Translucent sea. Palm fronds waving in the breeze. Beachgoers lounging in the sun.No region speaks to total relaxation quite like the Caribbean, with its castaway islands and idyllic resorts.
So how to choose? Leave it to the jet-setting readers of Travel + Leisure who highlight their favourite resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas as part of the annual World’s Best Awards survey.
In 2012, the 20 best resorts are spread across 10 islands, from Bermuda to the British Virgin Islands, and from romantic all-inclusive sanctuaries to private rainforest verandas. There’s a top-notch Caribbean resort out there, whatever your idea of paradise.
Ever-popular Jamaica, for instance, claims the most properties (for the second year in a row) with four winners, including secluded Couples San Souci (No. 5) in Ocho Rios. The 150 colonial-decorated suites come with wicker furniture, Gilchrist & Soames bath products, and latticework balconies for taking in ocean views.
Further south, St. Lucia is beloved for its black-sand beaches, dramatic jungle-covered peaks, and, according to readers, three top-ranked properties, including Jade Mountain (No. 4), with its private infinity pools and panoramic views of the Pitons, and its 47-room, art-focused sister property, Anse Chastanet Resort (No. 19), tucked among coconut groves.
Though many of the top-ranked winners have appeared on the list year after year, one hotel made a big debut: W Retreat & Spa (No. 16) on Puerto Rico’s offshore island Vieques. Set among low-key fishing villages, the stylish W Retreat added a dose of luxe island flair to a destination that’s on the verge of becoming a popular hot spot (Vieques was the No. 1–ranked island in the Caribbean this year too).
But there’s one resort that has truly won travellers’ loyalty: this year’s No. 1 winner, The Reefs, Bermuda. It’s the type of property that travellers return to again and again, thanks to perks like the private rose-sand cove and world-class spa.
And here’s proof of its staying power: the cliff-side hotel has been on the list for the past 10 years in a row—it’s the only hotel that earned T+L’s Hall of Fame honour.
Ready to plan your own warm weather getaway? Read on for the top 20 winning resorts in the Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Bahamas.
It's the type of place that families and couples return to again and again -- perhaps one reason why the property stocks four Flip Video cameras to capture those classic vacation moments.
After more than 10 consecutive appearances on the Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards, this iconic cliff-side resort has clearly earned its top-ranked status.
At Nisbet Plantation, the Caribbean's only historic plantation inn right on the beach, you'll spot green vervet monkeys from 36 wicker-furnished cottages spread among palm trees and beachfront hammocks.
Active types will want to head out with Reggie Douglas, Nevis's reigning cycling champ, for a two-hour bike tour (the hotel concierge will gladly arrange the excursion).
On chic St. Bart's, this is the hotel for celebrity spotting.
What draws the boldfaced names? Each of the 34 rooms has a different aesthetic, and can include such idiosyncratic details as a rock wall or a Philippe Starck--designed bathroom.
We especially love the art gallery with a rotating selection of works on display (the space doubles as a studio, where guests can paint, too).
Located at the highest point of the island, near the west coast town of Soufrière, the resort wraps around a hillside, its exterior all curves and rough stone.
The 28 suites have only three walls, offering open-air, panoramic views of the Piton range.
For travellers looking for privacy in Jamaica, this 150-room hotel is a smart bet.
It's the smallest of the island's all-inclusive Couples resorts, and it's built on a cliff above a seaside cove in Ocho Rios.
There are four pools, and the award-winning spa has a natural mineral pool, a spring-fed grotto, and additional private cabanas set at the cliff's edge.
This retro-chic all-inclusive in St. Mary delivers the Caribbean hotel fantasy with freshwater swimming pools and peppermint-seaweed wraps and Four Layer facials.
(Note: spa services are not included in the all-inclusive rate.)
Thanks to a major renovation, the 1978 property is totally refreshed, and now includes 20 new rooms, a dive pool, and 10 spa treatment rooms.
After arriving via boat trip or helicopter ride, guests at the secluded Biras Creek -- set on a 140-acre peninsula of Virgin Gorda -- are whisked off in a golf cart to one of the cottage suites, each of which has an outdoor shower.
Deep Bay -- where you'll find a trove of catamarans, kayaks, and Boston Whalers for guests to use -- is just a short stroll past the salt-pond bird sanctuary.
Thrill seekers also in search of an all-inclusive beach vacation will love this Jamaican resort, spread out over 17 acres of gardens along Negril's Seven Mile Beach.
Here, days are spent waterskiing and playing pool volleyball, while the eight-room spa is known for Bamboo Fusion massages and seaweed wraps (ideal for tired muscles and sun-kissed skin).
On an island that epitomizes the glamorous, star-studded getaway, the 39-room Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France wins for location -- it's right on Baie des Flamands, the island's longest, widest beach.
It's no surprise, then, that the 19 oceanfront rooms and suites are the most romantic; the restaurant serves lunches of lobster spring rolls or iced pea soup at tables set in the sand.
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