All Great Romances start with setting and end with action. Throw in a beach and let the sparks fly.
Where: St. Mary's, Antigua
What's to Love: There is a European vibe here that makes it feel far away. Very good spa, beach barbecues, and minimalist, tasteful rooms add to the overall Zen aesthetic. For true romance, book dinner on the jetty — just the two of you, delicious tuna tartare, and a lot of votive candles.
Where: Curtain Bluff, Antigua
What's to Love: It isn't immediately apparent, but this place will grow on you in a huge way. There are limitless activities, tennis, squash, a killer spa with masseuses from the Aman Resorts. There are no in-room TVs and it's slightly hokey — communal cocktail parties, everything is included — but somehow it all really works. The snorkeling excursions are the best anywhere. Just you and two personal guides who know every ray, fish, and coral in the sea. No need to pre-book, just show up at the dock.
Where: Jumby Bay Island, Antigua
What's to Love: It's. A. Private. Island. In. The. Caribbean. Just you and 300 car-free acres off the Antigua coast on an island discovered by Christopher Columbus. Newly renovated in post-Colonial style. Water is everywhere. The treatment to get at Sense, A Rosewood Spa, is the one where you're in the hammock and the therapist fixes everything.
Where: Harbour Island, Bahamas
What's to Love: It's in the details, the textiles, the wicker settees, the glamorous pool deck that screams, "Slim Aarons in Palm Beach." Bougainvillea and night jasmine line the lush walkways leading to the sixteen cheerful guest cottages. The patio dining area can be accessed from the beach below. If you don't live here, at least go for a meal.
Read More on Popupla: Pretty Little Secret: A Chic Bahamas Retreat
Where: Harbour Island
What's to Love: I found this house very charming and romantic. There wasn't a particular reason, but the whole experience made my weekend unique. The pink-sand beach, the vintage hotel bar, the music they were playing, the rain at night, the book I was reading, the horseback riding on the beach. It was all very special.
Where: Eleuthera, Bahamas
What's to Love: A romantic compound of exquisite tented structures (think Out of Africa meets Mustique), this is the place to truly disconnect from the outside world. Accessed by private launch, the property has a chic house party vibe; guests wander in and out of the great house for simple meals of grilled fish before retiring into the stunning pool that juts out over the turquoise bay, with views of Harbour Island beyond. Proprietors Ben Simmons and Charlie Phelan have thought of every understated detail so the food is delicious, the honor bar well-stocked, and morning yoga is available for those who don't sleep in. Low-key luxury at its very finest.
Where: Old Havana
What's to Love: I love, love, love this boutique guesthouse in Old Havana where Carla and I spent six days this Christmas. The six-room guesthouse is charming and well-located, and you are looked after like royalty.
Playa Grande, Dominican Republic
What's to Love: Once you arrive you will not sign a single check, you will not see a single plastic lounge chair, you will not wear your shoes again. You will, however, be immersed in an enchanted beach hotel that is half Old Havana, half Palm Beach, all laid-back luxury. What to bring: your book, sundress, and lover. What not to bring: your iPad. Put that shit down.
Where: Oracabessa Bay, Jamaica
What's to Love: Originally the private retreat of Ian Fleming, it's where he wrote all his James Bond novels. A lush and fragrant jungle setting, you'd have to be a rock not to feel the romance of this sexy place. Prepare for midnight swims in the calm, warm lagoon. Pack a white bikini for full effect.
Where: Treasure Beach, Jamaica
What's to love: Each Gaudi-inspired tiny bungalow is crazy in a different way, but most open directly onto the water. Take a boat out to the lunch shack, raised above a beautiful ocean sandbar, that only serves lunch until the fresh fish runs out and the chef heads home in his skiff. The glass bottle bottoms set into the walls of the outdoor shower reflect the light off the water for a magical effect. And once a year, 5,000 Jamaicans converge here for the most fabulous literary festival in the world. Reggae all night.
Where: Montego Bay, Jamaica
What's to Love: A gorgeous estate with incredible gardens, it's like a lush location from a 1960s James Bond film come to life. There are not one, but two bars along the beach. Past guests have included JFK and Jackie on honeymoon and the Babe Paley set.
Where: Negril, Jamaica
What's to Love: Another of Chris Blackwell's pretty incredible Island Outpost chain. Chic whitewashed rooms, great food, even better service, and incredible views Don't be surprised if you jump off the cliff. Everyone does.
