Best Resorts in the Caribbean 2012
So how to choose? Leave it to the jet-setting readers of Travel + Leisure who highlight their favorite resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas as part of the annual World’s Best Awards survey. In 2012, the 20 best resorts are spread across 10 islands, from Bermuda to the British Virgin Islands, and from romantic all-inclusive sanctuaries to private rainforest verandas. There’s a top-notch Caribbean resort out there, whatever your idea of paradise.
Ever-popular Jamaica, for instance, claims the most properties (for the second year in a row) with four winners, including secluded Couples San Souci (No. 5) in Ocho Rios. The 150 colonial-decorated suites come with wicker furniture, Gilchrist & Soames bath products, and latticework balconies for taking in ocean views.
Further south, St. Lucia is beloved for its black-sand beaches, dramatic jungle-covered peaks, and, according to readers, three top-ranked properties, including Jade Mountain (No. 4), with its private infinity pools and panoramic views of the Pitons, and its 47-room, art-focused sister property, Anse Chastanet Resort (No. 19), tucked among coconut groves.
Though many of the top-ranked winners have appeared on the list year after year, one hotel made a big debut: W Retreat & Spa (No. 16) on Puerto Rico’s offshore island Vieques. Set among low-key fishing villages, the stylish W Retreat added a dose of luxe island flair to a destination that’s on the verge of becoming a popular hot spot (Vieques was the No. 1–ranked island in the Caribbean this year too).
But there’s one resort that has truly won travelers’ loyalty: this year’s No. 1 winner, The Reefs, Bermuda. It’s the type of property that travelers return to again and again, thanks to perks like the private rose-sand cove and world-class spa. And here’s proof of its staying power: the cliff-side hotel has been on the list for the past 10 years in a row—it’s the only hotel that earned T+L’s Hall of Fame honor.
Ready to plan your own warm weather getaway? Read on for the top 20 winning resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.
No. 1 The Reefs, Bermuda
You’ll find plenty of familiar faces at The Reefs on Bermuda’s south shore. It’s the type of place that families and couples return to again and again—perhaps one reason why the property stocks four Flip Video cameras to capture those classic vacation moments. After more than 10 consecutive appearances on the Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards, this iconic cliff-side resort has clearly earned its top-ranked status.
No. 2 Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis
At Nisbet Plantation, the Caribbean’s only historic plantation inn right on the beach, you’ll spot green vervet monkeys from 36 wicker-furnished cottages spread among palm trees and beachfront hammocks. Active types will want to head out with Reggie Douglas, Nevis’s reigning cycling champ, for a two-hour bike tour (the hotel concierge will gladly arrange the excursion).
No. 3 Eden Rock, St. Bart’s
On chic St. Bart’s, this is the hotel for celebrity spotting. What draws the boldfaced names? Each of the 34 rooms has a different aesthetic, and can include such idiosyncratic details as a rock wall or a Philippe Starck–designed bathroom. We especially love the art gallery with a rotating selection of works on display (the space doubles as a studio, where guests can paint, too).
No. 4 Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
When you imagine a St. Lucia fantasy, you’re likely imagining Jade Mountain. Located at the highest point of the island, near the west coast town of Soufrière, the resort wraps around a hillside, its exterior all curves and rough stone. The 28 suites have only three walls, offering open-air, panoramic views of the Piton range.
No. 5 Couples San Souci, St. Ann, Jamaica
For travelers looking for privacy in Jamaica, this 150-room hotel is a smart bet. It’s the smallest of the island’s all-inclusive Couples resorts, and it’s built on a cliff above a seaside cove in Ocho Rios. There are four pools, and the award-winning spa has a natural mineral pool, a spring-fed grotto, and additional private cabanas set at the cliff’s edge.
No. 6 Couples Tower Isle, St. Mary, Jamaica
This retro-chic all-inclusive in St. Mary delivers the Caribbean hotel fantasy with freshwater swimming pools and peppermint-seaweed wraps and Four Layer facials. (Note: spa services are not included in the all-inclusive rate.) Thanks to a major renovation, the 1978 property is totally refreshed, and now includes 20 new rooms, a dive pool, and 10 spa treatment rooms.
No. 7 Biras Creek Resort, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
After arriving via boat trip or helicopter ride, guests at the secluded Biras Creek—set on a 140-acre peninsula of Virgin Gorda—are whisked off in a golf cart to one of the cottage suites, each of which has an outdoor shower. Deep Bay—where you’ll find a trove of catamarans, kayaks, and Boston Whalers for guests to use—is just a short stroll past the salt-pond bird sanctuary.
No. 8 Couples Negril, Jamaica
With its fan-shaped whitewashed balcony railings and riotous tropical color schemes, this 234-room all-inclusive, adults-only Couples resort captures the vibrant spirit of Jamaica. Complimentary activities include snorkeling, sailing, scuba, tennis, and yoga.
