In my 30s a generous friend enticed me to St Barts: there I tasted life in the fast lane on an island where French sophistication has been augmented by blingtastic celebrity, with regulars such as P Diddy and Leonardo Di Caprio. Eating the lentil salad at Taiwana cost as much as a three-course meal in London, but it seemed that no one on St Barthélemy was counting the pennies.
Pregnant with my first child at 40, it was the turquoise waters of Antigua that drew me back when my baby bump grew so pronounced that sleeping on my stomach was no longer an option and I begged my husband to take me to bask like a porpoise in my favourite sea.
And then came Jamaica, a later encounter, but an equally passionate one, where a tortured plantation history and thriving contemporary culture are viscerally present in the backstreets of Trenchtown – and outliers such as the beautiful town of Port Antonio, for those who determine to travel beyond the package border line of Ochos Rios.
I have gone far and wide in my travels, but when the going gets tough, my heart yearns for these temperate islands and their hospitable people.
These days, the Caribbean lies on the frontline of peril when it comes to global warming, but conversely, it relies on tourism for its economy. Continuing to visit and taking part in hands-on projects – such as reforesting coral reefs and protecting turtles – not only enriches your experience but also ensures that these tropical jewels, with their rich histories and coveted landscapes, are protected for both their inhabitants and future generations of travellers, who need to enjoy them in more sustainable ways.
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Presiding over the sands of Anguilla’s Rendezvous Bay, what was formerly the venerable Cuisinart Resort & Residences reopened in December with new owners, a new name and its own air charter service from the US (there are currently no direct flights to Anguilla from the UK). Guests are promised a “barefoot luxury” experience informed by the island’s posh yet unpretentious reputation, as well as seven restaurants (featuring ingredients from the resort’s hydroponic gardens), restorative treatments at Sorana Spa and membership privileges at Aurora International Golf Club, which has nine- and 18-hole courses engineered by Greg Norman Golf Course Design.
Book it: Doubles from £748, room only (00 264 498 2000; auroraanguilla.com)