C&TH dispatched Nigel Tisdale, Sue Lawley, Ysenda Maxtone Graham and others to see how Caribbean hotels are breathing new life again after Hurricane Irma
The Best Hotels in the Caribbean
Jumby Bay Island, Antigua
Frequented by A-listers, rock stars and well-heeled families, Jumby Bay is the most recent addition to the prestigious Oetker Collection and one of the most exclusive spots in the Caribbean. Perched two miles off the coast of Antigua, the Crusoe-chic island spans 300 acres and is reached by private boat. Part and parcel of the idyllic isle are powdery sand beaches, superb dining, a spa, luxury villas and breathtaking private residences. Recently refurbished by designer Patricia Anastassiadis, the island displays a fresh Caribbean Sea-inspired look. Island abodes range from Rondavel Rooms with wraparound terraces and sea views to one-bedroom pool suites. Those looking for absolute privacy can splash out on one of the large private homes that fringe the island. Complete with housekeepers and private chefs, these are truly some of the most salubrious residences you’ll find in the Caribbean. Island highlights include snorkelling trips to the nearby wildlife haven, Bird Island, rum tastings and the fabulous, weekly White Night parties.
BOOK IT: ITC Travel offers seven nights from £4,579pp all-inclusive, including flights and transfers. inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk
Cheval Blanc St Barth Isle de France, St Barths
This glorious Cheval Blanc property is back in business thanks to a top-to-toe overhaul
by French designer Jacques Granges, who dressed the 42-room, white timber-slatted maison – built to resemble a cluster of traditional creole houses – in a breezy seaside palette of bleached wood, rattan furnishings and an assortment of global accessories like werregue baskets from Colombia, Australian aboriginal paintings and colourful Persian ikat fabrics. When not sunning yourself on the beach’s talcum white sands, notch up the indulgence with a Sun-Kissed Ritual – a treatment meant to enhance your tan – at the island’s only Guerlain spa, or wind down with a yoga session in the open air pavilion ensconced within the lush, paradisal gardens by Madison Cox – the man behind Marrakech’s Jardin Majorelle. At La Case de l’Isle, chef Yann Vinsot serves a Caribbean-influenced French and Italian Riviera menu, with dishes such as the tasty lobster ravioli. Book for early 2020, when it reopens after building a new wing with 20 more guest rooms plus another swimming pool and restaurant.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £660. chevalblanc.com
This tiny British overseas territory is blessed with some of the best beaches in the Caribbean – and Malliouhana has the good fortune to rest on cliffs overlooking one of the most perfect, Meads Bay. Reopened last December following a zestful makeover by Auberge Resorts, it sings fun and glamour at every step, from the magisterial lobby decorated with 20 antique diving helmets to tiered infinity pools lined with regal cabanas tricked out in black, white and yellow. The 62 contemporary rooms and suites fizz with colour and pattern and have TVs hidden away inside ornate mirrors. There’s a brand new spa that’s in love with lemongrass, neroli and vetiver, plus complimentary yoga and beach fitness classes – families are welcomed, with a kids’ club and playground in the pipeline. While some luxury resorts
on this enchanting island are isolated, here you can stroll along the mile-long sands to discover laid-back bars and restaurants. It’s well worth booking a boat trip out to nearby Sandy Island or Prickly Pear Cays for a lazy lobster lunch – with lashings of rosé and rum punch, naturally.
BOOK IT: Turquoise Holidays offers seven nights from £2,665pp B&B including transfers and flights. turquoiseholidays.co.uk
Mandarin Oriental, Canquan
Built on a sandy Atlantic shoreline, everyone wakes up to a sea view in this dreamy, luxury enclave. Modernist villas hide in the hillside and a thick forest cascades around the contemporary, colonial-style suites. In the rooms, light-blocking glass transforms into televisions, and slides aside to reveal living rooms of mahogany furniture upholstered in cream linen. Beyond the curved Italianate windows, gardens bordered with hydrangeas and palms lead down to powdery sand, where personal butlers lay out morning coffee and pastries. In the spa, therapists from Bali and Nepal use coconut and passion fruit in scrubs, read energy meridians and practise cranial massage. The five restaurants are an international culinary journey with Caribbean touches – lobster ravioli, seared snapper or duck and lychee curry – from a pan-Asian restaurant with a tandoor brick oven. Any guilt over packing five books subsides after seeing the kids’ club, a utopia of water slides, climbing frames and energetic nannies, who lead baking classes and dressing up games. While they play pirates, make for Shell Beach to float in the serene green and doze under a dried-palm parasol.
