Which island are you?

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
By Nigel Tisdall

With over 7,000 islands, the Caribbean offers the perfect destination for every type of traveller. But which is the right one for you?

Issue 3 · Winter 2015/16
By Nigel Tisdall

With over 7,000 islands, the Caribbean offers the perfect destination for every type of traveller. But which is the right one for you?

Culture and Coffee

Jamaica

Jamaica’s got a rhythm and style like nowhere else. Everyone knows about the rum, reggae and Rastafarianism, but it’s the scenic beauty of this huge and charismatic island that surprises. If you like the sound of dramatic drives, saw-tooth mountains rising to more than 7,000ft, grand plantation houses and jerk chicken barbecues on the beach – maybe with some river-rafting, mountain biking or horse riding thrown in – you’ve come to the right place. Some of the most stylish places to stay have grown out of the music industry’s involvement with the island, such as Strawberry Hill, created by Chris Blackwell, who brought the world Bob Marley, and Port Antonio’s Geejam, also home to a legendary recording studio. For old money class, meanwhile, head for the elegant surrounds of Round Hill and Jamaica Inn.

Expect
The best soundtrack in the Caribbean;
terrific coffee; lush landscapes

Best for
Born explorers; party people; Bond fans
(Ian Fleming created 007 here)

Not for
The timorous; pool lizards;
the car-sickness-prone
(drives are long and winding)


 

Tried and Trusted

Barbados

In 1625 the adventurer Captain John Powell claimed Barbados for King James I, and we’ve been in love with this exuberant island ever since. If you’ve never been to the Caribbean before, start here – there’s plenty to enjoy, from stately homes and top class restaurants to more than 1,000 rum bars and the wild waves of the east coast. In Barbados you need never stop having fun, whether it’s catching some horse racing at the Garrison Savannah track or dancing to “oldie goldies” at Oistins Friday Night Fish Fry. Couples can have a ball and families will find it easy to slot in – stay at the famous Sandy Lane, which has a superb kids club, or the well-located and friendly Colony Club in Holetown.

Expect
Panama-hatted regulars still mourning
the demise of Concorde; sporty families;
high-energy nightlife in the south

Best for
Golfers; surfers; Rihanna fans

Not for
The anti-social (Bajans are immensely welcoming);
the humourless (they like a laugh too);
the early-to-bed (they love karaoke)


 

Beach Bliss

Turks and Caicos

Nominally British (cars drive on the left, there’s a Union Jack on the national flag), the Turks and Caicos islands offer a happy pairing of raw, arid, elemental nature with the upscale holiday energy of America (Miami’s just an 80-minute flight away and US dollars are the currency). Their USP is miles and miles of super-soft white sands bordered by a hypnotically turquoise ocean. Dolphins frolic in the surf, flamingos stalk the lakes, iguanas pose on the rocks and humpback whales chug past from January to April. The main island, Providenciales, is where you’ll find most of the action, with top-class resorts lined up along the 12-mile sweep of Grace Bay, including family-friendly Grace Bay Club and cool-people-guaranteed Gansevoort Turks + Caicos. Alternatively, for sublime service and absolute privacy, join the A-listers at Parrot Cay or Amanyara.

Expect
Endless, soul-soothing beaches;
fashionistas; a better class of bikini

Best for
Honeymoon-grade romance; snorkellers
and divers; spa bunnies

Not for
Shopaholics; clubbers;
avoiders of sunscreen


 

Peak Viewing

St Lucia

Dense green rainforest, dark volcanic beaches and the iconic twin peaks of the Gros Piton and Petit Piton volcanic spires make St. Lucia the sultry beauty queen of the Caribbean. This magnificent island might be a honeymoon favourite but it’s not at all manicured: the roads are hilly and tortuous, the fishing villages ramshackle, the mood exotic and piratical. Come here if you fancy plunging into nature – hiking through damp rainforest, diving in the Soufriere marine park, visiting mud baths and sulphur springs – then flopping down at a five-star hideaway. Check into beautiful Ladera for a dramatic mountain high, or relax in style at Sugar Beach, A Viceroy Resort, which has dreamy white four-poster beds, bamboo massages and deliriously good honey and ginger Caipirinhas.

