Live the Island Life in the Caribbean
By: Kara Williams, The Vacation Gals
Sure, on any Caribbean vacation, there are likely tourist attractions you don’t want to miss – key landmarks that you must snap your photos of or must-do activities that are truly unique to that vacation spot. But there are some simple ways to see a more off-the-beaten-path side of your Caribbean destination – just like the residents who live there do. Plus, “living the island life” like a local means you’ll save money, too! Here are my tips:
Get friendly with your resort concierge
Instead of asking your concierge to book you a dinner reservation at the most upscale restaurant in town, ask him where he likes to eat when he's off duty. Better yet, ask the resort bartender, your waitress, your bellman or the kids’ camp counselor. You’ll get the insider scoop on the hot places to eat, dance or shop from the locals themselves – plus, whatever they recommend will be much less expensive than any restaurant, nightclub or shopping center marketed to tourists.
Visit the farmer's market
Again, find out where the locals shop for their everyday food and visit the local market to purchase picnic fixings for your mid-day meal. You’ll find that a grocery-store lunch will be much cheaper than eating at a restaurant. Also seek the local outdoor farmer’s markets, fruit stands or food trucks, and you’ll likely be standing in line with area residents also looking for cheap eats.
Literally go off the beaten path
Every city in the Caribbean has a main shopping and dining area, usually in the center of town. In Playa del Carmen, for example, it’s the pedestrian area of Fifth Avenue (La Quinta), while on St. Thomas it’s Dronningens Gade, better known as Main Street, in Charlotte Amalie. Wander a few blocks off the main drag and you’ll find smaller, quainter, cheaper shops and restaurants that cater to the locals.
Take public transportation
Not only are public buses and trains more colorful and entertaining than private taxis, they are so much cheaper, too. City transportation can be a nice alternative to trying to navigate in an unfamiliar resort town in a rental car you may not be fully comfortable driving. It’s also a great way to see how residents get to school and work every day. I loved getting around the island of Bermuda recently, because we had to take the local bus line since foreigners can’t rent cars on the small island with very narrow and curvy roads!
Remember safety first
While I absolutely advocate getting away from main touristy areas to get a more authentic feel for any Caribbean destination, you do want to keep your safety top of mind at all times. Bring an area map to your resort’s concierge desk and ask him or her to mark any regions of town that may be particularly unsavory. Trust me, you’ll still find plenty of places to explore off the beaten path!
For more ideas on how to “live the island life,” check out CheapCaribbean.com with its informative customer reviews about not only popular resorts, but fabulous out of the way places.