All-Inclusive or Go it Alone:
A Look at Your Options in the Caribbean

Learn more about accommodation in the following countries.

The Caribbean is an ideal destination if you're looking to escape it all, be pampered for a while, and experience exotic beauty and culture. Most people go to the Caribbean for a luxury vacation. They're looking forward to a resort vacation where everything is taken care of. You'll find plenty of accommodation options that cater to this type of tourist. It's the perfect place to sit back, relax, and let someone else take care of everything for a while. The setting is beautiful and exotic, the culture is fascinating, and the entertainment is diverse. There is no shortage of resorts in the Caribbean Islands. They range from exclusive, five star facilities that cater to the rich and famous, to all-inclusive resorts like Sandals, that are geared toward family vacationers looking for a convenient, yet affordable option.

If you're an independent traveler you may find your options far more limited. There are almost no hostels throughout the Caribbean, but there are some good, locally owned hotels if you know where to look. They still aren't cheap, but they offer some of the character and atmosphere that an independent traveler may be looking for. In particular, you'll find these places in towns and a little removed from the beaches. They're often near many of the local restaurants and attractions. What they lack in amenities they make up for in charm. If you're not looking for a typical Caribbean resort vacation, then these hotels may be the best option for you.

Wherever you decide to stay, reservations in the Caribbean are essential. This is a vacation destination, and you will be hard pressed to find a long term backpacker anywhere. It is not possible to just show up and find a place to stay. If you do find a vacancy, you will likely pay more than you would have if you'd made reservations online. This is a region that is geared toward planned and organized vacations. If you're looking for a long term trip on the Caribbean Islands, your best option is to find a home or condo that you can rent. Stay in one place, get to know the island, and have your island home for a few months. Hostels in the Caribbean are few and far between.
Money Saving Tips
The Caribbean is a notoriously expensive location for travel. Most people visit an island for one or two weeks and live it up during that time. It's a popular region to visit on a honeymoon or special occasion, because the high cost prevents most people from making this an annual holiday. If you're a budget conscious traveler, there are some reasonable ways to cut down on cost, and you'd be surprised how much you can actually save when you start looking beyond the main stream options and find alternatives.

Like most destinations, choosing a certain time of year can greatly effect the cost. If you visit an island during the low season you'll be surprised how dramatically the price will drop. The summer months, when the weather is quite hot, is more affordable than the winter months, which are the high season for the area. Many people visit beaches near their homes during the warm summer months, and save the Caribbean as an escape from the winter cold. If you are looking to save some money, plan your holiday during these months when the crowds are less, the prices are lower, and the weather is hot. Hurricane season in this area is during the fall months. Although several Caribbean Islands, like Aruba, lie outside of the hurricane belt, most places are risky to visit during this time. However, if you're willing to take the chance, you'll get some great deals. If you do decide to visit during hurricane season make sure you have excellent travel insurance. Also, wait until the last minute to make your reservations so that you can confirm that no storms are in the area.

In recent years there has been an influx of all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. Many of these resorts are chain facilities that are surprisingly affordable. These resorts cater to the masses, but they do offer you a great opportunity to relax in a warm, comfortable setting. Many have a sterile or manufactured feel, and the restaurants are decent, but not excellent. All-inclusive resorts are often popular with families as they are easy and convenient, but some places are geared specifically to couples traveling on a honeymoon or for a romantic getaway. Make sure you fully understand the style of the resort you've chosen so that you know that it meets your needs.

Many all-inclusive hotels make money from the add-on excursions and the sell of alcoholic beverages. If you're on a particularly tight budget you'll save money if you keep these items to a minimum. It is possible to find independent vendors who sell activities like snorkeling or kayaking for less than the hotel offers it at.

The Caribbean is also a great place to look for "package" deals. Booking a hotel and a plane ticket together can save you at least a little bit on the total cost, so look into options and do some research. Many of the major booking websites offer these deals. You'll usually stay at one of the nicer, chain hotels on the island. These package deals work best if you plan to stay at the same hotel throughout your entire trip.

If you decide to travel independently and stay at a local hotel, you'll find your money goes a lot farther if you choose a country that has its own currency instead of using the East Caribbean Dollar. These countries seem to be more affordable. Staying at a locally, family owned hotel will also dramatically cut costs as well.
A Look at Your Options
The Caribbean is most known for its resorts, for obvious reasons. Although resorts have been successful in marketing themselves to visitors to the region, that does not mean they are the only option. Many Caribbean Islands have a selection of independently owned guesthouses as well. These guesthouses may not have the popularity of the major chains, but they do have some interesting character and charm. The cheaper options are usually located at least a few blocks from the beach. If you're looking for a more local experience, try to find a place that is actually in town. This will be conveniently close to the more local restaurants which will also save you some money and give you more insight into the country's culture.

If you do decide to stay at a resort, you can choose between either all-inclusive resorts like Sandals, or stand alone hotels. There are plenty of both throughout the Caribbean. While all-inclusive resorts can be fun and quite convenient, they can sometimes feel very mass produced. Traditional hotels offer more flexibility, but they can be more difficult to organize and are often more expensive. It really depends on the type of vacation you're looking for. If you want a little more independence, then consider staying at a stand alone hotel. This will leave you free to find your own restaurants and organize your own activities. If you really just want to escape to a world where things are taken care of and you're pampered, then go to an all-inclusive, where you won't have a worry in the world.

Another option is to rent a house or condo. This can actually be a more affordable option than you might think, and it will allow you to cook some of your own meals. Food in the Caribbean is very expensive, so this option will actually save you money in the long run. This is also a good choice if you're traveling with your family or friends and need more space, or if you're going to be in the area for more than a week or two. There are many good apartments and condos for rent. Consider the location before you decide, as this can heavily impact the price.
Camping in the Caribbean
Depending on the country you visit, camping in the Caribbean can be challenging. There are very few options available, and most visitors to the area choose not to camp. In some countries, like the Dominican Republic, setting up a tent on the beach and in national parks is prohibited, so there are almost no opportunities to camp. There are a few campgrounds in the U.S. Virgin Islands. These include Mount Victory Campground and Cane Bay Campground, one of which is in the rainforest, the other on the beach. In the British Virgin Islands you'll find the White Bay Campground on the island of Jost Van Dyke. It's a little remote and challenging to reach, but it can be a rewarding and unique experience. In addition to tent camping, which will cost you about twenty dollars a night, you can also rent a cabin with beds and a shared kitchen. This should cost about $65 a night. On some islands you may also find "eco-resorts" that offer some form of camping, but these can still be very expensive options.