Budget Caribbean Rentals With a View
As winter wears on, our thoughts turn to the white sand, blue seas, and temperate climes of the Caribbean. An island vacation may sound like a splurge, but you don't have to be loaded to make it happen. Although rates do shift based on season and availability, we've found 10 places that'll allow you to stretch your travel budget without sacrifice—all with amazing scenery and amenities, for less than $200 a night.
1. Dominican Republic: Las Terrenas
On a hilltop overlooking the resort town of Las Terrenas, on the Samaná Peninsula in the Dominican Republic, this two-bedroom apartment offers mountain views from its private terrace, and that’s just for starters. Located in Monte Placido, a gated community with six other properties, its shared amenities include an infinity pool overlooking the countryside and the ocean, with a lounge area and a gas grill, plus a sprawling yoga studio that’s half wooden deck and half cave. It sleeps up to six adults and two kids, and the expat couple that runs the place can help arrange tours, meals, and even spa services. airbnb.com
2. Curaçao: Willemstad
In a resort on Curaçao’s southwest coast, a 20-minute drive from the capital of WIllemstad, this stand-alone alone villa boasts modern interiors and creature comforts, just steps away from the beach. Take a dip in the private pool, rinse off in the outdoor shower, and sip a cocktail while you gaze at the sea from the comfort of your terrace, or venture over to the property’s infinity pool for a picture-perfect swim. Christoffelpark, the island’s largest national park, isn’t far by car, and the owners are happy to offer tips and suggestions. The house accommodates four people, and comes equipped with Apple TV, just in case you need a break from all of that natural beauty. airbnb.com
3. Martinique: Le Diamant
With private access to a small strip of unsullied beach and unobstructed waterfront views for taking in both sunrises and sunsets, this two-bedroom villa offers tranquility and scenery at a modest price. Located on the outskirts of Le Diamant, a small town on Martinique’s south coast, it’s a destination best suited for those in search of peace and quiet—you won’t find much nightlife here, just a few hotels and restaurants spread out over the 1.25-mile public beach. Embrace the solitude and channel your inner homebody: Hit up the nearby local fishermen for their catch of the day, fire up the grill, and enjoy a dinner al fresco as you watch the sun slip into the bay. homeaway.com
4. Dominican Republic: Cabarete
A Spanish Colonial-style home that sleeps up to seven, this Cabarete abode has a private pool right off the sand, a manicured garden, an enclosed, ground-floor patio, and an open-air shower—the perfect amenities for a week or two of outdoor living. The upstairs master bedroom has ocean views, and there’s a caretaker on the property—and two dogs!—who will make you feel right at home. Plus, your airport transfers are covered, so you won’t have to worry about a thing upon landing. Walk into town to partake in the vibrant nightlife and waterfront dining scene, or stick with sun and fun: Cabarete is known for its water sports, and you’ll have easy access to the best kitesurfing, windsurfing, and just plain surfing spots from your beachside perch. vrbo.com
5. Jamaica: Montego Bay
A 20-minute walk from Montego Bay’s Hip Strip and the white sand and clear waters of premiere swimming spots like Doctors Cave, this two-bedroom apartment is close to restaurants, bars, and beach alike. Located in a residential building with a communal rooftop pool offering stellar ocean views, it sleeps up to seven and provides a unique peek at life in a real island community. A driver from the Jamaica Tourist Board is on call to show you around—arrange for the $30 airport-pickup option, and he’ll take you to the grocery store to stock up on provisions, with a stop for jerk chicken along the way—and the owner can help arrange excursions around the island—think day trips to Negril, rafting on the Martha Brae river, and the refreshing rock pools and waterfalls of Westmoreland’s Mayfield Falls. airbnb.com
6. Saint Lucia: Marigot Bay
A two-bedroom apartment in a hilltop villa a short drive from Castries, the island’s capital, this private flat offers the best of both worlds: There’s a secluded cove for snorkeling and swimming, just a few minutes away via a nature path, and Marigot Bay’s action-packed water-sports scene is nearby too. Take advantage of the kayaking, paddleboarding, and sailing opportunities on the bay, then retreat from the hustle and bustle to your private verandah, where you can listen to the birds singing as you look out over the gardens and pool. A serene escape with easy access to both mountains and sea (there’s a hiking trail not far away), it has a 20-foot-high tree deck that’s perfect for catching the sunset, fitness equipment, and more. Plus, when you check in, you’ll be greeted by a friendly face bearing an icy-cold pitcher of rum punch—a warm welcome indeed. homeaway.com
