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Where to go: St. Maarten, D.R./Punta Cana, Playa del Carmen

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Sep 27th, 2007, 07:05 PM
  #1
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Where to go: St. Maarten, D.R./Punta Cana, Playa del Carmen

My partner and I are planning a relaxing 5 night trip to the Caribbean. We've done San Juan and Aruba before -- liked both, though San Juan was a bit more our speed in terms of variety. We are a gay couple and so that limits us somewhat in the Caribbean...

We are looking for a fairly high end (but affordable - under $300/nt) property -- ideally with a great pool and beach. We are not very into All-inclusives, and so would like a location that has other food options close by. We also like a mix of lounging around and doing nothing with some siteseeing and exploring.

So far, I am considering Sivory in Punta Cana (not sure about what is close by in terms of food or siteseeing), The Westin in St. Maarten (also a distance issue to town) and Ceiba del Mar in Playa del Carmen.

We would be open to renting a car at any of these locations if driving is safe (I've heard it can be crazy in the DR).

We've gotten great advice on this board befre so would love to hear from all of you. And by no means are we limited to these three options, so feel free to give us more to think about! Oh and we're traveling from NYC and would prefer affordable and easy flights but it's all part of the equation...

Thanks!!!
dhm49 is offline  
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Sep 28th, 2007, 05:12 AM
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Punta Cana does not have as much variety of activites as PDC or SXM.

Punta Cana is not as developed. Not as much going on off the resort as the other two. Although I love the beach there!

Peace, Greenie
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Sep 28th, 2007, 05:51 AM
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The Westin in St. Maarten is located on a very nice beach and has a great pool.
this is their web cam which is usually focused on the pool.

http://islandcam.columbiasussex.com/view/index.shtml

THe Westin is a little isolated but there are some nice restaurants near by, such as Daniel's By The Sea and Tabba Khady..Both excellent..
I think if you decide on SXM, you definitely have to consider renting a car. The island is small and easily navigated. and there are fantastic beaches and eating opportunities all over.
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Sep 28th, 2007, 06:16 AM
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I think you might like the Westin on St. Maarten. The beach is great, and it's not that far from town either (I can't imagine it's more than 10 minutes by car from Phillipsburg). The Butterfly Farm is very close by, and is Baie Orientale.

If you don't like AIs, I think you'll be dissatisfied with Punta Cana, but the PuntaCana Resort is pretty good (though gets decidedly mixed reviews). They have an excellent upscale boutique hotel called Tortuga Bay, but it's over your price limit. If you want to go to the Dominican Republic, the best non-AI properties are on the North Coast (you'd fly into Puerto Plata).

I think you'd also like Playa del Carmen.

A car is a must in St. Maarten (you'd want to see more of the island, and it's pretty small), and the prices on car rentals are cheap there. In the DR or Mexico, I'd probably forego the car.

You don't say when you're going, but if it's before mid-December, you can often get good deals on even upscale hotels. I'd also suggest you look at Barbados. I love that island. Perhaps something in the Gap area, where you can walk to restuarants at night.
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Sep 28th, 2007, 09:16 AM
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Thanks -- that's all good info and definitely making me lean a bit toward St. Maarten.

Doug, we've been steered away from Barbados in terms of it being not so "gay friendly" -- we love the Caribbean but for vacation, we want to be able to really relax which means not always having to have our guard up. Is what I've heard inaccurate?

And btw, we're heading there soon (we always plan late) -- right before Thanksgiving.
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Sep 28th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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To be honest, I don't think it much matters which island you are on as long as you are discreet. If public displays of affection or even holding hands is important to you, then I don't think you'll find a very welcoming atmosphere anywhere in the Caribbean except perhaps for Saba or St. Barths. But I wouldn't consider Barbados any more homophobic than St. Maarten. The gay community in St. Maarten isn't as visible as it once was; I think the only gay bar there closed long ago.

There's also a pretty nice gay hotel on the east end of St. Croix called Sandcastle on the Beach. I'd recommend it, but if you want an upscale feel you have to book one of the more expensive suites.

If you want something very upscale and discreet, you could try Petit St. Vincent, which is in the Grenadines. It's really private, so it doesn't much matter whether or not you're gay, but I have to offer the following caveats: no a/c, no pool, no TV, no cell phone reception. But it's a lovely, private place, and I"m confident you'd feel welcome there. The difficulty is that it's very expensive, and a week there would cost about $4500 for the two of you, but it's all-inclusive, so I'd place it just moderately above your room-only budget given the high cost of food in the Caribbean. You have to pay airfare to Barbados and airfare to Union Island.
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Sep 28th, 2007, 05:24 PM
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There are a lot of gays on st. maarten who live here and own businesses. I am not sure about gay bars.
Barbados is a great island. I love it there too.
I do not know how gay friendly it is. I am going there in a week though.I'll try to find out.
But I do know Barbados is much more conservative in general than st. maarten..
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Sep 30th, 2007, 12:45 PM
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We've stayed in the Dawn Beach area twice. We found it very easy to travel into Phillipsburg or the French towns. We had dinner on the other side of the island every night and did not find it difficult to travel except for the occasional cow in the road.
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Sep 30th, 2007, 05:57 PM
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I believe you would also be happy in Playa del Carmen if St. Maarten does not work out. I'd look at Mosquito Beach or La Tortuga vs Ceiba as I think you would need to take a taxi into town. At the other 2 resorts you can walk to all the great restaurants and bars and I think a gay couple would be quite comfortable there. There are also many excursions. Playa is a great town for the future....if it doesn't get built up too much more.
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Oct 1st, 2007, 11:55 AM
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I couldn't agree more. Playa would be an excellent choice. One suggestion. To truely get the Playa "vibe" stay at a resort or hotel within walking distance from 5th avenue. That is where all the action is. There are plenty of properties to choose from in many different price ranges. Playa is very diverse. I don't think you would have any problems there.
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