THE ABTA MAGAZINE GUIDE TO
Exploring Puerto Rico Best places to dive The eco islands
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THE ABTA MAGAZINE GUIDE TO
Cultural and natural riches in the sunshine region
rom the east of Mexico down to the north coast of Guyana, the Caribbean is a diverse and beautiful region, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, and the provider of endless holiday opportunities. From tall-ship cruises to spa Exploring Puerto Rico Best places to dive stays at ultra-luxury hotels, deep-sea diving adventures and jungle trekking, The eco islands the Caribbean can be enjoyed by anyone, whether that’s from the comfort of a sun lounger or diving in the ocean. Often misunderstood as a destination purely for sun-worshippers, this narrow definition ignores the cultural, historical and natural curiosities that make this region so beloved by so many. In this publication, The ABTA Magazine Guide to the Caribbean, we hope to demonstrate the many sides to the region. On p4, you’ll find our handy map to the Caribbean, then we’ve got a round-up of the best new hotels (p6), a guide to Caribbean food (p17), plus our guide to some of the best festivals and events across the islands (p22). From p24, we take a look at sustainability in the region. We hope you enjoy reading.
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With thanks to: Karl Cushing, Gary Noakes
Chairman Alistair Rowland
THE BAHAMAS TURKS AND CAICOS ISLANDS
PUERTO RICO DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
ANGUILLA VIRGIN ANTIGUA & ISLANDS BARBUDA ST KITTS AND NEVIS GUADELOUPE DOMINICA
ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
COSTA RICA COLOMBIA
In this issue openings 06 New Eight exciting new arrivals in the hotel scene focus: Puerto Rico 10 Island Following hurricane recovery, the island is firmly back on the map as a top destination
the surface 14 Beneath A run down of the Caribbean’s many diving sites
of life 16 Spice The region’s flavours stem from myriad influences
Turks and Caicos Islands
ANGUILLA VIRGIN ANTIGUA & ISLANDS BARBUDA ST KITTS AND NEVIS GUADELOUPE DOMINICA
ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
Cruise the Caribbean From Cuba to the Cayman, there are few destinations better suited to cruise
Fun in the sun Discover what’s on and when, from festivals of culture and food to music and yachting
Going green The islands leading the way in ecotourism Good to know From travel advice to language and weather, get the answers to frequently asked questions
24 September 2019
New openings With a packed pipeline of new or planned properties following recent premiere launches – such as Silversands in Grenada, Hodges Bay in Antigua and Baha Mar in the Bahamas – the region’s hotel scene has never been hotter. Here, Karl Cushing picks out eight of the most exciting new arrivals 1. S Hotel Montego Bay, Jamaica
One of early 2019’s hot beachfront openings, the 120-guestroom S Hotel is light years away from Jamaica’s myriad mix of all-inclusives. With its strong, internationally influenced design ethic, the super-stylish S oozes sophistication and swagger. Selling points include its Irie Baths & Spa wellness offering, while the Sky Deck bar and lounge area make the most of the views over Doctor’s Cave Beach. shoteljamaica.com
2. Royalton Antigua Resort and Spa, Antigua
Small wonder this 294-guestroom, all-inclusive charmer from Royalton has won a loyal following since
recently opening its doors. Set in Deep Bay, it firmly ticks all the main boxes, from its great range of food and beverage outlets and on-site microbrewery, Score Brewhouse, to its Clubhouse Kids Club and Hangout Teens Lounge. For ‘wow factor’ look no further than its adults-only overwater bungalows – a first for the island. royaltonresorts. com/royalton-antigua
3. SO/ Havana Paseo del Prado La Habana, Cuba
Cuba’s tourism drive powers on with September seeing the opening of the ten-floor, 250-guestroom SO/ Paseo del Prado in the capital. The operator Accor promises a ‘rebellious lifestyle hotel bursting with local energy’. Whether it
delivers remains to be seen, but the property makes the most of its location at the point Havana’s fabled Malecon and Prado meet. The views are stunning – not least from its infinity pool. accorhotels.com
4. Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski, Dominica
Following hot on the heels of the reopened Secret Bay and Jungle Bay Eco Villas, the Cabrits is arguably the year’s most exciting opening. Located just outside Portsmouth and enveloped by the simply gorgeous Cabrits National Park, this new 160-guestroom development is very easy on the eye and offers an enticing spa, with a Presidential Villa for the deep of pocket. It opens in October. kempinski.com
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ABTA Caribbean 5. Hyatt Zilara and Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana, Dominican Republic Having cut its Caribbean teeth in Mexico and Jamaica, the allinclusive specialist Playa Hotels and Resorts has set its sights on the Dominican Republic. This autumn sees the operator open a dynamic duo of Hyatt-branded properties in the upscale enclave of Cap Cana. Set on Juanillo Beach, the properties will serve two distinct markets, Zilara being adults-only while Ziva will cater to the family market. resortsbyhyatt.com
6. Club Med Michès Playa Esmeralda, Dominican Republic Part of Club Med’s Exclusive Collection, this exciting new development, located in the northeast and slated to open in December, looks set to be a big
hit in the trade. The all-inclusive Michès will be themed over four distinct ‘boutique village’ areas, from family-friendly Explorer Cove and adults-only Archipelago to ‘eco chic’ Emerald Jungle and lush, tropical Caribbean Paradise, while offering the brand’s usual strong programme of activities. clubmed.co.uk
7. Secrets St. Martin
Opening next February, this latest offering from AMResorts’ Secrets brand is further proof that hurricane-battered St Martin has its game face back on. Set on the French side of the island in Anse Marcel, on the site of the former Riu Palace, the 350-guestroom adults-only all-inclusive fronts one of the island’s best beaches. Other selling points include the swim-out suites and the palatial pool, rumoured to be the region’s biggest. secretsresorts.com
8. Four Seasons Caye Chapel and Blackadore Caye, Belize
These two high-end havens are the latest upscale offerings transforming Belize’s dreamy Caribbean Cayes. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio now plans to unveil his high-end eco resort, Blackadore Caye, sometime next year, featuring a strong focus on ecotourism, albeit with a healthy dash of exclusivity. Launching in 2021, the seriously extravagant Four Seasons will feature overwater bungalows, a golf course and a marina – with its very own airstrip. fourseasons.com
Pictured Below: The pool at Secrets St. Martin. Previous page: Take a dip at Jamaica’s S Hotel Montego Bay
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Following hurricane recovery, this Caribbean island is firmly back on the map as a destination that meets all the criteria, writes Anthony Pearce
t the beginning of the year, The New York Times put Puerto Rico at the top of its list of destinations to visit in 2019, providing a major boost to the island a year and a half after the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Maria. “It was a big coup for us,” says Leah Chandler, chief marketing officer of Discover Puerto Rico, the newly formed destination marketing organisation, which was set up to ‘unify the tourism message across the island’. Chandler, like The New York Times, is excited about new projects, particularly in the capital, San Juan. She lists the brand-new District San Juan, which features cinemas, restaurants, a zip-line tower and a 6,000-seat entertainment venue, as one of most exciting developments, and
10 September 2019
notes that the forthcoming remake of West Side Story, both as a movie and on Broadway (the Sharks, one of the gangs in the legendary production, are from Puerto Rico), will turn even more attention to the Caribbean nation. “It’s a pop culture moment for the island,” says Chandler. “These moments are building up for Puerto Rico, so all eyes are on us. It’s a really exciting time to be here.” And yet, Puerto Rico has always been a fascinating destination. The second-oldest European-founded settlement in the Americas, San Juan is a great introduction to the Caribbean for those who are using it as a springboard (cruise lines such as Viking Cruises homeport here in winter), or as a destination on its own. In the city’s charming
