It’s easy, but incorrect, to think that all Caribbean islands are the same.
They are hugely varied in character and landscape. Creole communities bring differing European influences to culture, language and food. Sleepy Robinson Crusoe type backwaters contrast with those larger developed islands with resort hotels, sophisticated dining and buzzing nightlife. Some islands are known for their beaches, others for the opportunities they give hikers to explore rainforests and volcanoes. Some favour historical sights, others golf, sports and watersports.
The countries and islands selected for this guide offer easy flight access from the United Kingdom, and a high standard, and good range, of accommodation with excellent personal service. There are many fine dining opportunities too. You’ll find English widely spoken in these destinations, and all feature a winning combination of superb beaches and a tourist infrastructure which encourages exploration and offers plenty to see and do for a truly memorable holiday.
For beautiful beaches Antigua is your island of choice; there are more than 350 on an island just 14 miles by 11. They are powder white, immensely appealing and vary from hidden coves to fjord like inlets and broad runways of sand. They can be as busy or as secluded as you like. Sailing runs the beaches a close second. Natural anchorages make Antigua a major centre for sailing and regattas. You can charter your own craft, let someone else take the helm or simply spectate and enjoy the apressail. Well-preserved coral is heaven for scuba divers and snorkellers. Beyond sea and beach are smart resorts with fine dining. Shopping options include chic, duty-free labels, to alluring local arts and crafts.
The second largest nation in the Caribbean, family-friendly Dominican Republic is blessed with superb white sand beaches and an appealing, vibrant Latin spirit. You’ll find some of the finest five star all-inclusive resorts and activities here: horse riding, white-water rafting, surfing, diving and windsurfing. It’s also the golfing capital of the Caribbean with no fewer than 27 courses, many in Punta Cana. A continent in miniature, there are mountains, rainforests, waterfalls and rapids to explore. There’s history here too; the centuries old Spanish architecture of the island’s capital, Santo Domingo, is superbly preserved. Come nightfall, party to an infectious merengue dance beat.
With truly sophisticated dining options, this is the island for the food cognoscenti where superb cuisine ranges from Michelin star dining to beach shacks, street barbecues and lively nightspots. One of the most developed islands, it offers a huge variety of accommodation: excellent luxury resorts, all-inclusive hotels and family friendly resorts with superb facilities, adult only properties and villas and apartments. The glamorous Platinum Coast of the west and the developed south coast contrast with the wilder eastern side. Bridgetown is a lively and sophisticated capital. Snorkelling gives you the chance to spot sea turtles, whilst back on dry land you can tee off at wonderful golf courses or visit superb tropical gardens. Barbados does not shy away from its British heritage with cricket, afternoon teas, botanical gardens and historic houses.
Quieter, away-from-it-all Grenada blends a more enriching, authentic experience of the Caribbean with the comforts of a luxury holiday. Small, charming resorts located in the south of the island, close to the magnificent, often deserted, Grand Anse Beach, contrast with the north and the mountainous, volcanic interior criss-crossed with nature trails. You’ll discover monkeys and copious birdlife in the rainforests. The island’s delightful capital, St George, boasts the most beautiful harbour in the Caribbean. The scent of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and turmeric – fills the air. There’s cocoa in abundance too. Beyond the secluded cove beaches colourful marine life awaits and the attraction of Grenada’s stunning underwater sculpture park.
One of the greenest, most beautiful and varied of the Caribbean islands, St Lucia is arguably the most romantic and home to some wonderful spa resorts. The island also has a wide choice of larger resorts and characterful boutique properties. The scenic central and south west regions, decorated with dense rainforest and mountains, fascinating mfauna and flora and the magnificent twin peaks of the Pitons, contrast hugely with the upscale resorts of the north where dining, shopping and nightlife opportunities abound. There are long stretches of golden sand and small, sheltered coves in the north and volcanic beaches with great snorkelling in the south. Off-shore the diving is unforgettable.
St Vincent & The Grenadines
These islands were chosen by some of the world’s leading cinematographers as the location for shooting the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. They are unspoilt, tranquil, secluded and enjoy an unsurpassed natural beauty. Lush, hilly islands rear up out of crystal clear waters; water clarity here is considered by many to be unequalled in the Caribbean. Deserted white sand beaches are fringed by jungle. The islands are amongst the best for sailing and watersports. Nearby Tobago Cays is home to dolphins, sea turtles and flying fish. Palm Island and Petit St Vincent offer private island experiences similar to those associated with Indian Ocean resorts.
St Kitts & Nevis
Things are unhurried on lush, hilly St Kitts & Nevis, secluded, tranquil sister islands less than two miles apart. Native islanders are cordial, courteous and eager to share their time and these paradise islands with you. There’s an abundance of scenic hiking trails and luxuriant mountain forests. Donkeys roam freely as do monkeys. There’s little by way of shopping and nightlife but there are beautiful beaches, boutique restaurants, characterful local cafés, beach bars, botanical gardens and fascinating history. Aquatic activities include sailing, deep-sea fishing, diving, especially off St Kitts, and windsurfing around Nevis.
Island hopping adventures
The Caribbean is superb for island-hopping holidays. Not only are many of the islands in close proximity to one another, they are also hugely varied. As no two islands are the same, rather than settling on just one idyllic location for your trip, try an island-hopping adventure. It’s a hugely appealing way to combine two or more islands into one amazing holiday.
To enjoy the best of both worlds on your Caribbean holiday combine the bustling and busier islands of Barbados, Antigua and St Lucia with the quieter, off the beaten track experience that Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Vincent and The Grenadines affords. Inter-island flights are made by small jets, up to 50 seats, or light aircraft, up to 30 seats. Flight duration is dependent on touchdown stops made on the day. Hold luggage limit is normally 20kg per person and one small carry on bag per person is allowed in the cabin.
Year-round direct flights from the UK take around 9½ hours to Dominican Republic, 8½ hours to Barbados and Antigua, and 8 hours to St Lucia. Flights to Grenada take around 10½ hours with a brief touchdown on either St Lucia or Antigua or Barbados. You can fly the 10½ hours from London to St Kitts without changing planes, but with a brief touchdown in Antigua. Nevis is reached from St Kitts by private transfer which includes either boat or water taxi. For St Vincent and The Grenadines, fly into Barbados before taking a one hour light aircraft flight. The actual duration of this flight will depend on the en route touchdowns made on the day.
All our featured islands are 4 hours behind GMT. If you depart on a morning flight, you can arrive in the late afternoon sunshine in time for pre-dinner aperitifs. Take an early evening flight back to enjoy a full final day in the Caribbean at the end of your holiday.
Hermitage Bay boat tour
Barbados and St Vincent & The Grenadines
Flight time: between 30 and 90 minutes. As most flights to The Grenadines start in Barbados, this is a particularly easy twin centre option.
Barbados and Antigua
Flight duration: between 60 and 90 minutes.
Barbados and Grenada
Flight duration: between 45 and 120 minutes.
Barbados and St Lucia
Flight duration: 45 minutes.
St Lucia and Bequia
Flight duration: 30 minutes.
Antigua and St Kitts
Flight duration: 30 minutes. All flights to St Kitts stop at Antigua en route making this a particularly easy twin centre option.
Antigua and Nevis
All arrivals to Nevis fly into St Kitts airport. As flights to St Kitts stop at Antigua en route, and flights between the islands are only 30 minutes, it’s easy to arrange a twin centre option combining Antigua and Nevis.
Grenada and St Lucia
Flight duration: 90 minutes.