BOOK IT: Rooms from $1,350. mandarinoriental.com
Hotel Le Toiny, St Barthes
It’s taken more than a year for this fabulous French playground to rebuild itself, but now
St Barths is looking better than ever. Set on a panoramic hillside at the quieter east end of the island, English-owned Hotel Le Toiny takes a sophisticated and elegant tack with its supremely restful, ‘coastal chic’ interiors by Lady Bee Osborn. Treats include Bamford amenities, an excellent Sonos sound system and ‘maxi-bar’ with microwave and sink. Eight new suites have been added and all 22 come with a private heated plunge pool and terrace, where your à la carte breakfast is delivered. Being a Relais & Châteaux property, top cuisine is to
the fore in the airy Le Toiny restaurant, and a customised Land Rover transfers guests down a rough track to the barefoot-luxe Beach Club. The sea here can be rough, but there’s a pool, chi-chi boutique and superb tartare de thon with coconut rice. Le Toiny also has a sweet cottage spa, and you can go walking on the breezy, goat- dotted cliffs. While families are welcome, this perfectly-honed, five-star retreat is bliss on a plate for honeymooners and loved-up couples.
BOOK IT: Elegant Resorts offers seven nights from £3,750pp B&B including transfers and flights. elegantresorts.co.uk
This new hotel on Grand Anse beach is a scene stealer from the get-go with its wow factor 100m pool – the longest in the Caribbean – stretching from the lobby down to its ‘infinity’ rim overlooking the ocean. Designed by Paris-based architecture practice AW2 (whose roll call of hotels includes Six Senses Con Dao in Vietnam and Phum Baitang in Cambodia), rooms are split between two white buildings, each clad with bulletwood slats (there are also nine beachfront and hillside villas, ideal for families). Inside, the look is light and airy, with pale oak panelling, Calacatta marble, white walnut floors and modern art on the walls from the owner’s private collection. Days are spent drifting between a sun lounger and the Espa spa (book in for the coconut scrub), and trying out the paddleboards and kayaks. There’s plenty to explore out and about on this forest-clad island too, from a tour of the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station (Grenada is one of the world’s largest nutmeg exporters) to snorkelling at the Molinere Underwater Sculpture Park – a mermaid, a man riding a bicycle and a ring of children holding hands are among the figures on the seabed. In the evening head to Puro, the cigar and rum bar at Silversands, where you can sip rare, small batch spirits from the island’s distilleries as the sun sets over the bay.
BOOK IT: Carrier offers seven nights from £2,290pp B&B, including transfers and flights. carrier.co.uk
Bequia Beach Hotel, The Grenadines
Once upon a time the tiny island of Bequia (pronounced Beckway) was simply a destination for sailors in search of safe harbour. But nowhere these days escapes the tentacles of tourism and Bequia is fast becoming a popular Caribbean retreat. Go now, before it gets much busier, and when you do stay at the Bequia Beach Hotel. Standing at the water’s edge on Friendship Bay – surely one of the finest beaches in the West Indies – it’s the vision of a Swedish businessman with a relentless attention to detail and its spacious beachfront suites, garden cottages, classic rooms and smart villas are all furnished with great taste – colonial refinement meets Thirties chic. There are two pools and restaurants, a small gym, delightful spa and smart sister bar on the island’s other best beach. The whole place exudes the unhurried, friendly charm that is Bequia’s hallmark. Kick off your shoes and order a cocktail. After a few days you’ll have forgotten how to live in any other way.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £208. bequiabeachhotel.com
Park Hyatt St Kitts Christophe Harbour, St Kitts
With its old sugar plantations, dormant volcano and hiking trails through lush rainforests, St Kitts welcomed the opening of its first super-high-end hotel at the end of 2017. Eschewing traditional colonial aesthetics, the Park Hyatt – nestled on Banana Bay with its sugary sand – is sleekly contemporary, with views across to sister island, Nevis. Think bright whites, Scandi furniture and panelled walls, zinged up with pops of colour here and there to create a fresh, clean vibe. Some suites have outdoor living rooms and private infinity pools. Families and couples are each well served with two pools (one adults-only), a kids’ club – perfect for when you want to head to the vast Miraval spa for a volcanic stone aromatherapy massage – and three restaurants, including another adults-only option, the Stone Barn. You mustn’t forgo the lobster – it’s hooked out from pens beneath the pier, taking the meaning of local to its closest literal sense. Delicious.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £261. hyatt.com
