Should you book a big-name brand hotel or a pint-sized boutique hideaway? Jo Cooke looks at the options in some Caribbean hot spots
Hamlet was almost right. To do, or not to do, that is the question – when it comes to choosing the right Caribbean hotel for your client, that is.
For the ‘do’ camp, the region’s large all-inclusive resorts have enough activities and entertainment to fill a fortnight with fun – from squash courts and banana boat rides to West End-style shows and limbo dancers – and all for one price.
Those seeking relaxation rather than action can opt for one of many alternatives. Secluded bliss can be found at boutique properties in both well-known resorts and off-the-beaten-track spots. Whatever your client’s idea of paradise, the Caribbean has a property to match.
Charlotte McEwan, product coordinator at Virgin Holidays, says: “Branded hotels such as Sandals and Couples make sure the facilities and levels of service are consistent, so customers know what they’re going to get.”
“Sometimes small is beautiful,” adds Helen Tabois, senior product and marketing manager with Complete Caribbean. “Escapism is often much easier when there aren’t so many people in the same place at the same time.”
In Negril, Riu, Couples, Sandals, Beaches and Breezes properties line up along the white-sand, palm-backed Bloody Bay and Long Bay, each separated from the next by tropical foliage. At Beaches there is a pirate-themed water park and DJ academy, Sandals has suites with private pools and Couples Negril has gourmet restaurants, au-naturel sunbathing and sleek, chic decor. A week all-inclusive at Couples starts from £1,600, including flights and transfers, when booked with Discover Jamaica by May 31.
Tucked away across the road from these large-scale hotels is boutique Sunset at the Palms. Its 85 rooms are in stilted, wooden cabins, surrounded by landscaped gardens of giant bamboo and water features. Interiors are spacious and Zen-like with dark-wood floors and futon-style beds. As well as a free-form pool, the hotel has its own, quiet slice of Bloody Bay on the other side of the highway. Prices start at £1,495 with Virgin Holidays for a week’s all-inclusive stay with flights and transfers, departing March 13.
In Negril’s West End, where beaches give way to cliffs, the Caves is another boutique find, sold by Caribtours. It has 12 rooms in seaside cottages plus a four-bedroom villa, standing alone on a bluff where secluded sun terraces have been built into the rocks and steps lead into the deep-blue ocean. While the rest of Negril squeezes into Rick’s Cafe to watch the sunset, the hotel’s bar area offers an exclusive ringside seat.
The main hotel hub in New Providence is the broad, long Cable Beach. Here you’ll find Sheraton and Wyndham plus all-inclusive Breezes and the opulent Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort and Offshore Island. It was once the Balmoral Club, a favourite with royalty, and has a sumptuous snooker room and piano bar.
Across the causeway on Paradise Island, giant destination resort Atlantis boasts water parks, a dolphin facility, casino and shopping mall. Hayes & Jarvis has 20% off seven nights’ room-only: with transfers and British Airways flights, departing April 16, packages start from £1,499.
In stark contrast is the 20-room Graycliff Hotel, set in a colonial mansion with Victorian decor and four-poster beds. It’s in the heart of the capital, just footsteps away from upscale shopping, lively nightlife and historic sites.
Clients who prefer a waterfront escape should try Compass Point. The 18 wooden beach hut style units are brightly painted, simply furnished and linked by cobblestone paths, with access to Love Beach. Fly from Heathrow for a week’s B&B and transfers for £1,399 with Bahamas Flavour, for travel before December 17.
Saint Lucia’s northwest coast has three Sandals properties, two Rex Resorts hotels and Harlequin Hotels’ contemporary Blu St Lucia. It is also home to the refurbished, 155-room BodyHoliday LeSport where yoga, pilates, tai chi and meditation sessions and daily spa treatments come as standard.
The 301-room Sandals Grande St Lucian is set on a peninsula with the Caribbean Sea on either side and boasts a heady choice of eight restaurants, six bars and five swimming pools. Seven nights’ all-inclusive starts at £2,349 with flights and transfers in April, with Signature by Thomas Cook.
In between is Cap Maison, an Iberian-style 49-room property on a bluff above the ocean. It’s home to the Cliff at Cap, one of the island’s best restaurants, with steps leading down to Smuggler’s Cove beach. Complete Caribbean offers seven nights with breakfast plus $200 resort credit, flights from Gatwick, and private transfers, from £1,759.
Further south, on palm-dotted Labrelotte Bay, East Winds Inn has 30 clapboard-style cottages in 12 acres of tropical gardens. Champagne and four-course gourmet dinners with wine are part of the all-inclusive offering.
Rex has two resorts in Antigua: Halcyon Cove on the bustling Dickenson Bay, and Hawksbill on a gorgeous double bay of sand, one section of which is Antigua’s only au-naturel beach. A week’s all-inclusive at the latter starts from £1,486 with Kuoni, including transfers and flights in May.
Sandals Grande Antigua resort is also on Dickenson Bay and has accommodation arranged in Mediterranean and Caribbean-style villages, plus tennis, volleyball, six pools and whirlpools. The 464-room Jolly Beach is another big player: dining options include Italian and Indian restaurants, the main pool has a waterfall and there are two kids’ clubs. A smaller alternative is the all-suite Hermitage Bay, with just 25 sustainably-made wood cottages lining its beach and dotting the hillside above.
To take seclusion to another level, suggest Jumby Bay, a private island resort a few miles off Antigua’s northern coast. There are 40 luxury rooms and a collection of villas and estate homes, each with bicycles so clients can pedal around the 300 acre island to find their favourite stretch of beach.
They may see turtles hatch on these shores between April and November, while herons, egrets and other birds flock towards the largely undeveloped retreat. A week’s all-inclusive starts at £4,320 with Gatwick flights and transfers, departing April 13, with Elegant Resorts.
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