Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Isla Colón
Tranquilo is the operative word at Punta Caracol, located just off serene Isla Colón, 75 minutes by puddle jumper and boat from Panama City, via Bocas del Toro. Sheltered by the surrounding archipelago and mainland Panama, the resort's six two-story cabanas with thatch roofs are suspended over the water on wooden stilts, spiraling out from a walkway to face Almirante Bay.
THE GOOD LIFE: Each solar-powered bungalow has native-hardwood floors and an open-air bedroom upstairs with a canopied king-size bed. As for eats, you won't find fresher seafood: The open-air restaurant-cum-lounge gets regular deliveries from fishermen cruising by with lobster and red snapper.
SPORTS ON-SITE: Swim, snorkel, or paddle along a mile of coral-reef coastline.
BEYOND THE SAND: Surf at Bluff Beach, on the far side of Isla Colón. THE FINE PRINT: American Airlines (800-433-7300, www.aa.com) flies from Miami to Panama City for about $350 round-trip; Aeroperlas (011-507-315-7500, www.aeroperlas.com) flies to Bocas del Toro for $116. Double-occupancy rates at Punta Caracol (011-507-612-1088, www.puntacaracol.com) from December 16 to May 15 start at $325, including breakfast and dinner.Bonnie Tsui
There's only one house rule at this tiny, tony anti-resort: Make yourself at home. At Laluna, on the southwestern coast of Grenada, we felt so at home, we thought we were homethat is, if home were a stylish, thatch-roofed cabana notched into a hillside above an empty crescent of Caribbean beach. In our dreams.
THE GOOD LIFE: Indonesian teak-chic meets spare Italian elegance in Laluna's 16 simple, elegant one- and two-bedroom cottagespainted in cheerful shades of pumpkin, lapis, teal, and plum. In the breezy restaurant, Italian chef Benedetto La Fiura cooks up Carib-Continental dishes like callaloo soup, an island specialty made from the spinach-like leaves of dasheen (a tuber) and coconut milk.
SPORTS ON-SITE: Guests with sailing experience can take out a Hobie Cat, or borrow a sea kayak for the easy cruise to neighboring Morne Rouge Bay.
BEYOND THE SAND: Head inland and upward to hike Grand Étang Forest Reserve, a 3,800-acre tract of rainforest along the island's jungly spine.
THE FINE PRINT: American Eagle (800-433-7300, www.aa.com) flies to Grenada from San Juan, Puerto Rico (round-trip from Chicago, from $515). From December 20 to April 13, rates at Laluna (473-439-0001, www.laluna.com) start at $610 per night.Katie Arnold