The Caribbean's cool blue mosaic of beach-fringed islands—always a perfect playground for sun-loving newlyweds—may seem sleepy at times. And yet recent resort renovations and hotel, restaurant and spa openings mean there are plenty of very modern reasons to honeymoon in the region. Get the scoop on the latest innovations from Aruba to the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The sun-kissed Caribbean is comprised of more than 7,000 islands, islets and cays (pronounced “keys”). The region is divided into three main regions—the lesser Antilles, the Greater Antilles, which include the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos, and the West Indies, so named after Christopher Columbus’s voyage there in 1492.
New Addition: Adults-only pool at Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
This breezy southern Caribbean isle is beloved for its sunshine and out-of-the-hurricane zone location, meaning it’s always the perfect time to choose a pair of chaises, order tropical cocktails and chill. Since November, that’s been a lot easier at this 411-room resort, which added an exclusive adults-only pool on the heels of a $50-million resort-wide renovation that gave rooms a contemporary feel. The new pool is 94 feet long by 43 feet wide with an adjacent bar and an enormous deck with nine private cabanas (room rates start at $569 a night; arubamarriott.com).
Evening sparkles at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino (Photo Courtesy of Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino)
Renovation: The Fairmont Royal Pavilion
There’s a certain charm to Barbados that’s steeped in British colonial-era tradition—from cricket matches to afternoon tea—and even after a facelift, the 72-room, coral-colored luxury Fairmont Royal Pavilion resort still offers plenty of it. The 48 refreshed oceanfront deluxe rooms and 24 new beachfront junior suites face the champagne-hued sand and turquoise sea. Each is decorated in sunny tones. But don’t let all this refined elegance fool you: Barbadians love their rum, so sunsets on the pool deck and in the airy, palm-lined lounge can be fairly lively (room rates start at $430 a night; fairmont.com).
Renovation & New Addition: Tamarind
Formerly known as Tamarind Cove, this 104-room resort on Barbados’s popular west coast underwent a bold facelift. By dropping the “cove,” adding an intimate spa with its own relaxation pool and giving guest rooms a contemporary edge, Tamarind has distinguished itself from its more classic neighbors. The hotel also revamped its two restaurants, creating the open-air Rilaks deck, and 246 Bar & Restaurant, a beachfront all-day dining venue with live music on some evenings (room rates start at $669 a night and include breakfast and some activities; tamarindbarbados.com).
The pretty pool at Tamarind on the island's west coast. (Photo Courtesy of Elegant Hotels Group Barbados)
New Opening: Rosalie Bay Resort
Small, eco-friendly and under-the-radar, Dominica is the ideal locale for this 22- acre hilltop nature resort that opened in November 2010. Built by local residents, Rosalie Bay Resort features 10 tranquil cottages holding 28 guest rooms that mix traditional Caribbean construction and decor with contemporary and African-inspired touches. Highlights include hand-carved four-poster beds and verandas with old-fashioned swings. The resort is located near Rosalie bay, a protected nesting beach for sea turtles (room rates start at $250 a night and include breakfast; rosaliebay.com).
New Opening: Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana
An all-inclusive resort debuting in the Dominican Republic is not exactly breaking news, as this popular island’s beaches are lined with hotels where almost everything—from food to cocktails to water sports—is included in the nightly rate. But the 373-room Secrets Royal Beach Punta Cana, opened in may 2011, may be extra appealing to couples since it’s not only new but also adults-only. Add in vibrant tropical decor, three restaurants and five bars (plus dining privileges at the adjacent family-friendly now Larimar Punta Cana), as well as the secrets spa by Pevonia, a nightclub and casino and the result is definitely not kids’ stuff (room rates start at $380 a night, all-inclusive; secretsresorts.com).
New Opening: Now Larimar Punta Cana
The sister property to secrets royal beach, this 642-room resort, also opened in May 2011, is set on a 700-yard white-sand beach. There are five swimming pools, seven restaurants and nine bars. Since it welcomes children and has a separate kids’ pool, it makes a great all-inclusive option for a multi-generation destination wedding. Before and after the big day, everyone can have fun on the ocean trampoline, beach volleyball court and euro bungee (room rates start at $246 a night, all- inclusive; nowresorts.com/larimar).
A look at the new Now Larimar on the Dominican Republic. (Photo Courtesy of Now Resorts & Spas)
Renovation: GoldenEye Hotel & Resort
If the name of this secluded resort on the lush north coast sounds Bond-like, that’s because it’s the former estate of 007 creator Ian Fleming. Re-opened in late 2010 after an expansion, the 52-acre enclave now features 21 units, including nine new beach cottages, six new lagoon suites, five updated villas, as well as Fleming’s original villa, where he wrote 14 Bond novels. Part of the island outpost hotel group, GoldenEye mixes modern Jamaican design with barefoot-chic ambience and has two restaurants, Bizot bar and the gazebo, with locally- inspired menus and a signature rum cocktail (room rates start at $840 a night and include breakfast; goldeneye.com).
