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Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

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Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

Hello All--

So here's the deal, my husband and I are from Los Angeles, CA and are looking to take a 6-7 night vacation in literally... WAIT FOR IT... A week. That's right, we are looking to go on vacation next week (May 2nd-9th). I know it's last minute but frankly I've been able to find some pretty decent deals and I just got word that I am starting back at work and this is the only time it looks like we'll be able to go.

With that said, here is what we're looking for...

My husband and I are 32 and 34. Super young at heart. No kids (but that is one of the major things we hope to accomplish during this trip... Baby-making.) So romance and fun are highly important.

We enjoy extremely social, hip places with young, fun, people, a place that may have a DJ by the pool playing current music, but still luxurious. (Luxury on a budget... A great room is high on our list of priorities.)

Put it like this, our favorite places to go when we vacation are South Beach, Palm Springs and Vegas. We LOVE South Beach and when we've gone we did a large suite at the Sagamore overlooking the ocean! We went last Memorial weekend and stayed at the Venetian and went to Rehab, and Tao Beach for the pool parties. And when we're in Palm Springs although we love the decor and landscaping of the Parker hotel we prefer people watching in a huge balcony suite at the Riviera overlooking the main pool where there's more action, despite the nicer rooms at the Parker. So hopefully that gives you a hint of what kind of people we are... Extremely social with champagne taste on a slightly higher than beer budget :) (FYI, our budget is between 2k - 3k for flight and accomodations).

With that said, the goal of this trip is not really to party but to relax in a cool, fun setting. Doesn't need to be a major party-spot, but at the same time we don't want the island to go dead at 8pm, leaving us with nothing to do. We want somewhere hot, on the beach, where we can lay out all day on a great lounge chair and umbrella, sipping margaritas, or in a cabana or bed on the beach or pool. A place that doesn't feel overly stuffy, but DEFINITELY a place with vibe, atmosphere and that still feels like we're out of the country. We haven't taken a big vacation since we did a cruise a few years back: Miami, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas and I hated it... (I loved Miami and the destinations but the boat was waaaay too confining and not nearly fabulous enough). We want to do activities like jet-skiing, parasailing, renting scooters, swimming with dolphins, but no backpacking or hiking. We're not big adventurers.

Of course we have to keep in mind weather because I know a lot of these places are in their rainy season but we don't mind a brief moment of showers so long as it's hot and the sun comes back out for the majority of the day, so we can get our lounge on. So I've been going back and forth with the following places...

Barbados: Have heard great things about it, but for the type of accomodations we like (ie. Sandy Lane, which is no where near our budget) I wonder if it's out of our price range. Been looking at "The Crane Resort and Residences" and Hilton Barbados, but not sure either are going to give us that youthful cool, luxurious, vibe we like.

Punta Cana: Found some AWESOME all inclusive deals, and gorgeous looking hotels, but I keep hearing that you can NOT leave your resort for safety reasons and I wonder if we'll start feeling bored and confined after a few days. Not sure it's the fun, cool vibe we like. (hear it's kind of boring at night) Also heard you have to wrestle people or wake up at the crack of dawn if you want a spot on a lounger. Hotels I've been looking at: Paradisus, Iberostar, The Reserve at Paradisus. (Is Punta Cana the best city to go in DR?)

San Juan, Puerto Rico: A BIG contender so far. The prices seem right. I hear it's pretty safe. I've heard from several people it's extremely lively and social like we like. Just not sure it will offer the type of luxury and beach lounging we like. (Also, is San Juan the happening city for vacationers?) Hotels I'm considering: The Ritz Carlton, El San Juan Hotel and Casino, the 'W' retreat and spa (looks right up our alley with vibe and luxury, the only problem is I've read it's really far from all the action and that is not good!)

Cabo: Frankly, I'm kind of scared of Mexico right now and not really sure about the weather. But some of the accomodations look great! Also heard you can't really do beach lounging-- it's more about the pools, right? It's super close to Calfiornia which I like, but wonder if this will give us the vibe or weather we're looking for. Hotels I've considered: Cabo Azul, Me Melia, Riu Palace all inclusive, the ridge luxury villas at la playa

Aruba: Although I hear the weather is great year round, I keep hearing it's just like being in the US. I can't find a single luxury hotel and I hear it's hell trying to get a palapa or a lounger.

