Darn Good Digs

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Darn Good Digs in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean

Darn Good Digs are the world's best independently owned accommodations for budget-minded travelers, all with rooms under US$150. Darn Good Digs stand out for their originality, spectacular locations, scrumptious food, and great vibes.

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  =   Editors' Choice


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Christ Church, Barbados: Peach and Quiet
Nominated By: Barb, Toronto, Canada, November '08

Peach and Quiet is now closed, though new owners might possibly reopen it.

Price Range: US$119-$129 # of Rooms: 22 Kid-Friendly: 12 years and older

What makes Peach and Quiet so Darn Good? With no televisions or telephones, and away from the island's busy tourist areas, Peach and Quiet offers simplicity at its best! Highlights include the Mediterranean-inspired architecture, fantastic food, honour bar, turtle watching platform, and pool with gorgeous ocean views. Plus, Margaret and Adrian, Peach and Quiet's owners, live on site and are very happy to help you in any way they can, including organizing tours or car rentals.

Location: The hotel is located on the southern tip of Barbados, fifteen minutes from both the airport and St. Lawrence Gap, a hotspot for restaurants and nightlife. Built on a rocky shore, Peach and Quiet is just a short walk away from two sandy beaches and has a protected rock snorkeling pool right in front of the hotel. This part of the southern coast is also great for surfing and kiteboarding.

Rooms: Whether garden or ocean view, the twenty-two rooms are simple, comfortable and charming. All rooms have their own covered terraces or balconies, making them feel more like suites. Rooms don't have air conditioners, but fans keep them cool.

Food: Breakfast is always a treat at Peach and Quiet. The buffet includes a wonderful selection of fresh fruit, cereal, eggs, bacon, sausage, and the best fresh-baked breads ever! Dinner, served al fresco on the candlelit terrace with the surf in the background, is magical and the perfect way to end the day. The food is always so fresh and delicious, and is very reasonably priced.

Vibe: Peach and Quiet is very laid back and a great place just to hang out and rejuvenate. Live entertainment is provided on some nights, which makes for wonderful evenings under the stars. One night, a guitar duo had us all dancing, and another night, we enjoyed a steel drum band and history of Barbados extravaganza.

Things to Keep in Mind: The public bus stops near the hotel if you want to explore the rest of the island. Also, Peach and Quiet is closed from May to October (unless you want to book the entire hotel!).

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

San Ignacio, Cayo, Belize: Moonracer Farm
Nominated By: Sara Arman, Earen Hummel, Margaret Rush, and Sarah, February '12

Price Range: US$65 (meal plan available) # of Rooms: 2 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Moonracer Farm so Darn Good? The rustic cabin (running water, but no electricity) at Moonracer Farm in the jungles of western Belize is the perfect getaway from urban city life. Marge and Tom are fabulous they are down-to-earth, caring, and knowledgeable hosts. They helped arrange tours and suggested sites for us to see, and everything they suggested was something we were very glad we did not miss. Marge's food is to die for, and we enjoyed evenings eating and drinking with them in the palapa while discussing a wide and wild variety of things.


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Bodden Town, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands: Turtle Nest Inn
Nominated By: Mary McLaughlin, Havertown, Pennsylvania, USA, November '08

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$99-$329 # of Rooms: 18 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Turtle Nest Inn so Darn Good? We stayed in an ocean front apartment with a full kitchen, which wasn't under $150, but was well worth the price! The Turtle Nest staff is absolutely wonderful, and guests can snorkel in the coral reef right out front.

Location: Turtle Nest is located on the southern coast of Grand Cayman Island in Bodden Town, just ten miles from the airport. The inn sits on a quiet beach, away from the hustle and bustle of George Town, Grand Cayman's biggest town, and Seven Mile Beach, home to many of the island's luxury resorts. Grand Cayman is famous for its coral reefs and world-class diving, and guests interested in doing some serious underwater exploring can be picked up right at the Inn by the Ocean Frontiers dive company.

Rooms: The eleven units include village view rooms, and larger ocean view apartments with full kitchens and one or two bedrooms. The Inn's swimming pool is located just behind the beach and is open around the clock. The water in front of the Inn has a reef, so while it is not suitable for casual swimming and rafting, it makes for great snorkeling.

Food: The Inn doesn't serve food, but all apartments have full kitchens, and the village view rooms have microwaves, mini-fridges, and toasters. Guests can also use the Inn's gas barbecue right on the beach. Just four doors down is Seaside Paradise, the Inn's closest restaurant and a great place to eat or take out island food.

Vibe: Turtle Nest feels like your own island home.

Things to Keep in Mind: The Inn is not within walking distance to many shops or restaurants, but everything on the island is within a thirty minute drive. Guests have the option of renting a car with the room.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Arenal Volcano Region (Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica): Lucky Bug B & B
Nominated By: Allison and Michael from Darn Good Digs, Brooklyn, NY, December '12

Price Range: US$69-$120 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Lucky Bug B & B so Darn Good? We are suckers for a good theme and the Lucky Bug does not disappoint with its beautifully adorned rainforest-themed rooms. We stayed in the art-filled Frog Room where everything from the lampshades to the wrought-iron bed frame and the ceramic sink basin leaped with tropical frogs. Ribbit. In the mornings, we enjoyed eating a scrumptious breakfast at the restaurant overlooking Lucky Bug's lush grounds, and then wandering around the on-site art gallery picking out gifts for back home.

Location: Lucky Bug is located on Lake Arenal's main road between the adventure hotspots of La Fortuna and Monteverde. Nuevo Arenal, a small town three kilometers down the road, has a few restaurants, a gas station, and a growing expat community. While we planned to go kayaking on the lake, we awoke to heavy downpours and had to switch gears. Within forty minutes, we found ourselves lounging in the thermal pools and sipping piña coladas at The Springs Resort and Spa (a less expensive but still fancy alternative to the more famous Tabacon Hot Springs).

Rooms: Lucky Bug has four guest rooms upstairs, two with balconies, plus one large suite downstairs, all decorated with colorful artwork from local Costa Rican artisans. Nature abounds at Lucky Bug. We could smell ripe guava fruit in the garden alongside the driveway, and spot frogs hopping around in the evenings. Guests can wander the grounds (look out for leaf-cutter ants) or take a canoe out on Lucky Bug's little pond.

Food: We ate our yummy and filling breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast with homemade jelly, and fresh fruit while sitting on the deck near the hummingbird feeders checking out the giant iguanas and basilisk lizards below. If we had more time we would have eaten lunch or dinner at Lucky Bug's restaurant, Caballo Negro, but we couldn't resist trying some of the local hotspots, such as the fabulous Gingerbread.

Vibe: Lucky Bug is a family affair, owned and run by Monica and her daughter Alexandra. Monica was away for most of our stay, but Alexandra was fun and friendly and steered us right on our rainy day.

