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Started planning this trip 100% sure of myself.... now I'm confused!

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Dec 7th, 2011, 01:29 PM
  #1
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Started planning this trip 100% sure of myself.... now I'm confused!

My husband and I are going on a 10th anniversary trip in March 2013, at first I was set on St. John... then wondered if maybe Belize would be better, followed by BVI's and my latest interest, St. Lucia. I am SO confused! Maybe I could just put out there exactly what I'm looking for and let some experienced travelers help me choose a destination...?

*As far as the island goes, I am looking for crystal clear, calm waters, good snorkeling, and LUSH greenery! The more palms and tropical plants, the better... I like the jungle to come right up to the beach, making us feel a world away from anything we're used to here in NY.

*Wildlife, we love it! Birds, lizards, snakes, you name it, we like looking for it!

*Accomodations... I haven't completely ruled out a hotel or resort, but have my heart set on a private cottage with a plunge pool or hot tub. I really don't want to be disturbed or have to see anyone else unless I seek them out, so if we did go with a resort, it would have to have very private rooms, preferably in a rainforest setting.

We would like to be within walking distance of everything we need, renting a car isn't out of the question, but if we have a few shops, restaurants, a nice (not crowded) beach, and jungle hiking trails all within reach I will be a happy camper! We can always call a taxi if we feel like exploring elsewhere. One of the things that really turned me off while doing all this research are the guided hikes.... obviously if we wanted to zipline or something like that we would do the whole tour thing, but isn't there somewhere where we can just explore on our own? Find a nice hiking trail and go at our own pace, or grab a kayak and head out for a peaceful paddle, just the two of us? Here is a typical day on my "ideal" vacation:
*Wake up, prepare breakfast or walk to a nearby local restaurant to eat
* Snorkel for a few hours
*Grab a quick snack or lunch
* Explore some hiking trails
*Dinner/shopping in the local village
*Cool off in the pool/drinks in the hot tub before bed.

We're pretty simple people lol! After all of the searching and looking up different islands, I think I ruled many out just for being too flat or not green enough... and St Lucia really looks amazing, but then again I've always wanted to see the Virgin Islands! Ugh... there are just way too many choices... thank you in advance to anyone who can respond with some helpful advice! I know this "which island should I choose?" question is asked a million times over on these forums!
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Dec 7th, 2011, 03:20 PM
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You are not going to find everything on your wish list on a single island so be prepared to make some compromises. Based on what you are seeking St. John may offer you the "most".

If "walk-in" snorkeling is high on your priority list then St. John or one of the BVI's like Virgin Gorda should be your choice. Snorkeling around St. lucia is nowhere near as good and there's very little close to any of the beaches. Belize has some very good snorkeling but it's mostly along a major "off-shore" reef system and you'll need a boat to get to the best sites.

Finding a cottage that's at the edge of a rainforest, secluded or in a remote location and still within walking distance of restaurants, shops, etc. is going to be a major challenge, that is, if you are able even find one. Generally speaking, you can either be in a remote location or within walking distance of "things" - you can't have both. If you have your heart set on being in a "private location" then plan on renting a car or using taxis to get to shops and restaurants. Remember the old adage from the movie Field of Dreams - "if you build it they will come"- it applies in the Caribbean as well - beaches that are close to shops and restaurants and have beach bars nearby will have people. Remote (uncrowded) beaches won't have very many facilities - no one opens up a business where there are no potential customers. That said, on most islands you can find secluded beaches but they won't have "facilities" - that's a tradeoff you'll have to make. Keep in mind that people have been visiting the Caribbean for since the days of Columbus - there are no undiscovered beaches, they were all found many years ago. the best and prettiest ones are the same beaches where everybody wants to go and that's where you'll find the most 'facilities".

There's plenty of hiking on St. John - 2/3's of the island is a National Park with lots of hiking trails you can navigate without a guide. You'll also find lots of hiking on St. lucia, however, due to the islands size, the density of the rain forest, the steepness of the trails, and the height of the mountains it is very easy to become disoriented or lost so having a guide highly recommended if you hike in certain areas.

St. Lucia is far more lush than either St. John or Belize however that lushness comes at a price and that price is lesser quality snorkeling, the beaches will have much darker sand and the surrounding waters will take on dark steel blue hue rather than the brighter turquoise colors you'll find in the USVI's and BVI's.

There are lots of rental villas on St. John, many of which are very "private" and will have their own pools.

Lastly, try not to feel so confused, we've all been through what you are feeling - it happens to everyone planning their first few trips to the Caribbean. It's easy to get caught up in the "is the rainforest greener on the other island" syndrome. The truth is, each island is different and no one island "has it all". The good part is you'll probably thoroughly enjoy 98% of the islands you visit. Pick one island, you think you'll like and plan your trip. Then do what every one of the contributors on his forum have done - visit another island on your next trip. Keep doing it as often as you can and soon you'll have visited as many as us.

