Something magical happens when Mother Nature puts on a bit of bling. Think of a grown-up, decked-out tree house. Step inside and you connect with nature while, at the same time, you get pampered by all manner of modern comforts and conveniences.
That’s the appeal of rustic chic retreats. No matter the destination, these are hotels and resorts that enhance the feeling of escape with authentic, all-natural charms. But don’t be fooled—“rustic” doesn’t necessarily mean no-frills or cheap. Rustic chic is a style. Often upscale, it’s anything but stuffy.
Join me as I take you on a tempting tour of eight of my favorite rustic chic retreats in the Caribbean. When headed to any one, pack your sunscreen and leave your cocktail attire at home.
Ladera Resort, St. Lucia
Composed of a collection of colorful structures spread out single-file along a ridgeline 1,000 feet above the Caribbean, Ladera Resort gives you a thrilling bird’s-eye-view of St. Lucia—you’ll look down onto treetops and look out onto the twin Piton peaks. At this adults-only resort, it’s all about your peaceful coexistence with nature. Spend your days strolling in the sand, relaxing in a mineral bath, and enjoying traditional island fare at Dasheene, then return each night to your suite with a private plunge pool—each is built without a west wall for inside-outside living as you’ll experience it nowhere else.
Galley Bay Resort & Spa, Antigua
Set on 40 acres along a curvaceous stretch of white sand beach that unfurls over nearly a mile, this refined yet unpretentious resort specializes in barefoot R&R. Just about everything here is at your fingertips, with a trio of open-air restaurants and lounges, water sports equipment and instruction, jogging trails, tennis courts, even nightly cocktail parties and live entertainment—and because it’s all-inclusive, you can leave your wallet in your suitcase. Best yet: many of the accommodations are tucked here and there along the beach, so you’re never more than a few sandy steps from the surf.
This resort has a fantastic back-story with all the makings of a real page-turner: originally a private getaway where author Ian Fleming dreamed up James Bond, it was purchased in 1976 by Island Records founder Chris Blackwell; since then, it has become a 52-acre haven for those looking to get away from it all. Take your pick from a slew of luxe villas (including Fleming’s vacation home), chic cottages, and easy-breezy beach huts. During the day, succumb to a spa treatment, test your balance with stand-up paddle-boarding, and ride a mountain bike to nearby Firefly—then grab a cocktail at Bizot Bar before enjoying a sultry dinner at the open-air, treehouse-style restaurant, The Gazebo.
Turtle Inn, Belize
How do the rich and famous vacation? Like this. Famed director Francis Coppola acquired a beachside getaway a little more than 15 years ago and turned it into this seafront escape for those seeking to relax (feet in the sand) or rev things up (with scuba diving, fishing, biking, zip lining, and more). Individually thatched cottages, dotted around the property, offer the feeling of being tucked away in your own little slice of paradise. When you’re feeling social (and hungry!), head to one of the handful of restaurants—there’s even a Kid’s Gelato Bar to keep happy the young and the young-at-heart.
Mahekal Beach Resort, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Bustling Playa del Carmen has a secret: you can get away from the masses, while staying close to the busy hotel zone, if you know where to go (hint: go to Mahekal Beach Resort). This chic yet carefree resort is perfectly situated with the Riviera Maya jungle on one side and the pristine Playa del Carmen beach on the other. After a recent three-year, $18 million renewal—resulting in a style that exemplifies boho gypsy with colorful Mexican flair—there’s much to see and do here, with new pools, restaurants, and bars as well as a dive center and spa; one favorite thing to do, however, might be to spend time in your palapa-style bungalow, with a striking ocean view, outdoor terrace, and private hammock, and not a TV in sight—splurge for a Beach House, and you’re just 10 steps from the water.
Manchebo Beach Resort & Spa, Aruba
Recently celebrating the big 5-0, I’ve got to give it to this beachfront resort: it masterfully combines classic Caribbean charm with modern style and service. Plus, the location on Eagle Beach, celebrated for its quiet calm, is especially intoxicating. Here, it’s all about great food (with four restaurants), and personal wellness (with a spa, fitness studio, yoga and pilates classes, and a dedicated wellness team). Their newly renovated guest rooms—tucked into ocean-facing buildings rising no higher than the nearby coconut trees—blend astounding amenities with soothing island style, each with a private furnished balcony or patio, the perfect place to kick back with a morning coffee or evening cocktail.
Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, Nevis
Ready to try “liming it”? Trust us, you are! This sweet expression captures the essence of relaxing, Caribbean style. And nowhere is it easier to do than at Nisbet Plantation Beach Club, the Caribbean’s only historic plantation beachside inn, located on unspoiled Nevis (“the island time forgot”). Here, upscale and rustic join forces with privacy and personal service. And there’s more. The resort’s truly exceptional cuisine is balanced by numerous calorie-torching activities, from rainforest hiking to scuba diving, biking, even horseback riding along the beach—though I don’t blame you if you chose to do nothing more demanding than swing in a hammock. I may have saved the best for last: intimate yet spacious (and air-conditioned!) cottage-style rooms and suites are nestled around the property, each surrounded by a quarter-acre of land for the ultimate in privacy.
The Spa Retreat Hotel, Jamaica
The most taxing part of your stay? Climbing up to your private roof terrace to take in the famous Negril sunset. If it doesn’t sound very taxing, that’s the whole point. After all, this is a spa retreat—an adults-only hotel and wellness center that gracefully walks the line between modern amenities and relaxed island living. Cast on nearly two oceanfront acres, this hotel settles in beautifully between a white sandy beach and lofty grey cliffs. Here, your handcrafted stone cottage beckons you to stay and lounge, while a number of amenities (seawater pool, sandy beach deck, cliff-side organic dining, as well as adventures into nearby Negril) tempt you outside. Just make sure you book a spa treatment or two—or ten. After a long day in the sun, little is as satisfying as their Aloe & Cucumber Rejuvenating Body Wrap, a natural, custom-made experience that hydrates your skin while feeding your soul.
Finding it hard to choose your favorite? Let me match you with your just-right escape—it might even be a place not on this list! As a Travel Specialist, I’ve spent the last 20 years helping people plan and enjoy their dream vacation—and I know the best places to visit, every month of the year.
Contact me today (call 603-418-8698 or send an email to me at email@example.com) and let me know how I can help!