Have you been dreaming of a hot and sunny island vacation? Unless March is going out with a bang, it hasn’t been much of a cold (let alone snowy) winter. But that doesn’t matter, the Caribbean is always a beautiful destination with blazing sunsets, lush rainforests, sparkling white beaches and nearly 700 species of fish swimming throughout the bluer-than-blue waters.
If you’re looking for gorgeous landscapes, year-round sunshine and tropical trade winds – you’ll find it in the Caribbean.
There are thousands of hotels, resorts, inns and B&B’s available at all price points. This column will feature upscale properties, but before you say you can’t afford it – check it out and be sure to ask about special promotions (all properties go on sale at some point) and islands with nonstop & direct air access are usually less expensive.
Your greatest challenge may be where to go. Below is a cross-section of islands (some more familiar than others), with some popular places to stay.
*Antigua – Best known for its 365-beaches (one for every day) Antigua is the largest of the British Leeward islands. The world’s only Georgian naval dockyard, English Harbour and Falmouth are international yachting and sailing havens. **Jumby Bay – set on a private island off the coast, this luxury resort has sophisticated travelers returning year after year and the suite-style cottages sell out quickly. **The Inn at English Harbor is an elegant and intimate boutique-style property specializing in romantic getaways.
*Barbados – A combination of English elegance, ancient sugar mills, a colonial past and historic plantation estates dating back to the 1600’s. Cricket matches , afternoon tea and golf scores are serious business in Barbados followed by lazy sunny days on the beach. **Sandy Lane is considered one of the world’s finest full-service tropical resorts offering something for everyone. **The Crane – situated on a cliff overlooking one of the world’s top rated beaches is a short drive from the airport and has all-inclusive packages.
*Bonaire – If you love snorkeling, diving and a casual ambience, you found it. Bonaire is a naturalists paradise where donkeys and flamingos outnumber the locals and the reefs and coral are protected by law. **Harbour Village Beach Club is a beachfront resort with a top-rated dive and water sports center. **Plaza Beach Resort is a beach and reef-front hotel also offering a top diving center and all-inclusive programs.
*Cayman Islands – Famous for beautiful Seven Mile Beach, diving sites (over 200) and Stingray City - where stingrays glide past you as you feel their fins flutter in only 3 feet of water(once was enough for me). The capital, Georgetown, is a busy cruise port and duty-free shopping is plentiful and varied. **The Ritz-Carlton is an elegant resort on Seven Mile Beach with a fantastic Silver Rain, La Prairie Spa and several dining venues featuring fresh conch and delicious West Indian dishes. **The Westin Beach Resort, also on Seven Mile Beach, has a gigantic outdoor pool and easy access to scuba diving and golf.
**Curacao – Part of the “ABC” Islands (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) this Dutch island is as colorful as its capital and popular cruise port, Willemstad. Famous for the Queen Emma Bridge and floating farmers markets, Curacao is a casual diving and lively casino destination. **Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort is a lovely resort with a Pete Dye-designed golf course and a swimming lagoon located on the beach. **Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino is popular for gaming, white-sand beaches and lush tropical gardens.
**Puerto Rico – You don’t need your passport to enter this U.S. territory floating in the Caribbean Sea. The sights, sounds and smells come alive in Old San Juan (a fantastic walking city) and in El Yunque, the only tropical rainforest managed by the U.S. Forest Service, you’ll experience three different forests and 30 types of orchids. **Hotel El Convento, a former nuns convent, is smack in the middle of Old San Juan with the look and feel of an authentic and historic island hotel gem. **St. Regis Bahia is considered the island’s most luxurious resort and located on the Caribbean’s first Gold Certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary. A bird-watching and golfers paradise.
**St. Bart’s – If you want to vacation with the international jet-set , this is your island - St. Bart’s caters to the world’s celebrities & VIP’s. If you wish to purchase the finest in duty free couture clothing and indulge in French dining – you may not want to leave this oh-so-very-French country. St. Bart’s is beautiful, sophisticated and the crazy-expensive yachts lining Gustavia harbor will knock your socks off. Private villas are very popular – and many are for rent throughout the year. **Cheval Blanc St. Barth is an intimate and luxurious boutique hotel surrounded by a tropical garden overlooking the sea.
**St. Thomas – For many of us, St. Thomas is our first Caribbean experience and picturesque Charlotte Amalie (capital of the U.S. Virgin islands) is one of the most visited cruise ports in the world. You don’t need a U.S. passport to visit St. Thomas and the island is filled with water sports, duty-free shopping, a historic past , golf courses and soft sand beaches – including one of the best - Magen’s Bay. **Marriott Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star has been around for a long time and battled many a hurricane. A great property to experience an authentic St. Thomas/Virgin Island getaway. **The Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas sits on beautiful Great Bay Beach and excels at giving memorable vacations in a quintessential tropical setting.