Want a fresh take on the Caribbean? Our experts reveal their favourite hidden gems
1. Peak pleasures on Nevis
Shaped like a sombrero and only 36 square miles in area, Nevis is one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean on account of the 3,232ft high, rainforest-wrapped Nevis Peak at its heart. Peaceful and friendly with a slow pace, it has been largely spared the ravages of mass tourism and has only one large resort, the recently upgraded 189-room Four Seasons Resort Nevis (fourseasons.com) which has a golf course and borders three-mile long Pinney’s Beach. Another unique feature is its small, plantation-style hotels offering civilised service and definitive rum punches. Only one, Nisbet Plantation Beach Club (nisbetplantation.com), is by the beach, while up in the leafy hills lie the highly recommended Hermitage Plantation Inn (hermitagenevis.com), top-drawer Montpelier Plantation & Beach (montpeliernevis.com) and the artsy Golden Rock Inn (goldenrocknevis.com) where Anna Wintour likes to hide out in the old stone tower suite. There are also upmarket villas (nevishouses.com).
Spend days exploring the jungly slopes of Nevis Peak, or lounging around on beaches. The loveliest is Lovers’ Beach; go early to get it to yourself (local etiquette decrees that if someone’s already on it, leave them to it). And you can have an enjoyable time nosing around the island’s old sugar estates (where Lord Nelson fell in love with his wife Fanny), and tiny genial capital, Charlestown.
2. Harbour Island & Eleuthera
Most tourists are familiar with the capital of the Bahamas, Nassau, and the busy port of Freeport, but the real secret to enjoying the laid-back lifestyle of these bejewelled isles lies further south, in Eleuthera, Harbour Island, Andros, Bimini and others – the “Out Islands”.
Here structure, and even time, melt away into a dreamy aquamarine-tinged concoction of empty beaches, languid lunches, fascinating marine life and low-key activities. When you need to switch off completely, the Out Islands are the answer, offering local charm in a setting of natural maritime magnificence. That doesn’t mean you need to rough it, though. Places like Eleuthera and Harbour Island have practically cornered the market in small-scale resorts that offer boutique beauty.
Dining here is a seafood lover’s dream, while this is also an idyllic place for beach yoga, paddleboarding and kayaking. Other activities to try here are scuba-diving and fishing – with its spectacular shallow waters, mangrove stands and patches of turtle grass, Andros is the epicentre of fly-fishing for bonefish.
Given the size of the islands, the sightseeing options are surprisingly plentiful, too. In particular, look out for the mysterious Blue Holes on many of the islands, plus caves and grottos, like Thunderball Grotto on Staniel Cay in the Exumas – named after the James Bond movie filmed there in 1965 – and 17th century Preacher’s Cave on Eleuthera. Even 007 himself would be licensed to chill.
3. Beaches & birding in Barbuda
Covering 62 square miles, the island is flat, arid and quiet. It took quite a hammering from Hurricane Irma in 2017 and it’s still rebuilding. But the natural beauty and tranquillity is astounding, and includes a 17-mile beach, and the second largest frigate bird colony in the world. New resorts are on the way, but until then you’ll have it to yourself. Stay at Barbuda Belle (barbudabelle.com), a French-owned boutique hotel on North Beach, with a luxury castaway style.