08/22/2013 01:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Cheapskate's Guide to Caribbean Boutique Hotels

Caviar taste and a corned beef budget? You don't have to sacrifice style and service in order to scrimp on hotel costs. Check out four of my fave Caribbean roosts for high style and low prices. All but one but one of them is right on the beach, and all have rates starting at less than $150!


From $90: Nueva Vida De Ramiro
Nueva Vida's so-calm-it's-almost-comatose vibe is in perfect sync with the languorous pace of its bohemian beach town home, Tulum, Mexico. Seaside bungalows are colorful and comfy, with handcrafted furniture, local art, and silk hammocks on the veranda. No phones, no TV, and no Wi-Fi mean that you'll have a hard time keeping up with the outside world. Turquoise water, bone-white sand and balmy ocean breezes will make you wonder why you ever wanted to.


From $100: Casa Blanca
I stumbled upon this urban retreat while on an Old San Juan shopping expedition (shocking, I know) and was so enchanted by the eclectic mashup of hanging lanterns, canopied daybeds and stunning art in the lobby (which does double duty as a gallery) that I had to stop in for a tour. There are 32 compact rooms in this five-floor Calle Fortaleza walkup, each pimped out in multi-culti style with Indonesian furniture, Indian accents and Puerto Rican art. If you're looking for a hip roost smack in the center of the city and within a stone's throw of OSJ's shops, sights and restaurants, look no further.


From $95: Jake's
After a beachfront massage in Jake's Driftwood spa I emerged transformed, literally glowing from the ministrations of the masseuse who took me from stressed out to blissed out in 60 minutes flat. But the spa is only one of the reasons to visit this compact Treasure Beach oasis where cosmopolitan creative types and more than a few international celebs chill out in water's-edge villas decorated with Morocco-meets-Mo'Bay flair.


From $140: Idle Awhile
Negril's white-sand strip is famous for its string of big-box all-inclusive resorts, but within their midst is this homey flip-flop-friendly boutique that offers Jamaican style and personalized service. Fourteen suites are studies in boho-chic, with sun-washed color schemes, fresh flowers, and louvered windows that welcome the breeze. The beachfront restaurant is my Sunday-morning go-to for a heaping plate of Jamaica's national dish, ackee and saltfish, with Negril's lively beach scene on the side.

*all images courtesy of respective resorts