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Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Deerfield, Wisconsin
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Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Hey everyone,

In late May 2008, my wife and I will be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary. We decided to take a trip to the Caribbean. We decided we want to go somewhere a little different than the regular Caribbean destinations. That means no Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, etc.

Here's a little bit about us:

-We will both be in our early 30s. (Me 30, wife 31)

-We'd like to stay 4 or 5 nights, and we will probably be flying out of O'Hare in Chicago.

-Our budget (including airfare) is about $2,500 for the trip.

-Our trip will be limited to the summer since my wife is working on her graduate degree.

-A great beach is a must. Beautiful natural scenery is also a must.

-Friendly locals are also very important.

-Nightlife is somewhat important. I don't drink, but I like to have a good time socializing with others.

-Neither of us are into fine dining or arts/museums. Instead, I'd rather dine where most locals eat out. I'd prefer not to pay more than $50 (U.S.) for a meal between the 2 of us.

-As far as excursions, hiking, snorkeling, and horseback riding are our interests.

Okay, can anyone recommend a place to go? This should lead to some interesting discussion. We were thinking of places in the southern Caribbean along the lines of Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, etc., but I'm open to all suggestions. Thank you ahead of time.

Bucks County...
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for Philadelphia, Train Travel, Bucks County
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1. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Well, Aruba certainly meets ALL of you requirements. Nightlife isn't exactly robust, but there's enough for a few evenings, certainly. The place is so relaxing, we didn't feel the need to drink (I think we had a total of three between us during the 5 days we were there).

We went during the last week in August- right before school starts up (my wife is a teacher), and found every place to be fairly empty. This has two sides- low hotel prices, no crowds, no reservations, better service, but no "buzz", no "scene". The last night, we actually went looking for a place that had more than a few people dining (we found one).

I strongly suggest the Radisson. The grounds are huge (14 acres), beautifully landscaped (it won a landscaping award), and the beach is the biggest and least crowded on the island. The pool area is also huge and beautiful.

The beaches in the resort area (south side of the island) are beautiful. The sand is soft and white, the water is clear, calm (no surf at all, and I mean NO surf at all and no tide) and warm. The

north side is beautifully the exact opposite. Rocky, rough, beautiful. This is where the interesting natural sites are. You can rent a 4x4 and find the places on your own (that's what we did- it was a lot of fun, even getting lost along the way).

The locals don't get any friendlier anywhere. On two occasions, we asked for directions, and both times the people left their place of business, locking up, to walk us a block or two to show us how to get to where we were going. Amazing.

Foodwise, there are plenty of great restaurants. You don't have to spend a fortune for good food, though most tourists do. We didn't. We also like to eat where the locals eat, but we really couldn't find any :( We did, however, eat very well, and still kept it to within your budget. For example, at the Rad, everyone bllindly goes for the breakfast buffet for $16/person. We ordered off the menu and spent $16 for the two of us. We split an omelette, home fries, toast, pancakes and a fresh fruit salad, plust two coffees. Plenty of food, and very good, too. For dinner, we were just careful in what we ordered. For example, at Salt & Pepper, we found that some of the tapas is ana excellent deal. The $3 pasta tapas is a huge portion and has almost the same sauce as their $13 vegetarian pasta entree. We didn't see the need to spend $44 for "freshly flown in" Dover sole at the Radisson, though I'm sure it was excellent. But, really, sole is just really good flounder after all. That being said, you should probably splurge one night.

The island is crawling with 30-somethings, and most appear to be on honeymoon or other romantic getaway. I think you would have a perfect vacation.

Haven't been to the other places you mentioned...

Mesa, Arizona
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2. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Ummm...is this me posting this question? No...but it sure SOUNDS like me!

We're 28/29 and just celebrated our 10-year anniversary with a FABULOUS trip...but it wasn't to Aruba. It was to Playa del Carmen, Mexico (just south of Cancun, on the Caribbean). We were in Aruba this past December, and of the two locations, I believe PDC would be a much better fit for you...here's why:

"In late May 2008, my wife and I will be celebrating our 10 year wedding anniversary."

*We just celebrated our 10-year anniversary on 09/07/06.

"We decided to take a trip to the Caribbean."

*So did we.

"We decided we want to go somewhere a little different than the regular Caribbean destinations. That means no Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Virgin Islands, etc."

