>>>The Caribbean beyond the resorts
Photo: Le Domaine Saint Aubin

The Caribbean beyond the resorts

Whether you simply shack up in your hotel or straight up refuse to visit because you think that all this destination has to offer is beachside daiquiris, you’re missing out on the real Caribbean.
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ith more than 7,000 islands, the Caribbean is more than beaches and crystal-clear waters. It’s not merely a destination to soak up the sun surrounded by thousands of people, particularly honeymooners who flock here between December and March, the high season. There are places that cruise ships skip and alternatives to the giant beach resorts with five swimming pools and six breakfast buffets.

Ecotourism has really taken off. The island of Dominica, located between Guadalupe and Martinique, is one of the most pristine and best preserved islands in the area. The jungle landscape is home to more waterfalls and volcanoes than resorts. In fact, the island’s first resort Cabrits Resort Kempinski won’t open until 2018. Following any of the 14 paths on the Waitukubuli National Trail, the longest ‘trekking’ route in the Caribbean (184 kilometres), is a great way to explore the natural wonders of Dominica.

Jungle on the island of Dominica
The tropical jungles of Dominica cover two thirds of the island.

Islands without cruises

There are many spots still untouched by mass tourism. From Marie- Galante and La Désirade, in Guadalupe, to Little Cayman, where there are more iguanas than people. Tobacco Caye, in Belize, and Utila, in Honduras, are big with the younger travellers, while the Corn Islands, in Nicaragua, attract solo travellers.

There are also sustainable options. The north-western area of Trinidad is isolated from the rest of the island by a jungle-covered mountain formation that preserves the essence of the location as a refuge for sea turtles. The eco hostels in Toco and Grande Riviere are an ideal starting point for exploring the area and partaking in the island custom of ‘river liming,’ or throwing a party with music, food and drink by the rivers. Bonaire, in the Netherlands Antilles, has spent decades striving to protect flamingos and coral reefs. And who said eco-friendly can’t be luxurious? Hollywood celebs will no doubt soon flock to Blackadore Caye, the eco resort that Leonardo DiCaprio is building in Belize (set to open in 2018) within the framework of a large-scale environmental sustainability project.

 

The accommodation on offer in the Caribbean also features small ‘boutique hotels’, both new builds and those housed in old and colonial residences. Domaine Saint Aubin, located in a sugar cane plantation to the north of Martinique, has cute rooms and cabins with sea view. Eden Rock, on St Barth, meanwhile, is a dream come true for travellers who need luxury and exclusiveness. There’s even a private recording studio. Greta Garbo, Howard Hughes and the Rockefellers are among the celebrities who have checked in here.

Aerial view of Bonaire
Bonaire is one of the top scuba diving destinations in the Caribbean.

Although all these offer top quality gastronomic options, there are also great dining establishments outside the hotels, from roast lobster with casabe, flat yucca bread, on the beach on the Dominican Republic to the annual gastronomic festival held on the Cayman Islands, an event which attracts chefs from all over the world. Digby Stridiron is the culinary ambassador of the rising star that is Caribbean cuisine. His restaurant in St. Croix (Virgin Islands) supports the use of locally sourced produce (including a dozen types of mangos), with haute cuisine techniques prominent.

Busker in Cuba
The Havana Jazz Festival is a biannual event, but there’s music on the island all year round.

The Caribbean’s cultural panorama complements the location’s natural appeal. Visitors to Cuba enjoy street music, as in Havana’s Hamel Alley and the selection of legendary clubs, including Casa de la Música. Thousands of people also have an annual date with the Barbados Reggae Festival, the Moonsplash in Anguilla or the Rebel Salute in Jamaica. Since the Caribbean has so much to offer, you can unwind after all the frenzy with a week-long stay on the beach sipping daiquiris.

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