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SWIMMING AND FOOD...WHICH ISLAND TO CHOOSE?

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Apr 13th, 2017, 10:30 AM
  #1
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SWIMMING AND FOOD...WHICH ISLAND TO CHOOSE?

I've been going to Islamorada for a few winters now but want to try the Caribbean for next winter. Probably prefer to travel anytime from February through early April.

My priority is to swim off a pretty beach in clean, warm, calm waters. Just as important is an island where there are interesting options for eating great local food in non-fancy settings. Shacks are ok for meals. No place where I have to get dressed up for dinner.

Prefer an island where the local language is other than English, and which is not inundated with American tourists. Never been to Jamaica and might consider given the right beach and right hotel.

My visits to Caribbean have not been too many and these were long ago; been to Peter Island, USVI,
DR, Nevis and St. Kitts, Puerto Rico. Can't think of anywhere else.

Hotel budget is generous but not wanting to spend $1,000 on a room for two. (What DO I need so spend on room and breakfast in high season???) Prefer to be able to walk to restaurants outside the hotel, or take a not-too-expensive taxi to restaurants outside hotels. Open to very casual dining. Would consider renting car but find it more relaxing when I do not have to do that.

A hotel with a warm swimming pool suitable for laps would be a huge plus, in case of poor weather in the sea.

Not interested in all inclusives and probably would want small beachfront hotel not huge resort. Much prefer to be directly on the beach, or at least with hotel shuttle.

Grenada
St. Lucia
Tortola
Guadeloupe
Martinique
Virgin Gorda (Little Dix?)
St. Vincent


For one reason or another those sound enticing and I am sure there are many others...open to just about anything and willing to take connecting flight or flight/ferry. Would be departing from south Florida.

Please offer any and all opinions!!
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Apr 13th, 2017, 10:53 AM
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You might like Negril?

Technically "English" is spoken but the patois is so heavy it's like a different language.

Lots of rustic "shack" eateries especially out on The Cliffs section.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 12:44 PM
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Guadeloupe is not as good for food as might be expected.

St martin French side is imo absolutely gorgeous but I am biased been twice and am going back next year.

Great food superb beaches some snorkelling no Americans no mass tourism no big hotels/resorts (all on Dutch side).

They speak French but also English everywhere.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 12:52 PM
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Without a doubt, Anguilla. Best dining and beaches in the Caribbean.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 12:54 PM
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Perfect white sand beaches and great food.....I'd look into Anguilla or maybe Turks & Caicos. Feb weather in the Turks (might) be a touch cooler. Anguilla is known for fabulous uncrowded beaches and over 80 restaurants to pick from from fancy to super-chill.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 01:41 PM
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I would say Anguilla but OP wants a non-English speaking destination so it may not suit OP's needs.

Also of the islands on OP's short list only Guadalupe and Martinique are non-English speaking so that will further reduce options unless she/he is willing to make concessions.

St. Bart's fills the bill as it is very French and has many great restaurants however they also do speak English around the island.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 03:12 PM
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Suze, I've thought about Negril for about 30 years now and never got there. Are the beaches great, with calm water?

I'm really flexible. Had heard about St. Maartin (french side) being great for food but did not know about their beaches..do you need to rent a car there?

I'm surprised about the Guadeloupe food issue....would Martinique be any different? Ile des Saintes off Guadeloupe(?) ( Please forgive poor French spellings)

How about Grenada, or St Vincent or Petit St. Vincent? I suppose the obvious advice to me is to get a guidebook but I thought I'd ask here first since I imagine many of you have favorite islands.

Also realize the non-English speaking should not be a part of the decision...as long as the place feels foreign and not an adjunct of Miami or Cabo San Lucas..and should have generally welcoming locals if possible. Are there any islands where the locals are NOT considered welcoming to American tourists?...I've heard and read so much about that over the years but I guess that would change and would depend on one's own attitude..
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Apr 13th, 2017, 03:14 PM
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Also, St. Barths looks beautiful and so does Anguilla. I think Anguilla is flat and dry, though, right? Scenic?
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Apr 13th, 2017, 04:40 PM
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Yup. Gorgeous 7-mile beach.

I've been to Negril 3 times. It was my 1st trip out of the US back in the 70's, again in the 80's, then just a few years ago for a reunion of friends.

The best information is here: www.negrilonestop.com

I wouldn't exactly call the locals there warm & fuzzy kind of welcoming they have a stand-offish way about them. It's a funky, low-key, laid-back kind of place. May or may not be what you are seeking. Charela Inn has rooms that open directly onto the sand, is what first popped into my mind. I stayed at the sister hotel Mirage on the Cliffs my most recent trip.
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Apr 13th, 2017, 04:53 PM
  #11
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Thank you, Suze. I imagine lots of pesty vendors on the beach, but great music. But not sure this is what I am looking for this time although I would love to get there one day....
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Apr 14th, 2017, 06:34 AM
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<<...Also, St. Barths looks beautiful and so does Anguilla. I think Anguilla is flat and dry, though, right? Scenic?...>>

Yes, Anguilla is a relatively flat island - highest point is only 2013' above sea level. Island is arid and "scrubby" so not particularly scenic but it boasts 35 spectacular sugar white sand beaches and 80+ restaurants.

