Lizzie Porter, The Daily Telegraph, November 25, 2013
The Caribbean dream of beachside huts and eating lobster from wooden tables may not come easily with the large resorts that have mushroomed over certain stretches of the islands’ coastlines. For how long have you sought authentic Caribbean spirit among hundreds of holiday deals to concrete monolith hotels?
The problem is that it can be difficult to book those smaller, more characterful properties on a package basis, which in reality is how most people from the UK travel to the Caribbean. This is because they offer protection (ABTA/ATOL certificates, meaning you are entitled to a refund if the travel company fails) and offer some control over the enormous price spikes for inter-island flights and transfers. While independently-booked nightly rates at Caribbean hotels and resorts can be extortionate, packages booked through tour operators often offer very good value for money.
Here are some of the best soulful, character-filled Caribbean boutique hotels and villas – no glitzy resorts allowed – which can be booked on a package basis, so you have the price security and booking ease they offer.
A member of the Design Hotels group, Laluna hotel is one of the most chic options in the Caribbean, while retaining the soul and character that may be missing from some of the large, glossy resorts. The elegant suites have exterior walls in faded brights, while the Beach Cottages Deluxe are just 40 feet from the water’s edge.The hotel offers free Wi-Fi, a gym, and a library with books and games, and also sells itself as Grenada’s “premiere wellness escape”, offering an extensive range of spa services and beachside yoga and pilates.
Virgin Holidays + Hip Hotels (0844 573 2460, vhiphotels.co.uk ) has seven nights at Laluna Hotel from £1,645pp based on two adults sharing a Cottage Suite on a room-only basis. Price includes return Virgin Atlantic flights in Premium Economy, airport transfers, all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change, and is based on select departure dates between June and October 2014.
The Conch room at Jake's Treasure Beach hotel
Jake’s Treasure Beach hotel epitomises Jamaica’s “relax, no problem” attitude, set in a tropical seafront garden in Treasure Beach settlement on the island’s south-west coast. Telegraph Travel’s destination expert James Henderson described the hotel as “the best in funky Jamaican style”, with “brightly painted cottages set among tropical greenery. The atmosphere is very low key, but the mix of guests usually makes it fun.”
Scott Dunn (020 8682 5030, scottdunn.com ) offers seven nights at Jake's from £1,420 pp based on two sharing a one-bedroom Deluxe Garden View Room, on a room-only basis, including economy class international flights and private road transfers.
Perched over caves that sink into the Caribbean Sea, The Caves is comprised of 12 hand-crafted wood and stone thatch-roofed cottages and one three-bedroom villa furnished in sweet colours; some have kitchenettes and living areas. There is also an Aveda spa, saltwater swimming pool, and candle-lit dinners in the caves below the huts can be arranged.
Virgin Holidays + Hip Hotels (0844 573 2460, vhiphotels.co.uk ) has seven nights at The Caves from £1,999pp based on two adults sharing a Two Birds Room, on an all-inclusive basis. The price, based on select departure date May to October 2014, includes Virgin Atlantic flights from London Gatwick, private return airport transfers, and all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges, which are subject to change.
>St Vincent and the Grenadines
Bequia Beach Hotel, overlooking Friendship Beach on Bequia Island, has 11 rooms, 20 suites and six villas with colonial-style furnishings, all with air-conditioning and a private terrace or balcony. A private beach sits in front of the hotel, where there is a Caribbean party every Wednesday and Saturday in high season.
Cox & Kings (0845 867 6485, coxandkings.co.uk ) has seven nights at Bequia Beach Hotel from £1,395pp based on two adults sharing a Classic Pool/Sea View Room on a b&b basis. Price includes return international flights from London and return private airport transfers.
A Sea View Hut at Compass Point Beach Resort
Compass Point Beach Resort, on Nassau, The Bahamas, is a jolly collection of seaside huts painted mauve, turquoise and sunshine yellow. White interiors contrast the vibrant exteriors, and all rooms have a balcony. Dishes in the restaurants include battered conch, snapper, and grilled lobster tail.
Bahamas Flavour (08700 66 99 75, bahamasflavour.co.uk ) has seven nights in a Studio Hut at Compass Point Beach Resort from £1,399 pp, based on two people sharing. Price includes return flights from Heathrow, return airport transfers, breakfast and all taxes/service charges. Valid for travel until December 17 2013 and January 10-March 15 2014.
