Explore: 3 Idyllic Isles

Our guide to Saint Lucia, Barbados and Puerto Rico.

By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Saint Lucia

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more breathtakingly beautiful haven than Saint Lucia, with its volcanic beaches, green valleys and majestic twin Pitons mountains.

Before You Go

For inspiration, follow @SaintLuciaNow on Instagram. Operated by the island’s tourism board, the popular social media feed will make you want to hop the next flight south, thanks to shots of Sapphire Falls and catamarans gliding past the 2,500-foot-high Pitons.

On the Ground

Turquoise-and-pink parrot fish and striped sergeant majors are on view at shallow Anse Chastanet reef during snorkeling outings with the experienced guides at Scuba St. Lucia (758-459-7755; tours, from $39* for a single dive). As you’re bobbing along, be sure to look up every once in a while to take in a fish-eye view of the Pitons. Landlubbers may prefer to visit the Caribbean’s only “drive-in volcano” at Sulphur Springs Park (Soufriere; 758-459-7686 ext. 5726; adults, $8; children, $4), where you can drive or walk into the heart of a dormant volcano or opt to steep in warm, nutrient-dense mud that is said to soothe and smooth the skin. Another island highlight: the 56-foot-high Diamond Waterfall (Soufriere Estate; 758-459-7155; admission, $7), which glimmers in the sun like its namesake. After all that exploring, the food at the thatch-roofed Naked Fisherman (Smugglers Cove, Cap Estate; 758-457-8694; dinner for two, $62) hits the spot. In a protected seaside cove, the indoor-outdoor restaurant is beloved for its jerk chicken and many gently swaying hammocks, where you can spend sunset sipping a signature spicy mango cocktail mixed with Chairman’s dark rum and house-made jalapeño syrup.

Take It With You

London-born artist Simon Gajadhar visited his father’s homeland of Saint Lucia a couple of decades ago and never left. What he does on all those 80-degree days year-round—running Zaka Art Café (26 Bay St., Malgretoute, Soufriere; 758-457-1504; masks, from $20), an art and coffee shop in the shadow of the Pitons—might inspire you to stay too, or at least put you on island time whenever you look at your hand-carved and colorfully painted memento.

Barbados

Sapphire bays and powdery sand, colorful gardens and sprawling estates, a vibrant culture and rich traditions—this 21-mile-long British commonwealth nation has it all.

Before You Go

To get a feel for Bajan life, you can download the calypso music of the Merrymen, whose tracks are so effervescent you can’t help but tap your feet in rhythm. But Barbados’s most famous luminary may be pop artist Rihanna, who was born and raised on the island and whose track “Man Down” is a nod to the reggae she grew up listening to.

On the Ground

Once known as “Little England,” Barbados continues to draw the likes of Prince Harry to its pristine shores. Channel that spirit by taking a proper afternoon tea at Sandy Lane (Holetown; 866-444-4080; tea for two, from $70), a 1961 resort that serves organic Earl Grey tea and sandwiches made with St. James oak–smoked Scottish salmon on a mahogany-tree-shaded terrace overlooking the sea. History buffs will love stopping in at the George Washington House (Bush Hill, Garrison; 011-246-228-5461; admission, $10), a period museum where the first American president (then just 19 years old) briefly lived in 1751. It’s little surprise that Andromeda Botanic Gardens (Foster Hall, St. Joseph; 011-246-433-9384; admission, $15)—with its six acres of fragrant hibiscus, orchid and bougainvillea blooms—received the Veitch Medal from the United Kingdom’s Royal Horticultural Society. You’ll find a string of impressive beaches, but no trip to the island would be complete without soaking up the sun at Crane Beach, a crescent-shaped stretch of bright pink sand. And to catch that calypso music in person, stop by Sugar Live (St. Lawrence Gap, Oistins, Christ Church), where you can dance to Caribbean pop and Prince covers under the stars just a block from the beach.

Take It With You

Rum traces its roots to the Caribbean, where the first distillation took place in the 17th century. At Barbados’s St. Nicholas Abbey (Cherry Tree Hill, St. Peter; 011-246-422-5357; adults, $20; children 5 to 11, $10), a 1658 sugar plantation, the spirit is made from sugar cane grown on the property. The stalks are crushed in a 19th-century steam mill, and the juice is distilled on-site. The newly made rum is then placed in white-oak barrels and aged for 12 years.

Puerto Rico

One of the liveliest of the Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico also delights with its white-sand beaches and lush rainforests, so much so that the national anthem, “La Borinqueña,” calls it “a flowery garden of magical beauty.” Plus, it’s just a two-hour flight from Florida, and, because it’s an American territory, you don’t need to pack your passport.

