Gay Nagle Myers
Gay Nagle Myers

Hotels, resorts and destinations have the holidays all wrapped up for their guests during the festive season, with Caribbean-style culinary offerings, decorations, events and music, including familiar carols and local traditions.

Jolly old Saint Nick will make his appearance as well, swapping his iconic sleigh for his arrival by jet ski, water skis, parachute, bicycle and even by skateboard on the dunes, all the while hefting a waterproof sackful of toys.

Hotels and resorts all over the region anticipate high occupancies this holiday season,  when gatherings together hold special meaning in light of what many missed last year.

Events at Casa de Campo Resorts & Villas in La Romana, Dominican Republic include chamber orchestra performances at Altos de Chavon, the 16th century replica Mediterranean village, visits to the Santa Claus-themed casita, mariachi nights, traditional church services at the Altos de Chavon church and the end of the year fireworks show.

"We are thankful to be full for the holidays with many long-time guests returning to spend the holidays with their families," said Jason Kycek, senior vice president of sales and marketing. "We are sold out for New Year's and are pacing to run 98% the entire Christmas/New Year's time period in both our rooms and luxury villas."

Jamaica celebrates the holidays with snowmen made of sand and Christmas trees decked out in the colors of the Jamaican flag.

Excited tots visit Santa at his casita at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic.
Excited tots visit Santa at his casita at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. Photo Credit: Casa de Campo

Celebrations include the traditional "gran markets" set up in main squares all over the island, Christmas Day dinners of ham shoulder, gungo peas with rice and curried goat, topped off by fruit cake soaked in rum paired with sorrel, the designated Christmas drink made with hibiscus.

The Junkanoo street parade takes place on Dec. 26 through the streets of every town and village. The communities dress in extravagant costumes, highlighting popular Jamaican characters including the Belly Woman, the Horse Head and Pitchy Patchy, to name a few.

"The holidays are the perfect time to experience our distinctive way of celebrating here in Jamaica," said Donovan White, director of tourism. "It is important for us to provide authentic experiences for travelers to expand their understanding of Jamaica's culture and history."

Santa arrives at Half Moon in Jamaica, accompanied by carolers and two elves with overloaded gift bags.

During the holiday season at Half Moon, guests will learn how to make classic Jamaican dishes and drinks, like the Christmas Sorrel cocktail, a sweet, gingery, wine-hued drink that's a tradition on the island at this time of year.

Kids can build their own character toy Anansi, one of the most important figures of West African, African American and Caribbean folklore, often depicted as the god of all knowledge of stories.

Families can gather around Jamaican beach barbecues with nightly entertainment from a calypso band playing traditional Jamaican mento, a style of folk music that fuses African rhythms with European elements.

Santa will be in the Bahamas Dec. 23 to 24, preparing to greet visitors ahead of his busiest night of the year, including guests at Atlantis Paradise Island.

Festive events planned at the resort include its signature New Year's Eve poolside Royal Deck party with open bar, desserts and performances by pop group The Modern Gentlemen, who toured with Frank Valli as The Four Seasons back in the day, and Bond, a string quartet.

Atlantis will ring in 2022 with fireworks, followed by an event to start off the New Year with a bang: a concert at Atlantis' Imperial Ballroom with a surprise headline performer.

Zemi Beach House on Shoal Bay East in Anguilla will celebrate with a Christmas Eve barbecue dinner at 20 Knots restaurant that features a chef's tasting menu with wine pairings, followed by a Christmas Day jazz and sushi offering accompanied by rum tastings.

Younger guests get in the spirit with cookie decorating, treasure hunts and a holiday party with Santa.

To end the year on a high note, Zemi will host an intimate cocktail reception with a New Year's Eve celebration dinner and a fireworks display.

Lovango Resort & Beach Club, an off-the-grid private island sustainable resort that is part of the U.S. Virgin Islands chain a mile northwest of St. John, reopened to guests and daytrippers on Dec. 20 following a summer hiatus.

The resort, whose name comes from the island name of Lovango Cay, plans to ring in 2022 at a party under the stars at the Cay following a day-long party on the island.

Windjammer Landing in St. Lucia has a sleigh-full of holiday happenings, including a mini-version of the island's July Carnival. Guests have access to authentic accessories to take part in the Carnival festivities and parades.

Other activities range from live performances, watersport competitions, treasure hunts and two full days of Caribbean culture on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with dancers, stilt walkers, acrobats and a marching band full of costumed characters that tell the history of St. Lucia.

"As the year draws to a close, we welcome our guests to Divi & Tamarjin Aruba as they celebrate in a stress-free, all-inclusive environment," said Marin Bijl, general manger.

Highlights of the holiday programming include live dinner music, holiday karaoke, Christmas Eve dinner buffet, mimosa champagne breakfasts, a New Year's Eve fireworks display and live performances by violinists, pianists and ballet dancers.

Guests can swap snow for powdery sand at Carlisle Bay in Antigua, which serves up a schedule of seasonal delights: cocktail parties, rum tastings, dance performances, beach cricket tournaments, poolside Christmas movie night, live music, steel bands and a New Year's Eve gala at the Casino in Indigo On The Beach, followed by ringing in midnight with fireworks on the beach

A lazy Jan. 1 brunch will help get 2022 to a new start, helped along by the island's original rum cake.

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