Old Town, Spanish influence remains: cobblestone streets and colourful colonial buildings – reds, blues and greens – are guarded by a 16th-century fort, the imposing Castillo San Felipe del Morro. Simply wandering through San Juan’s pretty streets is entertainment enough, but the city’s nightlife is also legendary, whether you’re looking for jazz bars (try Carli’s Fine Bistro & Piano for dinner and music), speakeasies (drop into La Factoría, named among the world’s 50 best bars) or nightclubs. There is an endless supply of great places to eat. Puerto Rican cuisine, which has its roots in Spanish, African and the native Taínos traditions, may not be as well known as Jamaican or Cuban food
(see p17), but is no less delicious. El Jibarito (Calle Sol 280) serves cheap Puerto Rican comfort food such as mofongo (mashed plantain) with camarones al ajillo (shrimps in garlic sauce) and chicken fricassee. Café Manolín (251 Calle San Justo), which dates back to the 1940s, is an institution, serving classics such as serenata de bacalao con viandas (codfish and root vegetables). Marmalade (317 Calle Fortaleza), the superb fine-dining restaurant helmed by chef Peter Schintler, an Iowa native, is perhaps the capital’s most celebrated restaurant. Getting there is easy – the city is connected to the UK via Miami, New York or Charlotte Douglas in North Carolina (the latter proving less stressful than the sprawling Miami International Airport). Outside of the capital, Ponce, which Chandler calls “the cultural heart of the island,” is one of the most popular tourist destinations. The country’s second-largest city is home to Plaza de las Delicias, a town square adorned by fountains and home to the city’s cathedral, the Catedral de la Guadalupe, built in the late 1800s. The Casa ArmstrongPoventud is a fine example of the neoclassical architectural heritage
of the island and houses the Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, while there is also the Museum of Puerto Rican Music, Art Museum of Frame Masters, Ponce School of Fine Arts and the Ponce Art Museum. Of great interest is the House of the Ponce Massacre, build in recognition of one of the bloodiest events in Puerto Rico’s political history, when 19 civilians were murdered and 200 injured by police in 1937. Rincón on the west of island offers a totally different experience to San Juan or Ponce, far smaller and more relaxed. It’s home to many of the surfing beaches in Puerto Rico, including Domes, Maria’s, Tres Palmas and Sandy Beach. The Rincón Lighthouse, also known as El Faro de Punta Higuero, which overlooks the Domes beach, was built in 1892 and offers some of the best views of the west coast. Culebra and Vieques, off the east coast of the main island, Chandler describes as “our island islands,” offering a true Caribbean experience. The former is home to the white-sand, turquoise-water Flamenco Beach, which was ranked third best beach in the world and is home an incredible array
of wildlife, including species of parrotfish, blue tang, wrasse and 50,000 seabirds. Vieques, aside from being an island paradise and home to some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches, also has a fascinating history. It was the site of a series of protests against the United States Navy’s use of the island as a bombing range and testing ground, which led to the Navy’s eventual departure in 2003; today the former navy land is a national wildlife refuge. It has not been an easy few years for Puerto Rico, parts of which remained without electricity months after the hurricane, while the Maria Fund and DonatePuertoRico are still accepting donations, buying solar panels, generators, mosquito nets and food. Tourism remains an important part of the country’s economy, and returning cruise ships were greeted with cheers when they first arrived in January 2017. “Cruise is huge for us,” says Chandler. “We had a record number of passengers in 2018 and we’re going to break that again in 2019.” So the future looks positive. As Chandler puts it: “Puerto Rico is hopping right now!”
