Winter is here (shiver) and so are high-season prices (shudder). But we’ve found some thoughtful people who are offering heart-warming holiday incentives – enhanced amenities and activities, spa specials and dive discounts. So pack your new swimsuit … the forecast calls for fun in the sun.
Five intimate nights at St. Lucia’s adult-contemporary Ladera are sure to stoke that lovin’ feeling – and so is the deeply discounted VIP treatment that comes with this generous offer. The normal nightly rate in an open-air suite with plunge pool is $550 – or $2,750 for five nights. Book the all-inclusive special, though, and you pay only $2,130 for five nights – a $620 break. But wait, there’s more! You also get all meals at the resort’s superb Dasheene restaurant, a beach picnic and a treatment at the Ti Kai Pose Spa.
Available: December 21 to April 30.
Contact: 800-738-4752; http://www.ladera.com/
In the Mood
A bottle of champagne, a couple’s massage, a gourmet dinner with wine, a sunset catamaran cruise – these are some of the seductive amenities that come with a five-night getaway at the Radisson Aruba Resort & Casino on Palm Beach. If you want to rev it up, the resort can arrange a myriad of other activities, including scuba diving, Jeep safaris, submarine rides and duty-free shopping. Or you can just relax under a Palm Beach palapa, basking in island breezes and enjoying each other’s peaceful, easy feelings.
Package: 2007 Romance.
Rate: Starting at $3,125, including breakfast.
Available: January 1to April 30.
Contact: 800-333-3333; www.radisson.com/aruba
A luxurious link in the Grenadines chain, Mustique is one of the most exclusive private islands in the world, and the elegant, relaxed Cotton House Resort invited you and your partner behind the velvet rope. The recently renovated hotel, formerly an 18th-century coral warehouse and sugar mill, is offering couples four nights of top-notch accommodations and amenities: two 60-minute massages each, a picnic on the beach, a candlelight dinner with a bottle of wine, and a tour of the island.
Package: Escape to Rejuvenate.
Rate: Starting at $2,660, including breakfast.
Available: January 9 to April 9.
Contact: 800-223-1108; http://www.cottonhouseresort.com/
Let it all Hang Out
Start your marriage off in high gear with an action-packed honeymoon at the Golden Reef Inn on Bonaire. You’ll select four activities from a list of 10 that includes land sailing – popular on the island due to the constant trade winds and salt flats built for speed – windsurfing, a mangrove kayak/snorkel tour and a scuba diving course. You’ll stay for seven nights in a one-bedroom honeymoon villa and receive a bottle of champagne, chocolates and even a rental car.
Package: Adventure in Paradise Honeymoon Special.
Available: January 1 to April 30.
Contact: 866-790-7333; www.goldenreefinn.com
Your week as an A-list couple starts when you’re whisked away by private helicopter from Antigua to the Beach House’s helipad on Barbuda. You’ll stay for seven heavenly nights at the deluxe resort, where a dedicated “service ambassador” will see to your every need. Daily breakfast and four-course dinners are served outside on the pool deck or in the contemporary Club House, as you prefer. A 30-minute massage for two rounds out the star treatment.
Package: Very VIP.
Available: January 1 to April 30.
Contact: 888-776-0333; www.thebeachhousebarbuda.com
How better to knock a stroke or two off your handicap than with unlimited rounds on the Nicklaus-designed course at the Cozumel Country Club? Guests stay in an ocean-view junior suite at Melia Cozumel All-Inclusive Golf & Beach Resort, ideally located between the tee boxes and the sea, with all meals and beverages included.
Package: Unlimited Golf.
Rate: Starting at $173 per night per person.
Available: December 26 to June 30.
Contact: 888-341-5993; www.solmelia.com/
Non-Stop Tee Times
Match yourself against two top golf-course designers with an orgy of unlimited play at Puerto Rico’s Westin Rio Mar Golf Resort & Spa. Grab your clubs and take on the Greg Norman-designed River Course in the morning, then attack the Tom and George Fazio Ocean Course in the afternoon. You’ll also receive a VIP Value Card good for 25 percent discounts on treatments at the Mandara Spa, tennis court time and non-motorized water-sports equipment rentals.
Package: Unlimited Golf.
Rate: Starts at $679 per room per night and include a daily breakfast buffet.
Available: January 1 to May 31.
Contact: 888-627-8556; www.westinriomar.com/
Ready to Ramble
Break out your sports-utility sneakers: Here’s a convenient way to experience the peaks and valleys of Nevis by foot and by bike. The Mount Nevis Hotel & Beach Club will arrange a hike to Nevis Peak with ace guide Lynell Liburd of Sunrise Tours, as well as a guided mountain-bike ride through the villages of Newcastle, Camps and Fountain. During a five-night stay in a kitchen-equipped suite, you’ll receive two complimentary dinners at the resort’s terrace restaurant, breakfast daily and, to soothe those athletic legs, an in-room massage.