Keep in Mind: Just so you're not confused when you arrive, guestrooms are tucked in the back of the property behind the owner's home and pond, while breakfast is served in the restaurant attached to the gallery along the roadside. Also, Lucky Bug is not within walking distance to the area's attractions, so having your own transport may be a good idea.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Arenal Volcano Region (Santa Clara - San Carlos): Tree Houses Hotel Costa Rica
 Nominated By: Clint, Raleigh, North Carolina, Jan '09

Price Range: US$95-$140 # of Rooms: 6 Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "The location is gorgeous. The surrounding land is amazing. The owners are incredibly friendly and helpful. The price is great, and the breakfasts are delicious." Read more.

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Caribbean Coast (Punta Uva, Costa Rica): Korrigan Lodge
Nominated By: Marina K Villatoro at Travel Experta, February '12

Price Range: US$80-$100 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 4 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Korrigan Lodge so Darn Good? Located on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast, not far from the border with Panama, Korrigan Lodge consists of four wonderfully furnished and comfortable bungalows, each with a private porch and luxurious bathroom. The lodge is set back in the middle of the jungle, yet quiet beaches and nearby restaurants are only a short walk away. Wake up in the morning to the sounds of howler monkeys and tropical birds, and then enjoy a delicious breakfast that includes fresh fruit, eggs, and home-baked croissants.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Central Valley (Poas Volcano, Costa Rica): Poas Lodge and Restaurant
Nominated By: Allison and Michael from Darn Good Digs, Brooklyn, NY, August '12

Hotel Website: www.poaslodge.com     Phone: (506) 2482 1091

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

New owners took over Poas Lodge in 2013.

Price Range: US$55-$90 # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Poas Lodge and Restaurant so Darn Good? Wow - the view! Feel the stress drain as you sip your wine in the candle-lit lounge staring out the wall of windows, mesmerized by the twinkling lights of San Jose below or a lightning storm in the distance.

Location: On the main road just two kilometers from Poas Volcano National Park, the lodge is the perfect place to stay for an early morning visit to the volcano before the infamous clouds roll in. The lodge is forty-five minutes from the San Jose airport and even closer to the Doka Coffee Estate and La Paz Waterfall Gardens.

Rooms: Decked out in soothing neutral tones, the lodge's five rooms have comfy beds with warm soft blankets, fresh-cut flowers, and views overlooking the Central Valley. Hummingbirds dart around the feeders in the lodge's hummingbird garden, and cows graze in the fields below.

Food: The Lodge's restaurant/lounge serves up delicious food in a supremely atmospheric setting. The breakfast spread includes home-made cakes, a choice of cereals, fresh fruit salad, and a hot entrée, such as the traditional pico de gallo. For dinner, the menu offers both typical Costa Rican fare and International dishes - either way you go the food is wholesome and fresh. For lunch we went right next door to a little restaurant, which served up the best arroz con pollo I ate on the whole trip (and I ate a lot!).

Vibe: Super-chill, especially at night when the candles are lit.

Keep in Mind: Bring warm clothing as it is cool up at Poas, though in the lodge you'll find heaters in the rooms and cozy blankets in the lounge to keep your warm.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Central Valley, San Jose Area (Santa Ana, Costa Rica): Casa Bella Rita
Nominated By: Mary, Des Moines, Iowa, USA, August '08

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Price Range: US$109-$139 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Casa Bella Rita so Darn Good? Centrally located in Costa Rica's San Jose province, Casa Bella Rita is a beautiful bed & breakfast with views overlooking a magnificent canyon. Steve and Rita, the owners, are amazing, and the accommodations and staff exceeded our expectations day after day.

Location: The B & B is located in Santa Ana, a suburb of San Jose, in Costa Rica's Central Valley, just twenty minutes to both downtown and the airport. Many popular restaurants and shops are nearby, and many major sites were just a day trip away such as La Paz Waterfall Gardens and the Poas Volcano National Park.

Rooms: The five rooms are all uniquely decorated with local art. We stayed in the spacious Heliconia Bedroom, located in a separate cabina off the main courtyard. Our room was spotless, the bed and bedding was luxurious and comfortable, and the honor bar was always well stocked with drinks and yummy snacks. The daily fresh flowers were an added bonus.

Food: For breakfast, Rita serves a hot entrée, fruit bowl, coffee, and juice on the amazing patio overlooking the canyon. If you do not feel like going out to eat, Steve and Rita will provide dinner for a small fee if they are cooking for themselves.

Vibe: Casa Bella Rita has a very relaxed vibe, and Steve and Rita made us feel right at home. Both are knowledgeable on everything Costa Rica, and they work hard to make sure your experience is nothing less than excellent.

Things to Keep in Mind: If you'd like help planning any part of your trip, Rita is the person to see. She has done her research on what tour companies and private drivers are the best, and has up to date information on trip descriptions, prices, and modes of transportation. Also, keep in mind that a complimentary airport pickup is included in the price, just one of the little extras that makes this place so great!

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arco iris lodge arco iris lodge arco iris lodge arco iris lodge

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Monteverde Region (Santa Elena, Costa Rica): Arco Iris Lodge
Nominated By: Allison and Michael from Darn Good Digs, Brooklyn, NY, August '12

Price Range: US$ (breakfast extra) # of Rooms: 20 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Arco Iris Lodge so Darn Good? Arco Iris is conveniently located just off Santa Elena's central triangle, yet its collection of immaculate cabins set among lush grounds makes it a world its own. We loved coming back to our cabin after a day of hiking in the cloud forest to relax on our front porch while looking forward to the next morning's scrumptious breakfast buffet.

Location: The cool little mountain town of Santa Elena, three hours from San Jose, is the gateway to the Monteverde region. While a few attractions such as the lovely Orchid Garden, as well as restaurants and grocery stores, are within walking distance to Arco Iris, you'll need transport to take advantage of all that the region has to offer. We recommend hiking in the Children's Eternal Rainforest and the Curi Cancha Wildlife Refuge, touring Bat Jungle, and zip-lining at the Original Canopy Tour (Jimmy Carter did it too!).

Rooms: The lodge's twenty cabins, all built by local craftsmen using local materials, are set on a hill connected by stone paths winding through landscaped gardens abounding with tropical flowers and fruit trees. Our Standard Room had two beds, a blue-tiled rain shower, and honey soap.

Food: A huge shout-out to the breakfast buffet! With three types of fresh-baked breads (favorite: banana), an assortment of home-made jams (favorite: guayaba), tropical fruit salad, yogurt, granola, gallo pinto, plantains, potato pancakes, meats and cheeses, who could not come back for more? The lodge harvests much of its own produce right from its fruit trees and herb and vegetable garden behind the kitchen. For other meals, Santa Elena and the surrounding area have enough yummy restaurants to keep you busy for awhile.

Vibe: Supremely comfortable and relaxing - an excellent base for Monteverde adventures.

Keep in Mind: The friendly and informative staff at reception will steer you right and set you up with reservations for transportation, guided hikes, tours, and restaurants. Upon their recommendation we went to some of the smaller reserves and saw the resplendent quetzal along with a plethora of other birds and animals.