September 2019 11
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Beneath the surface Diving the Caribbean is more than a rite of passage; with so many sites to experience, itâ€™s a lifetimeâ€™s work, says Karl Cushing
14 September 2019
he Caribbean’s dive smarts don’t end with its excellent visibility and famously abundant and diverse marine life. From wreck and shark dives to subterranean sinkholes and epic walls, it truly is a one-stop shop for divers of all abilities. Accessible options for newbies eager to tick off a good range of sightings include Cozumel. With dive sites such as Colombia Wall and Palancar Reef, the Mexican island is a certified crowd-pleaser that caters to all-comers. Top picks for more advanced divers include the islands of St Croix and Saba, off St Maarten, while Bonaire, in the Dutch Caribbean, has long been heralded as the region’s top spot for shore diving, backed by sites such as 1,000 steps and Alice in Wonderland. One of the region’s bucket-list staples is Belize’s Great Blue Hole. Typically coupled with nearby dive sites such as Half Moon Caye Wall, which offer more variety of marine life, including pelagics, the sinkhole spans 300m across and descends around 125m into the seabed. Whale sharks are one of the big seasonal star turns, with April
and May the best time to see them in Belize. Other hotspots include the waters off Cancun, Mexico and Utila, in Honduras, where your best chances of seeing some of the world’s biggest fish are March to April and August to September. Other Honduran high points include diving with Caribbean reef sharks at Cara Cara, off the island of Roatan. Speaking of sharks, Bimini Island in the Bahamas remains one of the ‘go to’ places to swim with great hammerheads, large numbers of which gather offshore each February. Spots to look for humpback whales include the waters off Silver Bank, in the Dominican Republic, where pregnant mothers come each spring to calf and mate. Head to Dominica in January or February and you can spot male sperm whales off the coast, as well as the more commonly seen female and baby ones. The only hitch is you’ll have to free dive – or try to spot them from the surface – as scuba gear is prohibited. Popular wreck dives include the USS Kittiwake – a purposefully sunk, 251-foot ship off Grand Cayman, known for its marine
life, rich wall dives and shark encounters at East End. Sitting at 65 feet below the surface, the Kittiwake is mere minutes by boat from Seven Mile Beach. Other accessible, intentionally sunk wrecks include Lesleen M, easily accessible off Anse Chastanet, St Lucia’s prime base for divers. While you won’t find big pelagics off Anse Chastanet, you will find impressive corals and humungous sponges. Grenada is another notable wreck destination, with popular sites including the enormous former passenger ship MV Bianca C. Other sizeable options include the Antilla in Aruba’s Malmok Bay, a 400-footlong scuttled Second World War wrecked German freighter. Some dive sites tick several boxes. Take the Bahamas, where you can enjoy shark encounters while diving the Ray of Hope wreck off Nassau before going on to spy all manner of marine life diving the nearby wall. For a twist, try securing a permit to dive Jamaica’s infamous Pirate City of Port Royal, lost beneath the waves in the late seventeenth century.
September 2019 15
Spice of life Gary Noakes samples the diverse flavours of the region, liberally seasoned with myriad influences from cultures and cuisines around the world
ood is a major part of the charm of the Caribbean, with each island serving its own specialities, be it saltfish, jerk chicken or rice and peas. These are dishes passed down through the generations and shaped by the region’s myriad cultures and influences. One destination that sums up the evolution of Caribbean cuisine is Trinidad and Tobago. Here, generations of sailors and refugees from as far away as the Middle East and China have left their mark on the local food scene. An example is the popular street snack Doubles, a variation on the Indian chana dal or curried chickpeas topped with spicy chutneys. Influences like this mean Caribbean food is not all fish and seafood, but it is this that will probably beckon first. One dish that might be under the radar is conch, a giant whelk-like mollusc found particularly in the Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos. You will also
16 September 2019
find it in the Cayman Islands where there is an incredible array of local fresh seafood available. Here, it is served in stews, soups and fritters and often presented as a ceviche – raw slices marinated in lime juice with other flavours. Other seafood options include Caymanstyle lobster and Wahoo – a sweet, succulent white fish of the mackerel family. There’s also lionfish, an invasive species, which following chef Thomas Tennant’s innovation (upon hearing that lionfish were becoming a problem around Grand Cayman, he turned them into a delicacy) is now in high demand with local chefs and restaurants. Back on land, another local staple is ackee, Jamaica’s national fruit, which traces its origins to Ghana and the slave trade and is an integral part of saltfish cuisine. Saltfish and many other Caribbean dishes get their heat from another key ingredient, the Scotch bonnet chilli pepper, which, despite its
name, is native to the Caribbean and is also called bonney pepper, or just plain Caribbean red peppers. Beware, they are anything but plain. When it comes to meat dishes, Cuba is perhaps an anomaly in the region in that limited boat ownership means many restaurants are more likely to major in meat dishes. The growing number of paladares – restaurants set up in private homes – mean excellent home cooking is now widely available. Goat in curried form is another Caribbean staple and one that made its way from Asia. It is widely served in the region and is a particular Jamaican favourite. The islands attract an upmarket clientele, and where there is demand, it is attended to in style. Try Gary Rhodes’ restaurant at Calabash in Grenada, or Daphne’s in Barbados, sister establishment to that in London’s Kensington. Whatever your tastes or budget, the islands will cater for you.
