Daydreaming about the Caribbean at your desk again? We understand. Our island neighbors to the south conjure up images of postcard-perfect beaches, tropical-chic rooms with soothing ocean views and dining on cuisine inspired by the flavors of paradise. If you're a sun-seeker looking for the ideal resort to escape to, read on. We've stayed and played at dozens of Caribbean resorts over the years, but these 20 remain favorites — for all the right reasons — but especially for their location on some of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
To relax within sight of St. Lucia's famed twin Piton peaks — right in the middle of them, in fact — and yet still on the beach (a number of the island's luxury resorts are actually perched on hillsides high above the sea), book a stay at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort. The property's 86 rooms, villas and bungalows channel a breezy plantation style with white fabrics and romantic four-poster beds (beach bungalows are more contemporary), while its cuisine ranges from coconut shrimp, conch fritters and mini burgers at Bayside Bar to personalized tasting menus at The Great Room.
Rebranded under the Belmond flag and ready to rebound after being damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, the newly renovated Belmond Cap Juluca on Anguilla will reopen in mid-November with a new beachfront infinity pool, three revamped restaurants and refreshed décor highlighting Caribbean botanicals. The resort's location — on sublime Maundays Bay, a calm crescent of white sand and turquoise water — is just the beginning. The romantic Moorish-style architecture and casual-glam ambience of the 113 rooms, suites and private pool villas are complemented by a new "disappearing spa" that blends into the landscape and uses indigenous local ingredients.
Zoetry Agua Punta Cana is something you don't come across all that often: an intimate all-inclusive resort — in the Dominican Republic, no less. Sun-seekers looking for an easy escape can find it at this laid-back resort offering just 96 thatch-roofed suites with warm wood décor on a quiet stretch of beach near Punta Cana. Wellness is the focus here (although the resort is not adults-only) as lush palms rustle in the breeze, lagoon-style pools invite a relaxing dip and five restaurants serve fresh local and international fare.
A pink-sand beach awaits at The Crane, a 252-room resort on the southeast coast of Barbados, where classic Caribbean heritage (it opened in 1887 with 18 rooms as the island's first hotel) has been steadily modernized by the addition of spacious one-, two- and three-bedroom suites (many with private pools) and residences, a small shopping village and five restaurants (including Zen, serving inspired Asian cuisine). But it all comes back to the beach, a wide crescent of soft sand, gently rolling waves and steady breezes located just below the cliff-top hotel, that ranks as one of the most soothing spots in the Caribbean to chill.
It took 50 years for the first overwater bungalows — those seductive thatch-roofed hideaways perched on stilts above a lagoon that were first conceived in French Polynesia in 1967 — to appear in the Caribbean, and Jamaican all-inclusive pioneer Sandals deserves the credit for introducing them at three of its properties. Our favorite is the spacious and secluded Sandals South Coast, which now has 12 Over-the-Water Honeymoon Butler Bungalows. And with their Tranquility Soaking Tub, hammock for two, easy ocean access and personalized butler service, there's really no reason to mingle — but you can, to enjoy nine restaurants, seven bars, tennis courts, unlimited scuba diving and water sports and the view from the Over-the-Water Chapel (in case you want to say "I do").
If you're a fan of Westin's affordable-chic approach to beach resorts, this 343-room property on Grand Cayman's spectacular Seven Mile Beach might become one of your favorite spots for a couple's or family getaway. Newly renovated (to the tune of $50 million), The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa now features organically-inspired contemporary décor that draws from the island's natural elements, the largest swimming pool on Grand Cayman, a full-service spa and three restaurants, including the AAA four-diamond Beach House serving coastal-inspired contemporary cuisine.
Looking for a Caribbean getaway with a focus on mind-body wellness? Consider this 1,000-acre private island located about 35 minutes by boat from Turks and Caicos' main resort destination, Providenciales. COMO Parrot Cay has been luring seclusion seekers with its restorative formula — healthful cuisine, holistic therapies, yoga and Asian-inspired therapies — for 20 years. The 60 rooms, suites and villas are all light, airy and energizing, there's a mile-long beach and dozens of nearby cays to explore, and the focus on organic and locally sourced ingredients means you can indulge without worry.
