The principality of Monaco gets quite a rep for flashy cars and luxe landmarks like the Casino de Monte-Carlo, the backdrop for many Bond films. But the three-mile-long country (which ranks second-smallest in the world after Vatican City) is more affordable than events like the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix make it out to be. In less than an hour, you can walk from one side to the next discovering some of the more tucked-away treasures the country has to offer -- and spend no more than you would on a trip to the Caribbean. Here's how to make your dollar go the extra mile in Monaco, with or without the American dollar's current strength against the Euro.
Michelin-starred restaurants also line Monaco's coastline, but you don’t have to spend a fortune to sample a fantastic meal at one of these spots. The one Michelin-starred Le Vistamar at the Hôtel Hermitage, for example, typically boasts starters averaging in the mid-€30s and fish in the mid-€50s. But you can snag a three-course seasonal menu, spanning dishes from mackerel to monkfish medallions that keeping in theme the "one fish, one vegetable, cooked once" for €68. There's even a €46 business menu of two courses place either a glass of wine or a half bottle of mineral water. Whatever you choose, we recommend sitting on the terrace and ending the meal with one of the most sumptuous-looking (and tasting) desserts, like the dark chocolate in thin crisp with mint chocolate ice cream and peppermint frost.
If you're planning on spending a few days in the area, pick up a Côte d'Azur Card (€39 for a three days €54 for a five). The pass gets you access to 150 sites and activities in the Riviera, including two top spots in Monaco: the Oceanographic Museum, with one of the oldest aquariums in the world (typically €14), and the Exotic Gardens, with a thousand types of cacti and panoramic views over the principality (typically €7.20). The pass also includes water sports like paddleboarding and kayaking at the nearby mermaid lagoon-looking Cap d'Ail, a beach that's a favorite in the area for locals.
Monte-Carlo SBM has four properties lining the Mediterranean in Monaco, including the five-star Hôtel Hermitage, Monte-Carlo Beach, and Hôtel de Paris (closed for renovations until 2018). These luxe spots, unsurprisingly, don't come cheap; they start from€400 or €500 per night. A smarter splurge is the four-star Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel, from €280 per night. The sprawling hotel has more of a resort and family-friendly vibe than the others, with balcony rooms overlooking the sea. Guests also enjoy yoga classes, a casino, and a sandy bottom lagoon to float around on -- essentially a luxury version of a lazy river.
For the lower hotel price, you'd also access many other SBM facilities, thanks to the Cercle Monte-Carlo black card all guests get. It grants you free use of a shuttle to other SBM properties, leaving every 20 minutes from the hotel; entry into the Casino de Monte-Carlo (usually €10); and access the wellness area of the recently revamped Thermes Marins Monte-Carlo spa, where you can relax in a Jacuzzi overlooking the Grand Prix racetrack or take a dip in the heated indoor saltwater pool. Like an AmEx Black Card, Cercle Monte-Carlo
Just planning on exploring just for the day? It's an easy trip by train or bus from nearby cities in France, like Nice or Cannes.