By Rebecca Galib and Cassandra Raposo
The Caribbean islands have much to offer, from cultural traditions to pristine beaches kissed by the clear, blue ocean. Whether you’re bumming it at the beach, exploring a tropical island paradise or tasting some local cuisine, you’ll find utter satisfaction and relaxation no matter your budget.
Stay: The Courtyard by Marriott Kingston is a 25-minute drive away from the Norman Manley International Airport. The hotel is close to shopping, dining, entertainment and tourist sites such as Emancipation Park and the Devon House. With free parking, gym access and Wi-Fi, you’ll feel right at home.
Do: Take in 200 acres of natural beauty at the Hope Botanical Gardens with a variety of exotic flowers, cactuses and bougainvillea. If you’re a history buff, visit Fort Charles in Port Royal, the home of pirates and outlaws in the 1600s, or take a trip to the Institute of Jamaica in Kingston to learn about art, science and agriculture.
Dine: For full-fledged Jamaican flavors, head to Sweetwood Jerk Joint in Kingston for a wide menu of jerk meats, like pork and chicken, grilled right in front of you. Usain Bolt’s (yes, that Usain Bolt) Tracks and Records offers authentic Caribbean flair with a contemporary twist. Try the whole fried fish or the jerk chicken spring rolls.
Stay: One of the best Aruba beaches for swimming is 2-mile-long Palm Beach. As such, the area has the highest concentration of oceanfront resorts, like Marriott’s Aruba Surf Club. This affordable, family-oriented resort offers up plenty of fun for parents and kids alike, from a lazy river to themed buffet nights.
Do: Eleven casinos call Aruba home. But if casinos aren’t your thing, you can snorkel or scuba dive in the island’s crystal-clear waters. For a change of pace, underwater tours with Atlantis Submarines Expedition in Oranjestad give visitors an up-close look at Barcadera Reef and different shipwrecks.
Dine: There’s something for everyone at the restaurants in Aruba, from surf and turf to international cuisine. Papillon Restaurant in Palm Beach features classic French flavors with a Caribbean flair, while Yemanja Woodfired Grill in Oranjestad offers a menu of comfort food for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
Luxury: St. Lucia
Stay: The AAA Four Diamond Rated Anse Chastanet Resort in Soufriere has a view of the Petit Piton and Gros Piton mountains. Its spacious cottages, stunning views and beautiful art murals earned a AAA inspector’s “Best Of” award for wow effect.
Do: Dig your toes into the black sand at Anse Chastanet Beach, play 18 holes at St. Lucia Golf Club or take a helicopter tour of the island. On Friday night, go to a “jump up,” a street party with reggae and soca music, in Gros Islet or Anse la Raye.
Dine: Great Room, a AAA Four Diamond Rated restaurant in Soufriere, features Caribbean and international fare like rack of lamb and yellowtail snapper. In Marigot Bay, you’ll find Masala Bay, which serves Hakka cuisine, a blend of Indian and Chinese cooking.
Have you vacationed in the Caribbean? Share your adventures in the comments!
Let AAA help you plan your next vacation. Go to AAA.com/Travel.