Be a Car­ribbean queen (or king!)

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - MORE ON SUNDAY -

BOOK­ING a hol­i­day in the Caribbean sounds sim­ple but each is­land comes with its own unique per­son­al­ity. So which one would be ideal for you and your fam­ily? Here, SARAH TURNER picks seven hot favourites to tempt you into the sun… ANTIGUA

Best for: Those on tight bud­gets, hon­ey­moon­ers, young fam­i­lies, sail­ing fans.

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways, Vir­gin At­lantic, Thomas Cook.

Why here? The Bri­tish made Antigua their Caribbean hub in the 18th Cen­tury. These days the is­land’s gen­tle beaches are great for young fam­i­lies, but Antigua has se­ri­ous hon­ey­moon ap­peal too. Snorkelling is some of the best in the Caribbean, and Antigua’s string of har­bours means sail­ing is pop­u­lar.

Bar­gain style: The adults-only Pineap­ple Beach Re­sort sits on one of the best beaches and of­fers good value. Seven nights costs from €1,566pp all-in­clu­sive, in­clud­ing flights and trans­fers with The Hol­i­day Place (hol­i­day­place.co.uk).

Blow the bud­get: At Carlisle Bay, a muted palette of colours in this fam­ily-friendly re­sort al­lows the set­ting – a cres­cent-shaped beach and am­ple palm trees – to take cen­tre stage. The ho­tel spa is one of the is­land’s best. Seven nights costs from €2,351pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and B&B with Scott Dunn (scottdunn.com).

Don’t miss: English Har­bour’s Ge­or­gian-era dock­yard where Nel­son was once sta­tioned, hik­ing at Shirley Heights, and snorkelling around Cades Reef.

Eat: Head to Hem­ing­way’s (hem­ing­wayan­tigua.com) in St John for conch frit­ters. Sheer Rocks (sheer-rocks.com) has a laid­back ethos to aug­ment stel­lar sun­sets and tapas-style food.

BA­HAMAS

Best for: Na­ture-lovers, is­land-hop­pers, fish­ing and James Bond fans. Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways.

Why here? More than any­where else in the Caribbean, the chain of is­lands that make up the Ba­hamas is about con­trasts. You can mix and match the glitz and casi­nos of Nas­sau and Par­adise Is­lands with de­serted hide­aways. Bar­gain style: Hope Town Inn on Abaco of­fers plenty of charm and sim­plic­ity, plus easy ac­cess to the famous swim­ming pigs on nearby No Name Cay. From $150 a night (about €130) room-only (hopetown ma­rina. com). Blow the bud­get: When Daniel Craig took on 007’s man­tle in Casino Royale, he headed to the Four Seasons Ocean Club to meet Judi Dench’s M. Seven nights roomonly costs from €2,500pp, in­clud­ing flights and trans­fers with Trop­i­cal

BA­HAMAS HAVE THE BIG­GEST JAMES BOND HER­ITAGE IN CAR­RIBBEAN

Sky (trop­i­cal­sky.co.uk).

Don’t miss: Catch a ferry to pretty, picket-fenced Har­bour Is­land with its famous pink sand. Head­ing to Ex­uma by a rigid in­flat­able boat gives you ac­cess to its beaches and those swim­ming pigs (ex­u­maescapes-ba­hamas.trekksoft.com).

Se­ri­ous an­glers come to the Ba­hamas for bone­fish but it’s also the Caribbean is­land with the big­gest James Bond her­itage. Snorkelling tours take you to lo­ca­tions fea­tured in Thun­der­ball and start at $79pp (€70) with Ba­hamas Divers (ba­hamadivers.com).

Eat: The Land­ing (har­bouris­land land­ing.com) on Har­bour Is­land brings celebri­ties to the beach­side ta­ble for its di­vine gin­gered lob­ster. Crabs & Ting on Junkanoo beach has great-value seafood.

BAR­BA­DOS

Best for: Self-cater­ing fam­i­lies, Alist glam­our, surf­ing, cricket.

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways, Vir­gin At­lantic, Thomas Cook, Tui.

Why here? It’s one of the Caribbean’s most placid is­lands. It’s not bland, though, even if the wa­ters of the Plat­inum coast on the west barely cause a rip­ple. The is­land, where singer Ri hanna was born, is split into parishes, each of which has its own flavour. On the east coast, the waves are big­ger and vil­lages such as Bathsheba have strong surfer ap­peal.

Bar­gain style: On pretty Max­well beach in the south, Bougainvil­lea has all the frills: two pools, bars and a beach­side restau­rant, and 100 rooms with kitch­enettes. Not all Caribbean is­lands are set up for self-cater­ing but the ho­tel lays on shut­tles to a su­per­mar­ket for its guests. Seven nights costs from €1,100pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and self-cater­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion with Vir­gin Hol­i­days (vir­gin­hol­i­days.co.uk).

