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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 laid-back Bird Rock Beach Hotel, there's an outfitter for diving and fishing (800/621-1270, birdrockbeach.com, from $90). The Ocean Terrace Inn has three swimming pools, and it's only a quarter-mile walk to the city of Basseterre (800/524-0512, oceanterraceinn.com, from $109).
The island boasts long stretches of beach with white, golden, and volcanic sand. The verdant interior, meanwhile, is home to some of the region's best hiking.
Must-do: The hard-to-miss Pitons--St. Lucia's twin volcanic peaks--overlook Soufrière harbor. The larger Gros Piton is the only one you can climb. Self-guided treks are prohibited, but Gros Piton Tours leads four-hour hikes (758/489-0136, $25).
Where to stay: A family-run guesthouse, La Haut Plantation has 13 hillside rooms. Like its infinity pool, most have a view of the Pitons (758/459-7008, lahaut.com, from $100). Ti Kaye Village Resort is 75 minutes from the airport, but you'll be rewarded with one of 33 ocean-view rooms and cottages, each with a veranda and a hammock (758/456-8101, tikaye.com, from $175, includes breakfast).
Did you know? Two Nobel laureates hail from St. Lucia: Derek Walcott (Literature, 1992) and Sir Arthur Lewis (Economics, 1979).
ST. MARTIN/ST. MAARTEN
About half the size of Washington, D.C., the island is the smallest landmass in the world to be shared by two countries: the Netherlands (St. Maarten) and France (St. Martin).
Must-do: At Loterie Farm, a 150-acre nature reserve on the French side, take a hike among mahogany and mango trees--or sail between the trees on zip lines in the Fly Zone (011-590/590-87-86-16, loteriefarm.net, admission $5, Fly Zone $40).
Where to stay: Right on the French side of the border, the family-run Les Balcons d'Oyster Pond rents bungalows with marina views (011-590/590-29-43-39, lesbalcons.com, from $120). Another winner, on the Dutch side, is the Pasanggrahan Royal Guest House, a former governor's estate. The name derives from an Indonesian word for "place of rest," and the four-poster beds and open-air dining options certainly make it feel that way (011-599/599-542-3588, pasanhotel.com, from $158).
TRINIDAD & TOBAGO
Trinidad, the larger member of the two-island nation, is home to the modern capital, Port-of-Spain. Sleepier Tobago has quiet beaches and towns. Just north of Venezuela, the islands are among the most ethnically diverse in the Caribbean.
Must-do: Scope out parrots and hummingbirds in the rain forest at Trinidad's Asa Wright Nature Centre (868/667-4655, asawright.org, $10). In Tobago, go snorkeling at Angel Reef, off the fishing village of Speyside (868/660-4888, tobagodiveexperience.com, $25).
Where to stay: Rooms at Coblentz Inn Boutique Hotel have themes reflecting Trinidad's heritage (868/621-0541, coblentzinn.com, from $180, includes breakfast and minibar). Pax Guest House, on a historic Benedictine estate along Trinidad's Northern Range, offers spectacular views of the rain forest (868/662-4084, paxguesthouse.com, from $45). On Tobago, Kariwak Village is a family-run holistic retreat where guests bliss out with outdoor yoga and tai chi sessions (868/639-8442, kariwak.com, from $125). Adventure Eco Villas is on a 12-acre organic fruit farm. The beach is a five-minute walk (868/639-2839, adventure-ecovillas.com, from $130).
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