Decisions, decisions - it's a tough life.
When you look at the Caribbean islands on a map, they’re just a crescent of microscopically small green specks in the Atlantic, but zoom in and you’ll realise there is enormous variation in their topography, history and culture. Some are perfectly formed sandy retreats fringed with palm trees, where you go barefoot and unplug; others are international hotspots for diving, sailing or super-yacht Top Trumps. Read on to find your perfect match, with our handy island guide.
Best for… keen fishermen
Despite its proximity to Miami, the Bahamas is more British than one might think—they drive on the left there and Nassau still boasts many colonial buildings. however, there is also New World glamour in spades all over New providence, from the shopping to the nightlife and the manicured gated communities.
The Bahamas also has its informal side and those who hate dressing for dinner head straight for The Exumas. This archipelago of 365 small islands offers innumerable blissful spots for barefoot luxury. Sink beers and spot turtles, spend the day game fishing or pit yourself against some of the most challenging bonefish in the world.
This is a breathtaking peninsula estate with an incredible 1,000 feet of water frontage affording views as far as the eye can see. One of the most unique properties to come on the market in a long time, living at The Palms is like living on your own private island.
On New Providence, Albany combines the benefits of a world-class resort with the joys of a beautiful newly built private villa, with a particular focus on families.
(Savills 020–7016 3740)
Best for… diving
Some people come to the caymans to kick back, relax and soak up the local flavour, but most come with one thing in mind: diving. There are hundreds of sites to try around all three islands, but Bloody Bay Wall combines unparalleled visibility with a bounty of marine life; even if you don’t dive, you’ll still see more just snorkeling here than you would in full scuba gear anywhere else in the Caribbean. Landlubbers find plenty to do with beaches such as Seven mile Beach (the clue’s in the name) and shopping in the pretty capital George Town.
This contemporary beach house on Water Cay provides cool modern living right by the water.
(Chestertons International 020–7201 2071)
Best for… jammin’ 007-style
Jamaica has an ardent following: those who fall for Jamaica fall hard. A British colony until 1962, it was a haven for writers – including Ian Fleming and Noël Coward, who both built houses here. The topography varies from golden-sand beaches up into the heady heights of the romantic Blue mountains. many of the larger resorts sit around the western tip of the island, but the smarter hotels tend to be further east, within easy reach of the airport.
GoldenEye, from $2 million (£1.6 million)
Ian Fleming wrote all 14 of his Bond novels at the Fleming Villa, which now forms the centrepiece of the GoldenEye resort.
British Virgin Islands (BVI)
Best for… sailing
The fact that you can’t land a 747 in the BVI means a lot of tourists are put off by the bore of a transfer. In reality, the short flight from Antigua is fun and easy if you charter your own plane for the final hop—and, when you get there, it’s wonderfully peaceful. The islands are a draw for sailors of all abilities and a great place to learn the ropes, plus the scenery is unbeatable. There’s oodles of rustic charm, plus a couple of very exclusive boutique hotels. Would-be property owners should look for a private house on Tortola or Virgin Gorda. Alternatively, Oil Nut Bay is a gorgeous peninsula offering plots for sale with million-dollar price tags and billion-dollar views.
Set 1,100ft above sea level, Shannon House is an Asian-inspired villa blessed with sea views stretching all the way to the US Virgin Islands.
St Kitts and Nevis
Best for… laid-back beauty
The beautiful volcanic island of St Kitts covers nearly 70sq miles and more than a quarter of
its dramatic, mountainous land is protected. Sister island Nevis is a tiny gem with a dedicated following who enjoy the laidback luxury of heavenly beaches and a crime rate near zero.
Kittitian Hill’s 400 acres of fertile farmland feature top-spec villas, world-class amenities, sensational views and an edible (yes, edible) golf course.
Best for… large wallets
If it’s unabashed, 1,000-watt glamour you’re looking for, then don’t consider anywhere else— put yourself on the first flight to the tiny French island of St Barts. The owners of the super-yachts jostling for space in the pretty harbour of Gustavia last New Year’s eve were a roll call of the richest and most famous people on the planet, from members of u2 to Roman Abramovich, but the great and the good come all year round, for incredible food, Bond Street-style shopping and a hedonistic party scene. Of course, none of this comes cheap, but if you’re someone who needs to ask the price, this isn’t the island for you.
This four-bedroom villa is perched on a cliff, but still an easy stroll from the shops and restaurants of Gustavia.
Best for… getting off the beaten track
Still untouched by mass tourism, Grenada is an island brimming with natural beauty, rustic
charm and picture-perfect white-sand beaches; Grand Anse is a permanent fixture on lists of the best beaches in the world. most of the action is concentrated around the south-west, where you’ll also find St Georges, one of the prettiest capitals in the Caribbean. If you can drag yourself off the beach, rainforest hikes provide memorable views. There are direct flights to Grenada from London twice a week, so it remains popular with Britons looking for somewhere off the beaten track.
The first new development on the world-famous Grand Anse beach in more than 25 years, Silversands is inspired by the rich local culture and is set to provide secluded and elegant luxury.
Best for… families
Daily flights from London and an extensive range of accommodation for all budgets mean Antigua is one of the most popular Caribbean destinations for Britons. This is great if you’re with teenagers or young ones looking for excitement in the form of peers, but it’s also possible to quickly get off the beaten track. charter a boat, not a car, and anchor at a deserted sugar-sand beach where you can blissfully picnic and shell hunt undisturbed for hours.
This pristine 137-acre peninsula is being transformed into one of the island’s newest upscale resorts. There are 67 plots for sale, all within easy reach of seven gorgeous beaches.
Best for… nature lovers
St Lucia is simply one of the loveliest islands in the world, with a perfect mix of white sand and jungle. Because it’s still actively volcanic, the scenery is enchanting—the drive-in volcano is a must-see. The majority of accommodation lies around the northern tip of the island, where Rodney Bay is the centre of the social scene. This said, the super-rich head south to the UNESCO World heritage site of the pitons—one of the most spectacular locations in the world. A handful of small hotels and resorts are peppered along the soft-sand beaches directly below these spectacular peaks.
Sleek modern villas have infinity pools, coral-stone terraces, tennis courts and beautifully landscaped forest gardens. On-site are restaurants, a rainforest spa, personal butlers and watersports.
Best for… home from home
The original and favourite Caribbean destination for sun-seeking Britons, Barbados has daily flights from London, reliable amenities, very good shopping and the greatest chance of bumping into your neighbours. It’s safe, fun for all ages and has marvellous places to eat, from smart restaurants to charming rum shacks and street-food stalls. most visitors head for the west coast, staying in the parishes of St Peter and St James, or in the communities in the hills just above. period plantation houses in fine condition can also be found for those looking for historic interest and an inland setting.
The Garden, St James (POA)
An exceptional property for sale in a highly sought after beachfront position offering immaculate, broad accommodation and wonderful large open-plan reception rooms that take full advantage of the mesmerizing sea views. Very private and securely positioned centrally within beautifully colourful and lush gardens and grounds.