Caribbean Beyond the Beaches: Top Off-the-beaten-path Resorts

Fond Doux Plantation & Resort, set on a 250-year-old working 
plantation, has 15 individual cottages.

If you’ve been to the Caribbean, you’ve probably stayed at a great beach resort right on the water. However, there’s a whole world of off-the-beaten-path resorts that are just as impressive and worth your consideration. Here are four such properties we think should be on your radar.

Between Saint Lucia’s Pitons

Fond Doux Plantation & Resort is a 19th-century, eco-friendly colonial resort in southeast Saint Lucia. Set in the mountains between the iconic Pitons, the resort comprises just 15 individual cottages — 13 of which are one-bedrooms, while the remaining two have two bedrooms. The resort is actually located on a 250-year-old working plantation, which guests can sign up to take a tour of. They will learn about local vegetation and the history of the land, with a highlight being participating in chocolate processing. Organic fruit trees, vegetables and spices can also be found on the tour, many of which are incorporated at the resort’s dining venues. The tour culminates with a hike up the Lamontagne’s trail, which affords incredible views of Petit Piton, as well as Sugar Beach below. Snacks or lunch can be provided. Three other nature trails are available for guests to explore during their stay. 

The resort can also arrange a slew of other activities, including cooking classes, private dinners, in-room massages, weddings and vow renewals, a Soufriere market tour, whale and dolphin watching tours, snorkeling excursions and more. 

Co-owners Eroline and Lyton Lamontagne have made sustainability a major focus at the resort. Travelers won’t find many single-use plastics, as the resort has banned plastic bags at the gift shop, plastic cups and Styrofoam that was used for takeaway plates — even shampoo, conditioner and lotion is dispensed versus the small, plastic containers used for each new guest. Guests who wish to participate in sustainable efforts can plant a tree in any of the resort’s gardens and have it labeled with their name. 

For dining, The Creole Pot restaurant serves buffet breakfast and lunch, while the Bamboo restaurant serve à la carte lunch and dinner. At Bamboo, advise clients to be sure to request a table nearest the river that runs adjacent to the restaurant. For a more local dining experience, the resort can organize a trip to the Anse La Raye Fish Fry, held each Friday. The local fish barbecue on a closed beachfront road draws locals and visitors alike.

Of the 15 cottages, our pick is the One Bedroom Cottage with Pool (there are eight such rooms). Great for a romantic escape, these accommodations have a tropical garden setting, a secluded balcony, a queen bed and a private plunge pool. The largest accommodations — at 1,120 square feet — are the Deluxe One Bedroom Cottage and Two Bedroom Cottage. 

Mama La Terre Spa caters exclusively to resort guests. All products here are all-natural and treatments focus on the restorative powers of nature. The Sulphur Getaway and the Chocolate Wrap are among the most requested treatments. The former brings guests in the morning to the hot springs nearby where a therapist will apply the hot mud on the body to increase the metabolism and improve the skin. Upon arrival back at the spa, guests will receive a massage of their choosing. Fond Doux also offers Zumba classes thrice weekly (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) on the lawn; these include walks to the Tet Paul Nature Trail (which we highly recommend for the views), Sulphur Springs and other nearby areas. 

Note: For guests who still do want to enjoy the beach, the resort provides a complimentary shuttle, which is about a five-minute drive from the property. 

VIP guests can arrive at the resort in an Audi Q7 with complimentary champagne, fruits and cold towels. Reservations can be made with administrative assistant Indira Mitchel ([email protected]; 011-17-584-597-545); book at least three months out. 

Plantation Resort in Nevis

Montpelier Plantation & Beach’s Plantation Rooms are suited for couples and  have large verandas with sea views.

Another off-the-beaten-path is Montpelier Plantation & Beach located on an 18th-century plantation in Nevis. Despite its name, the hotel — a member of Relais & Chateaux — is set back off the shore, 750 feet above sea level in the foothills of Nevis Peak (although the resort does have a section of private beach that is a 15-minute drive from the plantation). The plantation was converted into a hotel in the 1960s and was later purchased by the Hoffman family in 2002, who took the property into the 21st century. The Hoffmans, much like the Lamontagnes, have made conservancy and ecology a focal point of the property and go through great lengths to have a minimal impact on the environment. 

What’s also neat is the hotel’s collection of contemporary art. Guests will find a gallery space for Kirk Mechar, a Canadian national who paints in Nevis. 

For travelers who are looking to explore the island, Montpelier recommends a guided hike up Nevis Peak, historical tours (such as visiting Alexander Hamilton’s house), visiting the Botanical Gardens of Nevis or several of the options operated by Funky Monkey Tours. The local tour operator offers both land and sea guided experiences, including 4x4 and jet ski tours. Funky Monkey also provides equipment for those who wish to adventure on their own. Another way to experience the island is by taking a bike and just riding around. 

Montpelier has 16 guestrooms and three suites. The top option is the Tamarind Villa, a 1,400-square-foot, two-bedroom accommodation with a private pool overlooking the Caribbean Sea and with views of Nevis Peak. For couples, the Plantation Rooms or the Garden Suite may be more suitable; the former has large verandas with sea views, while the latter have a private gazebo with an oversized couch and large throw pillows — all surrounded by lush vegetation, making it well suited for couples seeking an escape. 

