Where is the best place to go in the Caribbean or Central America?

I'm looking for a beach vacation this March with my husband and college-aged daughter either in Mexico or somewhere within decent flight time of Dallas. What can you do for me?JoniDallas, TX

Greg Melville

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Well Joni, a few tiny extra details might have been helpful. Like, what’s your budget? What kind of a hotel are you looking for? And what activities are you planning?

Let’s just assume that you’re an active and adventurous person, who likes to stay at small boutique resorts that are rich in local flavor and culture. You’re bargain conscious, or at least you try to get great value for the money you spend. And you’re also very smart and doggone it, people like you. Sound about right? The quick answer would be Cancun. You can fly there straight from Dallas-Fort Worth. But Cancun is lame. If you want to go somewhere less trodden and more exotic in the Caribbean or Central America (and I know you do, Joni), you’ll have to make a bit more of a travel commitment–since there aren’t many direct flights to these destinations from your hometown airport. So I’ve got three recommendations for you to places where the hopping, skipping, and jumping to get there either isn’t too painful or is part of the fun adventure. (I also encourage readers to post their own suggestions to Joni in the comments section below.) Here are my three relatively nearby exotic beach destinations.

Cheap: Casa Iguana, Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
Little Corn Island is a chicken drumstick-shaped spit of land about 45 miles off the east coast of Nicaragua, where its 750 residents speak English and there are no cars, motorized vehicles of any kind, or even roads. The big activities among visitors here, besides lazing on the beach and sipping rum drinks are diving and snorkeling among the reefs, and sport fishing (though you can also surf and windsurf). Getting there requires a bouncy 45-minute ferry ride from Big Corn Island, which in turn is accessed by plane from Managua. You can stay at the solar- and wind-powered Casa Iguana, on 30 beachside acres. Cost for a deluxe casita: $65 a night.

Moderate: The Cove, Eleuthera, Bahamas
Eleuthera boasts some of the most spectacular pink sand beaches in the Caribbean, yet has managed to resist becoming overrun with resorts or tourists. Getting there means hopping a connecting flight from Ft. Lauderdale or Miami. When you arrive, stay at the trendy but surprisingly not expensive Cove, a 30-acre resort with 26 rooms and suites that are empty of TVs and phones in a secluded cove that boasts top-notch snorkeling just off the shore and is only ten minutes from the best surfing beach in the Bahamas. Rooms run $199 a night.

Moderately Pricey: Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
Truth be told, the friendly, unpretentious air of even the finest of the island nation’s many high-end boutique resorts is just as attractive as Antigua’s long, white sandy beaches. Nonsuch Bay Resort is a somewhat affordable collection of 55 colonial-style luxury cottages and villas on 40 quiet acres fringing the wide and wind-kissed, reef-protected inlet of the same name on Antigua’s eastern shore. The small-boat sailing and kitesurfing within Nonsuch Bay are world class, as is the resort’s staff instructor for its sailing school. Getting to Antigua means you’ll have to connect in Miami. This paradise runs $360 a night.