I know this question gets asked a lot in the broadest sense and I've already read through these answers, so I'll try to be specific.
I'm looking for a safe hassle-free solo vacation this March (2013) to an island in the Caribbean where I can feel safe without having to confine myself to a resort for the entire time. I'll only be able to spend 2-4 nights due to budget constraints.
I'll be flying out of Nashville and my overall budget for air & hotels is $500-$1000 which really makes it hard. I'm willing to stay at hostels or budget hotels if you have specific recommendations.
I know people often recommend Turks & Caicos & Barbados but I think they're out of my budget.
Keeping my flights to under $600 from Nashville, my choices are Bahamas (Nassau), Jamaica (Montego Bay), Dominican Republic (Punta Cana) and U.S. Virgin Islands(St. Thomas). Nassau & St. Thomas have the cheapest flights but also the most expensive hotels.
I've read posts here warning against travel to Jamaica and DR, so I guess they are out ? Would Nassau or St. Thomas be safe for the hassle free vacation I'm seeking?
I just want to be able to lie on the beach, walk around the island away from my hotel to grab food, maybe snorkel, take a historical tour, etc.
(P.S. I have traveled to lots of places which others think are dangerous that I didn't because I kept to the beaten path- e.g. Rio, Durban, etc. so I don't mean to claim Jamaica & DR are unsafe for others as I've never visited, but from my reading thus far they both seem like places you have to do your research on and keep vigil. I won't have the time to do a lot of research as I'll be studying for the bar exam and will need just a place where I can wander off without having to think or worry as I'd like to unwind from the previous stressful months of studying.)
Thanks in advance!