Blow the bud­get: With celebri­ties at ev­ery turn, Sandy Lane is the beat­ing heart of the Plat­inum coast, from the en­trance that looks out on to the beach to the ho­tel’s own golf cour­ses, and one of the Caribbean’s best spas. Seven nights’ B&B costs from €4,300pp, in­clud­ing flights and trans­fers with El­e­gant Re­sorts (el­e­gantre­sorts.co.uk).

Don’t miss: Cricket fans must visit the Kens­ing­ton Oval – in Jan­uary, Eng­land will play a Test match against the West In­dies here. His­toric plan­ta­tion houses in­clude St Ni­cholas Abbey (stni­cholas abbey.com) and Mount Gay Rum dis­tillery (mount­gayrum.com).

Eat: Alive with mu­sic and street food, ev­ery Fri­day and Satur­day the town of Oistins holds a Fish Fry. The Lone Star (th­elon­es­tar. com) on the beach at­tracts a solid Hol­ly­wood crowd – ex­pect to pay about €34 for main dishes. DO­MINI­CAN REPUB­LIC Best for: Those on tight bud­gets, re­sort-lovers, whale-watch­ers.

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways,Thomas Cook, Tui.

Why here? Once a by­word for bar­gain-bucket Caribbean, the ‘Dom Rep’ has been mov­ing up­mar­ket for the past decade. In 2015, the smart Aman chain opened a ho­tel here.

Bar­gain style: The Now Lari­mar Punta Cana is big – there are 720 rooms with the fa­cil­i­ties to match, in­clud­ing nine restau­rants and ten bars, five swim­ming pools and kids’ clubs. Seven nights costs from €1,400pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and all-in­clu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion with C by Carib­tours (cby­carib­tours.co.uk).

Blow the bud­get: There is even more space at Zoetry Agua Punta Cana – 96 suites, four restau­rants and a swim­ming pool that flows around the vil­las. Seven nights costs from €1,990pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and all-in­clu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion with BA Hol­i­days (ba.com/do­mini­can­re­pub­lic).

Don’t miss: Hol­i­days here are usu­ally re­sort-based, but break out to visit the Un­esco world her­itage city of Santo Domingo, which has baroque cathe­drals and a full quota of Span­ish colo­nial charm, while the rain­forests of Par­que Na­cional del Este have wa­ter­falls and adrenaline-based ac­tiv­i­ties. Cabarete has some of the Caribbean’s best surf­ing. Be­tween Jan­uary and March, hump­back whales head to the Sa­mana penin­sula. Eat: Near Cabarete, Cas­tle Club cooks lo­cally caught fish with veg­eta­bles (castle­clubon­line.com). In the Bavara area of Punta Cana, visit Wa­camole, for Mex­i­can food and a non-re­sort feel.

JA­MAICA

Best for: Nightlife, food­ies, those on tight bud­gets, mu­sic-lovers and walk­ers.

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways, Vir­gin At­lantic, Tui.

Why here? Ja­maica is the is­land with ev­ery­thing – beaches, his­tory, mu­sic, moun­tains and ath­lete Usain Bolt – and it’s big enough to pro­duce a lot of its own food, which helps keep the cost down. On the down­side, it has more than its fair share of crime. Re­sorts are gen­er­ally well guarded but take ad­vice about ar­eas to avoid.

Bar­gain style: One of Ja­maica’s most In­sta­grammable places is Jake’s – cot­tages and apart­ments, plus two restau­rants and a spa, perched on Trea­sure Beach. Dou­bles cost from €80 a night on a room-only ba­sis with i-es­cape (i-es­cape.com/jakes).

Blow the bud­get: Ja­maica Inn is a gor­geous, ro­man­tic weather-board ho­tel on a bluff, packed with his­tory – it’s where Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe spent her hon­ey­moon with Arthur Miller and Meghan Markle mar­ried for the first time. Seven nights costs from €1,860pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and room-only ac­com­mo­da­tion with In­spir­ing Travel Com­pany (in­spir­ing­travel com­pany.co.uk).

Don’t miss: Hik­ing in the Blue Moun­tains, white­wa­ter raft­ing, vis­it­ing Bob Mar­ley’s house (bob mar­ley­mu­seum.com) and, by way of con­trast, Noel Cow­ard’s at­mo­spheric get­away Fire­fly (fire­fly­ja­maica.com). Ne­gril’s sun­sets are famous and Rick’s Bar is the per­fect place from which to see them.

