Adventure travel means going slightly off the beaten path. It doesn’t have to involve sleeping in a tent – indeed, there are plenty of luxury adventure options. But adventure usually does mean leaving mass tourism and chain hotels behind. In the Caribbean, this is easy to do. Many different types of properties, ranging from bare-bone basic cottages to luxury villas and all-inclusives, offer unique lodging with an island accent, and some even operate with a concern for environmental and cultural sustainability. Even Motels in Newcastle are also available that offer luxury lifestyle.
Private Islands and All-inclusives
All-inclusive hotels are popular worldwide, but they’ve become especially popular in the Caribbean. The clear advantage is that visitors know the cost before they arrive, or, at least, most of it. (Gratuities may be expected, and drinks are not always included.) With private islands, all-inclusives make sense because most guests will stay on the islands for most of their meals and many of their activities.
All-inclusives come in several different flavors. In Jamaica’s funky-trendy Negril, all-inclusive resorts include adult-oriented resorts such as Couples, Swept Away,and Hedonism. (The names give a pretty good hint as to what visitors can expect from each). Things to check on include dining options (Are there different kinds of restaurants on site, or just a big buffet night after night?), special themed entertainment nights, and whether drinks are included. (For example, Swept Away, in Negril, not only has included drinks, but complementary in-room mini-bars).
On the other side of the spectrum are family-oriented all-inclusive resorts where children are welcome. One variant of this approach is St. Lucia’s Coconut Bay, which has a family wing complete with water park and babysitting, as well as an adults-only wing with private pools and a lovely little spa.
In still other cases, children may be allowed at certain times of year, but not at others. On St. Vincent’s Palm Island, a private island that is also an all-inclusive, bookings for families with children are not accepted after the Christmas vacation.
Check to see which activities are offered and available on-site, and which require transportation, whether the property can arrange excursions, and what is included in the “all inclusive” price. At Jamaica’s Couples Resorts, almost all activities available on-site are included in the price (including scuba diving). At St. Lucia’s Coconut Bay, off-site activities are extra, but everything from zip-lining to four-wheel-drive excursions can be booked through the hotel’s adventure desk.
Private Villas, Houses, and Condominiums
Villas can be either completely free-standing privately owned units, or they can be part of a gated community. They may be owned by locals, or may be second homes for foreigners who rent them out when they are not in residence.
Don’t let the word “villa” fool you: Villa is just a fancy name for a house that may be fancy – or may not. Free-standing villas will usually come with the services of a caretaker, housekeeper, and cook (some of these jobs may be done by the same person). Condominium units and units that are in a gated community will have the services of the development. Other services will vary, but can usually be arranged. In a development, guests would have the use of any communal facilities such as pools, tennis courts, and beach access.
You’ll be able to eat “at home” in your villa, but you’ll probably be on your own for arranging excursions.
Independent Hotels, Including Boutique Hotels, B&Bs, and Budget Properties
Boutique properties typically refer to unique properties, many of which are independently owned (although sometimes they are a part of a consortium of properties or may be members of an international association of other similar properties). In any case, these properties are the exact opposite of cookie-cutter chains. Many of them are historic properties, often the homes of the original plantation owners or local gentry. As you might expect from the name, they tend to be smaller than your basic road-side hotel.
Ask about air conditioning, especially in a historic property! Many old wood-framed buildings were built to take advantage of sea breezes, and don’t have air-conditioning, and this can include even luxury properties with rooms or cottages costing upward of $500 a night. If it’s important to you, don’t assume, ask.
Budget accommodations run the gamut from facilities just one step removed from camping, to basic but clean accommodations. For adventure travelers who plan to spend most of their time diving underwater, ziplining through the rainforests, hiking in the mountains, or doing watersports, these basic accommodations may be satisfactory and a good way to save money. But don’t be swayed by beautiful guidebook pictures. A good photographer and a quick photo-styling can make almost anything seem attractive. The best place to find recommendations for these is in guidebooks; double checking reviews of the properties with TripAdvisor.com might reveal little oddities and surprises (and there are bound to be some).
One of the benefits of adventure travel is leaving our part of the world behind and experiencing something new. By moving beyond well-known brand accommodations into independently owned and one of a kind Caribbean properties — whether they are luxury private room, all-inclusives, boutique properties, villas, condos, or budget properties – adventurous travelers can experience a bit more of the local culture, without giving up the comforts of home.