Whichever anniversary you’re celebrating, gold — as in sunshine and sandy beaches — is always appreciated and the right Caribbean resort can help you make that milestone memorable. While there are honeymoon resorts that are also great choices for the more experienced, without the distraction of a recent marriage you may be just as interested in great food, a spa and outdoor activities as in the indoor amenities. The key to getting the trip that will rock your romantic Richter scale is to pinpoint what you both want and, when you find it, say “I do” — quickly.
A room with room
How about a resort room that feels less like a room and more like a home? Assuming your home overlooks the ocean and has a balcony with a private jacuzzi, the Grand Residences Riviera Maya will feel familiar. The resort opened in December 2013 and has just 103 suites from junior to gigantic. Located in Puerto Morelos about 20 minutes south of the Cancún airport, it’s halfway between Cancún and Playa del Carmen to the south. The walled city of Tulum sits atop a cliff down the coast and Chichén Itzá is just to the west. When you’re not studying each other you can study Maya culture — and follow up with a trip to Tulum — take Spanish classes, learn Mexican cooking; if that sounds like more work than you want to do on vacation, attend a tequila tasting. Or you can just curl up on a settee on an ocean-view balcony and remember why you got married in the first place.
Of all the hold-hands-and-walk-in-the-moonlight beaches in the Caribbean, Grace Bay on Providenciales tops the list for many people. The long, sweeping crescent is gently lapped by the trademark laser-green water of the Turks & Caicos. The sand is tawny and, down by the water, has that firm-but-yielding texture that gives the perfect foot-feel perception. Provo radiates a down-island vibe but its location (two hours from New York) makes it easy to get to — one of the reasons it attracts celebrities short on time but longing for some sun-washed R&R.
Separated from the properties clustered in the center of the beach, Ocean Club Resort is at the quiet east end of the bay, closer to Leeward Going Through and ultra-chic Parrot Cay. The Ocean Club is actually two adjacent complexes — Ocean Club and Ocean Club West — that share facilities. That gives guests at each of the small and intimate properties a choice of pools, restaurants and activities, like a hot-stone massage for two at SpaTropique.
Accommodations are oversized, from studios with kitchenettes up to three-bedroom villa-style units with full kitchens and expansive balconies. Opus restaurant is the fine dining choice and, while it has an extensive wine list, its roster of some 50 rum varieties gets the most attention. Cabana Bar & Grille is beachside for casual lunches and Caribbean grilled dinners.
If you’re inspired to walk/bike/hike/kayak/dive/swim/sail/fish you certainly can, but spending a week lolling in a hammock beside the winding pool might supply the romantic spark you’re looking for.
Gingerbread and sweet nothings
The Victorian tradition is a conundrum: strait-laced public mores mixed with private naughtiness. The plantation houses of the Caribbean seem to capture that contradiction: graceful architecture imbued with a sense of mischief and intrigue. Nisbet Plantation on Nevis is one of the finest examples. It was the childhood home of Fanny Nisbet, who was the first in a line of notable conquests by British naval hero Lord Nelson. The two were married on the island in 1787, attended by Prince William Henry (later King William IV, uncle of Queen Victoria).
The Great House now sits on 30 rolling tropical acres along the beach — unusual as most plantation houses were set up in the hills. Accommodations are in cottages scattered about the property, some close to the ocean, others set in the gardens. From the porch of the Great House you look out at the white beach and cobalt blue ocean framed by a colonnade of towering coconut palms. The main restaurant, which maintains a Four Diamond rating from AAA, is in the Great House while the casual Coconuts is poolside and Sea Breeze is on the beach. The Nisbet spa is consistently ranked among the region’s top five.
There are no zip lines or Zumba classes, only the deep relaxation that comes with knowing that exactly nothing is expected of you for an entire week. That should be long enough to forget who you have to be Monday through Friday and get back to being who you were when the two of you met.
The most popular beaches in the Caribbean got that way for a reason: They’re world-class. And none more so than Grand Cayman’s Seven Mile Beach. A byproduct of a beach’s notoriety is the number of people attracted to enjoy the sand, the surf and the view: The best beaches tend to be crowded, as do the resorts that border them. Here, too, Seven Mile is no exception. When you’re in a social mood, there’s nothing wrong with sharing the fun, but an anniversary trip demands some alone time.
One way to get the best of both worlds — the popular beach and privacy — is to look for an intimate boutique hotel or condo-tel like Caribbean Club. The accommodations here aren’t just rooms, they’re full-on apartments with granite-counter kitchens and wide balconies overlooking the central pool or facing out over Seven Mile Beach. Grab the provided robe, brew some coffee and just sit together on the loungers as the rising sun lights up the ultramarine Bay. That’s the magic, right there.
This isn’t a stiff fawn-all-over-you-chi-chi celebrity stop; it’s Old Caribbean style, with a friendly and familiar staff who’ll see to it you’re happy and have everything you need. The pool is uncrowded, as is the impeccably kept beachfront with its phalanx of loungers. You’re unlikely to come away hungry. The on-site restaurant, Luca, is outstanding — Caymanians pack it every Sunday for its over-the-top brunch — and has a sleek interior highlighted by a well stocked, glass-encased wine cellar. It’s also just across West Bay Road from the Camana Bay development with it’s cluster of superb restaurants: Cindy Hutson’s Ortanique, Michael Schwartz’s Genuine Food & Drink, Mizu, Abacus and Upper Crust. The West Indies Wine Bar is extremely hangout-worthy and a popular place for the hedge-fund managers who make this island go ’round. Eric Rippert’s justly famous restaurant Blue is just down the street at the Ritz Carlton, too. And of course, Cayman’s other charms — diving, snorkeling, Sting Ray City, Rum Point — are close at hand.
MORE: 5 things to do in Grand Cayman
If you were casting a location for a movie about a forest hideaway, Blancaneaux Lodge would be perfect. It should be — it was built by film director Francis Ford Coppola. It’s not simple to get to — a couple of hours over sketchy roads from Belize City — on purpose. Perched on the edge of the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve in western Belize, the Lodge has just 20 rooms along Privassion Creek. The hilly grounds are punctuated by waterfalls and festooned with wild orchids. It seems less like a hotel and more like your fabulously rich uncle invited you to enjoy his mountain estate — an estate that happens to have a pair of restaurants, a spa with a natural hot spring and a nice wine list featuring (surprise) Coppola’s own wines. There’s no beachfront stocked with windsurfers and kayaks but there are swimming holes in the pristine river and day trips to the Maya ruins at Caracol and Tikal, horseback riding, mountain biking and just taking in some of the hemisphere’s most peaceful scenery from the deck of your thatch-roofed cabana. That should inspire some Oscar-worthy moments.