THE holiday hotspot of choice for the mega-rich (the sight of Simon Cowell on a jet ski in December is as much an annual tradition as Christmas itself), Barbados doesn’t seem like it falls into the cheap and cheerful category. However, there are ways to get a taste of the A-list lifestyle on a D-list budget.
A night at Simon’s favourite Sandy Lane may set you back about £1,000 but bedding down in Barbados needn’t be an eye-watering experience. Stay at Coconut Court (coconut-court.com), a bright and breezy family-run beachfront pad on the south coast, with doubles from £128pn. Most of the island’s sights are within easy reach while your hosts are on hand to deliver true Bajan hospitality.
Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, this lush and verdant nation — a 40-minute flight south of Antigua and known as the Green Isle of the region — offers an alternative take on a Caribbean holiday. A haven for adventurous nature lovers, the big draws here are waterfalls, black-sand beaches, boiling lakes and mountainous interior, rather than the archetypical paradise that make other islands so appealing. As a result, there are good deals to entice you. The newly opened Wanderlust Caribbean hotel (one bedroom suites from £136pn, wanderlustcaribbean.com) boasts five luxurious rooms overlooking Hodges Bay for reasonable rates and offers guests a one-day diving experience for £85.
As the unassuming little sister of St Kitts, Nevis flies under the radar — good news for the celebs who flock there in glamorous droves. Beyoncé and Jay-Z have visited, as has Meryl Streep, while Princess Diana chose it as a refuge when divorcing Prince Charles. Obviously they don’t have to worry about price in the same way as the rest of us, but it’s good to know the quiet coves and lively beach shack bars (don’t miss a Killer Bee cocktail at Sunshine’s) can be enjoyed on the cheap. The simple but cosy, 50-room Pinneys Beach Resort (pinneyshotel.com) faces the sea, and has doubles from £101pn. Tackle the short but steep ascent to Nevis Peak, which dominates the island.
Could the Spice Island of the Caribbean be its most perfect? Less developed than Jamaica and St Lucia, it ticks every box in terms of what every trip here should be, while offering value for money. About the size as the Isle of Wight, there’s jungle interior to explore and an idyllic coastline that is free of high-rises. It’s also leading the way in ecotourism. True Blue Bay (truebluebay.com), a heavenly spot with free yoga, cookery classes and chocolate spa treatments, has just unveiled 22 new cocoa pods. Rainwater is harvested and piped into rooms and the two freshwater pools, while solar panels provide all the electricity. Doubles start at about £223pn.
While a majority of visitors to the Caribbean’s largest island opt for historic Havana and the nearby, but heavily developed, coastal resort of Varadero, better deals can be found going east. On the other side of Cuba is Holguin, emerging as the more budget-friendly alternative. Cuba Holidays (cubaholidays.co.uk) is offering seven nights at the Memories Holguin resort from £749pp including return flights and transfers. So what awaits? Guaranteed sun, sea and strong mojitos. Cuban flavours play a big role at this four-star property, located on Yurguanal beach, with local delicacies served alongside international and Creole dishes in its restaurants. What’s not to love?
Home to reggae, a rather good bobsleighing team and some of the most exclusive, and expensive, resorts in the world, Jamaica isn’t always the most modestly priced option. But travellers who book a holiday to the all-inclusive four-star Riu Hotel in Montego Bay may have hit the holiday sweet spot. Backed by a beach that stretches for 2km, there are two swimming pools, a scuba diving school and spa, and the six restaurants will ensure you don’t go hungry — and all for a fraction of the cost of other hotels. Seven nights with Holiday Hypermarket (holidayhypermarket.co.uk) start at £888, departing March 30. Price includes flights from Manchester.