Now in its ninth year, CJ’s Cool List has always sought to inspire different kinds of getaways – to hotels with personality, with purpose. And the latest edition is a journey through a diverse portfolio of places to stay, from mountain retreats at the edge of the Caribbean Basin to hip new beach resorts with world-leading restaurants, some of which you may have heard of – and others which may be wonderful new mysteries to discover. This year, we’ve also tried to focus on properties where you can really get away; hotels that, by their location, design and setting, are perfect for finding some space amid the new realities of travel.
Because cool doesn’t have just one definition. Whether it’s the look, the culture, the service or the sustainability, it’s ultimately about how a hotel makes you feel.
Here are the coolest hotels in the Caribbean for 2021.
Goldeneye, Oracabessa, Jamaica Ian Fleming’s Jamaican retreat isn’t just the “birthplace” of James Bond; it’s an energetic, hip, playful boutique resort that the sets the standard for Caribbean cool. Whether you’re staying in the Fleming Villa itself or the Beach Huts or the stunning Lagoon Villas, owner Chris Blackwell ensures you’ll have some spectacular stories of your own.
Baoase Luxury Resort, Curacao Curaçao may be best known for the urban, historic charm of Willemstad. But venture beyond the capital and you’ll discover this Dutch Caribbean island’s breezy, cosmopolitan personality that immediately intoxicates. And that’s precisely what you get at Baoase, a hidden gem among Caribbean luxury hotels, a boutique beach resort that’s somewhere between the Riviera and Bali – but oozes not with pretentiousness but with personality.
Rabat Hotel Saint Lucia You may remember it as Boucan by Hotel Chocolat, but the rebranded Soufriere hotel remains the coolest place to stay in Saint Lucia. A collection of 14 eco-lodge-style cottages set on a 140-acre cacao farm, it’s a portal to an authentic, unadulterated Saint Lucian experience. And amid the new realities of travel, its indoor-outdoor design, open-air spa, restaurant and bar and secluded location make for just about the perfect getaway.
Secret Bay, Dominica There may be no more spectacular hotel rooms in the Caribbean than the striking villas at Dominica’s leading boutique hotel. From sweeping indoor spaces to stunning plunge pools (and on-call concierges), it’s a dramatic vision of what Caribbean hospitality can be – in a sustainable package.
Delfins Beach Resort, Bonaire Bonaire has always been a haven for divers and marine adventurers, a hideaway in the Southern Caribbean where the story was mostly on and under the water. But travelers are increasingly discovering the unique charms above the water – and the epicenter of Bonaire’s renaissance is this, a crisp, solar-powered, gorgeously designed beach resort that just so happens to be home to the number one restaurant in the Caribbean.
Coral Beach Club, St Maarten Perhaps the best-kept secret in St Maarten, this luxury villa resort is set above the sands of Dawn Beach, with collection of 24 units with an ultra-sleek design that marries the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. It’s a rarefied, private corner of St Maarten that also provides the perfect jumping off point to explore the riches of this island.
Eden Rock St Barths A jet-set era signature, this St Jean retreat remains one of the Caribbean’s truly timeless places to stay, fueled by original founder Remy de Haenen’s spirit of adventure. But it’s post-storm transformation has taken the property to new heights, from the new Rock Rooms to Jean Georges’ reimagined Sand Bar.
Calabash Grenada There are just 30 suites at this Relais & Chateaux outpost on the Grenada’s Lance Aux Epines Beach, a property that’s long been a favorite of luxury travelers and is now a window into the chic personality that’s increasingly drawing travelers to Grenada. (We particularly love the Pool Suites, each of which comes with its own private plunge pool).
Rosewood Little Dix Bay, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands In many ways, the recently-reopened Rosewood Little Dix Bay is a completely new hotel, one that expertly weaves itself into the wondrous natural beauty of this corner of Virgin Gorda, a kind of a grand eco-resort. And all of the property’s 81 rooms and suites are well spread out among the sands and flora of this 500-acre site.
Los Establos Boutique Inn, Panama Journey to the other side of the Caribbean Basin to this mountain retreat set 4,000 feet above sea level amid a 16-acre coffee plantation in the charming town of Boquete, an expat haven that’s become one of the country’s top cultural destinations. Our pick? Go for a stay in the Coffee Cottage.