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Cruise the Caribbean From Cuba to the Cayman Islands, there are few destinations that are better suited to a cruise than the Caribbean, writes Sam Ballard
18 September 2019
sland paradises, each with their own distinct personality, lie scattered across the deep blue ocean. And, while all unique, you’re sure to find perfect beaches, cold beers and warm hospitality wherever you go – major factors in the unfaltering popularity of the Caribbean. What could be better than sailing between islands, ticking them off your list as you enjoy the perks of only having to unpack once? On any single cruise you can visit multiple islands in one holiday and experience a little of what each has to offer. P&O bases its Caribbean cruises around Barbados and St Lucia, two islands with a British colonial history. In Barbados, guests are whisked straight from the plane to the cruise terminal, bypassing the airport completely. Both islands have a huge array of options available for day trippers, from the Mount Gay Rum Distillery in Barbados to climbing the Piton mountains in St Lucia. It all depends on what floats your boat. The great thing about the Caribbean is that there are cruises to suit all tastes. Want to sail directly from the UK? Try P&O or Cruise & Maritime Voyages. Want Luxury? Try Seabourn’s Barbados itinerary. Want mega-ships? Try Royal Caribbean,
Norwegian Cruise Line or MSC. In fact, whether it’s small ship, sail ship or even an electric ship (with Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen), there is something for everyone. In fact, many of the larger, resort-style ships have opted to create their own destinations. From Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CoCoCay (pictured below) to MSC’s Ocean Cay, they’re another string to the Caribbean’s bow. Cruise itineraries are generally divided by eastern, southern and western sailings, with Cuba tending to be its own category. To the west, ships visit Cozumel in Mexico (where passengers can visit the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza) and make stops in Honduras, Grand Cayman and Jamaica. Take an Eastern Caribbean sailing and you’ll call at the Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Grand Turk, and St Barts, Antigua, Anguilla and Dominica. In the south, you’ll find Aruba, St Lucia, Barbados, Grenada and the Grenadines. Travel to Cuba from the US has been banned – again – putting an end to virtually all cruises calling at the Caribbean’s biggest island. There are a few that remain with the likes of Fred Olsen and Marella Cruises, but many of the bigger players have been forced to pull out.
“The pristine white beaches, sparkling crystal-clear waters and the almost always glorious weather are obvious pulls when it comes to taking a cruise around the Caribbean,” says Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association (Clia). “With so much to do at each port of call, such as snorkelling with beautiful marine life in the warm oceans, learning a new water sport or finding hidden waterfalls, a cruise around the Caribbean islands makes for a perfect holiday for all ages. Whether you are travelling as a family, a couple, multigenerational or with friends, one thing is for certain about these islands: you’ll never be stuck for things to do. “Many cruise lines also have their own private Caribbean islands, used exclusively by the line’s guests. These islands have an array of activities, from simply basking on a cabana soaking up the sun, to water parks, live DJs and BBQ buffets.” Regardless of which part of the Caribbean you choose, good times are guaranteed. These are islands that are packed full of interesting history, all have their own individual quirks and, if you just want to lie on a pristine beach, well, that’s arguably what the Caribbean does better than anywhere else in the world.
September 2019 19
Adventure awaits in Dominica With sprawling rainforest, colourful reefs and thundering waterfalls, the island of Dominica is the true adventure capital of the Caribbean...