*Which is why we chose Mexico

"Here's a little bit about us: We will both be in our early 30s. (Me 30, wife 31)"

*We're 28/29

"We'd like to stay 4 or 5 nights, and we will probably be flying out of O'Hare in Chicago."

*Non-Stop flights from Chicago to Cancun, everyday!

"Our budget (including airfare) is about $2,500 for the trip."

*Almost to the dollar what we paid...might be cheaper for you, since our airfare is a little higher, coming from Phoenix.

*We stayed at Shangri La Caribe in an individual oceanfront bungalow. This small resort has a TRUE Mexican feel to it, and the most gorgeous beach in all of PDC...not just according to me...check it out! The resort gets rave reviews on this site, along with that section of the beach.

"Our trip will be limited to the summer since my wife is working on her graduate degree."

*We traveled September 6-13, just got back. Low Season Rates!

"A great beach is a must."

*Honestly, the beach on the north end of Playa del Carmen is TO DIE FOR!

"Beautiful natural scenery is also a must."

*Not only is the landscape more rainforst/tropical like, there are many great parks to visit for the day, such as XCaret Park and Xel-Ha, with many activities, including snorkeling, private beachs, swim with the dolphins, XCaret is set up with animals, sorta like a zoo...both are landscaped in natural Mexican landscaping. Aruba...outside of the resort area is all desert...lots of cacti and lots of dirt.

"Friendly locals are also very important."

*You can't get any friendlier then the Mexican culture.

"Nightlife is somewhat important. I don't drink, but I like to have a good time socializing with others."

*In PDC, there are many local bars to hang out, some night-spots as well. If you want REAL FUN action, head to Cancun for a day and party there...it's about 45 minutes north. You could rent a car, take a taxi, take the collectivo (bus), or join one of the tours.

"Neither of us are into fine dining or arts/museums. Instead, I'd rather dine where most locals eat out. I'd prefer not to pay more than $50 (U.S.) for a meal between the 2 of us."

*Well, in Aruba, you'll DEFINTELY pay more the $50 for dinner, especially if you go to some of the restaurants that are recommended here on this forum. Not so in Mexico! We had SEVERAL excellent meals, steak, wine, lobster, etc....never paid more than $40 TOTAL WITH TIP for any meal...even our very special 10-Year Anniversary Dinner on our Anniversary at an Argentian SteakHouse!!

"As far as excursions, hiking, snorkeling, and horseback riding are our interests."

*Oh, my gosh! There are a ton of tours and excursions to chose from! Check out the website www dot playa dot info and you will find a TON of info on this area, including smaller resorts and excursions...so much info!

"Okay, can anyone recommend a place to go? This should lead to some interesting discussion. We were thinking of places in the southern Caribbean along the lines of Aruba, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, etc., but I'm open to all suggestions. Thank you ahead of time."

*Really, you can't go wrong in PDC. As someone else recently posted on this forum, Aruba lacks an unique qualities that make it truely have an "Aruban" feel, if you will. PDC is FULL of local Mexican Charm!

You asked for my opinion, I gave it! I really hope you check this area out...it is 100 times better than Aruba...IMHO!!

Bucks County...
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3. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Regarding Aruba vs. Mexico;

Aruba - Water distilled from ocean water resulting in water so pure it doesn't even need chemical treatment.

Mexico - Water not distilled but taken from open sewers, er, I mean local rivers, and does not get chemical treatment.

Your choice.

Signed,

Montezuma :)

That being said, Xel-Ha is excellent as are the ruins at Tulum. The snorkeling is probably better in Mexico (or Grand Cayman, for that matter) than in Aruba.

Mesa, Arizona
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4. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Sure, Aruba DOES have great drinking water. BUT...anywhere in Mexico that is SLIGHTLY touristy...such as Cancun or Playa del Carmen, most all of the establishments have some sort of water filtration system in place. Definitely at all of the resorts/hotels, small or large, and at all of the restaurants. You can certainly not worry about water in Mexico, either.

By the way...I don't know about you, but I don't even drink the water out of my kitchen sink or bathroom sink here at home in Phoenix! I have a water filtration system of my own.

Illinois City...
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5. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Badgerland

Definitely try Aruba. You'll love it and we've been to both places.

