Staniel Cay, Exumas, Bahamas
[Staniel Cay Yacht Club]
Midway through the 150-mile-long Exumas chain is Staniel Cay, reachable by puddle-jumper from Nassau and Fort Lauderdale or by private boat. Here the jade-colored ocean laps at the stilts supporting the seven sunset-facing cottages of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club. Spend a day snorkeling with stingrays near Thunderball Cave and a night sipping the SCYC rum punch in the clubhouse.
Perks: Use of a Boston Whaler, golf carts, sea kayaks, and snorkel gear, plus three meals a day
Rates: $173 per person per night November 20-September 9, $162 in low season
Contact: 242-355-2024, www.stanielcay.com
Treasure Beach, Jamaica
The star-studded Jake's Resortpart of the super-chic Island Outpost group marketed by Island Records' Chris Blackwellis an intimate jumble of 15 rustic cottages that meld Moroccan architectural accents with a Caribbean flair, set on the south coast near Treasure Beach. Lounge by the saltwater pool and you might glimpse Bono.
Perks: Cannondale mountain bikes, sea kayaks, deep-sea fishing gear, a yoga room, and computers with Internet access. Every room has a CD player and thumping reggae.
Rates: Cottages, $105-$275 per night in low season, $115-$295 in high season (December 19-April 15)
Contact: 876-965-3000, www.islandoutpost.com/Jakes
Anegada, British Virgin Islands
[Anegada Reef Hotel]
Leave the chaos of modern life behind for this quiet, 20-room harborside hotelthe only one on 11-mile-long, three-mile-wide Anegada. Most guests come here solely to relax, read, and romp in the quiet surf. The gracious owner, Lawrence Wheatley, will make you feel at home with his well-stocked library of paperback novels and mysteries.
Perks: Three meals a day including a nightly beach barbecue, use of snorkel gear, and the chance to yuck it up with the yachting crowd
Rates: Garden- and ocean-view doubles, $215-$250 per night in low season, $250-$275 in high season (December 15-April 30)
Contact: 284-495-8002, www.anegadareef.com
Saba, Netherlands Antilles [El Momo Cottages]
These seven gingerbread-style "eco-funky" cottages in the Netherlands Antilles are tucked deep into the verdant hillside, with big wooden decks and a turquoise-blue swimming pool bordered by hibiscus plants. And everything is run by the sunsolar power, solar showers, plus composting toilets. Saba National Marine Park's volcanic tunnels draw scuba divers from around the world.
Perks: Hammocks, a swimming pool, and tropical gardens
Rates: Doubles with shared bath, $50 per night; doubles with private bath, $60, or a private bathroom and kitchen, $90
Contact: 001-599-41-62265, www.elmomo.com
Dominican Republic, Dominica, Grenadines, Grenada
Cabarete Bay, Dominican Republic
An eight-minute walk from Cabarete Bay, the whitewashed walls of the 35-room Hotel Albatross look stark against a backdrop of tropical foliage. Even on a balmy night, the wicker-furnished rooms get cooled by ceiling fans and trade winds. Grab a sailboard from the nearby Wind Center and catch some air on Cabarete Bay or rent one of the centers longboards and head 15 minutes west to surf the right break at Playa Encuentro.
Perks: Windsurfing equipment (longboards for a nominal fee) and lunch
Rates: Doubles, $626 for seven nights in low season, $696 in high season (December 15-April 15)
Contact: Vela Windsurf Resorts, 800-223-5443, www.velawindsurf.com
Trafalgar Falls, Dominica
[Papillote Wilderness Retreat]
This seven-room jungle lodge on the islands southwestern end sits in the middle of a rainforest bursting with bougainvillea and banana trees; many of the rooms are detailed with plant-themed frescoes. A 15-minute hike from the retreat will take you to the roaring 275-foot Trafalgar Falls.
Perks: Two refreshing waterfalls and three warm mineral pools are located on the property and are available to guests at any hour.
Rates: Doubles, $95 per night year-round; the seven-night Adventure Package, $1,200 per person, includes meals, whale watches, guided snorkeling trips, and hikes.
