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kellybeaches Feb 19th, 2010 05:54 PM

Quick Hubby and me getaway...
 
Hello!
I've always found great advice on this forum and am hoping to find some more now. My husband and I are looking to go away on our first trip away from the kiddies for a long weekend (Saturday-Wednesday), probably in August/September (yes, hurricane season, but we've traveled then plenty of times and haven't run into issues, knock on wood!). We're avid Caribbean travelers and try to go at least once a year and have been going for about 9 years now. The dilemma I'm running into is the following: 1-price (want to keep the costs down-under $1500, 2k max, if at all possible, including airfare from PHL and accomodations for 3-4 nights), and 2-I'd like to not feel guilty that we aren't bringing our 4 and 1 year old as we really enjoy traveling with them. That's a big thing for me which is why I've been looking at adult only type of places. If any of you have seen my trip reports and pictures, you know that our kids are a huge part of our travel experience and I really don't want to be spending our trip saying "aw, they would have loved this beach!". Actually we're heading back to St. Martin in May with our kids and some friends! But we're thinking it's time for just the 2 of us to get away!

Typically we rent private villas when we travel. The thought of large high rise hotels and hoards of people is not my idea of a vacation. Our last vacation was to Long Island, Bahamas, which is basically a deserted island if that gives you an idea of what we're looking for. We also like small botique hotels like Stonefield Resort in St. Lucia and I would love to go back if airfare wasn't so expensive! I've been doing research on travel package deal sites like expedia, local travel agents, etc, but I'm just not finding anything. I really like the look of the Caves in Jamaica, but I think it's out of our price range. I'm thinking the airfare from PHL to anywhere in the Caribbean is what is going to get us which is why I've been trying to find package deals somewhere, but then they all seem to be for the HUGE megaplex resorts which I'd like to steer away from. Also, since we aren't going for a full week, I'd like to keep the air travel under 5 hours each way. Harbor Island is one I would love to see, but flights to Nassau from PHL are $600 p/person! I'm also open to Mexico-I'd love to see the ruins and have only been to Cozumel on a cruise (which I don't really think counts!), but all of the hotels there seem to be the giant megaresorts-oh, and airfare for August from PHL is $500 p/person. I'm trying to find somewhere again that we can do things that we wouldn't feel bad not doing w/our 4 an 1 year old (crazy hiking, horseback riding, visiting ruins, diving, etc). Dominica looks amazing, but again, the airfare/travel time. Ugh. Think we have any hope of finding something that we like in our price range? We're also open (and would actually love to do someday) to moorings type boat trips, but the ones I've checked out seem WAY over our price range. Think maybe we could get a deal if we were "fill-ins" last minute?

Oh, islands we've been to: Grand Cayman (cruise), New Providence (3x), Long Island, Bahamas, St. Maarten/St. Martin (going back again in May), St. Lucia, Cozumel (cruise), St. John, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, and Barbados.

We may just end up having to do a local weekend trip, but I figured it couldn't hurt to ask here first since if I had my choice I'd rather be surrounded by palm trees! Thanks!!!

virginia Feb 20th, 2010 06:38 AM

hi kelly, GO FOR THE PALM TREES! i think the maya riviera area would be great for this adults trip, as there are tons of things to do that would be too much for your kids to enjoy. ruins for one, as well as horseback in the jungle or on the beach, zip-lines, caves & cenotes to explore, atv jungle rides and more. this area is not like busy cozumel. the closer to tulum/further south you stay the less busy it is.
i used TNTvacations.com and found tons of deals in your price range using sat aug 28th departure. in particular with just a quick glance through you might like the royal hideaway playacar or secrets maroma which is on a gorgeous beach.

or for a completely different spot - on provo in t&c there are a couple tiny but quite nice 1br villas on the beach by some very good snorkeling. they are a bit more than you'd like to pay but if they are not rented for your time period i imagine mr moog, the owner, would rent on nightly basis possibly making this doable for you and mr. beaches. it works out to $400-450/nt - making room $1600-$1800, depending on which villa.
see: http://www.northshorevillas.com/vaca..._rentals.shtml
look at coriander, ballyhoo & callaloo.
all directly on grace bay beach (you could walk almost 11 miles before you'd come to the end of this beach) by smith's reef to snorkel, each has pool, within 3 mins drive or 15 min walk to turtle cove marina which has 5 restaurants, a dive shop & scooter bobs car rental. loads of wonderful dining on provo, hardly any shopping, topography looks like grand cayman but Lots less built up. the smallest of cars would be necessary as grocery is way too far to walk. scooter bob will bring a car/jeep to your villa if you wish - $60/day, or there are lots of other rental companies. we use scooter because we usually stay in this neighborhood & he is such a character.
hope this helps.

