The Caribbean beckons with a promise of languid days on palm-fringed beaches, but where to start? For the discerning honeymooner seeking an island vibe that not everyone knows about, here are three picks: St. Lucia, Nevis and Exuma.We actually honeymooned on St. Lucia, chose Nevis for our second honeymoon after renewing our vows at 10 years, then Exuma hit our radar thanks in part to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies filmed there.
St. Lucia: ‘The Bachelor’ Sought Romance HereSt. Lucia, West Indies, has retained the title World’s Leading Honeymoon Destination seven years running at the World Travel Awards, which means we were ahead of our time in 1994.One islander says, “People come here and see the raw sophisticated beauty of it. The very discerning, whose hearts are in it, see the seduction because these islands are seductive.” That seduction starts with St. Lucia’s iconic Twin Pitons – bright green spires rising dramatically from sparkling azure waters. The rain forest, black-sand and white-sand beaches, plus palm-laced alcoves tucked among the island’s rugged coastline, add to the allure.Two properties popular with honeymooners face that jaw-dropping Pitons view – Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain – both owned by the same family (www.ansechastanet.com and www.jademountainstlucia.com).Anse Chastanet Resort covers 600 acres of lush gardens and tropical foliage bordering one of the island’s best beaches. Guests can sample the spa, enjoy yoga, snorkeling, scuba diving, tennis, sunset sailing, sea kayaking, jungle biking, hiking and bird watching among the ruins of an 18th-century colonial plantation. Over dinner, co-owner Karolin Troubetzkoy explains, “This is a love affair; this is not a normal hotel.”We were convinced when we stepped into The Passion Flower (Room 7E), octagonal in shape and featuring a half-wall beneath roof thatching, so the area in between was open, perfectly framing that Pitons postcard view.Karolin says the unique, 49-room property attracts the well-traveled – “a mix of individualists, escapists, romantics and those who want to hide away.”Architect/co-owner Nick Troubetzkoy deadpanned, “The view doesn’t hurt either.”Fans watching TV’s “The Bachelor” last year saw those Pitons when sister property Jade Mountain was featured on the final episode. Jake took to one knee, proposing to Vienna on the resort’s Celestial Terrace. While their romance failed to bloom, viewers fell in love with the exquisite beauty of Jade Mountain, which soars above Anse Chastanet.Troubetzkoy instilled bold architectural design here: individual bridges lead to tranquil infinity pool sanctuaries. At between 1,400 and 2,000 square feet, the 24 sanctuary suites are grand sweeping spaces where bedroom, living area and infinity pool form extraordinary platforms floating out into nature, with the fourth wall entirely absent. Additionally, there are five sky Jacuzzi suites.When (if) you can tear away from such luxury, prime spots to visit are the world’s only drive-in volcano, sulfur springs, Diamond Falls and mineral baths. They are near Soufriere, home to both resorts and French for “sulfur in the air.”Other options: the island’s botanical gardens; lunch at Chez Paul’s overlooking Derek Walcott Square, named for the island’s Nobel Prize winner in literature; Pigeon Island National Landmark, where on Sundays locals picnic and swim nearby; and the Saturday market in downtown Castries. For more information, visit www.stlucia.org .
