Where to go for a short vacation in the Caribbean?
December 17, 2009 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Hi all! So, have any of you ever vacationed or traveled in the Caribbean? If so, I would love to hear your likes, dislikes, recommendations & suggestions.

I'm trying to put a trip together for the end of January. I think I'm coming close to narrowing it down to either Barbados or the Virgin Islands (US or British?), but I am still looking for ideas.

My trip would be for about 4 or 5 days, and right now it looks like it's just going to be me. So, I'd love to find a place where there's more to do than just lay on a beach. Recommendations for specific hotels or places to stay are very much appreciated. I'd love to be on or very close to a beach, but maybe still in walking distance to tasty food and/or some nightlife.

Thanks all!
posted by BobFrapples to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
check out Isla Mujeres (Mexico) I was just there and its wonderful.
posted by supermedusa at 2:44 PM on December 17, 2009

I have been to Guadeloupe, which, like Barbados is in the Southern part of the lesser Antilles, though it is Francophone. I love it. It was amazing, I did lay on the beach, but there were also a lot of other things to go see and do. I went to a run distillery and a preserved sugar plantation. As well I did a fair bit of snorkeling and other water related activities. I can't say much about the Virgin Islands, but if Barbados is anything like Guadeloupe, I would really recommend going there.
posted by Carillon at 3:03 PM on December 17, 2009

A post-script to the suggestion of Isla Mujeres (which is off the cost of Mexico, a ferry ride from Cancun but nothing like it): Isla is a tiny, beautiful, very laid-back island, great swimming/beaches and cheap hotels, but not much in the way of a nightlife.

That said, if you're planning an independent trip (as opposed to a stay at an all-inclusive, which are very popular in that region), you could easily tack on a day in Cancun to get your fill of bars/clubs. And the Mayan Riviera region is in general pretty well-equipped for day-trippers looking for breaks from their beach vacations - one-day visits to Mayan ruins, jungle adventure-stuff, etc.
posted by nicoleincanada at 3:48 PM on December 17, 2009

I recommended the Grand Case Beach Club on St. Martin to another Asker and she had a great time. It's on a private beach with a great view over to Anguilla, a walk into town for the best food in the Carib, and there is diving and renting little sailboats. JetBlue flies direct from NYC to St. Martin.

Alternatively, fly to Aguadilla on the west coast of Puerto Rico, rent a car and drive down the coast towards Rincón, find a place to stay in barrio Puntas. Take surfing lessons, explore the rain forest and caves.
posted by nicwolff at 4:17 PM on December 17, 2009

1. Memorize the appearance of this fruit, and familiarize yourself with its many names (on various islands it may be called chennet, ginnip, kinip, momoncillo, or limoncillo).

2. Consume them in vast quantities. They are THE BEST. They look like tiny limes, the rind and pit is configured like a lychee; the texture something like a peach; and the taste is sweet, juicy, tangy, tart, and insanely delicious. Aw man. They're kind of hard to find in North America, so be sure to eat lots of them while you're there.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:22 PM on December 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

As a frequent traveler to the Caribbean, I have two recommendations: First, unless you are going specifically for the snorkelling and deep sea diving, avoid the British islands. The islands are very reflective (IMHO) of their colonizers: boring. Everything closes early and furthermore, there currency is tied to the pound and with the U.S. dollar being what it is, your money is not going to go very far.

For my money, Jamaica (really an independent country and not a U.S. or British property ... though they still have to wait for the Brits to show up to do certain things) is really your best bet. Gorgeous beaches and plenty of places to party. If you can't have fun in Jamaica, go home and call your doctor.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 5:43 PM on December 17, 2009

Shoot. I forgot rec No. 2: Do NOT expect things to happen quickly anywhere in the Caribbean. "Soon come" is not to be taken literally.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 5:44 PM on December 17, 2009

Look into the Dominican Republic - it's a fairly well kept secret and you can get more luxury for less price down there. MeMail me if you would like more details.
posted by tryniti at 5:59 PM on December 17, 2009

My brother got married in the Dominican, and I really really liked it. We stayed in a resort near Punta Cana.
posted by purlgurly at 6:40 PM on December 17, 2009

I suggest you search Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. It is very luxurious and can be fairly cheap compared to the others.

Full Disclosure: I'm from the Dominican Republic, but I live in the Capital, Santo Domingo. As a reference, many well-known celebrities have vacation homes in Punta Cana, it's summer all year long.

You can MeMail me if you want more info.
posted by orlandop at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2009

I dunno how old you are, which I believe does factor into a decision, but I strongly recommend Vieques, Puerto Rico. Since it's a territory, you don't have to bother with long customs lines (which is key on short-stay vacay) but you *can* get duty free amazingly cheap good rum on the way home.

It's basically the farthest west island of the Virgin Island chain with a fun Puerto Rican vibe. Two towns on the small island; Esperanza is more easily walkable to the beach and various sources of night life. The biolumenescent bay is right down the street.
posted by nursegracer at 9:45 PM on December 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have family on St. Thomas, USVI. It's beautiful but the only things to do are water sports (which, if that's all you want to do, is where you should go), camping/hiking on St. John (there's a ferry) and duty-free shopping in Charlotte Amalie with hordes of cruise-boat daytrippers.

If you want good food, culture, and nightlife in addition to the beach, try San Juan, PR. (Heck, try Miami.) I hear good things about Barbados, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, Trinidad, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the city of Merida on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:23 AM on December 18, 2009

The tastiest food will be on the French islands. If you can afford St. Barts, go to St. Barts. Otherwise, if you can afford Anguilla, go to Anguilla. If you can't afford either St. Martin is pretty good too, but you must be picky about the location and lodgings (try tripdavisor, expedia, or Frommers for research).

Of the islands you mentioned -- the USVI, BVI and Barbados -- I'd take the BVI first (most islands are fine), then St. John on USVI, then Barbados. I would avoid St. Thomas and St. Croix in USVI.
posted by dzot at 7:18 AM on December 18, 2009

Seconding PR. Just spent a week in Luquillo. Beautiful beaches, weather was delightful, Rainforest hiking, wildlife and historic scenery.
posted by minimii at 11:01 AM on December 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would head to Playa Del Carmen via Cancun, and then head over to Cozumel
posted by jasondigitized at 4:47 PM on December 18, 2009

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