Category Archives for "The Caribbean and the Antilles"

Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in the Caribbean and the Antilles.

Andros Island – Bahamas

World-Class Reef-Diving and Bonefishing in Florida’s Backyard

Much of Andros, the Bahamas’ largest island, is uninhabited, connected by a series of shallow canals and cays called “bights”—Andros is, in fact, mostly water. Aside from the occasional tourist, most visitors here are divers or fishermen.

At 142 miles, Andros’s barrier reef is the third longest in the world after those in Australia and Belize, with a wall that begins around 70 feet from shore and plunges 6,000 feet to a narrow underwater canyon known as the Tongue of the Ocean (TOTO).

A unique system of more than fifty blue holes, as these watery caves are called (first made famous by Jacques Cousteau), offers endless opportunities to explore in tun­nels filled with shipwrecks and sea life.

All this is just 1 mile offshore from the Bahamas’ oldest dive resort, the comfortable, family-run Small Hope Bay Hotel. If you don’t know how to dive or snorkel, they’ll teach you at your own pace and at no extra cost, but non diving guests are just as happy flopping into the inviting hammocks positioned here and there among the tall coconut palms.

No one puts on airs at this easygoing beachfront colony—no one even puts on shoes very often, except perhaps at dinner, a hearty, con­vivial affair that might include fresh conch fritters and chowder, lobster, and hot home-baked johnny bread.

If you’d rather catch your own seafood, Andros’s gin-clear waters are the bonefishing capital of the world, with large numbers of trophy-size bonefish (often topping 12 pounds) providing some of the most exciting light-tackle fishing there is. It’s not hard to find a specialist to help you perfect your saltwater angling technique and to guide you to the vast flats in and around the bights, where you’ll often be the only one in sight.

Antigua Sailing Week and Curtain Bluff – English Harbour and Vicinity, Antigua, Lesser Antilles

A Nautical Kentucky Derby and a Top-Drawer Resort

In 1784, a young Horatio Nelson arrived in Antigua, home base for the British fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. He’d still recognize the landlocked harbor—its restored dockyard, now a national park, is one of few British Georgian-style naval dockyards left in the world, and still serving sailing vessels.

Once a year, the yachting world descends on this otherwise quiet outpost for a kind of Henley Royal Regatta, Caribbean-style. Some 200 boats from 25 countries show up for a week’s worth of serious racing and beautiful-people­ watching, filling English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard with blue-blooded sailors, curious landlubbers, and a fair share of pomp and cir­cumstance. Look for the seventeen stately pillars, originally supports for a very large loft where sails were repaired, and a number of colonial naval buildings that are now used as galleries, saloons, shops, and inns.

The unofficial headquarters for the sailing week hubbub, and the architectural center-piece of the Dockyard, is the Admiral’s Inn, a Georgian brick building dating back to 1788. Known as the Ads, it’s the island’s most inter­esting historic hotel, housed in a former engi­neers’ office and pitch and tar store, wearing the ambience of an old ship.

The well-tanned yachting crowd comes here to cool off in the shady terrace bar/restaurant, from which they can keep an eye on their multimillion-dollar craft. The food is first rate, as is the Joiner’s Loft upstairs, the nicest and largest of the inn’s dozen or so rooms, with a view of the busy harbor.

If you want a quiet retreat from the scene, the Curtain Bluff resort, about 3 miles west, occupies one of the prettiest spots in Antigua, flanked by two beaches. Pounding surf on the windward side lulls guests to sleep at night, while the lagoon-smooth leeward beach serves as the launching place for the hotel’s host of water activities.

Amid impeccably manicured grounds lush with orchids and palms, spacious suites climb the headland bluff step-fashion, culminating with the Terrace Room, whose size and views offer royal accommodations. A genteel, old- money, country-club air prevails; well-heeled return guests don’t count their pennies or calo­ries.

Exceptionally fine food, a stellar wine cellar, and dancing under the stars create a cel­ebratory mood. And if the island is regarded as one of the Caribbean’s foremost tennis enclaves, it is in no small part due to Curtain Bluffs inimitable founder and hands-on owner, Howard Hulford, who sponsors and hosts the prestigious Antigua Tennis Week every May.