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hotel luna azul

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Nicoya Peninsula (Ostional, Costa Rica): Hotel Luna Azul
Nominated By: Allison and Michael from Darn Good Digs, Brooklyn, NY, August '12

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Price Range: Gosh Darn It! # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Hotel Luna Azul so Darn Good? Luna Azul's private bungalows come with outdoor showers and stylish wooden decks overlooking the jungle canopy. The open air restaurant serves scrumptious food in an elegant (but not stuffy) setting, and a swim in the gleaming infinity pool will soothe all your troubles away.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Nicoya Peninsula (Samara Beach, Costa Rica): Samara Palm Lodge
Nominated By: Allison and Michael from Darn Good Digs, Brooklyn, NY, August '12

Price Range: US$50-$95 (breakfast extra) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Samara Palm Lodge so Darn Good? Beautifully maintained and much loved by its amiable, yet unobtrusive Swiss-German owners, the Samara Palm Lodge won us over from the moment we stepped through the gate. We could have spent all day swimming in the lovely pool or chillaxing in the thatched-roof lounge admiring the tropical gardens and looking for iguanas and monkeys in the trees.

Location: Located on the Nicoya Peninsula on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, Samara is a little surfer town with an excellent swimming beach protected from riptides by a coral reef. One morning we drove ten minutes to the beautiful palm-lined Playa Carrillo where we had nearly the whole beach to ourselves, not counting the bright red sand crabs!

Rooms: The lodge's eight guestrooms and one family suite, all overlooking the pool, are simply yet cheerfully decorated with shells and towels sculpted into sea animals, and colorful hangings on the walls. Some rooms have air conditioners (much appreciated while we were there in July) and televisions.

Food: The yummy European-style breakfast includes a plate of meat and cheeses, along with bread, cereal, yogurt, and fresh fruit salad. While we planned on checking out some local breakfast spots, we couldn't resist opting for a leisurely breakfast by the pool each morning.

Vibe: Wonderfully peaceful, yet family friendly - we always looked forward to coming home to our little hideway after a day at the beach.

Keep in Mind: The lodge is a few blocks from the main part of town and the beach, but an easy walk.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Pacific Coast, Nicoya Peninsula (Tamarindo): Villa Alegre
 Nominated By: Jonathan Carne, Wilmington, North Carolina, Jan '12

Price Range: US$145-$230 (ask for a darn good digs discount!) # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: Yes

Why so darn good? "Barry and Suzye, the owners, were very helpful with getting the arrangements confirmed and having us picked up at the airport in Liberia, starting our vacation the right way. The 'Russia' casita we rented for the week was so comfortable and spacious as we traveled with our three young sons. Having room to rest, hang out and enjoy each other was key. I cannot overstate 'The Breakfast' - each and every day Barry prepared so many wonderful treats, and each day started with anticipation of what we would be served. The beach is a short walk from Alegre and the views, water and sand are spectacular. We enjoyed surfing, snorkeling, shopping, great restaurants and a lot of relaxing by the pool. Definitely will be going back!"


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Carriacou, Grenada: Bayaleau Point Cottages
Nominated By: Sophie Stewart, London, UK, February '10

Price Range: US$65-$145 # of Rooms: 4 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Bayaleau Point Cottages so Darn Good? Staying at Bayaleau Point Cottages is like staying with friends, incredibly creative and nice friends who live in one of the most amazing spots in the world and who enjoy taking you on boat trips around the Grenadines.

Location: Carriacou is a small island in the Grenadine Archipelago and is reachable by a twenty minute flight or a ninety minute high speed boat ride from Grenada. Carriacou is possibly the sleepiest island in the Caribbean and if you really need to get away from it all, then the Bayaleau Point Cottages are the place to stay - no TV, no air con, no problem. The Cottages are set on a quiet hillside on Carriacou's Windward Bay and are within easy walking distance to the small fishing and boat-building village of Windward. The property has a little beach suitable for swimming, and the island has several sandy beaches ripe for exploring.

Rooms: The four colorful cottages are small and simple, but gingerbread pretty and are decorated with Caribbean art. The red, yellow, and green cottages were hand-built by Dave, the owner, and the blue cottage, which has a baby blue annex perfect for teenagers, was an original slave dwelling. Each cottage can sleep four and contains a full kitchen, and the property has a communal deck overlooking the sea where guests can relax or enjoy a meal.

Food: Happy hour drinks, such as the magical Magic Elixir, and evening meals, such as fresh grilled fish followed by home-made ice cream, are served out on the deck and are available with advance notice. In addition, Carriacou has several restaurants, super shops, and a daily fruit and vegetable market, and Windward itself has a few small stores within walking distance to pick up the essentials.

Vibe: It's another way of life and oh how I miss it! You can chill in a hammock, chat with locals, or get busy by helping to build a boat. This is prime Grenadines territory and an excursion on Mostly Harmless, the Inn's own home-built boat, will transport you to such honeypots as the Tobago Cays and Mayreau for snorkeling, swimming, a picnic lunch, and rum punch.

Keep in Mind: While the location of Bayaleau Point Cottages is fairly isolated, the local bus service on the island is surprisingly good. Rental cars are also available if you choose.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Negril, Jamaica: Rockhouse Hotel
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, February '08

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at Tablet Hotels

Price Range: US$125-$395 # of Rooms: 34 Kid-Friendly: Children over 12

What makes The Rockhouse Hotel/Restaurant so Darn Good? The Rockhouse is as hip as hip can be. It is located on the beautiful cliffs of Negril, and has cool rooms, a gorgeous pool, and a great Jamaican restaurant famous for its incredible sunset views. Although the Rockhouse owners do not live in Jamaica, they have created the Rockhouse Foundation, through which over $500,000 has been invested in Negril schools.

Location: Negril is a funky town ninety minutes from Montego Bay. The Rockhouse is located in Negril's hip West End neighborhood, perched on a cliff just south of the town's famous seven mile stretch of glorious white sand beach.

Rooms: For Darn Good Digs prices you can stay in either a studio room (water views) or a standard room (garden views). The rooms are decorated in a simple, yet colorful Caribbean style, and all have private outdoor showers heated by solar hot water heaters.

Food: The Rockhouse restaurant is a destination unto itself. The restaurant specializes in what it calls "new Jamaican cuisine", updating old classics like ackee and saltfish and jerk chicken. Meals are delicious and reasonably priced. The restaurant seems to dangle over the water and the sunsets are to die for! The Rockhouse also has a more casual restaurant by the pool which serves lunch.

Vibe: The Rockhouse is cool, hip, and laid back. You can swim in the cliffside pool, lounge on the deck chairs scattered throughout the property, take the steps, ladders, and bridges down to the water for swimming or snorkeling, or relax at the spa.

Things to Keep in Mind: Make sure you book in advance because these digs fill up fast. The Rockhouse does not allow children under twelve and does not have a sandy beach.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Treasure Beach, Jamaica: Jake's Resort
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, February '08

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at Tablet Hotels

Price Range: US$115-$950 # of Rooms: 26 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Jake's so Darn Good? Jake's cottages are supremely funky, and most overlook the beautiful rocky shoreline. We dug the outdoor restaurant which serves delicious Jamaican dishes, as well as the mellow bar adjoining the pool. Somehow Jake's manages to be ultra-cool and family friendly at the same time. Jake's is owned by the family of Perry Henzell who produced and directed the '70's cult movie "The Harder They Come".

