Open this photo in gallery
3 per cent.)
How to find the one that’s right for you? Consider this your cheat sheet: Here’s what to expect from every island nation you can reach by a direct flight from a major Canadian city.
Antigua and Barbuda Open this photo in gallery <img src="http://www.ladyclick.
ROBERT ZEHETMAYER/iStockPhoto / Getty Images
The lowdown: This Commonwealth country’s two namesake islands are ringed by hundr of sandy coves and bays that once sheltered buccaneers and British colonial frigates. Sun worshippers, yachties and honeymooners predominate on Antigua these days, with the glamorous town of English Harbour being home to Nelson’s Dockyard, a Georgian-style collection of naval buildings that became a World Heritage Site in 2016.
Barbuda, meanwhile, is still recovering from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Where to stay: Antigua’s plentiful accommodations range from luxurious all-inclusive resorts – many of them adults-only – to quaint inns and inexpensive guest houses. On Barbuda, the upscale Barbuda Belle boutique hotel reopened in late 2018.
New and notable: The country’s tourism authority recently unveiled an online honeymoon registry, which allows visiting newlyw to request wedding gifts such as resort stays, spa treatments and romantic excursions.
Aruba Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: White-sand beaches, all-inclusive resorts galore and the ornate Dutch colonial architecture of Oranjestad have helped make Aruba the most visited island in the southern Caribbean. Shipwrecks draw scuba divers, steady breezes do likewise with windsurfers and kiteboarders, and dune-buggy drivers race through Arikok National Park.
Where to stay: Luxurious private villas, dozens of all-inclusives and resorts from upscale brands such as Ritz-Carlton and Hyatt all vie for the attention of well-heeled travellers.
Bahamas Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: While this archipelago of more than 700 islands is spread over some 260,000 square kilometres, most of the vacation action takes place on Nassau, where mega-resorts such as Atlantis and Baha Mar offer everything from water parks to craft daiquiris. Hop on a smaller plane out of Nassau, however, and more adventurous and esoteric diversions await: diving into the blue holes of Andros, for instance, or kayaking among the 365 Exuma cays.
With regards to Hurricane Dorian, the CTO has stated that the greatest impact “is being felt in the northernmost islands of the Abacos and Grand Bahama” and that “most of the nation has been mostly unaffected.” According to the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, post-Dorian closures include all Bahamas Ferries sailings, Grand Bahama International Airport, the Abacos’ Leonard Thompson International Airport, all hotels and resorts on the Abacos and Grand Bahama, and Grand Bahama’s Freeport Harbour.
Visitors are advised to contact properties and services directly for more information.
Where to stay: Just about every conceivable type of lodging is available across the Bahamas. Of recent note is the multimillion-dollar renovation of the Coral Sands Hotel on Harbour Island and the new, 30,000-square-foot Beach Club at the Grand Isle Resort Spa on Great Exuma.
New and notable: The Royal Caribbean cruise line recently opened the first phase of “Perfect Day at CocoCay,” a $250-million private island with what’s said to be the tallest water slide in North America and the Caribbean’s largest wave pool, among other superlative diversions.
Barbados Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: The Platinum Coast’s powdery beaches and turquoise waters meet afternoon tea and cricket in this wealthy Commonwealth country in the eastern Caribbean. The capital, Bridgetown, is also home to World Heritage-listed British colonial architecture and plenty of pulsating nightlife.
Where to stay: Sandals Royal Barbados, ECO Lifestyle + Lodge, and the Abidah by Accra have all opened within the past two years.
Bonaire Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: With its desert island feel, this Halifax-sized Dutch dependency is renowned for its world-class scuba diving and snorkelling, as well as excellent windsurfing on Lac Bay and kayaking among mangroves.
Where to stay: There are dozens of resorts, rental apartments, boutique hotels and private villas on Bonaire.
None of them are all-inclusive.
Cayman Islands Open this photo in gallery
The first is a major cruise ship port and resort destination, with Seven Mile Beach being its most famous stretch of sand and Stingray City renowned for its namesake marine life. The pace slows down considerably on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, both of which are reachable via Grand Cayman’s Owen Roberts International Airport.
The lowdown: One of the most popular winter destinations among Canadians – and still mostly off-limits to Americans – the Caribbean’s largest island is also its most culturally, naturally and geographically diverse.
Indeed, there’s more to Cuba than historic Havana and the resort-lined sands of Varadero, Cayo Coco, Cayo Santa Maria and other beach-blessed regions, what with the country’s nine World Heritage Sites comprising almost half of the Caribbean’s total.
Where to stay: Cuban lodging options seem to multiply and diversify by the week, with everything from all-inclusive resorts to rental apartments on offer. The latest openings include the upscale Iberostar Grand Hotel Packard and SO/ Paseo del Prado La Habana, both in Havana.
Curacao Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: Alphabetically the third member of the southern Caribbean’s so-called “ABC Islands” – the other two being Aruba and Bonaire – Curacao offers an appealing mix of World Heritage-listed Dutch colonial architecture, top-notch diving and understated beaches.
Where to stay: All-inclusives are the exception, not the rule, in Curaçao, where the former Hilton hotel is in the midst of a US$15-million renovation and is slated to reopen in December as the Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa Casino.
Dominican Republic Open this photo in gallery
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The lowdown: With plentiful year-round golf, myriad beach-rich regions and the New World’s first cathedral, castle, monastery and fortress all located in capital Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone – a World Heritage Site – it’s hardly surprising that the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola has become the Caribbean’s most visited destination.
New and notable: The US$100-million Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, the French all-inclusive resort chain’s largest Caribbean project in more than 40 years, is slated to open in late November on the country’s relatively undeveloped northeast coast.
