November 21, 2017

7 Caribbean Getaways for Less

Look to an island resort to stretch your travel
dollar with enticing fall discounts

By Kathryn E. Worrall

Vacations Magazine: 7 Caribbean Getaways for Less
Sonesta Ocean Point
As fall sets in and temperatures begin to drop, so do resort rates in the Caribbean. Gone are the busy days of summer, when families -- free from daily school routines -- are able to explore sandy shores. The bitter cold of winter that drives sun-seeking hordes to the tropical south hasn't yet arrived. This in-between season means occupancy is low for many Caribbean islands, and so are prices as hotels try to tempt tourists and fill rooms.

This autumn, head to one of these intriguing isles for a taste of paradise. Soak away stress in an outdoor tub in Barbados, learn to scuba dive in Aruba or leave the kids at home for an adults-only retreat in St. Maarten.

Our list of five-star Caribbean resorts offers top quality accommodations, dining and activities at a set all-inclusive rate. That means your room, meals, snacks, drinks (both the kids' virgin daiquiris and your rum libations) and a host of entertainment and water sports are included in the price of your stay. We looked at a weeklong getaway for two at each property and listed the average nightly rates below, comparing bargain prices for September or October to January's high-season charges. All pricing was accurate at press time.

ANTIGUA
At Galley Bay Resort and Spa, 40 acres of lush terrain embrace a private, nearly mile-long white-sand beach and a bird sanctuary for herons and pelicans. On the northwestern side of Antigua -- the "sunset side," as the resort points out -- 98 rooms are sprinkled across this adults-only haven, from beachfront digs steps from the surf to the Gauguin Suites, thatched "rondoval" cottages with outdoor lounge spaces and private plunge pools.

Guests can choose from three alfresco dining options each evening. For a romantic date night, pick Gauguin to dine on West Indies fare served under a palm tree-surrounded cabana. Just make sure it's not the same night as Sea Grape's weekly Caribbean barbecue, complete with a live steel drum band. Four open-air bars also are on-site, and many guests choose Tee Pee Bar to sip rum-heavy cocktails as the sun sets.

Grab a bicycle to explore the property, such as areas along the expansive lagoon, or venture into the sea to swim, snorkel or try a nonmotorized water sport such as kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding or Hobie Cat sailing. All lessons and equipment are included in the rate for your room.

There also is a multilevel spa, aptly named Indulge, giving off a treehouse vibe enhanced by its locale next to the lagoon and bird sanctuary. Some of the treatment areas are open-air pods draped in sheer white curtains, and therapies include Tropical Harmony, a papaya- and pineapple-infused exfoliation followed by a creme fraiche and pomegranate wrap.

Rates: Snag a beachfront room in mid-September from $546 per night. You'll save $267 over January prices, which rise to $813 per night. As an added bonus, July through September is hawksbill turtle-hatching season in Antigua. For an additional cost, the hotel can plan a boat trip to a deserted shore to watch the hatchlings wade toward the waterline.

ARUBA
One Happy Island. That's Aruba's nickname, and after perusing photos of Hotel Riu Palace Aruba, it's easy to see why. The beachfront resort's two ivory towers complement the white sand while an expansive aquamarine pool mimics the crystal clear ocean. It's a peek into paradise, guaranteed to lift spirits -- even if it's only from a computer screen.

On the western edge of Aruba near Palm Beach, the 450-room hotel is kid-friendly (though adjacent Hotel Riu Palace Antillas only caters to those 18 and older) and guarantees fun for the whole crew. Younger guests can check out the two swimming pools, daytime entertainment programs and beach volleyball games, while the adults can retreat to the on-site casino, a live music performance or a swim-up bar.

Dining options range from spots for Japanese and Italian to a steakhouse and buffet fare. Also part of the all-inclusive charge is an introductory scuba diving lesson held in the resort's main pool. For an additional fee, more extensive diving options, bicycle rentals and a nearby golf course are available.

Rates: Book a September stay in a junior suite from $551 nightly; that's a $106 savings over January's price of $657.

BARBADOS
The couples-only Sandals Barbados, on Dover Beach near the popular neighborhood of St. Lawrence Gap, is composed of three "villages" -- Beachfront, Caribbean and Crystal Lagoon -- but no matter where you decide to reside, the outlook is breathtaking. Most of the resort's 280 suites even offer balconies with soaking tubs where guests can enjoy their ocean, garden or "lazy river" pool views. Spring for a Crystal Lagoon swim-up suite facing the latter; partially submerged lounge chairs and, of course, step-out access to the river pool are among the perks.

Should you choose to venture out from your chambers, you'll find hammocks, more lounges and cabanas dotting the private beach, and unlimited scuba diving excursions join loaner boogie boards, paddleboards and glass-bottom boats among the resort's sporty offerings. To enhance the romance, opt for Red Lane Spa sessions or book a candlelight dining experience for an extra fee. There are 11 eateries covered by the price of your stay, however, including Bombay Club, Sandals' first Indian eatery, and Schooners Seafood Grill, serving Barbadian cuisine from a seaside villa.

