Choose the right Caribbean destination and you’re almost guaranteed to see a celebrity or two. With a well-timed vacation and a bit of luck, guests might spot Simon Cowell on a jet ski near Barbados, Ellen DeGeneres strolling the beach in St Barts, Kim Kardashian on a family boat trip in the Dominican Republic, or Beyonce taking photos in Havana, Cuba.
With warm weather, great beaches and luxurious resorts, these island destinations are often exactly what the rich and famous are after. The Caribbean consists of more than 700 islands, all in the Caribbean Sea. From Mexico, Aruba, Bermuda, the Bahamas and more, holidaymakers have plenty of options. The tourism sector makes a huge contribution to the economies of the Caribbean, and the offerings are becoming more luxurious as the years go on. In 2013, there were 1.8% more visitors to the Caribbean than in the previous year, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. This is only a modest increase but took the annual figure to more than 25 million visitors. About seven million of these come by cruise ship. It’s expected that overall tourist spending is about $28.1 billion per year. We’ve narrowed the Caribbean down to a list of 10 top Caribbean destinations and the celebrities who have been there in recent years. Find out who spent $30,000 per night on a hotel suite in Puerto Rico, which island is a favorite of Oprah Winfrey and where the New York City mayor played golf recently.
In the southern Caribbean sea, the Dutch island of Aruba has made tourism its biggest trade, and attracted hundreds of celebrities along the way. In September last year, Connor Cruise – the son of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman – played at an electric music festival in Aruba. Cruise is an established DJ, having played at the American Music Awards and other events, getting paid up to $10,000 per event. Guests of the festival last year included The Hills star Audrina Partridge. Musician Timbaland got married at the The Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, and his guest list including Missy Elliot and Jordin Sparks. The ocean-facing Presidential Suite has two bedrooms and cost about $1,200 per night. Tom Cruise previously owned a property in Aruba and since then has visited Aruba and The Renaissance.
Dominican Republic became even more popular in 2012, when Kim Kardashian and family took a vacation at exclusive Casa de Campo on the south-east coast. This luxurious, all-inclusive resort is 7,000 acres in size. A five-bedroom villa with a private pool and two touring carts costs about $1,970 per night depending on the season. While they were there, Bruce Jenner played some golf, the whole clan took a boat road, Kris Kardashian rode a jet-ski and the girls got plenty of sun. The vacation featured on the family’s TV show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The Ministry of Tourism in the Dominican Republic wanted to cash in on this celebrity buzz and started offering a five-day vacation at the same resort, with an itinerary similar to what the Kardashians had.
This reggae-loving island nation has had celebrity visitors including Ralph Lauren, Kate Moss and Michael Jordan. Musicians Gwen Stefani and Bjork have been known to stay at Gee Jam, a remote, five-star resort which has a recording studio within. Hidden away on a hilltop in Port Antonio, this resort offers a three-bedroom Sanwood suite with a swimming pool, costing up to $1,955 per night. It borders a village called Drapers, which wasn’t well known until Gwen Stefani mentioned it at the Grammys in 2003 after having recorded an album at the resort. Another spot popular with celebs is the Round Hill Hotel and Villas, located near Montego Bay on land which was once a pineapple plantation. The Grand Pineapple Villa Suite with a swimming pool costs $809 per night.
In 2013, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas put their Bermuda mansion up for rent – for a cost of $28,000 per month. They reportedly purchased the house for about $2.1 million in the early 2000s and lived there permanently between 2002 and 2009 before moving back to New York City. New York City mayor (and billionaire) Michael Bloomberg has been on vacation in Bermuda as well, most recently in December 2013 when he was spotted golfing at the Mid Ocean Club. This exclusive club has been played at by the likes of Winston Churchill and costs about $250 for an 18-hole round. Many of the island’s residents are also very wealthy – the country has one of the highest incomes per capita in the world at $91,477 in 2007.
