CARIBBEAN VACATION IDEAS
Insiders' Guide to the Caribbean
Whether you've been to these 10 Caribbean islands once or you're planning your fifteenth visit, we've got the inside scoop on some of the best must-see spots in the islands.
It's easy to get to Jamaica (flights are frequent and relatively cheap) and easier still to find a resort destination for just about every type of traveler: romantic Negril for honeymooners, family-friendly Montego Bay, busy Ocho Rios for cruisers. What's harder is finding an all-inclusive hotel that doesn't sequester you in its own cocoon at the expense of exploring the Jamaican culture beyond. Treasure Beach, on the south coast, is home to just a handful of hotels, all of them small-scale and dedicated to opening their doors to the community. At Marblue Villas Suites, an eight-suite hotel with custom-made local cedar furniture, guests often stray into the nearby fishing villages for coffee, dinner, or drinks (marblue.com, from $111). Jason Henzell's Jakes Hotel, which evokes Moroccan riads with arched doorways and colorful tapestries, is one of the area's largest properties, with 49 rooms, two restaurants, and a spa (jakeshotel.com, from $90). Henzell is committed to helping interested guests connect with their surroundings. On working farms in the nearby Pedro Plains area, the hotel runs a monthly series of organic, local-food dinners, which are drawing Jamaican residents and visitors alike. "There's a vibrancy that leaks into every aspect of life here," says Liz Solms, an NGO veteran who works with local growers to supply the produce for the meal. "It's there in the spiciness and richness of the food, and even in the way people communicate with one another."
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Tobago is like Trinidad's backyard, a 116-square-mile haven just a 20-minute flight on Caribbean Airlines from its bigger, noisier sibling (caribbean-airlines.com, round-trip flights from $48). Where Trinidad has restaurants, nightclubs, and 96 percent of the country's population, Tobago has empty beaches, calm bays, and spectacular brain-coral reefs. There are also almost three times the number of exotic bird species as there are hotels, and the birds have free rein in the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, one of the oldest protected forests in the western hemisphere. When it comes to human nesting, it doesn't get more peaceful than the four-room Gloucester Place Guest House in Parlatuvier, on the island's north coast (gloucesterplace.com, from $110). Shaded by coconut palms and mango trees, the guesthouse even has its own natural waterfall and an infinity pool overlooking the Caribbean.