The rates given in this guide are only "rack rates" -- that is, the officially posted rate that you'd be given if you just walked in off the street. Almost everyone ends up paying less than the rack rate through packages, discounts, and strategic planning. Think of the rates as guidelines to help you comparison-shop. Check online for great deals and multi-day packages on hotel websites. Roughly, the price categories in this guide are Very Expensive ($650 and up); Expensive ($375-$650); Moderate ($215-$375); and Inexpensive ($215 and under).
You can save big on your lodging bill simply by traveling in the off season. The high season on all three islands is the winter season, roughly from the middle of December through the middle of April. Hotels charge their peak rates during the winter, rates that spike stratospherically during the 2 weeks around the Christmas holidays. The off season is the rest of the year -- although the so-called "shoulder seasons," roughly late spring and late fall (after hurricane season is over) -- are increasingly popular. Expect rates to fall outside the traditional high season, however, often dramatically in the summer. You'll find that during the off season, many resorts offer deals on multi-night stays or sweeten the deal with meals or activities included in the rates.
Keep in mind that each island government imposes an occupancy or room tax (called a "tourism tax" on St. Barts), applicable to all hotels, inns, and guesthouses. On St. Maarten, a government tax of 5% is added to your hotel bill. Hotels on French St. Martin tack on a local room tax (taxe de séjour) of 4% to 5%. On Anguilla, the government collects a 10% tax on rooms. The St. Barts tourism tax is 5%. Ask whether taxes are included in the original rates you're quoted. Furthermore, many hotels routinely tack on 10% to 12% for "service." That means that with tax and service, some bills are 15% or even 25% higher than the price originally quoted to you!
But that's not all. Some hotels are particularly adept at charging for extras that add up quickly. The minibar is one money trap you won't want to fall into; look for a grocery or convenience store to stock up on sodas, snacks, water, and beer. Another big extra is phone charges. Making direct international calls from your hotel phone can be exorbitant, and many hotels also charge fees for local calls. If you have a GSM cellphone with international roaming capabilities, you're in business; otherwise, you may want to consider renting a cellphone or buying a prepaid cellphone when you're on one of the islands.
Types of Accommodations
Hotels & Resorts -- All three islands have a broad range of accommodations, although the budget options on Anguilla and St. Barts are few and far between. But deals are out there, even at the priciest resorts. Be sure to get on a resort's e-mail list: Many offer terrific money-saving packages (especially during low season) advertised via e-mail or Twitter. Look into air/hotel packages offered by online travel agencies such as Orbitz, Travelocity, and Priceline for big savings.
Condos & Villas -- Particularly if you're traveling with your family or a group of friends, a "housekeeping holiday" can be one of the least expensive ways to vacation in St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, and St. Barts. And if you like privacy and independence, it's a good way to go. The savings, especially for a large group or family, can range from 50% to 60% of what a hotel would cost. And having self-catering capabilities lets you prepare your own meals -- a lot cheaper than taking all your meals at restaurants. St. Maarten offers a number of condominium rooms and suites -- many of which are timeshare units; here, timeshares account for some 60% of the lodging rental market. Timeshare members of RCI (tel. 317/805-9000; www.rci.com) or Interval International (tel. 888/784-3447; www.intervalworld.com) can look into the feasibility of exchanges on St. Maarten. Villas are extremely popular on St. Barts and Anguilla and, to a lesser degree, on St. Maarten/St. Martin. Wimco (tel. 800/932-3222; www.wimco.com) is a reputable company handling properties on all three islands. For villas in St. Barts, St. Barth Properties (tel. 800-421-3396; www.stbarth.com) is affiliated with Sotheby's.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.