Setting Your Sail – British Virgin Islands
Perhaps you’d rather fix your own itinerary. The gentle sailing around the British Virgin Islands is based at Wickham’s Quay in Tortola, with a mix of buoy and pontoon mooring around the 15 inhabited islands and 45-ish smaller quays. It’s straightforward sight-of-land sailing, and rays, dolphins and turtles are easily spotted in the calm, pristine waters. Highlights of a two-week sailing include Diamond Bay on laid-back Jost Van Dyke – fight through mangrove to Bubbly Pool to catch the waves and lunch at Foxy’s Bar overlooking Sandy Quay. Moor up at Spanish Town Marina on Virgin Gorda for nightlife, shopping and The Baths National Park – granite boulders edging the waves and a laddered passage through the rocks heading for Devil’s Beach – or join Russian oligarchs for lunch on the beach at prestigious Peter Island Resort. Clean up before the flight home at Amara Spa in Moorings Marina.
Learning about the Caribbean – Barbados
More famous for being the playground of the rich than its culture, Barbados is nevertheless steeped in history. Its grand houses and plantations tell the story of colonialism, slavery and sugarcane production common to many Caribbean islands. There are some 40 estates scattered across the island; a guided tour of the grand estate, Jacobean mansion, rum bond and plantation at 17th-century St Nicholas Abbey is the best place to start an odyssey through Bajan history. The sugar-candy Sunbury Plantation House, Arlington House in Speightstown and Morgan Lewis Sugar Mill – the only restored mill on the island – in Scotland all play their part in illustrating the island’s history. The Barbados Museum in Bridgetown’s 18th-century garrison neatly showcases 3,000 years of Caribbean culture.
Seeing Sea Sculpture – Grenada
There are reef and wreck snorkelling opportunities aplenty in the Caribbean, but nowhere is there an experience like the Molinere Bay Underwater Park on the west coast of ‘spice island’ Grenada. It’s a 10-minute boat trip north of the capital St Georges, one of the prettiest towns in the region. The park is home to 65 ethereal sculptures of human figures by Jason de Caires Taylor, creating an artificial reef and new homes to many fish species. Accessible to scuba divers and snorkelers, the clear, shallow waters are clear enough for the sculptures to be visible from glass-bottom boats. Taylor’s work includes Grace Reef, where each recumbent figure is cast from a local woman, and The Cash Transfer, showing a solitary figure perched at his desk on the seabed.
Growing Green Fingers – St Vincent
Gardening enthusiast? St Vincent, capital of the Grenadines, is awash with luxuriant flowers, rainforest, salt pools and volcanoes, and also boasts two beautiful formal gardens. Montreal Gardens lie in the hills behind Mesopotamia Valley, a fertile estate nurtured by volcanic soil and regular rainfall. Brightly coloured heliconia, spices, lilies and giant ferns grow alongside the formal gardens, with carefully cultivated topiary and with a spectacular backdrop of the peaks of Grand Bonhomme. On the outskirts of Kingstown, the Botanical Gardens were established in 1768 and has great swathes of rare bougainvilleas, orchids, palms, hibiscus and breadfruit trees under conservation; hire a guide just inside the wrought-iron gates to get the most out of a visit.
Tucking in – St Barts
French St Barts is a sophisticated delight both for duty-free shopping at high-end designers (think Cartier, Gucci and Hermès – sales in June and October) and for serving up some of the best cuisine in the Caribbean, thanks to the island’s mixture of French and Creole heritage. Tuck into flavoursome French and Creole cuisine across the island, but where better to start a gastronomic tour than in the cute and sleek capital of Gustavia, where glamorous marina-side restaurants overlook the mega-yachts of the super-rich. Try mahi-mahi, cod fritters or goat curry among the palm fronds at Eddy’s, or freshest tuna and sea bass in Bonito’s, perfect for romantic dining with views over the harbour. A great out-of-town choice is Le Grand du Sel, right down on Saline Beach, which serves up conch and giant shrimp to a smattering of supermodels and actors.
Getting back to nature – Dominica
Eco-aware Dominica has craggy, cloud-topped slopes, black volcanic beaches, pounding waterfalls and lush rainforest full of rare red-necked and Imperial parrots, manicous and agoutis. There are gentle hiking trails from Laudat in Morne Trois Pitons National Park, 20 minutes by bus from capital Roseau. Here it’s an easy stroll along well-tended trails and giant ferns to Emerald Pool for a cooling swim, an hour’s hike to the spectacular 300-foot Middleham Falls or a day’s rigorous round march through Titou Gorge to Boiling Lake – it’s mandatory to take a guide on this trail. May to October are prime times for catching the migrations of sperm and pilot whale as well as bottle-nosed dolphin and porpoise spotting.
Insider Tip: Trouble getting around?
Head for Anegada in the British Virgin Islands – it’s the flattest Caribbean island at less than 30 feet above sea level with miles of sandy beaches on the north coast. There are plenty of 4WD taxis for hire and the beach at Loblolly Bay is wheelchair accessible.
For holidays to the Caribbean, Silver Travel Advisor recommends Tropical Sky.