Guadeloupe Open this photo in gallery
The lowdown: This overseas region of France, consisting of six inhabited islands, is a veritable idyll of sandy beaches, verdant peaks and gushing waterfalls. Shaped like butterfly wings, the country’s two main islands, Grande-Terre and Basse-Terre, are very different.
The former, home to the glamorous capital, Pointe-à-Pitre, and its international airport, is ringed by resorts. The latter, home to the country’s eponymous national park, is capped by the iconic Soufrière volcano.
Likewise, chain resorts are relatively few and far between, with smaller independent properties dominating the scene.
George, which is home to the famous Grand Anse Beach, a cruise ship pier and an esplanade. More rural parishes, such as Saint David and Saint John, are given over to laid-back pursuits such as hiking and tours of nutmeg plantations.
Where to stay: Grenada offers a pleasing mix of all-inclusives and à la carte accommodations, with new additions including the Silversands Grenada, the True Blue Bay Boutique Resort and the Mount Hartman Bay Estate.
The lowdown: For Canadians who choose to pursue non-essential travel to Haiti – contrary to government advisories – the rewards of gorgeous beaches, picturesque waterfalls, verdant mountains and a lively, resilient culture may be worth the risks.
Where to stay: All-inclusive resorts line the sandy coast north of the capital, Port-au-Prince, which itself is home to upscale properties such as the Occidental Royal Oasis and the Marriott Port-au-Prince.
Luxury lodgings are also available in coastal areas such as Les Cayes, Cap-Haïtien and Jacmel.
New and notable: The National Historic Park and historic centre of Cap-Haïtien, a World Heritage Site, is reportedly benefiting from a $45-million grant from the International Development Association.
Jamaica Open this photo in gallery
Nandeno Parkinson/Getty Images
The lowdown: From spicy jerk cuisine and reggae music to endless beach-resort indulgences and hikes in Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park – now a World Heritage Site – the third-largest island in the Greater Antilles is incredibly varied, vibrant and easy on the eyes.
It should be noted that the Canadian government recommends visitors to Jamaica “exercise a high degree of caution due to the high level of violent crime.”
Where to stay: All-inclusives abound in major destinations such as Montego Bay, Ocho Rios and Negril, with the latter being notable for its clifftop boutique properties. Inland, you’ll find smaller boutique properties and family-run lodgings.
Martinique Open this photo in gallery
Steve Geer/iStockPhoto / Getty Images
The lowdown: One more Gallic member of the Lesser Antilles, rugged-yet-sophisticated Martinique is renowned for its beaches, hiking, cuisine and rich French-influenced culture. Then there’s the literal capper: Mont Pelée, the 1,397-metre dormant volcano that most recently erupted in 1932.
Where to stay: Another eschewer of all-inclusives – save for the opulent Club Med Buccaneer’s Creek – Martinique’s lodgings are mostly independent and upscale.
After all, not even a catastrophic storm can tarnish the appeal of shimmering white-sand beaches, dazzling coral reefs, the El Yunque tropical rain forest and atmospheric Old San Juan, which is home to both a National Historic Site and World Heritage Site.
Where to stay: Accommodations tend to reflect Puerto Rico’s Spanish and American influences, ranging from major hotel and resort chains to the “paradores” network of family-owned inns.
St. Kitts and Nevis Open this photo in gallery
Kitts and Nevis.
Kitts from Nevis. That said, the two islands are bre apart from each other: St.
Kitts is home to an enormous cruise terminal and the lively beach bars and resorts of Frigate Bay. Nevis, meanwhile, is a more tranquil option, with its highly walkable volcanic peak rising over lovely beaches and the country’s compact colonial capital, Charlestown.
Where to stay: While all-inclusive options are not unknown, the most enticing has to be the former sugar plantations that have been converted into luxurious hotels, such as Ottley’s Plantation Inn and Relais Chateaux’s Montpelier Plantation Beach.
Saint Lucia Open this photo in gallery
The quality of the views here are what lodging prices tend to be based on.
There’s Sulphur Springs, said to be “the world’s only drive-in volcano,” gorgeous Sault Falls, lush rain forests – the list goes on. Man-made options aren’t too shabby either, with many lavish resorts making the most of scenery that’s shared with hundr of thousands of cruise visitors each year.
Inland adventures include hiking and treetop zip-lining, while urban pursuits range from gourmet dining to browsing the markets frequented by many of the million-plus cruise ship passengers who visit the island each year.
Where to stay: The Dutch side of the island is home to dozens of all-inclusives, while the French side tends to offer more independent boutique properties.
Trinidad and Tobago Open this photo in gallery
DEBRALEE WISEBERG/iStockPhoto / Getty Images
Much-larger Trinidad is covered with mangrove swamps and hilly rain forest – along with more than its share of unsightly heavy industry – while Tobago offers white sands, palm trees and other typically Caribbean trappings. What the two islands share, however, seals the deal: World-class birdwatching and diving, gorgeous waterfall hikes, buzzing nightlife and mouth-watering curries.
Where to stay: All-inclusive options are reserved for Tobago, with Trinidad offering chain options such as Crowne Plaza, Hyatt and Hilton.
Smaller guest houses are also widely available on both islands.
Turks and Caicos Islands Open this photo in gallery
Sands as sublime as these deserve digs to match, and thankfully, Provo delivers.
Where to stay: All-inclusive resorts are the exception across the Turks and Caicos, where intimate boutique hotels and resorts provide both upscale accommodations and delicious in-house restaurants that on Provo can be toured via shuttle bus.
Over on less-travelled South Caicos, the Sailrock Resort opened its doors in January.
Special to The Globe and Mail