The beauty of the Caribbean islands – on top of simply beautiful surroundings and brilliant weather – is its diversity. There are at least 28 island countries in the Caribbean spread across more than 7,000 islands. But, how do you figure out which one is the perfect one for you? Why do home birds go to St Kitts and resort-hunters head for Dominican Republic? We’ve got the lowdown on the Caribbean Islands so it’s easy to answer the question: Which Caribbean Island should I visit?
Cuba’s exotic rhythms and history give a sense of adventure to sun holidays in the Caribbean. Easily one of the most exciting islands, it is also the least changed or commercialised. Beaches are palm-lined, with white sand and sparkling water. Locals are friendly and are happy to help, rum flows freely and the island pulses to an internal rhythm like nowhere else. Great for: anyone who wants holidays with a sense of adventure.
Not content with sharing our most haunted hotels, our Halloween theme continues, there are still plenty of places to visit in broad daylight that’ll still give you the chills. Here are some of our top picks.
Carnival is perhaps the biggest and best known festival in the world. Most of the islands have their own events but the most hotly anticipated is the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. The huge street party is held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. It revolves around Calypso rhythms which start to pulsate early on the first day. Revellers bathed in oil and paint take to streets in elaborate costumes, decked out in feathers and beads and hit the streets to dance and move their hips to the calypso and soca music. Tuesday sees the parade itself with huge floats built to different themes each year. If you’re not on the parade route, you can head for one of the many other activities like steel drum concerts, community gatherings and calypso tents. Preparations start months in advance and it’s said that if islanders are not celebrating it, they are busy preparing it, or reminiscing about last years. Don’t expect any sleep for at least a few days as soon as carnival kicks off.
St Lucia Jazz Festival, May
Since its very first instalment in 1991, the St Lucia Jazz Festival has grown into one of the most well known festivals in the Caribbean and throughout the world. Every May the whole island dances to the jazz rhythms that fill the air. Massive, fantastic concerts are held at Pigeon Island, in an open air auditorium as well as in several other venues around the island. It draws huge names not just from the world of Jazz but lots of R&B and Calypso performers like Wyclef Jean, Smokey Robinson, Lauryn Hill and Santana.
Crop Over, Barbados, July
Usually during July and August, Bajans gather to celebrate the end of the sugar cane harvest… which becomes a 5 week party. The final delivery of cane sees the crowning of King and Queen of the Crop and the party really starts. There’s Cohobblopot, a massive carnival show with local music and Calypso is a main feature, with various prizes and titles on offer like Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch. The cherry on top is the Grand Kadooment, a huge parade with vibrant costumes and thousands of people dancing to Calypso rhythms, finishing with a swim at the beach. As they say themselves: ‘A grand end to a grand festival.’
Festival de Merengue, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, July
Name checked in that famous Barry Manilow song, meringue has been a staple of life in Dominican Republic since… well, forever. The quick up-tempo rhythm is found everywhere, from the supermarkets to the capital and kids learn to meringue almost before they can walk. This is why the annual Merengue Festival is unsurprisingly such a hit. It sees the capital Santo Domingo come to life, with open air stages, huge sound systems, and thousands of people dancing in the street. A must dance festival!
St. Patrick’s Day, Montserrat, March
It’s not just the Irish who throw legendary parties in honour of St Patrick. The tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat likes to forget about its hurricanes and throw a week long party to mark all things green. St. Patrick’s Day in Montserrat has a special importance, not only to the large Irish Catholic population that settled there in the 1630s, but also as the commemoration of the slave uprising on that day in 1768. There you’ll find Calypso music mixed with Ceili dancing, children decked out in green, and a festival atmosphere, as well as guest lectures and historical tours.
Reggae Sumfest, Montego Bay, July
The sun soaked country of Jamaica is famous for its contribution to music; it’s the birthplace of Reggae after all, made famous by Bob Marley. And what better place to enjoy it than in the sun drenched city of Montego Bay that throws a 4 day party to celebrate? Every July crowds gather to dance, sing, and enjoy the sounds of reggae and its variations, ska, dub and dancehall at the huge Reggae Sumfest. Drawing the biggest Jamaican names like Toots and the Maytals, Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley and Beenie Man as well as international headliners like Sean Paul, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, the 4 day blowout is the summer party.
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With its traditional fishing villages, exclusive five-star resorts and lush vegetation, Christ Church Barbados blends the exotic with the familiar. Known as the Little England of the Caribbean, Barbados is an island that prides itself on its British customs and yet can’t help but embody the authentic spirit of the Caribbean.
