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Which island for Caribbean vacation in April 2006? It's my first Caribbean trip!

Which island for Caribbean vacation in April 2006? It's my first Caribbean trip!

Old Jun 30th, 2005, 11:42 AM
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Which island for Caribbean vacation in April 2006? It's my first Caribbean trip!

Hi everyone,
I am a teacher and only have certain weeks of the year I can travel, therefore I am usually planning in advance!

Right now, we have a Caribbean cruise booked for April 2006, which stops in Aruba, Curacao, St. Martin, and St. Thomas. I am re-thinking this plan due to finances (airfare to SJU is not cheap) and due to the fact that we may be looking for a more relaxing vacation that all the hopping around on a cruise.

I vacation in Florida once a year, and DH and I have been to Vegas and Hawaii in the past year, with another Hawaii trip coming up in about 5 weeks. We love both Vegas and Hawaii, but are looking for something closer and quicker! We would have 5-7 nights to spend, and this would be anywhere around April 15-22-ish (which is Easter week). I have never been to the Caribbean (unless you count Cancun) and DH has only been to Barbados.


Some of the things we are looking for are:
* a nice hotel/resort on a beach with a big pool, possibly swim-up bar. Clean, comfy, spacious rooms and friendly service
* a swimmable, wide beach with warm, pretty water (warmer than here in the Northeast!)Not too crammed with people. Looking for the blue water and white sand
* great restaurants (mainly casual with a couple of nice dinners) within walking/short driving distance
* plenty of palm trees with an "islandy" feel
* a few watersports (sailing, snorkeling) or activities like horseback riding
* a bit of culture
* Some nightlife (a casino, music outside at a bar somewhere, etc....not into "clubbing") Would like a balance -- wants things to do, don't want to feel like we are on a deserted island, but don't want huge crowds everywhere either.
* not interested in all-inclusive
* A relatively safe feeling, don't want to feel like we can't explore on our own or walk around at night
* opportunity to interact with wildlife in some way (snorkeling, whale watch, etc..)

Some of the places I am considering:
1. Aruba, staying at the Radisson (would consider Hyatt or Marriott if rates came down, right now Radisson is about $200 cheaper per night! Also, Aruba is a front-runner because there are non-stop flights from Boston)
2. French side of St. Martin -- atmospheres like Orient Beach and Palm Beach, Aruba appeal to me for this particular trip. Would also want to spend a day or 2 visiting Anguilla.
3. Atlantis on Paradise Island
4. Cayman Islands -- Westin. (Possibly Ritz if it's open?) Good snorkeling and food appeal to me here, not sure about the hurricane damage from Ivan, though.
5. Turks and Caicos -- Royal West Indies, Coral Gardens, Ocean Club West.

I would like a place that is relatively easy to get to from Boston. Non-stop is a huge plus, but one short layover is ok, too. Budget for airfare would be about $1500, hotel $150-$300 a night, maybe? Any experiences with any of these hotels/islands would be great, or any other suggestions are welcomed. Thank you !


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Old Jun 30th, 2005, 01:34 PM
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I can say that T&C will not fit the bill for your nightlife desires. Also, for Cayman, the Ritz should be open this fall, but in April I would think under $300/per night will be difficult.
Aruba sounds like it could fit the bill.Can't speak to St. Martin, only have done day trips there. How about ST. Thomas?
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 07:53 AM
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Aruba or Puerto Rico
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 08:09 AM
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Aruba definately does not have that island feel..it is very dry and flat.The palm trees are imported and have sprinklers that water them each day to keep them alive.Palm beach is a very crowded beach.Eagle beach was better.

I really feel that with what you are looking for..you would be disappointed with Aruba.It is not lush and the snorkeling is not good from the beach..not sure about excursions.

I have been to Kauai,St John,and Aruba...the order being favorite listed first.I feel that you would enjoy St John ALOT better than Aruba.2/3rds of St John is a National Park which is great for exploring the wildlife and birding.

Also must of the nightlife in Aruba is either clubing or the casinos.In St John you have some local bars that sometimes have some cool local music.Sorry to sound down on Aruba..I just feel that it is way over rated and not a pretty place to visit.If you do not want to go to St John..I think that you would like Curacao better than Aruba.Just my 2 cents.
Christie
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 08:41 AM
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beachgirl86 - you totally describe St John (no casino though). I think you would have a great time. It is easy to get to and the beaches spectacular; aqua blue water and white sandy beaches. Great restaurants and local culture. I am booked again for February 2006. Staying in a villa with 5 friends. You can't go wrong with STJ.
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 09:26 AM
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Aruba fits most of the things on your wish list. Have you looked at www.gwvtravel.com? They run non-stop charter flights to Aruba from Boston every weekend. Easter week will be a very busy week and you will have to book early. Most of Aruba will be completely sold out that week. The Radisson or Hyatt would be good choices. I would take the Marriott off the list. It is nice property but there are three very large Marriott properties (one hotel and two timeshares) right next to each other on a small length of beach.
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 09:50 AM
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With all due respect, some of these responses have not taken into account OP wants hotel/resort, on the beach with a big pool, and price range is $150-$300 per night. There are only 2 beachfront resorts on St. John. Neither will be close to this range, especially the easter week time frame.
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 10:38 AM
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Just to clarify for the OP: Aruba is not your prototypical lusk Carib. island. In fact it is dry and arid. The beach and resort areas are pretty nice but as you go inland its dry. Infact there are several different types of cacti there. We like it for its warm and friendly feel. In fact last yr. it was voted the island with the most friendly people per a Carib. Travel and Life mag. poll. It is also very clean, has gambling, great beaches, nightlife and alot of fine restaurants. Some say it doesn't have "culture". Well as the local language is a blend of English, Dutch, Spanish and some African tongues this suggests otherwise IMHO. I think you will be fine there and as for the safety issue with the Natalle Holloway case being so prominent the crime rate there is very low. It is unfortunate this has happened and I hope it is resolved asap but it is not typical. JM2C
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 11:58 AM
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Thanks for all the great suggestions! And yes, I definitely know that Aruba, for example is not a "lush" island. That is okay with me, as we will have had 2 Hawaiian trips in a row. More just looking for fabulous beach and water, and some relaxation! Keep the advice coming, I love it
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 12:24 PM
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beachgirl:
Which Hawaiian islands have you been to?I have only been to Kauai and would like to go back and go to Kauai again and either the Big Island or Maui.I love the feel you get in Hawaii..only wish that we lived closer.

