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Which Island is for us this December? Inexperienced Caribbean couple :)

Which Island is for us this December? Inexperienced Caribbean couple :)

Old Oct 6th, 2009, 01:04 PM
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Which Island is for us this December? Inexperienced Caribbean couple :)

I imagine this question has been asked hundreds, if not thousands of times. I apologize, but I truly do not know where to start and have become completely overwhelmed by my own research, I think I have created a new island in my mind, LOL!

I never thought myself to be a tropical vacation type of person, we've been to Jamaica a few times now, never by choice...weddings, business and it's not our cup of tea, so Jamaica is no, we'd like to experience somewhere else and maybe even become tropcial vacationers

A place we DO love is Zihuatanejo, Mexico, but this is not an option for us this time. What we love about Zihua is the low rises, the boutique hotels, the high end dining option and the in town, local cuisine options. Not overly commercialized. The fact that we can walk into town and the beach is very nice. We're 29 and 33... not into clubs, etc. We're experienced travelers and we like the non-all inclusive, smaller hotel options in Zihua.

Of the following Islands/places, where can we find that sort of vibe?

St. Maarten
St. Lucia
Aruba
Punta Cana
St. Thomas
St. John

We're pretty dead-set against connections for our week long island visit during the high travel season, and because we're based in Chicago and flying United, these are the only options we're considering. We ARE open to amazing, but not over the top priced all-inclusive options... we really would like to experience a great one...non-Sandals, we've already experienced one of those not by choice and will not be returning We're realistic about prices during the high season, but do not want something ridiculously priced, reasonable... so aside from any Island spots we should consider, we'd LOVE to hear any accommodation ideas from anyone.

Thank you so much!
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 01:33 PM
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Hi, I will try to give you a little input. Perhaps you have ruled Mexico out completely, but if you haven't you might like Playa Del Carmen, on the Caribbean coast (you fly into Cancun which has a lot of direct, more reasonably priced flights than most of the Caribbean, we like a hotel there called Shangri-La Caribe. South of town is all big AI's, but in town and on the beach heading North are lots of boutique hotels, great dining options and it is a walking around place. Many of the others on your list do not really fit the bill -- Punta Cana is pretty much all large AI's and very spread out. St. Lucia is very spread out and difficult to get around, so you are pretty resort-bound there. Aruba is mostly large resorts on one long strip of beach, there's a few smaller boutique hotel options (Bucuti seems to get high marks) and depending on your location you may be able to walk to other restaurants on the beach. St. Thomas I find to be very crowded and touristy, St. John is much nicer with a cute town but very few resort/hotel options. I have only visited St. Maarten for one day, but it may be the closest of what you are looking for, you might check out the french side -- St. Martin, great dining options, an actual town to walk around and I think there is a boutique hotel there called le Petit Hotel which might appeal to you. We love boutique resorts but haven't found too many on the islands you suggest, for the future, if you can ever get to Nevis, try Nisbet Plantation Beach Club or Antigua, check out Galley Bay. Both smaller unique resorts with lots of Caribbean charm, wonderful accomodations, nice beaches and wonderful service. Not a walking destination though.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 01:42 PM
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Eileen, thank you! St. Maarten definitley appeals to me, I'm Dutch, but I've heard the Dutch side isn't that fantastic. I haven't heard of le Petit Hotel, I'm definitley going to go search it! Again, thank you.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 01:43 PM
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Oh! And Mexico isn't totally out, but we've spent so much time in Mexico, we were hoping to explore some islands this time.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 02:07 PM
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From your criteria, Mexico is a great fit. I would suggest Cozumel or Playa del Carmen. We are going back to Cozumel in December. We chose a moderate AI with huge rooms and a great snorkeling beach, but there are plenty boutique non-AI's to choose from. San Migual has great restuarants and shopping. There are a few well known brand named bars that we enjoy.

5th Street in Playa del Carmen has literally tons of resturants, bars, shopping and entertainment. We stayed at the Royal Playa del Carmen. It's a very nice upscale AI within walking distance. There are also severl boutique hotels within walking distance of 5th Avenue. Look at La Tortuga.

We love Aruba, but many think it's too commericalized. We like the strip on Palm Beach. There are hotels lined up on one side and directly across the street is a strip of resturants, bars and shopping. On the beach in front of the hotels are tons of beach bars. We enjoy the atmosphere. If you don't want something that close, there are many low rise hotels on Eagle Beach. Look at the Divi, Manchebo, Bucuti and Amsterdam Manor. We are true AI resort people, but would not do AI in Aruba, as there are so many really nice resturants to chose from.

Cruz Bay in St. John might also be a good choice. Lots of people like Gallows Point. It's more quite with less going on. You can take day trips to St. Thomas and the BVI's.

When exactly are you going in December. The first 2 weeks is still considered low season and you'll find some really great prices. We got a great price for our trip to Cozumel the second week of December.
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Old Oct 6th, 2009, 03:29 PM
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KVR! Thank you SO much for such a detailed response, I really appreciate it.

We'll be going Dec 26-Jan 2... so serious high season I started browsing more and more on Playa del Carmen when Eileen posted, it's starting to look like a really great idea and time!
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Old Oct 7th, 2009, 03:39 AM
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If you can afford it, I would check out Caneel Bay in St. John. It has many perfect private beaches to explore right on the resort property. Just a short taxi ride into town with many food choices if you don't want to be limited to onsite dining. The island is so beautiful & great to explore. We love Riviera Maya area of Mexico too & have stayed at Barcelo Maya (Palace is the nicest) 3 times. it is about 15 min south of Playa del Carmen. Not sure if the flights made Grand Cayman not possible but we just went there in May & fell in love with it. Stayed on 7 mile beach...the most beautifully clear water I have ever seen. Snorkeling is the best we've seen too.
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Old Oct 7th, 2009, 07:41 AM
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I really agree with above posters about Playa Del Carmen. 5th street is a riot with so much to offer and you can walk it at night and feel safe. There are great restaurant and shops and plenty of botique hotels. I can add that I don't think Aruba or St. Martin would fit the bill. I've been to both and they are very commercialized. I in particular do not care for St. Martin. I think it's dirty and there is just way too much traffic for a little island. We go through there every year to get to Anguilla and we can't wait to leave. Of course this is only my opionion. I would really look into Playa. It will fit the budget and not dissapoint. Plus, you can take the ferry from Playa to Cozumel for the day which would be a fun adventure.
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Old Oct 7th, 2009, 02:04 PM
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Thank you all very much. We're definitley leaning toward Playa Del Carmen right now... BUT, we also started to revisit the idea of going to Italy, their low-season, so it may end up being more cost effective for us to go to Italy instead, crazy, isn't it!? We're still exploring both options and hope to make a decision in a few days.

Thank you Mamamia and Anguillagirl so much!
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