Image: Anse Chastanet Resort
Courtesy Anse Chastanet Resort
The Anse Chastanet Resort offers comfortable hillside rooms — book a Hillside Deluxe room for Old Caribbean decor and sensational views — above a secluded volcanic-sand beach with lots of activities.
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updated 1/21/2011 2:21:14 PM ET 2011-01-21T19:21:14

Toes in the sand, a frosty tropical cocktail in hand, and a bit of soulful reggae playing as the sun slowly sets—that’s the very essence of a Caribbean resort, right? Indeed, but just like the two dozen unique islands they call home, Caribbean resorts defy easy generalization. A few are luxurious enclaves, some are lively all-inclusives, and others are one-of-a-kind properties with a look and vibe all their own. Which are considered the best?

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Based on the results of our ninth annual T+L 500, where we ask readers to choose their favorite hotels and resorts around the world, 29 Caribbean properties on 12 islands made the cut. Read on for a few tantalizing highlights.

Slideshow: Best resorts in the Caribbean

Jamaica, one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations, claims six of the top 20 resorts, including the genteel and romantic Jamaica Inn (No. 3). This 60-year-old Ocho Rios property features 47 suites awash in whimsical periwinkle blue, plus an alfresco dining terrace where guests are invited to slow dance to live music.

Story: Caribbean touts tourism surge not seen since '08

Chic St. Bart’s and lush St. Lucia are each home to three top 20 properties, including Le Toiny (No. 13), an intimate hilltop resort of 15 villas with private plunge pools and panoramic views of the island’s picturesque bays, and St. Lucia neighbors Anse Chastanet Resort and Ladera (tied at No. 20), both of which feature rustic-chic architecture with open walls offering clear vistas of the Piton peaks.

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Turks and Caicos’ 72-suite Regent Palms (No. 12) makes the list for the first time. Set on scenic Grace Bay, the resort is known for its airy, kitchen-equipped suites and award-winning spa.

Slideshow: Caribbean way of life (on this page)

The youngest property on the list is Bermuda’s Tucker’s Point Hotel & Spa (No. 7), which opened in April 2009 as the island’s first new resort in 37 years. And one all-inclusive group managed to snag a total of four top 20 honors (three of them in the Top 10). So read on to learn which brand won high marks with T+L readers—and, of course, to find out which low-key Caribbean resort catapulted out of nowhere into the coveted No. 1 spot.

Copyright © 2012 American Express Publishing Corporation

Photos: Caribbean way of life

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  1. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of the Barbados Tourism Authority shows Harrismith Beach, Barbados. Sun, surf and sand are the main draws on this tropical Caribbean island. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Barbados

    This undated photo courtesy of Barbados Tourism Authority shows The Watering Hole rum shop in Barbados. The rum shops on the island are good places to sample local food and drink, watch a game of dominos, or just get to know the friendly and hospitable Bajans. (AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. St. Lucia

    Developed, beautiful and situated in the Eastern Caribbean, St. Lucia is accessible from Europe and Canada, and reachable -- albeit not as easily -- from the United States. St. Lucia is known as a romantic destination. The island gets plenty of visitors, including wedding parties. (Holger Leue  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. St. Lucia

    Cocoa pods lie on the ground ready to be processed at Fondoux Plantation in Soufriere, St. Lucia. Cocoa is one St. Lucia's main produce alongside the more obvious banana crop. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. St. George's

    The capital of Grenada, St. George's is considered one of the prettiest harbor towns in the Caribbean. Grenada's unique layout includes many finger-like coves, making the island a popular sailing destination. (Richard Cummins  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. The Cayman Islands

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Stingray City

    The Cayman Islands very popular attractions, Stingray City and the nearby shallows known as the Sandbar, provide the only natural oportunity to swim with Atlantic Southern Stingrays. (David Rogers / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. St John's

    In high season, up to five cruise ships visit St John's, Antigua, each day. The boats unload mostly American and European passengers who fan out across the island visiting the casinos and beaches. Antigua is easily accessible, and can offer good values for tourists. (Chris Jackson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Antigua

    Antigua, located in the Northeastern Caribbean, is a popular tourist spot. While there are high-end, stylish hotels, the island also features a large number of mid-priced options. Visitors will find beach bars, restaurants, casinos and shopping. (Richard I'Anson  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Antigua

    People walk along an area known as Devils Bridge in Indian Town Point, Antigua. Antigua is a wintertime destination for many visitors from the north. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Dominica

    Not as well known as other Caribbean islands, Dominica is green, fertile and mountainous. Visitors will find some opportunites to scuba dive, but watersports are not its main draw. The island does, however, offer a slew of rainforest trails -- great for hiking and sightseeing. (Greg Johnston  / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Dominican Republic

    An old church building is seen in La Romana, the third-largest city in the Dominican Republic. (Wayne Walton / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Belize

    Belize gets more than 850,000 visitors each year. The hot spot allows watersports such as kayaking and snorkeling, as well as inland activities like hiking and birding. The Mayan ruins of Altan Ha, pictured, are easily accessible from Caye Caulker. (Andrew Marshall / Lonely Planet Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. La Tortuga

    A fisherman repairs his nets on Cayo Herradura, off the island of La Tortuga in Venezuela. The country offers visitors a variety of activities to choose from, but remains undervisited -- especially compared to its South American neighbors. (Lynne Sladky / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Cuba

    Cuba blends the fantastic attractions associated with other Caribbean destinations with an amazing history. Tourists can stroll white sand beaches, take in the incredible architecture and party into the early-morning hours. (Javier Galeano / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. St. Barthelemy

    St. Barthelemy is a vacation spot of stars and millionaires. Trendy, chic and sexy, St. Baarths is safe for tourists, but expensive to visit. About 8,700 people reside on the island. (Mark Mainz / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Puerto Rico

    A man climbs to a 40-foot waterfall at the south side of the Caribbean National Rain Forest, commonly called El Yunque, near Naguabo, Puerto Rico. Most visitors hike the well-marked paths in the northern half of the park's rain forest but the trails in the south allow hikers and nature lovers to explore the only tropical forest in the U.S. national forest system. (Herminio Rodriguez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Puerto Rico

    The cupola of San Juan Cemetary as well as colorful homes sit next to the ocean in Old San Juan, the original capital city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The old city is a historic district of seven square blocks made up of ancient buildings and colonial homes, massive stone walls and vast fortifications, sunny parks and cobblestoned streets. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Puerto Rico

    Men play dominos in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Old San Juan is a well-preserved colonial city that allows tourists a peek into the past. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Guadeloupe

    Guadeloupe isn't as developed as some other Caribbean islands, but it offers a variety of beaches -- some active with watersports, some secluded. The island also offers beach bars, restaurants, mid-range hotels and other tourist amenities. (Marcel Mochet / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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