World’s Best Caribbean Resorts 2015
It's not hard to find beautiful, soft-sand beaches and frothy turquoise swells in the Caribbean, but only some resorts will live up to the expectations of your daydreams. Every year, we ask our readers to rank their favorite resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. From a property's location (prime beachfront bungalows, or a perch on a mountain overlooking the sea) to the service, be it amiable staff or personal butlers, and—of course—the frozen daiquiris and fresher-than-fresh seafood, these are the values that helped land spots on the Top 20.
According to the latest Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards reader survey, Jamaica is a favorite resort destination, with four properties making it into the top 20 for the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Bermuda. In addition to its much-loved resorts, Jamaica has a reputation for being one of the friendliest islands in the world. "The landscape is breathtaking," said one voter, while another deemed it "an absolute paradise." Turks and Caicos was close behind with three winners, while Puerto Rico and St. Lucia clock in with two each.
In St. Lucia, it comes as no surprise to see longtime hits Jade Mountain and Ladera on the list. "The view [from Ladera] was unbelievable," remarked one WBA voter. "We woke each morning thinking we were in heaven." After all, this open-concept resort is the only one on St. Lucia perched on the Piton Mountains, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each guest room has only three walls, and offers uninterrupted views of the twin volcanic peaks and lush tropical gardens.
T+L readers value solitude when it comes to beach getaways—a number of the top-ranked resorts feature private infinity or plunge pools and secluded beaches. Two are even located on private islands, like Scrub Island Resort, where evenings are best spent enjoying the sunsets over the marina or ocean from your personal balcony. All-inclusive properties also reign, beloved as much for their value as the abundance of activities available.
Our Worlds' Best voters promise you won't regret a trip to one of these destinations. And with their romantic, candlelit beach dinners and Instagram-worthy infinity pools, we approve of these readers' picks.
No. 20: St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino
Last year, this 393-room resort—the largest in St. Kitts and Nevis—had some minor updates, including new solar showers on the beach, new beds, and improved air-conditioning in its West Indian-inspired guestrooms (many with ocean-view balconies). The property is loaded with diversions: you'll find eight restaurants, three bars (check out the Keys on Wednesday nights for mojitos mixed with more than 30 local rums) and a spa. The main attractions are the casino and the 125-plus acre, links-style golf course. If you haven't been to St. Kitts yet, you may want to go now. We hear it's having a moment.
No. 19: Hotel El Convento, Puerto Rico
This winner—a 58-room property set in a 17th-century convent in Old San Juan—may not be set on a beach, but we promise you won't even miss the sand. (And if you do, you're free to visit the Beach Clubs at their oceanfront sister properties). Its 58 guestrooms have an Old World feel, with exposed mahogany beams, tile floors, and decorative furniture. There are three on-site restaurants (though make sure to have some meals in town), a plunge pool and Jacuzzi, and a relaxing garden, where the hotel hosts a nightly cocktail hour.
No. 18: Rosewood Little Dix Bay, British Virgin Islands
Laurance Rockefeller founded this private island escape, set on 500 beachfront acres, almost a decade after he opened Caneel Bay. But unless you plan to visit by April 30, guests will have to wait until 2017 to experience all that this property has to offer: it will be closing on May 1, 2016 for an extensive month renovation. "I'm a bit nervous about their total renovation," admitted one WBAvoter, who already thought—after eight visits—that the resort was "wonderful," and "perfect," with an "absolutely terrific" staff. What they (and you) can expect: all new interiors, amenities, and services.
No. 17: Scrub Island Resort, Spa & Marina, British Virgin Islands
First discovered by Christopher Columbus, this 230-acre island is so named because pirates used to drop anchor here and "scrub" barnacles from their boats—or at least, that's how the story goes. Today, the boutique private island property—accessible by a 10-minute ferry from Tortola—has 52 rooms and suites, plus luxury hillside villas, three stunning beaches, and the Ixora spa. Visiting this March? Keep an eye out for the 50 boats racing in the 45th Annual BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, which ends at Scrub Island on March 30.
