St. Barts, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, and many of the other “Saints” scattered across The Caribbean and Bahamas, are known as premier vacation destinations for royalty and celebrities alike. Business mogul Richard Branson owns four private islands in the Caribbean alone, with tropical neighbours such as Johnny Depp and Faith Hill in the Bahamas, and Oprah Winfrey in Antigua.
Made famous by the island’s exclusivity and haute shopping district, St. Barts is one of the most desireable cruise and travel destinations in the Caribbean. Jay-Z and Beyoncé are frequent guests to the island, where they can spend afternoons strolling through the port city of Gustavia or indulging in gourmet Creole flavours at New York Times hailed Maya's Restaurant, a famed waterfront bistro tucked along the city's harbour.
But these islands' yacht studded coasts and topaz waters aren't just for the jet-set. Careful planning and locals' insider information make celebrity-inspired vacations as accessible as they are chic.
GO OFF SEASON:
Although the most popular times to cruise or travel the Caribbean and Bahamas are during the winter or holidays, low season runs from mid-April through mid-December, when accommodations drop to nearly half the price of peak season rates. Although it’s advisable to avoid hurricane season during September and October, planning a Caribbean vacation during low season guarantees plenty of available hotels, cruise deals, deals on package rates, and a relaxed, tourist-free experience. Many local food, film and cultural festivals also take place during the spring and summer months, so doing a quick search for events makes it easier to plan your vacation around a unique, authentic experience that won’t break your budget.
GET THE BEST AIRFARE RATES:
If travelling by air, using airfare trackers like Google's Flight Explorer, which shows 12 month price lows to and from a certain destination so you know the best time to buy your flight, or Airfare Watchdog, which sends you notifications every time airfare drops, makes travelling the islands affordable, so you have more money to spend exploring during your visit.
TRY A CRUISE:
If you want to see it all, planning a Caribbean cruise let's you explore several of the "Saints" at once. With stops at island favourites such as St. Thomas and St. Maarten, guests can experience the luxury of island life for less, since many of the ship's exciting amenities, such as European spa services, Broadway performances and world-class onboard entertainment, come at a fraction of the price of entertainment you'd find on the islands. New cruise ships like Norwegian Cruise Line’s Getaway also offer celebrity dining experiences such as Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s celebrated Ocean Blue.
PICKING THE PERFECT DESTINATION:
Choosing the right island is also key. St. Lucia boasts stunning hiking trails and breathtaking snorkelling holes off Pigeon Island that are all accessible without the help of a tour operator. Opt out of a private yacht charter and bring your own hiking boots and snorkelling gear to plan your own adventure. If shopping is more your style, St. Thomas offers the highest duty-free allowance in the Caribbean (capped at $1600), so you can expect to take home all your favourite souvenirs for less. Local bed and breakfasts, open air markets, and locals-only eateries also make this one of the most affordable destinations in the Caribbean.