January just isn’t fun. Not only does the month itself seem to drag on longer than any other, but there’s a chance you’re doing Dry January and haven’t had a drink since your last glass of bubbly on New Year’s Eve. And, the cold. Oh, the cold. By this point, it’s no longer “cute” or “wintery” but just plain frigid.
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Needless to say, you (like all of us) are probably champing at the bit for a quick jaunt to the sun. Luckily, a resurgent Caribbean region — from Anguilla to Nevis — is ready and waiting with open arms to welcome you to sunny, secluded beaches, gorgeous and varied terrain and plenty of rum punch, of course.
Unless you already have a favorite in mind that you’re dead-set on visiting, consider mixing it up with a visit to a new island. And, once you decide where you’re going, the real fun begins: picking a place to stay. We’ve recently d our picks of the top points hotels in the region and the hotels we’re most looking forward to opening in 2020, but today we want to focus on the most exciting properties — points or not — that have opened (or reopened after a significant renovation) within the last year.
Even if some of the hotels on this list that pique your interest aren’t points hotels in the traditional sense, there’s probably a way you can leverage your credit card portfolio, especially through programs like the Chase Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection (LHRC) or American Express Fine Hotels Resorts (FHR), which can land you elite-like perks such as early check-in, late checkout, on-property credits, complimentary room upgrades and more.
Another way to maximize your booking is using fixed-value points from a card such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve at a value of 1.5 cents each to book a hotel through the Chase Travel portal. Or, pay for the hotel with an “eraser” card like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. You can then apply your points at a 1 cent per point ratio to your statement for any purchase that codes as travel.
Officially opened and operating as Dominica’s first five-star resort, the Cabrits Resort Spa Kempinski is a big deal for the island and the region as a whole. It’s only the brand’s second property in the entire Caribbean region. (The other being the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski in Havana, Cuba.) If you’re looking for a vacation spot to get away from it all (in style, of course), this is the property for you. It’s designed to the brand’s high standard in terms of architecture and service, but with a focus on eco-friendliness and serenity. Even better, Dominica is an island that remains largely free from the overtourism that so many other Caribbean islands continue to experience.
After suffering extensive damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas has reopened after a renovation that parent company Marriott pegs at $100 million. The resort features four restaurants, a remodeled infinity pool, a new family pool with waterslide and a renovated club lounge. As with any new-hotel opening (or reopening), it’s probably wise to wait a few weeks to visit (at least) so that management has a chance to work out those new–property kinks that are all-too-common.
As a Category 8 property on the Marriott Bonvoy award chart, a free night at this Ritz-Carlton will set you back anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000 points per night, depending on the availability on your specific travel dates.
Spread across 500 acres on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, the Rosewood Little Dix Bay reopened just a few weeks ago after a lengthy four-year renovation. Designers channeled Laurance Rockefeller — the resort’s original founder — in the redesign, and the result is a stunning luxury resort with an emphasis on digital disconnection. Also in the revamp came four new restaurants, all of which are designed to solidify the hotel’s bond with nature.
A stay at the Rosewood Little Dix Bay certainly won’t come cheap, but if you hold a Platinum- or Centurion-branded card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, you can maximize any stay there by booking through the Amex Fine Hotels Resorts program.
While not as flashy or luxe as some of the other properties on the list, the reopening of the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort is still big news for travelers wanting to head to the pristine weather of the ABC islands — and have Marriott points to burn. Three years, an additional 70 guest rooms and just shy of $40 million later, the hotel has reopened adjacent to the beach in Piscadera Bay.
As a Category 5 Marriott Bonvoy property, a free night will run you anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 points per night, making the property eligible for a Marriott up to 35,000-point certificate from a card such as the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card on nights that ring in at 35,000 points or less per night.
Located in Shoal Bay East on the quiet island of Anguilla, the Zemi Beach House opened as Hilton’s first Caribbean outpost of its relatively new LXR luxury brand. With just 76 rooms, the property promises to be a restful retreat — the Zen quota goes even higher thanks to the hotel’s 15,000-square-foot indoor and outdoor Zemi Thai House Spa, which is set in an authentic 300-year-old Thai house. Even though the property is small, it packs a punch when it comes to dining and drinking, with five distinct venues on property, ranging from a casual beach club to a fine dining restaurant serving locally sourced, “sea-to-table” cuisine.
The news is certainly welcome for Hilton Honors loyalists, as you can book a free night at this property from 95,000 Honors points. This resort would also be a great use of your Hilton Weekend Night Reward certificates available with cards such as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.
A mainstay resort in the Caribbean, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis recently debuted refreshed guest rooms, a new main pool, an all-new restaurant, a new lobby and more — all of which were completed over the last couple of years. Set on Pinney’s beach and with a phenomenal view of the green-capped Nevis peak, this West Indies luxury property should be high on the list of anyone interested in a Caribbean vacation.
Although Four Seasons properties aren’t members of any major chain, you can get a lot more value (think: room upgrades, property credits and more) from your stay by booking through the Amex FHR program.
Hyatt Ziva and Zilara Cap Cana
(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)
Opened in late 2019, we’re sure that the all-inclusive Hyatt Ziva (family focused) and Zilara (adults-only) properties will be a hit with anyone bound for the Dominican Republic — especially those with a healthy balance of World of Hyatt points. And, since Chase Ultimate Rewards points transfer to World of Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, you can easily transfer points you’d earn from everyday spending on an Ultimate Rewards-earning credit card into your Hyatt account in order to book this all-inclusive stay for just 25,000 points per night (based on double occupancy).
TPG director of travel content, Summer Hull, checked out the resort — some of it at least — when it first opened and … it wasn’t exactly ready for prime time. Now, having had a couple months to complete the property and get the opening issues ironed out, we’re confident this resort will soon live up to our high expectations.
Closed for about two years after being damaged by Hurricane Irma, the 37-room Eden Rock St. Barth reopened just before Thanksgiving in 2019. The reopening of the iconic property brings a special 1950s glamor back to the star-studded island — along with a restaurant helmed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, an all-new spa with kid-friendly treatments, a circulating frosé cart and more. Each room and suite on the property is unique, though even a base-level room will certainly blow you away with its relaxed approach to beachfront luxury.
A part of the very high-end Oetker Collection of hotels, Eden Rock doesn’t belong to a typical points program, but participates in Amex FHR, allowing you to further upgrade your already very luxe stay.
After an extensive $210-million renovation, one of the most iconic properties in the Caribbean (and perhaps even North America in general) is open on Anguilla and ready to delight its very well-heeled guests with opulent beachfront luxury and the service to match. The renovation added five villas to the property, meaning Cap Juluca now has 108 whitewashed beachfront villas that make you think you’re in southern Europe or North Africa, not a 20-minute boat ride from St. Martin.
There’s no doubt you’ll shell out for a stay here, but you can maximize your visit by taking full advantage of all the perks that come with booking a stay through Amex FHR.