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5 easy Caribbean getaways from Long Island's MacArthur airport

No traffic on the way to the airport, parking in front of the terminal, and a quiet security process that includes TSA Pre-check: These are some of the reasons to love MacArthur Airport in Islip. A wider-than-ever selection of Caribbean destinations makes it an attractive choice for winter getaway travel. Take advantage of this Long Island resource and enjoy a stress-free flight to one of the following hot spots:

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic

Beach huts at sunrise along Bavaro Beach in
Photo Credit: UIG via Getty Images/REDA&CO

With over 60 beach resorts catering to families, couples, budget travelers and high rollers, this is the place to go for an all-inclusive vacation tailored to your specific needs.

If you like to spoil your toddlers, check into the Nickelodeon Hotel (nickresortpuntacana.com), where the Pineapple Villa is decorated in high SpongeBob style and features a private infinity pool. At the other end of the spectrum is the adults-only Sanctuary Cap Cana (sanctuarycapcana.com) with its Spanish Colonial architecture, manicured gardens, piano bar and Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course. The Catalonia Bavaro Beach Resort (cataloniabavarohotel.com) is on the same white sand beach as more expensive resorts and offers tons of amenities — water sports, swim-up bars, live entertainment — as well as food and drink for as low as $274/night for two.

 

With over 60 beach resorts catering to families,
Photo Credit: Courtesy Nickelodeon International

American flies to Punta Cana, via Philadelphia, starting at $244 one way. Southwest also has flights, with stops in either Baltimore or Fort Lauderdale, starting at $169 one way.

Havana, Cuba

The Capitol Building dominates the skyline of Havana,
Photo Credit: Alamy/Sean Pavone

There are a dozen categories of authorized travel to Cuba, including family visits, official government business, and journalism. One category, called “support for the Cuban people,” can be used by individuals who want to visit on their own. Declare this category when booking flights, lodging and during re-entry to the U.S. Take care when reserving rooms: U.S. law prohibits staying at hotels banned by the State Department.

There are still plenty of choices: The Iberostar Parque Central (iberostar.com) is a luxury hotel in old Havana with updated rooms, a rooftop pool and live music in two bars. Walk to the Gran Teatro de la Habana and the Malecon, Cuba’s most famous seaside avenue. For budget travelers, a government-licensed casa particular is the way to go, offering the opportunity to interact with the owners and put your tourist dollars directly in their pockets. Many of these rooms and entire homes can be booked through Airbnb, although you must do so in advance since the app doesn’t work well (or at all) in Cuba. Also bookable on Airbnb are a wide variety of “experiences” provided by locals — from drumming lessons to walking tours, rum tastings and salsa concerts.

Southwest has flights to Havana, making a stop in Fort Lauderdale, starting at $115 one way. You’ll need to purchase a visa from your airline for $50-$100 (online and in some cases at the gate).

The Iberostar Parque Central (iberostar.com) is a luxury
Photo Credit: Alamy /Chris Hammond

Southwest has flights to Havana, making a stop in Fort Lauderdale, starting at $115 one way. You’ll need to purchase a visa from your airline for $50-$100 (online and in some cases at the gate).

Aruba

Aruba, the Dutch-Caribbean island off the coast of
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Circle Eyes

This Dutch-Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela has dry, sunny weather complemented by cool breezes from constant trade winds. The white sand beaches are beautiful, but there’s plenty to do and see when you tire of lounging on them. Do some kite- and wind-surfing, or try “snuba,” a scuba/snorkeling hybrid that allows you to stay underwater for long periods, no diving experience required. Rent a jeep and explore the massive California Dunes on the northeast coast.

Shopping is another fun pastime. Because the island is part of the Netherlands, Dutch goods such as cheese, chocolate and Delft porcelain are readily available at good prices. Because of low taxes and duty-free deals, fine jewelry is a bargain. Accommodations range from friendly guesthouses like the Arubiana Inn (arubianainn.com), with 18 rooms and hammocks by the pool, to the Hyatt Regency Resort (hyatt.com), with 359 rooms, a full-service spa with treatments that utilize aloe and other local ingredients, four on-site restaurants, luxury shops and a lively casino.

 

A wave explodes over the walls of the
Photo Credit: Alamy/TS Corrigan

Southwest flies to Aruba, via Baltimore or Fort Lauderdale, starting at $210 one way.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Over a year after Hurricane Maria, San Juan
Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Mikolajn

Over a year after Hurricane Maria, San Juan is welcoming tourists with refurbished properties and great deals. Spending your tourist dollars here will help Puerto Rico complete its recovery. You don’t need to carry a passport or change money. Flights are frequent and inexpensive. Take a walking tour of colorful, colonial Old San Juan, with its quaint cobblestone streets and Instagrammable pastel buildings. Explore Castillo San Cristobal, the largest fortification built by the Spanish in the New World. Enroll in a mixology class at Casa Bacardi (bacardi.com), the rum distillery. In the gentrifying Santurce neighborhood, graze on local specialties including alcapurrias (root vegetable fritters stuffed with meat) at food truck park Lote 23 (lote23.com). Day-trip possibilities include Vieques, with its bioluminescent bay and El Yunque Rainforest, with nature trails, waterfalls and scenic views.

Connoisseurs of bohemian style will love the Dreamcatcher (dreamcatcherpr.com), a boutique hotel with a vegetarian restaurant, a hammock lounge and 12 rooms and suites featuring woven buddha sculptures and macramé wall hangings. The brand-new Serafina Beach Hotel (serafinabeachhotel.com) in the upscale Condado district has a sparkling infinity edge pool overlooking a semiprivate beach.

 

While visiting San Juan, a one-day trip you
Photo Credit: Alamy /Scott Sady/tahoelight.com

American has flights from Islip to San Juan, stopping in Philadelphia, from $191. Southwest also flies from Islip, with a stop in Baltimore, Fort Lauderdale or Orlando, with prices from $221 one way.

Montego Bay, Jamaica

On the grounds of a former sugar plantation,
Photo Credit: Alamy/Design Pics Inc

Starting your day with Blue Mountain Coffee, savoring authentic Jamaican jerk chicken, listening to live reggae — these are just a couple of reasons to choose Jamaica as a vacation destination. Luxury resorts and white sand beaches are another. On the grounds of a former sugar plantation, the historic Half Moon resort (halfmoon.com) is a short drive from the airport and a world unto itself. The sprawling 400-acre property boasts two miles of beachfront, an equestrian center, golf course, spa, several pools and multiple restaurants. Everything is a la carte and expensive — but top-notch. Rooms start at $300 per night.

All-inclusive resorts in Jamaica have a reputation for hard partying. If you are looking for peace and quiet for a fixed price, try the Iberostar Grand Rose Hall (iberostargrandhotel.com) in Montego Bay, which offers a beachside golf course, Turkish baths, yoga classes, and catamaran excursions. Guests have access to livelier nightlife and daytime social activities at adjacent (and cheaper) Iberostar resorts Rose Hall Suites and Rose Hall Beach. Prices start at about $250/night per person, with $800 in resort credits (for use in the spa or at the golf course) thrown in for a weeklong stay.

 

The white sand beaches of Montego Bay, authentic
Photo Credit: David Trotman-Wilkins

Southwest has flights to Montego Bay, stopping in Orlando or Fort Lauderdale, starting at $223 one way.

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