Standout Island Resorts I’ve Visited…
I cannot help but be encouraged and excited now that some places are starting to open back up, little by little, and vaccines are becoming more widespread and accessible (praise science!). I shared my current travel bucket list recently, and wanted to follow up on that with an updated list of my favorite past tropical trips as well.
I shared my top 10 favorite tropical vacations a few years back, but it was due for a fresh update and some additional locations! So below you’ll find a roundup of some of my absolute favorite past tropical trips… along with where we stayed, my personal tips, and travel diaries for the trips where I was blogging! You’ll find both boutique hotels and resorts that are part of chains that you could even use points towards– there are of course perks to both types!
Save this post for reference for the next time you feel comfortable traveling again– whether that be whenever it’s safe to or years down the line. Each of them are such gems and worth visiting in the future. xx
Anse Chastanet in St. Lucia–
I think that this was the best overall family vacation that we’ve ever had. Getting there was not easy, but as my mom always says, the best places are the hardest to get to. 😊 They purposely haven’t paved the road going into the resort because they don’t want people who aren’t staying at the resort coming to use their beaches– their beaches are that secluded and special. The resort was the epitome of old-fashioned Caribbean. It’s family run and has impeccable service and the coolest accommodations (think: treetop open-air bungalow with views of the famous pitons). This is one of Oprah’s favorite vacation destinations so just keep that in mind. Also, be sure to check out Jade Mountain, which is located right up the mountain (it’s the sister resort of Anse Chastanet), and is one of the best honeymoon spots in the world. That’s bucket list resort for SURE and somewhere that I always recommend if I’m asked about honeymoon destinations!
ABIP TIP: Make sure you get a room with a view of the pitons!! You can ask them to show you a few if they have multiple rooms available.
Get all the details in my St. Lucia Travel Diary.
Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda, BVIs–
If you consider yourself a yachty at all (i.e.: Do you like being on the water? (cocktail cruises count) Do you know how to sail?), then Virgin Gorda is for you!! It is at the very end of the chain of Virgin Islands, hence the “Bitter End,” and is the kind of place that people keep going back to year after year. We went when I was in middle school and they were just building up the Oil Nut Bay part of the island, which now looks brand new and beyond stunning. The staff at the BEYC was wonderful, the food was delicious, and it really is a one-of-a-kind experience at the “bitter end” of the islands! It tragically looks like the BEYC was destroyed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, but they seem to be rebuilding it full speed ahead so that it’s back and better than ever soon enough. Fingers crossed for a reopening soon as it’s definitely somewhere I cannot wait to return back to.
ABIP TIP: Take a sailing day trip to the Baths to snorkel and explore them! It’s worth going in the early morning to beat the crowds. Or if you’re really adventurous rent a sailboat and anchor it in Bitter End’s harbor for a few nights!!
Gallow’s Point Resort & Grande Bay Resort on St. John, USVI–
Years back when I was in high school we did a couple of trips to the US and British Virgin Islands, which remain some of my all-time favorite islands. There’s just something so low key and relaxed about them! Most of the islands are protected national parks, which leaves them completely unspoiled and pristine. The first time we did Tortola and St. John in one vacation and then on another vacation we did St. Thomas and St. John. We went to St. John twice because we love it that much (it’s one of the only islands we’ve gone back to, which says a lot!), which is where you’ll find Gallow’s Point and Grande Bay Resort. Gallows Point offers a more island-y villa vibe and the Grande Bay Resort is newer and has a more hotel-feel even though you can stay in fully equipped condos. You can walk into the town/port from both of them to have dinner and shop which is really convenient. We ate key lime pie from the Lime Inn, took snorkel excursion trips, bought jewelry with the St. John symbol on it, and went to a new beach every day– some of which had absolutely no other people on them.
ABIP TIP: Bring your snorkel gear and hike the path to Waterlemon Cay to swim with the sea turtles that peruse the waters close to shore!
Hard Rock in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic–
Alright hear me out on this one… I had my spring break here our senior year of college and have never had so much fun with such a big group of people at one resort. 😊 I went with all of my best girlfriends and around 200 University of Richmond seniors, the majority of which I also know well (it’s a small school, ha). We stayed at the Hard Rock Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic for five nights. It was an over-the-top all-inclusive experience that was perfect for what we were looking for. We had a jacuzzi (that could fit four people, no joke) in the middle of our room, liquor on tap in our mini fridge (like what?!), and 24/hour all-inclusive room service that also included wine and champagne. The resort offered a large variety of dining options— from a casual pizza place to a fancier steakhouse. All in all, I would 100% recommend this as a college spring break trip (but probably nothing else lol). If you’re looking for an exceptional family-oriented resort destination in the Dominican, I’d highly recommend Casa de Campo, which I visited on spring break of my freshman year of college and absolutely loved.
ABIPTIP: We used the points that our room came with to book ‘free’ massages and rent a poolside daybed/cabana one afternoon (which came with champagne and appetizers!).
Get all the details in my Hard Rock Travel Diary.
La Scalinatella in Capri, Italy–
Our trip to Capri, Italy was part of our overall Rome/Amalfi Coast trip that my family and I took right after I graduated college. Capri has to be up there in my top three favorite destinations of all time. We stayed at the Hotel la Scalinatella, which was gorgeous and quaint– we felt like we were in Greece at some points! It has multiple pools overlooking the ocean and big jacuzzi tubs in our rooms. If you’re blue and white décor obsessed then you would be all over the blue and white tiling and details that are throughout the hotel (not to mention the lemons hanging right above your head by the pool– it was all so picturesque). It’s in a prime location about a five minute walk from town, but still secluded enough so that it’s not noisy or busy at all nearby. The staff was very helpful in making our reservations and bookings as well– which was so useful because Capri has so many opportunities for adventures that you want to get them all in!