Kristen1206 Feb 20th, 2010 06:49 AM

I sent you an email!

KVR Feb 20th, 2010 07:40 AM

My first thought was Cozumel. If you are wanting to go back and check it out. I would suggest a small hotel as close to downtown San Migual as possible so you can walk to resturants, bars and shopping. We found the food good and inexpensive. Lots of places had 2 - for 1 drinks or $1 Coronas.

Check out Chankanaab Park and do a bar hopping tour to the "Wild Side" of the Island. Take a catamaran and go snorkeling. Tour the Island on an ATV or a dune buggy.

My other thought was Isla Mujeres. Fly into Cancun and take the ferry over to the Island. Get a hotel close to town on Playa Norte Beach. Rent a golf cart and tour the Island. We found the food there also good and inexpensive. More so than 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Do a snorkel tour or go to Garrafon Park.

We've about run out places to go that are also in that price range, so we're heading to Key West, FL in July for our 10th wedding anniverary. We are staying at an adults only B & B in a pool side room. The pool is shared with one other room, so maybe we'll get lucky and the other room won't be rented. There are many resturants and bars. We've booked a bar crawl, an adult's only sunset cruise and a snorkel tour. I understand that the beaches are not as great as Mexico/Caribbean, but we're not going for the that. We've also hired a photographer to take a few pics for our anniversary.

beachdreams3 Feb 20th, 2010 08:54 AM

I was kind of surprised by what you mentioned about airfares to Cancun. My sense is that from the Washington/Baltimore area where I live, airfares to CUN usually start around $300. I confirmed that those prices were available in August on many days but did not look in detail at the exact flights. I then checked PHL and found the prices were $450+. So, if you would consider flying out of DC, Baltimore, or the NYC area, you may be able to save a lot on airfare. Mexico is great for a lower cost trip. I went to Isla Mujeres and the Mayan Riveria last spring. I think there may be some good deals in the upscale, adults only resorts, but the problem is finding one that is not a mega resort. I think that Isla Mujeres would be good from a cost perspective, but I think the main beach areas (Playa Norte) would be too crowded for your tastes. I liked Isla Mujeres, except it drove me nuts that the vendors came over to me all day long (when I was sitting on my beach chair reading or relaxing and displaying no interest in their products).

Harbour Island also is on my future list of places to go, and American introduced new service within the last few months I think to some of the out islands. Flights from the east coast (PHL, BWI) in August to North Eleuthera (ELH) are in the low $400s, but the flights are not daily.

Sometimes, you can find some good deals for nicer, boutique properties on auction sites (Luxurylink.com, skyauction.com).

I also would not give up on the idea that more deals will be available later.

kellybeaches Feb 20th, 2010 09:38 AM

Thanks everyone for your recommendations!
Virginia, I'm thinking your recommendation of Maya Riveria might the be best fit as we've never been and we would love to check out the ruins, and that's something that I wouldn't feel bad about not having the kids with us. I'll definitely look into it more. Regarding T&C, and I think I can say this on here since DH doesn't check it, I'm actually planning a giant surprise 40th birthday party getaway to T&C with a bunch of family and friends for 2 years from now (I know, I plan ahead). We're going to rent some villas on Sapodilla bay for the week and do a full day trip with Caicos Dream tours on his actual birthday (he's a leap year baby so he only gets a "real" birthday once every 4 years!). So we'll do our T&C trip then. But thanks for the thought-we're on the same page with that location!

Kristen, I'll check out your Honduras recs too-thanks! Oh, and I priced out the secrets place that your friends just returned from and it would be about $1800 for us to go there (including air) in August. So we'll see on that one. It is a megaresort type of place though.