Location: Jake's is located in Treasure Beach on the south coast of Jamaica, 2 ½ hours from Montego Bay. Treasure Beach is a little fishing village and has some laid-back guesthouses and restaurants. An awesome thing to do while chilling out at Jake's is to take a 20 minute boat ride to Pelican Bar, a little drinking establishment standing on stilts on a sandbar in the sea.

Rooms: We stayed in Abelone 2. It wasn't super fancy, but it was oh so fun. The cottage was pink and had a giant window that opened up so we could just lie in bed in the shade and watch the waves. All of Jake's cottages have whimsical designs, are painted in vibrant colors, and are decked out with private deck chairs.

Food: Jake's has two restaurants on site. We tended to eat at the restaurant by the pool, which was just delightful. The servers were very friendly and the Jamaican food was healthy, fresh, and reasonably priced. Jake's other restaurant, Jack Sprat, serves up pizza by the pie.

Vibe: Jake's is super mellow, friendly, and hip. Many kids were running around when we were there, yet there were also many hipsters hanging out at the bar.

Things to Keep in Mind: Jake's has a couple of pleasant beaches, but you shouldn't expect sparkling white sand. But really, who cares, you're at Jake's! Some of the less expensive rooms have garden, not sea views.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Federal District (Mexico City), Mexico: El Patio 77 Bed & Breakfast
Nominated By: Hannelore Boerm, Hamburg, Germany, January '12

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$75-$105 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes El Patio 77 so Darn Good? El Patio 77 is an old-style Mexican town house with comfortable, spacious suites and bedrooms decorated with popular art from different Mexican states. Located in the colorful and quaint Colonia San Rafael neighborhood, this eco-friendly B&B is a few blocks from the San Cosme metro station and within walking distance of the historic city center. I especially appreciated the artistic ambience and the helpful and friendly multilingual staff.

Traveler Favorite

Guanajuato State (San Miguel de Allende), Mexico: Mansion del Bosque
 Nominated By: Pauline, Brooklyn, New York, July '08

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$50-$165 (winter rates include two meals) # of Rooms: 23 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes the Mansion del Bosque so Darn Good? "Mansion del Bosque is a gorgeous bed & breakfast located in San Miguel, Mexico. With only a few rooms, it's a fabulously serene and relaxing place to unwind. Plus, it's an easy walk to the main part of town, so you can have quiet without sacrificing location." Read more.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Jalisco State (Ajijic), Mexico: Adobe Walls Inn
Nominated By: Buzzy Gordon, Fennville, Michigan, USA, March '11

Price Range: US$55-$85 # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Adobe Walls Inn so Darn Good? Painstakingly restored by its new American owners, and only three blocks from Ajijic's main plaza, Adobe Walls Inn is an atmospheric Spanish-style hacienda furnished throughout with Mexican antiques.

Location: The lovely village of Ajijic sits at the base of the Sierra Madre mountains on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest inland lake. Here you will find brightly-painted buildings, cobblestone streets, a pueblo-style central plaza, and oodles of flowers. While torta stalls and taco stands are still present, the burgeoning expat retirement community has made its mark with trendy restaurants, art galleries, and boutique shops. Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, and its international airport are just thirty minutes away.

Rooms: The Inn's eight rooms, situated on two levels of the hacienda, are lovingly decorated in neutral tones. Indoor and outdoor common spaces abound, including a billiards room, library, and both Sunset and Sunrise terraces, perfect for reading and relaxing.

Food: Adobe Walls serves an array of breakfasts treats. Choose from omelettes or eggs any way you like, pancakes, oatmeal, enfrijoladas, chilaquiles, or burritos. Daily accompaniments include fresh seasonal fruit, yogurt, juice, and coffee. For lunch and dinner, many terrific Mexican and international cafes and restaurants are just steps away.

Vibe: The Inn's enthusiastic owners have transformed this historic hacienda into a comfortable bed and breakfast with an all-out friendly vibe.

Keep in Mind: Room sizes and amenities vary, so make sure to read the room descriptions before making a reservation. Also be mindful of the Inn's cancellation policy.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Jalisco State (Jocotepec), Mexico: Los Dos Bed & Breakfast
Nominated By: Buzzy Gordon, Fennville, Michigan, USA, November '11

Price Range: US$90-$160 # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Los Dos so Darn Good? Live like an expat in your own apartment-like digs in an area renowned for the best year-round climate in Mexico. Your American-born hostess, long-time local resident Phyllis Rauch, has created a tranquil enclave popular with repeat foreign visitors and vacationing Mexicans alike.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Nayarit State (San Francisco/San Pancho), Mexico: Hotel Cielo Rojo
Nominated By: Gary at Green Traveler Guides, July '10

check availability, get rates, and reserve online at booking.com

Price Range: US$85-$150 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 8 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Hotel Cielo Rojo so Darn Good? Cielo Rojo is a simple, yet stylish hotel decorated in mellow Mexican colors and folk art lovingly collected by the owners on their world journeys. The hotel's restaurant surely must rank among the best restaurants in the state of Nayarit. The chef uses organic, locally-sourced ingredients including fish caught that morning by village fisherman in small boats. What's more, this eco-friendly hotel uses biodegradable detergents, makes their own natural hand soaps, and has an active recycling program.

Location: The small pueblo of San Francisco, locally known as San Pancho, is thirty miles north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico's central Pacific coast. The hotel is on a pleasant tree-shaded, cobblestone street near art galleries, restaurants, and shops, and just a few blocks away from a little beach. While surfers flock to the area for its great breaks, non-surfers can chill-out on the beach, explore nearby towns, or take a walk in the jungle.

Rooms: The eight scrupulously clean rooms at Cielo Rojo have shiny white walls and terra-cotta floors, and are artistically decorated in soothing colors with local crafts and antiques. A small, palm-shaded courtyard in the back has a rock waterfall edged by culinary herbs and dining area.

Food: Upon arrival at the hotel, guests are treated to a shot of artisanal tequila from the hospitality tray. In the morning, enjoy a complimentary continental breakfast of granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, and home-made breads, or spend a little more to order from the full menu. For lunch and dinner, the courtyard becomes Bistro Organico. In an open kitchen and with the most basic of tools, Chef Juan Diego Bernal turns out delicious, beautifully presented dishes like a smoked marlin-stuffed poblano pepper on a sesame-studded black bean sauce and salads like ensalada de toronja y miel - grapefruit, avocado and mixed greens in a cumin-yogurt-honey dressing. It's all part of the fun to watch Diego sneak out by the waterfall to twist off a sprig of basil or mint. Desserts are decadent and include an irresistible triple-layer cake of chocolate, mango, and carrot.

Vibe: Cielo Rojo is laid-back, hip, and friendly. The manager and most staff are English speakers and well-versed in hospitality. Even better, the hotel actively supports entreAmigos, a local non-profit aimed at providing educational opportunities for the children of San Pancho.

Keep in Mind: Some rooms do not have air conditioning but are equipped with ceiling fans.

