Think of the Caribbean and many of us conjure up images of lazy winter vacations. What contributes to these images for me are some iconic filming locations, most notably the sizzling beaches and swanky casinos of the James Bond films.

And while few of us can match the physical perfection of Ursula Andress or Daniel Craig emerging from the sea, you don’t have to shake your cocktails, neither stir, to enjoy the pristine beaches, verdant landscapes and high-end resorts movies like this.

Pro Tip: Many places in the Caribbean suffered extreme damage Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017; Some hotels and restaurants remain closed, others have been remodeled and are opening. Be sure to check before you book.


Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

Jamaica: Goldeneyes and Grottoes

It has been almost 60 years since Ursula Andress emerged from the depths Laughing waters Beach in Jamaica in Dr. No. And Jamaica’s attachment to Bond has lasted for years since Sean Connery settled comfortably into what is now Couples San Souci, the former San Souci resort carved into the cliffs. It was so nice, in fact, that James Bond (this time with Roger Moore) returned to the hotel in Live and Let Die. For the full glamor experience, head to the small town of Orcabessa, site of the Gold eye Resort, the former home of Bond’s creators Ian Fleming. More of a collection of private villas and cottages, GoldenEye features a private beach, lagoon, and lush gardens. Its 52 acres also include two oceanfront pools, a treehouse-style spa, and a variety of activities like paddle boarding, snorkeling, yoga classes, and mountain biking.

Bond also stayed at Cottage 10 Half Moon Resort near Montego Bay. The cottage has been refurbished in the decades since, but the hotel remains a timeless destination with gorgeous white cottages and the vibe of an elegant era.

One place from Live and Let Die that you can still visit is Green Grotto caves – the location of the evil Doctor Kananga’s underground base on the fictional island of San Monique. The caves at Falmouth, between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, were once used by the local Arawak Indians as a shelter and hiding place for runaway slaves. Local guides can take you diving.

Or maybe you can imagine hanging out with Stella, who (like Angela Bassett with Taye Diggs) got her groove back in luxury Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay.

Pro Tip: The no frills Scotchi’s restaurant in Ocho Rios is said to have the most authentic jerk chicken in Jamaica.

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 required for US citizens).

San Juan has long been a popular filming location. The Rum Diary starring Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson was filmed primarily here and in the local bars and pubs. The last time I visited Puerto Rico, I decided to stay in Old San Juan Hotel The Monastery, a unique colonial style resort (formerly a Carmelite monastery) built in 1646 and close to great bars and restaurants. Guests there included Pablo Casals, Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote.

You can also sample some of the famous Puerto Rican rums in boîtes (small restaurants/nightclubs) around Old San Juan or visit the most famous creator of these spirits at Bacardi house, just a short ferry ride away (must book in advance).

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

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

Arrival to the island from views by boat or plane can be challenging but worth it. Most flights depart from San Juan International Airport (the planes are basically puddle jumpers and not for the nauseous). Ferries take about 30 minutes from Ceiba to Vieques, but can get crowded (and are sometimes canceled due to bad weather).

Vieques was a key filming location for the 1963 film Lord of the Flies, based on the 1954 dystopian novel by William Golding. But visitors shouldn’t worry; There’s little chance your grandkids will go wild in this peaceful and pleasant getaway.

This laid-back little island is perhaps most famous for being dubbed Bioluminescent Bay mosquito bay, a lagoon home to millions of tiny organisms that glow greenish-blue after dark. You have to book a tour to see the wonders of the lagoon, but many report that night kayaking there is an experience.

the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge is a prime spot for hiking, and the island is famous for its wild (but gentle) horses, which have roamed free since the Spanish brought them over from Europe hundreds of years ago.

Accommodation options in Vieques include the House on the island of Hix, a 19-room jungle hotel with a pool and tropical views; Victoria estate, which is a 6-acre eco-retreat; El block, which also has a good restaurant; and the Malecon house, also in the town of Esperanza. There are also numerous Vieques vacation rentals.

Pro Tips: This year is 500th birthday of San Juan! Special events will take place until June 2022. Visitors recommend jeep hire for the more difficult roads on the island.

Barracuda, Mona Island.Photo courtesy of Discover Puerto Rico

The Bahamas: Bond and the Beatles

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

In this film, Daniel Craig pursues the evil villain Le Chiffre to a poker tournament in the One & Only Ocean Club on Paradise Island. The Ocean Club is the epitome of luxury with a private beach and all-white sand, not to mention several restaurants including the Courtyard Terrace and Dune Restaurant.

Sean Connery (who owned a home in Lyford Cay, Bahamas) courted Fatima Blush British Colonial Hilton Nassau in Never Say Never. The colonial-style hotel originally opened in 1924 and has been called “the grand dame of all hotels in Nassau.”

Another popular film set on Paradise Island was Help! from 1966, in which, among others, John, Paul, George and Ringo sang the theme song on the beach.

The Beatles stayed at Cable Beach’s glittering Balmoral Club, which was built in 1946 and created as a playground for many royals. The hotel became that Sandals Royal Bahamian (Reopening early 2022), one of two Sandals hotels in the Bahamas. The other is Sandals Emerald Bay in exoma. A particular perk is that Emerald Bay offers tours to Staniel Cay, home of Thunderball Grotto (named after the film), a premier diving and snorkeling spot amidst spectacular underwater caves.

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

St. Croix (not Mexico, after all)

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

Nearby accommodation options include huts by the sea, about 2.7 miles from the beach, and the Carambola Beach Resort & Spa on the north shore about 7.5 miles from Sandy Point. The 3 mile beach itself is near the town of Frederiksted on the south west end of St Croix. The beach is part of the 380-acre Sandy Point Wildlife Preserve and is an important nesting site for the endangered leatherback sea turtle. The sanctuary has very limited hours, especially when the turtles are nesting, so check the official US Fish and Wildlife Service access Sandy Point website.

Note that there are no restrooms or other amenities on the beach, but there are other compensations. As one reviewer wrote, “No facilities. no shadow No nothing. Simply heavenly.” Sounds like just the right place to spend a day in paradise.

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