorkeling. My boyfriend also loves body surfing but not a must.

-music and food...we would like to be able to go at night, get a good drink and eat fresh food, listen to live music, dance, mingle with the locals and like-minded vacationers

-stories...we would love to be somewhere where the people can, and more importantly, want to talk to us about their country, where there is a visible history that we can visit; colonial architecture and people deriding colonial architecture, ancient ruins, all of it.

-to walk...everywhere; forest hikes, waterfall hunts, city streets to buy fruit in markets, horseback rides anywhere...during the day, we would like to explore as much as we can.

Some islands I've looked at that seem to fit the bill: Vieques, Tulum, Dominica, Isla Mujeres...but how to choose?! All the glowing, knowledgeable recommendations you all seem to give so well will be most welcome!

blamona Dec 5th, 2012 06:48 PM

Budget is each or for both? That can limit everything, as it's peak season.

You find it all. Definitely not secluded beaches yet go out and night and mingle, the 2 don't coexist.

Most islands won't have colonial architecture or major history unless you go to a large island or mainland central America.

You're not going to find long isolated beaches and waterfalls and forests, unless you're in a mainland country.

The closest on your list is Tulum, but keep in mind it gets crowded, but seems to meet everything else.

Others to consider, Roatan, Ambregris Cay in Belize, maybe Costa Rica. Theyll be the cheapest, and have historical sites and possible Forrest hikes.

Most of the .Caribbean is out for multiple reasons, including budget. (islands are smaller, you can find waterfalls with no beaches, secluded beaches but no mingling, etc)

yellow_oleander Dec 5th, 2012 07:20 PM

Thank you for your response! Budget is per person and can be stretched! And yes, I know it's a tall order and we're of course, expecting to compromise on all of our wants but are so curious to see what Fodorites can tell us that we wouldn't find on our own.

Right now, leaning towards Vieques--cheap, non-resort, history, pristine beaches, luminescent bay!!--check. What is missing?

blamona Dec 6th, 2012 03:36 AM

Viesques might work fr you, especially since you can combine with Puerto Rico, which offsets what Viesques has.

What it's missing, is the crowds, the mingling, nightlife, waterfalls, live music and dance. But puerto Rico has that, so you can easily combine.

Odin Dec 6th, 2012 04:31 AM

Is this for this December/January or next? If it were not for budget, maybe flights/accessibility from NY and perhaps language, I would suggest the French islands Martinique and/or Guadeloupe. They would fulfil most requirements, they have holiday rental accommodation called gites and the owner lives nearby, music & food is probably some of the best in the Caribbean, there is nightlife around certain towns (eg Trois Illets Martinique), lots of beaches, some crowded and some not, with different kinds of sand, some light some dark sand.

Stories, well that might be an issue with language but plenty of the islanders esp younger people speak English. There is alot of local history, ruins and plantation houses to visit. Most of the Caribbean islands have ruins or colonial architecture in varying amounts.

St Pierre in Martinique is the most fascinating city with fantastic fruit market. Guadeloupe has a national park which is UNESCO recognised and covers a large part of the island, with many hiking trails, waterfalls, volcano etc and the Jacques Cousteau Underwater reserve.

But, with the budget you have it would be impossible, and these islands seem to be out of alot of American's comfort zone anyway, these are rustic islands without much luxury but with benefits of being part of France (food, supermarkets, good condition of roads, good standard of living etc). These islands might be more suitable for experienced travellers.

Grenada might also fit the bill, there are beaches which are not crowded for example the stunning La Sagesse, the capital St Georges is one of the loveliest, the north of the island is secluded and there is hiking in the centre of the island.

Jimmie Dec 7th, 2012 05:50 AM

I'll toss in Jamaica and Tobago to your research list.

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