50 best holidays in the Caribbean
Best new hotels
1 Le Barthélemy, St Barts
For a tropical but entirely luxurious experience in St Barts, look no farther than this hotel, which opened on October 1 in Grand Cul de Sac in the northeast. With 40 rooms and six suites, there are serious signs of indulgence at every turn – plunge pools with underwater sound systems, a spa that utilises La Mer products and a restaurant from the chef Guy Martin, who hails from Le Grand Véfour in Paris.
Details B&B doubles cost from 600 a night (lebarthelemyhotel.com)
2 Pink Sands Club, Canouan
With only 32 villas and suites, this newly opened hotel in St Vincent and the Grenadines is aimed squarely at the well-heeled romantic – it has splashes of pink throughout, as well as restaurants called Romeo and Juliet and a spa that can be reached only by boat. There’s also a Jim Fazio-designed golf course. Shell out for a ten-day stay in the resort’s smartest accommodation and the hotel’s private jet will be sent to collect you from St Lucia or Barbados. Obviously, you could choose to use your own private jet if you were really splashing out, by visiting Jettly or another private jet booking format.
Details A seven-night stay costs from 4,705pp, including all flights, transfers and B&B (01244 355527, itcluxurytravel.co.uk)
3 Royalton Blue Waters, Jamaica
This family-friendly, all-inclusive hotel opens this month in Montego Bay. There’s a lazy river running through the hotel, a splash area for children, freestanding baths in the rooms and USB charging stations. It definitely sounds like you have the opportunity to experience your dream vacation here, just like you would if you were to look at this option to stay in a luxury Jamaican villa too. When it comes to vacationing in Jamaica though, you can’t go wrong with where you decide to stay and the Royalton Blue Waters is definitely at the top of most people’s lists. It’s also good news for those who hate planning, the 11 restaurants serving the 228 rooms will not take bookings.
Details A week costs from 1,134pp, including flights, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation (0871 2302555, thomson.co.uk)
4 Papillon, St Lucia
A veteran St Lucian resort has been given a complete makeover to emerge as this 110-room, all-inclusive hotel. The setting on Reduit Beach is a winner and the spruced-up accommodation, in a series of low-slung buildings, offers solid value and a relaxed, traditional Caribbean ambience.
Details A seven-night break starts at 1,059pp, including flights, transfers and all-inclusive accommodation (01342 886941, tropicalsky.co.uk)
5 French Coco, Martinique
Opened in the summer, the 17-room French Coco, all carefully roughened wood walls and starched bed linen, is in the middle of La Caravelle nature reserve. Aimed at couples, its suites generally have their own pools and gardens. The hotel is also on the doorstep of a Creole fishing village to add a genuine sense of place.
Details B&B doubles cost from $330 ( 264) a night (0800 0482314, slh.com); fly to Martinique via Paris
6 Sensatori/Nickelodeon, Dominican Republic
Thomson’s new flagship hotel, with its swim-up rooms and fine-dining restaurants, lies on Punta Cana beach. It shares many facilities with the equally new Nickelodeon hotel next door, where Spongebob Squarepants and Dora the Explorer roam freely amid the waterparks and splash zones. The Sensatori areas are calmer and there are adults-only pools and spa areas.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive costs from 1,032pp, including flights (0871 2302555, thomson.co.uk)
7 Zemi Beach House, Anguilla
On one of the Caribbean’s more self-effacing islands, Zemi opened in February, but it is already making a splash, with 129 rooms and suites, infinity pools, a kids’ club and a spa housed in an antique Thai dwelling that was specially shipped over. There are two restaurants, one with an eastern theme, the other more family-friendly. The Rhum Room offers more than 100 varieties of the Caribbean’s staple spirit.
Details Doubles cost from $440 a night (001 264 584 0001, zemibeach.com); fly to Anguilla via Antigua
8 Kimpton Seafire, Grand Cayman
Bicycles, yoga mats in every room and hair straighteners on request – Kimpton Hotels knows how to appeal to millennials. Its first hotel in the Caribbean opens this month, on Grand Cayman’s famed Seven Mile Beach. It will bring a mid-century vibe, relaxed beachfront restaurants, a US-style boardwalk and beach cabanas along with 266 rooms and suites.
