THE good news for hotels in the Caribbean is that there's little that they must do to draw visitors - the beach and the waters take care of that. The bad news is that every other hotel offers these amenities, so owners have to work doubly hard to stand out from the crowd. Several hotels have taken up the challenge. One is adding open-air rooms, another is helping stray pet adoption, another is marketing a cool factor that comes with starting off as a recording studio. Some are brand-new while others are spiffed-up older properties that remind visitors why the place was so special to begin with. Here are seven establishments that are peddling more than sunshine this season.
Geejam in Jamaica.
LOCATION Port Antonio, on the north shore, a two-hour drive from the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. WHAT'S HAPPENING New hotels and a beach club affiliated with a recording studio. THE BACKSTORY The music-producer-turned-hotelier Jon Baker opened Geejam as a recording studio used by bands like No Doubt and expanded it into a five-room hotel in 2007. Now he's opening two additional hotels (both renovations of existing properties) and a beach club with a botanical garden and restaurant along the craggy coast, all roughly 10 minutes apart by car. The first hotel, the Trident, is set to open next month with plunge pools and outdoor baths in most of its 13 rooms. Nearby a lavish whitewashed estate known as the Castle will house eight rooms and a guests-only restaurant. In April, Mr. Baker and his partners are opening a restaurant and botanic garden at the Blue Lagoon, a well-known swimming hole. geejamhotel.com.
Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort in St. Thomas.
Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort
LOCATION On the south coast's Charlotte Amalie Harbor. WHAT'S HAPPENING New spa, adults-only pool, redesigned restaurants. THE BACKSTORY Last fall, the 302-room Frenchman's Reef Marriott, which shares 17 acres with the Morning Star Beach Club, reopened after a six-month, $48-million renovation. Additions include an adults-only infinity pool and an enlarged spa. Many of its nine restaurants were redesigned, and its rooms were updated with plusher bedding. frenchmansreefmarriott.com.
The Crane Residential Resort in Barbados.
The Crane Residential Resort
LOCATION Southeastern Barbados. WHAT'S HAPPENING New suites at a historic hotel, and a historical museum on the area. THE BACKSTORY Opened in 1887 with 18 rooms, the Crane now has 252 rooms on 40 clifftop acres. That includes 20 inland-facing suites with kitchens added this summer; top-floor units have roof decks with private pools, and ground-floor units open onto private gardens with pools. Another recent addition is a 55,000-square-foot retail village, where a historical museum opens next month. thecrane.com.
The Bannister Hotel in the Dominican Republic.
The Bannister Hotel
LOCATION On the bayside shore of the Samana Peninsula in the Dominican Republic's northeast. WHAT'S HAPPENING Direct flights from New York. THE BACKSTORY To date, 80 percent of guests at the two-year-old Bannister Hotel, a 48-room luxury boutique overlooking the only marina on the rugged Samana Peninsula, are Dominican. But that may change after Nov. 14, when JetBlue will start the first direct flights from J.F.K. to the peninsula's El Catey International Airport. The Bannister, a condo hotel, is easy to appreciate. It is part of the larger Puerto Bahia residential development of 185 villas and apartments. Each hotel room, ranging from studios to two-bedrooms, includes a kitchen and overlooks the Bay of Samana. thebannisterhotel.com.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort in Aruba.
Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort
LOCATION On Eagle Beach, the low-rise hotel district north of Oranjestad. WHAT'S HAPPENING Animal rights. THE BACKSTORY This 104-room, adults-only resort is owned by Ewald Biemans, an Austrian native, who has adopted 10 dogs and 40 land turtles; he also helps guests take stray pets home. For the resort's 25th anniversary, Mr. Biemans will run a campaign to save nesting turtles and support wildlife sanctuaries.bucuti.com.
LOCATION On the south end of the island, between the Petit Mountains. WHAT'S HAPPENING More suites that are open on one side, and butlers. THE BACKSTORY For its 20th anniversary, the Ladera will add five one-bedroom suites in January, bringing the room total to 37. The newcomers will overlook the Piton Mountains and the ocean 1,100 feet below. The suites are open to the elements on the sea-facing side and feature a plunge pool. And the five suites include butler service. ladera.com.
The Ritz-Carlton Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, in Puerto Rico.
Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
LOCATION On the north shore, roughly 20 miles west of San Juan. WHAT'S HAPPENING Resort once owned by a Rockefeller is expanded and updated. THE BACKSTORY Opened as a resort by Laurance S. Rockefeller in 1958, the Dorado Beach and its mile-long stretch of beaches, will return as a 115-room Ritz-Carlton, set to open Dec. 12 on 1,400 acres, much of them four golf courses. All rooms face the ocean and include indoor and outdoor showers, some with private plunge pools.ritzcarlton.com.