Package: Peak Experience.
Available: December 15 to April 15.
Contact: 800-756-3847; www.mountnevishotel.com/
Anglers dream of getting away to places like Grand Bahama Island, where bonefish swarm the flats year-round. At Old Bahama Bay, a 49-room resort with a 72-slip marina, guests staying six nights get four and a half days of bonefishing with a local guide and lunches provided. When not casting about the 80 square miles of flats off the West End, guests have use of non-motorized water-sports equipment.
Package: Bonefish Anytime.
Rate: Starting at $3,830.
Available: January 4 to April 8.
Contact: 800-444-9469; www.oldbahamabay.com/
Treatments for Two
Picture a day that begins with a one-hour yoga class on the white-sand beach followed by a soak in a Jacuzzi and a fresh fruit plate. Then it’s time for a tune-up with a couple’s massage, clay or volcanic-mud body wrap, manicure or pedicure. Finally, you’re at your leisure in the Caribbean-Balinese spa overlooking tranquil waters. This day of healing bliss can be yours as part of a four-night retreat at Aruba’s unpretentious Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa.
Package: Rejuvenation Getaway.
Available: January 5 to April 8.
Contact: 800-223-1108; www.manchebo.com/
Home to culinary in-spot Lemongrass, Caribe Hilton San Juan is situated on the beach between the Old Town and the hip Condado area – smack in the middle of the hottest dining scene in the Caribbean. Between foodie forays, each guest will be treated to a Swedish massage, deep-cleansing facial, manicure and pedicure. You’ll also get daily breakfast, either in your room or at Palmeras Restaurant.
Rate: Starting at $285 per night; three-night minimum.
Available: December 23 to April 30 (excluding holidays), depending on hotel occupancy.
Contact: 787-721-0303; www.hiltoncaribbean.com/
Here’s an uncommon cure for your winter sniffles: a therapeutic spa getaway to Dutch St. Maarten. Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino and Great Bay Beach Resort & Casino are offering a feel-good package that includes three nights in an ocean-view room at either resort, plus your choice of wellness treatments. Choose a detoxifying body wrap, a restorative massage that kick-starts the circulatory and respiratory systems, or a decongestive hydrotherapy bath.
Package: Flu You.
Rate: $1,097 at Sonesta Maho and $1,067 at Great Bay.
Available: December 1 to April 1 (excluding holidays)
Contact: 011-599-545-211; www.sonesta.com/
Sweet and Low
The confectionary spa treatment trend continues to gain momentum, and here’s a chance to indulge your sweet tooth without feeling guilty the next day. This special knocks 12 percent off the regular room rate at St. Croix’s Divi Carina Bay Resort & Casino, plus 10 percent off any of the six spa-treatment packages. These range from the Carina Bay (sugar polish, facial, manicure and pedicure) to the Ultimate Spa Day (chocolate scrub and wrap, massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and lunch on the spa’s private fourth-floor balcony).
Package: Hot Deals.
Rate: $221 per night; three-night minimum.
Available: December 14 to April 14.
Contact: 877-773-9700; www.diviresorts.com
Spring break antics can earn an R rating at the drop of a bikini top, making it hard for folks in the same hotel to enjoy a wholesome vacation. But at the Sheraton Grand Bahama Island, no one under age 21 can reserve a room during the months of March and April. The family-friendly features don’t stop there: Kids under 17 stay free, and Camp Lucaya has daily activities for pre-teens, who eat from the kids’ menu gratis when accompanied by a paying adult.
Package: Family Plan.
Rate: $219 per night.
Available: January 1 to April 30.
Contact: 866-837-4186; www.ourlucaya.com/
The Total Package
Guadeloupe’s family-oriented Club Med La Caravelle reopens on December 16, after $29 million in improvements, with an unbelievable incentive: Round-trip airfare to Pointe a Pitre from Atlanta, and seven nights of accommodation with all of your meals and activities included – for only $1,120 per adult, with reduced rates for kids. The renovated resort offers Junior Club Med (ages 11 to 17) and Mini-Club Med (ages 4 to 10) programs featuring circus school, sailing lessons, hip-hop dance classes and more.
Package: Seven-Night All-Inclusive Land-and-Air.
Rate: Starting at $1,120 per person for adults; $700 for children 4 to 15; $420 for children 2 to 3.
Available: December 16 to May 1.
