Friday, 28 August 2009

Caribbean Holiday Guide

THE CARIBBEAN is the world's playground. To most people it conjures up visions of palm-fringed beaches and crystal-clear waters. Every day the tropical sun beats down, every evening boasts a vermilion sunset and every activity is carried out at the slow pace synonymous with island living.

Starfish on a beach by Kris Mathis And whilst these clich├ęs are true in many respects, the reality is far more complex … and interesting. The Caribbean archipelago actually consists of many different islands spread over thousands of miles of ocean. And whilst most of these islands boast the scenic attractions and way of life that epitomize relaxed tropical living, all of them have their own history, culture and traditions. Not to mention completely different standards of resorts, restaurants and recreational possibilities.

They are also quite different scenically. Some are volcanic in origin and very lush and tropical, whilst others are coral formations which rely upon their pristine white sands to attract their visitors. Some are little more than undeveloped islets with a few coconut palms, whilst others are cosmopolitan countries boasting fashionable shops and exciting nightlife. Some proudly retain their French or Spanish traditions, whilst others revel in a West Indian lifestyle only slightly influenced by their English heritage.

So when planning your Caribbean island holidays, it's important you choose the island and resort that's right for you. Or at least right for you at that particular time.

Map of the islands

If you're going on honeymoon, you're probably looking for a romantic getaway where little will intrude upon your time alone together. If you're travelling with your family, you'll feel more relaxed if there's plenty to keep the youngsters occupied. If you tend to get bored with beaches, you'd do well to ensure the island has enough places of interest and also that it's easy and safe to get around. Trying out different restaurants on your Caribbean holidays may be one of your passions, so make sure culinary variety is one of the islands plus points and as nightlife can vary from international floorshows to listening to the treefrogs, make sure you do your homework before you get on the plane.

Similarly if golf is important to your island holiday, check there's an 18-hole course with recognised standards. Scuba-diving, sailing and windsurfing are definitely better in some islands than others and whilst spas are gradually being introduced throughout the Caribbean, they do vary in quality, as well as the range of treatments on offer.

In general, however, the standard of holiday hotels are improving every year. Long gone are the days when hoteliers relied upon the quality of their beaches to attract their visitors. Or when they felt a luxurious room and a spectacular view could make up for average food and sluggish service. Competition from the Indian Ocean and Far East has put paid to such complacency and nowadays its luxury resorts live up to their tropical settings and can vie with the best in the world.

We hope this guide will provide all the information you need to make the correct decisions when deciding the destination of your Caribbean holiday.


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