7. Dominican Republic: Las Terrenas
Also located in Las Terrenas, this villa was designed by an Italian architect to make the most of its location, with stunning views of the Atlantic from every room, not to mention soaring ceilings, contemporary furnishings, and a gorgeous, private salt-water infinity pool overlooking the ocean. There’s a patio with cushy couches, so you can recline and take in the sunset in comfort, as well as a fully equipped kitchen; fend for yourself, or ask the management to arrange your meals and experience some great Dominican cooking firsthand. Located mere yards from Playa Coson, it’s not far from other regional beaches either, like Playa Rincón and Cayo Levantado, and it makes a good base of operations for exploring the area—Los Haitises National Park and El Limón waterfall are both nearby. Pro tip: Plan your trip for February through April, when the humpback whales come out to play in Samaná Bay. airbnb.com
8. Curaçao: Sint Michiel
In the heart of a Curaçao fishing village off the well-trodden tourist trail, this two-bedroom villa faces the ocean and boasts direct beach access, a private dock, an outdoor shower, and a lush tropical garden. Sit on the brick-lined patio and watch the dolphins passing by, or jump in and join them if you’ve got the nerve; you'll also have a great vantage point here for spectacular sunsets. Sint Michiel is known for its scuba diving, and some of the best schools on the island are within walking distance. Newbies can take a guided tour or sign up for a night dive with a nearby pro, but you can also bring your own equipment and descend to the depths from your own front porch. homeaway.com
9. Bonaire: Kralendijk
East of Curaçao, you’ll find the Dutch island of Bonaire, a tiny, easy-going place with a laidback way of life—and a lack of traffic lights. You’ll have to get creative to get here, as plane tickets can be pricey and routes difficult to navigate, but if you play your cards right and time your airfare-shopping properly, you’ll be rewarded with a dreamy vacation destination that puts sustainable travel front and center, from coral-reef preservation to carbon-offsetting initiatives. This three-bedroom villa sits on a secluded hill outside of town, 10 minutes from the shops and restaurants of Kralendijk (the capital city and main port) and a quick drive to the dive sites on the northern side of the island. On the property, you'll find brightly colored tropical birds singing in the trees, plus a private pool with a deck and a shady cabana, all with views to the ocean. vrbo.com
10. Cayman Islands: Cayman Brac
Grand Cayman may get the lion’s share of the love, but northeast of the popular cruise-ship port is Cayman Brac, a haven for divers, snorkelers, and hikers too. This beautiful beachfront house sleeps six, and it’s steps from the sand, with a private jetty, a Caribbean-facing verandah, and hammocks, chaise lounges, and Adirondack chairs throughout for ultimate outdoor relaxation. On the bluff behind the house, there’s a parrot reserve where you’ll spot native Brac parrots and vitelline warblers, and on the southeastern cliffs, you can watch the brown booby birds building their nests. Go for a trek on the bluff, launch your kayak from the jetty, go shore diving, or simply settle in for some star-gazing. vrbo.com
Ultimate Mississippi Road Trip: Blues, Food & Fun
Get ready to hit the road and explore the best of the Magnolia State, from rock n’ roll in Tupelo to Delta blues in Clarksdale, from the peerless cultural legacies of Oxford and Jackson to delicious restaurants in vibrant downtowns. Here, complete with driving routes and top picks in every town, the ultimate Mississippi road trip. TUPELO: HAIL TO THE KING OF ROCK N’ ROLL (Calvin L. Leake/Dreamsime) When it comes to Instagrammable destinations, it doesn’t get any more epic than the monumental statue of Elvis Presley in Tupelo, where the King of Rock n’ Roll was born. Soak up the atmosphere in Tupelo’s vibrant downtown and visit Tupelo Hardware Company, where Presley’s mother bought him his first guitar. Little did Gladys Presley know that her boy would grow up to synthesize the country, bluegrass, and blues traditions into a new musical genre that would take the mid-century world by storm. From downtown, head into the all-Elvis-all-the-time scene at the Elvis Presley Birthplace, where you can tour the small house where the King was born, spend some time chilling in Elvis Presley Park, and absorb the history, artifacts, and fun