Caribbean Connection

Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

2022 Caribbean Journal Travelers’ Choice Awards

By Caribbean Journal Staff They are the world’s foremost experts on Caribbean travel: Caribbean Journal readers. They travel to the Caribbean multiple times each year, scouring the region for the newest and the greatest, searching out hotels, beaches, restaurants and experiences. And each year, they choose the best of the best: the winners of the Caribbean Journal Travelers’ Choice Awards. “There’s no larger community in the world of frequent travelers to the Caribbean than our readers,” said Alexander Britell, editor and publisher of Caribbean Journal. “Congratulations to all of this year’s winners! You have earned the ultimate seal of approval from those who know Caribbean travel better than anyone, the platinum standard of Caribbean tourism excellence.” This year’s Travelers’ Choice Awards honor champions in 24 different categories of travel, from hotels and resorts to honeymoons and weddings to rum bars, with more than 125,000 votes cast. “Participation for this year’s Awards was higher than ever before,” said Guy Britton, managing editor and EVP of Caribbean Journal. “It’s a good omen for what should be a banner 2023 for the whole Caribbean.” Publishers Note: We are happy to partner with Alexander Britell, Founder and Editor in Chief of the Miami, Florida based Caribbean Journal and his staff contributing to the OTC and our Caribbean Connection Section. Check out the popular online magazine/website at caribjournal.com for valuable information on all fabulous travel options and things of interest in the Caribbean. Not sure how you want to layout the list of Bests Best Luxury Resort in the Caribbean: Baoase Luxury Resort, Curacao Best All-Inclusive Resort in the Caribbean: Lopesan Costa Bavaro, Dominican Republic Best Family Resort in the Caribbean: The Verandah, Antigua Best Adults-Only Resort in the Caribbean: The Fred, St Croix Best Private Island Resort in the Caribbean: Palm Island, St Vincent and the Grenadines Best Boutique…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Beautiful St. Maarten Removes Testing & Vaccination Rules

By Alexander Britell There’s been a significant shift in the Caribbean’s testing policies, with just about every destination in the region having lifted its entry rules. And now you can include St. Maarten. Effective Nov. 1, the Friendly Island will no longer require travelers to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result in order to enter the island. The news was confirmed by St. Maarten Tourism Minister Omar Ottley this week. It’s naturally a boost for the French side of St. Martin as well, which relies on the Dutch side’s Princess Juliana International Airport for the vast majority of its visitors. Travelers will only need to meet the “usual immigration and border control requirements to visit the island,” Ottley said. St. Maarten will, however, retain health officials at the airport to monitor passengers entering the country. Travelers who may be experiencing flu-like signs or symptoms may be required to test before they depart the airport, the Minister said. “St. Maarten has done exceptionally well in its fight against the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) COVID-19. The Country is now fully engaged in restoring economic activity, and one key aspect of economic revitalization is the return of visitors in large numbers,” Ottley said. “At the same time, while we concentrate on rebuilding our Tourism destination, our work will continue to protect the population, including our visitors.” The lifting of all restrictions comes after a public call by the St. Maarten Hotel and Tourism Association to do just that, arguing that the travel restrictions would limit the potential for St Maarten’s winter tourism season. St. Maarten is the last Dutch Caribbean destination to remove its travel restrictions. Bonaire, St Maarten, Statia, Saba, Curacao and Aruba all previously removed their restrictions earlier this year. “St. Maarten must remain vigilant and be mindful…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Hamilton at Home