Maui or Kauai: And finally.... Hawaii. I've been to Waikiki (Hilton Hawaaian village) when I was much younger and loved it. But don't want to go anywhere where I've been before. Plus everyone keeps telling me Honolulu and Waikiki are just like being in the states. Although Maui and Kauai look beautiful I've heard these are the most dead/boring places -- everything apparently shuts down early and all there is to do is daytime activities. With that said I know it offers that great beach and beauty. Plus I'm concerned about how expensive food and activities will be since I know hawaii is so expensive.

I know I've been long winded and I'm sorry, but I'm so desperate and confused I would SOOOOOO appreciate ANY and all feedback advice and suggestions you wonderful people out there in FODOR land could offer. Any additional hotel suggestions and even destination suggestions are more than welcome!! Wish me luck... Heaven knows, I'll need it!

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1. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

Hi mercy, Since you are on a PR forum, I'll assume you want input on PR from us. Your time frame gives you a bit of flexibility since PR has many attractions that are not all that difficult to get to. You have heard right San Juan is a hip city that has great nightlife, which because it is mostly indigenous is much more fun that the frat party atmosphere that you find now in Vegas and to a lesser extent South Beach. The nightlife starts early and ends late, usually involves live music and great dancing. The locals call the tune and the tourists are more than welcome to join in. As a rule people dress up a little more than the States and there is far less segreration by age groups. Based on your post, you might be best at the El San Juan. or possibly the Intercontinental which is next door. The El San Juan has great night life on site and it has the water sports which you mentioned as well as a great beach and pool. It also has the advantage of being 5 minutes from the airport which after a cross country flight really helps. The nightlife in San Juan is mostly Thursday to Saturday so you could spend a few nights at the W on Vieques without too much hassle or missing much in San Juan. BTW I agree with you. Cruises? No thanks.

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Alexandria, Virginia
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2. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

I havent been to PR yet (going this week!) but Ive been to Hawaii before and I will say this, why spend lots of money on something that you have done before? I say try a new place! :)

My MIL goes to Aruba every year but she has a time share. I can't comment on the night life but she does say its quiet there (so maybe not your style)

I didnt want to go to Mexico either because of the crime. Im sure its ok if you use common sense (stay off the beach at night and stick to areas with lots of people)...but why risk it?

I know you can rent jet skis in San Juan. Do you like to snorkel? Lots of tours you can take :)

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3. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

here's my 2 cents... we went to hawaii (Oahu and Maui) year before last and Puerto Rico last year. This year ... we are going back to Puerto Rico. (We usually never like to go to the same place twice - like to try new stuff). BUT... there is SOOO much to see and do in Puerto Rico that i have an all new itinerary this year that i didn't have last year.

If it were me - i'd choose Puerto Rico and go for 3 days to Culebra and the rest of the time San Juan. We stayed at the INtercontinental last yaer and got a great deal - it has El San Juan next door with the "hopping night scene". Culebra will give you the beach and beauty and romance factor you are looking for I believe. San Juan is a really really cool place. If i were going to stay there again, i'd book at the Sheraton in Old San Juan. You will be near lots of night life - but plan on that part to be near the weekend. Do your week day part in Culebra or Vieques. Check out the pictures for Culebra - AMAZING !!! :) beautiful, romantic !!! The Villa Fulladosa has good reviews for Culebra. I talked to the inn keeper and she was very helpful and nice when i was checking out Culebra.

also - PR is going to be a tad bit cheaper than Hawaii. Hawaii dining can get SUPER expensive quickly. I love Hawaii and I'd go back to Maui but for what you are looking for I think PR will fit your needs better. :)

Have fun - and good luck with the baby making !!! :) :)

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4. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

Wow - you have certainly done some research. Having read all that you wrote, and been to almost all of the places you mentioned that are in contention, I would say that your research is spot on, and it looks like you are a prime candidate for San Juan, and PR in general. El San Juan would be perfect for you, but like the previous poster, I would recommend maybe taking a day or two and going to Culebra or Vieques or even Rincon. Having stayed at El San Juan and the Intercontinental (right next door) if you can get a deal at Intercontinental, take it. The night life/people watching at El San Juan is terrific, so a short walk is no problem. And if you don't rent a car, you can easily still get into Old San Juan by taxi.