s the parrot flies, Dominica is only 47km long and 26km wide. Sitting at the heart of the Caribbean, the island is the most mountainous landscape in the region, with a dense cluster of nine volcanoes dominating the landscape, covered in rainforest that conceals more than 350 rivers and waterfalls. Imagine Jurassic Park (without the dinosaurs) and you’ll have a fairly accurate picture. Visiting Dominica makes you feel alive. You can embark on a full day trek through dense rainforest, swim through gorges to hidden waterfalls, scuba dive colourful
20 September 2019
reefs and rappel down cliffs on a thrilling canyoning trip. The best part? When you tell people that you’re going to Dominica and they respond by talking about the beaches and resorts of the Dominican Republic, just smile. You are going somewhere very different, to a Caribbean island that has not been trampled and spoiled by mass tourism, to a place that is still off the beaten path, unheard of by those who are not in the know. Read on for the unforgettable adventures that await you on the magical island…
HIKING & TREKKING Dominica is covered in a vast network of walking tracks, from river hikes ending at hidden waterfalls to mountain trails up the island’s loftiest peaks. Dominica’s signature hike is the Boiling Lake Trail, a full day hike through the active volcanic caldera of the Valley of Desolation. The route ends at the Boiling Lake itself – a bubbling greyish-blue water often enveloped in a cloud of vapour; the second largest of its kind in the world. For a real challenge, there’s the near-200km trek called the Waitukubuli
National Trail, which crosses the island from top to bottom.
visit, through storytelling, crafts and traditional cuisine.
SCUBA DIVING & SNORKELLING The water is clear, the marine life varied and the weather warm enough to spend an entire day in the ocean. Dominica is dotted with dive sites along its west coast, many of which reflect the dramatic topography topside, with steep drop-offs, walls and volcanic pinnacles. Colourful and healthy coral reefs teem with marine life of all kinds, including seahorses, hawksbill turtles and eagle rays. There’s also the volcanically active Champagne Reef, where bubbles rise from the ocean floor.
WELLNESS IN THE WILD Dominica is the eastern Caribbean’s health and wellness capital, an island replete with raw nature, clean air and water that is so pure you can safely drink straight from the mountain rivers. It is also dotted with hot, mineral-rich springs and pools, where you can soak in the open-air warm water. Add to this the wholesome food from Dominica’s traditional farming and fishing, some invigorating exercise and a little adventure, and you can’t help but feel well on Dominica.
WILDLIFE WATCHING Because Dominica’s inshore waters are so deep, they make the perfect habitat for pelagics. Sperm whales are present year-round and, if you are lucky, can even be spotted from the shore. On dedicated whale-watching trips, sightings of these majestic creatures are common, along with dolphin pods, humpback and killer whales. But the wildlife thrives on land too. Dominica is particularly good for birdwatching, home to two endemic Amazonian parrots – the Sisserou and Jaco – along with over 150 other colourful species.
WHERE NATURE ENCOUNTERS LUXURY Following the devastating effects from Hurricane Maria in 2017 that heavily damaged the Nature Island, there is a remarkable comeback ongoing. Many previously affected
LIFE WITH THE LOCALS Dominica is the Caribbean as it used to be – no sprawling resorts, just simple, traditional communities where you can buy freshly caught fish from the bay side or slip into the village rum shop for a drink with the locals. Beyond the capital, Roseau, most places are coastal or rural farming communities. On the rugged east coast you’ll find the Kalinago Territory, home to descendants of the island’s first people, who travelled along the island chain from South America in their dugout canoes. You can experience their culture first-hand when you
properties have now re-opened and a large slate of new developments and resorts are planned to launch in 2019 and 2020. The Cabrits Resort & Spa Kempinski will be the first hotel chain to open on the island. The 151room resort, with its breathtaking panoramic view of the Caribbean Sea, invites guests to indulge in luxury with amenities such as a full-service spa, international cuisine, and state-of-the-art fitness facility. A second hotel, the Anichi Resort & Spa (part of the Marriott Autograph Collection), will open its doors on the island in 2020. This 128-room resort will be an environmentally sensitive, eco-chic haven located on 12 acres of prime property at picturesque Picard Beach, Portsmouth. Whether visiting for a few days or a few weeks, these resorts are the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate your mind, body and soul in the Nature Island of the Caribbean, Dominica.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT DOMINICA, VISIT DISCOVERDOMINICA.COM
September 2019 21
Fun in the sun With festivals of culture, food, music and yachting, there’s always something being celebrated in the Caribbean. Gary Noakes shares what’s on and when Montserrat St Patrick’s Festival
Montserrat is the only country outside Ireland where St Patrick’s Day is a public holiday. Its connection with Ireland goes back to the 17th century, when Catholics exiled by Cromwell and persecuted on other islands sought refuge there. A 1678 census showed more than half Montserrat’s population were of Irish origin and ten days of festivities celebrate this each year.
