Is there any place in the Caribbean that has a backpacker vibe?
January 13, 2008 8:18 PM   Subscribe

Is there any place in the Caribbean that has a backpacker vibe? Or do you have to go to Central America / Mexico to get that?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If, by "backpacker vibe" you mean, "little development and tourism and an overall low cost for traveling," then you should check out Dominica. If you also mean "lots of relatively unspoilt natural beauty" and "super-friendly and laid-back population" then you should definitely check it out. My GF and I went a couple of years ago - she wanted to go to the Caribbean and the only way that I would go with her was if I chose the island. It was fabulous. Email me if you want more info.
posted by googly at 8:36 PM on January 13, 2008

Most of the islands are pursuing higher-end tourists, because it takes a fantastic number of cheap-ass hippies to spend as much as one wealthy European businessman, and the hippies cause a lot more trouble, you know? But there are some areas that are more down-market. A few areas in Jamaica have the vibe you are looking for, for example, particularly on the south coast. So does Dominica, as googly notes, and I've heard the same about some of the other islands like St Vincent. And even on the more hoity-toity islands, you get a pretty scruffy and party-friendly crowd with people who are crewing on sail boats and the like.

But nothing like what you get in Guatemala, Costa Rica, parts of Mexico, etc; my guess is that a lot of the difference is because you can get around mainland Latin America on buses and hitchhiking; the Caribbean just takes more money, and things like hotels, restaurants, and beer cost more, particularly on the small islands where everything is imported.
posted by Forktine at 9:06 PM on January 13, 2008

I haven't been there in 10 years, but St. John (US Virgin Islands) always had a healthy hitchhiking backpacker crowd. Cinnamon Bay still rents bare campsites for $27 a day.
posted by djb at 9:42 PM on January 13, 2008

I had good luck stumbling across Cuba with about nine dollars and no clue, if that's any help. Once you get out of tourist-hassle-Havanaland, it's pretty open and friendly. Buses and such are nickel-cheap, but just about anyone will give you a ride for a good story, too.

If you're American, it's tricky to get there, but if you're from anywhere else on earth, it's easy and highly recommended.
posted by rokusan at 10:38 PM on January 13, 2008

The island of Utila in Honduras does. There's backpacker camps, hostels, etc... and it's largely undeveloped, unlike neighbouring Roatan.
posted by SpecialK at 11:10 PM on January 13, 2008

I once arrived at Barbados planning to meet up with a friend and then catch a banana boat to Venezuela. I ended up being held for an hour at the airport because I was unable to provide the name of the hotel I was going to be staying in (since I was not going to be staying in a hotel). So no I would say that most islands are not set up for back packers.

But the Caribbean equivalent of backpacking involves travelling about on smallish boats I think: perhaps crewing on a yacht or perhaps travelling with some cargo as I did (a few phone calls to some local shipping agencies should set you in the right direction). Both options would be great for adventure and value for money but you do need time, careful planning and flexibility for when the careful planning goes wrong.
posted by rongorongo at 2:54 AM on January 14, 2008

Dominica is pretty awesome, but also one of those places where, depending on the side of the island, it will be raining almost every day.
posted by that girl at 5:29 AM on January 14, 2008

Caye Caulker in Belize is still fairly laid back, or was when I was in the cayes.
posted by JaredSeth at 11:42 AM on January 14, 2008

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