Caribbean Vacation for a week where to go????
Replies: 10 - Last Post: Mar 12, 2012 2:09 PM Last Post By: locomotiveman
Mar 9, 2012 7:06 PM
Caribbean Vacation for a week where to go????I'm trying to take my GF on a last minute trip to one of the Caribbean islands for a week, starting next week and are currently between the Bahamas, Jamaica, St Maarten, Thomas and Aruba, which appear to be the only islands I can get to via Delta with my miles. She hasn't seen turquoise water in 15 years so I want to do it right for her. She's obviously not a traveler and not comfortable with sketchy situations so aside from finding an island with pristine beaches that are good for swimming, walks, snorkeling etc, I'm also focusing on somewhere that also has a town that is safe for shopping and has good restaurants.
I had originally thought about an all inclusive resort in Jamaica thinking with food and drinks that it would be the most cost effective option and heard some good things about a few of the towns such as Negril, but have concerns about the safety outside of the resorts and getting there from the airport not to mention that most of the good resorts are booked or $5k for the week being spring break time. This is assuming that Jamaica is the right island for us in general, as well which I have doubts about still.
I'v spent a lot of time on tripadvisor, but have had little luck in gathering conclusive information and now my head's starting to spin with all the options. I appreciate the help in deciding.
Mar 9, 2012 10:59 PM
1Delta miles are taking me to the Dominican Republic next week. Look into it.
Mar 10, 2012 1:01 AM
2As #1 said, be sure to double check Dominican Republic too (either Puerto Plata or Punta Cana), as those would also be good choices too.
I wouldn't worry about safety too much for any of your choices. Probably the much more relevant issue is "touts hassling you", which a lot of tourists ... Particularly those that don't travel overseas much ... Interpret as being unsafe. But out of all the places you list, I'd unhesitatingly choose Aruba given your preferences. It is the farthest south, so it will have the warmest waters this time of year (Bahamas will probably have the coolest, though it should still be nice). It's one of the "safest" and most "tout free" islands on your list. Palm Beach in Aruba is my favorite beach compared to others on your list.
You don't say where in the Bahamas (or Jamaica) you have the option of flying into. I'm assuming Nassau or possibly Freeport. In Jamaica, where you fly into vs. where you are going is very important as it is a huge island, relatively speaking.
But for the reasons noted above, my first choice would be Aruba. Lots of folks may legitimately disagree, so I don't think you'll get a consensus pick. All the islands you've noted are among the most heavily touristed, so do be aware of that. They are also big cruise ship stops, so depending on where you go, what you do, and scheduling, you might possibly find yourself in the presence of a lot of cruisers this time of year.
My number one choice out of all the places you listed might be flying into St. Thomas and taking a quick 30 minute ferry over to St. John. It is awesome, safe, no hassle and beautiful. The only real downside is that it can be pretty expensive for lodging, particularly this time of year. Check somewhere like hotels.com though for hotel deals ... If you can find a room in your budget, you couldn't go wrong going there. Having said that, St. Thomas would probably be my LAST choice if I was just flying there and staying on that island.
Mar 10, 2012 8:04 AM
3Thanks so much for taking the time to respond.
I have thought about Aruba and it looks beautiful. At this point I would be between it and Negril. I know it's a tourist spot, but with that said it appears to retain some of it's original charm and real feeling. I have read that getting hassled can be a problem, but am getting mixed results about how Negril is in particular.
Do you know how daily expenses such as restaurants, bars, beach rentals and entertainment compare from Negril to Aruba?
For Negril, we'd be flying into Mo Bay, which I've read isn't terribly far and transportation isn't bad.
I'm also between the all inclusive and non inclusive options. I like the idea of everything being paid for in advance and not worrying about what things cost. With that said, I wouldn't want to spend $400-600/night and be disappointed by the food, bars, daytime activities or entertainment and then have to spend more money on top of that to have a good time. I also wouldn't want to feel like I couldn't leave the resort to go elsewhere or if I did it would be a waste.
Thanks again for your response
Mar 10, 2012 12:26 PM
4Negril's beach is beautiful as well. There will definitely be a somewhat higher "hassle factor" in terms of touts on the street, touts on the beach, etc. Transportation from Mo Bay to Negril will run you about $60 each way (total for two persons), perhaps a little more. I find restaurant costs in both Negril and Aruba to be pretty comparable to U.S. prices for a comparable quality place. In other words, if you can eat dinner for $15 in the U.S., you shouldn't have much trouble doing it for the same price in Jamaica or Aruba. You can even find cheaper places, if you want to eat "street food" with the locals, etc.
I'm not a big fan of all inclusives. For one thing, I just don't think I would get my money's worth out of them. We'll frequently eat a hearty breakfast, skip lunch and eat an early dinner. Between that and my unsophisticated palate, I can usually eat pretty inexpensively throughout most of the Caribbean (we also don't drink alcohol, which can really add to the costs).
I also would never go anywhere where I didn't feel comfortable leaving the resort. You really don't have to feel like that in Negril, although you may have some aggressive touts hassling you to sell you ganja, souvenirs or other products and services. For those persons who haven't traveled abroad much, they may be really taken aback by it all and they may automatically interpret the place as "not being safe" because they are hassled by the locals. I just tell myself they are trying to eke out a living, and as long as they'll take no for an answer on the 2nd or 3rd try, I find myself being able to largely ignore them.
