If you’d rather sink your toes into the sand at a new Caribbean resort than revisit the same old standby, you’re in luck; 2014 is proving to be a banner year for luxury openings and revamps in the region. After several years of slowed development, the Caribbean is making a comeback, and though long construction times are still the norm, there are plenty of sparkling-new retreats ready to be discovered on your next island vacation. As one of Forbes Travel Guide’s newest soon-to-be-rated destinations, we’ve rounded up six spots that are particularly hot right now—and where to stay at each.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has had a hand in reshaping the luxury landscapes on Aruba, Grand Cayman and Puerto Rico over the last two years; since Ritz-Carlton chose the latter as the site of its second-ever Reserve-branded property, Puerto Rico has welcomed another landmark hotel, the newly reopened Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, originally designed in 1919 by architectural firm Warren and Wetmore of Grand Central Terminal fame. This June, El Blok hotel follows with an entirely different take on Puerto Rican style and an equally buzzed-about restaurant from a celebrity chef. Meanwhile, Ritz-Carlton has also opened a new Aruba property and reimagined its Grand Cayman resort’s rooms and restaurants, including Blue by Eric Ripert.
On Canouan, the upcoming Pink Sands Club is transporting the legendary luxury of its sister hotel, Barbados’ Sandy Lane, to the Grenadines. Conveniently, nearby St. Vincent will open its $240 million Argyle International Airport in early 2015, making access to these remote islands easier than ever. In the Bahamas, Baha Mar is the headliner, bringing luxury hotel brands Rosewood, Mondrian, Grand Hyatt and others to a single beachfront development later this year. And Anguilla, home to luxe favorites including Cap Juluca and Viceroy Anguilla, welcomes Auberge Resorts to the island this autumn with the opening of a revamped Malliouhana, which will have a new look but the same stunning location above Meads Bay and Turtle Cove beaches. Read on for the rest of the Caribbean hot spots.
Set to open in December, Baha Mar is a $3.5 billion beachfront jewel box of high-end hotels—Rosewood at Baha Mar, Mondrian at Baha Mar, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel and the all-inclusive Meliá Baha Mar—wrapped up in 18 holes of Jack Nicklaus golf, the Caribbean’s largest casino, an ESPA spa, a performing arts center and a curated selection of luxury retailers. The highlight of the lavish Bahamas playground, though, may be its pristine stretch of Cable Beach, currently being restored by Baha Mar to the natural state it enjoyed before development first hit the area in the 1950s.
Following the opening of Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in December 2012, luxury projects are afoot in San Juan and beyond as the capital’s iconic Condado Vanderbilt Hotel reopens and the modern El Blok readies to lure foodies to the island of Vieques. Condado Vanderbilt is emerging anew nearly 20 years after being shuttered; the hotel’s first 210 guest rooms are slated to open in December 2014, and its 1919 restaurant is already open under the direction of executive chef Juan José Cuevas, whose résumé includes Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. El Blok, scheduled to open on June 1, brings with it a new concept from chef José Enrique, a top San Juan toque and 2014 James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef: South.
The Ritz-Carlton, Aruba single-handedly upped the island’s luxury landscape when it opened on Palm Beach in November 2013. Each of the resort’s 320 guest rooms features a private balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea, and a 15,000-square-foot spa — Aruba’s largest — specializes in indigenous, island-inspired treatments. Roll the dice at the hotel’s 24-hour casino or hit the culinary jackpot with four on-site dining options that range from an Argentinian grill to seafood-focused fine dining.
Malliouhana, An Auberge Resort, leads a wave of fresh looks and new builds on Anguilla. Closed since 2011 for a large-scale renovation, the 30-year-old property will reopen under Auberge management this November. Under the eyes of designer Todd-Avery Lenahan, whose work includes Aspen’s revitalized Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Hotel Jerome and Five-Star The Spa at Encore Las Vegas, and SB Architects, masterminds behind Andaz San Diego and Four-Star Calistoga Ranch, Malliouhana will transform with a new open-air restaurant, spa, tiered swimming pool and sunset bar, along with 55 guest rooms starting at 700 square feet. Hot on Malliouhana’s heels with 2015 and 2016 opening dates on Anguilla: Zemi Beach, a boutique condo resort on the white sands of Shoal Bay East, and The Reef by CuisinArt, a new addition to CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman is wowing return guests with its new look after a 2013 redesign of its 365 guest rooms and public spaces took it from traditional Ritz-Carlton to Caribbean beauty (think modern nautical nods and crisp blues, greens and whites). An interactive water area, new retail space and a revitalized La Prairie Spa are its next projects. Meanwhile, since breaking ground on the upscale New Urbanism town of Camana Bay in 2005, Grand Cayman’s Dart Realty has lined the live-work-play development with boutiques and culinary imports such as Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Ortanique from Miami. Travelers can call Camana Bay home with the addition of the Caribbean’s first Kimpton hotel in 2016. Designed by SB Architects, the 263-room property will sit on Seven Mile Beach.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
If it’s an intimate island getaway you seek, St. Vincent and the Grenadines — made up of 32 islands, some of which, including Petit St. Vincent and Palm Island, double as private resorts — is a good place to find it, and a new international airport slated for early 2015 will make getting here easier than ever. Canouan is the island to watch this year, as Pink Sands Club readies to open there with some of the most sought-after villas in the region. From the owner of Barbados’ exclusive Sandy Lane, Pink Sands Club is expected to attract as many celebrities to its luxurious digs as its sister resort does.
Photos Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company LLC and Condado Vanderbilt