A $25 million renovation in late 2016 gave the 355-room Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino (formerly the Radisson) a Caribbean contemporary vibe to match its prime locale at the center of the island's fun-in-the-sun scene. From its setting on Palm Beach (which offers proximity to dining, shopping and an overwater bar for sunset cocktails) to its architectural pedigree (it was designed in 1955 by Miami-based legend Morris Lapidus), this family-friendly resort is an ideal spot to experience this Dutch island's playful side. The lushly landscaped pools are kiddie nirvana, while the Eforea Spa and starlight-domed casino indulge the 18-and-older crowd.
Mexico's Riviera Maya, where clear Caribbean blue sea washes pristine white sand, has no shortage of beautiful beaches or all-inclusive resorts. But perhaps nowhere else is the "let-ease-be-your-mantra" vibe so thoroughly polished than at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. What this 539-room property near Playa Del Carmen offers is well-crafted cuisine — both local- and international-inspired — in eight all-inclusive restaurants, generously sized rooms and suites, friendly staff and impeccable grounds. It's also ideal for families or couples since the resort has three distinct areas, including the adults-only Grand Class.
The best Caribbean beach resorts' calling cards, especially those in the luxury realm, go beyond sun and sand to include impeccable service, inspired dining and an authentic sense of place. Belmond La Samanna,an 83-room, eight-villa enclave located on the French half of St. Martin/St. Maarten, delivers all of that — plus one of the region's most impressive wine cellars and, of course, one of its most inviting beaches: a wide arc of champagne-hued sand washed by the calm, clear water of Baie Longue. Re-opening in December 2018 after a post-Hurricane Irma refurbishment, the resort features updated décor done in "pastel-chic" botanicals, a revamped Beach Bar with playful chandeliers and swings, and the signature Trellis restaurant serving refined French cuisine with a sea view.
For Cote d'Azur chic a bit closer to home, consider this boutique resort on St. Barth's beautiful Baie des Flamands. Cheval Blanc St.-Barth Isle de France reopening in early December after a 15-month post-Hurricane Irma renovation, transports you with its sophisticated Paris-meets-West-Indies ambience — it's owned by French fashion and spirits powerhouse LVMH — and soothing white-on-white décor in its 40 rooms, suites and villas. Enjoy a dip in the beachfront pool, sip your choice of more than 150 French wines and champagnes, indulge in a Guerlain ritual at the Cheval Blanc Spa, or enjoy fine French cuisine infused with local flavors at La Case de l'Isle restaurant.
The Ocean Club, A Four Seasons Resort, Bahamas (formerly One&Only Ocean Club) is a Caribbean icon: Dating to 1952, when it enticed movie stars and corporate titans to enjoy the good life on Nassau/Paradise Island, this elegant 107-room property stands apart from neighboring resorts thanks to its refined ambiance, pristine beach, Balinese-style spa, Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant Dune, and storied 35-acre grounds — most notably the terraced Versailles Gardens and 12th-century French Cloister. A 2017 enhancement included the addition of a beachfront infinity-edge pool and Ocean poolside grill as well as a chic redesign of the rooms and suites in the historic Hartford Wing. Sun lovers who clamor for glamour will be in heaven.
If tuning out the world seems like an especially good idea right now, you'll be happy to know that Guana Island iis reopening in August 2018 after repairing damage from Hurricane Irma, which slammed the British Virgin Islands in September 2017. And as before, only a few dozen other guests await at this private-island paradise known for effortless eco-chic design in 18 rooms and villas with panoramic sea views and access to seven beaches. This is a resort that tempts seclusion seekers with what it doesn't have: There are no cars or bikes on the island and no TVs or phones in the rooms (free Wi-Fi, however, is available). Only one room and four villas have a pool, but there's plenty to do in this 850-acre haven: swim, snorkel, kayak, water ski, hike, play tennis, do yoga — or just chill.