Details Doubles cost from $339 a night (kimptonhotels.com)
9 La Concha, Puerto Rico
Direct flights with Norwegian have opened up Puerto Rico to British holidaymakers (and offer another route into Anguilla). La Concha is a thoughtful reinterpretation of a 1958 resort and has a full complement of retro charm. Rooms may be simple, but this drives people to the beach, pools and lobby. Restaurants include the curvaceous Perla, surrounded by a reflecting pool, while the attached casino keeps room rates low.
Details Doubles cost from $172 a night (laconcharesort.com)
10 French Leave, Bahamas
Eleuthera is widely considered to be the most beautiful island in the Bahamas, with little development. This new 16-room hotel on the island’s famously pink-tinged beach is the first to be built for decades. A series of cottages gives a colonial-meets-New England beach appeal, with weatherboarding and wide verandas. It’s part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection.
Details Doubles cost from $379 a night (frenchleaveeleuthera.com)
11 Coral Caye, Belize
Caribbean islands don’t get much smaller than this. Francis Ford Coppola’s newest opening is for those who like their isolation to be glorious and a bit theatrical (and don’t mind cold-water showers). It’s a 25-minute boat ride from the film director’s main resort of Turtle Inn in Placencia and it sleeps up to ten, if a couple of people don’t mind sharing a tent on the beach. The main building has a sand floor and the boat’s captain will make breakfast and fire up the barbecue.
Details From $895 per night for ten people, B&B (thefamilycoppolaresorts.com); fly to Belize via Miami
12 Rui Republica, Dominican Republic
Opened in the summer, this all-inclusive, adults-only hotel overlooks Arena Gorda beach in Punta Cana. Its freeform swimming pool winds its way through a vast pleasure dome with swim-up bars. There’s a full range of water sports and a good selection of restaurants. With just over 1,000 rooms, it also has its own nightclub.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive costs from 1,142pp, including flights (0871 2302555, firstchoice.co.uk)
13 The Cliff, Jamaica
The owner, Mary Phillips, has run Round Hill and Jamaica Inn, two of the island’s smartest hotels. Her own hotel, near Negril, opened last December and keeps things gentle but stylish, with 33 suites and villas. There’s no beach, but there is an expansive swimming pool and steps lead to a sheltered bathing area.
Details From $199 a night room only (thecliffjamaica.com)
14 The Sands Resort, Barbados
Opening early next year, this all-inclusive resort doesn’t have a huge number of rooms – only 153 – but it has been carefully thought through, with a number of family suites, most of which have their own pool or garden. It has a serene pool at its centre and a gorgeous stretch of beach, and is situated near Bridgetown and party-minded St Lawrence Gap.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive, with flights and transfers, starts at 1,409pp (01342 886941, tropicalsky.co.uk)
15 Villa Marie, St Barts
What could be more Caribbean than a collection of white, weatherboarded cottages overlooking a perfect beach? At Villa Marie, set above Flamands beach, simplicity is only skin deep. When this hotel opens next month it will be truly luxurious. At heart, it aims to tick all the Gallic boxes, including a spa that focuses on external beauty rather than internal harmony, and a gourmet restaurant. A sister property to the Sibuet properties in France, it promises to be seriously stylish.
Details B&B doubles cost from €500 a night (00 33 4 50 90 63 63, experience-sibuet.com); fly to Antigua or Barbados, then to St Barts
Best for foodies
16 Le Petit Hotel, St Martin
The ten-room Petit Hotel is at the heart of St Martin’s town of Grand Case. To many it is the foodie capital of the Caribbean. It is a great base to stay to sample the serious restaurants aimed at the yachting set (Le Pressoir, in a restored West Indian house, has charm and great food) as well as a group of great barbecue stands. The Sky’s the Limit, with conch fritters and jerk chicken, usually has the longest queues and portions are vast.