No. 16: Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, Turks and Caicos
If you're looking for a place to take the kiddos, this all-inclusive is it. In addition to a 12-mile beach and unlimited scuba diving and watersports, there's a 45,000-square-foot water park, a Scratch DJ Academy, an arcade for tweens, and land sports like tennis, basketball, and croquet. The property is divided into four "villages"—Caribbean, Italy, Key West, and France—each of which feature a different architectural style. And with more than 20 international restaurants, you'll never have to eat the same thing twice.
No. 15: Caneel Bay Resort, US Virgin Islands
Philanthropist Laurance Rockefeller founded this eco-friendly retreat in 1956—and it remains dedicated to his vision to this day. Set among 170 acres in Virgin Islands National Park, it's a place where you may spot wildlife like turtles or dolphins as well as vibrant, thriving coral reefs. Its commitment even extends to the food and beverage program, which serves local honey and seafood, and uses only 100 percent biodegradable bags and cups. The property, which has seven beaches, was part of the Rosewood Resort collection until going independent in 2013—and with the relaunch came some new additions. Among them: a reimagined Zozo's at the Sugar Mill, known for its northern Italian menu, and Cannella, a coffee shop and gelateria.
No. 14: The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands
With an aquatic center for watersports, four oceanfront restaurants, an 11-room spa, yoga classes, tennis courts, and two pools, there's really no reason to leave this secluded 180-room resort, set on 30 acres on Great Bay. It even has its own 53-foot catamaran, the Lady Lynsey, which hits the water for daytime sails and sunset cruises. The property also offers the Ambassadors of the Environment, an eco-cultural program designed by environmentalist Jean-Michel Cousteau; activities include guided nighttime snorkel trip.
No. 13: Couples Tower Isle, Jamaica
When it debuted in 1978, Couples Tower Isle was the first of its kind: an all-inclusive, adults-only property built with romance in mind. Today, there are 226 rooms, all furnished with king beds and vintage-style rattan armchairs, set on 19 acres of beachfront property. There are also four bars and six restaurants, best enjoyed after an afternoon of snorkeling or scuba diving in the natural coral reefs. You can also try out knee boarding (available at specific times twice a day), and pedal across the sea in a hydro-bike.
No. 12: Couples Sans Souci, Jamaica
If you've ever stayed at one of the two Couples properties in Negril, forget what you know. This one is the most intimate (and smallest, with only 150 suites) and secluded, located on a cliff in Ocho Rios. And you'll never get bored, thanks to the three restaurants, seven bars, four pools, three Jacuzzis, nature walks, and wood-carving classes. Special events abound, including wine tasting on Thursday evenings and beach parties on Tuesdays. For those who like to bare it all, the property even has an au naturel beach—no cameras allowed.
No. 11: The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba
Set on the far (read: quiet) end of popular Palm Beach, this 320-room resort is a relative newcomer, having opened at the end of 2013. It's loaded with amenities: two pools, four restaurants (including the hot new table, BLT Steak, which serves everything from Caribbean lobster to the brand's signature popovers) a 13-treatment-room spa (there's a water lily-based sunburn treatment and a signature treatment with organic red mudand a coconut salt scrub), private beach cabanas, and a 24-hour casino. The capital of Oranjestad is just 10 minutes away, so it's a quick ride to shopping, dining, and nightlife—should you want to leave the comfort of the resort, that is.
No. 10: The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
This luxurious property on Seven Mile Beach recently completed a redesign, refreshing each of its 365 rooms with soothing neutral colors and mahogany accents, and updating its four on-site restaurants, including Blue by Eric Ripert, which serves seafood-focused tasting menus against a backdrop of white tablecloths and nautical map-inspired murals. Grown-up diversions like tennis, a spa, and water sports abound, but kids are just as welcome—and will especially love Starfish Cay, with its splash pool and waterslides.
No. 9: Jamaica Inn, Jamaica
This storied property on the eastern part of Ocho Rios has been a mainstay since opening in the 1950s (even hosting the likes of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller). Among the latest updates: a sauna—set within the lush flora—at the Ocean Spa, and a head-to-toe renovation of the two-bedroom Cottage 6, complete with a new plunge pool and outdoor bathtub. What you won't find in this, or any of the other 47 suites and cottages at Jamaica Inn? Televisions, radios, or clocks. What they all do have: ocean views.