Small Hope Bay Lodge, on Andros, is an informal lodge resort on the beach, next to 140 miles of barrier reef lying next to the ‘Tongue of the Ocean’, a 6,560 ft (2,000m) deep oceanic trench. All-inclusive dining offers guests delicious local menus, with up to 30 desserts. Rooms, built in the 1960s from coral rock and local pine, are furnished in Androsia batik fabrics, and have ceiling fans and optional air-conditioning. There is a game room, hammocks, and the well-equipped on-site dive centre is PADI, NAUI, SDI and TDI (Technical) affiliated.
Dive Worldwide (0845 130 6980, diveworldwide.com ) has one night in Nassau and seven nights’ all-inclusive at Small Hope Bay, from £3,000pp. The price includes ten dives, transfers, domestic flights and transatlantic BA flights from Heathrow.
Villa d’Arcy is on the north-western tip of St Lucia on the Cap Estate, overlooking the golf course and the Caribbean sea, and is a ten minute drive from Rodney Bay. Its two bedrooms are simply furnished and have exposed stone walls. With a private pool on a terrace built into the hillside, it makes a wonderful retreat for a couple or family of four. Cook service and housekeeping six days a week are included in the price.
Tropical Sky (0843 636 4990, tropicalsky.co.uk ) has seven nights at Villa d’Arcy from £949pp based on four sharing, including flights and private transfers. Tropical Sky can arrange for a hire car to be delivered to each villa: drivers keep to the left in St Lucia. Villa d'Arcy is in Tropical Sky's newly-launched villa collection, which has more than 50 properties on islands including Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, and Jamaica.
British Virgin Islands
The Jost Villa on the private Guana Island
Guana Island might be one of the largest of the British Virgin Islands, but it is one of the Caribbean’s most private hideaways with a maximum of 32 guests sharing 850 acres and seven beaches. All rooms are surrounded by decking for eating, lazing and sunbathing, or for a burst of activity there are twelve miles of hiking trails across the island. Because of tight flight scheduling, it is very well worth booking this option as a package, as it is difficult to reach, and if you miss a connection a tour operator would be on hand to help.
Tropic Breeze (01752 880 880, tropicbreeze.co.uk ) has seven nights on Guana Island from £2,649pp staying in a Seaview Cottage on a full-board basis. Price includes return flights from Gatwick to Antigua and on to Tortola with Liat flights and speedboat transfers between Tortola and Guana Island.
Little Good Harbour is in the small fishing community of Sherman’s, close to the white beach at the eponymous bay. Each of the 21 cottages has its own sitting room and fully-equipped kitchen, although guests are also encouraged to visit the Fish Pot Restaurant just across the street, which is housed in the remains of a 17th century British garrison.
Original Travel (020 3582 4990, originaltravel.co.uk ) offers seven nights at Little Good Harbour from £1,370pp based on two adults sharing a Garden Suite room on a room- only basis, including return transatlantic flights and airport transfers.
Island Inn Hotel is set within Barbados’ Garrison Historic Area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The property’s 21 guest rooms and suites all have air-conditioning and LCD televisions, tea and coffee making facilities, but retain a traditional Bajan feel with their dark wood furniture and patio windows.
WEXAS Travel (0207 838 5892, wexas.com ) has seven nights in a Standard Garden View room on an all-inclusive basis from £1,33pp, based on two people sharing.. The price includes return international flights and airport transfers.
Beau Rive hotel, Dominica, is a small, soulful property
Beau Rive hotel was built by Briton Mark Steele, who moved to Dominica in 1999 to construct a low-key hotel that focused on attention to detail. The resulting ten-room property, in three acres of tropical gardens and forest, has a roof terrace bar and dining room. Bedrooms are beautifully furnished with polished wooden floors and queen-sized beds. Dominica is famous for its varied and abundant fauna and flora.
Motmot Travel (01327 830918, motmottravel.com ) has seven nights at Beau Rive from £1,695pp based on two people sharing a double room on a half-board basis. Price includes return flights to Antigua with Virgin or BA, connecting return flights from Antigua to Dominica with inter-island operator Liat, and airport transfers.
The Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France is set on one of the island's best beaches.
The Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France is a boutique hotel on Baie des Flamands, one of St Bart’s most beautiful beaches (and there is stiff competition). There are 40 guestrooms in total: garden bungalows offer the chance to stay between banana trees, coconut and latanier palms, while beach rooms have views over the pool and sea. French cuisine is served in the restaurant La Case de l’Isle.
Bailey Robinson (01488 689700, baileyrobinson.com ) offers seven nights at the Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France from £2,820 pp b&b, based on Garden Room accommodation. Price includes international flights with BA from London Gatwick to Antigua, and then on with Tradewind Aviation from Antigua to St. Barts, and transfers.Valid from April 20-August 31 2014.