The honeymoon is a great excuse — one of the few acceptable ones remaining in these days of electronic handcuffs — to disappear incommunicado to someplace wonderful and exotic. You've expended the effort and resources to have a fabulous wedding, now it's time for a fabulous honeymoon. If you plan to spend north of $10,000 on your honeymoon, the Caribbean is rife with experiences that will enrich your entree to connubial life.
St. Lucia: Jade Mountain
In what some say is the most romantic spot in the Antilles is enchanting Jade Mountain, a Frank Gehry-meets-Gauguin tropical fantasy designed and built by architect Nick Troubetzkoy, owner of Anse Chastanet Resort just down the hill.
The resort's romance package indulges newlyweds with a week in one of Jade Mountain's signature suites, meals, drinks, massages, sailing aboard the resort's yacht, scuba lessons, mountain biking, champagne, volcano tour … or for a lower-key honeymoon, relaxation beside the private infinity-edge pool built into the suite.
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Each suite — Sky, Star, Moon, Sun, Galaxy — has its own unique shape, theme and décor. And each is "missing" its fourth wall, substituting a space that opens onto a private infinity-edge pool with a killer view of St. Lucia's twin Piton peaks just across the bay. The result is a complex tableaux that changes throughout the day as the sun moves across the mountains and the sea.
The food at Jade Mountain is just as spectacular as the views. It was created by Chef Allen Susser, a James Beard Award winner. Many of the ingredients come from the grounds of the resort — there are cocoa trees that yield the basis for housemade chocolates — or from the resort's organic farm nearby.
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Jade Mountain is unique among many other elegant resorts in the region. Its location and design make it impossible to duplicate and Troubetzkoy the architect gave Troubetzkoy the hotelier everything needed to create unique experiences for guests.
Cruise: Sea Cloud
Forget the buffet and faux Las Vegas cabaret shows, the Sea Cloud is the only authentic exponent of old-style luxury cruising remaining. The 360-foot, four-masted tall ship was lovingly planned and built by Marjorie Merriweather Post — heiress to the Post cereal fortune — and her stockbroker husband E.F. Hutton in 1931. The ship has a remarkable history. Post and Hutton sailed her all over the world with their equally rich and famous friends. Post divorced Hutton and kept the ship; her next husband used it as a floating office in Leningrad, Russia while he was U.S. ambassador there. Post donated it to the U.S. Navy for use as a patrol ship during World War II, then spent untold sums restoring it after the war. Sea Cloud was eventually sold to Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo and, after his assassination, was "kidnapped" by an idealistic eco-educator. Pursued from port to port around the Caribbean, Sea Cloud eventually ended up in the hands of a German investor who again lavished huge sums to restore Sea Cloud to her original grandeur. There are marble fireplaces, acres of teak and antiques at every turn. The masts carry more than 30,000 square feet of sails.
Sea Cloud coasts in Europe during the summer and returns to the Caribbean each winter. Typical ports of call include Barbados, Mustique, Bequía, Union Island, the Tobago Cays and Curaçao.
For the ultimate experience, book the owner's cabin, which has been restored to Marjorie Post's original design, complete with gold fixtures in the head.
The ship has been so popular that a sister ship, Sea Cloud II, was built in 2001.
BVIs: Private islands
While some debate rages as to which of the Caribbean islands are the prettiest, there are none much prettier than the British Virgin Islands. They have the look — long sand beaches, coves filled with giant boulders, high, green-sloped hills and electric blue water — that defines the region.
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Imagine having one of these all to yourselves — or yourselves and a very few others. There are several private islands in the BVIs that can be rented in part or in whole. They all come with gorgeous beaches, places to snorkel, great food and pampering. Whether you choose to invite friends or just soak up the solitude solo is up to you.
Necker Island: This green-flecked beauty is owned by Sir Richard Branson. There are five Balinese-style homes plus the Great House, and you can rent one or more of them depending on your need. The island comes with a staff of 60 so those needs will be met. The houses have high thatched roofs and rooms that open up to the outdoors and to porches overlooking the ocean. There are handmade loungers, hand-carved beds and unmatched serenity.
Peter Island: Just off Tortola, this 1,800-acre island is a bit more developed than Necker. It has 52 rooms and suites and three large villas. You can buy one room, 10 rooms or the whole island, and — indicative of the clientele — a no-fly zone can be declared over the island as needed. There are five beaches (you may want to spend more time at Honeymoon Beach and less at Deadman's Beach), a dive shop, an outstanding spa and snorkeling excursions to the Baths, the Indians and the Caves at Norman Island — allegedly a setting for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.
Guana Island: In the same neighborhood as Peter Island, Guana is slightly smaller — 850 acres — and much less developed, with about 30 rooms scattered in cottages and villas. It still has all of the expected amenities: a spa, tennis courts, water toys, restaurant, all encircled by seven powder-white beaches. You can rent one or all of the accommodations, and activities are arranged to suit your whim of the moment. www.guana.com
Dominican Republic: The Peninsula House
The Dominican Republic is best known for its large, all-inclusive resorts that strive for luxury on a massive scale. It's not especially known for small, exclusive boutique hotels — but that's changing.
The Samaná Peninsula on the north side of the island has long been a retreat for wealthy Dominicans. A few years ago a young couple came to the area and opened The Peninsula House, set on a bluff overlooking a beautiful beach paved in tawny sand. The drop-dead gorgeous Victorian great house is complete with rickrack and antique-style furnishings.
The inside sprawls, with a colonnaded central courtyard branching out to reading rooms, a billiards parlor and cozy conversation areas defined by overstuffed sofas. Yet there are only six guest rooms — large, sun-filled chambers with high ceilings dressed in superior carved wood furniture.
And despite the impeccably designed and maintained surroundings, there is nothing faintly stuffy about it. It's run as a family business — in the manner of a French country inn (with the owners' pets in residence) — and permeated by an air of casual elegance. Meals are taken in the Great House or at the Beach Restaurant, which offers International cuisine with a local Dominican accent.
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All of the activities of the Samaná Peninsula are within easy reach of the hotel: horseback riding, surfing, diving, snorkeling, ATVs, offshore fishing. There are waterfalls in the hills, perfect for a hike and a picnic, or you can get adventurous and go caving.
The Peninsula House has appeared on a number of "best of" lists — no surprise to former guests. thepeninsulahouse.com
St. Barths: Eden Rock
Those who don't have St. Lucia at the top of their "most romantic" list will probably have St. Barthélemy — St. Barths or St. Barts — there instead. And it's hard to argue the point. Located a few miles from St. Martin, the French influence here is evident in everything from extensive wine lists to tiny pâtisseries in the town. The look, the feel, even the smells remind you of a small ville on the French Riviera.
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The ascent of St. Barths has been astonishing. Unlike many other islands, St. Barths never had plantation agriculture, so it was not on the standard trade routes and had little infrastructure. After World War II, a French adventurer, Remy de Haenen, took up residence and began building what would become Eden Rock — one of the most luxurious resorts in the region.
The hotel sits on a rocky promontory that juts into Baie St. Jean on the north side of the island. The main house is at the top and tiers of elegant suites cascade down to to the ocean.
There are two restaurants on property. On The Rocks is the province of superstar chef Jean Georges Vongerichten. Open to the view over the bay and bracketed by stout wood timbers, the wine list includes over 150 bottles of the best from three continents. The fare is Michelin magic: lamb chops with smoked chili glaze, fresh local lobster, coconut panna cotta.
There's an excellent chance of spotting celebrities in residence, whether in one of the suites or the hotel's jaw-dropping private villas such as Rockstar, Eros or Nina. Paris may be the traditional choice for a honeymoon with a little French accent, but St. Barths is where the old — and smart — money goes.
Authored by Steve Blount via usatoday.com.