Where Should We Go In the Caribbean?

Mr. Igloo and I are going on vacation in May. We have been to St. Martin, St. Kitts, Nevis (day trip), Aruba, Grand Cayman and Saba (day trip) and are looking for a new haunt. We are doing frequent flyer miles and would like to keep the costs relatively low; i.e, we spent about $5 for a cup of coffee in Grand Cayman so that type of place is off the list.

We like snorkeling, rain forests, renting a jeep and adventuring in general. Although I don’t think we’ll be frequenting high cuisine often, we would like to have the option for a night or two.

Any suggestions?

Snorkelling in Bonaire is incredible. Its one of the Netherland Antilles (like Aruba) and if you like snorkelling, I highly recommend it. Sorry I don’t have much information on costs and stuff-its been a few years since we went there.

Thanks, Rocza. Any advice helps!

shrug. :::bump:::

My friend Pete and I just came back from Trinidad and we had an absolutely terrific time. We did a Caligo Tour for birders, staying at the Asa Wright Reserve. Not only did we have an expert birding guide, but the accomodations were perfect (all meals, tea and rum punch times, yum). The total cost per person for our trip was $1695. You should be able to book a day or so at Asa Wright if you don’t want (or need) the entire tour bit. Double-occupency rates vary between $90-130, but this includes three meals per day. Caligo books Asa Wright.

Caligo also has trips to Tobago, which emphasizes snorkeling.

I enjoyed Trinidad so much that it made my retirement list. Plus, I got to meet the lovely JillGat and her family - great trip all around!

Thanks so much, brachyrhynchos. Of course, if you read my other thread, I might be jealous of the birds. Is “birding” like bird watching? We actually have a parrot and my husband would probably be into this. Can you tell me a little bit more about what birders do?

Can I put a plug in for Dominica (not to be confused with the Dominican republic). I went there on my honeymoon last year. It’s one of the most unspoiled islands in the Caribbean, but also one of the poorest. Lush rainforest, great walking opportunities to the crater of a semi-active volcano, great snorkelling, whale watching, very friendly people. On the downside, its beaches are black sand, which is why it isn’t very popular popular. They were really badly hit by lack of tourism post-9/11 (The upshot of this was that my new wife and I were alone in a 48-room hotel), and they need as much tourism as they can get. The prices are very low as a result.

It’s also where my grandmother was from, which is another reason I’m plugging it…

jjimm that actually sounds great. Are there opportunities to go out and have a beer or nice dinner? One of the things we loved about St. Kitts is the friendly people. Not a huge resort island but we had a blast. I’d love to hear more about it.

Yeah, there are lots of bars and restaurants wher you can enjoy Kubuli, a local brew which is delicious, and some really good food to be had - local creole, as well as US/Euro style. They also do some fantastic local hot sauces. I also recommend The Corner House, which is an internet café by the market square in Roseau, the capital, which is run by a charming American couple, and does great fresh bagels and other sundry necessities.

There’s a couple of 5-star hotels in Roseau, and also some charming guesthouses and luxury hotels on the south coast and up into the mountains.

Here’s a link to some pics: the Emerald Pool in particular is unutterably beautiful.

(BTW, “popular popular” is a typo, not a quaint Anglo-Hibernian expression).

You said the magic words: hot sauces. We don’t really care about the beach situation (from Florida – we have plenty of beaches). I have to say, it looks good. Can we say hello to any of your ancestors?

There are some octogenerian relatives still there, but shamefully I didn’t visit them (wouldn’t know what to say). All the rest are dead. You could visit the grave of my great grandfather, the island’s attorney-general in the 19th century, and my great aunt, socialist politician and novelist, who are buried in the Protestant graveyard at the edge of town.

Yes, birding is birdwatching. The folks that go on these ecotours range from being very good to complete novices. For example, I’m an ornithologist but I’m not as good as my friend Pete (who’s an entomologist). Some folks love to list all the birds they’ve seen while others (like myself) have no idea how many species we’ve encountered. I just like to watch them behave. At Asa Wright, we were able to see the avian equivalent of tropical fish: incredible colors that just knock your socks off: parrots, toucans, honeycreepers, antstrikes, antwrens, antbirds, (and a bunch of ants). The two birds that really stand out in my mind was the Tufted Coquette, a very tiny but pugnacious hummingbird and the White Bearded Manakin. The hummer was unbelievably small, decorated with emerald green flashes at the end of his gorgets and really really bad-tempered. Nothing was going to push this 2.75 inch bird around. The manakins were the clowns. The males displayed at a lek, buzzing between two branches like cotton balls with a lot of english. Occasionally they’d bounce off the jungle floor and make a farting sound. Little freaks.