When to go to Barbados
Barbados has a tropical climate, meaning it’s hot and sunny all year-round. The best time to go however, is between December and May when there’s less humidity and rainfall.
Beaches in Christ Church Barbados
The beaches around Christ Church are the chief reason why this area of Barbados sees such soaring numbers of tourists. Snorkelling, surfing and windsurfing opportunities are infinite, particularly at Dover Beach due to its favourable conditions for body boarding. Rockley Beach, with its tropical palm trees, comfortable sun loungers and good choice of local shops is another favourite. Enterprise Beach, frequently referred to as Miami, is a sandy spot that’s very much favoured with the locals due to its sheltered setting, crystal clear waters and calm waves. Windsurfers should head to Silver Sands, widely considered to be the best place to windsurf spot on Barbados. Tropical Bottom Bay is lined with mature coconut palms and boasts outstanding views of the shore. Unfortunately, swimming is not recommended here as the waves can be strong. Close to Christ Church is Crane Beach, a remarkably beautiful spot, which deservedly ranks amongst the world’s most acclaimed beaches. Crane, which takes its name from the large crane that was once located here to load and unload ships, plays home to an historic cliff-top hotel that dates back to 1867 – an excellent photo opportunity. The New York Times says, “A wave can travel nearly three thousand miles in the open ocean, undisturbed by sandbars, reefs or land, before it breaks here — on an unlikely little island shaped like a teardrop, off the radar of all but the most devoted surfers.”
What to see on the island
Apart from the beaches and water sports of Barbados Resorts like Christ Church, there are some excellent tourist attractions, especially those concentrated around the lively Saint Lawrence Gap area. Here’s our pick of the best:
OISTINS FISH MARKET
Oistins Fish Market is a must-see attraction in Christ Church. Watch fisherman hauling in their daily catch and barter for some of the freshest, most delicious fish you will ever eat. Visit on a Friday or Saturday night to take part in the community fish fry, where you will enjoy the live Caribbean music, friendly atmosphere and a feast of grilled barracuda, dolphin fish, flying fish, marlin, snapper and tuna – to name but a few.
ST JOHN’S CHURCH
St John’s Church, on Hackleton’s Cliff, is not only one of the loveliest churches on Barbados, but it is also the burial place of Ferdinando Paleologus, last member of a family descended from ancient Greek royalty, who was a warden of the church and died in 1665.
GARRISON SAVANNAH HORSE RACING
A day at the races feels entirely different when sipping coconut water, tasting authentic Bajan cuisine, and basking in the Caribbean sun. “I hate horse-racing myself, but the atmosphere is great,” notes one Virtualtourist reviewer, “there are stalls selling Bajan food, parades, all sorts of activities, crafts stalls, etc. and the Bajans make a fun day of it.”
Located a little further away from the coast are some excellent attractions: the botanic gardens; a couple of nature reserves, including the wetlands of the Graeme Hall Swamp, which have attracted more than 160 species of bird, including some beautiful pink flamingos. In the middle of the island is Welchman Hall Gully, a kilometre-long walking trail through a sheltered and shaded ravine which hosts 200 flowering plants.
Holders Season is how the smart kids gets their cultural fix; held at Holders, a plantation house owned by Johnny and Wendy Kidd (parents of Jodie), this art and music festival is a glam event that presents the best of the island.
BAJAN ROOTS AND RHYTHM
This EXCELLENT dinner theatre takes place in the heart of the lively St. Lawrence Gap area of Christ Church. Staged at the Plantation Garden Theatre, this production showcases the culture and traditions of Barbados. Performers at ‘Bajan Roots and Rhythm’ don spectacular costumes, and a buffet and drinks are included in the price of admission.
Where to eat in Christ Church Barbados
St Lawrence Gap, Christ Church, Barbados (00 1 246 435 6564; www.piscesbarbados.com). A beautiful restaurant overlooking the sea. Good blackened fish and friendly service.
Overlooking the sweeping view of pretty Miami Beach, Café Luna offers alfresco dining on top of the Mediterranean-style Little Arches Hotel. This is spectacular at lunchtime and magical in the moonlight, serving up contemporary favourites from around the world, including fresh Scottish salmon grilled to perfection, oven-roasted New Zealand rack of lamb, fresh seafood bouillabaisse, and local chicken breast with mango chutney. Sushi is a specialty on Thursday and Friday nights; on Saturday night, a champagne and lobster option enhances the regular menu.