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The Caribbean's Finest

Our panel of travel experts pick their favorite destinations across the region, and the best hotels, restaurants and golf courses on each island
Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Ernie Els, November/December 2012

(continued from page 3)

Four Seasons: The champion of champions, this resort received more votes than any other in the poll—and was a unanimous choice. Many panelists remarked that it is better than ever following a multiyear restoration from hurricane damage and it was already awesome before. “The legend has returned and our clients are packing their bags to revisit an all-time favorite,” says Scully. Wallace echoes the sentiment: “We’re thrilled this resort has reopened, and it’s looking better than ever. Four Seasons Nevis really offers everything a full-service resort should: golf, spa, villas, beach, activities, kids’ club, many restaurants and pretty facilities. Guests want for nothing!” More of the same from Kelly E. Carter: “This luxury resort is better than ever after the hurricane damage.”

Best Small Resort or Hotel

TIE: Montpelier Plantation; Nisbet Plantation: Several former sugar plantations on Nevis are now luxury boutique resorts and these two are the favorites. Nisbet is frozen in time, as Stoddart explains: “A restored 1778 plantation inn, this is the unhurried old-time Caribbean at its best—no phones, no TVs and afternoon tea served in a proper Great House.” Montpelier is a Relais & Chateaux property set in the mountains but also featuring a private beach club below, renowned for its culinary excellence.

Best Golf

Four Seasons: Nevis and the Four Seasons again bowled over the larger sister island of St. Kitts and its newer properties, garnering every golf course vote along with every large hotel vote. Golf writer Michael Shiels explains the charm: “You’ll share the golf course with monkeys and the pool with celebrities, as Four Seasons Nevis is known as a Hollywood hideaway. Robert Trent Jones II took full advantage of the panoramic ocean views when he designed golf holes high above the resort and the neighboring island of St. Kitts, even incorporating old sugar mill ruins alongside the tee box.”

St. Lucia

Best Resort or Hotel, Any Size

Jade Mountain: Grand winner as the best boutique resort in the entire Caribbean, and our past Best Hotel of the Caribbean champ in our 2010 poll, Jade Mountain keeps piling up the accolades. But while it is best known for over-the-top luxury suites and secluded mountaintop intimacy, it also gives guests access to all of the amenities of its larger sister resort under the same ownership, including a 5-star dive shop, a private hiking and mountain biking plantation, private beach and many more bells and whistles than a resort Jade’s size would ever have. “This place screams romance,” says Stoddart, “Hard to find a more dramatic love nest.” Every one of the 24 suites has its own infinity pool with chromotherapy, multiple terraces and full-time butler service.

Honorable Mention: Cap Maison: Its 49 rooms are all in villas, many with private plunge pools or hot tubs, and according to Wallace, “This small resort is great at exceeding expectations. Everyone has a ‘can-do’ attitude, food at their gourmet restaurant, the Cliff, is some of the best on the island, and the concierge, Keizah, is amazing.”

Best Restaurant

Dasheene at the Ladera Resort: Ladera is built tree-house style into the jungle, and its Dasheene restaurant is no exception, serving up nouvelle Caribbean fare—and stunning views of the Pitons. The focus is on locally harvested, sustainable ingredients, and the live music Sunday brunch is an island highlight.

Barbados

Best Resort or Hotel, Any Size

Sandy Lane: One of our big winners, this exclusive and very Anglo resort got nearly every vote cast. Some were wowed by its world-class golf, others by its huge ESPA, and others by the swanky rooms and white-glove butler treatment. “One of the world’s most opulent resorts, it struts its attitude as an exclusive place,” says Baum, who also warned that, “it looks out for some guests much more than others. If you’re a name or a VIP, you’ll have one of the times of your life. The guest experience begins literally the moment you step out of customs, as a Sandy Lane representative escorts you to a chauffeur-driven BMW, Mercedes or Bentley.”

Best Golf

Sandy Lane/Green Monkey: Again it was unanimous, despite other high-profile courses on the island, and the only debate was between Sandy Lane’s more accessible but excellent Country Club course and its pricey and very limited Green Monkey, unlike any other, “A spectacular Tom Fazio design that cost $50+ million to build,” according to golf writer Brian McCallen. Baum calls it a “technically and aesthetically superlative design, a dream come true for golf-course trophy hunters. Every hole either descends into a stunning limestone quarry or reveals a view of the Caribbean Sea.”

Best Restaurant

The Cliff: Our grand winner for best eatery in the Caribbean, the Cliff is perched on the edge of the sea and infuses Caribbean ingredients with Asian flair, such as Thai Red Curry Mussels or local swordfish chargrilled with yellow curry sauce and coriander vinaigrette.

United States Virgin Islands

Best Resort or Hotel, Any Size

Caneel Bay, St. John: Back in the 1950s when Laurance Rockefeller created his RockResorts chain by surveying land from the sea and air to find the most beautiful spots, he built Caneel Bay. Half a century later it is a Rosewood resort, and sits entirely within the pristine Virgin Islands National Park. Almost every voter commented on the quality of the resort’s beaches. “Sure, it’s in the middle of protected national park, guaranteeing a pristine environment forever. And yes, its 166 serene, tasteful rooms are well camouflaged by 170 acres of lush grounds. But in the end, it’s the seven—count ‘em—intimate beaches that make Caneel stand out,” says Stoddart.

Honorable Mention: TIE Westin, St. John; Ritz Carlton, St. Thomas: Popular with families and divers, the Westin occupies a generous 47-acre secluded site, while the Ritz-Carlton was singled out for its overly gracious service, a standout for even the world-class chain.

British Virgin Islands

Best Large Resort or Hotel

Little Dix Bay: Rosewood’s sister property to Caneel Bay, which won for the U.S. Virgin Islands, Little Dix Bay fared even better, sweeping the category for the British Virgin Islands. Super-agent Anne Scully calls it, “Another personal favorite, its crescent-shaped beach with powdery white sand and acclaimed Sense spa makes this a haven for adults and children alike. The resort is incredibly romantic, but has a fantastic children’s program as well.”

Best Small Resort or Hotel

Peter Island Resort: This luxury property on its own 1,800-acres also won for best private island in the Caribbean and it is easy to see why with a full marina and wide range of watersports, lavish spa and deluxe accommodations. It was especially popular with our many high-powered travel agents, who recommended it enthusiastically, and one of them, Carrie Wallace, sums up the appeal: “Peter Island is an understated hideaway that pampers those who love the idea of private-island isolation.”

Best Restaurant

Grilled Lobsters: Our opinionated panelists could not agree on exactly were to go, but they did note that when it comes to eating out in the British Virgin Islands, grilled lobster is the way to go, plucked fresh from the ocean, cooked with the least possible fanfare and ideally eaten with your toes in the sand. Popular choices included the Anegada Reef Hotel, which Stacy Small calls the “best grilled lobsters in the world!” Chad Clark loves Abe’s Little Harbor on Jost Van Dyke, which the upscale travel agent described as “a dingy, small, dilapidated shack on the water that serves the most incredible lobster dinner anywhere.” He even sent personal photos to prove his point.

Larry Olmsted celebrates 16 years of writing for Cigar Aficionado, where he is a contributing travel editor.


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