Editor’s Note: Some of the information below may be out-of-date. Anguilla, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands were heavily impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Please visit caribbeantravelupdate.com or the specific hotel’s website for updates.
Dreaming of a beach wedding but worried about privacy, i.e., interruption from random frisbee-passing strangers? These 10 resorts offer private or semiprivate (guest-only) beaches that ensure beautiful private beach weddings with minimum interference.
Caneel Bay - St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands
Three-quarters of the land on charming St. John is preserved as national parkland, so it’s no surprise so many nature-loving couples choose to marry here. The only resort within the park, 170-acre Caneel Bay makes for the ideal setting. Perched on its own remote peninsula, the 166-room property sits on a former sugar plantation and boasts seven camera-worthy beaches where white-tailed deer and wild donkeys roam. Turtle Beach, a Robinson Crusoe fantasy fragrant with the scent of white frangipani and lined with overhanging sea-grape trees, is the most popular for weddings (up to 75); couples looking to tread off the beaten path can head to smaller Scott Beach. Floral arches and petal aisles are available for decor, but most brides and grooms opt for a no-frills ceremony; with scenery this gorgeous, why not? Set the laid-back mood with a pre-ceremony serving of chilled rum punch, made with generous amounts of local Cruzan rum. Receptions take place in Turtle Bay Estate, an 18th-century plantation house, or in the intimate Sugar Mill Ruins, romantically lit with candles and torches. Come morning, take advantage of the resort’s six other strands — may we suggest Honeymoon Beach?
Cap Juluca - Maundays Bay, Anguilla
Anguilla has long been one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets. The 16-mile-long island flaunts pampering hotels, postcard-perfect beaches and a wealth of laid-back pastimes, from snorkeling to horseback riding. One of its most upscale resorts is Cap Juluca, a collection of whitewashed Moorish-style villas set along a wide, crescent-shaped mile-long beauty. Two choices for beach weddings include the far end of Maundays or the more private Cove Bay Beach, on the opposite end of the property, facing the hills of St. Martin in the distance. Just before sunset, approach down an aisle of fuchsia and purple bougainvillea petals (grown in the resort’s own garden) to tie the knot under a bamboo arch. Continue the casual-chic theme with a flip-flop-friendly reception, where you can sip rum-based Julucan Sunsets and ice-cold Carib beers while nibbling oysters and shrimp from the raw bar. Meanwhile, a chef manning a large outdoor grill will whip up local lobster, mahimahi and chicken with accompanying Creole and lemon sauces. It’s not over yet — a five-piece calypso band will ensure guests groove till the wee hours.
Fairmont Mayakoba - Riviera Maya, Mexico
The sprawling 401-room Fairmont Mayakoba, on the Yucatan peninsula about an hour south of Cancun, features 45 acres of mangroves and freshwater lagoons, not to mention a 700-foot sugary-soft beach. On its far end, walk a shell-strewn aisle to exchange traditional vows, or opt for a Maya ceremony in which a local shaman blesses you and your beloved with copal incense, corn seeds, flower petals and seashells. Throw the reception right on the sand, with potted palms marking your space. Or reserve the lagoon-facing infinity pool, where you can arrive in dramatic style via la lancha — a small thatch-roof boat with a “just married” sign fastened to the back. Dance the night away, and between sets enjoy tequila tastings, plentiful margaritas and pitchers of sangria, along with Mexican specialties like cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) and barbacoa de res (spicy braised beef). It all amounts to a blowout fiesta of which even the Maya would approve.
Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club - Curacao
Worried about weather? Then head to this Dutch island, conveniently located beneath the Caribbean’s “hurricane belt.” Sister property to popular Hotel Kura Hulanda in the capital of Willemstad, the 74-room Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club is perched on a cliff above a cove on the island’s secluded western coast, assuring privacy for your big day. Ceremonies for up to 50 take place on a quiet corner of the beach, where your only uninvited guests are diving pelicans. For some local flavor, ask the officiant to offer a blessing in Papiamento, Curacao’s native language (you’ll also likely hear Dutch because the island is part of the Netherlands Antilles, along with Aruba and Bonaire). Ready to get the party started? Kick up some sand during a beachside cocktail hour featuring Blue Lagoons (made with coconut rum and local Curacao liqueur) and bitterballen (Dutch spicy meatballs). Then head to the Christoffel Terrace for a barbecue buffet featuring dishes such as beef tenderloin, Jamaican jerk chicken and Caribbean pepper shrimp. Stroll back to the beach to share in one last surprise for your guests: a spectacular fireworks display across the night sky.
LaLuna - St. George’s, Grenada
Looking for a destination off the beaten path? Consider the Spice Island, one of the Caribbean’s lushest isles — and a little-known gem. It’s all about la bella vita at LaLuna, an intimate Italian-owned resort on a private estate in the Morne Rouge area. Set around a scenic cove are 16 indoor-outdoor suites — 15 hillside cottages and one beachfront villa — making it an ideal place for a property takeover. One of the most picturesque ceremony spots is beside scenic rocks on the beach’s northern end, where staff will set up an arch fashioned from coconut-palm branches and tropical orchids. After you’re officially husband and wife, stroll over to the open-walled bar outfitted with carved teak daybeds and tiki torches to toast each other with glasses of prosecco and savor antipasto imported from Italy while a calypso or merengue band gets things lively. Under the restaurant’s thatch roof, tuck into a gourmet dinner of Italian specialties with a tropical twist (think steak in a tamarind sauce, pappardelle with nutmeg cream), complemented with a selection of vintages from the all-Italian cellar. Late night, get your sugar rush with mango-and-breadfruit sorbet and glasses of grappa.