No. 8: Grace Bay Club, Turks and Caicos
This 11-acre property is set on Grace Bay Beach, which T+L reader Nathan Miller described as having "soft powder-white sand and strikingly-clear, blue water," and is made up of a variety of accommodations. There's an adults-only, all-suite hotel; family-friendly suites at the Villas; and 22 luxury residences, known collectively as the Estate. Days can be spent at the pool or on the beach, where guests can snorkel, windsurf, and kayak. If you bring the whole brood, you'll love Kids Town, a dedicated program for visitors up to 17 years old.
No. 7: The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico
Set at the foot of the 28,000-acre El Yunque National Forest and only a 30-minute drive from Old San Juan, this former coconut plantation offers the best of the island's wildlife and history. On-site perks include a golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., a Jean-George Vongerichten restaurant (come here for the black pepper octopus and corn cake with rum ice cream), a tennis center, art classes, nature walks, and fishing, to name just a few. The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort offers eight types of rooms, most with garden or ocean views.
No. 6: One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas
This stylish jet-set hideaway recently emerged from a multi-million dollar redo, landing it on Travel + Leisure's It List this year. Among the highlights: a complete re-design and expansion of the rooms and suites in the Hartford Wing (including new rain showers, custom-made furniture, and terraces or balconies), a new 125-foot-long infinity-edge pool flanked by butler-serviced chaise lounges, and the Ocean Pool Grill. For those craving French-Asian cuisine, there's also Dune restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
No. 5: Ladera, St. Lucia
It's all about the Piton Mountain views at this mountainside resort, where the 32 cottages have private plunge pools and only three walls. This is unplugging at its best, since there are no televisions or phones to be found. Caribbean timber, mosquito netting, and mountain breezes give rooms an authentic, outdoorsy-vibe. The on-site Dasheene restaurant uses ingredients sourced from nearby farms to create twists on local cuisine, including roast conch with pickled vegetables, and sweet potato-and-coconut soup.
No. 4: Seven Stars Resort, Turks and Caicos
If you're looking for some of the island's most spacious accommodations, head to this all-suite property on Grace Bay Beach. Here, even the smallest rooms come with kitchenettes—grocery-stocking service is available upon request—and upscale, plantation-style décor, including marble bathrooms and four-poster beds. Those traveling with kids in tow can take advantage of free kids activities and babysitting services, though there's plenty for adults, as well. Think: yoga classes, snorkeling, and tennis. Sundays are extra special when it comes to dining, thanks to the BBQ & Bonfire event with live music.
No. 3: The Reefs Resort & Club, Bermuda
Overlooking Bermuda's southern shore, this 62-room beachfront resort sits on a secluded pink-sand beach, where guests are free to use stand-up paddleboards, snorkeling gear, and kayaks before recovering with a massage at the full-service La Serena spa. There are four restaurants from which to choose, and couples can arrange a romantic dinner for two right on the sand. Come summer, the property hosts regular events including live DJs on the terrace. Whether you come to party or relaxing stay, the Reefs has a reputation for greeting repeat guests (some of whom have returned to the property 45 times) like kin. FIX REP: "The staff treated us like long-lost family," remembered one WBA voter.
No. 2: Jade Mountain, St. Lucia
Since 2012, this iconic resort has ranked as one of the top five resorts in the Caribbean: and for good reason. It's known for its killer views of the Piton Mountains (the location at the island's highest points helps), and its three-walled suites, the better from which to see the peaks. While it may be tempting to just relax in your private infinity pool, make sure to take advantage of the daily guided walks and hikes, watersports at sister property Anse Chastanet, and a sunset cruise on the resort's own yacht.
No.1: Sandals Whitehouse European Village & Spa, Jamaica
With eight restaurants, six bars, and three pools (including the island's largest), Jamaica's only all-beachfront resort has plenty to keep visitors busy—and that's without considering the entertainment. Each night there's a different tk, including everything from fire dancing and a piano bar to Carnival night. The all-inclusive property has four levels of guestrooms, some of which come with butler service. It's all set in a 500-acre nature reserve complete with a two-mile stretch of beach on the island's less-developed southern coast.