Travel Guide, Winter 1995-1996
Winter fares to the Caribbean are highest December 17-January 2; you'll save 30-60 percent if you avoid those dates. The main hubs for reaching the smaller islands are San Juan, Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, Antigua, and Barbados; fares to San Juan (served by American, United, TWA, Continental, Northwest, USAir, and Delta) tend to be the lowest ($318 round-trip from New York, $433 from Los Angeles). Fares to Sint Maarten, Guadeloupe, and Antigua range from $418-$457 from New York; $722-$790 from Los Angeles. (Continental, American, and BWIA fly to Antigua; American flies to Guadeloupe; and American, Continental, and Delta serve Sint Maarten.) American and BWIA have service to Barbados ($479 from New York; $746 from Los Angeles). To get to Bonaire, fly on American, Air Aruba, or ALM to Aruba, then connect with Air Aruba or ALM.
Puddle-jumper flights to the smaller islands range from $50 to $250. Miami is the gateway for the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, and also for connections to the Cayman Islands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Virgin Islands. LIAT (809-462-0700) offers an Explorer fare for $199 that allows three stopovers within 21 days on 26 islands. The Super Explorer fare ($367) allows unlimited stopovers for 30 days.
A rental car can be more economical than taking taxis on the larger islands if you want to get out and see a lot of the place; islands like Bequia, Carriacou, and Terre-de-Haut are small enough that you can easily walk most everywhere. You'll need a temporary driver's license (about $12, available at the airport or police station). Government taxes (7 to15 percent) and a service charge (usually 10 percent) can add a sizable amount to your hotel bill, so verify all charges in advance.