Cuba has long been a favorite of famous people. Dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, Cuba had visitors including Frank Sinatra, Walt Disney and Nelson Rockefeller. These days, travel to Cuba is typically restricted by the US government unless there is a purpose other than merely “tourism”. Many celebrities have travelled to Cuban shores including Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Naomi Campbell. Beyonce and Jay-Z went to Havana to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary in 2013. They stayed at Hotel Saratoga, where five-star suites costs about $300 or more per night.
A long stretch of coastline down Mexico’s Yucutan peninsula runs between Cancun and Tulum. With its white sand beaches and Caribbean seas, this is one of the most popular beach destinations in the world and it’s called the Riveria Maya. Celebrities such as Javier Bardem, Adam Sandler, Justin Timberlake and Mark Wahlberg have spent time in the Riveria Maya. A popular resort near Cancun, the Moroma Resort and Spa, has rooms such as the Ocean View Master Suite for $1,370 per night. Cameron Diaz is one of the many famous guests who have stayed there, reportedly opting for room number 23. There’s also the Viceroy Rivera Maya near Playa del Carmen, which has been visited by Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a five-star resort hidden among the jungle with Superior King Rooms for about $1,200 a night. The relaxed vibe of Tulum has attracted guests such as Drew Barrymore.
Puerto Rico is an easy Caribbean vacation spot for Americans, because US dollars are accepted and you don’t need a passport to travel there. The newest Ritz Carlton in Puerto Rico, at Dorado Beach, cost $342 million to build. It boasts a huge infinity pool and a villa costing over $30,000 per night, which Jennifer Lopez rented over New Years on 2012. Dorado Beach has traditionally been a favorite of classic famous people including John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower, as well as Elizabeth Taylor. Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez have also both stayed in the other Ritz Carlton (in San Juan’s Isla Verde district), thought to have cost each of them over $1,500 per night. Other celebrities who have spent time in Puerto Rico include Johnny Depp, Enrique Iglesias and Morgan Freeman.
For a celebrity-style vacation in the Bahamas, stay at the One and Only Ocean Club located on Paradise Island. Staying in a four-bedroom villa on the beachfront costing about $11,000 per night, guests will get an infinity pool, private courtyard, 24-hour personal host and housekeeper and 4,800 square foot of space. It’s on the same beach that Cindy Crawford got married in 1998 to Rande Gerber and that resulted in a lot of publicity for the small nation. Other celebrities who have taken a Caribbean vacation in the Bahamas include Oprah Winfrey, Robert de Niro, Mariah Carey and Martha Stewart. Susan Sarandon is known to have stayed in a cottage at Pink Sands, which is on Harbour Island. A two bedroom ocean view villa with a Jacuzzi costs about $2,850 per night during peak season.
St. Barts, which is in the French West Indies, is a hot spot for the world’s richest. Its property is among the most expensive in the Caribbean. A five-bedroom place costs about $14 million on average. St Barts has been visited by the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and wife Portia de Rossi, Ryan Seacrest, Usher, Bruce Willis and Ashton Kutcher. It’s also a favorite spot of Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich, who owns an $89 million beachfront mansion which was previously owned by David Rockefeller. He also owns an $800 million yacht, The Eclipse. Yachts are a popular choice, but those preferring to stay on land often choose a private villa at the Hotel Guanahani and Spa. The best suite is called La Villa, a three-bedroom ocean-front suite costing over $10,000 per night during the peak holiday period.
X-Factor’s Simon Cowell frequents the sunny, lazy and expensive island of Barbados. He visited over the New Year 2013/14 period with his then, heavily pregnant girlfriend Lauren Silverman. Dubbed their “babymoon”, the couple stayed on Cowell’s $450,000-a-week yacht which comes with a private chef and 14 staff. They cruised around Barbados and neighbouring islands, and reportedly had a constant stream of visitors. Barbados is also popular with other celebrities including the Beckhams and is where singer Rihanna was born. A popular resort is Sandy Lane, where rooms start at about $5,000 per night (with a minimum 14 night stay if you travel in a popular season such as Christmas).