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Nonstop Caribbean: Fly Right to the Beach
When the days grow chilly, it's time for a long weekend on the beach. We've compiled a list of every island you can reach nonstop from the mainland U.S. and Canada—because nothing kills the fun like a layover.
Where to stay: At the beachside Coral Cove Cottages, terra-cotta-roofed cottages sit on five peaceful acres of hillside gardens (473/444-4422, coralcovecottages.com, from $140). La Sagesse is a former plantation home on a secluded beach (473/444-6458, lasagesse.com, from $170).
Guadeloupe is an archipelago with a land area of more than 580 square miles, the majority of which is made up of Grand-Terre and Basse-Terre, adjoining islands shaped like a giant butterfly.
Must-do: On Basse-Terre's northern tip, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies has more than 900 plant species (011-590/590-284-302, jardin-botanique.com, $19).
Where to stay: The 10 rooms at Amaudo Hôtel, on the south coast of Grand-Terre, have terraces overlooking the sea (011-590/590-888-700, im-caraibes.com/cocolo, from $179).
Did you know? In 1976, Guadeloupe was evacuated when La Soufrière, on Basse-Terre, threatened to erupt. Werner Herzog made a film about it.
Everything seems a bit more vibrant here, and the lilting patois of the locals makes everything sound sunnier. The main entry points for U.S. travelers are Kingston and Montego Bay.
Must-do: Kingston's Bob Marley Museum is where the legend lived until he died in 1981 (876/927-9152, bobmarley-foundation.com, $10). In Montego Bay, taste authentic Jamaican jerk chicken at the Pork Pit (27 Gloucester Ave., 876/940-3008, $3).
Where to stay: For the all-inclusive experience, it's hard to beat the five pools, waterslides, a beach, and water sports and activities at Starfish Trelawny Resort & Spa in Montego Bay (877/467-8737, starfishresorts.com, web-only rate from $89). In the heart of Mo' Bay, but isolated from the action, El Greco Resort is an all-suite complex on a hill above Doctor's Cave Beach, which is accessible by elevator (888/354-7326, elgrecojamaica.com, from $125). If you are flying into Kingston, consider Morgan's Harbour Hotel and Marina. Lime Cay beach is a 10-minute boat ride away (876/967-8040, morgansharbour.com, from $117, includes breakfast). Or see another side of the island at Forres Park Guest House, on a coffee farm near the Blue Mountains (876/927-8275, forrespark.com, from $80).
A U.S. territory since 1917, Puerto Rico has more to offer than bustling San Juan. There are also nonstops from the mainland to Aguadilla, on the west coast, and Ponce, on the south coast.
Must-do: Hike to 35-foot-tall La Mina Falls, where there's a natural pool, in El Yunque National Forest (Rte. 191, 787/888-1880, www.fs.fed.us/r8/caribbean, free).
Where to stay: About 15 minutes by car from Old San Juan, the art deco Normandie Hotel was renovated in 2004 (787/729-2929, normandiepr.com, from $145). In Ponce's historic zone, Hotel Melia has 73 rooms, some with balconies over the plaza (787/842-0260, hotelmeliapr.com, from $105). La Rosa Inglesa is a hilltop B&B in Rincón, about a 30-minute drive from Aguadilla; there's a pool and three suites (787/823-4032, larosainglesa.com, from $100).
Sugar production once made St. Kitts one of the Caribbean's richest nations, but it's now known more for tourism.
Must-do: Built by slaves, Brimstone Hill Fortress is both a moving look at St. Kitts's history and a vantage point from which you can see Nevis (869/465-2609, brimstonehillfortress.org, $8).