Worldwide //  Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda //  Caribbean


Darkwood Beach, Antigua

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Over the years, we have visited the Caribbean countless times, and our experiences there have ranged from blissful to dire. On a good day, however, it is undeniably one of the most agreeable places on earth. The sun is hot but not too hot; the ...

Over the years, we have visited the Caribbean countless times, and our experiences there have ranged from blissful to dire. On a good day, however, it is undeniably one of the most agreeable places on earth. The sun is hot but not too hot; the sand and water can be world-class; and the gently insistent trade wind brings a delicious softness to the island climate. At the end of our recent extended trip, we concluded that the region is changing fast, and in many ways for the better. The Caribbean’s besetting sin used to be complacency. Its islands are so close to the United States that hoteliers once seemed to believe that they had a captive market that would continue to pay grossly inflated prices for a markedly inferior product. As stylish resorts sprang up around the globe, we began to wonder just how long the place could hope to remain in business. To be frank, there are still only a handful of Caribbean properties that compete with the best that Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean have to offer. But in the recent past, we have observed steady improvement. Gaudy fabrics and unremarkable rattan furniture are being replaced by thoughtful interior design; the cuisine now frequently employs local ingredients and is enlivened by indigenous culinary traditions; and proper staff training has resulted in greatly improved levels of service. Somewhat belatedly, the global craze for luxurious leisure spas has become widely established. (Indeed, one surprised general manager confided that revenue from beauty treatments now exceeds that from the golf course around which his resort was originally constructed.) For decades, the prosperity from tourism has flowed overwhelmingly to coral islands such as Antigua and Barbados. Indeed, it seems that white-sand beaches are still the best guarantee of commercial success. Given current preoccupations with the environment, however, combined with an increasing preference for spa therapies over sunbathing, the green and mountainous islands of the Caribbean may finally be coming into their own as fashionable and appealing destinations.

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Caribbean

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in Caribbean

Enchanting restaurant with an interior that is stage-set perfect: The airy pavilion comes with gingerbread trim and opens into lovely gardens. Chef-owner Paul Newman’s cuisine is superb, with especially fine seafood. Among the standouts from our meal were a thick, smooth gazpacho and a perfectly cooked swordfish steak with Asian peppers. Yield to the temptation to try the Key lime pie. Closed Tuesday.

Bonaventure Crescent Providenciales

This restaurant has moved to the Frangipani Beach Resort on Meads Bay from its original home on Forest Bay because of uncertainty over a development project. I have always been a fan, my preferred meal being the seafood spring rolls with refreshing ponzu dipping sauce, and Anguillan grilled crayfish (little cousins to the spiny lobster).

Meads Bay Anguilla

With minimalist interiors designed by Christian Liaigre, Le Sereno hotel does not greatly appeal to me. However, I have enjoyed its restaurant, Le Restaurant des Pêcheurs, now renamed Restaurant Le Sereno. It remains airy and tranquil, affording lovely views of the Grand Cul de Sac bay, and the menu is still seafood-centric. Look for starters such as a refreshing salad of watermelon, cantaloupe, feta cheese, tomato and arugula with a balsamic reduction. Among the mains, try the tropical rendition of bouillabaisse, here prepared with a variety of reef fish and augmented by a lively rouille. Various fish and vegetables can be grilled and sauced to order. 

Le Sereno Hotel Grand Cul de Sac BP 19 Saint Barthélemy US$70

This elegant open-air terrace restaurant perches on a flower-strewn hillside with panoramas of the neighboring volcanic islands of St. Kitts and Sint Eustatius. Chef Jean-Christophe Gille presides over one of the finest kitchens in the Caribbean. He presents a refined and innovative menu that combines French and Creole traditions. Starters, for example, might include an indulgent black truffle spaghetti with Parmesan; carpaccio and ceviche of mahi mahi with pickled vegetables; or duck foie gras with pineapple chutney and toasted brioche. Look for main courses such as lemon-crusted roasted snapper with a fricassee of broad beans and chanterelles, or a chop of suckling pig flavored with West Indian herbs and served with smoked-bacon polenta as well as seasonal vegetables. 

Hôtel Le Toiny Anse de Toiny Saint Barthélemy US$115

It’s hard to believe that this charming waterfront restaurant has been drawing diners for more than 30 years. It is a simple affair — just a white pergola with a corrugated metal roof, some strategic lighting and food that reflects St. Barths’ Creole heritage. The team here comprises chef Maya Gurley and her husband, Randy, who runs the front of the house. Start with the best planter’s punch on the island and then, if it’s on the daily-changing menu, the excellent fish soup, Maya’s island answer to the Mediterranean classic. Among the main courses, it’s hard to go wrong with the local grilled fish or the snapper in green curry. If it’s on the menu, don’t miss the coconut tart. If you want to start a conversation, bring up Maya’s: Some love it; some loathe it. We have always thoroughly enjoyed the place. Reservations made well in advance are a must in high season. Closed Sunday.

