Hot hotels for watching wildlife
The Caribbean hosts a menagerie of beautiful birds and animals. Joe Shooman highlights hotels where you’ll spot wonderful wildlife
1 Casa Flamboyant, Puerto Rico
Best for… Couples and coqui
Room rates: From US$170
Info: +1 787 559 9800; www.casaflamboyantpr.com
This intimate, adults-only guesthouse is perched 440m up a mountain alongside the fabulous El Yunque National Forest, with views of tumbling waterfalls, the Caribbean Sea and that lush tropical rainforest. Its three rooms each have a private entrance and bathroom, ideal for couples looking for a quiet place to disconnect from the world and reconnect with nature. The huge Rainbow Room, set apart from the main house, has its own covered balcony with unrivalled views.
A series of activities are on offer, from ziplining and sailing to food tours. But be sure to take a stroll into the forest, where the native Puerto Rican parrot awaits – look out for the flash of green, a distinctive red forehead and white rings around the eyes. You’re also likely to hear tiny coqui (frogs) – the frog chorus as the sun sets is unique and quintessentially Puerto Rican.
Casa Flamboyant is proud of its energy independence, helping conserve that wonderful environment through the use of solar panels and Tesla batteries.
2 Sugar Reef, St Vincent & The Grenadines
Best for… Birdwatching
Where: Crescent Beach, Bequia
Room rates: From US$150
Info: +1 784 458 3400; www.sugarreefbequia.com
Sugar Reef puts you right in the middle of a tropical forest. This former coconut plantation now offers an idyllic, eco-chic retreat, with colonial-classy styling – dark woods, shutters, net drapes and vintage furniture – plus super views of Crescent Bay and the Grenadines, a plunge pool, a wraparound veranda (where you may be joined by tiny frogs and curious lizards) and the awe-inspiring sounds of nature. It is glorious both by day and by night – there is no light pollution here, and the stars are endless and endlessly intriguing.
The birdlife is one of the main draws: expect to see bananaquits, hummingbirds, cocricos, tropical mockingbirds and more. You may well hear them before you see them: listen out especially for the Bequia sweet blackbird, whose call sounds like ‘Sweet! Sweet! Sweet!’ – which is a pretty good assessment of this spectacular place.
3 Les Bananes Vertes, Guadeloupe
Best for… Hikes into nature
Where: Impasse des Gardenias, Choisy, Saint-Claude
Room rates: From US$109
Info: +59 0 690 554047; www.lesbananesvertes.fr/en
Location, location, location – that’s what really makes Les Bananas Vertes special. This cluster of lodges sits in beautiful gardens on the edge of La Grande Soufrière volcano, highest peak in the Lesser Antilles. The island’s best nature hiking is right on the doorstep, and owners Laurence and Eric are both wildlife-loving mountain guides who lead excursions into the green: look out for Guadeloupe raccoon, non-native mongoose, 33 bird species and, at night, two endemic bat species.
Accommodation ranges from wooden cabins with hot tubs and kitchens to family bungalows, rooms and even a treehouse; there is also an outdoor pool. Design is eco-friendly, with water collectors, solar water-heaters and energy-saving lamps.
Fresh baguettes are delivered each morning, served with local jams and indulgent French butter. Later in the day, sample the large array of rhums. You can order a traditional creole dinner, made by your hosts and served in your cabin, or pop to the nearby town of Saint-Claude to replenish your kitchen supplies or choose from several excellent restaurants.
4 Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge, Trinidad
Best for… Natural paradise
Where: Spring Hill Estate, Arima
Room rates: From US$150pp
Info: +1 868 667 4655; www.asawright.org
Thanks to its proximity to South America, Trinidad hosts a unique mix of Caribbean and tropical fauna. The island’s Northern Range is home to the world-class not-for-profit Asa Wright Nature Centre, spread over 1,500 acres in the Arima and Aripo Valleys, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017.
Choose from cottages near the main house or two rooms inside for a great base from which to begin your explorations. A stay here includes a complimentary orientation tour of the grounds every morning, guided night walks to observe nocturnal wildlife activity, all meals (the centre’s garden-to-table, fresh creole cooking is considered outstanding) plus sunset rum punch on the veranda. Possible sightings include oilbirds, owls, bats, tanagers, bearded bellbirds, purple honey-creepers and more. On the ground you might see golden tegu lizards, armadillos, red brocket deer, the odd snake (eek!) or even an elusive ocelot.
If you’re inspired to get further involved with the work at the centre, there are opportunities to sign up for internships or volunteer placements.
5 Coconut Court Beach Hotel, Barbados
Best for… Spotting turtles
Room rates: From US$168
Info: +1 246 427 1655; www.coconut-court.com
Coconut Court sits on a stretch of beach where, from around May to November each year, around 300 hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles come to dig nests and lay their eggs. These creatures are breathtaking to watch, particularly the moment when tiny hatchlings make their first dash for the sea. The Barbados Sea Turtle Project works with the hotel to minimise lighting and other potential disruptions to the turtles.
All 112 rooms at Coconut Court are air-conditioned, with private balconies and flatscreen televisions. Other facilities include a range of restaurants and bars, plus there’s live entertainment, moonlight movies, a swimming pool and a kids’ paddling pool. And if you can tear yourself away from the sea and the wonderful ocean views, it’s a short walk into the Garrison Historic Area and the rest of Bridgetown.