Caribbean Connection

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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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Coulibri Ridge – The Caribbean’s Coolest New Eco Resort

By Alexander Britell A new luxury eco-resort is set to open this month on the island of Dominica. It’s called Coulibri Ridge, and it’s a significant addition to the southern coast of Dominica. The resort is a dramatic design, set on a hillside with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea and the neighboring island of Martinique. Coulibri Ridge has a total of 14 rooms, ranging from studios to duplex suites, all of which have views of Martinique and custom kitchens and furnishings. (Three of the suites have their own private plunge pools). The property is set on a 200-acre site, with two pools, two dining rooms, a spa, a yoga pavilion, a conference room and property-wide, complimentary Wi-Fi. It’s the brainchild of Daniel Langlois, a Canadian native who has been conceiving of the project for years. Langlois, a software entrepreneur, was responsible for some of the biggest developments in animation and special effects in the modern film industry, with his technology being used in films like Jurassic Park, among others. The project has been in conception for several decades, with the idea of creating a self-sustainable, green resort. And sustainability is the essence of the project. Most notably, the resort is completely off the grid, using solar energy as its main source of power. That’s along with touches like the use of pure rainwater, filtered on site and stored in underground cisterns and even the urge of certified recycled teak furniture and kitchen cabinetry in all of the rooms. Coulibri Ridge the latest addition to Dominica’s growing portfolio of luxury hotels, one that now includes Secret Bay, the Cabrits Kempinski and the Pagua Bay House, among others. The opening of Coulibri Ridge is particularly well-timed, following this month’s launch by American Airlines of the first-ever nonstop flights from the United States to Dominica. For more, visit CoulibriRidge.com. Publishers…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

15 Best Caribbean Beach Bars for 2021

By Caribbean Journal Staff 15 Best Caribbean Beach Bars for 2021 The right beach, the right chair, the right drink. It may sound simple, but, like the greatest cocktails, you only need a few ingredients. In a time when travel has been significantly disrupted, this is the kind of experience we all dream about: the tropical idyll — an afternoon at a Caribbean beach bar, the thing we all think about when we’re stuck at home, moored behind a desk, or surrounded by wintry air. For those who are traveling right now, these beach bars are the perfect Caribbean venture: outdoors, socially-distanced, breezy. For those who aren’t traveling, think of them as your to-do list for when the world returns to “normal”. Either way, it’s worth celebrating these Caribbean institutions and the people who’ve worked to build them. Here are the best Caribbean beach bars for 2021. Karibuni, St Martin There may be no more memorable beach bar experience in the entire Caribbean than an afternoon at Pinel Island, the intoxicating little cay just off the coast of the “mainland” in St Martin. You take a one-minute ferry boat and reach Karibuni, the beach bar that belongs to the St Martin hotel by the same name. Plainly, this is what it’s all about — a Crusoe-chic beach bar that will make you feel like you’ve somehow landed on a desert island — one that just so happens to have marvelously fresh seafood and the best cocktails of the French Caribbean. A true bucket-list experience. Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands The Mecca of beach bars is back, having relaunched after the British Virgin Islands reopened its borders for tourism in early December. Because after 2020, we could all use a few Painkillers (now with the bar’s own Soggy Dollar Rum). Bikinis on Beach,…

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Caribbean Connection, Featured Post, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Loose Mongoose – A BVI Destination Beach Bar!

By Alexander Brittell The Loose Mongoose – A BVI Destination Beach Bar! It‘s a ritual for travelers to the British Virgin Islands… …Land at Beef Island Airport, go through customs, gather your luggage and head to Trellis Bay, where you’d find your ferry or charter, step on your boat and begin your BVI vacation. But in recent years, Trellis Bay has become more than just a jumping-off point. It has become a destination in its own right. And that’s in large part thanks to the Loose Mongoose, a Mecca in the British Virgin Islands, a restaurant and beach bar and town square all in one. The open-air eatery on the waterfront in Trellis Bay is a marvelous mix of outstanding food, creative cocktails and even a bustling weekend brunch, along with morning coffee for boaters in search of java fuel (or those heading to an early ride on the Anegada ferry). It’s not new, of course. For years, Loose Mongoose was a haven for boaters, travelers and rum lovers —until the storms of 2017 had their say. And now, following a dramatic reconstruction project, the Loose Mongoose has a whole new look and a new place in the pantheon of Caribbean beach bars, and a compelling argument for BVI travelers to stay a little longer in Trellis Bay. Loose Mongoose, which is the sister company of the renowned Anegada Beach Club hotel, is green, too, having been built from recycled hardwoods in true Caribbean style, with a thatched-roof look married with sleek, modern design. “Loose Mongoose was created to be a multi-faceted gateway to the outer islands, while serving as a unique destination in of itself,” owner Doug Riegels tells Caribbean Journal. That’s precisely what it’s done: Loose, as it’s affectionately known, has instantly become one of the coolest-looking beach spots in all of…

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Caribbean Connection, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Cliffhouse On St. John – Back on the Short-term Market

The Cliffhouse On St. John – Back on the Short-term Market The sun comes up over the mountain and glows on Cinnamon Bay and Peter Bay, a mesmerizing, mystical moment in St John. But it’s nothing unusual. It’s every sunrise at the Cliffhouse in St. John. But the daily arrival of the sun is not the only reason why Cliffhouse is one of the hottest villas on St John; back on the short term rental market, the 12,000-square-foot ultra-luxe villa is one of the most spectacular places to stay in the US Virgin Islands. The recently-renovated four-bedroom retreat, with room for parties of up to ten guests, set in the exclusive community of Peter Bay. That includes private beach access to Peter Bay Beach, the home of some of the best snorkeling and swimming in all of St. John, a corner of the island where you’ll likely encounter turtles and stingrays. Amenities also include A/C and TV with an array of Indonesian antiques, custom-designed furniture, fine linens and a pervasive island chic aesthetic. There’s even an on-site, well-equipped gym. But the biggest amenity is the setting: you’re up, 100 feet above sea level, overlooking astonishing scenery: St. John beaches, the green hills of the British Virgin Islands; the Virgin Islands National Park and the Sir Francis Drake Channel. It’s an almost hypnotizing scene, whether you’re having an in-villa massage or a rum cocktail on the deck — and not just at sunrise. “This is one of the best villas on St John,” says Shanna Dickerson, owner of Blue Sky Luxury Travels, the exclusive rental agent for the property. Reservations for the villa are now available starting New Year’s Eve week, Dec. 26 through Jan. 2. For more information, visit BlueSkyLuxuryTravels.com.

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