Details Doubles cost from $285 a night (lepetithotel.com). Fly via Amsterdam or Paris
17 The Reef by CuisinArt, Anguilla
Infinity pool – tick. Yoga – tick. Chic, minimalistic look – tick. So far so Caribbean. What will set this 80-room hotel apart when it opens this month is the food. Developed by the nearby CuisinArt Golf & Spa, this sister hotel has its own hydroponic farm to supply ingredients to its restaurants – the seafood-orientated Yacht Club and the more informal Breezes, with a beach setting and a wood-fired pizza oven.
Details Doubles cost from 394 a night (00 1 880 862 0673, thereefbycuisinart.com); fly to Anguilla via Antigua
18 Firefly, Bequia
Caribbean hotels that aren’t on the beach generally have to try harder to woo customers. While Firefly is only just inland, it delivers on the food front. Surrounded by orchards of mangos and guavas, and a kitchen garden that feeds into each day’s menu, the hotel specialises in curried goat and locally caught fish. A sibling to Mustique’s most beguiling hotel of the same name, it has only five rooms, including a two-bedroom cottage.
Details B&B doubles cost from $215 a night (fireflybequia.com). Fly to Bequia via Barbados
19 Sugar Mill Hotel Tortola, British Virgin Islands
This much-loved hotel on Apple Bay has new owners. This winter they are adding a new beach restaurant, a spa and the option of being whisked off to secluded beaches in the hotel’s speedboat. With only 24 rooms, Sugar Mill is in an excellent spot for exploring the rest of the British Virgin Islands. Like many other luxury boutique hotels in the Caribbean, it has an all-inclusive rate and it is an exceptionally generous one, including champagne and tours of the island.
Details From $395 a night on a room-only basis, all-inclusive from $4,995 a week (sugarmillhotel.com). Fly via Puerto Rico or Antigua
20 Baoase, Curaçao
While on many levels Baoase is a classic small Caribbean hotel perched on the edge of a crescent beach, it has been punched up to luxury level with decor that nods towards the Far East. It also has possibly the best restaurant in the former Dutch Antilles, producing delicious tasting menus.
Details B&B doubles cost from $560 a night (baoase.com). Fly via Amsterdam
21 Olive Boutique Hotel, Puerto Rico
Exceedingly urbane for the Caribbean, this boutique hotel in Condado has one of the island’s best restaurants – the Sage Steak Loft. The menu matches the tropical Manhattan feel and features a full menu of strips of meat, including filet mignon and ribeye, pepped up with papaya and rounded off with truffled mac and cheese. An aperitif on the rooftop bar starts things off nicely.
Details Doubles cost from $142 night, room only (oliveboutiquehotel.com)
22 Boucan, St Lucia
Owned by Hotel Chocolat (the posh chocolatier), this luxury hotel near Soufrière is on a working cacao plantation. You will find a spa and open-air showers, but you can also learn how a cocoa pod is fashioned into a bar of chocolate. The rooms to book are the Lodges, where you can drink in the stunning views of the snaggle-toothed mountains known as the Pitons after indulging in a cacao-based menu.
Details B&B rooms cost from $495 a night (hotelchocolat.com)
23 Golden Rock Inn, Nevis
Essentially, Golden Rock Inn is a restaurant with rooms – but we are talking about an excellent restaurant and superlative rooms. Eleven cottages are spread across more than 130 acres of a former plantation. The inn features a strong local menu, including jerk pork with pineapple blends.
Details Rooms cost from $210 a night (goldenrocknevis.com). Direct flights go to Nevis
24 Kanopi House, Jamaica
Just outside Port Antonio is this group of six treehouses with strong eco credentials (there is no swimming pool, but it has an organic garden) and a superb setting within a bay. The food aims to be resolutely Jamaican (no wagyu beef here), with freshly caught snapper, lobster or meat cooked on the open grill, augmented by callaloo, plantain, ackee, breadfruit, yam, sweet potato and curry.
