Jakes Treasure Beach on Jamaica’s south coast caters to travelers who seek eclectic accommodations. A small, eco-conscious boutique resort that sparkles with personality, Jakes is comprised of a collection of thirty rooms, six cottages and three villas, including the Seaweed Luxury Villa, pictured here. Each lodging option has its own inventive vibe, but all are artistically integrated into their surroundings and were born of designs created by the resort’s proprietor, an artist who grew up in a tiny cottage on the property (that quirky cottage, called Treasure’s Cot, is available for booking, too).
Villa Serena, called one of the world’s “Best Affordable Island Hotels” by Travel + Leisure, is located on the unchartered peninsula of Samana, Dominican Republic, where fronds of palm and coconut trees shade a sugary beach that edges against calm turquoise waters. If you’re primarily after a gorgeous, high-definition setting for your getaway, Villa Serena is a budget-aware option that occupies a stretch of pristine oceanfront on the jewel-like bay of Las Galeras, and even more unspoiled beaches are a short walk, drive, hike, or horseback ride away.
Named for the ancient walled city of Tulum, which includes some of the best-preserved coastal Mayan ruins in Mexico, the Maya Tulum Wellness Retreat is host to a full schedule of spiritual, yoga, and wellness retreats and events, like the Bak’Tun Retreat for the New Mayan Cycle, held in April and November. Year-round holistic programs include meditation, yoga, and other healing arts—all designed to compliment and honor the sacred spiritual energies of the ancient Mayan culture and its enduring ruins, located just a few miles down the coast.
Westin Aruba stands out as an entertainment resort with an on-site, recently revamped casino featuring 300 slots and games like Caribbean Poker and Black Jack, plus an amusement menu packed with happy hour games, comedy shows, nine restaurants, and even a poolside movie night. Kids, for their part, are welcomed with events like marshmallow roasts, trips to a nearby butterfly farm, and the Westin Little Chefs cooking classes. The complex is also steps to the beach, for water activities like deep sea fishing, scuba diving and sailing. In short, the Westin Aruba provides the option of a jam-packed trip for vacationers who get itchy when sitting still.
Another resort with an on-site casino, the Marriot & Stellaris Casino in San Juan features a sprawling 12,000 square feet of slots and games under ornate chandeliers for both novices and aficionados of gambling. Two outdoor pools, shaded by a stand of lofty palm trees, front the Atlantic Ocean and Condado Beach. For adults, the pools also have swim-up bars and a hot tub, while kids can enjoy fun water features and a waterslide. In each direction from the resort are the bustling city of San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Atlantic Ocean, respectively. Rooms and suites offer views of one or the other.
An award-winner in Jamaica, the Rockhouse Hotel was selected as one of the world’s best resorts in 2013 by Travel + Leisure readers—and is one of only a handful that was also marked as a great value. Jamaican accommodations consistently present off-beat charm, and Rockhouse is no exception. A boutique resort set into 8 acres of Jamaican tropical gardens, Rockhouse’s sleep options include the premium villas pictured here—thatched roof cottages perched directly over the water with private access to the sea. On the other end of the spectrum, wintertime’s most affordable option—a garden-view room tucked into the palms—is just $160 a night.
A unique, family-run boutique hotel on the Lower Antilles island of St. Vincent, the Beachcombers Hotel combines small island charm and a lush Caribbean setting—travelers praise its friendly staff, vibrant colors, and seafront dining. As an island whose largest economic sector is agriculture (primarily banana production), not tourism, St. Vincent and Beachcombers still retain their individuality, and reasonable nightly rates, too. If you prefer to see more locals than tourists when you travel, we recommend a prompt visit, as tourism in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has grown in recent years.
The inviting pool pictured here fills the tropically landscaped courtyard between Hotel Alisei’s intimate buildings, where swimmers and sunbathers can look up into a canopy of palm fronds. There’s a swim-up bar, too, serving blended cocktails with fresh pineapple and coconut—the Samana peninsula’s most plentiful fruit. The beach, with water as flawlessly clear as the pool’s, is a short walk away—a striking scene for a plate of homemade gnocchi with prawn tails and gorgonzola sauce at Hotel Alisei’s beachfront Baraonda Restaurant.
In Jamaica, life is presented in Technicolor. And at White Sands Negril, guest accommodations are simple yet vibrant—standard rooms with earthy wood ceilings, tile floors, clean white linens with strategic pops of island color, and a balcony facing the beach or gardens tally up to rates starting at just $57 a night (double occupancy!). The White Sands Negril philosophy is that guests come to explore Jamaica and spend time with family and friends, not watch TV in their hotel rooms. If this sounds like you, White Sands might be a great fit.
Just fifty rooms comprise the Trade Winds Antigua, a boutique hotel surrounded by colorful bursts of bougainvillea and other tropical landscaping. Trade Winds offers something a little extra for foodies—the hotel’s Bayhouse Restauarant, pictured here, is popular with locals and boasts excellent views of the expansive Caribbean. Alfresco dining options at the Bayhouse include tapas creations like crispy scallops with wasabi mayonnaise and a warm plantain and saltfish salad. Many of the vegetables the restaurant prepares are grown in the property’s on-site garden.