at the Elvis Presley Museum. Hungry? A meal fit for the famously ravenous King himself awaits at Neon Pig, where the “smashburger” combines several cuts of meat, including legendary Benton’s bacon. OXFORD: A COLLEGE TOWN WITH SERIOUS LITERARY CRED (Ken Wolter/Dreamstime)Less than an hour’s drive from Tupelo on US 278 E, Oxford is a fitting transition from Mississippi’s pop music royalty to its serious literature. Tour Rowan Oak, the family home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, who immortalized the region in his funny and touching stories set in fictional Yoknapatawpha County. The grounds are worth a stroll even if you’re not enraptured of the famous author’s work. Oxford also happens to be a renowned college town, home to the University of Mississippi, where visitors can tour the Center for the Study of Southern Culture devoted to literature and folklore, and the unique Blues Archive with its recordings, photographs, and personal artifacts of Mississippi’s blues masters. Hankering for some live music? The historic Lyric Theater, painstakingly restored to its original splendor, plays host to major acts, and the Gertrude C. Ford Performing Arts Center hosts an array of concerts. MISSISSIPPI BLUES TRAIL: BIRTHPLACE OF A UNIQUE MUSICAL ART FORM About an hour and 15 minutes from Oxford on MS-6 W, the town of Clarksdale is the gateway to the Mississippi Delta region and the incredible Mississippi Blues Trail, which takes visitors through a few key towns that played a role in the development of this uniquely American musical art form. Immerse yourself in the music at the Delta Blues Museum, which chronicles the lives and careers of local blues legends such as Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, and others, including the cabin in which Waters lived as a child. At the end of your day, you can refuel and take in some live blues all at the same time at Clarksdale’s Ground Zero Blues Club. Nearby Indianola is best known as the home of B.B. King, with the excellent B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center commemorating the life and work of the guitarist and composer who served as perhaps America’s best-known ambassador of the blues to the world via his recordings, live concerts, and television appearances. You can visit King’s grave, learn about the history and development of his work and the Delta blues tradition in general, and get up close and personal with musical instruments and memorabilia that bring the music to life. Around the corner, stop by Club Ebony, which has been serving up blues music, soul food, and beer since the 1940s. Further along Highway 82 on the Blues Trail, the town of Greenwood has a rich musical tradition and is the final resting place of bluesman Robert Johnson, of whom little is known. Johnson died in his twenties and left behind a small body of recorded blues guitar and vocal recordings that have nevertheless inspired musicians across the U.S. and the world, including the Allman Brothers and the Rolling Stones. Stop by the Blues Heritage Gallery to learn more about Johnson’s short life and body of work. And there’s no reason to leave Greenwood hungry, with an array of excellent eateries along historic downtown’s brick-paved streets. Try Giardina’s Restaurant, a historic restaurant located downtown within The Alluvian, a boutique hotel. JACKSON: CAPITAL OF FOOD & FUN Less than a two-hour drive from Greenwood on MS-17 S and I-55 S, Mississippi’s capital, Jackson, boasts world-class shopping, museums, restaurants and culture. Visit the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, both of which opened during the state’s recent bicentennial in 2017. The Mississippi Museum of Art, is also here, celebrating the work of contemporary local artists as well as past masters; the museum’s garden is worth a visit for its exquisitely curated plants and flowers. Literary fans will flock to the Eudora Welty House, in the Belhaven neighborhood, where the home and garden of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author make an impression almost as spectacular as her novels and short fiction. Close out your day with a stop at Bully’s Restaurant, honored by the Southern Foodways Alliance, for traditional soul food like ribs, fried chicken, and locally sourced catfish. MERIDIAN: ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT About an hour’s drive from Jackson via I-20 E, Meridian is the site of the brand-new, 60,000-square-foot Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience, which celebrates the work of Mississippi’s creative folks with interactive exhibits devoted to Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Jimmy Buffett (who hails from Pascagoula, MS), and Jimmie Rodgers, known as the King of Country Music.
