Caribbean vacation
October 4, 2011 12:13 PM   Subscribe

My parents have backlogged their timeshare weeks and are giving one of those weeks to my wife and me. No kids. We are trying to find the best place to go during the first full week of March. What are your thoughts of Jamaica (Montego Bay), St. Lucia (north part of island), Grand Bahama Island, Dominican Republic, and/or Barbados? We'd like to spend some days on the beach relaxing, but we also really enjoy hiking, getting outdoors, and doing fun activities (bike riding, scooters, scuba/snorkel, etc.). Also, we're interested in good food, though most of these places are all-inclusive. We are total Caribbean noobs so any advice on how to narrow down our choices would be great. St. Lucia looks the coolest (volcanoes!) but also would require the most effort on our part (renting a car and driving from one side of the island to the other). Thanks!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates to Travel & Transportation around San Antonio, TX (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
(I don't know why it says "around San Antonio, TX" - I put in "Caribbean" when it asked for a location!)
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 12:20 PM on October 4, 2011

I've been to both Barbados and St. Lucia, and enjoyed both trips, although I have been to Barbados twice and would gladly return, while two weeks in St. Lucia was probably enough.

Both have places to hike and things to go to outdoors; St. Lucia is definitely more wooded and wild. You'll need to rent a car and get used to lengthy drives on St. Lucia, as the cool stuff (like the volcano, the Pitons, and hot springs) is in the south, and their highway infrastructure is not as extensive as Barbados. The latter has good public transportation (especially the unofficial "rasta buses"), and the taxis are really a good way to get around.

I would definitely recommend, at least one day during a Barbados visit, arranging with a taxi driver to do a day tour. They will hook you up with someone who knows his way around, and take you to interesting places. Two places not to miss are Welchman's Hall Gully -- a big ancient collapsed open-air former cave gone all tropical rainforesty, which you can wander through and meet your driver on the other side -- and the Wildlife Reserve, which is really just an enormous fenced-in region full of native animals (many of whom hop over the fence to roam beyond). Ask to get there before feeding time so you can see all the green monkeys, tortoises, birds and agouti gather from the surrounding area for some chow. On Friday night, hop a rasta bus for one of the local fish cookouts. For swimming, Batt's Rock Beach was my favorite (the west coast has the best beaches), but you'll probably be on the south coast which is also decent beach territory.

In St. Lucia, you'll be in the north, either in Rodney Bay or down toward Castries. That's where the best beaches are. There's some good walking in the center of the island (Barre De l'Isle), and if you're in Rodney Bay, we found that the paved/dirt road taking off from the main highway which crosses over to the wild and unsettled northeast coast was a decent walk, though the pretty bits are at the end. Mostly you will need to rent a car and get used to driving on the wrong side of the windy road, because the really good stuff is farther south, a couple hours' drive. You would want to rent a room for 1 night down in that area, because the driving is tedious otherwise. (Soufriere town is kind of uncomfortably poor, but there's good cheap hotel accomodation.) The most obscure-but-fun thing is a warm waterfall you can bathe in (Piton Falls, I think?) out in the jungle, findable from the side road which eventually leads to the Jalousie resort.

Probably my feelings on these two islands are colored by my preference to do what the locals do, and while there's poverty in both places, Barbados is generally more affluent while St. Lucia made me think of the Minutemen song "Corona." But people are kind, pleased you're there, and amiable on both islands; you're not British (the old colonial owners), just some folks from another country.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:47 AM on October 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Awesome, thanks for the advice.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 7:04 AM on October 5, 2011

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