What's to Love: So many great things about it, not least of which is its idyllic location on the beach, one of the best on the island. Nearby Colombier Beach is a hike or a boat ride away, and the hotel will pack you a picnic lunch.
Where: St. Barts
What's to Love: Le Sereno attracts the loveliest of rich bohemians and filters out the island's tres gauche (think: Nikki Beach). But none of that really matters because you're too busy kissing your dreamy lover, tossing off your Missoni bikini top, and melting into the latest French Vogue to notice anything but your nonstop, pinch-me-now, inner-bliss at this gorgeous paradise of a hotel. Ask the hotel to arrange a motorbike (if you have any biking skills whatsoever) and use it. Grab baguettes and fromage at the local grocer and discover St. Bart's ultra beautiful beaches.
Where: Anse de Toiny
What's to Love: The bungalows are one-bedroom houses with spectacular views of ocean, mountains, and rugged terrain — everything but other buildings or people. Rooms have a palatial bath and a private pool surrounded by a terrace large enough to accommodate couples massage tables. It's not cheap, but summer rates are half what Larry Ellison pays in January.
Where: St. Lucia
What's to Love: None of the rooms have a fourth wall, so you wake up every morning with the sun rising over the Piton Mountains. Get a room with a plunge pool so you never have to leave.
Where: St Lucia
What's to Love: The low-key, high-budget combination of intimate villas in an informal setting. A recent $100 million+ redo has resulted in minimalist, tasteful cottages with plunge pools and features both modern (WiFi, flat-screen TVs) and low-tech (ceiling fans and atmospheric mosquito net canopies). It's not easy to get to St. Lucia is a haul, and Sugar Beach whisks guests from the airport straight to their suites — no check-in or paperwork necessary — where cold drinks, a butler await, unpacking, and laudry services await.
Read more on Popupla: Paradise Found in Sugar Beach, St. Lucia
Where: Mustique, The Grenadines
What's to Love: This place is tough to get to, so it keeps other people away. Rooms are utterly simple — billowing linens and soothing, neutral tones — with tasteful plunge pools so you never really have to leave your suite. Dinner is freshly caught lobster on the veranda; there's a weekly island cocktail party in case you feel like socializing. Bring lots of sunscreen. The rays are seriously strong here.
Where: Mustique, The Grenadines
What's to Love: Location, location, location. This hard to access island is a couple's paradise with crystalline waters, white sand beaches, and killer cocktails. Add to that chic simple rooms with views of spectacular sunsets, and Firefly is about as close to nirvana as it gets.
Good to Know: Book a table on the cliff-hanging terrace for fresh, imaginatively prepared seafood. Local barracuda, Caribbean crab backs, and delicious curries are all wonderful. Star sightings often include the likes of Mick Jagger and the odd royal, which adds to the overall mystique of this magical place.
Where: Petit St. Vincent, The Grenadines
What's to love: The 115-acre private island was developed in the 1960s, with 22 free-standing Blue Bitch (that's really the name) beach chic stone cottages. It has always attracted a moneyed, famous, and infamous crowd who seek a tropical hideaway where they can check in and be left alone. Ask for #117, the most secluded cottage at the southernmost tip of the island, for its private beach and (perhaps) a clothing-optional frolic-filled stay. (Allegedly, it's a favorite of Daniel Craig.) If you're feeling antsy, charter Beauty, the property's wooden sloop, to sail to Tobago Cays for snorkeling and turtle-watching or a jaunt to Union Island for lunch.
Where: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
What's to Love: Gorgeous private oceanfront cabins with sexy decor, private pools, and outdoor showers. It's a cool, low-key celeb scene. And at Amanyara, the answer is always yes.
Where: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos
What's To Love: Timeless colonial vibes on your own private island with fresh, healthy, gourmet food. The holistic COMO Shambhala Spa is on-site, and service and attention to detail are impeccable. Sitting by the powdery beach is out of the Corona commercial; the water is that clear. Great scuba diving and private partner yoga on the beach at sunset. Bring home hard-to-find COMO products and get your chakras in check.
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Contributors: Ingrid Bernstein, Malika Dalamal, Kate Donnelly, Christina Ohly Evans, Nancy Hunt, Kerry Kane, Steven Learner, Jonathan Mir, Dana Hazels Seith, Alyssa Shelasky, Margaret Spencer, Rima Suqi, Terese Svoboda, Rett Wallace, Sheri Warshaw.