8 places for sun, sand and savings
Antigua, Exuma, Costa Rica, Jamaica and more
How about a week in the Caribbean just about now? Madly impulsive and fabulously expensive. Madly impulsive, that’s for you to say; expensive, really not.
We searched six islands in the Caribbean and the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica for attractive places with kitchenettes that you could jet off to without breaking the budget. One will set you back about $140 a day; the priciest comes in at less than $200, double occupancy including airfare.
Unless otherwise noted, the rates here are per person for seven nights, return trip, based on availability at the time of writing in early December for mid-January dates. After trying a number of booking sites, we decided on Expedia.ca because of its variety and competitive pricing, but rates change so the earlier you book, the better.
If you’re used to going five star, these are not for you. On the other hand, if you like places where you call the staff by their first names and they can tell you where to get the best fish for dinner, you’re in luck.
One caveat: we didn’t visit each hotel, though they’re all in locations we have visited. We did comb through guest comments on Expedia.ca, TripAdvisor.com and the hotel sites themselves.
There is some suspicion that Internet comments have to be taken with a grain of salt. Fair enough. It’s possible that owners turn themselves inside out to get good ratings, including having their friends, relatives and the woman next door post glowing reviews. Maybe, maybe not. The aggregator sites themselves now make considerable effort to keep comments legit and many hotel managers now answer negative comments online, which gives you the sense they’re paying attention.
Do your research and satisfy yourself before you book. One more thing: if Internet and TV are important to you, make sure they’re offered at a speed and quality that are up to your standards.
The island is, once again, a favourite among Canadians and the Plum Tree Club offers excellent value. It’s on a golf course a short walk from Rockley Beach and the units have kitchenettes. A little dated perhaps, but there’s a grocery store close by, the staff is friendly and many guests consider it a home away from home. Starting at $1090 per person for seven days. plumtreeclub.com.
For white-sand beaches, Antigua can’t be beat and the Catamaran is right on such a beach. Open-plan rooms are spacious and nicely furnished. Some balconies have hammocks. There’s a restaurant on the water where the food gets good reviews. Or save the expense and cook for yourself in your own well-stocked kitchen. From $1127. catamaran-antigua.com.
Exuma in the Bahamas hosts almost as many who arrive on their own boats as it does tourists who fly in. Off the usual tourist map, there’s some sense that you’ve arrived on an island that pirates used to call home. It’s a place to do your own thing. Snorkel, scuba, kayak. Hideaways at Palm Bay is comfortable and on a protected beach across from an island that makes for great exploring. Have a meal in the restaurant now and then, but plan to use your kitchenette to prepare your own. If hanging out on quiet beaches is what you love to do, this is the place. From $1365. hideawayspalmbay.com
Hotel La Posada at Hacienda Pinilla is on the Pacific Coast, 190 kilometres north of San Jose. It’s one of three properties set on 1820 hectares. There’s a jungle and monkeys and a beach club nearby with waves big enough to surf. The units are lovely, many have kitchens ($30 extra a day) and are also offered as time-shares. The onsite restaurants are good, but pricey. Part of the Marriott group, the hotel offers high-speed Internet. Plan to rent a car; you’ll want to visit other parts of the country. From $1043, breakfasts included. haciendapinilla.com.
Rondel Village is a good choice in popular Negril. There are several buildings on the lush property that open on a long beach. The waves are warm and gentle, and chairs and towels are provided. Ask for a unit overlooking the pool with an ocean view. Big balconies add to the charm. You can always retreat to the hotel gardens if the peddlers on the beach become overwhelming. The food at the onsite restaurant is good and there several other recommended places to eat in the area. You can also shop at one of the small grocery stores and prepare your own food. Guests refer to a holiday here as “laid-back” and “off-the-beaten-track.” From $1129. rondelvillage.com.
Many consider St Lucia the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. The Ginger Lily, a short stroll from Reduit Beach, is a good place to be part of that beauty. Commodious mini apartments with kitchens are kept spotless. Ground floor units have terraces with hammocks. Shady areas in the garden around the pool are a good place to be in the heat of the afternoon. The only sound you hear at night comes from frogs and crickets. From $1001. gingerlilyhotel.com.
This is the best scuba-diving island in the Caribbean. Compass Point Dive Resort is just what the name suggests. They have four dive boats so it makes an ideal base if that’s your passion. But don’t go away if you don’t scuba. The hotel is tucked on the far side of the island and offers a truly peaceful sojourn far from the busy 11-kilometre beach. Many of the large units are owned by others and are managed by the hotel. There are full kitchens and even in-apartment washers and dryers. The pool and a small private beach cater to those who thrive on quiet. From $1268. compasspointdiveresort.com.
This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.