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Caribbean and Bahamas: Island Resort Report

Actress Claudette Colbert, who lived on the island for more than three decades, is memorialized by a lovely garden at the year-old Barbados Gallery of Art, which displays works by established and emerging Caribbean artists (and has one of Colbert's own paintings).

Villa Nova, once British Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden's holiday home, is scheduled to open as a hotel next December. Dining rooms and salons will be in the 1830's great house; the 28 guest rooms will be in a new, adjacent building (246/433-1524).

Meanwhile, Barbados's famous Sandy Lane will shut down in April for a 17-month, $75 million renovation. Better book a room for the millennium . . . now (doubles from $695, including breakfast; 800/223-6800).

On this Grenadines island where Mick Jagger has a home, Cotton House, the sole resort, has completed a major three-year renovation. Now all 20 guest rooms and the Great Room, originally decorated by set designer Oliver Messel, have been renewed under the supervision of Messel disciple Aubrey Crew. The new chef, Daniel Pochron, comes from Citronelle in Washington, D.C.; he may have the stuff to put Cotton House on the culinary map (doubles from $790, including meals; 800/826-2809).

For years the Caribbean's "Spice Island" has been known for its inns and guesthouses. But that's about to change, with two hotel projects brewing. The 200-suite St. James Beach Hotel, rising on Grand Anse Beach, is expected to open by Christmas next year; Ritz-Carlton is negotiating a purchase.

One of the best places in this hemisphere to view the total solar eclipse that will take place on February 26 is the southern Caribbean. Top spot: Curaçao, where the blackout will last 3 1/2 minutes, starting at 1:06 p.m.

This unspoiled island chain just southeast of the Bahamas harbors a flourishing wildlife population, from dolphins to pink flamingos. The government aims to keep things pristine through an expanding network of nature reserves and refuges. The newest, Little Water Cay Nature Trail, is on an islet off Providenciales. An elaborate system of boardwalks and observation towers allows visitors to check out-- but not harm-- the large colony of West Indian rock iguanas.

The acclaimed Four Seasons Resort Nevis now has five new villas for rent, bringing the total to 20. There's everything from a two-bedroom cottage to a four-bedroom manse with its own pool. New for golfers: complimentary Cuban cigars are passed out from a cart that circulates on the links, and children under 18 are welcome to play if accompanied by their parents (doubles from $600, villas from $1,500 a night; 800/332-3442).

The hottest gossip is that Hong Kong-based Amanresorts-- known for some of the world's most deliciously luxurious retreats-- has bought an island in the Exumas with the idea of building the Western Hemisphere's first Aman. For the moment, nobody's talking.

Club Med has plenty to say about the $15 million it has spent transforming its Paradise Island hotel. In addition to handsome new guest rooms, this reborn resort now offers the House in the Woods, a two-story villa used as a location for the Catherine Deneuve film Le Sauvage (doubles from $284, villa from $320 a night, including all meals; 800/258-2633).

The new Pan Am Air Bridge guarantees a splashy arrival aboard restored World War II-era seaplanes (taped big-band music plays during the flight). Flights leave from Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale to Paradise Island, Bimini, and Walker's Cay ($142-$226 per person; 800/371-8628 or 800/925-5377).

The word from Andros is that two newly opened villas-- the five-bedroom Kamalame Cove and the nine-bedroom Kamalame Cay-- are bringing added luxury to the largest and least-known of the major Bahamian islands (from $8,400 a week, including meals; 888/728-4552 or 516/725-9308).

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The Right Retreats | Jamaican Resorts

25 Caribbean Hotels for Under $200


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