Las Alamandas - Costalegre, Jalisco, Mexico
Sitting around a roaring bonfire on a tawny beach along Mexico’s Pacific coast ... gazing at a night sky blanketed with twinkling stars ... roasting marshmallows ... sipping cognac cut with Mexican coffee. Sound like heaven? That’s how couples can cap off a magical wedding night at Las Alamandas, a 1,500-acre luxury hideaway with a mere 16 suites decorated in bold hues of turquoise, orange and fuchsia. Located south of Puerto Vallarta, this place is so exclusive it has its own landing strip for private planes. On the main beach, make your big entrance down an aisle of bougainvillea-lined bamboo mats as a string quartet softly plays. (Or for something more rugged and dramatic, try the tiny cove of Chachalacas Beach.) Once you’ve exchanged vows, a mariachi band can lead guests to the resort’s palapa bar for celebratory pomegranate-and-kiwi margaritas, along with quesadillas and coconut shrimp skewers. Dine in the torch-lit garden of Plaza de los Delfines, then it’s back to the beach for dancing to a salsa band and the aforementioned late-night bonfire.
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa - Marco Island, Florida
This barrier island, just below Naples and part of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands chain, is renowned for its stellar white beaches — which is probably why one of the most popular ceremony venues at Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa is a thatch-roof tiki hut on the beach, one of the Sunshine State’s largest private strands. If you crave something even more secluded, the resort just launched a program that lets adventurous couples marry within a national wildlife refuge on sparsely populated Caxambas Island. After a 15-minute ride (where you might spot bald eagles, dolphins or even a manatee), the resort’s 55-foot pontoon will deposit you and up to 49 guests on gorgeous Cape Romano Beach for a simple ceremony with a tiki-torch backdrop. After the I do’s, snap photos beside an abandoned white dome home dating from the ’80s. Back at the resort for the reception, enjoy sunset piña coladas and mini Cuban sandwiches, followed by Floridian/Pan-Asian fusion fare like guava barbecue-glazed pork loin and Gulf Coast red snapper. For dessert? Spongecake with Key lime custard filling, of course!
Sea Island - Georgia
Southern romance gets a seaside twist on the barrier islands off the southern Georgia coast. St. Simons gets loads of local visitors, so for more privacy, look to Sea Island, an exclusive gated community next door. Venue options include the charming Cloister Chapel and a serene lawn shaded by 80-year-old oak trees dripping with Spanish moss. But for many couples, only the beach — a gorgeous five-mile stretch fronting the genteel 175-room Cloister resort — will do. Amid tall sea grass and swaying palms, tie the knot under a wooden frame swathed with blooming vines of wisteria and confederate jasmine. When it’s time to party, experience true Southern hospitality in the beachfront courtyard, where servers pass mint juleps and vodka lemonade in mason jars, along with sweet-potato crab cakes and Southern fried lobster pops, while a bluegrass band gets your toes a-tapping. Pull up a chiavari chair on the Ocean Room Terrace to savor a plated dinner (fried lobster tail, sweet-tea-marinated pork tenderloin) in the salty sea air, followed by scrumptious red-velvet cake. Back in the courtyard, dance the night away under the stars, and cap off your coastal celebration around a huge copper fire pit (a former cane-sugar melting pot), where you can congratulate yourselves with cigars and whiskey — Sea Island has its own blend of Woodford Reserve bourbon, which also makes a great groomsmen gift.
W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island - Vieques Island, Puerto Rico
Vieques, a once little-known island off Puerto Rico’s eastern coast, is celebrated for its deserted beaches, sleepy fishing villages and resident population of wild horses. The island is home to a number of small, casual guesthouses, or you can add a little San Juan sizzle to your tropical getaway at the super-stylish 156-room W Retreat & Spa Vieques Island. Weddings can take place on the main beach, but many couples opt for the more secluded Whisper Cove, a crescent-shaped strand with sugar-soft sand between rocky outcroppings (room for up to 50). Say your I do’s amid romantic touches like a chiffon-draped arch, candlelit floor lanterns and oversize throw pillows matching the wedding’s color scheme. Afterward, toast your union right on the sand with the hotel’s famous Isla Nena mojitos and a Bacardi rum tasting. Then let a salsa band lead your party to the Lawn, beautifully set for dinner (think long tables dressed with calla-and-driftwood centerpieces), for a Puerto Rican-style pig roast with regional sides like rice and black beans and fried plantains. Not ready to call it a night? Gather round the ocean-facing fire pit to rehash your blissful day.
Wequassett Resort - Chatham, Massachusetts
It doesn’t get more Americana than Cape Cod. At Wequassett Resort & Golf Club, a historic 120-room escape spanning 22 acres of the isle, charming gray-shingled cottages are accessed via lantern-lined brick pathways, and wedding parties reach the super-private ceremony venue by boat. After distributing complimentary pashminas and personalized flip-flops, gather up to 50 guests on the resort’s long wooden pier for the 15-minute boat ride across Pleasant Bay to Outer Beach, part of the protected National Seashore (the other side of the narrow strip is the Atlantic Ocean). Wed amid wicker baskets brimming with local blue hydrangeas, and symbolize your union with a sand ceremony using grains from your favorite beaches. Back on board the boat, pop some bubbly, then continue the New England-style bash in the Outer Bar & Grille or on the Garden Terrace. On the menu: cranberry martinis and Cape Codder cocktails (local cranberry juice, vodka and lime), followed by seafood starters such as clam-chowder shooters, Wellfleet oysters and mini lobster rolls. Dinner options run the complete gamut — go for a formal plated affair or a traditional down-home clambake, no forks allowed.