From coffee blending to mermaid encounters, these aren't your usual tropical vacation experiences
Once you’ve had your fill of sun, beach and water, it’s time to try something different. And at resorts all across the Caribbean, you can do just that. Young and old alike will find activities that entertain, educate or encourage engagement. Here are ten experiences that go beyond the ordinary resort experience.
1 Visit a Mountain Village: Strawberry Hill, Jamaica
Lace up your walking shoes and ask the concierge for directions and a map. From the Strawberry Hill resort, the path to Redlight village winds through the wooded hillsides of the Blue Mountains, passing streams and a waterfall along the way. It’s an easy 20-minute walk, and once there, you can tour the historic St. Mark’s Chapel, which was built by the British in the early 1800s. To make a day of it, have the resort’s kitchen staff prepare a picnic lunch to bring along.
2 Swim with a Mermaid: Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France, St. Bart
She might join you in the pool, or make a surprise visit during a snorkel trip. Amarylis is St. Bart’s resident mermaid, delighting imaginations of all ages at the Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France resort. This upscale boutique property overlooks the stunning beach at Baie des Flamands, where crystal- clear waters are ideal for young snorkelers. In keeping with its family- friendly atmosphere, the Isle de France often hosts Amaryllis, who poses for photos, and shares stories of her home in the sea.
3 Spot a Monkey: Four Seasons Nevis
End your day with a private sunset tour of the Four Seasons’ Robert Trent Jones II Golf Course. As you wander the hillside fairways, you’ll learn about the native flora and enjoy sweeping views of the resort, the Caribbean Sea and the nearby island of St. Kitts. And be sure to scan the trees and hillsides for a glimpse of the island’s famous green vervet monkeys. First brought to Nevis in the 1800s as pets, they now roam free across the island.
4 Blend Your Own: Nayara Springs, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its fine coffees, and you can sample some of the best blends at Mi Cafecito, which is Nayara Springs’ in-house expresso bar. The flavors are created by resident coffee connoisseur Ken Palmer, who learned his craft training with Alfred Peet of Peet’s Coffee. Palmer will also guide guests through the steps of creating their own personal blends. The results are delicious, as novice blenders work with high-quality beans from the country’s premier Tarrazu region.
5 Mix a Dirty Banana: Jamaica Inn, Ocho Rios
Rum is the Caribbean’s signature spirit. Guests of the Jamaica Inn can get into this spirit of the islands during a Rumology class held each Thursday morning at Teddy’s Beach Bar. In addition to mingling with other rum enthusiasts, participants learn to create a number of signature drinks such as Teddy’s signature planter’s punch, the dark and stormy, dirty banana and the piña colada. The session is hosted by the knowledgeable bar team, who also recounts the history of popular rum mixes, share stories of the rich Jamaican heritage of rum, and describe mixing techniques.
6 Art Walk: Hamilton Princess & Beach Club, Bermuda
The recent hundred-million-dollar upgrading of the Hamilton Princess & Beach Club included the addition of an extensive collection of contemporary art. Today as your walk through the lobby and public spaces these art works are juxtaposed against the hotel’s historic architectural details such as crown molding and oriental rugs. The collection includes works from Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, Nelson Mandela, Banksy, and Philippe Decrauzat among others. You can walk through the collection on your own or join a guided tour, which is offered every Saturday morning.
7 Pick Tomatoes Off the Vine: CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, Anguilla
To provide the kitchen with the freshest and finest possible ingredients, this upscale beach resort maintains an 18,000-square foot greenhouse, which supplies much of the produce used in the restaurants. Crops include vine- ripened tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuces and micro-greens and herbs. The chefs delight in being able to pick fresh dill, basil and parsley on a daily basis, and in creating dishes featuring guava and pumpkin grown on the property. Guests can tour the greenhouse, help with the harvest and even take a seat at a hands-on cooking class.
8 Immerse in the Culture of Curacao: Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa, Curacao
Spread over an eight-block compound in the center of Willemstad, Kura Hulanda village is a collection of meticulously restored historic buildings that now house boutique lodgings and the anthropological museum of Kura Hulanda. The museum focuses on the predominant cultures of Curacao, taking visitors on a journey that ranges from the origin of man to West African empires, a chronicle of the African slave trade, pre-Columbian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art. Visitors can conduct self-guided visits or join an interpretive tour.
9 Explore an Ecological Park: Tortuga Bay Puntacana Resort & Club, Punta Cana, DR
Guests of Tortuga Bay are invited to take a complimentary self-guided tour of the Indigenous Eyes Ecological Park and Reserve. This 1,500-acre nature reserve provides a habitat for indigenous birds, reptiles, insects and native plants. A series of interpretive trails cover the natural and cultural history of the island, and include a sugar cane exhibit, a fruit tree garden and an iguana habitat. Pack a swimsuit, because trails also lead to 12 freshwater lagoons where you can take a dip.
10 Salute the Sun: W Retreat & Spa, Vieques, Puerto Rico
It’s a great way to begin or end your day. Join other guests in the W Retreat’s Living Room, an eclectic, neo-Bohemian relaxation space, where you can hang out and mingle before heading out to the deck for a mind, body and breath workout. Sunrise and sunset yoga sessions meet daily. Private yoga sessions available through the AWAY Spa, featuring Detox Yoga, Art of Meditation, and Introduction to Breath. If you are feeling more energetic and awake a bit earlier, join the kayak tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings.