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White-sand beaches, crystal-blue seas and palm trees swaying in a warm breeze are the elements that make a Caribbean holiday...
All major UK airports have direct flights to the main English-speaking Caribbean islands. Which island will you choose and where will you stay? Read on to discover the best of the region and where to find the finest hotels in the Caribbean.
There are Caribbean hotels for all budgets and tastes...
Barbados is a favourite destination and is the island with the highest number of hotels in the Caribbean. The Platinum Coast on the west of the island, with its famous Sandy Bay beach, is the best place for luxury, celebrity-spotting and golfing. The Sandy Lane Country Club and the Royal Westmoreland golf courses are close by. The sea is calm and clear on the Barbados west coast so for exciting surfing and beachcombing travel to the east coast at Cattlewash and Bathsheba. Here, the pounding sea is good for wading and expert surfing, but not for swimming. You can stay at a beach house at the fraction of the price of those on the west coast.
Grenada is the destination for a quieter and more exotic holiday. You can sit on secluded beaches, go fishing and take a trip inland to see Grand Etang Lake and Lake Antoine in the shadow of an extinct volcano. The Spice Island and Calabash beach resorts on Grand Anse Beach, in the south west of the island, are the top attractions.
Tobago, the smaller island of Trinidad and Tobago, is another good destination for a lazy holiday. Hotels range from beach resorts, self-catering lodges and guest houses, to luxury hotels. This island is a magnet for scuba divers, who can explore the curved Buccoo coral reef around the coast between Pigeon Point beach and Bon Accord Lagoon.
The honeymooner's favourite island of St Lucia has a huge range of accommodation, from cheap rooms to luxury hotels. Go mountain biking around the volcano in the middle of a rain forest or enjoy the annual Jazz Festival during the first half of May.
Antigua is an ideal spot for family holidays. The island has more beaches than there are days in the year. There are hotels for every budget, ranging from cosy home-from-home guesthouses to five-star luxury hotels.
St Kitts and Nevis are destinations for those seeking activity holidays in the Caribbean. The two volcanic islands are linked by frequent ferries. Hike through the rainforest to Mount Liamuiga, an extinct volcano that reaches 3,800 feet. Go scuba diving to explore the reefs and shipwrecks offshore. As with the other Caribbean islands, hotels here range from sprawling beach resorts to guest houses and self-catering villas. For luxury and privacy, try the old plantation mansions inland on St Kitts.
The Bahamas are best for island hopping and have the widest price range for accommodation. You can stay in a luxury beach resort or a small inn.
The Cayman Islands are a diver's paradise, whether for coral reefs or shipwrecks. The famous Seven Mile Beach boasts luxury boutique hotels as well as modest guest rooms.
Jamaica is the Caribbean destination for rum, reggae and beaches. Stay at a beach resort and go deep-sea fishing or hike to the top of Blue Mountain Peak; taste the exquisite coffee grown there and stay at a holiday cottage nearby.
You will change at Parisian airports for flights from the UK to the French-speaking islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe and St Martin.
Martinique is known as the "Flower Island", famous for its frangipani, cassias and poincianas growing on every road-side. Beach resorts lie on both the east and west coasts of the islands, though most of the hotels are at Trois-Ilets in the west. These are usually of three- and four-star standard, though there is a range of self-catering apartments. Enjoy the island's Creole cuisine and zouk music.
Guadeloupe is the heart of Creole culture in the Caribbean. There are cascading waterfalls inland, as well as the famous La Soufriere volcano. Beaches vary in colour from white to ebony and the island has the largest aquarium in the Caribbean region. Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly, with most beach resorts on the western wing and northern coast. There are many three- and four-star family-friendly hotels, golfing hotels and small guesthouses.
St Martin is another family-friendly destination with boutique hotels, guest houses and four-star beach resorts. Most of the hotels are along the beach or on the coastal hills.
