So I've been on St Thomas for 5 months now and I haven't made it into the Caribbean past the BVI and Puerto Rico. I teach at UVI and spring break is coming up, so some friends and I are looking for a place to go. I was hoping a could get some suggestions from where all of you have travelled and what your thoughts were. We're pretty much open to anything, but I think I would prefer to stay in the Caribbean since I moved down here partly to travel through the Caribbean. Also, we are all young and trying to keep this trip as cheap as possible. (Suggestions for cheap airlines would be great!) We are willing to "rough it" and all that fun stuff, so please, fire away!!!
I only have two simple tips. Always travel in the off season especially the off off season which is prime hurricane season for the best deals (Aug thru Oct). And always ask for the local rate.
You could try Sint Maarten but I just checked the airfare on AA & it was $492.00 round trip through Puerto Rico. As much as people hate LIAT (and I'm sure not a fan) I think their fare was $79.00 each way & you get direct flights. From Sint Maarten you can ferry over to Anguilla or sail or fly to Saba or St. Bart's.
Check with LIAT- they sometimes have bargains (well, at least compared to most airfares we get!) I think they fly directly to Anguilla and St Maarten, although you can connect to many of the other islands. Antigua is their base.
(Yikes, I just typed that and then looked up at Trade's post! Great minds!)
Cheap places to stay will be more difficult, but search some of the general Caribbean travel sites. There are always baragin hunters out there who love to share their knowledge! Even St Bart has some fairly inexpensive spots, for St Bart.
kaytee, are you looking for night-life, beautiful scenery, watersports, shopping etc, because the best of each is not available on the same island.
Trinidad and Tobago you will love it wonderful things to do and the other is pure relaxation
If you are the outdoor type I would very much recommend Dominica. There are limited beachs, but the interior hiking, waterfalls, volcano, fresh water lakes, etc are very wonderful. I found that once I got out of the tourist areas the people were very friendly. Would very much recommend Trafalgar Falls. You can follow the path down to the falls then climb up the rocks about 25 feet and you will find some lovely fresh water pools. It takes a little thought and patience to get up the rocks, but is worth it because you get a great view of the falls and a dip in the pools is good way to cool off. Emerald falls was also nice, and a very easy walk.
Also, I can't say enough about the people of St. Lucia. Beautiful island with wonderfully friendly people. Only problem, it is a big island and the sites are spread out. It would have been difficult to see things without a car. We stayed at a moderate hotel in Castries, but there are lots of options and night life in Rodney Bay. However, most of the sites are in Soufiere (spelling?) which is a big drive.
Thank you everyone for the wonderful suggestions!
Betty- I do plan to travel a lot more during the offseason, but since I have 10 days off comig up, I'd like to go out and see something! I have so many places I want to go, so I better start soon!
Trade and East Ender- It looks like we're going to risk LIAT. I have heard lots of horror stories, but it's worth the difference in price. Like I said, we're willing to rough it and we're in no hurry to get anywhere. Thanks for the advice and warning though!
Sabrina- I think most important to us is a naturally beautiful island.
jasonmonty- Trinidad and Tobego are at the top of my list! I'm planning on going in April and maybe hitting part of carnival there since it's the biggest one in the Caribbean.
cresentpoint- Thanks for the great advice. Right now Dominica is where we are looking into. Flights are cheaper to St Maarten and some of the other islands though. I will probably PM you if we go to Dominica for more suggestions.
So here's where I would love suggestions from people who have been to these islands, especially Dominica, St Maarten, St Lucia, Anguilla and St Barts (those seemed to be the most popular suggestions). Which ones can you take ferries to other islands? What were your favorite things to do, good places to go, etc. on the island? Price of lodging or the availability of camping and stuff like that is an important issue, also car rentals (none of us are 25!).
Thanks so much everyone and keep em comin!
If it is natural beauty you are looking for I would agree with cresentpoint - Dominica is definitely the best island for that. It is my personal favourite, and the only island that as a tourist I have retuned to for another visit. The diving there is also excellent. There are underwater hot springs where bubbles rise up from the sea bed, a really unusual experience. There are good dive operations out of Castle Comfort and the Anchorage next door.
Ferries from St. Martin to Anguilla are about like taking a ferry from STT to STJ but bring your passport. Usually people fly to St. Bart's & sail back since it's rough seas going over. Most people fly to Saba on Win-Air. I can't recommend places to stay since I have friends in Sint Maarten I stay with.
Oh, and the food in St. Martin & St. Bart's is fabulous! And if you like hiking Saba really fits the bill as does diving. No beaching it on Saba, though.
There are ferries that run between St. Lucia and Martinique, Martinique and Dominica and Dominica and Guadeloupe. Here is the link http://www.express-des-iles.com/# I have no experience with this ferry but it seems like you would be able to make use of it. Oh, one more thing about island hopping both Dominica and St. Lucia charge a departure tax. If I remember right it was in the $10 to $15 range per person for both islands. Both island us the eastern Caribbean dollar so you will want to check on the exchange rate.
If you fly to St. Lucia it is best to fly into the Castries airport (which I think Liat does). Castries is close to Rodney Bay and closer to Soufriere than south/international airport.
There are camping options on Dominica. Here is a link http://www.3riversdominica.com/
Taxis were always available in Roseau and around the more popular tourist sites. There are several private rental car agencies on both St. Lucia and Roseau. Their rules might be different about the 25 thing, you might check with them. On St. Lucia we used Coconut car rental. Don't remember the rental for Dominica. However, I would just have to say that driving on both islands was scary even by island standards. I've never thought twice about driving in the VI, but I would think twice about driving in Dominica for sure. Both islands had very narrow and winding roads. Then on each side they have these storm water drainage things that are straight and about 2 foot deep. So if you don't pay attention your wheel can easily go over the edge and get stuck. They drive on the left, but use european style cars.