Conversely, I loved Barbados, but you are correct about the hotels. Sandy Lane is outstanding, beautiful beach, but waaaay too expensive and its quiet in that area at night. Punta Cana - too many people, too confining, all-inclusives (which you can keep). Puerto Plata is way prettier, more laid back and the town of Sosua is really great - but sounds like you haven't looked into that at all. Maybe for a future trip. (I'm also a big fan of St. Lucia!) Aruba is full of people too and is just a nice beach with hotels spoon-packed in. Flat, desert-y, dry.

Good luck and have fun!

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Los Angeles...
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5. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

Hi All--

I am sooooo thankful for everyone's feedback and advice. After so much back and forth and constant emailing and even consulting with some very experienced trip advisor travelers (not to mention a professional travel agent) it looks like we're going to head to the ME Cancun. I know, I know... (MTV spring break central). But before I hear all the groans and scoffs, ultimately it boiled down to the following: time, money and atmosphere.

After speaking to several people I knew Aruba was not the right fit for my husband and I based on the lack of nightlife and luxury hotels... Jamaica, The Bahamas and most of the Carribbean locations were taken out of the running mostly due to the amount of travel time it would have taken to get there, severely cutting into our actual vacation time, so those were ruled out. Barbados and Hawaii felt way too expensive based on our budget and so ultimately it came down to Cabo San Lucas and Cancun. (Puerto Rico was a heavy contender but my husband seemed to take to the idea of Cancun a little more).

Cancun beat out our decision to Cabo due to everyone's constant raving over their white sand beaches vs. the rockier beaches of Cabo not to mention the hotel that I was interested in for both happened to be the same... the ME (Melia). The ME Cabo was $2700 for flight and accomodations but not all inclusive. We will be getting the ME Cancun all inclusive for $3000.00 and I will still get my full seven nights of vacation.

Based on all the feedback I'm getting I know we may be in for some major nightlife and noise from all the partying and beach-goers who flock to Cancun and the ME Cancun but I think we'll be okay. (After all we do love South Beach). I guess at this point there's nothing we can do but pull the trigger on something. Nothing like good old trial and error. We have to go see how it is and then maybe next time we'll have more time to properly plan in advance. Plus, if we are successful on the "baby-making" end I figure this may be one of the last times my husband and I will want to do a louder, busier resort such as this.

Being that Cancun seems to be the final decision if anyone has any last minute suggestions-- Hotels? Restaurants? Actitvities that can make this a great trip I would be so grateful to hear them. I am so thankful and appreciative to my new Tripadvisor family for all your help. Now, fingers crossed!

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6. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

From the destinations you provided, I've only been to Aruba (several times) and PR (twice a year, every year). Between the 2 I would choose PR, hands down. PR has a lot more to do than Aruba.

If you do choose PR, stay in San Juan. This is where the nightlife is. The El San Juan hotel in Isla Verde has the hottest club in town. Isla Verde has the nicest beach in San Juan. There are several hotels on this beach, including El San Juan and Intercontinental.

I agree with ajpesina. However, for the romance factor I would suggest Vieques instead of Culebra, only because of the W hotel. I haven't been, but it looks amazing.

starwoodhotels.com/whotels/…

Another resort to consider in PR is the newly opened St Regis. Can't get more romantic than that!

…stregis.com/St-Regis-Bahia-Beach-Puerto-Ric…

Have fun!

Edited: 26 April 2011, 19:41
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7. Re: Puerto Rico vs. Barbados, Cabo, Dominican, Hawaii? HELP!

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