Though it's only steps from Charlotte Amalie's cruise-port chaos, this gem of a hotel is miles away in spirit. Built for the bride of a 19th-century French sea captain, Hotel 1829 is a confection of Moroccan tile, terraces swimming in lemon-yellow allamanda blossoms, fountains, and curving passageways. Owner Gerhard Hofmann leads enthusiastic tours of his 2,000-bottle wine collection, as well as the dining room, showing off the Tiffany stained-glass mural and 200-year-old human-size Italian chess pieces. The 15 rooms are equally atmospheric--cedar ceilings, bamboo platform beds--and the long, lamplit dining terrace is wonderful at night, when you can look across bristling palms to the moon-drenched waters of St. Thomas Harbour. 29-30 Kongens Gade, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas; 800/524-2002 or 340/776-1829, fax 340/776-4313; doubles from $85.
The Coke machine at the entrance gives you an idea of how casual everything is at Admiral's, a 12-room inn with blistered-wood buildings painted in playful pinks, greens, and yellows. The sun-worn gray deck, generously sized scuba pool (this was once a diving club), and rooms with retro details (flower-power tiles, lime green sinks) only add to the laid-back vibe. And that's how owners Anne and Hal Borns want to keep it. "We came down to sail, liked the weather and the slow life, and stayed," says Anne, a former Bostonian, who loves to send guests on snorkel expeditions to Hassel Island, an easy 10-minute swim away. Villa Olga, Frenchtown, St. Thomas; 800/544-0493 or 340/774-1376, fax 340/774-8010; doubles from $129.
Ten sandy paces from the sea and only a hundred more from Port Elizabeth (one of the most adorable towns in the Caribbean), Gingerbread would be desirable for its location alone. But the inn is also fabulous-looking, with delicate fretwork, curlicued rooflines, and gables with rose medallions--all hand-tooled by Bequian artisans. Its nine rooms are just as smart, styled with greenheart-wood four-posters, clay lamps, straw mats, and bright banquettes. Half of Port Elizabeth hangs out at the beachfront café, noshing on freshly baked peanut-coconut macaroons. Admiralty Bay, Bequia; 784/458-3800, fax 784/458-3907; doubles from $90.
Friendship Bay Beach Resort
With its 27 rooms awash in burnt-orange and aqua, bathroom tiles sketched with starfish, Carib Indian oil paintings, and zebra-striped chairs, Friendship Bay looks more like an artist's retreat than a resort. That's because Swedish co-owner Margit Abrahamssom has always dabbled in painting and sculpture, and it was only natural that her hotel should become her canvas. In the main restaurant, you can sit on a park bench painted teal and look through floor-to-ceiling windows onto the grassy grounds and Friendship Bay. At the Spicy 'n' Herby beach bar, seats hang from ropes and there's a stained-glass fish-shaped window in the open kitchen. Feeling creative?Bring along a brush and palette, and book the bamboo honeymoon suite, where an artist's easel is propped in a corner. Friendship Bay, Bequia; 784/458-3222, fax 784/458-3840; doubles from $165.
Manoir de St.-Barthélemy
This manor house of ancient timbers and swirling stucco was born in Normandy, disassembled, and put back together on a sunny St. Bart's hillside in 1984. The Manoir remains a secret in several ways--you won't find it in many guidebooks, and it's hidden down a stone and dirt path beside coconut trees and gardens of hibiscus and oleander. (If you're driving, get good directions.) The stylish co-owner, Madame Monette Sartoris, will show you to one of eight bungalows with rustic kitchenettes, white linen hassocks, and beds draped in tulle. Take breakfast on your terrace and watch the hummingbirds buzz the cashew trees. Rte. de Saline, Lorient, St. Bart's; 590/27-79-27, fax 590/27-65-75; doubles from $70.
Hummingbird Beach Resort
What Hummingbird lacks in bedroom style (all 10 bungalows commit kitschy crimes such as having brown shag carpeting) it makes up for in its exotic public spaces. The natural rock pool is watched over by an African-style wooden mermaid; surrounding shingled cabanas provide an escape from the strong Caribbean sun. Next door at the rambling bar, cedar tables are shaped like puzzle pieces and dried sea fans hang from the ceiling. (Order the house punch, a stalwart potion of rum and freshly squeezed oranges, limes, and grapefruits, with grated nutmeg and bitters.) But best of all is the hotel's on-site batik studio, where St. Lucian artist David Simmonds designs and sells radiant sarongs, cushions, and wall panels. Anse Chastanet Rd., Soufrière, St. Lucia; 758/459-7232, fax 758/459-7033; doubles from $80.
La Haut Plantation
If it weren't for the palm trees and the view of sea and mountains, you might mistake La Haut for something out of the Old South. There are, after all, goats on the grounds and guinea fowl in the coop. Officially, it's a cocoa and coconut plantation, but there's citrus- and cattle-farming thrown in along with six modest guest rooms. Strung along the top floor of a converted factory, each room comes with a private balcony, plank floors, antiqued rattan furniture, and lace-hung French doors. At night, mosey over to La Haut's restaurant (their motto: Love at first bite) for Creole creations such as jerk pork and curried goat. West Coast Rd., north of Soufrière, St. Lucia; 758/459-7008, fax 758/459-5975; doubles from $75.
Mago Estate Hotel
Palm Mist, Soufrière; phone and fax 758/459-7352; doubles from $100. For 30 years, Mago was the vacation home of Peter Gloger, a German architect of impeccable taste. Two years ago, he decided to share his haven with travelers, who can now sleep in four-poster beds beneath a cloud-painted ceiling, nap on cushioned chaises beside a pool shaded by the rain forest, and sit in carved African chairs around the dining table. Set on a lush mountain, Mago meshes with the outdoors: a rock formation and two mango trees (mago is patois for "mango") jut into the lounge, and the six bedrooms have just three walls; one side is open to the view of the mountains and sea. Mosquito netting ensures peaceful nights, but watch out for butterflies during the day.