By Alexander Britell Under a sunbeam on the water’s edge in Charlestown, Nevis, historian Harvey Hendrickson reads his ode to a still-shrouded sculpture on the lawn. A few minutes later, the bronze is revealed, and Alexander Hamilton is finally back in the place of his birth nearly 257 years after his family moved to St. Croix. It was in Nevis that Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the United States, must have dreamt and aspired and “as a consequence, achieved great things,” Nevis Premier Mark Brantley said. Hamilton, whose towering life returned to the public consciousness with the launch of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-sweeping musical in 2015, was born on the Eastern Caribbean island in 1757, spending his early years in Nevis and then periods of his youth in St. Croix and Statia. Hamilton’s extraordinary career included being the first secretary of the treasury, founder of the Federalist Party, founder of the US Coast Guard and arguably the father of the United States’ financial system, among other achievements. Today, Hamilton’s birthplace is a centerpiece of downtown historic Charlestown, Nevis‘ capital, home to a museum and, on the second floor, the site of the Nevis Island Assembly. And Hamilton remains a major draw for the island, which has seen a wave of new tourism interest driven by the reinvigorated public curiosity about Hamilton; the island’s top resort, the Four Seasons Nevis, has an Alexander Suite, for example; there’s even an Alexander Hamilton Rum on sale in the museum shop. Because it all truly did begin in tiny Nevis, and Hamilton’s Caribbean contribution was the subject of a thoughtful ceremony at the Alexander Hamilton Museum in Charlestown this past weekend, one that included a moving appearance by Hamilton re-enactor Scott MacScott. “We, as I like to say, must agree that the United States owes…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Joy of the Ti’ Punch, the Ultimate Caribbean Rum Cocktail 

By Alexander Britell It’s the purest expression of sugarcane in spirit form: rhum blanc, or white rhum agricole. Unaged white rum made from pure pressed sugar cane juice is as close as you can come to the cane: a raw, visceral, complex spirit that has a real terroir. And it just so happens that this is the primary ingredient in the Caribbean’s ultimate rum cocktail: the ti’ punch. Ti’ punch, short for petit punch, is the essential drink of the French West Indies, a local, easy-to-prepare drink that’s part of the ritual of daily life in Martinique and Guadeloupe. It’s ubiquitous, often accompanied by those endlessly delicious codfish fritters called Accras. And it’s a key to immersing yourself in the culture of the French Caribbean. You cannot begin to understand this enchanting part of the Caribbean without a ti’ punch, a drink whose preparation requires a ceremony on par with tea in Japan. And it’s deliciously simple to make. Because while there are myriad dressed-up versions of making the ti’ punch, there’s one truly authentic way to make it — the way people actually drink it at a bar or restaurant in the FWI. Show up at a beach bar or a cafe (or just about any restaurant at all) in Martinique and Guadeloupe, order a ti’ punch (it’s often cheaper than a bottle of water), and you’ll soon be welcomed with a tray. There you’ll find three things: a bottle of white rhum, some quarter slices of lime, and a ramequin of brown sugar. Because white rhum is so affordable, the restaurant will leave it to you how much white rhum you decide to put in the glass, joined with just the quarter lime and, ideally, a teaspoon of sugar. How much rum you add is up to you, but I like to pour enough that the…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Best Caribbean Rainforest Resorts

By Bob Curley Nearly every island in the Caribbean is ringed with beautiful beaches, but there’s more to a Caribbean vacation than sun and sand. Just inland from the coast on many islands you’ll find steep-sided mountains carpeted in lush rainforest, a less undeveloped and often unexplored side to what are, after all, tropical islands. In destinations like St. Lucia, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Belize and Panama, take the path less traveled to one of these beautiful resorts hidden among the palms and ferns: Secret Bay, Dominica Secret Bay promises a “six-star” rainforest resort experience, and this Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel delivers with all-suite accommodations featuring private plunge pools, dining on sustainably sourced food in your private villa or the open-air Zing Zing restaurant, dedicated hosts for each room, and a setting that blends the serenity of the rainforest with a secluded beachfront location — the best of both worlds. Of course, it’s not just the region’s best rainforest resort; it’s one of the best resorts in the hemisphere, period. Fond Doux Eco Resort, St. Lucia Sixteen cottages are scattered in lush tropical gardens on a working cacao plantation in the shadow of St. Lucia’s Piton Mountains. The Green Globe certified resort sources food for its two restaurants from plants and fruit trees growing on site, the Mama La Terre spa uses only organic materials in its treatments, and guest activities include chocolate-making, hikes to Petit Piton, swimming in a trio of pools, tree-planting programs, cooking classes, and a shuttle to the beach. Rabot Hotel/Hotel Chocolat, St. Lucia The Tree-to-Bar experience at the Rabot Hotel has nothing to do with drinks — it’s an immersive experience where guests learn about the process of turning cacao beans into Hotel Chocolat chocolate bars. Yum. And that’s just part of what’s delicious about a…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Island of St. John Is Back in a Big Way

