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5 Hotels Under $500 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Bequia has been an exceptionally fun destination for me to discover. I am now officially infatuated with all of St. Vincent and the Grenadines! This far-flung corner of the Caribbean is the absolute antithesis of the Atlantis/Bahamas touristy experience for which some parts of the Caribbean are known. And this authentic, low-key element is exactly what I love.

sugar-reef-hotel

St. Vincent and the Grenadines may be the most unspoiled chain of islands and beaches in the entire Caribbean Sea. Each island, and even down to each beach, has it’s own charm and character. Those who know of these charms tend to keep them their own little secrets.

But for those of us who are not the Duke of Caimbridge or Mick Jagger, both regulars on the exclusive SVG Island of Mustique, it takes some doing to uncover the perfect accommodations here. While there are a number of very high end and exclusive properties, there are also a lot of pretty basic B&B’s of which, from the photos anyway, remind me of my first college apartment and not really someplace you’d want to spend a rejuvenating week at the beach. You won’t find any large hotel chains or name brand properties – for better or for worse.

But there are a few hotels that hit a sweet spot; charming, great location, amazing management/service and offer an experience worthy of these special islands – all for under $500 per room per night.

Why consider a “good old fashioned” hotel here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (vs. a villa or other vacation rental)? First and foremost, it’s just plain easy to stay in a hotel. You’ll have service at your fingertips, you won’t have to hit the market or stock up throughout your stay, and the value of a good concierge can’t be understated. (But just wait, because I’ll offer my two cents why villas and vacation rentals are often the way to go in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in my next post!)

So, here are my top picks for Best Hotels and Resorts on St. Vincent and the surrounding Grenadine islands for under US $500 a night:

Buccament Bay Resort (Kingston, St. Vincent): I’ve included this property because it’s considered to be the nicest hotel on St. Vincent proper. It’s really the only viable option if you want to stay right on St. Vincent. The beach here is man made, which seems kind of weird to me seeing as you’re smack in the middle of the Caribbean surrounded by amazing beaches. But it’s noteworthy in that Buccament Bay Resort’s rooms are modern and well appointed, the pool is very nice and the staff are enthusiastic and being trained on international standards. It appears the property is going through some growing pains as they head towards completion (the property is only about 1/3 completed right now), but certainly a nice option if you’re keen to stay right on St. Vincent Island.

The property looks to be running discounted pricing this season, with prices in the $650 per room range, or $325 per adult sharing (keep in mind this is an all-inclusive rate, which is why it made the cut for this article). Searching for prices for the week of Thanksgiving 2014 yielded rates for the same room more in the $950 per room, or $475 per person, range.

Sugar Reef Hotel (Bequia): With prices per room starting at $160 per night, this is a fantastic option on Bequia Island. There are only eight rooms at the Sugar Reef Hotel, and the beach here is quite private (though all beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines are technically public).

You are also only a short taxi ride away from the charming and beautiful Admiralty Bay and Port Elizabeth beaches.

Décor has been given great importance at this property, resulting in a very cool unique vibe to compliment the private, relaxed atmosphere of the hotel and the cafe here has an outstanding reputation (open to non-guests as well.)

As I mentioned before on this blog, I love their very sweet “go or no go” section on their web site. After spending my career working in Africa and selling safari camps of all kinds to international travelers, I understand the critical need to screen guests to ensure that everyone has correct expectations and is a good fit for the property.

While the hotel has recently introduced a “no-guest under 18 policy”, this is a great option for families traveling in a large group as they can rent out the entire French House (pricing varies by season but is very reasonable for exclusive use) which has a small kitchen and other family-friendly amenities. Children are allowed if the French House is booked exclusively.

