Caribbean Islands You Don't Know (But Should)
Bahamas? Been there. St. Barths? Done that. While dozens of notable islands in the Caribbean serve as winter playgrounds for the masses, several islands under the radar remain obscure due to scant tourism and nominal amenities offered — which, interestingly, is bumping up their popularity. From St. Martin's sister island Saba, run by openly gay council members, to family-friendly Isla Mujeres in Mexico, there's an island for everyone. We rounded up 6 islands to visit now before they're completely taken over by crowds.
The island's commissioner, director of tourism and one member of the island council are all openly gay. Couples of all orientation like to shack up at Queen's Resort (again, "queen" is a curious coincidence), a 12-suite property that is notorious for its timeless appeal, with suites averaging 1,200 square feet. Known mostly for hiking and diving, Saba is all about truly getting away and disappearing in the rolling green hills for much-needed R&R.
Due to the geothermal activity, plenty of hot springs abound, whether at Wotten Waven or Papillote Wilderness Retreat, which has a garden featuring more than 200 plant species woven into the tropical setting. Snorkelers can head to the black-sand beach at Champagne Reef for exciting underwater adventures or take the 3-mile hike to Boiling Lake, a hot, flooded fumarole at the bottom of a sinkhole. Well-heeled travelers make a beeline to Rosalie Bay Resort, a 22-acre eco-resort that feels like a small village, with 28 spacious, cottage-style accommodations (many oceanfront) and a new, pampering spa.
On Barbuda, the beaches are the big draw, but there's more to the island than sunbathing. Barbuda is home to the Frigate Bird Sanctuary, the only nesting place for the species outside the Galapagos, and it is also home to Darby Cave, a popular sinkhole with ancient cave drawings.
While fishing is the highlight, visitors can stretch out on sublime beaches in Playa Norte, bar-hop on Hidalgo Avenue, snorkel at the underwater sculpture museum, explore on a golf cart, swim with whale sharks (seasonal) and visit the archaeological site in Punta Sur. Couples head straight to the all-inclusive, 62-suite Isla Mujeres Palace, thanks to its intimate ambience.
Golden Rock Plantation Inn is owned by American painter Brice Marden, and guests can expect stark red doors, shutters and chairs contrasting with pastel Caribbean colors and an outdoor-garden dining deck with waterfall and views of the Atlantic. Nisbet Plantation is equipped with 32 cottages spread on a perfectly manicured green lawn with swaying palm trees. Four Season Nevis has bragging rights with a sublime beach and its location steps away from Sunshine's, an iconic beach bar known for its signature drink, Killer Bee.
There's 100 privately owned villas with 74 residences to rent. Newbies generally stay at The Cotton House, a former 18th-century cotton warehouse and sugar mill, and the only resort on the island with 17 rooms and suites (11 with private plunge pools). Locals and visitors alike congregate at Basil's Bar, known for free concerts. Nightlife aside, there's also an equestrian center, myriad watersports and pampering spas. No wonder 75 percent of visitors are repeat guests.