If you’re going to a Caribbean Island, the chances are good that you’re looking for a way to take a break from daily life. To unplug, as it were, and reset. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to achieve this most worthy goal: an all-inclusive resort, where you won’t need to think about a thing once you arrive. And if you’re looking for a touch of luxury? Well, the Caribbean’s got that too. From James Bond hideouts to family-friendly retreats, these luxury properties are worth every penny.
Multigenerational Family Retreat
Curtain Bluff. An incomparable beachfront setting, impeccable service, diligent upgrading by attentive management, superb extras (free scuba diving and deep-sea fishing), effortless elegance: Curtain Bluff is that rare retreat that remains ahead of the times while exuding a magical timelessness. The lavish gardens and legendary 25,000-bottle wine cellar bespeak late owner/founder Howard Hulford’s passions, which management is continuing and the loyal multigenerational clientele (yes, families are coddled) shares. Some might find Curtain Bluff stuffy and country-clubby, but guests merely respect one another’s privacy. Everyone eventually emerges for exceptional Continental dining and dancing to live bands in the lovely alfresco restaurant, where chef Christophe Blatz also gives cooking and wine-pairing classes. The elegant waterfront spa exemplifies how Curtain Bluff remains a world-class resort that’s a bargain in its class. Pros: luxury lodging; sublime food; beautiful beaches; incredible extras. Cons: some find clientele standoffish; lodgings atop bluff not ideal for elderly. www.curtainbluff.com
Recommended in the Forums: “I agree about Curtain Bluff in Antigua. It’s wonderful. You certainly get more in terms of service and amenities than Hermitage Bay and/or Galley Bay for what you pay. And although there are children, you don’t trip over them.” — Naveron (more)
Explore Nearby: Nelson’s Dockyard, the world’s only Georgian-era dockyard still in use.
Something for Everyone
Almond Beach Village. Situated on an 18th-century sugar plantation north of Speightstown, the Village’s 32 acres front a mile-long, powdery beach. Rooms and pools at the north end of the property, near a historic sugar mill, are reserved for adults; at the south end, junior and one-bedroom suites targeted to families with children are near special facilities for kids and teens. A plethora of activities—golf, sailing, waterskiing, shopping excursions to Bridgetown, an off-site Bajan picnic, and more—are all included. Not enough? Hop the shuttle to Almond Beach Club and enjoy the (adults-only) facilities there. Pros: family resort with certain areas for adults only; lots to do and all included; complimentary Bajan cooking lessons; sugar mill is a picturesque wedding venue. Cons: it’s huge; some liken it to a holiday camp; more emphasis should be placed on room renovations and less on expansion. www.almondresorts.com
Recommended in the Forums: “My husband and I stayed at the Almond Beach Club on Barbados and it was AI, and we absolutely loved it. Wonderful beach and calm water. The people on that island were the most friendly people I have ever met in my entire life!” — palmtree2384 (more)
Explore Nearby: Harrison’s Cave, a limestone cavern complete with stalactites, subterranean streams, and a 40-foot underground waterfall.
Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
Bitter End Yacht Club. Sailing’s the thing at this busy hotel and marina in the nautically inclined North Sound, and since the use of everything from small sailboats to kayaks to windsurfers is included in the price, you have no reason not to get out on the water. If you’re serious about taking to the high seas, sign up for lessons at the resort’s sailing school. Of course, if you just want to lounge about on the beachfront chaises or on your balcony, that’s cool. There’s a busy social scene, with guests gathering to swap tales at the hotel’s bars. Rooms are bright and cheery, the decor leaning toward tropical colors. You can reach the Bitter End only by a free private ferry. Pros: lots of water sports; good diving opportunities; friendly guests. Cons: expensive rates; isolated location; lots of stairs. www.beyc.com
Recommended in the Forums: “For an even more “rustic” experience is actually staying on Virgin Gorda. We stayed at The Bitter End Yacht Club. Fabulous hillside villa overlooking the water with a true island feel to it. Almost like you are living outside but with all the amenities. Only issue with BEYC is that is is water-locked, so you have to travel by boat to get to other places on the island and you also will need to eat most of your meals at BEYC.” — waggie1218 (more)
Explore Nearby: The Baths, Virgin Gorda’s most celebrated sight, where giant boulders are scattered about the beach and in the water.
