To compile its annual list of the best places to travel in the upcoming year, Travel and Leisure editors consider a variety of factors: “Which under-the-radar gems are most exciting to our network of contributing writers and global correspondents? Which destinations are our A-List travel specialists fielding requests for? Which classic vacation spots are starting to emerge—but for entirely new and compelling reasons? Which global events and changes in travel restrictions have made certain destinations easier to get to?”
Representing the Caribbean on the 2016 list are Canouan in the Grenadines, Placencia in Belize, and Havana in Cuba, each of which meet Travel and Leisure’s criteria in their own unique ways.
Here’s what the magazine had to say about the featured Caribbean destinations:
Want to go where the billionaires go to get away from the millionaires? That’s how some locals describe Canouan, a tiny island within St Vincent and the Grenadines.
More than half of the island’s 2,500 residents are employed by resorts (notably, Canouan Resort and its sibling, the Tamarind Beach Hotel & Yacht Club); 11 rank among the world’s wealthiest individuals.
One regular, Irish financier (and billionaire) Dermot Desmond, is catering to the gilded crowd by opening an 80-berth mega-yacht marina, rumoured to be lined with several high-end restaurants, by early 2016.
And then there’s a forthcoming resort (the name has yet to be decided), opening by mid-2016—it’ll have 32 show-stopping suites and villas that, at US$2,000 per night and up, will instantly become the Caribbean’s most expensive, all with ocean views and Pratesi linens.
With eight restaurants, access to a pristine marine reserve, and a spa with treatment rooms in overwater bungalows, it’ll have the feel of a private island. But charter yacht service will also be available for day trips to the uninhabited Tobago Cays, if total seclusion is what you’re after.
Belize is great for backpackers—much like Costa Rica in the 1980s—but certain areas have also become bona fide retreats for the well-heeled.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Turtle Inn has been drawing glamorous types to its cottages in the beach town of Placencia in Stann Creek District.
The secret is on the verge of getting out, especially with the late 2016 opening of Itz’ana, an ambitious farm-restaurant-retreat hybrid with 39 upscale villas—all within feet of the world’s second-largest coral reef system.
The project, which is just down the road from Turtle Inn, is not just ambitious for its five-star creature comforts (rooms will have terraces with daybeds, waterfront views, and soaring ceilings). It’s also a stage for chef Mara Jernigan, of the immensely popular Limilita pop-up restaurant in Placencia, who will be using indigenous ingredients to spotlight Belizean agriculture and fine dining.
The property also includes: a Mayan-inspired spa using locally harvested rainforest botanicals, a room (and sommelier) dedicated to rum, and chartered yachts for sundown cruises.
Since President Obama’s historic announcement that the United States would loosen travel restrictions to Cuba, Havana has become one of the most exciting destinations on our radar. It is now a real possibility that this year, anyone will be able to plan a trip there without signing up for a rigid people-to-people tour.
Verizon now has coverage, and ferry operators have received the thumbs-up from the American government to start service (they are awaiting the okay from the Cuban side).
American Airlines and JetBlue have nonstop charter flights to Havana from Los Angeles and New York City, respectively, and cruise lines including Carnival and Haimark will set sail to the island as well.
Visiting the capital is like stepping into a vintage photograph: washed-out colonial façcades and cobblestone streets bustling with antique Fords and Chevys.
But preparations for a major tourism boom have already begun: check out the new multimedia art space and bar, La Fábrica de Arte Cubano, or check in to one of 30-plus new hotels on the horizon, including Accor’s Pullman Cayo Coco.
Travel and Leisure is a travel magazine based in New York City. Published 12 times a year, it has 4.8 million readers and is put out by Time Inc.