The Old Fort Historic Estate (Bequia): The Old Fort Historic Estate is a restored plantation structure dating back to 1763 and a great way to experience the lush, tropical surrounding of the island, while also being only a few minutes away from the beach. The hotel provides a shuttle to the beaches from the hotel, leaving between 10:00 – 11:00am and returning between 3:00-4:00pm to the hotel. Individual arrangements can be made depending on other guests needs/schedules. The shuttle takes guests to either Lower Bay or Princess Margaret, which are the nicest swimming beaches on Bequia island. There is also a very reliable taxi service which can be called anytime and costs approximately 10 – 15 US$ for each way. Alternatively one could also rent a vehicle, which is a particularly attractive option with many visitors.

the-old-fort-hotel

Either way, plan to bring along a large beach bag so you can back snacks, drinks, towels and everything you’ll need for a lovely morning on the beach before heading back to the hotel, or to another local beach restaurant for a late lunch and happy hour.

And with rooms priced from $160 – $280 (including breakfast) in high season, I think The Old Fort Historic Estate is a great deal and a perfect option for a stay on Bequia. (It kind of reminds me of Coqui Coqui before it became the hot spot for everyone to go in Tulum, Mexico.)

Young Island (Private Island):  You might want to start by viewing their downloadable brochure, found here.

For some reason I found this to be hilarious, being totally stuck in the 1970’s, but from what I understand is fairly indicative of the property so no false advertising here. But on the flip side, you are assured the property has been around for a long time and as such has well-trained staff and can confidently address the numerous issues that inevitably come up when operating a resort in a wild and untouched location.

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I did spot a few reviews on Trip Advisor talking about the activity across the channel from some of the units. There are several restaurants and bars directly across on the water opposing YIR. Several nights each week there is live music that absolutely shatters the quiet until late at night.

But for the most part, this private island offers a relaxing, private beach experience and a great option if you’re looking to be directly on the beach.

You can sneak in under $500 by booking one of the Superior Cottages between April and the Holiday season (starting December 19th).

Tamarind Beach Hotel and Yacht Club (Grand Bay, Canouan Island): The Tamarind Beach Hotel is the “4 star” sister property of the ultra-luxe Canoun Beach club. Ranging from $200 – $400 USD for rooms depending on season and room type, including breakfast, Tamarind Beach Hotel is extremely good value for the region.

If your objective is to do nothing by laze around the beach all day, this may be a good option. Rooms here are not luxurious, but plenty comfortable. The beach staff is attentive in serving drinks and food right on the beach. The beaches here are particularly good, with white sands and clear water, which is good because there is not a pool on the property.

The rooms may be a bit tired and in need of updating. But according to Caribbean tourism authorities, construction of the Argyle International Airport on the island of St. Vincent continues toward the goal of completing the terminal building by July 2014. I wouldn’t be surprised if, which this project is complete, this hotel (and others in the area) may invest in refurbishments resulting in rate increases. So right now might just be the perfect time to check out this private island for yourself.

If you go during the right time of the year, you can stay here for less than $500 per night. Consider going over Thanksgiving week to get the low season rate, right before the high season starts so the weather should be good. Rates range from $400 – $900 US per night per room based on 2 people (breakfast and dinner included)

I would love to hear your thought on this list. Do you agree? Any hotels that you think should be to this “under $500 per night” list?

Sarah Fazendin Travel Blogger
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ON SAFARI. BEQUIA STYLE.

I’ve done more African safaris in my day than I can count. They all start with some sort of transfer from the International airport upon arrival in your destination to a hot, sticky-slow structure that vaguely passes as an airport where you board you teeny tiny airplane to your final destination. I’m getting the sense that a week at the beach on Bequia might just have the same beginning. But that’s all part of the excitement and adventure!

Bequia (pronounced “beck-way”) is one of the 60 islands and cays that make up the Grenadines archipelago. In this travel blog I’ll try to temper my excitement about this destination and just give you all the important facts.

But I. Really. Want. To. Go. There. NOW!

Getting there.

I’ve done a lot of researching on this, and there really is only one good option to get to Bequia from the U.S.

Take the morning 10am direct flight from Miami to Barbados on American airlines. This flight, using the week of Thanksgiving 2014 as an example, is a reasonable US $544.  If you don’t live in Miami, fly in the night before and stay at an airport hotel so you don’t miss that flight. I noticed there also is a red-eye from DEN – MIA which would work if you live in my neck of the woods.

You’ll arrive into Barbados around 3pm, which gives you plenty of time to get through customs, collect baggage and connect to the scheduled SVG Air Charter flight direct to Bequia at 4:30pm.

