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Caribbean for Less

Undine Pröhl Stone-walled paths leading to the thatched villas at Jamaica's Rockhouse.

Photo: Undine Pröhl

Anguilla
$130* What Rendezvous Bay Hotel & Villas lacks in the flash or glamour of many Anguilla resorts, it makes up for in location—its 46 rooms sit directly on 50 palm-laden acres fronting a 1½-mile-long sugary sand beach. The recently renovated resort—white tile floors, simple rattan furnishings—is divided among a dozen low-rise buildings. Garden Standards are the least expensive, but lack air-conditioning; for that, you'll need to upgrade to a villa ($275). Guests spend their days swinging on a hammock or snorkeling. At night, they head to Cedar Grove, where grilled lobster and goat stew are prepared by Leonard "Smoke" Sharplis. Rendezvous Bay; 800/274-4893 or 264/497-6549 ; www.rendezvousbay.com

$295 From the same hotel group behind celebrity favorite Cap Juluca comes Kú, which means "sacred place" in the Arawak Indian language (it's located near one of the tribe's ceremonial sites, 20 minutes from its sister property). Opened this fall, the hotel's 27 suites overlook Shoal Bay East and are South Beach–chic, with minimalist white décor, air-conditioning, and full kitchens. The spa and pool might be on the small side, but the beachfront French-Caribbean restaurant—run by Cap Juluca's chef de cuisine—has the longest bar on the island. Shoal Bay East; 800/869-5827 or 264/497-2011; www.kuanguilla.com.

Antigua
$240 You don't have to be on your honeymoon to enjoy Cocobay Resort, which is set on a hillside facing the Caribbean Sea. The idyllic hotel is made up of 47 Creole-style cottages in soft pastel hues with exposed beams and wood-slatted blinds. Activities abound, from Sunfish sailing to frangipani-scented aromatherapy massages in a thatched pavilion to guided hikes through the nature preserve led by a medicine man. Be sure to catch the sunset from an Adirondack chair on your room's balcony or at Sheer, the open-air restaurant atop a bluff on Ffryes Beach. Valley Church; 800/816-7587 or 268/562-2400; www.cocobayresort.com; all-inclusive.

Bahamas
$240 Conceived by Tracy Barry, whose mother was the first-ever Miss Bahamas, and her husband, Toby Tyler, a Sydney restaurateur, and decorated in plantation style by David Flint Wood and his wife, India Hicks, Queen Victoria's great-great-granddaughter, the Landing, a seven-room inn on Harbour Island, has a decidedly patrician vibe. There are no televisions, phones, or Internet connections to distract you—only the beach a few blocks away. For the best views of the harbor, book one of the bay-view rooms, which have crisp white linens, terraces, and four-poster beds. Harbour Island; 242/333-2707; www.harbourislandlanding.com.

Barbados
$104 Never mind the silly name. The Sea-U Guest House, on the island's east coast, is the ultimate hideaway. From the front, it doesn't look like much, but out back is a two-story plantation-style hotel with seven simple rooms cooled by island breezes. Opened by friendly former travel writer Uschi Wetzels, this place isn't for everyone—there's no air-conditioning or television, guests share a single phone, and mosquito repellant can come in handy at sunset. But Sea-U's charms are what make it so appealing: easygoing Americans and Europeans get to know each other over family-style meals, and entertainment is provided by the wandering resident cat and monkeys playing in the trees. Tent Bay; 246/433-9450; www.seaubarbados.com.

Curaçao
$270 A collection of 16 restored 18th- and 19th-century Dutch Colonial buildings in Willemstad, the island's capital city, come together to form Kurá Hulanda. This eight-block mini village includes an anthropological museum, a casino, a cultural research center, and an 80-room hotel. Hand-carved Indonesian mahogany and teak antiques, embroidered linens from India, and walls painted by local artists all add an international flair to the laid-back Caribbean isle. So do the sophisticated courtyards connecting the buildings, each with its own sound track: herbs are grown in the Curaçao Garden to the beat of salsa, while merengue sets a backdrop for tandoori and sushi served by the Echo Pond Pool. 8 Lange­straat, Willemstad; 877/264-3106 or 599-9/434-7700; www.kurahulanda.com.

Dominican Republic
$160 The lush north coast of the island has fast become a favorite destination for mellow windsurfers who enjoy the authentic vibe—and lack of tourists. At Natura Cabañas, just 10 minutes from the small bustling beach town of Cabarete, the 10 bungalows, with roofs made of palm fronds and stone-and-bamboo interiors, blend into the jungle-like environs. The earthy spa menu includes mud wraps and salt scrubs; the two restaurants prepare organic dishes, from ceviche to fish stir-fry. Activity-seekers can turn to the helpful staff, who will arrange scuba diving in Sosúa Bay and horseback riding through nearby villages. 5 Paseodel Sol, Cabarete; 809/571-1507; www.naturacabana.com; breakfast included.

$165 In Santo Domingo, the Sofitel Nicolas de Ovando, on the oldest cobblestoned street in the New World, is almost as educational as it is attractive. Five minutes from the sea and classified as a unesco World Heritage Site, the hotel's main building was built in 1502 as the residence of the first governor of the Americas. Today, the original Spanish colonial structure houses 104 guest rooms as well as a cigar bar, a restaurant, and a lounge with live jazz and bossa nova music. Calle Las Damas, Santo Domingo; 800/863-4835 or 809/685-9955; www.sofitel.com; breakfast included.

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