The Big Choice

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Jun 5th, 2008, 11:08 PM
  #1
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The Big Choice

We are very active Mid-50's taking our first trip into the Caribbean/Mexico Region in an around the world itinerary from Sydney Australia.

We would greatly appreciate any advice on how we should spend 5-6 days.

Our immediate thoughts based on a little research are Jamaica v BVI/USVI v Barbados v Cancun. Any other suggestions greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much for your help.
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Jun 6th, 2008, 07:58 AM
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hi - of your choices i'd eliminate cancun and jamaica. cancun is so very busy and jamaica is huge.
barbados would be nice for 5 days. you'd be able to see a lot.
bvi's would be nice.
much of my choice would be determined by where you'll by flying from, and what islands are more easily accessible from that place.
each island is different from the others. some are lush and hilly, some flat & arid, some have shopping, fishing, historical sightseeing, snokeling/diving, zip-lines, a few have rainforest. some are very busy, some very quiet and laid back. the smaller more southern islands may have more of the "caribbean vibe" than the northern.
if you could tell us how you'd like to spend your time, where you'll fly from and some idea of your budget we can be more helpful.
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Jun 6th, 2008, 03:56 PM
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Thank you for you advice Virginia. We like walking, hiking up steep hills (still competitive with 20 year olds but for how long, who knows !?) , snorkeling, good food and wine, dramatic landscapes, music, people, cultures. Budget is "Business Class". We look to four and a half star rather than six star accomodation and large beds and a view are more important than ultra luxury. Having said that if the best is worth it then we do it. This is a once every four years around the world trip. We will be first travelling to Europe via Shanghai from our home of Sydney then I guess direct to a Carribean destination or via Miami on one of the Star Alliance airlines. Then off to Yellowstone, Hawaii and home. Thanks again.
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Jun 7th, 2008, 06:13 AM
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Sounds like an amazing trip! If you're coming from Europe (what departure city?), you'll probably have to fly into one of the larger islands and from there you can take a local carrier to the island of your choice. If, however, you'd rather save time by staying on one of the larger islands, I would recommend Grenada. I know they have nonstops from England (not sure if LGW or LHR, or both) and Germany (not sure which city or airport), and it's a great island to get your first taste of the Caribbean.

It's medium size, with what pass for rugged mountains in the Caribbean, and a lush green interior. Circling the island are gorgeous beaches ranging in color from near white to almost pure black. There are tons of good restaurants, the main roads are in excellent repair thanks to the Cricket World Cup a couple of years ago, and the range of accommodations is really quite good. You get a strong sense of West Indian flair and flavour, unlike other islands with the same ameneties that seem to have lost a little bit of soul.

For your price range, I'd suggest looking at the following accommodations:

Calabash (very nice, mid range, in a nice neighborhood, but the beach is less spectacular)I've not stayed here, but I've wandered through the grounds and have stayed at a couple of villas in the immediate neighborhood.

La Luna (expensive, one of a kind atmosphere on Grenada, romantic, rustic, Indonesian influence with open air bathrooms and plunge pools for every cottage) I have stayed here before as an indulgence after a villa stay and so that I could imbibe freely without having to worry about driving back to the villa afterwards. Beautiful beach, nice service, secluded location, good food with Italian emphasis.

Spice Island (expensive, all inclusive, more typical high end resort than the other two) I've never stayed here, but I've toured the property and enjoyed many meals there. Best service on the island, good food, imaginitive menu, very nicely appointed rooms, and all steps away from what many consider the best beach on the island.

www.spiceislandvillas.com Or take a look at this site and see if any of the villas appeal to you. The folks who manage the villas live on the island and are happy to give suggestions to make the perfect match for you. I've stayed in Turtleback and Tradewinds. Both were excellent value and nice accommodations.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 03:21 AM
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Thank you. Grenada does sound interesting. We have an around the world OneWorld ticket and I can see that BA flys to Grenada as well as Nassau, Antigua, Tobago, Barbados, Kingston, Grand Cayman and Port of Spain. The big effort is then to find AA connecting flights out and on to Yellowstone NP. As an old cricketer I look forward to visiting the Caribbean.
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Jun 8th, 2008, 06:21 AM
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American Eagle has a daily flight to San Juan, and from there you can connect to the continental US. Granted, the daily AE flight leaves at a god-awful early time, something like 7:00 am, but it would get you into San Juan before lunch. I'd also recommend a stopover in Old San Juan for one night (at the El Convento Hotel) before continuing on with your itinerary.
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Jun 11th, 2008, 03:31 AM
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I have started to read about Grenada. It all sounds good but US and British Virgin Islands also sound very appealing given our interests. have definately ruled out the Mexican coast.
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Jun 14th, 2008, 08:40 PM
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We took a look at the Spice Island Villas which are now located at spiceislevillas.com . They seem to offer a number of alternatives in various locations and suited to medium to long stay and usually catering for more than 2 people. Their site provides a good overview of the Island.