Cobblers Cove Hotel, Barbados
The very act of walking from reception to your room at Cobblers Cove is an irresistible delight – so much so, you might find any excuse to go and ask ‘a quick question at reception’, just for the chance to wander back through the lush gardens. Off you go through the arch of the exquisitely pretty main house, with the Caribbean Sea shimmering before your eyes just yards away, through the indoor-outdoor bar where Virgil, the barman, is mixing yet another rum punch, and back to your room – in fact, suite of rooms – with your own front garden next to the sea. This is a heavenly, privately-owned hotel, combining exoticism with a glorious sense of being at home – which will only increase once the two Soane Britain-designed honeymoon suites are unveiled. Come 4pm, afternoon tea replete with Earl Grey and cucumber sandwiches is served – the perfect pampering treat after you’ve been out to explore this friendliest of islands, and before an early evening bathe and a sundowner. Bliss.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £330. cobblerscove.com
Sugar Beach, St Lucia
Wedged between the iconic Pitons, Sugar Beach is as lush as the rainforest it’s hacked out of – with all the beach shack vibes of authentic St Lucia, but with butlers, cocktails and private plunge pools to boot. The whitewashed villas are dotted along the hillside to allow maximum privacy and killer views. But you’ll mostly be on the beach below, where kids can snorkel, sail, kayak and scuba while you sip passion fruit daiquiris and raid the ‘beachtique’, the best curated little hotel boutique we’ve ever seen. Hot pink tuk-tuks ferry you around, from the lush Rainforest Spa to the Bayside Bar, for lobster ceviche, and the vast lagoon pool. Bring trainers if you plan to walk, as the hills are punishing. Yes, there’s a kids’ club to escape the pressing heat but honestly, unless you’re booked in for a two-hour massage, they’re best off roaming with new friends, lolling in hammocks and wearing themselves out in the water before you all regroup at sunset for cocktails and sandcastles.
BOOK IT: Doubles from £349. viceroyhotelsandresorts.com
Jamaica Inn, Jamaica
Classy, calm and unassumingly luxurious, Jamaica Inn is a Caribbean retreat that feels more like your home away from home than a five-star hotel. Everything here is a seamless marriage of splendour and comfort, from the manicured gardens to the mahogany wood library, adorned with black and white photos of past guests – Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill, no less. Tucked away in a private cove to the east of Ocho Rios, the hotel is relatively small in comparison with its sprawling, all-inclusive peers along the coast. There are no short straws when picking rooms: all 47 come with verandas looking out to sea. Jamaicans really know how to do R&R (rum and relaxation, that is) and you’ll find everything you need to unwind and unplug – a beach bar, water sports, croquet lawn and a treetop spa that’s been voted the best in the Caribbean. The food is fresh, punchy and delicious – both Jamaican and international dishes are unfailing. Whether it’s the deliberate absence of clocks, radios and newspapers, or the periwinkle-hued walls and vast swathes of pure white cotton, you’ll leave feeling feather light.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £187. jamaicainn.com
Coral Reef Club, Barbados
Guests at the Coral Reef Club return year after year, beaming with happiness as they greet the staff and each other like old friends and relax into its intimate atmosphere. The hotel has been catering to a mainly English clientele since Barbados became a top winter holiday destination 60 years ago. In those days the visitors were mainly the idle rich and very famous but, as mass tourism developed, the hotel rode the wave. Set in lovely gardens slap bang next to a beautiful beach, the Coral Reef Club has two outdoor pools, tennis courts, a spa and fitness centre. At night flaming torches guide you to the restaurant, where dinner is served to the accompaniment of live music. You’ll never sleep in a hotel bed as comfortable as this, nor be looked after by staff who are so attentive and well-trained. There’s no need to leave the club, other than for the occasional dinner out: in every other respect, the best Barbados has to offer is at your feet.
BOOK IT: Doubles from around £399. coralreefbarbados.comn
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