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Traveler Favorite

Oaxaca State (Puerto Escondido), Mexico: Hotel Tabachin
 Nominated By: Dan, Austin, Texas, January '12

Price Range: US$75-$90 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 6 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes the Hotel Tabachin so Darn Good? First, the owner, Paul Cleaver, an American living in Puerto Escondido for thirty years, is both gracious and knowledgeable about the history and culture of the area as well as the entire country of Mexico and the world. The six studio and penthouse apartments are spacious, colorful, and full of artistic details. The rooftop view is available for all guests and offers a spectacular, panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. Hotel Tabachin is located conveniently between the principal tourist area, Adaquin, and the famous surfing beach called Zicatela, and a short taxi ride or a pleasant walk gets you downtown. Your hotel room comes with a splendid breakfast with everything from oatmeal to enchiladas.

Traveler Favorite

Quintana Roo State (Akumal), Mexico: Vista del Mar
 Nominated By: Mary McLaughlin, Havertown, Pennsylvania, Feb'09

Price Range: US$75-$150 # of Rooms: Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Vista del Mar so Darn Good? "We stayed at Vista del Mar in January 2009. The place is very laid back and simple with a beautiful view. We went for a short trip to do some SCUBA diving. We were lucky because the Akumal Dive Adventures and its wonderful dive master Jose were right next door. So was the amusing the Buena Vida restaurant. Since we were diving we paid $81 per night for the room, an incredible bargain." Read more.

villa la bella villa la bella villa la bella villa la bella

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Quintana Roo State (Isla Mujeres), Mexico: Villa La Bella
Nominated By: Jen Schenkel, Brooklyn, New York, March '10

Hotel Website: www.villalabella.com

Price Range: US$110-$200 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 6 Kid-Friendly: no

What makes Villa La Bella so Darn Good? Villa La Bella is a colorful six room bed and breakfast on the small island of Isla Mujeres, a short ferry ride and a world away from Cancun. The Villa offers a peaceful adults-only getaway with a low-key vibe away from the tourist crowds. Ashley and Curtis, the on-site owners, are gracious hosts, not too intrusive, but available for any questions about the island or your stay.

Location: Villa La Bella is on a quiet coastal street, just an hour and a half from the Cancun airport and a five minute taxi ride to the main town and Playa Norte, a popular white-sand beach. While the Villa is not on the beach itself, it is right on the coast, and you can walk along the rocks and find great sea glass. You can also walk to a few restaurants, including a phenomenal taco joint, but you are definitely not in the center of the action.

Rooms: Once through the Villa's front door, you'll find yourself in a carefully thought out gorgeous space. The bed and breakfast has an outdoor living room (with free wireless if you can't unplug), a pool and hot tub surrounded by hammocks and lounge furniture, a swing bar, a covered area with tables and chairs where breakfast is served, a lending library with books and DVD's, and a path to the sea. The rooms are fairly simple, with the more economical accommodations off the pool, and a few larger suites upstairs (complete with swing beds hanging from ropes - not for everyone). The Villa has no televisions or phones, but plenty of breezes, space, light, and cool touches like carved lanterns and shell sculptures. Some rooms have air conditioning.

Food: Villa La Bella serves a yummy breakfast every morning except Monday. The coffee is strong and the portions are generous. For other meals, you can head into town, walk to one of several local, very casual and delicious taco places, or have Mayan chicken delivered when you feel too lazy to leave. A little bodega is also very close where you can buy happy hour snacks to go with the mixed drinks and Mexican beers available at the Villa's bar.

Vibe: The Villa is quiet and relaxing with funky decor. Unlike many B&B's, you don't have to talk to the hosts or other guests unless you feel like it - there's enough space to do your own thing or to make friends, depending on your mood.

Keep in Mind: While Isla Mujeres has been developed more than some other parts of the Yucatan coast and the beach can be crowded at times, the Villa is a darn good getaway that's not far from a major airport.

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balamku balamku balamku balamku

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Quintana Roo State (Mahahual), Mexico: Balamku Inn on the Beach
Nominated By: Gary at Green Traveler Guides, April '10

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Price Range: US$75-$90 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Balamku Inn on the Beach so Darn Good? This eco-friendly hotel on Mexico's beautiful Costa Maya has been nominated by the World Travel Awards as a Leading Green Hotel in Mexico and Central America two years in a row. Balamku is powered by solar and wind energy and its ten beachfront rooms are situated to maximize natural ventilation. The airy rooms are tastefully turned out with tile floors and colorful Mexican art.

Location: Balamku is a few minutes from the little fishing village of Mahahual, four and half hours south of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula. The Inn boasts a sandy beachfront with clear, calm, and shallow waters protected by the great Banco Chinchorro reef, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers alike. Balamku offers free use of kayaks, and opportunities for hiking, birding, and exploring Mayan ruins abound.

Rooms: Balamku has two single and four double palapas with private terraces overlooking the Caribbean Sea. All guestrooms are attractive and well maintained, tropical in theme and in fact. In order to protect the nearby coral reef, each room has a shower and sink fed by captured rainwater that flows out to a constructed wetland, as well as specially designed composting toilets (looking at them, you would hardly guess) which eliminate the need for septic tanks. In addition, Balamku uses natural cleaning products and provides aloe vera based toiletries.

Food: A full breakfast is served in the main inn and features organic fruit from the property, homemade granola, a selection of egg dishes, and organic Chiapas coffee. Balamku also offers a light lunch menu of sandwiches, soup, quesadillas, and shrimp tacos. For dinner, several restaurants are in and around the town of Mahahual, and two are within walking distance of the inn.

Vibe: Balamku is totally laid-back and serene. Just reach for another cerveza or herbal iced tea, relax, and enjoy.

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secret garden hotel tulum secret garden hotel tulum secret garden hotel tulum secret garden hotel tulum

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Quintana Roo State (Tulum), Mexico: Secret Garden Hotel
Nominated By: Emily, Washington, D.C., January '11

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Price Range: US$34-$85 # of Rooms: 9 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Secret Garden Hotel so Darn Good? Just a short walk from Tulum's bus station and lively Avenida Tulum, the Secret Garden Hotel consists of nine cabanas surrounding a beautiful and peaceful garden decked out with hammocks and sofas. The hotel's owner, Joshua, is wonderful, kind, and uber-generous with his heaping knowledge of all things Tulum.

Location: The hotel is in the small beachside town of Tulum, one and a half hours south of Cancun on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. While a stay in town affords easy access to plenty of restaurants and bars, the hotel's location two blocks off the main road makes for a chill stay in a perfect spot. Bikes are available for rent right at the hotel, and in just fifteen minutes you can ride to Tulum's white sand beaches or stunning Mayan ruins.

Rooms: The hotel's simple, yet modern (think i-pod docks) rooms include four palapas with fans and five standard rooms with air conditioning. All rooms have comfortable beds and mini-fridges, and some have lofts and/or kitchenettes.

Food: While no meals are served at the Secret Garden Hotel, guests can take advantage of the downtown location to grab a bite at any one of the numerous restaurants within walking distance. The hotel does provide coffee and tea in the morning though, which guests can sip while easing in the day in the garden.