Details Rooms cost from $300 a night (kanopihouse.com)
Best for families
25 Beaches, Turks & Caicos
There are more than 700 rooms here, but they are spread over four “villages” along the 12 miles of beach that make up Grace Bay, so it doesn’t feel like a mega resort. It comes with a full-sized water park at its heart, plus 21 restaurants, a teen disco and DJ academy. It is all-inclusive, so there is no need to fork out for extras.
Details A week all-inclusive, with flights, starts at 2,379pp (0344 4930120, ba.com)
26 Siboney Beach Club, Antigua
For families who don’t want to be organised or stuck with rigid meal times, this hotel, on Dickenson Bay, one of Antigua’s best beaches, could be the answer. Its 12 suites come with kitchenettes to allow for lie-ins and casual lunches. The Coconut Grove restaurant along the beach provides no-fuss meals, and watersports can be arranged.
Details Suites cost from $180 a night (siboneybeachantigua.com)
27 Waves Hotel & Spa, Barbados
This newly revamped 70-room resort that opened in July has family yoga, as well as complimentary motorised sports such as waterskiing and tubing. Spa-inclusive is the next big thing in the Caribbean and this hotel has caught the wave nicely with packages that include treatments – from one to four free treatments a week, depending on the room category.
Details A week’s all-inclusive, including flights, starts at 1,335pp (0344 557 3859, virginholidays.co.uk)
28 Las Casitas, Puerto Rico
Thanks to Norwegian’s flights from Gatwick, Puerto Rico makes a good family choice, and this resort has 500 acres to explore. It offers children’s golf lessons, night kayaking and a kids’ club, which takes them hiking and snorkelling. Just a water taxi away is the sandy beach of Palomino Island. Like most Puerto Rican resort hotels, Las Casitas has a casino, but it is not too obvious.
Details B&B doubles cost from $219 a night (lascasitasvillage.com)
29 Kamalame Cay, Bahamas
A private island resort, Kamalame Cay has 19 rooms, including cottages for more privacy, with neither TV nor internet. Run by the second generation of the Hew family, it welcomes children without making them its primary focus. Pay for the Guest of the House option, which turns this hotel into a very civilised, all-inclusive with honour bars, where you can make your own rum punches and have breakfast delivered to your room.
Details From 500 a night, all-inclusive (mrandmrssmith.com)
30 Palm Island, St Vincent and Grenadines
Private islands are never going to be the cheapest option, but this 41-room hotel is at the more affordable end (it is an all-inclusive hotel) and delivers the sort of peace and privacy you usually have to pay more for. Only a few kids come here in school holidays yet it is idyllic for them. This year there is an open-air spa.
Details A week’s all-inclusive costs from 2,299pp, including flights via Barbados (01293 762 456, hayesandjarvis.co.uk)
31 Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
Low on gimmicks – you won’t find a games rooms or a sports bar here – Nonsuch Bay is big on facilities and space. The suites are large, and even though this is an all-inclusive hotel, they have kitchen areas and washing machines. The hotel has a selection of dinghies and catamarans and tuition is included in the price for all members of the family.
Details A week’s all-inclusive costs from 1,163pp, including flights (01392 441200, expressionsholidays.co.uk)
Best adults-only resorts
32 The House, Barbados
At the blingier end of the Barbadian hotel spectrum, The House has 34 suites on Barbados’s platinum coast and a steady flow of chilled face towels. Its restaurant, Daphne’s, serves meals on the beach for couples looking for that private dining experience.
Details A week’s B&B costs from 2,885pp, including flights (01204 824619, destinology.co.uk)
33 Pineapple Beach Club, Antigua
Adults-only hotels are a growing trend in the Caribbean and this hotel has recently taken the plunge, with a significant update in the process. Spooled out along the pleasing Long Bay beach, it has some great-value packages on offer. A new water-based fitness programme launches in February, with a fiendish collection of squats, planks and lunges on specially designed floats.