By Bob Curley The combination of no passport requirements, easy-to-understand COVID-19 rules and strong tourism management led to a boom in visits to the U.S. Virgin Islands from the mainland in 2021, helping to fuel a dramatic turnaround in tourism on St. John, which had struggled in the aftermath of devastating blows from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The storm wiped out one of St. John’s most iconic resorts, Caneel Bay, which still hasn’t reopened and possibly never will. But meanwhile, St. John has gained a new private island resort and many other new and revived hotels, restaurants, and attractions are drawing visitors back to the island in record numbers. Now in its second season, the Lovongo Resort & Beach Club is the hottest thing to happen to St. John in a long time. Set on a private cay offshore of Caneel Bay (the body of water, not the resort), Lovongo is a mix of guest accommodations and residential homes; stays can be as diverse as a luxury villa hideaway, a treehouse perch, or nights spend in a glamping tent. Guests also have the option of adding three nights on a charter yacht to their stay — a must do in the Virgin Islands, where the easiest way to get around is by boat. The beach club and waterfront dining only sweeten stays for overnight guests, as well as drawing in boaters and other day visitors. Virgin Islands National Park, which occupies 60 percent of St. John, is basically back to pre-Irma and pre-pandemic operation levels, with major attractions like the Reef Bay Trail, Trunk Bay beach with its famous snorkeling trail, the campground at Cinnamon Bay, and Annaberg Plantation all open to visitors. The Concordia Eco Resort, located within the park on the east side of St. John, reopened in early 2022,…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Caribbean’s Newest Reggae Hit Is a Love Letter to Antigua

By Caribbean Journal Staff Caribbean all-inclusive brand Elite Island Resorts has partnered with reggae legend Causion on a major new musical tribute to the island of Antigua. The song, Antigua Me Come From, is a common phrase of identity and heritage for Antiguans; a love letter to the island, it’s a message to travelers to “forget their troubles, to come take a load off their shoulder and feel the energy when their feet touch the ground.” It’s another major video for Causion, whose long career includes touring with Third World, Rita Marley and Freddie McGregor, among others. “Personally growing up in Antigua was the greatest experience I can imagine. I grew up on the water in English Harbour, and most of my childhood was on the water, sailing and fishing, and the freedom to do that was phenomenal,” he says. “Antigua is a place I have loved from the bottom of my heart, and there is no place I would rather be. As a musician and writer, when you go to Antigua the words keep coming, the artistry and creation keep coming because you find that place of peace.” The idea of the song and video, according to Elite Island Resorts Chairman Rob Barrett was to “”give the people of Antigua and Barbuda something that shares the beauty and spirit and Antigua with the world for years to come.” “This amazing collaboration between Elite Island Resorts and Causion captures the essence Antigua and is a project we can all be very proud of,” Barrett said. Elite Island Resorts has a portfolio of five hotels on the island of Antigua, including Hammock Cove; the Pineapple Beach Club; the Verandah Resort and Spa; the Galley Bay Resort and Spa; and the St James’s Club and Villas. “Music has a way of touching us and bringing us closer to where we want to be.” Exploring the…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

In The Bahamas, the Birthplace of the Goombay Smash

By Alexander Britell Like all of the greatest recipes, it’s a secret. And while the ubiquitous, yellow Goombay Smash has traveled the world as one of The Bahamas’ signature cocktails, there are none quite like this one. This is Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar, the beating heart of the tiny town of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay, the place where the Goombay Smash was born. More than a half century ago, the late Emily Cooper came up with her now-renowned concoction, when a customer suggested she create a signature tropical drink. Quickly, the Goombay Smashed, and the bar remains a mixology Mecca, drawing every manner of cocktail-loving pilgrim to this tiny island in Abaco, with a brand-new look after a post-Dorian rebuild. “It was all word of mouth,” says Phylicia Smith, Cooper’s granddaughter, the family’s third generation to run this legendary watering hole on Green Turtle Cay. “There was no internet back then.” Locals and visiting boaters buy the drink by the gallon, with large containers of pre-made Goombay Smashes awaiting guests at the entrance to the bar. So what’s actually in it? There’s a Goombay Smash in just about every bar in The Bahamas, and if you’ve traveled the archipelago you’ve encountered one, typically some mix of pineapple, coconut and rum. Some variations use Nassau Royale, others apricot brandy, others Malibu. This one is different, though. There’s real balance, with none of the sometimes cloying sweetness or synthetic flavors you find in other Goombay Smashes; plainly, it’s perfect. Phylicia admits there’s some Bahamian-made Ricardo coconut rum; the Pineapple juice is a sure thing, too. But the rest she won’t reveal, keeping the promise Cooper made so many decades ago. “The secret is what makes it all special,” she says. But no matter what’s in it, it’s clear that…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Spotlighting Local Cuisine On St. Thomas