Vibe: The vibe is friendly, relaxing, and international.

Keep in Mind: The Secret Garden Hotel is an excellent in-town option for those who don't need to be right on the beach.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice - Full Review Coming Soon!

Yucatán State (Mérida), Mexico: Hotel Julamis
Nominated By: Clarke Gallery, Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA, January '12

Price Range: US$39-$75 # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: no

What makes the Hotel Julamis so Darn Good? Just know how to enjoy and relax when staying at this down-to-earth Merida boutique hotel. Mel and Erid are the best - sooo accommodating. The hotel has a quiet but central location, a five minute walk to the main square and the fabulous Paseo de Montejo. The new rooftop deck provides visitors with fabulous views of all the cities churches.


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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua: Casa del Soul
Nominated By: Michelle T, Nanoose Bay, Vancouver Island, Canada and Leah, New York, NY, August '10

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Hotel Website: www.casadelsoul.info     Phone: 505-8632-9646

Price Range: US$99-$139 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes the Casa del Soul so Darn Good? Surrounded by jungle and with breathtaking ocean views, Casa del Soul is an unbelievable bed and breakfast along Nicaragua's Pacific coast. Whether you want to chill by the pool or walk to the beach below the house to go searching for seashells, the entire experience is tranquil and relaxing. Randy and Brenda, Casa Del Soul's owners, couldn't be more accommodating. Randy gives you a cell phone so that you can call a taxi or reach him at any time, and Brenda and her staff will cook you up the best breakfast ever.

Location: Casa del Soul sits in a remote location above beautiful Nacascolo Bay along Nicaragua's Pacific Coast two hours from Managua. The bed and breakfast is a ten minute drive from the closest town, San Juan del Sur, where sleepy fishing village meets chill surf town. Besides surfing, water sports enthusiasts will find plenty to do in the area, including deep sea fishing, windsurfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling. In addition, Nicaragua's longest zipline canopy tour is only minutes away, and the La Flor Wildlife Reserve, where Olive Ridley sea turtles come in mass to lay their eggs, is twelve miles down the coast.

Rooms: Staying at Casa del Soul is like staying at your own tropical beach house. The three comfortable guest rooms have modern amenities like DVD players, I-pod speakers, and free wi-fi. The two upstairs suites share a large balcony with amazing views of the jungle and bay with no other houses in sight, while the less expensive smaller room is on the ground floor.

Food: Every morning Brenda prepares a fresh and delicious breakfast that might include such specialties as Gallo Pinto, a local dish of rice and beans, which is served by the pool overlooking the bay. For lunch or dinner, you can head into town for drinks and some inexpensive, yet tasty, Nicaraguan fare at one of the many restaurants and bars in San Juan del Sur.

Vibe: Casa del Soul is peaceful and relaxing.

Keep in Mind: The land around Casa del Soul is quite hilly, so bring some good walking shoes, not just flip flops. If the timing is right, you might save yourself the taxi fare and get a ride into town with Randy, or you can always hike up the hill to the immense Jesus statue, and then down the other side into San Juan del Sur.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Boquete: La Montaña y El Valle Coffee Estate Inn
 Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, May '08

Price Range: Gosh Darn It! # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: No

What makes La Montaña y El Valle so Darn Good? La Montaña y el Valle is a beautiful coffee estate nestled in the lush green Chriqui Highlands. The Inn has three large and comfortable private bungalows, and the owners, Barry and Jane, treat all guests to a delightful and informative tour of the coffee estate which culminates in a coffee grinding demonstration. Hint: Time your stay so that you don't miss the chance to get a gourmet dinner served to you by candlelight in your bungalow.

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finca la suiza finca la suiza finca la suiza finca la suiza

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Hornito, Panama: Finca la Suiza
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, February '08

Price Range: US$45-$58 # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Finca la Suiza so Darn Good? Finca la Suiza is located in the beautiful Chiriqui Highlands of Panama. We loved the walking trails through the rainforest and the delicious communal meals. If you are a birder, this is the place for you!

Location: Finca la Suiza is located just about in the middle of nowhere, about 40 kms up the road from the Pan American Highway on your way to the very cool Bocas del Toro Archipelago. You can't see Finca la Suiza from the bottom of the 1 km driveway so, except for the sign, you wouldn't even know it is there.

Rooms: Finca la Suiza has three rooms, all connected in the front by a big porch where you can sit and take in the view of the gorgeous green mountains. The rooms are big, airy, and decorated with simple, tasteful furnishings.

Food: The owners, Herbert and Monika, serve up delightful breakfasts and dinners in their big dining room. The food is super fresh and many of the fruits and vegetables come right from the organic garden. The communal meals were memorable for the great wine and friendly conversation.

Vibe: Finca la Suiza is paradise for nature lovers. The owners have created several well-marked trails throughout their property, including a three hour circuit through virgin cloudforest. All trails begin right at the house. We spent a morning hiking the trails, and saw waterfalls, spectacular overlooks, and birds galore! The owners were very friendly and even bandaged Michael up after he slipped on some rocks while exploring a waterfall.

Things to Keep in Mind: It is a 1 km long walk up the driveway to get to the house. No children below the age of 12 are allowed on the trails. In addition, be sure to let Herbert or Monika know if you're arriving late at night or if you plan to go for an early hike because they let their guard dogs out at night.

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la loma jungle lodge la loma jungle lodge la loma jungle lodge la loma jungle lodge

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panama: La Loma Jungle Lodge
Nominated By: nzbased, Auckland, New Zealand, September '08

Hotel Website: www.thejunglelodge.com     Phone: 507 6619 5364

Price Range: $100 per person (includes three meals) # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: yes, over 5

What makes La Loma Jungle Lodge so Darn Good? The total experience!

Location: La Loma Jungle Lodge is located on the quiet and secluded Isla Bastimentos in the beautiful Archipelago de Bocas del Toro off of Panama's northwest coast. Guests at La Loma can tour its working butterfly farm and gardens, hike its rainforest trails, and row traditional wooden cayucos through the mangroves. White sand beaches are just a five minute boat ride away. The lodge provides boat pick up and drop off from Bocas, the island chain's busiest town and transportation hub.

Rooms: Hidden among trees and vines, each of La Loma's three ranchos can be reached by footpath through the jungle from the main lodge. Inspired by traditional Ngobe architecture, the ranchos have been built using sustainably harvested wood and consist mainly of open platforms with roofs. The ranchos all have mosquito nets on their beds, bathrooms with hot water showers, and well-worn hammocks. The real deal is that you are actually sleeping in the jungle with all the amazing nocturnal noises to lull you to sleep.

Food: What can we say! A total miracle! Every dining experience is different from the last, and all meals are home-made on site using totally fresh ingredients. We loved sitting outside at the lodge's bench-style table with total strangers who soon became friends, relating travel experiences, and soaking up the wonderful ambiance long into the evening.