Flights to Cuba and the Dominican Republic are plentiful from the major British airports. Cuba has a unique history and attractions. The capital, Havana, with its renowned Malecon seafront and its old town, is a tourist magnet. Explore old Havana and learn about the island's colonial and modern history. Hotels in Havana range from boutique luxury hotels in restored colonial buildings, to budget hotels for backpackers near the city's bus station and central park. Havana Beach is just a 15-minute drive from the city and boasts two-, three- and four-star hotels for all tastes. Cuba's beach resorts of Matanzas, Cayo Largo and Varadero have luxury hotels with supermarkets and shopping malls. Most of the hotels are family friendly, though some of the five-star hotels are only for adults.
The Dominican Republic is a year-round holiday destination with white beaches for sun worshippers and coral reefs and shipwrecks for scuba divers. There are hotels to suit every taste and budget, whether they are families, singles, executives or golfers. There are four- and five-star luxury hotels at the beach resorts and homes to rent inland, which are close to the mountains.
Change at Schipol airport in the Netherlands to visit the Dutch Antilles of Curacao, Bonaire, Aruba and St Maarten. You will hear the language of Papiamento on these islands, which is a mixture of English, Spanish, Dutch, French, Portuguese and African languages. There are classic luxury beach resorts at Willemstad, Curacao, La Sammana Beach on St Maarten, and cheap bed and breakfasts on all of the islands. Hotels here have frequent discount offers. These islands are some of the best stopping-off points for tourists heading to Venezuela and Colombia.
Some people want nothing more than a horizontal holiday in the sun. For a little bit extra, use our guide to the best attractions...
The beauty of the Caribbean is soon revealed when you set a course for adventure around these tropical isles.
Top five attractions
Lucayan National Park in the Bahamas
Situated on Grand Bahama, this fascinating place holds many secrets. Above ground are acres of trees, flowers and mangroves; below ground is the world's longest underwater cave system - of those that have been discovered anyway.
Oistins in Barbados
The coastal village of Oistins hosts one of the island's most amazing parties and it does so every Friday and Saturday night. The Fish Fry sees crowds gathering to sample fresh seafood before the beats take over and everyone is dancing.
Stingray City in the Caymans
If you've ever fancied petting stingrays then travel to North Sound, on Grand Cayman, where the shallow waters of what has become known as Stingray City will make your dreams come true. The rays congregate here for food and are tame enough to be gently stroked.
Dolphin Cove in Jamaica
A bucket-list favourite, you can cross this one off at Dolphin Cove when you swim with these majestic creatures under the supervision of the team at Jamaica's number one tourist attraction.
Soufriere in St Lucia
Get hot and steamy in the mud baths close to the sulfur springs of the Soufriere volcano. The whiff of eggs might be a little off-putting but it should do wonders for your skin!
Every day is a party in the Caribbean...
There's always music playing somewhere and close by, they'll be someone dancing. That's just the way the Caribbean swings and every island hosts a cracking line up of events. Attend any of these major festivals to feel the vibe of the islands.
Junkanoo festival; December, January and June: The Bahamas used to host Junkanoo just once a year, but it became so popular that new events were added. The festival has its centuries-old roots in a special holiday given to slaves and the holiday tradition survived after slavery died. The parades are utterly energetic and that energy is intoxicating. Stand still if you can - your feet will have other ideas!
Trinidad Carnival; February: Hailed as one of the biggest, loudest and most colourful carnivals in the Caribbean, the capital of Port of Spain gets everyone into the carnival spirit for two days of joyous parades and non-stop parties - the sound of the steelpans will be in your head for days afterwards.
Pirates Week; November: This is the national festival of the Cayman Islands and any child who's ever seen the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies will want to attend this event and find a real-life Jack Sparrow. There are games, competitions, parades, a “pirate invasion” and plenty of local food and drink. The cherries on this swashbuckling cake are the grand displays of fireworks that light the inky sky most evenings.