The best Bequia beach?

In general the beaches on the Caribbean (Western) side of the island are calmer, with clearer waters.  Princess Margaret (Port Elizabeth in Admiralty Bay) and Lower Bay beaches are the best here.

But Friendship Bay Beach, a large bay on the Atlantic side, is also a great beach, popular with locals and has seen some new development with hotels and restaurants in recent years.

But what beach is best? Should this impact your decision about where to stay? Not really. Pack a big beach bag and be prepared to venture out around the island to a number of beaches. It’s easy to get around the island by foot, taxi or even rental car. There are plenty of taxis, including small boat taxis and open-backed pick-up trucks. How cute! Check out all the beaches while you’re there, you’ll want to see the entire island anyway, and decide for yourself what beach is best.

Booking the best Bequia accommodations.

What I love most of all about Bequia is that there are plenty of accommodation options for all travel styles and budgets. It’s an exclusive destination sure, but for those who make the effort to get there, it’s friendly and open to everyone and all travel styles and budgets.

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Top Caribbean Travel Blogs.

Here at A Week at the Beach, I blog about one thing only; a perfect week at a perfect beach that is easy to get to from the U.S.

Why? The experience of a rejuvenating week at the beach is something that people are seeking more and more. This may not be their big trip for the year by any means (Africa, Eastern Europe, off-the-beaten-path South America are all hot long-haul destinations for Americans right now), but this simple week at the beach is important.

But why?

Relaxing, unplugging, meditating, connecting with friends, family, strangers and yourself while living in the precious present tense… this is what I believe a relaxing week on the beach is all about. And if you have to travel for days and days to get there, that detracts from the experience.

You’ll find plenty of awesome content across the web about adventure travel, backpacking, budget travel and luxury travel to every destination on earth, but I’ve found a massive lack of well-curated information about a good old-fashioned week at a great beach.

So anyway, I’m on a mission to change that. Have a look at some of the destinations featured on this blog to see what places I’m excited about when it comes to relaxing beach getaways.

And here’s where I find news and inspiration. In addition to my action-packed Twitter feed, I read these blogs to stay up-to-date on the latest news and travel information for the destinations I cover.

Happy reading!

P.S. What else should I be reading to keep up on the latest in Caribbean travel?

 Travelogx

CaribbeanTravel.com

 Uncommon Caribbean

Island Magazine’s Blog

Journey Mexico’s Blog

Dave’s Travel Corner

Caribbean Travel Magazine

And of course Tnooz and Skift, I’m a travel tech nerd at heart!
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Playa del Carmem

A Week at the Beach in Playa del Carmen Mexico

Travel + Leisure’s announcement of their top hotels in the world this week inspired me to write about Playa del Carmen Mexico. Over the years it’s been clear that this Travel + Leisure list certainly leaves out some of the best of the best boutique hotels and experiences, but as far as large resorts go, this tends to be a very solid list.

And this year, from a pool of (according to Trip Advisor) 197 hotels in Playa del Carmen, here are the best of the best according to Travel + Leisure!

Banyan Tree Mayakoba Resort & Spa

Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Certainly the big resort thing isn’t really for everyone (and if that’s you, have a look at the adult-only Hotel Casa Ticul, Maya Villa and Hotel Lunata as great options in Playa del Carmen), BUT having said that Playa del Carmen certainly does the big resort thing just right.

Easy Access from the United States

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s super easy to get to this part of Mexico from the United States.

You can rent a car or arrange a private transfer to your hotel from the Cancun airport (it’s about a one hour drive).  If you’re going to stay in Playa and enjoy the beach, you don’t need a car since this area is super pedestrian-friendly.

But, if you want to check out Tulum, Xcaret or any other local attractions, renting a car is your best bet (it’s pretty cheap in Mexico).

These beaches aren’t so sleepy anymore!

The Playa del Carmen beaches are a continuation of the stunning white sand beaches found in Cancun. While Playa del Carmen was a sleepy little village about 20 years ago, it’s now a club- and restaurant-filled, massively growing city. BUT it’s still more charming than Cancun so a perfect mix of charm and activity for those looking for some energy and nightlife.

