A Caribbean Getaway without Hurting your Wallet

The following article was written by me on behalf of Choice Hotels and I was paid to write this post. However, the opinions are entirely my own.

Beautiful St. Maarten

For years we had our very own backyard tropical paradise. Life in the Virgin Islands meant warm, sunny days, crystal clear turquoise water, palms swaying in the breeze, and simply stepping out of our backdoor for a lime, coconut, or guava fresh off the tree.

It also meant that we would often hear from family and friends ready to come for a visit after a few months of clouds and cold made it seem like winter might never end up in the states. Who could blame them? There’s no better way to beat the winter blues than a visit to the tropics, and we were happy to play host so they could have a tropical getaway without spending an arm and a leg.

Now that we’re back on the mainland, when the gloom and chill gets us wondering if spring will ever arrive, we can’t help but long for those sun drenched days again. While we may not be able to play the host in our own backyard anymore, we can recommend an affordable alternative that is even better, Choice Hotels.

Believe it or not, even while living in paradise we liked to sneak off for a break now and then, and two of our favorite destinations were the islands of St. Maarten and Puerto Rico. Both were near our home on St. Croix, and both offer unique experiences beyond their beautiful tropical beaches.

Beautiful St. Maarten

We loved St. Maarten because it was like getting two vacations for the price of one, since the island is split into two jurisdictions, French and Dutch. We liked to eat on the French side, with its myriad of choices for gourmet dining, and stay on the Dutch side, with its lively casinos and nightlife alongside incredible white sand beaches.

One of those beaches, Maho Beach, is about the coolest, and craziest, we have ever come across. The sandy strip is famous for up-close encounters with the airplanes landing at Princess Juliana International Airport, because the runway begins only a few feet from the water. We had to see it to believe it.

Beautiful St. Maarten

The rush of watching jumbo jets roaring right above us was beyond intense. It’s exhilarating, and sometimes a bit terrifying, to have these monstrous machines pass only a few feet overhead. Our natural inclination was to duck, or dive headlong into the sea, but we braved it out and after a few landings almost got used to it. Almost.

One thing’s for sure, there is no place else like it, and the Alegria, An Ascend Hotel Collection Member is only footsteps away. We could feel right at home in this peaceful refuge with ocean view rooms and a seaside pool, or step out onto any of the more laid back beaches nearby for a more relaxing adventure.

Beautiful St. Maarten

When suppertime rolled around we liked to head over to the French part of the island, especially the village of Grand Case. This little seaside settlement brings a real touch of Europe to the tropics. Step into almost any restaurant for a meal that rivals the best in Paris, and get the bonus of waves caressing the shore just beyond your table.

Talk about dinner and a show!

Caribbean Urban

San Juan, Puerto Rico

For a more urban setting, we found a few days in San Juan, Puerto Rico to be another great escape.

A visit to historic Old San Juan is like a trip back in time.

Founded by Ponce de León in 1508, this was the hub of Caribbean activity for centuries. Much of the original town has been preserved along the harbor.

The enduring old city’s narrow, cobblestone streets are lined with eclectic little shops and cafes, but the highlight for us was the Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

This Spanish fortress stands guard over the waterfront, just as it has for almost five-hundred years.

Walking along the remarkably preserved ramparts, it’s easy to imagine magnificent clipper ships sailing in and out of the port with their cargos of gold and silver bound from the New World to Europe.

We could almost hear the thunder of cannons fending off an attack.

Of course San Juan has world class shopping and restaurants too, along with gorgeous beaches.

Choice Hotels has three properties to choose from within the city.  Two, Le Consulat An Ascend Hotel Collection Member and the Comfort Inn, are near Old San Juan and another, the Comfort Inn & Suites is beachside in Levittown.

Sunset in Puerto Rico

So when the snow flies for the umpteenth time this winter, and we find ourselves missing our old home, we are sure glad to know that making the right Choice for a Caribbean getaway without breaking the bank is only a click away.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

YOUR TURN: Are you ready for a Caribbean getaway?

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25 thoughts on “A Caribbean Getaway without Hurting your Wallet”

  1. Landing in Sint Maarten is indeed quite an experience for both the beachgoes and the passengers on the plane, as we witnessed on our own recent Caribbean Getaway! It makes for an exhilarating start to a vacation.

  2. Since I moved to Florida I’ve basically quit going to the Caribbean and that’s just stupid so thanks for waking me up! I’ve wondered about Choice Hotels so thanks for sharing for this.

  3. I’ve never heard of Choice Hotels but they sound worth checking out especially on St. Maarten/St. Martin – one of my favourite islands for island hopping to Saba, St. Barts and Anguilla.

  4. I have stayed on both sides of St. Maarten/St. Martin and especially loved the Grand Case area. I’ve only flown in and out of San Juan, with a long layover once that allowed me to see some of old San Juan. I’d like to someday stay for a while to really experience Puerto Rico. Thanks for sharing some budget ways to do that!

  5. I’ve always wanted to visit St. Maarten, particularly because of the French aspect. And was intrigued that you ate on the French side and stayed on the Dutch side. Hmmmm….Food for thought for when I go. Was there that big a difference in the two sides?

  6. I love the Caribbean, and some way or another we’re going to live there someday, for our retirement if not before. I’ve never been to St Maartens or St Croix, but I have been to Puerto Rico, and loved the contrasts there: a historic old city combined with the big modern urban life, combined with fantastic beaches and wonderful food.

  7. No matter where we live in the world time spent in a Caribbean paradise is always welcome and you’ve showcased some beautiful locations. St. Maarten sounds intriguing because of its mix of Dutch and French cultures and I’m also drawn to historic Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Looks like we may have to exchange the Atlantic for the Caribbean again one of these days. Gorgeous photos!

  8. Yes, we are ready for a Caribbean getaway, perhaps this coming late fall and winter. I liked this post because its familiar tone made me think I could someday consider the Caribbean as my backyard playground, too. Wonderful!

  9. This post brought back some fond memories of St.Maarten. I loved experiencing both jurisdictions. San Juan is high on my list of places to visit. We almost made it there this winter. Maybe next year. And maybe at one of the Choice properties.

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