What I tell people is that places like Jamaica you either love or hate. If you are a savvy traveler and get into the culture, you will find that Jamaica offers as much or more than any other island in the Caribbean. It certainly has its big fans on this board ... many "experts" on the country (Weaver, MikeyMike, Ackeepod, Ohliz and others) that can tell you a lot more about the place than I can. If you haven't traveled to places where aggressive salesmen are the norm, and if you can't look beyond the minor irritation they sometimes cause, you may find it miserable to walk the streets outside your resort.
In short, for newbies to the Caribbean, I say that Jamaica is more of a roll of the dice as to whether you will like it. Aruba is a safe bet, and is much more of a "homogenized and pasteurized" destination (it is, after all, connected to the organized and efficient Dutch). Some might even consider it to be a lot like the U.S., but with an awesome beach (that may be a good thing or a bad thing as far as you are concerned). It will certainly have more cruise ship tourists crawling around.
Take your pick and enjoy. I like them both.
Mar 11, 2012 7:27 PM
Well, you are certainly asking the right questions. I just got back from most spots you referenced. Firstly, Bahamas weather can be cool to downright brisk; and Jamaica is NOT a snorkelers paradise. Negril is A-OK if you want to 'party'..StJohns is safe.but I keep thinking way South to Aruba and it's 80F Degree weather would be fine if hassle-factor and no sketchy situations are of high importance for you and yours. GrandTurk and Bonaire and Curacao are heavenly snorkeler/SCUBA meccas, but DELTA Sky-miles rule your choices, yes?? Dominican Rep. pandemonium outside of their All-inclusives rules THAT joint out...in my opinion. Are you aware Aruba is a desert-like island with cactus etc??. Maybe that really matters to you, I dunno. It's a neat as a pin Dutch island. Aruba has a Harley-Davidson dealership..if THAT matters. It has beach Cantinas like Zee Rover for cheap safe beer and food and laughs times with the locals. GOOGLE up Aruba beach-side hotels til U find one in your price range?? Good Luck to both of you. Locomotiveman
Mar 11, 2012 8:32 PM
6Agreed, MGtraveler certainly has it right as regards All-Inclusives. Safe...yes. But THEN what?? Hide behind it's walls?? It's tough to find Clean, Quiet, Safe and Beautiful without Paying $$Mega-bucks$$ anywhere I have found. I'd play it safe and pick an Aruba Bed-n-Breakfast very close to a beach North of Oranjestad and then head South to a local safe joint like ZeeRover mid-day, then to BabyBeach so as to get the 'feel' of the REAL Aruba. Presto!! you will rub shoulders with the locals without exhausting your hard-earned $money$. I love the Zee Rover on Aruba. Fresh fish, fried plantains, a Pool Table and Cold beer, mon. Heaven. Locomotiveman
Mar 11, 2012 11:36 PM
7Thanks for the reply again MG and Loco. After a lot of research your responses about the all inclusives were right on with what I found elsewhere and I agree it's not worth buying into them. After a lengthy thought process, we are going to try Negril this time for the diverse geography (cliffs, caves, holes etc), lush surroundings and just to get a taste of their culture. Aruba will be the next stop for us in the future.
As for Negril, we're planning to spend the first half of the vacation in the cliff region and the 2nd in the beach area. We're considering the Westlander for the first half which has a lot of good reviews. It's far south, kind of the middle of no where, which concerns me a little, but I imagine it could be a good thing too. A lot of the recommended hotels have been booked so options are getting slim. Much more so for the beach front hotels and so much in fact that I'm considering the Riu Palace just so I know we're getting a quality establishment that isn't riddled with bugs, cats, hustlers, has ac that works, beds that are comfortable, hot water etc etc etc. The bad thing is Riu is out on it's own as well and again an all inclusive which is not what we're looking for. It will at least be an interesting thing to try for a few days I suppose. I've considered Beachcomber, Fun Holiday, coco la palm, sea splash, and sunset on the beach, but again all questionable in one way or another.
With all that said, if anyone has been to Negril, stayed at beachfront hotel and has a recommendation do let me know. I think I need a lonely planet book for Negril.
Thanks again everyone
Mar 12, 2012 11:40 AM
One goofy/odd thing about getting from MontegoBay Airport down to Negril is the Van/taxi system. It's wasn't as simple as 'Take me to Negril" Don't be surprised if you have to get out of ONE taxi and get in another 1/2 way to Negril, so watch your bags, travel light. It may have changed but that's the way it's worked for me in the past. It's not cheap either. Carry USD $5's and $10's. Funny how they can't make $change$ Ha!! Locomotiveman
Mar 12, 2012 11:48 AM
Mar 12, 2012 2:09 PM
Hi again. I can't honestly remember where I stayed!! It was near the cliff-jumping and away from beach. I travelled solo w/backpack. Keep in mind Negril is sorta 'split' into 2 areas. You'll see what I mean if you GOOGLE up a Negril map; then you will notice on the Map the larger main beach area. Your time is limited I notice...so keep in mind the more South you go from Negril the drier/arid it gets and also the more solitary the ambiance becomes. Negril is Party-town with an urban not rural feel. Each to their own in that regard. Fly DELTA in early and try to get from MontegoBay Airport to your accomodations before dark to avoid confusion and uncertainty about 'wuzzup'...because it IS Jamaica, mon'. Shared Van/Taxi from Airport to Negril and beyond takes a while. Locomotiveman
(3 star Hotel)
From US$129.00 per night
(3 star Hotel)
From US$456.00 per night
(2 star Hotel)
From US$107.00 per night