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I'm surprising my wife with a beach vacation without the kids. Help!

Ladera Resort in St. Lucia.

The Question: I want to surprise my wife with a warm, once-in-a-marriage beach vacation without the kids. Help! I don't want to screw this up.

For you, dear man, Anne Brobyn of Hibiscus International recommends a boutique resort in the Caribbean: something intimate, unique, unforgettable. (And yes, expensive, with nightly rates falling somewhere between marriage counselling and divorce.)

Brobyn, who has worked in the travel business in the region long enough to earn the nickname the "Caribbean Queen," says these largely independent properties all offer the wow factor. (Note: While some of the properties accept children, these resorts tend to attract the honeymoon crowd.)

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So let the website ogling begin:

St. Lucia: Once a former cocoa plantation, Ladera ( ladera.com) is now an open-air resort perched high above the Caribbean Sea. Think porch swings over private plunge pools, West Indian farm-to-table dining and in-room binoculars and star charts. And when you want to hit the sands, the resort provides daily shuttle service to Jalousie Beach and Anse Chastanet Beach. (Current rates start at $480 (U.S.) a couple a night.)

Grenada: Laluna ( laluna.com) offers suites and cottages on a secluded beach. Picture daily yoga classes, four-poster Balinese king-size beds, and antipasto and fresh pasta under a thatched dining room facing the sea. (Current rates start at $395 a couple a night).

The Grenadines: Petit St. Vincent's private islet ( psvresort.com) offers stone cottages cooled by the trade winds and an ambience where you can truly unplug. There are no phones, no TVs, no room keys. A "flag system" on a bamboo pole alerts staff to your needs. The red flag: Do not disturb. (Rates, including meals, are from $1,080 a couple a night.)

And if you're looking for something a little easier on the budget, Brobyn recommends checking out The House ( thehousebarbados.com) in Barbados with its contemporary design and adults-only environment. Or consider chains such as Sandals ( sandals.com) or Secrets Resorts & Spas ( secretsresorts.com). "Off-season travel is another way to save, yet enjoy the same fabulous experience," Brobyn says. And check online as the resorts offer various packages and deals.



Send your travel questions to concierge@globeandmail.com.



Karan Smith is a former editor of Globe Travel. Special to The Globe and Mail

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