Idyllic island retreats can be closer than you think. When Cuban native Sandra Perez was looking for a secluded place to create her art, she fell under the spell of Holbox on Mexico's Caribbean coast north of Cancún, where beachcombing and barefoot dinners under the stars are part of the daily routine.
Soon after, Perez founded a 17-room beachfront hotel, CasaSandra. "This place is not made for mass tourism," she declares. "It's not all about profit like in other larger destinations; it's more about being creative and welcoming, and inspiring love in our guests."
That philosophy repeats itself at other secret Caribbean hotels on other lesser-known islands, from tiny specks in the Bahamas to UNESCO-listed hideaways off the coast of South America. Characterized by their off-the-beaten-path locations, cultural and adventure offerings, and a refreshing lack of bling, these destinations offer novel perspectives on the Caribbean.
Whether it's a cliff-top villa among the wild landscapes of Dominica, the surprise of French auberge-style hospitality in Guadeloupe or Martinique, or the small miracle of a beach entirely to yourself, our hotel picks are likely to turn up a side of the Caribbean you didn't know existed.
Courtesy of Lighthouse Bay Resort
Nine is the magic number on Barbuda, a 20-minute flight from its more bustling sister island of Antigua: the all-inclusive Lighthouse Bay has just nine suites facing a nine-mile-long pink sand beach. The resort marries a sense of blissful remoteness with urban refugee essentials like iPads and in-room espresso machines. Tuck into Caribbean delicacies like Barbuda lobster at Café Lagoon, then while away the days by horseback riding, diving the crystal-clear water, or just reveling in the fact that you barely have to share that incredible beach with another soul.
Kip Dawkins Photography
This private island 50-acre resort makes life so sybaritic-cocktails on the deck at Hill House, bocce on the private beach, hammock time pretty much everywhere-that you'll never want to leave. That would be a mistake, though. Each of the six oceanfront villas here comes with its own 17-foot boat so that you can explore neighboring islets. Worthy adventures include swimming with docile nurse sharks at Compass Cay Marina, dropping by the iguana-dominated Guana Cay, and feeding the famous swimming pigs at Big Major Spot beach. Yes, you read that right.
Hotel Bois Joli
Hotel Bois Joli, Les Saintes, Guadeloupe
Francophiles seeking a closer-to-home vacation should make a beeline for Guadeloupe, an island group featuring all the powdery white sand beaches and gorgeous water you expect to find in the Caribbean, but with a level of tranquility absent on other more high-profile islands. At this sweet French hotel, accommodations consist of simple cottages strung along the beach, along with five rooms in the French Colonial Balcony house. The restaurant serves fresh seafood like ouassous (a local crayfish), cod fritters, and grilled tuna. hotelboisjoli.fr
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