The Caribbean Quickie
Your favorite islands are now a nonstop flight away. The warm blue water is reason enough to go, but let us fill you in on a few more excuses to pack your bags.
BEACH AND FEAST
Get there American Airlines has new nonstop service from Miami seven days a week.
Reason to go now Few Caribbean islands are celebrated for their food, but tiny St. Kitts is one of the exceptions. An outpost of stately sugar plantations and white sands, the isle has landed on the culinary map thanks to the newly opened Beach House, a restaurant in a colonial mansion on Turtle Beach. Executive chef George Reid, a transplant from Anguilla's famed Cap Juluca resort, specializes in Caribbean fare that borrows inventively from French, Spanish, African, and Dutch cooking. After you've feasted on his cumin-crusted wild swordfish or lobster gumbo, head to the restaurant's outdoor pavilion to sample from the cigar and rum menu (869/469-5299, stkittsbeachhouse.com, entrées from $14). Later this month, the oceanfront Carambola Beach Club restaurant opens on South Friar's Bay. The place gets its name from the Averrhoa carambola, or star fruit, which is put to punchy use from the starters to the desserts. Nab one of the 12 beach cabanas—they have waiter service and prime sunset views (869/465-9090, carambolabeachclub.com).
Beach locals love Schools of yellowtail snapper, balahoo, and angelfish surround the reef near Cockleshell Beach, a two-mile-long stretch on the southern coast that's often empty during the week. At the entrance, the new Reggae Beach Bar & Grill serves conch fritters and jumbo coconut shrimp (869/762-5050, reggaebeachbar.com, appetizers from $7).
Place to stay St. Kitts has blessedly few hotels. A standout is the Ocean Terrace Inn, where each of the 71 rooms has a private balcony overlooking the Caribbean. The one-bedroom suites come with kitchenettes, but there's no need to do your own cooking. The hotel has a West Indian restaurant, a poolside bar and grill, and an oceanfront spot that specializes in lobster and mahimahi cooked over an open flame (800/524-0512, oceanterraceinn.com, from $195 in high season). —Amy Chen
Have a ball Isabelle Carr has been concocting her JC's Tamarind Balls, a sweet-and-sour snack made from native tamarind fruit, for more than 20 years (City Drug Store, 869/465-2156, $1).
ADVENTURES 'R' US
Get there Cayman Airways has new nonstop flights from Washington, D.C., operating Wednesdays and Saturdays, and just introduced nonstop flights from Chicago on Wednesdays and Sundays.
Reason to go now The beyond-belief underwater world of the Caymans—made up of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman—keeps expanding. Offshore from the recently opened Lighthouse Point, a condo resort in Grand Cayman's West Bay, divers can investigate a newly accessible 19th-century shipwreck (345/946-5658, lighthouse-point-cayman.com, daily tank rental $5). And come June, another vessel is joining the graveyard off Grand Cayman's Seven Mile Beach: Local authorities plan to sink the USS Kittiwake, a WWII American rescue ship, to create a 250-foot-long reef.
Beach locals love With its unusually smooth waters, Barker's Beach, on the west side of Grand Cayman, is a favorite, especially among kiteboarders out to test tricks. Ready to join them? For advanced wave riders, Ocean Frontiers gives lessons at Barker's. Beginners can learn the sport (picture balancing on a surfboard as a kite whisks you across the waves) on the even calmer East End Sound. For gondolier wannabes, the company also offers stand-up paddleboarding clinics (800/348-6096, oceanfrontiers.com, lessons from $250).
Place to stay The oceanfront Little Cayman Beach Resort has a collection of Hobie cats and kayaks—and a fresh new look. In December, all 40 rooms got a makeover: Out went the dated wicker furniture and grandmotherly wallpaper borders; in came maple furniture and granite countertops. Sign on with the dive shop for a scuba trip to the Bloody Bay Wall, breeding grounds of the rare longsnout seahorse (800/327-3835, littlecayman.com, from $175 in high season). —Alison Rohrs
The Cayman safari Grand Cayman is the only place on the planet where the five-foot-long Blue Iguana exists. The Blue Iguana Recovery Program organizes daily outings to catch glimpses of the creature, including a behind-the-scenes tour of an egg-hatching center (345/947-6050, blueiguana.ky, $30).