Locals Know Best: St. Louis, Missouri
Ten years ago, if you asked Tamara Keefe where she thought she’d be today, she definitely would not have said St. Louis. In 2008, she moved to the city from California “kicking and screaming,” as she puts it. But her resistance was futile. Within six months, she had fallen under its spell and to this day she declares St. Louis is her one true love. The owner of Clementine’s Creamery, which has two scoop shops in town and a third opening in the spring, joins a number of other culinary entrepreneurs who’ve made the city their home, creating an accidental community of bakers, butchers, brewers, and craftspeople who see to it that locals have fresh baked bread, handmade kombucha, and plenty other delicious eats each day. Add to that the astonishingly low cost of living and a multitude of cultural options, many of them free, and it’s clear that the risk of falling in love with this town is high. (And that’s to say nothing of how Midwesterners are “gloriously friendly people,” Tamara quickly learned.) We checked in with Tamara to learn more. A City of Neighborhoods One of the many things that’s easy to love about St. Louis is its assortment of distinct neighborhoods. And there’s enough to do in each of them that you can spend the day and still leave not having done it all. Tamara has a fondness for Lafayette Square, the city’s oldest and most historic district that’s seen a lively community grow around its historic fixtures and sprawling park. Tamara recommends starting a day there with breakfast at Sqwires (sqwires.com), a secret among locals known for its killer brunches (smoked brisket hash, anyone?) and its bloody mary and mimosa bars on the weekend. Walk it off with a leisurely stroll through the boutiques and galleries along Park Avenue, the main drag. An eatery like Polite Society (politesocietystl.com) is a top pick for lunch, with plates like wild boar ravioli among the many choices. “It’s funky American cuisine and they do it right,” Tamara says. Nearby is one of her scoop shops, so definitely drop in to try one of her boozy creations, like maple bourbon or chocolate milk stout. (Those are the “naughty” options. She’s got “nice” liquor-free ones, too, like gooey butter cake.) Unwind at the end of the day with a drink at Planter's House (plantershousestl.com), which Tamra calls a “sexy little cocktail bar.” Cherokee Street (AKA: Cherokee Antique Row) is another neighborhood that’s worth a wander. With its many antique stores, it’s a Shangri-La for vintage lovers who can easily spend hours sifting through inventories of furniture, home goods, jewelry, clothing and much more. One standout is Dead Wax Records, an overflowing vinyl shop owned by one of the same people that runs the Mud House (themudhousestl.com), a coffee shop nearby that Tamara recommends. Once you’re all shopped out, cap off the day at Chaparritos, Tamara’s go-to for amazing chili verde and mean margaritas. A Hub of Culture If you live in St. Louis, it’s easy to see—and hear—your tax dollars at work. Many museums are free, the zoo is free, there’s an outdoor theater, the Muny (themuny.org), where nearly 1500 seats are offered for free at every performance, and St. Louis is home to one of the country’s most celebrated opera companies, which you can see for as little as $12. “The arts are huge here and it’s really important for them to have access to it—for everyone to have access. It’s not just for the elite,” Tamara says. “Coming from SoCal, where you pay outrageous prices for everything, it’s just awesome.” Every city has a movie theater--or several--for regular entertainment, but St. Louis's main cinema, the independent, old-time-style Chase Park Cinema in the historic Chase Park Plaza hotel, comes with an added delight. His name is Jerry and he plays the vintage organ before every show and sees people off after the movie with a Hershey's Chocolate Kiss. Tamara estimates he's been there for decades. "Everyone knows him, everyone looks forward to it," she says. Nature Calls Should you need a break from the city, there are a few ways for heeding the call of the wild. Castlewood State Park, for one, features walking and running trails that snake along the Merrimack River. There