Quick Guide To The Caribbean

"Paradise" is a word often used to describe the islands of the Caribbean. It seems that one visit leads to a lifetime's love, and that's certainly true when you choose to stay at an exquisite boutique hotel.

Where is it?

The Caribbean islands sit in the Caribbean Sea, in between the southern tip of Florida and the north coast of South America. In total, there are more than 7000 islands in this area, but only a few of those are regular tourist destinations, including Antigua, Barbados, Haiti, Saint Lucia and the Virgin Islands.

Where can I stay?

There's no shortage of lovely places to stay on any of the most popular islands and the laid-back culture that's spread throughout the Caribbean means that most places are a joy to stay in. There are, however, some really special boutique hotels where guests are given the very best of everything ? design, décor, food, service and hospitality.

These hotels keep the number of available rooms low so that you're not bumping into crowds at breakfast or constrained in any way. On Barbuda, the barefoot luxury of The Beach House's twenty one rooms is just one of the reasons it draws discerning honeymooners and romantic couples. The hotel's boutique feel is accentuated by the wonderful service that guests receive.

Alternatively, the Lone Star Hotel and Restaurant on Barbados has just eight rooms, all of them with beautiful contemporary styling ? a simplicity that matches the landscape ? and each of them with access onto an amazing stretch of beach. Or try the Montpelier Plantation Inn on St. Kitts and Nevis, where a sympathetic and classic renovation has resulted in a cool, sophisticated retreat in amongst 30 acres of wonderful tropical plants.

What can I see?

Most people visit the Caribbean with thoughts of lying on the beach and swimming in the sea uppermost in their minds.

But there's more to the Caribbean islands than the fabulous coastline. Learn about the history of the island people by visiting museums and plantations, or by viewing the wonderful art and craft. Diving and snorkelling are always popular and glass-bottomed boats and undersea vehicles let you experience sea-life as you've never seen it before. There's also plenty of opportunity for other water sports, fishing, golf and horse-riding and, if you're staying at one of our boutique hotels, the concierge and staff will be delighted to help you plan your day and book trips to other islands or on special excursions.

How do I get around?

Depending on which island you choose, there is a variety of transport. There are bus services on most island but they vary in quality and regularity.

You can hire a car on the larger islands, but drivers don't always come first, so watch for pedestrians, cyclists and animals. You will also need a driving licence or permit as required by the island, which is inexpensive to buy, but you must bring your own driving licence in order to get one. Bikes are available for hire on most islands and there are usually taxi services available. To move between islands, use the local ferry services.

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Chic Retreats is a collection of small, sophisticated hotels around the world that offer the traveller a true taste of luxury and service.

Visit their website by clicking Boutique Hotels. .

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