By Alexander Britell  Always a terrific food destination, St. Thomas is in the midst of a gastronomic renaissance, with a renewed focus on traditional classics and a new push to highlight local cuisine. Indeed, more and more eateries are putting the food of St. Thomas front and center, from food trucks to fine dining and everything in between. It all adds up to what is a full-fledged local food movement, where the emphasis is not just freshly-caught fish, but about putting the flavors and culture of St. Thomas on the table. Here are our favorite St. Thomas eateries for exciting local food, from island institutions to hip, upstart eateries. Blue 11 No restaurant better exemplifies St. Thomas’ new food movement than this. It’s called Blue Eleven, and it’s the debut restaurant of leading Virgin Island chef David Benjamin, formerly of the Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas. The Yacht Haven Grande outpost is a fine-dining love letter to island food, with an exclusive tasting menu that lets guests embark on a culinary journey (including a wine-pairing option) through either seven, nine or 11 courses. With a focus on local ingredients, that means dishes like pan-seared wahoo, a brilliant spin on callaloo and jerk chicken with plantain gnocchi, among others. Twist 340 Set in the increasingly hot Yacht Haven Grande marina, Twist, the brainchild of Dimitri and Tamra James, is all about Caribbean cuisine — and puts a new spin on traditional island favorites. That means dishes like honey-drizzled johnny cakes, curry chicken sliders, jerk bowls and trios of the island’s famous pate. Gladys’ Cafe One of St. Thomas’ most prominent places to eat, Gladys’ is a Charlotte Amalie institution, with out-of-this-world Caribbean signatures: think curry goat, stewed oxtails, jerk chicken, pan-fried grouper and, of course, its “Ole Wife” fish. Make sure you get a…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Twenty Two of the Best Islands to Visit in 2022

By Alexander Britell and the Caribbean Journal Staff Hiking a volcano. Walking the cane fields of an organic rum distillery. Eating lionfish burgers at an oceanfront food truck; savoring a twilight mento concert; kayaking across a secret mangrove forest; riding a flats boat to an undiscovered sandbar. They’re the reasons we come to the Caribbean, those once-in-a-lifetime experiences in which the Caribbean abounds, those chances to explore the communities and the natural beauty of the world’s most extraordinary place. (And yes, the beaches, too). Our editors’ annual edition of the Best Caribbean Islands to Visit takes you on a layered journey across the far corners of the region, from the electric-turquoise waters of The Bahamas to hidden-away islands in the Eastern Caribbean and everywhere in between. Think of it as an inspiration, as a guide, for an exciting year of traveling to the Caribbean — hopefully multiple times (for our regular readers that goes without saying). Here are our favorites (in no particular order) for 2022 with highlights of those favorites of the Old Town Crier. St John, US Virgin Islands St John is hotter than ever, and it’s not a surprise; the island, nearly two-thirds of which is covered by National Parkland, is a natural wonder; while there are some lovely little boutique hotels like Estate Lindholm and the Cruz Bay Boutique Hotel, here the villas are the story, with stunning vistas and dramatic settings; and when you combine that with a deliciously quirky, creative and warm community, you get an instantly intoxicating little island. Bimini, The Bahamas It’s the closest of any island in the region to the US, just about 50 miles from Florida. And Bimini, the adventure island that was once a treasured haunt of Hemingway (and even a favorite retreat of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr),…

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