Mercury Fest, St Lucia
Described as the ultimate beach
22 September 2019
party, this is one of St Lucia’s most anticipated events of the summer, taking place in August. Thousands arrive from sister islands Martinique and Guadeloupe, and from further afield, for a twoday beach party at Pigeon Island National Landmark – think sun, sea, sand and live music.
Although technically only two days, the build-up to the event in February starts around Christmas, such is the frenzy that surrounds this most vibrant of carnivals.
Taking place in Port of Spain, the advice is to familiarise yourself with soca music before booking, as there is little else played and it’s not to everyone’s taste. Real enthusiasts can pre-book to join one of the bands (marching groups) and take part in the parade and fetes – live DJ sets and music – that accompany it.
Cayman Islands Restaurant Month
Throughout October, the three islands raise their profile among foodies with fixed-price menus in a
range of restaurants. Three-course dinners range from around £23 to £43, and lunch is from about £15.
Ocho Rios Jazz Festival, Jamaica
Although more associated with reggae than jazz, this week-long festival has become a fixture in Jamaica’s calendar each June, and is coming up to its 30th anniversary. The festival attracts the best Caribbean artists plus key names from the US and elsewhere.
Grenada Chocolate Festival
This week-long series of events in May embraces everything from Aztec chocolate-making techniques to a themed cruise, organic farm visits and yoga and meditation combined with
chocolate-tasting. A pre-bookable Cocoa Pass includes most of the activities on offer.
Many islands celebrate Junkanoo, said to originate from slaves celebrating time off over Christmas, but it has been most appropriated by the Bahamas, where it is marked on Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and again in summer. Junkanoo parades take place overnight in Nassau and other islands, with dance troupes in carnival attire and competitions for best music, costumes and groups. The costumes, dance and music are inspired by a different theme each time.
Antigua Sailing Week
Taking place over six days at
the end of April, this major sailing festival marked its 50th anniversary in 2018. It caters for everything from windsurfers to superyachts, with daily prizegiving and celebrations that carry on into the night. Races take place along the south coast where trade winds blow, with well over 100 yachts participating, ranging from 24 to 100 feet in length (pictured below left).
Saint Lucia Jazz Festival
The Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival is held every year in spring. The 2020 Jazz Festival, produced in collaboration with Jazz at Lincoln Center (pictured below right) is yet to announce the line-up, but this year it included the likes of Gregory Porter, Dianne Reeves and Catherine Russell.
September 2019 23
24 September 2019
Going green The Caribbean may not be an obvious eco-destination, but the industry trend towards sustainability is evident throughout the region, finds Sam Ballard
September 2019 25
hink Caribbean and what springs to mind? Pristine beaches? Cruises to idyllic islands? Stays in luxury resorts? There is a world of possibility out there in what is a very sophisticated holiday market. There are also a number of islands that are leading the charge when it comes to sustainability. Barbados is a great example: last April, the island put in place a ban on all singleuse plastics. That included the “importation, retail, sale and use of petrol-based, single-use plastics on the island”, according to the tourist board. With more than 600,000 visitors every year, the changes mark the beginning of a sea change for the island.
26 September 2019
“Banning single-use plastics goes some way to ensuring the protection of our pristine beaches and crystal clear waters that we are famous for,” says Cheryl Carter, UK director of Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. “As a destination, however, we realise that our sustainability efforts cannot stop there and we are proud to say we are embracing many conservation projects and methods across the island, from driving electric cars to biodynamic farming. We are excited for a more sustainable future.” St Lucia has also made progress in this area. In June, the country passed its Styrofoam and Plastics (Prohibition) Act, declaring that imported styrofoam and certain
plastic food containers would not be released by customs. The disposal and export would be the responsibility of the importer. The legislation, while not affecting travel directly, shows the ambitions of the government to tackle the issue of plastics. The Act took effect on August 1. Jamaica is another country that is proving itself to be forward-thinking on a government level. The Global Tourism Resilience and Crisis Management Centre (GTRCM), a body designed to learn more about tourism resilience and create sustainable tourism models around the world, has been founded at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica.