Good luck.
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Dec 7th, 2011, 04:28 PM
  #3
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Thank you! I think I am going to go with St. John, I've narrowed it down to a few cottages in Coral Bay. Supposedly they are within walking distance of the few shops and restaurants located right in Coral Bay, but we know we'd be smart to rent a car to get around and explore the rest of the island. It's so easy to get caught up in the "if I go to this island, I'll miss out on that one!" idea... and I guess for some people cruising solves that problem! Virgin Islands has been on the top of my list for quite a while now, and my husband has never been south of Orlando, so what a treat this will be for him!
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Dec 8th, 2011, 01:49 AM
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St John bestsafest

will meet most of your needs.

maho.org has the kind of vibe you are looking for

do careful homework on vrbo A FEW SCAMMERS

PAY WITH CC never wire money and insuremytrip.com

Happy Travels,
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Dec 8th, 2011, 06:04 AM
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Based on your "want list", St John is absolutely the best choice to meet most of your requirements.

I honestly think it's a mistake (not) to rent a jeep for the week. There are so many beautiful beaches to be seen & experienced, and without a car, you will limit your choices bigtime!!

I've been to Belize & St Lucia, and although they have some positives, IMHO they don't hold a candle to St John. The beaches at both pale in comparison....and the snorkeling from shore in St John is amazing....while the others do not offer anything even close to this. Belize is good...but a boat is needed to reach the better reef.
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Dec 8th, 2011, 09:56 AM
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Kaseys - You are going to love St. John. Given your list of desires, it will come close (no Caribbean island will be perfect). There will be people on the beaches, and the wildlife is so-so (poor birding, and a LOT of non-native stuff due to the island's deforested history), but it is such a great place. It's laid back, there are great restaurants, it's so fun to find a new beach everyday (get up early - parking can be tight), the snorkeling if great, and to have a completely private (clothing optional!) villa is just the best thing ever.

I'd encourage you to book a day boat trip to see everything from the water. It's so fun. We did Palm Tree Charter and loved it, but there are many to choose from. We also rented a dinghy and did a "dinghy day" where you just putter around, snorkel, land on various beaches, picnic, etc.

Have a great trip.
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Dec 10th, 2011, 05:05 AM
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Kaseys412

Another vote here for renting a Jeep. As Bassguy66 stated, there'e just too much to see to limit yourself to public transportation or walking.

On all of our trips to St John we stayed in Coral Bay. The cottage with the best views also had the most challenging driveway/road. Keep in mind that if a cottage is within walking distance of restaurants, it is probably low in altitude. I'd consider high locations with a paved drive if possible.

Coconut Hill is a good example. Steep drive/road but paved. The photos on the web site an example of the views.

http://www.vrbo.com/115186

Enjoy your planning.
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Dec 10th, 2011, 06:56 AM
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St John may best fit the other needs but I don't consider it a "lush" island with dense rainforest like jungles that come up to the sea. It's more dry and arid actually. It's a really small island so doesn't have the diversity of say Jamaica where you have mountain ranges that 'catch' the weather.
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Dec 11th, 2011, 06:31 AM
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From what you described I would suggest Costa Rica. Look at the Water Falls Gardens in Poas and the Springs Resort in Arenal.

St. John is not "lush" compared to many other destinations and I didn't see much wildlife there either. It's most recommended for snorkeling and great beachs as well as it's convenient to get to other surrounding Islands like Tortola, St.Thomas, Jost Van Dyke and The Baths at Virgin Gorda.

For lush, also look at St. Lucia, Dominica, Jamaica, or Grenada.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 02:57 AM
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FYI. Lush and crystal clear turquoise waters don't usually go hand in hand, so maybe you have South Pacific on the mind? It's different than that in Caribbean.

While St john is not lush, I think it comes closest to what you look for.

Grenada may be a close second. St Lucia is lush, but no great snorkeling. Costa rica is lush, but beaches compared to Caribbean not the same. Jamaica might fit the bill, but snorkeling is just okay.

You might also want to consider Mexico. More of the turquoise water I think you're craving, excellent snorkel, potential to go inland for hiking.

Maybe put in order of importance to what you're looking for, but I do think although not as lush, St john is lush enough. And you'll get your other requirements there.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:29 AM
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The mention of the Mayan Riviera (Caribbean side) of Mexico is a good one. It fits the description of what you are looking for. Or Jamaica. Or Costa Rica.

St John was nice enough (maybe you can tell, just not my personal favorite) but everything felt small, low to the ground, kind of wind-blown looking. Check out photos because if tall luxurious lush jungles are a priority, that's not what you'll find there.
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