Since you like Las Vegas...you probably will like Aruba.It reminds me of a Vegas on an island.Have fun whatever you chose.
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 12:31 PM
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If you are looking for a spectacular beach and relaxation, try Turks and Caicos. It is flat and dry, but oh that beach!!!
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Old Jul 1st, 2005, 07:59 PM
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christiegr: We have been to all the islands except Kauai! Last summer we went to Oahu, Maui, and BI....this summer it's Oahu and probably BI. We LOVE Hawaii, and are hoping to try Kauai someday soon, too. Thanks for the tip on Aruba
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 04:50 AM
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Grand Case Beach Club on the French side of St. Martin should provide what you need. $180 per night for beachfront rooms; lots of restaurants within walking distance. Ten minute drive to Orient Beach. Ten to fifteen minutes from Marigot, which is a must-see. Most casinos on the Dutch side, 30 minutes away.

One night we ate at Talk of the Town, an open air "lolo" between the street and the beach. Slab of ribs and 2 sides for $8.00. The grill and the workers chopping the ribs and chicken were just a few feet behind us. Total culture experience.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 05:16 AM
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beachgirl:
Your welcome.
Which Hawaiian island would you recommend between Maui and the Big Island for a future trip?
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 06:56 AM
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Have been to Hawaii(going back next april), Aruba, and the Atlantis in the Bahamas. Since you are a teacher, I will tell you that the Atlantis is swamped with kids. (So avoid on vacation!!LOL)Actually, the Atlantis is like Vegas on the beach. We enjoyed our trip there, but would not return. It was very expensive and really the Bahamas was not to our liking.
Aruba was great. Like everyone else says, it is not lush. The hotels, however are very lush. We stayed at the Marriott and liked it. I have heard wonderful things about the Radisson. I saw the Hyatt and would like to stay there next. Aruba has white sandy beaches with turqoise waters. It has nightlife and water sports. It has great food. As far as safety, we chose it for being one of the safest islands to bring our kids to. We felt safe and had a great time there.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2005, 09:08 AM
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beachgirl - I would suggest San Juan. There are tons of things to do there and many really nice resorts. Most of the resorts have casinos.

My favorite is -
El San Juan Hotel and Casino - beautiful property, wonderful pool area, on the beach, tons of restaurants and shops. Casino (in fact my DH won $450 last time we were there on a SLOT)Great rooms. Lots of nightlife IN the hotel. Its very self-contained.

There are many other choices -

Marriott

Condado Plaza Hotel

Intercontinental

If you are in San Juan (either Isla Verde or Condado) you can easily get to Old San Juan by taxi. There you will find tons of shops, galleries, restaurants, a casino, historic sites. Lots of neat venues to hear music, etc. It is a wonderful place! Great place to spend a day. If you like art galleries the first Tuesday of every month is gallery night when all the galleries stay open late and there are people all over the streets.

Oh and you should feel safe there too!

GL let me know if you have any other questions!

Also, I was going to suggest the St Kitts Marriott too. It has everything you seem to be looking for and its a large resort...

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Old Jul 3rd, 2005, 08:07 AM
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St. John is certainly a wonderful introduction to the Caribbean but it is pricey if you want a resort. St. John does have more economical options in the way of renting a condo. or staying at one of the inns. St. Thomas has most of the elements you are looking for but venturing off the tourist track there is not recommended by me. You can go just about anywhere you want during the day, but at night, I would stick close to the resort or places recommended by the concierge. Not that it's that dangerous, but it's like any urban area, it can be if you're wandering around looking lost. I'd say the Bahamas have a lot of the elements you're looking for but you'd have to do more research as the islands are all very different one from the other.
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Old Jul 6th, 2005, 11:47 AM
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I would suggest you check out Sapphire Beach Resort on the East End of St. Thomas. Non stop from Boston and should be able to get $500. or so air fare. Absolutely beautiful beach, steps from your room. Very close to ferry to other Islands, St. John,Tortola,Jost VanDyke.Very reasonable rates like $6.00 rt to St. John.Resort is gated and has a pool with pool bar. Large pavillion with some night life. Best you can do is check out their web site. St Thomas has many things to see and do and some great night life. My wife and I have been going for past 7 years, two weeks in Feb. now and love the place. We stay in building B at Sapphire and would recomend B or C as first choices. Ground Floor is walk out to Beach but we prefer 2nd floor for more privacy and large deck. Rooms are large with kitchens and full size appliances. What ever you decide you will Love St. Thomas and St. John. Have a great time,
Bob
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Old Jul 6th, 2005, 05:31 PM
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What about Cozumel? We stayed at the Iberostar 2 yrs. ago and it had all that. plus, you could trial scuba diving if you like.
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Old Jul 6th, 2005, 05:32 PM
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Hey Beachgirl, Have you given any thought to St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Accomodations all price ranges on various islands in the chain. Do a websearch and enter SVG tourism.
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