The rest of the golf here is similarly Oz-like, as the emerald fairways climb slowly up the side of Nevis Peak, the 3,232-foot mountain whose summit seems constantly shrouded in clouds. On the layout's inexorable upward climb to these clouds, golfers encounter vervet monkeys, dwarf goats grazing in the rough and sometimes small children offering used golf balls for sale. Finally, on the par-five fifteenth tee, it all turns downhill for good. For those feeling lionhearted, the back tee on the 663-yard hole calls for a downhill carry of some 200 yards over a deep, stream-filled crevasse. The course used to pass out certificates of achievement for those who dared and made the shot.
Hurricanes have been known to hurl houses around on Nevis. But after this round's thrill ride, you'd be forgiven for clicking your FootJoys together and chanting, "I don't wanna go home, I don't wanna go home."
FOUR SEASONS NEVIS, Pinney's Beach, Charlestown; 869-469-1111. Rooms: $340-$835. Suites: $550-$1,445. Villas: $850-$1,600.
In the newest iteration of this restored resort, it's hard to pick between an oceanfront room overlooking Pinney's Beach or one of the cathedral-ceilinged golf villas. It doesn't matter: The excellent service, three fine restaurants and lovely pool-and-beach complex are the same for all guests.
MISS JUNE'S CUISINE (Caribbean), Jones Bay; 869-469-5330. $$$
Three or four nights a week during the season (once a week in the off-season), Miss June Mestier cooks a five-course dinner for the no more than sixty guests who pay to eat family-style in her large dining room. The menu varies by what's fresh and available, but as great a delight as her West Indian cooking is meeting the other guests at Miss June's party. It's such a good time that Miss June has been known to go to bed and ask the last revelers to turn out the lights when they leave.
With more than twenty courses, Puerto Rico boasts one of the largest collections of golf in the Caribbean, and almost as many fine resorts to match. But this vote for the best on the island goes to the Westin Rio Mar and Greg Norman's River course. Laid out in the shadow of the El Yunque rain forest, it's stunningly beautiful, hard yet fair and—with a resort that boasts the island's most extensive array of water activities—offers several exceptional ways to cool your heels after the last hole.
RIVER COURSE, Westin Rio Mar, Rio Grande; 800-474-6627. Yardage: 6,945. Par: 72. Slope: 135. Architect: Greg Norman, 1996. Greens Fees: $100-$160. T&L Golf Rating: ***1/2
Say this about the River course: It is nothing if not a healthy challenge. Fairways crisscross the Mameyes River as it flows out of the rain forest. Cloud-draped mountains form the course's backdrop, while the nearby ocean provides steady breezes. Marshy wetlands encroach on many holes, and Norman asks for forced carries on several tees. But even with all the marshes, rivers, creeks and lakes, it's not a two-dozen-ball kind of course—unless, of course, you're having one of those days.
Rio Mar also offers the Ocean course, an uncle-nephew collaboration by George and Tom Fazio. Several shots easier than Norman's track, the Ocean is noted for its sixteenth hole, a spectacular seaside 238-yard par three. It's also noted for the scary-looking but harmless iguanas—some as long as five feet—that frequent the lagoons and, at times, even crawl around the fairways.
ALSO PLAY: The Hyatt Dorado Beach complex, where Chi Chi Rodriguez mastered the game, offers four mainstay Robert Trent Jones Sr. courses, the Dorado Beach East & West and the former Cerromar North & South ($85-$155; 787-796-1234). Palmas del Mar Country Club, on the island's southeast coast, features two sensational tracks: the 1973 Gary Player-designed Palm ($95-$170; 787-285-2256), which hosted the 1995 Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, and Rees Jones's sporty Flamboyan ($95-$170; 787-285-2256), which debuted in 1998. Both courses offer gorgeous views of sea and island, but the Flamboyan is the more restless, circling a lake, crossing the Candelero River, buzzing the coast, then climbing the hills high above the ocean. Arthur Hills's hilly El Conquistador ($110-$165; 787-863-1000) at Wyndham El Conquistador Resort & Golden Door Spa is a lot of fun; equally fun are the fabulous hotel, casino and spa that surround it.
WESTIN RIO MAR, Rio Grande; 800-474-6627. Rooms: $399- $795. Suites: $600-$3,950
This splendid six-hundred-room hotel has all the modern bells and whistles: beach, pools, spa, meeting facilities and excellent restaurants. And with many rooms overlooking the North Shore beach and its heavy surf, the view is hard to beat. But our favorite amenity is the adjacent Caribbean National Rainforest of El Yunque. No need to bring your "realistic" natural-sounds sleep machine. Just open up the window.
DRAGONFLY (Caribbean), Old San Juan; 787-977-3886. $$$
Puerto Rican cuisine, once mostly heavy dishes of beef, onions and garlic, is reborn at this trendy spot in Old San Juan as criollo, with root vegetables, delicate spices and sundry unusual flavors. Fried green plantains, an island staple, are dressed up with sour cream and caviar. An Asian marinated churasco is served with "dragonfries" dusted with cinnamon and ginger. Call it what you want, it's just plain tasty.
One of the most picture-postcard-perfect half-moon bays in all the Caribbean also boasts an exquisite resort and a wonderfully tricky, windswept golf course across the road. It's all very worthy of framing—even if your scorecard isn't.
PROVO GOLF CLUB, Providenciales; 649-946-5991. Yardage: 6,641. Par: 72. Slope: 136. Architect: Karl Litten, 1992. Greens Fee: $130. T&L Golf Rating: ***1/2
One way to get around the perennial problem of finding and paying for enough water to keep a Caribbean golf course green is to have the local water company own it. It's worked quite well at the Provo Golf Club.