KVR, I think I'll hold off on going back to Cozumel just yet-if I went back there I'd probably want to bring the kids. We did the shopping/bars downtown and Chankanaab Park while there-gorgeous! Had to laugh at the plastic mayan ruins on the grounds though-they were hollow! I don't know much about Isla Mujeres, but I'll look into it. thanks! We went to Key West for Fantasy Fest about 9 years ago-it's a fun town. Have a great time, and Happy Anniversary!

Beachdreams3, we'll have to consider flying out of another airport, although we're so close to the PHL airport (20 min) it's hard to give that up! Good to know about the flights to Eleu, but I'm thinking we'll probably do that trip w/the kids down the road.

I'll definitely check out the auction site links too-thanks!

Have any of you been to Bermuda? Maybe that might be an option for us too. I had looked into going there before but decided against it b/c it seemed too much with kids b/c of having to use public transportation and I wasn't sure about not using carseats, etc. So maybe that would be a good quick getaway too.

I'll look more into Maya Riveria, Honduras, and Bermuda.

Thanks everyone!

KVR Feb 20th, 2010 11:10 AM

If your interested in the Mayan Rivera, I would suggest looking at Mahekal Beach Resort. It's about a 15 minute walk to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Little cottages directly on the beach. If you get a beach front cottage, just open your front door and you're on the beach. Includes breakfast and lunch or dinner. http://www.mahekalplaya.com/

Second choice would be La Tortuga. Off 5th Avenue. Really great pool. Includes breakfast and chairs at a beach about a 10 minute walk.

We've done the AI's in the Mayan Rivera and have decided for next trip something different and closer to Playa. There are smaller resorts out in Tulum and Akumel, but we personally don't like to be that far from 5th Avenue. Days trips out to those areas are good enough.

Here's a link for tours to do in Playa. I've booked with them before and have like them.

http://www.playadelcarmentours.com/

We've also done tours with James and Anna. They have small groups, so not crowded.

http://www.playa.info/tours-anna-james-tulum.html

We also did a sunset cruise with champagne and appetizers and then they had a lobster dinner on Maroma Beach. Very romantic. We booked here:

http://www.cancun-discounts.com/tour...set-cruise.htm

If your interested in zip lining and swimming in cenotes, there is a new park that have recently opened.

http://www.xplor.travel/

Kristen1206 Feb 20th, 2010 11:31 AM

Definitely check out Bermuda...not sure why I didn't mention it before. Weather would be great at that time of year. Though not sure about prices. I do know you can get some cheap air fare rates on USA3000.

beachdreams3 Feb 20th, 2010 12:20 PM

I'm so glad I'm not the only person who plans so far ahead. I thought I was out of control for pretty much planning my winter 2011 trip last December (it is just a waiting game to see if I can actually book with points), and I booked my Turks & Caicos trip for this spring last summer.

I was thinking of mentioning Bermuda, but my knowledge of it is limited. I was there on a cruise as a teenager, so I don't really know much about what is like now, or what it is like to actually stay on the island. It is another island that tends to be expensive though (it seems like all the quieter islands with beautiful beaches that I prefer are expensive). My impression of Bermuda though is of a more formal (British) and developed island.

Are you looking at the Secrets Maroma Beach in Mexico? Maroma Beach is gorgeous. I did a daytrip from Playa to Maroma (not antyhing organized; I just took a taxi and made a lunch reservation at the Maroma Beach Resort and walked the beach before/after lunch). The MBR is where I would stay in Maroma if money was no object. The Secrets MB is pretty new (opened in 2008 I think) and seemed nice, but I'm not a big fan of large, all-inclusive resorts. Having said that, if the price was right, I would stay there for a few days. I think my bigger issue with the Maroma beach area is similar to comments that KVR made about other resorts on the Mayan Riveria; the ones away from the main towns are kind of isolated.

ejcrowe Feb 20th, 2010 12:25 PM

I don't have specific suggestions, but I wanted to suggest that you check out packages offered through various airline websites. One time I was looking for last minute vacation for Thanksgiving weekend travel and I found an amazing deal to a place on St. Kitts through American Airlines. Trying to book airfare alone was about the same price as the AI package we got. Like you, I'm not really an AI kind of traveler, but we used the hotel mostly as a bed & breakfast (and bar!) and went exploring all over the island each day and had a great time.