Small and Classy
Little Cayman, Cayman Islands
Pirates Point Resort. Nestled between sea grape and casuarina pines on a sparkling sweep of palapa-dotted sand are 11 bungalow-style rooms, some air-conditioned, others swept by crosswinds through louvers. You’ll likely become fast friends with effervescent owner, Gladys Howard, whose down-home welcome belies her upscale meals served with fine wines (not to mention heaping helpings of bon mots and bonhomie). Gladys trained with Julia Child, James Beard, and Jacques Pepin, as well as at the legendary Cordon Bleu in Paris, and still supervises everything with an eagle eye, while finding time to host weekly champagne parties on the verandah of her adjacent home and play dominoes after dinner. Somehow Gladys always wins, slamming tiles down with classic Caribbean vigor. Pros: fabulous food; fantastic beach; dynamic dive program; fun-loving staff and owner. Cons: everyone respects honeymooners’ privacy; but this isn’t a resort for antisocial types; tasteful rooms are fairly spare. www.piratespointresort.com
Explore Nearby: Point o’ Sand, a secluded beach that’s great for wading, shell collecting, and snorkeling.
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Excellence Punta Cana. A sumptuous lovers’ lair, this adults-only all-inclusive resort exudes romance and sensuality, with particular appeal to honeymooners or wedding parties. A gorgeous spa—with a Zen fountain, indulgent massages and other well-given treatments, plus hot-and-cold water tubs—attends to soothing body and mind. Honeymooners may appreciate round-the-clock room service, but if you’re inclined to step out, there’s a full range of activities and water sports to choose from, including private guided horseback rides. After a satisfying dinner and watching the nightly entertainment (The Michael Jackson Show rocks!), you can head to the disco or the casino, which is open only to hotel guests. Pros: adults-only getaway; gorgeous setting for weddings; waiter service at pool and beach. Cons: distant from shopping and other restaurants. www.excellence-resorts.com
Recommended in the Forums: “I’ve stayed at Excellence Punta Cana. It is an adults only resorts with great service and ala carte dining every night with no reservations necessary. It is about an hour away from the airport. There is nightly entertainment, but it is nothing great. There is a tiny casino and a disco also.” — schmerl (more)
Casual and Family-Friendly
Spice Island Beach Resort. Exquisite accommodations in dozens of gleaming white buildings extend along 1,600 feet of Grand Anse Beach. Beachfront “sea grape” suites are one step from the sand, and several luxury pool suites have private gardens and enormous swimming pools. Two suites are specifically designed for people with mobility problems. Enjoy water sports on the beach, play a game of tennis, or borrow a DVD from the library. A massage at Janissa’s Spa is a special treat. Kids enjoy all-day activities at the Nutmeg Pod, which includes a nap room and a four seat Playstation room with kid-size recliner chairs. Pros: elegant and luxurious yet family-friendly and casual; perfect beachfront location; excellent service. Cons: the elegant, table d’hote dining experience every night, while included, may seem limiting—especially for long stays or for families with kids. www.spiceislandbeachresort.com
Recommended in the Forums: “Spice is nice. Actually it’s wonderful, on a fine beach. Grenada is one of the most gorgeous islands anywhere–lush, tropical, nice people.” — xkenx (more)
Explore Nearby: Concord Falls, a series of waterfalls you can hike to.
