--By Jordan Simon
The Caribbean's best resorts are constantly in search of ways to improve upon paradise. But in the past year, several new hotels have upped the stakes, be they brand new properties or completely reinvented hotels that have made modern tweaks to draw more travelers to their shores (and pools and enhanced guest rooms and swanky new restaurants). No matter what you're looking for -- romance, adventure, seclusion, or great eats -- there's a new (or at least much improved) hotel in the Caribbean for you.
O:live Boutique Hotel
Where: San Juan, Puerto Rico
Just off the beach in ritzy Condado, O:live's name references both the owners' extensive Mediterranean travels and "l'art de vivre." Artworks cram the lobby, crossing a living room with a museum. Fifteen smallish but well-equipped rooms also exude European style, featuring glass-box showers, plasma TVs, DVD players, free WiFi, and tablets programmed with Pandora, YouTube, and Google. Don't miss O:liva restaurant's Mediterranean cuisine, or marina views from the rooftop pool, which is a stylish see-and-be-scene come evening.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Puerto Rico guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of O:live Boutique Hotel
Anguilla's first shared ownership and rental villa complex, CéBlue Villas blends the intimacy of a private villa with resort facilities, including "24-hour lifestyle assistant/concierges," spa, fitness center, and partner beachfront bistro, da'Vida. Eight gi-normous five-bedroom villas offer 8,000 square feet of cool contemporary space, as well as the de rigueur private plunge pools. CéBlue Villas crowns a hilltop overlooking Anguilla's Crocus Bay, a short golf cart ride from the beach.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Anguilla Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of CéBlue
Occidental Royal Oasis
Where: Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Two new hotels promise relief for this beautiful but beleaguered nation, including the 106-room Best Western Premier Petion-ville, built to withstand earthquakes up to magnitude 9. But the 128-room Occidental, also in elegant embassy-filled Petion-ville, presages a return to Haiti's touristic grandeur. Boutiques and an art gallery enhance the local cultural connection. The chic rooftop poolside lounge affords panoramic views. The four restaurants include the gorgeous 1930s-themed La Villa, which originally operated as Le Picardie, a swank eatery hosting such celebs as Marlon Brando, Conrad Hilton, and Gloria Vanderbilt.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of AyitiFoto/Royal Oasis by Occidental
Trident Hotel & Trident Castle
Where: Port Antonio, Jamaica
The Trident Hotel is a 13-villa oceanfront beauty; closed for many years, it once hosted real and reel royalty that descended on Jamaica half a century ago. Think stately Georgian exteriors with ultra-hip interiors with retro accents, the latest gadgetry, and private plunge pools. New York restaurateurs and mixologists collaborated on the menus at the über-cool hotspots, Mike's Supper Club and Time Bar/Explorer's Lounge. Then, the Trident Castle, originally a lavish oceanfront private residence, has been converted into eight retro-chic bedrooms incorporating many original furnishings, digital surround sound systems, Apple TVs, mini-bars, and WiFi. The property also houses a state-of-the-art photo studio, a Romanesque swimming pool overlooking the ocean, helicopter pad, and private chapel.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Jamaica Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Tom Hill/Trident Hotel
Papagayo Beach & Design Hotel
Opened on Jan Thiel Beach next to the existing beach club of the same name, the Papagayo Beach and Design Hotel is a geometric neo-Constructivist vision in white. Aquariums and vivid marine artwork provide striking contrasts with the otherwise monochromatic public spaces. The 155 minimalist but comfy rooms affect that stark Starck look, all white-on-white. Facilities include two outdoor pools, a casino, spa, refined lobby bar, and beachfront eatery.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Curaçao Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Papagayo Beach & Design Hotel
Beach House Turks & Caicos
Where: Grace Bay, Provo
The Beach House styles itself Provo's "first barefoot chic boutique hotel" (with No Socks Allowed signage throughout). The 21 sizable suites front glorious Grace Bay, blending New England and Caribbean coastal design in whites and blues. Chef Eric Vernice's eight-course LABORATORY degustation menus focus on one item (whether an ingredient like fresh lobster or a cuisine), paired with wines and cocktail teasers. Another master chemist, perfumer Richard Howard of UK-based Arcania Apothecary, crafted the nine all-natural bath amenities.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Turks & Caicos Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beach House Turks & Caicos
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Where: Puerto Rico
This spectacular 1,400-acre, 115-room oceanfront resort occupies the historic former Laurance Rockefeller estate, nestled within a private nature sanctuary 20 miles west of San Juan. Su Casa, the original plantation hacienda restored to its 1920s glory, serves as a four-bedroom villa. The Spa Botanico sprawls over five acres and, like the Mi Casa restaurant, utilizes indigenous ingredients wherever possible. Getting back to Nature but not to basics, Dorado Beach offers a green experience---for a considerable number of greenbacks.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Puerto Rico Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
Sugar Beach, a Viceroy Hotel
Where: Soufrière, St. Lucia
The three-year, $100-million reinvention of the former Jalousie Plantation was almost as dramatic the tiered setting, beneath a steep mountainside between the island's iconic UNESCO World Heritage Pitons. Sugar Beach's additions include 59 beachfront bungalows, the Rainforest Spa, trendier-than-thou dining and nightlife outlets that wouldn't be out of place in SoHo, kids' club, and more. All rooms, affecting a contemporary colonial look contrasting white furnishings and dark hardwood floors, offer private plunge pools and butler service.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's St. Lucia Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort
Magdalena Grand Beach Resort
The island's first new major beachfront hotel in 12 years is situated on the 750-acre, gated, luxury Tobago Plantations Estate. The 178 handsomely appointed rooms feature spacious marble bathrooms, mini-fridges, safes, complimentary WiFi, high-def flat-screen televisions, and more. The numerous dining options have already become local faves, including Pembois with its popular Sunday brunch and the fine dining Kali'na. Parents appreciate such family-friendly features as the kids' club, adults-only pool, "Fun Director," and discounted dining. Top-notch amenities include a spa, dive center, and 18-hole golf course.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's Tobago Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Magdalena Grand Beach Resort
Where: St. Kitts
Bill Bensley, architect behind the famed tented camp at Four Seasons Chiang Mai, designed this elegant eco-centric enclave, its first 84 hillside cottages scheduled to open this December. Every unit in the cottage hotel commands magnificent views. Each features alfresco bathrooms (with specially formulated organic toiletries) as well as iPads (transform your room into a personal cinema with the giant pull-down screen and projector---they'll even supply popcorn). The locavore experience includes specially formulated organic toiletries, ingredients grown on the property's 400 acres, fresh fruit delivered daily, and an 18-hole championship "edible" golf course.
Plan Your Trip: Visit the Fodor's St. Kitts Guide
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kittitian Hill