Nevis: Plantation Inns and the Four Seasons At one point, the West Indies island of Nevis was the sweetest island in the British crown, producing more sugar than all other Caribbean islands combined. Now, several former sugar plantations have been converted to luxury plantation inns, popular for honeymoons, including Nisbet Plantation (www.nisbetplantation.com), Montpelier Plantation (www.montpeliernevis.com) and Hermitage Plantation (www.hermitagenevis.com).Nevis and its larger neighbor St. Kitts operate as one sovereign democratic state within the British Commonwealth. At only seven miles long and five miles wide, Nevis lies near the top of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, about 200 miles south of Puerto Rico and just west of Antigua. The island’s largest resort is the tony Four Seasons Nevis (www.fourseasons.com/nevis), which remains the region’s only AAA Five-Diamond resort. We indulged in a couples massage in one of the pastel, gingerbread cottages that constitute the fabulous Spa at Four Seasons Nevis. New since our stay is the Sail-Laser Sailing School, offering an eight-hour, two-day training course. Plus there’s a standout tennis program and the top-ranked Robert Trent Jones II golf course.If all that activity works up a thirst, wander down Pinney’s Beach to sample the famed Killer Bee cocktail at Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill. One bride confided the potent drink does deliver a sting.Perhaps most memorable was diving with the chef in search of lobsters that were then cooked and served beachside. And Four Seasons’ Coral Grill is the newest dining experience on the island.Other romantic Nevis moments: An after-dinner swim under a full moon in the Nisbet Plantation pool. Sleeping away a stormy afternoon — “married people weather,” the proprietor called it ¬— in our plush king bed at Montpelier Plantation. Personalized dinner menus and photo fridge magnets that Nisbet Plantation gives its honeymooners and anniversary celebrants. Eating lobster sandwiches on homemade bread in Golden Rock’s Eden-like setting (www.golden-rock.com) preceded by an impromptu chat with Nevis’ own “Bee Man.” (Nevis is known for its honey; what you do with it in the privacy of your honeymoon suite is your business.) The Hermitage Plantation carriage ride complete with ocean views. A Hermitage family dinner where host Richard Lupinacci offered a fascinating glimpse into the life of Nevis-born Alexander Hamilton, who in 1789 became the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and was later killed in a duel with Aaron Burr. Stealing kisses in front of the large tiki statue at the eight-acre Botanical Garden of Nevis. Watching the sunset while floating hand-in-hand in the ocean at Four Seasons and reflecting on married-life bliss.For more information, visit www.nevisisland.com.
Exuma: Beaches That Entice FilmmakersExuma, Bahamas, is the kind of place where you can wade on a sandbar and pick up a starfish the size of a basketball, where the bottoms of clouds are actually tinted turquoise from the reflection of the water below, where you can sip a “Panty Dropper” at the small, beachside Coco Plum restaurant/bar (delivered with a waiver that the establishment will not be responsible for what you do or cannot do after imbibing).The Exumas, a Bahamian District, are a 120-mile-long chain of more than 360 islands; Great Exuma is the largest. Neighboring Little Exuma is connected by a small bridge, and visitors generally rent a car at the airport to explore both.Better yet, travel by boat, advises Matt Marco, general manager of February Point Resort Estates. “I never even drove a boat before I got here,” he says. “Now I go by boat to the market to shop and to four or five restaurants. It’s a really nice island lifestyle.”He’s right: A boat’s best for zipping over to Stocking Island’s Chat ‘n’ Chill (www.chatnchill.com) for the Sunday afternoon pig roast/beach bash, for anchoring to snorkel in some of the bluest waters in the world, or for docking to dine at the pink limestone Club Peace ‘n’ Plenty (www.peaceandplenty.com), which has housed and fed island guests for half a century.Yet walking on one of the white, powder-sand beaches might bring you the most delight, especially after lunching on cracked conch at Santana’s beach shack down the road from one of Little Exuma’s greatest treasures: Tropic of Cancer beach. There’s an actual line drawn on the small public access boardwalk denoting 23.5 degrees latitude north where the sun is directly overhead at noon on the summer solstice. We spent part of our time in an elegant February Point villa (www.februarypoint.com). This gated community features marina access, swimming pools, tennis courts, gymnasium and beach. Oceanfront villas overlook the emerald green waters of Elizabeth Harbour, half a mile from Exuma’s capital, Georgetown. February Point is situated on an 80-acre oceanfront peninsula with 360-degree views of dozens of surrounding coves and cays, including Stocking Island and Crab Cay. The resort features oceanfront luxury villa vacation rentals, as well as private estate property and vacation homes for sale.Scenes from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies II and III were filmed on Exuma, including the scene on the blazing white stretch of sand where they dig up the chest containing Davy Jones' heart. Johnny Depp bought an island here as did Nicholas Cage and couple Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, so walking in the footsteps of stars is possible, but better yet, watch the real stars at night create a perfect sky for romance.For more information, visit www.bahamas.com/exuma.
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