Depending on the type of experience you're seeking in the Caribbean, there are endless hotels to choose from. Perhaps you want an all-inclusive holiday or maybe you're keen to relax in a kids-free zone. But one experience you may not have considered is a plantation hotel. These cottage inns often sit on large estates high in the hills with panoramic island views, offering just a handful of colonial-style rooms and a sense of history and unique architecture like centuries-old stone mills along with a central Great House where you'll find sumptuous meals and cocktails. Here are five of our favorites...
Montpelier Plantation, Nevis
One of the Caribbean's most exclusive hotels is this 18th century former sugar plantation on the unspoiled paradise of Nevis. The 65-acre hillside estate has a lot of history—it served as the site of British naval hero Horatio Nelson's marriage to Fanny Nisbet, the daughter of a local plantation owner and it also served as the residence of the first president of Nevis. These days, sun-seeking guests can take a swim in the freshwater swimming pool overlooking the island's tallest peak, Mount Nevis, sip a rum punch in the Great Room, enjoy spa treatments, and dine on West Indian dishes in the Terrace restaurant or the hotel's 300 year-old stone sugar mill.
Boucan Hotel and Restaurant by Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia
If you like chocolate, you've come to the right place. This elegant 14-room cottage-style resort (and Fodor's 100 Hotel Award winner) is located on 140-acre Rabot Estate, a historic working cocoa plantation. Cocoa growing has been a St. Lucian tradition since the 1700s and the owners are keeping the tradition alive by rehabilitating the cocoa groves so chocolate can be made here once more. While there's plenty to do on St. Lucia—from hiking along trails in the lush twin peaks of the Pitons and biking through the rainforest to enjoying the sulphur hot springs, you'll just want to be back in time for dinner where you can indulge your sweet tooth.
Firefly Plantation, Bequia
Those looking to get away from it all should consider the island of Bequia in the little-known archipelago of Grenadines. Reached via flight from Barbados, the island is still quite undeveloped so visitors can expect lots of empty beaches and pristine hiking trails. There aren't that many places to stay on the island but Firefly is a true gem (its sister resort is located on neighboring Mustique). Located on a 30-acre sugar plantation and indigo processing plant dating from the 18th century, the inn has four suites with stone floors, wood-beamed ceilings, and muslin-draped beds. A freshwater swimming pool and a tennis court are on the grounds, and staff are happy to give tours of the 250-year old sugar mill.
Ottley's Plantation Inn, St. Kitts
You can't help but feel cheery when you see Ottley's Great House, a pretty lemon-yellow building with white trim and a wide porch—he perfect perch to take in the estate's natural beauty. This former sugar plantation, started by Englishman Dewry Ottley in the early 1700s, is now a cottage hotel with 23 rooms decorated with rattan furnishings, tiled flooring, and tropical prints (some have private plunge pools). And at every turn are fabulous views of the sea and mist-shrouded Mount Liamuiga. After visiting art galleries and crafts shops in the capital of Basseterre and the imposing Brimstone Hill Fortress, head back to the inn to take a dip in the spring-fed pool built into the remains of the old sugar-boiling house.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis
Dating from 1778, Nisbet Plantation is located directly on the beach—one of the only plantation hotels with such a distinction—so in addition to nautical activities like swimming and snorkeling, there's the added perk of having the beautiful restored Great House, with painted louvered shutters and gingerbread trim, at your disposal for afternoon tea, a pre-dinner drinks (try the planter's punch) and gourmet meals, perhaps Caribbean lobster or grilled mahi mahi in the elegant dining room. The 36 British colonial style-cottages are spread among swaying palm trees and tropical foliage and there's also a croquet lawn and plenty of hammocks in secluded spots.
Photo Credits: Montpelier Plantation, Nevis: Courtesy of Montpelier Plantation & Beach; Boucan Hotel and Restaurant by Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia: Courtesy of Jessica Sample; Firefly Plantation, Bequia: Courtesy of Firefly Plantation Bequia; Ottley's Plantation Inn, St. Kitts: Courtesy of Ottley's Plantation Inn; Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis: Courtesy of Nisbet Plantation Beach Club.