Simple and Timeless
Pine Cay, Turks & Caicos
Meridian Club. You might feel unplugged when you step onto Pine Cay, since there is no TV, telephone, or traffic to be found on the tiny private island. The charm of this resort, which was built in the 1970s, is that it never changes; it prides itself on simplicity rather than celebrity. The simple beachfront cottages, most of the staff, and what is perhaps the world’s smallest airport (in truth, a gazebo) have all stayed pretty much the same for years. On some nights, you can drive your golf cart to the runway for Drive-In Movie night. Pros: the finest beach in Turks and Caicos; rates include of some of the best food in the Turks and Caicos as well as snorkel trips. Cons: no TVs or phones, so you are really unplugged here; costly to get back to Provo for shopping or other Provo-based excursions or activities. www.meridianclub.com
Recommended in the Forums: “Meridian Club would be great, all inclusive . Fly into Provo, cab to Leeward and boat over to Pine Cay–just a bit longer to get there !! (Well worth it).” — caribzack (more)
James Bond Hideout
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Goldeneye. Whether you’re a James Bond buff or just a fan of luxury getaways, this exclusive address 20 minutes east of Ocho Rios holds special appeal. Once the home of Bond author Ian Fleming, the estate is now one of the unique Island Outpost properties. The resort consists of Fleming’s home, with three bedrooms and an outdoor bathroom, as well as a media room, kitchen, and its own private pool and beach. The 15-acre property includes the main house, complete with its own private pool and beach, and three villas tucked into the lush gardens, each with outdoor showers and lots of privacy. Plans call for the addition of more villas as well as a private residential section. Pros: unique and spacious accommodations; excellent food; plenty of privacy. Cons: remote location limited dining options; may be too quiet for some travelers. www.islandoutpost.com
Explore Nearby: It’s part of the resort, but James Bond Beach is an attraction in its own right.
Remote and Picturesque
Palm Island Resort. Perfect for a honeymoon, rendezvous, or luxurious escape, this palm-studded resort offers five dazzling white-sand beaches, a calm aquamarine sea for swimming and enjoying water sports, nature trails for quiet walks, a pool with waterfall, sophisticated dining, impeccable service, and exquisite accommodations. Picture-perfect Casuarina Beach runs the entire length of the western side of the island. Choose a room in a beachfront cottage, a palm-view room in the garden, a plantation suite (ideal for families), or a beachfront island loft that’s set on stilts. Pros: private and romantic; fabulous beach; great snorkeling right outside beachfront cottages 15 and 16; personal welcome by the general manager upon arrival at the dock. Cons: quiet nights (early to bed and early to rise); fairly isolated. www.palmislandresortgrenadines.com
Recommended in the Forums: “We have been to Palm Island in the Grenadines. It’s about a 45 minutes flight. The food at PI is wonderful. Freshly caught seafood, locally grown vegetables, cheeseburgers, shrimp Angelique, shrimp skewers, pumpkin soup,etc. Plus afternoon tea with pastries, as well as cocktails and hors d’oeuvres before dinner at the bar.” — Knowing (more)
St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Wyndham Sugar Bay Resort & Spa. Though this terra-cotta high-rise is surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery, rooms and the walkways between them have a bit of a generic feel. However, the sixth and seventh levels of building D have spectacular ocean views. A complete renovation added plantation-style guest-room furnishings, plush carpeting, and marble-tile bathrooms. The beach is small, although the nearby pool is replete with waterfalls and colorful cabanas housing hair braiders and henna tattoo artists that make a day of lounging here idyllic. It’s a 99-step hike from guest rooms, however. Health buffs enjoy the full-service spa and health club, as well as the outdoor fitness trail. If you’re feeling lucky, head to the Ocean Club Gaming Center, where there are 95 video slot machines. Pros: gorgeous pool area; full-service spa on-site casino. Cons: some steps to climb; small beach; limited dining options. www.wyndham.com
Recommended in the Forums: “We found Wyndham Sugar Bay to be perfect in most ways. Lots of places to curl up and read a good book or just to let your thoughts drift. We were there with friends and got a cab for things like going to Charlotte Amalie to go through the shops, visit Red Hook and try various restaurants. The nightclub was vibrant, they did a fun game night and most of the food was tempting. Outstanding service and we had a great room. You can explore no matter where you stay, it’s just that the Wyndham is not within walking distance to anything.” — Knowing (more)
Explore Nearby: Seven Arches Museum, a restored 18th-century home that is a striking example of classic Danish-West Indian architecture.
Plan your Caribbean Vacation: Visit our Caribbean Travel Guide
Photo Credits: (1) Courtesy Curtain Bluff (2) Courtesy of Meridian Club