Where are you from in WI?

Massachusetts
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6. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Hi Badgerland,

Having been to both PDC and Aruba, Aruba is our preferred destination, hands down. PDC is a lovely area, and we enjoyed our visit, however, we just did not feel as safe in Mexico. Natalee Holloway case aside, Aruba is a very safe island and I had no problems, as a female, venturing out on my own. The bottom line is that it is a personal decision...some people love Aruba, others do not. I will admit that for the most part, dining in Aruba is more expensive, but if you choose your restaurants wisely, and don't drink (which I read you do not), then the cost will not be that much more. If meal costs are of concern, then you may want to price out some all-inclusive properties, in Aruba as well as Mexico.

Whatever you decide, good luck and enjoy your vacation.

Deerfield, Wisconsin
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7. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Great replies everyone. I truly thank you all. (get_away_from_it_all,

I live in Deerfield, about 15 miles east of Madison.)

I've heard that Aruba has less of a local feel due to the casinos, meaing it's hard to get a true Aruba experience. (If that makes sense.) Is that a true statement or not?

I've also read that I could go to Mexico and get the same experience of Aruba for about half the price. Anyone disagree?

Thanks again.

Mesa, Arizona
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8. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Badgerland...first, I do agree that it is very difficult to get a true "Aruban" feel why in Aruba. Not just because of the casinos...it is just so Americanized and sooooo geared towards tourists, that it is difficult to get a sense of their local customs. There is nothing unique about Aruba...as I said on another thread somewhere else...(and I use Mexico as an example because I was just there) in Mexico you can find hand-made Mexican crafts, such as pottery, vases, hand-made hammocks, paintings that are painted in front of you, as well as eat authentic Mexican food...whether it is in a nice restaurant, out of someone's home (they have homes where the front room is actually a small restaurant), or from a street vendor, or even out of the back of a van...you pick! In Aruba, I couldn't find one thing that was unique to Aruba, that I wouldn't find anywhere else. Sure, they have nice restaurants, but they're expensive. And I can eat Steak, Lobster, Seafood here at home at nice restaurants. There were no authentically Aruban Restaurants that I was aware of. And I got MOST of my information from Internet research, as well as this and other forums on Aruba.

As to your second question, funny you should ask, because my husband and I did a cost-comparison this week between our trip to Mexico and our trip to Aruba including everything...airfare, hotel, food, drinks, snacks, excursions/siteseeing, car rental, dining out, shopping...EVERYTHING dollar to dollar - we spent LESS THAN HALF in Mexico, even though we stayed the same length of time, in a MUCH nicer resort with a much nicer room and did about the same amount of activities and dining as we did in Aruba.

Springfield
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9. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Personally I think if you want to get a "Feel" for a place a computer is not the place to go. You really need to get in a car and go out and actually see, and "feel" the place to get the full experiance...not just for a 1/2 a day or even a day, it takes at least a couple of days just to get past the Tourist stuff no matter where you go. Aruba is as unique as Mexico, or England, or the USA for that fact. As far as Native handmade items...I have brought several very nice items from the local Artisans, including Paintings, Photographs, and Hand Crafted Woodwork. I my opinion to really know Aruba you have to get away from from the Hotel district, both the High and the Low Rise areas, actually go to some of the other areas of the Island. Go to the west side of the island, go to the south side of the island find places that most don't, Rodgers Beach, or the Indian caves for example. Do it on your own and make an adventure out of it instead of taking a Tour. Use your Hotel as a base of operations not your soul destination. I have been to Aruba 9 times (I think) . I have been to PDC several times. If I compare my last trip to PDC with my last trip to Aruba it is almost the same to the dollar. After my last trip to Mexico I am no longer interested in returning...not because of anything imparticular just because it dosent do anything for me anymore....I may consider returning but only to the Western Coast. The analogy of Apples and Oranges comes to mind. Some like one some like the other...but I think both have to be explored before YOU can make a decision. Have fun...Aruba, or PDC for that fact, may not be the "end all" of your vacations...but either way I think you'll have alot of fun exploring both.

Oakton
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10. Re: Somewhere "different" for my anniversary

Go to both and forget about what year your Anniversary is. Every year or for that matter every day is special. One year one place next year another soon you will really have less choices.224 days to our number 33. Have fun.