Bond, James Bond. Ian Fleming created his master spy here at the GoldenEye. (Photo Courtesy of Islande Outpost)
The sugar-sand beaches of Jamaica. (Photo Courtesy of Island Outpost)
Renovation: Four Seasons Resort Nevis
After a more than two-year closure to repair hurricane damage, fans of Four Seasons were happy to welcome back this 196-room and 40-villa property—the company’s only resort in the Caribbean. Rather than just a touch-up, the 20-year-old property, set on pretty Pinney’s beach, underwent a major renovation that gave its guest rooms and public spaces a contemporary Caribbean ambience; rooms and suites still have mahogany beds, but the decor is now in chic tones of butter, blue and white. There are also four restaurants and a spa located in charming Nevis-inspired gingerbread cottages (room rates start at $595 a night; fourseasons.com).
Renovation: San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino
Condado beach is one of the top nightlife areas in the capital city of San Juan, and one of the most popular places to party—the 1309 lobby bar of the 525-room San Juan Marriott Resort, which features live Latin music nightly—has just gone glam with a $2.2 million facelift. Finished in November, the lobby is now awash in rich wood tones, a palette of sophisticated earth hues and sleek metal accents. This revamp follows a $2 million renovation in mid-2011 of the resort’s two restaurants, while room interiors were completely redone a few years ago (room rates start at $245 a night; marriott.com).
A Ritz-Carlton Reserve property will open on Puerto Rico later in the year. (Photo Courtesy of the Ritz Carlton)
New Opening: The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort
This sultry, salsa-loving island hadn’t had a five-star resort open in a decade until the luxe 139-room St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort debuted in Rio Grande on a 483-acre former coconut plantation with two miles of beach. The refined property is home to Fern, a signature restaurant by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, an enormous Remede Spa and a Robert Trent Jones, Jr.-designed golf course (room rates start at $759 a night; stregisbahiabeach.com).
The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort is sumptuous and breezy. (Photo Courtesy of The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort)
New Opening: Turtle Beach Bungalows at Christophe Harbour
The four hand-hewn wooden bungalows are just the beginning. Opened in December 2010, they are the first phase in a planned 2,500-acre golf-and-marina development called Christophe Harbour. But for now, they make a low-key hideaway for couples, offering private plunge pools, direct beach access and dining at the Beach House restaurant and the newly-opened Pavilion beach club. Décor is Caribbean contemporary with vaulted ceilings, louvered shades and marble bathrooms with rain showers (room rates start at $550 a night and some include breakfast and some activities; turtlebeachbungalows.com).
Sun sets on the new Turtle Beach Bungalows at Christophe Harbour. (Photo Courtesy of Christophe Harbour)
Renovation: The BodyHoliday
This good-for-you all-inclusive (nightly rates include not only meals but also one 50-minute spa treatment per person per day, and activities from scuba to Tai Chi) re-opened in October after a $20 million makeover. The facelift made style-savvy changes to the public spaces and added a Penthouse Suite with a private steam room and marble-slab heated massage bed. The lobby is now awash in cool and contemporary blue and beige, while the ambience and menus at the five restaurants, including Asian eatery TAO, have been modernized. A two-level infinity pool with underwater seating, an expanded water-sports center and the addition of a couple’s suite to the wellness center round out the upgrades (room rates start at $547, per person, per night; all-inclusive; thebodyholiday.com).
Renovation: Frenchman’s Reef & Morning Star Marriott Resort
A great view only goes so far—sometimes a little design magic is needed to make what’s on the inside equally as fabulous. And that’s what happened this past summer during a $48 million makeover at this iconic 386-room resort above Charlotte Amalie Harbor. The rooms in the main tower now feature state-of-the-art technology and rain showers. The fitness center was updated. And the beachfront resort’s main pool was totally transformed into two aquatic neighborhoods: a freeform infinity area with Jacuzzis and a kids’ pool with interactive elements and a water cascade (room rates start at $250 a night; frenchmansreefmarriott.com).
ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES
Renovation: Petit St. Vincent
No worries—the upgrade at this unplugged 115-acre private-island resort did not include TVs or phones. Renovated under new ownership and re-opened in November, the special tranquility, get-away-from-it-all vibe and natural beauty (it’s ringed by two miles of beach) that made it so revered among solace seekers have remained. What has changed? All 22 cottages now have air conditioning, remodeled bathrooms, custom-made beds and furnishings. A new spa and a casual beach bar and restaurant are the main added social amenities, but if you simply want to cloister yourselves in your cottage and order room service (by raising a flag), you still can (room rates start at $1,050 a night and include meals; psvresort.com).
The gloriously unplugged private island resort. (Photo Credit: Mike Toy)
TURKS & CAICOS
New Addition: Grace Bay Club
Following a $1 million renovation, you can now enjoy a view of Grace Bay’s shimmering sand and brilliant blue sea while underwater—from the uber-luxe resort’s new glass-edged, adults-only infinity pool. Added in November 2010, the streamlined pool is more than twice the size of the original one. The renovation also enhanced the resort’s Infiniti Bar, which at 90 feet is the longest bar in the Caribbean, as well as the Anani Spa and fitness center (room rates start at $995 a night and include breakfast; gracebayclub.com).
The sleek hotel in Turks &Caicos is a celeb favorite. (Photos courtesy of Grace Bay Club)