Image credit: St Kitts Tourism
Sun, sea and sand - twice, please. Jo Cooke looks at twin-centre duos in the West Indies
So many islands, so little time. The Caribbean is full of possibilities. Some islands enchant, others intrigue.
There are those that encourage you to party, while their neighbours give a feeling of remote tranquillity.
There’s an island to suit every client, but why just give them one slice of paradise when they could have two? In the interest of expanding their horizons, and upping your commission, why not suggest one of these twin centres?
Funky Jamaica and Sophisticated Grand Cayman
For a trip that marries Caribbean colour with laid-back luxury living, give them Jamaica and Grand Cayman. Montego Bay is a hub of action. Clients can get their fill of rum, reggae and spicy jerk pork alongside locals at the friendly downtown bars and restaurants of the Hip Strip.
For a touch of culture, Rose Hall great house gives a glimpse of the island’s colonial past, while a bamboo river rafting trip down the Martha Brae showcases the country’s lush tropical foliage. There are also four glorious golf courses in Mo’Bay.A 45-minute flight delivers clients to Grand Cayman and the vibe changes from fun-packed to cosmopolitan. Seven Mile Beach, a glorious stretch of white sand on the west coast, has a neat line up of high-end hotels along its edge.
Footsteps away from their reception desks are countless stylish restaurants and bars that wouldn’t look out of place in a European city, plus swanky shopping complexes such as Camana Bay which faces a lake. Throw in an RHS-standard botanical garden named after Queen Elizabeth II, a motor museum with gleaming sports cars, and a National Gallery with sculpture garden and you’ve found Caribbean chic.
The Cayman Islands also have some of the cleanest and clearest waters in the Caribbean and a host of wreck, reef and drift dive sites.
Book it: Kuoni offers five nights’ all-inclusive at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort & Spa, Montego Bay, then five nights with breakfast at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort on Seven Mile Beach from £2,031 per person, including flights and transfers for October 2013 departures.
Image credit: Lawson Wood
Sociable Barbados and Secluded Grenadines
Holidays in Barbados don’t feel like you’re just visiting the Caribbean – you’re part of it.
The coastal towns are equally busy with locals and tourists, and the same goes for the beaches. All are public rather than privately owned by hotels, so you’re as likely to be swimming beside a Bajan as a Brit.
Hop on the excellent government buses that loop the island and you can ride beside islanders to the country’s varied and plentiful attractions. Check out the duty-free shops and colonial architecture in the capital Bridgetown, the Mount Gay Rum Distillery, Harrisons Cave and Andromeda Botanic Gardens. Oistin’s fishing village is a must for its famous Friday fish fry.
The Grenadines archipelago to the west offers the antithesis to Bajan buzz. Islands such as Mustique and Palm are private and low-key, and boast beaches where other souls are often just a dot in the distance. Like Barbados, Mustique draws a celeb crowd, but it’s petite so clients are more likely to rub shoulders with the rich and famous while horse riding, sunbathing or dining.Palm Island, on the other hand, has more of a desert-island feel. It’s all unspoilt sandy beaches and nature trails, with a saltwater lagoon at its centre that attracts an array of birdlife.
Book it: Five nights with breakfast at Butterfly Beach Hotel, Barbados, then five nights’ all-inclusive at Palm Island, Grenadines, with flights and transfers costs from £2,299 for departures between April 23 and July 10, 2014.
0800 014 7777
Book it: Seven nights at Cotton House, Mustique, then seven nights at the Fairmont Royal Pavilion, Barbados, including daily breakfast, flights and transfers, costs from £3,739 between October 26 and December 13 this year.
Attraction-Packed Saint Lucia and Eco Queen Dominica
Send clients to Saint Lucia and they’re in for a crash course on the Caribbean.
This island has a little something of all the region’s characteristic features. For dramatic scenery there are the twin Piton peaks smothered in rainforest foliage. When it comes to beaches the northwest coast has the long, sweeping white-sand variety, while further south the volcanic sand is a burnt amber.
For a touch of colonial history there are the ruins of Fort Rodney. Marigot Bay ticks the box as a romantic yachting harbour, there are plantation tours a-plenty to introduce visitors to regional exotic fruits and veg, plus a West Indian knees-up can be had at the Friday night street party in Gros Islet town centre.
In contrast, Dominica gives them an untouched and spectacular Mother Nature experience. Hiking trails lead to a treasure trove of waterfalls, crater lakes, mineral spring hot tubs and bubbling mud pools. The island also has the region’s only Carib Indian population. Visit them in their protected territory to learn about their ancient and preserved way of life.
Book it: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at Jungle Bay Resort and Spa, Dominica, then seven nights’ half-board at Anse Chastanet costs from £2,895, including return flights, use of a lounge at Gatwick and transfers.
020 7751 0660
Party in Aruba then Kick Back in Bonaire
Mix Dutch energy with the Caribbean’s carefree vibe and you have Aruba.
This vivacious little island is wasted on those who just want to fly and flop. The longest and arguably best stretch of white sand, Palm Beach, is a daytime playground.
Watersports abound – slip off on a catamaran booze cruise or sign up for a wreck dive to see sunken ships and planes. Meanwhile, the isle’s desert-scape interior can be explored on a jeep safari, or by foot at the cacti-strewn Arikok National Park.
The nightlife is the icing on the cake. Oranjestad, the capital, has a lively restaurant scene, plus nightclubs with floor shows. Bar-hopping bus tours are also on hand to zip clients between karaoke, sports and music bars. As if that wasn’t enough for night owls, Aruba is flush with casinos that stay open until the early hours.
The perfect detox to burning the candle at both ends is Bonaire. Just over an hour’s flight away, tourism here is considerably more low-key. There are no high-rise hotels and the beaches are wild and deserted.
You rarely have to share the dive sites either. There are around 80 of them, 51 of which can be accessed from the shore. That makes them perfect for snorkelling fans too. A reef system that wraps itself around the isle ensures clear, calm waters and turtles are a common sight.
See the interior by hiring a bicycle or Harley-Davidson and you can ride past the island’s salt pans, which are home to a flock of flamingos, or head out to the mangroves and take a kayaking trip. Kralendijk, the capital, is more village than city and has excellent and elegant waterfront seafood restaurants.
Book it: Seven nights with breakfast at Surfside Marina, Aruba, plus seven nights’ room only at Djambo, Bonaire, costs from £1,590 including flights via Amsterdam from a choice of 15 regional airports and transfers, based on an October 5 departure next month.
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