So you've decided you want to escape to a warm, Caribbean oasis. Now comes the hard part -- deciding where to stay. Luckily, the Caribbean is chock full of sprawling all-inclusive resorts and intimate boutique hotels suited to fit the needs of a variety of travelers.
But if the dizzying array of lodging options has you feeling overwhelmed, look to U.S. News' Best Hotels in the Caribbean rankings for guidance. Using a comprehensive methodology that aggregates the opinions of travel experts and guests, we evaluated 288 hotels in the Caribbean to identify the region's best hotels and resorts. We analyzed guidebooks, magazines and review-based websites to compile a list of properties that consistently receive approval from critics and travelers.
The top 10 properties in the Caribbean for 2015 are diverse in both size and character, and situated in popular spots like Punta Cana and Jamaica, as well as more secluded locales like Grenada and St. Barts. Each hotel on this list stands out from its peers thanks to its memorable ambiance, upscale amenities and exemplary service.
Jade Mountain may have slipped from the No. 9 position it held in 2014, but this St. Lucia standout remains a favorite among critics and guests, winning accolades such as the Condé Nast Readers' Choice Award and coveted AAA Five Diamond Award. Lauded for their innovative design, Jade Mountain's "sanctuaries" boast an open wall (think a patio without the door), offering an unparalleled view of the Piton Mountains. The hotel is not directly located on the beach (reserve a room at the resort's sister property, Anse Chastanet, if you want to be closer to the shoreline), but guests don't seem to mind. Visitors cite Jade Mountain's unbeatable views, attentive service and ample wellness amenities (like the Kai en Ciel spa and private yoga sessions) as reasons for a repeat visit.
Giving Jade Mountain a run for its money, East Winds Inn traded in the silver badge it earned last year for gold in 2015. Claiming the title of Best Hotel in St. Lucia, East Winds Inn appeals to travelers looking for a boutique hotel experience. Thanks to its limited capacity (just 30 rooms sprawled across 12 acres), previous guests say the hotel staff provides personalized service not often seen at larger resorts. Aside from the staff's attention to detail, travelers also praise the resort's eatery, the Flamboyant Restaurant. Reviewers compliment the fresh, local cuisine and variety of dishes -- a factor many visitors consider paramount if staying in St. Lucia for more than a few days.
Grenada's Calabash Hotel didn't rank within the top 10 percent in 2014, but its attentive customer service and secluded location on 8 acres of tropical greenery bumped this silver badge winner up to gold for 2015. With just 30 suites, the property's limited capacity allows the hotel staff to deliver personalized service, according to past visitors. Calabash's accommodations, outfitted with high ceilings, whirlpool baths and large balconies are another point of praise, as are the resort's two restaurants. Critics seem to echo guests' sentiments: The hotel received the AAA Four Diamond Award, plus it's gained recognition from Concierge.com and Fodor's as a top property.
Eden Rock, St. Barths may have slipped from the No. 4 to the No. 7 spot on this year's Best Hotels in the Caribbean ranking, but this Relais & Châteaux, AAA Four Diamond property still reigns supreme as the island's best hotel. Situated on a craggy promontory overlooking St. Jean Bay, the hotel's stunning location is enough to woo guests, but visitors attest that it's the resort's staff that truly makes Eden Rock a standout among St. Barts properties. When you're not gazing out at the bay from your table at On The Rocks restaurant, retreat to your stylish digs, where you'll find restored antique furniture, a private terrace and original artwork.
A newcomer to the top 10 list this year, this Ritz-Carlton outpost jumped up eight spots from the No. 14 place it held last year. Surrounded by 1,400 acres, Dorado Beach impresses guests with its unique location: It sits on Puerto Rico's Caribbean coast and boasts an 11-mile nature trail, a 5-acre "spa sanctuary" and 3 miles of secluded shoreline. When guests aren't praising the plethora of outdoor to-dos, they're complimenting the well-equipped accommodations. Rooms boast oversized terraces, outdoor showers and floor-to-ceiling sliding doors that open to the resort's East or West Beach. Lodgers' praise is also reflected in the accolades Dorado Beach has received, including the Condé Nast Readers' Choice Award.
For the second year in a row, this 36-room AAA Four Diamond winner beat out its brand-backed competitor, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis. Perhaps its unique location on a retired 18th century sugar plantation is what keeps travelers and experts coming back for more. Or maybe it's the sheer size of the resort: Spread across 30 acres on Nevis' northeastern coast, the property has no shortage of active offerings, including kayaking, snorkeling and tennis. A top pick by both Lonely Planet and Travel + Leisure, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club continues its tenure as the twin islands' best hotel.
Reigning supreme over the Calabash Hotel, Spice Island Beach Resort claims the top spot in Grenada this year, wowing guests with its prime seat on Grand Anse Beach. Spread out across 8 acres, this AAA Four Diamond winner receives praise for its impeccable customer service and unbeatable location. While travelers reserve the most praise for the attentive staff, visitors also compliment the on-site eatery, Oliver's Restaurant, and the well-appointed accommodations. More than half of Spice Island's 32 suites boast their own plunge pool, while all include breezy balconies or patios.
In a destination with no shortage of sprawling resorts (think: Sandals) it may come as a surprise that this boutique hotel with just 52 suites and cottages managed to capture the title of Best Hotel in Jamaica. But guests attest that the Jamaica Inn, which has been welcoming guests to its 700-foot private beach since 1950, deserves the hype thanks to its genuine service. When you're not lounging by the water, watch the waves crash in from your private veranda. Another point of praise among recent travelers: the open-air terrace restaurant. Lodger opinion is expressed in the hotel's appearance on the Condé Nast Readers' Choice poll, while critics put in their two cents on the Travel + Leisure 500 World's Best Hotels list.
Step aside, Tortuga Bay. The two-time winner in both Punta Cana and the Caribbean was dethroned this year by its neighbor down the coast, Eden Roc at Cap Cana. While it may not claim No. 1 status this year, this AAA Five Diamond, Leading Hotels of the World property still impresses visitors with its enviable location and stylish interiors. Situated on a 1,500-acre ecological reserve, Tortuga Bay wins over guests with its two golf courses, Six Senses Spa and its plantation-style suite decor designed by Oscar de la Renta. But impressive amenities aren't much without equally notable service: Recent visitors compliment the hotel's personable staff.
Climbing up the ranks from No. 18 in 2014, Eden Roc at Cap Cana managed to usurp Tortuga Bay (a two-time winner) to capture this year's No. 1 spot. So what makes this Relais & Châteaux outpost so special? To start, every suite boasts a private pool, gazebo and personal golf cart, not to mention an exterior rain shower. But if that doesn't pique your interest, perhaps Eden Roc's location will: The resort is situated in Punta Cana's exclusive Cap Cana community on the eastern edge of the Dominican Republic. Cap Cana sits on 30,000 acres and is home to beaches, cliffs and forests, in addition to three Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses and a marina. Plus, Eden Roc guests are granted access to the members-only Caletón Beach Club, which boasts a pool, bar and restaurant within a palm-fringed cove. We're not the only ones who've taken notice of Eden Roc's ample offerings: The hotel is a hit with guests who say its AAA Four Diamond and Travel + Leisure "It List" awards are well-deserved.
About the author: Ann Rivall is a Travel Editor at U.S. News. You can follow her onTwitter, circle her on Google+ or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.