Re: Travel advice needed - going somewhere tropical this February
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.
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.
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.
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.