Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

What's on tap for some of the Caribbean hot spots in 2017?

Based on visitor gains and the debut of properties, coupled with an increase in airlift and a diminished concern over Zika for most travelers, here are several islands and destinations to keep an eye on this year.

The cultural hub of Jamaica

Look for Kingston to emerge as a cultural hub of Jamaica, what with the new Peter Tosh Museum, which honors the Jamaican reggae singer who was killed in 1987. Kingston also boasts the Bob Marley Museum, Usain Bolt's restaurant Tracks & Records, the new Chateau 7 Gourmet Jerk Centre, Devon House and its collection of colonial furnishings, Hope Botanical Gardens and the National Gallery of Jamaica.

Island Routes Caribbean Adventures added a tour of Kingston last fall, which also takes in some of the city's lesser-known sites.

The Blue Mountains serve as Kingston's backdrop, and the North-South Highway now cuts travel time to Jamaica's north coast to under two hours.

Beyond Havana

Cuba, of course, continues its tourism trajectory, having attracted a record four million foreign visitors in 2016, a 13% increase over 2015. The biggest increases came from the U.S., according to Cuba's Ministry of Tourism.
While Havana tops the list of the most popular cities in Cuba, savvy tour operators are lesser-known sites beyond the capital to their people-to-people programs.

The Cuba Travel Network's Revolutionary Trail itinerary, for example, includes Biran (Fidel Castro's birthplace), Granjit Siboney (a farmhouse outside Santiago containing furniture, clothes and documents related to the attack on the Moncada Barracks by Castro in 1953) and the Sierra Maestra mountain range in southeastern Cuba used as a base by Castro during the revolution.

Insight Cuba's 12-day Undiscovered Cuba program includes the lesser-known cities of Camaguey, Bayamo, Baracoa and Holguin.

Surf spots in Puerto Rico

Although Puerto Rico was challenged by the Zika outbreak in 2016, and San Juan's hotel occupancies reflected a dip in visitors in the first six months, other areas fared well.

Always a favorite with surfers, Rincon on the west coast drew large crowds for events and sports competitions while Isabela, a surfing town on the northwest coast, has attracted travelers with new bars, restaurants and a small resort named Uma's. 

The north coast of the D.R.

Puerto Plata on the north coast of the Dominican Republic is not as familiar as Punta Cana, but it has beaches, mountains, the new Amber Cove cruise port and funky nearby towns, including Cabarete, known for wind-surfing.

Among the hotel properties are the renovated and reopened Tangerine resort in Cabarete and two Riu resorts, the Sunscape Puerto Plata and Amanera in Puerto Plata. United, JetBlue and American serve the destination from several U.S. gateways.

And ...

.... Look for interest in Nevis, whose popularity has spiked due to the Alexander Hamilton link; Montserrat, where tourists can now venture with a guide to the southern half of the island, still partially covered in ash from the volcanic eruptions of 1995; and Turks and Caicos and Grand Cayman, site of several new resorts, including the Shore Club in the former and Kimpton Seafire Resort & Spa in the latter.


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