Expect
To take a lot of pictures; to secretly
fall in love (St. Lucians are famously beautiful);
to bring home some local rum (go for the Chairman’s Reserve)

Best for
Hikers (climbing Gros Piton is a must);
foodies (don’t miss the cacao cuisine at Boucan by Hotel Chocolat);
poetry fans (Nobel Prize-winner Derek Walcott is a St. Lucian)

Not for
Fairweather friends (expect the odd downpour);
the heights-averse; clock-watchers (time is elastic here)


 

Family Favourite

Antigua

What do you remember about your first holiday? Exactly. One sandy beach looks much like another to the nappy-wearing classes, and family breaks need to please Mum and Dad too. Antigua wins hands-down here, thanks to its direct flights, abundant beaches, all-inclusive resorts and numerous thrills, from zip-lining to banana boats. Hardly a day goes by when you don’t see Antiguans playing cricket, and when it’s time to go exploring, there’s the charmingly old-fashioned capital, St. John’s, and English Harbour, home to Nelson’s Dockyard, a naval base founded in 1725. The island’s warm waters are an excellent place for youngsters to discover sailing, and Nonsuch Bay, which lies half an hour from the airport, is the perfect place to learn. Reliable winds and two square miles of protected waters make the resort as suitable for beginners as for serious enthusiasts.

Expect
A merry holiday scene; steel-pan musicians
at every turn; light-fingered monkeys
(watch that camera)

Best for
Cricket-lovers; yachties; families
on a bit of a budget

Isolationists; sleepy-heads; travellers
who like to go somewhere no one’s heard of


 

Grenadine Gold

Bequia

Spreading south from mighty St. Vincent, the 30-odd islands of the Grenadines have long been a favourite escape for royalty and rock stars, dreamers and old salts. Bequia epitomises this charm with its well-established yachtie scene and inviting jumble of green hills and never-that-busy beaches. It proves the point, well known to Caribbean cognoscenti, that if you take the time to fly on to another smaller island (connections are via Barbados) you’ll hit a whole new level of laid-back. Unhurried and un-commercialised, this is a smart pick if you’re looking for somewhere quiet but engaging and well-appointed – stay at the Swedish-run Bequia Beach Hotel on aptly-named Friendship Bay.

Expect
Hidden wealth (Mustique is next door
and there are fabulous villas in the hills);
excellent boatbuilding skills; a shortage of
hire cars at peak times (book ahead)

Best for
Island-hopping (sailing through the
Grenadines is bucket-list amazing);
eating super-fresh fish; stargazing

Not for
A mid-life crisis (you might stay forever);
nervous drivers (the roads are beyond steep);
night owls


 

Spice Island

Grenada

The magic of Grenada is that it hasn’t sold its soul to tourism. Yes, this majestic, mountainous island loves to have visitors, but it still feels authentic. The capital, St. George’s, is one of the prettiest in the region, and you can be sure to find un-crowded beaches, excellent diving and rewarding tours to learn about the island’s spices, cocoa and rum. It’s worth hiring a car for a few days, and most hotels lie in the southwest beside classic Caribbean sands, including the family-friendly, all-inclusive Spice Island Beach Resort and adults-only Laluna, which has a younger crowd. And the average annual temperature is a balmy 28°C.

Expect
To eat well; to wonder about the price
of property (yes, it’s that lovely);
to bring home a gift-set of spices

Best for
Garden-lovers; chocoholics; students of “liming”
(that’s sitting around with a Carib beer in hand)

Not for
Sun-lounger sloths (you’d be mad not to explore);
seekers of bling and glitz; spring-break party animals


Call Scott Dunn on 020 8682 5020 to arrange your tailor-made holiday to the Caribbean
Images: Getty Images, Alamy, Shutterstock, Gallery Stock, Corbis

 

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