Low-key Caribbean spring break... -fi?
Nov 2, 2008 at 9:56 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 3

skiingemt

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Does anyone know if it's possible to find a low-key spring break destination in the Caribbean that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Does such a thing exist? I've never been to the Caribbean, and I'm not trying to be super-picky, I just want to be able to snorkle, lay on the beach, and eat some interesting food without being surrounded by hoards of people. I've found decent deals to Turks & Caicos, St. Martin, and Jamaica... any thoughts or other ideas?
 
Nov 2, 2008 at 11:01 AM Post #2 of 3

Wmcmanus

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Quote:

Originally Posted by skiingemt /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Does anyone know if it's possible to find a low-key spring break destination in the Caribbean that doesn't cost an arm and a leg? Does such a thing exist? I've never been to the Caribbean, and I'm not trying to be super-picky, I just want to be able to snorkle, lay on the beach, and eat some interesting food without being surrounded by hoards of people. I've found decent deals to Turks & Caicos, St. Martin, and Jamaica... any thoughts or other ideas?


Very different experiences in those places you've mentioned.

Jamaica is most adventurous of the lot. For one, it's much bigger, so there would be more to do. But it's also an interesting place, culturally speaking. The main problem there, quite frankly, are safety (first, and foremost, especially if you're not traveling with 'Yardies' who can show you around and make sure you avoid the bad areas). On the other hand, if you're too cautions, you end up missing the whole point of it!

Over time (about 8-10 visits now) I've been up, down and all around the Island, but always with Jamaican girlfriends and their family and friends. Stay away from Kingston and Spanish Town entirely. Nothing to see there, and lots of potential trouble. But even in Mo Bay and Ocho Rios, things aren't getting any better. You'll be safe at the resorts, but if you stick with the "touristy plan", you won't really "experience" the Island in ways that will bring more enduing memories. So it's a tough call, really. Much to do and explore, but will you really feel safe in doing so? Perhaps you should look into visiting Negril. Lots of things to do for a week or so in that area, and it should be quite safe to explore the area (plus or minus 20-30 miles in any direction).

Don't know Turks and Mt. Maarten nearly as well, but both are tranquil places. Turks got clobbered by Hurricane Ike in September (real bad, we're talking 135 mph sustained winds at one point, and those Islands were under surge for an incredible 9 days), so I'm not sure that would be on the top of my list! I strongly suspect that's why you're finding good deals at this time. hurricane ike providenciales turks - Hurricane Ike Facts Generally speaking, there isn't much to do there, which may be a good or bad thing, depending on your perspective. It's kind of like Cayman was about 20 years ago before our financial industry built up, not to mention tourism. But there is a certain quaintness to T&C and you wouldn't see nearly as much poverty or crime there as you would in Jam (although I'm sure a lot of people are suffering at the moment).

St. Martin (French) / St. Maarten (Dutch) was hit by Hurricane Omar (seems like a bad season huh?), although not nearly as bad as Turks got hit by Ike. Not even close. It's actually two countries, but you may not even realize it when crossing over. The French side is where most of the luxury, high end resorts are. Nice, but not too terribly exciting on a cultural level, IMO. On the French side, Omar caused some structural damage to beach front properties, so I guess it would depend on where you're intending to stay.

On the Dutch side, Omar caused mostly cosmetic damage that got cleaned up in a couple of days. It's quite an interesting place overall, especially for a Caribbean resort type of Island. On the St. Maarten side there is a much livelier atmosphere; there are even some naughty things going on, if you look for them, or so I'm told. No, seriously. I've got a good friend here in Cayman who is a Jamaican. His brother lives there, and he visits often. I've heard some rather interesting stories, though (sadly) nothing terribly interesting ever happens to me. I think you would find the place rather interesting, and as Caribbean Islands go, it's kind of mid to slightly upper market, price wise.

Another place that I'd recommend for first time Caribbean travelers is Puerto Rico. San Juan is an interesting, and at least somewhat reasonably safe, historical city. You could "do" San Juan in a day and a half. Much like Jamaica, there are a lot of things to do in PR. The rainforest is pretty cool, and lots of landscapes to check out if you rent a car and just say the word "go"! On my only trip there, we had scheduled a 7 day cruise that was based out of San Juan, with two day stays in PR on each end of the cruise. In retrospect, although it worked fine, it would have been nice to have 4-5 days on either end of the cruise (preferably before the cruise which was kind of wearing). I'd love to go back one day. Different girl though, but that always seems to be the case.

My only caution about PR (especially for first time Caribbean tourists from the US) is that it is HIGHLY Americanized. That kind of disgusted me, but what the heck? It's a US possession, so you should expect to see "tacky town" as you drive around the outer San Juan area (by this, I mean Meineke Mufflers, Dunkin Donuts, Staples, etc. - pretty much any retail chain you can think of). Although we have some of that in Cayman and even Jamaica has KFC, it's not nearly as pronounced as in San Juan and other populated areas on PR. Perhaps a small point and certainly something that could easily be overlooked, but if I wanted that, I'd go to Atlanta or Houston. (It's not THAT bad, mind you, and in the outer areas and nooks and crannies of PR there is very little commercialism, so you can still escape - so chalk it up merely as a personal pet peeve of mine - a much smaller dose of the same junk is creeping into Cayman's culture as well and it drives me nuts!).

I'd recommend that you stay away from the Bahamas (especially Nassau) if you're looking for mid to low market. It's a nice place, for sure. I wouldn't say otherwise. But it was terribly expensive, IMO. From having lived in Cayman for many years, I was actually surprised to find another Island that seemed just as expensive as here, yet had a much "older" and "run down" feel, other than ultra modern Paradise Island (where the spectacular Atlantis property is located). Don't get me wrong, it's a lovely place. I'd go again for sure. Hmm... that girl didn't work out either, come to think about it.

Actually, when I travel through London every quarter, the British Airways flight stops in Nassau on the way (it's a shared route, essentially allowing BA to serve both the Bahamas and Cayman markets, kind of smart). So it would be quite easy to schedule 3-4 days in Nassau either on the way out or the back to Cayman. Just need to find the right girl...

Finally, you should also consider a place that I've never been - but really want to go to - which is Costa Rica. From all I've read and heard, there are all sorts of adventurous opportunities to explore there. Tons of natural beauty and reasonably priced. But of course, there were several hurricanes that passed through there this year. Seems that Haiti got hit a lot harder, but I'd check into it to see what other tourists are saying about their experiences before "jumping" on what appears to be a good deal, but may not be.

Ok, one more thought. Cuba! You would have to route your trip through Cayman or Jamaica, but it would be a great value and an unforgettable experience. Just remember to say "No stampa" when you show them your passport.
 
Nov 3, 2008 at 10:38 AM Post #3 of 3

skiingemt

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Wow, thanks for your thoughtful reply! I think I'll cross Jamaica off my list, although it sounds like it could be a blast with someone who knew the area. I did also find some good deals in Cozumel, which looks like it's more in your neighborhood. I'll definitely look into Costa Rica too! I've always wanted to go to Cuba, I'm just not confident enough in my travel experience to feel like I'd be able to make the right arrangements...
 

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