The Caribbean's mix of warm, sunny weather and top-notch resorts can please even the most avid tennis bum. Having played under the scorching sun in Bermuda and having had balls blown away by the trade winds of Aruba, however, I've learned that you need to be a bit discriminating in your choice of venue, no matter how good your backhand is. Here are some of the best places to serve it out:
Court time is always free at Caneel Bay's 11-court complex, which features player matchups and popular, twice-weekly round-robin tournaments for guests, plus a variety of instructional programs. Highly praised for the excellence of its tennis staff and romantic setting.
The recently reopened Four Seasons Nevis resort has one of the biggest and best tennis programs in the posh Four Seasons chain, with 10 courts (six Plexicushion hardcourts and four red clay; a total of three lit for night play) managed by Peter Burwash International.
Led by pro Don deWilde, the Buccaneer's tennis program includes eight Laykold courts (two lighted) and is renowned for its friendly instruction and loyal clientele. The annual Virgin Islands Championships and Junior Championships are held here each year.
One of Puerto Rico's more isolated resorts, the Wyndham Rio Mar boasts a Peter Burwash tennis program with 13 har-tru courts (four lit) and a fully stocked pro shop.
.Casa de Campo's large (13 har-tru court) facility is backed with an equally large (70-member) tennis staff that is literally available day and night for instruction and setting up matches.
For tennis buffs, this is THE all-inclusive destination resort in Jamaica. Couples Swept Away has 10 lighted hard and clay courts, an experienced teaching staff, and lessons are included in the price of your stay.
The posh Curtain Bluff resort in tennis-mad Antigua has four lighted tennis courts just steps from the ocean (and cooled by saltwater breezes), plus a veteran instruction staff. For going on four decades, Curtain Bluff has hosted Antigua Tennis Week each spring, which attracts both pro players and amateurs looking to buff their skills through instruction, clinics, match play, and more.
The tennis complex at the Palmas del Mar Country Club is the Caribbean's largest, with 14 hard courts, 4 Har-Tru clay courts, and two Omni artificial-grass courts. Seven of the courts are lighted, and there's also a full-service pro shop and a courtside restaurant and bar. Visitors can rent villas at the Palmas del Mar resort or stay at the nearby Four Points by Sheraton hotel; a luxury hotel is also being planned on the property.
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
"Brand-leaders" define the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman experience, with fine dining by Eric Ripert, golf by Greg Norman, and tennis by Nick Bollettieri. The famous trainer of Andre Agassi and other tennis legends has opened his first program outside Florida at the Ritz-Carlton, staffed by pros from the Bollettieri Tennis Academy. The facility includes three red-clay courts and one grass court.
The tennis facilities here are modest but unique: The Grand Lucayan offers guests the opportunity to play on all four Grand Slam surfaces: red clay (French Open), grass (Wimbledon), Rebound Ace (Australian), and DecoTurf hard court (U.S. Open). Even for beginner players, the opportunity to play on all 4 of these surfaces on the same vacation is a pretty unique and brag-worthy experience.