Photograph by Biras Creek Resort
The most authentic and unique hotels in the Caribbean, chosen by National Geographic Traveler editors for the 2011 Stay List
The Admiral's Inn, Antigua
The Horatio Hornblower of hotels, a classic 1785 Georgian built of ship ballast brick. Harbor location within Nelson's Dockyard National Park insures historical integrity. Look for 19th-century ships' names carved into bar. Basic rooms face forest of masts with clanking halyards. Free boat shuttle to crowd-free beaches. Hiking trails link fortifications, museum, interpretive center. 14 rooms; from $90.
Biras Creek Resort, B.V.I.
A 140-acre isthmus resort with water galore: calm lagoon, Caribbean bay, pounding Atlantic. Ocean waves do the entertaining just beyond the simply furnished suites (some TV-free) with private verandas, big windows, outdoor garden showers. Captain a Boston Whaler for island hopping, bike on trails lined by wild nutmeg and frangipani. Island-born chef infuses the menu with flavorsome Caribbean attitude. 31 suites; from $700, all-inclusive.
White Bay Villas & Cottages, B.V.I.
Pure seclusion overlooking best beach on a laid-back island of just 180 residents. It's a 15-minute walk to Great Harbor for bakery, grocery. Indigenous fruit grown on grounds: papayas, mangoes, bananas. Stunning views wherever you turn; a downhill walk to the beach. No restaurant, but there are plenty nearby. 3 cottages and 7 villas, all with kitchen; from $1,675 a week.
Jungle Bay Resort & Spa, Dominica
Yoga-minded hideaway of stilted cottages under a jungle canopy, linked by footpaths and stone stairs. Sea breeze for air conditioning, outdoorsy showers, handmade furnishings. Pool and yoga studios of reclaimed quarry stone. Spa treatments use locally pressed coconut oil. Lots of good karma: hotel's many community initiatives, including micro-loans to local farmers, are bedrock of its success. 35 cottages; from $179, incl. breakfast.
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Grand Cayman
Family-friendly, sand-colored castle with a soft footprint on Seven-Mile Beach. Tropically inspired rooms with private terraces. Fresh-off-the-boat seafood, exotic hydrotherapies in spa. Environmental program designed by Jean-Michel Cousteau turns kids into naturalists; adults have options, too: night snorkeling, mangrove kayaking, underwater photography. Kudos for turtle monitoring, eco-programs, community involvement. 365 rooms; from $499.
Golden Rock Inn, Nevis
A 96-acre sugar plantation built of lava stone on edge of rain forest overlooking ocean and nearby islands. Rooms romanced with four-poster beds, sky-lit showers, seaview porches. Massage, yoga around spring-fed pool, body surfing on windward beach. Go monkey-watching on a rain forest hike. 11 rooms; from $235.
The Hermitage, Nevis
Reputedly one of the Caribbean's oldest wooden houses (circa 1700), on the flanks of a dormant volcano. Shingled gingerbread cottages hit all the right notes: polished wooden floors, verandas, mosquito nets draping the beds. Trade winds instead of air conditioning, whistling frogs and cooing doves in lieu of house band. Undeniable highlight? Try visiting colonial ruins while astride one of the Hermitage's ex-racing horses. 15 rooms; from $180.
Montpelier Plantation Inn, Nevis
A modern reinterpretation of plantation life in a restored 1700s sugar plantation on a hillside near Nevis Peak, overlooking the Caribbean. Hardwood floors, four-poster beds. Mosaic-tile pool, 10 acres of botanical gardens, classic dining veranda. Old mill now a private dining room. Romantic roots: Lord Nelson was married here in 1787. 18 rooms; from $330, incl. breakfast and afternoon tea.
The Gallery Inn, Old San Juan, P.R.
Art and intellect collide atop Old City walls facing the Atlantic. Six antique houses connect via wandering hallways, 19 garden areas, five active art studios. Local musicians practice on Steinway grand. Tertulias—discussions on politics, art, local culture—on most nights. Blue cobbled streets of Old San Juan just around the corner. 24 rooms; from $125.
Ottley's Plantation, St. Kitts
Former 17th-century sugar plantation in classic British colonial style. No glass windows in rooms; breezes blow through wood jalousies. Painted wood floors, antique or reproduction West Indian furnishings. Spring-fed pool within walls of historic boiling house. Nature trails into rain forest, shuttle to beach, climb Mt. Liamuiga for views of six neighboring islands. 23 rooms; from $208.
Ti Kaye Village Resort, St. Lucia
West Indian tropical cottages on rocky bluff overlooking sandy cove, amid frangipani, palms, and bougainvillea. Louvered windows, open-air shower, verandas with rope hammocks for two. Beach reached by stairway is a marine reserve; sunken wreck and snorkeling reefs close offshore. Spa, teardrop pool, climate-controlled wine cellar. Don't miss Friday fish fry at Anse-la-Raye village. 33 rooms; from $190.
East Winds Inn, St. Lucia
Pretty pastel cottages and rondavels enveloped for privacy by 12 acres of exotic gardens—a guidebook details the flora. Kick-back beach with reefs 20 yards offshore. All-island staff except for expat French chef. Honeymooner vibe prevails: romantic, secluded, stress-free. 30 rooms; from $600, all-inclusive.