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Casa Bonita's infinity pool overlooks a tropical forest on the Dominican Republic's southwestern coast. (Photograph by Casa Bonita)

Checking In: Going Small in the Caribbean

Whether you’re hoping to get in some grade-A scuba time or explore a tropical forest, the Caribbean has you covered.

Here are three petite lodges that pack a real luxury punch in paradise:

 Casa Bonita, Barahona, Dominican Republic (from $211)

The Dominican Republic’s antidote to airbrushed Punta Cana: the jungles of Barahona.

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The beach at El Secreto (Photograph courtesy El Secreto)

At this family estate turned eco-resort, the chef tends her organic garden where the owner played as a kid; jewelry made of indigenous larimar stones sparkles in a nearby artisan village. Guests day-trip to see the flamingos of Oviedo Lagoon or stay put for zip-lining through the forest.

 El Secreto, Ambergris Caye, Belize (from $450)

Set on Belize’s largest island, Ambergris Caye, this hotel has just GPS coordinates for an address.

Start your days with fresh-squeezed juice delivered to your villa—one of 13 overlooking the sea, garden, or a saltwater lake—then snorkel at Hol Chan Marine Reserve with sea turtles. Boat into town for shrimp curry at Elvi’s Kitchen. Back at the hotel, dance to weekly Garifuna beats under a starlit sky.

 Boardwalk Hotel, Oranjestad, Aruba (from $185)

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A tropical garden oasis at the Boardwalk Hotel (Photograph by Boardwalk Small Hotel Aruba)

Twin sisters own and operate this boutique hotel located a short walk from Aruba’s white-sand Palm Beach.

Their warm, artful touch shows up throughout the 14 casitas, from walls splashed in Caribbean colors to the glass pitcher of iced tea waiting in the fridge in the full kitchen. The sisters can also direct you to favorite local restaurants such as breakfast takeout spot Mi Boca Dushi.

This piece, which appeared in the February/March 2014 issue of Traveler magazine, was reported by Amy Alipio, Katie Knorovsky, and Celeste Moure.