Vibe: La Loma is laid-back enough to be horizontal. This is the place to just chill out and get back to nature. Margaret and Henry, your tremendously knowledgeable hosts, know their business well, and filled our minds with information on butterflies, cocoa, and the indigenous Ngobe families that they are helping through their community program, Hooda Chi. Really, this place is one out of the box!

Things to Keep in Mind: The lower rancho has enough electricity to run a small fan and a light, and while the two ranchos further up the hill are not connected to electricity, they do have a natural breeze due to their higher elevation. The climb from the lodge's dining area to the ranchos is a fairly steep 5 to 7 minute climb, and torches and gumboots are provided. It can be a bit hot and sticky here but, hey, you're in the jungle!

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mary lee's by the sea mary lee's by the sea mary lee's by the sea mary lee's by the sea

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Guanica, Puerto Rico (southwest coast): Mary Lee's by the Sea
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, March '08

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Price Range: US$110-$300 # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Mary Lee's by the Sea so Darn Good? The apartments are where it's at at Mary Lee's. They are huge and decorated to the nines in a funky Floridian style. We had great fun exploring the bay and mangrove islands in a kayak that we launched right from Mary Lee's dock, just a stone's throw away from our porch.

Location: Mary Lee's is located on the southwest coast of Puerto Rico, two hours from San Juan and just up the street from the Guanica Dry Forest, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. This truly special place is the largest remaining strip of tropical dry coastal forest on earth. The reserve has great hiking trails, remote beaches, and renowned bird watching, but what we enjoyed most was spotting all sorts of crazy looking cacti.

Rooms: Bright and colorful fabrics cover the couches, beds, tables, curtains, chairs, you name it, in all of Mary Lee's gigantic apartments. Most of the apartments have several rooms and would be great for a family or a big party. When you feel like getting some fresh sea air, you can relax in your outdoor sitting area, most of which have sea views.

Food: Mary Lee's doesn't serve food, but all the rooms have fully equipped kitchens and access to barbecues. Don't forget to pick up groceries before you arrive. We also recommend that you make a pit stop at the little empanada hut on Guanica Bay along the road to Mary Lee's. If you are not in the mood to cook dinner, it is just a short drive to a couple of restaurants, including a somewhat fancy one at the nearby resort.

Vibe: Mary Lee's by the Sea felt like our own little hideaway on the Puerto Rican coast. We relaxed, did our own thing, and hardly saw a soul.

Things to Keep in Mind: Although Mary Lee's is on the coast, you need to drive or take a boat to get to the beach.

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maravilla maravilla maravilla maravilla

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Las Marias, Puerto Rico (western mountains): Maravilla
Nominated By: Stacy at Butiki Teas, Hamilton, New Jersey, USA, October '11

Price Range: US$110-$210 # of Rooms: 3 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Maravilla so Darn Good? My husband and I stayed in the "luxury" cabin for six nights and chose the luxury all-inclusive option, which includes an unbelievably amazing breakfast, lunch, and multi-course dinner each day. The view of the lush rainforest during breakfast is spectacular, and our dinners by candle-light were very romantic. Maravilla's owners, Margo and Mark, along with their staff, are so welcoming we can't wait to go back some day!

Location: Maravilla is located in the rainforest at the end of a long, winding road through hills planted with coffee, oranges, and plantains. Hiking trails wind through the property (a Mecca for bird watchers) past streams, waterfalls, and swimming holes. While guests may easily spend their days lounging in their hammocks or wandering the jungle trails, many take a day or two to explore more of western Puerto Rico. Popular trips include the surf town of Rincon or the cute little coffee town of Maricao. San Juan is two and a half hours away, but Aguadilla has a closer airport.

Rooms: Maravilla offers three choices of accommodation: the cabin, a cottage room or suite, and camping. We stayed in the cabin, which has an open kitchen and sitting area allowing for a spectacular view of the rainforest. The cabin has no electricity and is lit by propane lanterns and heated by a gas fireplace on chilly days, all adding to its charm. The cottage has two upstairs rooms that can be rented together, a living room, and a small balcony. Downstairs is a full kitchen, and dining area where the breakfast buffet is served. For those who choose to camp, Maravilla supplies tents, air mattresses, linens, and lanterns.

Food: Margo prepares unbelievably delicious food. We went vegan, although Maravilla also offers raw and vegetarian options. Some of the highlights for us were the coconut crusted tofu over noodles, the sesame and walnut crusted tofu, and the fried green tomatoes with pepper jam. Desserts were to die for, and we looked forward to the breakfast buffet every morning with its fresh-baked pastries and tropical fruits picked right on the property. Margo was very accommodating with meals and packaged several breakfasts and lunches for us when we went on day trips.

Vibe: Natural, lush, and laid-back.

Keep in Mind: Our advice is to splurge for the luxury all inclusive option if you can so worth it. Also, plan to spend a few days at Maravilla exploring the beautiful property we took many day trips but wished that we had spent more time just relaxing. And finally, if you are staying in the cabin, you may want to bring some extra lights.

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Traveler Favorite

Naguabo, Puerto Rico (east coast): Casa Libre
 Nominated By: ScubaRN7, Hurley, New York, July '09

Price Range: US$80-$100 # of Rooms: 4 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Casa Libre so Darn Good? "A bed and breakfast on a hillside overlooking a bay, a pool with a waterfall, a lovely bedroom and bathroom, any breakfast of your choice AND the absolutely best host and hostess you could possibly imagine... within hours you consider Josue and Patti friends. I was charmed with this little tucked away oasis. I enjoyed a day in the sun by the pool, an afternoon with the hostess walking two beaches, a local cafe lunch, and then cocktails. Casa Libre is an experience I will share with all my friends traveling to Puerto Rico, and I plan on returning there on my next dive adventure in the area." Read more.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Utuado, Puerto Rico (central mountains): Casa Grande Mountain Retreat
Nominated By: Allison and Michael, Brooklyn, NY, February '08

Hotel Website: www.hotelcasagrande.com     Phone: 787-894-3939

Price Range: US$95-$115 # of Rooms: 20 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Casa Grande Mountain Retreat so Darn Good? With its network of private cabins weaving through the lush mountains of central Puerto Rico, Casa Grande is darn green. Whether hanging out on your private balcony, taking a dip in the refreshing pool, or enjoying a delicious meal at the outdoor restaurant, a sea of deep green trees envelops you. To top it all off, Casa Grande has won several Puerto Rico Hotel & Tourism Green Inn Awards. Now that's green!

Location: Casa Grande is twenty-five minutes from the nearest town and two hours from San Juan. Some of our favorite day trips in the area include the Rio Camuy Cave Park and the Arecibo Observatory. We also took a boat ride on Lago dos Bocas, just fifteen minutes away.

Rooms: The cabins are big, airy, simply decorated, and they all have ceiling fans and balconies with a hammock, great for relaxing and wiling away the day.

Food: The delicious restaurant on site, Casa Grande Cafe, serves traditional Puerto Rican dishes, and much more. For breakfast we ate the freshest fruit salad ever with mangoes, oranges, grapefruits, bananas, and papayas all grown right on the grounds. While there is indoor seating, we recommend eating on the veranda overlooking the forest, where you can get drunk on the cool mountain air alone.

