PDA

View Full Version : Travel advice needed - going somewhere tropical this February



M2
09-10-2008, 03:24 PM
Hey all, I've come into some frequent flyer rewards (on JetBlue) and I get to go somewhere in the Caribbean this winter.

The four choices I've got are Puerto Rico, Mexico (Cancun region), the Bahamas (Nassau) and Aruba. I've never been down there before so I know very little about the areas other than they're generally supposed to be nice.

I figure plenty of folks here have been down there and can give me some intel.

Things we'll be looking for -

Laid back beaches
Some local culture
An interesting side trip or two (rain forest, historic location, interesting coastlines, etc.)

Things we'll want to avoid -

High rises
Tourist traps

We don't require a lot in the way of a room - cleanliness, comfortable bed, good plumbing.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

TC81190
09-10-2008, 03:27 PM
I'd put Cancun near the bottom of your list. That whole region is a tourist trap in disguise. There's no local flavor there at all. It's really just So-SoCal (hate that phrase.)

I'd say either Aruba or the Bahamas, although the Bahamas are also pretty densely populated by resorts, so you might not find an interesting side trip to plan there.

M2
09-10-2008, 03:41 PM
I'd heard that about Cancun. Is there anything around it? I've heard some decent things about Playa Del Carmen, though I suspect that still might be too commercial for our tastes.

bucksfan2
09-10-2008, 03:48 PM
I have been to the Bahamas and didn't particularly care for it. There isn't a whole lot to do and the beaches aren't all that impressive. Paradise Island or whatever it is called may have more to do but is expensive. I assume that you are older than me (Im 26) and I don't even want to go to Cancun. I have never been but from what I have heard it is a paradise for 18-24 year olds. Never been to Puerto Rico but I have heard it is nice. I would choose Aruba. A good friend of mine went there for their honeymoon and they loved it.

wolfboy
09-10-2008, 03:59 PM
Hey all, I've come into some frequent flyer rewards (on JetBlue) and I get to go somewhere in the Caribbean this winter.

The four choices I've got are Puerto Rico, Mexico (Cancun region), the Bahamas (Nassau) and Aruba. I've never been down there before so I know very little about the areas other than they're generally supposed to be nice.

I figure plenty of folks here have been down there and can give me some intel.

Things we'll be looking for -

Laid back beaches
Some local culture
An interesting side trip or two (rain forest, historic location, interesting coastlines, etc.)

Things we'll want to avoid -

High rises
Tourist traps

We don't require a lot in the way of a room - cleanliness, comfortable bed, good plumbing.

Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

The only one I can offer any insight on is Nassau. If you are trying to avoid the touristy type Caribbean scene, then avoid Nassau. However, if you can move onward from there to somewhere like the Abaco Islands, I think you'll find what you're looking for. It's a short flight from Nassau. I've spent time in and around Marsh Harbour as well as Green Turtle Cay, and they're both incredible.

Green Turtle Cay is the better of the two. You have to take a ferry to the island, and IIRC, no cars on the island. Tourism is a big draw, but it isn't anything resembling a tourist trap. No high rises that I know of, and every beach there is laid back and picturesque. I didn't stay in this place when I was there, but I've heard wonderful things about it: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g147430-d149126-Reviews-New_Plymouth_Inn-Green_Turtle_Cay_Out_Islands_Bahamas.html Very exciting to hear that you're able to take a trip to the Caribbean. Feel free to shoot me a PM if you have any other questions.

Also, FWIW, great diving and snorkeling in the Abaco Islands.

oneupper
09-10-2008, 05:08 PM
I've been to all four of these. Actually lived in Puerto Rico, but that was quite a few years ago.

Here's what I can tell you:

ARUBA. Personally, I love the place. I've been 6 or 8 times, mainly cause it was a half hour flight from Venezuela (where I lived many years). It's all about the beach in Aruba and if you want to lay out in the sun or do some water sports (parasailing, scuba diving, snorkeling), its a good place. There's a golf course somewhere on the the island but I've never really seen it.
Side trips...not really. You can drive around the island in half a day (with stops) and there are some rock gardens (a natural bridge...for example) and stuff...but mainly its you the beach, the hotel and the town. Casinos, too...if you like that stuff.
There are two main hotel areas: Palm Beach and Eagle Beach. I've always stayed on Palm Beach. If you're not into great rooms, the Holiday Inn is well located, but really old. I stayed once at the hotel on the end of Palm Beach (it has changed names) and
It was windy. The Hyatt is nice but pricey.

Mexico (Cancun)

Iíve been here several times also (three) and love it also. The first time was when I was just a kid and there were only two hotels on the island (itís a C-shaped island off the coast). Everything has gotten very ďtouristyĒ since, but you can still enjoy yourself.

IMO, the key to Cancun is to avoid Cancun. Cancun has been taken over by drunken twenty-somethings who are in all-inclusive deals and want to get as much booze as possible. ButÖif you want to get out and aboutÖthere is a lot to see.

Where to stay? If you get a car (recommended), Iíd stay out in Playa del Carmen or even further away. I stayed with the family in Valladolid and found it to be the best location (no beach, however).

