Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Lost Islands of The Caribbean, Part 3

This is another island that didn’t quite manage the cut in the Sunday Times travel section.
BEST FOR: fans of lovely beaches and lush natural world and those wanting something other than a cookie-cutter Caribbean experience.
It is a beautiful little island (42 x 10 km) with an undeveloped coastline (lots of unspoiled beaches), first-class diving around Speyside, a glorious spine of rainforest, mountains, world-class birding and great Tobagonian food. However, do read the Home Office Travel Advice ( fro trindidad & tobago.
STAY AT:  swanky Magdalena Grand has three pools, a golf PGA course, a spa and all-oceanfront rooms. Virgin Holidays (0844-557 4321, has it from £1,391pp, B&B. Less ritzy, Coco does have a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, ten acres of tropical gardens and a good restaurant. British Airways (0844-493 0758, has it from £1098 B&Bs. The Villas at Stonehaven (001 868 639 0361, is a collection of fourteen three-bedroom villas with full kitchens and private pools (plus a larger communal one), bar and restaurant and is a very good choice for families. Tropical Sky (0843 249 5884, has seven nights from £1149pp.
DRINK/EAT AT: “Sunday School” at Buccoo Beach is a late night mélange of steel drums, cheap beer and rum, chicken, fish and lobster stalls. Get there after 11. Local food is a mix of African, Chinese, Indian, European and Latino flavours. Sample it at the Store Bay Beach Facilities at Crown Point, which is a collection of kiosks serving reliable and cheap food – under a fiver for something like a goat curry roti and soda – on a very busy beach near the airport. Or try the red snapper fillets with lime butter or the crab cakes at the busy little Fish Pot (001 868 635 1728, allow £25-30pp) at Pleasant Prospect, Black Rock.
BEST BEACH: You will recognise Pigeon Point Heritage Park (£2 adults, £1 6-12s, under 6 free), with its thatched jetty, from a thousand brochure shots, but that doesn’t stop it being a fabulous stretch of white sand with warm, aquamarine waters and plenty of facilities. Lots of others, but take care on remote ones, such as otherwise beautiful Back Bay.
DIVERSIONS: Immerse yourself in the teeming rainforest and its birds, snakes, lizards and trapdoor spiders with NG &Co Nature Tours (001 868 660 5463,, from £39 half-day). Or try a new tour – stand-up paddleboarding through the lagoons and mangrove swamps with Stan Up Paddle Tobago (001 868 681 4741,, from £38.50)
MORE AT: Trinidad & Tobago Tourist Office (0844 846 0812,
Pigeon Point TobagoLarge 1

Lost Islands of the Caribbean, part 2

It was hard to let this one go, especially as British Airways say interest in the island is very buoyant.

BEST FOR: Nature lovers.
Beaches are mostly volcanic and black, but it does have an incomparable natural world – rain forests, huge waterfalls feeding into tropical lagoons, nature trails, botanical gardens and an active volcano.


STAY AT: Buccament Bay has Pat Cash tennis and Liverpool football academies, a spa, multiple restaurants and a white sand beach (imported from Guyana). DialAFlight (0844 556 6060, has seven nights all-inclusive from £1,765pp. Young Island lies just offshore from the mainland and has the feel of a James Bond villain’s lair (in a good way). Caribtours (020 7751 0660, has it for £1,755pp, all-inclusive. On the mainland opposite Young is the more basic Beachcombers (001 784 458 4283,, rooms from £51 per night, B&B, flights extra) with a decent beach, a pool and lovely gardens.
DRINK/EAT AT: Heritage Square on Friday nights Kingstown – it’s basically a giant bar crawl and jump-up, with food and drink stalls. Flow Wine Bar on James Street in Kingstown (001 784 457 0809, has a calmer, clubby wood-and-leather feel with a rooftop garden (Flyt) for views. The restaurants at SunSail Marina at Ratho Mill won’t break the bank (from around £15 a head, excluding drinks; try Black Pearl (001 784 456 9868) and Driftwood (001 784 456 8999, eatdrinkdriftwood). Limin’ Pub (001 784 458 4227) on Villa Beach does burgers but also local specialties, with rabbit, pigeon, duckling and mountain goat (from £6).
BEST BEACH: Villa Beach and Indian Bay Beach, both just outside capital Kingstown, both with good facilities, but narrow, and they get crowded at weekends, but the swimming is safe and the scene friendly.

