Two people seek affordable hammock
February 18, 2009 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Help my partner and me find a place to take a well-deserved vacation in mid-March. We have a budget of about $1500 including flights. We are looking for something near a beach where it's warm, within flying distance of New York City but preferable outside the US. Something more upscale than a straw hut in Dominica but less pre-determined than an all-inclusive resort in Antigua. Bonus points for ecotourism and cultural memorability.
posted by billtron to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Costa rica. Don't know what flights are like in mid-march, but we're going March1, and got airfare for $333 per person. They've definitely got the ecotourism thing locked, I can't really speak to their cultural memorability, though.
posted by specialnobodie at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2009

A friend of mine swears by this place:

I don't know how expensive it is, and it's not at the beach (though there is a package including the beach), but it looks extraordinary.
posted by socratic at 11:37 AM on February 18, 2009

Cota Rica is an excellent suggestion, look into (the city there) Florida. Also, Grenada, WI is often overlook by Americans. I lived there for about a year long ago...a lovely place still, and good lord the (black and/ white sand/ pink sand) beaches, cuisine (crazy fresh seafood and other treats) and lovely local people.
posted by dawson at 11:57 AM on February 18, 2009

another link
posted by dawson at 12:02 PM on February 18, 2009

Puerto Rico? We've gone and had a great time in the El Yunque Rainforest and kayaking through bioluminescence. Then we laid on a beach and drank cervesas bought from a hut. Then it was back to a decent hotel in San Juan. Throw in a dinner or two in Old City and it makes for a nice time. I gotta imagine it's cheap and easy to get to from NYC.
posted by lpsguy at 12:11 PM on February 18, 2009

I highly, highly recommend Eco Paraiso. (should be your first google hit) Very remote, it either abuts or is part of an ecological preserve on the western side of the yucatan penninsula.

They have nice tours of a flamingo feeding area and a little island that are free or very cheap. The tour guides speak english as a 2nd language but were college educated naturalists when I went.

All meals were included in the price of lodging when I went a few years ago (very very high quality food, fresh OJ each morning is like a drug!, and the meals are very local and unique. Lots of fresh seafood).

Lodging are 1BR cabanas on the beach. You walk from your cabin out into the surf, very amazing.

There is no one else around. When we went there were a few other guests but we saw no other tourists in the area. It is close to a tiny town Celestun but nothing really for tourists to do there, but walking through it a couple times was interesting.

I don't know what their rates are, but I negotiated them pretty far off the rack rate, but then I was bringing 20+ people with me at the time.

The only neg is there's not a lot to do if you're looking for clubbing or hanging with lots of Americans.

Also their establishment is very eco friendly and you can actually tour their water treatment works if you want. (when I went their greywater use was novel, now it may be different or old hat)

It's also "only" 3 or 4 hour drive to the pyramids at chich in itza (forgot how to spell that)

Really I don't work for them, it is just an amazingly remote place with very nice amenities when you get there.
posted by joemax at 12:22 PM on February 18, 2009

How much time do you want/have to spend on vacation? If you're only looking for 4 nights or so, many places are within your means; if you want more like 7 or 8 nights, you'll need to shop around for some good deals (because your hotel bill alone will be a pretty big chunk of your budget).

Offhand, I'd say several places in Mexico have a lot going for them. Last year I went to both the area around Puerto Vallarta and parts inland (Guadalajara and the mountains near there) -- we had a blast, spent very little money, and had some experiences I'll remember for a lifetime. PV itself is touristy and a little unmemorable, but some of the beaches around there are still pleasant places to lounge in the sunlight for a while. For part of our time there, we stayed in one of two rooms at a house ("Casa del puente") run by Molly Muir (relative to John) and it was sufficiently nice that at first we thought there had been some mistake. ("Wait, this whole room is ours? That whole dining room? That sundeck?" We were paying about $45 a night, though I think the rates go up quite a bit during the high season.) And although it's not near a beach, some of the highlands a couple hours from Guadalajara (~6 hours inland from PV) are beautiful and untouristed and just generally lovely places to be. (If you are fans of good tequila, I can't recommend this area enough.)

Over on the other side of the country, I have heard there are some interesting eco-themed places near Tulum, but haven't stayed in any myself. (E.g., a quick search revealed "Posada Dos Ceibas," which appears to take pains to be environmentally responsible -- all solar power, etc.) Both the beaches and the ruins are worth seeing. (Also: some of the hotels in Cancun, while not really what you're looking for, are at least within striking distance of places like Chichen Itza, plus they might have last-minute discounts on rooms.)

Fullfilling only the "beach" criterion, I suppose you could think about going to Hawaii -- it's relatively cheap to fly there right now (under $500/person for some dates from the east coast), though even that may be a bit of a stretch on your budget. (And it's a long way to go for only a few days.)

My girlfriend also swears by Anguilla, fwiw, but I haven't yet been there myself.
posted by chalkbored at 12:40 PM on February 18, 2009

just came in to say that i checked air jamaica specials today to jamaica from nyc. they are having 3 fare sales, one of which ends today. you can end up getting both of your tickets for less than $500-$600 (usu the cost for one tix), which will leave you A LOT of money to spend on housing/renting and FUN while there.
posted by alice ayres at 1:13 PM on February 18, 2009

Jamaica is always a bargain.

Check out the website called Couch Surfing. If your really adventurous and want to really see how others live in their part of the world- you stay at their place and sometimes even get a chance for them to show you around. You in turn will return the favor if someone is looking to travel were you live and if it's New York, you will always have ton's of requests.

Good Luck in your search.
posted by Chele66 at 3:11 PM on February 18, 2009

Since you refer to Dominica, I thought I'd let you know that it is Paradise. I have never been to a more beautiful, more welcoming place. And while you probably won't find a super-swank all-inclusive never-leave-the-compound resort, there are alternatives to the grass hut. I like to stay in the Calabishie area (like here or here) but everywhere is lovely.
The tourist infrastructure in Costa Rica is more developed. When you stay at a guest facility you can usually expect the staff to be well-trained to international expectations. Not so much in Dominica. Dominica doesn't have much in the way of organized activities like guided nature walks and jungle zip-lines. But you can always find someone to show you the way to a waterfall (hot or cold) hidden deep in the forest. And the rowboat ride up Indian River is fun.

I am in love with the place and its people. If it sounds like your kind of thing, go.

The hut looks pretty good to me.
posted by Jode at 6:35 PM on February 18, 2009

Thirding, or maybe even fourthing, Costa Rica. My wife and I just came back from there last week.

We stayed at the Hotel El Velero in Playa Hermosa in Guanacaste province (note that there's another town called Playa Hermosa in a different province). The hotel was under $100 US per night and food/drink was reasonable as well. Places within walking distance of the beach are basically the same as midwestern US prices and things get much cheaper the further inland you go.

Playa Hermosa could be best described as a small village which is starting to see some development, but there's still plenty to see and do nearby: swimming, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, zipline canopy tours, rainforest tours, volcano tours and hiking are probably the best bets.
posted by tomwheeler at 7:21 PM on February 18, 2009

Response by poster: Hey everyone. Thanks for the recommendations. As it turns out, we discovered about 50000 American Airlines miles that we didn't know about and bought tickets to Brazil. Here's another post about the trip.
posted by billtron at 11:30 AM on February 27, 2009

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