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25 Caribbean Hotels for Under $200

Estate Concordia Studios
Saltpond Bay; 800/392-9004 or 340/693-5855, fax 340/693-5960; doubles from $70. Look for the bat house next to the reception office--bats eat mosquitoes, and that's smart eco-tourism as far as Stanley Selengut is concerned. The eco-hotelier prefers to keep things as natural as possible in these hilltop wilds. Nine clay-tiled studios and 11 screen-and-cloth "eco-tents" are camouflaged among jungle vines and armies of orchids. Ask for one of the new tents, whose decks have astonishing views of mountains and sea. And make sure you're poolside at dusk, when clouds of hungry bats descend for a nightly mosquito feast.

St. John Inn
277 Enighed Rd., Cruz Bay; 800/666-7688 or 340/693-8688, fax 340/693-9900; doubles from $110. A vigorous rehab last year transformed the 13-room St. John into the island's only affordable inn with solid class. Just inside its bland coral exterior lies an arched purple reception area and a copper bar on a sporty terrace. Owners Gloria and John Hoffman are San Francisco natives, which shows in the California-cool wrought-iron beds, pine armoires, and funky cone-shaped alarm clocks. Walk to Cruz Bay and its hip café scene, or lounge by the little pool under a monster avocado tree.

Inn at Robert's Grove
Placencia; 800/565-9757 or 501-6/23565, fax 501-6/23567; doubles from $150. The 1997 opening of Robert's Grove sent a wave of gossip across Belize. Who in their right mind would bring luxury to a potholed outback ruled by Jesus Christ lizards, tame creatures that walk on water?Just a couple of New Yorkers, Robert and Risa Frackman (he's a developer, she's a public relations consultant), who pulled pieces from Asia--Sri Lankan chaises, Indonesian armoires--for the 20 seaside rooms. Add to that a glittery pool that acts as the inn's centerpiece, a lounge and library decorated with an African safari motif, and a beachside dining terrace where you can taste some of Belize's best cuisine. Don't be surprised if a Jesus Christ lizard sprints by on the sand.

Captain Oliver's Hotel Resort
Oyster Pond; 590/87-40-26, fax 590/87-40-84; doubles from $175. The crew at Captain Oliver's delights in informing guests that they're half in France, half in the Netherlands. It's the truth, more or less, since the lodge spills across the French-Dutch border of St. Martin and Sint Maarten. More significantly, Captain Oliver's has a great location on a prime cove, an old-fashioned seafood restaurant (try the cod fritters), 50 pleasant rooms, and a big marina. The best view is from the pool, which looks across to St. Bart's. The captain's only folly: a miniature zoo with caged monkeys and toucans.

163 Blvd. de Grand Case, Grand Case; 590/87-56-85, fax 590/87-83-88; doubles from $90. You might mistake Hévéa for a simple restaurant. The porch blackboard beckons with filet de canard miel (fillet of duck in honey sauce) and langouste grillé thermidor. But step inside, beyond the white-linen dining parlor, and you'll find a dollhouse-sized inn decorated in French colonial style--carved mahogany headboards, stucco walls, painted pine beams. Tiny gardens and fountains are tucked into corners and along passageways. There are two rooms, three studios, and three suites; go for one of the studios--by far the biggest and best spaces.

Harmony Hall
Brown's Bay, near Freetown; 268/460-4120, fax 268/460-4406; doubles from $120. Built around a 200-year-old sugar mill, Harmony Hall is best known for its fabulous restaurant (local fish, olive oil from Italy) and its lovely little gallery, which stages monthly exhibitions of Caribbean artists. Even without advertising, the word is spreading about Harmony's other treasure: six inexpensive guest rooms. Though they are spare--think two chairs and a king-size bed draped in mosquito netting--paintings from the gallery and views of the electric-blue bay brighten the space. Stop by the bar in the sugar mill, which attracts a fair share of yachtie types. There you might have a rum punch with the elegant Italian managers Ricardo and Marilisa Parisi, who keep the place running in style.

Manta Lodge
Windward Rd., Speyside; 800/544-7631 or 868/660-5268, fax 868/660-5030; doubles from $140. Scuba divers are enthralled by the underwater views off Tobago, and the scene on land (jungly rain forests, all-but-deserted beaches) is pretty terrific too. But most of the island's lodgings are predictable--the same tropical fabrics again. So the crisp blue and white stripes are refreshing at Manta Lodge, a modest 22-room hotel on the island's serene northern end. The pool is sweet, the restaurant appealing, and check out the huge wooden moray eel that curves along the bar. The location may be a bit close to the road, but--big plus--the birder's paradise of Little Tobago Island lies just offshore, as well as some of the best dive spots in the Caribbean.

Sunset Resort Hotel
Calabash Bay, Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth; 800/786-8452 or 876/965-0143, fax 876/965-0555; doubles from $70. This is as far from Negril and its Jell-O wrestling collegians as it is possible to be--ideologically, at least--while still keeping your feet in Jamaican sand. Whisperingly low-key, with a gentility as de-stressing as any New Age massage, Sunset Resort commands a spectacular swatch of hassle-free (i.e., nobody hawking jewelry or cornrows) seafront on the island's untrampled south coast, which, unlike the north coast, boasts zero humidity. The 11 rooms and one suite won't win any design awards, but ceiling fans (air-conditioning for those who must) and tile floors ensure a respectable level of comfort and aesthetics. Don't miss dinner at Jake's Place, Island Outpost's famously funky resort just up the beach, and crocodile-spotting on the Black River.

Lambert Beach Resort
East End; 284/495-2877, fax 284/495-2876; doubles from $150. Carved out of a forested British Virgin Islands hillside that slopes to a half-mile-wide white-sand cove, Lambert Beach is perfect for getting away from it all. Some of the 38 rooms and suites are separated from the beach by a few palms; others are set higher on the hill, with views of the ocean. Each room takes up half of a freestanding Mediterranean-style cottage with terra-cotta tile floors and sand-colored walls. Still higher in the hills are a few two- and three-bedroom villas (starting at $225 a night). Lambert's only drawback is the surf, which can get rough. But for those days, there's transportation to the nearby island of Jost Van Dyke and its calmer waters. Or kick back by the asymmetrical pool, set in a small field at the foot of the hills. It's so gorgeous you might just forgo the beach entirely.


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