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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 7)

Best Small Resort or Hotel

Hotel El Convento: This San Juan fixture was the choice of nearly every panelist, combining history, location and atmosphere. “This restored 366-year-old Spanish colonial convent, smack in the heart of Old San Juan, just oozes Old World charm. It’s all mahogany beams, hand-carved furniture, and Andalusian floor tiles—but with 21st-century amenities,” says Stoddart. “Its location is ideal,” agrees travel agent Scully.

Best Golf

St. Regis Bahia Beach: “Although Trump International gets all the publicity when it hosts a PGA Tour event, the best course in the Rio Grande environs is Robert Trent Jones, Jr.’s spare-no-expense Bahia Beach Golf Club,” says Golf Odyssey’s Baum. Jones took advantage of the unique setting along a network of saltwater lagoons to bring waterfront exposure into play on 15 of the 18 holes.

Honorable Mention: Royal Isabela Golf Links: “It’s brand, brand new so almost no one has been there yet, but once the word gets out, golfers will be flocking to the this layout, the Caribbean’s version of Pebble Beach, with all the lodging in a handful of villas,” says Cigar Aficionado’s Olmsted.

St. Martin/ st. Maarten

Best Large Resort or Hotel

La Samanna: Not a lot of drama in this choice, which got nearly every vote cast. Why? “La Samanna is the best on the island, period,” says Anne Scully. The Orient-Express resort is a gleaming white temple of beachfront relaxation and elegance that might have been transported whole from the Greek Isles to the island’s finest beach, complete with thatched roof
palapas on the sand.

Best Small Resort or Hotel

Hotel l’Esplanade: An insider’s hidden-gem pick and the favorite of savvy panelists including Fodor’s Arabella Bowen and honeymoon specialist Carrie Wallace, who says, “This immaculate small hotel in Grand Case has terrific water views and a variety of good restaurants. The owners are very involved and provide a personal touch to every guest experience. An excellent value as well in the typically overpriced Caribbean.”

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