Monday, March 28, 2016
Jungle Fever: Our Tropical Destinations Rated
Over the past few years, we've been focusing on tropical destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, and more. For now, we're turning the chapter on that particular kind of trip but have come to some conclusions as to our favorites among the destinations we experienced.
Here is our list of tropical beach destinations, from our least favorite to the best.
JAMAICA - Yes, it's beautiful and has some amazing beaches. The nightlife is wonderful as can be the food. Wheelchair access at the hotel was extensive but away from it, hardly existed.
Over a quarter century ago, my wife and I went and had a grand time but that was also before we became so wheelchair aware. This time, it stood out in relief as we went to attractions that promised to be accessible but were not when we arrived.
Add to this the incredible knot of trying to navigate immigration and customs upon arrival and the hotel not giving us near what we paid for of what was promised turns us off of the Island of Irie.
Twice was nice but a third time is not in the cards for us.
MAUI - On the other hand, I am willing to go to Hawaii again it's just not high on our list right now. Since it's in the U.S., access is good (not great). Scenery is wonderful as are the many beaches.
What keeps it placing higher is the exreme high prices you have to pay for basics when you get there and a 'barely tolerated' attitude towards visitors when you're there. It's a beautiful place but I can't really call it too friendly. Several trips have re-inforced that feeling though there are a few friendly faces here and there, enough to make me not strike it off the revisit list completely.
COSTA RICA - I want to like this verdant Central American destination better but something's just keeping it from rating higher.
It has wonderful access (better that Hawaii in some cases), enough that wheelchair users can actually take part in some of the eco adventures like zip lining and canopy tours. Public buses and many taxis are also wheelchair friendly and accessible rooms are not hard to find.
On the down side, the beaches on the Pacific side are not at all what you'd expect from a tropical beach paradise...the water's muddy and the sand more like wet dirt. While the vast majority of the people are friendly, helpful, and honest, there's a pretty big slice of people who live to rip you off from car rental counters, zoos, and dishonest tour operators.
The buyer really has to be aware in Costa Rica.
Would I go back? I wouldn't rule it out but instead of a beach vacation, I'd rather go there for the volcanoes and rain forest experiences.
PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO - Ah, Puerto Vallarta! Lovely city, great beaches, miles of jungle, wonderful food, a great variety of nightlife, incredible hotels...what's not to like?
Nothing, actually. It's a perfect destination...if you can walk. If you're in a wheelchair, obstacles abound.
We came here almost every year when Tim was young and it was not as big a deal to lift him over the obstacles but he's grown bigger and heavier, and I'm older and more decrepit. It's just not possible anymore.
I hear PV is getting more accessible but from what I can see, it's just not quite where it needs to be to get us to come back, yet. I would really love to go back. It is almost perfect, otherwise.
PUNTA CANA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - This one could be technically a tie between the next entry. Wonderful place, extremely friendly people, gorgeous beaches, excellent service, great food, drink, and nightlife. Accessible where it needs to be.
The only downside is that Punta Cana is rather far from any other parts of the Dominican. Would love to be able to visit the historic sites and go to a few baseball games without having to spend hundreds on a taxi to get there.
ST. CROIX, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS - My personal favorite on this list. What's not to like? Friendly people, outstanding accomodations (especially the Buccaneer Hotel), good (but not great) access...it is part of the USA, after all, and the ADA applies...great food and drink, spectacular beaches, and fun, accessible attractions.
While access could be a bit better...we could not find a boat that could accomodate us no matter how much we and the concierge tried and the old Cruzan distillery couldn't be done in a wheelchair...we did find more than at other destinations as far as attractions go. Cruzan couldn't be done but Captain Morgan allowed full access at their facility. The waterfront in Christiansted...the main town...is fully accessible and even the jungle bar with the beer-drinking pigs had an access ramp. The accessible room at the Buccaneer was nothing short of fabulous.
There's still a way to go, transit is very spotty and there are very few accessible taxis, but from the incredibly warm people, outstanding service and stunning beauty make this a great destination.
And with that, we close out our latest tropical chapter here at The World on Wheels. We're going to point our spotlight at other destinations for awhile but I'm sure we'll be back to a couple of spots on this list at least.
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