With its nutmeg-scented Forests and idyllic coves, tranquil Grenada feels far more than 40 minutes’ flying time from the glitz and glamour of Barbados. Perversely, the island’s unspoilt calm is rooted in turbulent history: a Marxist coup and the subsequent American invasion that took place in 1983. Tourism lagged afterwards, so this tiny country at the southern tip of the Windward Isles was spared the over-development that has blighted other Caribbean islands. Grenada is authentically Caribbean in character. Hammocks slung between palm trees and swordfish steaks sizzling on makeshift beach barbecues are everywhere along its gorgeous coast. ‘We don’t believe in mass tourism,’ says Grenada’s former

Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, who was responsible for drawing high-end investment to the island. ‘We do need investment, but we want to preserve the beauty of Grenada.’ There are two direct British Airways flights from the UK each week, yet property sells at a fraction of the cost of Barbados. ‘A four-bedroom, fourbathroom home right on the beach on a nice piece of land would cost about £1.28m [$2m],’ says Christian de Meillac, senior negotiator of Caribbean sales with Knight Frank, who has lived in the region most of his life. ‘The equivalent in Barbados would be closer to £2.6m [$4m] -if you could find it.’ A large property, not on the waterfront but still with sea views, costs about £957,000 ($1.5m), a 30% drop on the 2007 highs. Take Mount Edgecombe, a former plantation house with three separate buildings (plus staff quarters), which was built by Lord Edgecombe of Devon in a picturesque, elevated yet sheltered location on the western coast. Ten guests can be accommodated on this estate, which grows many traditional crops and fruits, as well as exotic flowers and spices, and is priced at £1.6m ($2.5m) through Knight Frank (020-7629 8171; www.knightfrank.com).

The Lance Aux Epines region on Grenada’s south coast is the most popular place to buy, according to local propert expert Peter Evans, who has a selection of large properties available there, as well as land costing about £7 ($10.50) per sq ft in key areas (00 1 473 444 3636; www.suntanner.net). Also in the southern parish of St George’s is Morne Rouge, one of Grenada’s best beaches.

Here, the romantic beachfront Hotel Laluna, a series of Balinese- style cottages ranged up a hillside, has long been a favourite (www.laluna.com). Now, a private development of seven villas on five acres of prime waterfront land is being built there. The villas will benefit from all the Laluna’s amenities and owners can earn income in their absence by putting their home in the hotel rental pool. Prices start at £1.8m ($2.85m) with Savills International (020- 7016 3740; www.savills.co.uk).

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The yachting community has long favoured Grenada’s many shaded coves and sandy bays. Its natural harbours-especi-ally those on the south-west coast- make it well suited to marinaresort developments, notably Sir Peter de Savary’s Port Louis (www.portlouisgrenada.com; 00 1 473 405 5800). Currently under construction, in conjunction with Camper and Nicholson Marinas, Port Louis will have more than 300 berths, making it one of the largest marinaresorts in the Caribbean. Properties will overlook the port, ranging from lagoon houses on stilts to seven-bedroom villas perched on the clifftops. The architecture echoes the brightly coloured wooden bothies and churches that characterise St George’s, the island’s capital, which is one of the loveliest in the Caribbean. Prices start at £320,000 ($500,000).

North of Grenada, St Vincent and The Grenadines lure buyers with their privacy and seclusion. Although an international airport is planned here, there are no direct flights from outside the Caribbean, so this hard-to-reach territory is fairly undisturbed- one of the reasons it was chosen as a location for the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ films. According to Mr de Meillac, the challenge of reaching this necklace of islands only adds to their unique charm. ‘The Grenadines are beautiful and secluded islands where private homes come with large plots of land and amazing views,’ he says. ‘They’re islands where children can explore in perfect safety. If I could have a home anywhere, it would be in the Grenadines and especially on the island of Bequia.’ The largest of the Grenadines, Bequia is nine miles south of St Vincent and only seven square miles, with 4,500 inhabitants. ‘Mostly, you need your own boat when you’re there, to access the other islands,’ Mr de Meillac adds.

Most homes on Bequia are older, colonial-style mansions, but many have been upgraded as interest in the Grenadines increases. On the market is Hope Bay, an eight-bedroom, new-build mansion overlooking the eponymous bay, which boasts one of the Grenadines’ most unspoilt beaches. It’s built to the pattern of a central entertaining building with separate sleeping accommodation popularised by Mustique, and its luxurious but unostentatious architecture mixes modern and classical. Hope Bay costs £4.8m ($7.5m) through Savills International and Knight Frank. Like Barbados, Antigua is a major international hub in the Caribbean, with daily flights from Europe and North America. It also hosts world-class cricket and Antigua Sailing Week, one of the most glamorous yachting events in the calendar. Yet amid its chic social scene are pockets of tranquillity where beautiful beachfront villas can be found -many on or overlooking one of Antigua’s staggering 365 beaches-at about a third of Barbados prices.

Take The Lighthouse at Jolly Harbour, a luxury six-bedroom beach house with central courtyard, pool, boathouse, its own mooring and spectacular views of the Caribbean. It’s priced at £2.1m ($3.3m), with a rental return of about £9,600 ($15,000) per week in the high season, according to David Vaughan, head of Caribbean sales at Savills International. ‘The market has come down about 40% on its 2008 high,’ he reckons.

‘At the top end, the prices are very reasonable, especially as there’s a 10-month rental season here, with high rental returns.’ Nonsuch Bay Resort lies on Antigua’s east coast. Completed in 2010, this gated community of more than 62 apartments, set in 14 buildings designed in a West Indian style with high, pitched roofs and deep, covered terraces, spreads over 40 acres. It has on-site restaurants and bars, and the resort management looks after the properties and Nonsuch Bay’s rental pool. Prices range from £223,000 ($350,000) to £1.4m ($2.2m) (through Savills International). So for an authentic Caribbean experience, it’s worth looking at islands that remain relatively under the radar.

This article is taken from the latest issue of Country Life International, out on October 26, which features properties for sale on Barbados, ski properties in North America, and the most expensive houses in the world. Read more about Country Life International Winter 2011/2012

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