12 Secret Caribbean Hotels for a Crowd-Free Beach Getaway
Idyllic island retreats can be closer than you think. When Cuban native Sandra Perez was looking for a secluded place to create her art, she fell under the spell of Holbox on Mexico’s Caribbean coast north of Cancún, where beachcombing and barefoot dinners under the stars are part of the daily routine.
Soon after, Perez founded a 17-room beachfront hotel, CasaSandra. “This place is not made for mass tourism,” she declares. “It’s not all about profit like in other larger destinations; it’s more about being creative and welcoming, and inspiring love in our guests.”
That philosophy repeats itself at other secret Caribbean hotels on other lesser-known islands, from tiny specks in the Bahamas to UNESCO-listed hideaways off the coast of South America. Characterized by their off-the-beaten-path locations, cultural and adventure offerings, and a refreshing lack of bling, these destinations offer novel perspectives on the Caribbean.
Whether it’s a cliff-top villa among the wild landscapes of Dominica, the surprise of French auberge-style hospitality in Guadeloupe or Martinique, or the small miracle of a beach entirely to yourself, our hotel picks are likely to turn up a side of the Caribbean you didn’t know existed.
Fowl Cay, Bahamas
This private island 50-acre resort makes life so sybaritic—cocktails on the deck at Hill House, bocce on the private beach, hammock time pretty much everywhere—that you’ll never want to leave. That would be a mistake, though. Each of the six oceanfront villas here comes with its own 17-foot boat so that you can explore neighboring islets. Worthy adventures include swimming with docile nurse sharks at Compass Cay Marina, dropping by the iguana-dominated Guana Cay, and feeding the famous swimming pigs at Big Major Spot beach. Yes, you read that right.
Lighthouse Bay Resort, Barbuda
Nine is the magic number on Barbuda, a 20-minute flight from its more bustling sister island of Antigua: the all-inclusive Lighthouse Bay has just nine suites facing a nine-mile-long pink sand beach. The resort marries a sense of blissful remoteness with urban refugee essentials like iPads and in-room espresso machines. Tuck into Caribbean delicacies like Barbuda lobster at Café Lagoon, then while away the days by horseback riding, diving the crystal-clear water, or just reveling in the fact that you barely have to share that incredible beach with another soul.
Hotel Bois Joli, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe
Francophiles seeking a closer-to-home vacation should make a beeline for Guadeloupe, an island group featuring all the powdery white sand beaches and gorgeous water you expect to find in the Caribbean, but with a level of tranquility absent on other more high-profile islands. At this sweet French hotel, accommodations consist of simple cottages strung along the beach, along with five rooms in the French Colonial Balcony house. The restaurant serves fresh seafood like ouassous (a local crayfish), cod fritters, and grilled tuna. hotelboisjoli.fr
Hotel Deep Blue, Providencia, Colombia
Part of a UNESCO biosphere reserve, this far-flung Caribbean destination is worth the extra mileage. Near-deserted beaches, traditional Creole culture, and kaleidoscopic marine life in the pristine waters offshore make this a perfect choice for those who like their island life to offer more than swaying palm trees. The 12-room Deep Blue features luxuries like private balconies with panoramic ocean views, while your Instagram shots of the restaurant—built right over the water—are destined to induce envy back home. hoteldeepblue.com
Secret Bay Resort, Portsmouth, Dominica
Positioned midway between Guadeloupe and Martinique, this underappreciated island seems set for its day in the sun. After all, the lush, almost antediluvian landscapes (volcanoes, rivers, gorges, waterfalls, hot springs), outdoorsy adventures, and chilled-out lifestyle couldn’t stay a secret forever. Check into Secret Bay, a boutique resort set on a promontory between two beaches with six chic, streamlined cliff-top villas designed by Venezuelan architect Fruto Vivas. secretbay.dm
Les Petits Saints, Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe
Small can be beautiful, particularly when it comes to tropical idylls, and this two-square-mile island in the Iles des Saintes sure makes the case. At Les Petits Saints, a kind of Provençal-auberge-meets-Caribbean-resort, the idiosyncratic guest rooms are decked out with European antiques, gilded mirrors, and four-poster beds, while the restaurant serves refined Creole-inspired dishes like tuna tartare and grilled langoustine salad. All of which comes with a side of sweeping views over the surreally blue Baie des Saintes.
Tiamo Resort, Andros, Bahamas
Thanks to its remote location—the island is accessible only by boat or seaplane—Andros has been spared the tourist bustle of its neighbors. And this stylish resort with 10 cottages, each facing a private beach, epitomizes its laid-back appeal. Andros is situated right on the world’s third-largest barrier reef, and it’s big for sea kayaking, bonefishing, and cave diving in freshwater caves called “blue holes” that were first explored by Jacques Cousteau. While the beaches are exemplary, the interior is also sublime, covered with pristine subtropical forest and many species of orchid.
CasaSandra, Holbox, Mexico
Barefoot luxury doesn’t get much more appealing than at Holbox’s chicest hotel, the beachfront CasaSandra. Owner Sandra Perez’s artistic background yielded suites whose white-on-white elegance is punctuated with bright Mexican textiles and colorful hammocks. The restaurant serves blissfully simple seafood dishes like grilled grouper with black sesame and cilantro to a well-heeled international crowd. Daytime, meanwhile, should be reserved for taking advantage of the island’s greatest claim to fame: swimming with whale sharks. These gentle giants congregate in the waters here in great numbers from June to September.
Hotel Plein Soleil, Martinique
Immerse yourself in the vivid colors and sounds of the French territory of Martinique at this 16-room boutique hideaway, positioned between two bays and featuring tropical gardens bright with bougainvillea. The hotel’s location is perfect for exploring both the lovely beaches down south and the forests up north. Back at the open-air restaurant, chef Nathanael Ducteil whips up Euro-Creole delights like lobster bisque and sweet potato gnocchi.
Bayaleau Point Cottages, Carriacou, Grenadines
The largest of the 600-island chain in the West Indies, Carriacou nevertheless retains a laid-back vibe (especially when compared to tony Mustique). The four candy-colored cottages at this hideaway on the easternmost point of Windward Bay are a case in point: family-run, unpretentious, with a communal deck overlooking the ocean. The waters teem with marine life, including sea turtles, and the hotel can arrange trips to the nearby Tobago Cays. carriacoucottages.com
Sweetfield Manor B&B, Barbados
Barbados may not seem like much of a secret—until you get to this chintz-free B&B, a 1903 restored plantation house above Carlisle Bay on the island’s west coast. Rooms feature romantic net-draped sleigh beds, mahogany furnishings, and European antiques, and most have captivating bay views. The walled garden, filled with stately trees and tropical blooms, further enhances the blissful sense of being cloistered away from the rest of the world. The en plein air breakfasts include croissants baked in-house and fresh-squeezed tropical juices. sweetfieldmanor.net
Coblentz Inn, Trinidad
Trinidad’s polyglot makeup makes it a great pick for travelers who want a richer Caribbean cultural experience: the famed street food draws from East Indian, African, Chinese, Dutch, Syrian, and Spanish traditions. The quirky themed rooms at Coblentz Inn are a delight. You might find yourself in a suite dedicated to the fine tradition of West Indies cricket (with a whimsical mural depicting a test match) or a room decked out with antiques inspired by East Indian laborers, whose arrival in the 1800s contributed a key facet to the island’s multicultural landscape. coblentzinn.com