Before You Go

Many a Hollywood location scout has found this island cinematic, so you can catch a glimpse of it in all sorts of films, from the 1995 James Bond thriller GoldenEye—shot in multiple spots around the island—to 2011’s popular Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

On the Ground

Stroll past sunning iguanas and white egrets on your way to the hidden lagoons at Humacao Nature Reserve (Road No. 3 km 74.3, Humacao; inecoh.com, site in Spanish), where palm trees shroud the white-sand beach. The Pterocarpus Forest (5 Academy Dr., Humacao), a 51-acre nature preserve, comprises misty rain forests and mangrove swamps that can be explored along an elevated walkway. There’s also an observation tower from which you can peer over the cacophonous canopy. To get a closer view of the island’s wildlife, consider going on a half-mile kayak tour with Barefoot Travelers (787-850-0508; kayak tour, from $110 for two) to Monkey Island (also known as Cayo Santiago), home to some 1,200 rhesus macaques. Take a culture break at the 1920 Casa Roig Museum (66 Calle Antonio Lopez S., Humacao; 787-852-8380; admission, free), designed by a Frank Lloyd Wright zealot who implemented a few of Wright’s signature moves, including wide, clean lines and geometric stained-glass windows (in tropical pastel colors—it’s the Caribbean, after all). Inside: a museum that explores the region’s history and modern art. French chef Daniel Vasse brings a bit of Paris to Puerto Rico at Chez Daniel at Palmas del Mar (Humacao; 787-850-3838; dinner for two, $90), where you can tuck into crab crêpes and cod papillote under swaying palms on an alfresco patio.

Take It With You

San Juan Airport’s duty-free shop stocks one of the island’s most in-demand exports in the form of the delicious Alto Grande® coffee, which has been grown (adhering to American farming standards) in the Lares mountains since 1839.

STAY
RCI® affiliated resorts in the Caribbean include:
All Inclusive-Club Barbados Resort and Spa-All Inclusive-Mandatory C484

An adults-only escape with some units fronting the Caribbean Sea. Heywoods, St. James, Barbados
Member Review: “Close to shopping in Bridgetown.”

Sugar Bay Barbados RF26

Choose from four on-site restaurants (Barbadian to South American). Garrison Historic Area, Hastings, Chris Church, Barbados
Member Review: Not yet rated

St. James Morgan Bay-All Inclusive C371

Active types can enjoy complimentary kayaks, Windsurfers, sailboats and snorkeling gear. Choc Bay, Gros Inlet, Saint Lucia
Member Review: “Friendly staff.”

Oasis Marigot 2246

A remote getaway on Marigot Bay with regular day-sail tours that show guests the sights of Saint Lucia. Marigot Bay, Castries, Saint Lucia
Member Review: “Amazing views!”

Royal Holiday-Park Royal Club Cala 8843

Close to downtown Humacao’s shopping, restaurants and nightlife. 270 Harbour Dr. Suite 1, Palmas del Mar, Humacao, Puerto Rico
Member Review: “Great for the family.”

Club Melia at Gran Melia Puerto Rico II A221

Enjoy a live show at the on-site amphitheater. Sector Coco Beach, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Member Review: “Well-appointed Euro-style units.”

RCI® TIP

It’s not too early to start planning your 2018 vacation! You may not find availability in the Caribbean island you are looking for right away, so we’re here to help you search for your dream vacation with an Ongoing Search.** Just choose what you are looking for, and we’ll search 24/7, alerting you via email if a match becomes available! Or you can continue searching on RCI.com for other vacation options.***

For complete member reviews (as member reviews have been condensed) and additional resort listings, visit RCI.com or call 800-338-7777 (Weeks) or 877-968-7476 (Points). Club Members, please call your specific Club or RCI telephone number.

Search Now

Non-RCI affiliated resorts in the Caribbean include:
Little Arches Boutique Hotel

A family-owned 10-room hotel in a Mediterranean-style manse adjacent to the white-sand Enterprise Beach. Enterprise Beach Rd., Christ Church, Barbados; littlearches.com; doubles from $225 a night

Villa Beach Cottages

Coconut-tree-shrouded colonial villas in a former naval officers’ quarters, on turquoise Choc Bay. Amenities include a waterfall-fed swimming pool. Choc Bay, Castries, Saint Lucia; villabeachcottages.com; doubles from $225 a night

Barefoot Travelers Rooms Beach Guesthouse

Near the Humacao Nature Reserve and a two-minute walk from the beach, this three-room lodge has a private pool and loaner boogie boards. Humacao, Puerto Rico; barefoottravelersrooms.com; doubles from $78 a night

  • *Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars. Estimated meal prices do not include drinks, tax or tip.
  • **The current RCI Exchange Fee is required to set up an Ongoing Search. The Exchange Fee may be refundable if no match is found, provided the member is otherwise in full compliance with all applicable exchange program requirements.
  • ***These vacations are limited and subject to availability.
  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Summer 2017