ABIP TIP: We met someone who worked for the hotel at the ferry deck on Capri and gave them all of our luggage (so we wouldn’t have to lug it up the mountain to the hotel), and then took the cable car to the main square in Capri and walked about 15 minutes from there to the hotel!
Get all the details in my Capri Travel Diary.
Le Village on St. Barths–
Mega-yachts, glam bikinis (optional), beachside cocktail service, and modern villas. St. Barths is the Kardashian of all Caribbean islands and naturally I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Back when I was in high school, my family spent five low key days at the Westin in St. Martin, and I don’t know if we were ready for all that St. Barths had to offer! We stayed in a chic villa (think: open waterfall showers integrated into the foliage outside) and gorged ourselves on French food. Make sure to stop by Shell Beach to look for sea glass (if you’re me) and jump off the cliffs (if you’re my mom and sister). 😊 This the ideal girls’ trip destination!!! (Hello future Bachelorette party?!). Think Nantucket-in-the-French-West-Indies boutique shopping. See the list of all the best shops on the island here.
ABIP TIP: Even if you don’t stay at Eden Rock (we didn’t), definitely go to the bar there for a drink! It has the coolest atmosphere. Also be sure to visit the spot on the beach right there where the airplanes fly super close to the ground to land! Such a thrilling thing to see.
Marriot Stellaris in Aruba–
A few years back Johnny traveled consistently for six months for work (he spent the weekends in NYC), and during that time he accumulated quite a few Starwood Preferred Guest points from staying in hotels/flying. We ended up researching which hotels in the world were considered the “best” to use your SPG points on, and all of Delta’s direct flights to somewhere warm… the Marriot Stellaris in Aruba fit the bill! I would recommend going to Aruba, as opposed to any other Caribbean island, if you’re looking for guaranteed gorgeous weather (it’s a desert island that experiences VERY little rain) and the happiest, friendliest people around. What we especially loved about the resort was the cleanliness, the service, and all that they had going on at the resort. The ocean is ideal for water sports, swimming, and floating, and there are a variety of adventures for you to do around the island (everything from ATV riders to snorkeling). It was the perfect combination of an elevated resort, but with lots to do, for us!
ABIP TIP: If you can, book a room to stay on the Tradewinds Club Level, so you can stay on the top floor of the resort and have access to their all-inclusive meal and alcohol options there! It was SO worth it.
Get all the details in my Aruba Travel Diary.
Nonsuch Bay Resort in Antigua–
Antigua is so much fun. It’s the perfect combination of exploration and relaxation. We stayed at a fabulous villa and opted not to do all-inclusive and instead go out to dinner all over the island each night. The restaurants were fabulous and the beaches were unspoiled and so gorgeous. We even spotted Tory Burch’s house which was so cool to see. We absolutely loved our villa at the Nonsuch Bay Resort (it had so much space!) and the island had so much to offer in terms of adventuring– from swimming with stingrays at Stingray City to taking a day trip to Barbuda. Definitely a hot spot for someone who is looking to go boating, snorkel, and learn about the history of the island.
Get all the details in my Antigua Travel Diary.
Peter Island Resort on Peter Island, BVIs–
I went to the Peter Island Resort the December of my senior year of college and it was one of the most magical and memorable trips to date. Peter Island is a private island that contains an all-inclusive resort on its property, with not much else on the island at all. We were there during one of the most crowded vacation times of the year, yet most of the time we were the only people in the hot tub, on the tennis courts, etc., which was SO nice. The resort was authentic and islandy– yet updated with a new lobby and impeccably maintained facilities. We stayed in a “beach front junior suite” on Deadman’s Beach, which is the island’s mile-long main beach. Since the whole island is the resort, it feels like one big pristine playground where you can do whatever activity you want and enjoy their delicious meals! It looks like the resort is sadly closed down due to the catastrophic impact Hurricane Irma had, but hopefully there are plans in the works to restore it to the spectacular paradise I remember it as!
ABIP TIP: If you find yourself in the BVIs, take a boat to Willy T’s, which is essentially a floating bar/restaurant anchored off of Norman Island. Be sure to jump off the top deck into the ocean… drink in hand. Also get the Anegada Conch Fritters and a painkiller, trust!
Get all the details in my Peter Island Travel Diary.
Ritz Carlton in San Juan, Puerto Rico–
I went to Puerto Rico for a long weekend my freshman year of college to meet up with my family for a quick getaway. It was super easy to fly into (and the resort is only about 10 minutes from the airport), and was perfect for a long weekend. The weather was gorgeous and hot, and the beaches/pools were over–the-top amazing. We went into Old San Juan for dinner which has a beautiful historic district and awesome restaurants! I think we had overlooked Puerto Rico as a tropical destination for far too long and so it was so great to be able to stay there and visit. It’s such an ideal place for the whole fam to meet for a week and spend time together. 😊 This is definitely a resort/hotel-ish experience, so it’s definitely not the adventurous villa-in-the-mountains route! But you can never go wrong with the Ritz– we also have stayed at the Ritz Carlton in St. Thomas and absolutely loved that experience as well.
ABIP TIP: See if you can get upgraded to a floor that provides lounges where you can go and get breakfast and snacks! It’s such a nice extra perk to have while you’re there.