We’re looking for a March 2016 Caribbean vacation idea. We want ease of travel from Newark Airport, guaranteed good weather, swimmable ocean, great food, few or no kids. We have one week to travel and would like to keep it to about $5,000. Mainly a relaxing beach vacation. No Mexico.
Bridget, have you thought about St. Martin? It’s the French side of the French/Dutch island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. There are many non-stop flights to SXM and, because there are frequent flights, airfares are reasonable.
St. Martin is far enough south in the Caribbean that the weather is reliably sunny and warm throughout winter. I recommend the French side because it has lovely beaches—many of them blissfully empty—and some of the best chefs and food in the Caribbean. The ocean is calm and swimmable (and there are great snorkeling opportunities).
The Dutch and French sides of the island are very different. The Dutch side is overbuilt and busy; the French side is picturesque, serene, and feels like a slice of France. When I went with my family a few years ago, on assignment for Condé Nast Traveler, we rented a small beachfront condo-style villa on the Dutch-French border. That was perfect for our particular needs because we were able to easily take advantage of the best aspects of both sides of the island—on the Dutch side, the kid-friendly activities and water sports; on the French side, the gourmet restaurants, beaches, and culture.
I found that perfect homebase via Marilyn Pulito of Villas in Paradise, and if I were you, I’d reach out to her. Marilyn lives on St. Martin half the year and knows it like the palm of her hand. That beachfront villa rental was my family’s best vacation rental ever (and we’ve done about 12), and Marilyn’s insider advice about the island saved us time, money, and headaches. She recommended great restaurants (where, of course, she knows the owners and gets the tables with the best locations): At Sol e Luna, for instance, we ate one of our most memorable meals ever (while we left the kids with a babysitter, also arranged by Marilyn). And, from the marina next to our villa, we took the day trip with Captain Alan to gorgeous uninhabited nearby islands and colorful reefs. I highly recommend it!
If you’re interested in a vacation rental, the best way to contact Marilyn is via this trip-request form. That way, she’ll know I sent you and make you a priority (she’s very busy). If you prefer a hotel, my favorite St. Martin resort—with a gorgeous beach, excellent food, and relatively few kids (if you avoid spring break)—is La Samanna, but a week there in peak season will cost you more than $5,000.
The nearby islands of Anguilla and St. Barts also have gorgeous beaches, swimmable water, and great food, but to get there you need to change planes in St. Martin (or another Caribbean island) or take the ferry, and they’re both more expensive than St. Martin.
If you need other Caribbean island ideas, let me know. And if any readers have Caribbean island ideas for Bridget, chime in below!