are cliffs that make perfect perches for a picnic lunch. Tamara suggests stopping at Parker’s Table at Oakland and Yale (parkerstable.com) a wine and food market where you can pick up provisions like sandwiches, soups, and the house sausages for the day. For kids, there’s an uncommon nature sanctuary. The Butterfly House at the Missouri Botanical Garden (missouribotanicalgarden.com) is a glass-walled conservatory that’s home to more than a thousand tropical free-wheeling butterflies. “They land on eyelashes, hair, clothes," Tamara says. "It’s so sweet and kinda magical. You feel like you’re in a Disney movie.” Daytripping Everywhere you go these days it seems like you're close to a wine country, and St. Louis is no exception. About 90 minutes west, Hermann (visithermann.com), a village settled by German immigrants, is Missouri’s wine region. A concentration of wineries could certainly keep you entertained for a full day. Break up the wine tastings with a stop at Old Stone Barn (oldstonebarn.com), a working hay farm that doubles as an antique emporium. Another destination if you want to hit the road is Cottleville, and old-timey town with still yet more antique shops and charming B&Bs. Stone Soup Cottage (stonesoupccottage.com), a restaurant in an old house with just enough space for ten tables, is worth the trip alone, says Tamara. Perch yourself on the wraparound porch and start your evening gazing at the stars. Dinner, chef’s choice, consists of whatever’s fresh off the farm that day, so expect a wholesome meal.
3 Warm Places to Escape Winter
Sure, cold-weather fun is all well and good, and we love skiing, skating, and sledding as much as anyone. But when the mercury drops a little too far for a little too long, it's time to grab your beach bag, swimsuit, and flip-flops and head for a warm escape. Here, we share three spots where the temperatures are high, but the prices are surprisingly down to earth. 1. THE BAHAMAS Beaches, seafood, and cool outdoor markets. Although there are 700 islands that make up the Bahamas, we suggest you head to New Providence Island, home to Nassau, where rates at reliable hotels such as Holiday Inn Express and Courtyard start at well under $200/night. Nassau is a quick flight from major Northeast airports, and you’ll get your fill of gorgeous beaches, outdoor markets packed with handmade crafts, and, of course, seafood, seafood, seafood: Cracked conch with peas and rice is as close to a signature dish as the Bahamas can come -- you’ll love the deep-fried cutlet and the pleasantly spicy peas and rice. Wash it down with Sky Juice, a refreshing gin-and-coconut-water cocktail. 2. MIAMI Style, Cuban cuisine, and a surprisingly quiet beach (really!). First of all, let’s dispel a common myth about Miami: The city’s stylish, Art Deco-inspired hotels don’t have to break the bank. We’ve got swanky lodgings like the Hotel Breakwater, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, starting under $200/night. Another myth: Miami’s beaches are packed. While iconic South Beach may be lined with high-rise hotels and fashionable crowds to match, you’ll find a decidedly quieter side to Miami Beach at North Beach Open Space Park, a white-sand beach with picnic tables, a dog park, and the kind of peace and quiet you left home in search of. When it comes to food, Miami’s legendary Cuban fare is available in Little Havana -- and everywhere else. Try the cubano sandwich (pork, peppers, and cheese), chicharron (pork belly), and ropa vieja (essentially Cuban beef stew). 3. COSTA RICA Eco-lodges, tropical birds, and an active volcano. Sure, Costa Rica is on everyone’s must-see list these days, but prices have not yet caught up with all that demand. You can nab reliable hotels like Radisson and Wyndham for under $150/night. If you’re craving a warm-weather escape that offers some opportunities to get wild (in a nature-appreciation kind of way), Costa Rica is one-stop shopping for the aspiring adventurer. National parks, hiking trails, monkeys, tropical birds, and even the chance to volunteer at an animal rescue center on the country’s Caribbean coast. Hungry? Costa Rica is best known for casados, meat or fresh fish served with rice, black beans, salad, and plantains. Yum!