ishkribbl Feb 20th, 2010 05:18 PM

Hi Kellybeaches,
I remember and loved your trip report about Long Island since it was a place I particularly enjoyed. We had a fun trip to Isla a couple of years ago but luckily did not have the problems with people approaching us on the beach. We also had another fun trip to the Playa area but the quiet little place we loved there (La Posada de la Capitan Lafitte) has been torn down and replaced, I think, with one of those high rise mega places. I have always meant to get back to its sister resort Shangri-La Caribe but recently could not get the website to come up. Thanks KVR for the info about the name change!! I really think you (kelly) should look at it. We thought that Capitan Lafitte was a great bargain for breakfast, dinner and taxes to be included and we had the greatest little cottage directly on the beach and almost at the high water mark. It was a small , quiet, romantic and beautifully kept place so I always suspected Shangri-La would be as close as I could get to the same.
The advantage to Isla is that if you stay near the Playa Norte beach area you can walk almost anywhere so you don't need a car or cabs- we did rent a golf cart for one day to explore the entire island but one day was sufficient. We also went on a day trip to another island- forgot the name- that was a national park and it was very pretty. In the Playa area, however, we enjoyed going to the ruins in Tulum and even the "waterpark" at Xel-Ha- your children are too young for that so you would not feel guilty!
The other place you might look- I have not been there yet - is Akumal- it might be your kind of place- I like the looks of the Hotel Akumal Caribe. Maybe someone has been there and can comment.
I would think you could work something out for your price if the airfare is reasonable. We found good food- seafood on the coast- and cheap drinks along with great accommodation prices in Mexico.
Hope you find something perfect!!

mah1980 Feb 20th, 2010 07:28 PM

Look at Ceiba del Mar which I think is an adults only smaller resort that has a/i option--it's near Cancun

blamona Feb 21st, 2010 02:54 AM

Hi Kellybeaches!

I think Bermuda may fit the bill. Direct 2 hour flight from Philly, gorgeous upscale island, yet specials would keep the costs down. There are no car rentals, just mopeds and taxi, so going without kids is easier than taking them type destination.

Marmona, which is adults only, in Mexico would also fit the bill except for the price (unless specials fit your budget.) There is also a Secrets all inclusive on Marmona Beach that might fit the bill. Marmona is more romantic than Cancun and Playa.

You may also want to check out Staniel Cay Yacht Club in Exumas-airfare will seem high, rooms are not, so still may fit your budget. Water is as pretty as Long Island.

Frodobaggins Feb 21st, 2010 06:02 AM

You should look into the Couples Resorts on Jamaica. All of them are Couples Only, super inclusive and the service is top notch.

Couples Negril is our spot. The rooms are a little "dated" but the service, food, beach, drinks etc are second to none. The resorts are small. We also do not like mega resorts!

They offer some good pricing August/September. We always look at www.cheapacribbean.com for the best pricing then call Liberty Travel in Wilmington Delaware to book. Liberty will price match, plus you have a TA to talk with.

You can also check out the Couples forums at www.Couples.com There are so many repeat travelers that can give some more insight.

Have fun researching!!

Frodobaggins Feb 21st, 2010 06:03 AM

Sorry that is www.cheapcaribbean.com

virginia Feb 21st, 2010 08:23 AM

kelly, i think you'll like mexico a lot. must say Ceiba del Mar looks quite nice. we stayed further south, near tulum so i don't know much about ceiba's area.
advise you look at locogringo.com bill-in-tulsa.com mapchick.com for area info. lg has an excellent hotels section.
for info specific to the pdc area (largest & most busy town south of cancun) look at playadelcarmen.com
i'd also start asking questions on the latin america board. there are a couple posters who travel to the area regularly & can give you up to date info on where the best beaches are. apparently this changes significantly - so somewhere that was great 2 yrs ago may not be so good now.
we did a villa trip -casa cavu on tankah bay beach- but i did see one hotel i liked on the north tulum beach. boutique style hotel, has only a couple rooms, romantic, def not for kids, on a nice very wide section of beach. http://www.mezzanine.com.mx/
akumal has some good snorkeling off their beach and in yal-ku lagoon which i suggest you go to no matter where you stay. the fish are huge! we liked the snorkeling at xel-ha too.