Shoal Bay and Gorgeous Scilly Cay – Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

A Beach Among Beaches, and a Full-Scale Party on a Desert Island

Anguilla is a flat, scrubby island that’s light on interior scenery, but its confectionery 12-mile perimeter has some of the most picture-perfect white-sand beaches anywhere. These have conspired with incredibly clear water and undisturbed reefs to make Anguilla a favorite haunt for beach-and-a-book sun seekers looking for the Caribbean’s least-developed islands.

Among Anguilla’s thirty-some beaches, Shoal Bay ranks as anyone’s dream. Although your footprints won’t be the only ones left in the sand, partic­ularly in the high season or on weekends, escapists need merely walk a few feet into the diamond-clear water to submerge themselves in another world, where schools of iridescent fish and magnificent coral gardens are the only crowds to contend with.

Should hunger strike, Uncle Ernie’s is the archetypal shanty beach bar, where a beer and barbecued chicken, ribs, or catch of the day doesn’t get any better—unless it’s Sunday afternoon, when an island band manages to enhance the flavor.

For a more full-on party atmosphere, head out to Gorgeous Scilly Cay, which is on its own coral-sand islet. This popular watering hole/beach-shack restaurant can really get wound up on weekends, when day-trippers from St. Martin descend and a local band warms up; on weekdays it’s more like a Robinson Crusoe fantasy.

King Gorgeous (a.k.a. owner Eudoxie Wallace) entertains swim suited diners with tall tales and powerfully delicious rum punches while preparing an alfresco feast of simple grilled lobster or cray­fish marinated in his secret and justly legendary curry-based sauce. Most diners come for the better part of the day, snorkeling and swimming before and after lunch.

The ballfield-size cay now accommodates a helipad for the St. Martin set, but from Anguilla you can take King Gorgeous’s ready-when-you-are motor launch. Just stand at the pier at Island Harbour and wave, and someone will be by to fetch you.

Cap Juluca and the Malliouhana Hotel – Anguilla, Lesser Antilles (British West Indies)

Swank Luxury Oases and an 18th-Century Great House

Maybe it is the special clarity of the light that heightens the mirage effect of Cap Juluca’s Moorish turrets, arches, and domes. Like a sensual Saharan casbah nestled within 179 flowering acres near Anguilla’s southernmost point, and braced by a magical, mile-long curve of sugary white sand—one of the island’s most beautiful—the ultraromantic hotel Cap Juluca employs an artist’s palette of intense primary colors: green gardens, white­washed villas draped in brilliant bougainvillea, and everywhere the deep azure sea and sky.

It can be almost too much for the winter-weary eyes of newly arrived guests. The oversized rooms are minimally but exotically appointed; many have enormous bathrooms with tubs for two and adjoining private sunning patios. Be sure to head out for dinner at the hotel’s acclaimed Pimm’s Restaurant, the only time and place guests wear anything more elaborate than a swimsuit and a suntan. At sunset Cap Juluca is the most glamorous vision west of Fez.

Not far to the north, the bluff-top Malliouhana Hotel boasts exquisite decor; a two-to- one staff-to-guest ratio; attentive, hands-on involvement by the gracious father and son British owners; and, perhaps most signifi­cantly, one of the most extensive wine lists in the western hemisphere, with 25,000 bottles and 1,500 selections, including more than 60 varieties of Champagne.

The dining pavilion sits above the gorgeous sweep of Meads Bay and faces west for unequaled sunset viewing. The kitchen and menu are supervised and designed by the acclaimed Paris-based chef Michel Rostang. The classic French cuisine with an island accent is a marvel, particu­larly when one considers it is created on an unspoiled island where traffic lights are still a fairly new concept.

Farther north, in the area known as the Valley, Koal Keel is a romantic alternative to Anguilla’s beachfront eateries. The open-air restaurant can be found in what used to be the garden of a sultry, sensual, and breezy 1780 plantation house, now beautifully restored. It’s one of the oldest and prettiest West Indian homes on the island, with cool, heavy stone walls providing the theatrical backdrop to your meal, aglow with candlelight and the pal­pable aura of centuries past.

This hillside charmer has created its own interpretation of delicious Euro-Caribbean cuisine. Try ginger- barbecued lamb, scrumptious lobster crepes, or delicate callaloo soup made with chard, coconut milk, and crab. Even if you drop in just for tea, you’ll be hooked.

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