Vibe: Casa Grande is a super relaxing mountain escape. The staff is friendly and the tropical gardens are gorgeous. The owner, Steven, leads a Yoga class every morning.

Things to Keep in Mind: The road from Utuado, the closest town, to Casa Grande is long and curvy. Also, young children are more than welcome, but parents should be aware that the wooden railings on the balconies have wide gaps.

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Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Vieques (Isabella Segunda), Puerto Rico: Casa de Amistad
Nominated By: Peg, Gloucester, Massachusetts, USA, November '08

Price Range: US$75-$110 # of Rooms: 7 Kid-Friendly: 10 and older

What makes Casa de Amistad so Darn Good? Casa de Amistad is a true island oasis at a great price. If you want to feel so comfortable that you can get coffee in your pajamas, then this is the place for you! With their house just next door, your hosts, Owen and David, are at your call, yet completely unobtrusive. They have stocked their guesthouse with everything you might need for the perfect beach vacation, including snorkeling equipment, beach chairs, and coolers for a picnic lunch. We just came home from a seven day stay and already want to return!

Location: The island of Vieques, six miles off Puerto Rico's east coast, is full of gorgeous beaches and unspoiled nature. Casa de Amistad is located in the town of Isabella Segunda, just two blocks from the ferry dock and close to many bars and restaurants. Vieques can be reached by ferry from Fajardo or plane from San Juan.

Rooms: Casa de Amistad's seven rooms all have comfy beds, air conditioners, and private bathrooms, although two are not en-suite. Common space abounds, such as the sweet street-side porch for people watching and morning coffee. Guests can also swim in the backyard pool, lounge in front of the satellite TV, and take in the sun on the rooftop deck.

Food: While the guesthouse does not serve food, there are two grocerias within walking distance and several restaurants nearby. The inn has a café for morning coffee, a kitchen to cook your own meals, and an honor fridge stocked with bottled water and Medalla beer.

Vibe: Casa de Amistad is the place to lay your head after a long day enjoying the beaches, sailing, or riding the local Paso Fino ponies. It's cozy here and you'll feel right at home.

Things to Keep in Mind: Rent a jeep! The best beaches are on former naval bases and are not on bus routes. Also, the guesthouse has beach towels for guests to use. The first is free, and each exchange is two dollars.

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la finca caribe la finca caribe la finca caribe la finca caribe

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Vieques, Puerto Rico: La Finca Caribe
Nominated By: Matthew Fleck, Brooklyn, New York, USA, June '08

Hotel Website: www.lafinca.com     Phone: 787.741.0495

Price Range: US$87-$185 # of Rooms: 10 Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes La Finca Caribe so Darn Good? La Finca Caribe is incredible! We loved hanging out with our fellow travelers and soaking up the beautiful scenery. This place really attracts great people and we made fast friends. Plus, the outdoor showers are amazing.

Location: La Finca Caribe is on a hill in the middle of Vieques, a small island just six miles off the east coast of Puerto Rico, and the views of the forest down to the Caribbean Sea are fantastic. Over half of Vieques is designated a National Wildlife Refuge, which translates into miles and miles of amazing, unspoiled, white sand beaches. Vieques can be reached by ferry from Fajardo or plane from San Juan.

Rooms: The main guesthouse has six rooms, and four additional cabins are scattered throughout La Finca's lush, fruit-tree and flower-filled grounds. While most rooms have shared bathrooms and are fairly simple, the newly built Casa Nueva offers a few more creature comforts. La Finca also has a pool if you are all beached out.

Food: Although La Finca doesn't serve food, it does have a big open-air kitchen and a well-stocked communal bar. Guests can enjoy their meals at one of the many colorful outdoor tables situated on the deck. If you are not in the mood for cooking, a restaurant is nearby and the village of Esperanza is less than three miles away.

Vibe: La Finca provides loads of pillows, hammocks, and cushy seating areas where travelers mingle, and share stories and margaritas. Our hosts were terrific and they gave us many helpful hints and suggestions about things to do in Vieques.

Things to Keep in Mind: You pretty much need to rent a car on Vieques for maximum beach exploration, so make sure you rent one in advance! Also, La Finca has a three night minimum stay in the guesthouse and a week minimum stay in the rest of the cabins.

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Traveler Favorite

Winwardside, Saba: Juliana's Hotel
 Nominated By: Brian, Portland, Maine, June '09

Price Range: US$105-$290 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: Kid-Friendly: Yes

What makes Juliana's Hotel so Darn Good? "Juliana's Hotel is a diver's paradise. Wim and Johanna are wonderful. Saba's scenery just gets better underwater, and Juliana's offers dive courses, room rates and great drinks after a day at sea. Relax in the village of Windwardside, and let the world drift away. At Juliana's you feel right at home - it's your own Antillean escape." Read more.

St. Lucia

apartment espoir

Traveler Favorite

Castries, St. Lucia: Apartment Espoir
 Nominated By: B. Gibbons, Regina, Saskatchewan, March '12

Price Range: US$78-$198 # of Rooms: 11 Kid-Friendly: yes

What makes Apartment Espoir so Darn Good? "Location, location, location. Enjoy a spectacular view from your own terrace. Walk five minutes one way and live like a rich tourist on an exclusive beach. Walk five minutes the other way and live like a local, shopping and eating with wonderful friendly St. Lucians." Read more.


carringtons inn carringtons inn carringtons inn carringtons inn

Darn Good Digs Review - Editors' Choice

Christiansted, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands: Carringtons Inn
Nominated By: Jennifer, Chicago, USA, November '08

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Price Range: US$100-$165 (breakfast included) # of Rooms: 5 Kid-Friendly: No

What makes Carringtons Inn so Darn Good? Carringtons overflows with warm hospitality and island charm.

Location: This former winter home of a wealthy family is perfectly perched on a hill overlooking the town of Christiansted on St. Croix's northeastern coast. Christiansted was once the capital of the former Danish West Indies, and its well-preserved colonial architecture still lines the downtown streets. The Christiansted National Historic Site also maintains several historic buildings, such as the West India & Guinea Company Warehouse and the Danish Custom House. White sand beaches, dense rainforests, and coral reefs abound on St Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rooms: Carringtons has five rooms, three larger rooms with king-size beds and views of Christiansted harbor, and two smaller poolside rooms with queen-size beds. Two of the larger rooms, Flamboyant and Periwinkle, have private balconies. In addition, the Inn's pool and adjacent honor bar are excellent places to kick back and relax.

Food: Breakfast is lovingly prepared by innkeepers, Claudia and Roger. Wake up to a hot bowl of cream of wheat with fresh fruit and yogurt, followed by a home-cooked hot entree. The Cruzan French toast, made with St. Croix's own locally distilled rum, is spectacular! For meals out, Christiansted has a good number of restaurants and bars in town and on the boardwalk.

Vibe: Carringtons is quiet, laid-back, casual, and friendly.

Things to Keep in Mind: Carringtons is one mile from downtown Christiansted, and just minutes from the nearest beach. The larger rooms with harbor views get rave reviews and might just be worth the splurge.

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