Gustavia Saint Barthélemy US$100

A choice dinner spot, Coco Bistro, is set in a pomegranate-red adobe-style house with a garden of towering palms. Chef Stuart Gray has fashioned a sophisticated menu that combines island and international dishes. Among the starters, the ahi tuna sashimi is excellent, served on crisp tortillas with chopped onions, tomatoes and scallions and given zip by a wasabi mayonnaise. My main course, a nicely spiced jerk pork tenderloin with a rich mango-Port reduction, ratatouille and mashed potatoes, was outstanding.

Grace Bay Road Providenciales

Perched on a hill in Gustavia, Bonito has an all-white interior with a raftered hip-roof ceiling, plus a semicircular open-air pavilion with memorable views over the town. The menu features delicious ceviches, plus fine salads such as an excellent take on tabouleh, here made with quinoa, fresh mint, watermelon, avocado and feta. The fish is invariably good, a standout being the grilled tuna tataki, a tuna steak with crunchy vegetables, shiitake mushrooms, noodles and yuzu. Closed Wednesday in May and August, and all of September. 

Rue Labin Brin Gustavia Saint Barthélemy US$75

The arrival of a new chef at L’Esprit de Saline has resulted in a shorter name — and a changed menu. Jean-Claude Dufour brings his experience as chef at Eden Rock to this informal open-air establishment beside the road leading to popular Saline Beach. Some of the most delicious, eclectic dishes on the island appear on the constantly changing menu, and might include mushroom ravioli with roasted shrimp, wonderful mahi mahi with crispy polenta and a fennel salad, and an Angus tenderloin with potatoes and Parmesan. Reservations are a must. Closed Wednesday and mid-June through July.

Anse de Grande Saline Saint Barthélemy US$85

The one place that locals invariably recommend is Mango Reef, which is part of The Alexandra Resort, just a few minutes’ walk from The Veranda. The main restaurant has an open deck set in the dunes, which affords sweeping views of the ocean. It is a wonderful spot for lunch. The fare is casual, with pizzas, excellent salads, a fine lobster club and other sandwiches, plus the island specialty, braised oxtail! Although scarcely a light dish suitable for the tropics, I tried the latter out of curiosity and found it absolutely delicious.

TKCA 1ZZ Providenciales

This stylish spot enjoys a prime location on a craggy outcrop overlooking the turquoise waters of Baie de St-Jean. The extensive and inventive menu takes inspiration from cuisines the world over and is under the direction of star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Starters might include rich roasted lobster ravioli with coconut and lime, and a main course could be snapper crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet-and-sour jus. The view is one of the island’s best, and the bar is a fine place for sunset cocktails. 

Eden Rock Hotel St. Jean Bay Saint Barthélemy US$115

If you ever think of chucking it all to open a beach bar, be sure to read “A Trip to the Beach,” Bob and Melinda Blanchard’s tale of their lives as Vermont-based entrepreneurs who did just that in 1994. I have enjoyed innumerable happy evenings in Blanchards. The more formal dinner venue offers great shrimp and lobster cakes, and delicious blackened snapper on polenta, while the Beach Shack next door, which debuted in 2011, is ideal for an informal lunch. I greatly enjoyed my black beans and rice followed by an excellent rendition of a grilled Cubano sandwich with roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese and a zippy chipotle mayo.

Meads Bay Anguilla

There comes a time when all visitors to St. Barths just do not want another grilled fillet of snapper/dorado/fish du jour — tasty as they may be. This charming spot replaced much-loved PaCrí as the most popular Italian restaurant on the island when it opened in 2008. The whitewashed cottage in Gustavia is fully enclosed and air-conditioned, perfect for a rainy or humid evening. The menu features the traditional dishes of an Italian trattoria, with salads such as refreshing mache with albacore and cannellini beans, antipasti like prosciutto and mozzarella, pastas such as the delicious house-made ravioli bursting with ricotta and spinach in a tomato sauce, and meat dishes like the delicate veal scaloppini in a bracing lemon sauce. 

33 rue du Roi Oscar II Gustavia Saint Barthélemy US$75

A good spot for lunch, especially if you are traveling with children, is the Tiki Hut, in a delightful setting beside the marina in the enclave of Turtle Cove, just a short drive from Grace Bay. The menu is a delightful mix of Caribbean and casual. We started with spicy conch fritters and then enjoyed a mild but flavorful curried chicken, with a generous portion of sautéed vegetables and rice with beans. The younger set will enjoy the chicken fingers, ribs, burgers and choose-your-toppings pizzas.

Turtle Cove Marina Providenciales
SIMILAR REGIONS TO Worldwide //  Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda //  Caribbean

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