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The best Caribbean islands

29/07/2015

Just how do you choose the best Caribbean island from so many amazing destinations? Resident Cheryl Markosky picks her favourites to give you a taste of tropical paradise

An immaculate white sandy beach on the Caribbean island of St Kitts

With so many fantastic destinations on offer in this magical part of the world, it’s hard to pick the best Caribbean islands to explore. With a P&O Cruises Caribbean fly-cruise holiday or a Caribbean cruise that departs from Southampton, you can take in a range of islands to suit every mood.

 

Barbados: something for everyone
Your first port of call may well be Barbados. And what a place to start. This small island offers a unique mix of pristine glamour and untamed natural beauty. Laidback, welcoming and a little bit British (thanks to its colonial past), it’s the perfect starting point for your adventures. The Platinum Coast on the west of the island is seriously stylish, with immaculate white beaches, exclusive resorts, golf courses and five-star luxury at every turn. In contrast, the Scotland district on the east coast is battered by the Atlantic, and is wild, uncommercial and stunningly beautiful. In between, you’ll find lush plantations and gardens, rum distilleries to tickle your taste buds and a wealth of wonderful architecture that harks back to colonial times. The capital, Bridgetown, is a lively base with charm, character and plenty of shops and buzzing bars and restaurants to explore.

 

St Kitts: where the past meets the present
Steeped in history and bathed in sunshine, St Kitts is a joy to explore. In one excursion around this friendly little isle, you can take in the brilliant UNESCO World Heritage Brimstone Hill Fortress, a real British military citadel with Napoleonic-era cannons, as well as the stone remains of the Wingfield Estate and the colourful Caribelle Batik (fabric art) at nearby Romney Manor. And if anyone feels a bit historied out, they can escape to Sky Safari Tours’ zip-line adventure and whizz through green rainforest. For foodies, Fairview Great House and Botanical Garden boasts a fabulous restaurant, or drive to the quieter north side of the island for lunch at Ottley’s Plantation Inn or farm-to-table Kittitian Hill, followed by a visit to local artist Kate Spencer’s gallery.

 

Antigua: from boats to beaches
Winds that once blew men-of-war into English Harbour now serve the same function to help nudge the colourful array of sailboats and yachts in to shore. Yachties and those wanting to keep their feet dry will love the maritime atmosphere on the island where Admiral Horatio Nelson landed in 1784. A must is a visit to Nelson’s Dockyard, the only Georgian dockyard in the world – where you’ll also find Clarence House, which was built for future King William IV when he served under the great British naval leader. Just above the dockyard is Shirley Heights, a partly restored fortification with great views of Montserrat and Guadeloupe. Antigua has 365 white, sandy, screen-saver beaches – one for each day of the year. And if you need a break from the beaches, the pretty capital St Johns is the ideal place for a stroll to soak up local life.

 

St Lucia: romance and recreation
It’s not surprising that the lush, hilly isle of St Lucia is popular with honeymooners and celebrities (from Oprah Winfrey to Justin Bieber). After taking in Soufriere Volcano and sulphur springs, and hiking along the rainforest Jacquot Trail, enjoy time out on one of the wonderful beaches in the Rodney Bay area. For those eager to wield a seven-iron, the St Lucia Country Club offers splendid golfing opportunities and distracting panoramic views. Then polish off your day in the capital, Castries, where you can check out the murals in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, unwind in Derek Walcott Square (named after the Nobel-prize winning poet) and shop in the market for local handicrafts.

 

St Maarten: twin delights of Holland and France
An identity crisis turns out to be a good thing on the island of St Maarten, or St Martin, depending on whether you’re on the Dutch or French side. The influence of two different cultures, with a bit of West Indian flavour thrown in for good measure, makes this an intriguing place to visit. Kick off with a stroll through the narrow streets of Philipsburg when you dock in the Dutch sector to admire its jolly, Caribbean ‘gingerbread’ houses. Shopping for jewellery and other gifts to take home is a must in this Netherlands-on-Sea district. Then, head to the French capital of Marigot, which feels strangely like the south of France with its Gallic-style markets, boutiques and wonderful waterside eateries.

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Cheryl Markosky

Cheryl Markosky has reported on UK and overseas stories for more than a decade. She’s written for national newspapers, magazines and digital publications and splits her time between England and the Caribbean island of Nevis.

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