Read Caption
Photo courtesy of Karibuni Lodge
TravelTraveler Magazine

Hotel Central: Caribbean Escapes

Four new island hotels offer nature, tranquillity, and just the right amount of creature comforts.

By Margaret Loftus

From the November/December issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine.

Forget the impersonal mega-resorts; the latest batch of Caribbean hotels is more intimate and organic, reflecting the character of each island.

Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia After spending years restoring the old plantation house and cocoa groves at Rabot Estate, a St. Lucia cocoa farm that dates to 1745,British chocolatiers opened their hotel to guests last February. Several of the six cottages and villas (opening in December) feature generous front porches, open-sky showers, and views of the twin volcanic Pitons and Caribbean Sea. And the chocolate theme is no gimmick: Guests are invited to make their own chocolate starting with plucking cocoa pods from the trees, the chef uses cocoa in dishes like yellowfin tuna with cocoa pesto, and the spa’s signature treatment includes a massage with estate-grown cocoa oil. From $450.

Karibuni Lodge, St. Martin Heartened by a yearlong stint in Kenya, Erick and Marion Clement christened their six-room boutique hotel overlooking the Bay of Cul de Sac in the northern part of French St. Martin “Karibuni,” the Swahili word for welcome. The hotel is located across the bay from the Clements’ popular restaurant and uses local materials to create a tropical-meets-modern look: waxed concrete floors, custom-made hardwood furniture, and splashes of bold color. Each suite features a sitting area, kitchenette, and a private terrace with views of Little Key and Pinel islets, a short boat ride away. From $280.

Secret Bay, Dominica Perched on the coastal cliffs of northwest Dominica, the four villas and bungalows of Secret Bay look out onto rain-forested mountains that slope down to the sea. Venezuelan architect Fruto Vivas used sustainably sourced Guyanese greenheart hardwood and floor-to-ceiling windows for a design reminiscent of a tree house, albeit one with sleek appliances and secluded deck and pool or Jacuzzi. Be a hermit—rooms feature Kindles loaded with newspapers—or venture out with house kayaks, snorkeling gear, or mountain bikes to explore the two beaches nearby, an underwater sea cave, and the Cario River. From $252.

St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico Set on a former coconut plantation at the foot of the El Yunque rain forest, this hotel was designed and constructed with the rich biodiversity of its surroundings in mind, earning it top honors from sustainable building nonprofit Audubon International. The plantation-style property features modern rooms with classic Caribbean accents like recessed beamed ceilings, rattan ceiling fans, and private terraces. Hydroponic and raised-bed gardens grow vegetables and herbs used at Fern, the French-Asian restaurant run by Jean-Georges Vongerichten. From $439.

Tell us about another relaxing retreat in the Caribbean. Leave us the details in the comments section below.

Subscribe to National Geographic Traveler magazine.