Details A week’s all-inclusive starts at 1,049pp, including flights (01293 762456, hayesandjarvis.co.uk)
34 Melia Buenavista, Cuba
Less developed than Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria houses Cuba’s poshest all-inclusive. The Buenavista has taken the adults-only mantra of indulgence to heart (you’ll find daybeds around the pool), but the star is its location – it is part of the Jardines del Rey archipelago, with pristine sands and nature walks.
Details A week’s all-inclusive starts at 2,239pp, including flights (020 3553 7543, theprivatetravelcompany.co.uk)
35 Club Med, Turks & Caicos
This is the only remaining Club Med resort in the Caribbean that’s only for adults. And while it may not be the most glitzy of Club Med’s offerings, it does come in at a good price for luxury Turks & Caicos. On Grace Bay, it’s a sporty resort, with paddleboarding, tennis and a swimming pool with lanes for serious swimmers. Diving costs extra.
Details A week’s all-inclusive with flights costs from 1,039pp (020 3811 1507, clubmed.co.uk)
36 Sugar Cane Club, Barbados
Small, quiet and good value, Sugar Cane Club has 44 suites, as well as a particularly good spa and restaurant in beautiful grounds. Guests who want to vary the scenery can head to its sister resort, Almond Beach, for more sports facilities (it’s a 20-minute walk, but there are regular shuttles).
Details A week’s all-inclusive costs from 1,429pp, including flights (0344 4930120, ba.com)
37 Rendezvous, St Lucia
This hotel is the place for some serious R&R. There are two pools and a spa, as well as plenty of places to lie in a hammock or wallow in a whirlpool. With only 100 rooms, it’s a manageable size and there are a healthy number of repeat guests.
Details A week’s all-inclusive costs from 1,805pp, including flights (01204 824619, destinology.co.uk)
38 Mangos, Jamaica
Recently turned adults-only, with rooms that have beach-shack charm, this hotel is in the fishing village of Coopers Pen on the northwest coast. There’s a pool and several restaurants, but it’s all about chilling at the beach bar before eating jerk chicken and watching the palm trees sway.
Details A night’s all-inclusive costs from $199 a room (mangosjamaica.com)
Best for activities and special interest
39 Get fit in St Lucia
On the far northern tip of St Lucia, the stylish BodyHoliday hotel is tucked away by a white sand beach overlooking a peaceful cove. The hotel name comes from its not-so-relaxing range of fitness programmes offering yoga, cycling, pilates, boxing, fencing, kayaking and the services of a personal trainer. There’s also a spa – and a cocktail bar.
Details Seven nights’ all-inclusive is from 4,708pp departing on January 2 with Gatwick flights (0344 5574321, virginholidays.co.uk)
40 Guadeloupe twin centre
Yes, it’s the setting of BBC’s Death in Paradise, but there is more to Guadeloupe than a slightly improbable crime drama. The two main islands are visited in this seven-night trip with Western & Oriental. Grande-Terre has the main sights, including the slave cemetery at Capesterre, while Basse-Terre, dominated by the Soufrière volcano, has great hiking.
Details A week, staying at La Creole Beach Hotel & Spa and Langley Resort Fort Royal, including flights, transfers and B&B, starts at 1,429pp (020 3588 6130, westernoriental.com)
41 Culture in Cuba
This new tour includes attending rehearsals at the Cuban National Ballet School, alma mater of Carlos Acosta, visiting the home of the photographer Roberto Salas, and trips to the studios of contemporary artists, as well as touring the Hemingway Museum and a walking tour of Unesco-protected Trinidad.
Details A week starts at 4,489pp, including flights, mixed-board accommodation, all sightseeing and entrance fees (020 7593 2284, kirkerholidays.com)
42 Country houses of Barbados
Travel company Ciceroni’s new nine-day tour opens the portals of some of Barbados’s grandest houses and gardens. Highlights include the Jacobean Halton Great House, with original sugar mills and equally historic St Nicholas Abbey, and the Oliver Messel-designed Fustic House. There is also a look at the Newton Plantation, which is the location of the island’s only slave cemetery.