Seven Mile Beach — the name alone is enough to inspire dreams of long walks, gentle breezes and captivating sunsets. And it lives up to to the fantasy. This scenic sweep of champagne-hued sand is home to The Ritz-Carlton Resort Grand Cayman, the island's top luxury property, offering celebrity chef dining (Blue by Eric Ripert is one of the five restaurants), a dreamy Swiss Alps-inspired spa (by La Prairie), and two pools (if you tire of the beach — but you won't because the water is ridiculously clear and calm). The soothing décor in the 365 rooms and suites reflects the view outside.
One of the best spots to appreciate the color of Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales is from a balcony at The Palms, Turks & Caicos. It's a panorama of aqua-blue so vivid it almost doesn't seem real. Add a spectacular beach of talcum-soft white sand, a pool scene that's both social and serene, generously sized accommodations (most with kitchens) and a luxurious 25,000-square-foot spa with amazing indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, and this 72-suite property pretty much has everything a bliss-seeking couple or family could want.
Calling all chic-seekers: The sleek, modern and architecturally inspiring Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla rebranded in 2016 after debuting in 2009 as Viceroy Anguilla and reopened in March 2018 after a post-Hurricane Irma refresher) is an upscale enclave you won't want to leave. There are 181 rooms, suites, villas and residences, so families or groups of friends seeking seclusion can opt for a Beachfront Villa or Townhome (with three, four or five bedrooms), while privacy-craving couples can enjoy a plunge pool with a view in an Ocean-view Studio Rooftop Suite. Four restaurants, three pools, two beaches and a spa round out the indulgences.
If you love Mexico but prefer wine to tequila, 497-room Secrets the Vine Cancun just may be the perfect all-inclusive resort for your next beach getaway. Overlooking the Mexican resort city's inviting white sand and aqua surf, this sleek and sophisticated high-rise property with its soaring lobby, multi-level pools, and expansive spa, has a downtown vibe that feels transported from Miami or Los Angeles. Guests can enjoy a wide selection of wines by the glass (there's harder stuff, too), as well as a complimentary wine-tasting class, and dine at eight restaurants.
Leaving the kids home? The 104-room adults-only Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort on Aruba's beautiful Eagle Beach — a 14-acre stretch of white sand that's infinitely more tranquil than the island's popular Palm Beach — is intimate, romantic, and ideal for couples craving a more personal Caribbean escape. Contemporary décor and eco-friendly initiatives combine with a welcoming, old-school ambiance to create an easy camaraderie at the pool and open-air SandBar. Plus, the free breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, daily happy hours and self-service laundry make feeling at home here hassle-free.
Love the color blue? Wave after wave of it washes over you at Jamaica Inn: the vivid periwinkle paint on the walls, the intense turquoise of the sea, the pillows and cushions in an array of azure hues. Nostalgia, too, colors the guest experience at this 52-room Ocho Rios resort that's a throwback to a quieter, gentler circa-1950s Jamaica (there are no TVs radios or clocks in the rooms), before boisterous all-inclusive properties lined the island's beaches. Soothing almost to a fault, this is a place for connecting — with your partner, with fellow guests and with longtime employees who'll make you feel like part of the family.
If you want to enjoy best of both worlds — relaxing on the beach by day and embracing nightlife after dark — it's hard to beat San Juan's Condado neighborhood (which bounced back just a few months after Hurricane Maria). This chic yet affordable area lures the young and energetic with its many restaurants and clubs (not to mention close proximity to Old San Juan) and a stay at the 483-room La Concha Renaissance Resort means joining the party is as easy as taking the elevator to the lobby. This lively beachfront property also features a playful multi-level pool area that transforms nightly into an al fresco lounge and the Perla restaurant (in the shape of a post-modern clamshell) serves new American cuisine.