1. Many luxury resorts are cheaper
Summertime is off-season in the Caribbean, so you can snag a posh property for less. No two rooms are alike at Anse Chastanet, a boutique resort in Saint Lucia. The chic Casuarina pool suite, for example, is appointed with coralina stone tiles and handcrafted furniture. The suite also has its own private pool and overlooks the green-capped Pitons mountains. In Jamaica, the adults-only Hyatt Zilara Rose Hall pampers its guests with heavenly touches such as beach butlers and swanky, swim-up rooms.
2. The kids will love it
Please the whole family with a trip to an island waterpark. Kids of all ages will love the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort in Bahamas for its zany waterslides, river rides and huge pools. Tots can splash around in the Mayan water playground at Splashers, while adrenalin hounds can brave the plunging Leap of Faith, a waterslide with a nearly 20-metre, almost-vertical drop. In Saint Lucia, stay at the Coconut Bay Beach Resort & Spa, home of the island’s largest water park, which features a lazy river and slides.
3. The crowds are smaller
It’s low season for many resorts, including Cuba’s IBEROSTAR Playa Pilar Resort in Cayo Guillermo, about 30 minutes west of Cayo Coco, so you’ll have lots of space to explore. Cayo Guillermo is a nature-rich isle off Cuba’s northeast coast (accessed by a causeway) that boasts the world’s second-largest coral reef and white-sand beaches. The all-inclusive resort offers water sports, including windsurfing and kayaking, without the crowds.
Festival del Merengue, photo courtesy of Dominican Republic Ministry of Tourism
4. To Celebrate Crop Over in Barbados
Party with the locals in Barbados during Crop Over (June 24 to August 7), a six-week celebration of the end of the sugarcane harvest, a tradition dating back to the late 1700s. The festival kicks off with an opening gala at which a festival king and queen are crowned. Carnivals, concerts, parades and art exhibitions fill the jam-packed Crop Over calendar. It all culminates with Grand Kadooment, a huge parade in Bridgetown featuring revellers dressed in elaborate costumes.
5. Take part in one of the world’s biggest merengue festivals
In the Dominican Republic, local merengue dancers take over the colonial capital of Santo Domingo, located about two and a half hours west of Punta Cana, for the two-day Festival del Merengue (August 26 and 27). The Malecón, the city’s main drag, turns into a massive street party with locals and visitors kicking up their heels. Expect live music, DJs, Dominican beauty queens, dancers in traditional red, white and blue dresses, and lots of spectators in a spectrum of dancewear.
6. To experience a tournament
Local and international kitesurfers and windsurfers head to Palm Beach, a popular tourist destination just outside of Oranjestad, Aruba’s capital city, for the annual (now in its 31st year) Aruba Hi-Winds kitesurfing and windsurfing competition (July 4 to 10). Contestants slice through the blue water, while spectators hit the white-powder beaches near the laid-back Holiday Inn Resort Aruba. If you want to try your hand at either of these sports, Aruba Active Vacations offers daily lessons right in Palm Beach.
7. To catch turtle-nesting season
Summertime is sea turtle season on many Caribbean islands. In Barbados, the beaches along St. Lawrence Gap are a haven for the annual hawksbill turtle-nesting season that runs through October. In Turks and Caicos, the barrier reef off Providenciales makes it a prime spot for turtle-watching opportunities, especially around Grace Bay Beach. Snorkellers submerge offshore by kid-friendly Bight Reef in an underwater world of fish and sea turtles, while serious sea turtle fans opt for scuba diving excursions.
Photo courtesy of Brilliant Studios for Turks and Caicos Tourism Board
8. To Enjoy a newly renovated resort
The adults-only Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa and Offshore Island has spruced up this landmark resort in Nassau, Bahamas, with a US$4-million makeover. Enjoy updated lobbies and common areas and refurbished pools with new walkways, day cabanas and firepits. By day, relax at the resort’s private island; by night, sip cocktails at the retro Piano Bar in Balmoral Tower, decked out with Edward and Wallis photos; the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor used to hang out here.
9. To celebrate 60 years of Antigua’s Carnival
Antigua’s Carnival (July 28 to August 8) celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, so the country is kicking the festivities up a notch. The foot-stomping, high-volume festival jamboree fills St. John’s streets and the country’s national stadium. Expect an assortment of parades, floats and performances, including the Glow Parade featuring stationary iron bands and steel bands, moko jumbie (stilt walkers) and Johnbulls (traditional bull horn costumes).
10. A film fest with smaller crowds
CayFilm Cayman International Film Festival (June 30 to July 3), a newbie festival in its third year, has already lured Hollywood celebrities such as Terrence Howard and Reno Wilson. Held at The Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman, festival-goers can expect shorter lineups and cheaper passes compared to larger film festivals but with a wide selection of local and international films. Last year, more than 200 films from 50 countries were screened, including documentaries and features.