Caribbean

Escape to St. Maarten for Less

Posted August 27, 2010 by Kate Hamman

St.Maarten You may not be sure how to spell this Caribbean island's name, but it's plain to see that St. Maarten is more than just a spelling-bee stumper. Its dual identities of Dutch (St. Maarten) and French (St. Martin) sides combine to create an ideal vacation getaway. Come spend the day in a tropical garden surrounded by butterflies before you head to an emporium that stocks the island's favorite liqueur.

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The Butterfly Farm: Come stand among hundreds of fluttering butterflies as you take an hourlong tour offering insight into their life cycle. You'll witness the metamorphosis from caterpillar to exotic butterfly, and have the opportunity to hold the frail insects. The morning between 9:00 and 9:30 is the best time to witness newborn butterflies taking flight.

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Guavaberry Emporium: Don't leave St. Maarten without stopping at the Guavaberry Emporium, where you'll find the island's legendary folk liqueur, guavaberry rum. Sip a guavaberry colada while you browse the different liqueurs, BBQ sauces, hot sauces, chutneys, and a slew of souvenirs. Other exotic libations

To search for flights and compare prices to St. Maarten, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Sandra Calderbank)

Get Money-Saving Savvy in Nassau

Posted July 30, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Nassau As part of the Bahamas, Nassau is a great tropical escape for anyone seeking fun in the sun. Plus, you can learn about the island's pirate history at a museum, kick back with a frozen drink at a relaxing bar, and dine at a restaurant overlooking the water—all without having your booty plundered.

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Pirates of Nassau: Once serving as a home to the infamous swashbuckler Blackbeard, Nassau has a history riddled with many a yo-ho-ho and a lot of buried treasure. Come discover what life was like as a pirate at this interactive museum. Here, you can stow away aboard the Queen Anne's Revenge, encounter the infamous Blackbeard as he claims your ship, and discover why the Golden Age of Piracy (1690 through 1720) ended. You'll also have the opportunity to view artifacts recovered from this short, but memorable time in history. Admission costs $12.

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Travellers' Rest: In the last thirty years, celebrities such as Sean Connery and Mick Jagger as well as weary travelers like you have kicked back and enjoyed the island pace at this restaurant and bar. The fresh banana daiquiris will melt away the life you've left behind as you sit on the outdoor terrace overlooking the water and palm trees. Close to the airport, the Travellers' Rest makes a great stop on your way to or from your vacation.

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Compass Point dining: This brightly colored restaurant may be part of Compass Point Resort, but you don't have to be a guest to enjoy the international and island cuisine or the sweeping ocean views. Since dinner can be a bit pricey, lunch is the ideal time to enjoy a bite to eat. You can order several seafood options such as Bahamian Cracked Conch, or traditional items like hamburgers and turkey clubs.

To search for flights and compare prices to Nassau, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Compass Point Resort)

Snorkel and Save in Tropical Aruba

Posted July 20, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Aruba Since Aruba sits outside the hurricane belt, there's never a wrong time to visit. And now, you can experience it all without going broke in the process. Come explore one of the island's prime spots for snorkeling and diving while on a sailing excursion. Then listen to the ocean and live music as you sip on a frozen cocktail, before returning to your more-than-affordable digs at a local B&B.

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Red Sail Sports: Set sail on a custom-built catamaran for a day of snorkeling and sun. Red Sail offers many different options and packages for enjoying the open waters, but the Antilla Snorkel Sail for $49 per person is one of the best deals. On this trip, you'll enjoy hors d'oeuvres and beverages before exploring two separate snorkeling sites, one of which is the wreck of the sunken German freighter, the Antilla. Trips last about three hours, and depart Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

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MooMba Beach Bar & Restaurant: Sometimes you need more than an umbrella in your drink to feel like you're on vacation. So how about sand beneath your toes and a giant palapa overhead as well? MooMba Beach Bar makes it happen with a selection of tropical drinks served at comfy tables right on the beach. Drinks start at $7 for frozen and non-frozen concoctions, and there's a daily happy hour from 6 to 7 p.m. every day.

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Buffam's Tropical Haven: Set in a residential neighborhood near Eagle Beach, Buffam's Tropical Haven lives up to its name by providing a serene and affordable getaway. Your hosts go the extra mile to make you feel welcome, and they're always ready with island tips and advice. Each unit comes equipped with a full kitchen, making it easy to save a few extra dollars by eating in. Studio apartments start at $60 per night, and include breakfast.