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In a statement, the GTRCM defined its goal as being “to assist global tourism destinations with destination preparedness, management and recovery from disruptions and/or crises that impact tourism and threaten economies and livelihoods globally”. With that kind of thinking coming from a governmental level, it’s perhaps unsurprising to learn that there are a number of different ways to send your client on a sustainable holiday to the region. G Adventures, the community tourism operator, offers an eightday tour of Jamaica that takes guests around the entire island. Accommodation is made up of homestays and local hotels, while optional activities include a visit
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to Rick’s Café in Negril to watch the cliff jumpers and a boat ride to see the dolphins. Whether it’s getting out into nature to spot dolphins, monkeys or turtles, the Caribbean offers a plethora of options for the sustainable traveller. Try Intrepid Travel’s Cuba programme, which starts in Havana and takes guests over to the Canarreos Archipelago to see colonies of iguanas and maybe even a turtle or two. Many of the islands here are uninhabited, helping the animal populations to flourish. Other developments of note in the Caribbean’s ecotourism sphere include Leonardo DiCaprio’s planned resort on Blackadore Caye, a private island in Belize, which he has cited as
being a “restorative” experience – for both the island and guests. Speaking to The New York Times when announcing his plans, DiCaprio said: “The main focus is to do something that will change the world. I couldn’t have gone to Belize and built on an island and done something like this if it weren’t for the idea that it could be groundbreaking in the environmental movement.” The resort is due to open next year. While the Caribbean hasn’t been a traditional destination for sustainable holidaymakers, it is clear that the overall trend in the industry is having an effect. It has never been easier to take a sustainable holiday to the idyllic region and enjoy the sun and sea, guilt-free. ABTAmag.com
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Good to know
From travel advice to language and weather, we round up some of the frequently asked questions about the Caribbean
HEALTH AND TRAVEL ADVICE
The Caribbean has more than 700 islands, islets, reefs and cays. The Foreign Office offers information on a countryby-country basis, and it’s best to keep up to date with the latest advice (gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice) and travel with organised tours. Millions of Britons visit the Caribbean each year, and most holidays are free from incident. Although there are few health risks in the Caribbean, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization do recommend vaccines such as hepatitis A and B, typhoid and other routine vaccinations, depending on the country (see fitfortravel.nhs.uk for the latest advice). Outbreaks of Zika have been recorded on most Caribbean islands.
One of the best things about the Caribbean is its climate. It doesn’t get cold and it rarely gets too hot. On many islands, temperatures tend to float around the mid to high 20s, going into the 30s in peak season (December-May). Rain is unavoidable – it’s the reason these islands are so lush and green – but it rarely lasts long. Hurricane season occurs between June and November, although storms aren’t that common. Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which arrived in the Caribbean in August and late September 2017 respectively, caused considerable damage to the likes of Dominica, Saint Martin and Puerto Rico, leaving residents without electricity
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or running water. While the overwhelming majority of islands remained safe and open to visit in the immediate aftermath – and those that were affected began to welcome visitors again within months – many islands saw tourist numbers fall as a result of the coverage.
English is spoken throughout the region and is the official language of the likes of Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas and St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is the second language in Antilles and Puerto Rico. Martinique and Guadeloupe are French-speaking. Creole and local patois are also spoken.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic operate most of the direct flights that connect the UK with the Caribbean. From London there are non-stop flights to Barbados, St Lucia, Antigua, Tobago, Jamaica (Montego Bay), Mexico (Cancún) and Cuba (Havana). There are also flights from London to the Dominican Republic (Punta Cana), Saint Kitts and Puerto Rico (San Juan) that touch down in Antigua, and flights to Grand Cayman and the Turks and Caicos that touch down in Nassau, or to Grenada touching down in Tobago. From Manchester, you can fly direct to Barbados with Virgin Atlantic.
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From a look at the region's sustainability through to where cruise lines operate, the ABTA Magazine Guide to the Caribbean is a great resour...
Published on Sep 3, 2019
From a look at the region's sustainability through to where cruise lines operate, the ABTA Magazine Guide to the Caribbean is a great resour...