FOR ANYONE eager to thaw out this winter on a sun-drenched beach in the Caribbean, a word of caution: Brace yourself for sticker shock. Room rates at the luxury hotels have risen considerably since before the pandemic, nearly 25% in some cases, said Melissa Pugh, a Jet World Travel consultant who specializes in high-end Caribbean vacations. “Covid was very expensive for a lot of hotels and still is,” she explained, attributing the price hike, in part, to staffing shortages and enhanced cleaning and safety protocols. Yet, even the soaring costs aren’t enough to quell demand, and the region’s most popular luxury resorts are rapidly booking up.
Luckily, thrifty sunseekers can still find reasonably affordable, attractive accommodations scattered throughout the Caribbean. Below, we’ve zeroed in on six favorites, from a 155-room resort in Belize to a four-bedroom villa in Tobago. They may not be as well-known as their competitors but they’re well located—on or near the sea—and uncrowded. As for the current Covid regulations, each country has its own set of requirements. Be sure to inquire with the hotel before booking about the most recent vaccination and testing policies in place and check the latest health information on the CDC website.
A Seafront Condo in Anguilla Built for Privacy
Long and skinny Anguilla is known for its translucent water and some of the region’s finest beaches. And now American Airlines flies direct from Miami. A 20-minute taxi ride from the airport, on Meads Bay Beach, Tranquility Beach Resort houses 15 condos—all with sea views, five are beachfront and three have three bedrooms. Built for privacy, each condo unit comes with a fully equipped kitchen and a hot tub on the balcony. A short walk along the sand leads to a number of seaside restaurants. From $575 a night, with a three-night minimum
A Belizean Resort for the Young and Restless
A new Autograph Collection hotel on Belize’s Ambergris Caye, Alaia Belize caters to a younger crowd drawn to the sleekly designed digs, oceanfront location and full slate of outdoor diversions (see the “adventure concierge” for beach barbecue logistics). The spare sophistication at play (created by Brazilian interior designer Debora Aguiar) comes across in natural textures, reclaimed wood and greenery in the 155 airy guest rooms. After an arduous day of cavetubing, a sip of Sancerre on the rooftop lounge and pool area resets the mood—likewise the view of the twinkling lights of the town of San Pedro. From about $399 a night
At Home in Tobago
The smaller, quieter isle of the dual-island nation, Trinidad and Tobago, is known for its teeming rainforests, sandy beaches and what the locals call blue food or ground provision (root vegetable staples such as dasheen, yams and cassava). Base yourself at the four-bedroom Nirvana Tobago Luxury Villa, a private vacation rental, and you can easily pretend you’re a local yourself. The saltwater pool and palatial outdoor patio were designed to facilitate lazy lounging. The second floor balcony has a clear view of the ocean—the beach is less than a mile away—and the kitchen garden supplies pimento peppers and fresh herbs including shadow benny, an island favorite. Not interested in cooking on your vacation? A private on-call chef can do the shopping and prepare meals. From $550 a night, with a 2-night minimum.
Breezy Dominican Days
On the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, the beachfront Natura Cabana Boutique Hotel & Spa comprises 12 thatched-roof bungalows, with one to three bedrooms. Rather than air-conditioning, each of the bungalows has ceiling fans and screened windows to make the most of the sea breeze, as well as hammocks strung up on the balcony. The two hotel restaurants—both open air, both facing the sea—lean heavily on organic ingredients and offer a number of gluten-free and vegan options. After your breakfast mango, passion fruit and mint smoothie, wander over to the hotel’s Yoga Temple, where classes are held most mornings (and evenings). To explore farther afield, consult the long list of outdoor excursions, including jungle river tours, kayaking or kite-surfing lessons. From $190 a night
A Turtle Sanctuary in Trinidad
In February, in most years, the island of Trinidad erupts in nonstop Carnival festivities. But venture deep into the northeastern side of the island, away from the bustle, and you’ll find Acajou Hotel in the fishing village of Grande Riviere. A family-run hotel, it consists of just six wooden, Asian-inspired cottages nestled between the beach or river and rainforest. Some cottages offer sea views; all are so well concealed behind thick stands of trees that you could lean out the window and grab a coconut. The hotel also has a restaurant that incorporates produce and fish from the local farmers and fishermen into its dishes, but as an extra precaution against Covid, meals are currently only served in the rooms or on the cottage’s private decks. For activities, you can take a guided hike or bird-watching excursion. The big draw of Grande Riviere is the chance to see leatherback turtles waddling along the shoreline. The beach is one of the largest nesting sites for the species and guests can visit them with a guide starting in March. From $145 a night.
Treehouses for Grown-ups in Jamaica
The Sunset at the Palms in Negril—Jamaica’s famously lively tourist town—is an adults-only, all-inclusive resort. The 85 guest rooms, billed as “treehouses,” are air-conditioned wooden cottages built on stilts and set on the lushly planted grounds. In addition to weekly cocktail events and nightly entertainment, Sunset at the Palms’ all-inclusive package also includes watersports and meals at the three resort restaurants. For lunch, that means you can grab both a jerk chicken sandwich and a burger from the Palm Breeze Beach Bar & Grill, then stretch out on the white sand of Bloody Bay, across the street. From about $575 a night
—Additional reporting by Donna Bulseco
New on the Scene
If you’re up for a more indulgent getaway, try one of these splashy newcomers
Estates of Play
Moskito Island in the British Virgin Islands is home to just 10 homes, three of which are part of
Virgin Limited Edition collection and now available to rent. Among them: The Point, which sleeps 22, features open-air great rooms, two thatched-roof master suites, a bunkroom for the kiddos and a colossal infinity pool. The groovier four-story Oasis, a modernist domain housing 18, affords lots of privacy as well as picturesque communal areas for cozying up on cushy daybeds for movie nights. Chefs cater to culinary whims so guests don’t have to work the grill—who has the energy after all those laps in the wraparound pool? The Point, from $25,000 a night; the Oasis from $28,000 a night
Gorgeous scenery is a plus for golfers, but a challenging course is the real deal at the Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club, which opened in December on Rendezvous Bay. But tee-time isn’t the only distraction: Bird-watchers hop over to Sombrero Island with a naturalist; spelunkers explore local caves; budding athletes refine their pickle ball moves. Distinctive, too, are the food options: Chef Abram Bissell earned his chops at New York’s Eleven Madison Park. From about $1,000 a night
Glamorous St. Barts is “all about beach-hopping and see-and-be-seen spots,” said Jet World Travel consultant Melissa Pugh, who singled out Hotel Barrière Le Carl Gustaf for its easy access to everything. The 21-room historic hotel was taken over by French hotel brand Barrière and reopened in October on a hill above the sparkling port-city of Gustavia. The refreshed interiors by French interior design firm Gilles & Boissier also give it a sunny refinement for guests who like the crisp clean vibe and nothing more than to shelter under a taupe beach parasol all day long. Before you pack your bags, take heed: The Covid restrictions on St. Barts change frequently. “Double check everything,” Ms. Pugh advised. From about $1,020 a night
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Corrections & Amplifications
Aurora Anguilla Resort & Golf Club opened in December on Rendezvous Bay. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said that the resort opened in November. (Corrected on Jan. 28)
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