“We’re going to take a Caribbean vacation this winter.”
That’s like saying, “We’re going to take a United States vacation this year.”
You’re going to need to focus a little. The Caribbean, after all, is a remarkably diverse and expansive region. It consists of more than 7,000 islands dotting one million square miles of ocean. And that doesn’t even include Bermuda and the Bahamas, which lie north of Caribbean Sea, so are technically not part of the region.
The topography, weather, food, culture and, yes, golf, can vary greatly from one island to the next. The Dominican Republic alone includes both the highest point in the Caribbean (Pico Duarte, at 10,417 feet) and the lowest point (Lago Enriquillo, at 89 feet below sea level). But most of that nation’s 26 courses take advantage of its spectacular shoreline, where you’ll spot many of the top tracks in the entire Caribbean, among them Corales GC, host to the PGA Tour’s annual Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, in the popular seaside destination of Punta Cana.
Jamaica is another island nation with a stunning range of landscapes, making it ideal for such adventurous pursuits as hiking the spectacular cone-shaped hills of Cockpit Country, enjoying a horseback ride and accompanying coffee factory tour in the Blue Mountains, or splashing your way up and down Dunn’s River Falls. Golfers can also revel in the dazzling topography as they make their way around such dramatic, undulating designs as White Witch and Cinnamon Hill, with tours of plantations and Great Houses, as well as lures of reggae, rum and spicy jerk chicken beckoning them post-round.
Puerto Rico has also embraced its God-given gifts, with eco-tours and bird-watching among the draws, and resorts such as Royal Isabella, whose links-like golf course crawls up to a 200-foot cliff on the nation’s northwest coast.
Or you can hike Gros Piton, one of the iconic twin sentinels of St. Lucia. At 2,580 feet, it’s the country’s second-highest peak after Mount Ginie and is the only hike sanctioned by the St. Lucian government. The country is also home to the most anticipated new course currently under construction in the Caribbean, Cabot Point. This inspired work of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, winding through lush terrain, over rocky outcrops and along tropical bays and sandy beaches, is expected to open next year.
It’s a reminder that even on islands renowned for their golf, there’s something for everyone in the island chain.
Aruba? Snorkel off the renowned Eagle Beach or take an ATV tour and an accompanying dip at “Conchi,” the island’s famed (and remote) natural pool, then tee it up at Tierra del Sol or The Links at Divi.
St. Kitts? Visit Brimstone Hill Fortress, “the Gibraltar of the West Indies,” or try your luck at the Royal Beach Casino at the Marriott Resort.
Do you enjoy the view from the other side of the water’s surface? There’s a number of exceptional scuba destinations such as Trinidad & Tobago or Grand Cayman’s famed North Wall.
Or are you simply looking for a long, wide, sublime stretch of sand to stroll before or after your round? If you walk out to the beach at the Hard Rock Punta Cana and turn left, there’s miles of yet-undeveloped, palm-studded beachfront. Or your toes can caress the two miles of white powder of Shoal Bay in Anguilla, or the pink sands and imposing rocky outcroppings of Bermuda’s Horseshoe Bay, or soak up the sun on the vast swath and impossibly calm, turquoise waters of Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales, Turk & Caicos.
Looking for unforgettable cocktail hangouts near your golf resort? Pull up a barstool at da Conch Shack in Turks and Caicos, SALT Plage in St. Kitts, Sunshine’s Beach Bar & Grill on Nevis, Rick’s Café in Jamaica or Bankie Banx’s Dune Preserve on Anguilla, just to name a few.
In other words, while you may be packing golf clubs, consider your other passions in life, because odds are that one of these islands has at least a couple of them in spades.