Über-romantic resorts, crystal-clear waters and crescent-shaped beaches make the Caribbean a perennial favorite for honeymooners seeking barefoot bliss. But that doesn’t mean you have to follow in someone else’s footsteps. You want an amazing trip to go along with your new year, new ring and new husband, and there’s always something exciting to check out on these tropical islands. Here, our list of the 10 freshest things to see or do, along with the newest places to stay in the Caribbean.
Photo Credit: Robin Thom
Now that the U.S. has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, this once off-limits island — the Caribbean’s largest — is one of the hottest travel destinations. JetBlue landed the first commercial flight in August 2016 and at press time, eight other major airlines, including Delta, American and Southwest, had been approved for service to Havana from major U.S. cities such as Atlanta, New York, Houston and Los Angeles. The Four Points Havana, the first U.S. hotel to open in 60 years, debuted in 2016 and dozens more hotels are in the pipeline, from Starwood, Sofitel, Banyan Tree and a number of boutique brands. Currently, a people-to-people program is still one of the best ways for private citizens to visit. You can book through a tour operator like InsightCuba or a cruise such as the Carnival-owned Fathom line (from $1,899) which sails year round. But with more flights and independent hotels announced daily, it’s only a matter of time before individual visits become a reality.
Photo courtesy of Evoca Luxury
Cartagena, on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, is another sun-drenched up-and-comer. Honeymooners will delight in all this charming city has to offer from its warm and friendly people to the walled old City featuring colorful, Spanish colonial architecture and narrow cobblestone streets that lead to lively, spacious plazas. By day, meander the historic alleyways and streets lined with churches, museums and stylish cafés. At night, book a romantic dinner for two in any one of the city’s many boutique hotels’ restaurants, and dine in a magical oasis of lush courtyards and twinkling lights hidden behind their high walls. After, enjoy the city’s exuberant nightlife with music and salsa dancing. Stay at the Tcherassi Hotel & Spa, (room rates start at $260 a night) an ultra-chic luxury boutique hotel that was formerly a 7-room property (now renamed the mansión Tcherassi). The 42-room hotel is located in a larger space just steps away. Bonus: The rooftop pool and deck afford stunning 360-degree views of the city and sea.
Photo Credit: Dr. Richard Murphy
Anguilla is one of the Caribbean’s most laid-back, unspoiled islands, with its embargo on cruise ships and hotel towers. But two new sophisticated resorts debuted in 2016. On the sugar-soft sands of Shoal Bay East, the 63-room Zemi Beach House resort & Spa (room rates start at $795 a night) has a Thai-style spa with Anguilla’s largest hamman, and it lives up to the island’s culinary reputation with the Stone restaurant featuring Asian-inspired seasonal dishes (wasabi lobster, sesame octopus) and the rhum room serving more than 100 types of rum. On Barnes Bay, the former Viceroy Anguilla has just been rebranded as the very swank Four Seasons resort and Private residences anguilla (room rates start at $800 a night).
Park Hyatt St. Kitts, St. Kitts
Photo courtesy of Park Hyatt St. Kitts
The once-sleepy island of St. Kitts is garnering buzz with the opening of the Park Hyatt St. Kitts — the first Park Hyatt in the Caribbean. Located on pristine Banana Bay, the 126-room luxury resort features a series of low-rise buildings just steps from the water (some suites have their own rooftop pools). After a day of snorkeling and enjoying an outdoor couples’ massage in the spa (which also offers private yoga), savor a romantic dinner overlooking the island of Nevis in the Great House (room rates start at $400 a night).
Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa, Grand Cayman
Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels
For its first international location, Kimpton Hotels chose Grand Cayman and specifically, the island’s award-winning Seven Mile Beach. Making its debut at the end of 2016, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa features 266 rooms with dramatic dark walls and colorful furnishings, three restaurants and landscaped gardens with a lagoon-style pool, and beyond, that glorious stretch of golden sand. Swimming, snorkeling, sailing — even scuba diving with the hotel’s general manager is on offer. Of course, lounging in a cabana, piña colada in hand, is an option too (room rates start at $339 a night).
Hotel RIU Republica, Dominican Republic
Photo courtesy of RIU Hotels & Resorts
The latest all-inclusive resort to make a splash in the Dominican Republic is the 1,007-room RIU Republica, which opened on Punta Cana’s Arena Gorda beach. This adults-only oasis has plenty of watersports to keep active types happy, and when you need a break, cool down at the two pools equipped with in-pool ceramic loungers or with a rum punch (or two) at the Aquamar swim-up bar. Fuel up at the Asian and Italian buffets or at the steakhouse, and if you still have energy to burn? Hit the pulsing Pacha disco for some late-night, DJ- fueled dancing (room rates start at $165 a night and are all inclusive).
Jean-Michel Cousteau Diving Caribbean, Petit St. Vincent
The Grenadines chain is known for its underwater coral reefs, where tropical fish and colorful sponges congregate. On Petit St. Vincent, an exclusive private island resort, the recently opened Jean- Michel Cousteau Diving Caribbean, a state-of-the-art dive shop and naturalist center owned by the son of legendary ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau, offers snorkeling or scuba diving tours. Go on an expert guided exploration to see green turtles, lionfish and other marine life across the island chain.
Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Jamaica
Jamaica has stunning coastlines, but it also has a lush and scenic interior. On the island’s eastern side the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park was recently designated a Unesco World Heritage Site — the island’s first such distinction. Hike to waterfalls, bike through the foothills of the Blue Mountains or tour a working coffee plantation. After a day of exploring, you’ll have earned your frosty Red Stripe and mouthwatering jerk chicken back at your resort (ask your concierge to arrange a tour to the park).
Fondation Clément, Martinique
Designed by Parisian architects Reichen et Robert & Associés, this new contemporary art gallery is an eye-catching stainless-steel and lava-stone building with a “nave” for oversized works. The gallery is part of Habitation Clément, a historic rum-making plantation. A recent exhibit focused on Franco-Haitian artist Hervé Télémaque, another showcased street art and in 2017 the museum will debut an exhibit marking the 40th anniversary of Paris’s Centre Pompidou.
Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas
Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International
Cruise ships keep getting bigger and Royal Caribbean currently has the world’s largest, the Harmony of the Seas, a 6,360-passenger, 16-deck floating mini metropolis launched in 2016. Passengers can experience 23 pools, 20 restaurants (including an adults-only bistro), awesome Broadway-style shows, shopping areas, massive water slides — even robot bartenders. This year the ship’s Caribbean itineraries include ports of call on islands such as St. Maarten, St. Thomas, Puerto Rico and Haiti.