Dreaming of a luxury getaway to the Caribbean? Consultant Issy is just back from a research trip: a mere nine islands visited, 18 flights taken, 19 luxury hotels seen and stayed in, and an unquantifiable list of reasons why you should make it your next holiday destination...
The experiences on my trip all went a long way to confirming what I already knew - the Caribbean is back in a big way. Highlights? Too many to mention, but here are a few of my favourite things from Caribbean island hopping…
The dramatic scenery on the East (or windward) side of Barbados - it's in total contrast to the glamour and calmer water of the west coast of the island - think crashing breakers and lovely properties on isolated headlands.
The laid back and chic Mustique.
Mustique is such a lush island; we had a wonderful walk around and swim on Macaroni Beach. The rum punches at Basil's Bar are knock out, and then we kicked back to watch the latest movie releases in the vast grounds of the elegant Cotton House hotel.
The African undertones on the private island of Petit St Vincent.
They have the best beach bar setting in the Caribbean (perfect for sundown cocktails), fresh lobster every day and great staff who have been on the team for years. We went for a snorkelling trip at Tobago Cays and swam with turtles near where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed, and had a private picnic on Mopian Island. Guests can charter the 'Beauty' yacht or 'Black Pearl' speedboat to zip around the crystal clear waters of the Grenadines. Heavenly.
Beautiful Bequia is charm personified.
Another small island in the Grenadines, in Bequia (pronounced beck-way) everybody gets around by water taxis, and congregates in Jack's Bar for cocktails and the Frangipani to catch the resident steel band in action. The island is filled with frangipani and oleander lined gardens, and Admiral's Bay is a buzzy hub for locals and tourists, with colourful food markets, and yacht charter companies.
Watersports in Antigua.
Whilst Antigua is more of a known quantity, it is a superb place to sail, windsurf and Kite surf (particularly around Green Island). Hire a 4x4 to visit as many of the 365 beaches as possible.
A little slice of France in the Caribbean, St Barths is magical.
Very laid-back, and with predictably good food, St Barths is delightful. We kicked back and enjoyed the sunshine on the whitest sand beaches before going for a paddle boarding session in the bay. If we'd have more time we would have shopped for fresh cheeses, baguettes and hams, hired a mini (the popular hire car choice) and explored the many secret and completely unspoilt beaches before a picnic on pristine sand next to amazing azure waters.
Fresh Mahi Mahi in Anguilla.
A long standing Original Travel favourite, Anguilla just gets better every time I visit. This time out I ate the freshest Mahi Mahi on Sandy Island, dined out on curried goat at a local hot spot Tasty's and went to the weekly cocktail party at the Sunset Bar that felt like an Anguillan Café del Mar. All in all, a pretty amazing trip, basically! Even better, there are more and more flights so island hopping is a serious option and you don't have to limit yourself to one of the above. One final thought - we all know the Caribbean is famous for beautiful beaches and turquoise seas, but for me the absolute highlight was meeting the characters of the Caribbean. Oknel at Petit St Vincent, Bobsin at Cotton House, Dennis from Bequia, Remy from Anguilla, I'm missing you all!