Stay at these under-$200-a-night hotels and you won’t have to run up a scary tab for taxi fares every time you head out to dine, drink, dive or shop
by Ian Keown
Let’s say you’re on a tight budget but you’ve found a great deal on a hotel. Whoopee!, you chortle. But what happens when you check in and find that your room is a bargain because it’s marooned in low-rent territory miles from everything? Now you face the prospect of $20 to $30 cab fares every time you decide to sample the food scene and the nightlife?
This dilemma happens often in the Caribbean, where many of the most romantic resorts emphasize solitude rather than convenience and public transportation is usually sporadic. The solution: Zero in on affordable hotels within walking distance of bars, bistros, boutiques, crafts galleries and sports facilities. That takes time (not too many places fall into this category outside the cities like San Juan or Montego Bay) but let me introduce you to some places I’ve visited many times to bring you a vacation free you from taxis, rental cars, even jitneys. The locations have loads of options when it comes to dining and drinking establishments, many of them budget-oriented, and all the hotels have double rooms for $200 a night or less (mostly less) this summer and fall. They may not have all the bells and whistles of today’s luxury digs (do you really need turndown service when you’re at the beach?) but among the services they offer you’ll find most of what you’re looking for — pools, spas, free kayaks, free Wi-Fi and money-saving amenities like kitchens, fridges and coffeemakers.
And they’re all within, say, a 15-minute walk from everything you need.
St.Lucia’s Mile-Square Marina-Playground
The word “marina” usually signals cheap eats and a lively bar scene and that’s how it is at Rodney Bay Village & Marina, a square mile of eating and drinking between a yacht-filled bay and St.Lucia’s finest beach. Amble along the main drag, the grandly named Reduit Beach Avenue, and you can pick and choose from dozens of restaurants, cafes and snack shops serving a smorgasbord of cuisines — tandoori, Antillean, Chinese, English, French, Italian, Thai. For a change of beach, take the launch to Pigeon Point across the bay.
Stay: Coco Palm Resort has more charm, flair and value than scores of hotels costing twice as much, including a spa and swim-up bar. Rooms come with custom-designed mahogany furniture, flat-screen TV, cordless phones, room safes, A/C and ceiling fan, espresso machine and a fridge. (92 rooms/suites, 877/655-2626, www.coco-resorts.com)
Eat: Razmataz, Buzz, Chez Claude, Trios
Party: Spinnakers, Happy Day, Ti-Bananne
Turks & Caicos: Old-Time Value in a Jetsetter Venue
When I first visited Providenciales in Turks & Caicos back in the Seventies, Grace Bay was a 14-mile sweep of sand-and-dune solitude; today, to the dismay of many, it’s bordered by a phalanx of Florida-style, mid-rise condos promising an abundance of luxuries (revolving sun pods, anyone?). But before you write off glorious Grace Bay as a hangout for the superrich, consider this: many condo owners and renters rarely use their lavish designer kitchens so Grace Bay now has an impressive array of restaurants, bars and cafes, many of them a short walk along the beach.
Stay: Sibonné Beach Hotel is a throwback to the early days of Provo when beach resorts were nice and simple (bed, shower, a/c, radio/alarm) but today’s Sibonné also tosses in telly, telephone, Internet, a lush little garden with a reading arbor and a circular swimming pool. The throwback rates begin at $110 double. (28 rooms, 888/570-2861, www.sibonne.com)
Eat: Saltmill Café, Fresh Bakery & Bistro, Lemon, Graceway Corner Cafe
Party: Hemingway’s, Danny Bouy’s, Bambooz
Grenada’s Mile-Long Beach and Budget Dining
Grand Anse Village, at the southern end of Grenada’s signature 2 ½-mile-long beach (the eponymous Grand Anse), is famed for classy resorts ‘way beyond our $200-a-night limit but you’ll find several bargain hotels just off the beach. Locals, expats, yachties and vacationers from the posh resorts mingle around the food stalls serving samosas, Chinese take-out and hearty local pies in the airy, modern-styled Le Marquis and Grand Anse shopping centers.
Stay: The best value here by a mile is Blue Horizon Garden Resort. For the kind of rates many hotels charge for rooms you get a suite with kitchenette — and free beach loungers, free entertainment and charge privileges for facilities at its sister hotel just 300 yards away, the 4-diamond Spice Island Beach Resort. (32 rooms, 473-444-4316, www.grenadabluehorizons.com)
Eat: Big Brother, ChopStix and GrillMaster at Le Marquis shopping center; La Boulangerie at Grand Anse shopping center
Party: Southside, Rick’s Café
Barbados: Rum shops, sports bars and multicultural take-out
The southern coast of Barbados has long been a refuge for budget-minded Brits and Germans on a quest for fish-and-chips or sauerkraut in the sun. The centerpiece, “The Gap,” is a lantern-lined, brick-paved street (officially known as St.Lawrence Gap), a hive of moderately priced hotels, boutiques and budget eateries serving everything from bangers-and-mash, taquitos and sushi to quiche, vegetarian Thai curry and daintily packed lunch boxes.
Stay: The 36 Garden View rooms at the colonial-style Southern Palms Hotel fall just make our $200-a-night limit and give you access to the same generous array of amenities and water sports enjoyed by guests paying for pricey Beachfront Rooms – including two pools, two tennis courts and nightly entertainment. (92 rooms, 246-428-7171, www.southernpalms.net)
Eat: Jade Garden, Latte Love, McBride’s Pub and Cookhouse
Party: Ship Inn; Reggae Lounge, Café Sol, J Cool
Topless beauties, bottomless fun in St.Martin
One end of Orient Bay Beach is set aside for naturists but the boldest of the barest stride along the entire length of the sand, adding a minor divertissement for diners in the dozen or so alfresco bistros tucked among a 3-mile-long fringe of palms and casuarinas. This being a French island, the kebabs and yakitori are augmented by langoustine grille and grouper grille and there’s another collection of eating spots in the le village across the street.
Stay: The 17 studio rooms at Hotel La Plantation, in a hillside garden across the street, blend budget rates with splashy hand-painted murals; amenities include a pool, café and free tennis. (51 studios/rooms, 590-29 58 00, www.la-plantation.com)
Eat: Waikiki, Kakao, Kontiki, Rancho del Sol
Party: Bikini Beach, Papagayo, Boo Boo Jam, La Chapelle