A few words about these three warm January locations.
Once the grueling 7 day a week season is over we book a warm climate beach destination for our January vacation. Over the past 4 years it was St Lucia twice, last year Playa del Carmen and this year Turks.
I trust the Mrs’ vacation planning skillz implicitly. She uses Trip Advisor to drill down on the best intersection of price/value/nice accommodations. It hasn’t failed us yet. I assume most of you have heard of Trip Advisor but for those who haven’t, it’s user based ratings and recommendations on just about every vacation property under the sun. From big mega-resorts to tiny boutique hotels. The benefit of using Trip Advisor as a guide is that when you get hundreds or thousands of user-based reviews and ratings it helps you drill down quickly on the types of places that suit your taste and/or budget without the influence of huge marketing budgets from the mega-factory travel resorts.
Big huge resorts have big huge marketing budgets and are comping travel agents or building into their pricing structure all those marketing costs to try to lure you in to their joint but what we’ve found is that the smaller hotels offer good value and the Mrs can’t stand to travel with the masses in buffet lines or fight for spots around pools with hundreds of people at mega-resorts.
So using Trip Advisor is my number one piece of advice when doing your vacation planning. If you have no confidence in your ability to read and process what other people have said or how 5 star ratings are better than 1 star ratings, use a Travel Agent instead.
Anyway. For my money from March to May or September through December there’s no better beach destination to escape the Northeast than Naples Florida. Warm, Clean, Safe, Awesome Beaches, Tons Of Restaurants, Tons of Shopping, Tons of Attractions. It’s got it all, there are a ton of flights, it’s a quick flight. I could go on and on about the virtues of Naples Florida.
But in January and February you aren’t guaranteed beach weather anywhere in the continental US. You’re really not guaranteed beach weather in Playa Del Carmen either but your chances are greatly increased of being able to swim in the ocean there over any place in the US in January or February.
So now for the differences between the three winter destinations we’ve been in the past four years- St Lucia, Playa del Carmen and Turks.
All three have had fantastic dining options. Wide ranges of different kinds of foods. Of the three Playa had the most and by far the least expensive. St Lucia in Rodney Bay where we stayed had plenty and the prices for dinner were surprisingly about the same as eating out in Gloucester be it Passports or Lat 43 or The Duck. The food here in Turks has been outstanding but you have to close your eyes when the bill comes because it is very very expensive. Example- the nice, recommended casual tiki-bar-esque Somewhere Café we got two pulled pork taco inners, two coors lights, and two orange stoli tonics with a slice of Key Lime pie and it came to $100. Then add $10 cab ride back and forth for a $120 dinner. That’s steep for comfort food in my book. In Rodney Bay St Lucia and Playa you can walk to dozens of great restaurants. There are dozens of great restaurants here but they’re not congregated.
The water here in Turks is just like the water in Playa- that turquoise blue, warm, crystal clear water that you could float in all day long. The sand like powder. I’d rank them both 9s. The beaches in Rodney Bay St Lucia were nice but there were lots more tourists on them. they were a bit more scenic with the hills surrounding the bay with lush vegetation as well. I’d rank the beach at Rodney Bay a solid 8. Nothing to sneeze at but just a step behind. It should be noted that St Lucia is really lush with flora being in a Rain Forest and Turks is flat with lots of scrub. The most beautiful beach I’ve been was Horseshoe Beach in Bermuda. Little lagoons, and rock formations and clear water, and powdery sand. A nice spot but not swimming weather warm in January or February. Highest concentrations of Europeans wearing banana hammocks- St Lucia by a mile. This is a positive and a negative. The positive is that you get to make fun of dudes wearing banana hammocks, the negative- you have to look at dudes wearing banana hammocks.
Reduit Beach St Lucia:
Playa Del Carmen:
There is probably the most number of quality outdoor attractions if you want to be active in St Lucia (this could be wrong but it was our experience) Between Rainforest Segway Tours, Zip-lining, Snorkeling, Catamaran, the Castries marketplaces, and more.
Playa had the usual boating, snorkeling, parasailing stuff but they don’t have the Rainforest stuff. Still plenty of stuff to do there and by far the most nightlife and shopping, with the awesome Fifth Avenue providing great people watching and dining/shopping.
Turks is ALL about relaxation. Mellow, mellow, mellow. There is the boating stuff, parasailing, snorkeling and such but the place is more spread out than Rodney Bay in St Lucia or Playa Del Carmen’s hotel/shopping district. This can be a really good thing if all you want to do is unwind. Playa is much more active and Rodney Bay falls somewhere in between.
If you plopped me down on the beach in Turks and told me I was on the beach in SW Florida I wouldn’t argue the point. Playa Del Carmen definitely has it’s Mexican stamp on it and St Lucia has more of an island feel to its layout.
Overall Here’s How My Recommendations Would Play Out Regarding The Three Different Places For Warm Beach Destinations In January or February.
If you totally want to unplug and relax and do NOTHING- go to Turks with a buttload of dough.
If you want more of an eco-rainforest beach vibe with stuff to do and great dining go to St Lucia and stay at the Coco Palm. Highly rated and excellent value in St Lucia.
If you want beautiful beaches, and a little more excitement and Mexican flavor and great value go to Playa Del Carmen.
Feel free to ask questions.