St. Bart's is hillier - highest point is some 938' above sea level so a bit more scenic but it too is a relatively arid island. It has some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean. Think of it as the "Paris of the Caribbean".

Skip Petit St. Vincent unless you want to be on a tiny island - it's only 124 acres - with only the "resort" on the property. Brochures and website make it sound idyllic but from our experience it's just "OK" - you are pretty much stuck on the island for duration of stay as getting to other places requires long boat ride. Food was mediocre and uninspired with same dishes but with different names every night. For example, Monday - Rack of Lamb, Grilled Mahi Mahi and Baked Chicken; Tuesday - Lamb Medallions, Baked Mahi Mahi and Grilled Chicken; Wednesday - Lamb Chops, Pan Seared Mahi Mahi and Stewed Chicken - you get the idea. We swore we'd never go back.

St. Vincent lacks the great beaches you crave and doubt you'll find a resort with the type of pool you want.

Grenada may have what you are seeking - Look at resorts in the Grand Anse Beach area as it comes close to what you describe. I've only been there once several years ago so can't give you up to date info about accommodations.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 07:18 AM
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Anguilla is the perfect mix of beach and food IMO and it is only 20 mins from the French side of St Martin for a change of scenery. I think you can do a trip from Anguilla to St Barths. I have not been to Anguilla and St Martin for several years but remember the food as being very good, (am going in a month's time + St Barths and Saba), I also recall the food in Guadeloupe and Martinique as disappointing, as I expected something better as they are French.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 07:26 AM
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Oops! Typo in my previous reply. High point on Anguilla is 213' not 2013'.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 07:45 AM
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You have both helped so much! Thank you! I feel as if I've narrowed it down to:

Anguilla (I did not realize that the food scene was so interesting; just checking to make sure there are restaurants that are casual and not the fancy, typical overpriced resort island style..??)

Grenada (been browsing around the web about hotels)

St. Barths, maybe combined with Anguilla..or Anguilla alone..(question: Do people swim in the sea there? The pics I see of those glorious beaches often show no one swimming!!) Sorry if this is a very dumb question!!

St Lucia....not much information on that island here that I could find in a quick search.....

Did not realize about Petit St Vincent being one of those single resort islands. I went to Peter Island years ago and that is not the kind of vacation I am looking for now....do not want to be confined to eating in a hotel every night.

Am I leaving out any islands that might suit? Time frame would be from February through April for about a week or so.....I've just learned that January often brings less-than-great weather and could bring rough water....

Will continue the browsing now that it's narrowed down a bit....thanks so much for pointing me in the right direction!
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Apr 14th, 2017, 07:50 AM
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Forgot to include St Martin (french side) on the above list.....and I may have made mistake about possible combination of St Barths and Anguilla.....I know Anguilla combines with another island but maybe not St. Barths....need to read a lot more!!
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Apr 14th, 2017, 08:48 AM
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Throw St Lucia out of the mix. It's not known for it's beaches or restaurants. It does not fit what you are seeking.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 09:58 AM
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I don't know about the vendors since I rarely to go the beach in Negril. Last time I did spend the day it was on Charela's beachfront property & vendors can't bother you unless you specifically call them over.

(I love the Cliffs and hang out on the West End mostly instead.)

I agree, don't think it's what you want for this trip but do keep it in mind. It's a pretty interesting place to see at least once if you just want a beach bum vacation sometime. Easy to get to from Montego Bay (90 mins. drive lots of shuttles offered around $30).
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Apr 14th, 2017, 10:01 AM
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It seems like you are suffering from the "classic are the palm trees (or in your case perhaps restaurants) are better on the other island syndrome thus instead of narrowing down your choices you keep adding more options. I realize everyone want to find a "perfect island" but in reality that doesn't exist. There's always a bit of compromise when selecting a destination in the Caribbean.

To answer your latest questions, yes, Anguilla has restaurants in a variety of price ranges, everything from very casual beach bars to upscale dining. With over 80 restaurants you can easily find what plenty of places that suit your dining style.

And, yes, swimming is a popular activity on both Anguilla and St. Bart's. Don't let publicity photos with no swimmers worry you.

It's fairly easy to combine Anguilla, St. Martin and/or St. Bart's in one trip as those islands are very close to each other. Ferry or short (less than 10 minute flight) to St. Bart's from St. Martin. From Anguilla you can either fly directly to St. Bart's or take ferry to St. Martin and second ferry to St. Bart's.
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Apr 14th, 2017, 11:18 AM
  #20
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That's great, and thank you. It does look as if Anguilla would be a good choice. No doubt they are all interesting (the islands) and I do admit to having done very little research before asking the question here. As long as I can find great dining, places that local people might visit, I have no doubt we will have a super time.

Now, dare I ask which is the best area on the island for calm waters, walk to restaurants, etc etc? Or perhaps better put it would be, where should we stay??
Do I "have to" rent a car, or can I get around using local taxis. Better still, should I rent a car even though I imagine the driving is left-hand-side?

Suze, I would like to get to Jamaica someday, not only to Negril but to some of the other places I've read about for so long.... And then there's Cuba, a whole other topic. Not to mention returning to Mexico..
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