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Finally, I can’t write this post without mentioning that Playa has the BEST street tacos ever!! I don’t have the name of the particular restaurant I’m thinking of, but it’s on Av Constituyentes on the right hand side of the street if you’re driving towards the highway (relatively close to the highway). Can anyone help me out with a name of this place? We drove for miles each way while staying in the area a few years back just to bring these tacos back to the beach. Absolute street food perfection.

(UPDATE: Special thanks to Derek @WanderingEarl for the answer. Street Tacos were from El Fogon, the restaurant with the yellow awning!)

Booking Playa del Carmen.

Aside from Travel + Leisure’s top hotels above, which can be booked direct, I loved The Royal. This all-inclusive resort has a great beach, amazing location (super close to 5th Ave) and is all around great fun! The perfect venue for a ladies or couples trip, there are plenty of activities (led by hot guys in swim trunks!), bars, evening entertainment and plenty of drinks and music to keep everyone laughing and happy.

The Playacar, located at the far southern end of Playa, has one of the best beaches (according to them!). But certainly worth a look if you’re looking for an all-inclusive resort.

What do you love about Playa? Would love to hear your Mexico and Playa del Carmen travel tips below.
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tulum

A Week at the Beach in Tulum Mexico

Tulum Mexico, a sleepy strip of beach a few hours south of Cancun,  is perhaps the quintessential perfect beach destination; Easy to get to, amazing beaches and a totally unique vibe that is totally different from the hustle and bustle of Cancun (and even Playa del Carmen).

Tulum has been doing “ecotourism” for as long as anyone, and as a result the hotels here are small, intimate, boutique and quirky. But there is something for everyone making it a perfect week on the beach.

Easy Access from the United States:

Getting to Tulum is as easy as getting to Cancun and then driving a few hours south to Tulum. You can rent a car from the airport in Tulum (it’s cheap), and because the beaches are a few miles away from services like ATM, grocery store and the actual town of Tulum it’s nice to have a car. (PLUS my absolute favorite beach ever in the whole wide world is only a short drive from Tulum.)

You can also arrange for a private transfer. Visit Happy Shuttle Cancun here to book your Cancun or Riviera Maya transfers and when booking mention this blog to receive a 10% discount!

Tulum is accessible and remains relatively uncrowded. But it won’t stay that way forever. Why?

Tulum has beautiful beaches.

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The beaches here are hand’s down some of the best. Wide, silky sand, calm waters, very few people.  The beach is located a few miles away from the town, so you have one road going north and one going south dedicated exclusively to beach properties.  Car traffic is slow and there are always plenty of people on bikes and on foot.

Here are my tips for getting around the Tulum beach strip.

The main attraction here in Tulum is of course the beach. In fact, very few of the hotels here (though it’s changing) actually have pools, so you’ll find nearly all visitors to the area lounging on the beach. Each hotel has plenty of seating for guests, but these are public beaches so especially on the weekends you’ll see local families camped out for the day enjoying the magic of the Tulum beaches as well.

Tulum is an Intriguing Destination.

From the moment I first set foot on the beaches of Tulum, I thought, “man if these palm trees could talk!” And it’s not just because of Pablo Escobar’s former getaway home there, or the clothing optional resorts (though there seem to be way less these days).

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Plenty of hotel options in Tulum.

I know there are a number of new boutique hotels popping up in Tulum, as well as a few larger resorts in the general area. But here are the places I’ve stayed and loved them all for various reasons. But they all have one thing in common; amazing beaches. Which is the whole point isn’t it?

Coqui Coqui lives up to it’s reputation as a sexy, laid-back hipster haunt.

Ana y Jose is a charming hotel and  one of the few in Tulum with a pool. I stayed there when my daughter was almost 1, so the pool was a must, and the staff there was wonderfully accommodating.

We also loved the American-owned La Zebra for their fun live music and salsa dancing and their sister property Mezzanine for their amazing Asian restaurant with great views and a nice breeze.

What other hotels in Tulum Mexico would you recommend?

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