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Caribbean for Less

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

Photo: Undine Pröhl

$135 A full year after Hurricane Ivan swept ashore, most of Grenada's hotels are back in action, among them the Petit Bacaye Cottage Hotel. A gem among gems, its two houses and five thatched-roof cabanas are set in banana fields that slope to the sea. Although its rooms vary in size—those in the Beach Houses tend to be the smallest—most have hardwood floors, a white-canopied four-poster bed, an outdoor shower, and a porch with a hammock. Radios and TV's aren't to be found, but there's a small massage cabana where guests can unwind with coconut- and nutmeg-oil rubs. Westerhall; 473/443-2902 or 44-1794/323-227; www.petitbacaye.com.

$236 A short boat ride across a translucent stretch of the Caribbean Sea brings guests onto Anthony's Key Resort: a 40-acre property including a private island, with a swimming pool, a clifftop restaurant and bar, a sunset viewing deck—even a school of playful resident dolphins. The 56 wooden cabanas keep it basic with huge windows and ceiling fans. The real action, though, is beneath the water's surface. More than 100 dive sites encircle the resort, allowing divers easy access to the shoals of tropical fish that call the 80-degree waters home. Sandy Bay, Roatán Island; 800/227-3483 or 954/929-0090; www.anthonyskey.com; all-inclusive, seven-night minimum during high season.

$160 Hidden among the all-inclusives crowding Negril's Seven-Mile Beach is the Country, Country hotel. The 14 gingerbread cottages­—refreshed by Ann Hodges, the Jamaican architect best known for designing the island's ultra-posh resorts Goldeneye and Strawberry Hill—are decorated in colonial style and have wraparound balconies. Everything from jerk shacks to live reggae to Negril's famed Norma's on the Beach restaurant are located within walking distance, though the hotel's beachfront grill with Jamaican dishes will tempt you to stay in for the night. Norman Manley Blvd., Negril; 888/790-5264 or 876/957-4341; www.countrynegril.com; breakfast included.

$125 The Rockhouse may not be a new discovery, but it's hard to ignore this bohemian favorite immersed in tropical gardens two miles from the center of Negril. Its 34 island-flavored rooms, studios, and villas are clustered around jagged, rocky cliffs and grottoes, and there's no shortage of things to do on the property: a 60-foot infinity pool takes the place of a formal beach; yoga classes are held every morning in a newly built pavilion; and snorkelers climb down stepladders to the blue-green sea eight feet below. Trade up to one of seven stone-walled premium villas, which have outdoor showers and private cove settings—they're worth the extra $200 a night. West End Rd., Negril; 876/957-4373; www.rockhousehotel.com.

Tulum's secluded Ana y José is the kind of place that no one talks about, for fear of letting the secret out. The family-run hotel on a palm-lined beach has 21 handcrafted wooden bungalows and garden suites with louvered windows and jungle-wood pillars. Guests start the day with an invigorating session in the yoga palapa before heading out to the pyramids four miles away. Awaiting their return: a crowd-free beach, native spa treatments incorporating papaya and volcanic clay, and an alfresco Mexican restaurant where dishes get spiced up with Yucatecan herbs. Carretera Cancún–Tulum Bocapaila,Tulum; 800/728-9098 or 52-998/887-5470; www.anayjose.com.

$158 The new Hotel Básico is yet another reason to love Playa del Carmen. The latest venture from the hip Micha brothers, who were behind the wildly popular Hotel Deseo, this 15-room hideaway one block from the beach forgoes the Deseo's soft, streamlined aesthetic for a rougher, industrial look. Rooms tend to be on the small side, but what they lack in size they make up for in style: exposed support beams, walls of cement and local sand, and floors covered with recycled tires. Stop by the Azotea bar for seafood ceviche or take a dip in one of the rooftop pools, which were designed to look like oil drums. Quinta Avda., Playa del Carmen; 800/337-4685 or 52-984/879-4448; www.hotelbasico.com.

Puerto Rico
$160 With its Frette linens and Philippe Starck designs, the Bravo Beach Hotel, hidden in a residential area on the isle of  Vieques, feels like an urban boutique property—only at much lower prices. The nine rooms (most facing the ocean) and one two-bedroom cottage are a vision in white, accented by bamboo or mahogany pieces. Plus, there are all the modern perks: satellite television, PlayStations, and Wi-Fi access. But why stay indoors when the beach is just 30 feet away, e-mail can be checked poolside, and Caribbean-inspired tapas are served outdoors at the popular BBH?1 North Shore Rd., Vieques; 787/741-1128; www.bravobeachhotel.com; breakfast included.

$145 Built in 1939 by a native engineer enamored of a French cancan dancer he'd met on an ocean liner, the 173-room Normandie Hotel, on San Juan's beachfront, got a stem-to-stern face-lift last year. Now its retro Art Deco curves and Jazz Age detailing complement a 21st-century design (blond-wood bed frames, flat-panel TV's, ergonomic desk chairs). The swank N-Lounge has an outdoor terrace looking out onto the city streets, while Cru, with its own carpaccio bar—the only one on the island—puts a sophisticated spin on Italian seafood classics. 499 Avda. Muñoz Rivera, San Juan; 877/987-2929 or 787/729-2929; www.normandiepr.com.


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