There are three restaurants on property, but Mill Privée is a “must” experience. Guests can enjoy a five-course tasting menu (that changes nightly) in the hotel’s 300-year-old sugar mill. For events, the space can accommodate up to 14 guests. The other venues are: Restaurant 750, which offers contemporary Caribbean cuisine with Mediterranean and European influences, and Indigo, where guests can grab casual lunches and dinners. At Restaurant 750, signature dishes include Sesame & Teriyaki Seared Wahoo with curry and coconut farro rice and grilled pineapple ginger salsa and the Island Herbs Pan-Seared Mahi Mahi with Mediterranean quinoa, sun dried cherry tomatoes and lemon beurre blanc.

While the hotel does not have a spa, there is a special outdoor area reserved for massages and treatments. The Swedish and deep-tissue massages are most requested. Yoga classes are also available upon request. At Montpelier’s beach, tucked away in a hidden cove, there are private cabanas and loungers to enjoy. 

Note: The hotel closes annually in mid-August and reopens in early October. Kakia Michou (kak[email protected]), director of marketing and sales, can handle bookings. 

Virgin Island Getaway

Set high atop the peaks of Calabash Boom in St. John, U.S.V.I., Moonswept Villa has a 12-by-20-foot solar-heated swimming pool, hot tub and private patio with a gas grill.

Set high atop the peaks of Calabash Boom in St. John, U.S.V.I., Moonswept Villa’s amenities include a 12-by-20-foot solar-heated swimming pool, hot tub and private patio with gas grill. Inside there’s fully equipped kitchen island, a 12-foot-long Basque dining table, two bedrooms, two baths, 42-inch flat-screen TV with cable and DVD, and an iHome. The villa can accommodate up to six guests.

The Great Room affords a view extending from the distant hills of St. Croix to Tortola, BVI’s Sage Mountain. Guests can also enjoy the views while lounging on the Moonswept deck. Tip: The stars at night are brilliant. The South bathroom has double access and is equipped with a washer / dryer, iron, board and a safe. Note: Clients will need to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle for the 45-minute drive to Moonswept; most of the rental cars on St. John have four-wheel drive.

A villa rental agreement that spells out all the particulars can be found at moonsweptstjohn.com; for enquiries, e-mail [email protected] Guests who appreciate the performing arts should note that the owners, Terre Roche and Garry Dial, are both professional musicians.

Jamaican Mountain Retreat

Strawberry Hill includes a cluster of a dozen handcrafted, individually styled 19th-century Georgian-style cottages.

Perched at 3,100 feet above sea level in the Blue Mountains near Kingston, Jamaica, is the boutique Strawberry Hill, an Island Outpost hotel. Recent accolades include being named one of “The 10 Best Hotels in Jamaica” by Timeout, and “Jamaica’s Best Kept Secret” by Harper’s Bazaar. Travel Agent itself called it “a signature mountaintop oasis … a mix of rich Jamaican heritage balanced by healthy conscious living” and, for clients who keep bucket lists, it’s one of The New York Times’ “1,000 Places To See Before You Die.”

Strawberry Hill’s setting is balanced between Kingston’s Liguanea Plain and the mountaintop’s rare broad-leaf woodlands. The warm northeast trade winds rise when they meet the Blue Mountains. Clouds are formed directly over the peaks and provide the rain that creates the mountains’ famous blue hue and its distinctive microclimate: tropical Jamaican heat in the daytime and a welcome breeze at night. This singular contrast encourages biodiversity and enables the property to grow a great variety of plants and foliage in its gardens.

The 26-acre Strawberry Hill includes a cluster of a dozen handcrafted, individually styled 19th-century Georgian-style cottages, including one- and two-bedroom units, studios and a deluxe villa. To ensure privacy, each cottage nestles within the mountain’s contours. The verandas are angled to capture their own view. There’s an Infinity swimming pool on site and for those who insist on a beach, Fort Clarence Park and Beach at Hellshire is a scenic 50-minute drive away.  

The spa at Strawberry Hill offers a variety of treatments, including the signature Blue Mountain Elixir Body Scrub, using local coffee beans, followed by a rejuvenating 60-minute deep tissue body massage and hydrotherapy session. Guests can also take a guided tour to hidden waterfalls, tiny villages, a variety of flora and fauna, and more. 

Strawberry Hill Restaurant specializes in New Jamaican cuisine, including traditional dishes, such as lamb curry and fish stew, with a contemporary and local twist, and a classic omelette aux fines herbes with freshly picked thyme and callaloo, Jamaica’s sturdy spinach. 

Island Outpost founder Chris Blackwell is also the founder of Island Records. He hosted such music luminaries as Bob Marley, Elton John, Grace Jones and Mick Jagger, among others, at his Strawberry Hill home before turning it into a hotel in 1994. Today, many artists continue to return there for revitalization and renewal.

For more information, agents can reach out to General Manager Diana Marley ([email protected]), whose husband Christopher is Bob Marley’s nephew.

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