No. 9 Couples Swept Away Negril, Jamaica
Thrill seekers also in search of an all-inclusive beach vacation will love this Jamaican resort, spread out over 17 acres of gardens along Negril’s Seven Mile Beach. Here, days are spent waterskiing and playing pool volleyball, while the eight-room spa is known for Bamboo Fusion massages and seaweed wraps (ideal for tired muscles and sun-kissed skin).
No. 10 Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France, St. Bart’s
On an island that epitomizes the glamorous, star-studded getaway, the 39-room Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France wins for location—it’s right on Baie des Flamands, the island’s longest, widest beach. It’s no surprise, then, that the 19 oceanfront rooms and suites are the most romantic; the restaurant serves lunches of lobster spring rolls or iced pea soup at tables set in the sand.
No. 11 Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
A one-hour flight from Miami, the island of Grand Cayman delivers an easy escape that appeals to parents and the kids too. Perhaps that’s why the Ritz-Carlton chose this stretch of sand for its high-end playground. Pass the sunny days on Jean-Michel Cousteau nature tours or on the Greg Norman–designed golf course, or choose from the five restaurants, including two run by acclaimed chef Eric Ripert.
No. 12 Regent Palms, Turks and Caicos
Classic Caribbean charms are what you’ll find at the 72-suite Grace Bay Beach, the only Regent hotel in the Americas. Rooms are expansive (starting at 640 square feet) and include four-poster beds and nautical landscape watercolors. A favorite amenity: kitchenettes and washer/dryers, for a thoroughly residential feel—and a true, family-friendly vibe.
No. 13 Rosewood Tucker’s Point, Bermuda
Opened in 2009, this three-year-old resort is palatial, opulent, and lavishly appointed (likely the reason Rosewood Hotels & Resorts took the helm of this east-end retreat in January 2011). The sprawling 88-unit resort oozes British colonial charm, including a stately whitewashed manor house with contemporary art and spacious guest rooms, each with a private balcony that overlooks the pink sand.
No. 14 Ocean Club Resorts, Turks and Caicos
For a cool value option on Turks and Caicos, try the barefoot-chic suites at Ocean Club, which all have seating areas, kitchens, washers and dryers, and furnished balconies. Other extras—poolside grills, free bicycles for exploring, access to the pools/restaurants at sister property Ocean Club West—add bang for your buck.
No. 15 Four Seasons Resort, Nevis
A $24 million renovation completed in 2010 gave a much-anticipated makeover to this 196-room-and-suite Caribbean resort. It’s fitted out with the requisite tennis courts (10 of them), a fitness center, biomorphic pools, and all the usual stylistic signatures of a global hospitality brand—one in a select group of discreet, high-end properties on Nevis.
No. 16 W Retreat and Spa, Vieques, Puerto Rico
Thanks to JetBlue’s new Puerto Rican airport hub, the island of Vieques is more accessible than ever. But it was the 2010 opening of the W that put this island on the map for many of the arriving beachgoers. The hotel is composed of low-slung beachfront structures, and its polished cement floors contrast with bright geometric patterns and high-design furnishings, many with views of Whisper Cove Beach.
No. 17 Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Far from the bustling port town of Charlotte Amalie, this 30-acre Mediterranean-style resort stands out as one of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ most tranquil and civilized oases. Special details include a mangrove sanctuary where iguanas roam free; a resident artist who gives watercolor classes; and a sushi bar that serves the local catch.
No. 18 Rock House Hotel, Harbor Island, Bahamas
Looking for an island escape with a buzzy nightlife scene? This stylish, nine-room boutique hotel overlooking the harbor in Dunmore Town is your fix. While the hotel isn’t right on the famed eastern beach, a short walk (or a driver-assisted golf-cart ride) leads you right there.
No. 19 Anse Chastanet Resort, St. Lucia [tied]
A series of 49 open-air rooms situated along a tropical hillside above a semi-private volcanic sand beach make up this eco-friendly resort. Within each nature-centric Sanctuary suite—some with the fourth wall removed—warm trade winds obviate the need for air-conditioning. A glance toward the panoramic Piton views will make it clear why flat-screen TVs were never installed.
No. 19 Ladera Resort, St. Lucia [tied]
At this 32-cottage resort you’ll wake up to St. Lucia’s twin Piton hills, and you’ll dine eye level with them too, at the excellent Dasheene restaurant. While every room is open air, cooled only by breeze and ceiling fans, the tiered arrangement on the hillside ensures privacy. Wooded interiors and mosquito netting create an authentic, cabin-in-the-sky vibe. Don’t miss stargazing from the private pool.