4 Caribbean destinations where you can relax like a movie star

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Think of the Caribbean and many of us conjure up images of languid winter vacation escapes. What contributes to these images for me are some iconic filming locations, foremost among them the sizzling beaches and fancy casinos from the James Bond films.

And, although few of us can achieve the physical perfection of Ursula Andress or Daniel Craig emerging from the sea, you don’t need to have your cocktails shaken and unstirred to enjoy the pristine beaches, verdant landscapes. and high-end complexes of movies like these.

Pro tip: Many places in the Caribbean suffered extreme damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017; some hotels and restaurants remain closed, others have been rebuilt and are opening their doors. Make sure to check before you book.

Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Jamaica: Goldeneyes And Caves

It’s almost 60 years since Ursula Andress emerged from the depths of Laughing Waters Beach in Jamaica in Dr No. And Jamaica’s bond with Bond has lasted for years since Sean Connery settled comfortably in what is now Couples San Souci, the former San Souci resort that was carved out of the cliff. It was so beautiful, indeed, that James Bond (this time with Roger Moore) returned to the hotel in Live and Let Die. For the full glamorous experience, head to the small town of Orcabessa, site of the GoldenEye complex, the former home of Bond creator Ian Fleming. Plus a collection of private villas and cottages, GoldenEye has a private beach and lagoon and lush gardens. Its 52 acres also have two oceanfront pools, a treehouse-style spa, and plenty of activities such as paddleboarding, snorkeling, yoga classes, and mountain biking.

Bond also stayed in Cottage 10 at Half Moon Resort near Montego Bay. The cottage was renovated over the following decades, but the hotel remains a timeless destination with beautiful white cottages and the atmosphere of an elegant era.

A location of Live and Let Die What you can still visit are the Green Grotto Caves – the site of the evil Doctor Kananga’s underground base on the fictional island of San Monique. Located in Falmouth, between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, the caves were once used as shelters by the Arawak Indians and as hiding places for escaped slaves. Local guides can take you diving.

Maybe you can also see yourself hanging out with Stella, who has found her rhythm (like Angela Bassett with Taye Diggs) at the luxurious Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay.

Pro tip: Scotchie’s no-frills restaurant in Ocho Rios is said to have Jamaica’s most authentic jerk chicken.

Pina colada at Vanderbilt.
Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: Rum And Resorts

Just 2.5 hours from Miami and less than four hours from New York, Puerto Rico is an easy winter destination (and no passport is needed for U.S. citizens).

San Juan has long been popular as a filming location. The rum diary, starring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson, was primarily filmed here and at local bars and dives. On my last visit to Puerto Rico, I chose to stay in Old San Juan at the Hotel El Convento, a unique colonial-style resort (previously a Carmelite Convent) built in 1646 and close to great bars and restaurants. restaurants. Guests have included Pablo Casals, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote.

You can also sample the famous Puerto Rican rum at the clubs (small restaurants / nightclubs) around Old San Juan, or discover the most famous creator of these spirits at Casa Bacardi, a short ferry ride away (reservations must be made in advance).

If proximity to the sand and the sea is more important to you than colonial houses and cobblestone streets, San Juan also has miles of beautiful beaches lapped by turquoise waves.

Not far from Old San Juan is the Caribe Hilton, on a lush landscaped 17-acre private peninsula with a secluded beach. Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton reserve, is located on a former sugar cane plantation just west of San Juan. The Condado Vanderbilt Hotel, less than 10 minutes from San Juan, is a five-star hotel built in 1919 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Condado Ocean Club is a boutique hotel just 15 minutes from the airport. El Conquistador is a luxury resort in Fajardo (on the east coast of the island); it reopened after a multi-million dollar renovation after Hurricane Maria. There is a water taxi to the exclusive beach of Palomino Island (but the beautiful little Isla Palominitos, a cinematic site of Pirates of the Caribbean, is closed to visitors due to erosion and hurricanes in 2017).

Getting to Vieques Island by boat or plane can be difficult but well worth it. Most flights depart from San Juan International Airport (planes are basically puddle jumpers and not for nausea). Ferries take around 30 minutes from Ceiba to Vieques but can get crowded (and are sometimes canceled due to bad weather).

Vieques was a major location for the 1963 film Lord of the Flies, based on the dystopian 1954 novel by William Golding. But visitors shouldn’t worry; your grandchildren are unlikely to go wild in this peaceful and pleasant hideaway.

This laid-back little island is perhaps most famous for Bioluminescent Bay, also known as Mosquito Bay, a lagoon that’s home to millions of tiny organisms that glow a greenish blue after dark. You’ll need to book a tour to see the wonders of the lagoon, but many report that kayaking at night is a bucket list experience.

The Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is a popular hiking spot, and the island is famous for its wild (but gentle) horses that roam free since the Spaniards brought them back from Europe hundreds of years ago. .

Places to stay in Vieques include the Hix Island House, a 19-room jungle hotel with a pool and tropical views; Finca Victoria, which is an eco-retreat on 2.5 acres; El Blok, which also has a good restaurant; and the Malecon House, also in the town of Esperanza. There are also many vacation rentals in Vieques.

Pro tips: This year is San Juan’s 500th anniversary! Special events run through June 2022. Visitors recommend a jeep rental for the island’s toughest roads.

Barracuda, Isla de Mona.
Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Bahamas: Bond and the Beatles

A luxury guide to the Bahamas is triggered by three words: “Bond. James Bond. “The proof? Daniel Craig on the beach in Casino Royale.

In it, Daniel Craig chases villainous Le Chiffre to a poker tournament held at the One & Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island. The Ocean Club is the epitome of luxury with a private beach and white sand, not to mention several restaurants, including the Courtyard Terrace and Restaurant Dune.

Sean Connery (who owned a home in Lyford Cay in the Bahamas) wooed Fatima Blush at the British Colonial Hilton Nassau in Never say never. The colonial-style hotel opened in 1924 and has been called “the Grand Lady of all Nassau hotels”.

Another popular movie with a Paradise Island location was the 1966 To help!, with John, Paul, George and Ringo, among others, singing the title song on the beach.

The Beatles stayed at the glittering Balmoral Club on Cable Beach, built in 1946 and created to be the playground for many royals. The hotel has become the Sandals Royal Bahamian (slated to reopen in early 2022), one of two Sandals hotels in the Bahamas. The other is the Sandals Emerald Bay in Exuma. A special perk is that Emerald Bay offers tours to Staniel Cay, the home of Thunderball Grotto (named after the movie), a prime spot for diving and snorkeling amid spectacular underwater caves.

Buildings in Old San Juan.
Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Holy Cross (not Mexico, after all)

Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) finally reunite in “Mexico” in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, but the scene was actually shot at the Sandy Point National Wildlife Refuge in Sainte-Croix.

Places to stay nearby include Cottages by the Sea, approximately 2.7 miles from the beach, and the Carambola Beach Resort & Spa on the North Shore, approximately 12 km from Sandy Point. The 3 mile beach itself is located near the town of Frederiksted at the southwest end of St. Croix. Part of the 380-acre Sandy Point Wildlife Preserve, the beach is an important nesting area for the endangered leatherback turtle. The refuge operates at very limited hours, especially when turtles are nesting, so check out the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s official Sandy Point webpage for access.

Note that there are no restrooms or other amenities on the beach, but there are other compensations. As one reviewer wrote, “No facilities. No shade. No nothing. Just paradise. It sounds like the perfect place to spend a day in paradise.

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