Details The nine-night tour costs 4,970pp, including flights, and mixed-board accommodation at Cobbler’s Cove Hotel (01869 811167, ciceroni.co.uk)
43 Windies cricket
Catch all the action as England’s cricketers take on the West Indies in a series of one-day internationals in the Caribbean next year. The Times is running a tour that includes talks by former England cricketer Gladstone Small and TV analyst Simon Hughes.
Details The Antigua-only tour is from 3,595pp, including flights and six nights’ B&B. The Antigua and Barbados tour is from 5,225pp, including flights and six nights’ all inclusive in Antigua and five nights’ room only in Barbados (0330 1607027, thetimes.co.uk/travel)
44 Sailing, British Virgin Islands
Drift between the islands of the BVIs, dropping anchor at small harbours and snorkelling spots. There is a skipper at the helm and highlights include the Baths beach area of Virgin Gorda, seeing sea turtles in Deadman’s Bay and visits to sundry drinking holes, including the famed Soggy Dollar bar on Jost van Dyke. You can book by the cabin or by the berth if you are prepared to share.
Details A week’s holiday starts at 1,262pp on an eight-berth catamaran, including flights, four breakfasts and three lunches (0808 2745111, intrepidtravel.com). Fly via Puerto Rico or Antigua
45 Diving, Grenadines
The luxury resort Petit St Vincent also has a diving school run by Jean-Michel, one of the sons of undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau. Not only does it have access to some of the Caribbean’s best reefs but it offers specialist courses, including night diving and children’s scuba for those aged eight and above. Diving starts at $170 for adults.
Details A week’s full board with flights and transfers costs from 3,350pp (020 8682 5055, scottdunn.com)
46 Gardens in Grenada
The island of Grenada regularly wins medals at the Chelsea Flower Show and this holiday visits several of its most important gardens, where many tours are given by the owners. These include Sunnyside, with its mahogany trees, sealing wax palms and scorpion orchids. The cocoa-producing Belmont Estate is included and the famous St Rose nursery.
Details Seven nights’ B&B with flights, tours and some lunches costs from 2,095pp (01327 359622, motmottravel.com)
47 Bike, hike and dance in Cuba
The size and diversity of Cuba lends itself to activity holidays and this one covers most of the calorie-burning bases by cycling around Havana, followed by hill walking and hiking in Trinidad and the Sierra Maestra. There is some beach time factored in and plenty of opportunities for salsa.
Details A 16-day trip starts at 2,665pp, including accommodation, transfers and some meals, but not international flights (020 3553 9699, journeylatinamerica.co.uk)
48 Nature in Trinidad
New this year from Naturetrek is a break that allows you to explore Trinidad rather than making it an adjunct to more tourist-friendly Tobago. It is based at the Asa Wright Nature Centre, the Caribbean’s most-famous nature reserve, which has hummingbirds, leatherback turtles, agoutis and Trinidad squirrels. It is a “go-slow” tour that has less in the way of organised activities and plenty of time to explore Trinidad’s large areas of protected rainforest.
Details A week’s accommodation, with flights and most meals costs from 2,595pp (01962 733051, naturetrek.co.uk)
49 Yoga in the Dominican Republic
Near Cabarete on a superb beach, Natura Cabana has just 12 rooms, all with an endearing, palm-fringed hobbity look. The yoga is child-friendly, and the restaurant, popular with locals, includes vegan dishes from the Argentinian-born chef.
Details B&B doubles cost from $180 a night (naturacabana.com)
50 Walking in Dominica
Waitukubuli National Trail is the Caribbean’s first long-distance footpath. Inntravel’s new self-guided walking tour takes guests through rainforest and wildlife gardens, staying at three guest houses with luggage transported between them, as well as a trip to Roseau, the island’s capital.
Details A ten-day break starts at 1,595pp, including most evening meals, some picnic lunches, route maps and notes plus flights to St Lucia and ferry transfers (01653 617000, Inntravel.co.uk)