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Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

socalmatt
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Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

It looks like this forum is full of these types of questions, but I hope the experts will indulge one more.

My wife and I are looking to take a vacation in early April 2014. We can't go for more than 7 days. We know we want to go to the beach, but here is what we are also looking for:

-warm, calm, clear water with good snorkeling right off the beach.

- somewhat secluded- it doesn't have to be a private island, but we like to avoid crowds and huge resorts. The less people the better, we don't need a party scene.

- activities other than the beach: mountains to climb, etc. Not necessarily looking for a place with a lot of culture, nature is more important

- not too expensive: we are traveling from Southern California and would prefer a shorter flight, but willing to go farther for the perfect place. Looking to spend less than 2000/person, including flights.

I've been looking at the Caribbean but can't seem to find the right island, Moorea/Tahiti looks beautiful but everything looks so expensive, we aren't picky on food and don't want to spend a ton for each meal. It also seems like there aren't many beaches there so we would be stuck at our resort the whole time. Also looked at Thailand and Bali, but seems like it might be crowded/rowdy. Yucatan seems nice, but also seems to be a lot of mega-resorts.

Any other ideas? Thanks for the help!

Edited: 09 September 2013, 20:45
Marietta, Georgia
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1. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

From California, Hawaii would have to be on the list, although I don't remember much good snorkeling just off the beach. Bonaire meets about all your wants, except that it would be a looonnnggg trip to get there and back since it is a long distance and flights are few. It would be closer than Bali or Thailand though. Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos meets most of your wants, but there is not much to see there off the beach (relatively arid, flat island, but one of the worlds best beaches) and I suspect it would be difficult to stay within that budget in the peak season. Belize is is a closer trip, but they have little in the way of nice beaches and there is very little snorkeling off the beach (although there is pretty good snorkeling within a very short boat ride.) Costa Rica is another possibility, but there is limited snorkeling as most of the beach areas are along the Pacific coast. The other sights and things to do in CR are great though.

I'm sure others will suggest other possibilities...

socalmatt
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2. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

We've been to Costa Rica and loved it, but you're right, not quite the clear water we are looking for on this trip.

I looked at Bonaire and it seems to take longer to get to than other Caribbean destinations, and it also looked pretty arid to me. Is there much to do there other than the beaches?

Thanks for the reply!

Houston, Texas
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3. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

Have you looked at US Virgin Islands (maybe St. Thomas, St. John)

socalmatt
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4. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

I did. It looks ok, but the resorts that seem secluded in any way also seem to be really expensive. Same with the British Virgin Islands. For the price of those islands, we could go to a nice resort in Tahiti/Moorea, which seems a lot nicer. If you know of the perfect hotel though, please let me know!

Marietta, Georgia
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5. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

There are other activities in Bonaire, although most are oriented around the water. Although less well known than diving/snorkeling, Bonaire also has the best windsurfing location in the Caribbean and is excellent for beginners. There is also hiking in the large national park, kayaking in the mangroves, bird watching and enjoying the surprisingly excellent local restaurants. There is actually a current thread on the Bonaire forum that is discussing other activities. You might want to take a look at some of my trip reports to Bonaire (and other destinations) with lots of photos at my web site: www.hammocktree.us/ms/trips.html

You are right about getting to/from Bonaire though.. very limited flights. United has weekly (overnight) flights from Houston and Newark and Delta has weekly (Sat) flight from Atlanta. It is also reasonably easy to fly into Aruba and catch local airlines (Insel, Divi) to Bonaire.

Maryland
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6. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

In reading your post, two Caribbean destinations came to mind for you to consider: St. John and St. Lucia, but both have pros and cons. First, neither will be a quck, easy trip from CA. For St. John, you willl need to fly to St. Thomas (STT) and take a ferry to St. John. Resorts and hotels are limited on St. John, so if Caneel Bay (rustic and expensive) or the Westin (on a man- made beach) are not what you want, you will need to think about other types of accommodations. There are a lot of villas, some condos, and some smaller properties in town that might work. It is probably best to check the St, John forum for more info. The reason I think STJ would be good for your criteria is the good snorkeling, ckear water, nice beaches, and the fact that a large portion of the island is a national park and is good for outdoor activities like hking,

St. Lucia is a good fit for mountains (Pitons) and a lush climate. Look at accommodations in the south part of the ilsland. Ti Kaye is a small hotel with good off shore snorkeling, and I think there may be other options around Soufriere. St Lucia is a volcanic island so it doesn't really have the clear turquoise water or white sand beaches of many of the coral based Caribbean islands, but most of those islands are flat and dry, which probably isn't what you want.

Also, I would not rule out the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico as being all mega resorts. There are some smaller towns that might work for you. Possibly look at Akumal, which is between Playa del Carmen and Tulum, maybe 2.5 hours or so from Cancun.

Finally, I agree with AmateurGO that Hawaii probably is an easier trip from CA than the Caribbean, and may offer more of what you want in land based activities. I dd not snorkel on my trips to Hawaii, but there is a ton of other outdoor things to do, at least on the islands I have visited (Kauai, Maui, Oahu)

Maryland
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7. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

Sorry about the double post bur realized I didn't comment on Thailand and timed out on editing my previous post.. There are definitely options in Thailand that would not be crowded or rowdy. You just need to stay away from the known party places around Phuket. For example, Khao Lak is about 90 minutes north of Phuket airport (HKT) and is very quiet. I'm not sure if there is a lot of good offshore snorkeling there, but you can take tours to places with good snorkeling. April is getting into wet season, and Thaland is pretty far if you only have seven days, although it can be done (my last trip was six nights in Thailand, but I think my total time away was about nine days with travel).

8. Re: Help me find the vacation that meets our wishlist!

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