A Tour of Louisiana Watering Holes
When you’re visiting the state that invented America’s first cocktail, the Sazerac, you’ve got to set aside some time to wet your whistle. Here, we take a look at some of the best, unique bars and music clubs in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Shreveport, plus a dive into Louisiana’s incredible array of homegrown beers, wines, and spirits. NEW ORLEANS Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (Courtesy @latitude29nola.Instagram)Bacchanal Fine Wine & Spirits has a rather humble brick exterior, but once you step inside you’re entranced by sweet design, great food (tapas style!), and a fine selection of wines, beers, and signature cocktails like the King Jukebox (gin, mint, lime, yellow Chartreuse, celery, and Topo Chico). Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 wears its namesake owner’s affection for tiki culture and tropical drinks on its sleeve. Try the multicultural Sean & Juan (Tequila and Irish whiskey, lemon, guava, and crème de cacao). Le Bon Temps Roule is the place to be when you want to hear up-and-coming NOLA bands and sip reasonably priced beer or elaborately (and we mean elaborately) garnished Bloody Marys. The Spotted Cat is your escape from the, um, rowdier variety of NOLA tourist. You’ll hear real jazz and blues in the company of other people who appreciate authentic American roots music. The Three Muses features an entertaining mix of rising musicians, plus an exceptional menu of short ribs, jerk duck, and other specialties. Signature cocktails evolve daily — order the “Today's Riff" drink special of the day. Bullet's Sports Bar sure looks like an average dive until you realize it was featured in the HBO series Treme and it is an authentic spot to down a cold beer while grooving to live R&B, jazz, and blues. Hungry? Order the charbroiled oysters. BATON ROUGE Radio Bar is literally shaped like an old-timey radio, a harbinger of good times to be had inside. The joint has an industrial feel – for instance, to get to the patio you have to pass through garage doors. While a great selection of beers is available, the bartenders also stir up cocktails like the Aperol Spritz (Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water). Olive or Twist deserves a shout just for its subtly Dickens-inspired moniker, and its mixologists get high marks for their Ramos Gin Fizz, Sazerac, and the classic bourbon- based Old Fashioned. LAFAYETTE Artmosphere Bistro will please thirsty art lovers with its in-house gallery, brunch mimosas, and nightly live music. SHREVEPORT Strange Brew is a reliable choice for its massive beer selection, exceptional live music, and games like billiards. Bear’s not only boasts the full drink menu you’d expect from a popular Shreveport watering hole, but also hosts karaoke, burlesque night, and other games and activities that keep visitors and locals alike flocking back. Straycat gets raves for its ample patio and friendly bartenders. It’s a sweet spot to kick back with friends after seeing the sights. CRAFT BEER Abita Beer ready to taste. (Courtesy @abitabeer/Instagram) Louisiana’s deep devotion to cuisine and hospitality have led to an explosion of brewing, from small towns to big cities across the state. Abita Brewing Company in charming Abita Springs, which kicked off Louisiana’s current craft beer scene back in 1986, is now one of the largest craft brewers in the U.S. It’s in good company with other Pelican State brewers such as Parish Brewing Company in Broussard, Bayou Teche Brewing in Arnaudville, Broken Wheel Brewery at Fresh Catch Bistreaux in Marksville, Tin Roof Brewing Company in Baton Rouge, Covington Brewhouse in Covington, Chafunkta Brewing Company in Mandeville, Old Rail Brewing in Abita Springs, Flying Tiger in Monroe, and New Orleans’ NOLA Brewing Company and Courtyard Brewery. Learn more about these and other tasty Louisiana craft brewers at libations.louisianatravel.com. WINE You may not have realized that Louisiana is also home to a vibrant and growing wine industry, with vineyards hosting tastings and live music events, such as Landry Vineyards, in West Monroe, with its popular series of outdoor concerts. The annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience provides a chance to get up-to-the-minute news about this up-and- coming wine region with its Vino Stroll, Grand Tastings, and other offerings. SPIRITS Louisiana also boasts a vibrant distillery scene. Locally grown sugarcane is transformed into world-class rum, and a variety of other spirits are distilled statewide. We suggest you begin your exploration of Louisiana spirits with a tour of a sugarcane plantation to learn the process from field to glass. Try Bayou Rum in Laccasine, Atelier Vie for a taste of real Louisiana absinthe in NOLA, and Caneland Distilling in Baton Rouge.