Lots to do. You have the Mayan Archeological sites nearby. Everyone goes to Tulum, which is my least favorite. CobŠ is my favorite (its still half submerged in the jungle) and then there Chichen Itza (which is usually crowded) and smaller places like Ek Balam (not so crowded).

They have made a Mexico a la Disney thing called Xcaret (close to Playa del Carmen). Itís a bit artificial, but the family and I enjoyed it.

And then there is Xel-Ha which is cove made waterpark a la Mexican. I was there 30 years ago when all it was was a shack where they rented some snorkeling gear. Now itís a big thing. But its nice. I went in 2005 and the whole family enjoyed the place a lot.

Cozumel island is not far as is the southern Mahahual region (if rebuilt after Hurricane Dean).

From Cancun you can also go to Isla Mujeres for some snorkeling/diving. The place I want to go is Holbox. Look that up, maybe its something you could be interested in.



Puerto Rico

I lived there in the 70s and really havenít been for a visit lately. Iíve been told that our old apartment building is now home to Condomworld, so that will give you an idea of how itís changed.

Back then the beaches were good, but not Aruba or Bahamas quality. Youíd have to go outside San Juan for something nicer (but never Aruba or Bahamas quality). Luquillo is quiet beach about an hour away (IIRC). Itís probably a parking lot now (LOL).
There a nice little rainforest you can drive through. Itís OK if youíve never seen something like that. El Yunque itís called.

One of the nicer sidetrips is to get out to a place called ďLa PargueraĒ where there is a phosphorescent bay. Itís a few hours from San Juan, and I donít know if pollution has ruined it, but back in the day it was quite impressive.


Bahamas

Iíve been to Nassau and Grand Bahama Island on business trips and other places in the islands on cruises (the cruise lines have the own particular places). Most of it was in passing.

I donít think Iíd stay in Nassau. I went to a meeting in a hotel next to the famous Atlantis thing and Iím sure its nice and all, but I had expected something more secluded.

That said, the beaches are really nice all around, and they are used to having tourists. You can get your watersports, for sure.

I once considered going to a Club Med in Eleuthera, but went to Martinique instead.

Highlifeman21
09-10-2008, 06:04 PM
All Aruba all the time.

bucksfan2
09-11-2008, 08:26 AM
oneupper I hear the natural bridge in Aruba has since collapsed.

On a side not have you looked into Bermuda? My uncle has been all over the Caribbean and he has said this was the best island. With the exception of Hawaii, he said this was his favorite place to visit. I don't know how the weather is during the winter because I don't know how far south it is.

M2
09-11-2008, 09:49 AM
oneupper I hear the natural bridge in Aruba has since collapsed.

On a side not have you looked into Bermuda? My uncle has been all over the Caribbean and he has said this was the best island. With the exception of Hawaii, he said this was his favorite place to visit. I don't know how the weather is during the winter because I don't know how far south it is.

It's parallel to the Carolinas. If we were going spring-fall, Bermuda would be our pick, but it will be a little too chilly in February.

oneupper
09-11-2008, 10:06 AM
oneupper I hear the natural bridge in Aruba has since collapsed.


Really? It was not really much to begin with anyway.

Jefferson24
09-11-2008, 10:16 AM
Mexico - try the area south of Cancun. Cancun is a tourist trap but go an hour south and it's much better. We stay at all inclusive resorts and usually go on 2-3 day trips while we are there. Xel-Ha is very good. We have enjoyed the Barcelo resort, snorkeled with sea turtles every day right off their beach. Coba is nice, also got to visit a Mayan village and meet the little girl that was in Mel Gibson's Apocalypto (she was paid $20,000 - the casting agent in Cancun kept $18,000 of it).

15fan
09-11-2008, 11:05 AM
I can't really add anything to the discussion.

Other than to make the observation that Puerto Rico in February might allow you to take in un partido del besbol.

OnBaseMachine
09-11-2008, 12:05 PM
Dominican Republic. Bring us back another Johnny Cueto and Juan Duran. :thumbup:

Cyclone792
09-11-2008, 12:30 PM
I've never been to any of those places myself, M2, but my parents have been to several caribbean islands over the years. Their favorite island, by far, is Aruba. I've heard plenty of outstanding things about Aruba so I'd say it's a good bet you'd have a good time there.

By the way, I believe Hal McCoy has visited Aruba quite a few times himself. He may or may not respond to you, but it could be worth a shot to email him for some tips.

VR
09-11-2008, 04:56 PM
I went to Cancun for a company event in December. Great weather, good water (for now)

I watched a documentary about a month later on what an environmental trainwreck Cancun has become.

They have essentially polluted all the natural water sources, and are pumping millions of gallons of sewage just a few miles of the coast.....as well as rapidly overdeveloping the area.

Oneupper's comments
IMO, the key to Cancun is to avoid Cancun. Cancun has been taken over by drunken twenty-somethings who are in all-inclusive deals and want to get as much booze as possible.
are certainly spot on as well.

I'm glad I didn't spend my own $ to go there.....would have been very disappointed.