La Soufriere Volcano
DIVERSIONS: It has to be done – climb La Soufriere, the 4000ft volcano, that last erupted in 1902. The slippery trail is tougher than you might expect – it’s not for the unfit. Sailor’s Wilderness Tours (001 784 457 1712, has volcano trips from £47pp. However, easier nature tours are available from Sailor.
MORE AT: St. Vincent and the Grenadines Tourist Board (0870 626 9000,


Lost Islands of the Caribbean, Part 1

Not lost as in unknown or misplaced, just islands that we couldn’t squeeze into the Caribbean feature in Sunday Times travel. Which was a shame, because I really like PR. It has elements of Cuba (particularly the great music out in the hinterland) but, being a US territory, the plumbing works and so does the catering. The picture below is the beach at W Vieques.


BEST FOR: adventurous travellers and adventurous families, too, thanks to US-style resort hotels with large rooms.
It is a very mixed island, from the raucous bar scene in San Juan, to the more elegant, cultured Ponce, the El Yunque rainforest, the ruta panoramica, a twisting mountain roads through coffee plantations and lots of really excellent beaches. One drawback: no direct flights now BA has pulled out.
STAY AT: the Caribe Hilton opened in 1949 and remains one of the best seaside choices in San Juan; British Airways (0844-493 0758, has it from £1,099 with flights via Miami, room only. Style-hounds should head for the little island of Vieques, once US Navy Property, which now has a swanky W Hotel. ITC Classics (01244 355 527; three three nights at the new-ish super-luxe St Regis on the mainland and four nights at W Vieques from £2,345pp, room-only. A fly-drive is a good option – Western & Oriental (020 7666 1234, has three nights in San Juan, two at the beach in Rincon and two in historical Ponce, from £1,439pp, room-only, with car hire.
DRINK /EAT AT: Head for Old San Juan, a UNESCO protected enclave, with lovely, shabby pastel-coloured buildings with plenty of bodegas (such as Bodega Chic on Calle Cristo) and tiny hole-in-the wall chinchorros to try the local Barrilito rum. In brasher Condado, a mini-Miami, Oceana (001 787 728 8119, has a beachside patio and an easy-on-the-eye crowd.
No contest for the essential PR dining experience: La Ruta del Lechón or the Pork Highway. About 40 minutes drive from San Juan, it is a road (Route 184) lined with lechonaras, pork shacks, selling slow-roasted suckling pig as well as blood sausages and rice dishes; many open Thurs-Sun only and some have live music. Most are around the village of Guavate: just pick the one you fancy. Expect to spend less than a tenner for a blow-out. For something more sophisticated try Marmalade Restaurant & Wine Bar (001 787-724-3969; in San Juan, with complex but successful dishes by an ex-Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons and Le Cirque chef (four-course tasting menu, £38).
BEST BEACH: for families, the clear waters, brilliant white sands and facilities at Luquillo, about 30 miles east of San Juan. The deep horseshoe of Flamenco beach, with its mirror-flat sea, on Culebra island is quite simply world-class.
DIVERSIONS: Puerto Rico has astonishing areas of bioluminescence, where the microorganisms make the sea glow, shine and sparkle. Swimming, though, is prohibited. Kayaking Puerto Rico (001 787 43235 1665, kayakingpuertorico) has two-hour trips to paddle among it from Fajardo from £29pp. The best bioluminescence involves a trip to Vieques, however: try Abe’s Snorkelling (001 787 741 2134,, which has kayaking trips from 32pp.
MORE AT: PR Tourism Co (020 7367 0982,