To search for flights and compare prices to Oranjestad, which is home to Aruba's main airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: Tammy Peluso/iStockphoto)

Escape the Everyday in Barbados

Posted June 25, 2010 by Kate Hamman

Barbados Barbados may be a slice of paradise in the Caribbean, but there's much more to this island than endless beaches and crashing waves (not that those are bad things). Come taste rum that's been sweetening drinks for centuries or get a sweeping view of the flavors of Barbadian cuisine in just one meal. After you've had your fill of food and drink, you can watch the sunset from the porch of your secluded guesthouse.

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Mount Gay Estate: Pirates plundered for it, piña coladas require it, and you can learn all about it at the oldest distillery, now museum, in Barbados. For more than 300 years, Mount Gay has produced rum worth yo-ho-hoing about. Nowadays, the rum is produced elsewhere on the island, but you can still tour the museum, watch a video about rum-making, and view artifacts from the original estate. At the end of the tour, you can belly up to the rum bar to sample two different rums.

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Brown Sugar Restaurant: For a variety of Barbadian cuisine, all you need is the Brown Sugar all-you-can-eat planter's buffet luncheon. The four-course menu includes regional specialties such as Bajan fishcakes, flying fish, cou-cou, and the famous pepperpot. Enjoy homemade desserts as you dine in a tropical outdoor patio, surrounded by ferns and chirping tree frogs. The buffet costs $52 BBD (about $26, check XE.com for current exchange rates), and runs from 12:00 to 2:30 from Mondays through Fridays, with a special lunch on Sundays.

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Sea-U Guest House: Find your own private metaphorical island about nine miles away from Bridgetown at Sea-U Guest House. Located on a hilltop overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by coconut palms, the traditional Bajan-style guesthouse encourages you to swing from a hammock as you watch the afternoon drift into sunset. At Sea-U!, you'll wake to freshly baked coconut or banana bread and unspoiled beaches waiting for you to come and play on them. Rooms start at $109 per night, and include breakfast.

To search for flights and compare prices to Bridgetown, which is home to Barbados' major airport, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockphoto/ Dmitry Ersler)


Live Like the Rich and Famous (for Less) in St. Thomas

Posted June 7, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

St Thomas Like many Caribbean islands, St. Thomas has plenty of beautiful scenery, relaxing beaches, and exciting water sports. But not every island can lay claim to the historical attractions and world class shopping. You can choose your own adventure here, whether you prefer to sunbathe by the sea or tour Blackbeard's Castle. In fact, why not do both?

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Yacht Haven Grande: If you're looking to rub elbows with the rich and famous without spending a dime, Yacht Haven Grande is the place to be. The haven is a marina for megayachts in the Caribbean, but you don't have to own a ship to mix and mingle. It was also voted "Best Shopping" for the last two years, and it's easy to see why: High-end designers such as Coach, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton have all set up shop here. You don't have to spend anything to window-shop, but if you decide to splurge a little, don't worry: U.S. citizens can purchase up to $1,600 worth of goods duty free.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to St. Thomas from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/Paola Fontana)

Swim With the Dolphins in Holguin

Posted April 23, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

Holguin

Holguin, Cuba, is said to be the spot where Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, calling it the most beautiful place he’d ever seen. The province is known for its natural beauty, and has several beaches and national parks. The city of Holguin is known today as “the city of parks,” and is filled with tree-lined squares.

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Bahia de Naranjo Nature Park: The Bahia de Naranjo Nature Park holds more than 2,400 acres of hiking and windsurfing fun. Naranjo Cay, in the center, offers an aquarium where you can watch a sea lion show or see tropical fish and sea turtles. The main attraction, though, is the chance to swim with the dolphins. The lively animals literally jump at the chance to let friendly visitors kiss and pet them, giving guests an experience they won’t soon forget.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Steven Miric)

Don't Let Your Savings Go up in Smoke in Varadero

Posted April 5, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

Varadero White-sand beaches and azure waters have long drawn the rich and famous to Cuba’s Varadero Beach. Located on the Hicacos Peninsula, visitors to this area arrive expecting sunshine, and with an average temperature of about 77 degrees, they aren’t disappointed.

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Casa del Habano: Cuba is well known for its top-of-the-line cigars, but visitors should beware of purchasing counterfeits from street sellers. The Casa del Habano (located on 1
st Avenue and 63rd Street) is one of the most highly regarded cigar stores in the city. Browse through the government-certified boxes of cigars held in the humidor, then relax in the tea room, where both smokers and non-smokers can enjoy tea, coffee, and desserts. Besides cigars, the store also sells pipes, cigar holders, humidors, and postcards.