Rates: In September, a Caribbean Village room overlooking the gardens can be had for $430 per night. That's $280 less than January's price of $710.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana goes above and beyond with its Endless Privileges program, presenting all-inclusive treats rarely seen at other resorts. Expect a welcome bottle of rum (top shelf, of course), daily drop-offs of sparkling wine and fresh fruit, afternoon tea with live plant infusions and a complimentary 20-minute massage. Rooms are stocked with aromatherapy pillows and Bulgari bath amenities, and the maid service stops by three times a day.

Not sold yet? The 96 thatched-roof suites also flaunt large soaking tubs and private terraces, and some go further with plunge pools and hidden gardens. Beyond these in-room amenities, two infinity pools, kayaks, snorkeling gear, wine tastings and cigar-rolling classes delight guests.

Patrons can work off the high-class spirits and gourmet meals (be sure to hit Amaya for Dominican specialties) with aqua-spinning sessions or enjoy the breeze during a complimentary horseback ride on the beach. Or, look into Zoetry Agua's "creative come-along" program, which shadows local artists, musicians and more.

Rates: Check out this Punta Cana haven in mid-September to save $241 a night on your stay. Nightly prices for a garden-view junior suite begin at $494, versus $735 in January.

GRENADA
This West Indies isle is small -- it's around 21 miles long and 12 miles wide -- and the eight-acre, all-suite Spice Island Beach Resort is even more intimate. Based close to the capital, St. George's, the boutique hotel only has 64 rooms, all beachfront with terraces. Several have plunge pools, canopy beds or hammocks, while a few spoil vacationers with private saunas and larger swimming pools.

Owned by Sir Royston Hopkin and occasionally visited by traveling royalty, Spice Island is celebrating 30 years of operation in 2017. It's located on Grand Anse Beach, Grenada's most popular stretch of sand, and peppered with palm trees and sunbathers. Guests find top-notch service and amenities such as loaner bikes and rounds of tennis and golf, with green fees included in the price of your vacation package. Janissa's Spa uses regional herbs and spices, staples of the island, in most of its treatments. After a session, laze by the reflection pool with a cup of therapeutic herbal tea served with Grenadian honey.

For an extra charge, the hotel can arrange sailing excursions, scuba dives to local shipwrecks or tours of local sights. Head into picturesque St. George's to snap photos of the brightly colored homes and arriving megayachts or, in wilder spots, keep an eye out for the fauna. Reddish-brown mona monkeys flit through the trees, and iguanas often are seen basking in the sun.

Rates: Spice Island Beach Resort will be closed in September due to renovations, but plan a visit in mid-October and pay $863 per night for a garden-view suite. That's more than $500 off a night in January, priced at $1,430.

ST. LUCIA
Five-star cuisine, daily 50-minute spa sessions and 42 verdant acres off Cariblue Beach make BodyHoliday Saint Lucia one of the isle's best retreats. Here, patrons are encouraged to focus on their physical and emotional well-being, be that through soothing massages and reflexology courses to improve sleep habits or rappelling down a river gorge after an archery class.

BodyHoliday showcases a wide range of activities that go beyond yoga classes and hiking excursions. Guests can unwind with tai chi and meditation, break a sweat with fencing or boxing and hit the ocean for water skiing. Caribbean dance classes embrace local culture, and a cycling tour along the coast reveals prime seascapes.

Five restaurants provide healthy, locally sourced food, some grown at the on-site organic garden, though indulgence still is an option with a wine salon and homemade pizzas at the Pavilion. Not to be missed is TAO, a fine dining eatery for sushi and fusion cuisine. Choose from accommodations along the oceanfront or with sea or garden views, and in the evenings, select from an elaborate pillow menu and enjoy a tea and cookie turndown service before bedtime.

Rates: A night in September is priced from $853 for a room facing the water. In January, that figure skyrockets to $1,425, more than $500 extra per day.

ST. MAARTEN
One Caribbean isle is split in two -- half is owned by the Netherlands, the other by the French -- and Sonesta Ocean Point Resort stakes its claim on the Dutch portion. The property is the adults-only neighbor of the larger Sonesta Maho Beach Resort, Casino and Spa, and while some amenities, such as the Serenity Spa, are shared, Sonesta Ocean Point retains privacy and a more relaxed scene.

The 129 suites, each with views of the ocean, offer a serene, contemporary aura. Some have butler service and expanded, 180-degree vantage points of the sea, but the true gems are the swim-up suites, with quick pool and waterfront lounge chair access. One of two additional pools, with an infinity edge overlooking a cliff-side beach, is found next to the Azul Restaurant.

Exclusive to Sonesta Ocean Point guests, Azul serves up Mediterranean-influenced fare and is open for all meals, even 24-hour room service. While rave reviews of Azul keep many returning, patrons also have access to Sonesta Maho Beach's restaurants. Scheduled daytime activities provide sunrise hikes, water sports and yoga. For an additional charge, excursions to neighboring St. Barts, sunset dinner cruises and golf trips can be arranged. At night, theme parties and outdoor movie screenings keep guests on-site, while nearby Maho Village, known as the nightlife capital of St. Maarten, draws night owls.

Rates: In September, you can save $139 on a junior suite with a nightly rate of $480, instead of paying $619 in January. Upgrade to a swim-out junior suite for an additional $108 per night.

The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in Summer 2017. Please visit Vacations To Go or call (800) 998-6925 for current rates and details.


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