La Luna seems to have a great location and is a bit of a treat. The connectioins are proving a bit complex, so still looking and learning and dreaming also of Barbados and BVI/USVI. Would also appreciate your views Virginia. Thanks again.
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Jun 14th, 2008, 10:21 PM
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I'd recommend Barbados for an introduction to the islands. It has some of everything the Caribbean has to offer, except for a volcano. Lovely people, wide variety of sightseeing, hotels, restaurants, nitelife, beaches. Great resort is Coral Reef Club ( www.coralreefbarbados.com ) Family owned for 50+ years on gorgeous grounds, nice beach, snorkeling. Plantation-style low rise bldgs and cottages. Oceanside restaurant.
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Jun 15th, 2008, 07:20 AM
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i do think you'd enjoy grenada. especially the people. this island is not heavily touristed and retains a very strong caribbean character. and ejcrowe has a lot of info to help you with.

trinidad and/or tobago would, and i say this not having been at all, seem to offer all the things you seek. tobago is known as an excellent snorkel spot. the topography is gorgeous and lush. and again not a touristy place so retains it's strong island culture. the biggest drawback is location. it's very far south making flight to san juan/miami quite long. but you obviously don't mind long flights so...

barbados is wonderful but after thinking about it i think the culture might seem to much like home, both having strong british influence. not known for snorkeling or hiking. has tons of dining options.

us/bvi:
i've not been on st. croix.
st. thomas is very busy and pretty americanized. the only resorts i would recommend are:
1-www.secretharbourvi.com a very quiet spot on the east end of the island, with a great beach with snorkeling, an excellent restaurant and fun beach bar.
2-the ritz. truly beautiful hotel, with nice beach & view facing st. john and tortola. very pretty infinity pool. great dining rooms, service and pricey.
best food on island is imho at havana blue at the marriott resort.
easy to fly to and from.
st. john is lush, quiet, has outstanding snorkeling, good hiking and enough good food and wine to keep you happy for 5-6 days. ferry ride from st. thomas. caneel bay (has 7 of it's own beaches)and the westin are the main resorts. many people stay in rental villas.
in the bvi i'd look at tortola or virgin gorda.
tortola - long bay beach resort, fort recovery villas/hotel, or guana or copper island, are possibilities
virgin gorda - biras creek, the bitter end yacht club and little dix bay are the nicest. leverick bay resort is nice but in a busy spot on the island and kind of yachty oriented. island has outstanding beaches and snorkeling, hiking, plenty of good food and wine, very beautiful island!
for tortola you fly to beef island and for vg beef island and ferry over. or small plane from st. thomas or beef island.

you must be getting very confused by now. once you pick an island it will get much easier. and i'd repost with that island in the title to get lots of specific advise.

i don't know if you are aware of www.tripadvisor.com a wonderful site with reviews by guests of hotels, restaurants, etc all over the world.

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Jun 17th, 2008, 05:17 PM
  #11
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Thank you Virginia, ejcrowe and xkenx. I have now started to learn a lot more and have reduced the Europe itinerary in favour of the Caribbean - maybe we should try two Caribbean destinations.

Beaches are important to us as well. We will be there early next July when the beaches and weather are not so great here in Sydney.

The beaches of the Bahamas, Barbados and Aruba do look interesting and it seems there are a few opportunities to study rum production and old Caribbean culture on Grenada.

As foodies, Trader Vics and Adventures in Paradise tragics we also look forward to the rum concoctions with the local cuisine. No point in drinking wine if it is not made there.

while the Virgin Islands appear to be beautiful, it seems that there is more of a Bermuda rather than Caribbean culture there.

It seems Jamaica rates very well in consumer surveys. Maybe it is a little bit too big for a first experience but freshly roasted Blue Mountain coffee beans would also be wonderful.

Then there is my active interest in cricket and so it goes on.

More reading ahead and a search for the idyllic place on the beach or view over the sea.

Thanks again.
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Jun 17th, 2008, 05:56 PM
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i watched a tv show about jamaica recently. they talked about the excursion to the blue mtns. coffee factory. it is apparently quite an experience and takes most of a day as it's deep in the eastern mtns.
barbados has the mount gay rum distillery. jamaica makes appleton. cruzan in the virgin islands plus pusser's.
an island no one has mentioned (because we can't go there) is cuba. (the rum made me think of it) it might be a wonderful experience.
you'll find rum to be very cheap on all the islands and wine will be pricey on most.

islands with cricket grounds include: antigua, barbados, st. lucia, grenada, trinidad & jamaica.
so trinidad has rum, snorkeling, cricket, hiking, beautiful scenery and beaches. a strong local culture and interesting west indian style dining....
as far as inter-island travel. the major carriers usually send you back to san juan or miami to change islands. there are several small inter-island airlines available though.
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Jun 17th, 2008, 08:01 PM
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In this World it does not get any better than Blue Mountain coffee beans - usually about 8+ times the price of other variants. Only those enhanced from monkeys in Asia appear at similar price levels.

