British Virgin Islands (BVI)
‘People don’t have to simply be where their friends are,’ explains Edward de Mallet Morgan of Knight Frank. ‘They’re much more likely to be drawn towards places where they can enjoy the things they love doing.’ And if you love sailing, the chances are you’re going to end up in the BVI, a string of islands an hour’s flight north-west of Antigua. Protected from the wilder open waters of the Caribbean, this is the perfect location for beginners, as well as seasoned yachtsmen.
The islands offer numerous pretty routes between ports, excellent amenities and a wealth of spots to explore. Don’t miss pulling up by the north shore to visit The Baths-the granite boulders that pepper this beach have created an unforgettable landscape-or casually sailing by Mosquito Island to see how Richard Branson’s eco-project is coming along. Knight Frank is marketing Aquamare, a secluded enclave of three 8,000sq ft, five-bedroom villas on Virgin Gorda with prices from US$5.9 million to US$19 million (020-7629 8171).
The sailing is more open between the islands in the Grenadines and the anchorages have fewer mooring balls-most people acknow-ledge that the Grenadines require more experience to navigate than the BVI. The Camper & Nicholson Marina on Grenada is a great place to start, recommends James Burdess of Savills, and there are many varied routes you can take between islands, which will make a perfect 10-day or two-week trip. Petit St Vincent, Palm Island and Tobago Cays are all fantastic places to stop, and Canouan makes a fine place to anchor for the night, recommends Christian de Meillac from Knight Frank. ‘The Grenadines is sailing at a slow pace-it’s all about jumping off the boat and going for a swim.’ Mustique is another ideal stop for lunch or dinner at Basil’s, or to put up for the night at the Cotton House or Firefly.
Best golf and polo
Barbados is the indisputable centre of the Caribbean world for golf and polo. When the Sandy Lane hotel opened in 1961 with The Old Nine, the island immediately became an international golf destination. The hotel has subsequently added two further courses: The Country Club and The Green Monkey. Individual properties on the Sandy Lane estate are for sale through many local agents including West Coast Villas (www.westcoastvillas.com).
Then, in 1995, Royal Westmoreland established itself as another five-star golf destination. Up in the breezy hills above St James, it offers a Robert Trent Jones Jr-designed course with incredible views of the sea and fiercely fought-over availability all year round. It also rents and sells high-class property-apartments start at £265,000 or you can build your own villa.
Raised on a ridge above the platinum coast, the (relatively) new kid in town is Apes Hill, which quickly established itself on Barbados as a serious player in the golf and polo worlds. The par-72 course offici-ally opened in 2009, and is built into undulating green fields, lakes and coral stone quarries set high above the coastline, and is a devil to play, by all accounts.
The enthusiasm for polo is infectious on the island: the Kidds’ Holders Hill is home to the Barbados Polo Club to which the sport was reputedly introduced by British Cavalry officers in the late 19th century. A fixture at Apes Hill is the much-loved Sir Charles Williams, who was captain of Barbados Polo Club for 35 years, and is the man responsible for putting Apes Hill on the map for polo-matches take place between December and May every year. There is also is a variety of villas built to order on the estate, which boast magnificent views of golf courses or polo grounds(www.apeshillclub.com).
If you want to follow the professionals, seven out of the top 10 golfers in the world have invested at The Albany in The Bahamas, according to James Burdess from Savills-but then any development with Tiger Woods and Ernie Els behind it was guaranteed to draw attention. With 600 oceanfront acres on the south-western end of New Providence and a course designed by Mr Els himself, it’s a force to be reckoned with in the region and comes with glamour in spades and brand-new properties for sale (020-7016 3740; www.albanybahamas.com).
St Barts is commonly held to be the best Caribbean island on which to eat-ingredients flown in daily from France give these restaurants an edge in terms of provenance. Many of the best-loved venues are found in and around Gustavia, including On The Rocks at Eden Rock and Wall House. At Pointe Milou, the Hotel Christopher also does outstanding food, according to Mr Mallet de Morgan, as does the L’Esprit Saline at Saline Beach. Unsurprisingly, considering the wattage of the regular guests to the island from the worlds of fashion and film, the food is healthy and takes advantage of the huge range of local fish and seafood, putting a French twist on the delicious fresh produce -think shrimp-and-avocado salad and yellow fin-tuna tartare. It’s not all French cuisine, however-many chefs have jumped onto the worldwide trend for South American food, so expects lots of cerviche, and Brazilian and Argentian-style asado in modern venues.
Barbados has many well-known restaurants, most of which are set along the platinum or west coast. The Cliff, the island’s most romantic restaurant, is still booked out from December to February, and other favourites by the sea include the charming Daphne’s and Bajan Blue at Sandy Lane. The super-cool Lone Star offers a more relaxed atmosphere than the more formal settings found in some of the other spots. Finally, Fish Fry in Oistins on a Friday is a must.
Not only is its seven-mile beach a wonderful stretch of classic Caribbean, but the snorkelling is great and there is excellent diving all round Cayman, says Mr de Melliac. Knight Frank are selling a 7,200sq ft, three-bedroom private residence on the beach itself for $4.995 million (020-7629 8171).
A sandy outpost at the northern end of the Leeward Islands, Anguilla offers a choice of 33 of the finest, whitest sandy beaches to be found in the entire Caribbean. Unlike some other popular islands, where the sea both giveth and taketh away sand, the geography and currents around Anguilla mean that beaches such as Maunday’s Bay and the west end of Mead’s Bay are permanent fixtures. The beach-to-person ratio is so advantageous at any time of year that, wherever you choose to spend the day, you’ll never feel there’s a crowd.
Jumby Bay, Antigua
In terms of beach-to-person ratio, it doesn’t get better than Jumby Bay, a 300-acre private island just a few minutes by boat from Antigua. Not only are there barely any other people at this ultra-exclusive island hide-away, there are no cars and no planes overhead-in fact, nearly no noise at all.
In the shallow water by the main beach live a surprising population of bright-red starfish; convenient palm trees grow in ideal spots fringing the beach for those who eschew direct Caribbean sunlight. Other, smaller beaches exist all over the island directly in front of many of the private homes available for rent or resale (www.jumbybayisland.com)
Turks and Caicos
Turks & Caicos comprises a few tiny, very sandy islands located south of the Bahamas where people come to de-stress. Grace Bay Beach is a good place to start; after that, you can find your own favourite. Savills is selling Skye Palms (far right), four villas with 400ft of ocean frontage and three acres of land on Providenciales, for US$5.95 million (020-7016 3740: www.savills.co.uk).