Our bird guide was terrific in that he took us to places where a variety of birds could be seen, and he made sure that we could all find the birds. Whereever you go, I suggest bringing a pair of binoculars and one of the bird field guides to the West Indies/Caribbean. You can use the glasses to spot things other than birds, like the morpho butterflies we saw.

Guadelupe is one of the most beautiful islands I have been to in the carribean, but it is rather expensive. There is a lot to do if you like snorkeling and hiking and nature activities.

If beaches were an issue, I would suggest St. John’s (but the good places are pretty expesive), Antigua or the Bahamas. I really liked Antigua, but if you are not going for the beaches, then I think Dominica or St. Lucia would be a far better choice. I have not been to St. Lucia personally, but the friends and relatives that I know who have been there have all said it was a terrific place to go.

Barbados is big, and has a little bit of everything. The prices range from not bad to really expensive depending on where you want to stay. I don’t think the island is as pretty as many of the others. I was not too crazy about the beaches there. There are some good places to see, but you won’t find any rain forests to speak of like you will in Guadelupe, Dominica or St. Lucia.
Jamaica is not a bad place either. There are places to go and hang out, and there are plenty of day trips to the falls or shopping and such.

Dominica is indeed beautiful, and when we were there about eight years ago, the people were really friendly. There is some great snorkeling and diving (I think the place we snorkeled was called champagne reef. If you ask the locals for the best place to go, they will tell you. There are two main snorkeling reefs, as I recall, but champagne reef was the best.) Dominica is quite small, but it should have enough to keep you occupied for a week.

Just so you have a basis of comparison, I was not overly impressed with Grand Cayman, but thought Aruba was beautiful. (I thought the Cayman beaches were way overrated, but that is just me. The diving was incredible though).

It is hard to say where you should go, because I am not you. If I had to list the islands in order of my personal preference, they would be:

St. John’s - Beach $$$
Antigua - Beach
Bahamas - Beach
Guadelupe - Nature $$$
Dominica - Nature
Jamaica - Beach and Nature
Aruba - Beach
Barbados - Rum
Grand Cayman - Diving $$$

If you are into ecotourism, then you would probably really like Costa Rica. The rain forests there are amazing. I really love Cancun. There is a whole lot to do there, or you can do nothing. They have good beaches, fishing, the mayan ruins, etc.

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t spend every summer in the carribean. Several of those islands I have only seen because we were on a cruise. While you can get a good feel for the island in a day, it is not the same staying there for a week.

Good luck, and Bon Voyage!

Thanks so much everyone. Brach, (is it okay if I call you Brach? I am mutilating the rest of your handle upon typing), thank you so much for the links. Serenitynow thank you so much for all the insight. I laughed out loud at the Barbados description – I have a good friend who is from there and will have to share it with him.

brachy’s fine (heh, don’t worry about the rest). And have a great time wherever you decide to go (and tell us about it)!

I should add that we were in Guadeloupe first. The reason we spent so much time in Dominica was because we found Guadeloupe to be intensely boring. Many people we met were rude and unfriendly (kind of like the stereotype of Parisians in the 1980s), and the entire island seemed to shut down at 7.30pm - restaurants and bars included. We got the ferry to Dominica after three boring days there. In its favour, I should mention that it was off-season when we went, and we didn’t explore much of the island, because we were on a limited budget and couldn’t afford car hire.

Well I too would recommend Bonaire, even though I live in Curacao (the next island over) By the way ROCZA, Aruba is no longer part of the Netherlands Antilles. Bonaire is quieter than Aruba and WAY quiter than Curacao. We go there to relax. Lots of nice beaches in Bonaire, but forget the rainforest - it is a desert island like Aruba & Curacao. The people are friendly, and accomodations are clean & modern. The scuba diving and snorkeling are fantastic.
Climate here in Curacao & Bonaire at this time of the year is hot, dry and windy. We get all our rain october to december and a bit in May.
Me I arrived from Canada in May of 1960 and am still here. My son who lives in Toronto says the forcast for Ontario this week is for -10 degrees
Been there, Done that, Aint going back, Keep the @#%@# T-shirt