If I were to return to St. Lucia I would stay in the Soufriere area. However, I found it hard to find reasonable lodging in the area because it is a popular area.
Hope this helps.
The islands I have been to were all very happy to accept US$, and most places will quote prices in both EC (or whatever their local currency happens to be), and US$. Of course the exchange rate might not be as good, but at least you won't be left at the end of the holiday having to change it back again.
Ok, so Dominica it is! We are going for 8 days. I appreciate all the tips so far, and now I have even more questions. We are debating whether or not to rent a car. We aren't going to decide anything for sure until we get there. If we can't rent a car under 25 then we have no choice, but I have a 20 yr old friend who went a few months ago and had no problem. But how easy is it to get around without a car? It looks like they have buses between the major cities, and Natalie you mentioned the roads are kinda scary to drive on anyway. What about hitchhiking? Which makes me also wonder, how safe is Dominica? We are definitely going to stay at 3 rivers and a few other eco-camp/treehouse type places. Cheap lodging doesn't seem to hard to find.
As far as exchanging money, it seems like they accept US$. Would anyone who has been there recommend using US$ or EC$. And where can I exchange money on STT if I want to do so before the trip?
Lastly, for those who have been to Dominica, which places would you recommend going? Anything you think is a must see? And would you recommend trying to go to Martinique or Guadeloupe while we're there? Which one? We have 8 days, and it seems like there is enough to do just in Dominica, but maybe we will hit up another island for a day or two. Any advice would be wonderful. Thank you, thank you!
I would suggest renting a car. People don't drive any crazier there and the roads aren't any worse than STT. The one thing to remember is that on one day a week, and I think it's Thursday, the banana trucks have the right of way....period! And they go fast. That would be a good day to stay off the roads. They are getting the bananas to the boats for shipping. Dominica is a large island with lots to see on all sides. The "buses", actually vans, run the main drag along the western side of the island, but it's not easy to get over to the east or up north. Also, the vans wait at the main stop in Roseau until they get enough people, and then they still stop for more. It gets very crowded. It can be kind of fun though. They will even stop along the road so everyone can buy grilled corn.
Use EC. I'm not sure you can exchange on STT before you go, but you can us US for any immediate expenses when you arrive and exchange at the banks there. We always like to use our ATM card when down island. It will give you the local currency out of the machine and obviously take it out of your account in US. You usually get the best rate that way too.
Lots to do, waterfalls, boiling lakes, and do go "up the river" from Portsmouth. Industrious young men with row boats will take you for a nominal fee.
Quite often there will be some kind of local festival type event going on on the beach in Portsmouth. Always, good music and good local food. That's another point. On Dominica, it's almost exclusively local food. There is a KFC, which is really funny because there is a local chicken shack on every corner. My favorite is the little green house, on the left, about halfway between Roseau town and The Anchorage Hotel. There are several Chinese places and in recent years more upscale deli type places have started to spring up, but for the most part, it's chicken or fish and "provisions" and salads are made from cabbage.
I really like Martinique. Would suggest renting a car if you do that. But my favorite spot in the Caribbean is Isle de Saints. It's a bit touristy, but very quaint and European, with fabulous French restaurants. You can rent a scooter and do the entire island in an hour.
There are lots of guide books, but I recommend the latest cruising guide. You can get it at any marine store or borrow one from a cruising sailor. Be sure it's the most current.
Well, I certainly got long-winded...hope it helps. Have fun!
Hi kaytee, I am so jealous!!! There are so many beautiful sights to see there. If you climb up Trafalger Falls, look for the orange area to the left of the falls. It is a hot water area and you can sit under it and have a kind-of very powerful, hot shower! You don't need a guide to go up there it is easy to find by yourself, although you need to be a bit athletic, and shoes suitable for climbing would help, and a bikini for when you get there.( The first time I went to Dominica that area was deserted, there was no platform at the bottom of the falls and people bothering you to be your guide.) Emerald pool is beautiful, and Titu?Tutu? Gorge - the water is freezing! The Valley of Desolation I never got to, another one where you need to be fit and have hiking boots! There is a black sand beach at the opposite side of the island from Roseau, be careful if you go swimming there, a local told me that a lot of people drown out there because it has some unusual dangerous currents.
If you go, please update me on what it is like now. I haven't been for a few years, but I would like to go this November (end of October?) for Zoukfest. Any info you can get would be welcome.
I have to say that IMHO there is plenty to keep you busy on Dominica. I spent 5 days there and felt I didn't see as much as I would have liked. It is a large island and sites are kinda spread out. As for safety, it is about like here. Don't be out late at night by yourself kinda stuff. Lots of people begged rides there, but I can't comment on the safety of doing so. When we were at Trafalgar Falls I met two young ladies from Ireland who were traveling the world. They said they felt safe on the island, and no one bothered them much.
I would also suggest using the EC when you get there. They are happy to take dollars but you don't always get a good rate. I would also rent a car, but just keep in mind the roads are more narrow than here (unless it has changed in the last two years). Especially the road from the airport to Roseau.
Enjoy your trip and give us the update when you return!
I spent 8 days in Dominica and loved it. I did rent a car, single woman, and even picked up riders... one even with a machete (not unusual since the bush grows so fast and they may need to cut it to get back home). I would get propositioned but never felt threatened. I did stay at 3 Rivers and loved it. It's out of the way but if you can't rent a car they'll have some suggestions to get around. It will involve walking a ways and it WILL RAIN!. The snorkeling around the champagne reef is memorable. I didn't make it up to the Carib area as the gas station in Portsmouth was out of gas and I didn't want to chance it. Don't miss the market on Saturday... oranges will never be the same. Can change to EC at a bank, best to have both.