Eat: In Ocho Rios, Miss T’s Kitchen (mis­st­skitchen.com) has all the jerk chicken and cur­ried goat you could ever wish for.

GRENADA

Best for: Food­ies, run­ners and na­turelovers. Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways and Vir­gin At­lantic (both via St Lu­cia).

Why here? Grenada is one of the most tan­ta­lis­ing is­lands in the Caribbean. En­veloped by a trop­i­cal gen­tle­ness, mel­low, safe and ringed with golden beaches, it’s worth hir­ing a car to ex­plore small vil­lages, a kalei­do­scope of cre­ole colour­sand charm.

Don’t miss: Grenada is famous for its spices, es­pe­cially nut­meg. Take a trip to Gou­vage to see the spice exchange at work, while Bel­mont Es­tates (bel­montes­tate.net) is an or­ganic farm with a co­coa plan­ta­tion – there are tours and a restau­rant here. Run­ners should bring their kit with them – ev­ery week­end the Hash House Har­ri­ers (grenada­hash.com) gath­ers tourists and

lo­cals for a fun run that usu­ally ends up at a rum dis­tillery.

Bar­gain style: Built into a hill­side, close to Grand Anse beach, the Blue Hori­zon Gar­den Re­sort ho­tel is sim­ple but well run, with 32 rooms, all with kitch­enettes. Seven nights costs from €1,330pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and room-only ac­com­mo­da­tion with Tropic Breeze (trop­icbreeze.co.uk).

Blow the bud­get: Spice Is­land Re­sort on the same stretch of beach has of­fered low-key but lux­u­ri­ous breaks since the 1960s. The own­ers, the Hop­kins fam­ily, keep ev­ery­thing pol­ished and the restau­rant is one of the is­land’s best. Seven nights costs from €3,250pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and all-in­clu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion with Best At Travel (bestat­travel.co.uk).

Eat: The vil­lage of Gouyave has a Fish Fry each Fri­day, so grab some beers and re­lax. Bar­be­cues are also big in this part of the world – there’s a par­tic­u­larly nice one on Hog Is­land on Sun­days.

ST LU­CIA

Best for: Ac­tive fam­i­lies, solo trav­ellers, spa-lovers, na­ture-lovers.

Flights: Bri­tish Air­ways, Vir­gin At­lantic, Thomas Cook, Tui.

Why go: Com­pared to other Caribbean is­lands, St Lu­cia’s beaches aren’t par­tic­u­larly good (the sand is of­ten quite dark) but the land­scape wows at ev­ery turn. The Pi­tons, two moun­tains that rise from the rain­for­est, dom­i­nate ev­ery­thing.

Bar­gain style: St James’s Club Mor­gan Bay is a 344-room ho­tel on a neat beach that’s good for fam­i­lies. Seven nights costs from €1,600pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and allinclu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion with First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk).

Blow the bud­get: The an­tithe­sis of a ‘fly-and-flop’, Body­hol­i­day is great for solo trav­ellers – all-in­clu­sive here means daily spa treat­ments, scuba-div­ing and classes in ev­ery­thing from Pi­lates to fenc­ing. Seven nights costs from €3,950pp, in­clud­ing flights, trans­fers and allinclu­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion with Desti­nol­ogy (desti­nol­ogy.co.uk)

Don’t miss: Bathing in vol­canic mud at Sul­phur Springs, or zi­plin­ing, moun­tain-bik­ing and climb­ing the Pi­tons. Things are gen­tler at the Di­a­mond Falls botanic gar­dens (di­a­mond­stlu­cia.com), where you can soak in min­eral baths built for French King Louis XVI and visit one of the Caribbean’s most spec­tac­u­lar wa­ter­falls.

Eat: Perched be­tween the Pi­tons, Dasheene, the restau­rant for the Ladera re­sort (ladera.com), has a so­phis­ti­cated take on Caribbean food. Near Sugar Beach, Martha’s Ta­ble (marthasta­bles.com) is a road­side cafe serv­ing won­der­ful fish.

ST LU­CIA’S LAND­SCAPE WOWS AT EV­ERY TURN...

DRA­MATIC LAND­SCAPE: Soufriere beach in St Lu­cia, with one of the famous Pi­tons in the back­ground

UN­SPOILT: The Sa­mana area of the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, which is good for whale­watch­ing. Right: The swim­ming pigs of the Ba­hamas.

PROUD JA­MAICAN: Usain Bolt

BAR­BA­DOS DOLL: Singer Ri­hanna is from Bar­ba­dos

SPICY: St Ge­orge’s Har­bour in Grenada. Be­low: A café sign in Ja­maica

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