(Photo: iStockphoto/Graca Victoria)

Indulge Your Appetite for Life in Punta Cana

Posted April 2, 2010 by Jaclyn Liechti

Punta Cana With some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean, Punta Cana is a popular sun-and-sand destination. All-inclusive resorts and lounging poolside are the name of the game, but there's still plenty of local flavor beyond the hotel gates. Springtime, after the snowbirds have vacated the island but before hurricane season begins in June, can be the perfect time to save money.

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Captain Cook’s: Punta Cana is the perfect place to satisfy your cravings for seafood, and there’s no better place to do it than Captain Cook’s. Situated right on the beach, this simple eatery serves up favorites such as fresh lobster, shrimp, and paella just a stone’s throw from the water’s edge. And if you’re really in the mood for something exciting, try a drink of mamajuana, an island specialty rumored to have healing and aphrodisiac qualities. Meal prices average between $20 and $45 per person.

You can use our tool to compare airfares to Punta Cana from multiple travel providers.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism)

No Worries in Affordable Aruba

Posted June 22, 2009 by Jamie Moore

Aruba-lighthouse-def Don't want to encounter a Gustav, Hanna, or Ike on your Caribbean getaway? Then head to Aruba, a tropical paradise that sits safely below the hurricane belt. Among this happy little island's white beaches, dramatic rock formations, and wind-sculpted divi-divi trees, you can easily find fun and affordable experiences. Start with an adventurous island tour, find flea market deals, or sip down a Pink Iguana colada with a classic Caribbean meal.

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De Palm Tours: For off-road island sightseeing, your best bet is De Palm's bumpy half-day tour in a 4X4 Range Rover. Guides artfully blend historic commentary with unique experiences. Along the way you get to go snorkeling, explore an old fort and lighthouse, swim in a natural pool, feed ostriches, relax on beaches, and see the island's distinctive caves. Tours run $52 per person and admission for kids under 12 is 50 percent less.

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Iguana Joe's: Admittedly, this festive Caribbean restaurant is a bit of a tourist trap. But if you can get past the fact that it's located in a mall and sells t-shirts with its iguana logo, then you're in for a casual and fun lunch stop. Grab a seat on the outside deck, an excellent place to people watch above a busy downtown street. Try the island-caught mahi-mahi, coconut-rum-battered shrimp, or the traditional Aruban Keshi Jena (cheese filled with chicken, vegetables and spices)for less than $20 each. Sandwiches cost under $10, and a half-liter of the potent Pink Iguana colada goes for $7.50.

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Tourists Go Flea Market: What would a Caribbean vacation be without a little haggling? Sure, there are plenty of swanky shops with the latest fashions, but you'll have much more fun at the flea market on L.G. Smith Boulevard. This huge market across from Container Harbour promises bargains on locally made crafts, artwork, clothing, and, of course, souvenirs. The smoky aroma of traditional island barbecue fills the air. Don't leave without a quick bite.

To search for flights and compare prices to Aruba, please use our price-comparison tool.

(Photo: iStockPhoto/zinchik)

Caribbean Dreamin'

Posted June 8, 2009 by Katie Blais

Caribbean-jamaica
Starting July 13, Air Jamaica will add a red-eye flight from New York City to Grenada. Just think about it: you head home from your busy day, hit the airport, take a snooze, and wake up on a gorgeous Caribbean island … not too shabby if you ask me!

Flights leave Kennedy airport at 12:15 a.m. and arrive in Grenada the following morning at 6:30 a.m.  I think it’s a novel idea for a last-minute vacation, and I can imagine it would unfold something like this. You hit the bar after happy hour; enjoy some half-price appetizers and pitchers of margaritas when someone brings up how they didn’t think they would be working in a cube day in and day out. You chime in saying, "let’s go somewhere, let’s go somewhere tropical and warm and open up a smoothie shop and just live without the man infringing on our basic human rights to enjoy life."  You cab it back to your apartment, throw some mismatched (sort of) clean clothes in a bag, grab your passport, trek out to JFK, and hop on a last-minute flight to the islands to start your new life.

You wake up the next morning at the airport with a slight headache realizing it might be a little harder to open a smoothie shop in a place you have never been before. But you enjoy beaches, the laid-back vibe of the island (you might even get your hair braided and buy a crocheted beret a la Bob Marley) and return to NYC at 11:30 a few days later before heading to your stuffy office job relaxed and ready for the man to beat you down a little more.


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