The Best New Caribbean Deals for 2011!
From swish $80 suites in the Grenadines to Jamaica's own gondola rides, the Caribbean is full of surprises this season. The biggest shock? What you'll end up paying.
Bay Gardens Beach Resort
Small-inn feel, big-resort perks
In general, travelers to the Caribbean have two clear-cut options when booking hotels: smaller, intimate inns or larger resorts with serious services. St. Lucia's Bay Gardens Beach Resort bridges the gap. The 72-room hotel, on two-mile Reduit Beach immediately west of Rodney Bay, occupies a series of three-story houses that wrap around a doughnut-shaped pool and a beachfront restaurant. Visitors can choose between rooms or full suites (with kitchens), and from enough activities to fill two vacations: There's a dive shop, water-sports center, spa, yoga studio, deli, two restaurants, four separate bars, nightly concerts, and even perfor-mances by fire-eating dancers. If it starts to feel like a circus, the almost entirely St. Lucian staff balances the experience with deep local knowledge you won't find elsewhere. 877/620-3200, baygardensbeachresort.com, from $155.
Anse la Raye
Town-wide fish fry
Each Friday, shortly before sunset, the St. Lucian hamlet of Anse La Raye plays host to one of the Caribbean's most distinctive food events: the fish fry. Within the two dozen or so food stalls on Front Street—right along the beach—you'll find everything from grilled dorado and red snapper to octopus, shrimp, conch, and even lobster, depending on the day's catch. After rounding out the mix with staples like fresh bakes (fry bread), accras (salt-cod fritters), and plantains, diners can head down to the beach to claim a picnic table in the sand. The bill? About $10. Off Mole St., stlucia.org.
BRITISH VIRGIN ISLANDS
Guavaberry Spring Bay Vacation Homes
Covetable private cottages
There are few spots more scenic than the Baths on Virgin Gorda—the idyllic, boulder-flanked grottoes are a staple of postcards and posters. And therein lies the challenge. How do you see them without the crowds? The answer comes in the form of the Guavaberry Spring Bay Vacation Homes, a collection of stilted, stand-alone one-, two-, or three-bedroom cottages with full kitchens, just a 10-minute walk from the Baths. The plan: Spend an afternoon relaxing on the beach at Spring Bay, a few minutes north of Guavaberry; then, as the sun starts to sink, walk south to the Baths. You should arrive just in time for sunset—exactly when all the day-trippers from neighboring Tortola are packing up. 284/495-5227, guavaberryspringbay.com, from $150.
BEST BARGAIN ALL-INCLUSIVES (UNDER $200!)
Since the first Club Med opened in Mallorca 60 years ago, all-inclusive resorts have spread to every corner of the globe, many of them in the Caribbean. They all claim to offer good value, but some can cost upwards of $700 a night. We scoured the field for four where you can find a room (and drinks and activities—and everything else) for less than $200.
RIU HOTELS & RESORTS
One of the largest chains in the Caribbean, Riu has 23 hotels in Cancún and the Riviera Maya, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Aruba. Most resorts are high-rises that flank sprawling, free-form swimming pools, the Riu signature. Best value: Doubles typically start around $200 a night, but rates at ClubHotel Riu Bachata in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, are only $98 and up. riu.com.
BARCELÓ HOTELS & RESORTS
Perhaps owing to the predominantly European clientele, Barceló's 14 Caribbean hotels—five on the Riviera Maya and seven in the Dominican Republic—come off like Mediterranean transplants, with antipasto set out for lunch and loungers on the beachfront. Best value: Doubles start at $152 in the Barceló Bávaro Palace in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. barcelo.com.
BREEZES RESORTS & SPAS
With four resorts in Jamaica, one in the Bahamas, and one in Curaçao, Breezes tailors each property to its customers, from the family focus of Trelawny to the couples-centric vibe of the Breezes Bahamas. Best value: Off-season specials at the Breezes Runaway Bay Resort & Golf Club in Jamaica can go for as low as $175 a night. breezes.com.
GRAND PINEAPPLE BEACH RESORTS
Barely 2 years old, the Grand Pineapple Beach properties are the more moderately priced face of the successful Sandals luxury chain. With one resort in Negril and one in Antigua, the resorts are both family-friendly (tours are available to water parks and zip lines) and ideal for basic beach lovers. Best value: Doubles in low-rise cottages at the Negril outpost start at $176. grandpineapple.com.