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The Caribbean is ready and waiting; seven great destinations for your winter holiday

This item appeared earlier on Postmedia/Sun Media websites in Canada.

The Caribbean is open for business.

Yes, there was damage to a number of islands from hurricanes over the past couple months. Canadian airlines have pretty much shut down winter service to battered St. Maarten. Puerto Rico is still in bad shape, as is Barbuda, Dominica and parts of other islands.

But there was little or no damage to most major Caribbean destinations, including Jamaica, The Bahamas, Barbados, Antigua and the Cayman Islands. In destinations that were hit, work is proceeding nicely and many hotels and resorts have already re-opened. That includes Anguilla and the Dominican Republic, which suffered only minimal damage. So you can feel comfortable booking flights to a number of great destinations that Canadians have grown to love. Not only will you get a fine holiday, but you’ll be doing a world of good for folks who rely on tourism to feed their families.

Speaking at a Caribbean Tourism Organization meeting in Toronto today, CTO secretary-general Hugh Riley told journalists that the Caribbean is more dependent on tourism than any region on the planet.

“The best way to help the Caribbean is to visit the Caribbean,” he said.

Here’s a look at a variety of cool places you can check out for a great winter vacation.

ANTIGUA While neighboring Barbuda was heavily damaged by Hurricane Irma, Antigua was spared. The island’s tourism folks like to boast they have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. Hermitage Bay is one of the best resorts in the Caribbean, with awesome suites, private plunge pools and ocean views. The view of English Harbour and Freeman’s Bay from Shirley Heights might be the best vista in the Caribbean. http://www.visitantiguabarbuda.com/

The view from Shirley Heights on Antigua. JIM BYERS PHOTO

ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES Air Canada has started direct flights from Toronto to this peaceful, hilly island south of St. Lucia, which is great for Canadians. Young Island Resort is a wonderful spot that’s just a few minutes from the mainland by boat. Head up to Wallilabou Bay to see where they filmed parts of the original Pirates of the Caribbean. And don’t miss the island’s magnificent waterfalls, including Dark View Falls. Don’t miss a chance to visit Bequia, a low-key spot that feels like a throwback to a simpler time. Even more quiet is Mayreau, which features a couple of truly magnificent beaches. The stretch of sand at Saltwhistle Bay is one of the prettiest on the planet. Mustique is known as a retreat for the rich and famous, including the likes of Mick Jagger, Prince William and Canada’s own Bryan Adams. http://discoversvg.com/

Saltwhistle Bay on Mayreau, one of the Grenadines. JIM BYERS PHOTO

ANGUILLA This island, which is just north of badly damaged St. Maarten, was battered and bruised by Hurricane Irma. But some places are operating as per normal, including Shoal Bay Villas on Shoal Bay East; a long, magnificent beach with a series of fun beach bars and casual restaurants. The luxury Zemi Beach Resort and the Four Seasons likely won’t re-open until sometime in the new year. CuisinArt Resort, a lovely spot on a gorgeous beach on the south side of the island, says they plan to open in November, 2018. The highly-rated Frangipani Resort will re-open sometime next month. The Reef Anguilla is taking reservations now and plans to re-open April 10. https://ivisitanguilla.com/

Even horses love the beaches on Anguilla. JIM BYERS PHOTO

JAMAICA One of the top islands in the Caribbean wasn’t badly hurt by either hurricane, so you’ll find things pretty much the same. Negril has warm, shallow water and wonderful sunsets. The Jamaica Inn near Ocho Rios has colourful, low-rise units spread around a grassy square, plus a terrific beach and a tranquil spa. The Sandals Royal Caribbean has fantastic rooms and a series of overwater bungalows I wrote about in this space earlier this year. (http://torontosun.com/2017/09/18/why-port-antonio-is-the-new-jamaican-hot-spot/wcm/f03e5e29-5e99-4fd1-a1be-def1ee247848)  For something truly unique, check out the unique units at Great Huts, including tree-house rooms next to a beautiful bay. http://www.visitjamaica.com/

The Jamaica Inn is a delightful spot near Ocho Rios. JIM BYERS PHOTO

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC The DR was largely spared this past hurricane season. This is one of the top winter destinations for Canadians, with everything from inexpensive, all-inclusive spots to super-luxury resorts. Cap Cana and Punta Cana have marvellous beaches on the eastern tip of the island, with easy airport access. The Gansevoort Playa Imbert is a sleek, sensational spot near Sosua. Don’t miss a visit to Playa Rincon in the Samana area, where you’ll find a freshwater, swimmable creek and a series of stunning beaches. http://www.godominicanrepublic.com/

The Gansevoort Playa Imbert is a stunning resort in the Dominican Republic. JIM BYERS PHOTO

ST. LUCIA This romantic and beautiful island was spared by both hurricanes and is operating at full steam. There are new, overwater bungalows at a Sandals resort on the north side of the island. New developments on the south end of the island, near the international airport, are coming from both Fairmont and Ritz Carlton. The tourism bureau’s website is advertising deals for up to 65% off. http://www.stlucia.org/

Jade Mountain is one of the most romantic hotels on the planet and a top place to stay on St. Lucia.

THE BAHAMAS This region was virtually unaffected by the two big storms. Long Island is a heavenly slice of land with a couple of beautiful beaches and a lower-than-low-key atmosphere. The locals are inviting and wonderful, and there’s spectacular diving. Cape Santa Maria Beach Resort is a nice resort on a great beach. www.bahamas.com

The waters around Long Island in The Bahamas have to be seen to be believed. JIM BYERS PHOTO

DEALS OF THE WEEK: The Perry Key Hotel Key West at Stock Island Marina is offering 40% off best available rates from Nov. 27 to June 28 for Cyber Monday. Blackout dates apply. Visit www.perrykeywest.com and use the promo code CYBER. As well, The Chelsea Toronto is offering 25% off best available rates with a Cyber Monday sale of its own. Sell dates are from Nov. 24 to 27 for stays between Dec. 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018. Blackout dates are New Year’s Eve and March 3-7, 2018. Reservations are pre-paid, non-refundable and subject to availability at time of booking. Discount applies to their Best Available Rate of the Day only. http://www.chelseatoronto.com/en/

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