Contact: 888-932-2582; www.clubmed.com/
Homes Away From Home
When hotel rooms just won’t cut it for your crew, the Stella Maris Resort Club on Long Island, Bahamas, creates a pleasant environment with two- to four-bedroom bungalows (some with private pools), so the whole gang can hang together feeling homey. You’ll get a complimentary dinner, daily snorkeling and a full-day boat cruise with picnic lunch. The resort also offers three pools throughout the property, Sunfish sailboats, a game room – and babysitting.
Package: Family Escape.
Rate: Bungalows start at $395 per night; five-night minimum.
Available: March 1 to April 1 (must reserve by January 31).
Contact: 242-338-2050; www.stellamarisresort.com/
Meet You Halfway
Kids-themed Beaches Resorts are already no-brainers for parents with toddlers and young teens. Now rates at the three all-inclusives in Jamaica and one in the Turks and Caicos have been cut by up to a staggering 50 percent.
Package: When Half Makes You Whole.
Rate: Starting at $155 per night for adults at Beaches Sandy Bay; $175 at Beaches Boscobel Resort & Golf Club; $190 at Beaches Negril Resort & Spa; and $213 at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa; $48 per night for children 3 to 16; three-night minimum.
Available: January 1 to December 21, 2007.
Contact: 888-232-2437; www.beaches.com/
Stairway to Heaven
One hundred steps lead from the lobby of hillside Anse Chastanet down to the soft sand surrounding Scuba St. Lucia. The resort and the dive shop have teamed up to offer a weekly special that invited guests to explore the remarkable marine park that starts just 10 yards from the beach and encompasses St. Lucia’s best reefs. The package features seven nights lodging, 12 beach or boat dives (equipment included), three meals daily, afternoon tea, airport transfers and non-motorized water sports.
Rate: $2,099 per person.
Available: January 5 to April 15.
Contact: 888-465-8242; www.ansechastanet.com/
Bonaire Your Way
You’ve read about the dive, eat, dive, sleep, dive mentality on Bonaire. Now a special at Divi Flamingo Beach Resort & Casino lets you build the dive vacation you want. The three- to 10-night deal includes accommodations and breakfast; guests who buy two days of standard dive programs can go a la carte after that – choosing from one- or two-tank boat dives, unlimited shore dives, etc. – starting at just $23 a day.
Package: Create Your Own Dive.
Rate: Starting at $238 per person for three nights.
Available: Through December 22, 2007.
Contact: 800-801-5550; www.diviresorts.com/
The natural wonders of Cayman Brac and the Caribbean Sea combine to make Brac Reef Beach Resort an ideal retreat for sporting types. This seven-night package includes 17 boat dives to some of the region’s finest wall and wreck sites, plus three meals daily and three drinks every evening (hear, hear!). Also available through the resort are kayaking, spelunking, bicycling, hiking, fishing, rock climbing and tennis. The less athletic can enjoy bird-watching and pampering at the on-site spa.
Package: Meet You in Paradise.
Rate: $1,495 per person.
Available: January 7 to April 15.
Contact: 800-594-0843; www.bracreef.com/
See Sea Senor
Famous as a lively Mexican-flavored cruise port, the island of Cozumel sits on the second-largest barrier reef in the world. All-inclusive Hotel Cozumel & Resort in San Miguel invites divers to get below the surface of this bustling destination with a pair of scuba specials: four- and seven-night packages with a full schedule of daily boat and shore dives. If that isn’t enough wet ‘n’ wild action for you, the resort boasts the island’s biggest swimming pool and free non-motorized watersports equipment.
Rate: Starting at $604 per person for four nights.
Available: January 1 to April 31.
Contact: 877-454-4355; www.hotelcozumel.com.mx/
Stella Maris Resort Club on Long Island is the originator of shark diving in the Bahamas, putting guests in the water with more than a dozen Caribbean reef sharks at a time. A new scuba package saves you and a companion $200 on a five-night stay in an ocean-view room, and throws in super incentives like a free round-trip flight from Nassau, three meals daily (including house wine at dinner), three cocktails each night and two dives each day. Sites include Conception Island Wall, one of the most pristine dive experiences anywhere, and the world’s deepest blue hole.
Package: Winter Blues Escape.
Rate: $2,900 per person.
Available: January 7 to March 4 (must reserve by December 31).
Contact: 242-338-2050; www.stellamarisresort.com/
Caribbean Travel & Life is the magazine for anyone in search of the perfect tropical getaway. Each issue presents expert insider’s advice on where to find the Caribbean’s best beaches and attractions, its finest resorts and spas, liveliest beach bars and activities, and its friendliest people.