Hello dear Caribbean connoisseurs!
I am planning on flying to Miami or New York City (depending on your recommendations!) on Jan 24/25 and from there I would like to head down to somewhere in the Caribbean and return around Feb 7th..
I will be traveling with a friend and we both don't have thaaat much money (I want to say we could maybe spend 3000-4000$ max. each; flights from Switzerland to the US already discounted, not however flights from US to caribbean & island hopping etc.) but would still like to see as much of the Caribbean as possible or just one or two extraordinary places (depends on your recommendation)
So I am wondering: Which is a good island that is beautiful and preferably not too touristy & developed in itself, from where we could also easily discover other islands/countries (on day or several day trips?)
The Islands mentioned in the "Location" section of my question are some of the places I've tried to research and that sounded quite lovely! Unfortunately I have no idea what kinds of accommodations there are in those places (we are looking for cheap hotels or preferably even hostels.. and by cheap I mean like 100$ a night max for the both of us..? or if that's too unrealistic maybe 150$ tops!) and whether we can visit other islands/countries from there by ferry or plane?! (and how much that costs!) It always seems like everything is fairly close in the Caribbean but I am assuming not all islands are interconnected by air?! Basically we would love to see some gorgeous nature/landscapes/beaches, some history (old buildings, ruins etc.?) and not too many tourists, shopping malls etc. and hefty price tags! :S and if at all possible we would love to get a scuba diving PADI license while we are there :D (but I am guessing that wouldn't be as cheap as in say Thailand or the Philippines?!)
I would really appreciate any inputs! this is a very spontaneous trip and we need all the help we can get so we don't end up broke and stranded on some paradise island ;) :P
ps: I have been to Turks and Caicos before (about 2 weeks, in February 2012)
Thank you so much for your time!
From St. Maarten/St. Martin you can take ferries for day trips over to Anguilla for the beaches and amazingly kind people, saba for diving & hiking, no beaches per se but it is a beautiful island. Finally, there is St Barthélemy for people watching, gazing at yachts and it is really clean. I'm unsure of the current ferry rates to each island, you can do a quick search on that to get an idea of prices. You will pay USD for trips to Saba and Anguilla, Euro for St. Barth.
St. Maarten (the Dutch side) is more touristy (a mini Las Vegas at times) than the St. Martin (the French side) however, there are beaches to go that are not so crowded. Perhaps head to the area of Rue des Terres Basses where you can relax at Baie Rouge. Keep in mind that beach nudity is allowed on the French side but not the Dutch.
You can go zip-lining at Loterie Farm or just zen out in their tree house restaurant and/or lounge or by the swimming oasis where they have cabanas.
Two smaller islands just off of St. Martin that are with a visit; Pinel Island and Tintamarre. Pine would be the least expensive of the two as you can take a small boat ride over for maybe €10 roundtrip (I am unsure of the current price) you could also rent a kayak or SUP and paddle over, the water is calm and shallow.
For history, there is Fort Amsterdam and Fort Saint-Louis as well as a small museum in Philipsburg .
Head to Grand Case for wonderful, inexpensive meals at a lolo. A "lolo" is an informal place to eat in a basic environment; plastic cutlery, paper napkins, picnic tables, the food is tasty and local. Many lolo's are clustered together and often times look like one place. They run independently and it is easy to be pulled in to the first one you see closest to the street but just keep walking through the throngs of picnic tables and head to one that is seaside, the perfect place to eat at sunset.
There is so much to do here, I could go on and on.
As for places to stay for the price you had mentioned, I have never stayed at any of the following but for two of them (Mary's Boon and Simpson Bay Resort) they are all located in the busier area called Simpson Bay, which despite the touristy-ness of it all, is a great location for getting around by foot. Plus, a few dive shops are steps away. Bad news? Yes, getting PADI certified here will cost more than in Thailand :(
Lodging: Mary's Boon, Baker's Suites, Turquoise Shell Inn, The Horny Toad, Simpson Bay Resort and Marina, The Atrium, Travel Inn Hotel & Liberty Inn
For a relatively inexpensive stay in St. Barth try Sunset Hotel in Gustavia, it is very basic for the price but it is the best you will find for the money in my opinion. You will have plenty of time to see the island in just one day, no real need to spend the money on an overnight stay, use the money to rent a Quad to go around the island or for a meal. Anse de Colombier is a marine reserve which can only be accessed by foot or boat, the beach and marine life is worth experiencing. Bring a camera for sure.
Safe travels and enjoy the trip wherever you end up~Ronelle
PS~St. Kitts and Nevis as mentioned by Missy is a great choice as well!
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I think you might want to consider St Kitts and Nevis. They are very close together so you could enjoy both islands, there is an international Airport on St. Kitts for arrival, and an inter island ferry between the two islands. I would stay on Nevis, which I think is just a little more interesting than St. Kitts, but both islands are great, full of history, will a real feel of the Caribbean several hundred years ago. Both islands, unlike many other Caribbean Islands, grow their own produce, and lots of fresh jams, and even wines are produced as a real cottage industry.
There is a domestic Caribbean Airline named LIAT that flies between St Kitts and other islands. And if I were to go to other islands, I would look at Bequia, which is a lovely little island with a distinct history of whaling and boat building and/or Grenada, the spice island. Look at the flights carefully though when planning, and check the length of the time of the flights, as they might list that the flight is direct, but there could be stops along the way. I would visit Bequia and then end in Grenada as there is international air in and out of Grenada. You could fly into St. Kitts, enjoy St. Kitts and Nevis the first week and then fly to Bequia and on to Grenada, flying out of Grenada. I think that these 4 islands have the most distinctive feel of what is truly the Caribbean. Sorry, I don’t have any accommodation recommendations on the islands, but I do know there are accommodations on each island in your price range of interest.
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