May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside's Annual Travel Guide, 1999/2000

Welcome to the Caribbean's parallel universe, where you can have it all—and your savings account, too
Southeast coast of St. John, U.S. V.I.

It's a toss-up as to which is the Caribbean's greater claim to fame: its fine resorts or the astronomical prices they charge. To help you enjoy the former without being stung by the latter, we've rounded up some of the region's best (and least-known) deals.

Carriacou, The Grenadines

Carriacou feels like a place out of time. This sleepy desert-island dependency of neighboring Grenada is the kind of backwater where watching the locals build a boat counts as entertainment. Silver Beach Resort is an intimate three-plus-acre retreat with ten rooms in a white-washed, red-tile-roofed main building and six one-bedroom cottages, each with a private patio with a garden or ocean view. It's worth paying a few dollars more for an oceanfront room. Double-occupancy rates are $65–$85 before mid-December, $75–$95 thereafter. Go snorkeling to see triggerfish and parrotfish, or book a motorboat ride over to Sandy Island to do more of the same. The main town of Hillsborough, with its motley assortment of rum shacks, is just a ten-minute walk south. Dine on barracuda and conch at the hotel's Shipwreck Restaurant, but be sure to take at least one meal at the Caribbee Inn, just north of Hillsborough, which serves French Creole specialties. Call 473-443-7337.

Oranjestad, Sint Eustatius

The 11.8-square-mile island of "Statia" is a favorite among scuba divers looking for a quieter version of gregarious sister island Sint Maarten, a 20-minute flight away. Statia's offshore national marine park encompasses more than 30 dive sites, including seventeenth- and eighteenth-century wrecks that attract such colorful fish as snappers, barracudas, and stingrays. Aboveground is the Quill, a 1,965-foot extinct volcano whose rainforest-draped slopes provide hikers with an alternative to the island's otherwise scrubby terrain. Go swimming at a black-sand beach, then unwind at the serene Old Gin House, a recently renovated eighteenth-century cotton gin surrounded by bougainvillea and palm trees. The 14 antiques-filled double rooms are $120 before December 15, $135 thereafter, including breakfast; call 011-599-382-319.

St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. Croix is the sleeper of the USVI, and the Tamarind Reef Hotel, just a five-minute drive east of Christiansted, is a sleeper of a hotel. Its 46 comfortable rooms, all with balconies or garden patios and 19 with kitchenettes, have rattan furniture, ceramic tile floors, and air conditioning. There are tennis courts and a pool, plus swimming and snorkeling on the eponymous reef. You can go windsurfing, mountain biking, and kayaking, or sail from adjacent Green Cay Marina to Buck Island to hike and snorkel. For local cuisine, head to Harvey's in Christiansted for goat water (goat stew) and callaloo. From now until December 1, first-time visitors receive a special rate of $69 per night, double occupancy (three-night minimum). Otherwise, you'll pay $160–$200 per night; call 800-619-0014.

St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

St. John has become known for its ecosensitive retreats like Maho Bay Camp and Harmony Resort, and now it's added Estate Concordia Studios to the mix. The 52-acre resort features nine studio and loft units built into the hillside, each equipped with queen beds, decks, kitchens, and private baths. The camp overlooks Salt Pond Bay on St. John's southeastern coast; you're a 20-minute walk from the nearest beach, so the 40-foot pool is welcome. You'll need to rent a car for beach forays and grocery runs into Coral Bay but little else.Through December 14, studios are $95–$125, lofts are $150; thereafter, studios are $135–$150, lofts are $190 (based on double occupancy; seven-night minimum stay); call 800-392-9004.

Vieques, Puerto Rico

An hour by ferry from Fajardo, the island of Vieques, off Puerto Rico's east coast, offers a respite from the crowds. La Casa del Francés, a turn-of-the-century plantation house with 21 comfortable but basic rooms, is a ten-minute walk from the fishing village of Esperanza. At Sun Bay Beach, a short walk away, you can snorkel and scuba dive amid elkhorn coral, barrel sponges, and morays. Dine by candlelight on lobster and plantains at the hotel restaurant. The tab—$92 low season, $172 high season—includes daily breakfast and dinner for two. But eat lightly—a night swim in bioluminescent Mosquito Bay shouldn't be missed. Call 787-741-3751.

Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic

You'll be hard-pressed to find Hotel Tropic Banana in the guidebooks, which is just as well. Who would want to spoil paradise? Just getting here means four hours of hard driving or a 45-minute flight from Santo Domingo to the fishing village of Las Terrenas, in the Dominican Republic's northeast corner. Use the tennis court and pool, or go horseback riding along the beach. The 27 simple rooms are housed in four thatched-roof buildings. The open-air restaurant serves fresh fish, shellfish, and papaya. Merengue nights are Friday and Saturday, so plan on a little dancing. Doubles are just $60 a night, including breakfast, through December 14, $70 thereafter. Call 809-240-6110.

Morne Daniel, Dominica

Located between the airport and the capital, Roseau, on the island's southwest side, the ten-room, cliffside Hummingbird Inn makes a good base for day trips to Trafalgar Falls or Boiling Lake. Your room will be a bit on the spare side, but from the veranda you'll get a spectacular Caribbean view. About a mile away in Roseau is a daily outdoor market, and you'll find excellent Creole food at a number of open-air restaurants. Doubles are $65 year-round (suites, $110) for a place where you can breakfast on the veranda in the company of hummingbirds and iguanas. Call 767-449-1042. —Everett Potter

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