re provo in bday trip. sopadilla is a nice area. beach not very long so you can watch end to end if kids are going. you should get blamona's t&c fodors mini guide for lots of info.
as alternative to sopadilla you might look at at bellasurmer.com and ocean vista/ocean edge from this site: http://www.atlanticbeachfrontvillas.com/
vista & edge are actually one house - 4br total. vista/edge is next door to bella. bella has a nice pool. both are 8 min walk down the beach to the excellent snorkeling at smiths reef and 4 min drive to turtle cove marina.

kellybeaches Feb 21st, 2010 04:02 PM

Thank you thank you everyone! I knew I could get great advice here! So I'm still working through everyone's suggestions but had to post now because I'm am SO excited about beachdreams3 recommendation! I first checked out Secrets Maroma, and it's pretty, but not our style-just WAY too big. But...Maroma Beach Resort, now THAT is Perfect!!! I actually just went through the whole site and then made "Mr. Beaches" (btw, I love that nickname ;) sit down and go through all the candid pics on TA with me. This place looks absolutely perfect for what we're looking for. We were both amazed by this place. It looks unique, has a nice romantic feel, is small and intimate, yet seems to have plenty of luxuries. I am definitely bookmarking this for someday if we can't swing it this trip!

So it turns out that Mr. Beaches has a client that had offered us to use his house in the keys whenever, so we may do that as it would be much more cost efficient. Fly to Miami and drive to his place for free. I'm not sure we'll be able to find a better deal than that! However, I am going to call Maroma and see if they could work us a deal if it was a last minute type of thing. Can't hurt, right? And I would love to be able to experience the Mexican culture and see the sights there.

Okay, now to moving on to checking out the other recommendations... thanks again! This is making my day ;)

kellybeaches Feb 21st, 2010 04:09 PM

ps-KVR, Mahekal Beach Resort looks beautiful too, but it says it's 2 hours from the ruins. I'd love something closer as we don't want to be traveling that far for a day trip. I'm hoping Maroma is closer? Also, Maroma seems more of what I'm looking for. Actually I think Maroma is exactly what I had in mind! Thanks though! I'll check out the tour links you recommend too.

kellybeaches Feb 21st, 2010 04:32 PM

Just looked at Ceiba Del Mar, but it's too big. Thanks anyway!

Blamona, Staniel Cay is a definite for a future trip and I've done extensive research on it, but I definitely want to bring the kids (when they're older) on that one. They would love the pigs and nurse sharks!

Frodo, thank you for your recommendation on the couples resorts in Jamaica, although though I've been scouting out "The Caves" in Negril for a few years now. DH isn't big on going to Jamaica so if someday I can convince him to go, we'll be going to The Caves! Have you been there in your travels to Negril? If so what did you think of it? I love the idea of the dinner in the candlelit caves. How romantic! I checked out couples online, but it's pretty big for our tastes. Typically we like to rent private villas and be the only ones on our beach, so a giant pool (or more than 1 pool) kind of turns me off. Don't get me wrong-it looks beautiful, just not for us.

Virginia, thanks for your thoughts in T&C, but we need quite a few villas. We're looking at possibly 30 some people joining us! The villas on Sapodilla should accommodate everyone and it looks like a great beach for small kids (which there will be quite a few of)! I've been in touch w/blamona outside of this forum on her recommendations and she's been very helpful (and hopefully can join us!). I can't wait!

Okay, must log off now. Have a good night!

KVR Feb 22nd, 2010 05:24 AM

Mahekal Beach Resort is in Playa del Carmen. Maroma Beach is about 20 - 30 minutes before Playa del Carmen. The Ruins are going to be farther. But really time is illrelavant. You'll get to see the area while on tour.

Here's a link to the map of the area:

http://www.cancunmap.com/rivieramaya-hotels.html

That's a great deal you got offered for the Keys. Something to think about. We canceled Jamaica and had domestic miles, so thought Key West would be great to check out, and it's not costing us as much either.


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