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Treasured Islands - Caribbean

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1 June 2008 by Pete Mathers

Wake up. Stretch. Open your eyes and look around. You’re wrapped in soft cotton sheets in an unimaginably comfortable bed. Soft cream tones balance the room and sunlight glints on the bathroom’s marble floor.

Through the open French doors is your private veranda and a magnificent view of the sparkling Caribbean. A few barefoot paces and you’re on a glorious stretch of sugar-white beach. It’s a beautiful summer’s day in Barbados, and you’re staying at the 5-star Sandy Lane. A decade ago, few British holidaymakers were seen summering in the West Indies. Then came all-inclusive deals and enticing summer packages – largely aimed at the low end of the market. For a while there were bargains galore.

Today, however, due to their popularity, low-end hotels can cost as much in the summer as they do in the winter. Surprisingly, this has been a blessing for the more discerning traveller.

That’s because the summer’s best bargains are no longer in the low-end hotels, but rather at the Caribbean’s most exclusive resorts – including the aforementioned Sandy Lane, whose reputation as one of the world’s most luxurious resorts hasn’t faltered in four decades.

Our Sandy Lane ‘Romance in Paradise’ offer includes a week’s accommodation, a bottle of champagne on arrival, a candlelit dinner for two, a catamaran cruise, unlimited nonmotorised water sports, and either a $100 spa voucher per person or a round of golf at the celebrated Country Club. As well as deals in Barbados (statistically Wexas members’ favourite Caribbean island), we’ve offers on the lush and forested St Lucia, and the increasingly popular Grenada. All include stays at luxurious hotels and savings of between £186 and £412 per person. In other words, you can indulge in luxury for the price of a mid-range package.

And the fact that Caribbean currencies are nearly all linked to the weakened us Dollar, coupled with the current strength of the Euro, means a week of luxury in the Caribbean is almost on par with a week in the Med. Barbados is the ‘Little England of the Caribbean’, with stone-built Anglican churches, Saturday race meetings and a great love of cricket.

You’ll find a congenial climate, pinktinged sands and wide rolling landscapes. Certain places can be quite dramatic, like the limestone caverns and subterranean waterfalls of Harrison’s Cave, while others are far more relaxing – the sunny terrace of a 17th
century plantation home for example, where tea can be taken before strolling through botanical gardens.

At night, the friendly Bajan people are happy to put on a party, most commonly fuelled by Mount Gay Rum, and danced to a calypso beat.

The Caribbean’s award for outstanding natural beauty would most probably go to St Lucia. Rising straight from the sea, the twin volcanic peaks of The Pitons watch over a coast of secluded bays and translucent waters. Fishing villages give way to over 18,000 acres of lush rainforest and banana plantations. Beneath the sea (especially around Soufrière) are some of the Caribbean’s most dazzling coral reefs.

But St Lucia has a split personality. On the one hand it’s the honeymoon capital of the Caribbean, ideal for lounging in luxurious resorts like Anse Chastanet, where octagonal hillside gazebos lie hidden amid verdant foliage and bursts of colour.

Jade Mountain is Anse Chastanet’s hillside resort within a resort – the last word in luxurious living. Individual bridges lead to open-fronted infinity pool suites with 15ft-high ceilings, hardwood floors, and panoramic views of the magnificent Pitons. But St Lucia is also an adventure traveller’s dream. The luscious interior is ideal for hiking and mountain biking. A recommended trek is to Diamond Falls, which tumbles in stages through sulphurous springs that colour the waters like a rainbow.

In this respect St Lucia is similar to Grenada. The Spice Island, as Grenada’s also known, is largely unspoilt. Nutmeg groves outnumber hotels, and the scent of cinnamon, cloves and ginger fills the air. The waters are beautiful, and a number of shipwrecks make for fascinating diving.

St George’s is the island’s capital. Thanks in part to its pastel-coloured buildings it’s one of the Caribbean’s prettiest, and one of the liveliest come market day.

As for accommodation, we thoroughly recommend the family-run Spice Island Beach Resort. Superb service, a fabulous location on Grand Anse Beach, and a commendable ecological ethic are three good reasons to visit. Call any of our Caribbean specialists and they’ll give you many more.

One of the most breathtaking locations in the whole Caribbean.” Valerie Vasquez Wexas Caribbean specialist, on Anse Chastanet & Jade Mountain

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