Contact: 767-448-2287, www.papillote.dm
At the northern end of Carriacou, on a forested ridge overlooking Sparrow Bay, the sweet smell of frangipani wafts into the seven guest rooms, each with its own four-poster bed and patio. This boutique hotel is reminiscent of a colonial plantation house and comes with four free-flying blue-and-yellow macaws, wild iguanas, and land turtles.
Perks: A private cove offers guests some of the best snorkeling on the island; pristine Anse la Roche beach, part of High North National Park, is a 20-minute walk away.
Rates: Doubles, $150 per night in low season, $200 in high season (December 15-April 15)
Contact: 473-443-7380, www.caribbeeinn.com
La Sagesse Bay, Grenada
La Sagesse Nature Centre]
Sitting on 67 acres of farmland, the five-room English-style manor and two beachfront cottages nuzzle up against La Sagesse Bay on the east side of the island. With lots of windows and welcoming verandas, the rooms are open to the salty air. Order a papaya-and-passion-fruit smoothie and a fresh grilled tuna sandwich at the open-air restaurant and have a picnic on the bay.
Perks: Snorkeling equipment and sea kayaks as well as guided hiking trips
Rates: Doubles, $80-$100 per night in low season, $120-$160 in high season (December 15-April 15)
Contact: 473-444-6458, www.lasagesse.com
Cayman Islands, Tobago, Antigua, Puerto Rico
Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands
[Brac Reef Beach Resort]
On the western side of the island, the Brac Reef is replete with vacation amenities: a spa, a sandy beach, 40 air-conditioned rooms, the Reef Divers II dive shop, and the ubiquitous tiki bar. Rooms are motel-like, but with the lure of diving to a frigate 110 feet below the surface, guests are rarely indoors at all.
Perks: Tennis courts, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, a fitness center, and bikes
Rates: A seven-night package with 17 dives and two daily buffets is $902 per person (November 1-December 20, holidays excluded); a three-night package for non-divers, buffets included, is $416 in low season and $483 in high season (December 14-April 19)
Contact: 800-594-0843, www.reefseas.com
Culloden Bay, Tobago
[Footprints Eco Resort]
With thatch roofs, rough-hewn teak walls, and elevated walkways, the seven au naturel casitas at Footprints are tucked slightly back from Culloden Bay. After dining on Trinidad Gulf shrimp in the resorts Cocoa House Restaurant, relax in the hammock strung up on your private deck overlooking the bay.
Perks: Hike the 62-acre property, then dip into Tobagos only saltwater swimming pool.
Rates: Doubles, $95 per night in low season, $115 in high season (December 15-April 15); the seven-night Explorer Package includes daily snorkel tours, hikes to waterfalls, and breakfast, for $650 per person.
Contact: 800-814-1396, www.footprintseco-resort.com
Freemans Bay, Antigua
Situated on Freemans Bay on the southern tip of Antigua, six one- to four-bedroom cottages fully equipped with kitchens and spacious decks face a stunning white-sand beach, while the backyard brims with tropical vegetation. The infinity pool, flush with the horizon, overlooks a bay dotted with sailboats and windsurfers.
Perks: Windsurfing, snorkeling, and sea-kayaking equipment, plus sailboats and two tennis courts
Rates: One-bedroom cottages start at $140 per night in low season, $225 in high season (December 7-April 26)
Contact: 268-460-1024, www.galleonbeach.com
Culebra, Puerto Rico
Twelve bright-yellow cottages with kitchenettes and decks dot the private 60-acre estate on the western side of Culebra, a tiny island east of Puerto Rico, and overlook the pristine Luis Pea Marine Reserve. Swim with green and hawksbill turtles at Tamarindos private reef or build sand castles at nearby Flamenco Beach.
Perks: Guests get a rental car with their stay, and blissful isolation.
Rates: Doubles, $160 per night in low season (two-night minimum stay), $215 in high season (December 15-April 30)
Contact: 787-742-3343, www.tamarindoestates.com