Caribbean travel season is nigh, and here at Fodor's we're feeling the warm island breezes and white sand between our toes. Ok, so we're not so much feeling as dreaming about them. In the spirit of island-living, we've sorted through our Fodor's 100 Awards to bring you the best of the best in the Caribbean for 2012, in no particular order. Feeling those breezes yet?
Getting here may be a bit complicated—you fly to Barbados then to Union Island, before transferring to a boat—but the effort is fully rewarded with the ultimate opportunity to enjoy time off the grid. But just because you've unplugged doesn't mean you'll be roughing it: the 115-acre, private-island resort's 22 stone-and-wood cottages are sumptuously appointed with custom beds and furnishings, and they now offer air conditioning. The all-inclusive room rates take the guesswork out of what to do and where to eat—although you'll still have to choose between your cozy cloister or the newer beach bar and restaurant. Tennis, a 2-acre white-sand beach, and pampering spa service round out the restorative offerings at this ultimate getaway.
Peering up at night skies studded with brilliant constellations, stargazing reaches new levels of intensity here. A romantic gathering spot for the A-list (many boldface names have wed here), this pristine private-island property in stunning Turks and Caicos offers seamless service with private butlers, complimentary airport transfers, and well-informed concierges. In addition to a sparkling infinity pool, mile-long beach, and three restaurants, guests have access to the Como Shambala Retreat, a celebrated wellness center that focuses on yoga and Ayurvedic practices. A variety of snorkeling and boating excursions are also on offer, though it may be tough to leave the accommodations, which reflect the pampering nature of the secluded property with luxuriant four-poster beds and breezy, spacious verandahs.
A family vacation attains epic status when everyone, including the parents, has a good time. At Atlantis this reality is just about guaranteed. In addition to the legendary 141-acre Aquaventure Water Park, which is a blast no matter your age, the resort features a seemingly endless array of activities you can enjoy as a family—from swimming with dolphins to making masterpieces in the pottery studio. Atlantis's renowned, supervised kids clubs allow parents time to unwind at the spa or golf course, or at its celebrity chef-driven restaurants, which include Nobu and Mesa Grill.
Set on a private island just a short ferry ride from Tortola, Peter Island Resort & Spa offers a spectacular romantic escape surrounded by the unparalleled beauty of the British Virgin Islands. If you have the means, you can rent the entire island, but if that isn't an option, consider one of three private luxury villas, set apart from the resort and offering the ultimate secluded escape with spacious suites, fully equipped kitchens, private pools, and a personal staff and private chauffeured vehicle. Resort rooms and suites are also available, and while not as exclusive—nor as astronomically expensive—they still offer the kind of luxury most of us dream about. Notable extras that set this resort apart include the sumptuous Retreat Suites at the spa, which are designed for couples and include a private verandah and deep-plunge hydrotherapy soaking tubs for two; private romantic dinners or picnics on a secluded beach; five-course wine dinners held weekly; five beaches to choose from for every swimming and sunbathing fancy (including one that can be reserved for your private use); and private excursions on a 41-foot sailboat.
Featuring three world-renowned golf courses designed by some of the biggest names in the game, Casa de Campo is a golfer's dream destination. And when you select a rate that includes greens fees, it's also a tremendous deal. Not that golf is the only attraction here: between the beach, the spa, the pools, the shops, and the marina, non-golfers have no shortage of pampering activities. The sanctuary-like spa offers holistic therapies and services using natural products made in small batches at the on-site Spa Pharmacy. All rooms come with a golf cart, making travel within the resort a snap (though after indulging at a few of the property's 13 restaurants, you may just choose to walk).
Where else in the world can the kids dance with Big Bird and Elmo while parents scuba dive in spectacular waters nearby? This sprawling, family-friendly, all-inclusive resort set on the world-renowned Grace Bay beach offers an array of activities for all ages. Expect to find typical Caribbean draws including snorkeling, sailing, tennis, and dining options a go-go, served with additional surprises—like an enormous water park, 16 restaurants, teen disco, and adults-only spa. Breezy rooms are built to accommodate families and are decorated in the Caribbean colonial style.