We drink Mt Gay here but alas at a vast multiple of the price there. There is nothing like a 151 Proof Demerara but maybe there is in Grenada !

We will walk to the 18th century River Antoine Estate in the Grand Erang National Park which claims to be the Caribbean's oldest rum distillery. It seems there are products there at 75-80 percent alcohol - well above the alcohol levels suitable for export.

No point in driving there - lol.

And there is the Grenada Chocolate Factory nearby to complete the taste sensation and what will no doubt be a truly memorable afternoon.

Now to find the idyllic place by the beach or with a view over the sea. Grenada is a definite. Now we need to find a second and complementary island.
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Jun 18th, 2008, 05:43 AM
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great that you've picked an island. now all the fun part starts with figuring out what all to do on island.
this tread might be useful: http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...=0&keyword=306
also: http://grenadatravelforum.com/index.php?showtopic=2495
and: http://www.tanealarm.com/tab/grenada.htm
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Jun 18th, 2008, 06:19 AM
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Thank you Virginia. A lot of effort has gone into the trip reports that you have linked me to. We are also grateful to ejcrowe, greenie and the others who have recorded their knowledge and experiences of Grenada. After I sift through all the information I will report back.
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Jun 18th, 2008, 07:07 PM
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alwawys happy to help. do keep us posted on how things progress. are you still considering a second island?
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Jun 18th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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Ahhhh, Grenada! I'm so glad that you went with this island. I think it's a perfect choice for you.

You'll be able to find good overproof rums all around Grenada. Or stop by one of the omnipresent rum shacks on the side of the road and ask for some "under de counter"!

A book you should really consider reading as you're getting ready to go is An Embarrassment of Mangoes, written by a couple who sailed from Canada to the Caribbean and back, spending a good bit of their time in Grenada. It's so much better than the (rather insipid) A Trip to the Beach to give a feel for the real island.

If you're still considering Jamaica, take a closer look at Port Antonio (still on my to-do list) and Treasure Beach, a lovely gem of a region where community organizations and involvement still trump international resort chains and conglomerates. www.treasurebeach.net is a good jumping off point.

Which places are you considering on Grenada?
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Jun 29th, 2008, 03:47 AM
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Well I am making some progress, but I have found research of travel alternatives in the Caribbean to be far more complex than I had expected.

So far I have commenced to plan 4-5 days on Grenada and 3-4 on BVI with an overnight at SJ.

On Grenada we are attracted to a room close to a beach, but probably not Grand Anse. It seems a little too busy for our style and needs. We like walking long distances and are always on the go. Laluna looks good but maybe a little too remote to absorb local life/culture.

So the favourite for early summer 2009 is Maca Bana Villas.

Am I on the right track ? Thanks again for the opportunity to read so many interesting trip reports and recommendations.



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Jun 29th, 2008, 06:21 AM
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Hi Good_Will,

I would not say that La Luna is too remote from local life. It is only a few minutes from Grand Anse. Maca Bana is just a teeny bit further away, and most of the folks that you see on that beach are from the Rex Resort.

Grand Anse is really long, so it never feels that busy or crowded. I guess it depends on what time of the year you go and if there are cruise ships in port. If you stay around the end of Grand Anse where Flamboyant or Mount Cinnamon are, it will be away from the busier areas.

If you are open to considering a self-catering condo style accommodation, there is the Mariposa Beach Club. It overlooks Morne Rouge beach, our favorite, yet just around the corner from Grande Anse.

Another option might be Calabash on Lance Aux Epines. LAE is more of a residential area, very quiet, but you'll meet locals if you just walk along the street. It is on Prickly Bay which has a dark sand beach, but it's not really that long. LAE Cottages is next door, which we love, but it's not in the same league as the hotels you were looking at.

Sorry, I am not making your choice any easier. In general though, wherever you end up staying, as long as you go out and explore the island, you can't go wrong.
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Jun 29th, 2008, 04:23 PM
  #20
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Yes mymoosie, the choice does not become easier, but we learn a lot on the way. I was rather influenced by Fodors Caribbean 2008, TravelAdvisor ratings, comments here and trip reports. Emily's trip report, in particular, should be highly commended.I guess our needs are all different and we would describe ourselves as somewhat hyperactive and unable to find time to read books while traveling Mariposa sounds interesting at "the picture perfect beach with a sandy bottom".

There seems to be some magic, both day and night around Maca Bana above The Aquarium. However I would be more than happy to hear the negatives from those who know.

Walking from that point seems to be good - no problem walking 4-5 miles while absorbing. Also we will be there around 1st week of July so prices should be OK. Hope it doesnt rain or worse.

Second choice would be La Luna. I got the feeling though that it is more resort like in that it is a bit more remote to Caribbean life.

Still have more reading to do and have to figure out where we should go in BVI. Lots to read here in this forum on that.

Thank you.
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