From scuba and Spinning to spa treatments and water sports, this 159-room hideaway on St. Lucia puts an all-over wellness spin on the all-inclusive concept. In addition to the above inclusions, archery, golf, tennis, group fitness classes, and personal training are offered. To facilitate deep relaxation, guests are also invited to indulge in daily spa treatments, including Reiki and Ayurvedic experiences, from an epic menu (many treatments are part of the all-inclusive rate). Though wellness is a big focus here, this is an island vacation, and you're also welcome to kick back and enjoy perks like wine tastings, gourmet multicourse menus, booze cruises, and tropical island views from the secluded beach—with a frozen cocktail in hand—any time you like.
Perched above the sugar sands of St. Lucia, this legendary 29-room retreat invites guests to hole up in signature indoor/outdoor rooms—aptly named "sanctuaries"—that showcase the awesome natural vistas, thanks to open fourth walls. Blissfully tech free, rooms further reflect the spectacular surroundings with stone and natural-wood decor. Beds are swathed in tropical prints, and terraces feature private infinity pools. All services, from spa treatments to award-winning dining, can be enjoyed in the privacy of your suite, though many guests do emerge from their romantic cocoons to watch the sunset from the Celestial Terrace lounge, kick back on the private beach, sail on private catamaran cruises, or find even more peace in a yoga class.
A comprehensive children's program, lagoon-like pool, and gorgeous beach appeal to all ages at this low-slung oceanfront resort—it's also an exceptional value. The resort's golden sands are the central gathering place for daytime activities, with adults engaging in beach volleyball and yoga, and kids splashing in the water and riding banana boats. After an active day, head to the La Mer spa for a massage, then unwind with drinks at one of the resort's six bars. Kids will love the Caribbean restaurants serving meals in a breezy, beach setting (read: room to run around). Or opt to dine in your suite, outfitted with a full kitchen, in addition to living and dining areas.
Among the 30-plus islands and cays of St. Vincent and the wind-swept Grenadines is the sugar sand-ringed, private Palm Island. Hiking trails wind across the palm-studded setting, and foot paths lead to the 43-room property's popular activity centers, including the driving range, turtle sanctuary, and snorkeling beaches. A cycling center, tennis courts, and croquet pitch are also on offer, as are an intimate pool, picturesque lagoon, and guest rooms tucked among the tropical foliage or right on the gleaming beach. Two restaurants feature Caribbean-fusion cuisine, as well as afternoon tea, special weekly cocktail hours, and festive beach barbecues. A snorkeling trip to a nearby caye on the resort's private boat is the only thing not part of the all-inclusive rate—but that, too, is worth the trip.
Stretched across 8 tropical acres, this family-run, beachfront, all-inclusive resort offers elegant accommodations among fragrant lemon, sea grape, and almond trees. Some rooms have beachfront access, while others boast private pools; all feature upscale amenities like Frette linens, Jacuzzi tubs, and terraces or balconies. Guests may choose to relax on the resort's golden sands, or pursue a menu of included activities, such as kayaking and snorkeling. Meals—showcasing local and international cuisine—are served at two eateries with sparkling water views, typically accompanied by live island music. As a bonus, tennis court fees and bike rentals are included.
Nothing says "away from it all" quite like a private island, and at Jumby Bay, there are 300 secluded acres of your very own to explore. This all-inclusive resort just 2 miles off the coast of Antigua is perfect for both couples and families, with an exquisite selection of guest rooms, suites, and villas to choose from. In addition to the expected nonmotorized water sports and sunset cocktail cruises that are included in the rate, the resort also throws in some unique extras that make it stand out. Among these: outdoor movie nights featuring blockbuster hits; weekly beach barbecues with a live steel band and dancing; Caloi bicycles for exploring the island's 3 miles of trails; the fabulous Camp Jumby program (for 3- to 12-year-olds); and stargazing on the beach with the resident astronomer. If you're visiting between June and November, you also have the unique opportunity to participate in the Hawksbill Turtle Program, one of the longest running turtle-monitoring programs.
Guests here literally drink in the flavor of St. Lucia. Set in the rainforest and sun-dappled groves of Saint Lucia's oldest cacao estate, the 14-room hotel celebrates the island's zest and essence with a unique cacao cuisine menu—from cocktails to dessert—along with bean-to-bar chocolate-making lessons and cocoa-themed spa treatments. Meals are comprised of estate-grown produce, line-caught fish, and garden-fresh herbs. Guest rooms, which are more like intimate lodges, celebrate the natural beauty of the island with open-air showers, gauzy beds, and louvered windows.
Photo Credits: Courtesy Turks & Caicos; Courtesy Jumby Bay; Courtesy Petit St. Vincent